Disgraced Navy SEAL Mason Clark knows how to track his prey. He is an expert operative with a history of wrong-place-wrong-time luck. Landing a gig as a vacation bodyguard should have been an easy job--if he wasn't supposed to be protecting her body.
Hannah Stevens. His boss's virgin daughter. Their lust is forbidden and a relationship is out of the question--but what happens in Mexico is their secret. Getting lost between the sheets is their one and only goal, until Hannah's friends are brutally kidnapped by a human-trafficking ring. Things quickly spiral out of control when the kidnappers put Hannah in their cross hairs.
Mason is a man ready to put it all on the line to rescue the woman he loves. Love and honor are put to the test in this new, romantic suspense series by NYT and USA Today bestselling author, Sidney Bristol.
Warning: Deflowering virgins doesn't come with volume control.
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An Excerpt From: DANGEROUS IN TRAINING
Copyright © SIDNEY BRISTOL, 2016
All Rights Reserved, Inked Press.
Mason Clark hefted his workout bag from the back seat of his pickup truck and headed into the land of temptation. He blinked and rubbed a bit of the grit from his eye. After a two-week gig playing bodyguard with the Aegis Group team to the sandbox and back, he was ready to slip back into his Central Standard Time habits. Which always started the same.
Up early to the gym, where he would spend an hour thinking of ways to keep to himself and not talk to her.
Hannah Stevens. His former physical therapist. The woman with the magical laughter. And the one woman he had to stay away from per his commanding officer’s orders, who also happened to be Hannah’s over-protective father.
Mason checked in at the front desk, stashed his stuff in the locker room, and hit the elliptical for a short warm-up. The morning news played a reel of hopped-up bullshit that didn’t matter to a handful of people who didn’t care.
His joints were stiff after back-to-back flights, but his left leg felt fine. No twinges or hints of pain leftover from the surgery that had put his path on a collision course with Hannah’s.
An hour into his routine someone turned off the heat. Or that was what it felt like. Mason shivered and sat up from the bench press, directing his gaze at the floor. He could feel her presence, as though his body was oddly attuned to her. Not five feet away was a tall drink of water—long, lean limbs, high, perky breasts, and the saddest eyes he’d ever seen. Everything in him said to move heaven and hell to make her smile, or better yet, laugh. But that was desperation talking.
He was a sad fuck.
“What’s wrong, Hannah?” He snagged a water bottle and drank several big gulps.
Hannah crossed to the bench and sat on the end, facing the wall. He studied her profile, the dark circles under her eyes, the rumpled clothes. Something was wasn’t right, and damn him, he wanted to fix it. This wasn’t like Hannah.
“I need help.”
Those three little words tilted his world and wiped away all the rules.
“With what?” He leaned forward, elbows on his knees, straddling the bench. Why come to him instead of her daddy? Mr. Stevens was head of operations, ensuring all departments at Aegis Group ran smoothly. He said it came from years of herding cats into church. The former Navy chaplain was a fierce man to cross.
“Where do I start?” She sighed and threaded her fingers together.
“God. Okay. I was renting that house, remember? The little yellow one? The owner sold it. The new owners paid me to pack up and move out. I did a dumb thing, Mason. A really dumb thing.”
“What did you do?”
“I don’t want to say.” She squeezed her eyes shut.
How bad could it be?”
“I let this guy talk me into putting my stuff in his shed. I’d literally just met him, went on a date. He seemed okay. Normal. Little too…suave? But okay.” She covered her face with her hands.
“What’s he done?” And who was this fucker?
“He won’t let me get my stuff unless I promise to give him one of these stupid Mexico tickets I won. It’s dumb.”
“So this asshole is holding your stuff hostage unless you give him a…what? A ticket to a trip?”
“Sounds like you need to call the cops.”
“I did, but it’s a civil thing and they won’t do anything. Maybe send someone to stand there while I move it all.”
“I see. Why not tell your dad?”
