SAVED BY A SEAL (Hot Seals #2) by Cat Johnson
CHAPTER ONE EXCERPT
Zane watched as Jon strode across the bar toward him.
“Good. You’re here.” Jon dumped a binder on the table.
The papers inside were heavy enough to make the beer in Zane’s pint slosh when it landed. Zane raised a brow as he picked up his glass. “Whatcha got there, bud?”
“That’s the completed business and marketing plan, all put together.” Jon pulled out a chair and sat. “Rick and Darci looked it over and then both Ali and I proofread it twice, so it should be ready to present to your father.”
Grateful he’d been left out of that incredibly boring stage of this project, Zane eyed the tome. “That’s all? Nothing else?”
Frowning, Jon flipped open the front cover of the binder. “I think so. Brody’s artwork for the logo is in there, along with a complete company branding section. I also cited and included all the materials I used for research to back up the idea. You know, as proof there’s a need for this kind of operation—” Jon glanced up, scowling as his shoulders slumped. “You’re fucking with me.”
“I am.” Amused that Jon had finally figured it out, Zane raised his glass in a toast to his gullible friend. Apparently Jon was a little slow in detecting sarcasm.
Zane took a swallow of the brew that was already getting warm. He’d arrived early for this meeting with his current teammate and soon-to-be business partner.
Truth be told, he’d needed the drink. Zane had faced the enemy with less trepidation than he felt now on the way to see his father. . . and the enemy had been carrying automatic weapons with the intent of killing him.
His father utilized weapons that were more subtle than machine guns and explosives, but no less destructive. Zane should know. He’d been dodging his father’s verbal shots for as long as he could remember.
He still had yet to figure out how his mother, bless her heart, had survived this long married to his father. By keeping her head down and remaining below the radar, most likely, while Zane had a tendency to get right in his father’s face. Or he had until that day he announced he was joining the Navy and walked out with nothing but what fit in his bag.
Thank God for the trust fund his maternal grandfather had set up. Zane’s father could—and had—cut him off from the family’s wealth and support, but even he didn’t have the power to take away the trust fund in his name or the monthly allowance it yielded him.
Not that Zane’s expenses were huge—living in the bachelor barracks when not deployed was cheap—but Zane did like having nice things. Big trucks. Fast cars. Hot women. That all took a good amount of cash. More than he made from his military pay, so the check was surely welcome when it appeared in his account each month.
“Do you want to take a look at what I put together?” Jon looked a little disappointed, almost crestfallen that Zane hadn’t jumped to devour the binder page-by-page.
Even with the kickass winged anchor logo and company name they’d come up with on the front of it, the binder looked too much like the schoolwork he’d always hated.
Though he supposed he would need to review the material before he met with his father later that day, it could wait.
“I will. Later.” Procrastination was one of the many things Zane excelled at.
He took another sip of his beer and ignored the book Jon had nudged toward him. He’d be drinking whisky if he didn’t have to get behind the wheel and leave for his drive to the capital region in an hour or so.
When Jon looked ready to crawl out of his skin, Zane decided to relieve his friend’s pain. “Look, Jon. I know you, and you are incapable of giving less than one hundred percent to anything you do. I trust you that everything I’ll need is in that thing, plus some. But the truth is, it doesn’t matter what’s in your plan. My father is going to give us the money for this company.”
Jon pursed his lips. “I wish I could be so sure.”
“You can be. Trust me. When my father sees I’m willing to leave the Navy for this, he’ll jump on investing as much money as we need.”
GAPS—Guardian Angel Protection Services—was Jon’s brainchild and it was a great idea. A company comprised of a group of men with the best training the Naval Special Warfare Development Group had to offer. As combat-seasoned SEAL operatives, they would be experienced experts-for-hire at a time when precision security was a growing need in so many areas across the globe.
