FIVE STARS FOR Wait for Morning
April 7, 2015
Sniper 1 Security, 1
Contemporary Romance/ Suspense
✔️ Little sister’s best friend
✔️ Friends to lovers
Trace Kogan will go to any length to protect those who need protecting. That is the business he is in, the business his father, Casper Kogan, started with Bryce Trexler more than thirty-five years ago. Trace eliminates threats to clients day and night, so when the danger hits too close to home, he won’t let anything come between him and the woman who desperately needs his help.
His fear… the physical reaction he has to Marissa may pose a bigger danger than the ghost that they find themselves up against.
Marissa Trexler has spent the last twelve months of her life in hiding, tucked away in one safe house after another for her protection. The threat to her is real, even if the reason is still unknown. Strangely, whoever is after her seems to find her no matter where she goes, leading her family to believe it’s an inside job.
So when the decision is made that Trace will provide personal protection, she can’t say no, even if being close to him adds another level of danger… and this one is to her heart.
Marissa Trexler came awake slowly, trying to fight the groggy feeling as she forced her eyes open. A quick glance at the blurry red digits on the alarm clock told her it was just after midnight. The dim light from the lamp on her bedside table, along with the Kindle resting on her chest, said she’d fallen asleep reading again.
She really needed to stop doing that. More than likely, the suspense novel she’d been engrossed in before she finally dozed off was making her paranoid. Stephen King had a way of doing that to a person.
Sliding the e-reader to the pillow beside her, Marissa scrubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands and glanced over at the bedroom door. Shut and locked. Exactly the way she’d left it. No boogeyman looming over her, ready to do whatever it was that boogeymen did.
She lay there, momentarily listening for the sound that had awoken her. Nothing.
Yep, just as she’d thought. Paranoid. Thanks a lot, Mr. King. Maybe it really was time to switch to some lighter reading at night. Perhaps her best friend, Courtney, was right, Marissa should try romance on for size.
Just when she reached for the lamp to shroud the room in darkness so she could attempt to get back to the blessed dreamless state she’d been in, Marissa stopped, her hand hovering inches from the lamp base.
Okay, maybe paranoid wasn’t the right word because she clearly hadn’t imagined the sound that time.
Glancing toward her bedroom door once more, Marissa tried to make sense of the noise, but she couldn’t. It sounded almost as though someone was dragging something across the floor and then carelessly dropping it. Over and over again.
There was no way that could possibly be it, though.
Maybe it was the screen door. Yes, that made perfect sense. A much more likely culprit. The damn thing was always coming unlatched, a reoccurring problem with the blistering cold winds slamming brutally against her small rental—aka safe house—especially in the dead of winter.
Not for the first time, Marissa wished she was back in Texas. Back where the temperatures weren’t freeze-your-nipples-off cold.
Figuring the screen door wouldn’t fix itself, Marissa forced her legs over the edge of the bed and slid her feet into her cable-knit boot slippers.
A frisson of fear sliced through her at the sound, making her toes curl against the faux fur encasing her feet and causing her heart to slam into her ribs. The screen door was never that consistent.
Swallowing past the lump of ice-cold terror lodged in her suddenly dry throat, Marissa managed to get to her feet. After grabbing her heavy robe from the chair beside the bed, she slowly slipped out of her bedroom, moving down the short, narrow hallway toward the front door as she pulled her robe over trembling arms. Forgoing the lights on her way, she kept her ears tuned to the sound.
This time Marissa stopped midstride, standing a mere foot from the doorway that led to the living room as she tried to pinpoint the direction of the noise. It didn’t sound like it was coming from the front of the house, which meant … the screen door wasn’t the guilty party.
Swallowing hard, Marissa realized that new thumping sound was her heart—threatening to beat right out of her chest.
That realization didn’t do a damn thing to help the oncoming panic attack.
Not her heart.
Marissa listened for a moment, noticing the house was now void of all noise except for the soft rumble of heat through the air vents and the drumbeat coming from her chest. Was the sound coming from behind her? She tried to force her feet to move, but the overwhelming fear kept her rooted in place.
Before the direction to run could make it from her brain to her feet, a hard, firm hand came over her mouth, yanking her back against an equally hard, firm body.
The cobwebs of sleep still saturated her gray matter, making it difficult to register the need to scream, but instinct had her instantly trying to wiggle away.
No! Not again!
A muffled sound escaped her—anything more was hindered by the large palm crushed over her mouth—but it wasn’t nearly loud enough to attract help. Or maybe that was the terror lodged in her throat keeping the sound at bay. Either way, she found herself desperately trying to suck in air, stumbling as the massive body behind her pulled her away from the living room, forcing her to shift her feet or fall to the floor.
And yes, she suddenly wondered whether the latter wasn’t a bad idea. Getting away should’ve been her top priority, and Marissa was pretty sure it would’ve been if she could think clearly.
“Not a word,” the deep voice whispered, warm breath brushing against her neck.
Well, that confirmed the answer to the first question that had popped into her head: man or woman? Definitely a man.
