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Kill Without Mercy
ARES Security #1
ARES Security #1
By: Alexandra Ivy
Released December 29, 2015
From the hellhole of a Taliban prison to sweet freedom, five brave military heroes have made it home—and they’re ready to take on the civilian missions no one else can. Individually they’re intimidating. Together they’re invincible. They’re the men of ARES Security.
Rafe Vargas is only in Newton, Iowa, to clear out his late grandfather’s small house. As the covert ops specialist for ARES Security, he's eager to get back to his new life in Texas. But when he crosses paths with Annie White, a haunted beauty with skeletons in her closet, he can't just walk away—not when she’s clearly in danger…
There’s a mysterious serial killer on the loose with a link to Annie’s dark past. And the closer he gets, the deeper Rafe’s instinct to protect kicks in. But even with his considerable skill, Annie’s courage, and his ARES buddies behind him, the slaying won’t stop. Now it’s only a matter of time before Annie’s next—unless they can unravel a history of deadly lies that won’t be buried.
“A fantastic blend of romance and suspense…thrilling to the end.” --Mary Burton, USA Today bestselling author
Her thought was interrupted as she kicked a small object that had been left in the middle of the floor.
Automatically glancing down she came to a sharp halt, her breath locked in her chest as she leaned over to pick up the small doll with the mass of tangled blond hair.
It was covered in dust, and the clothes were rumpled, but Annie had a vivid memory of dancing through the house with the doll clutched in her hand.
The sun had been shining and her father was laughing as he watched her silly antics.
The sound of Rafe’s deep voice broke her out of the past, although the precious feelings of childish joy refused to be completely dismissed.
“This house should be a place of horror, but I had such good memories,” she muttered, her attention locked on the doll that looked as lost and broken as she felt since returning to Newton.
He moved to stand next to her, his hands clenching as if he was battling the urge to reach out and touch her. “You loved your father?”
“Very much,” she admitted without hesitation, lifting her head to meet his searching gaze. “I know you must think it’s twisted, but he was always kind and patient and funny when we were together.”
“I don’t think it’s twisted at all,” he protested. “Tell me about him.” He held up a hand when she frowned. “I mean, tell me about him as your father.”
Expecting the usual condemnation, Annie was caught off guard by his gentle question.
No one had ever asked her about Don White as something other than the psycho serial killer.
Tentatively she allowed herself to return to the past, the doll unconsciously pressed to her chest. “He always had two Oreo cookies and a glass of milk waiting for me on that table when I came home from school.” She nodded toward the shrouded piece of furniture situated near the door. She hadn’t eaten an Oreo cookie since she’d left Newton. “And he went with me to the movies on Saturday afternoon just because I said I wanted to be an actress when I grew up. And every Sunday morning he took me to the restaurant for pancakes.” Bittersweet pain sliced through her heart. “I don’t understand how the same man could be so evil.”
“He was sick, Annie, not evil,” Rafe murmured.
She hunched a shoulder. “Is there a difference?”
“Yes. I’ve seen men in battle,” he said, a hard edge in his voice hinting at memories that were as dark and painful as her own. “Some are just naturally cruel. They enjoy causing pain because it’s a basic part of their nature.” His jaw clenched. “And there are others who’ve been ruined. By life. By war. By . . . fate. They do what they do because they can’t help themselves.”
Annie studied the lean, fiercely handsome face. How did he do it? How did he always know exactly what to say?
It was freaky.
“Thank you,” she breathed.
He cocked a brow. “For what?”
“Most people don’t want to think the Newton Slayer could have any redeeming qualities,” she said, having learned from the second she’d been rescued that her father was public enemy number one. “I usually feel guilty for not hating him.
He destroyed so many lives.”
He brushed a hand over her tangled curls, careful to keep
his touch light. “He was your father.”
