Never allowing anyone too close, Ethan Stone has lived a solitary life since he was disowned by his family when he discovered their darkest secret. He spends his days as a quiet sentinel, protecting others to make up for the ones he didn’t. Love, friendship, and family have no place in his world.
Ben Cronin is a warrior, haunted by a past he excelled at, which almost robbed him of his humanity. He became a professional bodyguard to save lives rather than take them. And he has loved his stoic colleague, Ethan Stone, from the day they met.
When Ethan’s sister suddenly comes back into his life in desperate need of his help, Ethan doesn’t hesitate to do whatever he needs to do. To his surprise, Ben—the man who makes him want things he shouldn’t—is right there beside him, risking everything to help him and finally coaxing Ethan’s feelings back to life.
A desperate race to find his missing nieces leads Ethan to a place he never thought he’d be and takes Ben exactly where he wanted to be—in a life filled with love and desire. But how long can they keep it when evil stalks their every step?
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|Publisher:||NineStar Press, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.60(d)|
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"Have you heard anything more, Ethan?"
They were at thirty-seven thousand feet so Ethan should be fast asleep by now. He suspected he wouldn't be getting much in the coming days, but no matter how many times he closed his eyes and tried to drift off, he remained steadfastly awake.
"No. I've tried the number she gave me, but it keeps going to voicemail." Ethan turned to Ryan, who was standing at the door to the little bedroom on the private jet taking them back to the US much sooner than planned. It seemed like only yesterday they'd sat in these same seats heading toward a well- deserved break in Australia. "I'm sorry, again. You and Lucas could have stayed. Harry and Christina were there."
"We know, but we owe you so much, if you need to get back to help your sister, then we're coming with. Whatever we can do to help, we're there." They'd been holidaying in Australia for a few weeks when his sister's call had come the day before. Ethan had offered to leave alone, but both Ryan and Lucas had packed up their picnic lunch on the pristinely white beach in the Great Barrier Reef and then moved heaven and earth to get them back to the mainland and out of the country.
"Thank you, Ryan. I wish she'd have told me more. It's the not knowing that's so fucking hard."
"How long since you've heard from her?"
"Eight years." Ethan hadn't seen or heard from his sister since his brother's trial. She'd idolized Ethan — before everything went to shit.
Ethan had been thirty-two when he'd sent his younger brother to prison and lost his family all at the same time. The last memory he had of Maggie was her being dragged from the courtroom by his parents, with tears streaming down her face, once the guilty verdict had been read. He hadn't shown up for sentencing — his parents had made it abundantly clear that he was no longer part of their family and wouldn't be welcome.
Ryan shifted uncomfortably and Ethan could tell he wanted to ask more, but Ryan was never one to pry.
"She used to call me Thor. Maggie was into mythology even before these Marvel movies came along. She used to tell the kids at school that her biggest brother was Thor, and if they messed with her, I'd mess with them. I'm sixteen years older than her, but we were close. I'm not much of a hero to her anymore."
"Oh, I don't know. Who did she call when she got into trouble? Seems she still thinks of you as her hero."
Ethan nodded, trying to believe Ryan's words but falling short. He was nobody's hero.
"Try to sleep, Ethan. We've still got another eight hours before we get to LA to refuel and then another couple of hours to get to Casper."
"Thanks, Ryan. Thanks again for organizing the plane and everything else. I appreciate it."
Ryan nodded and turned back toward the bedroom. He stopped short of entering and then looked over his shoulder at Ethan. "I know what it's like to have no family. To have no one but yourself to rely on. But you're not alone now, Ethan. Whatever we can do ... okay?"
Ethan swallowed past the knot in his throat and only nodded his head, not trusting his voice to come out steady. Ryan walked into the bedroom, and Ethan went back to the frustrating agony of trying to fall asleep when it just wouldn't come.
IT WAS A little over thirty-four hours since he'd gotten the desperate call for help from his sister, and Ethan felt dead on his feet. They'd landed in Casper forty minutes ago, and now he, Lucas, and Ryan were left standing with their luggage outside a large gray shed waiting for their helicopter to arrive. His ex- employers, the Krispins, had organized their travel plans and had promised a chopper waiting for them to take them on to Cody, where Maggie was living. Some kind of FAA issue had forbidden them from landing the jet directly at Cody airport, but the two to three hour drive time should have been considerably reduced, if the chopper had been here on time.
"Hey, I spoke to that head guy again and he said it's five minutes out. We should hear the sound any minute. Flight time should be under an hour, depending on wind. Not much longer now," Lucas advised him before he turned from Ethan and once again grabbed his boyfriend's hand, the two speaking quietly to each other as they waited.
Within moments, Ethan heard the chop chop of the arriving helicopter's rotors. He looked toward the noise and could make out a dark- colored helicopter approaching from the north. As it came in to land on the helipad, Ethan could see a large gold star, almost like a sheriff's badge, on the underside and red-and-white stripes on the rotors. The craft itself was dark-blue with "rescue" emblazoned in large, white letters on the side. It was a rescue chopper?
