Authors: Anne Conley
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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Redemption for Misty
I would like to thank Susan Stoker for her friendship and support, and for asking me to be a part of this world with her. Without Susan, this story most assuredly would not have come about, and it helped me immensely with a block I had been suffering. So, here’s to thinking about things from a different angle! Also, my editor, Tiffany gets a humongous thanks, as she’s become more of a friend to me than business associate. Suzanne, who is always my cheerleader, gets a giant shout out, and she makes my beautiful graphics as well. I owe a huge portion of my success to the ridiculous woman who hates when I make a big deal out of her. My beta readers are amazing and especially Amber Polk, who helped out with the dining table epilogue. Last, but most certainly not least, my husband, who is quite possibly the loudest one-man cheer squad on the planet.
Table of Contents:
“Hey, Nova, I’ve got a favor.” Andrew “Crash” Walker sat next to Chris, drinking a beer in their favorite dive. Chris used to cringe at the nickname Nova—short for Casanova—given to him because of his ability to drop panties whenever he smiled, but he’d finally gotten used to it. Thankfully, the guys had shortened it, so he could pretend it was Super Nova or some shit like that.
“Anything. You name it.” Chris would die for his buddy—almost
on several occasions. And Crash knew it. They’d saved each other’s lives so many times in Iraq, and later in Syria, they’d lost count. Two tours in the Army had a knack for putting buddies in situations of playing the hero for one another.
“You still wanting a place to stay?” Crash asked, idly leaning back on two chair legs. Chris had seen him do this in nearly every chair he’d ever sat in, and the man had yet to fall.
“Yup.” Chris swigged from his longneck, waiting to hear what his friend needed. He’d do almost anything to get out of his mom’s house. He loved his mama to death but was tired of her coddling. Nine years in the Army, six of those as a Ranger, and she still wanted to make sure he was at home in his bed by midnight.
“I got called up to take a traveling job. Apparently, the boss thinks ‘cause I’m not married, he can yank me around willy-nilly and shit. I need someone to stay with Misty for six weeks while I go to Alabama.”
Misty Walker. Fuck yeah. Chris would do anything for his brother, and that included Misty. Hands down the most badass chick on the planet, she was his hero just for surviving what she’d been through—a brutal attack—but her recovery involved starting a coffee shop to help survivors of similar attacks. She had grit. And Chris was all over that shit. Not that Crash knew about it, though. He’d kick Chris’s ass all over the place. But Misty was a hero to him. Never mind he’d never met her before, only stared at her picture by Crash’s bed like a lovesick idiot. The family photo was taken at the beach, on some vacation, and her dark, wind-blown curls and sun-kissed skin called to him in a way he never could quite explain. But fuck, she was hot.
Apparently, Crash took his silence as reticence because he continued, “It’s not that she needs anything. I just don’t like leaving her alone for so long. The attack happened in her home, before she moved in with me. And sometimes she still has nightmares and stuff. I want her protected, to feel safe, and you’ll do it without giving her a hard time.” The unspoken words were there. Chris would do it without fucking her.
Even with the reputation attached to his moniker, Nova knew the bro code. He wouldn’t make any moves on his best friend’s sister. But living under the same roof with her certainly wouldn’t be a hardship.
“When you leaving?” Chris told his junk to settle down as he finished up his beer in one long swallow.
“I’ve got a flight out at nine tomorrow night. You can come over for dinner before that, and I’ll introduce you. That will give me time to break it to her.” The grin on his buddy’s face told Chris he was probably going to enjoy telling her she had a new babysitter.
“She not gonna like it?”
Waving his beer around absently, Crash muttered, “She’s a chick with views of independence.” Chris remembered Crash talking about the independence issue with Misty even before the attack. She was always causing her parents grief by doing stuff without their approval. Like getting tattoos.
Chris’s finger twitched at the outer seam of his jeans, his nail scratching the denim. Tattoos. Chicks with tattoos were fucking hot. But he quickly put a lid on that thought. He repressed the urge to remind his buddy Misty was twenty-four-years old and perfectly capable of making decisions on her own.
“You sound like a Neanderthal.” He beat on his chest and made some grunting noises, just to piss off Crash and make the point that independent chicks weren’t all bad. They were certainly better than chicks who couldn’t make a decision on their own, ever.
“Dude. It’s true, though. All that ‘I can do everything on my own’ shit is what got her in trouble in the first place. Moving out of the house and into some dump in a rotten part of town, that fucking job, all of it. She was so high on her freedom and shit, she forgot to be careful.” Crash’s frustration was obvious. The big brother part of Crash wouldn’t let his sister down. He took another swig of his beer. “But I hear her nightmares, and I’m the one who reminds her the asshole’s dead. I know it’s a front. She gets scared. And I don’t want her alone.”
Crash had lost his mind when his sister had gone missing while he was stuck in Syria. The entire company had heard about it, but it was the platoon who had really come together to support him in his rage against the faceless entity who wouldn’t let him go home to find her.
Chris took a slow sip of his beer and said, “I’ll take care of her.”
“Just make sure she stays safe, okay?”
“Got it, bro.” Chris would keep her safe. And keep his hands to himself. Crash wanted him for the job so she wouldn’t be spending the entire time fending off their buddies’ advances. Vegas and Ace just didn’t know when to stop when it came to women, and Crash obviously didn’t want Misty to be seen on their radar. Chris cringed. Yeah. He could do this. Never mind he’d wanted her with every fiber of his being for far too long. He would do this for Crash.
