Brody (The Bang Shift Series)
by Mandy Harbin
Genre: Military, Romantic Suspense
Brody “Brutus” Jackson isn’t your average small-town mechanic. The shop where he spends his days doubles as the headquarters for the mercenary group he works with. They jokingly call themselves the Bang Shift because the government contracts they take are the less savory ones, and they’re all just shady enough to do what’s necessary to get the jobs done. As far as Brody’s concerned, it’s the perfect arrangement for a man with no memory of his past, and no hope for the future.
Under FBI protection, Alexandria Collins and her son have been in hiding for ten years. When it’s time to move again, her piece of crap car breaks down and the man giving her a tow is the biggest, hottest guy she’s ever seen. She is determined to ignore the need her long-neglected body hungers for. After all, the last man she showed interest in put a gun to her head.
Brody thinks the skittish Xan is sexy as hell, but it’s not her hot body that has him rocked to his core. He knows her from somewhere, and in his line of work, that’s a dangerous thing. Following orders have never been this hard, but he will protect her at all costs … even if what she needs protection from is him.
They walked up to an opened fence and Xan silently thanked the heavens for small favors. The garage looked as if it was open. They walked through the gate and into the old building with several antique and late-model cars out front. Walking through the front door, she braced herself for the blast of cold air to hit her face, relishing the thrill of the artificial air she was about to gloriously encounter.
She was sorely disappointed. It was hotter in here than it was outside. How was that even possible? Her wet clothes clung to her sweaty body, leaving nothing to the imagination. Didn’t matter. She was past humility at this point. She’d have a teenage moment and flash her boobs, sweat and all if necessary, to get someone to help them out.
“May I help you?” a man with a gravelly voice asked as he walked into the makeshift lobby next to the bays, wiping his hands on a grease rag. He looked to be middle-aged, though she wasn’t sure since he was bald. No gray hair to help her out with that assessment.
She looked at his nametag sewn into his shirt. “Yes, Colonel, is it?” At his smile and nod, she said, “Our car broke down a couple miles down the road.”
A metal crash and very masculine curses mixed with raucous taunting and laughter startled her. Scott snickered at the colorful words coming from the bays. He’d heard them plenty of times, though Xan tried not to talk like that. Really, she did try to deny her sailor-mouth tendencies. She just wasn’t very good at restraining herself all the time.
“Sorry,” Colonel mumbled. “Those are my mechanics, trying to catch up on some work. I took over this garage after I realized being retired was boring, and we stay pretty busy. Seems like I’m constantly hiring more help, but we stay behind.”
The ruckus from the bays was finding its way into the lobby. Several guys walked into the room, and Xan felt a slight panic attack coming on. She not only lacked a love life, but she tended to avoid large groups of men. She didn’t have anything against the male population, but after marrying into the mafia at a young age, dodging copious amounts of testosterone seemed like a good self-preservation tactic to live by. So she did, and when she wasn’t prepared to interact with schools of men, her stomach took a nosedive when thrust into that very situation.
Taking a covert calming breath so she wouldn’t look like some skittish girl, she tried to pay closer attention to each of the men as they came near. If she identified them individually, she could pretend she wasn’t dealing with a mob of men.
A mob of seemingly beautiful, large, masculine men, looking to be around her age.
Oh shit. She so did not need this. Her nerves and sense of self-preservation took on a whole new meaning. She’d rather deal with certain fear than possible attraction.
As she surveyed the crowd, she noticed their looks were as various as the candy selection at the last gas station she’d stopped at. Male sweetness was not better than chocolate. She just had to remind herself of that as she stared at the variety before her. One guy had black hair, another blond, spiked all crazy. The two next to the hot version of Billy Idol had long dark-brown hair and curly light-brown hair. There was another bald guy bringing up the rear, but that one had a goatee with green eyes. Colonel had brown eyes and was definitely older than this group that’d just come in.
“Where’s Brutus?” Colonel asked the guys.
The dude with the spiky blond hair chuckled. “He’s cleaning up his mess.”
“It wasn’t his mess, asshole. You’re the one who knocked the tray over,” Mr. Black Hair said with a snarl. Xan instinctively took a step back.
“Easy, Roc,” Colonel said and looked at her. “This is Roc.” He pointed to the cranky man with black hair. “Blade,” he gestured toward the spiky blond guy. His name made sense. His hair looked sharp enough to hurt if he were to head-butt someone.
“I’m Hunter,” the man with long brown hair said, and then he pointed to the guy with curly brown hair. “That’s Gage. He’s not as mean as Roc, but don’t get too close to him.” He chuckled.
“Fuck off, Hunter,” Gage growled.
“See?” Hunter snickered. “And that guy over there—”
“I’m Bear, and Hunter’s a dick.” He ducked his head and glanced at Scott. “Oh sorry. He’s, er, I mean he’s a punk.”
Scott laughed. “Don’t worry. I’ve heard it all. You should hear my mom talk. She has the biggest potty mouth.”
Xan gasped. “I do not.”
“Wow, he’s your kid?” Blade asked. “Did you have him at twelve?” He laughed but with sincerity twinkling in his eyes.
“Just about,” she murmured.
After a few of the guys laughed, she immediately relaxed. Sure, they were all very handsome. None looked to be shorter than six feet, and each had a body to die for, though each had a unique look all his own. But she didn’t feel any sparks, so she felt relieved. Maybe her libido was broken. If so, she was fine by that. She didn’t need any man drama in her life.