One of the ground crew who'd come out to wave the pilot in called them forward once the chopper was safely down, opening the door to the cabin for them. The three each picked up their bags and ran forward, head down on instinct, toward the waiting helicopter.
There was a single seat behind the cockpit and two seats directly behind that. The stretcher lining the other side confirmed that it was indeed a rescue helicopter. Ethan jumped into the single seat and gave a wave to the watching pilot before clipping his seat belt. In seconds, they were airborne.
Liftoff was completely unlike taking off in a plane. The helicopter rose vertically, tilted its nose down, and suddenly they were racing back the way the chopper had come. The ground crew had given them each a helmet, and through it, Ethan could hear the pilot talking, he assumed, to the tower. It was a whole lot of jargon that made no sense to Ethan, but all he cared about was that he was getting closer and closer to his sister.
He wanted to ask the pilot how long until they arrived in Cody, once he'd stopped speaking to the tower, but he had no idea how to make himself heard through the helmet. He hadn't glanced toward Ryan and Lucas but suspected they would have been enjoying the flight. Given different circumstances, he would have too.
The view below was magnificent once they'd passed the urban areas, nothing but green trees and lakes. They were just coming into winter, so though it would still be cold, there was no snow around. He wondered how his sister had ended up in this part of the country. It was a far cry from where she'd grown up in New Orleans.
"Jesus Christ, I wish I'd have known it was you." The pilot's voice uttered in his ear, and Ethan wondered if he was a Samdom fan. He knew the Krispins would have booked them under aliases, but he also knew Ryan and Lucas were the most famous celebrity couple in the world at the moment, and a couple of fake names wouldn't keep them from being recognized by anyone who took even a passing glance at the news.
Ethan turned his gaze to gauge the reaction from the two stars, but they were both peering out the window, Lucas pointing out something he'd spotted to Ryan, and they both seemed blissfully unaware of the pilot's comments.
"They can't hear me, Ethan. I'm talking to you. What the fuck are you doing here?"
Even if he knew how to answer through the helmet, he couldn't have because he had no fucking idea who this guy was or what his problem was. He knew he'd garnered plenty of attention in the press lately, too, thanks to the attack on Lucas and his role in the events.
The possibility that this man may have known or been related to one of his brother's victims slammed into him, and despite being the one who'd put a stop to his brother's murder spree, he knew it would be difficult for a victim's friend or loved one to be confronted with the brother of their killer.
"Just talk. Your mic will pick you up, and I'll be able to hear you. Tell me what the fuck you're doing here."
"I ... ah ... my sister lives in Cody and she called me for help. I'm not sure what's wrong, but I'm only here to help her, not cause trouble." He had no way of knowing if he'd been heard, and as the silence stretched on he began to doubt that he had.
Finally, the pilot responded, "I thought you had nothing to do with your family?"
"I haven't, not for eight years, but Maggie called me and I had to come."
"Maggie Godfrey? Is that your sister?"
The fact that he didn't know if that was her name hit him like a sledgehammer. He had no fucking idea if his sister was now Maggie Godfrey. If so, she'd either changed her name to hide her family history, as well, or she'd married.
"I don't know. I'm not sure what name she goes by now." Who the fuck was this guy?
"And those two. Why did they come?"
"They're friends and they came to help if they can." There was no way Ethan was telling this guy who they were. Chances were he already knew, but he hadn't indicated that, so Ethan was keeping quiet. The pilot fell silent once again and Ethan let it lay. He really didn't want to get into an argument with him, but once they landed he'd talk to him. If Maggie was hiding her identity, he didn't want to ruin it for her. Maybe he could talk this guy into keeping who he was under wraps. Though it was a strong bet he wasn't the only one in town who watched the news.
Another half hour passed in silence before Ethan heard the pilot's voice again. The jargon was back so he must have been speaking to the tower wherever they were landing. He could see dwellings below, dotted randomly throughout the landscape. It was so green and rural compared to what he was used to.
"We're coming in to Cody. There's a rental car waiting for you guys. Should be another ten minutes and you'll be on your way."
Twenty minutes, maybe half an hour at most, and he'd be standing in front of his sister again. He remembered her as a kid, a teenager. She was an adult now and he'd missed it all; he had no idea what kind of woman she'd turned out to be. She'd always been sweet, kind-hearted. Had she lost that to the bitterness of being a Lockard? Surely, her childhood — her innocence — had been pounded out of her with the fall of the judge's gavel. One brother in jail for murder, the other a pariah because he'd put him there.
The vertical drop of the helicopter was as off-putting as the takeoff. After flying solely in planes, it felt wrong — not scary — just wrong. Another person opened the door for them once they were on the ground while the chopper was powering down. He turned to look back at the pilot once he was out of the craft and saw he was removing his helmet, so hopefully, he'd be out soon. As eager as he was to get to Maggie, before they left he had to speak to this guy to ask for his discretion, for Maggie's sake, if not his.
Ryan and Lucas had their bags and wandered toward the only building in sight, but Ethan stayed where he was at the side of the helicopter, waiting. The door to the cockpit finally opened, and Ethan watched as the pilot ducked to step out.
