Morgan’s Hunter & Falling for Sarah
Bodyguards of L.A. County #1 & 2
By: Cate Beauman
Morgan's Hunter: The Bodyguards Of L.A. County #1
(Published Oct. 15, 2012)
As the case grows cold, Morgan is determined to unravel the mystery behind her friends’ gruesome deaths. Despite the dangers of a murderer still free, nothing will stand in her way, not even the bodyguard her father hires, L.A.’s top close protection agent, Hunter Phillips.
Sparks fly from the start when no-nonsense Hunter clashes with Morgan’s strong-willed independence. Their endless search for answers proves hopeless—until Hunter discovers the truth.
On the run and at the mercy of a madman, Morgan and Hunter must outsmart a killer to save their own lives.
Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2016/05/morgans-hope-and-falling-for-sarah.html
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16055633-morgan-s-hunter
Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/91237-the-bodyguards-of-l-a-county
Buy Links: Amazon | B & N | iTunes | Kobo
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/MHSaleBN
Helmand Province, Afghanistan
Gunnery Sergeant Hunter Phillips and his men drove toward their target: the hideout of Al-Qaeda’s number three. Satellite imagery confirmed Abbas Muhammad Muhammad Tayi was holed up in a small village ten miles away, but a source warned they had the wrong man. Hunter and his Force Recon unit were about to find out. After a year of searching, tracking, hunting, they would substantiate the evidence either way. Bringing the fucker to justice thirty days before they departed this godforsaken land would be the perfect end to their tour.
The caravan of two up-armored Humvees moved swiftly down the endless, dusty road, dodging enormous blast holes created by Soviet mines years before. They came past the blackened remains of a truck three Marines died in yesterday. Like a mascot of death, the burned vehicle welcomed the recon unit to “The Danger Zone.” In the last month alone, ten soldiers had lost their lives along the eternal stretch of dirt.
Rocky terrain laden with caves and deep crevices surrounded the Humvees. Insurgents roamed the area, ever eager to take their shot at US forces. Although the route clearance team had driven by twenty minutes ago, ten pairs of eyes scanned the road and dirt beyond, watchful for mounds of sand and small rocks—telltale signs of IEDs.
“And as we drive through the valley of the shadow of death, I would like to remind you all that God is good, men. Keep Him with you today,” Hunter said into his radio.
Nine “Amens” answered back.
Tension hung thick and the vehicles were silent except for the hum of motors and the constant click of Carson, Hunter’s gunner above, moving in half circles in his mechanical seat. The unit had gone a year without a casualty—a miracle in direct action warfare. But the law of averages told them they were due, and they all knew it.
Somewhere during the last mile, the AC had petered out. Hunter, sweat soaked and miserable, tugged at his collar, trying to ignore the one hundred degree heat and baking sun boring through the windshield, zapping energy from him and his men like a furnace straight from hell. Perspiration trapped by camouflage fabric and bulletproof vests mixed with sand, chafing, burning, only adding to the wretched conditions.
As the truck plowed ahead, Hunter’s shoulder blades itched and his stomach pitched. His eyes narrowed and his focus sharpened as he searched the rocks beyond. Something wasn’t right. His gut instinct was never wrong, and his men didn’t question it. “Men, I’ve got the itch. Stay alert. I repeat, stay alert.”
“Still glad you picked this route, Gunny?” Jake Johnson said from truck two.
Despite the situation, a small smile ghosted Hunter’s mouth. “Don’t be a pussy, Johnson.” He lurched to the right as the driver swerved around another blast hole. “The fastest route isn’t always the safest. That’s why I’m lead truck. I’ll keep you safe, honey.”
Jake chuckled. “Fuck you, man.”
Hunter grinned, forever scrutinizing their surroundings. “You’ll be tucked in with your blankey before—”
The massive explosion cut him off, shaking his vehicle with its deafening boom. “What the fuck?” He glanced in his rearview mirror as smoke plumed from truck two. Oh God—Jake.
Bullets pinged against the armored trucks as the unit took on fire.
“Return fire! Return fire!” Hunter instructed, peering back at Jake’s vehicle. “Truck two, do you copy?”
Static crackled in his earpiece as his heart pounded—in his chest, in his throat. His body revved from the swift flow of adrenaline and fear coursing through his veins. He radioed back to camp, struggling to remain calm. “Thunder Main, this is Patriot Zulu. We have IED detonation—one truck hit. We’re taking fire. I need fire support now and casualty evacuation on standby!”
“Patriot Zulu, this is Thunder Main. That’s a good copy of last transmission. Scout weapons team is inbound. ETA ninety seconds.”
With help on the way, Hunter tried Jake’s Humvee again. “Vehicle two, do you copy?”
