Jackson Taylor is director of the Los Angeles branch of the FBI. His second in command is Ashley Haven. Although they are both intensely infatuated with each other, they have managed to keep things professional. A mission gone wrong ends with Jackson held hostage. When Ashley successfully finds him, they realize the true depth of their feelings.
The agents barely have time to express their true feelings before another explosive situation rips not only Jackson and Ashley apart, but his family as well. With their lives at stake, Jackson and Ashley will use their skills as trained agents and their love for one another to close the case.
Working for the FBI is not a safe career, and the ever-heightening crisis reveals how much Jackson and Ashley have to lose. Now having had a taste of what life could be like as a couple, they are faced with the cold, hard reality that their days of defending America may cost them a lot more than they ever imagined.

David turned to Jackson. “Sorry, Jackson, can you explain that?”

Jackson was holding his pen so hard, his knuckles had turned white. “I said
that I cannot accept Ashley Haven’s application. I need her here on the floor.”

Ashley was shocked. “What?”

It was like the entire room broke out of a state of boredom. Everyone looked
at Ashley as she bluntly questioned what Jackson had said. She could already
feel herself going red.

Jackson looked up at David and then at Ashley. “You know you are needed
here, Ashley. We have spent the last couple weeks trying to play catch-up. If
you leave now, once we are finally on track, everything will …”

Ashley cut him off. “Everything will be fine. There are other people you can
bring in.”

“Your number one priority here is tactical, not field-ops, Ashley.”

Ashley felt herself sinking into the chair. Why was Jackson doing this? “I can
be both. I could be …”

“I don’t want you going.”

“But I want to go.”

David looked annoyed and moved forward, cutting them both off. “We don’t
have time for this in here. Jackson, take Ashley to your office and sort this out.”

They both nodded and stood to leave. Ashley couldn’t figure out what was
going on. Before they had both made it to the doorway, Tim Woods stood up.
“Umm, David, I also had some paperwork to go with Ashley’s file that Jackson
needs to see.”

David motioned for Tim to hand Jackson the papers.

Jackson thanked Tim and then held the door open for Ashley to walk out of
the conference room. She hesitated before eventually walking past him with her head down. Once past him, she continued up to his office and sat on the couch.

Jackson skimmed the paper Tim had handed him. He had to look at it a couple
times at first because it completely confused him. He closed the door to his
office and walked over to Ashley.
“This is from medical?”

Ashley tried to look up at him, but she was sure if she made eye contact with
him, she would burst into tears, so she kept her head down. “Why are you
doing this, Jackson? I am capable of doing the Rainer task.”

Jackson was still shocked from what he had read. “I said … this is from

She just nodded her head.

There was silence for a moment. Finally, Jackson pushed again. “Why didn’t
you tell me about this, Ashley?”

“Because I … I …” She threw her hands up in the air. “What does it matter?”
“It matters, Ashley. I had no idea you were hurt that day. I deserved to know.”

Ashley had no idea what to say. His voice sounded hurt. She was surprised.
“What does this have to do with the Rainer task?”

Jackson sat on the edge of his desk, close to Ashley. “Well, everything, actually.
It says you had some bleeding. You followed it up at St. John’s hospital with

Ashley felt the tears welling in her eyes. She could not let this get to her.

“It says you were supposed to have submitted the results back to medical.”

Ashley’s silence told Jackson that there was something wrong. He was
concerned. He couldn’t believe he had been so caught up in all his own crap
he hadn’t known that this had happened. She still wasn’t saying anything. He
tilted his head to the side a little to try and catch her eye, but her head was
too low.

“You know, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t accept your application for the
Rainer task without the results, Ashley.”

Ashley’s heart sank. “I hadn’t realized that,” she mumbled.

“Look at me, Ash.”

She slowly raised her head and met his gaze. Instantly, she felt him studying
her, looking for answers. He knew her so well. It was like he could read her
mind sometimes.

His face softened as he saw how sad she looked. “What is wrong? What were
the results?”
Jackson could tell she was starting to panic.

She responded with a shaky voice. “Jackson, please. Just forget it. Everything
is fine. Let me go on the task. I’m begging you.”

