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Brandon’s Bliss by Dale Mayer (1)

Prologue

Brandon Horton wasn’t sure what to make of Legendary Security. He’d been here two whole days already, and so many people had been coming and going, it was hard to keep track of who was who. And then there were the puppies. Six of them—although several were going to individual apartments on the property when they were old enough. But all the homes were connected to the men who worked around here.

Brandon only really felt comfortable in a chair propped against the back wall of the huge dining room, out of the way—yet close by when meals were served. The trouble was, nobody let him stay here alone. His buddies from his former SEALs unit, Rory—sporting a new cowboy hat—and Michael, had stuck close so Brandon wouldn’t feel isolated.

Also Ice had come over several times to get him to fill out paperwork. He’d done that and had passed it back and then continued to stay quietly in the background. He was getting paid, but he sure as hell didn’t know why or what for. He’d expected to be shipped out on a job immediately, but so far that hadn’t happened.

This was early into Day 3 for him, trying to figure out how things worked at the compound. Breakfast had been devoured and cleaned up over an hour ago. He doubted that this bunch took weekends off, so just because it was a Saturday in early December per the calendar didn’t mean he had the day off.

The phone rang. He wasn’t even sure who was supposed to answer it. He knew it wasn’t him. He barely knew what was going on from day to day.

When Ice walked into the kitchen adjoining the dining area, her tone clipped and urgent, the atmosphere shifted. Something was up. She turned on the big screen in the kitchen and hit an alarm on the side of the door. People poured into the room. He pulled farther back from everyone, watching curiously.

An image filled the screen. Ice keyed in something on the laptop nearby and a news ticker appeared at the bottom. The scrolling text confirmed the facial ID of the woman on the screen as Kasha Lowry, gave the GPS coordinates for her exact location in Africa—dubbed Bullard’s Home Base—even compared the date and time here in Texas, within our Central Time Zone, currently 10:27 a.m., to the time some seven hours ahead in the West Africa Time Zone, so 5:27 p.m. over there.

Ice was known for her IT magic, so she had her own particular set of toys.

Brandon could see some of the room behind the woman. It looked like the command center of a big military operation. He’d never seen anything like it in a personal residence.

“Kasha, you’re up. Go ahead.”

“Ice, Bullard has gone missing,” said the tall, lean young woman with long black hair, worry creasing her face and fatigue pulling on her features. “Six days ago, five of us traveled to his newest property on the Benin border in West Africa. He said he wanted to stay for another day alone. Get a feel for it. So he sent us away. We expected him back the next day, but, when the pilot landed to pick him up, there was no sign of him. He hasn’t answered his comm. Our men are out on multiple missions, so we’re shorthanded here.”

“We’ll send four men. Two from here and Merk and Stone who are already nearby in Europe. They’ll arrive within a few hours of each other.”

Brandon watched the relief light up Kasha’s eyes. With her long dark hair and slightly honey-toned skin, she was a knockout. But the way she wore her tight black jeans, tight black T-shirt and matching black gun belt strapped to her right leg launched her from his fantasy woman to a real-life contender. He had to meet this woman face-to-face.

“How long?” Kasha asked in clipped tones.

Ice looked at her watch as if mentally calculating and said, “Twelve hours for the first pair. Faster if I can swing it.”

Brandon noticed that he, and all the other people in the room, pulled up the dual time function on their watches to add the WAT option. Whether here at the compound or in Africa, it was countdown time when it came to a missing person, especially one known by all.

Kasha looked like she wanted to argue, then conceded quietly.

“In the meantime,” Ice said, “gather as much information as you can. Who saw him last? Where? Did he have plans to go anywhere? What is his weapons situation like? Pass it all to Stone and Merk. Understand?”

“Understood.” Kasha clicked something in front of her, and the screen went dark.

Levi stepped up beside Ice, their two heads bent in conversation.

Brandon watched the others explain about Bullard to those who weren’t in the know. Brandon knew of Bullard but had yet to meet him. And he’d never met Kasha. He’d remember her.

Ice walked out of the room, Levi behind her. Brandon grabbed another cup of coffee and watched to see what, if anything, would come of this. After another hour, he headed to his room.

Levi caught up with him in the hall. “Brandon, in three hours, you’re leaving for the airport.”

“Where am I going?” he asked, interested to see what his future with the company would hold. He’d been afraid he’d be stuck babysitting stars in California.

“Africa. To find Bullard. And the time frame is yesterday.”

And just like that, Levi was gone.

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