(new) Hawaii Five-0 on CBS

the new Hawaii Five-0 on CBS


Scenes from Hawaii Five-0, Season 9, Episode 11 “Hala I Ke Ala O’i’ole Mai” starring Alex O’Loughlin, Michelle Borth, Beulah Koale, Scott Caan and Chris Vance

Music: Blue Stahli – Celebrity Mashup


This week on Hawaii Five-0, McGarrett aimed to exact vengeance for the death of Joe White. When all was said and done, did the person responsible get what was coming to them?

Bearded and looking bedraggled some time after Joe’s death during the shootout with Omar Hassan’s men, Steve was visited at the Montana ranch by Danny — who soon realized that he was late to the “party,” that Catherine Rollins was already there. Danny wasn’t interrupting any (ahem) “playing house” but instead a brutal and bloody interrogation of Hassan’s lawyer.

After going another round with McGarrett, said lawyer coughed up a lead on Hassan’s whereabouts. Picking up Junior, Wade Gutches (and Frank Bama’s plucky, barely glimpsed daughter?) along the way, the group flew 10,000 miles to Laos, where they met up with advance man Harry Langford. Langford had culled a lead on Hassan in the form of a runner who frequents the high-roller baccarat table at an exclusive club, as a means of “paying” the casino to launder Hassan’s money. Steve and Catherine cleaned up and glammed up to pose as marrieds (!), sitting next to the runner with the hope of dosing his cocktail with a radioactive solution that will allow them to track him to Hassan. Though the runner cashed out earlier than anyone expected, Catherine was able to coax him into sipping his drink before going.

Tracking the runner to Hassan’s well-secured penthouse, the team used ye old trusty video loop to sneak upstairs, where they took out (or at least shot the legs of!) Hassan’s bodyguards. Steve soon cornered and pinned down Hassan himself, only to be briefly distracted by the streetside team (Danny and Catherine) getting surrounded by other guards. But after Harry phoned the local law woman he had “befriended,” she and her patrol cars pulled up and hauled away the goons. (Let’s all agree that the legalities of all this fall into a biiiiiig grey area.) Upstairs, Hassan taunted Steve to kill him, but McGarrett refused to continue the cycle, by having Hassan’s young son witness his own dad’s death. Besides, Steve wanted something more from Hassan than his blood — and he got it. Greer’s location.

Steve went knocking on Greer’s door, with Catherine providing backup. (It was a “reunion” of sorts for the trio, as an earlier flashback told us how Catherine always knew about Steve’s previous fling with Greer. OK.) Steve asked Greer why she would sell out her country and his SEAL team for any amount of money. “Maybe it wasn’t just about the money…. Maybe there were… other factors,” she teased, before reaching for her gun — at which point Catherine shot her, dead.

Having achieved some sense of closure/payback, the Hawaii team bid adieu to Gutches and then Rollins — but not before Steve shared a long-held secret with his ex. Having said that Joe White was more than just a mentor and father figure, Steve revealed via flashback how during a mission, Joe ordered a gravely wounded Steve to ask out Catherine if he survived. We then saw Steve ring her from his hospital bed and invite her to be his plus-one for an Army/Navy mixer. Rollins’ initial response, after Steve made clear it’d be a date? “What took you so long?”

“Let’s just say I took some good advice from an old friend.”

Back in the present, an emotionally moved Catherine told Steve, “I’m really glad you took his advice,” before hugging him good-bye. Yet again.

What did you think of Five-0‘s midseason premiere, the swiftly solved B-story mystery of discovered storage locker bones included? And what do you make of the “other factors” Greer alluded to? Could it be Steve’s child that she secretly had months after they first parted ways, that a ruthless Mexican cartel had been holding captive?

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Original Source


We open with someone floating face-down in what looks like some sort of sensory deprivation tank, wearing a surprisingly old-school rubber suit. The someone is then removed and the suit cut open… by Wo Fat! And it’s Steve inside! And he’s dead! (And the rubber suit is indeed old-school, because this episode is a remake of the original show’s 1968 pilot episode.) Well, I thought, bringing Wo Fat back from the dead to kill Steve in a giant swimming pool probably wouldn’t be the most ridiculous thing H50 has ever done. But… wait. It isn’t Wo Fat. And Steve’s alive. I have no idea what’s going on, so can we please have an expository flashback?

Of course we can; because this is Hawaii Five-0, where in medias res is your, and my, friend. And back we go a couple of days, to Steve and Junior burying large sums of cash money in Steve’s garden. It turns out that this represents Kamekona’s investment in The Money Pit, Steve and Danny’s restaurant, and this act of complete idiocy is justified by Steve, somewhat unconvincingly, on the basis that he… doesn’t want to take it to a bank, because then he’d need a formal partnership agreement, or something? I mean, I can see why convicted criminal Kame might be happier keeping his financial affairs on a strictly greenbacks-only basis, but the head of the Five-0 Task Force…?

Fortunately a corpse has been washed up on the beach, so we can skip to the actual plot. The DOA is Tom Hennessy, an old CIA bud of Steve’s. Agent Greer, leading the investigation, tells Steve that Hennessy seems to be one of a number of murdered Company operatives, and that there’s probably a mole giving them up. Isn’t there always? A little spice is added when it’s revealed that Greer is a former girlfriend of Steve’s, and Danny, for one, thinks that Steve should be looking to get down to some “grown folks’ business” with her once the case has been solved.

The investigation leads the Five-0 to a ship, where they find the sensory deprivation tank. So Steve decides that the best way of flushing out the mole is for him to allow himself to be captured and dangled in the tank, whereupon he will feed his captors false information. Danny thinks this is “really stupid”, which seems to be understating the position by a factor of about a billion. But Steve goes ahead and does it anyway, which is where we came in. It’s a delightfully demented episode with which to open a new season, while also nicely paying homage to the show’s original iteration, and giving us a potential new Big Bad into the bargain. Good work all round.

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Original Source


Title: Waves Towards The Shore
Fandom: NCIS/Hawaii Five-0, Sentinel Fusion
Pairing: Female Tony DiNozzo/Steve McGarrett
Genre: genderbend, casefic, action-adventure, romance, sentinel fusion, alternate universe
Word Count: 19 968
Warnings:
Canon-typical violence, child abandonment and abuse, mentions of murder and other criminal activities.
Notes: Written as part of the Rough Trade Little Black Dress Challenge for sentinel fusions in July 2018. This is not part of any other series or story I’ve written including other sentinel fusions. If you see elements or characterizations I’ve used before it’s because I have certain ongoing headcanons for favourite fandoms and characters, of which Tony DiNozzo is one. The child abandonment in the warnings regards a canon event in Tony’s life where his father leaves him alone in Hawaii for days. This takes place in the first season, canonically, of Hawaii Five-0 and after the third season of NCIS. The timelines don’t exactly line up because I don’t care and it’s an alternate universe.

Synopsis: Left behind by her father while he chased a wealthy new wife, budding guide Antonia DiNozzo is adopted by her mother’s family in England. Hawaii is behind her — until a hunt for an arms dealer brings her back to the island. And Steve McGarrett, the sentinel son of the man who once saved her.


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One

With the proximity advantage of being in first class combined with a determined attitude, Clive Paddington was the first person off the aeroplane followed closely by his solicitor. The Honolulu airport had all the typical bustle but it was draped in lethargy, heat and tropical sun laying over the normal airport chaos like one of the eponymous leis being handed out.

Clive avoided both the lei and holiday atmosphere with equal deftness. Victor Wright, hampered by his bag and briefcase and well-bred manners, avoided the latter but succumbed to the former. Under any other circumstances, Clive would tease the man, a classmate from Oxford as well as his solicitor, over the incongruous sight of his Saville Row suit and a necklace of bright pink tropical flowers.

He wasn’t in a teasing mood.

As he’d made arrangements to have the luggage delivered to the hotel, they blew past the crowds at the carousel. He felt no anxiousness over whether they would arrive in good time. As an experienced traveller, he knew that bags either arrived or didn’t and nothing would change that. As a wealthy man, he knew he could purchase anything he needed if they didn’t.

And all his anxiety was reserved for more important things.

On the concourse, there were the usual crowd of uniformed drivers, shuttle drivers and personal assistants holding signs — names of businesses, hotels and people all marked clearly. The woman bearing a sign with ‘Paddington’ wore no uniform and her floral skirt and white shirt were more holiday chic than business attire. There was also a wide berth between her and the rest of the crowd.

Though that probably had more to with the six and a half feet of sentinel looming over her shoulder in the guise of an islander in a brightly flowered shirt.

He wondered, absently, if the gaudy Hawaiian shirt was a personal affectation or an attempt to seem harmless. Judging by the six feet of space surrounding him, it wasn’t working.

Clive had served his country as a Royal Marine for six years and had managed his family’s international business concerns for nearly fifteen. He had dined with royalty and survived an attempted kidnapping in a country where life was worth less than his watch. He’d endured the slow death of his mother while he was still a boy and the loss of his sister as a young man. He’d lost a wife and child before he was thirty and fought his way out of the dark and the bottle that grief drove him to. He’d even learned, by the age of forty, to love again. It took more than a delicate guide and a wall of muscle to intimidate him on a good day.

Nothing about the last three days could be described as good.

“Clive,” Victor murmured. A warning and assurance all in one.

Clive walked straight up to the pair. He didn’t offer a hand to either — he had been better raised than to touch a guide without permission and better trained by the marines than to push into a sentinel’s space — but he didn’t leave more than the normal distance between them.

“I’m Paddington,” he said firmly. “You’re from the Center, I presume. Shall we?”

The guide folded the sign with a grin and the sentinel raised a brow. “In a hurry, haole?”

His guide sighed. “Kauhi.”

“Of course not,” Clive said, calm tone holding a sharp edge. “What could possibly make me impatient about my niece being abandoned on an island in the middle of the Pacific by her deadbeat father, in the care of strangers for the two days it took me to cross two oceans and a continent in a series of aluminium tubes?”

“Which is why we should head for the car,” the guide said, a pointed look at her shadow. “Really, Kauhi? Is now really the time for a round of ‘bait the mainlander’?”

“If he’s going to lose his temper he should do it with me, not near the little wahine.”

“If I’m going to lose my temper,” Clive said, “it will be with Anthony DiNozzo. Which is why my wife and solicitor have both informed me that they’ll handle him.”

“Why?”

“Because I would break the face he’s so proud of. They’ll ruin his life.”

The sentinel, Kauhi, nodded. “Sounds right. I’m Kauhi — just Kauhi,” he added. “And this is May Sherman, my wife and guide. We manage the Centre for the islands.”

“We can continue this is the car,” Ms Sherman said. “This way, Mr Paddington.”


The car was a limo, license plate bearing the winged sword and shield that symbolized sentinels and guides around the world. All Centre vehicles bore it because it showed they were equipped for emergencies.

The reasoning behind the choice of vehicle was made apparent became clear right away. In addition to the four of them, there were two people already settled in the back; local lawyers from the island hired by his wife, Rose, while Clive was in the air. Victor was an exceptional solicitor but he had little practice in family law and less in American family law. George Wong was a family lawyer and Leilani Hale specialized in Sentinel/Guide law.

Victor took a seat by them both and immediately dove into the incomprehensible shorthand that lawyers used among their own. Clive was lost in moments.

Even as the car glided into the traffic leaving the airport, May Sherman was proding Clive to remove his suit coat and pushing a bottle of water in his hand. “I doubt you’ve been worried about fluids recently but this is the height of the Hawaiian summer,” she explained. “You’ll dehydrate before you’ve realized it, and extra layers won’t help. I spoke to your wife a few hours ago,” she added. “A check-in before she left for the airport. She should be here in about twenty hours.”

Clive drank, suddenly aware of thirst. Rose had stayed in England while he was in the air, in order to stay in contact with the Centre, their lawyers, and manage his father. Now that he was on the ground, she would follow him. They could only trust Gereon Paddington’s staff to keep him from a transatlantic flight against the advice of doctors.

He capped the bottle, set it aside and removed his watch. As he adjusted it to the time zone, he asked the question that had clawed at him for seven thousand miles and two days.

“What happened?”

There was a moment of silence and he didn’t look up, knowing there were multiple looks being exchanged. He was well aware that he was being managed — he did it often enough himself to recognize it from the other side. Clive didn’t even object. As long as he got answers, and no one hid the truth from him.

“Beginning four days ago there were several reports from guests and staff at the Hilton Garden Inn of a sense of unease, fear and grief,” Kauhi finally answered. “The feelings were general, came and went, and were difficult to localize as only people who were sensitive could pick them up. Two guides on staff attempted to find the source but they were both low level and limited in their ability to manipulate their shields. The intermittent nature was also a factor. That night a dozen people woke up, crying for no reason they were aware of.”

Clive finished with his watch and fastened it with careful movements. “The Centre was called?”

