Brawn Page 1

Author: Laurann Dohner

Series: New Species #5

Genres: Fantasy , Romance

Chapter One

Becca Oberto glared at her father, resisting the urge to yell. “You what?”

Tim shrugged. “I need you to move in with me right now. In less than an hour someone else will be moving into your house. I put clean sheets on your old bed.”

“No.” She shook her head vehemently and leaned against her car. He’d just announced he had agreed to allow some man to move into her home but it was hers. “You can’t just order me to live with you or give permission for someone else to take my home. Grandpa left the main house to you and the guesthouse to me. He’s your guy so make him stay in your house.”

“That won’t work. He’s, uh, different. He needs his own space, Rebecca.”

“So do I. I don’t care how different he is or what the situation may be. He is not getting my home. I love you dearly but I’m twenty-nine years old, a widow and way too old to live with my daddy again.” She took a breath. “Plus, you drive me nuts. You treat me as though I’m ten years old and I’ve lived on my own for far too long to revert to that. No way in hell. Is that clear enough? Give him my old room.”

Her father shifted his stance. “He’s New Species, Rebecca. He needs his own space and he’d have a problem with how close the main house is to the street. I was told he needs quiet living accommodations or the sound of traffic will keep him awake. The guesthouse is all the way at the back of the property and it’s got all those trees to make it secluded. He’d love it there. I swore to the NSO that I’d give him safe, quiet living and your place is perfect. It won’t be for that long. Please?”

Stunned, Becca just glared at her father. He headed some secret task force that directly worked with the New Species Organization—NSO for short. She’d never met a New Species but she’d seen a few of them on television and featured in newspapers. Her father kept her fuzzy on what he did at work but she guessed it probably was dangerous. Her father had been with the military for twenty-five years, had retired nearly two years before and was an adrenaline junky. He lived for being shot at or to shoot at shit. He found and saved New Species who were still being held captive. That’s about all she knew.

“Why would one of them need to be here? All of them either live here at the NSO Homeland or they live up north at the NSO Reservation. I’m not stupid, Dad. I read the papers and none of them ever live outside those gates. It would be too dangerous with all the morons who bug them.”

Tim frowned. “I don’t have to explain this to you, baby.”

“You do if you want me to let someone live in my house for awhile.”

A curse broke from his lips. “Fine. Do you remember Jessie Dupree?”

“The wild redhead? Sure. She’s the only woman on your team and I met her a few times when you had them over for drinks for team morale. What does she have to do with some guy wanting to live in my house?”

“She was hurt on the job and had to be replaced. The NSO offered us one of their people to fill her position. Jessie did the first contact stuff for us when we recovered a New Species POW alive. We thought—I thought—that since we don’t have Jessie then we should have a New Species do first contact. The thing is that he’ll have to live here or we’d have to send our only helicopter to get him for every mission. It’d waste funds and resources when we have few to spare. This way he’s on the spot when we need him and have to move fast.”

Becca let that all that information sink in. “POWs? You call them prisoners of war?”

“What would you call them? My job is to find imprisoned New Species and free them. They aren’t there for fun and games. They are prisoners and it’s usually a fight to get them free.” He shifted his weight again. “Anyway, now that you know the situation, I expect you to get with the program. I’m going to go change my clothes while you pack your belongings. I’ll be there in about fifteen minutes to help you move. He should be arriving within the hour.” He paused and his eyes narrowed. “I want you to stay away from him. That’s an order, Rebecca Marie Oberto.”

“This is why Mom left you and why you’re still single eight years after the divorce.” Becca was pissed. “Do not tell me what to do. I’m a grown woman. You get with the program. I can talk to whoever I want, even hang out with him and I don’t take orders from you.”

“You will not.” His voice deepened and took on a stern tone. “I am your father and you will do what you’re told. I have spoken.”

