Special Forces: Operation Alpha: Protecting Love (Kindle Worlds Novella) (Saints Protection & Investigations Book 7)

BOOK: Special Forces: Operation Alpha: Protecting Love (Kindle Worlds Novella) (Saints Protection & Investigations Book 7)
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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.

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

P
rotecting Love

Saints Protection & Investigations Series

By
Maryann Jordan

Dedication

This novella, written for Susan Stoker’s Kindle World, is dedicated to all of the author friends I have made on this journey. From those who took me under their wings, to those that I have helped in turn. To those whose words have inspired me, to those who have sought me out for advice. We are all dedicated to the idea that love exists and is important. Dedicated to the desire to spread the stories of love to those who are thrilled to escape for a few hours into our worlds.

Chapter 1

T
he loud banging coming from the garage had Mrs. Cartwright heading out to see what was causing the commotion.
Who am I kidding?
She grinned.
I know exactly what I’ll find.
Sure enough, as she rounded the corner and peeked into the garage, she saw her son, Patrick, and her father. Her tow-headed son’s head was bent forward, almost touching the gray of his grandfather’s. The two sat on low, wooden stools on the concrete floor, pieces of what used to be a lawnmower strewn all about. It appeared the machine was in the process of being taken apart or being put back together—she could not tell. The metal parts were lined meticulously in what appeared to be a pattern. Leaning against the doorframe, the evening sun warmed her back as it cast a glow on the garage’s inhabitants, and she listened as her father patiently explained the process of putting the lawnmower back together.

Twelve-year-old Patrick loved the idea of taking things apart and seeing how they worked. How the intricate pieces fit together perfectly to make something amazing. And then the process of building something from scratch, with his grandfather’s guidance, was a dream come true.

“You’ve got to understand each part and how it works in the whole,” Gramps said, picking up part of the small engine. “You can’t rush…these things take time to make sure they fit together just right.” The two bent their heads down toward the blueprint lying on the floor next to their legs.

Patrick wiped his face with the back of his hand, still managing to leave a smudge of oil across his cheek. His blue eyes focused on Gramps, memorizing every move he made as he recreated the machine. Breaker points. Condenser. Crankcase. Carburetor.

“Reminds me of your grandma and me,” Gramps said, chuckling. “Weren’t no love at first sight, I’ll tell you.”

Turning his eyes up to his grandfather, Patrick’s mouth hung open. His grandfather often talked about life when they were working, but he had never heard him speak about grandma in any other terms than lovingly.

“Saw her at a church picnic in the park one afternoon. Me and my buddies came roaring into town in our farm trucks, saw a bunch of purdy girls and headed straight over to them. A few of them girls started giving my friends the eye, but the one that caught mine was a tall blonde. She wouldn’t give rough ol’ me the time of day, sticking her snooty nose in the air. So I figured I didn’t need her and made the moves on another one. Found out later, the purdy blonde was the preacher’s daughter.”

“Grandma was mean to you just because of the way you looked?” Patrick asked, his young mind working to grapple the intricacies of the story.

“Naw, your grandma was good as gold. But I found out later, she knew her daddy woulda had a fit if his girl was flirtin’ at the church picnic with little kids running around. And with a bunch of guys that rolled up into town, loud and rowdy, barging into the park.”

“So what happened?” Patrick asked, picking up the air filter cover and fitting the lid carefully back on after inserting the air filter inside.

His grandfather cleaned the spark plugs and lifted his eyes to his grandson, a smile dancing on his lips. “Well, just like this lawnmower, your grandmother and I had to work to make sure the parts went together. I learned that she was really shy and was overwhelmed when me and my buddies rolled up. She was afraid that her daddy wouldn’t like me and assumed we wouldn’t be a good fit. We had just come in from the farm…hot, sweaty, and dirty. I wasn’t doin’ myself any favors by not gettin’ cleaned up. So the next weekend, I got all spruced up, drove right up to your grandma’s house and knocked on the front door.”

Eyes wide, Patrick stopped what he was doing, eager to hear the rest of the story.

