Today, I’m just sharing a peek of the story I’m working on right now. Hope you enjoy meeting “The Edge”.
Nate “The Edge” Edgerton prefers dogs to humans, like Pierce, the retired war dog who saved his life in Afghanistan, because he prizes loyalty above all else. He trusts his team and his dog but has learned to be cautious about trusting women. After Pierce rushes to the rescue of a nature photographer being threatened by wolf poachers, Nate earns his first assignment as a Brotherhood Protector. He’ll keep her safe but keeping his heart secure will prove to be the hardest part of the job.
Hannah Mackey, a nature photographer tracking wolves, photographs poachers in the act of killing a wolf. She’s a second away from being shot herself when a large black dog rushes to her rescue, followed by a very handsome and angry man.
When Nate brings her to the Brotherhood Protectors, she’s dismayed that they’re insistent on providing her protection from retaliation by the well-organized poachers, especially when they assign Nate as her protector. She has a job to do, and she’s not going to let the threat from a criminal gang stop her from doing it.
Read the opening…
Nate “The Edge” Edgerton preferred dogs to most humans.
Treat them right, and dogs were loyal to a fault—even heroic in their efforts to please their humans. Edge’s proof was trotting right in front of him, sniffing the air and then the ground, looking for dangers that lurked in the forest—or maybe, this time, he was simply taking in the scents of the varied wildlife.
Pierce, his all-black German shepherd working dog, compliments of the U.S. Army, was proof of Edge’s belief that dogs were better creatures than most humans. Pierce had lost an eye defending his handler and had been retired just before Edge had left the service. As the dog’s active-duty handler, he’d been offered the military dog. Edge still felt it was kind of repugnant that a dog like this had to have an “owner” when Pierce was by far the most responsible member of their partnership.
Yeah, if people were dogs, Edge wouldn’t be tromping through the forest, seeking some “alone time.” Sometimes, he had to get away from the noise and get out of his head. Even when they’d been on active duty, Edge had preferred spending weekends and short periods of leave as far as he could get away from crowds. He’d rather face a bear than a rowdy crowd inside a bar. Out here, he could turn off his brain and just be.
He was grateful Alex “Ridge” Ridgley, the old man on their team, had noticed Edge’s edginess. He’d read the signs and had arranged a four-day weekend for him and Pierce to get away.
He guessed his “tell” was the way he couldn’t keep his heel from tapping through meals and briefings. Or maybe it had been his surliness. Not that he wanted to be that way with his teammates. His team was the exception to his “dogs are more loyal than humans” conviction. But his team liked to hang out. They’d drink some beers and talk trash. Smile and laugh. He’d even join in. However, there would always come a point when all that comradery wore on every last one of his nerves, and he had to have some space.
Maybe it was because he’d been raised on a ranch with a father who’d been silent and taciturn and mom who’d forever been singing—offkey—while she’d done all the things a rancher did, plus kept the house and kids fed and clean. Still, there’d been plenty of quiet time. Plenty of space to roam. And he’d always had some lop-eared hound following him around while he’d done it.
Whenever he’d been done with chores, he’d show up at the back kitchen door and just look at his mom. She’d smile, shake her head, then tell him, “Get on out of here, but you better be back in time for dinner.”
He guessed Ridge was “mom” now. A thought that made him smile.
Edge wouldn’t have minded one of his team members joining him, but they were pretty busy these days. They had the odd security assignment and were still working on finishing out the office. It was nice that they’d all landed at the same agency. He’d be forever grateful to Stone Jacobs and Hank Patterson for inviting the team to join them to staff up the Brotherhood Protectors’ West Yellowstone office.
Edge would’ve hated signing on with a new bunch of guys. He was comfortable with men from his old active-duty team with the 10th Mountain Division. Ridge, Gabe Walker, Wade Fielding, Justice Kane, and Edge were tight. They’d even stuck together after leaving the military and had worked in the Adirondacks, forming a search and rescue team that had helped different agencies in the region, lending their support. However, they’d only been able to use a portion of their hard-earned skills. They had mountaineering skills, medic training, and of course, combat training, and Hank’s Brotherhood Protectors was a much better fit. The money was damn good, too.
Edge hadn’t returned to Wyoming after the death of his parents. He’d let the ranch go, selling it to settle debts. He’d split the proceeds with his sister, who was a nurse in Cheyenne. Neither had wanted to hold onto the homestead. Edge had felt guilty about leaving the ranch all those years ago, but his dad had wanted him to “see the world” before deciding whether he wanted the burden of the ranch he’d built from nothing. While he’d been on his first enlistment, they’d both been killed, their truck sliding off the road in a blizzard. They’d frozen to death; despite all the precautions his father had always taken. They’d been found huddled together on the bench seat, blankets covering them, their hands entwined.
