Authors: Kaylea Cross
Copyright © 2016 by Kaylea Cross
Cover Art by
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This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the author.
To all military working dogs and their handlers.
And to PJ, my bestest little fur buddy who is always at my side while I tap away on my laptop. Love you bunches.
Guardians Of The Night
Trust in me my friend, for I am your comrade. I will protect you with my last breath. When all others have left you and the loneliness of the night closes in, I will be at your side.
Together we will conquer all obstacles, and search out those who might wish harm to others. All I ask of you is compassion, the caring touch of your hands. It is for you that I will unselfishly give my life and spend my nights unrested. Although our days together may be marked by the passing of the seasons, know that each day at your side is my reward.
My days are measured by the coming and going of your footsteps. I anticipate them at every opening of the door. You are the voice of caring when I am ill. The voice of authority when I've done wrong.
Do not chastise me unduly for I am your right arm, the sword at your side. I attempt to do only what you bid of me. I seek only to please you and remain in your favor.
Together you and I shall experience a bond only others like us will understand. When outsiders see us together, their envy will be measured by their disdain.
I will quietly listen to you and pass no judgment, nor will your spoken words be repeated. I will remain ever silent, ever vigilant, ever loyal. And when our time together is done and you move on in the world, remember me with kind thoughts and tales. For a time we were unbeatable; nothing passed among us undetected.
If we should meet again on another street, I will gladly take up your fight. I am a Military Working Dog and together we are guardians of the night.
Author – Unknown
Wyatt’s story was very important to me. I’ve wanted to write about a MWD handler for a long time and finally got my chance with his book. Military and law enforcement dogs are amazing animals, and the bonds with their handlers are incredibly strong.
And, of course, my loyal puppy dog PJ is insanely excited that he made it not only into the pages of this series, but that he made the cover of this book. There will be no living with him from now on!
Hope you enjoy this one.
Wyatt Colebrook got out of his truck and strode for the front door of his cabin like the hounds of hell were chasing him.
Because they were.
Last night’s events, still fresh in his mind, had stirred up the ghosts he’d been battling so hard to exorcise for the past three years. He could run from them, but he couldn’t hide. Tonight, there was no escaping them.
He pushed open his front door, the familiar scents of home washing over him. This had been his sanctuary since moving in after being released from the rehabilitation facility in D.C., but even this place couldn’t ease his inner turmoil.
The one-bedroom cabin was set back from the main house on his family’s property, what was left of a huge parcel of land that had been in the family since before the Civil War. It was pretty spartan compared to the main house, but Wyatt liked it that way. No frills, no clutter, everything he needed and nothing more inside six hundred square feet.
At the sound of toenails clicking on the old plank floor he looked back as Grits trotted toward him. The brown and white two-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel had been dumped on him by a longtime friend a few weeks ago, much to Wyatt’s consternation. He was in no position to own another dog at the moment, but he hadn’t been able to say no.
Poor little guy had been rescued from a puppy mill where he’d been kept caged for most of his short life, and he’d been skittish of everything at first, especially strangers. Wyatt had spent the past three weeks doing basic training and gaining the dog’s trust, so Grits would be well-adjusted and have good manners when he went to his forever family. Something Wyatt just couldn’t provide for him.
Apparently sensing Wyatt’s mood, Grits paused a few cautious steps away, ears down, the end of his feathery-white tail swishing hesitantly. Unsure whether he was welcome to approach Wyatt or not.
Wyatt sighed and pulled off his cowboy hat, dumped it on the kitchen table. None of this was the dog’s fault. “Come on,” he said to Grits, who trotted over, head lowered in submission, rear end wiggling and those big brown eyes staring up at him worshipfully.
Wyatt knew for certain he didn’t deserve that look.
He bent to scratch the dog’s soft, floppy brown ears in reassurance anyway. Grits didn’t retreat, and Wyatt received enthusiastic kisses for his efforts. Taking on a dog was an additional burden he wasn’t sure he could handle right now.
He had no steady job, just helped his dad with the farm, took care of the horses and property, working from project to project when a build or reno opportunity came up. He hated the instability, the feeling of uselessness he’d been battling ever since being wounded. Try as he might, he simply didn’t feel like he fit into society anymore. He was too different. Too jaded.
“You’ve gotta be starving,” he said to Grits. Given what had happened with his brother Brody last night, they hadn’t made it back in time for Grits’s breakfast and Wyatt felt bad for making him go hungry.
He poured out the measured amount of food into the dog’s dish and was straightening when shuffling footsteps came from out on the front porch. He closed his eyes and bit back a groan, suddenly bone weary.