“Hunter, this is truck two. We’re smoking and rattled, but we’re—” Another explosion roared, cutting them off as a rocket-propelled grenade hit Humvee two. Metal smashed and scattered through the air as Jake’s vehicle rolled twice.
“Shit! Shit! Fire support, what is your location, goddammit? Carson,” he hollered to his gunman, “suppress that fire so I can move toward those rocks.” He had to get to Jake’s truck.
Carson gave him a nod, pummeling fifty caliber rounds into the boulders, decimating rock and anything behind them.
Hunter opened his door, crouching next to the wheel well, assessing the unit’s dire situation. Help was still sixty seconds away, and they were surrounded by insurgents. Truck two lay on its side four hundred yards back as heavy black smoke plumed from the twist of metal. Hot rubber and burning electrical equipment choked the air.
A movement in the rocks caught Hunter’s eye. He fired his weapon, watching a man fall to the ground.
“Let’s do this,” he said to the three soldiers waiting for his command. The men took his place at the wheel well as he ran for the boulders in the distance. "Clarke, Tanger, I need an update on truck two. Move forward.”
Carson continued shooting from the Humvee roof while Hunter and Sergeant Smith laid down fire, providing cover as the soldiers ran. Halfway to the vehicle, bullets rained down from an unknown area in the rocks above. Clarke and Tanger stumbled, falling to the ground.
“No! Cover me, Smith.” Without a second thought, Hunter sprinted toward his fallen men as the rhythmic thump of chopper blades echoed closer.
A Kiowa Warrior soared overhead, dropping missiles among the crevices and caves, obliterating large chunks of mountainous terrain. The helicopter banked right as the next aircraft flew in, repeating the same procedure.
Fire support vanished as quickly as it had appeared, and the air fell silent. The heavy breathing of his soldiers filled Hunter’s ear. The firefight was over. For the moment they were clear of danger, and a weight lifted off his shoulders, leaving him lightheaded with relief.
Sergeant Tanger groaned as a chunk of dangling metal fell from truck two with a deafening crash, and reality rushed back like a punch to the gut.
Hunter ran to his men, who were shot and bleeding, as Carson continued with precautionary fire into the mountainside. “Smith, get the truck over here!” Hunter dug into Clarke’s medical pack and applied a tourniquet to the unconscious man’s arm. As he twisted the black fabric tight, the flow of blood ceased.
With Clarke as stable as he could make him, Hunter crawled to Tanger, ripping Tanger’s pant leg, exposing three bullet wounds. He glanced at Jake’s truck, desperate to get to him. Distracting flashes of their childhood played through his mind, and he ruthlessly squashed the memories. “Shit, man, you’re a mess,” he said to Tanger, attempting to keep his soldier lucid and himself calm.
“It hurts like—shit!” Tanger tensed as Hunter packed his first wound.
Sergeant Smith backed the Humvee closer and crouched next to Hunter, waiting for orders.
“Smith, finish this. Get them secured. I’m heading for truck two.” With his gun to his shoulder, he peered through the sight, moving toward Jake’s vehicle. It had only been five minutes since the attack began, but it felt as if it had been hours. “Truck two, do you copy?” The air remained dead, and panic rose from his depths. Everything he’d learned as a Force Recon escaped him. All the training on procedure vanished as he thought of Jake and the other four men. “Jake. Jake, do you copy? Can you hear me?”
“Hunter,” Jake answered, coughing.
“Oh, thank God. You scared the sh—”
“I’m hit, Hunt. I’m hit.” Jake wheezed, coughing again. “And they’re all dead, man.”
Pain sliced his heart as he yelled into his radio once more. “We need casualty evac, ASAP! Get them here now! I have four confirmed KIAs and three wounded.” Hunter whirled when footsteps approached from behind. Sergeant Smith’s face lined up in the crosshairs of his scope.
“Clarke and Tanger are secure.”
“Let’s go then,” Hunter said, running to what was left of the vehicle. “Jake, I’m here.”
Jake gasped for air, coughing violently.
Hunter climbed to the top of the heap, burning and cutting his hands, peering down at Jake’s battered face. Gashes riddled his cheeks, dribbling blood. He glanced at the remains of his four other men, burying the fisting pain deep. Jake was all that mattered now—the only one he could help.
Hunter locked his legs around mangled metal, anchoring himself. He reached his arms through the opening, grabbing hold of Jake. “Come on, man, I’m going to get you out of here. Evac’s on its way.”
Jake tried to sit up on the console and yelled out. “I can’t do it. I can’t get up.”
“Yes, you can. I don’t know how long we have before they fire on us again.”
Taking a deep breath, Jake hollered, clenching his fists as he sat up.
Hunter hoisted him up, and Jake screamed. “I’m sorry, man. Almost there.”
With Jake’s head and torso freed from the wreckage, Sergeant Smith climbed up, grabbing hold of Jake’s legs, helping Hunter lay him on the ground.
