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Defending Sophie…an all-time winner
When I was invited by Elle James to write the lead book in the Team Trojan mini series within the very successful Brotherhood Protectors, I was highly honored. I knew I had to make it a winner, especially with the incredible authors sharing the series with me:
but I never dreamed exactly how much a winner it would be. This book has blown away most of my others and readers are still flocking to it.
Protecting Sophie, is a great introduction to the newest Brotherhood Protectors. Scam artists, murder, an upcoming wedding and some instant attraction that practically sizzles off the pages makes for a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. *****
A fantastic read that should not be missed in a series that promises to be just as fantastic. Highly recommend! *****
What will happen between them if they catch these guys ? *****
Things move at a furious pace including the two falling head over for each other. *****
Excellent story! Fantastic writing and amazing characters. *****
What’s it about?
Being unceremoniously discharged from 10th Special Forces due to internal politics, five members of Team Trojan needed to find a use for their specialized skills. They were fighting men, trained to protect, guard, extract and rescue. Sitting around being bitter about it only made things worse but what the hell was out there for them? An invitation to join the Colorado division of Brotherhood Protectors gave them an unexpected opportunity to show the world what they could continue to do.
For Bodie Jackson, leader of Team Trojan, who only knew a life of service in the military, the invitation was a lifeline. As he listened to the founder of Brotherhood Protectors, former SEAL Hank Patterson, he realized the military may have done him a favor. He now had a place where he could still use his knowledge and skills to serve others and keep his team intact. The one thing he didn’t have, and at the moment wasn’t worried about, was a woman in his life. Then a photographer with deep blue eyes and honey brown hair blew into his life.
Sophie Hart came to Fool’s Gold, Colorado, hoping to distance herself from a bad relationship that had turned into a nightmare that almost destroyed her. Accepting her close friend’s invitation to do the photography for her wedding was exactly the change she needed. Lots of girl time and lots of fun. That is until she photographed a killing in a ghost town. And met Bodie. All her good intentions to avoid men flew out the window when the tall, hunky, sexy guy became her defender, along with Team Trojan.
Try as they might, they couldn’t fight the blaze of attraction consuming them. But first they had to find the killers who were searching for Sophie.
Sophie Hart leaned out the open window of the very old building and glanced up and down the dusty street below. Images she could capture on her camera flew through her brain. She’d been out since late morning, scouting ghost towns that were remnants of the Colorado mining boom and bust, stunned to find so many of them. The tourist center was only too happy to give her all the information she wanted as well as maps and brochures. She’d learned that when mines played out people just left the towns and moved to the next lode. She was especially interested in those tourists mostly ignored. She wanted something different and unique.
Even though her specialty was portrait and event photography, she still loved taking pictures of interesting places. Coming here for her friend, Mia’s, wedding gave her the opportunity for a lot of that, especially since Mia wanted certain specific shots, like of the wedding party in a ghost town.
Really, Mia? Wedding pictures in a ghost town?
There was one practically across the highway from Lost Valley Ranch, Stephensville Ghost Town, but it got a decent amount of traffic and that wasn’t what she wanted.
“Find one that isn’t touristy,” Mia said. “You can probably get a list and maybe a map from the Fools Gold Tourist Office. I want to be able to spend time taking the pictures without having strangers around.”
Well, there was no chance of anyone interrupting them here, that was for sure.
She’d wanted to ask her friend if she was nuts, but then when she started asking people about these out-of-the-way ghost towns their answers piqued her imagination. She thought, wow! this could be fun. And because the ones she liked, the ones she deliberately looked for, weren’t on the usual touristy list and only around Fools Gold she didn’t have to worry about being interrupted or distracted while she scoped them out and took pictures.
