Hot SEALs: Protecting Julie (Kindle Worlds) (SEAL of Protection Book 0)

BOOK: Hot SEALs: Protecting Julie (Kindle Worlds) (SEAL of Protection Book 0)
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Text copyright ©2015 by the Author.

This work was made possible by a special license through the Kindle Worlds publishing program and has not necessarily been reviewed by Cat Johnson. All characters, scenes, events, plots and related elements appearing in the original Hot SEALs remain the exclusive copyrighted and/or trademarked property of Cat Johnson, or their affiliates or licensors.

For more information on Kindle Worlds: http://www.amazon.com/kindleworlds

 

Protecting Julie

 

A SEAL of Protection

Hot SEALs Crossover Novella

 

by Susan Stoker

Julie Lytle is working hard to turn her life around. Being kidnapped by sex traffickers changed her drastically, but having grown up the spoiled daughter of a senator, Julie wishes she could’ve changed just a little sooner. Shamed by her behavior toward the woman rescued alongside her, and further embarrassed and guilt-racked over the way she treated the SEALs who risked their lives on her behalf, Julie is desperate to make amends.

 

With help from Missy Greenwood, a D.C. acquaintance who’d endured her own harrowing experience, Julie connects with Patrick Hurt, Commander of the SEALs who’d saved her life. If she can prove she’s not the same person who mistreated his team, he’ll grant her request to meet them—but not before the protective, sexy man makes a surprising request of his own.

 

**Protecting Julie is a Kindle World crossover novella with the SEAL of Protection Series and Cat Johnson’s Hot SEALs Series. It can be read as a stand-alone, but we recommended reading the other books in the SEAL of Protection Series in order to get maximum enjoyment.

To sign up for Susan’s Newsletter go to
:
http://bit.ly/SusanStokerNewsletter

 

Dedication

 

To all the other amazing authors in the first wave of the Hot SEALs crossover books…you are amazing. I appreciate being invited to join in the fun. The encouragement we all gave each other was what writing should always be about.

To Cat Johnson—thank you for letting me introduce my SEALs into your world, if only for a moment. It was fun to write your characters into my story.

To Elle James—thanks for encouraging me to jump into the project with you. I needed the push and it’s been awesome.

To Beth—Your notes as you read through my books are awesome…and your eagle eyes that caught the things that no one else saw was invaluable. Thank you.

To Amy—as always, you rock when it comes to brainstorming. Thank you for your encouragement and cheerleading when I’m wondering what the heck I’m doing.

Chapter One

 

 

 

Julie sat up in bed and gasped in fright, throwing herself off the side of her double bed and landing on her hands and knees on the floor with a thud. She immediately scuttled to the nearby wall and collapsed against it, curling into a small ball. Her arms went around her legs and squeezed even as she buried her head into her knees and sobbed.

It’d been almost a month since she’d dreamt she was back in Mexico. Julie had hoped the nightmares had stopped for good, but it was obvious that moving across the country to California and starting her life over wasn’t the magic cure-all to make them stop. She loved her daddy with all her heart and knew everything he’d done was out of concern and love for
her
, but she’d thought that maybe she was still dreaming about the hell she went through because she was living in the house she’d grown up in and in the town where she’d been kidnapped. She was twenty-eight years old, more than old enough to move out of her father’s house and be on her own.

But at that moment, remembering what had happened to her, she wished she was back in her daddy’s house, where she’d always felt safe, even with the continued nightmares. Julie knew it didn’t make sense…she moved to California to try to get away from the nightmares, but even when she was at home she knew she could wake up her daddy and he’d talk to her and comfort her until she felt better.

She was a completely different person now than the naïve young woman who’d been kidnapped and almost sold into a prostitution ring south of the border about a year and a half ago. Julie didn’t like to remember how she’d acted when the Navy SEAL had found and rescued her.

Truth of the matter was, she’d been terrified, frightened out of her skull, and she’d lashed out at the woman who’d been held in the same hellhole, and who’d handled everything that had happened to them a thousand percent better than Julie had.

Julie forced air into her lungs slowly, remembering what her therapist had told her. When she was overwhelmed and felt the panic attacks coming on, she needed to concentrate on breathing. In. Out. In. Out. Slowly but surely, Julie felt her heart rate slow and the adrenaline coursing through her body start to wane.

She stood up and braced herself on the mattress as she made her way around the end of her bed into the small bathroom attached to the equally small bedroom. Julie splashed some water on her face and steadied herself with her hands on the counter. The water dripped from her chin as she looked in the mirror.

What she saw made her wince. She had lines furrowed in her forehead. Her eyes were slightly bloodshot and her short brown hair hung around her face. Her cheeks were sunken in and even though she knew she’d gained the weight back from her time spent in the hands of the kidnappers, but because of the nightmares and the fact that she wasn’t eating well, even all these months after she was rescued, she was still too skinny.

