Tag Archives: @Susan_Stoker

Defending Everly – Mountain Mercenaries Book 5 by Susan Stoker

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

Susan Stoker


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
NY Times, USA Today and
Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author

Susan Stoker


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.


“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.”


“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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Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
Amazon Author Page


Claiming Sarah – Ace Security Book 5 by Susan Stoker

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


All defenses are down in the fifth Ace Security novel from New York Times bestselling author Susan Stoker.

Sarah Butler isn’t flattered. She’s angry and unnerved. She’s been getting intimate gifts from a man she barely knows. Nothing threatening yet, but there’s just a weird vibe she can’t ignore. Her recourse is Ace Security. Their solution: self-defense lessons at Rock Hard Gym with a personal, hands-on instructor. One look at the bearded, tattooed, green-eyed alpha is enough to take Sarah’s breath away.

Cole Johnson is definitely the man for the job. He’s eager to train her. Eager to get closer. And when it comes to Sarah’s instincts, Cole knows she’s not imagining things. He’s also not imagining the intense attraction between them—and his desire to protect her is growing. But so are Sarah’s fears, the worst of which come true when she disappears.

Enlisting the help of Ace Security, Cole will stop at nothing to find the love of his life…before she vanishes forever.

Sarah has a problem and folks think she’s just overreacting. A former patient’s son is sending her gifts and ‘love’ letters, even though she’s told him to stop. The police just told her to be careful, but there’s nothing they could do as there were no obvious threats.

Frustrated she went to Ace Security, only to find they are very expensive. they did however recommend getting self-defense classes at Rock Hard Gym.

Cole almost blows this first meeting thanks to the receptionist not closing his office door, but he manages to salvage the relationship.

This is a favorite scene.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter if an ex-husband or boyfriend was harassing her, or a perfect stranger. She could end up just as dead no matter who was making her life hell.

Sarah swallowed hard. “I just . . . I need to be able to protect myself . . .just in case.”

Cole waited for her to go on, but when she simply sat on his couch, silent, he realized she was done talking. That was all she was going to give him. If it had been anyone else, he probably would’ve been relieved and finished up quickly by scheduling a time for their first lesson.

But this time, Cole pushed for more. “Who’s harassing you, Sarah?”

She stared at him for a long moment, and Cole did his best to try to make himself look as nonthreatening as possible, which was kind of a joke, considering his tattoos and muscles.

Finally, she took a deep breath. “It’s stupid.”

“If someone has done something to make you feel like you need to take self-defense classes, it’s not stupid.”

“You aren’t going to think it’s anything to be nervous about.”

“Why don’t you let me be the judge of that,” Cole told her, even more worried now. He had a feeling if she was downplaying the threat against her, it was probably way worse than he’d imagined.

“It’s just that . . . I’ve been to the cops, and the guy I talked to flat out told me there was nothing he could do, and that I was likely imagining danger where there wasn’t any. Even my coworkers think I’m crazy.”

Cole leaned forward. He wanted to cover her hands with his own in comfort, but settled for doing what he could to reassure her with words. “If that little voice in your head is telling you that you’re in danger, then you are. There’ve been plenty of times in my life when I’ve sensed something was off or wrong, and have been proven right. But regardless, whether you’re imagining things or not, that’s not my place to say. If you want to learn how to protect yourself to feel less vulnerable, then I can teach you the skills to do just that. It’s not a matter of me believing you or not. But with that said . . . you can trust me, Sarah. If you tell me you’re in danger, then I’ll one hundred percent believe you.”


Her question was blunt and to the point, and she looked right into his eyes as she asked. “Because my best friend was stalked for over a decade by a man who others thought was perfectly normal. Because I’ve seen case after case Ace Security has taken on where men have sworn up and down that their ex-wives or girlfriends were batshit crazy, and the police didn’t believe them . . . and in the end, they were proven correct when they were attacked by the same women authorities deemed ‘normal’ and ‘docile.’

“Because most importantly, when I look at you, I can tell you’re at the end of your rope and you need help. Let me help you, Sarah.”

She didn’t cry. Didn’t wring her hands. She simply began to talk.

