The Protectors #7
By Sloane Kennedy
Hosted by Jo&Isalovebooks Blog.
“I trusted once. I won’t make that mistake again…”
An ugly childhood and devastating betrayal have left 25-year-old Cain Jensen scarred inside and out. Protecting himself means keeping everyone at arm’s length and protecting others means never getting emotionally involved. In the three years since he’s joined an underground vigilante group, every life he saves helps ease the guilt of the ones that were lost to him so long ago. So when he’s sent to a remote cabin in the Cascade Mountains just north of Seattle to follow up on the disappearance of his boss’s co-worker, his only thought is to see that justice is served, no matter what the circumstances.
But nothing he’s ever experienced has prepared the cold-hearted and very straight Cain for who he finds on that mountain…or the intense need to suddenly offer more than just protection.
“I’ve finally managed to break free, but I’ve never felt more trapped in my entire life…”
Ethan Rhodes has been running for six months, but it’s never fast enough, it’s never far enough. At 30 years old, the talented ER Doctor should be spending his days saving other people’s lives, not worrying about his own. But he knows that the four years of physical and emotional abuse he’s suffered at the hands of his volatile ex are nothing compared to what will happen when Ethan runs out of places to hide, especially after taking something from the man he once was sure would be the love of his life.
A violent episode that has Ethan narrowly escaping death leads to a quiet cabin in the mountains where his battered body will have time to heal before he and the young girl relying on him need to run again. But everything changes with the arrival of a mysterious stranger who threatens to give Ethan something he’d finally accepted was gone forever…hope.
“I didn’t see this coming. I don’t think he did either…”
To get to the truth, Cain must first get through Ethan’s defenses, but watching the other man’s walls start to come down forces Cain to face his own past. And as the tremulous connection between the two men grows and gives way to something more, both will need to decide if they’re willing to risk giving each other the one thing that has cost them so much in the past…trust.
Will two men who’ve vowed never to let someone close again let down their guard long enough to find each other, or will they let their pasts determine their future?
I tensed up when Cain turned onto a quiet looking road and then turned again on a side road with nothing but farm land around. He pulled off to the side and threw the truck into park and turned it off. He snatched the keys out of the ignition and quietly said, “Get out of the truck, Ethan.”
Fear ratcheted down my spine as I realized I’d finally managed it. I’d said something that had made him cross that line. I wanted to cry as I got out of the truck and closed the door as quietly as I could. No way I wanted Lucy to witness this. I went to the back of the truck where Cain was waiting for me and I could see that he was pissed. He looked a lot like he had that first day when Lucy and I had gone after him in the snow.
I knew that if I apologized, I might have a chance of making this all go away. It hadn’t always worked with Eric, but Cain seemed more in control of his emotions. If I was sincere enough…
But I shook my head. No, I wasn’t going back to that part of my life. Let the asshole hit me…it would be proof that everything he’d said was a lie. That the way he’d held me in that shower had been a lie.
Just let it out, Ethan…I’ve got you.
“Lie,” I whispered under my breath so he wouldn’t hear.
I forced myself to look at him and settled my eyes on the small bruise on his jaw. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but Lucy had told me later that I’d struck Cain when he’d been trying to wake me up from my nightmare. I’d been stunned to learn that not only had I managed to leave a mark on him, but that he hadn’t hit me back. The guilt I’d felt at actually even inflicting the smallest amount of pain on him had consumed me, but when I’d tried to apologize to him the next day when he’d helped me to the bathroom, he’d brushed off my words like they were nothing…like the bruise was nothing.
Though I supposed to a man like him, it was nothing.
Even now, he seemed to tower over me and I couldn’t stop from staring at his hands. Maybe if I saw them close into fists, I’d somehow be able to prepare myself for the blow…
“Stop that,” Cain said harshly. I forced my eyes up to his and saw the glittering anger there. I dropped my eyes again and hunched in on myself. I knew it was a self-defense mechanism that I’d learned early on – making myself as small a target as I possibly could – and I hated that I relied on it even now after promising myself I didn’t care what he did to me, but old habits died hard.
I sensed rather than saw Cain moving towards me and I reflexively backed up until my back hit the back of the truck. I turned my head to the side but didn’t cover it with my hands like I wanted since that would only make things worse. Submissive was one thing, cowardly was another.
Eric hated cowards.
“Don’t make me him,” Cain said roughly as his body crowded mine. The heat coming off him was intense and even as I waited for him to grab me, I felt part of my body wanting to seek out more of that warmth.
It was sick.
I was sick.
“Ethan,” Cain said softly and then his fingers were at my chin…not to grab it, but to tip it up. “I’m not him,” he whispered.
I nodded, though it was more of an instinctive thing than anything else. When Eric got all quiet and reflective, I found that agreeing with him typically worked better than silence. “I know you’re not.”
It wasn’t until I felt Cain’s thumb stroke over my jawline that I forced myself to look at him. As soon as I met his gaze he said, “Ethan, I’m not him.”
He held me there like that, refusing to let me look away. I wanted to repeat my own statement to assure him that I knew that, but the lie wouldn’t fall from my lips, so I only nodded.
I felt his warm breath skitter over me as a sigh escaped his lips.
He didn’t believe me.
I really was a bad liar.
I expected him to release me and step away, but I was surprised when his fingers drifted down to my throat. His thumb flicked back and forth over a spot near my pulse and then his entire palm flattened against the spot just above my T-shirt collar.
The T-shirt that had only stopped smelling like him the day before.
Other Books In the Series.
ALL ON KINDLE UNLIMITED
Absolution (The Protectors #1)
Salvation (The Protectors #2)
Retribution (The Protectors #3)
Forsaken (The Protectors #4)
Vengeance (The Protectors #5)
Atonement (The Protectors #6)
Although Sloane Kennedy always dreamed of being a writer as a teenager, she didn’t take the plunge until March of 2015 when she released her first novel as an independent author. Since then, she has released more than a dozen books including the Amazon best-selling “Barretti Security” series, “Finding” series and “Protectors” series. While she initially began writing M/F romance, she found her true passion writing gay romance and all four of her most recent releases reached the #1 spot on Amazon’s Gay Romance bestseller list and Freeing Zane, her final book in the Barretti Security series, made it to Amazon’s overall bestseller list. Sloane was born in Germany and grew up in Virginia and Wisconsin. Although she currently lives in Wisconsin, the place where she has always felt most at home is Seattle and many of her books take place in the Emerald city. Although she is unmarried, a menagerie of 2 dogs and 3 cats keeps her busy enough and 3 young nieces take care of the rest of her free time. Sloane loves being able to share her passion for romance with readers and she is truly humbled by all the support she’s received from fans and fellow authors alike.
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