Authors: Susan Stoker
SEAL of Protection
by Susan Stoker
This book is a word of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
Reading this novel and the situations revolving around child abuse could bring back strong unpleasant thoughts and feelings in some readers. These could even lead to thoughts of suicide or other injury. If you find yourself overwhelmed by these thoughts or feelings, please seek professional mental health services immediately.
Copyright © 2014 by Susan Stoker
No part of this work may be used, stored, reproduced or transmitted without written permission from the publisher except for brief quotations for review purposes as permitted by law.
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, please purchase your own copy.
Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Cover Design by Chris Mackey, AURA Design Group
Edited by Missy Borucki
Manufactured in the United States
“Out! Want out!”
you stupid whore! I’ll let you out when you shut up and not a second before! You hear me, brat?”
Alabama Ford Smith only cried harder. She didn’t understand why Mama wouldn’t let her out of the closet. She was hungry and it was dark and scary inside the small room.
Alabama stopped and listened against the door and couldn’t hear anything. Was Mama still there? Alabama tried to reach the doorknob, but her little, two- year-old fingers couldn’t grasp it. The knob wouldn’t turn anyway; it was locked from the outside.
After an hour of wailing and crying, Alabama laid down on the floor amongst the shoes, boxes, and musty smelling hats and gloves. She sniffed. Mama had been serious. Alabama wasn’t going to get to come out of the little room until she shut up. She didn’t know what a whore was, but it had to be a bad little girl like her. She would try harder to please Mama.
“Alabama Ford, how many times do I have to tell you to shut the hell up? Too damn many. If I hear one more word out of you, you’ll be sorry!”
“Dammit, I warned you…”
Alabama felt her mama’s hand hit the side of her face right before she went sailing down the three stairs that led from the kitchen into the family room. She watched as Mama came at her with murder in her eyes. She couldn’t quite dodge the foot that was aiming at her head. It glanced off of her and she could see that just made Mama madder. The next hit came from the same foot into her side. Alabama curled into the smallest ball she could and tried to protect her head. She knew she wasn’t the smartest girl, but Alabama figured if she had any chance of being able to walk in the morning, she had to protect her knees as well. Mama loved to kick them and then laugh as she tried to hobble around the house.
“Stupid whore bitch. Why do you have to be so stupid? I
to shut up. I’ll teach you to speak out of turn. Don’t. Ever. Speak. Again. Unless. I. Ask. You. Something.”
Spittle flew from Mama’s mouth as she enunciated and kicked at Alabama with each word spoken. Alabama finally got it. She shut up. Even as a six year old, Alabama knew Mama was serious. Mama meant every word that came out of her mouth. That was the year Alabama stopped talking unless she was asked a direct question.
“Alabama, do you want to talk to the nice policeman?”
Alabama looked up at the stern looking officer. He was tall and muscular and looked so strong. She sniffed a little and tried to be brave. Mama had walloped her this morning with the skillet she’d been holding. Alabama knew it was her fault. She’d made the mistake of asking Mama when she’d be home later that day. She
better. How many times had Mama told her never to talk to her? Too many. And Alabama asked anyway. She knew Mama had been aiming at her head, but Alabama turned at the last minute and the skillet collided with her arm instead. Over the course of the day it had turned a nasty shade of purple. Of course a teacher noticed and insisted on taking her to the principal’s office.
The principal was a nice enough lady, but she had no idea what Mama was like. No one did. Alabama was beginning to think Mama was crazy. It wasn’t a nice thing to think about your own mama, but she couldn’t think anything else. After eleven years of living with her, Alabama finally figured out that other little girls didn’t have to worry about their mama’s hitting them if they spoke out loud at home. They didn’t have to worry about skillets coming at their heads if they so much as coughed too loud.
Alabama figured this was her chance. Maybe this officer would protect her. Policemen were supposed to protect people. She told him everything. How Mama would lock her in the closet when she went out. How she wasn’t allowed to talk at home. How Mama hit her all the time with whatever was handy. Alabama spilled her guts to the police officer in the hopes he’d take her away and give her to a nice family, one with a nice mama. When he kneeled down in front of her, took her hands, and smiled at her, Alabama knew she could finally relax. This man would help her. He’d protect her.
Alabama listened to the mutterings of the people around her. She lay on the bed with her eyes closed. She thought back to the day at school about a year ago. She felt as if she’d aged ten years since that time. Twelve was too young to have to deal with this.
“Did you hear what happened? That her mother did this to her?”
“No way! Holy crap. Do you think she’s done it before?”