With their friends and former teammates Chris and Rick already out, and with Jon and Zane’s current contracts about to expire, they had a four-man team to staff GAPS out of the gate with the promise of more of their teammates joining them in a few years, if they could make a go of it.
Zane traced the tip of one finger over the letters of their tagline printed on the paper slipped beneath the clear plastic front of the binder.
We cover your six when God’s too busy.
Was he covering his friend’s six now or leading them down a path of fruitless hope?
Nothing was certain when it came to his father. Well, nothing except the fact that the one thing George Zane Alexander the second could never get over was his son joining the Navy against his wishes. And Zane didn’t stop there. He’d taken it one step further by trying out for the SEALs. Then, as soon as he’d proven himself, he went for DEVGRU’s Green Team training and selection—the infamous Seal Team Six the media liked to shout about.
Even if those actually in the elite unit didn’t like or want the fame the media had thrust upon them after the Bin Laden raid, Zane was indeed among the best of the best, in spite of his old man’s wishes. The problem was that once he’d reached the top, there was nowhere left to go to piss off his father.
Zane saw Jon’s vision for GAPS as the right opportunity at the right time.
To be able to take their skills and use them as they saw fit and be their own bosses—it was tempting. A dream come true.
Of course, that was only if Zane got through this meeting with good old George without taking a swing at the man, which is what had happened the last Christmas he’d tried going home to play at being a happy family. You don’t talk bad about the troops or make disparaging remarks about the war to a man who’d watched friends get blown up. Zane clenched his jaw and pocketed the anger.
Through the dark lenses of his sunglasses, Zane surveyed the passersby streaming past the outdoor café table where he sat. The sidewalk was busy, since it was midday. The temperature was moderate for winter, and the sun was warm enough he’d chosen to sit outside to wait.
Would he recognize Missy? Maybe. Probably. He doubted she’d changed all that much in ten years except for the removal of the braces that had been on her teeth last he’d seen her.
He’d arrived early on purpose. He liked to get the lay of the land before going in. Dating was no different than a mission in that way. He leaned back in the café chair to wait, wondering if having coffee would count as a date in his father’s eyes. If he didn’t get recalled, he should probably take her to dinner, just to be safe. A little insurance against any sneaky shit George might try.
Glancing at the screen of his cell on the table, he confirmed there were no messages. Not from Missy. Not from the guys either since he had already talked to Jon on the drive over to visit briefly with his mother.
Most importantly, there was no message from command. He might just get this required first date out of the way yet. If Missy wasn’t fashionably late, that was,
“Zane.” A voice behind him brought his attention around.
He turned to see her smiling and looking the same and yet very different. “Missy. Hello. It’s good to see you.”
Zane stood and reached out to take her hands in his while he leaned in to kiss her cheek. While doing so he didn’t miss the sophistication and maturity a decade had given her. She looked more like her mother than ever, with her large designer sunglasses and expensive cashmere coat.
But the light, cool breeze that turned her cheeks pink and rustled the blond waves brushing her shoulders made her look like the teenager he’d known from the past. So did the genuine warmth in her smile.
She squeezed his hands and Zane felt the chill in her fingers. “We can go inside to sit if you’d like. It’s too cool out here for you.”
“Actually, if you wouldn’t mind, could we get coffee to go?” she asked. “I kind of wanted to take a walk around the shopping center and see what’s here.”
Zane’s brows rose with surprise. This shopping center? The strip mall filled with discount shops? “Sure. We can definitely grab something to go, if you prefer.”
If Zane wasn’t very aware that just the clothes on Missy’s back cost as much as his military pay for a single pay cycle, Missy’s strange request to check out the stores in the strip mall would have him wondering if the Greenwoods were having money problems.
Then again, maybe Missy was more like him than he’d assumed. Maybe she’d traded her access to the family fortune in exchange for freedom too.
Either way, her request upped the interest factor on a date he’d assumed would bore him to death.
Read the rest of Zane’s story in Saved by a SEAL