“I met Owen Montrone six months ago. His mother was in the hospital where I work and was very sick. I was nice to them both, as I am to everyone. Owen is . . . slow.”

“What do you mean? Mentally handicapped?” Cole asked.

“Not really. I mean, I’m not sure. I think he just has a really low IQ. His mom told me he was in special classes throughout his school years, and he’s lived with her for his entire life. Anyway, he seemed lonely in the hospital. A little lost. I went to lunch in the cafeteria with him once, after his mom pleaded with me to spend some time with him. A few weeks later, I heard his mother died. Not long after that, I started getting letters from Owen.

“I wasn’t sure how he got my address, until I mentioned it at work. The receptionist said she’d given it to him when he’d called one day. He’d told her he wanted to thank me for all the help I’d given his mom, and she thought it was sweet. She was reprimanded, but by then it was too late. After the letters, the gifts started arriving. And I’ve sometimes seen him around . . . in the same places I shop and eat out. I’ve asked him to please stop, but he hasn’t.”

“What kind of gifts?” Cole asked.

“Flowers. Candy. Stuffed animals. You name it.”

Cole’s brow wrinkled. “Anything blatantly threatening?”


The word was said with a hint of hostility, and Cole understood why the police had basically patted her on the head and sent her on her way.“And the letters?”

“They’re rambling, but there’s nothing sexual or otherwise hostile in them. Nothing that the police decided was in any way a threat. He just talks about his day and how I make him smile and stuff like that. The cops told me it sounds like he has a crush on me and is probably harmless.” Her knuckles turned white as she clenched her hands together in her lap. “But they’re wrong,” she said quietly. “Don’t ask me how I know. It’s a weird vibe I get when I see he’s sent something, but I know they’re wrong.”

“I believe you,” Cole said.

Her eyes met his, and he couldn’t miss the hope he saw there.

“Even though all he’s done is give me presents and notes?”

“You asked him to stop, and he didn’t. He sounds like he’s obsessed,” Cole told her. “He can go from being nice to enraged that you haven’t returned his affections in a heartbeat.”

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?”


“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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Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
Amazon Author Page


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

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


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?”


“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.”


“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.


“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
NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author
Susan Stoker


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.


“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!

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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 Harlow – Mountain Mercenaries Book 4 by Susan Stoker

Defending Harlow
Mountain Mercenaries Book 4
NY Times, USA Today & Wall Street Journal
Bestselling Author

Susan Stoker


Lowell “Black” Lockard, former Navy SEAL, has watched his fellow Mountain Mercenaries settle down with the women of their dreams, but he’s convinced he doesn’t need love. Then he gets a call from Harlow Reese—a chef at a local women’s shelter—and begins to reconsider his decision.

After being continually harassed by a local band of punks, Harlow asks Lowell to give the women of the shelter lessons in self-defense. She doesn’t expect him to take such a special interest in her safety, but he insists on escorting her to and from work, never taking no for an answer. Not that Harlow minds the personal touch…especially when it’s coming from her former teenage crush.

Despite her long history of bad dating luck, seeing Black again makes Harlow rethink her self-imposed celibacy. Easy on the eyes and hard to forget, the man has morphed into an alpha stud. And Harlow may be exactly the type of woman Black is looking for. Making her feel safe isn’t only a duty; it’s a pleasure. But the threats are escalating. The motives are a mystery. And as the danger burns almost as hot as their passion, there’s much more at risk than their hearts.

Harlow has given up on dating, she’s had so many terrible, and some positively atrocious first dates, it’s just not worth it anymore. She ran into Lowell ‘Black’ Lockard as he volunteered at the women’s shelter where she’s one of the chefs. She had a crush on him in high school, but they are both very different now. She had asked for his number since she wanted to take gun safety lessons at his shooting range.

Black was surprised when Harlow calls him, he thought she changed her mind about the lessons. Although he finds out there is something else bothering her. She is being harassed by men near the shelter and so are the women and children who live there.

As the guys start stepping up with more security at the house, Black also steps up his game. He wants to date her but somehow he has to convince her it’s not a date.

This is a favorite scene, the first surprise, ‘not a date’.

