Sleeper Seals: Protecting Dakota – SEALS of Protection Book 10 by Susan Stoker

The Sleeper SEALs, are former U.S. Navy SEALs recruited by a new CIA counter-terror division to handle solo dark ops missions to combat terrorism on U.S. soil.

Each book in this multi-author branded series is a standalone novel, and the series does not have to be read in order. Each book is a stand-alone, with no cliffhanger endings.

Protecting Dakota
Seals of Protection Book 10
By
Susan Stoker

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Dakota James’s life has become the stuff of nightmares. The leader of the Ansar al-Shari’a terrorist group has become obsessed with her, determined to take her as his wife. On the run, she’ll have to pin her hopes on the retired SEAL charged with finding and stopping Aziz Fourati before he can carry out plans to bomb more US airports.

Recently recruited to join a sleeper SEAL team tasked with fighting terrorism on US soil, Slade “Cutter” Cutsinger, with the help of some Special Forces friends, has located the one woman who can identify the deadly Ansar al-Shari’a leader. That was the easy part. Keeping her safe proves more difficult than anyone ever imagined.

When she and her new friend, Caroline, are kidnapped by the terrorist group, Dakota can only pray Cutter and the SEALs will reach them before they’re taken out of the country–and away from Cutter forever.

** Protecting Dakota is a part of the SEAL of Protection Series. It is also in the “Sleeper SEAL” connected series. Each book is a stand-alone, with no cliffhanger endings.

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When I saw this new Kindle world I knew I had to start it. Susan Stoker has joined up with many of my favorite authors to bring the Sleeper SEALs to life.

This first book brings to light a fear many of us have. That of domestic terrorists.

Dakota survives a domestic terror attack because the leader is attracted to her. She manages to escape him but is now on the run.

Recruited by the CIA to be a sleeper SEAL, Cutter’s first assignment is to find Dakota, get a description of the terrorist and protect her while they flush him out. His first stop on this journey is to her father. Skeptical as to his intent her father puts him through quite the test before revealing what he knows. Which isn’t very much at all.

With the aid of the postcards from her dad and some from Tex Slade finally locates her.

This is a favorite scene as he tries to convince her he’s not a bad guy.

Dakota nodded and cursed under her breath. She didn’t want to take her eyes from Slade’s, but she couldn’t find the stupid handle.

“I told you last night, but my name is Slade Cutsinger. I’m a retired Navy SEAL and I’m here to keep you safe.”

“Uh huh,” Dakota murmured, only partly listening. She found the handle, finally, and pulled, planning on getting the hell away from the huge man currently glaring at her.

“I talked to your dad the other day. I saw the postcards. It’s how I found you.”

Dakota froze with one foot on the hard dirt outside her vehicle and spun back around to face Slade. “He has nothing to do with this. Leave him alone,” she whispered shakily.

“I know he doesn’t,” Slade reassured her. “The postcards were a good idea, by the way. Your dad was sure you were doing okay, as was your intention. Unfortunately, a few people you gave them to got lazy and instead of waiting until they got home, mailed them from Vegas.”

“Darn,” Dakota said. She figured she might as well listen to what Slade had to say. Since he knew about the postcards, he most likely had seen her dad. She might be stupid, but she wasn’t getting scary vibes from Slade, so hopefully her dad was in his house secure in the knowledge his daughter was okay… even if she was on the run from a terrorist.

“I know all about the bombing in the airport, Dakota,” Slade said softly, bringing her out of her musings.

Dakota’s stomach cramped. He’d used her real name.

Of course he had. If he’d seen her dad, he had to know who she really was.

“I know you were the only survivor. I know that you saw Aziz Fourati, and I also know that you’re the only one in the world right now who can identify him. He also knows this, and not only wants to make sure you keep that information to yourself, but wants you for his own. To be his wife.”

Dakota shut her car door and shivered. Damn, it was cold. She tried to clear her foggy morning brain. She never functioned well before she’d had a cup of coffee. “His name is Aziz?”

She’d surprised him. Slade’s eyebrows went up and he tilted his head as he asked, “You didn’t know his name?”

“No. He never said it. What’s his last name again?” She was trying really hard not to freak out. Oh, she was leaving today for sure, but she needed to know what Slade knew before she bolted. Information was power.

“Fourati.”

“That sounds foreign,” Dakota observed, proud of herself for how calm she sounded.

“It is. Best guess is that he’s Tunisian.”

“Tunisian?” she asked, really confused now.

“Yeah, Tunisian. The country between Algeria and Libya in Northern Africa.”

“I know where Tunisia is,” Dakota answered grumpily. “I just…” She paused for a moment, realizing that she should definitely not be talking to Slade about anything. She didn’t know him. He could be one of Aziz Fourati’s goons. She was happy to have a name for the guy who was making her life a living hell, but she needed to be smart… no matter how much her intuition was screaming that she could trust the man next to her.