“We were notified.” Sherman placed a hand over Clive’s sleeve, making him aware of his clenched fist. He relaxed it with effort. “It sounded like an emerging guide or a latent in distress. Extreme emotion can cause a latent guides natural shielding to erode, but it’s rare without sustained or physical trauma.”

“Because the distress had been localized on three floors, the staff began doing welfare checks,” Kauhi continued. “One door on the seventeenth had a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign that had been up for two days. They knocked, repeatedly, and had no response. The on staff guides reported a heightened state of fear being projected. Due to the circumstances, the Centre and the Honolulu PD were notified.”

“HPD sent a pair of officers with training in dealing with sentinels and guides —”

“Training?” Clive asked.

“There are only three latents on the force, no online sentinels and guides,” Sherman explained. “Though several come from families with both or are sensitive. Hawaii is small and we have a culture that values sentinels as part of our communities rather than in service to them. Most sentinels inclined to service join the military due to their visible presence here.”

Whereas in Britain, the Second World War had driven people online in record numbers, joining the military or homefront efforts. Even forty years later that legacy continued, aided by the mandatory service requirements extending beyond the war. More than half of online sentinels and a third of guides worked in public service or military function in Britain.

Clive watched the coastline pass along the highway, radiant waves and the clear sky a perfect frame for the fishing boats and pleasure craft dotting the ocean. “And they found her. How long was she alone?”

“Three days,” Sherman murmured. His hand clenched on the seat, leather creaking in his grip. He’d heard it over the phone but hearing it again was just as infuriating and impossible to believe. “Her father’s room in the suite was empty and his keys were left behind. HPD found that he’d boarded a cruise ship to Tahiti a few hours after Antonia last saw him.”

That was new information; Clive turned to stare at her. “He didn’t just leave the island but the country?”

Sherman’s mouth tightened. “Apparently.”

“I’m going to ruin that wanker.” Clive snapped, then exhaled deliberately. Rose would be unhappy if he gave himself a stroke over someone as worthless as Anthony DiNozzo. “The Centre took temporary custody?”

“Temporary guardianship, yes, but we don’t maintain a group home and an isolation suite is no place for a child. One of the responding officers is registered as an emergency foster parent. We’re heading to the family home now.”

“Did she attempt to contact anyone?” Victor asked, pen poised over a legal pad. “Her father?”

“There was no answer at home — in seems Mr DiNozzo gave the staff time off while they were away.” Clive snorted. More likely DiNozzo hadn’t wanted to pay anyone. “She did reach his offices in New York. A secretary informed Antonia her message would be passed along to Mr DiNozzo when he contacted them. And in the meantime, to enjoy her vacation and not cause any embarrassment.”

Victor raised a brow and made a note. “Charming. But it adds weight to our claims of neglect, abandonment and endangerment. The Centre will file charges for endangerment of a minor guide?”

Kauhi smiled, showing teeth. “Already done.”

Victor made another note. “And we’ll file for custody on those ground.”

“You told me that a judge would be less inclined to hear a custody petition that would remove a minor from her home country,” Clive reminded him.

“That was four years ago, with no evidence of abuse beyond benign neglect that was negated by the presence of staff,” Victor said. “DiNozzo’s lawyers would have argued that you couldn’t separate a grieving child from her only living parent in the wake of her mother’s death. At the time she was clothed, fed, well-educated and cared for, even if it was by staff and not her father. This is an entirely different situation.”

“Her age is a factor,” Wong, stated. “A twelve-year-old’s wishes are far more likely to be taken into account than an eight-year-old. And it is on the record that, when asked by the Centre and HPD, your name was the first she asked to contact. She tried to do so herself, but didn’t have the number memorized.”

“And she wasn’t registered as a latent guide or on the Centre’s radar then,” Hale added. “Endangering underaged guides is dangerous. Coming online in such circumstances, without help or empathic buffering, can kill a minor and even damage others in the backlash. The courts take that into account.”

“She’s still latent? This didn’t bring her online?” Considering the descriptions of emotional projection, he’d wondered.

“Fortunately not,” Sherman said. “Official, she’s been labelled as fragile.”

He laughed, unable to help himself, and got a few surprised looks. “I hope you didn’t tell her that.”

“I try not to distress fragile guides,” he was told stiffly.

He only chuckled. “More like cause a temper tantrum. ‘Fragile’ sounds like ‘delicate’ and that, I’m told, is a terrible burden for a girl. ‘Delicate’ is what people call you to discourage rough sports. ‘Delicate’ was her mother’s health. ‘Delicate’ is for glass figures and butterfly wings and she, I have it on good authority, is neither.”

“I knew I liked the keiki,” Kauhi said.

Sherman smiled, stiffness evaporating. “Well, I wouldn’t want to cause insult.”

“What are the chances of gaining custody?”

“Under the circumstances? Moderate to good,” Wong said. “And if you can get the Centre on your side, it increases. There are things you can do to demonstrate that your interests outweigh the negatives of removing a child from the country of her birth, which demands full custody of a non-parental relation over a parent. I’ll be providing Mr Wright with a list.”

“An assessment of your empathic stability would add weight and demonstrate conviction to the Centre,” Sherman added.

“Schedule it — wait until my wife arrives, please. We’ll both do one.” All three lawyers made notes. “If she wasn’t a guide? Would it have been possible?”

Victor made a so-so motion with his hand. “Under the circumstances but without that as a factor? Maybe, but I’d advise you hire at least two family lawyers in the USA. And rent or buy a house, either here or in New York State to show a willingness to take up partial residence and settle in for the long haul.”

“Even with abandonment on the table?” he demanded.

Wong looked up from his notes. “Unfortunately, Mr Paddington, abandonment is only a misdemeanor in Hawaii. Without reckless endangerment or proof of serious harm, it results in a fine rather than the termination of parental rights. Though it can be used in custody disputes.”

“So, you’re saying it would be cheaper to hire a hitman.”

Victor sighed. “I told you not to say shite like that in front of witnesses, Clive.”

Hale shrugged. “We’re lawyers. We’ve heard worse jokes.”

Kauhi snorted. “He’s not joking. And he’s not wrong.”


The two-story house was pretty, framed by trees and backed up by the ocean. There was no reason to be nervous as he left the limo.

Except that he hadn’t seen his niece in nearly a year. They spoke nearly every week on the phone but with DiNozzo’s erratic schedule, two different visits had fallen through. If he’d pushed harder to have her for the whole summer, rather than just one month, this might never have happened.

He’d promised himself that he would take care of his sister’s child. He felt like a failure.

Clive followed the sentinel/guide pair to the door, where they were greeted by a man about his own age who sized him up in a long glance. In return, Clive studied him. Tanned, with a military haircut and the beginnings of lines fanning from his eyes. His handshake was firm but not deliberately so. “Clive Paddington.”

“Detective John McGarrett. Glad to see you; Toni’s been asking about you.”

“I would have been here sooner but — ”

McGarrett waved it off. “It’s a hell of a long trip and you couldn’t get a direct flight on short notice. Toni calculated the time, including layovers and time zones. My kids took her down to the beach to distract her from watching the clock and Doris, my wife, went for groceries. Figured we’d grill on the lanai tonight.”

Tension that had held him rigid through three flights and seven thousand miles finally eased. “I’d like to see her.”

“This way.” McGarrett nodded his head to the table in the main room, directing the lawyers there, and led him through the house. “Should probably warn you — my son, Steve? He’s got himself the start of a little crush on Toni. So just ignore the puppy eyes.”

“How old is he?”

“Just turned fourteen. Damned if I know where the time goes,” McGarrett sighed. “Mary is ten and thinks having a pretty older girl share her room is the best thing ever, especially since she can tease her brother at the same time. Toni’s definitely an only child though.” Clive looked over and McGarrett grinned. “No idea what to make of their bickering. She keeps looking at them like they’re an alien species.”

The yard sloped straight down to the beach, complete with weathered chairs and a bench piled with towels. Wading in water to her knees, wearing a simple swimsuit and a braid, was his sister’s daughter.

For the first time in two days, Clive breathed.

“Come on, Toni!” A boy was deeper in the ocean, treading water. “Come swim!”

“Swimming in the ocean is dangerous, you know. Especially without a lifeguard.”

A girl, shorter and blonder than his niece with her coltish limbs and signs of emerging adolescence, splashed into the water. “Come on Toni! There’s no riptide here.”

“I really feel like this requires adult supervision.”

“Steve swims really good — even if he wants to play stupid football instead.”

“Shut up, Mary.” The boy swam closer, shoulders emerging from the water. He was tanned and skinny but long limbed.

“Don’t tell me to shut up, Steve! Or I’ll tell Dad you —”

“Children,” McGarrett called. “Can you pretend to be civilized in front of company? And Toni is right — you shouldn’t be swimming without an adult, Steven.”

“Shit,” the boy muttered, cringing under a sharp look.

After that, Clive lost track of the interaction. He was too focused on the girl who had turned from the ocean, hand shielding her face. “Sorry, Detective — Uncle Clive!”

She bolted towards him and Clive only managed a few long steps before damp, salty limbs wrapped around him. Holding tightly, he managed to say her name. “Nina. Thank god.”

“I’m sorry,” she cried against his shirt. “I didn’t mean — I was — Uncle Clive, I was really scared.”

“You have nothing to be sorry for, Nina,” Clive told her firmly, nudging her chin up to meet his gaze. Green eyes stared out of his sister’s face, full of tears. “Absolutely nothing, Nina,” he repeated the name that only Claire and now the Paddingtons used, rather than the nickname her bastard father insisted on.

The real Tony DiNozzo indeed. The man was really going to be sued into real bankruptcy for putting that look of fear on his niece’s face.

“I was scared,” she whispered, looking ashamed.

“So was I,” he confided. “But it’s alright now, darling, you’re safe. Everything is going to be alright.” Even if he had to hire a team of lawyers and a hitman.

Nina wiped her eyes. “Okay. Uncle Clive, did you know there are sharks here? I saw one.”

“Now you are definitely not swimming in the ocean,” Clive said. Bloody sharks?

She pouted. “It was only a little one and it wasn’t on this beach. Detective, tell Uncle Clive a shark won’t eat me.”

McGarrett broke off scolding his son to look at them. “You won’t get eaten by a shark.”

“Unless you go surfing at Maui,” Steven offered. McGarrett was right, there were definitely puppy eyes. “Sixty percent of all shark attacks on Earth happen there. But Oahu is safe. Except for jellyfish.”

“And sea urchins,” Mary piped up. “And coral — if you touch some of them, you’ll get poisoned! And there are sea snakes, but not here.”

“See,” Nina told him. “I won’t get eaten by a shark.”

“I can’t tell you how reassured I am,” he drawled. “Let’s go for a swim right now.”

Her giggle was music to his ears.


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Two

As the plane approached the terminal, Antonia Paddington, better known as Nina or Toni, gathered her belongings for disembarking. Her laptop and files were already stowed neatly in their bag and her cell phone, which was off but had served as a music player for the flight from Los Angeles, slid neatly into a pocket. She removed and folded her jacket, needed for the air-conditioned plane but unnecessary in the tropical heat, and swept her hair back in a neat bun with a tie. Slipping her feet back in her shoes completed the transformation from relaxed traveller to Interpol agent.

The benefits of using her own money to upgrade her seat extended to more than leg room, however vital that was to a woman a shade under six feet; she was off the plane and in the terminal before the people in coach had gotten to their feet.

Long strides took her to the carousel in minutes while luck had her bag one of the first off the plane. Experience had her using a zebra-striped bag rather than a black case indistinguishable from hundreds of others. It was sturdy but inexpensive and contained nothing that she couldn’t replace with one trip to a mall, and was her fourth suitcase in eighteen months. Regular travel wasn’t all glamour.

She turned on her cell phone to find her rental car reservation and was informed she had thirteen missed texts and six missed calls. Half of them came from the same three numbers.

Something to deal with later.

Nina signed for her rental and while waiting for it to be brought around, she accepted a lei from an airport employee and sent her boss a text message.

Just landed in Hon. Will call when settled. One hour.

The reply came as she slid into the car seat. The thumbs up emoji made her roll her eyes.

She pulled up her hotel reservation and put the address in the car GPS and, twenty-four minutes after disembarking was merging into the highway traffic. There was something to be said about experience and luck when it came to travel.

A few turns of the dial found what she would consider appropriate driving music — lots of guitars and drums and chorus lines that required singing along to — and a touch of a button had the sunroof open.

Efficiency didn’t mean a lack of fun.

The drive was relatively fast since it wasn’t rush hour — if there was such a thing in place with its own sense of pace, the famous island time — and Nina used it to study Hawaii as it passed by. She had seen plenty of beautiful places in her life; Greece and Spain, the Highlands and the Peaks, the Mediterranean and the South Seas. Hawaii was equal to all of them.

