A Hot SEALs/SEALed For You Crossover Novella
Even as the rental car attendant did his best to find her some mode of transportation, Kimberly Slocomb realized it was hopeless. She wanted to scream and curse at how things were playing out. Why did she have to have this layover in Billings, Montana? Why couldn’t she have gotten a non-stop flight? She had to get to Richmond, Virginia, and she didn’t have time to waste. The last year of her life had been one uphill battle after another. She wasn’t sure how much she could take. Would she ever get a break?
The rental agent came back to the counter, shaking his head. “Ma’am, I’m sorry, but I have nothing. There’s not an available car at any of the open agencies in a twenty-mile radius. It’s possible that we’ll have something tomorrow. Or maybe you’ll be able to get a flight out if this storm lets up.”
“Tomorrow?” She slammed her hand against the counter. “I don’t have the time to sit around here waiting on a maybe. My son is lying in a hospital bed scared and he needs me.”
“Ma’am, I understand, but there’s nothing I can do.”
“Nothing you can do…” In a brief moment of clarity, she looked at the man before her and realized he didn’t deserve her anger. He looked barely twenty. The books piled behind the counter were a clear indication he was a college student just trying to pay his way through school. He didn’t deserve to have a woman screaming at him for something he had no control over. Yet the realization changed nothing. She needed to find a way to get to her son.
Hitchhike? Would anyone even pick her up? Only the craziest of people would be out in this weather. Truckers would be her best bet because they were always on a deadline; storms didn’t stop them, but most companies had policies about people in the cabs. She didn’t care if she had to start walking, she couldn’t sit around the airport doing nothing and hope she’d be able to get a flight out in the morning.
“Can I help you find a hotel room for the night? Most of the local ones have shuttles to and from the airport.”
“Excuse me,” a deep voice called from just behind her. “I might be able to help.”
“Help?” The snarky tone was still in her voice as she spun toward him. “How can you help? Do you have a car I can borrow? A plane? What can you do for me?” She took him in and fought not to step back. The deep muscle definition made him appear larger than he was. The black-on-black ensemble only made him more imposing. Wasn’t black supposed to make someone appear slimmer?
“The name’s Brier.” He held his hand out to her, and when she hesitated, his lips curled into a smile that lit his face. “I don’t bite.”
“Ma’am, if anyone can help you, it’s Brier.” The young man from behind the counter sat down in front of his books. “If you need to get on the road tonight, he might be your only hope.”
“I might have better luck hitchhiking.” She hadn’t meant to say it aloud, but the laughs from both men left no doubt that she had. Well shit…
“If you want to make it to your son’s bedside alive, then you want to be with Brier. Nowadays it isn’t safe to get into a car with a stranger just to go down the road, let alone across the country. Trust me, Brier is the safest option. He’s even safer than an airplane.” He glanced at the other man and smiled. “Tell her.”
“Jacob here can be a dark cloud some days, but he’s right about traveling with me. It would be safer than hitchhiking. There are plenty of crazies out there running loose.” He glanced past her to the young man again. “Can you hook us up with two coffees from your break room so the lady and I can talk about her options? It’s so much better than anything we can get out of the vending area.”
“If you cost me my job, I want something with your team,” he announced before disappearing through the doorway again.
“You might be one of the crazies.”
“Thinking out loud again?” The same smirk from earlier was etched onto his face, but now there was a gleam of amusement in his eyes.
“Maybe.” She dropped her small carry-on, which held everything she brought with her onto the chair next to her. “The boy’s right about the crazies in the world. I know all too well that people are screwed up.” She might have even said that she was a good judge of character but if that was true, she should have recognized the past that her husband had come from. Surely there was something that should have screamed a warning to her. If there had been, she missed it, and now her son was in danger because of her decisions.
“Damn it, I can’t wait here, but hitchhiking really isn’t an option, either. If I had known, I’d get stuck here I would have driven.”
