A muffled scream jolted Brandon “Boomer” Rayne from a dead sleep, and he bolted upright in bed. Silence encompassed the room. Though he couldn’t remember any specifics before waking, he probably dreamt about the bullet he’d fired last year, which travelled through his target, Abu Ahmed, an ISIS leader responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent lives, and into a baby held in her mother’s arms.
Could he ever escape that fateful moment when he watched the baby fall limp, knowing he was responsible? Collateral damage went with the SEAL job, but that didn’t make it any easier to handle. Hence, why he’d hung up his sniper rifle shortly after the incident. For the military, at least.
The digital clock read 5:15 a.m. as he slid his hand across the sheets, the silky material snagging on the roughness of his fingers.
He called for his fiancé.
In the distance, the faint whisper of a woman’s voice awakened his senses, and he swung his legs to the wide-pine floorboards. “Daphne?” he called out, louder this time, praying the darkness wouldn’t consume him again.
This vacation was supposed to be a relaxing time away, time for the family to reconnect, time for him and Daphne to heal from the chaos that almost ended their life together before it even started.
Last night’s news coverage reported several couples had gone missing this summer.
Desperately trying to believe nothing sinister had happened, Boomer craned his neck around the doorframe of the bathroom, off the master suite. “Sweetheart, are you in here?”
In the next room Maya cried, shattering all hope of denial, and he hustled into the nursery. “Shh … it’s okay. Daddy’s here.” Leaning over the crib, he rested his hand on her belly. Tears watered Maya’s blinking eyes, streaking tiny lines down her fair cheeks, and her bottom lip quivered. Until a year or so ago, he never wanted children. But once he discovered his and Daphne’s passion-filled night in Cozumel created their beautiful daughter, he couldn’t imagine a life without her.
Into his arms he scooped Maya, one hand supporting her head the way his bride-to-be taught him. Maybe Daphne took a late night stroll on the beach. No matter how hard he tried to control that woman, she wouldn’t listen. Even though he’d never admit it, he loved that about her.
With Maya still cradled in the curve of his arm, he strode into the open kitchen/living room combination and swung open the refrigerator. A smoldering glow casted shadows across the linoleum floor. Boomer snatched a pre-filled bottle of breast milk from the fridge door. When he swiveled to switch on the burner of the gas stove, his peripheral vision caught movement in the living room.
Expecting Daphne, he whirled around.
The slider’s sheer curtains wafted in the warm summer air, billowing in … out … in … out. With his SEAL training and subsequent work with Brotherhood Protectors, every inch of him feared the worst, but he managed to hold it together for his daughter’s sake. Until he determined there was in fact a problem, it wouldn’t do any good to fall apart. Perhaps he was overthinking this situation. Daphne could have easily woken early to surprise him with breakfast from a takeout joint. Three days ago, while driving to Sunset Cove at Long Lake they’d passed a Dunkin’ Donuts in town, and she mentioned how much she craved blueberry muffins, topped with sugar.
That’s probably where she went.
To prove his theory, he set the bottle on the counter and hurried to the front door, swung it open. Head still foggy, not quite fully awake, he stared at the Toyota Rav 4 they’d rented as his chest swelled with an indescribable heaviness. If the vehicle was still parked in the log cabin’s dirt driveway, then where was Daphne?
With Maya in tow, he hustled into the living room. Then slowed as he approached the sliders, darkness spiraling in his gut. When he parted the curtains, he found the door ajar as though someone had left in a hurry. Barefooted, in his boxers, his child locked in his arms, he darted out on to the deck. A slivered moon mirrored off the still water of Long Lake. Other than tree frogs chirping in the nearby conifers, the rest of the area exuded an unnerving silence.
A cold, hard shudder shot through his core like a razor-sharp arrow, and he took off, sprinting across the sand, Maya’s wispy black hair tickling his nostrils. With one hand shielding the side of his mouth, he cried out, “Daphne!” When he got no response, he fell to his knees, his shoulders curling around his daughter, protecting her from the pain. “Dear God, no. Not again. Not now after all we’ve been through.” A piercing ache seared deep within him, each breath catching in his throat. The heaviness in his chest intensified. Life without Daphne … No, dammit. He refused to allow uncertainty to cloud his thinking. This moment—right here—could define his family’s future.
How could such horror happen in such a majestic place?
He and Daphne didn’t know a soul in Maine, and they certainly didn’t cause any trouble. They’d only arrived a few days ago. How did someone even notice Daphne in such a short time period, never mind get ensnared in a kidnapper’s crosshairs?
As he sat back on the sand, every inch of him yearning to release the flood of tears threatening to flow, he reviewed each step they’d made since they arrived. After unpacking, Daphne wanted to take Maya out on the lake. Montana, where they lived, seemed like a world away. It was important to Daphne that Maya experience the difference, even at her tender age. Children, she said, who travel with their parents grow to be more cultured. Traveled outside the confines of WITSEC, that is. They’d had enough of that to last a lifetime.
Boomer could never deny his lover, best friend, and bride-to-be.
