Authors: Rochelle Paige
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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A shy movie star...
Chloe Porter wasn’t prepared for her meteoric rise to fame. Raised by her grandmother after her parents died, her sheltered upbringing is a far cry from the celebrity lifestyle she’s expected to live when she wins an Oscar for her first movie role.
A former Navy SEAL…
The ink on Kael Stewart’s Navy separation papers is barely dry. The last thing he wants to take on is a babysitting job, but he can’t say no when his grandfather asks him for a favor.
And a crazed stalker…
Kael has to find Chloe before he can protect her. Scared for her life, she’s dropped out of sight in the hope that her obsessed fan will lose interest. Sparks fly when he hunts Chloe down, and Kael quickly discovers he has something in common with her stalker—an obsession with the beautiful actress.
Lead to a love worth protecting.
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Protection Crisis is part of the launch of Susan Stoker's Special Forces: Operation Alpha Kindle World. It's a crossover between my Crisis series and her SEAL of Protection series. As a big fan of her SEALs, it really was a pleasure to be able to write a novella in her world. I hope you enjoy seeing her Tex in my story as he puts his tech skills to good use helping out one of my former SEALs.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”
It was rare for me to swear in front of my gramps, but what he’d just asked of me warranted some foul language. He knew it, too, but he still wasn’t going to let me get away with anything.
“Watch your language, boy,” he snapped.
I hung my head low and counted to ten. It didn’t change my reaction to his request, but the extra time did help me calm down a bit before replying again.
“Gramps,” I sighed, looking back up at him. “I’m not a bodyguard.”
“You’re better than some rent-a-cop for hire, you’re a goddamn Navy SEAL.”
I sputtered at his choice of words, but I knew better than to point out he’d just sworn after giving me a hard time for my choice of words. “Not anymore, Gramps.”
“Once a SEAL, always a SEAL,” he retorted.
It was impossible to argue with him because he was right. The bond I’d formed with my fellow SEALs could never be broken, not after the hell we’d gone through. But with the ink barely dry on my separation papers from the Navy, it was the last thing I wanted to talk about. The only way to avoid it was a discussion about the second to last thing on my list—his hair-brained scheme to have me babysit some woman who’d managed to get herself into trouble.
“I might not know what I’m going to do now that I’m out of the Navy, but it doesn’t mean I want to spend my days watching over a woman I’ve never met before just because she’s done who knows what to put herself in danger.”
“The girl isn’t to blame for any of this. She can’t help how pretty she is, but not all of the attention it garners her is good.”
A beautiful woman in trouble sounded awfully convenient for my grandfather since he wanted me to stick around, but it didn’t stop me from falling for his possible trap anyway. “Who’s the girl?”
“Chloe Porter, the actress?” His answer was one hell of a shock. “How do you even know she needs a bodyguard?”
“Her grandmother mentioned it at lunch the other day,” he answered nonchalantly, as though it was perfectly normal to share a meal with a celebrity’s relative.
“You know Chloe Porter’s grandmother?”
“Hey,” he huffed. “I know people!”
“Sure you do, Gramps. But none of them are related to the actress who’s graced the cover of just about all the entertainment magazines lately.”
He narrowed his eyes at me, a speculative gleam in his gaze. “And how exactly would you know that?”
I felt the heat creeping into my cheeks. I had no intention of admitting to the fact that I’d found a way to get my hands on every magazine I could find with her on the cover. I’d first seen one while at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti a few months ago. We were headed home after a particularly grueling mission in Yemen to rescue several hostages taken by ISIS. We’d been too late, they were executed a few hours before we’d pinpointed their location. It wasn’t our first unsuccessful mission, but my sense of frustration at our failure hit me hard. I’d been frustrated and tired, pissed off and disappointed—and then I’d seen her picture.