Inserting the clean spark plugs, his grandfather was quiet for several minutes as they finished putting the motor back together. “Well, just like working on this piece of equipment, I learned that I needed patience and care to build somethin’ with your grandmother. It wasn’t gonna happen overnight. And she learned that underneath the rough exterior, was the heart of a man who’d love her for the rest of her life.”

Grinning, Patrick interrupted, “And then you got married?”

Chuckling, Gramps shook his head. “Nah. It took about six months of courtin’ her, getting to know her, and us makin’ sure we were a good fit. Not fast…not instant. But slow and sure. Then we got married and I knew we were building something strong.”

Looking down at the lawnmower, now complete with all of its parts put back together, they stood. “You think we can see if it’s time to check ’er out?”

Nodding enthusiastically, Patrick grinned, eager to see the end results of their afternoon project.

Bending over, Gramps primed the engine a few times before grabbing the starter handle and giving it a strong pull. The motor sputtered a time or two before firing up with a roar. Patrick clapped his hands in glee, pride settling through his young frame. Letting it run a moment, Gramps then turned off the motor and grinned down at his grandson.

“Gotta build it, make sure the parts fit together just right…then it’s a thing of beauty.”

“Then we’re all done?” Patrick asked, accomplishment showing in his face.

“Naw, naw,” Gramps answered, chuckling as his grandson’s face fell. “You gotta treat it right. Protect it. Cherish it. Take real good care of it, or it can fall apart on you. And then it takes even longer to put back together again.”

Patrick had no idea if his grandfather was talking about the motor…or something more personal…but it did not matter. He had helped build something and it worked. And the feeling was incredible.

“All right, you two,” his mother called from the doorway. “Time for supper. Go get washed up.”

Patrick ran ahead and scrubbed the grease from his hands and face before moving back into the kitchen. He watched as his grandfather came in, stopping at the wheelchair where his grandmother sat. The stroke made movement difficult, but her blue eyes sparkled as much as ever. His grandfather bent over, touching his wife’s cheek before planting a soft kiss on her smooth skin. “Love you, darlin’ girl,” he whispered, gaining a lopsided smile in return as she patted his hand.

Patrick had seen these endearments many times before, but after hearing his grandfather’s story, he halted in his rush to go to the table.
It takes time to make sure these things fit. Patience and care to build something. Slow and sure. And protect it to keep it strong.

In a moment of clarity, twelve-year-old Patrick knew he had been taught a powerful lesson—one that would stay with him forever. Taking a deep breath, he pushed himself off the wall and moved into the room, kissing his grandmother also.

His mother watched from the other side of the room…a smile on her face.

Ten Years Later

Graduating with an Engineering degree, Patrick walked through the crowd looking for his family. The cute, tow-headed boy had grown into a handsome man, turning heads as he walked by. Taller than most, his blue eyes searched easily over the sea of mortarboards, finally spotting the familiar blonde hair of his sister, Angel. Making his way to them, he scooped her up into a hug as she gleefully congratulated him. Next, his mother and father offered their heartfelt congratulations as well. Turning, he clasped the arthritic hand of his grandfather who pulled him into a hug, clapping him on the back. His grandmother had passed, but Patrick knew she was here in spirit.

Later, at the restaurant where the family celebrated, his grandfather quieted the exuberant group. The lines in his face deepened as he smiled over the gathering. Holding up his glass of beer, he cleared his throat.

“It’ll be a while before we’re all together again, so I figure I might as well say a few words. Son,” he said, facing Patrick, “you’re leaving in a couple of days for boot camp and then OCS. You’ll make a fine Army officer with the Corps of Engineers. I’d like to think that them days of us putterin’ around in the workshop helped get you where you are today.”

The others at the table chuckled, remembering many take-it-apart-only-to-put-it-back-together projects.

Gramps continued, “But I know your love of building didn’t just come from me. I know you can’t wear it in the military, but I’d like to give you a little something to remember me by.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a St. Patrick medallion on a silver chain. “This here saint is the patron saint of Engineers. Want you to have it and to remember that it takes time, patience, and care to build something. And I’m not only talkin’ about machines. But relationships as well.”

