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Defending Raven – Mountain Mercenaries Book 7 By Susan Stoker


Defending Raven
Mountain Mercenaries Book 7
By
NY Times, Wall Street Journal & USA Today Bestselling Author
Susan Stoker

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A missing woman leads the alpha heroes on their boldest mission yet in New York Times bestselling author Susan Stoker’s searing Mountain Mercenaries novel.

It’s been ten years since Rex’s wife, Raven, disappeared from a Vegas casino. Never losing hope, he even formed the Mountain Mercenaries to help find her—and other missing wives, sisters, and children. Now Rex and his fearless team are following a lead to Lima, Peru, where the rescue operation is greater than they imagined.

A day at a time. That’s been Raven’s motto for a decade. Once held captive by an elusive sex trafficker, she has an indomitable will to survive. But Raven’s not ready to leave Peru. She can’t. Not yet. Because her liberation from the barrios comes with devastating consequences. One wrong move and all hope will be lost to an unimaginable hell.

For the Mountain Mercenaries, the stakes have been raised. The threats are escalating. But Rex hasn’t searched this long, risked so much, and come this far to lose Raven all over again.

Once again Susan Stoker had me up all night reading although I can probably put some of the blame on Amazon for the book showing up on my kindle just as I was heading to bed.

The entire team and Zara are headed back to Peru. Zara is going to help Daniela set up a real clinic and also act as a translator for the team. She also knows the Barrio like the back of her hand so navigating it will be much easier.

One of the most poignant moments in this book is when Dave first lays eyes on Mags, his Raven. It is also one of my favorite scenes.

Mags looked back at Dave . . . and once again couldn’t breathe. He hadn’t taken his eyes off her. It was as if he was drinking her in. But instead of his gaze comforting her, she felt exposed. Naked. She felt as if he could see straight through her to her deepest, darkest secrets. Things she’d never speak of. Not to him or to anyone. They were her shame to carry.

Zara was acting as a translator, but Mags couldn’t even hear what she was saying with the rushing sound in her ears.

Dave didn’t get off his knees. He stayed on the floor, looking at her intently. Mags knew if she had to endure it for one more second, she’d go stark raving mad.

“Raven,” Dave said softly. “I wanted to believe Zara. Wanted to believe that the woman she knew as Mags was really you . . . but I also didn’t want to get my hopes up too high. I’ve been disappointed so many times, I knew I couldn’t handle it again. But it’s you. It’s really you.”

Mags stared at him without blinking.

“Can I . . . Are you all right?”

She wanted to snort at that. Was she all right? No, of course she wasn’t.

“It’s a lot to process, Dave,” Arrow said, putting a hand on his shoulder. “You need to give her some time.”

“I can’t leave,” Dave said, his voice breaking. “I just found her. I can’t go!”

Mags stiffened. He couldn’t stay. She had to make him understand. “I don’t want you here,” she said in as hard a voice as she could muster. Unfortunately, it came out more like a plea than a demand from the in-charge woman she’d had to become over the years.

She was shocked when tears formed in Dave’s eyes and spilled over his cheeks. He didn’t reach up to wipe them away, simply continued to stare at her.

“Ten years,” he said softly. “Ten years, twenty-two days, four hours, and thirty-six minutes. That’s how long you’ve been missing. And I’ve been searching for you for every single second of that time. I’ve prayed to hear your voice again . . . and the reality is so much better than my dreams.”

His words both soothed a hurt she didn’t know she’d harbored and stung like a thousand bees. Dave had obviously suffered. The man she used to know never would’ve cried. Especially not in front of others. She couldn’t talk through the lump in her own throat.

“You should go. Just for tonight,” Zara said. “Mags needs time to process everything.”

Dave opened his mouth to protest, but Gray spoke before he could.

“That sounds like a good idea. We can come back tomorrow.”

“You’re not staying here,” Meat told Zara.

“I’ll be fine,” she told him gently.

“No.”

Mags approved of Zara’s man. He was protective and obviously concerned about her safety. As much as Zara was a product of the barrio, it wasn’t safe. Not even for her.

“Maybe they can all come to the motel with us?” she asked.

“If we’re gone too long, Ruben or someone else might take over our house,” Maria said.

Zara’s shoulders drooped. “Yeah.”

“We’ll come back first thing in the morning, and we’ll bring food,” Meat reassured both Zara and the other women. “If there’s anything else you can think of that you need, we’ll go shopping again tomorrow and get it for you. We need to visit Daniela as well.”

The women all agreed, and Mags knew they were anxious to go through the bags of supplies the men had brought them and talk about exactly what was happening.

“I don’t want to go,” Dave argued.

Meat put his hand on Dave’s shoulder and squeezed. “She needs time,” he said quietly.

No one said anything for a long moment.

Then, from his position on his knees in the doorway, Dave said, “I love you, Raven.”

Mags braced herself to look at him again.

“I love you. I know enough about what happens to young women who get taken without their consent to know your life has been hell. But I’ve found you—and I’m going to do whatever it takes to prove you’re now safe. That my love for you hasn’t stopped simply because you’ve been gone.”

“People change,” she said softly. “I’m not the woman you once knew.”

“And I’m not the same person you married,” Dave countered. “I’m harder. More stubborn. A hell of a lot less trusting. But one thing will never change, and that’s how much you mean to me, and how much I love you.”

“I don’t love you anymore,” Mags lied.

Dave didn’t even flinch. “You will.”

Frustration rose within her. She needed him gone. Why wasn’t he getting mad? Leaving? She had too much to lose if he didn’t go. “My life is here in Peru,” she said as sternly as she could manage. “I’m not leaving.”

Dave eyed her for a long moment, and Mags refused to squirm under his scrutiny. Then he slowly stood, and Mags forced herself to stand her ground and not cower from the intensity of his gaze. The tears had dried up, and a very determined man stood in front of her now.

“I didn’t tell your parents that I was coming to Peru. They’ve had their hopes raised too many times and dashed just as many. And my parents have suffered right along with me. But they don’t matter. No one matters but you. My life is wherever you are,” Dave said without a trace of irritation or insecurity. “If I have to move to Lima in order to be with you, I will.”

At any other time, Mags would’ve thrown herself at her man and begged him to take her away from the barrio. From Lima. From Peru. But she couldn’t.

She was in hell. This was like being offered everything her heart desired, but she knew if she dared reach for it, she could lose something else she loved just as dearly.
Stoker, Susan. Defending Raven (Mountain Mercenaries) (pp. 39-43). Kindle Edition.

Like everything else in life this gets far more complicated than just talking to Mags and bringing her home.

The bullies in the Barrio learn a few lessons from this dedicated team, lessons that start making life for the residents a bit better. The horror of del Rio’s mindset had me both cringing and crying as Susan takes a horrific part of human trafficking and intertwines it with a love story for the ages.

So much suspense as Dave breaks down the walls Raven has erected to maintain her sanity. Her reason for needing to stay in Lima, while shocking to Dave only cements his determination to bring her home.

Some laughter, lots of tears, and an ending you won’t soon forget.

This is the last book in this series and I will miss these characters. Thank you, Susan it’s been a wild ride.

5 Contented Purrs for Susan!

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Susan Stoker - Photo Susan Stoker

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.


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Securing Avery – SEALs of Protection Legacy Book 5 By Susan Stoker


Securing Avery
SEALs of Protection Legacy Book 5
By
NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author
Susan Stoker

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Navy Nurse Avery Nelson never dreamed she’d be taken hostage during her deployment in Afghanistan. She’s assisting local women with healthcare, not fighting in a war. But digging her way out of her would-be grave turns out to be the battle of her life. She’s not the type to simply lay down and die, or sit around crying, waiting for someone to save her…though Avery can’t deny it’s a massive relief when the very SEAL she’s been flirting with for months comes to her rescue.