Her hotel was different than the one from her childhood or even the one that Clive and Rose had stayed in afterwards and not just for the obvious reasons. For one thing, a single woman on business didn’t need a status-enhancing suite in one of the priciest hotels in Waikiki.

And she wasn’t a masochist.

With the same efficiency as at the airport, Nina checked into the Polynesian Hostel and unpacked. Clothes were hung to remove wrinkles, her phone was plugged in to charge and her computer was set up at the desk along with her files. While it booted up, she kicked off her heels, turned on the coffee machine, and opened the window. And took a moment to stand there, breathing in the air and the view and Hawaii.

Then she took her coffee to the desk, logged into the hotel wifi, and opened Skype.

When the video call connected, Craig Grayson filled her screen. He was a handsome man, rough edges barely eased by the humour in his face and steel grey in his hair. He had been RAF before going to MI5 and, eventually, Interpol. Under other circumstances Nina would have happily seen which of them could break the other in bed but, as he was the head of her taskforce and her boss, that wasn’t going to happen. Which was a pity because he had a ‘gentle but harder’ vibe that appealed to her.

“Stop that,” he told her firmly.

Nina grinned into her cup. “Stop what?”

“Fantasizing. I already wank off over you once a week.”

“Only once?” she pouted.

“The rest of the time it’s Cate Blanchett or Charlize Theron.”

“Well, now I’m flattered. I’m entitled to regret that I didn’t meet you while you were still in uniform,” Nina added. “Or before you were my supervisor.”

“You were in uni when I was last in uniform,” Craig told her sternly, corners of his mouth curving. “And whatever you’re going to say, don’t. If these conversations get overheard one more time we’ll both end up in a harassment class.”

“As students or examples?”

“Both.”

“Ruin all my fun,” she sighed. “Fine. Anything new on Mangallanes while I was in the air?”

Luther Mangallanes was an arms dealer that was high up on the Interpol Arms and Human Trafficking task force watch list, less for his own business and more for what he knew. Mangallanes himself was smart and kept his operation small and tight but he was also a known fixer, connecting others in the business for a fee. They’d come close to getting him a year ago in LA thanks to an FBI/NCIS operation but his contacts had warned him before the trap could close.

She wanted him. Mangallanes had not only dealt with La Grenouille, one of her targets, but he had also helped Ari Haswari find weapons in Europe and the US. Weapons he had used to kill law enforcement agents in an effort to ‘keep his cover’ with Hamas.

Only the FBI and Mossad still believed that story. Interpol had learned their lesson the hard way — with three dead agents.

They’d nearly caught Haswari, thanks to NCIS, but someone had extracted him. Either Hamas or Mossad — his sister had been poking around DC at the same time as Haswari had targeted a new agent, Gibbs from NCIS. Nina wished the man would just kill his own father instead of finding surrogates to murder.

Mostly, though, she wanted him in a cell. Mangallanes might be the key to managing that.

“Yes, actually,” Craig said. “HPD and the state task force both flagged him a few hours ago. One of his aliases came through customs four days ago, which alerted us. That name came up in regards to a crime yesterday — a mob doctor known to fix faces turned up dead and Mangallanes was nearby when the body was found.”

“Damn. Sounds like someone needed a new face — which means they also need other things. The kind of things a middleman like Luther could provide.”

Craig nodded. “It explains why he’s turned up in Hawaii. Probably an old client — which means someone we might be interested in. The task force has the case now, so that’s your contact.”

Her eyes turned to one of the files on her desk, containing the details of the Hawaii State Governor’s Task Force, or Five-0. “I’ll get in touch with the FBI and NCIS offices here as well. No reason to waste contacts and they might have investigations that cross this one. I doubt Five-0 has a great relationship with the FBI.”

“Does anyone? It’s our job to work with and between agencies and the FBI drives us mad on a good day.”

“It’s the suits,” Nina agreed. “The International Response Team isn’t so bad. The profilers are alright, as well.”

“High praise. I’ll hear from you tomorrow?”

She nodded. “If not sooner.”

“Alright. Be careful.”

“Sir, yes sir.” She closed the call on his rolled eyes. An alert on her computer informed her of new emails from Interpol, including the new intel on Mangallanes. Sexy and efficient. She took a moment to download and skim them before her next call.

This time it was Nina, not Antonia, who made the call.

Rose Paddington, nee Carter, came across the screen, smiling at her niece. She’d been well-named, a true English beauty complete with thorns. The delicate Rose had made a teenaged Nina feel even more awkward and ungainly until she’d grown into her limbs and height but at no time had she felt unloved.

“Nina. I was hoping you’d call, darling.”

“And I thought you sent eight texts for your own amusement.”

A brow lifted. “Cheeky.”

“I learned from the best.”

“Yes, your uncle is a terrible influence.”

“I heard that,” Clive said from somewhere behind Rose. “Are you abusing me to Nina?”

“Would I do that?”

“Yes,” Nina and Clive both said.

Her uncle slid into frame beside Rose. He’d aged since that day in Hawaii, silver highlighting the gold of his hair and lines forming around his eyes but it only served to make him more distinguished — Paddington men didn’t age so much as mature. He looked worried. “Are you alright, Nina?”

“Of course. It was a long flight but nothing unusual.”

“Nina.”

She sighed. This was why she’d only sent a quick text before boarding. “I’m fine. I’m hardly traumatized.”

“A year of nightmares and therapy says otherwise, darling,” Rose said.

“I was twelve,” Nina sighed. “Why do you have to bring up old stuff?”

“Because we —”

“Love me,” she finished. “That’s a terrible excuse. Fine, I was a little off balance when I was younger but it has nothing to do with Hawaii.”

Clive gave her a disbelieving look. “You were abandoned in Hawaii.”

“He abandoned me a long time before Hawaii,” she stated. She regretted the cold tone a little when her aunt and uncle both looked upset. “I’m sorry but it’s true. Hawaii wasn’t where I was abandoned by my family — it was where I found them.”

Clive’s arm went around Rose, who leaned into him. Nina looked away and pretended to fiddle with something on her desk to avoid the emotion they didn’t bother to hide.

“You’ll check in when you can, darling?” Rose said after a moment.

“I’m working but if it makes you feel better, yes,” she agreed.

“Good. And you’ll take flowers to the McGarrett’s grave for us?”

“Yes,” she murmured. “Before I leave.”

“And you’ll make contact with the Centre,” Clive stated.

Nina groaned. “I will use the system in place for law enforcement to notify local centres that they are in the area while on cases.”

“Nina.”

“I hate dealing with the Centre.”

“Only in the last decade.”

“The longer you’re online, the more the Centre is like a relative who assumes that because you’re single you must be desperate,” she complained. “And small communities are the worst — they have so few online guides that they get pushy with visitors about setting up meets. I’m here to work, not find a life partner.”

“At least you didn’t say sex.”

“I promised you I wouldn’t lie about my sex life when you took me to my first gyno, Rose.”

Clive winced. “Please, stop.”

“Don’t be a prude, Clive. I met you when I was her age and we both know what kind of filthy things I got up to.”

Now Nina winced. “And, we’re done. I love you both, I’ll be careful, I’ll call you later. Can I go now?” she finished on a whine.

Smug, Rose nodded. Clive looked just as uncomfortable as Nina felt when she closed the call. Nina and Clive, zero; Rose, infinity. Par for the course.

Once she’d finished scrubbing the image of the people who saved, raised and adopted her having sex from her brain, she picked up the Five-0 file and flipped it open.

The top page was the incident report on John McGarrett’s murder, the case that had led to the task force forming. Nina remembered the kind detective who had found her and taken her to his home. She also remembered the letters and postcards dwindling after his wife was murdered.

Contact with Steve and Mary had lasted longer — she’d seen Mary just last year — but by the time she was in uni and Steve was in the Navy, her cards stopped getting replies. Reading his record now, it was clear that it was around the time he’d gone to BUDs, the arduous SEAL training program. From there he would have ended up in war zones around the world.

The photo clipped to the front of the file showed a man in uniform, unsmiling and stern; a far cry from the boy she’d known, with his floppy bangs and crooked grin.

But he had the same eyes, his father’s. Warm and kind.

She gathered her files, phone and keys, found her shoes and went to greet an old friend.


“Can I bring up the elephant in the room?” Danny asked. They were gathered around the computer table, going over the murder of Dr Frank Galey and the sighting of Luther Mangallanes.

“Could we stop you?”

“That’s cute, Steven. No, actually.” Steve rolled his eyes but their teammates Chin and Kono laughed. Danny’s response was typical of the Hawaii transplant.

If Steve sometimes wished that Danny could get to his point in fewer words and a fraction of the biting wit, he did appreciate the experienced cop’s input and pushback. Steve might be a SEAL and an officer but when it came to civilian investigations, he was still a rookie compared to Chin and Danny. He could teach the whole team something about combat, tracking in any environment, and hunting a man around the globe but the nitty gritty and bureaucracy of law enforcement were new to him.

Chin, with nearly twenty years on the force before he was pushed out, was invaluable in teaching Steve the ins and outs, especially in the paperwork required of a task force that coordinated with local and federal law enforcement and operated as a de facto state agency. They’d spent plenty of evenings with beer and takeout, pouring over the documents a new case had generated.

Danny was his partner and had the task of stopping Steve from doing stupid shit. He had enough self-awareness to know it was a thankless task, though Danny did seem to relish it at times. As Jiminy Cricket’s went, he was more x-rated than PG but without a reliable second, Steve would have driven himself off a cliff in the first month. His Navy assessments were littered with phrases like ‘excellent field leadership but inclined to target fixation’ and ‘requires a second officer with fortitude’.

His first commander in the SEALs had told Steve he was like a cat who was so intent on catching his prey that he chased it off a table or into a wall and then tried to pretend that that had been his plan all along. Danny just called him SEALacidal.

Kono had gotten him a mug that said the same. He was surrounded by comedians.

The fact that Steve used the mug as much as his Navy one and felt more at home with these misfits than anywhere since his mother’s death and his family fell apart, including his SEAL team, probably said something about his mental health.

“Back to the elephant,” Danny continued. “The one that isn’t shaped like a seal and labelled ‘Steve’s Issues’ —”

“The only elephant around here is going to be your gut if you keep eating masalas for breakfast and refusing to go running with me,” Steve interrupted. For someone who was a walking, talking anger management issue, Danny was pretty vocal in pointing out Steve’s problems.

“ — Steven, I run plenty in your company but it usually involves being shot at so you’ll excuse me if I don’t want to spend my limited free time repeating the experience.”

“Twenty says I can get him surfing before the season starts,” Kono murmured to Chin.

“You’re on. The season starts in six weeks. No way you get him up on a board, on a real wave, by then.” They tapped knuckles and Steve saw Kono’s mouth curve into the secretive smile she got when she knew something someone else didn’t.

“It’s like you all think I’m not in the room,” Danny complained loudly, complete with hand gestures. It almost distracted Steve from the wink that Kono shared with Danny.

He figured that she was already teaching Danny. Chin was going to owe her twenty and bragging rights. Steve resolved to never make bets with Kono. She clearly cheated.

“So other than your elephantine cholesterol, what’s up, Danno?”

“One,” he counted on a finger, “don’t call me Danno. Two, my cholesterol is excellent, thank you for your concern, I’ll send you my results after my next physical. It’s my knee and my stress levels that are going to kill me if your antics don’t do it first. Thirdly,” three fingers were waved in Steve’s direction and then towards the computer screen where crime scene photos and a mug shot were showing, “we’ve got a dead doctor with a rep for treating criminals and assorted individuals who don’t want their records showing up in a hospital.

“In Jersey, we’d call Galey a mob doctor — all of the medical expertise, none of the AMA reporting, twice the expense. Galey is suspected of giving a couple of very bad people new faces and the entire medical suit in his home shows that he was treating plenty of people where little things like reporting bullet wounds could be overlooked. And the FBI suspects he was providing some very expensive drugs to the local black market. This is not a good man, despite the Hippocratic Oath.”

“The point, Danno.” Steve should have seen the bitch face coming but calling him ‘Danno’ was just too good to pass up. It was matched only by gunshots or shark cages in riling Danny up.

“The point, Steven, is that Galey was killed in his home, where he treated other bad men, with a bullet to the head and no attempt to make it look like anything but cold-blooded murder. No fake robbery, no sign of a shakedown, just a bullet to the dome. Then our killer stepped over his body and cleared the exam room of all the tools and bandages — the kind of things that might have DNA on them — but left the expensive knick-knacks and, more importantly, the drugs on premises. Which is equal parts smart, cold, impulsive and mean.”

Kono and Chin exchanged a look. Chin said, “Who do we know that sounds like that?”

Danny pointed at him. “Exactly. Now add in an alert from HPD, the FBI and Interpol on this guy, Luther Mangallanes coming to the island just a day or two before Galey takes a bullet. Mangallanes is an arms dealer but he’s even better known as a middleman who connects criminals with clients or other criminals. He’s a fixer. On top of that, he was nearly nabbed a year ago and has been lying low since then. So, either he’s taking new clients all of the sudden, or he’s got an old one that needs something on Hawaii.