“Just talk to me for a minute, and maybe I can help you.” He held out his arm, encouraging her to sit down. “What’s the urgency to get out of here? Jacob said something about your son.”
“My baby…” Tears filled her eyes, threatening to fall. “I have to get to my baby.”
“Where is he?”
“Richmond.” She took a deep breath and forced the tears away. She couldn’t cry now; she needed to think. Her son needed her on top of her game. “He’s there all alone.” At least she prayed he was alone.
“I think you need to start at the beginning.” When she glared at him, he added, “You’re not old enough to have a son who’s on his own. And from your desire to get to him, I’d say he’s young. Very young from the look in your eyes.”
She took a moment to take the man in again. Did he work for the Dorsey family? Fred Dorsey was technically her father-in-law but she didn’t consider the Dorseys family. She needed to protect her son from them, and if this man worked for them she couldn’t trust him. “You work for him, don’t you? You work for Dorsey?”
“Who?” His brows crinkled together in question. “I’ve never heard of him.”
“You wouldn’t admit it if you did.” She swallowed and tried to keep the panic at bay. How did they find me? The police…they must have an inside man with the police department. But how did he get here so quickly? How did he know I’d have a layover here? They couldn’t have…
“Whoever this man is, I can see the fear rising within you.”
Jacob strolled toward them, carrying two cups of coffee. “Here you go. They’re both black; I know that’s how you take yours Brier. Ma’am if you’d like milk or sugar—”
“Black’s fine. Thank you.” She took the mug from him and wrapped her hands around it. The heat of the ceramic mug felt good against her skin. The airport wasn’t cold, but she felt as though she’d never be warm again. It had been like that for the last few weeks without her son. A piece of her was missing and the empty, cold feeling was how it translated to her body.
“Why don’t you tell me your name and we’ll go from there? I’m Brier Larsen.” He set the mug aside and held out a hand to her.
With hesitation, she uncurled her hand from the mug and took his. “Kimberly Slocomb.”
She glanced around the empty airport terminal and tried to decide if she could trust him. She was left with very few options but the man before her fit the type of men Dorsey would have working for him. If she trusted him, she could be making this worse for herself, but if she didn’t she’d be stuck there until at least the following morning. Even then, there wasn’t a guarantee she’d get a flight out. She glanced down the hall to where the gates were in the hope that someone else might come this way with a car. The chances they’d be driving in this and going to Virginia are not in my favor.
“Fine. Kimberly, I understand you are hesitant to trust me, but time is short. I’ve got a long drive ahead of me and need to get on the road soon. This storm is only going to get worse and more than likely, there’s not going to be any flights out for a few days. I have commitments back East and I can’t wait for the weather to break.”
“I’m sorry.” She forced herself to look back at the man sitting next to her. “Where are you heading? I need to get to Richmond.”
“I know, and I’ll drive right by it. I’m heading back to Virginia Beach.” He took a long drink of his coffee. “It’s more than a thirty-hour drive but we’ll be there before the planes are hitting the runway again.”
“Thirty hours…another day he’ll be alone.”
“If you tell me what kind of trouble you’re in, we can get on the road. But unless you’re going to be honest with me, I can’t help you. If you’re in some kind of legal trouble, maybe I can help. If it’s a custody battle, I might have connections that can help you. I’ll tell you now: I’m not taking you across country so you can steal your son back, if that’s what you’re thinking. I’m not playing a part in that.”
She set the now unappealing coffee aside warmed by the anger that flared to life. How dare he accuse her of kidnapping her own son? “My son is mine! I have full custody of him. If you must know, he was kidnapped, and I’m going to bring him home.” She wasn’t sure where home was at the moment, but wherever they were together that was good enough. I thought we were safe but Dorsey’s other son found us and stole my baby out of the house under the cover of darkness. I don’t know how to make sure it doesn’t happen again but I’ll find a way even if it means we live in a one room cabin.