Cole “Rex” Kingston has saved his fair share of women over his time as a SEAL, but no mission has ever seemed as important as the one to find Avery Nelson. Digging the woman out of the rubble of a mountainside in Afghanistan hammers home to them both just how short life is, and they waste no time acting on their attraction, getting closer as Cole helps Avery deal with the aftermath of her ordeal.

But someone isn’t happy that Avery didn’t die in the mountains…and they’ll do anything to make sure she doesn’t live long enough to talk about what she might’ve heard and seen while deployed.

NOTE:
** Securing Avery is the 5th book in the SEAL of Protection: Legacy Series. Each book is a stand-alone, with no cliffhanger endings.

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These books always have strong women and damn Avery is so much more than that. From the very beginning she’s fighting to live, digging her way out stone by stone after being left to die. Her one regret, not encouraging Cole ‘Rex’ Kingston to ask her out, something she would do something about if she manages to get free of this mess.

Rex has been hanging at the hospital where Avery works as much as he can get away with. He finally was going to ask her out but she was being deployed. When his team is sent to rescue drivers and a woman taken when a convoy of weapons is hijacked he finds out the woman is Avery. Nothing will stop him from finding her and he knows his team will have his back.

When they do find her some very interesting things happen.

This is one of them and a favorite scene.

“If you can keep me from falling over, I’m ready to get out of here,” she stated.

Rex stepped closer and wrapped an arm around her waist. “Is this okay?” he asked, not wanting to contribute to any horrible memories she might have of what had been done to her while a captive.

She nodded and wrapped her own arm around him, keeping her head down and grabbing onto his shirt with surprising strength. “Yeah. Look, we’re the perfect height to win a three-legged race,” she quipped.

Rex snorted. It wasn’t quite a laugh, he couldn’t bring himself to laugh at a time like this, but he agreed with her assessment. They fit together perfectly. He walked them over to the hole where he’d entered the cave.

She was squinting and doing her best to look through the hole, toward the bright sunshine outside, but it was obvious it was causing her pain.

“Hang on,” he told her, then raised his head and yelled, “Phantom?”

“Right here,” his friend said.

“I need your sunglasses.” Without a word of question, a hand thrust a pair of sunglasses down the hole. Rex grabbed them and turned to Avery. “Here, these will help until your eyes can adjust.” Then he slipped them onto her face, brushing her hair behind her ears in the process.

He heard her sigh in relief. “Thank you, you have no idea how…” Her voice trailed off when she finally looked at his face.

“What?”

“Cole?” she whispered.

Rex did chuckle this time; he couldn’t help it. “Man, it’s been a long time since I’ve heard anyone call me that. How’d you know my name?”

She shrugged. “I may or may not have asked around,” she admitted freely.

“You can call me Rex,” he said, flattered beyond belief that she’d wanted to find out more about him. He knew she wouldn’t have learned anything but the basics. Because of his top-secret clearance and the secrecy surrounding the SEALs, anything said about him would’ve been general knowledge.

“Thanks, but I think I like Cole better. I can’t believe you’re here,” she said quietly. He couldn’t see her eyes behind the dark lenses of the sunglasses, but he could feel her gaze boring into him nonetheless.

“Wanna go out sometime?” she blurted.

Rex knew his mouth was hanging open, but he couldn’t believe what he’d just heard.

“I mean…” She began to falter at his obvious astonishment. “I just…I made a promise to myself that if I got out of this hole in the mountain, I’d go after what I wanted.”

“And what you wanted was me?” Rex couldn’t help but ask.

He saw her cheeks pinken, and it was a welcome sight. She was way too pale for his peace of mind.

She shrugged. “Yeah.”

“You should know, I was kicking my own ass for chickening out and not asking you out for coffee before you were deployed,” Rex told her honestly.

They smiled at each other for a long, quiet moment before Avery swayed.

And just like that, Rex recalled where they were and what the hell they were doing.
Stoker, Susan. Securing Avery (SEAL of Protection: Legacy Book 5) (pp. 26-28). Stoker Aces Production, LLC. Kindle Edition.

So many hold your breath moments, and Avery takes no crap from anyone. Rex and his team and a few of those Delta guys are awesome. The fact that Phantom remembers the thing he couldn’t and many more OMG moments, add to the suspense. There were times I had tears running down my face even as I laughed out loud.

I really wish I had the will power to not start reading these books when they hit my kindle, I couldn’t put this book aside and now I need a nap or three.

I can’t wait for the next book in this series!

5 Contented Purrs for Susan!

Click the Cover for Buy Links and More!

Coming Soon!

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 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.


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Shielding Gillian – Delta Team Two Book 1 by Susan Stoker


Shielding Gillian
Delta Team Two Book 1
By
NY Times, USA Today & Wall Street Journal
Bestselling Author

Susan Stoker

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As an event planner, Gillian Romano’s an expert at rolling with the punches and solving unexpected problems. But her flight getting hijacked while returning from a job is definitely out of her skill set. Passengers are being murdered, and when she’s chosen by the terrorists to be their mouthpiece, even more innocent lives rest on Gillian’s shoulders. Only the calm, reassuring voice on the other end of the line keeps her sane, forging a bond with a stranger she’s never seen but trusts with her life.

Walker “Trigger” Nelson and his Delta Force team have spent years training for close-quarter hostage rescue. When they get called to South America to attempt to save an airplane full of hostages, he doesn’t expect to meet a woman who rocks his world in the middle of the op. Gillian’s cool head and bravery in the face of certain terror—and possible death—blows him away. Any outcome that doesn’t include Gillian leaving that plane alive and well is not an option.

After their safe return to Texas, both Trigger and Gillian are excited to find out if their instant chemistry can survive the real world. Neither realizing that someone isn’t happy with the outcome of the hijacking, and is watching, waiting, for a second chance to strike.

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As Ghost and his team start stepping back, it’s time for another team to take the limelight, this book introduces us to the men of Delta Team 2.

We jump right in with a hijacked plane and a passenger told to be their spokesperson or die.

Gillian is really wishing she hadn’t taken that extra day to relax after the event she planned was over. Now she’s on a hijacked plane and scared out of her mind, but knows she has to get through to the authorities the seriousness of the demands.

She’s relieved when the original person is replaced with someone else, and American, military. She just has to hold on and give these men what they need to succeed at this rescue.

Trigger Walker and his team get valuable information from Gillian, but things go sideways but they succeed.

This is a favorite scene.

“I don’t know, and right now I don’t care. All I care about is that they’re dead and you’re not,” Walker said.

“I think they were going to take me with them,” she whispered. “Thank you for making sure that didn’t happen.”

“No way in hell was I going to let them do that,” Walker told her. Then he slowly pulled her into him once again.

Gillian rested her cheek on his chest. He was taller than she was, but they still fit together perfectly. She knew she needed a shower, and she had Alberto’s blood in her hair and on her clothes, but she couldn’t bring herself to care. All she could focus on was the man holding her.

She’d never felt for anyone the way she felt about Walker at this moment.

She was well aware it was because she’d almost died. She was shaking with the adrenaline still coursing through her veins. But some distant, stubborn part of her whispered that this was real. That Walker felt something for her, and not just because he was doing his job.

“We need to get gone,” one of his friends said gently from next to them. For a second, Gillian gripped Walker tighter, then she took a deep breath and picked her head up off his chest. He didn’t immediately loosen his hold. They stared at each other for a long moment before he reluctantly—at least, she thought it was reluctantly—dropped his arms.
Gillian swayed, and Walker immediately reached out and steadied her with a hand on her biceps. She flinched, and he frowned.

“What’s wrong? Are you hurt after all? Let me see.”

