USA Today, NY Times & Wall St Journal
Sierra Clarkson thought she’d found the perfect way to serve her country without having to join the military…until she was kidnapped right from the base in Afghanistan she was working on. Even worse, no one knew she’d been taken and no one was looking for her.
Except someone was. The tall, very confident in himself, Delta Force soldier she’d met one day on base a year or so ago. Fred “Grover” Groves hadn’t ever forgotten the red-headed spitfire working in the chow hall. And once he discovered she hadn’t simply blown off his advance by not getting in touch with him when he went home, and she was, in fact, kidnapped…nothing would keep him from finding her and bringing her home.
But Sierra wasn’t exactly a damsel in distress, and Grover would find that out first hand. He’s never loved a woman more…but neither would have a future together if they didn’t work together to battle a common enemy.
At the end of the last book we saw Grover head to Afghanistan after receiving a letter from Sierra that was delayed a year. Grover never forgot her and was truly disappointed when he didn’t hear from her once he was home. The letter spurs him to something he knew would get him in trouble, get himself captured. Doing so has him finding Sierra and she’s in far better shape than he could have imagined.
This is one of many favorite scenes.
The second she heard voices coming toward her, she tensed. She knew better than to leap up and grab onto the bars of her cell, but oh how she wanted to. The lights their captors carried weren’t the brightest, but they put off enough of a glow for her to see Grover. He was barely able to walk, even with men on either si
e of him, holding onto his arms. He stumbled over his feet as they dragged in the dirt. Shahzada was nowhere to be seen, but the other men were grinning as if they’d just had the time of their lives.
Grover now wore nothing but a pair of boxer briefs, and she could see dark areas on his legs and torso. Blood. His face was a bloody mess as well. He’d obviously been hit repeatedly, and it made Sierra’s anger bubble under her skin, though she kept quiet and didn’t say a word as their captors opened the cell and threw Grover inside.
They turned around and left without a sound, and it wasn’t until she and Grover were once again alone, in the pitch darkness, that she left her spot against the far wall of her cell. Sierra crawled over to the other side and lay down. She reached her hand and arm between the bars, bending her elbow. The position was uncomfortable, but if Grover moved closer, she knew she’d be able to touch him. And she needed that more than she’d ever needed anything, ever.
“Scoot over here. Toward my voice. My hand is through the bars, I should be able to touch you if you get close enough.”
She heard slow movement in the cell next to hers and held her breath as he came closer. She jerked at the first touch of his fingers against hers, then grabbed hold when his hand brushed hers a second time. She could feel the dirt from the floor on her own skin, and wetness on Grover’s, which she knew was probably blood. But none of that mattered. He was alive, and warm, and she could feel his pulse hammering in his wrist.
She wasn’t sure what to say. She didn’t want to ask what happened; she already knew it was bad. Sierra thought back to everything she’d been through in the last year, and knew he’d probably suffered through as much—or more—as she had in the past.
“I’m okay,” Grover said softly.
His words were slightly garbled, and Sierra squeezed his hand. “You kinda sound a little like your namesake right now.”
He chuckled lightly, and the sound ran up her spine and curled around her heart. She wracked her brain to think of something to talk about, anything that might take his mind off the pain. “Did my hair look as bad as it feels?”
She assumed he was bullshitting her. Regardless, for the next fifteen minutes, she quietly told him the story of how she’d manipulated her captors until they actually thought it had been their idea to cut it. “I know it looks awful, that I have to look terrible, but it feels so much better this way.”
“Smart,” Grover said.
“If it makes you feel better, they’ll probably leave you alone for a few days now. They like us to be relatively healthy and strong before they try to break us again.”
“So that will give your team more time to get here.”
She heard him mumble something under his breath.
“What can I do to help?” She felt useless just lying there. Holding his hand didn’t feel like nearly enough.
“You’re doing it,” he replied. Then he asked, “Did they do this to you?”
“No,” Sierra said guiltily. “When they took me, some of Shahzada’s followers hadn’t ever tortured anyone before. I was practice. At least, that’s what I was told. They did really awful stuff, especially the waterboarding. But they didn’t usually draw blood. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman. Or maybe because I’m not a soldier and had no real useful information. I don’t know. But I feel guilty that they seem to have gone so light on me, comparatively.”
“Don’t,” Grover said. “They took your freedom. That’s bad enough.”
“I guess. Did you do what I told you?” she couldn’t help but ask. “Did you tell them what they wanted to know?”
“Didn’t ask anything,” Grover said. “Just beat on me. Shahzada especially.”
“Assholes,” she muttered, the hate easy to hear in her voice. “He’s jealous of you. Probably remembers how much your team was respected. From the little I’ve overheard in the last year…he seems pissed he hasn’t been able to get a better foothold in the Taliban network and is taking it out on his captives. I think he wants to move up faster, but he’s kidnapping the wrong people to make that happen.”
“I’m not saying his followers are good men, but they aren’t as bloodthirsty as Shahzada. They have families. Wives and children. I get the impression they like the idea of climbing the ranks, but aren’t willing to be as violent as Shahzada to get there.”
“Still gonna die.”
Sierra nodded. “I know. And I don’t feel bad about it. Not at all. Their fate was sealed when they sided with Shahzada.”
Grover didn’t reply, and after several long seconds, she felt his hand go lax in hers.
Sierra didn’t let go. She knew her arm would eventually fall asleep from the awkward position, but she didn’t care. She needed to keep this connection with Grover. She felt guilty that he’d been hurt so badly. Not once in the last year had she been tortured as heavily as Grover obviously was today.
She ran her thumb over the back of his hand. She’d have to let go eventually. Go back to the other side of her cell so when their captors hopefully returned with food in the morning, they wouldn’t know she and Grover had connected. If they did, Shahzada would certainly use that against them.
But for now, she stayed huddled against the edge of the dirt wall in her cell and held Grover’s hand as he slept. At least she hoped he was sleeping and hadn’t passed out. There was always the possibility that Shahzada had hit Grover hard enough to rupture something inside his body.
Moving a finger down so she could feel the pulse in his wrist, Sierra sighed in relief at the steady beat.
She’d been afraid to believe Grover earlier, when he’d told her his team would find them, but now she prayed harder than she’d prayed in the last year.
Find us. Grover needs you.
Stoker, Susan. Shielding Sierra (Delta Team Two Book 8) (Kindle Locations 487-536). Stoker Aces Production, LLC. Kindle Edition.
Grover’s team does show up and they manage to accomplish getting them away and the well-deserved demise of Shahzada.
I really loved their homecoming, Tex met them at the airport with not only a phone for Sierra, but it was loaded with a slew of phone numbers she could call for anything she may need. He also arranged for both her and Grover to spend time at The Refuge, a facility catering to veterans and civilians alike who need respite from trauma and/or help for PTSD. I LOVE TEX!
Being home again is very challenging for Sierra, what with the reporters and the sympathy and pity. Her parent while supportive, can’t make everything better.
Grover arranges for them to head to The Refuge a bit earlier, and while there they spend a lot of time getting to know each other. Although you do know he wants her to move to Texas.
This is all just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I think I was screaming NO for a bit. Sierra shows incredible strength and initiative, there is no doubt that she and Grover are meant to be.
While I hate saying good-bye to this series, I loved the epilogue which not only wrapped up some things but also teased at upcoming books, all of which are now on my ‘Want to Read’ list.
Thank you, Susan, you never disappoint!
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 Tennessee where she lives, but this all American girl has also spent the last fourteen years living in Missouri, California, Colorado, Indiana, and Tennessee. She’s married to a retired Army man who now gets to follow her around the country.