Bodyguards of L.A. County #1 & 2
By: Cate Beauman
Morgan's Hunter: The Bodyguards Of L.A. County #1 (Published Oct. 15, 2012)
Morgan Taylor, D.C. socialite and wildlife biologist, leads a charmed life until everything changes with a phone call. Her research team has been found dead—slaughtered—in backcountry Montana.
As the case grows cold, Morgan is determined to unravel the mystery behind her friends’ gruesome deaths. Despite the dangers of a murderer still free, nothing will stand in her way, not even the bodyguard her father hires, L.A.’s top close protection agent, Hunter Phillips.
Sparks fly from the start when no-nonsense Hunter clashes with Morgan’s strong-willed independence. Their endless search for answers proves hopeless—until Hunter discovers the truth.
On the run and at the mercy of a madman, Morgan and Hunter must outsmart a killer to save their own lives.
Action packed story, that at times had me in tears, and at times, scared for survival.
The book starts with a vivid, realistic scene from the war in Afghanistan, that had me biting my nails, with tears in my eyes. It's heartbreaking, yet amazing moment, where the brotherhood of the soldiers is brilliantly proven. The sorrow, the remorse, the agony of those who survived, is palpable, and beautifully written.
As the story progress, the action and suspense is tight, tense, with twist and unexpected elements. I liked the setting of the Montana backwoods, and the fact that they were not only fighting against the human threat in the woods, the wildlife came close to them as well, with its own dangerous moments.
I liked both Morgan and Hunter. Morgan is a devoted daughter, respected professional, yes, she is a bad driver, stubborn, willful, and ornery, when put into a corner, but she had her moments. Hunter is loyal, protective, caring, a guardian for those he cares about, and vigilant in his job.
But when together, both Hunter and Morgan seems to be the worse version of themselves. Hunter is frustrated with her ornery behavior, so he keeps secrets from her, those secrets make her behave recklessly, causing them to be in danger, and to be even more stubborn, if possible. They really don't like each other, and too often it is mentioned, that Hunter grabbed, yanked, or pulled her, resorting to physically control her. The physical attraction is palpable, but for them to fall in love, when they didn't even like each other most of the time, not to mention trust, or respect, I thought was a stretch.
So the characters are not my favorite ones, but for the suspense, the intriguing trek in the wilderness, I will give
~ Three Spoons
Helmand Province, Afghanistan
Gunnery Sergeant Hunter Phillips and his men drove toward their target: the hideout of Al-Qaeda’s number three. Satellite imagery confirmed Abbas Muhammad Muhammad Tayi was holed up in a small village ten miles away, but a source warned they had the wrong man. Hunter and his Force Recon unit were about to find out. After a year of searching, tracking, hunting, they would substantiate the evidence either way. Bringing the fucker to justice thirty days before they departed this godforsaken land would be the perfect end to their tour.
The caravan of two up-armored Humvees moved swiftly down the endless, dusty road, dodging enormous blast holes created by Soviet mines years before. They came past the blackened remains of a truck three Marines died in yesterday. Like a mascot of death, the burned vehicle welcomed the recon unit to “The Danger Zone.” In the last month alone, ten soldiers had lost their lives along the eternal stretch of dirt.
Rocky terrain laden with caves and deep crevices surrounded the Humvees. Insurgents roamed the area, ever eager to take their shot at US forces. Although the route clearance team had driven by twenty minutes ago, ten pairs of eyes scanned the road and dirt beyond, watchful for mounds of sand and small rocks—telltale signs of IEDs.
“And as we drive through the valley of the shadow of death, I would like to remind you all that God is good, men. Keep Him with you today,” Hunter said into his radio.
Nine “Amens” answered back.
Tension hung thick and the vehicles were silent except for the hum of motors and the constant click of Carson, Hunter’s gunner above, moving in half circles in his mechanical seat. The unit had gone a year without a casualty—a miracle in direct action warfare. But the law of averages told them they were due, and they all knew it.
Somewhere during the last mile, the AC had petered out. Hunter, sweat soaked and miserable, tugged at his collar, trying to ignore the one hundred degree heat and baking sun boring through the windshield, zapping energy from him and his men like a furnace straight from hell. Perspiration trapped by camouflage fabric and bulletproof vests mixed with sand, chafing, burning, only adding to the wretched conditions.
As the truck plowed ahead, Hunter’s shoulder blades itched and his stomach pitched. His eyes narrowed and his focus sharpened as he searched the rocks beyond. Something wasn’t right. His gut instinct was never wrong, and his men didn’t question it. “Men, I’ve got the itch. Stay alert. I repeat, stay alert.”
“Still glad you picked this route, Gunny?” Jake Johnson said from truck two.
