Available February 27, 2015
USA TODAY bestselling authors Debra Webb and Regan Black want you to meet the Dangerous Protectors!
Claudia Mitchell is the safety net for the Dangerous Protectors. Whatever a Protector needs, Claudia taps a few keys and makes it happen. When she receives a desperate call from her sister, Claudia can’t use cyberspace to save her… for this one, Claudia has to be there in person.
Nate Jennings showed the world what being a hero looked like despite being in prison. His heroism earned him a place on the Guardian Agency team. For months now he’s had a major fantasy about his tech assistant, Claudia. When she disappears and he is the one tasked to find and protect her, has his fantasy come true?
When there is no one else to turn to and no one else to keep you safe, a Dangerous Protector is the man you want for the job.
“I love the chemistry that Debra and Regan create between their characters and… the strength and determination each character has as they overcome their own personal demons. Another winner with lots of action!” -jwreinhold, Amazon reviewer
“A must read… 5 star ranking.” -John K, Amazon reviewer
“…a fast-paced and exciting read from beginning to end!” -russte, Amazon reviewer
Wednesday, January 9, 4:45 p.m.
Claudia Mitchell kept her business cell phone in her hip pocket as she moved laundry from the washer to the dryer. If she was lucky she’d complete the task before the device chimed with another incoming call. As an expert technical assistant to several protectors within the Guardian Agency, she was on call twenty-four/seven during assignments.
The work challenged her and kept her mind sharp, even on the slower days. Working from home allowed her to choose jeans and sweatshirts or even pajamas as her wardrobe for the day. Although she didn’t personally venture out into the field, she enjoyed living vicariously through the protectors who did. In her role as operations backup, she offered expert assistance behind the scenes on all kinds of cases from murder to missing persons. With the latest technology and electronic developments at her fingertips, she couldn’t imagine a more ideal career.
She smiled. Her career was perfect. Her smile faltered. If only her personal life had a little more… life in it. She sighed. “You can’t have it all, Mitchell.” Work would just have to be enough.
Agency protocol prevented her from knowing anything beyond names and cell phone numbers of the protectors she supported. From her perspective, that was one of the best perks. There were no office politics. No judgment in the break room about fashion, bad hair days, who was putting on weight, or who had gotten sloppy drunk at the company end-of-year party. The only time she had laid eyes on one of the protectors was when he was occasionally caught in the unflattering light of a security camera she’d hacked into for providing backup.
Her boss knew she was more than capable of digging into the lives and histories of the protectors and the agency at large, but she’d signed a contract that she wouldn’t snoop. After the way her previous career ended, the agreement suited her just fine.
Only one protector tested her resolve, but she refused to risk her job because of her natural curiosity. Some things in life were better kept as a fantasy. She smiled to herself again, thinking of how often the protectors teased her during cases, trying to pry a few personal details from her. It was a harmless game they all played. She’d become adept at evasion and fabrication, lessons she’d learned first in college and honed during her time with the CIA.
No one placed enough value on solitude anymore.
Claudia draped the few items that needed to air dry over the indoor clothesline she’d fashioned. With laundry done, she strolled into her small kitchen and refilled her bottle of water before returning to her desk. The background check she’d been assembling for one of the agency cases should be done by now.
At the sound of a ringing phone, she reached for the cell on her hip, and then realized it was her personal cell phone. Startled considering it rarely rang, she raced for the device sitting in the charger. Only two people had that number: her boss and her sister, Diana. If either of them were using this number the sky must surely be falling somewhere.
Caller ID showed her sister’s name and cell number. Claudia took a deep breath and said a quick prayer for patience as she answered.
“Oh, thank God,” her sister’s exclamation was barely more than a whisper. “Claudia, I’m in trouble.”