She hadn’t slept well the night before. She kept having nightmares about the shelter blowing up and watching from the outside as everyone burned to death inside. So when her alarm went off at three thirty, she was tempted to roll over and ignore it, but had a feeling that Lowell would drag her out of bed if he had to. She could tell he was excited about wherever they were going.

Besides . . . she was curious.

And she was looking forward to whatever he had planned.

It had been a long time since anyone had surprised her with anything. Generally, she didn’t like surprises, but she had a feeling whatever Lowell had up his sleeve would be epic.

She’d told him she trusted him, and she hadn’t lied.

So here she was. Four in the morning, tired as hell, but game for whatever Lowell wanted to do.

Harlow hadn’t had much time to explore the area, so when she finally thought about paying attention to where they were going, she was already lost. The darkness didn’t help her orientation either.

“Can you tell me where we’re going yet?” It was the first thing she’d said other than a mumbled “Good morning” when he’d knocked on her door.

“You’ll see.”

Too tired to complain, Harlow put her drink in the cup holder and her head back on the seat and closed her eyes.

“Sleep, Harl,” Black said quietly.

She felt his hand on her thigh and looked at him. “I didn’t sleep well last night,” she apologized.

He looked upset at her words, but merely said, “I’ll wake you when we get there.”

She wanted to tease him by saying of course he’d wake her when they got to the mystery destination they were headed toward. It wasn’t like he was going to drive her somewhere, then let her sleep in the car while he got out and did whatever. But instead she said, “I’m just going to rest my eyeballs for a bit. I’m not going to sleep.”

He grinned at her. “Okay, baby. You rest your eyeballs.”

She shut her eyes again, and the last thought she had was how nice his hand felt on her leg and how glad she was that he hadn’t removed it.

What could’ve been seconds or hours later, Harlow felt a hand on her shoulder and heard Lowell’s low voice. “Wake up, baby. We’re here.”

Sighing, Harlow sat up and opened her eyes. If possible, she was even more tired than she’d been earlier. She looked out the windshield and blinked in confusion. They were sitting in front of a fairly large building. She didn’t recognize it and had no idea where they were, but a sign over the door said CHALLENGE UNLIMITED.

Running a hand over her face, she said the first thing that came to mind. “Um . . . I don’t like challenges. This isn’t one of those superhuman workout things, is it? Because I’m telling you right now that I’ve never done a burpee in my life, and I’m not about to start now.”

Lowell let out a loud guffaw, and she turned to look at him in surprise. She’d seen him laugh before, but it was a rare thing.

“I thought you trusted me,” he said when he had himself under control again.

“I do. But you also told me that you worked out every morning, and since we’re up at the crack of dawn parked in front of a business with the word challenge in the name, what else am I supposed to think?”

“I’m coming around,” he told her instead of answering the question. Harlow picked up her now-lukewarm coffee—they must’ve been driving for more than a couple minutes—and took a large sip. She figured that she would definitely need the caffeine for whatever Lowell had planned.

He opened her door and held out a hand. “You don’t have to chug that. Bring it with you.”

“You mean they allow coffee in hell?” she quipped.

He chuckled, and once again, the sound went straight to her belly. She accepted his hand to help her out of the low car, then clutched her travel mug in her other hand as he shut and locked the car door before they headed for the entrance to the building.

They walked hand in hand, and he opened the door for her. They entered a brightly lit retail space with everything from bicycles to clothing for sale. She looked at Lowell in confusion, but he simply strode to the back of the room, where a desk of sorts was set up.

“Lowell Lockard and Harlow Reese, checking in,” he told the teenage girl behind the large wooden kiosk.

The teenager greeted them with a smile and said, “Hi! Welcome to Challenge Unlimited. We’ve got a continental breakfast set up in the back room. There are waivers you’ll need to sign, and once everyone checks in, we’ll play the safety video. We should be ready to go in about thirty minutes. If you need to use the restroom, make sure you do so before we leave. You won’t have another chance once we get to the top.”

Harlow blinked. Top? Top of what? She opened her mouth to ask the girl in front of them, but Lowell spoke before she could.