Her five-foot-two frame was naturally small, but now, at a little over a hundred pounds, she looked even more fragile.

“Get it together, Julie,” she told herself in a firm voice, glaring at her reflection. She sighed and reached for the towel hanging on the rack next to the utilitarian bathtub/shower combo. She dried her face and headed back into the bedroom, straightened the covers and climbed back into bed.

Julie thought about her plans for the next day, sure they were why she’d had the nightmare. It was time. She’d put it off for way too long, but it was finally time.

After she’d gotten back home from Mexico, and after a few visits with a therapist her dad had scheduled visits for her with, Julie knew she had to find the SEAL team that had rescued her so she could thank them. But no matter how much she’d begged her dad, he’d claimed he had no way of getting ahold of the SEALs and had suggested she should move on with her life.

Ironically, it had been one of her acquaintances who had given her the information she’d needed so she
could
get on with living.

 

* * *

 

Missy Greenwood was the daughter of a senator who worked with Julie’s dad. She knew Missy from all the political parties they’d attended with their families. They’d belonged to the same country club in Virginia and had even played tennis together a couple of times in the past.

Julie had been horrified when she’d learned Missy had also been kidnapped when she’d been volunteering over in Nigeria. Apparently the local bad guys didn’t like girls being educated, and Missy had been there helping at an all-girls school. The bad guys had come in with their guns blazing. They’d kidnapped the Nigerian schoolgirls and taken Missy and another American teacher, who happened to be there that day as well.

It wasn’t lost on Julie that she and Missy had both narrowly escaped a fate worse than death…the human trafficking trade.

She’d sought Missy out at the club a few months ago, before moving to California. Missy had been eating, and Julie had approached and traded some superficial greetings, then asked if it’d be okay to talk to Missy alone.

They’d moved off to a group of comfortable easy chairs in the corner of the large lounge and they’d spoken for over an hour. Julie knew Missy was dating a Navy SEAL, and hoped he’d be able to find the SEALs who’d helped her. Missy hadn’t promised anything, but said she’d ask her boyfriend, Zane Alexander. They’d exchanged phone numbers and when Julie didn’t hear anything for a week, figured Missy had blown her off.

But when Missy had texted her and asked to meet, Julie was shocked, but pleased. They’d gotten together at a restaurant, and Julie had been surprised to see a gorgeous man with Missy.

After they’d sat down at a small table, Missy said happily, “Hey, Julie, it’s good to see you again.”

“Hi, Missy. You too.”

“This is Zane. We talked about him last week.”

Julie nodded and held out her hand. “It’s good to meet you. Thank you for your service. I know those words are somewhat cliché, but I mean them from the bottom of my heart.”

“You’re welcome.”

Zane shook her hand, then returned his arm to the back of Missy’s chair. It was a protective posture, and Julie couldn’t help but envy her for having a man who wanted to shield her from anything and anyone who might cause her harm.

Missy didn’t beat around the bush. “You said you wanted to know who rescued you.”

Julie nodded and pressed her lips together nervously.

“Why?” It was Zane who asked.

“Because I was a bitch.” Julie laid it all out on the table. “There I was in the middle of the Mexican jungle. I’d been violated, I hurt, I was hungry and scared out of my skull. This guy came into the hut I’d been shoved in. He surprised me, and I acted like he was trying to pick me up at a bar.” She shook her head in disgust, remembering her actions that day in the jungle.

“There was another woman there. She’d been there a lot longer than me, and seeing her, freaked me out. I knew that could be me. When I finally understood how long she’d been there, I realized how screwed I really was. So I lashed out. I was rude and bitchy. All I wanted was out of the jungle and out of the country. I wanted to be home. I’m embarrassed to admit that, even hurt and hooked on drugs, the other woman was acting so much better than me, it wasn’t even a comparison. Even the SEAL thought so. And that made me think that maybe he’d decide I was too much trouble, and he’d leave me in the jungle. It was a stupid thing to think; of course he wasn’t going to leave me there. But it made me act even bitchier.”

Julie lowered her eyes, embarrassed. Her voice dropped to a whisper, “I’m ashamed that I didn’t even thank them. His team showed up with a helicopter, the SEAL was hurt as we were hauled up into the chopper, and I didn’t even bother to turn around and say ‘are you all right’ or ‘thank you.’ Not to any of them.”

“What makes you think that they want to hear your thanks?” Zane asked without rancor.

Julie looked up at the hard man in front of her. She avoided Missy’s gaze. She forced herself to keep eye contact with Zane. “I’m sure they don’t. I know they were all glad to see the last of me. I can only imagine their conversations once I was gone. I know it’s selfish, but I need to do this. I…” Julie’s voice trailed off, not sure what she could say that this super SEAL sitting in front of her would understand.

