Guardian Angel

By: Abbie Zanders

Callaghan Brothers, Book 5



Acknowledgements


Special thanks to Aubrey Rose Cover Designs for this amazing cover!

Special thanks also go to some very special ladies – Deb, Anjee, Shelly, Carol, and Carla (and a few of you who prefer to remain unnamed – you know who you are) - for reading the first draft and making invaluable suggestions. This is a better story because of them.





Chapter One




What a bitch. The thought settled in Kane’s mind, though he was completely focused, unnaturally still as he took in the scene around him, ignoring the cloying, moist heat that soaked through his clothes and made both hair and cloth stick to him like glue. A variety of creepy crawlers worked their way over his prone figure, but he ignored those as well. He’d endured far worse. But it sure made him long for the cool, clean air of his mountain cabin, where the only sounds were those of nature; the only violence a result of the natural laws of the food chain, of which Kane counted himself at the very top. That was where he found his peace when the rest of the world was exploding around him.

Insurgents were in the process of decimating the small village, sending the inhabitants scurrying off into the jungle with nothing but the small rags on their backs. Not that their hasty flight meant they were leaving much behind. These people were beyond poor. Economically speaking, on a scale of one to ten, they rated about a minus fifty.

But those people melting into the jungle – the ones losing the little bit they had by running away - they were the lucky ones. They might just live to see the dawn.

It wasn’t the villagers he and his brothers were here to protect. Not directly, anyway. No, their target was the pain-in-the-ass malcontent who had made it his personal mission to rid the world of forward-thinking, democratic visionaries rising among the starving lower castes. This small nothing village held no political or financial gain for him. This was just for fun. An opportunity for his men – and Kane used the term loosely, for he had encountered animals with more sentient thought than these bastards – to let off some steam. To take what little food they had. To rape their women. To kill and torture the men simply because they got off on pain and suffering until they made their way to the next political hotbed of unrest on which to capitalize.

For as vicious as the self-appointed leader was, he was cunning. He’d managed to avoid capture among the larger, more populated regions where he usually wreaked his particular brand of havoc, blending into the background like some sort of human chameleon. But Ian had found the pattern, connected the dots, and had tied the rotten slime bag to a string of seemingly unrelated incidents. In moving from place to place, small villages like this one had a nasty habit of simply ceasing to exist.

These people were so poor, so far removed from everyone else, no one really noticed. Or, sadly, cared. It was a form of poetic justice that this negligible little nothing of a village would result in the asshole’s past-due downfall.

The nearest straw and thatch hut was consumed by flames. They lit up the night within the small clearing, sending what looked like burning confetti up into the air. Women screamed, men yelled, babies cried. Kane watched it all with cold detachment as his mind worked out the best scenarios for getting in and out with minimal collateral damage. If he let himself feel for these people, the mission would be jeopardized. He was a good man, but if it came down to a choice between his brothers and these natives, he’d pick his brothers every time.

And there was the small matter that if they failed today, the bastard would get away and do the same to whatever small community next had the misfortune to lie in his path. No, Kane would do what he always did: get the job done and worry about the moral backlash later.

With each mission, it seemed, that was becoming harder and harder to do. The screams, the faces, the horror – they haunted what remained of his shredded soul, forcing him to shut down a little more each time, to distance himself from others. Little by little, he was becoming less than human, his ability for compassion fading, a price to be paid for the cold detachment he commanded out of necessity now.

He always reserved the worst parts of the missions for himself to spare his brothers as much of the horror as possible. It would come back to haunt him – that was a certainty. But it would be later, when he was safe in the solitude of his cabin, when his life and the lives of his brothers were not on the line. Only then would he allow it. Until then, to the rest of the world, he would continue to be the Iceman.

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