Her eyes snapped open. Laurie Crawford peered intently into the shadows. Nothing jumped at her but every fiber of her being tensed into painful knots. Every instinct she possessed screamed danger. Tossing off the bedclothes, she scrambled out of bed. She tiptoed to the open door of her daughter's bedroom and peeked inside. Nothing stirred in the soft moonlight. Stacy slept peacefully, a stuffed brown dog in her loose embrace.
A door creaked down stairs. Laurie froze, every muscle rigid. Heavy thudding footfalls galvanized her. Breath held, she quietly closed the door to Stacy's room and peeked over the railing of the upper landing. No one moved on or near the stairs but the light spilling from the kitchen grabbed her attention. Heart pounding painfully in her chest, she inched back into her bedroom. She picked up the bedside phone but heard only an ominous silence.
Her glance fell on the window, lingered until she shook her head and turned back to deal with the intruders herself. The second floor windows were too high for a safe escape. At the bedroom doorway, she stared at the empty staircase.
One set of footsteps became three. Low, muttering voices drifted up the stairs. The rough sounds and syllables made no sense. Laurie held her breath, straining to hear over her bounding heartbeat. Metal clattered. Glass shattered. Doors and drawers opened and closed. Panic gurgled in her throat, tasting like bile, but she forced down an instinctive urge to scream. She clenched her fists, gritted her teeth, and stepped slowly down the stairs.
In the way of eerie slow motion, seconds stretched like hours but eventually she stopped at the bottom of the stairs. The voices were closer, louder, but still incomprehensible. She swallowed hard and slipped along the wall to the kitchen entrance. She peeked into the room. Three black-clad figures in ski masks rummaged through drawers and cabinets, flinging the contents around the room.
The man at the back door turned his head and spotted her. Surprise widened his eyes as their gazes locked for a brief moment before he shouted. The one nearest her strode forward, yanking her glance to him. Menace glittered in his dark eyes.
Drawing a harsh breath, Laurie ducked back from the door, turned on her heel, and ran. Her trembling hand grasped the doorknob. A five-fingered vise clamped onto her wrist and yanked her around. She staggered, stumbled back into the wall, but stayed on her feet. His eyes gleamed as he drove his fist toward her face. His hand was huge, magnified in her mind's terrified eye. She jerked her arm up, instinctively blocking the blow. Pain exploded up her arm.
"Mommy! Where are you?" Stacy yelled, terrified, from the top of the stairs.
"Hide, Stacy!" Laurie screamed at the ceiling. Small feet pounded down the hall overhead. A door slammed shut. Then silence reigned.
The intruder brought his arm down, backhanded her across the mouth. The sharp burst of pain stunned her. The metallic taste of warm blood spurted into her mouth, over her tongue.
"Please," she begged through the agony of split lips. "Take anything you want but don't hurt my baby."
He yelled over his shoulder. One of his cohorts ran up the stairs. Doors opened and closed amid muffled curses. A single thud was followed by silence.
Head still turned away from her, the attacker shouted another incomprehensible stream of words. With an abrupt explosion of adrenaline, Laurie drove her fist into his gut. As he doubled over, she jerked her knee up and smashed his nose. He fell over, sprawled on his back. Blood gushed from his nose and stained the plush, light blue carpet. In her frantic haste to get to Stacy, she leapt over the writhing body.
The front door exploded inward, ripped off its hinges. The crash reverberated through the house and her skull, shaking pictures off the walls and knick-knacks off the shelves. The clatter rang in her ears. She faltered.
Men in black military style uniforms stormed through the front door. More men crashed through the back door. The third intruder flew out of the kitchen, down the hall, followed closely by more men, obviously soldiers. Several people ran around upstairs. Their rapid footsteps pounded over her head. Gunfire exploded around her. Laurie cringed, her ears ringing again. The acrid smell of gunpowder filled the air and her nostrils. Smoke obscured her vision, brought tears to her eyes.
No!" Laurie shrieked over the din.
Laurie is a romance writer whose quiet life explodes when terrorists invade her home. She and her small daughter Stacy escape with the help of SEAL Damien, who ends up babysitting the two, keeping them safe from Laurie’s father, an eco-terrorist Laurie had been told was long dead.
There is a whole heap of sexual tension in this book, as Damien avoids his feelings, knowing he will soon be re-assigned and never see Laurie again, and Laurie fights her feelings knowing Damien will never be back.
Damien wants Laurie to stay safe, so he teaches her how to handle guns, and simple self-defense. Through that, Stacy has to be the best behaved and least demanding five-year-old I’ve ever seen. Her personality is not well developed, and seems very uncharacteristic for that age group.
Despite the challenges they both face, their love grows, but how can they reconcile to each other’s lifestyle? Will Damien re-up and disappear again, or will love carry the day? How will the terrorists change the love they feel for each other?
Lots of tension, both sexual and life-threatening, so Always A Warrior fairly zips along. I couldn’t put it down.
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