Tank (SEAL Team Alpha #4)By: Zoe Dawson
I’d like to thank my beta readers and editor for helping with this book. As always, you guys are the best.
To all the K9 handlers and their amazing warrior partners out there who do so much, endure so much…this one is for you.
Change is never easy, you fight to hold on, and you fight to let go.
“Don’t fucking tell me what to do.” Tank stepped into the street thug using his considerable brawn, intimidation on him like biker leather. “My brothers and I aren’t interested in your gang, your drugs, your freaking lifestyle. So take a hike. He couldn’t even look at his brother’s bruised and bloody face or his anger would get the better of him. If you ever touch Jordan again, even look at him sideways, I’m coming for you and you can kiss your ass goodbye. Comprende, pendejo? There’ll be no quarter. No me jodas.”
No me jodas. “Don’t fuck with me.” He repeated in English. The memory from when he’d walked the mean streets of East LA as a tough kid boosted his adrenaline and grounded him. His adult life as a Navy SEAL wasn’t much different. Protecting. Fighting. Demanding control.
Thorn “Tank” Hunt looked at himself in the mirror as he fumbled with the tie of the impeccable tuxedo. “Yeah, you’re such a freaking badass,” he said and laughed. Chitchatting with a bunch of wealthy donors while eating finger foods and drinking bubbly champagne wasn’t really his style. He’d much rather wear his uniform to this shindig, even if the collar was stiff. His dress blues were like body armor. He wouldn’t drop his guard for anything…or anyone. He wasn’t named Tank for nothin’.
He was doing this for Dr. Alyssa St. James’s charity, Military Working Dog Foundation. He and Echo, his MWD had been working with her ever since his younger brother Jordan, who worked at her vet clinic, had asked Tank to meet her two months ago. He’d dumped his iced coffee all down the front of her neutral blouse because he was too busy eyeing a sweet thing who had walked through the coffee house door.
They’d gotten off on the wrong foot, but it was evident from the first meeting attraction was flowing both ways.
Hell…the cause was worthwhile. After knowing her for two months and being part of the Dog and SEAL Show for her charity, it was clear to him this go-getter powerhouse was determined to reach her goal for this year. In addition to the fraternization issue, him being enlisted navy and her being an army reservist officer, there was the fact that Tank didn’t want his apple cart upended. He swore softly. She was upending him every time they were in the vicinity of each other. Who was he kidding? She was constantly on his mind.
He didn’t want any one woman on his mind, especially not one who had commitment and picket fence written all over her delectable body. But, there was also a driven quality about her he admired to go with her buttoned up and no-nonsense personality.
“Masquerade ball…hoo-yah,” he mumbled, sighing as he tied on the ornate black mask. He was used to covering his face, but the one he wore for missions was definitely more ninja badass. He rubbed his chin, then lifted it. She’d asked him to shave. Ha! No way. The beard stayed whether she liked it or not.
He left the bathroom and slipped his feet into his boots. She wouldn’t like them, but with the plain Jane way she dressed, she couldn’t talk. They helped to balance out the namby-pamby mask.
Downstairs, he grabbed his keys and pulled open the door. Rebecca Dassault or as he knew her, Becca, stood there ready to knock. She was dressed as usual in shades of pink and looked like a little powder puff to his two hundred and forty pound, six four frame. They were friends with benefits and that was all. He’d met her at one of the SEAL bars where women hung out to snag a gunslinger. He’d had an on again, off again relationship with her, but since he’d met Alyssa, it had been more off. His excuse was that he was busy, and they hadn’t found the right time to hook up. He wasn’t going to read anything into it. No way, no how.
“I was wondering if you wanted to hang out, but I can see you’re busy.” She gave him a slow once over and he smiled.
“Yeah, gotta take a rain check on that. I’ve got to go to this charity party for Military Working Dogs.” He had to give her credit. She was cool as a cucumber and had never pushed him when he was busy. It’s the only reason she’d lasted so long. Showing affection for him or trying to cling made him run in the other direction.
“Oh, that’s a good cause. That’s the only way anyone would get you to wear a tux and that mask.”