“I’m okay,” Gillian reassured him. “That’s just the same place those assholes assholes liked to grab me and haul me around. It’s just bruises. They’ll heal.”

She thought he mumbled something about how he should’ve killed them slowly, but then he brought his hand up to her face. His thumb rubbed her cheek, and she watched him taking her in slowly. His gaze flicked from the top of her head to her eyes, then her cheeks, and finally her mouth.

She couldn’t help but wipe her tongue over her suddenly dry lips, and she loved that his pupils seemed to dilate at seeing the movement.

“What happens now?” she asked quietly.

“The US government has chartered a flight to get you and the other Americans back home as quickly as possible. Venezuela is not a country you want to spend any more time in than necessary right now. Much of the government is corrupt and it’s dangerous as hell.”

“Yeah, I think I found that out the hard way,” Gillian quipped.

His lips quirked up into a smile, but he quickly got serious again. “I’m sure you’ll be interviewed about what happened. You should see a doctor to make sure you’re all right physically, as well.”

“I will,” she told him. “What should I say about you and your friends?”

“What do you mean?” he asked with a frown.

“I just…I guess I assumed you’d want your role in what happened here to be downplayed.”

“Why would you think that?” Walker asked.

Feeling awkward, like maybe she’d misread the entire situation, Gillian said, “You said you were stationed in Texas, which means you’re in the military. And since it’s just you guys, and not a whole platoon of men, I’m also guessing you’re special forces of some kind? And because of the relationship between the US and Venezuela, I’m further assuming what you did today should be downplayed.”

When no one said anything, Gillian looked down at her feet. “Or I’m just a girl who reads too much. Never mind, forget I said anything.”

She felt a finger under her chin and looked up into Walker’s eyes. “I knew you were a smart cookie. I’m sure the people who interview you will know who we are and what our role was, so you can be honest with them. But once you’re home…yeah, it would be good if you didn’t talk about us with the media or anyone else.”

“What about my best friends? Ann, Wendy, Clarissa, and I tell each other everything. We’re more like sisters than friends. I can keep most of the details secret, but they’ll know I’m lying if I don’t tell them something.”

“Use your best judgement,” Walker said.

“I like her,” one of his friends said from behind them.

“Me too,” someone else chimed in.

She saw Walker shake his head in bemusement at his friends, but he didn’t take his eyes from hers. He leaned forward and said softly, “You’re amazing, Gillian Romano. I’m in awe of your strength.”

Then he straightened and took a step away from her.

Gillian shivered, even though it wasn’t close to being cold.

She heard yelling, and turned her head to see at least a dozen men headed toward them wearing camouflage uniforms. She looked back at Walker and saw a mask had fallen across his features. He was back in business mode.

“Will I see you again?” she blurted. When he didn’t immediately respond, she awkwardly said, “I mean, I live in Austin, and I’m assuming you’re stationed at Fort Hood because, you know…it’s Army, and really big.”

She couldn’t interpret the look on his face, but she was relieved to see his expression change. Get softer.

“Go with the Venezuelan officials,” he urged. “Be safe, Di. You never know who might just show up on your doorstep someday.”
Stoker, Susan. Shielding Gillian (Delta Team Two Book 1) . Stoker Aces Production, LLC. Kindle Locations (862-902). Kindle Edition.

Now back home, Trigger is confronted first by Lucky but Grover, Doc, Brain, Oz and Lefty also put their two cents in about his attitude. He’s constantly thinking about Gillian and it shows.

It’s Brain who gives him the perfect excuse to go see her, but he almost totally screws that up too.

Now you know Susan isn’t going to let Gillian off that easy and everything starts ramping up from here, and I do mean everything.

Plenty of suspense, lots of romance and some sizzle and this one kept me guessing until the end.

I can’t wait for the next book in this new series!

5 Contented Purrs for Susan!

Coing Soon!
Click the Cover for Buy Links and More!

Susan Stoker - Photo Susan Stoker

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.


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Amazon Author Page

Defending Zara – Mountain Mercenaries Book 6 By Susan Stoker


Defending Zara
Mountain Mercenaries Book 6
By
NY Times, USA Today & Wall Street Journal
Bestselling Author

Susan Stoker

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For a Mountain Mercenary and a desperate woman,
love becomes a dangerous refuge
in New York Times bestselling author
Susan Stoker’s novel of
heart-gripping suspense.

Mountain Mercenary Hunter “Meat” Snow has a mission: eliminate the human traffickers scouring the barrios of Lima for vulnerable prey. But it’s Meat who’s taken down. Separated from his team and beaten within an inch of his life, he’s left for dead. When he wakes, it’s to the intimate care of a beautiful stranger who knows all about survival.

Zara Layne was a child when a brutal murder left her orphaned and abandoned in Peru. Ever since, she’s fended for herself on the streets, outrunning its predators. Trusting men is not in Zara’s blood…until it warms to the exhilarating touch of the wounded hero who promises deliverance. As each other’s rescuers, they return to Colorado for a new normal.

But when Meat disappears, Zara discovers how ruthless the past can be. With the help of the loyal Mercenaries, she’s drawing on her own skills of endurance to find him. And for Zara, there’s no danger great enough to come between her and the man she loves.

Zara has been masquerading as a boy since she realized it was safer than being a girl in Lima’s barrios. It’s been fifteen years since she witnessed her parents murder and long ago she gave up on ever being found and embraced her fate, concentrating only on surviving.

The Mountain Mercenaries were on a mission in Lima, they had intel on kidnapped children and were set to rescue them and put a few kinks in that branch of human traffickers. Unfortunately things went sideways and Black and Meat were severely beaten.

Zara was with the group Mags ran that tried to help the women and children and saw the guys get taken down. Unfortunately they were only able to get one of the men away.

Zara took him to Daniela a doctor who helped them when necessary, she does patch him up a bit under protest but Meat realizing his situation does behave.

This is a favorite scene.

Zara froze. She wasn’t ready to talk about herself. Hell, she never talked about herself. It was safer that way. But she didn’t want to get up and walk away either. For some reason, she felt comfortable with Meat.

It made no sense, really. But then again . . . she was tired. Tired of constantly looking behind her. Of having to scrounge for food. Of trying to stay under the radar. She was way too practical to live her life wondering “what if,” but at the moment, talking to Meat, she felt her guard lowering.

She still wasn’t going to talk about herself. Not yet. She’d only known this man for hours. But she could put his mind at ease. “I went back to the barrio and found out about your friends today.”

His eyes widened and he sat up straighter. He leaned toward her eagerly. “Yeah?”

Zara nodded. “Mags said that right after I left with you, the Americans came and got the man you’d been with.”

Meat sighed in relief. “Thank God! Did you get a chance to tell them I was all right?”

Zara bit her lip and shook her head.

Meat frowned.

At his expression, she found herself wanting to explain. “The Special Forces Brigade members are still with them. We can’t risk talking to the Americans. It would bring attention to ourselves. Bad attention.” Zara wasn’t sure Meat understood. “The best thing is to not be seen,” she said. “If they see us, they’ll start asking questions, and we won’t be able to help others like we do now.”

Meat looked at her for a long moment before he finally nodded. “I understand.”

“Mags said she would try to get a note to them. But hopefully you will be healed enough to leave soon, and it won’t be necessary.”

“I wondered where you had gone today,” Meat said. “I hadn’t expected you to do that for me.”

“You were worried about them.”

“I was. But still. How far did you have to travel to get back to the barrio where you found me?”

She hesitated. The last thing she wanted was to get Daniela in trouble, or for Meat to get too curious. The less he knew, the better.

Before she could think of a good answer, he spoke.

“Never mind. I’m learning that there’re a lot of things I’m better off not knowing, right?”

Zara nodded.

“Have I thanked you yet?” Meat asked.

Zara looked at him with what she knew was probably another shocked expression.

