Who do you turn to when the law is the problem?
Marisol hoped divorce was the key to a new life—one away from her crazy ex-husband. Instead she’s working two jobs and struggling to make ends meet as her problems escalate. Terrified and desperate for help—any help—she turns to a stranger, a man her brother swore could help with just about any problem. The answer to her problems is tall, dark, deadly and everything she’d once thought she wanted in a man. But to him she’s a job. Nothing more.
No one should fight an impossible war alone.
When Ethan founded Counterstrike he expected a challenge but nothing could have prepared him for Marisol. She’s smart, courageous, compassionate, headstrong, and everything he’s ever wanted. But her troubles come with a price tag he didn’t expect when he must face his own personal demons to keep her safe.
They’ll both soon discover the hardest battle is the one for their hearts.
Right from the start we get to see the trouble our heroine is dealing with. Thankfully her brother has given her Tex’s number with instructions to call him if she needs help.
Waking in the middle of the night to an intruder who attacks her and steals her cellphone, Marisol finds herself in a position where she can’t trust anyone. Least of all the cops who answer the call. She makes the call to Tex and the next thing she knows she has back-up.
Ethan Davenport and his siblings run Counterstrike. An organization designed to help folks in domestic situations. It’s Ethan who show up and runs interference with the police at her apartment, and then takes her to his place where she will be safe until they figure all this out.
This is a favorite scene when she wakes up in Ethan’s guest room.
Ethan had been nice, he’d gotten her away when she needed to go anywhere but where she was at. But she couldn’t let him or anyone else get hurt by Chester and the assholes who did his bidding.
“I should go.” She yanked on the bottom of her scrubs even though everything was hanging where it should. The sooner she got away from Ethan, the better for him. “Thanks for your help.”
He angled away from the entry, as if offering her room to pass. Arms crossed, his full lips thinned into a grim line. “You’re not leaving, Marisol.”
“Mari,” she corrected. “Friends call me Mari, and anyone who stands up against my ex’s asshole friends gets to be mine, whether they want to or not.”
“Well, Mari, I was raised to believe friends didn’t abandon friends having troubles. And you, sweetheart, have a big pile of those slithering all around you like an angry nest of vipers.” He took a couple steps into the room, toward the curtains and pulled them open. Sunlight filtered in from the outside, bathing the area in warm, refreshing rays. “There’s a bathroom behind you. My sister Jen lives next door. She brought over some clothes for you to use, but the pants might be a bit long. She’s taller than you.”
Mari glanced over at the pile of clothes on the edge of a gorgeous cherry wood dresser. Shock coiled through her as June Bug crawled from underneath the bed and wound around her feet. She fell to her knees and hugged her kitty close as moisture burned within her watery gaze.
“I asked Twitch to bring her here, figured she’d be happier with you,” the man commented. “And seeing a friendly face when you’re waking up somewhere strange is always welcome, especially after you’ve had a scare.”
She looked around the immaculate room, then down at her long-haired menace. To say June Bug was a troublemaker was an understatement. “Thank you. I’ll make sure she behaves. I can keep her locked in her carrier.”
“There’s no need. She’s already explored the whole house while you’ve been asleep. She and Chompers have reached a tentative understanding.”
“Chompers?” Ethan whistled, low and long. The click clack of nails across hardwood floors echoed from down the hall. She drew June Bug closer and stood as a massive German Shepherd entered the small bedroom. Tongue lolling to the side, Chompers sat on his ass at Ethan’s feet and stared at Mari and June Bug.
She rubbed June Bug’s head and took a step closer to the gorgeous dog watching her with such curiosity and enthusiasm, his entire body trembled. He whined low but remained in position. Ethan made a gesture and the animal rose, taking a step to close the distance.
And sniffed her outstretched hand. A few ear scratches later and she and Chompers were the best of buds. June Bug, on the other hand, wasn’t a fan. She hissed and growled her mock anger.
“Don’t mind her, she’s always growly at first, then she adapts,” Mari commented. “I foster dogs and kitties waiting for permanent homes quite a bit.” She bit her lip as regret filled her. “Or I used to.”
“We’ll get you back to the life you deserve to have and away from the one you’ve been forced into, Mari. It might take some effort, and fuck knows it won’t be pleasant for you, not by any stretch of the imagination.” Ethan took a couple steps forward, reached out and ran a hand along the side of her face.
The tentative graze of his fingertips sent a shockwave of awareness rippling through her. The gentle glide along the undamaged portion of her face made her heart thud hard in her chest. June Bug began purring in her arms.
“Whoever did this,” he whispered, “will pay tenfold. No one strikes a woman and gets by with it.”
The fierceness and ironclad confidence he exuded tumbled from him in thick, comforting waves. He had no doubt he’d find the bastard who’d hurt her. For the first time since she’d been woken at 3: 04 a.m., she had a firm grip on hope. Determination. Resolve.
Cara Carnes. Protecting Mari (Kindle Locations 229-260). Aces Press, LLC. Kindle Edition.
The wall of blue Mari has continually run up against, will now have a battle. Not only is Counterstrike involved but also the Arsenal. With Tex and the Quillery Edge gathering and evaluating information, plus Tex doesn’t wait as requested and calls Dax, which starts the Texas Ranger’s investigation into her ex-husband.
Mari has plenty of backup even as her ex Chester tries to implicate her in all sorts of things. I loved the inclusion of all the folks from the Arsenal series it’s a favorite of mine. Of course Tex and Dax from Susan Stoker’s series are awesome too, I love those guys!
A page turning read, with drama, suspense, romance, laughter and plenty of heat in the bedroom.
I hope Cara writes more in Susan Stoker’s Operation Alpha world, I truly enjoyed her take on everyone.
5 Contented Purrs for Cara!
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Born in small-town Texas, Cara Carnes was a princess, a pirate, fashion model, actress, rock star and Jon Bon Jovi’s wife all before the age of 13. In reality, her fascination for enthralling worlds took seed somewhere amidst a somewhat dull day job and a wonderful life filled with family and friends. When she’s not cemented to her chair, Cara loves traveling, photography and reading.