Guardians Book 1
Released: 22 July, 2022
A NICU nurse with a will of steel. A head-strong Delta Force operator. Who will give in first?
When Tess Williams, a neonatal intensive care unit nurse, finds her fiancé in bed with another woman, she is done with dating. Even if it means she won’t have a family of her own, because trust and honesty are that important to her. Hellbent on avoiding any temptation of the male kind, she makes one devastating mistake: nosediving into the solid chest of a Delta Force operator.
Her second mistake? Trespassing.
Ethan Mitchell, only son of a Texas billionaire, joined the Army to turn his life around. Adamant all women are only after money and can’t be trusted, and to keep his past secret, he is only interested in casual flings. Until a stubborn and infuriating five-foot-seven firecracker crashes into him, insisting he is mistaken, and he needs to apologize.
Sure. Like hell he is. And like hell he will.
” I was pulled into this book for the beginning, and I loved every page.”⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Amazon review
Content warning: This novel contains realistic neonatal experiences.
CHAPTER 1 EXCERPT
Ninety-two days and three hours.
By now, Tess Williams figured anyone with a bit of sense would’ve been over finding their two-timing, piece of shit fiancé in bed with the overly ambitious blonde who joined his firm a few months earlier. But apparently, she had lost what little sense she had in addition to two years of her life. Because she was still angry as hell. And hurting. And angry that she was still hurting. Even though discovering his extracurricular activities three weeks before their wedding day was lightyears better compared to a few years into marriage and a couple of kids later, her heart stubbornly refused to let go.
In a last-ditch effort to nurse Tess’s bruised pride back to health, she and her two best friends from the neonatal intensive care unit were out to paint D-town red. But she drew the line at tending her battered ego. She wasn’t interested in getting back in the dating saddle.
No thank you.
Their first objective was to get into the hottest and most exclusive lounge in Dallas. They came prepared and were dressed to flaunt every physical talent they had. They did well. After less than half an hour waiting in line, a security guy in a dark suit waved the trio through the doors, and her ego was off life-support and breathing more easily. They even managed to snag a small corner table near the VIP parlor entrance away from the worst of the crush. This was a blessing in disguise since a wild horse stampede oozed more Zen than the Black Diamond Lounge on a Saturday night.
Every thump and thud blasting from the speakers reverberated through her chest. Flashes of shocking-bright colors, keeping to the beat of deafening DJ music, overpowered the more eye-friendly glow from the massive chandeliers and wall lighting. Packed to capacity, every spot, nook, and seat in the club was occupied with people pushing and brushing against each other. Talking, drinking, and dancing, to see and to be seen, and fingers crossed, to get lucky. Judging by the loud voices, inflated laughter, and animated expressions, fueled by overpriced drinks and ear-splitting tunes, Tess suspected there was no need to cross any fingers tightly tonight.
Cocktails in hand, Tess, Olivia, and Emma made themselves comfortable on the L-shaped leather couch. Or as comfortable as one could get in an overheated and overcrowded club. They were getting their fair share of interested glances and glares. This came as no surprise. They were showing a good amount of skin.
As long as she was left alone to enjoy some time with her best friends, all would be good. Tess had zero, actually, make that less than zero interest in dating ever again.
Mr. Douchebag Esq. had been the final proverbial straw.
At twenty-seven, her track record with men could be summed up in one word. Disastrous. No exaggeration. If dating cheaters and liars were an Olympic event, she would be sporting one gold and two silver medals next to her row of endurance riding ribbons and trophies back home. Her first mare was the embodiment of trust and loyalty and could teach her exes a lesson or two.
No, to keep her heart safe, she was going to avoid single men at all cost. She’d spend her time on her stepfather’s ranch in between going out with her friends and doing the job she absolutely loved, nursing premature and severely ill newborn babies back to health. And as soon as the time was right, she’d look into her options to have a baby on her own.
A sharp nudge to the ribs pulled her from her reverie. Not that she could hear herself think over the blaring noise. Not really.
