Authors: Michelle Howard
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Science Fiction
By Michelle Howard
by Michelle Howard
© 2014 by Michelle Howard
by: Laura Kingsley
Design by: www.estrellacoverart.com
This book is for the
first hero in my life. A man who taught me that love is unconditional. Daddy
this is for you. Thanks for never making me feel any different when I marched
to my own beat. Thanks for not yelling too much when I ran out of gas at the
tender age of 16, 21 and again…this year. (But we won’t talk about that). I
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This is a work of
fiction and is not a reflection or representation of any person living or dead.
Any similarity is of pure coincidence.
Vin handed the
Vice President of the United States off to his waiting Secret Service. “Be
safe, Vice President Stone.” Maybe the agents would do a better job and not
need Vin’s team, Alpha Squad, for another rescue any time soon.
tipped head tilted to the side as he paused and extended his hand. Dirt
streaked his tanned face but Nick Stone’s infamous dimples flashed. “Thank you
and your men, soldier, for rescuing me.”
Vin accepted the
firm grip and nodded. Though the Vice President lost the jacket to his navy
suit, sported several rips in the white dress shirt and stood covered in blood,
he offered Vin a pretty damn good salute before backing away.
Behind them the
historical brick building, converted into office suites, gave a warning
grumble. Even with the front door blown away, the old fashioned bank maintained
a stately air that spoke of times gone by. Another rough rumble followed.
Suit covered men
in dark shades quickly hustled Stone into the armored car idling at the curb.
No thanks, from that group. A smirk curled his lips as the black sedan peeled
out and jumped the curb. Vin maintained his guard, weapon up, until the last
car pulled off followed by several black SUV’s in the procession. Hopefully,
the Vice President’s detail would get him safely back to the White House.
As the six members
of the Alpha Squad approached Vin expecting their next order, he tried to focus
and plan their return route to their Command Center but his gaze strayed to the
burned out brick and steel office four buildings away from the Community Rec
they’d evacuated Stone from. Its frame leaned hard to the left, barely holding
up on its supports. Steel beams arched under pressure maintaining weight in a
manner it wasn’t designed to hold.
Fire burst from
windows, sending shattered glass onto the sidewalk. Employees trickled from
nearby buildings but they weren’t his mission. Vin’s team had been sent to
rescue Vice President Stone and they had. Yet, Vin remained unmoving among the
chaos of a ruined downtown street.
The entire block looked
like a damn zoo. Alarms and horns blared as chunks of falling bricks falling
battered parked cars. Acrid smoke tinged the air, burning Vin’s nostrils and
agitating his enhanced sense of smell.
The inquiry came
from his right hand man Harkum. After only three hours of sleep, Harkum looked
as crisp and together as he’d been when they rolled out of their bunks in
response to the call from their boss to head to Baltimore and bring the VP out
safely. That was typical of Harkum. Nothing disturbed the dark haired laid back
Dressed in their
customary black fatigues, a synth shirt lined with protective resisting fibers
and military issued boots, Harkum cradled his G32 comfortably. Everyone
believed the designers of the latest high tech weaponry who claimed it the best
gun on the market. In earlier tests, the automatic assault rifle proved
effective in simulated ground attacks. Alpha Squad would be the first to use it
in field combat against the new enemy.
The new enemy, Vin
snorted. A race of aliens, who referred to themselves as Rekabians, hit several
prominent cities across the globe today in a premeditated airstrike. Baltimore
was one of those cities. The visiting aliens’ actions today declared an end to
any doubt as to why they were here. It seemed the battle had begun.
A battle unlike
any Vin and his team were used to. Rescuing prominent civilians in war torn
countries or retrieving electronic data from leaders who pushed the edge of
good will with their actions was a far cry from what took place here. This
fight pit the entire planet against life forms from another world. The rescue
in Baltimore proved pivotal since it almost took out the Vice President during
a speech to a group of business leaders and political allies. A loss of that
magnitude led to disruption and chaos the US didn’t need. Of course, no one
knew yet if the alien attackers had known of Stone’s presence when they
launched the air strike.
The other members
of the meeting had left earlier but Stone chose to stay behind to personally
greet a janitor who mentioned a wife who had followed Stone’s career from his
time as a young councilman. That gracious conversation almost cost the second
man in charge of the US his life.