Slade leaned over and grabbed something off the floor at his feet. It was a metal travel cup. He offered it to her without a word.

Dakota stared at the cup, then back at him. If he thought she was going to drink something he gave her, he was insane. “No thank you,” she said politely.

“You don’t know what it is,” Slade said evenly.

“I don’t know who you are,” she returned a bit snarkily. “The only reason I’m still sitting in here right now is because it’s cold outside, and there’s nowhere for me to go. I’m sure if you wanted to, you could catch me in two-point-three seconds and slit my throat. Call me a glutton for punishment, but I’d like to get as much information as I can about why my life is in the crapper before I die.”

“You don’t swear.”

“What?”

“You don’t swear,” he repeated patiently.

Dakota shrugged. “I’m an elementary school principal. Or I was. I can’t exactly go around saying fuck, shit, and damn all the time.”

“True. I like it.”

“I can die happy,” Dakota grumped.

His voice lowered further, if that was even possible, and as much as she hated it, goosebumps broke out on her arms at his tone. “I’m one of the good guys, Dakota,” he told her. “The short story is that the government knows Fourati is behind the airport bombing and they want to make sure he’s punished for what he did. But now he’s gathering soldiers online. Trying to convert them to his cause. He wants to do it again, but on a grander scale this time.”

“I’m aware,” Dakota whispered, and she was. Aziz had bragged about his plans while she and the other hostages had huddled together, scared out of their minds in the airport.

“Then you know how important it is to stop him.”

“I almost died that day.” Dakota told him something he probably already knew.

He confirmed it by saying simply, “I know.”

“You can’t just show up out of the blue, tell me you’ve been looking for me, and expect me to trust you are who you say you are.”

“Why not?”

“What do you mean, why not?” Dakota asked, confused.

He continued to hold the cup out to her, but said, “I told you that I’d been to see your dad. I saw the postcards. I am a retired Navy SEAL. I’m not Tunisian and couldn’t pass for an Arabic terrorist on a good day. If I had cell reception, I’d call one of my best friends in the world and let him vouch for me. But that will have to wait until we’re back in civilization. I’m one of the good guys, Dakota. Swear to God.”

“That’s what a terrorist would say,” she informed him, not swayed in the least. “Besides, calling someone in order to vouch for your trustworthiness isn’t going to make me believe them.”

“Take the cup,” Slade ordered gently.

Without thought, Dakota obeyed his urgent words. She reached out and took the stainless-steel travel mug from him. Her fingers brushed his, and she swore she could feel the heat from his fingers shoot up her arm.

But no, it wasn’t his fingers that caused the heat, it was the mug. It was warm. She looked up in question.

“I stopped by the restaurant before coming here and asked Pat to warm up the contents for me.” He looked sheepish for a moment before saying, “I’m sure it doesn’t taste the best after two days, but your dad told me what you liked. He said you’d know I was telling the truth about talking to him if I brought this.”

Dakota slowly and carefully turned the plastic lid— and immediately the smell of peppermint wafted up to her nose. She closed her eyes in ecstasy and brought the mug closer to her face. She inhaled the delicious scent of her absolute favorite coffee in the world, and thought about all the times she and her dad had shared a cup of coffee like this while sitting in his small living room. She fought the tears that sprang to her eyes.

“And this,” Slade said softly, interrupting the memory.

Dakota opened her eyes and saw he was holding out a small white paper bag. She knew what was inside without having to look.

“A maple-iced donut,” she said.

“That’s right. Although I’m afraid it’s probably a bit worse for wear after being in my saddlebag on the back of my bike.”

Dakota reached out and snagged the bag from his fingertips, being careful not to touch him this time, and peered inside. Sure enough, the donut was mushed on one side and the maple icing was mostly stuck to the bag rather than on the pastry itself, but again, the memories that assailed her were almost overwhelming.

“You really did go see my dad.”

“I did.”

“And you swear you didn’t hurt him?”

Slade made a weird sound and Dakota’s gaze went to his. He looked pissed now. “No, I didn’t hurt him,” Slade growled. “I’m exactly who I’ve told you I am.”
Stoker, Susan; Sisters, Suspense. Protecting Dakota (Sleeper SEALs Book 1) (Kindle Locations 814-891). Kindle Edition.

In spite of all that Slade still had a ways go to gain her trust.

From here it is attraction, action and so much more. I love Dakota’s strength and persistence brought forth even more by her friendship with Caroline.

Don’t miss this book, it’s a new favorite. I can’t wait to read what the other authors contribute.

5 Contented Purrs for Susan!

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Susan Stoker - Photo Susan Stoker

New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author, Susan Stoker has a heart as big as the state of Texas where she lives, but this all American girl has also spent the last fourteen years living in Missouri, California, Colorado, and Indiana. She’s married to a retired Army man who now gets to follow her around the country.

She debuted her first series in 2014 and quickly followed that up with the SEAL of Protection Series, which solidified her love of writing and creating stories readers can get lost in.

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