Emelia’s Soldiers (Ghost Unit 1)
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2019 Isabella Jordan
Emelia Drake’s heart dropped as she spotted Scott’s car parked at a seedy-looking bar on the outskirts of the city. Amy, her coworker who lived nearby, had mentioned seeing Scott’s very distinctive Camaro at the bar several times lately. Emelia wouldn’t have been curious except that over the last several days, she hadn’t had a lot of luck reaching him. Once he explained his phone’s battery had died. Another time he was out of range, working with some new client.
It had been a month now and she’d barely seen him. Emelia tried hard to give him the benefit of the doubt, she really did. Scott was an architect, and a good one. It was one of the reasons she liked having him as a boyfriend, shallow as it was to admit. But who was she kidding? Scott had cheated on her before. A couple of times. And the chants of “if he does it once” from well meaning friends were really starting to get old.
So, Emelia had gotten home from work, downed a couple of small glasses of bourbon for courage, and decided to go for a ride. In her gut, she knew she’d find him. She always did.
This time, though. This time she wouldn’t sit out in the parking lot staring at his car in tears. She had no intention of driving away in shame and waiting until he got tired of the other woman and came back to her. No. Not this time.
Climbing out of the car, Emelia braced herself. She was going to look so out of place in there. Here she was in her pencil skirt and blouse, kitten heels and her hair up in a neat twist. Why hadn’t her dumb ass changed clothes?
But she just had to do this. She had to face him down. Just once.
Because this was over.
Yanking open the door, she walked into a classic smoky barroom, filled with rougher people than she normally kept company with. Emelia mentally shook her head. What was Scott doing here? It usually pained him to converse with anyone making less than a hundred grand a year and he was here?
Some old rock tune with a heavy bass blared above the din of conversation around her. She tried to see if she could spot him there. She was half-praying that she wouldn’t, that it was an incredible coincidence, that someone had a Camaro just like his. She could go home, crawl into her bed, and just hide there for a day or two.
When her heel caught on a rough board, Emelia almost went flying, but strong hands steadied her as she regained her balance. Turning, she glanced up at her rescuer and just stared. Steel blue eyes met hers set in a truly handsome face, all strong-jaw and nice lines with a scruffy beard and thick, wavy dark hair that just touched his shoulders.
Damn. Why had she never come here before?
“Thank you,” she told him, truly grateful that he saved her from making a spectacle of her self earlier than she intended.
“You okay?” he asked, his gaze raking her over.
Emelia nodded, looking him over, too. He was all muscles covered in denim and leather and…
She needed to focus. Find Scott. You’re not here for the hot biker dude.
“Yeah, thank you,” she told him with a smile. She left him there, watching as he took a seat across from a blond who was even bigger than he was and just as gorgeous. The blond’s eyes lit up with amusement. When he caught her gaze, he winked at her.
When she reached the very back of the bar, she spotted Scott in a booth, wearing a leather jacket she’d never seen before, with a T-shirt and jeans. That was new. Snuggled up against his side was a very attractive woman with a head full of flame-red ringlets, big green eyes, and ruby-painted lips. She laughed at something Scott said, and he answered by pressing a kiss just under her ear, nuzzling under her hair.
Emelia’s heart sank. Well, okay then.
Across from them sat a huge guy with a military haircut and his back to her, so she couldn’t get a good look at him. Now what are you going to do, genius?
It had been a mistake to walk in. Especially when she knew what she’d find. Just as she knew she’d let him come crawling back to her when he was done with the Julia Roberts wannabe.
And it was at that moment Scott spotted her.
His dark eyes widened. Shocked, he abruptly jumped up from the seat, throwing the redhead off in a way Emelia would have found comical if circumstances were different. “Emelia, what are you doing here?” Scott asked in a not-so-steady voice. His eyes were glassy and red, and he wasn’t entirely stable on his feet. He’d been drinking. A lot.
Emelia smiled, wanting to come across as sassy and empowered but not quite hitting that note. “I saw your car outside.” She jerked her thumb in the direction of the bar’s entrance. “I thought I’d stop by and say hi.”
“Is this your girlfriend?” The redhead was beaming at her from the seat, her chin propped in one hand. “She’s so… sweet. Don’t you think she’s sweet, Alex?”
The military guy glanced over his shoulder at her, his dark gaze roaming over her in a way that made her cringe. Then he smirked at her. “Yeah.”
