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Hers to Protect
Sneak Peek


Chapter One


“Great job, Lisa!” I praise the newest member of the club. Aside from my job, I volunteer at this gym as often as possible. The owners, Kim and Steve, donate space and training expertise four or five times a week to teach self-defense tactics to survivors of domestic abuse—a club I never wanted to be a member of, but nonetheless, I am. I shift my focus from my past to the ladies in this room fighting for their future. My hard work and dedication with training and therapy helped me come out on the other side.  These ladies can too. With knowledge and confidence, I can protect myself and others, mostly anyway. As I walk around the room, I correct the form of a few attendees and then join the class from the back of the room.


“Hey, Alex. It’s been a while since you attended class,” Kim calls me out hard as the class ends.

“Hi. I’ve been traveling for work and unable to make it here when the classes are running.”

“As long as you’re training, I’m good,” Kim offers.

“It may be crazy early or at the end of a long day, but I train daily regardless of where I am.”

“Glad to hear it. You’re a great example for the students. You prove survival is possible.”

Kim only knows the physical part of my story. My inability to protect myself from my ex has since been corrected. The mental healing is a work in progress, especially with romantic relationships. “Thank you.”

I chat with a few of the other women, pack up, and head to my condo. I don’t own it, but it’s where I live with my roommate and coworker, Maia. After almost a year of searching for a position with a good fit, I joined Blackthorne Security. I tried bank security and private building security, but I was working on my recovery and couldn’t handle the idle hours. My application to Blackthorne was a prayer. While I met the requirements as set out in the posting, I wasn’t confident I would be truly considered. It isn’t a reflection on the owner Jacob Blackthorne or his partners, but of my own insecurities. Much to my surprise, I did get the job, and I haven’t been this happy in a long time, at least work wise.

I park and head inside. “Maia?” I don’t get an answer, but her car is in the garage. When I started at Blackthorne, housing wasn’t offered as an option, like previous new hires, due to lack of space. The company has a bunkhouse at the farm since we travel frequently. Paying rent simply doesn’t make sense. However, Connor, my team leader, offered his condo to the older employees. Maia took him up on his offer, but Nolan, her best friend and potential other half, declined. Then Connor suggested I take a bedroom. I’m glad I did.

The condo has three bedrooms and a massive rooftop patio, which I adore. The furnishings are cozy. Connor’s decorator has skills. As I climb the extra set of stairs, I find Maia reading.

“Hey, Alex. How was class?”

“Good. It’s nice to have time to see the girls. When did you get back?” I haven’t shared every detail with Maia, but she knows the basics about my ex. I would bet only Jake and Connor have read my entire file, which includes the details of my background check. I immensely appreciate their attention to employee privacy. Only those who need to, or those I’ve told, know about my history with Ramon.

“Early afternoon.” Maia has been on assignment for about three weeks overseas with one of our uber-hot, A-list actor clients.

“When is your next assignment?” she asks.

I shrug. “Don’t have one on the books right now. I’ll find out in the morning at our team meeting.”

“Same. What do you say to a cheesy movie and some sushi?” Maia suggests.

“I’m in after a quick shower.”

Maia sets her book on the glass table and sits up. “The usual work?”


“I’ll meet you in the living room.” Maia smiles.

I bound downstairs and head straight for the shower. By the time I finish, Maia is setting up the movie and our drinks are poured. Twenty minutes into the film, our dinner arrives. We each take a corner of the massive couch, laugh our way through a romantic comedy, and turn in relatively early.

Near eight the next morning, I climb the stairs from the basement gym and find Maia making coffee in the kitchen.

“Our meeting is at ten, right?” Maia asks.

“Yeah. Want to ride over together?” I suggest.

“Can’t. I’m going to run some errands and shop for a dress for Nolan’s sister’s engagement party afterward.”

“You decided to go as his date?” This is news. Despite her more-than-friends feelings, Maia has been pushing Nolan off.

I have plenty of reasons to avoid men—well, not men but romantic relationships with men. Maia, not so much. Yet she refuses to give him a chance.

“Yes, I agreed to attend as his plus-one. It isn’t a date. We’re just friends.”

“Oh girl, you’re so wrong. Don’t you see the way he looks at you or feel how intense his stare is?” Two things I have never experienced once in my entire life.

Maia’s olive skin turns a bright shade of red. “I plead the fifth on both.”

“Of course you do. You should give him a chance.”

“Admittedly, I don’t know your entire history, but perhaps you should take your own advice.”

A deflection. “I agree. Frankly, I haven’t put myself out there, nor have there been any men I’m willing to take the risk on.”

Maia gives me a side hug. “If you want me and the guys to screen a date or two, let me know.”