On their first day in Naples, Maine, they stayed in the rustic cabin, with its high beams and knotty pine walls. On the second day, they ventured into town for dinner, and then took a romantic stroll on the beach, under the moonlight. Once Daphne tucked Maya in her crib, they’d made love into the early morning hours.
Later the next day, they bought tickets for the sunset cruise. Long Lake prided itself on breathtaking sunsets, and it didn’t disappoint. His fiancé beamed when she held their child, who couldn’t tear her gaze away from the brilliant pastels that spread across the horizon as the sun dipped its head in a muted dusk sky.
The heart gutted from his chest, his stomach twisting into knots. Where could she be? Against his will tears sided his face, his soul fractured beyond repair. Boomers grip tightened around Maya.
Please let me find her. Please. I’ll never make it without Daphne.
She and Maya were all that mattered. But without more to go on, finding his precious fiancé would be an insurmountable task. What if he screwed up the most important moment of his life?
Three Days Earlier
On the Island …
The gentle swish of water lapped against the shoreline as Dale danced in the moonlight with the girl of his dreams. He’d taken his time to seduce her, learned what she liked, what she didn’t. After all his hard work, the least she could do was crack a smile. Duke removed the gag hours ago. Why wouldn’t she look at him?
With a soft tap, tap, tap to her cheek, he pressed his full lips to her ear, whispered, “Isn’t it a beautiful night?”
Nothing. No response.
By the shoulders he shook her with the intensity of a scorned lover, and her head flopped forward, back, forward, back … like a bobble head on the dashboard. “Denise, please don’t ignore me.” His eyes narrowed on her pallid face. “Honey, are you all right?”
Her body fell limp in his arms.
“Denise, talk to me. Please, you’re scaring me.” When she didn’t respond he laid her on the sand and straddled her hips.
“You killed her, you fool!”
“No, I didn’t, Duke. I would never harm Denise. I love her.”
“You moron! Can’t you see the blood leaking out her ear?”
“Yeah. So? Maybe she hit her head or something.” He leaned over Denise’s face. “Baby doll, did you trip? Is that why you’re bleeding? Please speak to me.”
“You idiot! She’s dead!”
Closing his eyes, Dale wagged his head side to side. “Shut up, Duke. Why are you always so mean? Stop telling lies. Denise just needs some TLC. Yeah, that’s it.” He sifted his fingers through her long, golden locks. “We had a busy day yesterday. After a nap, I’m sure she’ll be fine. You’ll see.” He slid his arms under her neck and knees and embraced the top half of her body, his heart aching for one last touch of her delicate fingers against his cheek.
Rocking her, her elbows dragging across the sand, he sang “In Case You Didn’t Know” by Brett Young. For far too long he longed to tell her how he felt, but fear of rejection held him back. The minute she woke he promised to reveal all his secrets, even the darker ones.
“You mean, if she wakes, Dale. As it stands now, you’d have a better shot at seeing our bitch mother again, you retard.”
“Stop calling me names, Duke. What’d I ever do to you?”
“Besides ignoring me for weeks?”
“That’s not fair. The docs doped me up with Haldol.”
“Good thing I got you out of that looney bin, huh, buddy?”
“Yeah. Good thinking, Duke. I love our new life. Denise will too, just you wait and see.”
Duke’s voice rose in intensity. “What part of dead don’t you understand?”
“Shhh … keep your voice down. She’s resting.”
FRACTURED LIVES is a Mayhem Series Crossover Novella in Elle James’ Kindle World: BROTHERHOOD PROTECTORS.
Look inside here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075FFNWD9/
All the books in BROTHERHOOD PROTECTORS are available on Elle James’ website: https://ellejames.com/brotherhood-protectors-kindle-world/
Kindle World books are only available in the U.S., but like with most things in life, there’s a work-around.
**NOTE** If you live outside the US, you CAN get a copy of this book. Here’s how:
- Log into your Amazon UK, CA, or AU account.
- Add a United States address to your list of one-click addresses. You could try a hotel address or other business address you find online. The program is only concerned with confirming it is a legit address, not your address. (you can use mine if you need to: PO Box 1031, Rogers, AR 72757)
- Go to Manage Your Content & Devices, and under Country settings, change your location to US. Amazon will ask you to select an address. Select the US address you added to your one-click addresses.
- Now you can click on the Amazon US link, buy the book, and it will download onto your designated device.
- Once the book is downloaded, go back through the process changing everything back to your home country.
**NOTE** if you live in the UK: THIS has been PROVEN to work…so if the above doesn’t work…try this!!
- Sign into your UK Amazon account and go to “manage devices” and “content” then “settings.” Scroll down to country settings.
- Where it says “Click here to learn about other Amazon sites you are eligible to shop on based on your county of residence.” Click the blue word HERE in that sentence. It will say what Amazon store you can shop at.
- Then click on learn about (again, it’s in blue font)
- Then click the yellow bar near the bottom that says “Transfer your kindle account to US Amazon.” It will transfer your account over to the US site and you can buy as normal.
- To change it back, just do the reverse of the instructions so change from US Amazon back to the UK