Mia Benning had been her friend since college. She’d asked Sophie to come out to Fools Gold two weeks early so they could set up photo sessions, get the wedding portrait taken and make a list of what Mia wanted in her wedding album. She was glad for the excuse to get away from St. Louis, glad to not have to face bitter memories every day of what had all but destroyed her life. In fact, Colorado was so appealing she’d begun to think about moving her business here altogether. People everywhere wanted portraits and wedding and other memory books, and surely Mia could recommend her. So it was with an unusually happy and optimistic feeling she’d set out this morning.
She’d discovered that Colorado, even in this area, was full of ghost towns, some bigger than others and many of them not even mentioned any more. She’d found this little nugget tucked away close to Fools Gold and it was obvious from everything she saw that nobody visited it anymore. That meant they wouldn’t have to plan around other people and her brain was going crazy with possibilities. She’d already taken a bunch of shots and wanted to take several more before she left here. She’d call Mia when she was finished today and maybe they could get together for a while tonight and discuss what she had in mind.
It was slightly inconvenient that she wasn’t staying at Mia’s, but her friend’s sister was here from out of town for two weeks of prewedding festivities and the one bedroom apartment was already overcrowded with the two of them. Mia had apologized a hundred times and promised she’d made reservations at a really cool place. She hadn’t been lying.
Lost Valley Ranch dude ranch, besides being a typical dude ranch, had a great bar called Gunny’s Watering Hole for the former Gunnery Sergeant who owned it with his daughter. And besides the usual mix of tourists it also appeared to be the headquarters for some kind of organization that hired a lot of hard-bitten men. She was positive she’d never seen so much gorgeous testosterone in one place all at the same time. She had no idea who all these men were who looked like they came off a calendar for military heroes, even though they weren’t in uniform. She just knew they were very easy on the eyes.
Which was nice because all she was interested in doing was looking with a photographer’s eyes. She was done with men, Any men. They were damaging to her mental health. But Mia knew none of what happened to her and thought it was fun to have all those men there.
”You’ll love it, Sophie,” Mia told her, and she was right.
There was another plus.
“I’ll bet a lot of the guests would love pictures taken with that backdrop,” Mia added.
Her friend had been right. She’d only been there a few days but she’d been carrying her smaller camera with her wherever she went taking pictures of the ranch and people had approached her. She’d taken everyone’s name and told them she’d definitely try to work something out, depending on how long they were staying.
Gunny and RJ and JoJo, RJ’s longtime friend who also worked there, had thought it was a great idea and talked it up to the guests.
Truth be told, she liked the idea. She was really enjoying Lost Valley Ranch. The people who owned it were very nice and the abundance of eye candy was an unexpected treat. Her brain was already designing photos.
And pleasant and cordial, even if reserved. Last night, for example, she’d left Mia’s about ten, somewhat exhausted by the exuberance of Mia and her friends. But when she arrived back at the dude ranch she decided to unwind from the craziness at Mia’s and treat herself to a drink at Gunny’s Watering Hole.
The bar was half-filled when she walked in, the air humming with low level conversation. Gunny waved at her from behind the bar.
“Come on over, Miss Hart. Have a drink on the Lost Valley Ranch.”
She hitched herself onto an empty stool. “You won’t make much money giving away free drinks,” she grinned.
“No problem. Business is good and everyone deserves a free drink now and then.”
Sophie looked around the room then leaned closer to Gunny.
“Do you hire all these macho guys so you can tempt the local women to come out here drinking?”
He laughed. “RJ would say that’s very sexist of me.”
RJ was Gunny’s daughter. Sophie didn’t know much about her except she was a couple with a big guy named Jake who very obviously worshiped the ground she walked on.
“So where did they all come from.”
“There’s an agency called Brotherhood Protectors that’s set up their operation at the lodge. Jake runs it.”
“Is it like a security agency or something?”
“Or something,” he nodded. “Let me get your drink.”
“I’ll get it,” a deep voice said.
When Sophie turned to see who said it she was face to face with a man with the warmest eyes she’d ever seen and a tiny grin curbing his lips. For the first time in two years the dead flame in her body struggled to come to life, shocking the hell out of her. After what had happened she’d vowed to cut men out of her life altogether and up until now that hadn’t been a problem.