“Because you know how he is.”
“I do, but he’s your father, and he’d help you.” Not to mention if Mason stepped in it with Mr. Stevens, Mason’s ass would be on the line.
“He’s gone for two weeks. Radio silence and all that crap.”
“You know he’d answer for you if you called.”
“We kind of aren’t speaking.” Hannah winced.
“Do I want to know why?”
“He wants me to go to seminary.” She rolled her eyes.
“Yeah, he thinks that’s where I should go to find a husband. Get a Mrs. Degree. Can you believe that? From him?” The way her voice rose in pitch, he could imagine how well that conversation went over.
“I see.” No, he didn’t get it, but family matters were just that—family matters. “What do you want me to do?”
“Can you—go with me? Please? I’ll move everything myself. I just…I don’t feel safe around Dylan. Something about him creeps me out. It was like I was blind to it when I met him, but now…he makes my skin crawl.”
“Like hell I’m going to do that.” He snagged his cell phone and checked the time.
“Please, Mason, I’ll owe you big time.”
“Hannah, I’m not going to stand there while you move your shit. Hold on while I get backup.” He held up a finger and pressed the phone to his ear, listening to it ring—tolling his death, no doubt.
A tendril of a thought tickled his brain…
When Hannah Stevens needed help, who did she go to?
Hannah wrapped Mason’s hoodie around her, soaking up his smell, the warmth still clinging to the soft cotton. She could still remember the first day she met him, grumpy and ready to bite someone’s head off. Despite his grumbling he worked hard to get the mobility back after his ACL surgery. They’d been friends—or something like it. Granted, she’d never wanted to be friends with Mason.
There was something about him…
Why did it have to be Mason?
Why couldn’t she have developed a thing for someone else?
Hannah had considered the very real possibility that she was broken. That maybe she just wasn’t equipped for romantic relationships. And then she met him, and her body had woken up with a vengeance.
“What have you been up to lately?” he said, as though he knew she was thinking about him.
“Not a lot. Working mostly. You?” She twisted to face him, taking sick pleasure in the opportunity to just look at him. Mason Clark was a bear of a man, big and muscular. Yeah, he could be grumpy, but he’d always made her feel…safe. Once she’d gotten through that outer shell, he was nice and funny and kind of sweet. But she only glimpsed that for a moment. Maybe it’d all been a dream.
“This and that,” he replied.
“Where’d Dad send you last week?”
“How’d you know I went anywhere last week?” He glanced at her, eyes narrowed.
“You didn’t come to the gym.”
“There’s a gym at headquarters.”
He was right.
“Yeah, but you don’t use that one.” She grinned, doing her best to pretend that weeks of not seeing him hadn’t left her with an ache deep in her belly.
“Private security detail. Boring stuff.”
“Let me guess, classified?”
“Nah. Some head of something or other needed to go put in an appearance and wanted some muscle on hand for show. It was boring and pointless.”
“An easy job. No one got hurt.” She pulled her legs up into the seat, unable to contain the nerves she felt whenever they discussed field work. Yeah, she’d grown up with a chaplain for a father who was always heading into danger, but it didn’t change how dangerous it was or that she felt it was her right to worry.
Aegis Group billed itself as a private security firm, specializing in what amounted to scary bodyguards. What they did the best was another matter altogether.
A fancy way of saying they rescued people the government wouldn’t.
Where was her dad now? Who was he trying to save?
It made her issues seem petty and silly in comparison.
“Your dad’s fine, by the way,” Mason said.
“Are you reading my thoughts?”
“I’d never dare.”
Good, because hers would embarrass the hell out of her, especially where Mason was concerned. She wouldn’t call them fantasies, per se, but her thoughts about Mason were not pure. She might be a virgin, but it didn’t change what she wanted.
And that was Mason.
It was always Mason.