“Who do we know who probably needed medical attention, has ties to the black and arms market? Who is known for working with arms dealers, probably knows Mangallanes, and it perfectly capable of capping a guy in the head and then rifling his office?”

And there was the elephant that Steve had avoided thinking about. “You said that Victor Hesse was dead.”

“Any self-respecting human being would be dead after you emptied a mag into him, Super-SEAL, but it’s been four months and there was no body and no trace since then. I’m not ruling out the idea that Hesse isn’t human. He’s definitely part shark, anyway.”

Steve leaned against the computer table, staring down at the images there but not really seeing them. He’d wanted to believe that Hesse was dead, wanted to agree with his team and all reasonable expectations that Hesse’s body had been taken out to sea or just fish food. But without proof, he’d never been able to write his father’s killer off. Hesse was just too dangerous and canny.

It would certainly explain his heightened instincts, his drive to patrol his house and neighbourhood. The need to prowl his property at night or change his running routes to cover as much territory as possible. He’d hoped it was a response to the attack on his home during the Pak debacle, but the timing hadn’t been right.

Steve was a latent sentinel but one diagnosed as online-incipient. It was a state before coming online fully, where the body and senses weren’t engaged but were on the cusp. It could last minutes or years.

Steve had been diagnosed at Annapolis, more than fifteen years ago.

The Centre and the Navy had tried — they’d had a vested interest in bringing him fully online — but neither BUDs nor the biggest shitshow of a mission ever brought him over the edge. In a high stakes situation, Steve might find a sense heightened for a moment or two, long enough to hear a sniper or smell an enemy coming. But he always levelled off afterwards.

His senses did, anyway. His instincts? Those were fully engaged and didn’t come with a convenient dial. There was a reason he had such a high prey-drive. Without online sense to inform his instincts, it was harder to keep them from overwhelming him.

It was only since his father’s murder and subsequent return to Hawaii that there had been any movement on his senses but, as of yet, only in moments of extreme danger or calm. Neither of which was useful in finding Hesse before the man found him.

Steve had always been an overachiever. It was annoying that his sentinel senses weren’t onboard with the program.

“Boss?”

“Okay,” Steve said, lifting his gaze back to his team. All three of them stood across from him, shoulder to shoulder, looking at him with various degrees of concern and determination. He wouldn’t trade them for an entire SEAL team.

Unless he needed to make war on a small country. And even then, he’d want his team to ride along.

“Okay,” he repeated. “The lab has all the evidence from Galey’s place so there isn’t much we can do until we get some results. We need to find Mangallanes — he’s an internationally wanted man and he probably has a client who is equally dangerous. We get him, we get his client. And if it turns out that Hesse is still alive —”

The click of heels on tiles had been a peripheral sound but one he’d learned to tune out. They weren’t the only people in the building and he’d learned not to react to every set of footsteps. Plus it made the governor annoyed when he announced her before she made herself known.

But these heels hadn’t passed outside Five-0’s doors. And they didn’t belong to Pat Jamison.

“Victor Hesse, wanted in fourteen countries,” came from the doorway. All four of them turned to look at the newcomer with a wisp of Britain in her voice. “Belfast native. Came up through the IRA before making a name for himself by taking out half the IRA leadership while they discussed disarming. A psychopath with sociopathic tendencies, high IQ and aptitude for violence.”

The woman walked closer as she spoke, long legs cover the space in a few steps. She wore heels, thin slacks in pale grey and a white blouse. Steve wasn’t sure he could see the faint outline of her bra because the fabric was that delicate or because of his eyesight. He knew he didn’t care.

Her gaze locked with his and she smiled. And Steve knew exactly who she was.

“Antonia DiNozzo,” he said quietly.

“Hello, Steve.” The smile widened, taking over her whole face and stealing his breath like he was still fourteen years old, before softening into something warm and sweet.

Then she looked away and the moment was broken. He inhaled.

She set a stack of folders on the edge of the table and held up a USB drive before setting it on the screen. Files flickered as the table downloaded the drive. “Hesse is violent, vicious, and cared about only one person on earth, his brother Anton. And he is certainly still alive.”

“And you are?” Kono asked warily. Danny circled around to stand beside Steve, shoulder pressed to his discreetly.

“Antonia Paddington — I changed it,” she told Steve, who nodded. “Interpol Arms and Human Trafficking task force. Call me Antonia.”

“Not Nina?”

“Family and close friends call me that. I use Antonia professionally and most of my colleagues use that or Toni.”

He’d called her Nina by the time she and the Paddingtons had left Hawaii, after the three-month custody dispute was over. She’d signed her letters that way as well.

“Great, Agent —” Danny started, watching her intently while Chin reached for the first of the downloaded files.

“Detective Inspector, if you insist on formality. I’m still with the Met, just on loan to Interpol.”

“The Met?” Steve asked. He finally managed to tear his gaze from her profile.

She’d been a pretty girl, he remembered. When he’d last seen her, she’d been sixteen. The Paddingtons had vacationed on the East Coast. Steve had been a plebe at Annapolis, eighteen and so proud of his uniform and regulation haircut. The two-day liberty he’d spent with them had reduced him to a boy again, playful and awkward instead of too serious. Nina — Antoni — had been all limbs, still to grow into herself, with glasses and hair always in a tail. They’d fought over football, soccer and American, and her eyes and smile had made him feel equally stupid and powerful.

She was gorgeous now, almost ridiculously so, but her smile was the same. And it still made him stupid.

“The Metropolitan Police Service.”

“Scotland Yard, Boss,”

“Metro London’s PD.”

All three of his teammates answered his question together. Steve frowned at them, wondering how they’d known that.

“Don’t look at me like that, my ex-wife is from London. Gracie has dual citizenship,” Danny said.

Chin shrugged. “It is one of the first modern police services in the world, McGarrett.”

That explained the two veteran cops. They all looked at Kono.

Who raised a brow. “What? The BBC Sherlock is the jam.”

Nina — Antonia — offered a fist which Kono immediately bumped. “I will confess an affection for RDJ’s Holmes but Cumberbatch is a national treasure.”

The women shared a grin while the rest of them rolled their eyes. Discreetly. Kono might be the rookie but she was vicious.

“Why does Interpol think Hesse is still alive?”

She waved a hand at the files Chin was skimming. “Because of his organization. After both Hesse brothers died, it should have splintered apart. There should have been infighting between lieutenants, bodies dropping as they tried to claim the remnants for themselves. There should have been people grabbing what they could and running.”

“Which you were watching for,” Chin said, “because you were ready to sweep up as many as you could before moving on the higher-ups.”

A nod. “An organization like this isn’t like a Mafia, with a built-in succession. And even those have problems when power turns over. But that didn’t happen. Hesse’s left hand — Anton being the right — stepped up and in and things kept ticking along. There were no bodies, no jumping ship. Just business as usual. Except for a whole lot of money being moved from the usual offshore sites to the Pacific Rim. Over five million was funnelled to Singapore before being dispersed or withdrawn in cash.”

“Hesse needed money,” Danny said. “Well, island living is expensive. So’s off-book surgery.”

“Why didn’t Interpol say anything?” Kono asked.

“All of this is based on analysis and reconstruction, not first-hand observation. Hesse has an instinct for sniffing out UCs and ugly methods for dealing with them. No one’s tried to get someone in with his people in more than five years. When nothing fell apart, we looked for the reason why.” Antoni shrugged. “The jist? Either someone who thinks exactly like Victor Hesse is in charge or Victor is still alive and calling the shots. That or there’s another Hesse brother.”

“Let’s not go there,” Steve said. “Two were bad enough.”

“Agreed. So this is Interpol, saying something.”

“Interpol sent you out here for Hesse?”

She shook her head. “Hesse isn’t one of mine. I came for Mangallanes. When the flag went up on him, I got the notice. Our Luther has ties to a few people on my personal watch list, including a triple agent and Mossad UC called Haswari —”

Steve hissed out a breath. “Haswari is Kidon.”

“The whole family is made of trained killers. Haswari is the only one that likes to kill law enforcement officers. That we know of,” she added thoughtfully. “Man has issues that could fill a cargo plane and likes to work them out by targeting people who remind him of his father. Then he kills them to reaffirm his cover in Hamas.”

“Cop killer,” Danny spat.

“A cop killer with Mossad and the FBI covering his arse because they’re convinced that this time, it will get them the intel they want. Interpol opted out of that game. The only intel Haswari will provide is what we get out of him in interrogation. Mangallanes has supplied to him at least three times.”

“So,” Danny said, “we’ve got a fugitive with ties to a cop killer and dirty spy who Interpol has a grudge against, possibly working with an arms dealer and cop killer with a grudge against Steve, who probably killed his doctor and likely has a few million in walking around money.” He crossed his arms. “What could possibly go wrong?”

Steve smiled, clasping a hand on Danny’s shoulder. “Just another day in paradise.”


Untitled design


Three

They had all retreated to their respective offices and tasks an hour later. Antonia had been given the use of a spare office, set up for the use of visiting HPD officers or a vague future teammate in the eventuality that Five-0 was expanded instead of crashing spectacularly.

She was currently on her cell phone, pacing the office while she talked. No, Steve wasn’t watching her — her office was in direct line of sight to his. When he pushed his chair back and to the left. And turned eighty degrees. And craned his neck.

Danny looked over from his own office, landline between his shoulder and ear, saw Steve and rolled his eyes. Kono walked past with a fresh cup of coffee, took one look at him and laughed.

He needed a new team, immediately. This one was prone to mutiny.

They’d shown their true colours earlier when assignments had been passed out. Since the case involved potential international and federal fugitives, someone had to make contact with the local FBI field office. They didn’t have to like it, but protocols had to be observed. But when Steve had asked Kono to do it, she’d laughed.

“Yeah, boss, that’s a no.”

A glance at Chin had gotten an unimpressed look.

Danny had held up a hand. “Sounds like a job for a team leader.”

“Leaders delegate.” His team had crossed their arms and given him a look in unison. “This is mutiny.”

“Consider it a lesson in cooperative police work,” Chin said.

“You’re a SEAL, Steve,” Antonia had said. “Lead from the front, not behind.”

“I’m filing sedition charges.”

“I’m sure the governor needs a good laugh,” Danny said. “Have fun calling the FBI.”

“I’ll spare you a call to NCIS, though,” Antonia offered. “I have a good relationship with them and I’d rather get their current intel on Hesse and Mangallanes than lose that goodwill.”

“We’ve never worked with NCIS before,” Kono said.

“I know — and so do they.” She lifted a brow at Steve. “Even when you should have been, like with a dead navy wife and a SEAL holding hostages.”

“We had it under control,” Steve said defensively.

“The people who patched the bullet holes in the USS Missouri might disagree.”

“You,” Danny said, “speak sense. I like you. Please, see if you can get any of this through Steve’s thick, Navy-trained skull.”

“How do you know about that, anyway?”

Antonia rolled her eyes. “I told you, I have a good relationship with NCIS and all coppers, regardless of their badge or designation, are incurable gossips. You stepped on their toes and hurt their feelings, Steve. You should try to fix that.”

“NCIS is considered cowboys and rogues.”

“Did — did those words actually just come out of your mouth?” Danny demanded. “Seriously? Do the words ‘shark tank’ mean anything to you?”

“It worked, didn’t it?”

“I’d put that on your gravestone, Steve, except you’ll have driven me to my own grave first.”

“More and more tempting every day, partner.”

“I’d take you with me. Partner.”

“Fifty on Danny,” Kono said.

“Really?”

“I love an underdog,” she told Chin.

“You are all fired,” Steve grumbled. “What does a good working relationship with NCIS look like?” he asked Antonia.

“The ability to work a case with Leroy Jethro Gibbs without shooting him.”

Steve considered the rumours he’d heard of the marine sniper, a legend in the Navy for his marksmanship and attitude. “I don’t suppose there’s an easier way.”

“Canonization.”

He’d called several contacts, putting out the word about Mangallanes and Hesse, asking for intel on Galey’s clients. Kamekona had agreed to keep an ear out in exchange for his usual fee — Steve figured he’d send Antonia and Kono to see him when the time came and they’d get a discount.

He’d felt a little guilty the first time he’d asked Kono to sweet talk a witness but she had assured him that it wasn’t pimping as long as she was armed and more than seventy percent covered. Hopefully, Detective Inspector Paddington felt the same way.

She’d get a shaved ice out of it, anyway. Nina had always liked the mango and lychee flavoured ones.

The call to the FBI had been as painful as he’d expected and taken four times as long as necessary since he’d been transferred repeatedly and left on hold for ten minutes before getting to the Special Agent In Charge. Who had opened the conversation by asking what he’d blown up this week?

For the first time, Steve considered that maybe Danny was right about Steve’s reputation.