Vin continued to
stare at the building that suffered the most destruction in the wake of today’s
attack. The huge plated sign for LS&G Headquarters where his ex-lover
worked, tilted on its chrome hinges. Helen Scott was the Director for the North
Division of the large apparel retailer. Her role enabled her to report from
home but more often than not, his little hellcat came to this building without
fail each day. Even on Saturdays, like today when the air reeked of violence.
Violence Vin became accustomed to so long ago he never thought about it any
Maybe his hunch
was off. She traveled to Asia frequently visiting overseas plants and
distributors. In fact, according to his mental calendar of Helen’s schedule,
her return flight was due home this Monday, which meant she
Vin rolled his
shoulders in an attempt to loosen the knotted muscles. One day, he’d stop
tracking her travels. Like he’d stopped taking her calls. He probably worried
for nothing. Helen could be home, blithely unaware yet of what happened at her
headquarters. Still that warning flare in his gut wouldn’t go away. Ignoring it
wouldn’t change the feeling.
“Should we head
out, Vin?” Harkum stared hard at Vin, a hint of concern in his blue eyes. Like
all of his team, Harkum would follow wherever Vin led. It was how they’d
adapted after what the team had gone through and they wouldn’t veer from the
pattern today. “Our mission is complete. We need to hurry back.”
Time was of the
essence. Their handler, David Slade, would be anxious for details of the
encounter. Information and comparative studies would need to be started as they
gradually built a case file on the invading Rekabians. But despite knowing the
sense of urgency needed for their return trip to DC, Vin couldn’t force himself
to turn his head away from the crumbling structure. Couldn’t force his feet to
walk back to the armored SUV they’d arrived in. Duty warred with his heart.
Concern battled his conscious.
Turning his back
to face the opposite side of the street, Vin surveyed the entire area. It gave
him a depressing view of another ruined downtown building damaged by laser
fire. Sirens squealed as the ambulance and fire trucks finally cleared out with
the injured. The streets emptied, leaving behind a deserted battle zone.
Fuck it. Vin began
walking toward LS&G. His men trailed behind him. If the only way he could
convince himself to leave involved a thirty second call, he’d make that call.
“Give me a minute, Harkum.”
Vin pulled out his
encrypted cell and punched in the number he’d memorized long ago. The phone
rang twice before a shaky voice answered. “Hello?”
excitement clashed with fear. Without conscious thought, his steps quickened as
he headed toward the once elaborate structure. This was the first time he’d
called her in months. Heard her voice outside those first voicemails when he’d
initially stopped calling. Vin’s eyes remained on the entry point to LS&G.
“It’s me, hellcat. Where are you?”
Please be home.
The whispered plea
meant for whatever divinity available
But he knew her answer before she
“Oh, God, Vin. The
Rekabians have attacked and I’m trapped in my office.”
And just like
that, Vin’s senses went on red alert. After all he’d gone through, his only
driving motivation was the knowledge Helen Scott was safe in the bubble of
civilian life, far away from anything the government forced Vin to endure. He
raced toward her headquarters, heart ramping up with the pulse that skipped a
beat at her words. Harkum and the others formed a wall behind him, silently
offering support for whatever he needed and keeping pace with him.
narrowed on reaching the ruined glass and chrome main entrance. The quake in
Helen’s voice worried him. No snappish retort for calling her by the hated
nickname. No annoyed huff of laughter. Nothing of the woman he’d come to know
very well during the time they’d shared together.
“I’m here, baby.
It’s alright.” Her fear churned at his gut. He liked ball buster Helen better.
This version had him playing hero with every intention of charging into the
building without a plan to rescue her. Rash actions like that would see one of
his men hurt or worse.