Patrick blinked several times battling the tears he felt stinging the back of his eyes. His grandfather had never regained the bright twinkle in his eyes after his wife passed away and Patrick knew that the many years of them together, building a marriage and family, had taken the time and patience his grandfather spoke of.

“So go with God and your family’s blessing. And when you find the right one, work to build it right and protect it to keep it strong.”

Chapter 2

Six Years Later

P
atrick left the Corps of Engineers base near Sacramento, California, and headed to his jeep.
Thank God, it’s Friday.
Climbing into his vehicle, he sat for a moment in indecision before heading to Aces Bar & Grill. Needing to unwind, he hoped he would run into some friends to share a beer and pass some time with.

Walking into the old establishment, he headed to the bar. The Army had honed his body, now taller and more muscular than ever. Ordering dinner, he settled in at a tall table with his beer until his food came out. Slowly, the stress of the day slipped away and he began to relax. Hearing his name called out from behind him, he swiveled around on his bar stool. Seeing the large man walking in, he grinned, lifting his hand in greeting.

Clasping hands, Patrick pulled Dude Cooper in for a man hug. “Hoped I’d find you here on a Friday afternoon,” he admitted.

“Hell, you shoulda just called me,” Dude replied. “I was excited to hear that you were going to be stationed here for a while.” He settled onto the bar stool next to Patrick’s and nodded toward the bartender.

“Well, I’ve only got four more months in and then…aw, hell, who knows what’ll I do at that time.”

Dude took a long pull on his beer before setting the bottle down, the water droplets sliding off the glass and onto the surface of the bar. “Yeah, it sucks trying to figure out what the fuck to do when you get out.”

The two men met under unlikely circumstances when on tour in Afghanistan. Patrick, a member of the Corps of Engineers, had been working on building bridges that would withstand some of the crude explosives that a few villages were using. He worked with several Special Forces squads, continuing to train the Engineer Sergeants. The Army contracted with the SEALS and used some of their Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams to assist in testing. Patrick and Dude hit it off, both respecting each other’s work. Finding the time to share beers, poker games, and whenever possible pick-up basketball games, their acquaintance grew into a friendship.

Dude, injured on a mission, now resided in California after obtaining a medical discharge. The big man smiled at Patrick and said, “Don’t reckon you’ve heard…but I’m married now.”

Patrick, in the middle of a bite of his hamburger, stopped suddenly, turning to face his friend. “No kiddin’?” Tossing down his food, he wiped his hands before slapping Dude on the back. “Congratulations, man. That’s great news!”

Dude’s food delivered, the two men settled in to eat, talk, and reminisce. After finishing and pushing his plate back, Dude asked, “So what are you thinking about doing?”

Patrick leaned his tall body back on the stool, hearing the wooden legs creak. “Don’t know. Love building things…the Army gave me the chance to not only design what was needed but to go out in the field and actually get my hands on it as well. Most civil engineering jobs I’ve looked at would have me sitting at a desk all day. I mean, I’d be able to go out to the sites, but I’d be observing.”

“I hear you,” Dude replied. “When I was first injured, I thought it might be the end of my career as a SEAL.” He held up his hand, complete with missing fingers and mangled scars. “Thank God it didn’t.”

“I heard about that, and am really sorry that happened to you,” Patrick said, shaking his head. He had known many servicemen injured in the war, and the loss was almost always life changing.

“I woulda hated sitting behind a desk also.”

“I don’t have time to do another tour so I got sent here to do a desk job procuring materials.” He caught Dude’s dubious expression and chuckled. “Yeah, it’s about as exciting as it sounds. I sit behind a desk, ordering shit then checking it when it comes in.”

“You have to keep track of where the shipments go? I know there’s always thefts of military equipment,” Dude commented. “You have any of that with what you’re working on?”

“Not that I’ve seen, but then I’m just dealing with building materials. Concrete, steel, mostly geotechnical. Honestly, boring as shit, but I’ll be out in four months and then I’ll figure out what I’m going to do.”