“Thank you. We’ll be ready.” Then he pulled her in the direction the teenager had pointed. T

hey were almost through the door to the back room when Harlow tugged hard on Lowell’s hand, bringing him to a stop.

He turned to look at her, and she almost melted at the concern in his eyes. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Nothing’s wrong. I just want to know right this second what we’re doing here and what’s going on. Why can’t I pee later? And what are we going to the top of?”

Lowell looked at her for a beat, then said, “I’m a little stunned that you don’t like surprises.”

“I just never have. Especially not when it comes to doing something with someone of the opposite sex. It’s never turned out well for me, which you’re very aware of. I’m two seconds away from sitting on that bench over there”—she pointed at an uncomfortable-looking wooden bench along one wall—“and just waiting for you to be done with whatever it is you came here to do.”

“We’re going to be driven up to the top of Pikes Peak, and then we’ll come down on bikes,” Lowell told her without hesitation.

“Um . . . you do remember that I’m, like, the most uncoordinated person ever, right?”

“You don’t actually have to do much other than steer,” he tried to reassure her.

“Lowell, the last time I got on a bike, I was ten,” she told him.

He frowned. “You’re really worried about this, aren’t you?”

“Yes!” she practically shouted. Then took a deep breath. “Pikes Peak is, like, really high. I look at it outside my window at home. I’m going to fly head over heels over the handlebars or something. How fast are we going to be driving—er, biking? I’ll kill myself if I crash at high speed.”

Lowell took her head in his hands. “Breathe, Harl.”

“I told you once that I’m not an outdoorsy girl. I thought you understood. I just . . .” Her words trailed away.

“What?” he urged.

She’d never admit what she was about to say if they were on an actual date. The last thing she wanted to do was admit to something that would turn him off. But since things between them weren’t like that, she threw caution to the wind.

“I don’t want to embarrass you. I saw a few of the others who’ve already checked in milling about.

They’re all . . . athletic looking. Like you. My butt probably won’t even fit on the seat. I won’t be able to keep up with everyone, and then you’ll feel like you have to hang back with me, and you’ll be miserable.”

“Harlow, you could never embarrass me. I’m proud to hang out with you. You’re an amazing person and beautiful to boot. Even half-asleep, you’re exquisite. I thought you would enjoy this. There’s really no athleticism involved. I swear. I saw the bikes we’ll be using, and they aren’t anything professional. They have big, cushiony seats. Hell, you think I like sitting on bicycle seats? That shit hurts a man’s junk. Our balls get all squished and shit. And as far as keeping up, we’ll get on the bicycles at the top of the hill and coast all the way down. It’s not a race, just a nice, easy ride downhill. We’ll be wearing safety gear, and you only have to go as fast as you’re comfortable with. I just figured you might like to do something fun. To get your mind off what’s been going on. But if you really want to leave, we will. I’d never force you to do something you don’t want to.”

Harlow stared into his eyes and could see the sincerity in them. He had a point about the small seats and his manly parts. Thinking about his dick made her feel all squirmy inside, so she tried to distract herself. She licked her lips, and saw his eyes dart down to her mouth before meeting hers once more. She liked the look in his eyes, but she still wasn’t sure about this.

“I’ll make you a deal,” Lowell said. “We’ll watch their safety video, and if you still have doubts, we’ll bail. We can go out to breakfast instead. Then I’ll take you home.”

“But you already paid,” she protested.

He shrugged. “It’s not a big deal.”

Hating that she was being a chicken, Harlow took a deep breath and nodded. “I can do this. I’m not going to wuss out. I just had a momentary freak-out. But if something happens, I get to say I told you so.”
Stoker, Susan. Defending Harlow (Mountain Mercenaries Book 4) (pp. 109-114). Kindle Edition.

Black plans many ‘surprises’ for Harlow in the process of protecting her. So much fun and the whole not dating thing kept made me chuckle every time.

I thoroughly enjoyed her bad date stories, they made me yearn for that HEA.  It was great seeing the rest of the crew while also finding out some surprises, plus learning more about the mysterious Rex.