“Thanks. I’ll keep it in mind.” It isn’t as if I don’t want to share my life with someone. I’m still working on how and when to let someone in on the whole truth of me, Alejandra Mejia. My truth still scares me some nights, never mind a potential partner. It’s going to take a strong and patient man to pull me out of my fortified fortress. The sky-high walls around my heart, body, and soul rose from the ground on my third attempt to press charges. I suppose it makes my situation better than average. Since Ramon’s trial, I’ve learned it takes five attempts on average for a woman to leave her abuser. I push those thoughts away for a later time and get ready for the team meeting.

“Maia, I’m heading out. I’ll see you there,” I call out from the garage entrance.

With a flourish, Maia is standing beside me ready to go. “I’m here.”

Laughing, we open our car doors and head to the Blackthorne office in town. Crescent Bay is a quaint town with Main Street exactly as you would picture it. There’s a hardware store owned by the same family for generations, a family-owned general store, a florist, and a candy store. Next door to the office is Norah’s bookstore. I’m not sure it’s a bookstore exactly. The Nook is a store where you can grab a cup of coffee, browse shelves of books, and actually read them. You can purchase books too, but she wanted everyone to be able to enjoy the space regardless of their ability to pay. Norah is married to my boss Jake. They have a young son named Ben and two highly trained dogs, Tank and Sabre.

I follow Maia into the office, and we’re greeted by the office manager. “Hi, ladies. There are breakfast staples on the table, and coffee is set up in the kitchen.” Gemma is in her mid-twenties. Her dad was the commanding officer for the bosses and Cruz, I think.

“Thanks, Gemma. You’re the best!”

She shrugs and answers the ringing phone, and we make our way into the conference room. We grab two seats near the far edge of the table. Jake, Connor, and Christoph are talking about assignments and personnel.

“Morning,” Connor greets us.

“Morning,” we reply at once.

Over the next ten minutes, the rest of the team who isn’t on assignment filters into the room. Nolan sits between Maia and Finn. Cruz is a newer addition to the team, along with Lane and Barrett. Cruz and Barrett were caught up in a cold case from Cruz’s days with the NYPD. Cruz also served with Jake and Connor in the military. Barrett is currently suspended from taking assignments while the boss men decide how to handle his actions, including sharing intel and endangering Jillian Blackthorne who married Cruz last weekend. The clincher is he took those actions to protect his teenage daughter. I can understand why he made the choice. The bigger question is how to deal with it.

“I won’t make this longer than necessary. Here’s the schedule as of this morning. Those of you unassigned are on call, except if you have already requested personal time.” Jake gives us a few minutes to peruse the schedule.

I’m unassigned for the next two weeks. It’s unsettling, but perhaps I can use the time to visit my brother. My gut clenches when I consider going home so soon—not soon, not really. It feels recent though. I visited over the holidays, and it was pleasant enough. However, I made the trip as quick as possible and avoided every location that might trigger a bad memory.  

My brother, Miguel, is four years younger and serving in the army. He stood by me when my life went to hell as best he could. Ramon is lucky Miguel was deployed when I finally pressed charges. He might not have lived to see the inside of a jail cell. I settle my thoughts and refocus on Jake.

“Please make sure you provide your expense reports to Gemma by the end of the week, or you’ll have to wait an extra month for reimbursement. Does anyone have any concerns to be addressed?”

Not surprisingly, the room is silent.

“Everyone except Alex is dismissed,” Connor announces.

With a bit of laughter and boyish revelry, the guys grab more food and hustle out the door. Maia nods and leaves immediately after Nolan.

“What’s up, Connor?”

He glances at Christoph and nods.

Christoph addresses me. “Madeleine is working with a client who may be traded to this area. A decision will be made in the next few days.” His fiancée is a high-powered agent, and they share a young daughter.

What does her client have to do with me?

He continues, “Without sharing many specifics, the assignment would require you to pose as his daughter’s nanny and provide care as well. We realize it’s a bit outside of the norm.”  


“We wanted to give you the option to decline the assignment given the parameters we set when you joined the team.” I requested no assignments where the client was male and required me to live in. Jake and Connor agreed.

“If I don’t take the assignment, it would go to Maia?”

“It’s an option,” Connor replies. “Our intention isn’t to pressure you into changing your mind. Given Madeleine’s long-term relationship with the client, we feel you’re the best fit. I realize the details are a little cryptic, but I can’t divulge more until he hires us.”

“I understand. Can I take some time to consider it?”

Christoph answers, “Yes, of course. We appreciate you not turning us down flat.”

“You’re welcome.” Silence blankets the room. “Is there anything else?”

“No, we’re set,” Jake answers.

“I’ll give it some thought and get back to you soon.” I make my way out of the conference room and wave to Gemma who is on the phone again. Instead of heading home, I make my way to the shoreline. Connor showed me a spot near the rear of his parents’ property soon after I joined. The serenity of the lapping water and peacefulness will give me clarity for deciding. Deep down, I know taking the assignment is the right choice for me to make more progress in my recovery. I’m merely preparing myself to say the words.

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