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Defiance (The Protectors #9)
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“All I ever wanted was to serve and protect my country. It ended up costing me everything …”
At 49, Vincent St. James has learned to live with the choices he’s made, even if he isn’t always proud of them. After the military decided his sexuality was more important than his impeccable service record, Vincent lost everything, including the man he’d planned to spend the rest of his life with.
And a man with nothing to live for has nothing to lose.
With a bone deep hatred of all things government, Vincent found another way to serve his country, but it too came at a steep cost that he never could have foreseen. Dealing in secrets and death means there’s always someone waiting around the next corner trying to either take his place or bury their secrets along with his body. Even if he wanted out, it’s far too late for that.
When he’s given the chance to help out a friend who once had his back when others didn’t, he jumps at the chance to repay the favor. Even if it means protecting the kind of man he despises most…a power-hungry politician looking to push his own agenda on an unsuspecting public.
“I made a terrible choice twelve years ago and it cost me the only person who ever really mattered to me. But maybe there’s another way I can make things right …”
30-year-old Nathan Wilder can’t take back the moment he betrayed his twin brother, but he can try to make sure that the legacy of hate that drove him to turn on Brody never has a chance to rear its ugly head again. And if that means going against his powerful father’s right-wing political constituency in a down and dirty race for a seat in the U.S. Senate, then so be it. But when the threats that had been limited to harmless emails start taking an uglier turn, culminating in a violent attack that leaves no doubt as to the assailant’s intent, Nathan is thrown into the direct path of a mysterious and dangerous man who may end up forcing Nathan to confront truths he just isn’t ready to face yet.
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Open disregard; contempt
“No,” I said without hesitation as I studied the men before me. I’d talked to Ronan Grisham on the phone a couple of times, but Memphis was new. Of course, I already knew as much about him as I needed to, though, since I’d done my homework on him as soon as Ronan had asked me to fly to Seattle for a meeting. I could have told them before I’d even left my place in West Virginia that I had no interest in taking on any job they might offer me, but truth be told, the little group Ronan had going on here had intrigued me. I suppose I had Ethan Rhodes to thank, or blame, for that, depending on how you looked at it.
I’d met Ethan Rhodes six months earlier when Ronan had asked me to take a look at a damaged phone in Ethan’s possession, which had had evidence of a murder on it. From the moment I’d met the doctor, I’d been transported back to a time in my life that I’d had no wish to return to. It wasn’t that Ethan had necessarily looked like David; it was more about the way he’d carried himself. He’d had an air of vulnerability about him, but there’d been a fierceness in him as well. It was the reason I’d helped Ethan go after his lover, Cain Jensen, when he’d feared the man’s life was in danger.
For all the struggles David had gone through in our final year together, he’d been unfailingly loyal…and protective. He hadn’t always been able to find the strength to fight for himself, but if there’d been even the slimmest chance I was in danger, he’d been ready to stand by my side, guns blazing.
It was that memory that Ethan had stirred in me that’d had me doing something I hadn’t done since I’d lost David to his demons.
I’d given a shit.
And that wasn’t a good thing.
Not in my line of work.
But I’d done it anyway, and I’d started wondering about the kind of work Ronan and his men did. I’d never actually met Ronan – our relationship had been more of a friend-of-a-friend kind of thing. He’d cashed in a favor and I’d paid one off.
It should have been a simple transaction.
I should have held up my end of the deal and been done. But then Cain Jensen had called me and asked me to stay with Ethan while he took care of the man’s vengeful ex once and for all. I’d been on the cusp of saying no, but I’d heard that thread of desperation in the young man’s voice.
And I’d known what he was feeling.
That need to do anything and everything to protect that one person in your life who completed you…who was your reason for everything you did. Every breath you took, every battle you fought…going on day after endless day, even after you lost them, because without you, there was no one left to keep their memory alive.
It was the only reason I’d been able to get up every morning after David had been taken from me.
And despite the bullet he’d put in his own brain, he had been taken. The man I’d fallen in love with when I’d still been in my teens had started to disappear before my very eyes the moment he’d gotten that notice from the army that’d said his service to his country was no longer valued.
The same notice I’d gotten.
And all because David and I had made the grievous error of falling in love with each other.
“You’re not even going to hear us out?” Memphis asked.
We were sitting in his living room. A white cat had taken up residence on my lap the second I’d sat down. When Memphis had gone to move her, I’d waved him off. I’d take the presence of an animal over a human any day of the week.
I had no interest in hearing him out, but I decided to humor him and merely nodded my head at him. I would still be telling him no, though. Because I had absolutely no interest in playing bodyguard to anyone, since that would mean having to spend more than five minutes in another person’s company.
Yeah, no thanks.
“His name is Nathan Wilder. His brother is in a relationship with the son of a friend of ours and another man,” Ronan said.
I remained quiet, though I was intrigued by the concept of three men in an equal relationship with one another. Memphis, himself, was in the same kind of relationship, though I hadn’t met either of his young lovers. The research I’d done on him had just been the basics including financials, employment, and family history, but I could tell from the handful of pictures I’d seen of him and two good-looking young men in their twenties, that what they had between them was the real deal. As someone who was pushing fifty, I’d seen a lot in my time, but a ménage relationship that appeared to be about more than just sex was a new one, even for me.