“I guess I haven’t. It’s obvious you know this area much better than I do. Black and I weren’t expecting to be jumped like we were. I appreciate you and your friends stepping in to help us, especially considering the amount of danger it obviously put you in.”

Zara licked her lips and said nothing.

“You haven’t asked what we were doing there.”

She already knew about the boys they’d found, but shrugged anyway.

“My friends and I are part of a somewhat secret group. We’re called the Mountain Mercenaries. We’ve made it our mission to rescue women and children from those who would do them harm. The wife of our leader, Rex, disappeared years ago, and he suspects she was kidnapped into the sex trade. He’s never stopped looking for her. In the meantime, he’s dedicated dedicated his life to helping others like her, who are taken from their homes and families.

“We were working with the government on a human-trafficking sting. We were told there were several boys on the verge of being sold into the kind of life no child should ever know exists. Our intel was good . . . but when we got here, things got all fucked up. We should’ve pulled out of the mission immediately, but decided to go ahead with it. That was our mistake.”

Zara stared at Meat. She and the others had already deduced the Americans were there to try to save the children, but they hadn’t known anything about their motives. They’d wondered why a group from the United States would care about what happened to a bunch of poor barrio kids. And it was obvious that Meat did care. He cared about a bunch of children he’d never met.

For just a moment, Zara wondered what her life could’ve been like if Meat and his friends had been around when she’d needed them.

But the second she had the thought, she dismissed it. She didn’t know how old Meat was, but fifteen years ago, he probably wasn’t in the same line of work he was in now.
Stoker, Susan. Defending Zara (Mountain Mercenaries) (pp. 29-31). Kindle Edition.

Slowly Meat gains Zara’s trust and she tells him her story when he says that his group is from Colorado. Ironically that’s where she was originally from as well. In that moment Meat knew he wasn’t going to leave this country without her.

Oh the many surprises this book has in store for you! I couldn’t put it down which also means I got very little sleep.

Full of suspense, family drama, romance and just enough sizzle.

5 Contented Purrs for Susan!

Click the Cover for Buy Links and More!

Coming Soon!

Susan Stoker - Photo Susan Stoker

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.


newsletter - for blog

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
Amazon Author Page

Securing Zoey – SEALs of Protection Legacy Book 4 by Susan Stoker


Securing Zoey
SEALs of Protection: Legacy Book 4
By
NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author
Susan Stoker

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After an unstable childhood, Zoey Knight landed in Juneau, Alaska, during high school, and has never left. Now in her early thirties, she lives a quiet life that includes part-time caretaker for a beloved father figure. Despite the stability, she occasionally wishes for more adventure. She gets more than she bargained for when a plane she’s in goes down in a remote stretch of wilderness—and the only other passenger is a man she’s crushed on for years.

Life as a SEAL doesn’t allow for much spare time, but Mark “Bubba” Wright still regrets not trying harder to visit his pop. Now it’s too late, and the guilt is heavy when he heads to Alaska for the reading of his father’s will. The only bright spot is finding a girl he knew in high school on the same tiny plane. The same woman, it turns out, who’s been taking care of his pop…a girl he crushed on in high school.

Struggling to survive in the Alaska back country isn’t the kind of second chance either envisioned, but relying on each other makes Zoey and Bubba’s rekindled attraction hotter than ever. Funny how puzzling out who might want them dead can bring a couple closer together…

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Mark ‘Bubba’ Wright’s father has died unexpectedly and he is heading home to Alaska filled with grief and guilt. At the airport he is surprised to see a woman sharing the flight with him.

It turns out he knows her, Zoey Knight had been in school with him and his twin Malcolm actually had dated her a couple of times. More than that it was Zoey who took care of his Dad, kept him company, listened to his stories, really an overall companion and friend. That kept her busy during the winter months, as her job at one of the tourist shops was part-time and only during cruise ship season.

They took off as scheduled, but then the unthinkable happens. An emergency landing on a lake, then instead of actually fixing the plane the pilot takes off again. Leaving Mark and Zoey stranded in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness.

This is a favorite scene.

“I should’ve been paying attention. I know better. But I was tired, and I let my guard down. It won’t happen again.”

“Mark, this isn’t your fault. How could we know this would happen?”

Much like it had in the airport, hearing his given name on her lips made him feel…odd. He couldn’t put his finger on why, though, so he simply ignored it. “Well, we both know my pop had plenty of money. So I’m guessing someone didn’t want us to make it back to Juneau for the reading of the will.”

“That’s stupid,” Zoey said. “I mean, making us disappear isn’t going to automatically make the money go to someone else…is it?”

Bubba shrugged. “I have no idea. I don’t know what was in Pop’s will or how he worded it. If he set up a trust, it’s possible if I was indisposed—or dead—it would go to someone else.”

Zoey’s eyes got big. “Who do you think is behind this?”

“That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?” he asked. “And something I should be asking you. You spent a lot more time with Pop than I did. Who do you think would want to get rid of us?”

“Us? I’m nobody. I wasn’t even related to Colin. Why would anyone include me in their scheme?”

“Another good question,” Bubba told her, glad she’d stopped crying. “And maybe you just had the bad luck of sharing a plane with me. But as far as you being a nobody, that’s definitely not true. I hadn’t seen Pop in forever, but I know that you’ve been by his side for over a decade. You were very important to him, and since he included you in his will, you definitely weren’t a nobody to him, either.”

Zoey stared at him in silence, and Bubba couldn’t read what she was thinking.

Eventually, she closed her eyes and sighed. “So someone wanted us both dead, or at least out of the picture so we couldn’t claim your dad’s inheritance? It’s a stupid plan.”

Again, Bubba chuckled. That definitely wasn’t what he thought she’d say. “I agree. Because if we are declared dead, whatever Pop left us will go to our heirs.”

“But it still leaves us with the question of who wants us dead,” Zoey said.

Bubba nodded. “Yes. But we have bigger things to deal with at the moment.”

Zoey looked around them. She hadn’t pulled out of his grasp. Bubba saw that she had a fleece-lined shirt tied around her waist, and he moved his hands down to tug at the knot.

“What are you—”

Before she could finish her question, he moved behind her and helped her shrug on the shirt. The temperature was in the lower sixties right now, but he was glad she had the extra layer because it would get quite chilly at night.

“Thank you,” she said when he walked back around her.

“We aren’t going to die out here,” he said in a sure, serious tone.

Zoey tilted her head up to look him in the eyes. “You don’t know that.”

“I do. Whoever was behind this messed up.”

She raised an eyebrow at him.

Bubba felt his lips curling upward again. God, she was adorable. “Their first mistake was thinking dropping us off in the middle of nowhere was going to get rid of us.”

“I hate to break it to you, Superman, but we have no food. No transportation. No way of contacting anyone. No shelter.” Zoey looked around comically. “And I don’t see any Ubers lining up to take us home.”

“Oh, ye of little faith,” he chided. “On a scale of one to ten, how comfortable are you with the outdoors?”

She frowned and wrinkled her nose. “Maybe a four. Four and a half,” she said.

Bubba beamed. “Perfect.”

“Perfect? Has anyone ever told you that you’re insane?”

“My teammates, actually,” he told her, straight-faced. “If you had said zero or one, then things might’ve been a little more difficult, but I can work with a four.”

Zoey shook her head and rolled her eyes, making Bubba suddenly want to grab ahold of her head and kiss the look of exasperation off her face. He didn’t have time to examine that reaction before she was talking again.

“Seriously, you’re crazy. I mean, I live in Juneau, so of course I’m somewhat familiar with the outdoors. You know as well as I do that we all like to be outside as much as possible in the summer because it’s so miserable, cold, and dark in the winters.”

“I do know that. What about exercise?”

“What about it?” she asked.

“Do you do it?”

