Author Charlie Richards
Now Available at eXtasy Books!
Swaying the Marine's Loyalty
Wolves of Stone Ridge: Book Thirty-Six
Out of the Cage: First impressions are not everything.
Armand Zeroni wakes up in a strange house. He doesn't know how he ended up there...or even where there is. When he discovers General Jackson Parker from his base inside a room tied to a chair, Armand frees him and escapes with him into the woods. After spending an unprepared night in the cold, he stumbles across a hiker, Zakhar Kuznetsov. The handsome Russian seems mildly familiar, but Armand can't put his finger on why. Zakhar assists with first aid, food, and water, but the general's snide attitude has Armand refusing a ride from the man. Following the Russian's instructions, they make it back to the trailhead...and right into an ambush. Armand is taken back to the massive estate from which he'd just escaped and learns the people living there believe they are vampires and shifters. Zakhar explains why they captured the general, but after being lied to by the man--attraction aside--can Armand believe a word out of his mouth?
Excerpt - Swaying the Marine's Loyalty
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“I’m going to check the cars,” Armand told the general, moving away from him. “See if I can find a cell phone in one of them.”
“Just hotwire one,” General Parker ordered. “We can return it later.”
Pausing, Armand turned back to face the other man. “You know how to hotwire a car?” He wouldn’t have seen that one coming.
General Parker scoffed as he shook his head. “Of course not,” he stated. “Surely you do, though.”
Armand couldn’t help it. He frowned at the man.
What the hell? Why would the man think he—
Of course. Why wouldn’t a black man know how to hot wire a car? Surely, he grew up in a hood where he learned such things.
“No, General,” Armand told him, unable to stop himself from bristling at the insinuation. “That is not something I know how to do.”
Hell, Armand had grown up in the country with two loving parents who still lived in the same farmhouse. Years of baling hay and working the cornfields kept him busy and fit. In fact, many people looked twice at him due to his size.
Armand’s parents hadn’t understood his choice to join the military. His older brother had even tried to talk him out of it. Marlin hadn’t truly understood, but Armand had done his best to explain.
Wanting the opportunity for a higher education—something his farming parents couldn’t offer him—Armand had taken classes in chemistry, biology, and physics. Eventually, he’d earned a degree in biochemistry. He figured after he finished up his time in the service as a marine, he’d figure out a way to use it. The way chemicals worked was damn fascinating.
“Well, a phone then,” the general grumbled, pulling Armand out of his thoughts. The older man waved his hand dismissively. “See what you can find.”
Once Armand turned around, he rolled his eyes. God, the general was such an ass. He appreciated the fact that he’d never had to actually work with the man.
Armand found the old truck unlocked, but there wasn’t anything valuable in it anyway…unless he could figure out how to rip out the stereo and use it to transmit a message…which he couldn’t.
He’d just made his way to the second vehicle—the sedan—and found it locked when another car pulled into the parking lot. Whistling under his breath, he admired the very pretty, deep blue Rubicon. Getting over his appreciation, he headed toward the vehicle.
When the door opened to reveal a massive, mountain of a man with shoulder-length dark hair and deep green eyes, Armand found himself hesitating. The guy stood six foot five and wore pale blue jeans and a gray jacket. He didn’t appear to be a hiker, especially considering the black biker boots on his massive feet.
The man swept his gaze around the area, his focus lingering just an instant on the picnic table and the general. His gaze returned to Armand. He shoved his hands into the pockets of his jacket.
Hearing his name coming from the man, his voice deep with a distinctive Russian accent, Armand gaped. How the hell did this guy know—oh fuck! Was this guy affiliated with the guys who’d kidnapped him and the general?
“Who are you?” Armand demanded, taking a step backward. “What do you want?”
“My name is Vadim, and I’m here for you, Armand,” the big man claimed. “It’s convenient that you are not near the general during this time. He’d sooner use you as a human shield than work with you to get away.”
Armand backed up another step, keeping his focus on the guy. Vadim. He pulled up a mental map, trying to remember where the cars were in relation to the picnic bench and the tree line. Could he get to the general and into the trees? Was trying to incapacitate the huge man a better option?
“Please, remain calm,” Vadim urged, his tone rumbling softly. “I fear the information you have been given by the general is in error. You don’t know what you’ve walked into.”
Scoffing at the man’s words, Armand frowned at the man. “I didn’t walk into anything,” he stated, choosing his words carefully. He continued to ease backward. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Vadim’s chest rose and fell with a deep sigh. “Please, remain calm,” he urged again, slowly pulling his right hand from his jacket pocket. “I don’t wish to harm you. My brother would not be pleased with that, but he would understand eventually.”
Armand realized the big man held some kind of stun gun, although his pained expression told him the guy didn’t want to use it but would. Realizing his window of opportunity to escape had slipped by him, he slowly spread his arms a little way from his body. He swallowed hard, wondering just what these guys were on about.
“You don’t have to use that,” Armand rumbled.
Before Vadim could respond, Armand heard the general’s shout. He peered that way and watched in shock as three people—one woman and two men—sprinted from the forest and surrounded the man. On instinct, he took a step in that direction.
“Stop,” Vadim snapped, his deep voice turning gruff. “Don’t do it. He’s not worth it.”
Freezing, Armand decided to obey. If he acquiesced, perhaps they’d lower their guard around him. Maybe he’d be able to spot another chance to escape.
Armand returned his focus to Vadim. “Why are you doing this?” Maybe he could get the big guy talking. “Why did you kidnap us?”
“That’s not for me to explain,” Vadim rumbled. Crooking his finger, he beckoned him back toward his Rubicon. “If you agree not to resist, you have permission to join me and my brother in the jeep.”
Just then, movement to his left caught his attention. He watched, dread and shock slicing through his system, as Zakhar exited the trees. The man cast a look toward the retreating group who carried a bound and gagged general toward the truck. After nodding once, Zakhar apparently dismissed the group, for he headed straight toward him.
Zakhar offered what appeared to be a tentative smile as he stated, “I am sorry for the subterfuge, Armand, but we felt this was the best way to get you away from General Parker.”
Armand didn’t know how to respond. He wanted to know why they were holding the general, how he’d ended up at the estate, and what they planned to do with them both. Unfortunately, Armand couldn’t trust a word out of the sexy man’s mouth.
He couldn’t believe how damn disappointed he was.