He was contemplating ways to better relationships with the feds on the island — so far he’d come up with a fruit basket or competitive paintball, neither of which seemed like it would end well — when his cell chimed with an incoming text.

It wasn’t from Kamekona or a contact. Nor was it a kitten GIF from Kono or Danny teasing him electronically. It was from the local Centre, reminding him he was due for an assessment of his status.

It was the third notice in as many weeks and Steve intended to duck it like he had the previous ones.

Another text popped up from the Centre and Steve considered if someone was reading his mind when he saw that this one had a different signature line.

Lt. Cmd. McGarrett,

The Sentinel and Guide Centre of Honolulu would like to request that you make time in your investigation for Antonia Paddington to come in. As per our request, she has stated that her work is not at a stopping point currently. Please ensure she comes in at the earliest convenience as the safety and health of sentinels and guides is our foremost concern.

Thank you,

Guide Keiko Mahi’ai

He rolled his chair back so he could see Antonia better. She was frowning at her phone. As he watched, she pressed a button and dropped it onto the desk and turned back to the computer monitor.

Steve hit his contacts and called up one of the saved numbers. Kauhi picked up on the second ring.

“Steve. Are you calling with another excuse for not coming for an assessment? Because that will upset my guide. And if my guide is upset, I’m going to do your assessment myself. By coming to your house, taking you into the jungle and dumping you there without a gun, knife or your boots, and leaving you to find your way out.”

“I’m busy.”

“In the dark. On a new moon.”

“I don’t need heightened sense to do that, you know.”

“Maybe I’ll include a trip to a shark tank since you like them so much.”

“I’m never going to live that down, am I?”

“It’s being written into local legend as we speak. What’s your excuse this week?”

“Victor Hesse might still be alive.”

Kauhi sighed. “I’ll tell May. You will come in next week or I will come looking for you. Do you need anything?”

“Pass the word around and ask the pride to keep all there sense open for him. And remind them not to approach. Hesse is dangerous.”

“Hesse is a violent thug and I don’t like having him on my island, Steve.”

Steve didn’t like that Hesse was still breathing. “I understand the feeling.”

“I’ll pass the word along. You will call if you need assistance. I’ve been reliably informed that it isn’t a sin to ask for help.”

“That’s actually why I’m calling, as much fun as it is to be scolded by you, Kauhi. Do you know why I’m getting a request from the Centre about Antonia Paddington?”

“Because someone overstepped themselves,” Kauhi growled. “I’ll deal with it.”

Beyond the glass, she picked up her phone to look at the screen and then tossed it aside again. Then she stood and headed to the break room. “Is there something I need to know? Is there something wrong?”

“Despite what someone seems to think, her status is none of your business.”

“Then why —”

“Guide politics are very different from sentinel politics,” Kauhi sighed. “And there’s a great deal of manoeuvring when it comes to online guides. Sentinels are straightforward so the nuances of guide politics often pass us by unnoticed. And the Centre is not a single entity but a network of smaller ones. We have plenty of our own politics as well. I’ll take care of it.”

“I’d ask for more but something tells me that it would only piss me off.”

“Let’s just say that when I said that I’d take care of it I meant that I’ll tell May and stand back while she makes her feelings known.”

“You should consider selling tickets.”

Danny came in carrying a file, a cup of coffee and a bottle of water. The file dropped on his desk and the water was handed to Steve. Danny kept the coffee for himself and settled into the visitor’s chair. Steve rolled his eyes at his partner as he made himself at home.

“Maybe another time.” Kauhi paused and then asked, “So. Antonia?”

Steve sighed. “She’s here for a case.”

“Sure.”

“We’re busy.”

“Of course.”

“Kauhi.”

Danny was making hand gestures and expressions at him that Steve did his best to ignore. Kauhi made a sound somewhere between a laugh and a chortle. “So, you didn’t have a crush the size of Maui on her?”

“I was fourteen,” Steve bit out.

“And she was twelve. Pretty little keiki, if a little awkward with all those long limbs. Did she grow into them?”

Since she stood nearly six feet, most of it leg, that was a solid yes. “I guess so.”

“Still pretty?”

“You could say that.”

Kauhi chuckled. “Still got a crush.”

“Shut up. Please. I will pay you money.”

In his ear, Kauhi laughed. Danny did the same across from the desk. Steve was going to get a new team and new friends.

“Try not to trip over your own feet, Steve. Find Hesse. We’ll worry about your assessment later.”

“Nothing has changed with my senses in fifteen years. Why the insistence on a sensory assessment?” Danny straightened. “I had one three months ago and I’ve never needed them more than twice a year.”

“Because the last time you came to the Centre you felt more like a sentinel. And during the standoff at your house with Nick Taylor, you were able to use your senses deliberately in a heightened state.”

“I regret telling you that.”

“No, you don’t.”

Maybe not. “So all it took to finally come online was my father dying.”

Danny’s hand gesture managed to convey sympathy and exasperation simultaneously. His partner was a talented guy.

Kauhi was silent for a moment. “If that were true, your mother’s death would have done it.”

“Then why —”

“You came home, Steve. You came back to your territory. You stayed, settled in, reclaimed your house and made this island and its people your concern. You built a pack with whom you protect this territory.”

“I was part of a team with the Navy. We fought together — made war together,” Steve said. He’d never thought about his return in that light before but Kauhi’s words resonated with something inside Steve. “I didn’t come online then.”

“When you were sent away as a teenager, you lost your mother, sister and home all at once. You felt rejected by your father.” Steve couldn’t stop the noise he made, one that made Kauhi sigh again and Danny rise to sit on his desk and take the water bottle to open it. Steve drank. “Any one of those things could cause a sentinel to either come online or retreat completely. All at once? That could cripple an adult sentinel, much less a boy on the cusp.

“You’d had a few sensory incidents before your mother died. I think that your sentinel was close enough to the surface that the impact of all those losses paralysed your emergence. And you were taken from your home. We are tied to the land, Steve, and that is something that sentinels and the Hawaiian people understand.”

“So I was crippled, and now I’m not.”

“You were hurt and now you are healing. Finding what you lost. Your home and territory, a team that is like family. Your sister has returned to you and your home. And now, Steve, the only guide you’ve ever had a connection to has returned as well.”

“What?” Steve demanded. His voice did not rise awkwardly.

Kauhi laughed. “You were coming online as a teenager, after spending months in contact with a young guide who was also on the cusp of coming online. The only reason for children to come online is trauma, injury, loss — or meeting a compatible match and coming online naturally. Toni was online by fourteen, even though her situation was stable. Right around the time that you were starting to have sensory issues. She got a push at age twelve and you got a wrench thrown in the works at sixteen.”

“That . . .” Steve frowned at the bottle in his hand. “I don’t even know what to do with that. You’ve blown my mind, Kauhi.”

“Remind me to shake his hand,” Danny whispered.

“Don’t worry about it right now, just focus on your case and Hesse. Your senses won’t give you trouble with a target to focus on, especially with your pack nearby. Toni is more than able to deal with any issues that arise.”

The call ended and Steve slumped back in his chair. Danny studied him. “Good news?”

“Weird news.”

“Wanna talk about it?”

“God, no.” Steve rolled his shoulders. “Maybe later,” he admitted.

“Manly avoidance until unavoidable and there’s alcohol involved. I’m picking up what you’re laying down.”

“You’re a good partner, Danny.”

“I’ll remind you of that the next time I punch you for getting me shot.”

“I’m sure you will.” A new text popped up on his phone and he checked it absently. “I reserve the right to take it back the next time you rant for more than three minutes on anything but your ex-wife or bad drivers.”

“I think we’re getting the hang of this, Steven. And with no permanent injuries. Other than psychological wounds, of course.”

The text was from Mary. why didn’t you tell me nina was in town dummy? bring her home for drinks steve. never mind i’ll take her to a great bar i found so we can talk about you when you aren’t there to make that face. see you later don’t do anything stupid and don’t run nina off with your dumb lines steve or i’ll never forgive you.

Steve was reminded, vividly, that Antonia and Mary had gotten along very well. He also remembered learning the hard way how devious they could be in getting revenge when he teased them too much. Mary was relentless and Antonia was a diabolical prankster; the combination had not gone well for him.

“Problem?”

“I think I just saw my life flash before my eyes.”

“So? That happens to me on a weekly basis.”

The door opened and Antonia ducked her head in. “Chin found something.”

“On our way.” Steve rose, still frowning. “Did you call Mary?”

“I texted her since I knew she was on the island. We’ll catch up later.”

“I didn’t realize you two were still in contact.”

She raised her brow. “Mary didn’t stop returning my letters, Steven.”

The door closed gently behind her, the click a reprimand. Danny tilted his head. “Ouch.”

“I had a reason.”

“Sure you did.”

“I was sent to Coronado for SEAL training.”

“I don’t think I’m the one you should be explaining this to.”

Steve sighed. “Later. Let’s see what Chin found.”


Chin Ho Kelly was a very good cop, Nina decided as she studied the traffic camera footage that he had found. And adept with technology which was something not all good cops could also boast.

“I traced the name that Mangallanes was using when he flew in,” Chin explained. “He was smart enough to book his hotel under a different name, and to pay cash for it, but he rented the car under the first alias.”

“Probably so he didn’t get flagged at the airport for using different IDs,” Williams — call me Danny, not Danno — said. “Smart, but not smart enough.”

“Smarter to take a shuttle to a hotel, then walk to the one he actually booked,” Nina agreed. “Rent a car in the city under another name. Or, if he’s got cash, smarter yet to find someone selling an old car or scooter. That would be untraceable.”

“Fortunately, Luther doesn’t think quite that far ahead. I got the make, model and plate of the rental and started checking hotels. Valets,” Chin shrugged. “They see just as much as bartenders or housekeepers.”

“Stiffed him on the tip, did he?”

“Her, and yes. And asked her if she was part of his island welcome,” Chin said.

Kono looked amused. “Of course he did. There are haoles,” she nodded to Danny, who rolled his eyes, “and there are haoles. Was it Lailani?”

“Let me guess — a cousin?” Danny teased. Kono and Chin grinned.

“Yes and yes. Lailani is a cousin of ours who is in grad school,” Chin explained. “And since she’s at least as badass as Kono, Mangallanes is lucky he stuck to innuendo. If he’d put a hand on her, he’d still be in the hospital.”

“If one must have a bevvy of cousins they should at least be useful and badassed,” Nina said. “My cousin Crispian isn’t half as interesting. It might scuff his shoes or interfere in his golf schedule.”

“Does that make him the black sheep, or you?”

“Neither of us. Crispian is more lily-white than his manicure and I’m more of a unicorn than a sheep.”

Kono offered a fist. Nina bumped it.

On her left, Steven crossed his arms and sighed. “Can we get back to the fugitives on the island? Please?”

“He did ask nicely,” Nina said to Kono, who nodded.

“And he is the boss. Go on, cuz.”

“Thank you,” Chin said dryly and continued with his recitation.

As Chin explained his use of the various traffic and city cameras to locate Mangallanes’ car and trace his movements, Nina made an effort to listen rather than study Steve out of the corner of her eye. She was only partially successful.

Why, oh why, did Steven McGarrett have to grow into a beautiful man? One with so much presence and empathic weight? Not only was it hard to keep her eyes off him — and his lovely physique — but it was just as hard to keep her empathy from focusing on him. Even in a room of strong personalities, strong minds and emotional control — and yes, Danny was included in that despite his apparent emotionalism, the way he deliberately vented his thoughts and feelings like a pressure release valve was fascinating — Steve was like that one perfect, clear note in a clash of sounds.

If anyone should have drawn her empathic focus, it should be her fellow guide, Chin. The man was a low-level guide, so much so that he seemed to straddle that line between guide and psy-sensitive, but his mind was a tranquil pond; still but for ripples of emotion and thoughts but with an impression of endless depths. He could have taught a class on empathic control and it was as attractive as anything.

But instead of focusing on those cool waters, it was Steve and his tidal currents of emotion, control and predatory intensity that held her attention. Like the man needed another reason to be attractive.

Nina was well aware of her failings. A fondness for fucked up men with iron control was one of them. The kind of comfort in their skin that came from military, police or athletic training was another. The damned man hit all of her buttons.

Considering the massive crush she’d had on him when she was sixteen, he was probably the origin of half of them.

“So, his car has taken the Kailua Road, towards the bay, every day in the early afternoon,” Steve said when Chin finished his summation. “And come back the same way hours later. What’s in that direction?”

“The windward side of the island leans to private residences.” Chin pulled up a map, then highlighted Mangallanes’ route. “He’s seen here, but disappears before the road merges back with a major roadway.”

Nina studied the map. There were golf courses and country clubs, which showed the makeup of the area. She followed Mangallanes’ path to its natural conclusion. “The bay. Kailua Bay. What’s it like?”

“Lots of recreational boating, private coves and beaches, and small harbours. There’s less surfing there so most watersports are boat based.”

