Pre Order Your Copy Now!
Exclusive Chapter 1 of Rescuing Isabelle
Somedays, I want to pinch myself, because this kind of life never happens to a girl like me.
Now, if I could only get my four, overprotective, overbearing, and overly paternalistic brothers to back off, this could be the perfect life.
Perfect except for the whole abduction-in-the-jungles-of-Nicaragua bit and the subsequent running-for-my-life thing.
Except my brothers will not get off my case. They demand I go home.
Where it’s safe.
Safe feels a whole hell of a lot like oppressively smothering. I love my brothers, but they can be way over the top when it comes to their baby sister.
However, I’ve successfully put them off.
At least for a bit.
That trip home needs to happen, but I’m going to stonewall them for a little bit more.
I’m not ready to step away, especially when it comes to days like today.
And my view?
It’s one in a million.
“Whatcha thinking, Izzy?” My best friend in the whole wide world, my abduction-and-running-for-my-life-buddy, Angie, gives me the eye.
She knows exactly what I’m thinking.
Hell, every female within sight of the spectacle in front of us is thinking the same damn thing.
That’s due to the six mighty fine Guardians flexing their muscles in a virile display of jaw-dropping, fantasy-inducing, testosterone-infused masculinity, and my dirty mind is overflowing with all kinds of wicked fantasies.
“I’m not thinking anything you’re not.” I cross my arms and give her a look. “Your mouth is open, and you’re drooling.” I call her out for calling me out.
Angie likes to think, since she’s got a ring on her finger, that she’s above ogling the drool-worthy display, but she’s totally guilty of checking out not just her beau, Brady, but all the men of Bravo team.
Her heart may belong to Brady Malone, but she watches them all.
“Oh yes, you are.” She reaches over and pinches me. “And if I’m drooling, you’re foaming at the mouth. You so want a piece of Booker Holloway.” She pinches me.
“Hey, stop that.” I yank away and rub at my skin. “That hurt.”
“Not until you admit you’ve got an eye for Bravo Two.” Her light hazel eyes twinkle with amusement. Yeah, she’s having fun with me.
But the thing is…she’s totally right. I’ve got a major lady boner for Booker Holloway, especially after what the women of Alpha team told me about how he made ends meet before he became a Guardian.
Before he became a US Navy SEAL.
It’s deliciously naughty.
My man is an ex-exotic dancer—was an exotic dancer. Evidently he doesn’t do that anymore.
Although, he supposedly taught the men of Alpha team how to bump and grind on their women.
In Vegas, no less.
But that’s a different story.
“You don’t have to say it because it’s scrawled all over your face.” Angie makes a circle in front of my face, then preens in victory because she knows she’s right.
Booker used to star in an all male review on the strip in Vegas. He’s got the moves and the body for it. I don’t doubt it for a second. Not that I didn’t due my due diligence and confirm for myself.
I’ve got the pictures and the proof; after a little detective work and an assist from Mitzy, the technical lead for Guardian HRS. I call her a wizard, because that woman is amazing. She makes me feel like an underachiever.
Which I’m totally not.
Straight A’s in high school were followed by straight A’s in undergrad, and those continued in Pharmacy school, where I graduated…with honors.
I’m a valedictorian three times over. I thought that was pretty bad ass until I met Mitzy. I’ve come to realize, I’m merely ordinary; at least when I try to measure myself up against the talent hired on at Guardian HRS.
“I hate you.” I tighten my arms and hunch inward.
I hate that Angie’s right, but there’s no denying the truth. The scariest thing is I think he may like me too.
“Want me to ask Brady if Booker’s into you?”
“No!” That makes me cringe.
Isn’t it funny how no matter how old we get, we never leave the schoolyard? Here I am, pining over a boy, thinking he might like me, but too chickenshit to get off my ass and find out.
“Hey, lunch break is almost over.” Angie starts packing up the remnants of her meal. “We’ve have to get back to orientation.”
Our new employer definitely offered us one sweet deal. Two actually. One for each of us. They hired me on as a pharmacist. I’ll be working at Guardian HQ’s onsite hospital during my initial onboarding, but then I’ll shift to the pharmacy at the Facility where Guardian HRS is looking to expand.
Angie got the same offer…to work for Guardian HRS, that is. She’s not a pharmacist, but rather an ophthalmologist. She’ll remain at the onsite hospital, joining their current Ophtho team.
“What if we fake tummy aches? Tell them we need fresh air to recover?” My gaze turns back to the men scaling the sixty-foot wall in front of us. Bravo team is a little over two thirds of the way to their objective. They’re joined on the wall by two robots. Four footed things, they scale the wall like it’s nothing, putting the Guardians to shame. Every day at Guardian HRS some new futuristic tech makes me shake my head.