Her unique mixture of sultry and innocence stopped me dead in my tracks. There was no denying she was damn gorgeous with her jet black hair and bright green eyes contrasted against her flawless, pale skin. I supposed her beauty was to be expected, considering her profession. It was practically a requirement for actresses, but there was something about Chloe Porter which set her apart from the others. Purity shone from her gaze, but her lips were so plush I couldn’t stop myself from picturing them wrapped around my dick. She was half the world away from me, in more ways than one, but the pull I’d felt was too strong to ignore. There was no way in hell I was going to try to explain my crazy reaction to her photo to my gramps, though.
“I just do,” I grumbled. “Stop avoiding the question. How do you know her grandmother?”
“Edith lives upstairs.”
The assisted living center where my gramps lived was one of the best ones in Indiana, but it wasn’t fancy by any stretch of the imagination. “What the he—ck is Chloe Porter’s grandmother doing living in a place like this?”
“Watch it boy, or else I’ll start to think you’re insulting my home.”
It was hard to think of the assisted living center as his home instead of the rambling farmhouse where I used to visit him when I was younger. But when my grandma passed away a few years ago, Gramps announced he was selling the place and moving into something more manageable where he could socialize.
“I don’t mean it like that, and you know it. I would never have let you move in here if it wasn’t nice.” His brows raised at my use of the word ‘let.’ “It just seems weird to me that Hollywood’s darling would have a grandparent living in the same place as I do.”
“Well, she does,” he grumbled. “And Chloe visits her grandmother a lot more often than you ever come to see me.”
“You know why—“
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he interrupted me. “But now that you’re out of the Navy, I expect to see your face around here more often.”
“I’m here right now, aren’t I?”
Wait a second…
“You’re on a first-name basis with Chloe Porter?”
“Of course I am,” Gramps grumbled. “I wouldn’t call her Chloe if she hadn’t told me to herself the last time she visited her grandmother. Pretty as a picture, and sweet as can be, that girl is.”
How in the hell was I supposed to resist giving in to my grandfather’s request when he was asking me to watch over the woman who I’d been fantasizing about for months? I’d never expected to meet her in real life. Even if I had, I would have expected her to be a spoiled celebrity. Yet from what my grandfather said, she was anything but—and I’d always trusted his judgment. I didn’t know why I was even bothering to resist, not when she was the one in need.
“What kind of trouble is she in?”
“The usual celebrity stuff. She’s managed to attract the attention of a crazy fan who’s turned into a stalker.”
Shit, a stalker was serious. “What’d the cops say?”
“They basically said there wasn’t much they could do to help. Read over the letters and gifts he left, had a car do some drive-bys, told her to hire some security. Without many clues to his identity, their hands are tied apparently.”
As fucked up as it sounded, I could easily see it happening the way my grandfather had described. “How long ago did this all start?”
“About a month, but from what Chloe told Edith, it sounded to me like this guy was escalating quickly. He started out with harmless gifts, flowers and chocolates. Then when he didn’t get the response he wanted, the letters started. Early last week, his descriptions of what he wanted to do to her got graphic,” Gramps explained.
“Did she take the cops advice and hire security?” It wasn’t like she didn’t have the money to hire the best guys in the business. I still didn’t understand why she needed my help.
“The studio took care of it while she wrapped up filming for her next movie. Once it was done, so was her security. The movie execs seem more excited about the possible headlines they can get if this guy does something than they were concerned for her safety.”
She’d be plastered on the cover of every gossip magazine in the country, and probably several others, if she was attacked by a stalker. It would be a feeding frenzy, resulting in a shit-ton of free publicity for her movie. I wasn’t surprised that the greedy bastards had no problem taking advantage of the situation. She needed someone on her side who didn’t give a flying fuck about what she could do for them, and it looked like it was up to me to be that man. “She still in Los Angeles?”
“Well,” he sighed. “Here’s the thing. We don’t know where she went. One of the letters completely freaked her out, and she took the red eye here to see her grandmother. She spent the night, told Edith what was going on without giving a ton of details, and then she took off the next day.”
“You sure she didn’t tell her grandmother where she was going?”
He shook his head, looking sad. “I wish she had, but she said it would be better if her grandmother didn’t know. If anyone came asking, like her agent or the press, then Edith wouldn’t have anything to hide.”