Lots of suspense, intrigue and a few confrontations with more than one person as they find the instigators. With just enough heat in more ways than one.

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 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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Securing Sidney – SEAL of Protection: Legacy Book 2 by Susan Stoker

Securing Sidney
SEAL of Protection: Legacy Book 2
NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author
Susan Stoker


For Sidney Hale, rescuing dogs is more than a hobby. It’s a calling. A deep-seated need. An unstoppable compulsion. For reasons so unsettling, she shares them with no one…until she meets Decker. After coming to her rescue while Sidney battled to save a dog—literally—the gorgeous SEAL proves he can be trusted with her secrets, her safety…maybe even her heart.

Saving an abused pit bull from a suspected dog fighter brings Decker “Gumby” Kincade not only the dog he’s always wanted, but the first woman in ages to catch his interest. Sidney’s reason for rescuing Hannah, and animals like her, is shocking…but it makes Gumby want her even more. Her harrowing past has made her the strong, brave, compassionate woman she is today. She could be The One…if Gumby can help curb her habit of putting herself squarely in danger’s path.

But he may be too late. Hannah’s previous owner is enraged over her loss…and looking for revenge.

** Securing Sidney is the 2nd book in the SEAL of Protection: Legacy Series. Each book is a stand-alone, with no cliffhanger endings.

** This story examines the stark reality of dogfighting and other animal abuse, and includes brief descriptions that may be unpleasant for some readers. .

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This is a very emotional and scary book as Susan delves into the world of dog-fighting. It’s not only the abuse the dogs are put through, but also the depravity of the people involved.

It opens after our heroine Sidney is involved in a fight over a severely abused dog. Gumby drives the dog to the vet and Sidney follows him. On that drive he not only decides to keep the dog, but also names her Hannah. Hannah’s reactions to him are absolutely priceless.

This is a favorite scene.

“We’ve got an injured dog here. We need to see a doctor immediately!”

The receptionist stood and gestured for them to follow her. Gumby was surprised when he felt Sidney’s hand land on the small of his back, and she practically glued herself to his side as they entered the small treatment room.

“A technician will be here momentarily to get your information and triage your pet.”

“Oh, but she’s—”

“Thank you,” Gumby said, interrupting Sidney.

When the lady had left, Sidney turned to him and frowned. “Why’d you cut me off?”

“The last thing I want is for them to think Hannah is a stray, or unwanted, because she’s not.”

Sidney opened her mouth to say something else, but a technician burst into the room before she could say a word.

“I heard we have an emergency. What’s— Oh my!”

Gumby very gently placed Hannah on the raised table in the room and kept his hand on her head. “Yeah. It’s bad.”

“What happened?” the vet tech breathed.

“She was taken out of my yard,” Gumby lied. “And we think the guy who took her was training her to be a bait dog or something for illegal dogfighting. He poured something caustic on her back, and it looks like she was dragged behind a car. Maybe he was trying to condition her and get her to run, but she couldn’t keep up.”

“Poor baby,” the tech crooned, leaning over to pet Hannah.

The hackles on the back of the dog’s neck rose and she growled low in her throat.

“Hannah,” Gumby said in a low, hard tone. The dog immediately stopped and whimpered instead. “Sorry about that,” he told the technician. “She’s usually very docile, but we don’t know what was done to her between when she was taken and when we got her back just now.”

“Of course,” the woman said. “It’ll take her some time to trust again.” She handed over a couple sheets of paper to Sidney. “I’ll need you to fill those out and the doctor should be in here in a few minutes.” She turned to Hannah. “Hang on, girl. We’ll have you fixed up in a jiffy.”

The second the woman left the room, Sidney turned to Gumby and whisper-yelled, “Why’d you tell them she was stolen out of your yard? That was stupid.”

Gumby ran his hand over Hannah’s head and didn’t miss the way the dog sighed in contentment and tried to crawl closer to him.

“What should I have said? That I just met the dog thirty minutes ago when you were in a fistfight with the asshole who had abused her? That you stole her from him? You think that would’ve gotten her treated any faster?” He went on before she could answer his rhetorical questions. “No. They would’ve wanted to know more details, and when we admitted that we know nothing about Hannah’s history, they might’ve been reluctant to treat her at all. This way, she’ll get the medical care she needs as soon as possible. Besides, I’m keeping her.”

