Saturday, December 30, 2017

Stone Cold Undercover Agent - Nicole Helm (HI #1730 - Aug 2017)

Series: Stone Cold (Book 2)

This undercover Texas Ranger is her last, most dangerous chance

Jaime Alessandro fears he's been undercover too long. Now his only shot at destroying one of Texas's largest crime organizations is Gabriella Torres -- a "gift" from The Stallion and his longest-held captive. Her inside info and inspired moves are helping Jaime take the gang apart. But what he's starting to feel for the brilliant, tough-minded Gabriella could get them worse than dead…

Gabriella learned early to put her emotions on lockdown. She has no reason to trust Jaime. But every moment together, every stolen glance, kindles a desire she hungers to explore. And now trust is the only weapon they dare risk -- even if it proves lethal.

Good book that caught my attention from the beginning. Gabby is a woman who was kidnapped and has been held as a slave for eight years. At this point, she has given up hope of ever being found and released. As the oldest one there, she serves as kind of a mentor for the other three women captives. Things take an unexpected turn when her captor gives her to one of his henchmen.

Jaime Alessandro, an FBI agent aka Rodriguez, has worked his way up The Stallion's organization over two years. He has begun to feel that he has been undercover too long. He is disturbed by some of the things he has had to do and has started to feel like he no longer remembers the real Jaime. He's not very happy at being "given" one of the women until he discovers just how good a resource Gabby is.

I loved the development of their relationship. Gabby was understandably wary at first as she has no reason to trust Jaime. I loved their first encounter, as his actions bewildered her until she figured out that there was something different about him and he told her who he was. I loved the way that he was so impressed by her observational and deduction skills. It was kind of funny how he was so freaked out by how easy she figured him out. There was also an immediate attraction between them. This surprised Gabby, who thought that her emotions were permanently suppressed after being held captive for so long. His strength and unexpected sensitivity rekindled things she had long forgotten. Jaime tries hard to resist the attraction he feels for Gabby. She is a victim and vulnerable, plus getting involved could put them both at risk if discovered. But the more they are together, the harder he finds it to resist his growing feelings for her. It was interesting to see how their relationship/partnership evolved. Gabby's growing strength and confidence were fantastic and I loved seeing her stand up to him when it was necessary. I was surprised by how he was willing to risk the investigation at one point. When everything was over, it was interesting to see how both Jaime and Gabby dealt with what had happened. I liked the realism of Gabby's worry over re-entering the real world and his bosses' concerns for Jaime after his return. Jaime's concern for giving Gabby enough time to recover was sweet, but Gabby wasn't having any part of it. I loved watching her go after what she wanted.

The suspense was good from the beginning. The Stallion was so unpredictable that it made him even more menacing. Jaime's need to project his henchman persona was obvious, especially when it came to the other two men who were there also. I loved seeing the way that he and Gabby worked together to try to identify the fourth compound. It was nerve-wracking to see how Layle was constantly in Jaime's face. When Gabby's sister was threatened (Stone Cold Texas Ranger) Jaime becomes even more determined to bring the case to a quick conclusion. The tension at the compound steadily increases and begins to affect the women also. I wasn't sure how the whole thing with Alyssa was going to go and was very impressed with the way that Gabby handled it. Jaime's confrontation with The Stallion was intense, all the while he worried about Gabby and her safety. I loved how the women took matters into their own hands, though once again Alyssa was a problem. That confrontation was intense, but also a bit amusing in places. I'm really looking forward to the next book and reading Alyssa's story.

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