Shit, it looked like I might need some help tracking her down. Luckily, I knew a guy from my BUD/S class who could make finding her look like child’s play. Brody Slater’s injuries might have taken him out of the teams, but from what I’d heard his computer skills were as sharp as ever.
Dressed in flannel pajamas pants, an oversized t-shirt and fuzzy socks, I didn’t resemble the glittering image the world expected from Chloe Porter. My first professional role as an actress was playing an heiress who loved to shop, and the public seemed to think her image fit me perfectly. It was the furthest thing from the truth, but that didn’t stop my agent from cultivating it as my persona. He worked hard to make sure I was dressed in brand names, my hair perfectly done and my make-up just so in every photo which appeared in the magazines.
He’d be horrified if he saw how I looked. I hadn’t even run a brush through my hair, and the sun was already setting. I also hadn’t touched my make-up bag, not for a week. The closest I’d come to any was the lip balm I’d been using, but it wasn’t even tinted. I wasn’t concerned about looking pretty, I only wanted to moisturize my lips since the furnace kept drying them out. It wasn’t as though anyone staying at the hotel would mind if I skipped the beautification process and dressed down. Although, calling it a hotel was being generous considering I had to walk up the stairs to my room, my door faced the parking lot, the closest restaurant was the diner down the street and I was told to expect housekeeping on Tuesdays only since I was paying the weekly rate.
I figured it was the last place anyone would think to come looking for me, which made it the perfect location for me to hide. There was probably only one person in the world who wouldn’t be surprised to find me in a no-name motel in a small town on the coast of Oregon—my grandmother. She was also probably the only person who wasn’t looking for me.
If I’d been gone for a day or two, it wouldn’t have been an issue since it wasn’t unusual for me to leave town to visit her. Seven days was unusual, and I could have explained it away except I hadn’t returned anyone’s calls since I’d left Los Angeles. It was kind of hard to do when you tossed your cell phone into the road and ran it over with your car. I might not have ever been on the run before, but I’d watched enough movies and read enough books to know I could be tracked using my phone.
How in the heck had I found myself in a situation where I needed to worry about someone trying to track me down to hurt me? When I tried out for a play back in college, it had been for a lark more than anything else. I was a finance major for goodness sake. I’d always had a knack for numbers, a trait I’d inherited from my dad who’d been an accountant. I figured my curiosity about the theater came from my mom, whose favorite pastime had been to go to the movies or a play.
I’d been in my senior year when I saw the signs posted on campus about tryouts for
. It was probably my last chance to give it a go before I had a career to worry about. Plus, it was my mom’s favorite show ever. I’d seen the play with her once, and we’d watched the original movie with Audrey Hepburn and the remake more times than I could count. I felt like it was a sign that I should audition.
I was surprised when I landed the role of Eliza Doolittle. I didn’t find out until later that it was beyond rare for a major role to be given to a student outside the theater program. The other actresses in the play hated me, of course. They gossiped like crazy about how I must have been sleeping with the director. When a Hollywood producer asked to speak with me after our final show, they suddenly wanted to be my best friend. It was my first lesson in how fake the world I’d entered was. If only I’d taken it as a warning, I wouldn’t have found myself huddled in this crappy bed with my grandmother’s iPad in my lap. But what else was I supposed to have done when the latest note from my stalker made it clear he knew the studio had pulled their protection? Only someone close to me could have access to that information since I’d only found out the day before the letter arrived. When I’d shown it to the police, the detective on my case agreed it meant I had to know the guy. Without knowing who to trust, I decided to rely on myself and nobody else.
On the plus side, I’d spent the last week catching up on all the shows I’d missed and binge reading my favorite authors. Delia Sinclair’s newest book was up next. Another one featuring a former Navy SEAL who races to the rescue of the heroine. My situation sounded exactly like the opening to one of her books, except without any sign of a military man to save me. Although the truth was sometimes stranger than fiction considering what had happened in the author’s real life when she met her husband.
“Too bad it’ll never happen to me,” I sighed, swiping my finger across the screen to lose myself in a story I knew would have a happy ending.