“Hell yes. Look at her, Betty. No one does this the first time. I bet she’s been waling on this child for years. She can’t go back. You know it, I know it. Hell, even her mom knows it. I think that’s why she did it.”
There was silence. Alabama couldn’t fall back to sleep, even though it’s what she wished with all her heart. She wished she wasn’t there anymore. She’d trusted the police officer last year. He said it’d be okay. He said she wouldn’t have to worry about her mama anymore. He lied. Seven days after she told the policeman everything, she was back at home. Mama didn’t like it that she’d told. Apparently she’d gone through interviews with the police and Child Protective Services who were checking to make sure Mama was a good mama. Alabama knew Mama could be nice when she wanted to. Apparently she’d convinced everyone Alabama was a typical almost-teenager who was just rebelling. Mama told everyone she’d hit herself with the skillet in order to get attention. So Alabama was sent back.
Things got worse at home after that. Alabama learned never to say a word. She kept her mouth shut. Mama was scary. Alabama learned she’d have to protect herself. No one else would do it for her.
Mama had finally lost it tonight. Alabama had been in her room with the door shut when she’d gotten home from the bars. Mama had burst into her room and started waling on her. Mama yelled such horrible things. She’d told Alabama she was a mistake—that Alabama never should’ve been born, that she wasn’t wanted. Mama yelled how she’d even given Alabama the stupidest name she could think of; how Alabama was named after the state Mama had gotten pregnant in and even gave Alabama the middle name of the stupid car she’d been conceived in. Alabama hadn’t even known that Smith wasn’t Mama’s last name. Mama made it up because she didn’t want her baby to have
Alabama remembered Mama leaving the room and coming back a moment later with the dreaded skillet. It wasn’t until Alabama woke up in the ambulance she realized, based on what the EMTs were saying, that Mama had broken her jaw. Okay, Mama had broken most of Alabama’s face too—nose, cheekbone, and even her eye socket had been cracked.
Lying in the hospital bed with her jaw wired shut, Alabama made a vow to her twelve year old self. No matter what happened in the future, Alabama would never trust anyone to protect her again. If her mama didn’t want her, if the police couldn’t or wouldn’t protect her…who would? She was nobody. Alabama had a made up last name and a first name based on the state her mom had sex in.
Sixteen year old Alabama walked down the hall of the high school with her head down, clutching her books. Another birthday had passed with no one knowing. No one said “Happy Birthday,” no one gave Alabama any presents. She was the “weird” kid in school. She never spoke to anyone. She kept her head down and didn’t make trouble. She aced all her tests and loved English, but she refused to answer any questions in class. Alabama never talked to her classmates. She went to school every day, minded her own business, and kept to herself. She didn’t cause any trouble at school or at her foster home.
Alabama’s foster mom tried to engage her, tried to get Alabama to open up, with no luck. Alabama had learned her lesson. She spoke only when spoken to and only when absolutely necessary. She got a job at the local library stocking shelves. Alabama saved her money for the day she’d turn eighteen and would move out on her own. She’d never rely on anyone again. Alabama was on her own.
Christopher “Abe” Powers looked around the room and sighed. It was time to break it off with Adelaide. After dating her for about three months, Abe realized he didn’t really even like her all that much. He supposed he’d stayed with Adelaide this long because she was good in bed, and he was lazy. The hunt for women had gotten old. It was all just a game. Abe knew he was good looking. He wasn’t conceited, but he’d had his share of women over the years…too many, truth be told.
Abe was a Navy SEAL. He was used to women hearing that term and practically begging to go home with him. He’d seen how his buddy Matthew, also known as Wolf, had settled down with the love of his life. Caroline was different from almost every woman Abe had ever met. She was smart and pretty, even if she didn’t think of herself that way, and stronger than he would’ve guessed. She also hated Adelaide. He supposed he should’ve listened to Caroline when she’d tried to tell him Adelaide wasn’t good enough for him, but he’d enjoyed the things Adelaide could do with her tongue too much to call it off.
Abe met Caroline on an airplane, of all things. In fact, she’d saved his life, along with everyone else’s on the plane. If it wasn’t for Caroline’s chemist background, they all would’ve been drugged and the terrorists would have killed everyone on the plane for their own agenda. Caroline and Wolf had been through hell, but they’d come out all right on the other side.
Abe thought about Wolf and Ice. They hadn’t had an easy time of it, that’s for sure. Surviving the terrorist hijacking was just the tip of the iceberg. The SEAL team had just returned from a mission and learned that Caroline had been taken into Federal custody after an attempt on her life. The team had joined her protection detail, but the terrorists had found her again. They’d taken Caroline captive and tortured and beaten her trying to find out how she’d figured out the terrorist plot on the airplane. The team had to actually rescue her from the ocean after the terrorists had thrown her overboard with weights tied around her ankles.