“I know,” he growled, stepping back as he closed and locked the door.
He headed for his vehicle in the driveway, and she said to his retreating back, “Call me later. I’ll still be up.”
He waved in a noncommittal way, still trying to tamp down the urge to crowd the buttoned-up Doc into a dark corner and getting up close and personal with her.
The drive over to The US Grant Hotel, located near the Gaslamp Quarter touted as the “Historic Heart of San Diego” with its Victorian architecture, was slow this time of night. He’d been here often with Becca as the lively neighborhood was a draw for the younger crowd with its clubs, dive bars, and cocktail lounges. With Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, Horton Park, museums, plenty of places to eat, and a smattering of theaters and cultural centers, it was a huge tourist attraction.
He left his truck with the valet and walked up the pavement to the front doors of the imposing structure. Entering the expansive lobby, he mingled with guests and other arriving patrons. Several women glanced his way, but he was distracted thinking about seeing the Doc again. He passed through the expansive lobby with its seating arrangements, decorative Doric columns, and bright crystal and gold chandelier. As a poor kid growing up in squalor, this place made him edgy. It was no different than being in his gear slogging through the jungle or kicking up sand in some hostile desert. SEALs didn’t know the meaning of ‘being out of their element.’
But to hell with how he was feeling. He was here to do a job for Alyssa and he wouldn’t let her down. He saw a huge red, white, and blue banner that said Military Working Dog Foundation and followed it to the ballroom where the low hum in the room rumbled as he approached. Outside the door were Harlequin jugglers, stilt walkers in regal reds and glittering golds, and fire-eaters. He stepped inside, producing his invitation for the woman at the door. Although, with this getup and the mask, how she could think he was going anywhere else was beyond him.
Her eyes lingered on his face, briefly meeting his eyes and then sliding down to his mouth and along his jaw. “Go right in, sir.”
“Thank you,” he murmured, immediately scanning the room. He was just getting the lay of the land, scoping out the finger foods and the champagne, he told himself. He wasn’t looking for anything…or anyone in particular. He liked his life just as it was. Keep the status quo because routine, like training, was grounding, but pesky change seemed inevitable. He had his family—his brothers and the brotherhood were all he needed. Females only complicated things. And they were bossy when they had a hold of a man’s heartstrings. He’d prefer them to have a hold of his dick with either those wonderfully soft hands, those beautiful, skillful mouths or gloving him in tight, wet heat. He knew exactly what to do with a woman’s anatomy. Sex was so damn easy.
His eyes snagged on a woman in the crowd. Part of it was the stunning outfit she wore, but the other part was the way she held herself. It seemed so familiar. The high waistline hugged her ribcage, the gold bodice accentuated her breasts, and the tiny sleeves caressed her lean shoulders. The mask on her face was gold, sparkling and filigreed, and the shoes gold, strappy and embellished with pearls. But the crowning glory were the butterfly wings in a graceful arch from her back. Her dark hair was piled up on her head, with one curl cascading down the side of her neck. The mask accentuated the lower half of her face, the delicate cheekbones, the sensual mouth and determined jaw. Then she turned her head and his breath backed up in his throat, his jaw went slack, and all he could do was stare helplessly.
The plain Jane caterpillar had morphed into the ethereal Butterfly Queen.
He pulled at his tie and it unraveled. Unbuttoning the tab at his collar, he felt like he couldn’t breathe.
She had him by the dick right now, and he didn’t like it one damn bit.
“You’ve been transformed, Alyssa,” her closest friend, Holly Moore, said with a smile as she sipped champagne. Holly and Alyssa had grown up together in San Antonio. They had gone to vet school together. Holly had chosen a teaching position at the University of California Veterinary Medical Center and Alyssa had opened up her practice.
“This is all you and you know it. I was planning a different outfit.”
“One that was unimaginative, Lissie.”
Holly had come to the clinic a couple of hours before they were to close and several before the ball. “So, tell me what you’re wearing,” she’d said as she set her chin on her hand, her curly blonde hair framing a pixie face. “I bet it’s brown, drab, and frumpy.”