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Authors: Catherine Mann

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Protector

BOOK: Protector
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Praise for Catherine Mann

 

“Terrific romantic suspense that never slows down…An action-packed story line.”


Midwest Book Review

“Catherine Mann has penned a brilliant Air Force Dark Ops adventure woven with gripping emotion—what more could any romantic suspense reader want?”

—Dianna Love,
New York Times
bestselling author

“Exhilarating romantic suspense.”


The Best Reviews

“A great read.”


Booklist

“As gripping in its suspense as it is touching in its emotional pull.”


Romance Junkies

Berkley Sensation Titles by Catherine Mann

 

DEFENDER
HOTSHOT
RENEGADE
PROTECTOR

P
ROTECTOR

 

C
ATHERINE
M
ANN

 

BERKLEY SENSATION, NEW YORK

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England • Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.) • Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.) • Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India • Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) • Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

PROTECTOR

A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author

PUBLISHING HISTORY

Berkley Sensation mass-market / March 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Catherine Mann

Excerpt from
Guardian
by Catherine Mann copyright © 2012 by Catherine Mann.

Cover design by Annette Fiore DeFex. Cover art by Daniel O’Leary.

Interior text design by Laura K. Corless.

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

EISBN: 9781101560792

BERKLEY SENSATION
®

Berkley Sensation Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

BERKLEY SENSATION
®
is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

The “B” design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

10    9    8    7    6    5    4    3    2    1

If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”

“I count myself in nothing else so happy,
As in a soul rememb’ring my good friends.”

 

—W
ILLIAM
S
HAKESPEARE

To K. Sue Morgan, Joanne Rock, Deborah Hale, and Winnie Griggs. Thank you for being my friends at the start of this writing journey, and for being the dearest of friends still today!

 
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

Sometimes when an author is writing a novel, a secondary character whispers from the page, “Give me my own book.” Captain Chuck Tanaka did just that when I wrote
Defender
. By the time Chuck showed up again as a secondary character in
Renegade
, he more than whispered, he demanded, “I deserve my own happily ever after!” And I’m thrilled to answer, “Here it is… Chuck Tanaka’s book.”

Many thanks to my editor, Wendy McCurdy, and my agent, Barbara Collins Rosenberg, for also wanting to hear Chuck’s story. Much appreciation to my dear friend and critique partner, Joanne Rock, for reading this story again and again until I got it just right. Hugs, love, and thanks to my four children—Brice, Haley, Robbie, and Maggie—for understanding that deadline mom is a zombie mom. Ands always, I’m so grateful to my air force hero hubby for his help with the military details. Love you,
Rob!

Table of Contents
 

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

Fifteen

Sixteen

Seventeen

Eighteen

Epilogue

O
NE

 

NELLIS AFB, NEVADA

“I’ve lost my edge, Colonel.”

The admission burned its way up Captain Chuck Tanaka’s throat, each word like acid on open wounds inside him. But he was an ace at embracing pain, and he’d be damned before he would endanger anyone else by taking the colonel up on his offer to put Chuck back in the action.

F-16s roared overhead, rattling the rafters in the gaping hangar. Colonel Rex Scanlon stood beside him as airmen prepped for deployment to the Middle East with immunizations, gas masks, duffel bags full of gear. Close to two hundred warm bodies going to war.

Including his crew. His old crew from the top secret test squadron.

Pilots Jimmy Gage and Vince Deluca lined up with loadmaster Mason Randolph standing in a long, long line for a gamma globulin immunization along with an assload full
of other shots to prepare them for the diseases overseas. He remembered well how the huge needle left a lump that made for uncomfortable flying. Back when he’d been their navigator. Before his injuries grounded him for life.

These days he was the squadron mobility officer. He ensured all deploying personnel were up to date with training, shots, equipment.

In a nutshell? He rode a desk and pushed paper.

Musty gear and a low hum of chitchat filled the hangar. All familiar. Jimmy, Vince, and Mason shuffled forward, flight suits down around their ankles in boxer shorts while the doc shouted, “Next.”

“Tanaka?” Scanlon leaned forward, staring him down from behind black-rimmed glasses. “I need you on this mission. You’re the man. You have the skills.”

Not the skills he wanted, not the job he wanted. Better just to exist.

Chuck took a folder from an overeager airman and signed off on the bottom of a form. One more ready to deploy. Around them, uniformed men and women carried large green deployment bags stuffed full of equipment picked up at numerous stations. Security cops were posted throughout, watching and talking into radios. Off to his left, a dozen more who’d completed drawing equipment sat on the floor fitting the ballistic plates into their body armor. Another group checked over their weapons, disassembling and putting them back together.

His fingers twitched with muscle memory from performing the same tasks countless times. In the past. Speed mattered, and he couldn’t trust his hands or his feet any longer.

Chuck slapped the folder closed. “I figure I’ve given my fair share to Uncle Sam. He won’t mind if I sit out the rest of my commitment to the air force at my desk, rubber stamping paperwork.”

BOOK: Protector
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