“I think that’ll go over like a ton of bricks. Come on. You can watch them tomorrow too.”
Bravo team is in between assignments, which means they fill their days working various scenarios and honing their skills. As for Bravo team, my bestie is currently engaged to Brady; the man who single-handedly rescued us from the Coralos cartel after they abducted our entire medical team.
He’s the lead for Bravo team. They call him Bravo One.
Booker’s Bravo Two. Then there’s the rest of the team: Rafe, Hayes, Alec, and Zeb.
The whole team looks like they’re carved out of granite; all hard lines and rough edges, perfect specimens of the male form.
“Le sigh.” I lean back and press the back of my hand over my forehead in a dramatic gesture. “They’re all stinking hot.”
“But you have the hots for one.” Angie giggles. “And from the looks he gives you, the feeling has to be reciprocated. I could ask Brady to look into it.”
“No! Don’t you dare. And I’m not into Booker. He’s an over-protective, over-bearing ass.” My lips twist, turning my smile into a frown. “That man is flawed, with a capital F, as in over-bearing, over-protective, and over-everything. He’s just like my brothers, and you see how I react to their demands.”
“I do, and you love that about Booker.” She continues to tidy up our picnic spot. “It’s what draws you to him.”
“You can’t lie to me.” She turns her attention back to the rock wall the men scale as a part of one of their training exercises. “The air sizzles when the two of you get close.”
“Don’t know what you’re talking about, and as far as sizzle, look who’s talking? You and Brady are like lightning with the way you make the air crackle.” I lean back and tilt my head, getting a really fabulous look at the way Booker’s ass fills out his pants. He traverses an overhead reverse incline with a full ruck on his back. One of the robotic dogs waits patiently for its turn to traverse the same overhang. Working with the robots, Bravo team is testing their operational readiness.
The man reaches out with those powerful arms. Those deft fingers feel around for a blind grip. Once he’s set, his body swings out into open space. I can’t help but gasp, worried he might fall the fifty feet between him and the ground.
But he doesn’t.
Booker uses the momentum of his body to his advantage. He hooks a boot on a rock overhead, then hand over hand, pulls himself up the rock face. That gives me plenty of time to admire the way he fills out those black tactical pants of his. The man has a mighty fine ass, and from what little I’ve seen of the front package, there are delights there to be had as well.
Once he’s past that obstacle, it’s time for the robot to follow. It scrambles across the inverted overhang like it’s nothing, reminding me of a spider or a crab. Unlike either of those, the robots only have the four legs, plus one armlike appendage that does double duty as a head and arm.
As for Booker, my mind is totally in the gutter. As for the gutter, Angie leads me into a trap.
“I bet you’d kill for Booker to get bossy with you.”
“Shut up.” I smack her in the arm, but the heat in my cheeks tells the truth.
Can’t help it. I love a man who knows what he wants. When he goes after it with single-minded determination, I turn into a swoony puddle of goo.
It’s true. I like a man who knows how to take charge, but only in the bedroom, and only when I’m in the mood. Meaning, that overprotective shit better not flow into any other part of my life.
The problem with Booker is he’s not the kind of man who knows how to turn off his natural protectiveness. His take charge attitude is a 24/7 kind of thing as well.
And I don’t respond well to that; except the bedroom.
With my cheeks aflame, I gather my trash and pack up the rest of my lunch.
“I really hate you.”
“You love me far too much to hate me.”
“I do.” I tilt my head back, wanting one last view of the spectacle that is Bravo team.
They’re near the top of the sixty-foot artificial rock wall. Not aware of the specific objective of this training exercise, I don’t know if they did well or failed. Knowing the way Brady leads his team, and how Booker backs him up, I bet they busted expectations.
Angie and I stand, then police our picnic spot, making sure we leave nothing behind. As we do, my phone rings. I pull out my cellphone and glance at the screen.
“Ugh! Will they ever stop?”
“Your brothers?” Angie’s eyes flash with mirth. “Which one?”
“Elder Dingleberry.” That’s what I call my oldest brother.
He’s a decade older than me and likes to think that gives him parental privilege over my life, and my life choices.
He was the loudest when it came to expressing concern when I first joined Doctors Without Borders.
I loved that job.
Absolutely loved it.
My first nine-month contract found me in the Caribbean where I worked with my team to stamp out parasitic infection, provide live-saving immunizations, and dole out anti-malarials and antibiotics like they were going out of style.
Talk about a dream job.
My life’s been blessed. I’ve never wanted for anything. To give something back to those less fortunate than myself is the golden goose of selfless acts.
My second contract brought me to Nicaragua, and while the first two months were amazing, the abduction thing was less than stellar.