God, he really didn’t want to have this conversation right now. His leg ached from the additional workout at his VA appointment yesterday and the stump of what had once been his right calf was sore from rubbing in the socket of his prosthesis.
As per usual, and much to his irritation, his father tramped inside without knocking, his cane thudding heavily on the floor. Though the right side of his face drooped from the stroke he’d suffered two years ago—soon after Wyatt had been discharged from the hospital after his amputation—his old man’s role as a USMC gunnery sergeant for more than two decades was still evident in his rigid posture and that laser-like stare focused on Wyatt. The one that used to send a shiver up his backbone as a kid.
“Brody called me,” his father said, his speech slurred. Sarge, his retired narcotics dog, was at his heels. Grits scampered over to greet the old basset hound, who basically ignored him.
Not surprising about Brody, and Wyatt was relieved he wouldn’t have to go over everything in detail with his old man. Seeing it firsthand had been more than enough and he didn’t feel like rehashing it. At the moment all he wanted was some peace and quiet, although having company might help keep the ghosts at bay for a little while. “He tell you what happened?”
“Most of it, I think. He sounds okay, said the NSA is handling everything for him and the girl.”
Trinity Durant. Or whatever the hell her name really was. She was some sort of government-sanctioned female assassin Brody had met a few days ago, when she’d broken into his commander’s house near Quantico, looking for help. Last night she’d almost gotten Brody killed in a gun battle with two mobsters.
Every time Wyatt thought about it his insides clenched. His family had been through too much already. He’d be damned if he’d allow anything more to happen to any of them.
“It was a helluva night,” was all he said.
His father eyed him for a long moment. “You all right?”
Wyatt turned away, toward the fridge. “Yeah.” He’d be a lot better if he had a few shots of whiskey to dull the edge though. His PTSD had mostly been under control lately—or so he’d thought. But seeing his brother in mortal danger last night had shaken him up pretty bad, dredging up things he’d rather stay buried.
A chair scraped over the planks as his dad seated himself, apparently aiming to make himself comfortable and stay awhile. It didn’t escape Wyatt’s notice that he’d chosen to sit off to the left side of the table, where Wyatt could see him with his one eye. He appreciated the gesture, but in his current mood it just reminded him of how damaged he truly was. “What do you think of her?” his dad asked.
“I don’t know what to think.” He wanted to hate Trinity’s guts for the danger she’d placed Brody in, on principle. “Brody’s pretty into her, given everything he risked for her last night. And she has powerful friends. As soon as I started driving her away from the scene she was already calling people to make sure Brody was cleared of any wrongdoing. If that didn’t work, she was ready to expose the dirty CIA officer behind the leak on her own.”
She would have been blacklisted for it, or worse. Maybe even killed. Wyatt respected her for being willing to do that. “So that has to mean she cares about Brody a lot too, to be ready to take a risk like that.” Plus, Brody had told him she was worth it, so that was all Wyatt needed to know. If she was what Brody wanted, then Wyatt would have his back.
His father nodded and eyed the coffee maker. “Put on a fresh pot?”
Resigned to a long visit and fielding more questions, Wyatt dutifully turned and started pulling items from the cupboard. He could already envision how this was going to go.
I’m fine, Dad, I swear. No, I haven’t been drinking. No, I’m not on any meds. The headaches don’t happen that often anymore
With his back to his father, he said, “Brody told you to check on me, didn’t he?”
“He might have.”
about it. “I’m okay. Now that I know Brody’s fine and everything’s being taken care of, I’m good.” Whatever he had to say to get his dad to let him be for a while.
“He said you looked pretty shaken up last night.”
Wyatt swiveled to look at him with an incredulous snort. “Yeah? Well excuse me for losing my shit when I hear my brother being shot at on the other end of the phone, then track him via his phone to a deserted road in the middle of nowhere and find him and his new girlfriend crawling out of a cornfield, leaving two dead bodies behind.” His pulse picked up just from saying the words.
His father didn’t answer, merely watched him with that annoying calm that made Wyatt want to grind his teeth. His father had seen combat in three different wars, and knew a thing or two about post-traumatic stress. If he was haunted by his own demons, he hid it well. A trait he apparently hadn’t passed onto his eldest son.
“It was good, what you did,” his father said. “Family’s the most important thing and we always look after our own.”
Wyatt nodded once in acknowledgment and went back to making the coffee. He knew that. It had been ingrained in all of them, even before his mom got sick and died. No matter what they did or what was going on in their lives, the Colebrooks stuck together. Period.
When he’d filled two mugs he turned around to find that Grits had given up on Sarge and jumped up into his father’s lap. His dad scratched the Cavalier’s ears with his good hand and the dog’s eyes were half-closed in bliss as Grits leaned into him.