Crash’s house was a tidy bungalow in a middle-class neighborhood in Austin. It was an older neighborhood that had seen a recent resurgence and was becoming trendy again. The house itself was painted a fresh, understated blue color and had neatly trimmed hedges which had probably been there since it was built in 1970.
But as he walked up to the door, Chris heard the crashing of pots and pans inside. Apparently, the kitchen was close to the front door, and Chris grinned as he realized Misty was not at all happy with his being there. Excitement filled him at the prospect of seeing Misty feisty.
He rang the bell and heard Misty yell something to Crash right before he opened the door with a sheepish grin.
“Come on in, man. I just told her. She’s… adjusting.”
“I am not
” Chris heard the crash of a pan on a tabletop, rattling plates and silverware, before he came around the corner to see the kitchen and dining area. And a wildcat.
Dark hair hung in crazy ringlets around her red face and tempestuous brown eyes. Chris had only seen photos of Misty Walker, but in the flesh, she took his breath away.
“Nova is just going to stay with you while I’m away. I don’t want to leave you here alone, Misty. He’s not going to do anything. You probably won’t even know he’s here. He can be a quiet dude, right, Nova?” Crash looked at him hopefully, and Chris nodded.
“Yeah, sure. You won’t even know I’m here.” Chris looked around the house, trying to avoid the wild eyes that had landed on him. There was a door out to the garage on the other side of the kitchen, and he’d bet there was a back door to the yard in the living room on the other side of the house. A hallway led off to the side, where he presumed the bedrooms were.
“I don’t need a babysitter, Andrew. This is stupid.” She sat in a huff at a chair at the head of the table.
“Come on… for me? Do this for me? It’s either that or you’ll move back in with Mom and Dad.”
Reaching across the table and gripping a pan of what Chris hoped was meatloaf, she rolled her eyes. “I am twenty-four years old. I’m not moving in with Mom and Dad so my big brother feels more secure in his manhood about going out of town. I moved in with you for help with finances, not a fucking babysitter.” She scooped out a glob of meat with a spoon and it went
on her plate.
“I’ll be more of a roommate, if that helps. I’ve been staying with my folks, too, so you’re actually doing me a favor,” Chris offered as he sat next to her. Her eyes snapped to him, and he couldn’t stop himself from staring. She was gorgeous, and the more he looked into her deep brown eyes, the more lost he became. He forced his eyes to other parts of her face—the elegant arch of her eyebrows, the pout of her lips, the smooth line of her nose, her slender neck where her pulse pounded erratically. Ripping his gaze from her, he focused on the food again. “This really smells good. Thanks for the invite, man.” He was trying to placate everybody. It was bad for digestion if you ate while angry. Although Chris could eat under any circumstances, and it really did smell good.
The response he got was a huff from Misty that blew her bangs out of her face, and a relieved sigh from Crash as he lowered himself on the other side of the table from Misty. They started passing bowls around the table, and Chris realized he’d never eaten with anybody like this except his parents. He didn’t know people his age ate like this at a table. Like a family.
It was nice.
They ate in mostly silence, the scrapes of utensils against plates sounding off the siblings’ anger. Chris was amused by it all. He didn’t think he’d have much to do here. He’d probably go to the coffee shop a couple times to scope it out but knew she wouldn’t like it. He’d do what he could to make Misty happy, but he was here for his buddy. And he’d do what he needed to do.
After dinner was over, Misty stood to clear the table, and Crash grabbed his duffle bag by the door. “Well, I’m off to catch my flight. Don’t be mad, okay?” He leaned over to give Misty a hug, and she stiffly returned it, but it looked like she would rather strangle him.
“You are such an asshole. I just want that on the record.”
After Crash left, Chris went to help Misty. “Here. Let me do the dishes. You cooked. It’s only fair,
.” He grinned his panty-melting grin at her, flashing the dimple that usually got him his way with women.
“Fine. Dish soap’s down there,” she sighed. “I am
calling you Nova, nor am I referring to Andrew as Crash for the next six weeks. What’s your name?”
“Chris Malone.” He held out his hand, and she took it, shaking it firmly. He couldn’t ignore the warmth of her palm, nor the heat radiating to his elbow.
“Well, make yourself at home. Andrew’s room is the second door on the left. I’m going to bed.”
She turned on her heel, black hair flying over her shoulder—hair Chris wanted to twirl around his fist and use it to yank her back to him.
“Goodnight,” he offered. No answer.
Misty had snuck out of the house at 5:00 this morning, her usual time, but she didn’t usually have to sneak. The idea that she had to be quiet for her new ‘houseguest’ pissed her off, even though she knew she was being unreasonable. It wasn’t Chris’s fault her brother was an asshole.
After getting the muffins in the oven and the coffee started, Misty was surprised to find Chris sitting outside waiting for her to open at 6:30. Taking a deep breath, fortifying herself for a confrontation about sneaking out, she let him in. To his credit, he didn’t say anything, just followed her to the counter and watched while she put on her apron and washed her hands before going back to the register.
“You want something?”
His eyebrows lifted in surprise over the bluest eyes she’d ever seen. “Yeah, I’m not going to take up table space without ordering something. I’ll take a large house brew, if that’s okay. I’ll get something to eat in a little bit.” He looked at her under long eyelashes and a shock of dark hair falling over his forehead. If he was in her brother’s platoon, they must have gotten out at the same time. And Chris had apparently never cut his hair again. It had grown out over his ears and below the collar of his neck. She tried to be unaffected by the sudden desire to run her fingers through it.
Misty realized she was staring when he followed up with, “Nice place. It looks like I could work here instead of the house. This looks better than surrounding myself with your brother’s stuff.”