“Why, Ash? Why on earth would you want to go on this mission? What are
you running from?”

“What makes you think I am running from something?”

Jackson hated that she was shutting him out. “Of course you are. You don’t
really want to do this mission. I know you better than that, Ash. It is not
something you would normally sign up for. And why won’t you talk to me
about this medical stuff? For Christ’s sake, it happened because you were out
trying to help me. You got hurt because you were out helping me … and you
didn’t even tell me?”

She ignored his last question and raised her voice at Jackson. “You are wrong.
I want to do it.”

He raised his voice back at her. “Well, you are not doing it!”
He couldn’t believe how out of control the whole situation was. It felt like
so much had happened to Ashley and he had missed it all. Again, she had
completely ignored the medical issue.
He grabbed his phone and held it out in front of her to see. “Either you tell
me what is going on with you or I phone medical and find out.”

Ashley stood up and grabbed the phone from his hand. She caught him by
complete surprise—she even took herself by surprise.
Tears were in her eyes now. “You can’t. That is supposed to be confidential.”

Jackson was still stunned by her actions. He worried she was going to try and
leave any second, so he stepped in front of her, blocking her way to the door.
“You know it’s not confidential to me. I’m worried about you, Ash. I want to
help you. You are not alone.”

“Not alone? Are you kidding me? How am I not alone, Jackson?”

“You have got me. I am here for you.”

As soon as he said it, the tears made their way down her cheeks. She shook
her head. “How have I got you, Jackson? You have wanted nothing to do with
me for the last week now,” she cried.

He felt sick to his stomach, seeing her tears. Instinctively, he went to reach for
her, but she pulled back. He felt his own tears coming. He couldn’t lose it in
front of her now. He had to be strong, and he had to be there for her.
“That’s not true. Why didn’t you tell me something was wrong? I would have
taken you for the tests. I would have been there with you. It’s not fair. I should
have known about this.”

“Like you have come to me, Jackson?”


“You could have come and talked to me about how pissed off and upset you
are lately. Instead, you have blocked me out. You have blocked everything out.”

He felt like he had the wind knocked out of him. He stumbled to the side
until he found the desk and sat back on it. He let out a huge sigh. “I haven’t
blocked you out.”

“It feels like you have wanted nothing to do with me.”

It was Jackson’s turn to panic. He stood up again.
“What else could I have done, Ash, huh? I don’t know what you want. It feels
like every time I’ve tried to talk to you, something happens.” He stopped only
to take a huge breath, and then he pointed his finger at her. “I knew you were
keeping your distance too. You should have told me that day you were hurt! I
should have known something was wrong.”

“It doesn’t matter anyway. I’ve sorted it out, and I am okay.”

Jackson shook his head. “I don’t believe you.”

Ashley looked at him. He looked like he was going to cry. She had never seen
that before. She’d seen him upset, and she had seen him angry. Right now, he
looked sad and hurt. She didn’t know what to do. She wished she could do
something to make him smile. For so long, she had wanted to see him smile
again. She was lost for words.

Before she knew what was happening, he snatched the phone out of her
hands. He leaned on the table for support. He spoke softly but with so much
frustration in his voice that it was broken and shaky.
“If you think I am letting you go on that mission where you could get hurt,
you are wrong. If you think I won’t phone the hospital and find out what is going on, you are wrong. I’m not asking for your permission anymore to look
after you.”

“So, you get to use your position here to get what you want, but you won’t let
me do anything for you?”

“What won’t I let you do, Ashley?”

She sat back down on the couch, feeling completely defeated. “You won’t let
me know what’s wrong. You have been so depressed and angry with me. You
won’t let me help you. You have shut me out completely. I used to be able to
make you smile, you know, Jackson. I haven’t seen you do that once … not
since that night.”

His intercom buzzed, and Troy’s voice startled them both.
“Sorry to interrupt, Jackson, but can you put Ashley on for a minute? We are
having trouble with one of the routers.”

Jackson watched as Ashley wiped the tears away from her cheeks and got up
to go to the phone. Before she picked it up, he quietly called her name so she
would turn around.

“I’d smile if I knew you were okay.”

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