By Anastasia K. Bond




Air Force reservist MIKE PATON is tired of self-sacrifice. After fourteen years in the Special Operations field of pararescue and two years of medical school, he’s well on the way to his goal of becoming a doctor. Unable to commit to a relationship beyond a two-night stand, something incomprehensible inside still drives him to help others, and he hopes that he can get more personal benefit out of becoming a doctor. But when online friend CAT (CATRINA MACBETH) shows up in town in desperate need of help, he agrees to help her elude the Lebanese terrorists who have a personal score to settle from Cat’s student days in Beirut. It should be easy enough, but Mike’s plans quickly fall apart when terrorist MAHJUD FARHAT of FATAH AL ISLAM tries to run Cat down and blows Mike’s car into a thousand pieces. Mike and Cat escape, but Mike is shocked to discover that Cat –who has never received a government paycheck- has a long international history that she would rather not share with the government until she obtains critical evidence against the terrorists who pursue her. Mike knows enough about intra-governmental bureaucracy to believe that notifying the feds would seriously disrupt his medical studies. He goes on the run with Cat, heading toward the nearest Air Force base in hopes that being a guest in such a protected environment will allow Cat to gather the proof she needs with minimal disruption to Mike’s life.

As they face various obstacles together, Mike begins to wonder if he’s finally met his equal, someone who uses others yet cares about people more than she wants to admit. Unbeknownst to Mike, Cat’s goals shifted with the first bomb blast: she doesn’t care what happens to her as long as she can get Mike out of her mess. But when they arrive at the base, they discover that security has been tightened because of the terrorist presence in the region, and only military personnel and their families are allowed to enter the base. Mike discovers that he cannot bear to abandon Cat, and so, in a bold gesture that shocks them both, he offers to marry her in order to keep her safe. Cat agrees, hoping that it will help her find a quick resolution so that Mike can get on with his life. After they get the license, they move into guest quarters on the base, and Cat begins her desperate attempts to find the people who can produce enough evidence to arrest the men who pursue her. But bureaucratic bickering stalls the flow of information, and Cat’s one ace in the hole, a transmitter the terrorists planted on her, falls apart when her decoy is killed.. Cat has gained enough evidence for the arrest, but not a conviction, and is becoming increasingly distracted by problems with Mike. Their paper marriage is more difficult than either had anticipated. Fed up with a marriage that doesn’t include sex, Mike abandons Cat to the US Marshals’ witness protection program so that he can continue his medical training. Cat lets him go, but finds that the restrictions of witness protection hinder her search. Realizing how much she misses Mike, she drops in on a squadron party to see him, schmoozing with his colonel’s wife and incidentally advancing his career if he wants to stay in the Air Force. But it backfires when Mike realizes just how far she’s gotten past his defenses. He doesn’t want anyone that close. He pushes her away, sending her right back to witness protection.

Mike’s attempts to forget Cat shatter when Fatah al Islam shoots down a US Army helicopter, killing a pilot Mike once risked his life to save. The quest to take down their terror network is now personal, and he puts medical school on hold to join Cat. But a call to his friend in the US Marshals reveals that Cat has shaken off her protection and disappeared. Mike follows her trail to New York, but it ends there...until Al-Jazeera airs a video of Cat being beaten for her refusal to ask the US government to exchange her life for the life of a terror mastermind already in US custody. But as the camera pans close to her face, she mouths Mike’s name. Mike fights to organize a rescue attempt, sleeping with a woman who has the connections to get things moving. Despite their history, he fears Cat will see it as a betrayal, but is willing to sacrifice their future relationship to save Cat’s life.

But Mike isn’t the only one making sacrifices. Cat knows the mistake she made in the video, and is determined to keep Mike out of the line of fire. She manipulates her captors into relocating to a more remote region, leaving evidence behind to suggest that she is dead. The rescue attempt is cancelled. Sick at heart, struggling to believe the evidence, Mike returns to the only thing he has left: the med school that will kick him out if he misses his clinical experience for anything other than active duty. But Special Operations is a close-knit community, and a SEAL friend recognizes Cat during a surveillance mission in Syria. Mike drops everything else to join the SEALS in their rescue mission. They successfully rescue Cat, but the terrorists escape.

Cat has gained vital information on the terror cell, and she shares it with military intelligence. The Air Force bombs the terror camp, effectively destroying the operation, but one A10 bomber is shot down by a shoulder-fired SAM. The pilot is believed to be alive, but is injured in dangerous territory. Cat is tormented by guilt for the pilot’s fate, and Mike rejoins his squadron to rescue the pilot for Cat. Upon successful completion of the mission, Mike smoothes things over with his medical school, and he and Cat make their marriage permanent.