It had been a sobering time for the team, knowing how much Wolf loved Caroline and how they’d all felt helpless watching her be tortured and almost killed.
While Abe wanted a relationship like Caroline and Wolf had, he definitely didn’t want his woman to have to go through the hell Caroline lived through. Abe didn’t think he’d be able to stand it. He hated to see women and children hurt—they should be protected by any means necessary.
He supposed that was why he was a SEAL. Abe wanted to join the military and serve his country, but it wasn’t until basic training and seeing the SEALs in training that he decided he wanted to be one of the best of the best.
one of the best. The team had been on too many missions to count and while they weren’t fun, the missions were certainly necessary.
Abe met Adelaide while out at
Aces Bar and Grill
, their usual hangout, after a mission one night.
He and Wolf and Mozart and the other guys had gotten hammered. Abe supposed it was partly because his friends were with him, but he’d taken Adelaide up on her proposition and gone home with her. He’d refused to take her girlfriend as well. Some of the other guys enjoyed that sort of thing, but Abe was a one-woman-at-a-time man. He always had been and always would be. He knew it was partly because of his father, but he’d never analyzed it.
Abe and Adelaide spent most of the night in bed. She’d been willing to try just about anything, and at the time, it’d been just what he was looking for. He needed to blow off steam and having sex, lots of it, was a great way to do that.
But now, he was realizing, Adelaide was a total bitch. He hated to compare every woman he met to Caroline, but he couldn’t help it. He was standing there listening to Adelaide gossip with her coworkers and wishing he was anywhere else. How had he stooped this low? This wasn’t like him at all.
“Can you believe she brought
“I know, ridiculous!”
“I guess she can’t cook at all. But seriously, why didn’t she cater something?”
Abe sighed loudly. Shit. Why did Adelaide and her catty coworkers even care that someone apparently brought a bowl full of vegetables instead of making a dish or bringing something catered to the pot luck? Jesus. Didn’t they have anything better to do?
“Adelaide, I’m going to head over and grab something to eat. Do you want anything?” Abe might be ready to ditch her, but he’d treat Adelaide right in the meantime. It was hard wired into Abe’s very being. He’d never disrespect Adelaide by breaking up with her in front of her friends and coworkers, but it was coming…and soon.
“No, but thanks, sweetie, you know I’m watching my weight.” Adelaide snuggled up and leaned into him, making sure to brush her breasts against his arm. “I’ll show you what I
later. Hurry back, I’ll be waiting for you.”
Abe shrugged out of her hold and managed to escape without having to endure being kissed. He eyed the lipstick she’d caked on her mouth earlier that night with disgust. Didn’t she know how horrible that stuff tasted? Not to mention how Abe hated having it smeared all over his lips when Adelaide kissed him. He suspected she did it on purpose, a kind of ownership thing on her part. He snorted.
was supposed to be the dominant in the relationship, but Adelaide took the word to a whole new level. The more Abe thought about it the more he realized she didn’t care about
per se, he could be anyone. Adelaide only cared that Abe was a SEAL and good looking. Yup, it was definitely time to break it off.
Abe walked over to the overflowing food table. Adelaide’s company was having their annual banquet to thank their employees for a job well done over the past year. Wolfe Family Realty was the top realty company in their small town of Riverton and Adelaide was one of the most successful realtors they had. Abe supposed Adelaide had a teensy right to be entitled, but it wasn’t enough for him to want to stay with her.
The Wolfe Family had been in the real estate business for years. They tried to keep their company close-knit, but it was obviously more of a wish than an actual fact. Abe had lived in Riverton a long time and didn’t know most of the people at the event.
Abe grabbed a plate and got in the short line of people waiting to make their way down the line of delicious looking food. Abe took a step backward to avoid being run into by a man not paying attention where he was walking, and stepped on the foot of the person standing in line behind him.
Turning around Abe apologized, “I’m so sorry. Are you all right?”
Getting a good look at the woman who he’d stepped on made him forget what it was he was saying.
The woman was gorgeous. Abe didn’t think she’d even tried to fancy herself up for the event, and that just made her stand out more. She came up to about his chin and had brown shoulder length hair, pulled back away from her face by a headband, but wisps of hair had escaped the wide swath of leather to frame her face. Abe thought she looked like she was wearing a bit of makeup—mostly around her eyes, and her lips were shiny with what looked like gloss. The lack of lipstick was a huge turn on for him, especially considering Adelaide’s penchant for caking it on.