Zoey sighed again, and her gaze slipped away from his. “If you’re asking if I’m secretly a triathlete or something, you’re going to be disappointed.”

Bubba didn’t like that he’d embarrassed her. He put a finger on her chin and gently turned her face back to his. “I have a feeling nothing you do could disappoint me.”

When she rolled her eyes again, Bubba internally sighed in relief. He liked her subtle snarkiness.

“To answer your question, I don’t work out regularly. I don’t like the gym, I feel too self-conscious there, working out next to the super-buff men and women who frequent the one in Juneau. But I also don’t have a car, so I walk a lot. The house I was renting from your dad was a few blocks from his own, so when I went over to help him, I walked. When I had to go into town, I rode my bike.”

Bubba nodded in satisfaction. “That’s great.” At her look of disbelief, he went on. “Seriously. Walking in Juneau isn’t exactly easy. Maybe you forgot that I lived there too. Dad’s house is at the top of that huge hill, and I know from firsthand experience that it’s not easy walking up there. And if you biked into town, you had to go up and down several hills. That will help a lot out here.”

Zoey bit her lip and looked around. “Mark, we’re in the middle of nowhere. We don’t even know what direction Anchorage is in. How in the world do you think we’re going to get there? We can’t walk. We were in the air for an hour!”

Bubba could hear her working herself into a frenzy, so he reached into one of the pockets of his cargo pants and pulled something out. He held it in his palm so she could see, and said, “We won’t have to walk all the way. Eventually we’ll run into someone. And I’ve got this.”

Zoey looked down at his hand, then back up at his face. “You have a compass?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

“Why not?” he asked flippantly. When she didn’t smile, he got serious. “It’s been beaten into my head to be prepared for just about anything. I might not have my duffle, but I promise that we aren’t going to starve or freeze.”

She swallowed hard. “Do you think we’re really alone out here? What if whoever planned this hid someone out here to make sure we didn’t make it out alive?”

Bubba had already thought about that. “Honestly? I hope like hell they did.”

Her eyes rounded, and she stared at him as if he’d suddenly grown three heads. “What? Why?”

“Because I could capture them and make them tell me who the hell’s behind this. They’d probably have supplies I could pilfer, as well. Maybe even a satellite phone.”

“You sound so sure of yourself,” Zoey said after a beat.

“That’s because I am. Zoey, I’m a Navy SEAL.”

“I know.”

He shook his head. “But I don’t think you really understand what that means.”
Stoker, Susan. Securing Zoey (SEAL of Protection: Legacy Book 4). Stoker Aces Production, LLC. Kindle Locations (427-486). Kindle Edition.

Even though Mark is sure his team would come after him when he doesn’t call to check in, it’s a long and sometimes treacherous hike heading in a direction they hope will lead to civilization.

I loved the conversations, the way Mark keeps her warm and teaches her things for survival out there. The chemistry between these two is obvious but neither act upon it as they trek day to day overcoming obstacles.

Full of intrigue, suspense, romance, some sizzle and so much more!

I really can’t wait for the next book in this series!

5 Contented Purrs for Susan!

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Coming Soon!

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 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.


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Defending Everly – Mountain Mercenaries Book 5 by Susan Stoker


Defending Everly
Mountain Mercenaries Book 5
By
NY Times, USA Today & Wall Street Journal
Bestselling Author

Susan Stoker

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As tough as Everly Adams may be, the Colorado Springs SWAT officer is near a breaking point. Her fifteen-year-old half sister, Elise, has disappeared from Los Angeles without a trace, and the window to find her is closing fast. Committed to the search is Mountain Mercenary Kannon “Ball” Black. He and Everly already have a history—of rubbing each other the wrong way.

Still, Everly has to admit the man is heart-stopping. His brash alpha swagger takes her breath away. And most importantly, as a former Coast Guard first responder, Ball has what it takes to bring Elise home.

Nobody’s buying the LAPD’s “runaway” theory. And the fear that Elise is the victim of a human trafficking ring is a gut-punch that Everly and Ball can’t ignore. If only the trail were that clear cut. Because the one they’re following is more insidious and intimately dark than they could have imagined.

Now as the bond between Everly and Ball grows stronger, so does the heat. And as the stakes rise, so does the danger.

Kannon ‘Ball’ Black has more than a few issues being partnered with a woman. He had a woman trainee in the Coast Guard and another had ripped his heart out.

Even though Everly is a trained SWAT officer, she beside herself with worry. Her fifteen year old sister Elise has gone missing and she turns to the Mountain Mercenaries for help finding her. She overheard Ball’s comments about a woman being involved in the case and wasn’t exactly happy he was the one assigned.

As they work to find her sister Ball finds his opinion changing as he realizes how really wrong he’s been.

This is a favorite scene.

Ball watched through the glass as her gait changed from the no-nonsense “cop walk” to a more seductive swagger. Her hips were lush, and the way the jeans hugged her ass should be illegal.

Shaking his head and smiling to himself, Ball turned to have a look around the outside of the building—and ran right into someone standing way too close to him.

The man immediately kneed him in the groin, and Ball folded in half, excruciating pain pulsing through his body.

Taking advantage of his momentary incapacitation, the man grabbed an arm and forced him around to the side of the building.

Ball struggled to get his wits about him. The asshole who’d kneed him pushed hard, and Ball fell to his knees in the gravel parking area. He was immediately on his feet again, but not before two other men grabbed him by the arms and held him between them.

Ball was taller than the three men, but waves of pain were still shooting from between his legs, and the man who’d attacked him first was able to get in two punches before Ball came to his senses. In a way, the hits to his face helped redirect the pain he was feeling away from his balls to his head.

Using some of the moves he’d learned in the Coast Guard, as well as those his fellow Mountain Mercenaries had taught him, Ball fought back.

But after a minute, he was dismayed to realize he was still losing the fight. Three against one wasn’t exactly fair, but the men didn’t care. They hadn’t demanded anything of him, and Ball had no idea why they’d targeted him.

Until one of the men who’d been waiting around the corner of the store said, “Knock him out already so we can get the girl!”

Fuck that. They weren’t getting their hands on Everly.

“Fuck that!” a feminine voice said from nearby, and before Ball could warn her away, Everly was in the thick of things.

Now that he wasn’t fighting three men at one time, it wasn’t long before Ball had knocked one of the assholes unconscious.

He turned to assist Everly—and instead could only stare. The man who’d kicked him in the groin was moaning in pain on the ground, and she had the other guy in a headlock. She was shorter than he was by two or three inches, and yet he was still bent backward, totally under her control.

A man wearing khakis, a polo with the name of the gas station on it, and a ball cap ran around the corner. “The cops are on their way . . . Holy shit!”

Ball had to give it to the young man. He collected himself and said, “I’ve got some rope in the back!” He then turned and ran around the corner, presumably to get the rope so they could secure the punks who’d attacked them.

Ball couldn’t help himself. He walked up to the first man—who was now on his hands and knees, looking like he was thinking about getting up—and kicked him in the balls, just as the man had done to him.

The man fell to his side, crying out with pain.

Satisfied, Ball turned to Everly. She’d effectively cut off the guy’s oxygen enough to knock him out and was lowering him to the gravel.

So many feelings and thoughts were running through his mind in that moment.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

Ball nodded but didn’t say anything.

Her eyes narrowed. “Are you sure?”

“I’m sure,” he said, after a beat. “Thank you.”

Everly nodded, and then turned to make sure the men she’d incapacitated weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Stoker, Susan. Defending Everly (Mountain Mercenaries) (pp. 57-59). Kindle Edition.

In the center of this is Elise who was kidnapped, a teenager wanting a bit more freedom but her life is just a bit different because she is deaf. However not so much that she doesn’t feel the same things as any other teen.