“Yes.” He’d been more than that. He’d been her entire family. She gave another shiver. “We should go.” He dropped his hand and nodded, keeping a small distance between them as she headed out the door and across the
“My truck is at the end of the drive,” he murmured as they reached the overgrown yard. “I’ll tell Teagan to join us at the motel.”
She had a vague impression of a large man who appeared from the shadows to speak with Rafe before he was jogging toward her Jeep, but her concentration centered on keeping her feet moving forward.
Christ, she was tired.
Rafe was back at her side by the time she reached the edge of the road, opening the door to his truck and helping her to climb into the seat before he was rounding the hood and taking his place behind the steering wheel.
In silence he started the engine, flipping the heater on high before performing a U-turn. There was a brief stop as he waited for his friend to approach the truck holding her purse that he’d obviously retrieved from her Jeep. Then, placing the bag in her lap, he shoved the truck in gear and headed back to town at a pace far slower than the one she’d used to get to the house.
Annie clutched her purse, only vaguely aware of her surroundings. She had the impression of genuine leather and a dashboard that had all the bells and whistles. The sort of truck that would be functional for work around a ranch but no doubt cost more than she made in a year. But her gaze remained glued to the dark, chiseled profile of her companion.
Safely tucked in his car with the warm air beginning to ease her shivers, there was nothing to distract her from Rafe’s sheer male beauty.
It was . . . nice.
Almost as if she was a normal girl being driven home by a man who she found intensely attractive.
A damned shame her brief daydream didn’t last for long.
All too soon they were back in town and he was turning into the drive of the motel. Rafe pulled to a halt in the center of the parking lot and glanced in her direction.
“Do you remember where you lived before coming to Newton?”
She froze at the abrupt question, too startled to tell him it was none of his damned business.
“Most of my memories from my early childhood are fuzzy. I think my dad said that we lived overseas, but it’s really just a blur,” she admitted.
It was weird. She had such a clear recollection of her time in Newton. Time with her father. Her friends at the school she’d attended. Climbing on top of the house so she could see her father in the distant fields.
But she never could capture any memories of her days before coming to Newton or the days after she’d been found tied and blindfolded in the bomb shelter.
“Why do you ask?”
“I thought you might have some family who could come to give you support,” he smoothly explained.
Her gaze narrowed. She sensed there was more to his question than he was admitting, but she was too tired to try and search for any hidden meanings.
“There are just my foster parents, and I don’t want to worry them,” she said.
He reached into his rear pocket, pulling out his wallet.
“Then I want your promise you’ll call me if you need anything,” he commanded, handing her a small business card.
She took the card with a frown, asking the question that had been bothering her from the moment their paths had crossed.
“Why are you so determined to help me?” she demanded. “I’m a stranger.”
He held her wary gaze. “It’s what I do.”
“Something like that.” He pointed toward the business card. “My private cell number is printed on the back. Call me . . . any time, for any reason.”
Tucking the card in her purse, she crawled out of the truck and hurried to her motel room.
Rafe and Annie both have traumatic events in their pasts that have shaped who they are. Neither were looking for love when they arrived in Newton, but with women disappearing, Rafe's protective instincts kick in with Annie. Her father was blamed for the serial killing 15 years ago, but now there seems to be a copycat following the same pattern. As Rafe and his friends start investigating, they discover secrets that bring new light to both past and recent events. I loved the camaraderie between the guys and the connection between Annie and Rafe. I wish there would have been more details about what happened to the guys in Afghanistan, but hopefully we will get them in future books.
Overall a good mystery romance with some twists. The men of ARES will definitely provide more good stories in the future.
I received an ARC via NetGalley for the purpose of an honest review. I was not compensated for this review, all conclusions are my own.
ALEXANDRA IVY graduated from Truman University with a degree in theatre before deciding she preferred to bring her characters to life on paper rather than stage. She currently lives in Missouri with her extraordinarily patient husband and teenage sons. To stay updated on Alexandra’s Guardian series or to chat with other readers, please visit her website at www.alexandraivy.com.