“Thinking of staying in California?”

“Got family in Virginia so I’ll probably head east to visit with them when I get out. Whether or not I stay, well…I’ll decide then.”

“If I recall, you’ve got a hot-as-fuck sister there, don’t you?”

Laughing, Patrick nodded. “Little sis grew up. She got her business degree and is a baker. Owns her own business and bakes cupcakes for a living, if you can believe that!” Almost as an afterthought, he added, “She’s engaged now to a former FBI agent. He works for a private security investigation company now. Met his boss, Jack Bryant, former Special Forces. I was impressed with what he was doing.” Chuckling again, he said, “The man all but offered me a job when I met him.”

“Think you’d like to do that?” Dude asked. “Got to tell you, my SEAL team and I have had some great missions and the investigating aspect is especially interesting.”

“Don’t know,” Patrick answered honestly. “Guess I’ll just have to wait and see.”

The silence settled comfortably over the two men, as they finished their beers. The waitress hung around the table for a few minutes after delivering the next round, shooting hopeful smiles his way. He glanced at her appreciatively—long, blonde hair, tits and ass abundantly displayed, an expression of expectation on her face.
Nothing. Don’t feel a goddamn thing.
After a minute, she turned on her heels and flounced away, a pout replacing the smile and her stomp indicating her indignation.

Laughing, Dude commented, “Looks like you weren’t in the mood tonight.”

“Nah,” Patrick agreed, running his hand over his short hair. He was thoughtful for a moment before adding, “Remember the feeling you got when you first became a SEAL and felt like you had just been given a pussy-magnet badge?” Hearing Dude’s chuckle and seeing his nod, he grinned back. “But I swear, for a while now, I’m just not interested in tapping that anymore.”

“Yeah, well, when you find the right one, you’ll know it and then you’ll definitely never wonder about anyone else again.”

Smiling appreciatively at his friend, Patrick noticed the genuinely relaxed expression on Dude’s face. “Glad you got that, man. Hope to meet her sometime.”

“Absolutely,” Dude nodded enthusiastically, standing to leave. The two men said goodbye with promises to get together soon and then Dude left. Patrick finished his beer, left a good tip and nodded to the bartender as he walked out. The waitress had given him one last pouty invitation that he ignored. The sense of longing deep inside his chest simply intensified, but he knew she was not the one to take it away.

*     *     *

Evelyn Sinclair’s heels tapped out a rhythm on the tile floor of the hall between her office and the conference room. Stopping just outside the door, where a decorative mirror was hanging over a small table, she smoothed her skirt and glanced down to make sure her blouse was perfect.
Good, dropping my sandwich at lunch didn’t leave a spot.
Running her hand over her dark brown hair, making sure the stray hairs were in place, she glanced at her subtle makeup. It was hard presenting a polished, professional appearance without drawing attention to her sexuality.
One of the many difficult things about being a woman in a man’s field.
She was not surprised—the same thing had happened in college. Even in this day and age of enlightenment, there were few women in the geotechnical degree programs. Standing up straight, she walked into the meeting.

Sliding into a seat after pouring herself a cup of coffee, she smiled at the others coming in. While it may be a man’s world, she had to admit that she enjoyed the other employees…for the most part. Norman Oysten, the owner and president of Geotechnical Manufacturing Systems, along with his oldest son, Gary, as vice president, ran a top-notch company that managed to be employee friendly. The younger son, Saul, was head of the Financial and Accounting Department.

Sipping her coffee, her eyes landed on the last person to enter the room, his ever-present glower firmly in place. Ed Snyder plopped in the seat next to her, then glanced at the coffee in her hand.

“Any more of that?” he asked, his voice sounding like an order instead of a question.

“Yes, over on the credenza where it always is,” Evelyn replied evenly. Forcing the grimace from her face, she caught the grin from Saul across the table. Ed grunted as he hefted himself up and over to the coffee, and she returned Saul’s grin. Ed had been slow to accept Evelyn and she knew that he would continue to treat her as an assistant if she allowed him to.