“Sergeant, get me a kit,” Hunter said, assessing Jake’s injuries as Smith ran for their truck. Blood saturated Jake’s plated vest, and sweat covered his face as he grew pale with every heartbeat. Hunter ripped through his friend’s armor and cloth to the wound, fighting to steady his breathing, horrified by the injuries. He applied pressure to the gaping hole in Jake’s abdomen as blood pooled over his fingers. Helplessness consumed him and desperation clawed at his throat as he yelled into his radio, “We need casualty evac now, goddammit! Do you hear me? Right now!”
Sergeant Smith hustled back with a kit, but there was nothing among the first aid supplies that would help. The medics on their team were dead or gravely injured, and Jake’s entire midsection was full of shrapnel.
“I’m not going to make it,” Jake gasped.
“Don’t you fucking say that!”
He coughed again, violently. “I’m not. Take care of them. Take care of Sarah and the baby.”
Hunter pressed harder as blood oozed over his fingers, pooling in the sand. “No, you’re going to take care of them. They’re coming.” The rhythmic sound of chopper blades echoed off the mountains. “Listen, they’re almost here.”
Jake’s body shook. “Promise me. Promise me, goddammit.” Tears streamed from his brown eyes. “Tell them I love them, that I’ll always be with them.”
“I promise, Jake.” It was too late. There was nothing the medics could do.
White as a sheet, Jake convulsed, even as Sergeant Smith tried to help keep him still. “Kiss Kylee for me.” His voice grew weaker. “Tell her it’s from her daddy. I never got to…I never got to hold her. Tell her about me.”
“I will. I will.” Hunter was losing him. Life seeped from his best friend, his brother. “I love you, Jake. I’ll take care of them.”
“I love…take care of...” Jake stopped moving, stopped breathing.
“God, no! No!” Desperately, Hunter started chest compressions. “Don’t you leave me!”
The chopper landed in the distance, and gunfire broke out. Heat seared through Hunter’s left shoulder.
Bullets sprayed from Sergeant Smith’s weapon. “I got him, Hunter. I got the fucking bastard.” Smith’s brow furrowed as he crouched behind the rocks. “Shit, you’re shot.”
Hunter sat in the sand and dust with Jake while blood dripped down his arm.
Falling For Sarah: The Bodyguards of L.A. County #2
(Published Oct. 15, 2012)
Sarah's world turns upside down as she struggles with her unexpected attraction to Ethan and the guilt of betraying her husband's memory. But when blue roses and disturbing notes start appearing on her doorstep, she has no choice but to lean on Ethan as he fights to save her from a stalker that won't stop until he has what he prizes most.
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16055654-falling-for-sarah
Buy Links: Amazon | B & N | iTunes | Kobo
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/FallingForSarahTourBN
Sarah Johnson turned the key and opened her front door. She crossed the threshold, breathing in the familiar scent of fresh-cut flowers and the hint of low tide blowing in from the Pacific. “It’s so nice to be home. Welcome home, sweet baby girl.” She stared at her sleeping newborn and smiled, brushing her lips over the soft skin of her baby’s forehead.
“Look out, coming through,” Ethan Cooke said, loaded down with balloons and vases overflowing with cheerful blooms. “I had no idea bringing a baby home from the hospital required movers.”
Sarah stepped aside, chuckling. “I know. Kylee has quite a fan club already. Let me help you with some of this stuff.”
“I’ve got it. You gave birth yesterday, for God’s sake. The nurse told you to take it easy.” He set the vase on the entryway table and released the balloons to the ceiling as he dropped the diaper bag from his shoulder to the floor. “Besides, Jake would kick my ass if he knew you were hauling things in.”
Sarah’s smile widened as she thought of her husband. “Yes, you’re probably right, but I also know he would be grateful you were able to help me out. My mother wasn’t expecting to run her shop today. Dana called in sick, so that was that.”
Ethan moved closer to her side, staring at the baby. “I’m happy you called. I wanted to come visit you ladies again last night, but things got a little crazy while I was on duty.” He brushed a finger down Kylee’s tiny nose. “She really is beautiful, Sarah. She looks just like you.”
Sarah’s blue eyes twinkled. “Thank you, but I definitely see some of Jake in her too.” She wrapped her free arm around Ethan’s waist and rested her head against his shoulder as he returned her embrace. “I’m so happy right now, Ethan, so absolutely happy. Twenty-nine more days and my family will be whole again. I can’t wait to hug Jake and watch his face when he holds her for the first time. I could tell he wanted to crawl through the screen yesterday and touch her tiny fingers and toes.” She looked down at Kylee. “No more deployments for your daddy. He’ll be all ours.”
“He’ll be mine too.” Ethan grinned, wiggling his eyebrows. “I’ve been waiting just as eagerly for Jake’s return. It took me two years to convince him to join my firm. Now I need to get Hunter on board, and the crew will be together again.”
