Authors: Debra Webb
A former solider must protect his ex-fiancée and his secret son in the next installment of The Specialists: Heroes Next Door
Before he could say “I do” on his wedding day eight years ago, former special ops soldier Drew Bryant was hustled away for a top secret mission. Everyone—including the bride he left behind—believes he’s long dead. But now his former fiancée is on the run from a vengeful fugitive, and Drew is handpicked to bring her to safety. When he finds Addi Collins deep in the swamplands of Louisiana—with the son he never knew existed—he has to earn her trust to protect her from a vindictive desperado. And prove he won’t break her heart a second time.
Addison’s heart twisted. She knew that voice, and only one man had ever called her by that nickname. Drew Bryant, her long-dead fiancé.
She shook her head. Clearly she’d let the stress and worry get to her. Drew wasn’t here, wasn’t even alive.
The screen door hinges squealed and the handle of the main door turned. A dream, she thought, it had to be a dream. As the door eased open, Addison leveled the shotgun at the man casting shadows across the weak moonlight spilling through the door.
“Addi, it’s me, Drew. I’m here to help.”
The loud report deafened her to the splintering wood as the buckshot pelted the front door. The man rushed forward, taking the gun before she could fire again.
,” he said, his voice lost in the ringing in her ears.
The single lightbulb came on and she covered her mouth, barely smothering the scream lodged in her chest. “No.
” This wasn’t possible.
TO HONOR AND
& Regan Black
, born in Alabama, wrote her first story at age nine and her first romance at thirteen. It wasn’t until she spent three years working for the military behind the Iron Curtain—and a five-year stint with NASA—that she realized her true calling. Since then the
bestselling author has penned more than one hundred novels, including her internationally bestselling Colby Agency series.
bestselling author, writes award-winning, action-packed novels featuring kick-butt heroines and the sexy heroes who fall in love with them. Raised in the Midwest and California, she and her family, along with their adopted greyhound, two arrogant cats and a quirky finch, reside in the South Carolina Lowcountry, where the rich blend of legend, romance and history fuels her imagination.
Books by Debra Webb and Regan Black
The Specialists: Heroes Next Door series
To Honor and To Protect
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CAST OF CHARACTERS
Addison (Addi) Collins—
One of San Francisco’s top corporate attorneys and a single mom, Addison is still searching for success in her personal life. Her first fiancé was killed in a military operation, and her new fiancé might be a dangerous traitor.
As a Special Forces soldier, Drew’s wedding was interrupted by a mission that ended with his capture and nearly two years as a prisoner of war in the Middle East. Having escaped, he’s back in the States trying to pick up the pieces of his life.
The director of the Specialists has been ordered to find and plug an intelligence leak that has compromised covert operatives and missions around the world.
A successful San Francisco businessman, he made his fortune advising global investors, but he could lose everything if his fiancée exposes his secret connections.
For Robert, if you never read past this page,
know that you’re my treasure, full of the integrity,
insight and kindness that make real-life heroes so special.
Interstate 10, West Texas
Thursday, June 19, 3:10 p.m.
Addison Collins checked the fuel gauge, quickly calculating how many more miles she could put between her and the inevitable pursuit before they had to stop. Her brand-new BMW could’ve done that for her, but not this ancient, new-to-her Land Rover. That was what math was for, wasn’t it? This was the perfect example she would keep in the back of her mind for the day her son complained about his math homework.
“Mom, how much longer?”
She recognized that tone. He was about to complain but not about math. Using the rearview mirror, she aimed a confident smile at her son. His bright hair gleamed in the sunlight coming through the window, but the glare on his face bordered on mutinous.
She couldn’t blame him. They’d been on the road for two days straight and had another day left. Possibly more. “About another half hour and we’ll stop again.”
“I have to pee now.”
“You’ll have to hold it for a few minutes.”
“A half hour is
minutes. A few is more like three.”
Instead of maternal pride, Addison couldn’t help wondering why she’d ever been inclined to teach him the difference. “And how many threes are in thirty?”
“Ten.” He turned his face to the window. “I still have to pee.”
“All right. I’ll find a place to stop.”
“This car stinks,” he said a minute later.
“The car is clean. It’s just new-car smell.” With a persistent undertone of mildew, but she kept that thought to herself.
“But it’s an
Patience will pay off
. “The car dealers spray a strong deodorizer to make it feel new.” They had periodically rolled down the windows, but the heavy-duty deodorizer scent lingered, punctuating the mildew rather than overpowering it. This vehicle might be a major step down in value from her BMW, but the dealer in Arizona had been willing to meet her trade and cash terms without any questions, and that had been priceless.
