on May 2, 2016
One epic love. Two wounded souls. Three impossible words.
Ripped away from each other by circumstances beyond their control. Reunited in a place they never expected. Separated but never quite apart.
“You’re still the only woman I see. The only woman I need. I know you’re in there somewhere, sweet Caroline. We’re going to find you and we’re going to help you, until you come home to me where you belong. Then we’re going to finish what we started. Together.”
Her confidence shattered, Caroline finally starts to deal with what happened at The Fed. Jack is determined to convince her that she’s more than she thinks she is. That she wasn’t destroyed by her experiences. That their relationship is worth the fight. But will he give up before it’s too late?
Phoenix is the fourth installment in The Bellator Saga. It should be read after the first three novels in the series.
Phoenix is the fourth installment in The Bellator Saga and is releasing on May 2nd. Enjoy an exclusive excerpt and enter the giveaway below for a chance to win The Bellator Saga Box set! Good luck!
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Jack sighed, straightening his collar. He didn’t need this. Schroeder had given him bits and pieces of a story. Something about a fight in the cafeteria. He hadn’t given a shit about the details until Caroline’s name was mentioned. Nothing good could come from this situation. And he wasn’t sure he was ready to confront whatever came his way. But he had to act like the leader he was. Treat her the same as anyone else.
Time to pretend you know what you’re doing. Make sure they know you’re incredibly inconvenienced by their insolence. Make sure all of them know. Especially her.
He took a deep breath and schooled his features before opening his office door. Too many damn people in his waiting area. Military police. Corporal Buchanan. Caroline’s friends. But his eyes went immediately to his wife. Head down, barely moving except for the occasional shiver. Utterly defeated. He hadn’t quite expected this.
“Why is Major Gerard in handcuffs?” he demanded.
The MP holding her by the cuffs stood a little straighter, pulling Caroline up in the process. She screamed in pain.
“She instigated a fight in the cafeteria, sir. She attacked Buchanan out of nowhere and resisted arrest.”
“Only because you tried to cuff her, asshole,” Crunch said.
Jack had to maintain order. Even if his inclination was to blow all the rules to hell. “Watch it, Mr. Rodriguez.”
His voice caught her attention. Caroline looked up at Jack and back down again. Her face was damp, maybe from tears, maybe from the rain. All he wanted to do was drag her into his office, yank those cuffs off, and comfort her. Right after he beat the shit out of that asshole MP who arrested her. Fuck the details. He didn’t need them. He didn’t care what she’d done or who she’d done it to, someone else was going to pay.
Keep it together. He couldn’t very well help her if he couldn’t maintain his composure. Jack tipped her chin up. “Did you do that? Did you assault another soldier?”
“I’m not telling you shit,” she said.
Robotic. Dull. Rehearsed. Something was wrong. Something was very, very wrong.
“Commander,” Gig said. “May I have a word?”
Perhaps he’d be granted some enlightenment. “Yes, Sergeant.”
Gig had the grace to lean in so he wouldn’t be overheard. “She only resisted when he tried to cuff her, sir. She doesn’t react well to being placed in restraints. I’m not entirely sure she knows where she is.”
Fuck. He desperately wanted answers but every time he was given another piece of the puzzle it sickened him further. Jack examined Caroline again. Her eyes were dead. Expressionless. He had to do something to get her attention. To focus on him and nothing else. Surely he could manage that. “Major Gerard,” he said firmly. “Did you attack Corporal Buchanan?”
She dived toward him, trying to ram his head with hers. Jack instinctively took a step backward and she stumbled to her knees. The MP yanked her back and she yelped.
“Fuck you,” she finally said. “I’m not telling you shit.”
Jack turned to the MP. “Remove those,” he said, indicating the handcuffs. “Do that to her again and deal with your own disciplinary action.”
This soldier dared argue with the commander? Jack didn’t care if he sounded pretentious or overbearing. Standards had to be set. “Do it. Major Gerard is no threat to me.”
“Must I repeat myself? Do it.” Jack turned to the second MP. “Get Jones and Buchanan out of here. I’ll deal with them later. Return them to their quarters.”
The first MP removed her cuffs and Caroline groaned and fell to the floor. Jack yanked the handcuffs out of his hand. They were streaked with red. Blood. Her blood. Oh, fuck this guy.
“Do you think this is an appropriate way to treat another soldier?” he asked.
The MP gave Jack a rigid look. “She was resisting arrest.”