No matter how hard she tried to find someone else, they didn’t make her feel the way he did. All it took was a casual look, a brief conversation, and she was hooked all over again. And she couldn’t break the cycle. Didn’t want to. At least not until she had an answer. A real answer. But she couldn’t bring herself to ask the question.
Did he like her?
There’d been a couple weeks toward the end of his physical therapy where they were hanging out and things were more than friendly, flirty even, when she thought something might happen. That maybe, for once in her life, the guy she liked actually liked her back.
Either he wasn’t into her, or something had happened. Something she wasn’t aware of. She could still remember the way he’d gone hot to cold on her, how off kilter it’d left her. But it was too late. She’d caught Mason Fever, and to date, there wasn’t a cure.
Mason turned the truck down a tight street, the older cute homes a myriad of colors and styles. Trees lined the street and toys littered yards. It was the kind of place she wanted to live someday. She’d raise a couple kids, throw a BBQ, and host parties.
Her gut tightened and she clenched her fists.
“That one.” She pointed at a pretty white house with red shutters, neatly trimmed hedges, and a big shade tree out front. The storage shed was clearly visible from the street. And so was Dylan’s car. Shit! She sank down in the seat, swallowing a groan. “He’s home. We should come back later.”
“Perfect. I wanted to have a little chat. And Zain’s here already.” Mason cranked the wheel and turned his truck into the driveway.
“Zain?” Hannah squeaked.
“Yeah, you know my cousin, don’t you?”
“Wait, you’re cousins with Zain? Captain Hook, Zain?” Her voice rose in pitch, getting higher and higher. Not only did Zain work for Aegis Group, but he was their chief technical bad ass and doer of all things with one hand tied behind his back. Literally, since he’d had one arm amputated from the elbow down following an accident during a deployment.
“Yeah. Oh, there’s Travis and son of a bitch—Ethan’s crawled out of his wife’s ass.” Mason slid out of the truck, leaving her staring at not one, not two, not three, but four men who worked for her father.
One way or another, this whole disaster was going to get back to Dad, and when it did…
Someone tapped on her window. She started and glared at Mason’s grinning face. His hazel eyes sparkled with bits of green. Damn the man for looking so good in freaking sweatpants.
Hannah took a deep breath and pushed the door open.
Daddy would have an adage for a situation like this. More than, “You reap what you sow.” God, she loved her dad, but she wanted to strangle him. Just like she wanted to wrap her hands around Mason’s throat right now and squeeze.
“Morning, Hannah.” Zain closed her door for her, his silver prosthetic hook glinting in the sunlight.
“Hi.” She shoved her hands in the pockets of Mason’s hoodie.
“You don’t look like shit anymore.” Mason slapped Ethan on the back. The other man had been out of commission for a while following a bullet wound and had been practically MIA while working things out with his wife.
“Yeah, well so do you, fuck face.” Ethan darted her a sheepish glance. “Sorry, Hannah.”
“Don’t mind me.” She chuckled.
“What’s the plan?” Travis asked.
“I figure…” Mason paused, peering over her head. “I guess I’m going to go have a chat with, Dylan, right?”
Hannah turned, hugging her arms around herself.
Dylan stood on the porch, a cup of coffee in hand. He had artfully messy hair, a thick five o’ clock shadow, and chances were the clothes were from last night. He liked to party hard, which was not Hannah’s thing.
“Yeah, that’s Dylan.” She straightened her spine. When she’d first met him, he’d been…charming. Nice. For a moment—a day—she’d thought, finally! Someone to distract her from the unrequited love gnawing at her insides. But that had quickly faded as reality sat in. Mason Fever was brutal and left no room for anyone else.
Dylan Whatever-his-name-was was not someone she wanted to be alone with, much less go on dates four or five.
But she hadn’t brought Mason here to fight her battles for her.
“No,” she grabbed his elbow, “I’ll talk to Dylan.”
“Not without me.” The stubborn set of Mason’s jaw said she had about as much chance of getting him to budge on that point as she did moving a mountain.