Abe continued his perusal of the fascinating woman standing behind him. She was wearing a pair of jeans with a top that had some ruffles on the sleeves. It was cut low in front, but not so low to be provocative—sexy because it left what was there mostly to the imagination. Abe could see only a hint of her curves. She was wearing a pair of flip-flops with flowers on the band and her toenails were painted a pale pink. Everything about her had Abe’s complete attention.
Abe suddenly realized he’d asked her a question, but she hadn’t answered. He tried to look her in the eyes, but she was looking at the ground. He could see the faint blush on her cheeks. God, blushing? When was the last time he’d seen a woman blush? The Alpha male inside him stood up and took notice. She was obviously shy and that made her even more endearing.
Abe repeated himself as they shuffled forward in the line. “I’m really sorry. Did I hurt you with my big feet?” He willed her to look up at him.
The fascinating woman just shook her head and refused to look up.
“Hey, if you don’t look at me I’ll think you’re lying to try to spare my feelings,” he teased, hoping he’d get to see the color of her eyes.
“I’m fine,” she said in a voice so low he almost didn’t hear her.
Her voice was raspy, as if she hadn’t used it in a long while and the low tone just made it sexier. The sound of it went through Abe and settled in his heart. Amazingly, he felt the hair on his arms stand up on end. Whoa.
Abe scrunched down and tried to look her in the eyes. She gave him a small chin lift as if to say,
Abe turned and saw the line had moved forward and it was his turn to shuffle down the food table. He grabbed a plate and turned to the mysterious woman and held it out to her. Abe finally got to see her eyes when she looked up at him in confusion. Her eyes were a pale gray with streaks of blue. He figured in a different light they’d probably look more blue than gray. To answer her unasked question, Abe told her while waggling the plate, “For you.”
Abe watched as she took the plate gingerly, as if it was a bomb he’d offered her instead of a simple dish. Abe took one off the top of the stack for himself and tried to engage the woman as he walked through the food line.
“What’s good? What did you bring?” When she didn’t answer, but concentrated instead on serving herself, Abe tried to joke with her. “Let me guess, which one is yours…hmmm, the homemade rolls? No? What about the macaroni salad there? Oh, I know… the lame bowl of vegetables?”
Realization dawned about the same time she bit her lip and looked away from the table in consternation. Oh shit.
“Ah fuck, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything by that.”
When she didn’t say anything but only shrugged and continued to look as if she wanted to be anywhere but standing next to him, Abe tried desperately to backpedal.
“Seriously, I’m sorry. That was beyond rude. Jesus. You must think I’m the biggest asshole. I love veggies.”
When she still didn’t say anything, Abe transferred his plate to one hand, grasped her elbow lightly with the other, and pulled her away. They’d both filled their plates and had reached the end of the table. “Look at me.”
At the commanding tone in Abe’s voice, she looked up, finally.
Abe tamped down his feeling of triumph at her reaction to his demand. God, now wasn’t the time for his Alpha side to come out, but deep down he reveled in her continued reactions to his words.
“I’m sorry. Okay?”
“Okay,” she again said in a soft voice, nodding at the same time to reinforce her answer.
Loving the sound of her voice, even if he’d only heard her say a few words, Abe firmly stated, “Look, that’s more than I brought. I’m being a mooch. At least
contributed.” The hesitant smile that crept across her face was worth any embarrassment Abe felt at putting his foot in his mouth.
“I can’t cook. Believe me, it’s better I brought vegetables than if I tried to actually make something,” she admitted sheepishly, again speaking to him in her soft husky way.
Somehow knowing her speaking to him was a victory of some sort, but not knowing exactly why, Abe gave her a huge grin.
Still holding his plate in one hand, Abe held out his other hand and said, “I’m Christopher. My friends call me Abe, but you can call me Christopher.”
“Alabama.” The woman replied politely, but didn’t reach for his hand to shake and didn’t ask any questions about his name, or nickname. Alabama was gripping her plate with both hands as if her life depended on it. It didn’t faze Abe though. Trying to keep the conversation going, Abe simply nodded at her and said, “It’s very nice to meet you, Alabama. I guess you work here too?” He watched as her face lost all animation and her eyes darted away from his, as if looking for something to distract her. Alabama’s teeth came out to nibble at her lower lip. Abe knew she was going to bolt right before she spoke.
“I gotta go.”
Alabama didn’t even apologize or try to change the subject. She literally just fled away from him.
Abe watched her go. He had no idea what it was about her, but he knew he wanted to get to know Alabama more than anything he’d wanted in his life recently. There was something about her that made all of his protective instincts come flying to the surface. There was a story there, and he wanted to know it. Abe wanted to know all about Alabama.