Authors: Elle James
Text copyright ©2016 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 Stoker Aces Production, LLC. All characters, scenes, events, plots and related elements appearing in the original Special Forces: Operation Alpha remain the exclusive copyrighted and/or trademarked property of Stoker Aces Production, LLC, or their affiliates or licensors.
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This story is dedicated to my readers who keep me writing by buying my books. I love what I do, and I hope you love it too! Thank you so much for your continued support!
A big shout out to Susan Stoker for inviting me to write in her Operation Alpha Kindle World. Her books are wonderful and her characters seem so real they live on the pages and in your heart.
I’d also like to thank my sister and editor, Delilah Devlin, who inspires me and keeps me in commas. Love you, Sis!
aka Myla Jackson
ormer D-Force bodyguard
, protects mega-star’s body double from a predatory stalker’s deadly hunting game
resh out of the military
, John Wayne “Duke” Morrison is back in his home state of Montana, starting a new job in the Brotherhood Protectors security service. His first assignment is to, protect film star and diva Lena Love from a stalker leaving her threatening messages. After fighting terrorists in the Middle East, Duke assumes this assignment will be a walk in the park.
Angel Carson, lovingly known as “The Angel of Death”, is a woman with a death wish. Her main claim to fame is her uncanny resemblance to Lena Love. Prior military, she’s seen combat, lost friends and now works as the stunt woman for the mega-star. When Miss Love is threatened, Angel steps in as bait to draw out the stalker on the diva’s 6,000-acre ranch in the foothills of the Crazy Mountains. To cover Angel’s back, Lena has engaged a bodyguard to watch her six and be there when the stalker reveals himself.
Unable to tell Duke she isn’t the real Lena, Angel must perform like a diva. As the stalker closes in, she reluctantly accepts Duke’s help to stay alive. In forced proximity, tempers and passions ignite, leaving Duke and Angel struggling to resist an irresistible attraction while eluding the stalker’s predatory game. When the stalker becomes the predator, the power of Delta Force brotherhood becomes a force to reckon with.
Enjoy other military books by Elle James
Brotherhood Protector Series
Cowboy D-Force (#4)
Take No Prisoners Series
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ohn Wayne Morrison
turned on his barstool and surveyed the occupants of the Blue Moose Tavern in Eagle Rock, Montana, trying to remember how to behave like a civilian.
In one corner of the room, a group of rangy cowboys gathered around the back corner, flipping quarters at a rattlesnake that had the misfortune of finding its way into the bar.
“Here’s your beer.” The burly bartender banged a mug full of lager on the bar, sloshing some over the top. He glanced at the dusty cowboys and yelled, “Hey, get that snake out of my bar!” Then he muttered under his breath, “Damned fools. Someone’s gonna get hurt. You’d think they’d have more sense.”
“Are rattlesnakes part of the entertainment around here?” John asked.
The bartender wiped the spilled bear off the counter. “Slow night.” His eyes narrowed. “You’re new around here. I’m Butch.” The man held out a meaty hand. “Got a name?”
“Name’s John Morrison, but my friends call me Duke.” He gripped the man’s hand and shook. Used to strong grips from his former Delta-Force team, he wasn’t prepared for the bartender to choke the crap out of his hand. Increasing the strength on his own grasp, he didn’t let go until the bartender loosened his grip first and released.
“Duke, huh?” Butch flexed his fingers and went back to filling mugs with beer. “Your middle name happen to be Wayne?”
Resigned to the usual ribbing he got when he gave anyone his full name, Duke nodded. “As a matter of fact, it is. My father was a big fan of old western movies. Stuck me with John Wayne.”
“Makes sense to go by Duke.”
“Yeah. It’s hard to avoid.” Duke took a long pull on his drink, letting the cool liquid glide down his throat. The drive from Ft. Hood, Texas had taken two days across some of the most desolate landscape in the country. Now that he was in Montana, he was looking forward to being near the mountains, hunting and finishing and riding horses. Hell, he hadn’t been on a horse since he’d joined the army over twelve years ago.
“So, what brings you to Eagle Rock?”
“Coming home to Montana.”
“Coming home? Where ya been?’
“Military.” His gut tightened, and his knee throbbed. For the past twelve years, he’d dedicated his life to protecting and serving the nation.
“Branch?” the bartender queried.
“Prior marine, myself,” Butch said. “Deploy?”
“See much action?”
Again, Duke nodded, not offering any more information. Most of his deployments had been Top Secret. Only those with a need to know and with the requisite clearance knew about those missions. The last one had been so secret that only the Secretary of State and the President had known of its existence.
“You don’t talk much, do you?” Butch raised his hand. “Not that I mind. Most cowboys drink a few beers and expect me to be some kind of free therapist. From difficulties with their bosses, to woman troubles, I’ve heard it all. You’re a breath of fresh air. You just sit right there and fill a quiet space at my bar.”
Duke gave him a hint of a smile and went back to drinking his beer and people-watching.