Gumby had been thinking about getting a dog for a while now. Ever since he’d almost died in Bahrain on his last mission. He’d always regretted not having one, and Hannah seemed to have been dropped in his lap. It was a sign—and Gumby was a big believer in them.

“We should go through the coordinator at the local rescue group I work with. I was going to bring her there. They get medical attention for the dogs that need it, and they do extensive background checks on potential adopters,” Sidney told him.

“You do this a lot?” he asked.

“Do what?”

“Track down people you think are up to no good on social media? Then spy on them and, when they cross the line, take on men twice your size in order to rescue the animals they’re abusing?”

Without blinking, Sidney said, “Yes.”

It was Gumby’s turn to be surprised. “Seriously?”

She nodded. “The animals are innocent. They didn’t ask to be thrown into a pit to fight another dog. Or to be starved. Or to be chained up in a backyard for their entire lives. I’ll take on whoever I have to in order to save a helpless, innocent animal.”

“You ever gotten in trouble because of it?”

She grinned. “You mean do the low-life, abusive bastards turn me in? No. They’re all too busy trying to protect themselves and stay under the radar of the cops to file complaints against me.”

Gumby thought she looked a little too pleased with herself. But there was something in her eyes as she explained how she championed animals—guilt. And now he wanted to know why. Wanted to know her story.

His attention was diverted when the veterinarian entered the room. She was all business, and the next ten minutes were taken up with her examining poor Hannah and getting as much information as she could from Gumby…which wasn’t much. He told her to do a full blood panel on Hannah, as he wasn’t sure what had been done to her since she’d been taken. He wasn’t proud of his lies, but if they helped get Hannah the care she needed and deserved, so be it.

The vet agreed that it looked like some sort of acid had been poured onto her back and that she’d been dragged. The dog had no toenails left and the pads of her feet had been worn off. It was the vet’s opinion that her back looked worse than it probably was. She didn’t think the hair would grow back, but she thought the wound should heal up pretty well.

When they went to take Hannah to the back to treat her, however, the mild-mannered dog disappeared, and she began growling at the vet and her assistant.

Stepping back, the vet said, “Maybe you should come back with us. Just until we manage to get her sedated.”

“Sedated?” Gumby asked.

“Yeah. Cleaning these wounds is gonna hurt, and I’d rather not harm her any more than I have to.”

Gumby immediately nodded. “Right. Okay, we can come with you.”

“I think just you,” the vet said, giving her assistant a look Gumby couldn’t interpret. “Your…friend can stay and fill out the paperwork.”

“That okay, Sid?” Gumby asked, the nickname just coming out naturally.

Sidney nodded. “Of course.”

“You think she’ll let you pick her up again?” the vet asked.

“Only one way to see.” Gumby leaned down and whispered to Hannah, “What do ya say? These nice people are gonna get you all fixed up. Let’s not growl at them, okay?”

In response, Hannah lifted her head and licked Gumby’s face with a loud slurp.

Everyone chuckled.

“Guess that means she’s okay with it.” And with that, Gumby once again picked up the large dog and followed the vet into the back area of the animal hospital.
Susan Stoker. Securing Sidney: SEAL of Protection: Legacy, Book 2 (Kindle Locations 67-121). Stoker Aces Production, LLC.

As Decker and Sidney get to know each other, there is more than one bomb shell dropping relating to her past. Her compulsion to save these poor animals is startling and heartbreaking.

Her neighbor Nora is a hoot, and Caite becomes her friend in an unusual way.

Hannah becomes attached not only to Decker but also Sidney as she heals from her horrific wounds.

We get to see Carolyn in this one as well as Rocco and the rest of this team.

I couldn’t put this book down, as I cried, laughed and held my breath. It was disturbing, scary, romantic, loving and sexy as all get out.

Susan once again proves that any topic can be turned into a book, and this one definitely brought out the horror of dog-fighting and the difficulties of taking it down.

I can’t wait to see what the next book in this series will bring.

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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