“Fine. Come on.”
She squared her shoulders, lifted her chin, strode around the truck and across the grass. Dylan waited for her, his relaxed pose contradicted by the shrewd, calculating way he watched her. He was a snake. A con man. Something she couldn’t put her finger on and didn’t want to. The sooner she could extract her life from his, the better.
“Hannah. A surprise,” Dylan drawled.
“I’m moving my stuff out of the shed, Dylan.” She planted her hands on her hips and stared Dylan down, daring him to tell her otherwise.
“You mean my stuff, in my shed?” His brows rose. No man had eyebrows that perfect.
“My stuff, Dylan. It’s mine, and you know it.”
“Possession is what? Nine-tenths the law?”
“Look,” Mason took a step forward, “man, we can argue—”
“I don’t know you—and I don’t care what you have to say.”
“Hannah, I told you, I’ll trade the stuff in the shed for a ticket to Mexico. It’s only fair since you used my phone to make the call. Fair is fair.”
She clenched her hands, channeling her anger deep down into the ground.
It wasn’t even about the trip. What did she care about a trip he’d pressured her into? It was free. Giving it to him would cost her nothing—except the principle of it. She should not have to pay off the man for her things. Her things he didn’t even care about. He just wanted to get something from her. Use her. And she wasn’t about to let him win. Dylan was the kind of man that got what he wanted and broke hearts. Well, this time he wasn’t going to get anything. Not into her panties, her stuff, or a ticket.
“We’re packing up her stuff. Now.” Mason’s voice sent goose bumps up her spine. “You have a problem with it, call the cops. Come on, Hannah. Hey, Travis, get the bolt cutters.”
Hannah marched back to the truck, spine straight, and her heart in her throat.
Well, at least no one died?
Dylan paced the length of the house, stalking through the sparsely furnished rooms.
“What the fuck, man?” Rogelio gestured to the back of the house.
Dylan had drawn the curtains the moment he’d seen the four meatheads in the driveway. One hot piece of ass was not worth blowing this whole job sky high, even if she was worth her weight in blow.
“Relax.” Dylan crossed his arms over his chest. He needed to relax. Rogelio was the worst person to have doing the pick-up today. Why couldn’t it have been a peon? Why did it have to be Rogelio? Too many bad comments about Dylan’s part in everything and he could end up dead.
“Relax? Who the hell are those guys? I’m supposed to pick up the merchandise and split.” Rogelio lifted a curtain and peered out back.
“I said relax. I have it all under control.”
“This doesn’t look like it’s under control, hombre.” Rogelio glared at him.
“I know what the fuck I’m doing. You just do your job.”
“Who’s the girl?” Rogelio dropped the curtain and circled the kitchen.
“She’s merchandise. I just had to set the hook.”
“This is setting the hook?”
“I can’t grab this one off the street. I had to work an angle. Like I said, don’t worry about it. Just get ready to move the others when they clear out.”
“Show them to me.”
Dylan led the way into the master bedroom. The walk-in closet sported three set of locks on the reinforced door. He unlocked the door and swung it open. Whimpers and the smell of human sweat permeated the air.
“Oh.” Rogelio knelt in the opening. “They are pretty. You’re lucky you do good work, Dylan. Cruz will be happy with these girls.”
“Exactly. Let me do my job and you do yours.”
“You know, we don’t need any more girls right now. She’d just be an extra. Why not save her?” Rogelio reached out and stroked the curling hair of the nearest girl.
Dylan knew Rogelio wasn’t talking about these girls. No, he meant Hannah.
“I can’t. She’s special.” Dylan’s lips twisted around the word, grimacing.
“What’s so special about her? Her tits taste like beer?”
“No. She’s a virgin.”
“Really? There aren’t many of those around.” Rogelio barked out a laugh.
Which was exactly the point. Dylan couldn’t fuck this up. He had to do it right, because he’d already promised her to Cruz.