“And you responded by making her cuffs too tight?”
“She was being violent, sir. She was out of control.”
“She was not,” Crunch broke in, dropping to his knees and rubbing Caroline’s back.
“Quiet, Mr. Rodriguez.” Jack pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and handed it to Crunch. He turned to the MP. “Perhaps you misunderstood my question. Do you think you followed proper protocol in arresting Major Gerard? In purposely injuring her?”
The MP lowered his head ever so slightly. “Yes, sir. Absolutely.”
There were times when Jack wondered whether he had any control over these men at all. “You are sadly misguided,” he said. “You are relieved of duty. Return to your housing and await further instruction from Captain Schroeder.”
Jack tried not to think about Crunch tending to those open wounds. About that unsettling blank expression on his wife’s face. He could see the stains seeping through his handkerchief out of the corner of his eye. This fucking joke of a police officer needed to get out of his sight now, before he spilled the man’s blood all over the carpet in front of Schroeder’s desk. Fuck keeping it together. Fuck everything.
“She doesn’t need any more scars!” he bellowed. “She has enough already!”
The MP lowered his head further. “Understood, sir.”
Jack doubted this soldier understood a damn thing. “Get out of here. Now.”
Gig and Crunch pulled Caroline to her feet. Crunch came around to face her, as Gig massaged her arms and Crunch wrapped Jack’s bloodstained handkerchief around her wrists.
“You’re okay, Princess,” Crunch said. “All right?”
Her eyelids drooped. “I’m not talking.”
So stoic and impassive. He had to get through to her. Surely she wasn’t too far gone. Surely the barrier could be broken. Jack stepped in between the two men and cupped her face in his hands. “Caroline, it’s Jack. Can you hear me?”
“Leave me alone,” she said.
He pulled her chin up so they were facing each other. She needed to look at him. See him. Recognize that she was safe. “Sweetheart,” he said softly. “Snap out of it. Come on, now.”
“Leave me alone,” she mumbled. “I don’t know anything.”
Jack gazed into her eyes, hoping for a response but seeing vacant nothingness in return. Those wide, red rimmed eyes. That trembling lip. All part of a goddamn desperate attempt to hold her shit together while slipping away from reality.
He could take her and run. Grab a Jeep and drive until they ran out of gas. He could provide for her. For them. He could take care of her. Then she’d see reason. She’d get better. She just needed time, and love, and privacy. Away from this damn base and this fucking ineffectual rebellion. Staying here was doing both of them more harm than good.
Look at me. See me. I know you can.
His presence wasn’t enough. His words weren’t enough. He said them anyway. “Caroline,” he whispered. “Please.”
A fat tear gathered on her eyelash and slid down her face. He brushed it away, leaning in closer and kissing her cheek. He could get through to her. He had to. He just had to keep talking. “Don’t cry, baby. No one can hurt you. Not while I’m here.”
No response. He thought maybe she’d come to her senses, at least so she could yell at him for using that pet name in front of other people. Dammit, she was beginning to frighten him. Clearly he’d misjudged the extent of her trauma. How deep those mental wounds ran. He wiped the remaining wetness from her face and cleared his throat, aware that the other men were all purposely avoiding eye contact with him. No, he was definitely not keeping it together. At all. Jack straightened his shoulders. “Mr. Gigowski, Mr. Rodriguez, would you escort the major back to her room?”
“Yes, sir,” Gig said, putting his arm around her.
Thank God she had people who gave a shit about her. Maybe it would make his job easier. “This isn’t over, Caroline,” Jack told her quietly. “There have to be consequences for your behavior.”
“I’m not talking,” she said.
He needed to figure this out. Because he was at a total fucking loss. And he needed some goddamn privacy to process everything. Complete privacy. “Take her home, gentlemen. Do not leave her by herself.” Jack turned to Schroeder. “I’m going to want witness reports on this as soon as possible. Do not disturb me until you have them in hand. Please escort Caroline and her team back to her apartment. You can take the rest of the afternoon off.”
“Yes, sir,” Schroeder grumbled, grabbing the keys to his Jeep.
Jack shoved his way into his inner office, shutting the door hard. Screw professionalism. And forget keeping all of his demons at bay. They’d stormed the castle and were charging inside, seeking treasures he was determined not to let them keep. Caroline was in far, far more trouble than he thought. What on earth was he going to do?
♥ READ THE SERIES ♥
Book 1 – Dissident
Book 2 – Conscience
Book 3 – Sojourn