Now this book sent me through a wave of several different emotions. From laughter at Everly’s Grandmother’s antics, to various versions of tears. Then there is the slow steady relationship that grows between Everly and Ball. There’s also a bond that is forming with Ball and Elise.

I couldn’t put this book down as this story unfolds. Full of love, tears, laughter, angst and so much more!

5 Contented Purrs for Susan!

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Coming Soon!

Susan Stoker - Photo Susan Stoker

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 noncommissioned 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.


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Shelter for Penelope – Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes Book 15 by Susan Stoker


Shelter for Penelope
Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes Book 15
By
NY Times, USA Today and
Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author

Susan Stoker

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Dubbed the “American Princess” after her rescue from months in the hands of ISIS, soldier and firefighter Penelope Turner has struggled silently since her return to Texas. The media, the danger of her job, the pressure of knowing lives are in her hands…all of it and more has combined to slowly fill Penelope with seething guilt and doubt. Missing memories from her moment of capture cause even more angst. Is she responsible for the deaths of her Army patrol unit? And without knowing what happened, how can she be trusted by her fellow firefighters—or trust them in return?

Worse…how can she ever be worthy of the man who believes in her most?

It took seeing Penelope in the hands of terrorists—in viral videos seen around the world—for Tucker “Moose” Jacobs to realize just how much he loved his fellow firefighter. He died waiting for her rescue, then died all over again when Penelope abruptly left Texas, trying to outrun her past. Now that she’s returned, the kid gloves are off. Moose is a patient man, but even he has his limits. He loves Penelope, and he knows it’s past time for her to face her fears, and remember she has an entire tribe of friends who not only have her back, but need Pen to have theirs, as well.

In the end, Penelope will have to trust Moose, her friends, and most of all herself, if she’s going to make peace with her past…and have any kind of future.

** Shelter for Penelope is the 15th and final book in the Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes Series. Each book is a stand-alone, with no cliffhanger endings. Penelope’s story started in Protecting the Future, and over the years, she’s struggled with her inner demons. Read on to see her finally get her HEA.

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The first thing you need to do before you start reading, is  grab a full box of tissues, you will need them.

At the end of Shelter for Koren, Penelope has left her resignation on the Chief’s desk and left, not only the station but San Antonio. Fortunately she has on the tracker Tex sent her when she returned home. He’s sort of guiding her in her travels with her donkey Smokey keeping them safe and directing her to some pretty awesome veterans and active service friends.

She’s called Moose giving him updates on her travels, but hasn’t said anything about coming home, at least not until her latest phone call.

This is a favorite scene.

“Taco proposed to Koren, and she said yes. They haven’t chosen a date yet though.”

He wasn’t sure if he should tell her the next thing. But he’d promised he’d never lie to her, and not letting her know felt like a lie of omission. “And…Sophie’s pregnant. She and Chief just got back from visiting his mom on the reservation. They wanted to tell her first. I guess they had a blessing ceremony, and his mom was super excited. She’s got about six more months to go.”

When Penelope didn’t say anything, Moose asked, “Pen? You still there?”

“I’m missing everything,” she whispered.

“Then come home,” Moose pleaded. He’d promised he wouldn’t, but the words just popped out. “Together, we can work through whatever has you so scared.”

“I can’t,” Penelope told him.

“But you are coming home at some point, right?” Moose asked.

“I haven’t decided.”

Moose felt his heart break right in half at her words.

He’d had his suspicions that he’d lost the woman he loved, but until now, she’d never come right out and said that she might not come back to him. And it hurt.

She was shutting him out. Him and her brother and all the rest of her friends.

Feeling the tell-tale sign of tears forming behind his eyes, Moose stumbled backward until his legs came into contact with his bed and he sat down, hard. It was his turn to have nothing to say. The silence over the phone line was heavy and fraught with tension.

“Moose?”

“All I ever want is for you to be happy,” Moose started, doing his damnedest to not let his voice crack. “When you were here and suffering, I did all I could to be there for you. I defended your need to keep Smokey, and I let him stay in my barn, and then my house when the barn was torched. After you left, I defended your need and right for some space to the guys. When you missed the birth of Blythe’s daughter, I reassured her that you’d be back, that you were trying to get your head on straight after everything that had happened to you.

“And I’ll have your back no matter what, Pen. I don’t think it’s a surprise that I love you.”

Moose heard her take a deep breath, but he kept going. “I’ve loved you forever. I’d bend over backward to keep you safe. To do what you need to live your life the way you need to live it. But I need you to want that too. To want to stand by my side. To have my back. I get that you’re struggling, I do, and I wish there was something I could do to help you. But I can’t if you don’t let me in.

“If you don’t come back to San Antonio, I’m not sure I’ll ever get over loving you. You’re it for me. I feel that down to the marrow of my bones. I love the woman you are today, the woman you were yesterday, and the woman you’re going to be in the future. I don’t give a fuck if you have PTSD or if you can’t ever be a firefighter again. You can stay home and raise miniature donkeys if that makes you happy. All I want is to be by your side while you do it.

“But if moving away from everyone who loves you exactly how you are, who supports you unconditionally, is what you need to be happy…so be it. Please thank the men who were able to get you out of hell for me, and tell them they have my undying gratitude. Don’t forget to shoot Blythe a text to congratulate her on her marriage, and maybe Sophie too, for being pregnant. Stay safe…and know that I love you.”

“Moose—”

“Thanks for calling,” he interrupted her, not able to listen to her try to let him down gently.

He’d never come right out and told her he’d loved her before, but he couldn’t keep the words in anymore. Not if she was deciding whether or not to come back to Texas. He wasn’t about to play fair, not when it came to the woman he loved. He was almost forty; if Penelope didn’t come home to him, he’d never get married. Never have a family. She was it for him. He knew that with no uncertainty.

“I’ll talk to you later.”

“Okay, Moose. Later.”

Moose clicked off the phone and squeezed it so tightly in his fist he knew it was only a matter of seconds before it broke. He threw the phone onto his nightstand and bent over so his elbows were resting on his knees.
Stoker, Susan. Shelter for Penelope (Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes Book 15) . Stoker Aces Production, LLC. Kindle Locations (149-180). Kindle Edition.

I started crying when Pen says she doesn’t know if she’s going back to Texas and sniffled most of the way through this book.

It’s not until she’s with Wolf, Caroline and the team that brought her home, that she starts to realize she’s running away and not dealing with anything.

Her return to Texas is fraught with emotion and new experiences with Moose beside her the whole time. He is unfailing in his love and support.

I loved the way everyone stands with her whether or not she wants them there. My heart broke with her painful memories as she deals with her PTSD and trust issues.

A very emotional and beautiful end to this wonderful series. Thank you for the journey Susan.

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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Claiming Sarah – Ace Security Book 5 by Susan Stoker


Claiming Sarah
Ace Security Book 5
By
NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author
Susan Stoker

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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.”

“Why?”

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?”

“No.”

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.”

Sarah nodded.

“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?”

“Yeah?”

“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!

Click the Cover for Buy Links and More!

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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Shelter For Koren – Badge Of Honor Book 14 by Susan Stoker


Shelter for Koren
Badge of Honor Book 14
By
NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author
Susan Stoker

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Discovering your ex is a serial-killing religious zealot would put anyone off dating for a good long while. That’s where Hudson “Taco” Vines’s head is at when he meets Koren, a woman who looks a little too much like his ex for comfort. But he can’t deny their attraction, and the more he gets to know her, the more Taco realizes how different Koren is from his ex, in all the best ways. It’s not long before he’s feeling things for her that he’s never felt for anyone, ever. After the drama of his last relationship, maybe this is his reward…a supportive, comfortable life with a woman he’s coming to love.

