For Ward “King” Kingston the role of protector, forged by fire and tragedy, is one he takes seriously. When King is asked to safeguard the son of a four-star general and friend, he is pulled back into the world of government black ops on a mission that raises painful memories from his past. The moment King meets Leo, amid the chaos of a lockdown at a secret black site, it’s clear he’s never faced a challenge like this—one that will test his unwavering sense of control.
Leopold de Loughrey is a misunderstood genius whose anxiety and insecurities are sent into overdrive when he is forcefully recruited to work on a top-secret project. Terrified of what his role as “invaluable asset” means, Leo’s stress leads to disappearances, arguments, and blowups that threaten the project and Leo’s future. King’s arrival is a calm in the storm for Leo and his frenetic thoughts.
King and Leo couldn’t be more different, yet as they navigate the dangers of a secret multi-agency operation and face unknown threats, their differences could be what saves them. Neither man believes a happily ever after is in the cards, but their hearts might just prove them wrong… if they can survive a deadly betrayal.
Leo bit down on his bottom lip and nodded. “Mm-hm.” How about we not reveal what a complete and total freak we are to the hot soldier guy? Not hot. Obviously hot, but Leo shouldn’t be thinking hot. Ones and zeroes. That’s what he should be thinking. Ones and zeroes and sixes, or was that eights? Six-pack or eight-pack?
Leo’s jaw went slack. Holy shit, he’d said that out loud! He promptly shut his mouth, eyes wide. Something banged somewhere, and he flinched. Lifting his gaze, King scanned the room, his expression turning pensive, like he was trying to figure something out. For Leo, it was easy. Noise. It filled the room. Clicking of keyboards, talking, whirring of equipment, and movement. The hostility that rolled off some of the analysts like little clouds of doom didn’t help either.
“I’ll be right back,” King said before he headed toward the analysts.
Leo followed King’s movement as he walked down the rows of workstations until he seemed to find what he was looking for. With a warm smile at Heather, one of the first analysts to be recruited, he pointed to a pair of heavy-duty noise-canceling headphones. He said something that had her blinking up at him, and he checked her ID before his next words were followed by him putting his hand to his chest. She raked her gaze over every inch of him—way to be subtle, Heather—and her cheeks went pink before she lifted her wide eyes to his. Leo wouldn’t have believed it if he hadn’t seen it, but she visibly sighed. Like a dreamy sigh, not the frustrated “why do you have to breathe the same oxygen as me” sigh she’d given Leo that morning when he’d asked to borrow a highlighter.
Heather nodded, and King took the pair of large headphones from her desk, then returned to Leo, Heather’s gaze never leaving him, or rather his ass. Leo narrowed his eyes at her, and when she realized she’d been busted, she started typing away at her keyboard like she was Sandra Bullock in Speed and her desk would blow up if she typed under fifty words per minute.
“Does anyone actually ever say no to you?” Leo asked.
King chuckled and handed him the headphones. “You’d be surprised. My family certainly has no problem giving me a piece of their minds. Noise-canceling headphones. Why don’t you use these for now and let me know which brand you prefer, and I’ll be sure to get a pair brought to you right away.”
“How did you know?”
“One of my brothers-in-arms, Jack, handles cybersecurity for Four Kings Security, and when he’s working on an important project, he puts on headphones to block out any noise that messes with his concentration. Usually it’s when our other brother, Ace, is in the same building.”
Leo couldn’t help his smile. “King, Jack, Ace? I’m sensing a pattern here.”
Charlie Cochet is the international bestselling author of the THIRDS series. Born in Cuba and raised in the US, Charlie enjoys the best of both worlds, from her daily Cuban latte to her passion for classic rock.
Currently residing in Central Florida, Charlie is at the beck and call of a rascally Doxiepoo bent on world domination. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found devouring a book, releasing her creativity through art, or binge watching a new TV series. She runs on coffee, thrives on music, and loves to hear from readers.