“What’s wrong?” She tried to keep the sigh out of her voice. Four years younger, Diana’s definition of trouble rarely lined up with Claudia’s. It could be as simple as a flat tire or a plea for another loan to launch her newest professional endeavor. Claudia had supported Diana during attempts to take the world by storm as an actress, model, and singer. Most recently she’d decided to turn her communications degree into a career as an investigative reporter, but she hadn’t shared the specifics with Claudia—which should be a good thing but rarely was.
“I’m at home,” Diana said. “A couple miles north of town actually. You can trace my phone right?”
“Do it quick before I have to turn it over to him.”
“Him who?” Claudia sat down at her desk and started the trace. “What are you talking about?”
“It’s complicated.” Diana groaned. “I followed a story and things went bad. Claudia, I’m so sorry. I know I’ve done this to you too many times already, but you have to help me. This time it’s serious.”
Of course she had to help and, irritated or not, she would. Diana was the only family she had left. Claudia rubbed at the muscles at the back of her neck that had knotted the instant her sister’s number showed up on the caller ID display. A request for cash would likely be next.
“What kind of story is this?” Claudia asked, doubtful of her excuse for needing assistance.
“He won’t let me leave,” Diana said, her voice trembling now. “Please, Claudia. You have to get me out of this place.”
Diana’s persistence that she was at some guy’s mercy set off alarm bells in Claudia’s head. “Who won’t let you leave?”
With the phone between her ear and shoulder, she brought up a search for news stories in and around Brookings on a different monitor. Her sister frequently went back to their childhood home to regroup when her dreams fizzled. Then she would soothe herself by charming some guy out of dinner and dates for a week or two before starting over with a little financial boost from Claudia. What story could have possibly drawn her to Brookings? And who the hell in Brookings could be holding her against her will?
When her sister didn’t respond, Claudia pushed, “What are you talking about, Di?”
“He’s back in the house. Hurry, Claudia,” she finished on a thin whisper.
“Di, I’m working as fast—” The line went dead and for a long moment, Claudia gaped at the silent cell phone, horrific scenarios chasing one after the other through her mind.
Carefully, Claudia set aside the phone. Maybe she was just paranoid from working with the Guardian Agency, but whatever her sister had gotten herself into sounded like a real crisis this time. Unfortunately, none of Claudia’s immediate search results for news in and around Brookings set off any red flags.
Claudia stretched her neck and took a mental step back. Her sister’s desperation wasn’t new. Neither was begging for help—though typically it related to her checking account. Over the years Diana had spent less and less time with Claudia in person. They’d settled into phone calls where it was much easier for both of them to ignore the rolling eyes and exasperated frustration on the other end of the line.
Asking—pleading—for Claudia’s presence… that was completely new.
Dread trickled through Claudia’s veins. There was no question what she had to do. She had to go, whether she understood the problems or not. If someone were holding her sister captive, she would fix it. A therapist might call them codependent but putting a label on it didn’t matter at the moment. If there was one thing she and her sister had in common besides blood, it was the bond of family their parents had instilled in them. Claudia couldn’t let her sister down without letting her parents down.
All these years later, the loss still stole her breath when she thought of her parents. In her sophomore year of college she’d been called out of the computer lab. During the next sixty or so seconds the school chaplain had sandwiched the horrible facts between layers of sympathy. A car accident. Her parents were both dead at the scene. Her sister was in ICU.
Claudia’s world had crumbled in that minute. Nothing had ever been quite right since. She’d sat by her sister’s side through the weeks of recovery, handled the memorials, dealt with the legalities, and vowed never to let Diana down. If that vow meant rescuing her from some jerk holed up in South Dakota so be it.
On a long, deep breath, Claudia pulled the completed background check she’d been working on and sent it to the protector who needed it. Then she drafted an email to her boss, letting it sit while she packed. She wouldn’t send the message until she was on the road. He wouldn’t be happy about her rushing off like this. Logically, she knew he was right. Charging into a case without facts wasn’t smart. But this wasn’t simply a case.
This was personal.