Koren Garner is no fan of drama, and it certainly seems Taco and his friends have all seen more than their share. So you’d think meeting him for the second time at the scene of her own car accident would be enough to warn her away. But Koren can’t resist the sexy firefighter. A little drama might be worth the risk…even when an unknown threat starts targeting Taco’s friends. Someone’s setting fires, and the danger’s escalating with each blaze. Koren and Taco can only pray the culprit is caught before their relationship—and their lives—go up in smoke.

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Taco first met Koren at the grocery store where Quinn introduced them. He really doesn’t want to be fixed up with anyone and Koren had a resemblance to his serial killer ex. The next time he sees Koren, he’s on the job.

A horrific accident one where the outcome usually isn’t good, but there were definitely angels in play here.

This is a favorite scene.

“Oh, sorry…did you say anything other than getting me out?” she replied.

“Nope. All you have to do is relax. Let me and Mick do all the work. We won’t drop you and we’ll do our best to make this as painless as possible. But you need to let me know if anything hurts while we’re moving you. I mean it. If you feel any pinching or shooting pains—or if you feel nothing at all—tell me immediately, and we’ll stop and reassess.”

“Okay. I can do this. Can I ask something first?”

“Sure.”

“What’s your name? I know Mick will be hanging on to my hips, but I didn’t get your name.”

Taco mentally smacked himself in the forehead. That was one of the first things he usually did. Introduced himself.

“I’m Taco. I’m with San Antonio Fire Station number seven.”

“Taco?”

“Yeah, it’s a nickname. What’s your name?”

“Koren Garner. And I’m pretty sure we’ve already met.”

Taco momentarily froze at hearing the name.

Yeah—he wasn’t about to forget the name Koren anytime soon.

His sense of urgency, already high, kicked up a notch. And it didn’t help when he heard raised voices from nearby talking about a ruptured gasoline tank on the semi.

“We have,” he agreed. “Although if you were trying to get my attention, this probably wasn’t the best way to go about it,” Taco joked.

“Right, because when the semi appeared out of nowhere in front of me, I thought to myself, maybe if I go under this thing and get stuck, Quinn’s handsome firefighter friend will be the one to respond and I can flirt with him during my rescue. Never mind the fact I smell like gas and might’ve decapitated myself. Any chance to snag a hot firefighter. Yup, that’s what I was thinking all right.”

Mick chuckled in front of him, and Taco shook his head with a grin. “All right, Koren, Mick is gonna do his thing. Remember, just relax. Let us move you.”

He nodded at Mick and the other firefighter pushed the button to recline the seat.

As Mick eased her up slightly, turning her slowly, Taco held Koren’s head in his hands, supporting her. He and Mick gently eased her back until she was lying flat, looking up at Taco.

She had glass in her blonde hair and there was a scrape on her cheek, but otherwise she looked remarkably good for almost dying. Her blue eyes locked onto his…

And Taco swore he felt a bolt of lightning go through his body.

“Hi,” she said softly. “We meet again.”

He smiled, holding her head tightly. “Hi.”

Now that she was lying down, there was a little more room between her hips and the steering wheel. Taco looked up at Mick. “I think we can scoot her out without messing with the wheel. The last thing we want to do is have to cut and risk a stray spark.”

Mick nodded. “That’s what I was thinking.”

Koren blinked in surprise and tried to look down at Mick.

Taco held her head so she couldn’t move. “What?”

“He’s Australian,” she said.

“I am,” Mick said. “Hence the nickname. You know, Mick Dundee from that movie Crocodile Dundee.”

“You’re way too young to know that movie,” she said.

“Like you aren’t?” Taco retorted.

“It came out a year after I was born,” Koren said.

“Which means nothing to me, really, as I can’t say I have even the slightest clue when that thing first aired,” Taco responded.

She winked. “I’m thirty-three. And if you wanted to know my age, all you had to do was ask. Like this…how old are you?”

“Older than you.” Taco grinned. Then he turned when he heard someone at his side. Two more firefighters were standing there with a backboard. His attention went back to Koren. “All right, all kidding aside, it’s time to get you out of there.”

“Okay,” she said, not taking her eyes from his.

“I’m going to lift you a bit and my buddies are gonna slip the backboard under you on the seat. Again, just relax, don’t try to lift yourself in any way. Mick and I will get you on the board. Then it’s just a matter of slipping you out the door. Got it?”

She tried to nod, but Taco still had too tight a grip on her head for her to move.

“Don’t move your head, Koren.”

“Sorry. Okay. I’m ready.”

A shout went up from somewhere beyond the truck.

“Smoke!”

“Easy, Kor,” Taco said when he felt her pulse leap under his fingers. “We got this. Ready, Mick?”

“Ready, mate.”

“Okay, guys, bring in the backboard.” It took some maneuvering in the small, cramped space, but within just a minute and a half, Taco was kneeling on the ground next to Koren, fifteen feet away from her crumpled car and the tractor trailer. They were waiting for the mobile gurney to be brought over so they could transfer her onto it and take her to the hospital.

“You okay?” Taco asked.

“Yeah,” she breathed. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Here’s her purse,” Mick said from nearby.

Taco turned and took it from the big, burly firefighter. “Thanks.”

Mick winked and rushed off to help someone else.

Taco looked back down at Koren, at a loss for words now that the rush of the rescue was already wearing off. He could tell she was well aware of how close she’d come to dying.

His thoughts were proven right when she took a deep breath and said, “I know this isn’t the place or the time, but…wanna go out sometime? I never ask guys out but, you know, since I almost died, I’m giving myself a pass this once.”

Taco hesitated. He wasn’t ready. And he really wasn’t ready to go out with someone who had a lot of the same features as his psycho ex.

He obviously hesitated too long, because for the first time, she looked away, her words tumbling out fast.

“Never mind. Forget I asked. Just blame it on adrenaline. I’m sure you’re already taken. I mean, why wouldn’t you be? You’re beautiful.” Then her eyes slammed shut. “And now I’m mortified.”

“It’s not you, Koren, I just—”

He was interrupted by two paramedics pushing a gurney. “Hey! Your ride to the hospital is here!” one of them said lightly.
Stoker, Susan. Shelter for Koren (Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes Book 14) (pp. 8-13). Stoker Aces Production, LLC. Kindle Edition.

This isn’t the last time he sees Koren, feeling bad for not answering her, he goes to the hospital to see her and accept the date. He’s more than a little surprised to find she’s already being discharged.

This is the start of something, but when Koren doesn’t hear from him she decides to bring cookies as a thank you to the firehouse and let him off the hook.

A great meeting with all the ladies of the crew, who decide they like her a lot. But when things start heating up they do in a big way and in more ways than one.

We also get to see some more of what Penelope is going through and Smoky and Coco play a role as well.

So much going on, a lot of suspense and scary coincidences will have you turning the pages to the very end.

I can’t wait for Penelope’s book, even though it looks to be the last of this series.

5 Contented Purrs for Susan!

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Coming Up in this Series
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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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Securing Piper – SEAL of Protection: Legacy Book 3 by Susan Stoker


Securing Piper
SEALs of Protection: Legacy Book 3
By
NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author
Susan Stoker

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What started as an adventure, soon became hell. Piper Johnson’s thrilled to spend time in Timor-Leste with her best friend, a Peace Corps volunteer…until civil unrest erupts throughout the countryside, including an attack at the orphanage the women were visiting. With the aid of a SEAL team sent to extract the government employee, Piper flees with the only other known survivors—three young orphan girls. Piper wasn’t able to save her friend, but she’ll be damned if she leaves the girls to the mercy of child traffickers in the country’s impoverished capital. However, taking them with her to the States requires something drastic, something crazy…something she can’t do alone.