Elder Dingleberry feels that proves his point about how dangerous my work with Doctors Without Borders was. He wants me close to home where he, and the other Dingleberries, can watch over me.
I’m one of those people who believe every cloud has a silver lining. As horrific, and terrifying as that might have been, it brought Angie and me together. Before that event, we were cordial colleagues. We worked side-by-side, but never connected. Now, we’re practically inseparable.
We’ll still be together when we’re old and gray. It’s one of those life-ships. That’s what my mother calls a lifetime friendship. Angie’s definitely my life-ship.
Even when she’s being a pain in the ass when it comes to Booker.
The hissing of rope running through carabiners snaps my head up in time to see the six Guardians rappelling down that sixty-foot rock face. I don’t know how they do it, but they all kick off the wall at the same time, swing out, then gently arc back inward. Their feet touch the wall one time, then they kick off and drop to the ground.
It’s like watching water ballet. They’re so in synch with each other, it’s like they’re a living, breathing, machine working in unison.
Since I’m currently holding my breath, I’m going to call it breathtaking, because I’m certainly amazed, impressed, overwhelmed, and a little bit tingly down there. More so when Booker looks my direction and gives one of his devastating winks.
Dear lord, just shoot me now. Because now he knows I’ve been watching him.
Angie clutches the ring tied around her neckless. Like me, she’s breathless and overtaken by these strange emotions.
The ring on that necklace belongs to her late husband. On her finger, however, the diamond engagement ring Brady gave her glitters in the light.
I envy my best friend. She found, not just one, but two soulmates to love. Whereas I’ve never dated. Never experienced young love—thank you Dingleberries.
No man stands a chance against my brothers.
My phone rings…again.
“Aren’t you going to answer?” Angie looks down at my phone.
I swipe away the incoming call with a growl forming in the back of my throat.
“They’ll just keep calling.”
Angie’s not wrong about that. After our Nicaraguan jungle adventure, we both moved to California. We share a small two bedroom townhouse while we figure out our lives.
In this case, figure out means however long Angie’s going to make Brady wait to tie the knot for real.
He’s always at our place, and where Brady goes, Booker follows. Those two are tight.
All that’s to say, Angie hears my phone go off day and night. My brothers are persistent bastards.
“You know…” she gives me a sideways glance. “If you don’t talk to them, one of them, if not all four, are going to come out here and drag you home.”
“They’d like to think they could.” I shove the phone deep into my back pocket.
“All I’m saying is what they’ve told me.”
I forget my brothers text Angie as well. It’s a two pronged attack. Annoy me, and my bestie, and one of us will cave.
“You’re not answering those texts, are you?” I narrow my eyes with suspicion.
“I wouldn’t do that to you.” She gives me a look, almost offended, but smoothes it out with a smile. “But I will tell you the texts are getting more and more insistent.”
“I’ll go home when I go home, and not a minute sooner.”
“Hey, I’m on your side. Just telling you what they’re saying to me.”
I stop and pivot. Grasping her hands, I give them a little squeeze. “And that’s what I love about you.”
“That you put up with my family drama. I regret ever giving them your number. You’re a saint for putting up with them.”
“It’s not that hard to ignore a text.”
She gives me a look like I’m over reacting and am overly grateful, but Angie doesn’t know my brothers. They’re not ones to stop at a text.
“Well, how about we get through the rest of the afternoon. I’ll text them when we get home.”
“Um, Izzy…” She gives me a look. “You didn’t forget, did you?”
“Forget about what?”
“Oh shit.” I cover my mouth. “I did.”
It’s Friday night, which means Brady and Booker are coming over for dinner. Since Angie can’t cook worth a damn, I volunteered to whip up one of my amazing dishes.
“But that’s perfect.” My step lightens. “I can talk while I’m cooking. It’s a natural kicking them off the phone stopping point.”
“Okay, but please no drama with Booker tonight. Will you promise to behave?”
“I always behave.” With a shake of my head, I skip a step or two ahead of her. “He’s the one who’s always putting his foot in his mouth.”
“Great…” Angie rolls her eyes. She almost looks disappointed, but she loves me. “You’re not going to behave.”
“I will if he does.”
“Just shoot me now.”
There it is. Angie’s eyes do a double flip and triple twist with that eye roll.
“What do you care? The moment the food’s done, you and Brady are going to get all lovey-dovey, leaving Booker and me to…”
“You could get cozy with him.”
“I’m telling you. The two of you make a nice couple.”
“I don’t want nice.” Nope. That’s not what I want at all.
And I’m not wrong about Booker. He’s over the top, moving from tolerable to unbearable Alpha asshole in a split second.
Unfortunately, he’s exactly the kind of man I’m attracted to.