“I’m sorry. I have no desire to get into some legal trouble. No matter how beautiful the accomplice is.”
Beautiful? She pushed a strand of her hair behind her ear and looked at him. For the first time since he landed on her radar, she looked past his imposing appearance. He was an attractive guy. There was a slight curl in his dark-brown hair, and his blue-eyed gaze was cautious and discerning. His smile helped ease some of her anxiety, but she was sure he could see more than she wanted him to know. She noticed a segment of a tattoo peeking beyond the edge of his sleeve and wondered if that would tell her something more about him.
Her gaze fell away from his face, and the design on his shirt caught her attention. GAPS? Underneath the letters there was a winged anchor with a gun crossed over it. She couldn’t remember ever coming across something like that before. “What’s GAPS?”
“Guardian Angels Protection Services. It’s my employer. Our motto is: We cover your six when God’s too busy.”
His lips curled into a smirk. “It’s a military term. Your six is your backside. You want to make sure whoever is covering your back is competent and that the two of you can work together so both of you out of there alive.”
“You’re former military.” For some reason, that made her feel safer, more at ease. Dorsey wouldn’t hire ex-military because he knew their loyalty would never lie with him. Not completely at least.
“Navy SEAL. Eleven years, and when Jon decided to start GAPS, I joined up. I was already on my way out, and I needed something new to occupy my time. This seemed to be a good way for me to use my skills and make a living.”
A Navy SEAL, that both excited and reassured her. She could get across the country with a man like that. It would be safer than with some trucker. “You don’t work for Dorsey.”
“I tried to tell you I don’t know anyone called Dorsey. Is he the one that took your son?”
She nodded. “It’s why I’ve got to get to Virginia and get my son out of there. I need to get him as far away from Dorsey as I can.”
“Then let’s go.” He polished off the rest of his coffee and stood. “We’re wasting time sitting around here. There’s a little boy that needs his mommy.”
“I…” She let go of her reservation and stood. “If you don’t mind, I’d love a lift. I’ll pay for gas, help with the driving, whatever you want.”
“The company will be nice. It’s a long trip.” He grabbed his duffle bag from the chair and stood. “Jacob, tell your mom I’ll give her a call in a few days.”
The young man glanced up as he shoved his books into the bag. “You know she’ll want you to call when you arrive home, especially once she learns you’re driving.”
“You shouldn’t worry her.”
“You know Mom, she’ll ask if you made it out safely. I can’t lie to her.”
“Okay. I’ll call her when I get in. You sure you’re okay to home drive in this?”
“Yeah. I just got word to close up and go home. No cars means no business, and they don’t want to pay me to do what a sign can do. So I’m going to head out, too.” Jacob slung his bag over his shoulder. “Ma’am, I’m glad he’s able to help you. I hope your son will be okay. Safe travels to both of you.”
“Drive safe and talk your mom into coming to Virginia for a visit. The two of you need the break.” When Brier glanced at her, he must have seen the unanswered questions on her face. He added, “Jacob’s Dad was killed in action a few years ago. He was a good friend, so I look in on the family.”
“Look in.” Jacob chuckled. “You’re like a second father. You always harp on me to be a good son, do well in school so I can get a good job.”
“It’s what your father would have wanted.” Brier’s hand landed over hers as she grabbed her carry-on. “Let me take this.”
“I’m not saying you can’t.” He gave a half shrug. “Call me old fashioned. I’m not carrying it because you can’t or because you’re a woman. I do it out of respect. One thing my old man drilled into me was values.”
She couldn’t come up with a good enough reason not to let him carry it so she didn’t try. If she was going to trust him enough to be stuck in a vehicle with him for the next thirty some hours she could trust him with her bag. It might not have everything she owned in it but the important parts of her life were shoved in it. She learned long ago that she needed to be ready to leave at a drop of a hat.
Maybe this mistake will cost Dorsey enough, and Evan and I won’t have to live our lives on the run anymore.