“Antonia —”

“Steve, she’s got something. Let her work it out.”

She heard the byplay between Danny and Steve but ignored it, still staring at the map. Everything she knew about Mangallanes and Hesse, combined with their known movements on Oahu, flickered through her head like an only film reel.

“Galey — the doctor. His house was on the water, right?”

“Yes. He had a private dock and a boat.”

Danny’s answer was the final piece. Nina blinked and looked away from the screen to find the whole Five-0 team watching her with various expressions of interest. “Hesse is on a boat. That’s how he got in and out of Galey’s place, for treatment and when he killed him. It’s how he’s staying under the radar. He can move around the island when he needs to, use private slips to avoid security at the public harbours, and avoids any potential neighbours getting too interested in him. He might even have moved between the islands when scrutiny was at its height.

“A yacht. Small enough not to draw every eye like one of those super-yachts, but large enough to live on comfortably when he was recovering. Probably with a couple of hired crew. Locals, that he can dispose of when needed.”

Chin was nodding slowly. “It would keep him mobile and, in a pinch, a good yacht could even get him away from Hawaii entirely. You could make it to Singapore from here if you had the time and know-how. A nice way to avoid the scrutiny of the ports and airport.”

Kono grinned. “That was badass. We need to call the harbours on the bay. See if anyone has seen that car or Hesse.”

Danny snorted. “That was pure investigative skill, paired with a twisty brain. I bet you’re great at puzzles. We need to check the boat harbours in Kailua Bay. Hesse will pick a midsize one, not too much traffic and not so little he’d be noticed. Steve — babe, wake up.”

Steve was staring at her. Nina raised an eyebrow at him and his eyes darkened. She felt a clutch in her belly. People usually looked at her like she was crazy or jumping to conclusions when she snagged a lead out of seeming mid-air like that.

Steve looked like he wanted to bite her throat. In a sexy way.

“It’s early afternoon,” she said, not looking away from him. “If the pattern holds, Mangallanes will be there. We can cruise the shore and see if we can spot his car while we wait for the harbour masters to get back to us.”

After a moment, Steve nodded. “Sounds good.”

When he looked away, Nina could breathe again. Kono gave her a sympathetic look.

Danny rolled his eyes at Steve. “You — are an animal, I swear,” he grumbled.

Nina agreed. But she wasn’t sure if it was a bad thing — or something to look forward to.


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Four

“So.”

Nina looked over at her passenger, amused, before returning her attention to the road. Danny Williams had spent the first few minutes of the drive in silence. She might have known him for a few hours but even Nina could tell that silence was not his usual state. She had been content to let him watch her, both curious about what conclusions he was coming to and amused by the way he’d manoeuvred his way into her car.

When Five-0 and Nina left the office to head to Kailua Bay, Steve had insisted on driving the Camaro that, it seemed, belong to Danny. Who had put up a spirited fight until they reached the parking lot when he’d abruptly tossed Steve the keys and followed Nina to her car, claiming that someone needed to provide directions.

The look on Steve’s face had been priceless, a combination of triumph, confusion, and minor stroke.

“So?” she repeated.

“So, what’s the story with you and Steve? There clearly is one, don’t even deny it. Nothing makes him more stoic and repressed than his own emotions but he hasn’t defaulted to his Super-SEAL demeanour. So, there is a story there and it must be a good one if your presence makes him feel without shutting down or throwing up walls.”

“And, as his partner, you need to know the story so you can protect him?”

“No, as his partner I need to know if you’re going to mess up his head, either on purpose or by accident. I’m already anticipating the island-wide chaos that will ensue when you leave,” he added in a long-suffering tone. “There will be bullets and explosions, probably another grenade or maybe a rocket launcher. Maybe he’ll combine the shark cage with explosive ordinance, that would be a new trick.” He waved a hand to indicate that would wait. “I want to know the story because a, I’m a nosy so-and-so and, b, I need all the potential blackmail I can get. Mary has been useful in that regard and you know Mary, ergo, I am curious. Intrigued, even.”

Despite the light tone, his gaze was serious. Nina considered her options. She could give a few generalities and Danny would probably accept them but that wouldn’t ease his concern for his partner. Or she could give the truth, however stripped down. She preferred to deflect when possible, but she also understood the protective impulses behind his inquiry.

“When I was twelve I came to Honolulu on summer vacation with my father,” Nina said simply. “I ended up in the McGarrett’s emergency custody for about ten days.”

Danny’s face softened and Nina remembered that he had a daughter. Whatever he thought of her, he clearly had compassion for a twelve-year-old who ended up in the care of strangers. “What happened to your dad?”

It was an old wound, healed by time and distance, therapy and the love of the Paddingtons. Still, her voice was too bright when she answered. “He combined business and pleasure by seducing the rich divorcee he’d gone into a business deal with. He followed her on a cruise and neglected to remember something as inconvenient as a kid.”

Danny made a sound somewhere between an engine stalling and a kettle whistling. “He — excuse me? Excuse me? How does someone, short of massive head trauma, forget their child? I have heard of losing your luggage on vacation but your kid? What the actual —”

The rant that followed was impressive both in intensity and duration. It also demonstrated an extensive vocabulary without delving into swearing or repetition. Nina was entertained and amused throughout and made no effort to reign him in.

“ — and please, please tell me that he wound up in prison, with a cellmate who insisted on regular conjugal visits, I’m begging you,” he finally wound down. “Or feeding the sharks. I would love to learn Steve inherited that little quirk from his dad and that John McGarrett took that scum-sucking excuse of a father for the last boat ride.”

“That was impressive, Detective. Truly. Have you considered taking that show on the road?”

“Only since I wound up with a lunatic for a partner.”

Nina laughed. “To answer your question: No. He might have preferred it. Instead, my father wound up in an embarrassing custody dispute, which he lost to my aunt and uncle, won a permanent spot on the Centre’s shit list for abusing an underage guide, and married his divorcee.”

“Hooray for the first two, but I fail to see how the last was a punishment.”

“It turns out that she went through money even faster than he did so, instead of being able to live large off her settlement, he had to pay through the nose to keep her hands off what was left of his own money in the divorce six months later. And it took him several years to find rich wife number three since my mother’s family made a real effort to ruin him.”

“It doesn’t seem like enough,” Danny complained.

Nina shrugged, philosophical about Anthony DiNozzo. Nothing she did or felt would change his nature and would only be a wasted effort. The worst thing she could do to him was ignore his existence; for a man who always wanted to be the centre of attention, it was akin to a slap in the face. “Maybe not, but it is what it is. I got to move to England with my mother’s brother and was eventually adopted, so I got the better end of the deal.”

Danny nodded and was silent for a moment. Eventually, he asked, “So, Steve must have been a kid then.”

“Mary was ten and Steve was fourteen,” Nina said. Danny’s expression made her laugh. “Go on, I know you’re dying to ask.”

“I’m still processing the idea of Steve as a child rather than hatching, fully-formed, in a Navy laboratory for super soldiers. Give me a second.”

“He’s got the right name but he isn’t blonde enough to be Captain America.”

“More like Commander Selkie. Okay,” he continued as Nina laughed again. “Okay, I’m ready. Steve as a teenager. What was that like? Hit me. Make it embarrassing.”

“Cute,” she told him. “He was cute. He had floppy hair,” she added with a smile. “Really floppy, just all over the place but especially in the front. It was always in his face and his parents wanted to nag him about it, you could see, but didn’t want to make it a thing. You might have noticed he’s a little stubborn.”

“Just a little. Like Godzilla was a little oversized.”

“Exactly.” They merged onto the highway leading north, following Steve and Chin in the Camaro. Kono and her little car were behind them, keeping up with the sports cars. “He and Mary could bicker like anything —”

“Some things don’t change.”

“ — and he was surprising susceptible to pranks.” Danny laughed. “But he learned quickly — like when he realized that he always suffered a humiliating prank after he’d pushed too far in a fight with Mary and really hurt her feelings.”

“You’re a retaliatory prankster,” Danny realized. “Damn. Remind me not to cross you.”

“I was a Marauder before Pottermania,” she agreed. “And six years in all-girls schools only gave me more practice. No one takes my food from the office fridge. Not more than once, anyway.”

“I will remember that.” Her cell phone vibrated in between them. Nina ignored it but Danny glanced down, eyebrow raising when he saw the screen. She gave him credit for saying nothing. “I don’t suppose you have pictures of Steve with floppy hair?”

“That will require bribery. As will the photo of Steve in his Navy Academy uniform, looking painfully earnest and pretty even with his hair buzzed off.”

“How do you feel about baked goods?”

“Generally positive.”

Her cell buzzed again. Danny cleared his throat. “Not a lot of people ignore contact from the Sentinel and Guide Centre.”

“I know what they want,” she sighed. “I hate guide politics.”

He made a face. “I’ve had a crash course. Gracie, my daughter, is a guide. Latent.” He sighed. “It concerns me, you know? What could happen in the future — the politics, how the stereotypes could affect her life. Not to mention that she’s one traumatic episode from coming online and what that could mean for her. To say nothing of the idea of my baby girl growing up to bond with some sentinel who would get her dirty.”

“You told her boys are the worst thing ever, didn’t you,” she asked, amused.

“Tell me I’m wrong. Go on.”

“Look on the bright side — she might be a lesbian.”

“I’m not that lucky,” he said mournfully. “If her first crush was on a girl, half my problems would evaporate just like that,” he snapped his fingers. “But she thinks One Direction are the cutest things ever.”

“There, there. She could still develop an allergy to Axe body spray. That would eliminate all possibility of teenage shenanigans.”

“Now you’re just trying to cheer me up.” He sighed. “What I was going to say was that, whatever my concerns are about Gracie’s latent status, I can’t help but be grateful for it and the Centre. I don’t know how my divorce and the custody agreement would have gone without the Centre weighing in against my ex getting full custody.”

“Loss and separation can cause underage guides to come online. Unless there’s an underlying issue, the Centre recommends that child guides not be separated from a parent to avoid problems manifesting.” Nina considered that. “You and she are close?”

“Very. And sentinels and guides run on my side of the family. The Family Court in Jersey followed the Centre’s recommendation for joint custody.” He rolled his shoulders. “Which was good because Rachel and her new husband can afford better lawyers than me. With the current agreement, they couldn’t move Grace to Hawaii without my consent and, since I didn’t have the resources to make the move, the Centre helped me move. It stung a little, but not as much as losing Grace would have.”

“They weighed in on my custody as well,” Nina admitted. “What happened with my father caused an empathic incident, which weighed heavily against him. If I had come online as a result, he probably would have gone to jail for it. As it was, I was labelled ‘fragile’,” she made a face, “and came online at fourteen. The Centre it useful and I’m grateful for the care and oversight they gave me when I was young. But I’m not fragile any more and their care has long since become meddling. It doesn’t help that I go through this every time I end up somewhere with a small sentinel and guide population.”

Danny frowned. “Go through what?”

“Attempts to match me with a local sentinel,” she complained. He looked confused so Nina explained. “Small Centres have fewer sentinels and guides to make matches from — most pairings are made through the system. Which means the area might lose one of their people if they find a match in another location. Guides are more likely to move since sentinels are more bound to their territory than we are. So visiting guides are encouraged — strongly — to meet local sentinels in the hope of making a match. It’s to the benefit of both halves of the pairing but it also benefits the Centre since, if the local population drops, their funds are reduced. There’s also the tipping point to consider.”

“I know this,” Danny said. “Sentinel and guide numbers are relatively dispersed by population but there’s a tipping point which occurs. If the population grows to a certain amount per capita in a region, a formal Pride forms. When that happens, the population booms — more sentinels and guides come online in the area, and more online pairs move into the region. Latent birth numbers increase as well. It’s why there are so many sentinels and guides in large cities in comparison to the general population and despite the territorial imperative.”

“Sentinels don’t always get along but a shared Pride negates the instinct to guard territory against each other,” Nina said. “You did your assigned reading.”

“It was for Gracie.” Which explained everything. “And Sandburg makes for a good read despite the academic credentials. So whenever you travel, you deal with people trying to match you with a local sentinel so you’ll move into the area and boost their numbers. That sucks.”

It did, in fact, suck but Nina shrugged. “It is what it is. If it keeps up, I’ll contact my local coordinator to put the fear of God into them. My records are labelled, clearly, with the fact that I find general matching attempts difficult, empathically. I won’t show up for anything less than a nine-point match out of ten.”

“Right.” Danny picked up her phone and tapped the last message. “Then they have no reason to — huh.”

“What is it?”

“The Guide Coordinator of the local Centre sent you the last message. “‘Ignore the other messages, I’ll take care of it. Apologies for people overstepping their bounds. May Sherman.’ You know the local Alphas?”

“From when I was a kid.”

“I’m kind of relieved that I don’t have to go off on her since Grace might need the Centre. At least they aren’t all dicks.”

