Saturday, May 6, 2017

Playing Dirty - HelenKay Dimon (Avon - Feb 2015)

Series: Bad Boys Undercover (Book 1)

As an elite Alliance agent -- the joint undercover operation of MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service, and the CIA -- Ford Decker lives for the adrenaline. But when he befriends sexy property manager Shay Alexander in hopes of finding her cousin, a known national security threat, Ford crosses the line, getting to know her better . . . in bed.

After being burned by her last relationship, Shay wants to take things slow. Yet she can't keep her hands off the drop-dead gorgeous hottie who's moved into her apartment building. So when Ford's identity as an undercover agent is exposed, his betrayal cuts deep. Shay never wants to see him again, but Ford can't let her go, not when her life is still in danger. He will sacrifice everything to protect her, then be prepared to walk away from the only woman he's ever loved, even if it breaks him.

Very good book. Ford is undercover, working on a case for Alliance. A scientist has gone missing along with some vials of a deadly toxin. Rumor has it that it will be sold to the highest bidder. Ford is tagged with watching Shay, cousin to the missing scientist, and property manager of the building Ford is now living in. But Ford goes further than he should, and gets much, much closer. Because of a past relationship that went wrong, Shay intends to be cautious with Ford. But those intentions go right out the window when the sparks between them burst into flame.

I really liked both Ford and Shay. Shay is pretty straightforward, doesn't play silly emotional games. She is recovering from one bad relationship, where the guy lied to her and used her to try to get to her uncle and his wealth. She likes Ford, and though she is frustrated by his frequent absences, she understands that his job as an IT specialist calls him away at a moment's notice. I loved that she isn't a whiner and doesn't try to inveigle him into a deeper relationship than he's ready for. Her family is important to her and she worries about her cousin.

Ford is great. He first appeared in Running Hot, as Ward's partner. Now he is a team leader himself. He likes the new agency, which isn't as bound up in rules and regulations as his former work with the CIA, which gives him the freedom to react as he needs to. He is protective, loyal, frequently sarcastic, and honorable. He's haunted by things that happened on his last CIA mission and determined that it won't happen again.

The relationship between Ford and Shay has the potential for disaster from the beginning. Ford wasn't supposed to make contact with her yet, but the attraction to her is too hard to resist. From the outset, we see the conflict that Ford is suffering from. She is part of the job, a possible suspect, and yet he can't stay away from her. He realizes quickly that she isn't involved and quickly moves into protector mode, worried about her getting caught up in the middle. I loved seeing them together, with their happiness in just being able to spend time together. Shay's mistrust of men disappears when she's around Ford, feeling that he's just what he says he is. Ford gets a little freaked out by just how much he needs Shay in his life. I loved how being with her would center him after a difficult op. I was a little bit surprised that Shay wasn't more suspicious of Ford, especially with his odd schedule, but he was pretty convincing. I ached for them both when the truth came out. Ford had fallen so hard for her, but knew that he deserved her anger. What he didn't know was if she would ever forgive him. Shay was hit with so much at once that Ford's deception seemed to be an even worse betrayal. It takes her a while to process everything, and even then she's not sure she can forgive him. I loved Ford's big moment at the end, especially the vulnerability that he exposed to her.

The suspense of the story was fantastic. The men and women of Alliance are determined to stop Trent and his plans to sell the toxin to the highest bidder. The problem that they have is that each lead they follow ends up being a dead end or a trap that nearly gets them killed. It quickly becomes obvious that there is someone on the inside that is helping the bad guys. So in addition to finding Trent and the toxin, they also have to find the "mole". There were a couple possibilities and the truth remained hidden until the end. The build up to the final confrontation was intense and kept me reading well past my bedtime. I was on the edge of my seat through it as I wondered how it was going to end.

I loved how Ford's Bravo team worked together. They were all so different, but each had their own place. I especially liked how much respect they had for Ford and that they were with him no matter what. I loved the banter among them all, from the funny to the sarcastic. I'm looking forward to seeing more of them in later books.

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