Home > SEAL Next Door (SEALs of Coronado #9)(5)

SEAL Next Door (SEALs of Coronado #9)(5)
Author: Paige Tyler

“Excellent!” Nyla beamed, dark eyes dancing as she slipped into the chair beside Poppy. “Tell me everything about him. What’s his name? What’s he like? Is he cute? Are you two going out on a date?”

Poppy couldn’t help but laugh. “I know you’re excited, but slow down a little. I’ll tell you all the juicy details. Not that there are many.”

“You let me decide that,” Nyla said, gesturing with her coffee mug before taking a sip. “Now, spill! And don’t leave anything out.”

Grinning, Poppy told her friend about stepping out of her apartment to go for a jog and seeing this absolute Adonis trying to hold up a stack of boxes at the same time he dug around in his pocket for his keys. “He ended up dropping them and some of his stuff went flying. I think it might have been because he was checking me out.”

Nyla oohed and aahed over that, sounding more like a teenager than a fellow nuclear engineer. “Adonis, huh? That sounds promising. Tell me about him! What’s he like?”

Poppy smiled as she thought of the handsome sailor she’d met the previous evening. “Sam’s amazing. And different than any guy I’ve ever met. I mean, he’s gorgeous as sin, but I swear, I don’t think he even has a clue how hot he is. He’s quick on his toes and clever, but completely grounded at the same time. It was like we’ve known each other for months instead of just meeting last night. We ended spending hours discussing toppings on pizza and our favorite TV shows, and I wasn’t bored for a second. If we both didn’t have to get up early for work this morning, we probably would have stayed up half the night.”

Nyla grinned so big Poppy thought her friend might pull a face muscle. “So, does this Sam of yours have a job? If he’s as hot as you say, I’m thinking stripper is a real possibility.”

Poppy almost snorted coffee out of her nose. “No. He’s not a stripper…promise.” Although, she’d be lying if she didn’t say she hadn’t been seriously wondering what Sam’s body looked like under that tee and jeans he’d been wearing last night. “Actually, he’s in the Navy.”

The smile faded from her friend’s face, a serious expression taking its place. “I thought you’d sworn off Navy guys after that last one. In fact, I clearly remember you saying you’d rather date an unemployed zombie biker before going out with another sailor.”

Poppy winced, because she had said that. It wasn’t that she had anything against zombie bikers, but at the time she’d been reaching for a good analogy and that had been the first thing to come to mind.

“I probably shouldn’t have been so extreme,” she admitted. “The guy I had a problem with was a SEAL, so it was stupid to exclude everyone in the Navy. Especially here in San Diego, where you can’t throw a ball without it bouncing off someone in a blue uniform. Sam’s not like that other guy and he definitely isn’t a SEAL, so I think he’s worth taking a chance on.”

Her friend didn’t look so sure. Poppy completely understood why. Nyla had been there when Poppy had gotten involved with that stupid SEAL in the first place. They’d been arguing about what men looked for in a woman and Poppy had said something about how men only wanted a bimbo with all looks and no brains. A silly bet was made and the next thing Poppy knew, she was sleeping with a SEAL who had no idea who she really was. It had started as a joke and ended abruptly when Poppy realized she’d be stuck playing a role forever. Not that she’d wanted it to work. There’d been nothing between them except physical attraction. But still, finding out she was right and that he was more interested in her boobs than her brains had been depressing as hell. Enough that she’d swore off anyone in a Navy uniform.

“Like I said, Sam is different.” Poppy sipped her coffee. “Hell, we initially bonded over the mathematical properties of a Rubik’s Cube. He’s not bothered or intimidated by the fact that I’m smart. If he was, he wouldn’t have asked me out on a date.”

Nyla did a little happy dance right there in her chair, her dark, wavy hair bouncing. “Yes! And honey, if a guy can appreciate a woman who’s both beautiful and intelligent, then he isn’t just different—he’s special.”

Poppy smiled. “You’re right. Sam is definitely special.”

Nyla reached out and picked up a thick folder off the stack on the table in front of them and handed it to Poppy. “Well, now that we have the important stuff out of the way, I suppose we should get to work.”

Opening the folder, Poppy took out the handful of the eight by ten matte photos inside, then spread them out on the table in front of her. The pics had been taken at long range with a telephoto lens in a low-light setting. The camera must have been insanely good, because even with the dim surroundings, she was able to make out most of the details. Not that it helped. She turned the pictures this way and that, trying to figure out what she was looking at.

“Okay, I’ll play along,” Poppy said, flipping from picture to picture a few more times before reaching for the next folder and finding more of the same. “What am I looking at?”

“You tell me,” Nyla said. “All I can confirm is that these pictures were taken by a covert DOD team a few nights ago somewhere in the Indonesian Archipelago. Two heavily armed groups met on the beach in what’s being described as an initial negotiation. One group offered the technical drawings while the other brought a pouch containing one or more cut and polished diamonds.”

“Heavily armed groups?” Poppy mused, now looking up from the second group of pictures that looked very similar to the first. “I assume you’re talking about terrorists?”

“Probably,” Nyla admitted. “Though it’s not out of the question that the group offering the drawings had state backing. What state? I have no idea. That’s where you come in. What the hell are in these drawings?”

As Poppy spread the photos out on the big conference room table, she realized that some of them were multiple pictures taken of the same section of drawing, each from slightly different angles and at various exposure settings. She picked out the best view of each section of the drawing, discarding the rest, then she started organizing the photos on the table, putting them together like a big jigsaw puzzle. It didn’t take long to figure out what she was looking at once she had the pieces lined up right.

“It’s a nuclear warhead,” she said. “More precisely, a North Korean warhead. Or the detailed technical plans for one anyway. Right down to the warhead serial number.”

Nyla groaned. “I was worried you were going to say something like that.” Sighing, she got to her feet. “While you keep going through the pictures, I’m going to tell our boss that it looks like someone is trying to sell a nuclear weapon to a bunch of terrorists. I have no doubt they’ll be thrilled.”

Poppy gave her a frown. “You don’t think these terrorists would actually nuke somebody if they get their hands on this thing, do you?”

“I can’t imagine why you’d buy one if you weren’t going to use it,” Nyla said. “Luckily, it’s not our job to figure out how to stop something like this. We simply evaluate the threat and tell them if this thing will work.”

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