Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a review for a new romantic suspense novel from Cristin Harber. LOCKE AND KEY is the eighth book in the NYT best-selling Titan series, but it’s a standalone romance, so newcomers should still enjoy it. I know that I was able to jump right in and enjoy the story–and Titan community.
About the book:
THE STOIC SPECIAL FORCES OPERATOR
There’s only one person to blame for darkening the last years of Locke Oliver’s military career: Cassidy Noble. And damn if he doesn’t have to save her from the side of a frozen mountain. Even after the job is done, he can’t shake the woman from his thoughts. He blames her for the deaths in his Army unit so many years ago, and he’s not ready to let that go. It’s driving him to the point of distraction, and now his Titan Group boss says to get his act together or get out.
THE FEISTY, FALLEN REPORTER
Cassidy is a disgraced journalist, once accused of treason—Or she’s an American hero. It depends on who you ask. She’s on a mission to rebuild her name and started with a simple question but discovered a complex web of spies and possible human trafficking.
Titan Group believes in her. Locke does not. Until he can’t deny the truth any longer about the past or what she’s uncovered in her investigation.
BECOME AN INSEPARABLE TEAM
Cassidy volunteers to go undercover. Locke would do anything to stay by her side as she slips into the network and is sold to the highest bidder. All is going right until everything goes wrong. Nothing is as they expect including falling in love with the woman he thought he hated.
How about a little taste?
Locke ducked close to her ear, purposefully rasping a five o’clock shadow against her neck, and again asked, “Do we know anything new?”
She whimpered. He had to have heard the quiet groan, and he swayed them together and— damn, she felt him. Cassidy’s eyes went wide as he held her backside against his crotch.
Was Locke turned-on? Locke was turned-on. And he wanted her to know. The realization was as potent as a narcotic. It hit her blood, and she was high.
But he’d asked about work. What was she supposed to do? She tried to recover. Shaking and stupidly pretending this wasn’t a thing, she turned. Eye to eye, she couldn’t read him!
He didn’t move. Didn’t touch her. Was the ball in her park? He’d asked about Alex, twice. But he had a hard-on!
Cassidy was so confused and turned on that she couldn’t trust her instincts. She needed to do what she did best— work. Focus on the job.
“He’s in there.” Cassidy, failing to regain her composure, was still breathless.
Locke smiled. “Good to know.”
She’d made the right choice in focusing on work. She was there for Alex. If Locke wanted to… pursue something, he could do it when she wasn’t busy. He had her number.
“Cass…” His eyebrows challenged her to admit their tension escalating.
There was Cass again. She hated nicknames— until they flowed from his mouth. They needed space, but she didn’t trust her legs. They were weak as her mind was wild. She tried to swallow, shifting away—
“Don’t go.” He was holding her, hugging her. Locke cupped her cheek and let his fingers slide along her jaw. She was drowning in him as Locke’s hand moved down her neck, letting the thump of her pulse jump against his fingertips. “I—”
“Excuse me,” a woman snapped as she bustled in, grabbing her shawl, and she sneered on the way out.
“Oh, God.” Cassidy jumped, her cheeks hot and her embarrassment swallowing her alive. She choked on the knot in her throat and covered her face, backing away from him. “I’m so sorry.”
“Cassidy.” Locke reached for her.
“So, so sorry.” She tilted to face him, and they stood in the dark shadows. She was the reporter; he was the protector.
His voice rumbled, not judgmental or embarrassed. “You have nothing to say sorry about. To anyone.”
“We might disagree on that.” She’d staked the rebound of her career on Alex, but when Locke came around, she always seemed to forget.
“I don’t try to upset you.” The pregnant pause hung heavy. “Not on purpose anyway— maybe for fun, playing around, but I won’t do that again.”
He was playing down their moment of intimacy. Maybe for him it had been nothing but an erection and a tease, while for her it was the stuff of nightly fantasies. How foolish was she? Embarrassment made her stomach drop.
Again, they were almost stomach to stomach. Too close. Too intimate. Too… much. “I’m not upset.” But that wasn’t true.
“You’re something,” he said.
“Something,” she agreed. “True.” Something she’d never, ever admit to. Tugging her bottom lip between her teeth, she couldn’t map out his intentions-
“Don’t do that.”
“Do what?” Cassidy froze, wondering what she’d done wrong.
His gaze lasered on her lips. “That.”
Finally, she saw the same desperate hunger on his face. The authority in his command made her shiver. Unquenched lust boiled in his eyes, and Cassidy didn’t know how to handle this Locke— the uncontrolled and unscripted one. “Oh… um. I…”
In a tailspin, she couldn’t decide whether to fight for what she could finally read on his face or pull her act together and act like they were working together. She did neither, standing there, still unsure.
“You keep biting that lip, Cass.” Locke lifted an eyebrow and scorched her panties. “Don’t do that.”
“Okay.” The devil on her shoulder whispered, Bite your lip again. Or bite his. Maybe they could kiss and work.
Locke lifted his chin, his gaze falling past her. “Alex is leaving.”
Wait— what? Damn it.
Locke Oliver is a former Special Forces operative who now works for the Titan Group, a private security agency with far-reaching duties and responsibilities. While on a mission to retrieve a DC schoolteacher under threat from FSB termination, he encounters Cassidy Noble. Cassidy is a disgraced reporter whom Locke has long-blamed as responsible for his unit getting attacked in Iraq nearly a decade ago. Cassidy was an embedded reporter on the scene, who had reported that there were insufficient troops available.
Cassidy wouldn’t give up her sources–even though they had died in that fire fight. She even went to prison to protect the identities of her her sources. And she’s still mostly a pariah. She was writing opinion pieces for this prestigious school in DC, and profiling Alex Gaev, a prominent teacher, which was how she and Alex ended up in Russia. Alex, a man with a dark history, is the reason they were running for their lives from the FSB.
Locke is an emotional mess after seeing Cassidy–who trips his PTSD buttons. Some tough love from his Titan buddies convinces him that his hatred for Cassidy is misplaced, and he’s trying to make amends for his previous bad behavior when he recognizes that Cassidy is investigating Alex, on her own. Locke knows that this is a bad, bad, idea, and makes the link that Alex is somehow linked to the criminal elements that run a new and lucrative sex-trafficking ring.
As they investigate Alex together, the heat begins to grow between Cassidy and Locke, and when Cassidy puts her life on the line to break this case wide open, Locke knows his conflicts are real, and of the love variety.
For me, some of the love aspects happened too conveniently, and too quickly, but the backstory regarding Alex, his lost love and his meager life were really interesting. I also liked how Locke got his head figured out, and began healing from his horrific experiences in Iraq. Cassisy is a great gal, and a strong female lead, so that was exciting. The investigation seemed to be complicated, but the inter-agency support at Titan was fun; sure to be enjoyed by fans of the series as they get glimpses of people from previous books. For me it seems that Jax or Ryder will be getting a love interest soon.
About the Author:
Cristin Harber is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling romance author. She writes sexy, steamy romantic suspense and military romance. Readers voted her onto Amazon’s Top Picks for Debut Romance Authors in 2013, and her debut Titan series was both a #1 romantic suspense and #1 military romance bestseller.