Hot military heroes, the women who love them, and the devoted dogs that always have their backs. ULTIMATE COURAGE is the second book in a high adrenaline contemporary suspense series from Piper J. Drake published by Forever Romance. Fans of D.D. Ayres K-9 Rescue series and Cindy Gerard’s One Eyed Jacks, will love this action packed romantic suspense series.
True Heroes #2
by Piper J. Drake
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: July 26, 2016
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing- Forever
Print Length: 336 pages
Format: Digital and Mass Market Paperback
LOVE IS AN ACT OF BRAVERY
Retired Navy SEAL Alex Rojas is putting his life back together, one piece at a time. Being a single dad to his young daughter and working at Hope’s Crossing Kennels to help rehab a former guard dog, he struggles every day to control his PTSD. But when Elisa Hall shows up, on the run and way too cautious, she unleashes his every protective instinct.
Elisa’s past never stays in her rearview mirror for long, and she refuses to put anyone else in danger. But with Alex guarding her so fiercely yet looking at her so tenderly, she’s never felt safer . . . or more terrified that the secrets she keeps could put countless people in grave peril. The only way for both to fully escape their demons will take the ultimate act of courage: letting go and learning to trust each other.
Also in this series:
Beautiful blue-gray eyes met his briefly before the woman dropped her own gaze to focus on someplace lower on his face, like his nose or mouth. Subtle. Most people would probably not even notice the way she avoided direct eye contact.
But then again, not many people made eye contact a challenge the way he and his colleagues did. It wasn’t on purpose, really; more of a common quirk in their personalities.
Funny, he hadn’t expected to see her again. Okay, maybe he’d been hoping to find her at Revolution MMA for those self-defense classes he’d recommended. But here she was. A weird tingle jolted through his chest.
This woman was about as non-aggressive as possible without cowering outright. Despite her upright posture, her hands hung at her sides in a loose, non-defensive position. Her left wrist was covered in a brace and it was easy to see she held something in her right hand. She was far enough back on the landing to easily drop down a step or two without having to back up more than a few inches.
But the mannerisms didn’t fit her energy, the straightness of her shoulders, or the set of her jaw. Whoever this woman was, she’d developed habits. She wasn’t a mouse by nature. He wouldn’t be as irritated to see these behaviors if these things came naturally to her.
Who had forced her to assume those mannerisms to survive?
“Mr. Rojas.” Her voice was steady.
Another sign of her being more than what she seemed, as far as he was concerned. The timbre was almost soothing, and he realized he’d balled his hands into fists. Well, shit. He let his hands loosen.
She presented the object she held in her right hand. “I think your daughter left this behind at the ER last night. I hope you don’t mind, but the logo for the kennels was on the inside label, so I googled the address.”
Slowly—because he didn’t want her to snatch her hand back—he took the glove from her. “Thanks.”
“The hospital lost and found was overflowing, and I wanted to make sure Boom got her glove back,” the woman continued, then bit her lip. “And I wanted to be sure to thank you.” Her cheeks took on a fascinating pale pink blush.
Caught by surprise, Rojas raised his eyebrows. “Me?”
Maybe his tone had been the right encouragement, because she looked up again, her gaze meeting his, and the chemistry shocked him right down to his toes, hitting every vital organ—including his balls—along the way.
Blue-gray, cool as a calm day out on the water, her gaze held his. “You were very kind last night, and I didn’t thank you then. I try to thank the kind people I meet. So thank you.”
Rojas cleared his throat. “You’re welcome.”
He didn’t know what else to say. He’d only given her some ice, a cup of coffee, and a card about the martial arts center. Boom had a good sense for people, and when she’d said the woman needed the referral for the self-defense classes, he’d been inclined to agree.
She broke their eye contact, and he felt the loss as if someone had broken the circuit on an electrical current. “I should be going now.”
“Wait.” He didn’t know what made him ask her to. But she paused, balanced on the balls of her feet at the edge of the landing. He was sure if he didn’t catch her now she’d be gone for good. “I didn’t get your name.”
“Oh.” She turned to face him. Another sign that she’d learned caution but she wasn’t afraid by nature. She was open. A people person. Or at least more of one than he was. “Elisa Hall.”
I loved Extreme Honor and was super excited to know more about Alex. And Drake didn’t disappoint … until the end of the book. I’m going to give some potentially major spoilers so stop reading now if you don’t want to know.
OK, so Elisa is running from something and she’s lucky enough to be taken in by the Hope’s Crossing crew. If you read Extreme Honor then you know what a group of serious bad-asses those guys are. All three of them are strong, smart and brave. Being the men that they are you know that they have a few hang-ups, they’ve lived and fought very hard, so they’ve seen and done things that leave some scars. And Alex isn’t any different. He’s battling some PTSD but he’s trying to keep it together for his daughter, who he isn’t afraid to show he loves with everything he is. And she’s a pretty kickin’ kid because of it. She’s saucy and quick and fun; a definitely highlight of the story.
When he runs across Elisa it is very clear that she’s trying to escape from something but his work with the dogs has taught him patience and insight. Offering her a job helps her get her feet under her and hopefully some time so she can figure out what to do. And maybe Alex can figure out what he can do to help. But the man she’s running from is powerful, connected and smart, which makes Elisa afraid to stay for too long or let anyone get too close. Alex (and Boom & Souze) is hard to resist so she finds herself getting involved and letting him in.
Up to this point, everything is going great and he’s showing what a fantastic hero he is. **Spoilers** She’s understandably wary but slowly both are making progress to trusting each other and letting their attraction turn into more … until Alex completely does a 180 and punks out. A “friend” from Elisa’s past makes an appearance, says a few things that push Alex’s buttons, and he walks away. Granted Elisa hasn’t shared everything about her past, but enough for him to know that leaving her alone is a VERY bad idea. But he does it anyway, which of course means she’s vulnerable to be taken by the man she’s trying to escape. *sigh* Why?!? I know that he’s feeling like maybe he’s been had but he’s smart & experienced enough that I would have expected him to pull out and regroup but not leaver her there alone and unprotected with someone from her past who magically has found her all the way across the country. When she’s been on the run for a long time and obviously scared of being found. Ugh! I can see where it works for the plot to have her alone but surely there was another way? Because I lost a lot of respect for him at that moment. And she just forgives him afterward. I’d be so beyond pissed!
If you made it this far I’ll say that you may be more understanding of his position than I was. I kinda get where Drake was going and can almost understand but I feel like these guys should be more than average. I’m giving the book 3.5 stars because about 90% of it is fantastic, as good as Extreme Honor, but the ending just killed it for me. I’m looking forward to giving the next book a go because I’m hoping that this was just a one off thing.
Piper J. Drake (or “PJ”) began her writing career as “PJ Schnyder” writing sci-fi & paranormal romance and steampunk. She has recently received the FF&P PRISM award for her work as well as the NJRW Golden Leaf award and Parsec award.
Now, PJ is exploring the complexity of romantic suspense, incorporating her interests in mixed martial arts and the military into her writing.