Scott’s gaze shifted from Alex to Emelia and back again. Licking his lips, he returned his attention to her. He looked nervous. Somehow, she didn’t think it was because he’d been caught by his girlfriend snuggling up to a redhead.
“I’m going to be out for a while tonight,” Scott told Emelia. “Why don’t you go on home and I’ll call you tomorrow? Yeah?”
Something was wrong. Usually when she confronted Scott about any of his little side bitches, he’d be furious. That has been part of the reason confronting him in a public place had seemed like a good idea. As pissy mad as he usually got, in public he wouldn’t be able to throw things at her or swing at her as he normally did. Not without risking someone would get the police involved.
Now Scott just seemed… worried. What had he gotten himself into?
Emelia nodded, uneasy. “I’m going to take off. Don’t worry about calling me,” she said in a shaky voice. “I’m good.”
The line was meant to mark her exit. Just as she turned around, a hand caught her elbow. She looked up in fear as Alex rose from his side of the booth, his grip on her firm. He was a big guy, towering over her. The smirk he wore just made it worse. “So, does that mean you’re available now, sweet thing?” Alex drawled, his grip tightening around her bicep.
Emelia yanked on her arm to pull free. His fingers flexed. Now it hurt. “Let me go, please.” Emelia forced herself to meet his gaze. “Please?”
“Hey, man,” Scott jumped in at that point. “Hey, she’s—”
Alex held up his other hand to cut him off. “I’m just going to walk her out to her car. It’s a rough neighborhood. I just want to make sure she’s taken care of.”
The redhead’s grin widened, and Emelia’s stomach dropped. “I’ll be fine,” Emelia told him as forcefully as she could manage.
Alex lowered his face, his dark, mean eyes glaring into hers. “I insist.” Alex walked around her and then proceeded to pretty much drag her away from the booth. A quick look back showed Scott just watching, with his mouth hanging open.
Emelia struggled, trying to pull free. When the front entrance came into sight, she decided she’d just start screaming. No way she was going to let the man drag her out of the bar and do who-knew-what with her.
Abruptly, the man came to a halt in front of her, causing her to run into his back. Something had surprised him enough to loosen his grip and Emelia yanked back the moment she felt it, pulling free of him. As she made it around him, she realized it was the blond man who’d been sitting with her rescuer who’d stopped them. And while Alex whoever-he-was was a big guy, he had nothing on the blond blocking his exit. The hot guy with long, dark hair stepped in front of her, shielding her from Alex.
“You’re in our way,” Alex growled at the taller man.
The man had sky-blue eyes, a strong jaw, and blond hair cut short. His shoulders were as wide as church doors and his muscles had muscles under a heavy, worn leather coat, shirt and jeans. He cut an intimidating figure as his glare locked with that of the guy who’d been trying to drag her out of the bar.
“I’m not blocking your way,” the blond corrected him, tipping his head in Emelia’s direction.
She felt much safer tucked behind the broad back of the dark-haired man. Her palms were pressed to his back and he felt muscly, too. Damn.
“She’s with me,” Alex told him, his voice low.
“You with him, sweetheart?” the blond asked her.
Emelia shook her head. “No, I’m not.”
“Guess that means she’s with us,” the brunet said, grinning over his shoulder at her. “You with us?”
Emelia didn’t know these two anymore than she did Alex, but the vibes she got from them felt much safer. She was willing to chance it. “Yes,” Emelia said loud enough for Alex to hear.
Alex’s glare had her heart lurching in her chest. After a meaningful moment, that intense gaze shifted back to the blond. “My mistake,” he said, his lips pressed into a thin line. When he headed back in the direction of Scott’s table, she released the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.
The two men waited until he was out of earshot before herding her back to the booth where they’d been sitting. The dark-haired man seated her between himself and the wall.
“How you fellas doing?” A tall waitress with curly hair smiled at them as she stopped at their booth.
“A couple more,” the blond motioned to the mostly empty glasses on the table before them. “What about you, sweetheart?”
Drinking was the last thing she should be contemplating but she was going to need to calm down, to get her mind around what just happened. “A Whiskey Sour, please.”
The waitress nodded. “Be right back.”
“You okay?” the blond asked, the concern in those bright blue eyes seeming genuine.