Why did that make her feel a little depressed? She shook off that thought. She couldn’t get caught up with any man, so there really was no need dwelling on the things she couldn’t have, like love, companionship, trust and sex. God, she’d love to have sex again.
Maybe in another life.
Focusing her attention back on the problem at hand, she looked at the assembled group of men. “Look. We need our car towed and a ride to a car rental company. Can you help us?” Xan asked the guys in general so as not to single anyone out.
Blade’s eyebrows shot up. “I’d love to give you a ride, doll.” Even though his tone was clearly teasing, she stiffened. Flirting was definitely not her forte.
Hunter whistled while shaking his head in exasperation. “Back off, Blade.” He looked at Xan. “Sorry about Rico Suave over here. One of us would be glad to help you out. But you’d have to drive up to Conway or back to the Little Rock area for a rental. Best to call around first before making the drive.”
“I’ll call Bill and see if he can drive one out here,” Colonel said to Hunter, then looked at her. “He owns the rental company in Conway. If they have something he’ll bring it out here and save you a trip. You’ll be limited on your options, though.”
“Oh, whatever it is will be a step up from my old hatchback. I’m not choosy.”
Colonel nodded and looked at the guys expectantly. “Which one of you is available to help her out?”
“Bear and I aren’t finished with the tranny that’s supposed to be ready tomorrow,” Roc barked and turned to leave. He obviously wasn’t volunteering. Xan was okay with that. She didn’t like the vibe coming off him, anyway.
“Sorry.” Bear smiled to her as he followed Roc.
“Gage and I have to finish puttin’ tires on Ms. Carson’s minivan, then do Joe’s,” Blade told Colonel before turning to Xan. “I’d be happy to help you if you stick around, doll. It shouldn’t take us more than an hour.”
“Get to work,” Colonel snapped, and Blade winked at her as he and Gage headed back to the bays.
“I have one more oil change to do, so I can do it in fifteen,” Hunter said with a crooked smile, “but Brutus just finished up on Mr. Jackson’s ’56 Chevy. He’s been pickin’ up the tools that Blade knocked over after Blade called him a pussy.”
Oh, right. She’d forgotten there was another one around here. Brutus it seemed. What was with these names? Must be a man thing, not that she’d know. Or could even begin to understand the inner workings of the male brain, ego, or whatever it was that fueled their behavior. Oh, once upon a time, she knew one part of the male anatomy that tended to lead in the decision-making process, but she’d long ago fell out of practice with that too.
Hunter glanced at Scott, remembering there was an impressionable young man in his midst, looking contrite and shaking his head. “Sorry, man.”
“Go,” Colonel told him. “Brutus!”
Hunter left, but his departure barely registered. Just as he was walking toward the bay area, a man with long blonde hair and built like a freaking bodybuilder walked her way. With each step, his muscles rippled and his hair—what wasn’t sticking to his sweaty brow—flowed in waves behind him.
She should not find this man attractive. She didn’t care for bulky men, and she definitely preferred short hair on the opposite sex. Long hair belonged on women, like she used to have, but she wasn’t dredging that memory up now.
So why was her body doing things she hardly recognized. Hardly recognized, not didn’t recognize. She knew what that tingling sensation in her pussy meant. The tightening of her nipples? Yeah, she knew what that meant too. Images filled her mind of this behemoth of a man coming over her in bed and doing very naughty things to her. She stifled a moan. Yeah, she shouldn’t find him attractive because he didn’t fit any description of her ideal type. But there was no mistaking the fact that her body didn’t get that memo.
So much for not being attracted to any of the mechanics here.
As Mister Hold-Me-Down-and-Fuck-Me-Good walked up, his pupils dilated, turning his dark-blue eyes black as his nostrils flared, his gaze zeroing in on the tight buds of her nipples before locking with her own heated eyes. Good thing she was already wet from sweat because her panties just got wetter.
She shut her eyes to break the connection her body was trying to make with this man. She had to be smart and remember all the reasons men were not a part of her life. She could use him as masturbating material. Nothing more, dammit.
She wasn’t going to break her abstinence streak for anyone, especially not a man who could quite possibly fight off every one of the other mechanics singlehandedly. She didn’t know him from Adam, and the last—the only—relationship she’d ever had was abusive. Hell, Marco tried to kill her in the end. She had to find the strength to avoid any and all temptation this sex god presented.
And she would. She was just strong enough to resist a man built like he could break her face.
Mandy Harbin is an award-winning, bestselling author of several books across multiple romance genres ranging from contemporary to paranormal erotic romance. She is also the number one bestselling author in teen romance under the pen name M.W. Muse with her popular Goddess Series. She is a Superstar Award recipient, Reader’s Crown and RWA Passionate Plume finalist, and has received Night Owl Reviews Top Pick distinction many times. She studied writing at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, earned several degrees, and even pursued an MBA until she realized becoming an author did not have to remain an unfulfilled dream. Mandy is a PAN member of the RWA and lives in a small Arkansas town with her non-traditional family, and although she is a direct descendant of British royalty, they refuse to call her princess. When she’s not penning her latest book, you can find her hanging out online where she loves to connect with fellow readers or stalking Mickey Mouse at Disney World.
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