Her eyes widened in astonishment. Her hands fisted as she shoved them against her hips. “Wow! Really? You’ve spoken? I’m having flashbacks of my teens and we both know that didn’t go so well for you. I sneaked out of the house plenty of times when you refused to allow me to have a life. It didn’t work then and it sure as hell won’t get you what you want now. I’ve spoken.”

“Damn it, Rebecca Marie. Stop being childish.”

“Listen up, Dad. I’ve been married and I survived burying a husband. I grew up. I’m not the kid whose diapers you sometimes changed when you were home on those rare occasions between the wars you couldn’t wait to go fight. Do not treat me as though I’m still a child. I love you but I swear to God, I’ll stop speaking to you if you continue with this line of bullshit. I’m not one of your military guys who jump when you say boo. Yes, you have spoken but so have I. Deal with that!”

“You’re still mad that I wasn’t around much when you were a kid? I was working.”

“You were always volunteering! Don’t think I didn’t know you asked for the toughest assignments that would keep you out of the house the longest just because you and Mom didn’t get along. You were hardly there. I am not angry anymore because I grew up and got over it. What makes me mad is that you were hardly there to tell me what to do as a kid so what makes you think you can pull this crap now? I would rethink it. Stop telling me what to do, where I can live, or who I can talk to.”

“He’s New Species, Rebecca. You’ve learned enough about them to know why I don’t want you near him. They were locked up all their lives as test subjects and they were prisoners who suffered physical and emotional abuse. No one could be completely right in the head after that. They are all big and were shoved full of altered shit. He’s going to be part man and animal. You’re a good-looking girl and he will notice that. I don’t want you near him and that’s an order you will follow. You are not to talk to him or hang out with him.”

That did it. Becca laughed. “You don’t give me orders. I still haven’t said he could stay in my home. I get why he needs to but that doesn’t mean you have the right to lend out my home or make me move back in with you. It’s not happening.”

“You will do as I say.”

Her good humor fled. “That’s it. I’m done. Here’s the program you’d better get with. He can stay in my guest room—there are two. I’ll give him the one down the hall from my bedroom. I’d hate to live in your house so I would never subject anyone else to that. While he is here, I can talk to him if I want. Hell, I can hang out with him. I can do anything I want with him and you can’t do a thing about it.”

“What would you like to do with me?” The voice behind her was a deep rumble.

Becca started and turned to gape at the owner of that masculine voice. He was really tall and his straight black hair fell over his broad shoulders to his waist in a silky curtain of hotness. He had to be a good foot taller than her five-foot-five height. His catlike blue eyes met her shocked ones. His cheekbones were prominent, his nose flatter than normal and a set of full lips were curved downward in contemplation. Overall, he was strangely good-looking and really big. The hair was just sexy as could be—a bonus.

His skin was a golden tone and she could see a lot of it since he wore a red tank top stretched tightly over a broad chest. Thick, muscular arms were displayed to her appreciative eyes. The guy was built like a body builder or a male stripper. Becca instantly imagined him moving to music and her stomach clenched. She’d definitely put some bills in his G-string.

Her focus lowered to a trim waist and the black cargo pants that molded to bulked-up thighs on those long legs. They were the type of pants a lot of her father’s men wore and she’d have pegged him as military if it weren’t for the fact that he was obviously New Species. She silently wondered if her father or a member of his team had handpicked the guy’s attire. Oh yeah, she decided. I’d definitely want to see him strip out of his clothes.

“You’ve arrived already.” Her father didn’t try to hide his annoyance. “This is my daughter, Rebecca. She’s moving out of the guesthouse that you’ll be staying in while you’re here.” He moved forward and held out his hand. “It’s good to see you again.”

“I’m Brawn.” The large man’s gaze flicked away from Becca’s and he dropped his navy-blue duffel bag to the ground and shook hands with her father.

“I remember,” her father admitted gruffly. “You’re one of the council members and we were introduced recently at a meeting. I just didn’t want to be forward by calling you by your first name without permission. I wasn’t informed if you’d taken a last one.”