Despite the situation, a small smile ghosted Hunter’s mouth. “Don’t be a pussy, Johnson.” He lurched to the right as the driver swerved around another blast hole. “The fastest route isn’t always the safest. That’s why I’m lead truck. I’ll keep you safe, honey.”
Jake chuckled. “Fuck you, man.”
Hunter grinned, forever scrutinizing their surroundings. “You’ll be tucked in with your blankey before—”
The massive explosion cut him off, shaking his vehicle with its deafening boom. “What the fuck?” He glanced in his rearview mirror as smoke plumed from truck two. Oh God—Jake.
Bullets pinged against the armored trucks as the unit took on fire.
“Return fire! Return fire!” Hunter instructed, peering back at Jake’s vehicle. “Truck two, do you copy?”
Static crackled in his earpiece as his heart pounded—in his chest, in his throat. His body revved from the swift flow of adrenaline and fear coursing through his veins. He radioed back to camp, struggling to remain calm. “Thunder Main, this is Patriot Zulu. We have IED detonation—one truck hit. We’re taking fire. I need fire support now and casualty evacuation on standby!”
“Patriot Zulu, this is Thunder Main. That’s a good copy of last transmission. Scout weapons team is inbound. ETA ninety seconds.”
With help on the way, Hunter tried Jake’s Humvee again. “Vehicle two, do you copy?”
“Hunter, this is truck two. We’re smoking and rattled, but we’re—” Another explosion roared, cutting them off as a rocket-propelled grenade hit Humvee two. Metal smashed and scattered through the air as Jake’s vehicle rolled twice.
“Shit! Shit! Fire support, what is your location, goddammit? Carson,” he hollered to his gunman, “suppress that fire so I can move toward those rocks.” He had to get to Jake’s truck.
Carson gave him a nod, pummeling fifty caliber rounds into the boulders, decimating rock and anything behind them.
Hunter opened his door, crouching next to the wheel well, assessing the unit’s dire situation. Help was still sixty seconds away, and they were surrounded by insurgents. Truck two lay on
its side four hundred yards back as heavy black smoke plumed from the twist of metal. Hot rubber and burning electrical equipment choked the air.
A movement in the rocks caught Hunter’s eye. He fired his weapon, watching a man fall to the ground.
“Let’s do this,” he said to the three soldiers waiting for his command. The men took his place at the wheel well as he ran for the boulders in the distance. "Clarke, Tanger, I need an update on truck two. Move forward.”
Carson continued shooting from the Humvee roof while Hunter and Sergeant Smith laid down fire, providing cover as the soldiers ran. Halfway to the vehicle, bullets rained down from an unknown area in the rocks above. Clarke and Tanger stumbled, falling to the ground.
“No! Cover me, Smith.” Without a second thought, Hunter sprinted toward his fallen men as the rhythmic thump of chopper blades echoed closer.
A Kiowa Warrior soared overhead, dropping missiles among the crevices and caves, obliterating large chunks of mountainous terrain. The helicopter banked right as the next aircraft flew in, repeating the same procedure.
Fire support vanished as quickly as it had appeared, and the air fell silent. The heavy breathing of his soldiers filled Hunter’s ear. The firefight was over. For the moment they were clear of danger, and a weight lifted off his shoulders, leaving him lightheaded with relief.
Sergeant Tanger groaned as a chunk of dangling metal fell from truck two with a deafening crash, and reality rushed back like a punch to the gut.
Hunter ran to his men, who were shot and bleeding, as Carson continued with precautionary fire into the mountainside. “Smith, get the truck over here!” Hunter dug into Clarke’s medical pack and applied a tourniquet to the unconscious man’s arm. As he twisted the black fabric tight, the flow of blood ceased.
With Clarke as stable as he could make him, Hunter crawled to Tanger, ripping Tanger’s pant leg, exposing three bullet wounds. He glanced at Jake’s truck, desperate to get to him. Distracting flashes of their childhood played through his mind, and he ruthlessly squashed the memories. “Shit, man, you’re a mess,” he said to Tanger, attempting to keep his soldier lucid and himself calm.
“It hurts like—shit!” Tanger tensed as Hunter packed his first wound.
Sergeant Smith backed the Humvee closer and crouched next to Hunter, waiting for orders.
“Smith, finish this. Get them secured. I’m heading for truck two.” With his gun to his shoulder, he peered through the sight, moving toward Jake’s vehicle. It had only been five minutes since
the attack began, but it felt as if it had been hours. “Truck two, do you copy?” The air remained dead, and panic rose from his depths. Everything he’d learned as a Force Recon escaped him. All the training on procedure vanished as he thought of Jake and the other four men. “Jake. Jake, do you copy? Can you hear me?”
“Hunter,” Jake answered, coughing.