What started as a mission, soon becomes fate. Since nearly dying on a previous op, Beckett “Ace” Morgan has no time for regrets. Life is far too short. So when he learns the brave, beautiful, selfless woman he’s rescued has a better chance of getting three orphans out of the country if she’s married, he doesn’t hesitate. Ace marries her then and there, instantly gaining the family he’s always wanted. With time, he knows his respect for Piper can grow into love, and meanwhile, he’s saved both her and their new daughters from a fast-spreading rebel incursion.

Protecting his girls on foreign soil turns out to be the easy part of the team’s mission. Protecting them from a threat waiting at home may be the biggest fight of Ace’s life.

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From the very first page this book had me on the edge of my seat.

Piper’s friend Kaylee is serving with the Peace Corp in Timor-Leste, a small island country near Australia. Needing to do something out of the ordinary for her, Piper agrees to visit.

With the threat of rebellion, Piper is nervous but Kaylee eases her fears and they are at an orphanage a few miles from Kaylee’s home when the rebels decide the time is right to strike.

Hidden in a crawl space with three of the orphans, Piper is scared yet determined to keep the girls safe. Filled with uncertainty she’s trying to formulate a plan to get away from the orphanage when American voices signal the answer to her prayers.

For Ace and his team the discovery of Piper with the three orphan girls definitely throws a wrench into the plans. Expecting to only rescue Piper and Kaylee now they have the children as well, but no Kaylee.

Phantom finds Kaylee, but it’s to late for her and they are forced by the approach of the rebels to leave without her body.

Not a usual extraction as they have to traverse the mountain and get to the capital on foot.

This is a favorite scene when they stop the first night.

Bubba’s grin faded and he stepped toward her. He didn’t stand quite as close to her as Ace had, but he definitely definitely entered her personal space.

“You’re doing great, Piper. I know Ace already told you that, but he wasn’t kidding. The best thing you could have done was keep yourself safe and alive. You and those girls. And you haven’t panicked. We’ve seen so many people who have died in situations much like yours, simply because they couldn’t keep themselves calm. So thank you. Thank you for letting us find you alive. All of us will do whatever it takes to keep you that way.”

Then he nodded at both her and Ace, and turned to walk back toward the others.

Piper glanced at Ace in confusion. “He was thanking me for being alive?”

Ace nodded. “We’ve had our fair share of missions where we weren’t successful in getting the targets home alive.”

“Like Kalee.”

“Like Kalee,” Ace confirmed.

“Is that the only reason Phantom’s so upset?” she asked.

Ace shrugged. “I think so, yes. The thought of leaving someone behind, even if they aren’t alive, is abhorrent to us. Kalee’s not a SEAL, but she’s an American. And…” His voice trailed off.

“And?” Piper asked, putting her hand on Ace’s sleeve.

“And Phantom doesn’t like to fail. He’s extremely hard on himself, probably because his dad expected perfection from him when he was growing up.”

“Oh. Yeah, I can imagine how frustrating it would be to not be able to do the job you were assigned.”

Ace’s finger went under her chin, and he brought her eyes back up to his own. “Phantom doesn’t hate you, Piper. He’s just frustrated. He knows as well as the rest of us that it’s more important to get you and the girls to safety than to bring Kalee’s body back to the States.”

“It’s not fair,” Piper said quietly.

“It’s not,” Ace agreed.

Licking her dry lips, Piper said, “We should probably help get things set up for the night.”

“Nah, the guys have things under control.”

Piper gave him a small smile. “Still. It’s not a good example to show the girls.”

“True,” Ace agreed. Then he did something that completely flustered Piper. He ran a hand over her filthy, mussed hair and murmured, “Beautiful. Even covered in dirt, tired, and out of your element, you’re beautiful.” He dropped his hand slowly, and then turned to gesture to the group. “After you.”

Knowing she was probably blushing again, Piper walked ahead of him toward the others.

Two hours later, the sun had fallen below the horizon and the jungle around them was pitch dark. Piper and the girls had crawled into a space between two large tree trunks to try to get some sleep before they got started toward the capital again in the morning. The SEALs all huddled together nearby for about fifteen minutes or so, leaving Piper to talk to the girls.

“Rani, are you okay?” she asked.

The little girl nodded. She was curled up against Piper’s side and had her head resting on her shoulder.

“Sinta?”

“I’m okay,” the seven-year-old told her. She was on the other side of Rani, curled up in the dirt as if it was just another night for her. Piper didn’t like that the girls were way more comfortable sleeping out in the open jungle on the ground than she felt they should be.

Turning her head, Piper said, “Kemala? Are you good?”

A faint mumble was the only answer to her question.

Sighing, Piper said, “I know this isn’t what you expected when you crawled under the floor with me. I’m sorry Kalee’s not here and it’s me instead. I’m doing my best to keep you all safe…and I know you’re upset with me for some reason. Talk to me, Kemala. I’ll do whatever I can to make you feel better.”

In response, she felt the teenager turn over, giving Piper her back.

Frustrated and depressed, she sighed again. “I don’t mind that you won’t talk to me. I’m still going to do whatever I can to make sure you’re safe,” she told Kemala.

A small light came toward them, and Piper turned her attention to the men approaching.

“It’s us,” Ace said softly. “Me and Bubba.”

“Hi,” Piper said inanely. She knew it would be the two of them because after they’d eaten dinner—more MREs—Ace had informed her of the sleeping arrangements and how the men would be taking shifts, staying awake to make sure no one was able to sneak up on them in the middle of the night. It made her feel better knowing they wouldn’t be ambushed.

He’d told her that he and Bubba would be sleeping near her and the girls, just as an extra layer of protection. It had hit her in that moment how the SEALs were truly putting their lives in danger to make sure they got to the capital safe and sound. It humbled and awed her. Piper wasn’t sure she was worth the effort they were putting into her rescue, but the little girls certainly were. They hadn’t had a chance to live yet, and nothing that had happened had been their fault. They were all caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“Scoot over, Piper,” Ace said as he carefully stepped closer.

She did as he asked, and moved herself and Rani to the right. Sinta scooted as well, until her back was up against the tree on one side of them. Kemala had turned over and was watching Ace closely.

He sat next to Piper and immediately lay down. He reached over and effortlessly pulled Piper up and over his body, until she was lying full length on top of him. Then he held out an arm and gestured to Rani. “Come here, little one.” Rani immediately snuggled up against his side. Sinta curled up behind Rani again, one arm around the little girl, her hand touching Ace’s side.

Then Ace turned to Kemala and put his other arm out. “You too, Kemala. I know you’re too old to need snuggles, but it’s been a long time since I’ve slept in the jungle, and I could use some reassurance.”

Piper had no idea if Kemala understood all of what Ace had said, but surprisingly, she giggled slightly and moved closer to him.

Piper pushed her chest up and off Ace, propping herself up on her hands, and whispered, “What are you doing?”

“I promised to try to keep the creepies away from you,” Ace said matter-of-factly.

She simply stared at him. She could only see the outline of his head, and not much else because of the darkness, but she was stunned. “I’m okay,” she told him.

“I know you are. Now come down here and relax,” he ordered.

Slowly, Piper lowered herself onto his chest and put her cheek over his heart. Ace as a makeshift bed wasn’t exactly comfortable, as the hard armor and the lumps and bumps from whatever he had in all the pockets on his uniform poked into her, but she’d choose to sleep on top of him any day of the week if it meant she wasn’t on the jungle floor.
Stoker, Susan. Securing Piper (SEAL of Protection: Legacy Book 3) (pp. 63-68). Stoker Aces Production, LLC. Kindle Edition.

There are several trials and tribulations as they make their way to the capital.

Once there, so many issues come up and the solutions will surprise and delight you.

More than one interesting turn of events and the lead in to the next books will have you begging for more!

5 Contented Purrs for Susan!

Click the Cover for Buy Links and More!

Coming Soon!

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 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.


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