Drake:Vigilante Bodyguard (Alpha Male Master 5)

By: Maggie Carpenter

PROLOGUE





It was almost 1 a.m. The air was cold. A thin crescent moon was penciled on the ebony sky. The track through the forest was creepy and foreboding, but this was when Drake Steele liked to run. In the many months he'd been jogging the deserted trail in the late dark hours he'd never seen a soul. Not once. He embraced the emptiness, took solace in the hooting owls and his footfalls crunching against the dry leaves. With the parking lot only a minute away he slowed to a walk, mostly to extend his time in the quiet solitude. He owned a bar called, The Lounge, and worked as a bartender three nights a week, but no-one knew he was proprietor. Working behind the counter allowed him to keep his eye on the staff and learn first-hand what the patrons wanted.

His mind wandered back to that evening. It had been busy for a Tuesday. Loud and boisterous. Too many girls in skirts too short and tops too low. He often worried when he'd see a young woman leave with a stranger. It made no sense to him. It was reckless.

A shrill scream suddenly pierced the silent darkness.

Adrenalin surged through his body.

Alarm bristling his skin he stared into the gloomy woods, and not wanting to advertise his approach he paused to switch off his headlamp before heading into the trees. In addition to owning a cocktail lounge Drake was a professional bodyguard, and he was more than prepared to tackle whatever he might find. When he heard a man's distant voice his pulse began to race. Was he too late? A second scream told him the victim was still alive, but it had been a frantic desperate cry. His blood pumping, his heart hammering, he hurried through the dense forest darting his eyes from side to side, then out of the gloom he spied a glow of ghostly light. Cautiously drawing closer he could make out a gentle slope and realized the radiating light was coming from the other side. Moving swiftly forward he started up the bank, and was almost at the top when he heard a sobbing woman repeat the same words over and over.

"Please, don't. Please, don't."

Every nerve in his body sparking, he laid on his stomach and crawled to the edge, but paused for a brief moment to smear dirt over his face. The woman's voice was rising in panic, and wriggling forward he peered over the crest. The sight was straight out of a horror film. He almost expected a director to step forward and yell cut, but it was real, terrifyingly real.

Plastic sheeting was draped around the gully and across the ground, three bright lights were blazing down on a woman curled into a disheveled heap, and looming over her were two men brandishing gleaming blades. Drake took a quick breath. Blades weren't a problem, he could take them both, but just as he was about to leap into the fray he had a sudden thought. Too many times loathsome men like those below him escaped justice through lack of evidence. He wasn't about to let that happen. Pulling his phone from his pocket, making sure he kept the victim's face out of view, he videoed the entire scene, zooming in on the faces of the menacing men as they lunged at her with their knives.

Having recorded a powerful forty-seconds he slipped the phone back into his zippered pocket, then shimmying away he ran his hands across the dirt in search of a rock. It needed to be about the size of a baseball. Too small and it would have no impact, too big and he wouldn't be able to throw it with the necessary force and accuracy.

All he could feel was twigs and leaves. There were rocks near the jogging path but he wasn't about to leave, then suddenly his fingers touched something hard in the soft ground. Praying fervently he dug, and a moment later his prayers were answered. It was smaller than he would have liked, but if he pitched it with the right amount of force it would work. With the sickening sound of the desperate woman echoing through the air, he wrapped his hand around it and gauged the weight. Satisfied, he crawled back to the top of the slope to size up his depraved opponents. One was tall and lanky, the other short and squat, but he was muscled. He was the one Drake needed to take out with the rock.

Risking exposure he needed to be quick. Making sure the ground was solid beneath his feet, his eyes never leaving his target, he stood up, raised his arm, brought it back like a professional baseball player, and let it fly.

His aim was spot on; the rock landed against the villain's eye, and as he cried out in shock and dropped to the ground, Drake leapt into the ravine behind the tall skinny thug, grabbed his arm and jerked it up and behind his back in a deft, practiced maneuver. Letting out an almighty howl of pain the vile thug dropped his knife, but a dislocated shoulder was merely Drake's introduction. Grabbing a fistful of hair Drake yanked back his head, punched him square in the jaw, then followed it with a fierce blow to the stomach. Leaving him on the ground groaning in pain, Drake strode briskly across to the sobbing terrified woman. Her cheeks were streaked with black lines from her mascara'd tears, her dress was in shreds, and he could see bleeding from superficial cuts on various parts of her body. She wasn't tied up, a surprise, but he guessed that had been part of their fun.

"I'm getting you out of here," he said quickly. "Hang in there. I'll only be a second."

The woman stared up at him as if he wasn't real, as if she must be dreaming, as if there could be no-one in the forest in the middle of the night to save her, and reaching out his hand he gently wiped her face.