Vin spared a
glance for the man at his side only to see Harkum raise a questioning brow. The
delay almost cost Vin. He watched in horror as the bottom of the building
scream followed a loud rumbling groan.
himself toward the entrance. Pounding steps behind, confirmed his men raced
right along his side. He didn’t waste time telling them to go back. The
sidewalk shook and rolled beneath their feet. The hair on the back of his neck
curled. Already compromised from the previous hits, concrete and steel battled
uselessly. Struts buckled further and the end crashed loudly on its sides,
leaving the building even more off kilter than before.
second scream sent chills racing up and down his arms. His grip on the phone
“Vin, what the
hell, man?” Harkum barked out the words but Vin couldn’t explain yet. No time
as his attention focused on saving the one bit of softness to ever touch his
Helen’s choked cry
spurred him on.
“Helen, stay with
me.” Vin switched the call to his ear com and dropped his cell into a pocket on
his belted waist. The com device relayed her rapid breathing loudly in his ear.
Every delicate pant increased his worry but at least his hands had freedom of
motion. He shifted his weapon in his grip.
“Nah,” he tried to
joke as he jumped over what used to be a glass doorway into the building. Glass
crunched under his boots. “You’re not allowed to be scared.” His men jumped
lithely behind him as they stormed onward without a moment of hesitation.
The lobby was a
dangerous minefield set to explode any moment. Lights and wiring hung from the
ceiling causing an eerie halo effect. Sharp crackling in the air attested to
the danger of those swinging strands as well as the two bodies laying on the
floor. Perhaps, killed by laser blasts as they pierced the building walls or
trying to escape the debris of a ceiling that now sported a humongous hole.
to be scared. Really?” Her tone dipped, signaling a spark of anger. Helen hated
to be contradicted.
Anger was good. The best part of riling his hellcat was being the one to soothe
her. In the past, he’d soothed her against the wall, bent over her kitchen
table and up against the counter in her bathroom. Those days were gone though.
“Well, if I wasn’t around, I’d tell you to scream your head off for rescue.”
“Hmph, and what
exactly are you suggesting this time?
.” Vin’s cheeks warmed.
Only Helen dared call him by his full name. He never should have told her it
was alright when she asked but she’d caught him at a man’s weakest moment.
Right after she’d blown him away with a soul shattering orgasm. At the time, it
seemed a fair trade. Sex with Helen would make the staunchest man agree to
after hearing her remark and bit off a grin. The pretty boy of the group should
be glad Vin stood too far away to punch him. A black eye would ruin Bransen’s
caramel skin tone and the green eyes the women whispered over. Or maybe a fat
lip to keep him from speaking in Spanish and French to impress any of the
ladies who managed to get close to them. The rest of Vin’s team didn’t bother
to hide their smirks at a woman calling him by his full name.
“I need a way up,”
Vin murmured to the group. He slowed his pace and studied his surroundings,
hands braced on his hip, weapon slung over his shoulder. The once beautiful
ceramic tile with its sunburst pattern protruded from the floor in jagged
pieces making every step a hazard. The main lobby elevator dinged as its brass
doors opened and closed repeatedly.
What had once
represented a grand foyer now resembled the wreckage of a construction site
gone bad. An impressive reception desk keeled on its side, a giant split down
the middle of the expensive cherry wood. Papers fluttered in the air to join
magazines and other debris on the ground.
Curtis, his go-to
scout, retraced their steps from earlier, shaking his blond head when he returned
in a no go gesture for the main stairs. Vin signaled to his men and they fanned
out leaping into action, no questions asked. He needed a way to get to his
If she were one of
his soldiers, he’d instruct her to make her way down. But this was Helen. A
woman he’d caught in her backyard feeding a stray cat with a crooked tail and a
missing ear. The same woman who couldn’t start her day without caffeine. She
was also his former lover who silently cried when she climaxed and
surreptitiously wiped the tears in the dark as if he wouldn’t hear her
“I’m coming,” Vin
Silence wavered on
the line and then, “You’re here?” Doubt and hope filtered through the ear com.
His men, able to listen to the line avoided his gaze. Joking and finding humor
in his birth name was one thing. A woman scared to death in a volatile
situation like this wasn’t something any of them would find funny.
“Downstairs as we
Harkum gave a
short whistle and Alpha Squad hustled through the decimated lobby. Jackpot. To
the left, he recognized a secondary stairway. Burned out bulbs lent shadows to
the narrow space. An emergency exit sign tilted on the door. “Are you in your
office, baby?” Maybe luck would smile in his direction and she’d admit to being
on a lower level.