When the pilot moved away from the door, he stopped in front of Ethan and stood at his full height — he was a big man. Ethan was shocked when he got his first proper view of the man who seemed to dislike him so much.
"Cameron? Fucking hell."
"Yeah, fucking hell," Cameron replied and moved to walk away from him. Ethan considered grabbing his arm to stop him, but given the anger he'd felt dripping from the big man, he wasn't at all sure he wouldn't end up with a fist to his face for his trouble.
Nevertheless, he followed Cameron toward the building where Lucas and Ryan were waiting because he was determined to get him to promise to keep Maggie's secret if that's what she wanted. "Cameron, wait. Please."
Cameron stopped and Ethan watched his back as he drew in deep breaths, his fists clenching before he turned to face him. "Please? Funny that. I seem to remember my brother asking me over and over again to please get you to come to see him in the hospital. I also remember me asking you over and over to please visit him. So, you know what, Ethan? I'm going to show you the same consideration you showed us and walk the fuck away from you — now, before I fucking do something I might one day regret."
Jesus, Cameron was fucking pissed, and Ethan couldn't blame him. He could only imagine how furious Ben must be. He should never have run like he did; he was a fucking coward and he deserved their anger. He watched as Cameron continued walking toward the building.
Back when his actions had sent his brother to jail and broken up his family, Ethan had never been ashamed of himself because he'd always known he'd done the right thing. This time, though, he was ashamed. He should have gone to see Ben in the hospital — even if it had only been to say goodbye and even if that would have hurt like fucking hell.
Ethan was aware he was standing on the helipad, alone, probably looking like a fish out of water as he tried to parse the situation. He bent to pick up his bag and follow Cameron toward the building, but when he saw Cameron stop and quickly flick a look back to him over his shoulder, Ethan didn't miss the distress on his face. Cameron began hurriedly walking forward now, and Ethan tried to see what had bothered him. He knew Ryan and Lucas were in front of him, but they were blocked by Cameron's big body and Ethan hoped he wasn't going to have words with them. They'd both gone to see Ben since he'd woken from his coma. They'd said their goodbyes, and as far as Ethan knew, they'd left on very friendly terms.
It was quiet now that the helicopter had completely powered down, and even from this distance, Ethan could hear quiet chatting coming from Ryan and Lucas. He also had no trouble hearing when Cameron suddenly called out in their direction. "No, fuck, what are you doing here? Let's go. Now."
Was he talking to Ryan and Lucas? Surely, he'd known it was them, and why was he so upset to see them?
"Is he really here?" A new voice floated to him, and Ethan's heart fluttered as his stomach dropped. As if to confirm what Ethan already knew, Ben appeared from behind his brother's body, his gaze already locked onto Ethan. Fuck, he looked good. And yet, at the same time, he looked wrong.
At the sound of Ben's voice, Ethan stopped walking and was left standing stationary while his world flipped on its end again. Ben marched past Cameron, avoiding the arm that flung out to try to stop him. He stalked toward Ethan until they were standing inches apart.
This close, Ethan could see the usual lightness in Ben's eyes had dimmed and the smile he always wore had morphed into a frown. It was wrong. His light caramel hair was longer and far curlier than usual. His body looked even tighter than it had — more buff — if that was possible, because Ben had always been damn fit. In spite of the fog of sadness that hung around him, Ben was the hottest fucking thing Ethan had ever seen.
There was at least four inches difference in height between them, so for Ben to reach up and grab the collar of his shirt, he had to go up on tiptoes. And, when he smacked his lips onto Ethan's, he had to drag him down into the kiss.
It wasn't a passionate kiss — it was an angry kiss. It was a "Fuck, I missed you, but I'm so fucking angry with you" kiss. It was their first kiss.
Before Ethan could even think about moving his lips against Ben's to soften the onslaught, Ben pulled back. He released Ethan's collar and Ethan couldn't help wondering what came next. He had his answer when Ben cocked his arm back and unleashed the most brutal right hook Ethan had ever been the unhappy recipient of — and he couldn't say it was undeserved.CHAPTER 2
"Welcome to Wyoming, asshole," Ben spat at Ethan's kneeling form. Blood was dripping from between Ethan's fingers where he was clutching at his nose. Ben didn't think he'd broken it, but goddamn, it had felt fucking good.
Ethan peered up at him from behind his cupped hands, and Ben had to force himself not to lean down and comfort him. He'd promised himself that punch weeks ago when Ethan failed to come back to see him at the hospital, but the kiss had come out of the blue. Damn it.
When Ben had regained consciousness in the hospital, all he'd wanted was Ethan. He'd been told that he'd survived the effects of the fire, but Ben needed to see for himself. His last memory had been of them taking an unconscious Ethan away from him in the back of an ambulance. Fuck. Fuck! Ben had been in love with Ethan for years, and he hadn't ever expected anything from him, but dammit, he'd needed to see for himself Ethan was fine, and he'd fucking denied Ben that opportunity.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Sentinel"
Copyright © 2018 Karrie Roman.
Excerpted by permission of NineStar Press, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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