She could still feel the tingling in her hand where his had touched it when he handed her the drink. Good lord! She certainly didn’t want to step back into that muddy hell again, but even today she couldn’t get the man out of her mind. Tall, packed with solid muscle, he had piercing black eyes, a square jaw, and a muscular body. He screamed military but he wasn’t wearing a uniform and she didn’t remember anyone calling him by his rank. She remembered he was one of several tall, muscular men who looked as if they could win any war without breaking a sweat.
Sophie thought about it now as she fiddled with her camera and realized how easy it would be to fall back into that trap. And also how slick Gunny had been avoiding a real answer as to who they were. She really knew nothing about this guy except she should forget him. She had plenty to keep her busy for the next couple of weeks between showers and cocktail parties and girls’ night out and all. She certainly didn’t want to relive past disasters. But her brain would not shut off.
But I’m not here to moon over some guy I’ll probably never see again. I’m supposed to be taking pictures of the town to show Mia so we can decide where she wants me to stage the shots.
This position gave her a good view from this window of the main street plus several of the buildings. She set her camera and raised it to her eye to frame the shot when without warning a car, a silver sedan, one of the luxury models, drove down the main street and stopped right in front of her building. Her finger reflexed and the shutter clicked off several shots before she thought enough to back up.
All the car doors opened and three men climbed out. One of them was bound and gagged and doing his best to get away from the youngish man who gripped his arms. A man in grey slacks and a tailored shirt ripped the gag off the prisoner’s mouth and moved so he was standing toe to toe with him.
“How the hell could you do this? Leave me holding the bag like this? What the hell is the matter with you? We had such a good thing going. Get in, get the money, close up shop and get out. When those idiots decided to see if our project actually existed, what did you do? Pulled all your money from the account and got ready to leave.”
“I—I didn’t have a choice. If they file a complaint the first thing that happens is a search for our bank accounts and a freeze on all of them. I had to move right away and I couldn’t find you to tell you.”
“How about using your damn cell phone?” grey slacks asked. “We could have done this together and split before the cops looked for us. Damn and damn. Who the hell knew somebody would decide they actually wanted to see the property? Find it online? That’s never happened before. We always ended things before it could get to that point.”
“But this time I just couldn’t wait for us to close up shop the way we always did, grab the money and disappear. I needed it right now. Some really nasty people are on my tail and I was out of time.”
“So how much good did it do you?” grey slacks demanded. “We would have been cleanly gone before anyone could come after us. Changed our names again, laid low for a while and popped up someplace else. Now I’ve got to get the hell out of here long before I planned and hope no one’s on my tail. But at least your disappearance will buy me some time. I can blame it all on you and play the innocent. No one will look for you here. By the time they find you all they’ll have are your bones.”
“No, listen, please. We can still…”
He was still talking when grey slacks rapped on the passenger door of the car.
“Get out,” he told whoever was inside. “We have to do this.”
Sophie couldn’t hear what the person in the car was saying but apparently he was arguing with grey slacks, who it seemed wasn’t budging.
“It’s your ass as much as ours,” grey slacks said. “If we let him get away with this we’re fair game for anyone else. Now come on. This is what I pay you for.”
At last, with obvious reluctance, a stocky man dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt, climbed out of the car. Because he was on the side away from Sophie and looking at the man who was being held off to the right, she could barely make out his face. She just stood, frozen in place, watching as he took a gun out of his pocket and shot the man who was talking.
“There. You satisfied?” he asked grey slacks.
“Yes. We’ll leave him here where no one will find him until his body has disintegrated and no one will be able to attach him to me.”
“You hope.” Then, still facing away from her, almost as if he knew she was there, he climbed back into the car and yanked the door shut.
Sophie blinked her eyes, not sure she’d actually seen what her brain told her she had. But when she looked again the man was still lying completely still in the street, a huge blood stain on the front of his shirt. For a moment shock paralyzed her.