Edge had figured that was the way they would have wanted to go—not the freezing to death part—but together. He’d never seen a more loving or loyal couple. He’d certainly never dated a woman who’d been so loyal she’d be willing to follow him all over the world or wait on some Army post while he was gone. He’d tried monogamy once.
He’d found a pretty blonde named Tammy, and she’d said all the right things. The first time he’d shipped out for a six-month stint in Afghanistan, she’d written to tell him that she’d found a job in Seattle, and she’d really, really miss him, but she didn’t want him to think that she’d be waiting for him when he returned.
He’d learned his lesson and hadn’t put much stock in women’s promises ever since. Sure, he dated. He liked a woman’s company now and then. He was a healthy male with a healthy sex drive, but he wasn’t interested in investing himself, his inner thoughts and emotions, in another person.
He preferred Pierce’s company. The dog only “talked” when he sensed Edge was restless or grumpy. Then he’d run for his leash and settle with it at his feet, looking up at him with his dark eyes until Edge smiled and reached down for the braided leather. Not that the dog needed a leash. He was trained to walk at his side, or as he was now, roaming ahead of him, never out of sight. Pierce lived for praise, a pat, or to chase a ball. He was easy to read. Never lied. Never wandered toward another human seeking attention.
They had an unbreakable bond, although it had almost ended violently. Pierce had accompanied the team on a patrol through a village where intel had said Taliban soldiers were gathering. Pierce had been doing his thing as they’d entered from the outskirts, avoiding the main roadway. He’d been scenting for explosives, ready to react if he detected any movement. When they’d come across a workshop at the back of one house, Pierce had alerted on a small cement mixer, sitting his tail down and waiting for Edge to check it out.
As Edge had drawn near, he’d seen a curtain in the back of the house move. Instantly, he’d slipped next to the back wall of the house and called Pierce to him, but it was already too late. The IED inside the mixer was detonated. The explosion sent shrapnel in a directed blast toward the house’s back door. Pierce was at the edge of that directed blast and took shrapnel to one eye and throughout his body. After they’d secured the house, setting C-4 to breach the front door and sweeping through the splintered back door, Edge had waited for the medevac helicopter with Pierce.
Pierce had survived but still had several metal shards inside his body, and he’d lost his right eye. He’d been medically retired, and since Edge had still had a few months left on his enlistment, he’d arranged for him to be kept until he’d mustered out and was able to claim him.
They’d been together ever since. Never apart. Pierce didn’t seem to be suffering from any PTSD either. Gunfire and loud noises didn’t faze him. He did seem a little more protective of Edge than before, which Edge found a little odd, but maybe the dog had feared for him in the moment of that blast, and that was what had stuck in his mind.
Edge was just grateful the dog had survived. They’d trained together at Lackland in San Antonio and then been assigned together to the 10th. Their friendship was battle-tested. Solid. Unless Edge could leave his dog in sight when he stepped into a store or restaurant, he just didn’t go inside. Sure, it was a little inconvenient, but Pierce was his best buddy. He’d earned Edge’s complete loyalty; the least Edge could do was make sure Pierce was a happy dog.
Happy was taking a long hike through the forest with vegetation softening their steps, a light wind stirring the leaves on the trees around them, and the crisp scent of pine trees carried in the air. So far, the trail hadn’t been challenging. Rolling hills, vistas overlooking burbling streams and rivers. Pure heaven for them both. It was restful. Meditative, if he was into that kind of thing, which he wasn’t.
Ahead, Pierce lifted his nose. As Edge watched, a ridge of hair lifted in a line down the center of the dog’s back. He wondered what Pierce had scented that had raised his hackles so fast and so high. A bear, maybe? He used his thumb to unclip the strap on his holster and paused, listening.
Then he heard it—the long ululating howl of a wolf. No, two. Were there more?
Pierce made a whining sound and jumped on his paws, wanting to rush ahead but glancing back to see whether Edge was okay with that—which he was not. Pierce was fearless but not invulnerable. Edge still held the vision of Pierce bleeding and his head listlessly lolling as he’d rushed with the dog in his arms to the helicopter.
“Not this time, bud,” he said softly. “Let’s just sit here for a minute and let them pass. Fuss!” With a finger pointed to the spot beside him, he watched as Pierce shot toward him, did a quick circle, and planted his rear end in the dirt beside him.
The wolves sounded as though they were having a high old time, their voices rising then slowly moving farther away. Edge smiled as Pierce gave another little whine, so he reached down and scratched behind his ear. “I know you think it’s playtime, but they might eat you right up, boy.”
Just as the wolves’ calls ended, he heard something else—the sharp report from a weapon. “Motherfuckers,” he bit out.
Then he moved forward, giving Pierce another firm command to remain by his side as the two ran through the forest.