Low, gruff, familiar, the voice was an oddly soothing rumble against her ear. She recognized the timbre, the cadence, even the inflection, but thanks to the all-consuming dread roiling in the pit of her stomach, she couldn’t place it. When she tried to turn, to see who he was, he simply held her flush to his body, continuing to ease them closer to the back door via the darkened kitchen.
“Stay calm. We’ve gotta get outta here.”
His voice was calm, not at all threatening, and the strong arms surrounding her weren’t gripping her painfully, but Marissa still questioned: friend or foe? She didn’t know the right answer, probably because she was still paralyzed with fear.
While her common sense tried to come fully online, the intruder continued to lead her away from the front of the house, and for whatever reason, Marissa found herself complying. Something told her she needed to trust this man.
Less than a minute later, they were stepping outside, the icy winds battering her body, the snow instantly seeping through her slippers, freezing her feet. The blistering cold kick-started her brain, and she glanced at the ski-mask-clad man, who was now reaching for her hand as he rapidly backed away from the house, his intense gaze penetrating her, even though she couldn’t even make out the color of his eyes in the inky darkness, darkened even more by the rapidly moving clouds temporarily blocking out the moon.
“Let’s go, Marissa!” the man yelled, grabbing her hand and hauling her through the snow that densely covered her backyard.
Was it a good sign that he knew her name?
Okay, so maybe she should’ve been more worried about the fact that snow was now filling her slippers and saturating her pajama bottoms, or perhaps that she was willingly running away from the safety of her house with a man she only thought she should trust.
Unable to form words to argue or even to ask questions, Marissa ran. More accurately, she stumbled through the snow, dredging her way around to the side of the house as fast as she could behind the stranger dressed in black, his clothing of choice a stark contrast against the brilliant white landscape now lit by the moon. Her brain fumbled to make sense of what was going on as her slippered feet trudged through two feet of soft snow blanketing the ground. The gloved hand holding hers felt safe, but for a fraction of a second, she pondered whether she was actually running toward disaster rather than running from it.
A metallic ping sounded from close by, causing her to flinch at the same time her masked companion grabbed her, hauling her close to his solid body and using himself as a human shield, steering her in the direction he apparently wanted her to go.
“In!” the man commanded as they approached a dark SUV haphazardly parked along the side of her house.
Holy shit. Was someone shooting at them?
With her stupidity level possibly at an all-time high, Marissa didn’t question him as he yanked open the driver’s door and shoved her into the vehicle, she didn’t try to pull away, and she didn’t glance back at her house, either, when he yelled, “Other side!” and pushed her across the center console.
“Seat belt!” The brusque word echoed through the chilly interior of the SUV as the engine roared to life when her masked companion hopped in the driver’s seat. With frozen fingers, Marissa fumbled with her seat belt while she prayed the heater would push something more than arctic air at her.
How long did it take for frostbite to set in?
Wow. And wasn’t that an odd question to worry about at a time like this?
Hoping she wasn’t going to find out, she forced the notion from her head.
Less than a minute later, Marissa wasn’t worried about her numb fingers and toes or even what the sound had been that had woken her in the middle of the night. Her new interest was who this man was and where they were going.
When she turned to face him, ready to pelt him with those exact questions, Marissa was tossed around the front seat like a rag doll—despite the seat belt that was supposed to hold her in place—as he took a turn on what had to be two wheels. Fear gripped her once again as she grabbed for the oh-shit handle and held on for dear life. He obviously knew what he was doing, navigating the top-heavy vehicle in polar-like conditions, never taking his eyes off the road.
Chancing another glimpse in his direction, Marissa studied his profile despite the mask still covering his features, trying her best to look at him. Really look at him.
When he glanced over at her, tugging the mask off his head, allowing her to see his face for the first time since he’d arrived to whisk her out of the house, her breath lodged in her throat.
What the fuck?
“You’re lucky I don’t punch you right now,” she told him grumpily, earning a chuckle from him.
Continuing to watch him, Marissa willed her heart to stop pounding, her breath to return to normal.
“Since when did they start sending in the big guns?” she muttered when she could breathe again, sarcasm and incredulity replacing the fear that had racked her for the past… According to the blue digits on the dashboard, only fifteen minutes had passed since she’d awoken to the noise.
He didn’t respond.
Before Marissa could blast him for what had happened, there was an explosion that rocked the SUV. Twisting in her seat and peering through the tinted back window, she saw a fireball billowing in the chilly night air.
“Ohmygod… Ohmygod… Oh. My. God.” Marissa turned to eyeball the man who’d come to her rescue. The last man she’d expected to see. The very man who had just saved her life. “Was that…?”
“Your house? Yeah,” he offered with a slight edge. Although his rich, dark tone reflected a hint of sympathy, his white-gray eyes were hard as steel.
Her house, or rather the residence she’d inhabited for the last two and a half months, was now… Shit. It was now a fireball in the sky.
Spinning back around and shifting nervously in her seat, Marissa sucked air into her lungs, praying she wouldn’t hyperventilate and pass out. Or m