NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author
All defenses are down in the fifth Ace Security novel from New York Times bestselling author Susan Stoker.
Sarah Butler isn’t flattered. She’s angry and unnerved. She’s been getting intimate gifts from a man she barely knows. Nothing threatening yet, but there’s just a weird vibe she can’t ignore. Her recourse is Ace Security. Their solution: self-defense lessons at Rock Hard Gym with a personal, hands-on instructor. One look at the bearded, tattooed, green-eyed alpha is enough to take Sarah’s breath away.
Cole Johnson is definitely the man for the job. He’s eager to train her. Eager to get closer. And when it comes to Sarah’s instincts, Cole knows she’s not imagining things. He’s also not imagining the intense attraction between them—and his desire to protect her is growing. But so are Sarah’s fears, the worst of which come true when she disappears.
Enlisting the help of Ace Security, Cole will stop at nothing to find the love of his life…before she vanishes forever.
Sarah has a problem and folks think she’s just overreacting. A former patient’s son is sending her gifts and ‘love’ letters, even though she’s told him to stop. The police just told her to be careful, but there’s nothing they could do as there were no obvious threats.
Frustrated she went to Ace Security, only to find they are very expensive. they did however recommend getting self-defense classes at Rock Hard Gym.
Cole almost blows this first meeting thanks to the receptionist not closing his office door, but he manages to salvage the relationship.
This is a favorite scene.
Ultimately, it didn’t matter if an ex-husband or boyfriend was harassing her, or a perfect stranger. She could end up just as dead no matter who was making her life hell.
Sarah swallowed hard. “I just . . . I need to be able to protect myself . . .just in case.”
Cole waited for her to go on, but when she simply sat on his couch, silent, he realized she was done talking. That was all she was going to give him. If it had been anyone else, he probably would’ve been relieved and finished up quickly by scheduling a time for their first lesson.
But this time, Cole pushed for more. “Who’s harassing you, Sarah?”
She stared at him for a long moment, and Cole did his best to try to make himself look as nonthreatening as possible, which was kind of a joke, considering his tattoos and muscles.
Finally, she took a deep breath. “It’s stupid.”
“If someone has done something to make you feel like you need to take self-defense classes, it’s not stupid.”
“You aren’t going to think it’s anything to be nervous about.”
“Why don’t you let me be the judge of that,” Cole told her, even more worried now. He had a feeling if she was downplaying the threat against her, it was probably way worse than he’d imagined.
“It’s just that . . . I’ve been to the cops, and the guy I talked to flat out told me there was nothing he could do, and that I was likely imagining danger where there wasn’t any. Even my coworkers think I’m crazy.”
Cole leaned forward. He wanted to cover her hands with his own in comfort, but settled for doing what he could to reassure her with words. “If that little voice in your head is telling you that you’re in danger, then you are. There’ve been plenty of times in my life when I’ve sensed something was off or wrong, and have been proven right. But regardless, whether you’re imagining things or not, that’s not my place to say. If you want to learn how to protect yourself to feel less vulnerable, then I can teach you the skills to do just that. It’s not a matter of me believing you or not. But with that said . . . you can trust me, Sarah. If you tell me you’re in danger, then I’ll one hundred percent believe you.”
Her question was blunt and to the point, and she looked right into his eyes as she asked. “Because my best friend was stalked for over a decade by a man who others thought was perfectly normal. Because I’ve seen case after case Ace Security has taken on where men have sworn up and down that their ex-wives or girlfriends were batshit crazy, and the police didn’t believe them . . . and in the end, they were proven correct when they were attacked by the same women authorities deemed ‘normal’ and ‘docile.’
“Because most importantly, when I look at you, I can tell you’re at the end of your rope and you need help. Let me help you, Sarah.”
She didn’t cry. Didn’t wring her hands. She simply began to talk.
“I met Owen Montrone six months ago. His mother was in the hospital where I work and was very sick. I was nice to them both, as I am to everyone. Owen is . . . slow.”
“What do you mean? Mentally handicapped?” Cole asked.
“Not really. I mean, I’m not sure. I think he just has a really low IQ. His mom told me he was in special classes throughout his school years, and he’s lived with her for his entire life. Anyway, he seemed lonely in the hospital. A little lost. I went to lunch in the cafeteria with him once, after his mom pleaded with me to spend some time with him. A few weeks later, I heard his mother died. Not long after that, I started getting letters from Owen.