The meeting soon came to order and she concentrated on taking specific notes. Having only been working at GMS for a few months, she still felt as though she needed to prove herself. But, as usual, she was well prepared and when called upon to answer questions, she was professional and succinct.

Evelyn applied at GMS, a national leader in geotechnical materials, for an engineering job, but a position would not be available until one of their current engineers retired. She had been promised that would be within six months and she decided to take them up on their offer of working in the military sales department until then.
If it had been any other company but GMS, I’d never be doing this,
she thought as the meeting droned on. But Norman and Gary wanted her—a woman geotechnical engineer was not easy to find and the need for diversity was a point in her favor. Plus her credentials were perfect. Gary convinced her that starting for a few months in sales would allow her to see exactly where her designs would be used in the real world, something many Engineers did not get to observe.

“That’ll do for today,” Norman finally announced, adding, “I hope everyone has a good weekend.”

Weekend…yes! A chance to relax!
Not that she had any plans, but Evelyn used her weekends as a chance to recharge her batteries before hitting the work-week once more. She watched as Ed stomped out of the meeting, his usual demeanor still intact.

“Hey, girlie, why don’t you get me some coffee?” Saul asked, his voice barely containing his mirth.

Pretending to spear him with a glower, her laughter forced its way out. “You know, it’s not that I’d mind getting someone coffee if I was standing next to it getting my own, but I swear that man lives in the dark ages!”

“I know,” Saul agreed. “I just had to tease you, though.”

Walking over, Gary grinned. “I wish you could have seen your face, Evelyn. It was priceless.”

The three started to walk out when Norman stopped them. He stepped up to her and laid his hand on her arm. “You mustn’t mind Ed too much. He’s a good plant manager…if a little rough around the edges. But never doubt, Ms. Sinclair, you are a valued team member here at GMS. We were thrilled to get you.”

Warming at his praise, she thanked him. “I love working here,” she admitted.
But I really hate sales and can’t wait until I get the engineering position!

The group walked out of the conference room, each heading to their offices to pack up for the weekend. As she made her way to her car, she lifted her face to the spring sun, feeling the freedom that only comes with a Friday afternoon.

*     *     *

Evelyn stretched out on the lawn chair next to the pool at her condo complex, thrilled to have nabbed one of the nice, spacious condos to rent from owners who had to go out of the country for two years. It came furnished and, while not cheap, she found that her salary from GMS offered her the luxury of being able to afford it. The gym and pool were bonuses…
okay, so I never go to the gym
, she thought ruefully, looking down at her curves. Glancing at several of the other young women with their trim, athletic bodies, she thought,
perhaps I should make an effort to make it to the gym.

Having spent Saturday morning cleaning and then grocery shopping, she closed her eyes, allowing the warmth of the sun to seep into her body as she drifted off to sleep. Several minutes later, the tittering of the girls sitting close to her woke her up. Looking over, she saw what was causing the commotion. Several men, each chiseled and tan, walked by, heading to the condo’s volleyball sandpit.

One of the men turned his face toward them, his gaze, hidden behind reflector sunglasses, appeared to roam over the women in a cursory manner until landing—and holding—on her.
Damn
, she thought as she met his perusal. Tall, muscular arms and legs, sandy-blond hair, square jaw. Unable to discern his eye color, she found herself staring at his reflective glasses.
I guess trim isn’t his cup of tea.
A smile played on the corners of her lips before he reached up and jerked his t-shirt over his head.
Double damn.
His chest and ripped stomach muscles were just as defined as his arms and thighs. Around his neck hung two chains. One with some kind of medallion and the other…dog tags.
Military. Just my luck…I see someone interesting and they’re a soldier.

Evelyn had nothing against the military—she had been an Army brat herself. But years of having to start over in school every two to three years and she swore she would never put her children through that. For some, it was great. Her outgoing older sister loved it, but for her? The shy, smart girl never felt like she had time to fit in or make friends.

BOOK: Special Forces: Operation Alpha: Protecting Love (Kindle Worlds Novella) (Saints Protection & Investigations Book 7)
3.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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