“You look like it’s the apocalypse or something.” Raising her voice to be heard, almost yelling, Olivia had her no-nonsense face on. “Time to get another drink, and then we’re dancing.”
Tess scanned the room and snorted. “Where?”
Emma nodded like a strict, unforgiving Nurse Director from hell and tapped the tabletop. “Right here if we need to.”
Tess eyed the table between them. The overcrowded dance floor it would have to be. “Make mine a double.”
“I need to go to the restroom.” Emma straightened as she spoke. Tess read her lips more than heard her voice over the booming music.
“I need to go too—”
“We’ll be right back, Tess. You make sure no one grabs our spot.”
Her protest got drowned in the noise as Olivia and Emma disappeared into the throng. Great. Sitting all by yourself in a packed hotspot on a Saturday night. What could go wrong?
Everything, that’s what. Literally everything.
Not even a minute later, a guy so drunk he couldn’t stay upright without steadying himself against the wall dropped down on the couch next to her. He tipped his head closer to her at an angle greater than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Severely overestimating his ability to balance, and like the famous Italian tourist attraction, he started to topple headfirst for her lap.
Balancing her half-full glass in one hand, Tess scooted around to the far side of the table in record time as the drunk face planted on the couch where she’d been moments before. Yep, time to find Olivia and Emma ASAP. Holding onto their prime real estate in the crammed nightclub be damned. Self-preservation had risen to the top of her immediate priorities.
In her rush, Tess missed the stupid step she knew was there. Not that there was much of a step, but enough to cause a problem to anyone in a hurry. Before her inner ear could send an SOS to her brain to keep her upright, or at least attempt to minimize any damage, she was impersonating a falling Tower of Pisa with even less grace than the drunk guy on the couch behind her. A solid chest and a firm grip on her upper arm broke her tumble and kept her from falling head over ass. Her squeal lodged in her throat as her initial shock uncoiled into gratitude.
The hitch of her breath had nothing to do with her brush with almost meeting a sticky, grimy nightclub floor as every single sense she possessed shot into overdrive.
Intimately aware of the heat of hard muscles flush against her softer curves and the strength in the hand on the bare skin of her arm, she was drowning in an earthy scent of spice and wood. His cologne was pure male, utterly intoxicating, and should totally be illegal. Nope. Make that all of him.
Every inch of her skin tingled. No one had ever been able to make her tingle all over like this, and this guy wasn’t even trying.
Hot damn. Yes!
Her brain kicked in.
She shook her head mentally. Right! She was done with men, no matter how good they smelled or felt. Scolding herself internally, she reluctantly listened to the reasonable voice in her head and stepped away.
The spilled alcohol on the upper body of her dress, evaporating rapidly, cooled her skin and sent a frosty shiver through her as her eyes focused and her vision cleared. Where the rest of her drink had spilled on him, the white of his dress shirt was see-through and glued to his chest. A very nice, very defined chest from what she could make out. Her gaze started the upward journey, taking in broad shoulders, a solid neck, and a square chin covered in dark, day-old stubble. He had a full mouth, straight nose, and was tall, at least a full head more than her five-foot-seven.
“I’m so sorry, it was totally an accid …”
Her apology caught in her throat when she got to his gaze. Azure-blue eyes. Eyes that could melt a heart of stone if they weren’t so frosty.
He was not happy. Definitely not impressed. Uh-oh.
“Right, totally an accident.”
His low rumble threatened to stir every butterfly in her stomach to life. Butterflies that were not supposed to be around anymore. But the chill in the tone, which matched his eyes, dampened their exuberance a little.
Fighting a blush, her jaw tightened. “I forgot about the step and there was this asshole…”
The words died on her lips when she glanced at the table. An empty table. Of course, the drunk creep had moved on. Great.
The guy in front of her lifted one eyebrow almost imperceptibly.
That she was okay with, marginally. But when the corner of his mouth twisted into a condescending sneer, she needed all her self-control to hold onto the flash of anger spreading through her.
Tight-lipped, she regarded him in silence. What the hell was his problem? Accidents happened.
©️ 2022 AJ Reid