Emelia nodded. “I will be. I think.”
“What are you doing here?” the brunet asked meaningfully.
She blew out a sharp breath. “Confronting a cheating boyfriend?”
The two of them exchanged a look. “That was your boyfriend?” The brunet jerked his thumb in the direction of Scott’s table.
Emelia shook her head. “I don’t know the big guy. Scott’s my boyfriend. Was my boyfriend. He’s the one back there all over the redhead.”
“Do you know the woman?” the blond wanted to know.
Emelia shook her head again.
“Well, sorry about that,” the brunet said slowly. “But you might have bigger problems now.”
“Why?” Then she stopped, remembered how uneasy Scott had seemed at her arrival. “He’s gotten into something he shouldn’t have, huh?”
Again, the two men exchanged a look.
“You can tell me.” Her relationship was definitely over now. Whatever was going on between him and redhead and Alex? She wanted no part of that.
“Yeah, he’s gotten himself into something he shouldn’t have,” the brunet went on. “Problem is, they’ve seen you now.”
“So?” Emelia thanked the waitress who came back with the round of drinks. “I don’t have anything to do with it.”
The blond held up a hand to halt their conversation until the waitress left.
“You do if they think they can use you against him,” the blond explained.
“Excuse me?” Emelia stared at him as she worked on her drink, enjoying the way it burned into her stomach. “I don’t think they missed the part where I showed up and found him cuddled up to another woman. I told him not to call me. It’s over. Done. Whatever is going on there doesn’t involve me.”
“It does if they think they can use you to motivate him to do something they want,” the brunet continued. “Do you know anything about them? Why he’s with them?”
“Are you undercover cops or something?” Emelia wanted to know, fear creeping into her head. “Why all the questions?”
“We’re the ones who are going to get your ass safely out of here, so don’t worry about it,” the blond snapped. “Do you know anything about them?”
The impatient tone got her attention. “No, I don’t.” Emelia forced herself to meet his gaze. “Scott’s an architect. He’d been telling me that he was putting in a lot of hours with a new client, a woman. He’s designing some sort of special building for her. That’s what he told me. I really haven’t heard anything from him for weeks, so I found him here and decided to confront him. Guess it wasn’t my best idea.”
“You’re in the wrong place at the wrong time,” the brunet told her. “I’ll give you that. What’s your name?”
She looked from him to the blond and back, ultimately deciding that it was in her best interest to be nice. “Emelia,” she told him. “Who are you?”
“He’s Nick,” the brunet offered. “I’m Chase.”
Emelia worked on downing her drink, trying to calm the riot of thoughts in her head. She’d shown up to confront her loser boyfriend. His cheating ways had apparently led him to get involved with some people he should have avoided. What happened now? All she really wanted to do now was go home, call in sick for the rest of the week and feel sorry for herself with more bourbon and ice cream.
Something told her she wasn’t going to get her wish.
“Thank you,” she said after a moment. “Whatever’s going on, you didn’t have to keep him from dragging me out of here, but you did.”
Something like admiration lit Nick’s eyes and he nodded.
The brunet, Chase, sat back on the booth seat, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. Emelia stiffened but she didn’t protest. “Can I go home now?” Emelia hated the pitiful note in her own voice.
“Do you live close by?” Nick asked, scrubbing a hand over his jaw.
Emelia shrugged. “I’m about three miles away. I’ll be okay to drive.”
Nick shook his head. “I’m sure you are, but if he decides to look for you, it won’t take him long at all to find you.”
Emelia’s heart ached in her chest. “Why would he? Apparently, I don’t matter to Scott.” Oh, that hurt to admit. And come find her? How insane was what they were telling her? They couldn’t be right, could they?
Chase’s gaze locked with hers. “Doesn’t matter to them. And Alex seems like the type of guy who’d make the most of his mistake.”
Emelia didn’t mistake his meaning. What if he did come looking for her? What could she do? Both men watched her reaction while her mind reeled.
“Hey,” Nick got her attention, pulled her out of her mind. “Sorry. Not trying to scare the shit out of you. Just trying to be realistic. I’m sorry you stumbled into this, but you did.”
Whatever it was, it was real. She’d felt so uncomfortable at Scott’s table when she’d gone back there to face him. Something had been off about the entire situation. What if they were right? What if she was in danger?
“We’ll keep you safe,” Nick told her…