One of the younger patrons stuck some money in the jukebox, and a cry-in-your-beer song came on. Several cowboys led their ladies onto the small dance floor near an empty stage.
The beer, the music and the laid-back atmosphere soothed Duke’s tired soul. After he finished his beer, he’d walk back to the bed and breakfast where he was staying the night. Tomorrow, he’d check in with his new boss, Hank Patterson, at the White Oak Ranch. From there, he’d report to his first assignment as personal security to someone wealthy enough to pay for protection.
As the song ended, so too did his beer. He pushed to his feet and was digging in his pocket for his wallet, when his cell phone buzzed.
He glanced down and grinned when he saw an incoming FaceTime call from Ghost, one of his buddies from his former unit at Ft. Hood. He accepted the call. “Hey, dirtbag. Miss me already?”
Fletch, leaned into view beside Ghost. “Damn right, we miss you. When are you going to come to your senses and get back to work?”
Ghost shoved Fletch away and grinned into the phone. “Just making sure you got there all right. The team isn’t the same without you.”
His chest tightened. He’d hated leaving the men who’d come to feel like brothers. “Yeah, well, you’ll do fine without me. You need fresh meat to pound into shape.”
“No, we like the old meat we can count on to have our backs,” Fletch said, his face appearing over Ghost’s shoulder.
“When do you start your new job?” Ghost asked.
“Tomorrow. I meet with the head of Brotherhood Protectors, Hank Patterson. Want me to put in a good word for you?”
“Hell, yeah,” Ghost said. “Never know when this gig will play out. And I’m not getting any younger.”
“You’d better check with Rayne before you commit to a move to Montana. It gets cold up here in the winter.”
Ghost nodded. “Will do. You know the gang is due some time off. We might try to make it up there in the near future. I hear the fly fishing is pretty good up your way.”
Duke snorted. “What do you know about fly fishing?”
“Nothing, but that’s why we keep you around. To show us how to do things”
“Yeah. Well you know, I’d always be glad to see any one of you.”
“Done. As soon as we can get some leave approved.”
“Good. I think you’d like it here. And you’re right, the fly fishing is the best.”
“I knew it.” Ghost grinned. “In the meantime, let us know if you get in a bind and need us to bail you out of a bad situation.”
“Or a county jail,” Fletch added. “And if you find any hot babes in the backwoods, give them my number.” He smirked. “As long as they have all of their teeth.”
“Will do,” Duke said. “I’ll be sure to show them that picture I took of you at our last unit picnic.”
Ghost laughed. “I’m sure the ladies will all want a piece of the cross-dressing, hairy-legged grandma.”
“I don’t suppose you’ll ever let me live that one down, will you?”
Duke shook his head. “Not a chance.”
“Well, I can mark Montana women off my list as long as the Duke is flashing his blackmail photo.”
“No, seriously, Duke,” Ghost said, “if you need us, all you have to do is pick up a phone.”
“Thanks. It’s nice to know I still have friends, even if they’re two days away.”
“Later,” Ghost said.
“Later.” He rang off with a smile still tugging at his lips and glanced up in time to notice a commotion at the entrance.
A man wearing a windbreaker backed into the room with his camera balanced on his shoulder and aimed at the open doorway.
Curious, Duke handed his credit card over to the bartender and turned back in time to see a blonde strut through the door.
She wore sunglasses, despite it being dark outside and not much lighter inside. She’d gone maybe five steps when she tripped over her own feet, teetered on impossibly high heels and pitched into the camera man.
He fell back on his ass, holding his camera in the air to keep it from bouncing on the hardwood floor.
The blonde, who’d managed to regain her balance, straightened her jacket, tilted her sunglasses and glanced down at the camera man. “Move, you clumsy idiot!”
Two cowboys grabbed the man’s shoulders, hauled him to his feet and let go.
“Sorry, Miss Love,” he said. “Didn’t mean to get in your way.” Without missing another beat, he raised his camera to his shoulder and continued filming.
The woman’s mouth twisted into a sneer. She planted her hand in the lens of his camera and pushed past the man, nearly knocking him off his feet again.
She made for the bar, dropped her huge, designer bag on the counter and ordered, “Mango martini. Vodka. Shaken, not stirred.” She raised two fingers. “Make that two.”
Then she tilted her head downward, looked over the top of her sunglasses at Duke and raised her brows. “Mmm. If the men all look like you, I might learn to like Montana.”
Duke saw no need to comment. She wasn’t his type—too trashed and too high-maintenance. If he had his credit card back, he would leave the diva and go find a bed to crash in.
“This is the only place I’ve found to get a decent drink in this godforsaken shithole of a town.” She perched one cheek on the barstool and leaned her back against the counter. “I’ll be glad to get back to LA in a week.” She touched his arm. “Please tell me you’re not from around here. I need to talk to someone who hasn’t hit his head on the ground so many times he’s nothing more than a toothless idiot.”
“Sorry. I’m from Montana.” His lips twitched. “However, I do have my teeth.”