Nina was wondering how May knew what was going on. Someone must have gotten caught. “I appreciate the thought even though I can fight my own battles.”

“Sure but it’s harder to get a good view of the action if you’re in it. Take this left, we’re nearly to Kailua,” he added.

“We’re going to be visiting a lot of parking lots,” Nina predicted.

But she was wrong. Before they reached the first boat harbour on their list, the sound of the Wonder Woman theme song filled the car. Danny picked up his own phone and hit the speaker. “What you got, Kono?”

“Wonder Woman?” Nina asked.

“It was that or something from Kill Bill,” Danny said. “Steve’s changes regularly — last week it was ‘Macho Man’.”

“His face was epic,” Kono’s voice came from the phone. “And Wonder Woman is the boss. I hope they make a movie — I love Iron Man.”

“Only if they don’t screw it up,” Nina agreed. “It would be too easy for someone hamfisted to turn Wonder Woman into a flat, one-dimensional character. The director and screenplay writers need experience with female characters that aren’t objects to further a man’s storyline.”

“I know, right? Just thinking about some of the female characters in my favourite shows makes my blood boil. They’re only there as the bitch antagonist or the love interest —”

“As much as I’m enjoying this discussion on the portrayal of women in the media,” Danny said, “really, no sarcasm at all, I will buy the drinks and we can continue this at another time — we do have a case. What’s up, Kono?”

“I’m going to hold you to that, brah. Chin just heard from one of the harbours. Mangallanes’ car has been parking daily by a private yacht slip at Honokohau. The harbour master has seen him twice heading for a yacht that has been using the place on and off for three months. Pays in cash, usually stays a week. He’s only ever seen a crewman — shifty, Yakuza tattoos, according to him — but he’s never seen the owner.” She paused. “The slip rental is under the name Garrett John Anton.”

“Cocky sonofabitch,” Danny hissed. “Call Chin, get him to direct Steve. We need to get close enough to case the boat but we can’t charge in. Hesse knows what we look like and bystanders won’t stop him from trying to take anyone out if he sees us.”

“On it, brah.”

“Hesse doesn’t know what all of us look like,” Nina said.

“Oh, Steve is going to love this.”


Steve didn’t like it.

“You’ve made that clear,” Chin said when he said as much. “But it’s the only plan we’ve got.”

Steve gripped his binoculars more tightly and watched the yacht. The only person topside was a local who was acting as crew; Hesse and Mangallanes had headed inside several minutes ago. It had taken his entire team to talk Steve down from storming in when he’d seen the man who murdered his father looking hale and healthy.

The pale Irish bastard had even picked up a bit of a tan.

“You’re going to break something, Steve.”

He growled but lowered the binoculars and set them aside. He’d heard the casing creak under his grip.

Five-0 was tucked away in the corner of a parking lot, far enough from the dock where Hesse was moored to be out of sight. The angle and a cluster of tropical greenery helped break line of sight and hid their actions from anyone who might be keeping an eye out; Steve wouldn’t put it past Hesse to have hired someone to watch for him. Which was why he’d eventually submitted to his team’s interference. As much as he wanted to drive the car right up the dock and go straight for Hesse.

“I offered an alternative plan,” Steve grumbled.

“Tossing a grenade into the interior and picking off people as they flee the explosion is not a plan, boss,” Kono called from behind the barrier of her raised trunk. “And you know how Danny feels about grenades.”

Badly. Danny felt very badly about grenades and even more poorly about Steve’s use of them. Something he’d expressed clearly — and loudly — when Steve had proposed his idea.

Not that Danny’s vocal disapproval could ever stop Steve when he was sure of his position. It made him think twice, something he wasn’t going to admit to his partner, but it rarely stopped him. But, while Danny was wrong about grenades being entirely unnecessary in police work, he hadn’t been wrong about Hesse’s crew seeing them coming. He’d also had a point about bystanders.

The target boat, a sixty-foot yacht, was one of a number of similar luxury craft moored in the harbour, several of them occupied and in close proximity to Hesse’s boat. Considering there were two arms dealers on the yacht, aptly named the Belfast Arms, it was a given that there would be some firepower on board. A frontal approach wouldn’t get them anything but casualties.

But he really didn’t like the alternative plan.

Steve turned and frowned. The team’s cars were parked together, trunks raised in a makeshift privacy barrier. They needed a place to change and there were no nearby washrooms or cabanas.

Five-0 was going swimming.

The main part of the plan involved the team using scuba gear to come up on the yacht from the water, swimming up on the port side and boarding. From their location, it was less than a thousand yards to the boat and they were all, including Danny, confident swimmers. It wasn’t much different than a SEAL infiltration in that regard. That part of the plan, Steve had no problem with.

Danny returned from where he’d wandered off, carrying a floppy sun hat and a straw beach bag, two things that were a common sight in Hawaii. Steve didn’t know where they’d come from, but it wouldn’t have been hard to find either.

His partner, like Chin and Steve, was stripped down to swim gear in preparation for their infiltration. Masks, snorkels and waterproof bags with their guns, were all ready to go on the front seat of the Camaro. The team kept the equipment in their vehicles for such circumstances — island living lent itself to a lot of swimming, even as a cop. Maybe especially, since a panicked criminal might be inclined to dump evidence, or themselves, in the water to avoid prosecution.

“Everybody decent?” Danny called.

“Dressed, anyway,” Kono said, head emerging from behind a trunk. She spotted Danny and his finds. “Nice thinking, brah. Those are perfect.”

Danny followed her gesture forward. Steve was on his heels, an amused Chin in his wake.

Kono was in her swimsuit as well, a sporty surf bikini that was completely her. She took the hat and offered it, along with a gauzy beach wrap she removed from her trunk to Antonia.

Her swimsuit was anything but sporty. The wrap, which she slung low on her hips and tied off on one side, did absolutely nothing to make the blue bikini more demure. It might have even made it sexier.

This was the part of the plan Steve hated. With the part of his brain that wasn’t consumed with lust.

He could remember being amazed by Nina’s long legs as a kid and being embarrassingly fascinated by them when she was sixteen. In her thirties, with only a few pieces of material on, those legs were a mile long and possibly the sexiest thing he’d ever seen. When Antonia bent over to flip and muss her hair, the punch of sheer want was enough to make his mouth go dry.

“Down, boy,” Chin murmured.

Steve flipped him off behind his back. Chin laughed.

Antonia, the only one that Hesse wouldn’t recognize, was the frontwoman. She was going to approach the dock directly, blocking anyone who tried to flee and protecting any civilians who might be in harm’s way. She also intended to distract anyone on the yacht who was topside.

Considering how thoroughly he was distracted, it boded well for that part of the plan.

Steve crossed his arms. “I still —”

“Don’t like this,” Danny, Chin and Kono finished for him.

“Sorry, babe, considering Hesse’s resources, firepower and paranoia we can’t call in HPD. SWAT will take too long and we’d need to evacuate the harbour as well, which would be the tip-off even if Hesse hasn’t found a dirty cop to pay off.” Danny managed to look sympathetic and amused as he handed the beach bag off to Kono. “You don’t like it, but it’s all we’ve got.”

Kono checked her Kel Tec nine millimetre and slid it in the bag, then handed the whole thing to Antonia. “Relax, boss. We’ve got this.”

“Steve.” Antonia set the hat on her head, studying him. “I appreciate the thought, but I’ll be fine.”

His team busied themselves with gathering their equipment, giving an illusion of privacy. “You’re going in without backup.”

“I’m only engaging if someone runs,” she reminded him. “And I told you, I recognize someone with a yacht on the same dock. I’ll have backup if I need it.”

“A civilian,” Steve complained. Antonia had spotted someone familiar while they took in the layout. She wouldn’t explain how she knew the man sprawled out on the deck of a fifty-five-foot yacht across from the Belfast Arms but she’d decided to use him as her reason for approaching the dock.

She laughed. “Not even close. He’s the furthest thing possible from a civilian, even if he’s playing at one on a fancy yacht in Hawaii.”

He opened his mouth, probably to complain some more when Antonia stepped forward and put a hand on his shoulder. In flip-flops, she was at least an inch shorter than him. He could see at least six shades of green in her eyes along with tiny flecks of amber that he’d never seen before. Against his bare skin, he could feel the strength in her grip and slight calluses along the heel of her palm and first two fingers.

“Steven, I will be fine.”

He swallowed back complaints and concerns. He wouldn’t question Kono if she volunteered for a spot like this in an operation and she had a fraction of Antonia’s experience. He was lucky everyone seemed more amused than insulted by Steve’s reluctance to follow the plan.

“Give us ten minutes lead time,” was what he said instead.

He got one of her bright smiles. “I’m on vacation, aren’t I? Why would I be in a hurry to go anywhere?”

They entered the water behind a sheltering pile of rocks; Steve looked back to see Antonia start her car and head closer to the dock. Then he set his concerns aside, started the timer in his head, and slid under water.

He took point, Danny on his right and Kono on his left while Chin was a little behind her. They cut through the water at a steady pace, not pushing hard and focusing on staying out of sight and silent over speed.

The water slid along Steve’s body like a lover, a familiar feeling he embraced to enhance his concentration. The tug of the waves and they moved in and out of the shore, the little eddies and currents generated by the bodies moving alongside him, pressed against his skin and stirred the hair on his body. Their breathing was muffled by the water but amplified by the equipment they used; Steve could hear the rasp of his breathing inside his head.

They surfaced along the side of the Belfast Arms without splashing or drawing attention. With a few gestures, Steve sent Kono and Danny to the back of the boat to hold the position until they were ready. He and Chin would go up the side and over but the others would enter stern-side.

They shed masks and snorkels and waited, listening.

Above him, Steve heard the rasp of cloth on wood and a soft noise of appreciation. “Damn.”

A second voice, this one sounding more European than local, spoke. “I love this island.”

He heard Antonia’s voice, a little further away but still clear. “Hello, James. Sorry to keep you waiting.”

A man with an English accent even stronger than Antonia’s replied. Steve could hear a bit of surprise but it was hidden quickly. “Antonia. I never mind waiting for a beautiful woman.”

Steve would have growled if he wasn’t clinging to the side of a yacht and he hadn’t been able to hear the lie. He looked towards Chin, wondering if he could hear the conversation as well, and found the man staring at Steve with wide eyes. He tapped one ear.

Chin shook his head.

Huh. His sentinel senses must be kicking in due to adrenaline.

“Flattery,” Antonia said, tone bright and flirty. More softly she added, “Working? Or have you retired?”

“For now. We’ll see if it sticks. You seem to be working, though.”

“Yes. Give a girl a hand?”

“My dear, you are all woman.”

Steve frowned a little, wondering if his hearing was ramped up higher than normal or if Antonia and her friend James were speaking too loudly. Nothing they were saying was incriminating but it might make the boat occupants suspicious. Their voices were far quieter now but he could still hear them.

“How is your companion?” Antonia said, amused.

“Quinn is quite well, thank you. He’s below deck working on one of his projects. You have an audience, you know.”

“I’ll say hello later. I do know, James, that’s rather the point.”

“You make a lovely distraction.”

“It was me or a grenade.”

“Well, then, if you’re meant to be the distraction we should give them a show.”

Antonia chuckled but the sound of whatever came next was drowned out by a pair of wolf-whistles and catcalls from the deck above them. Steve could guess what had their attention.

Steve lifted a hand and signalled his team. They wouldn’t get a better chance.

Five-0 went up and over the side and back of the yacht.

Three men were gathered at the starboard rail, watching Antonia and a shirtless man in an embrace. Two went down swiftly under Kono and Danny’s takedowns. The third, Mangallanes, saw the action. Steve heard his heartbeat spike, saw sweat bead on his forehead. Danny moved towards him only for the man to leap off the side and land with a stagger on the dock. He recovered and made to run.

Antonia and James parted and turned into his path. Mangallanes drew a gun and waved it menacingly, reaching for Antonia. “Get out of the way! I’ll shoot the woman!”

James snapped out a hand, caught Mangallanes’ gun hand and disarmed him in two strikes. Antonia swept his legs out from beneath him and dropped him on the dock hard enough for Steve to hear the air leave his lungs.

James took the cuffs that Antonia produced. “I have this. Go on.”

She drew the gun from her bag, dropped it, and headed for the yacht. Knowing the whole team was following, Steve headed to the cabin door and turned the handle. When the door opened he was nearly overwhelmed by the scent of gunpowder and oil, sea salt, beer, antiseptic and a whiff of explosives.

There was one heartbeat. Steve followed it.

Hesse was in the main cabin, luxuriously furnished in wood and leather and brass. Spread out on the wood dining table were pieces of plastic and metal, wires and switches. Bomb components. Hesse was bent over them, twisting wires together.

Hesse’s heartbeat increased a second before his head came up; Steve slammed the butt of his gun down over Hesse’s hand as he reached for a knife then brought his elbow back into the man’s face, hard.