“I wasn’t sure how he got my address, until I mentioned it at work. The receptionist said she’d given it to him when he’d called one day. He’d told her he wanted to thank me for all the help I’d given his mom, and she thought it was sweet. She was reprimanded, but by then it was too late. After the letters, the gifts started arriving. And I’ve sometimes seen him around . . . in the same places I shop and eat out. I’ve asked him to please stop, but he hasn’t.”
“What kind of gifts?” Cole asked.
“Flowers. Candy. Stuffed animals. You name it.”
Cole’s brow wrinkled. “Anything blatantly threatening?”
The word was said with a hint of hostility, and Cole understood why the police had basically patted her on the head and sent her on her way.“And the letters?”
“They’re rambling, but there’s nothing sexual or otherwise hostile in them. Nothing that the police decided was in any way a threat. He just talks about his day and how I make him smile and stuff like that. The cops told me it sounds like he has a crush on me and is probably harmless.” Her knuckles turned white as she clenched her hands together in her lap. “But they’re wrong,” she said quietly. “Don’t ask me how I know. It’s a weird vibe I get when I see he’s sent something, but I know they’re wrong.”
“I believe you,” Cole said.
Her eyes met his, and he couldn’t miss the hope he saw there.
“Even though all he’s done is give me presents and notes?”
“You asked him to stop, and he didn’t. He sounds like he’s obsessed,” Cole told her. “He can go from being nice to enraged that you haven’t returned his affections in a heartbeat.”
“No means no. That goes for someone asking for a date, not just for sex. It doesn’t matter if it’s a guy or a girl saying no. You told him that you weren’t interested in dating. That you wanted him to stop with the gifts, and he hasn’t. I’d be more concerned if you weren’t worried about this guy.”
Her shoulders sagged in relief. “So you’ll help me figure out what to do if he ever decides the notes and gifts aren’t enough?”
“Absolutely. I’ll do everything I can to help you, and that includes getting Ace Security involved if it comes to that.”
“I hadn’t realized the costs involved,” Sarah said. “I think that’s why Logan contacted you in the first place.”
Cole leaned even closer, and satisfaction crept through him when she didn’t back away. “I know Logan and his brothers, and believe me when I tell you that, once they hear what the cops told you and the facts of your case, money won’t be a factor.”
“Thank you,” she said.
Cole nodded, then stood and walked to his desk. He rummaged around for a minute before pulling out his appointment book and holding it up triumphantly.
“You know, there are these new things that came out a few years ago called computers. You can even keep your schedule on them so you don’t get overbooked.”
Cole blinked at her teasing, then beamed. He much preferred this side of her to the scared, defeated woman he’d first met. “Really? Maybe you can walk me through how they work sometime.”
Still smiling, Sarah just shook her head at him.
“My partner should be back next week, so I’ll have a lot more free time. How does next Monday sound to start your lessons?”
“Good. I work until five, though.”
“That’s fine. Maybe six thirty, to give you time to grab dinner before you get here?”
Sarah shook her head. “If it’s okay, I’d rather do it right after work. Before it gets dark.”
Cole didn’t like the implications, but kept his mouth shut . . . for now.
“Okay, I’ll pencil you in for five thirty. If you’re early, that’s cool, and if work runs over and you get here a little after, it’s okay too. Sarah?”
“Thank you for giving me a second chance. I’m usually not so harsh.”
“It’s okay,” she said quietly. “You aren’t nearly as mean as most people I come into contact with.”
With that bombshell, Sarah stood. “I’ll see you next week.”
“Next week,” Cole echoed. He followed her out of his office and watched as she smiled and nodded at Carrie and disappeared out the front door.
His mind already wandered over the things he wanted to know about her. Which hospital she worked at and what she did there, why people were mean to her . . . why she felt the need to always be so nice.
By the time he realized he should’ve walked her to her car, it was too late.
Shaking his head at his stupidity, Cole vowed to do better.
Stoker, Susan. Claiming Sarah (Ace Security) (pp. 10-14). Kindle Edition.
As Owen’s gifts continue and get weirder, Ace Security tries to find him to no avail.
Talk about edge of your seat, the building tension was incredible. Cole and Sarah get to know each other and things heat up in more ways than one.
I couldn’t put this book down, the story wouldn’t allow it.
5 Contented Purrs for Susan!
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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.