The bartender served the two martinis. Then he leaned close and whispered, “You do realize that’s Lena Love, don’t you? You’re damned lucky, you are.”
Duke wasn’t feeling all that lucky. The woman next to him hadn’t given up her claw-like hold on his arm yet.
Balancing herself against him, she downed first one martini then the other.
“Damned watered-down drinks. Can’t even cop a buzz.” She raised her hand. “Two more please, only this time, don’t skimp on the vodka.” She dug into her voluminous purse, extracted a bottle of pills, shook out two and threw the bottle back inside. “This place smells like sweaty men.” She leaned close to Duke and sniffed. “You smell like a sweaty man.” She licked his neck. “Mmm, you taste salty.”
Duke jerked back, his skin crawling at the woman’s behavior. He had the sudden urge to take a shower.
The bartender set her martinis on the counter.
She tossed the pills into her mouth and chased them with the first martini. “That’s more like it.” Without missing a beat, she chugged her fourth martini and turned toward the dance floor.
“Doesn’t anyone know how to party around here?” She shook her head and dug into her purse again. When she couldn’t find what she was looking for, she shouted, “Phillip. I need two dollars.”
A man dressed in a business suit materialized out of the crowd. “Lena, don’t you think we should leave now that you’ve had your drinks?”
“Fuck no.” She held out her hand and wiggled her fingers. “Two dollars, dammit.”
Phillip pulled two dollar bills from his own wallet and handed them over.
Lena slapped them on the counter. “Quarters.”
Butch glared at the woman, but changed the dollars for quarters, tossing them on the counter.
“Insolent bastard,” Lena muttered. She grabbed the change and slid off the stool, nearly falling off her high heels in the process. With one hand on Duke’s knee, she pulled herself upright, winked at him and swayed across the floor to the jukebox.
Dropping all eight quarters into the juke box, she bent over the glass top, her bottom, wrapped in a skin-tight skirt that barely covered the necessities, rocking back and forth to the country tune playing. After selecting several songs, she straightened and waited for the first one to begin.
Her head bobbed to the tune, and she looked around the room full of cowboys, who were standing back to see what this woman would do next.
Apparently, she didn’t see in any of them whatever it was she was looking for, until she spotted Duke again. Her eyes narrowed, and she stalked toward him, weaving through the array of tables and long-legged men.
“Butch, I’ll be needing my credit card,” Duke muttered, his pulse picking up, his anxiety level ratcheting to higher than when he’d stepped out in an ISIS-held town. He did not want to be at the bar or anywhere else in the room when the diva made it across the floor. The only thing slowing her down were her high heels and all the alcohol and pills she’d consumed. “Credit card, Butch. Now.”
Butch slapped the card and slip of paper on the counter. “She’s coming for you, man. That’s Lena Love, the actress.”
“I wouldn’t care if she was bringing me winning lottery numbers. She’s trouble.” Duke turned away long enough to scribble his name on the bottom line and grab his card. When he glanced up again, he realized he was too late.
Miss Love stood directly in front him, her breasts thrust out, her eyelids seductively lowered and her hand outstretched. “You. Dance floor. Now.”
He held up his hands. “Sorry, ma’am. I don’t dance.” Especially not with women higher than the Empire State Building.
She blinked, the seductive look disappearing and in its place something akin to shock.
Had no one ever said
to the woman?
“Excuse me. I was just leaving.” He tried to step around her, but she shifted to the side, blocking his path.
“No one says no to Lena Love.”
“Life is full of firsts. Get used to them.” He tried dodging in the other direction.
For a drunk high on pills and alcohol, she moved fast, again blocking his path.
The cameraman stood to one side, filming the entire exchange.
Duke shot him an annoyed glare and then returned his gaze to the woman. “Look, Miss Love, I’ve been on the road for two days. I’m tired and not in the mood to play games.”
“Just one dance,” she begged. “That’s all I’m asking.”
“Perhaps you’d be interested in this.”
Before he could even guess what she’d do next, Duke received the full impact of two perfectly matching Double-D sized breasts, naked as the day they’d been implanted, full-on, in front of God and everyone in that bar.
He stood in stunned silence, unable to comprehend what had just happened.
Cowboys throughout the room hooted and threw their hats into the air. Then the chanting started. “More! More! More!”
“That’s right, baby! Take it all off,” one redneck shouted.
Wolf calls and whistles rent the air, piercing Duke’s eardrums.
He took hold of Lena’s hands and pulled them down, taking the hem of her shirt with them, covering her boobs. “Seriously, I’m not interested now—or ever. Please, just get out of my way.” He gripped her arms and physically lifted her to set her to the side. Then he left her standing there, her jaw dropping, her eyes narrowing into tiny slits.
If he didn’t get out of there quickly, the woman might launch herself at him and he might be forced to break one of the rules his mother had drilled into his head as a young cowboy. Never hit a woman. His vision narrowed and buzzing filled his head. Sweat glazed his palms. He hadn’t felt this trapped since he’d been pinned down in a collapsed building in a godforsaken Afghan village.