“I don’t know what team got you out. It wasn’t SEAL Team Six; that much I know. We don’t talk about our missions; even within the brotherhood, they’re top secret. But I know a guy. His name is Tex. He lives out here in Virginia. He used to be a SEAL, but was medically retired after losing part of his leg in a mission. I’ll call him. See if he knows who was on the team that rescued you. He seems to know everything about everyone. But, Julie, I can’t guarantee he’ll tell me.”

Julie sat up straighter in her chair. “I know, but I appreciate you even asking. Seriously. I know I’m still being selfish. No one in their right mind would want to see me again after the way I acted, but I swear I’m a different person now,” she said earnestly.

“You don’t have to convince me, Julie,” Zane said gently. “People can be unpredictable in hostage and rescue situations. You probably remember it worse than it really was.”

“I don’t think so,” Julie said honestly. “I was pretty horrible.”

“Hey, I heard you’re moving?” Missy asked, trying to move them on from the uncomfortable topic.

“Yeah. I can’t stay here any longer. I love my dad, but it’s time for me to move on. I can’t stand politics, and my dad loves it, of course. I feel smothered living in his house. I need to get out, do something useful with my life. Being in charge of his house and being a hostess for his political parties just isn’t fulfilling anymore. I need to…give back.”

“Give back?”

Julie tried to explain, “Uh-huh. I feel like I’ve gotten a new lease on life. Those men found me and gave me a chance to be a better person. I blew it with them, but I’m ready to prove that I’m not the selfish bitch I was down there, and that I’m pretty sure I was before I was kidnapped.”

“I’m sure you weren’t that bitchy,” Missy protested.

“Thanks, but yeah, I was.” Julie said ruefully. “While I wish I could move across the country and earn my own living without any help from anyone, I know I can’t. So my dad is helping. But my idea is to move out to California and start my own nonprofit agency.”

“Really? Isn’t that harder than it sounds? Don’t you have to have a business degree or something?”

Julie nodded. “Yeah, probably. But as I said, my dad is helping. He has some friends out there who will be helping me with the paperwork, marketing, and the day-to-day running of the business. He’s gonna pay them until I can get my business on its feet and take over the payroll.”

“What will you be doing?”

“I was watching one of the daytime talk shows and got the idea. I have a knack for fashion, so I want to see if I can start a thrift store of sorts, but full of designer clothes. I figure lots of women out in California are rich and probably have dresses and clothes they don’t wear anymore. I want to get them to donate them to my secondhand store. I could sell as much as possible and also give outfits to people who need nice dressy clothes for interviews. The money I raise after paying expenses I could donate to various programs to help struggling women.”

There was silence around the table for a beat before Julie hurried to say, “I know, it’s kinda stupid, but I couldn’t think of—”

“It’s not stupid,” Missy said quickly. “I think it’s awesome. It’s a great idea.”

“Well, it’s not like I’m doing it by myself. I need my dad’s money to start it up and the people he knows to help me, but I’m hoping that once I learn more about it, I’ll be able to contribute more as time goes by and eventually be one hundred percent responsible for the day-to-day expenses.”

“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” Missy said resolutely.

“Thanks.” Julie looked up in relief as the waitress approached the table.  The conversation had gotten pretty awkward for her.

They ordered sandwiches and there was no more talk about SEALs, rescues or charities as they ate their lunch. As they were leaving, Zane shook Julie’s hand and held on when she would’ve pulled back.

“I wasn’t there when you were being rescued, but I wanted to say, if you do get to meet the SEALs who helped you, let them see the woman who ate lunch with us today. They’ll forgive you.”

“Do you really think so?” Julie’s voice was low and worried.

“Yeah.”

“Thanks, Zane.”

“You’re welcome. Don’t forget to stay in touch with Missy and let her know how things go for you out there in California.”

Julie looked at Missy. “I’d like that.”

“Me too,” Missy agreed. “Good luck with everything.”

“Thanks.”

Julie watched as Missy and Zane walked across the parking lot to his sports car. She observed Zane opening the passenger door and waiting for Missy to get settled. Julie sighed. In her old life, Julie might’ve been jealous and catty and would’ve tried to flirt and steal Zane from Missy. But not now. They were a great couple, and while Julie might’ve been jealous of their obviously close relationship, she was also happy for Missy.

It was great that Missy seemed to be moving on after her kidnapping, Julie smiled and waved as Zane pulled out of the restaurant parking lot.

BOOK: Hot SEALs: Protecting Julie (Kindle Worlds) (SEAL of Protection Book 0)
9.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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