Victor Hesse groaned and slumped, sliding from his chair. Leaving Steve standing there, waiting for an attack that wouldn’t be coming.

“That was easier than I expected,” Danny said.

Sound poured into Steve’s ears. He dropped his gun and pressed both hands to his head, curling in on himself. The surprised noises that followed cut through his head like a jackhammer.

A tiger appeared, taking up half the space remaining in the cabin. He rubbed against Steve, planted two paws on Hesse’s chest, and chuffed.

“Never mind,” Danny sighed.


Untitled design


Five

Steve tapped his fingers on the dashboard. Opened his mouth —

“No.”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“You were going to.”

“I was just —”

“Babe. No.”

“But —”

“What are you, six and arguing about bedtime? No, Steve.”

“I perfectly capable —”

“Stop, please. I beg of you,” Danny groaned. “I know you have deep-seated control issues rooted in childhood trauma and exacerbated by your military training and life experiences but I would like to point out to you that: one, this is my car and, two, you cannot, in fact, drive in your current circumstances. So stop bitching, Steven, it will be over in twenty minutes. You’ve endured torture and DMV lines that lasted longer.”

Despite the tone, one that Danny took on when he was irritated but not quite up to a full rant yet, Steve couldn’t smell any stress or aggression. His partner’s heartbeat didn’t even spike. Apparently, venting really did help Danny manage his stress.

“There’s nothing wrong with me,” Steve said with a straight face and well-aware of the opening he’d offered up.

“Oh, let me count the ways, babe,” Danny exclaimed. Steve turned his head to hide the smile. “For one thing, you think grenades should be standard issue. But let’s be specific, that’s something you army guys can get behind, right?”

“Navy,” Steve corrected. Any sentinel could have heard the affection in his voice.

“You came online during a tactical operation where we apprehended your father’s killer. You then spiked on hearing. When Chin and Toni helped you level out, you then zoned on sight. When you levelled out from that, you got growly with a stranger who not only helped us but was guarding one of our prisoners. You got growly with me when I told you off for getting growly with the Brit. You got growly with one of our perps when he tried to fight Kono. Your tiger got growly and you nearly went homicidal when Hesse woke up and started struggling. Are you seeing a pattern, here babe? Allowing you to drive would be reckless endangerment. The road rage problem is bad enough without you, Steven.

“The only people you haven’t growled at in the last four hours are Chin, Toni, and Guide Sherman. You scared a dozen veteran cops when they came to our scene. Fortunately for you, and the rest of us, Duke was amused instead of insulted. You also snarled at Sentinel Kauhi, who is not only a man you’ve known since you were a kid but about seven feet tall. His spirit guide is a shark, Steven, and the last I heard they eat seals.”

The impassioned cadence and steady heartbeat were oddly soothing. Steve decided not to tell Danny that he had a calming presence. It wouldn’t be good for the man’s blood pressure. “I’m not actually a seal, Danny. Besides, I could take Kauhi. Probably.”

Danny’s look said plenty. “Maybe, if you were having a good day and he was sick. With pneumonia. You are not having a good day, Steven. Talk to me when you’re wearing your own clothes again. Because you are currently wearing my shirt and Chin’s pants due to your own inability to remember which detergents are sentinel-safe and when you put on your own shirt, you immediately broke into a rash. And when Kauhi called you out on being an idiot, you snarled at him again.

“The result of which is that your sister spent the afternoon at your house, doing your laundry because you have no clothes or sheets that won’t cause you to break out in a zone-inducing rash and you got growly, again, when Kauhi offered to send a service to your house.

“Which leads us to your territorial instincts, which we’ve learned are just as jacked up as the rest of you, babe, because we took in four people today and none of them are in our actual custody. Three are with HPD and one is with NCIS. And why is that?”

Steve sighed and sank back in the seat. “Because having the scent and sound of the man who killed my father, or anyone who worked with him, in the space I claimed as my territory or near the team I’ve claimed as pack feels like a violation on an instinctive level.”

“Which is a roundabout way of saying that the thought of Hesse at our office made you nearly feral. Again. Also, we will discuss the whole ‘claiming’ thing at a later date. I have questions. Many questions.”

“I just bet you do.”

“And, because you hadn’t scared enough of the island’s law enforcement officers, the NCIS agent who came to take in Hesse — an arrangement that we came to thanks to the Navy’s interest in him, Toni’s connections and the fact that we cannot act on most of the intel he can offer but the FBI will cut us out of anything they might get — you snarled at him when he tried to shake Toni’s hand. I understand, it was rude, I get the impulse. But, babe, most people don’t come with their own stereo surround system in the shape of a tiger who also showed up to snarl at an agent who we need to work with.

“Your reaction made Kauhi growl at you, which made Toni step between you and everyone else, which made you snarl even more. Which brought up the elephant in the room —”

“Another elephant?”

“Who knew there were so many on Oahu? But there we are, at a crime scene, with a newly online sentinel in the presence of known killers, a bunch of strangers, and a guide who he apparently claimed — there’s that word again — on an instinctive level when they were children. There’s less gunpowder on a battleship, even without Hesse’s little craft project.

“So, in conclusion, Steven, you are not fit to drive and, since we caught two international fugitives and some local muscle today, you can take a few days to get your head straight. And you didn’t even leave us with the paperwork,” Danny finished cheerfully, “since you got banished to the office where you couldn’t snarl at anyone.”

He had been banished, something he was still a little put out about, to handle the governor and deal with calls from the FBI. His team had stayed to do their jobs as well as they could with him calling to check on them regularly. The only reason he’d managed it was because Antonia had left the scene as well, returning to her hotel room to make her own calls.

He’d called her repeatedly as well. He probably owed all of them an apology.

“You have Grace this weekend, right?” he asked instead.

“All week starting Saturday. Why?”

“You should bring her to the house,” Steve said. “The whole team can come. We’ll grill.”

“I’m not sure you’ll be in any condition for a party on Saturday.”

Maybe not with strangers but his team? “I think I need it.”

Danny studied him as they turned into Steve’s neighbourhood. “What’s going on in your head, babe?”

“I need . . .” He stopped and sighed. Asking was something he didn’t have much practice at. “I need the team in my house. I need to hear them, smell them. Without guns and the smell of blood and adrenalin. I need Grace there, too. I don’t know why.”

“Imprinting. What?” Danny demanded when Steve stared at him. “I might not be a sentinel or a guide but I’ve known plenty. You want to imprint our scents and you couldn’t when you came online thanks to the circumstances. It probably contributed to your growlyness.”

“Stop making up words.”

“Find me one that fits better and I will. I’ll call the team and we’ll set something up.”

“Sorry for intruding on your time with Grace,” Steve offered.

“What? What is that face? Intruding? Grace loves the beach, I love steak and beer. We both win. She calls you Uncle Steve,” Danny finished in a softer tone. “She’s also the youngest member of your makeshift family, Steve, and she’s a guide. Of course you want to imprint her. And who am I to argue with something that will only make it easier for you to protect her?”

“You? Argue?”

“Crazy, right?” The Camaro slid to a stop in Steve’s driveway. “Alright, you big goof. Get out.”

“You’re all heart, partner.” Steve opened the door and was half out of the car when he said, “Thanks, Danno.”

“For what? C’mon, I’ve got places to be and felons to interrogate. Call if you need anything.”

Steve waved Danny off and waited until the car turned a corner before he headed for the door. He was well aware of the rental car parked in front of his house.

Inside, Steve breathed in to take in the nuances of the familiar scent of home. There were traces of his team left from the last time they were all there, the heady scents of the tropical plants surrounding the house, and the ever-present ocean. Over all of that was Mary’s scent and the perfume she wore, detergent and clean linen, and Antonia.

He wanted to go upstairs, to the closet that held his dad’s clothes and the boxes he hadn’t been able to donate yet, to see if his father’s scent lingered on them. But that was a door better left for another day. Instead, he headed for the study.

It smelled of wood polish and metal, the sea and flowers. There was no trace of blood or decay, gunpowder and fingerprint dust. Under it all was a trace of antiseptic. Kauhi had been furious when Steve had tried to stay in the house after his return without having the scene cleaned. Steve hadn’t really seen a point but had been overruled and now he was grateful Kauhi had forced his hand. He couldn’t imagine if he’d come home to the scent of his father’s death, or spent months forming a scent imprint of it.

He probably owed Kauhi an apology too.

The kitchen had been cleaned and there was a note on the counter. Mary’s scrawl informed him that she’d removed every cleaning product in the house and was he trying to kill himself with all that crap? She’d added a phone number for a sentinel-safe service, a list of products he was supposed to buy even if they were more expensive than the toxic sludge he was using, and a demand that he call her soon. Also, she loved him even when he was stupid.

“Love you too, Mar,” Steve said and headed for the back door.

The sound of the ocean unimpeded was a balm, unwinding the tension in his shoulders. The figure standing on the shore made him tense for an entirely different reason.

The clothes she’d pulled over her swimsuit after the bust were discarded on a chair. There were a couple of towels, a pair of beers and a covered bowl on a second. Steve could smell fruit and coconut sunscreen. Antonia was standing on the sand, waves lapping at her feet and ankles.

“I saw you for the first time, just like that,” Steve said. She turned to look at him and it was an effort not to zone on the colours in her eyes, the play of skin over muscle. “I came home from school and you were out here with Dad.”

“He brought me out here when I didn’t respond to anything else,” she said quietly. “Your mother was trying to reassure me but I just shut down. So we came out here. He said that the ocean might not wash away our problems but it sure made them seem smaller.”

“I remember that line,” Steve murmured. He removed his shoes and shirt and walked closer. “You were so pretty in the sunlight and then I saw your face and you looked so sad. I wanted to make you smile.”

“So you ran into the ocean fully clothed?”

He shrugged. “I wasn’t very smooth at fourteen.”

“Love, don’t kid yourself. You aren’t terribly smooth now.” He caught her hand and spun her into him, the length of her body pressed against him. She let him do it, raising an eyebrow. “Though you’ve got a few moves.”

“I missed you even when I didn’t know what it was I was missing,” Steve said.

“I knew I missed you. You’ve always been a little dense,” she sighed, arms going over his shoulders. “Why else would you miss the way I was pouring my heart out to you in letters. I all but signed them ‘Nina Paddington McGarrett’. I thought that was why you’d stopped responding, you know.”

He tightened his grip. “I was out of contact for nearly a year between BUDs and missions. By then there was a pile of unanswered letters and the last was more than a month old. I didn’t know how to pick it back up.”

“Idiot,” she sighed. “Clearly I’m the brains of this operation, McGarrett.”

He smiled but sobered quickly, pressing his face to her hair and inhaling. “I don’t know how to . . . my team is here, Antonia, and —”

“Nina. I told you that Nina is for family.” She rubbed her cheek against his. “And who said anything about leaving? You have a task force that deals with cases of international significance, Steve, and I’m an Interpol agent. Seems sensible to me and my boss agrees.”

He pulled back. “You already —”

“I told you, I’m the brains here, Steven.”

He smiled. Nina was staying. His guide was here. “And I’m the brawn?”

She shrugged. “Part-time, anyway. When you aren’t busy with your primary occupation.”

“Which is?”

She ran a hand over his shoulder and down his chest. “Eye candy and sex slave.”

Steve ducked down and came up with her over his shoulder. Nina shrieked and laughed as he carried her back to the house and past the tiger and leopard who had taken up residence on the lanai. “Bloody hell, Steve! I’m not exactly a lightweight!”

He ran a hand over her hip, snagged the ends of the strings tying one side of her bikini bottom and tugged the knot loose. He nipped the skin of her ass as the fabric fell away. “I need to prove my worth as brawn and sex slave, don’t I?”

“Mission accomplished.”

He could smell arousal, his and hers, growing stronger as he headed up the stairs to his bedroom. The bed was made with clean-smelling sheets, turned down. Nina lost the bikini to Steve’s eager hands on the way down onto the bed but also managed to drag him down with her.

His team was all safe and uninjured and there were dangerous people off the streets. Hesse was finally going to pay for his father’s death. He could smell the scent of home and Nina, sex and the sea. His guide’s skin was pressed to his own and her heartbeat was steady if elevated.

“Come here, sentinel,” Nina said, nuzzling his cheek. “You’ve got scent and sound, touch and sight. Just one more.”

Everything in him, sentinel instincts and a lifetime of love and affection, came together in Steve when he tasted her mouth. She tasted like pineapple, papaya and peace. “Guide,” he breathed against her lips. “Nina. Welcome home.”

Amusement and joy, love and need poured into him as she opened her mind the way he’d opened his senses. The half-formed bond they’d made twenty years earlier bloomed and they claimed each other.

They were both home.



Waves Towards The Shore Cast

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2019

We wish you all a great start into 2019. May your year be filled with love, laughter, health and happiness.

And for H50 we hope for a great rest of the season.

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