“So they can sell it faster.”
“Will our car stink like this when we go back home?”
“I don’t know.” It was the only safe answer because she hadn’t yet found the courage to tell her son they weren’t going back. She hadn’t lied to him and she wouldn’t start now, but she wasn’t ready to discuss it. The words he needed to hear to understand the gravity of their new situation just weren’t coming to her, and she wasn’t ready to cope with the fallout when he realized he wouldn’t see his friends again.
Her own grief was too fresh, her fear of the unknown too big. When she had a handle on her feelings, she would be better able to help him with his.
, an annoying little voice in her head muttered.
“It’s yucky in here,” he said, making a gagging noise. He had a point, though she wasn’t about to admit it. “I feel sick.”
Addison’s patience was fraying, but it wasn’t Andy’s fault they were in this mess. No, this was all her doing. She’d been the one to screw up their picture-perfect life by getting conned by a not-nearly perfect man. He’d looked like Mr. Right, and until a few days ago, she’d been sure he was the right man for both her and Andy. The only silver lining—and she was clinging to it—was that she’d learned the truth before the wedding.
“Roll down the window,” she said. “Some fresh air should help.”
His face brightened momentarily, then clouded over again. “Where’s the button?”
She rolled her eyes. “Use that little handle thingy.”
She stretched but couldn’t reach it from the driver’s seat. The Land Rover was built so much wider than her sedan, and the only power was under the hood. How ridiculous that an old-school vehicle could stump them both. “The window isn’t electric like you’re used to. Just wind it down, remember?”
She had a few minutes of peace while the manual crank amused her seven-year-old son. In a few months, he’d be eight. Although less than a week ago she’d been kicking around ideas for his birthday party, now all bets were off. She didn’t know where they’d be living by his birthday, only that she intended to be sure they were both alive to celebrate it—even if it was just the two of them.
She immediately pushed that train of thought off the tracks. Right now all Andy needed to know was that they were on a summer adventure. Providing for him, taking care of his education—those questions would be answered later.
“Are we there yet?”
Not even close. “Almost.”
“Mom, I can’t hold it much longer.”
“Hang on.” With her eyes on the road, she caught the squirming in the backseat. “There’s a place at this next exit.”
“Two minutes,” she replied, her voice leaving no room for argument. “You can time me.”
His small, straight nose wrinkled as he fiddled with the big Captain America watch on his wrist. He flipped up the red, white and blue shield cover and busied himself with the stopwatch feature. Her little man had begged for the watch for Christmas and had worn it from the moment he’d ripped open the package. Only his fear of ruining it made him take it off for bath time.
She happily nurtured his love of comic book heroes, and reading through various adventures with him was part of their bedtime routine. Even in the horrible, desperate rush to get away, she’d grabbed his entire collection. More than once she’d wondered if some part of his attraction to comics was genetic. Andy’s father had been a soldier, a good man and a lifelong fan of the Marvel universe. Oh, what she wouldn’t give to have him here with her now.
“One minute,” Andy announced.
“My personal town crier,” she mumbled, taking the exit.
“What’s a town crier?”
Nothing wrong with her boy’s hearing. “Lots and lots of years ago, people didn’t have smartphones or clocks or watches, so someone would walk the town streets and call out the time. ‘Three o’clock and all’s well!’ Like that.”
“We’re here.” She pulled into the parking space closest to the front door of the gas station, knowing that thoughtful “huh” sound meant more questions were dancing at the front of his brain. “You can unbuckle now.”
“You made it with ten seconds to spare.”
“Guess I should’ve been a race car driver.”
“Did town criers drive this old kind of car?” he asked when she came around to open his door.
“No. Town criers were way before cars.”
“Then how did they get around town?”
She held out her hand, her heart giving a happy bump when he placed his in hers without argument. “People walked or used horses and carts.”
“That’s weird. Horses poop a lot.”
She laughed. “Everything has a by-product.” Inside, she glanced around for the restroom sign, leading her son back by way of the motor oil aisle rather than the candy aisle. “I know at school you’ve seen pictures of cities before cars.”
“And the museum field trips.” He shrugged, his gaze roving across the labels at his eye level, his feet slowing as he tried to read the words and logos on each one. Grateful for the distraction, she wasn’t surprised it didn’t last. When she pushed open the ladies’ room door, he stopped short in the narrow hallway.