“I didn’t. I’m just Brawn.”

Boy, is he. Becca swallowed and stepped forward, smiling at the large male and decided he was totally hot. It might take some time getting used to his strange features but his attractiveness captivated her. She held out her hand. “I’m Becca Oberto. It’s nice to meet you.”

Brawn turned his attention her way again and she stared up into the darkest blue eyes she’d ever seen. They reminded her of a night sky, so dark, but with just a hint enough of blue to be striking. His eyelashes were extraordinarily long and black, matching his hair. The feline shape of his eyes was remarkable and beautiful. His irises weren’t round like a human’s. They were oval, similar to a cat’s and they were breathtaking. She was so caught up in studying his features that she didn’t notice anything was wrong until he smiled and amusement sparked in his gaze before he glanced down.

Becca followed where he looked and heat warmed her cheeks. She’d forgotten they were supposed to shake hands, too caught up in gawking at him. A laugh bubbled up as she gripped his large palm, taking note of how warm his skin felt and the rough texture of calluses on his palms and fingers. Her gaze jerked up to his again as their hands clasped.

“Sorry. Your eyes are amazing.”

His smile widened. “I take it I’m the first of my kind you’ve met? You seem…fascinated.”

“Yes and yes, I am. You have the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen.” She refrained from wincing, realized she probably sounded idiotic and had babbled about his eyes twice.

The grip tightened on hers as his fingers curled to encase her entire hand and some unknown emotion flickered in his eyes. “Thank you for saying so.”

“You can release her now.” Her father ground out the order through clenched teeth. “You’re supposed to shake, not hold hands.”

Becca laughed and released the guy. “Sorry.” She took a step back, still peering into his eyes, unable to stop.

“It’s fine. I am grateful that I do not frighten you. Some human females are terrified when they meet us or they freeze up and just stare.”

She stared. Damn. Becca laughed lightly. “I admit I’m guilty of it. I’m sorry.” She forced herself to glance at her father. He looked livid as he glared back.

“Go pack up your things and move into your old room now, Rebecca.”

Her smile faded. “Dad, back off. I’m not ten anymore. Let’s not yell in front of Mr. Brawn. It wouldn’t make a good first impression of us, now would it? We should at least allow the man to get settled in before he realizes we’re a dysfunctional family.”

“You have to move because of me?” Brawn’s shock sounded in his voice.

“It’s not a problem,” Tim assured, sounding less angry. “The guesthouse my daughter owns is located at the back of the property and is more remote from the street traffic. There are a lot of trees and it’s quieter. I’m having groceries delivered to you and I know someone asked your clothing sizes. Your new uniforms will be here within a few hours. Nothing is planned for today to give you time to unpack and adjust to your new living quarters before you start the job. You’ll be riding with me every day. I’ll pick you up in the morning at eight o’clock and I’ll give you my number in case you have any questions or need help.”

Brawn nodded. “Fine. Thank you but I’m sure I can manage.”

Tim jerked his thumb in the direction of the larger house. “You can come home with me while my daughter goes to the guesthouse to pack her clothes. It shouldn’t take her long.”

Becca glared at her father as she fully faced him. “I have a better idea. I’ll take Mr. Brawn to the guesthouse and show him around. He can start moving into the guestroom immediately.”

“Now, Rebecca—”

Her spine stiffened when she recognized his temper flare and knew they were about to argue again but his cell phone rang. Saved by the bell. She blew out a relieved breath as he dug the phone from his pocket, glanced at the front of it to see who called and softly cursed.

“It’s work.”

Becca waved, all the tension leaving her. “Bye. I know you have to rush off to answer it. Classified shit and all that so we don’t overhear you say yes and no to someone.” She turned and smiled at Brawn. “Let’s go. I’ll give you the tour and show you which room will be yours.”