NY Times, Wall Street Journal & USA Today Bestselling Author
Desperate to ditch her ex once and for all, when Aspen Mesmer asks a complete stranger to kiss her, she never expects to feel an immediate connection. Despite already dealing with one soldier she can’t shake, Aspen would be a fool to ignore the intense chemistry she shares with the Delta Force operative. Even better, he shows her the respect few others offer in her male-dominated profession. It’s clear she’ll never have the camaraderie she craves with her own platoon, but maybe…just maybe…she’ll find it with Kane and his team.
Kane “Brain” Temple isn’t the kind of man most women look at twice, so when Aspen makes her interest clear after their impulsive, explosive kiss, he’s thrilled. As a combat medic attached to a Ranger team, Aspen is pretty impressive in her own right. She might be one of the few women who can not only handle Brain’s frequent deployments, but understand exactly how dangerous his missions can be. Bonus: she’s not turned off by his nerdy tendencies. It’s as if Aspen was made just for him.
Her ex disagrees. He’s not handling Aspen’s rejection well, or her deepening relationship with Brain. Being thrown over for a Delta is humiliating, and he’ll do anything to make her regret it.
Aspen is dealing with her ex Derek when Brain walks into the bar to meet up with his teammates. She totally surprises him by throwing her arms around him and in a whisper offers him twenty bucks to kiss her. He does but in a way that surprises them both, and totally pisses off Derek. Brain brings her over to his team as Derek leaves, and then to his delight she fits right in. A combat medic she can identify with not only the women in this group but also the men. The men were considerably impressed with her, knowing the kind of training she’s gone through all while taking care of her team and herself.
A favorite scene is at the end of this evening.
“Grover’s not exactly subtle,” Brain told her.
Aspen chuckled. “No, he’s not. But he means well.”
“He does.” Brain mentally smacked himself in the forehead. This wasn’t exactly how he’d wanted their first one-on-one conversation to go. No matter what Grover had said, Brain wasn’t a “ladies’ man.” He wasn’t “cool.” He was the brain. The smart guy. The one everyone turned to when they had a mystery that needed solving.
He was thirty years old, and he hadn’t even lost his virginity until he was twenty-four. He’d been out of his depth, socially; going to college so young meant most of the women avoided him like the plague. It wasn’t until he’d joined the Army and had gotten some independence that he’d managed to figure out how to fit in with men his own age a little better.
“I’m embarrassed that I didn’t ask earlier, but you and your friends…you aren’t Rangers, are you? Because if you are, I totally put my foot in my mouth earlier.”
Brain quickly shook his head. “No, we aren’t Rangers.”
“Thank God,” she breathed.
Brain continued before thinking. “We’re Delta.”
Aspen went completely still and stared at him with wide eyes. “Please tell me you’re kidding.”
“Nope. And I know you know this, but please don’t share that with anyone.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t. No way. And…oh, shit, I’m such a dork.”
“No, you aren’t,” Brain told her immediately. She was anything but a dork.
“I am! You were going on and on about how hard Ranger training is, and I know you guys have been through much worse.”
“It’s not a competition,” Brain told her.
She tilted her head as she studied him.
“What?” Brain asked.
“You aren’t like most men in special forces I’ve met. Neither are your friends, for that matter.”
“In what way?”
Aspen shrugged. “It’s just that…you’re so down-to-earth.”
“You’ve been hanging around those asshole Rangers too long,” Brain retorted.
She grinned. “They’re not all assholes.”
“Derek is,” Brain told her.
Her grin widened. “True. Thank you for helping me earlier. I’m usually not so forward, but—”
“But he was being a dick, and you were desperate,” Brain finished for her.
“Maybe not desperate,” Aspen countered. Then she dipped her head and raised her eyes shyly. “Maybe I took one look at you and liked what I saw, and figured I could kill two birds with one stone.”
It took a minute for her words to sink in, and when they did, Brain was shocked.
Stoker, Susan. Shielding Aspen (Delta Team Two Book 3) (Kindle Locations. 178-203). Stoker Aces Production, LLC. Kindle Edition.
Aspen and Brain continue to start a relationship as both of them have training that is ramping up for possible deployment.
Brain gets to see her at her worst when it appears her team’s lead enters a bit of competition with Derek’s team. Pushing harder and harder and ignoring basic health and safety of their teams. Only made worse when her team doesn’t have her back.
It’s quite the shift when Aspen is the one who has to leave a get together because she is being deployed. It gives Brain and his team a startling and personal example of how it is for wives and girlfriends. He also understands how Trigger and Lefty must feel when their team gets deployed.
Things don’t improve in Aspen’s deployment if anything they get worse. Derek doesn’t take the news that the Delta’s would be coming in to assist in finding the threat he’s looking for. His actions once the Delta team arrives put things in a whole new light as things go a bit FUBAR. It becomes quite the turning point for this book.
I loved the interaction with Annie and Ghost’s team at a base family event. Aspen definitely gets a look at how a team is supposed to work and it helps Annie understand some things as well.
All the things that Aspen goes through makes this book a bit different from the others in Susan’s series. Having Aspen not only in the military but attached to Rangers puts her in a unique position. One that enables Susan to put the spotlight on how misogynic the Army and Special forces can be. Mind you not everyone is that way but it is still an issue.
There’s fun, laughter and tears as well as some ups and downs for Brain and Aspen and there’s also hints at the future books in this series. I truly can’t wait for the next one!
5 Contented Purrs for Susan!
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Susan Stoker is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. Her series include Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes, SEAL of Protection, Delta Force Heroes, and Mountain Mercenaries. Married to a retired Army non-commissioned officer, Stoker has lived all over the country—from Missouri and California to Colorado and Texas—and currently lives under the big skies of Tennessee. A true believer in happily ever after, Stoker enjoys writing novels in which romance turns to love. To learn more about the author and her work, visit her website, or find her on Facebook. Links below.