“Getting yourselves into as much trouble as ever I’m sure. You’ll have to wait a little longer for your new security expert. He’s not leaving my side for at least a week.”
“I think I can live with that.” He kissed her forehead and started toward the door. “Let me get the rest of the stuff from the truck. Then I’ll set up Jake’s surprise.”
“I can’t wait for him to see it. I’ve nixed the big-screen TV idea for so long, I’m pretty sure he’s stopped hoping for one.”
“It’s a beauty, all right. He’ll love it. I’ll have everything hooked up in no time.” He gave her a gentle squeeze and headed for the door.
“Great.” Brimming with joy, Sarah kissed her daughter again and took the baby to the nursery she’d painstakingly painted on her own. The pale yellow stripes looked wonderful with the touches of pink scattered about the room. Sitting in the rocker, she put Kylee to her breast and listened to the door open and slam shut as Ethan brought their items in from his Range Rover. Minutes later, she smiled when she heard him rummaging through the cupboards in the kitchen. If Ethan was anything, it was always hungry.
Kylee’s mouth went slack as she fell back to sleep.
Sarah fastened her nursing bra and fixed her shirt. She settled Kylee against her shoulder and walked out to the kitchen while she rubbed her daughter’s back, burping her.
Ethan stood in front of the open refrigerator, mumbling his excitement about her stocked shelves. He glanced up, grinning, and she itched for her camera. “Hey, I’m going to make myself a sandwich before I get started on the TV. Want one?”
“No, thanks. Do you want me to make it for you?”
“Nah, you don’t have to do that.”
“Why don’t you let me because I have another favor to ask of you.” She smiled. “The least I can do is make you something to eat.”
He went to the pantry, grabbing a loaf of bread. “Why don’t you tell me what you need?” He pulled open a cupboard and took out a plate.
“A shower.” She smiled again, nibbling her lip.
His eyes zeroed in on Kylee, and he took a step back. “Geez, I don’t know, Sarah. I’ve never held a baby before. What if I drop her?”
A laugh bubbled in her throat at the sheer horror in his eyes. Even after he’d helped her through hours of labor, watched her deliver Kylee, and cut the cord in Jake’s honor, he’d refused to hold her.
“You’re not going to drop her,” she said, walking to where he stood. “Fold your arm like this.” She held out her arm, bending at the elbow.
He cleared his throat, following her lead, and she placed Kylee in the crook of his rigid arm. Kylee squirmed, and he grabbed Sarah’s hand. “She’s moving, she’s moving. She’s going to fall. Shit, Sarah, I really think this is a bad idea.”
“I think it’s a great idea. Trust me on this one.” She adjusted the baby slightly, moving his arm closer to his body, making sure his hand held Kylee under her diapered bottom. She backed away from them, grinning at the discomfort and mild panic all over Ethan’s face. “You’re a natural. Look at you two. I need my camera.”
He groaned as she moved to the pile of bags outside the kitchen door and grabbed her case, pulling her Nikon D3 from the bag. She held up the camera and looked through the lens, focusing on Ethan’s arresting face for a test shot. Sharp cheekbones and straight black eyebrows accentuated his long, thick eyelashes and bold gray eyes. She zoomed in on the clear gray pools surrounded by dark, smoky rings and pressed the shutter closed in rapid succession. His firm, full lips and muscular torso showcased a man perfectly comfortable with his masculinity. She tightened her focus on his big hand holding Kylee’s little body and clicked away again, moving in closer, getting lost in her passion for pictures.
“Sarah, do you want that shower or not?”
She pulled the camera back, focusing on Ethan’s raised brow and lips pressed firm in annoyance. “Sorry. I got a little carried away. You two make excellent subjects. The camera loves your face.”
“So you’ve told me—more times than I can count.”
She placed the Nikon back in the bag and zipped it closed. “You’re doing a great job with her.”
He glanced down at Kylee. “I guess this is okay.”
“See? I’ll be quick. She just ate so she should sleep. Here’s the burp cloth just in case she spits up.” She draped the cotton towel over Ethan’s shoulder and turned to leave.
She stopped, turning back.
“Um.” He took a step toward her and stopped. “What if—what if she starts to cry?”
Amused by his distress, she couldn’t help but smile. The man standing before her dealt with the scum of the earth every day, yet a seven-pound infant brought him to his knees. “Just jiggle your arm a little bit. She’ll fall right back to sleep.” She turned and walked toward the bathroom, calling over her shoulder, “Oh, and relax. Babies feel tension.”
Cate makes her home in North Carolina with her husband, two boys, and their St. Bernards, Bear and Jack. Currently Cate is working on Deceiving Bella, the eleventh novel in her popular bodyguards series.
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