“Oh, thank God. You scared the sh—”
“I’m hit, Hunt. I’m hit.” Jake wheezed, coughing again. “And they’re all dead, man.”
Pain sliced his heart as he yelled into his radio once more. “We need casualty evac, ASAP! Get them here now! I have four confirmed KIAs and three wounded.” Hunter whirled when footsteps approached from behind. Sergeant Smith’s face lined up in the crosshairs of his scope.
“Clarke and Tanger are secure.”
“Let’s go then,” Hunter said, running to what was left of the vehicle. “Jake, I’m here.”
Jake gasped for air, coughing violently.
Hunter climbed to the top of the heap, burning and cutting his hands, peering down at Jake’s battered face. Gashes riddled his cheeks, dribbling blood. He glanced at the remains of his four other men, burying the fisting pain deep. Jake was all that mattered now—the only one he could help.
Hunter locked his legs around mangled metal, anchoring himself. He reached his arms through the opening, grabbing hold of Jake. “Come on, man, I’m going to get you out of here. Evac’s on its way.”
Jake tried to sit up on the console and yelled out. “I can’t do it. I can’t get up.”
“Yes, you can. I don’t know how long we have before they fire on us again.”
Taking a deep breath, Jake hollered, clenching his fists as he sat up.
Hunter hoisted him up, and Jake screamed. “I’m sorry, man. Almost there.”
With Jake’s head and torso freed from the wreckage, Sergeant Smith climbed up, grabbing hold of Jake’s legs, helping Hunter lay him on the ground.
“Sergeant, get me a kit,” Hunter said, assessing Jake’s injuries as Smith ran for their truck. Blood saturated Jake’s plated vest, and sweat covered his face as he grew pale with every heartbeat. Hunter ripped through his friend’s armor and cloth to the wound, fighting to steady his breathing, horrified by the injuries. He applied pressure to the gaping hole in Jake’s abdomen as blood pooled over his fingers. Helplessness consumed him and desperation clawed at his throat
as he yelled into his radio, “We need casualty evac now, goddammit! Do you hear me? Right now!”
Sergeant Smith hustled back with a kit, but there was nothing among the first aid supplies that would help. The medics on their team were dead or gravely injured, and Jake’s entire midsection was full of shrapnel.
“I’m not going to make it,” Jake gasped.
“Don’t you fucking say that!”
He coughed again, violently. “I’m not. Take care of them. Take care of Sarah and the baby.”
Hunter pressed harder as blood oozed over his fingers, pooling in the sand. “No, you’re going to take care of them. They’re coming.” The rhythmic sound of chopper blades echoed off the mountains. “Listen, they’re almost here.”
Jake’s body shook. “Promise me. Promise me, goddammit.” Tears streamed from his brown eyes. “Tell them I love them, that I’ll always be with them.”
“I promise, Jake.” It was too late. There was nothing the medics could do.
White as a sheet, Jake convulsed, even as Sergeant Smith tried to help keep him still. “Kiss Kylee for me.” His voice grew weaker. “Tell her it’s from her daddy. I never got to…I never got to hold her. Tell her about me.”
“I will. I will.” Hunter was losing him. Life seeped from his best friend, his brother. “I love you, Jake. I’ll take care of them.”
“I love…take care of...” Jake stopped moving, stopped breathing.
“God, no! No!” Desperately, Hunter started chest compressions. “Don’t you leave me!”
The chopper landed in the distance, and gunfire broke out. Heat seared through Hunter’s left shoulder.
Bullets sprayed from Sergeant Smith’s weapon. “I got him, Hunter. I got the fucking bastard.” Smith’s brow furrowed as he crouched behind the rocks. “Shit, you’re shot.”
Hunter sat in the sand and dust with Jake while blood dripped down his arm.
International bestselling author Cate Beauman is known for her full-length, action-packed romantic suspense series, The Bodyguards of L.A. County. Her novels have been nominated for the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, National Indie Excellence Award, Golden Quill Award, Writers Touch Award, and have been named Readers Favorite Five Star books. In 2015, JUSTICE FOR ABBY was selected as the Readers' Favorite International Book Award Gold Medalist, while SAVING SOPHIE took the Silver Medal. SAVING SOPHIE was also selected as the 2015 Readers Crown Award winner for Romantic Suspense and FALLING FOR SARAH received the silver medal for the 2014 Readers' Favorite Awards.
Cate makes her home in North Carolina with her husband, two boys, and their St. Bernards, Bear and Jack. Currently Cate is working on Deceiving Bella, the eleventh novel in her popular bodyguards series.
For information on Cate's new releases, monthly giveaways, and upcoming events, sign up for her newsletter at: http://www.catebeauman.com/author/home.html#!newsletter-sign-up/c9td
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