Title: Ultimate Courage
Author: Piper J. Drake
Series: True Heroes #2
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: July 26, 2016
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing- Forever
Print Length: 336 pages
Format: Digital and Mass Market Paperback
LOVE IS AN ACT OF BRAVERY…
Retired Navy SEAL Alex Rojas is putting his life back together, one piece at a time. Being a single dad to his young daughter and working at Hope’s Crossing Kennels to help rehab a former guard dog, he struggles every day to control his PTSD. But when Elisa Hall shows up, on the run and way too cautious, she unleashes his every protective instinct.
Elisa’s past never stays in her rearview mirror for long, and she refuses to put anyone else in danger. But with Alex guarding her so fiercely yet looking at her so tenderly, she’s never felt safer . . . or more terrified that the secrets she keeps could put countless people in grave peril. The only way for both to fully escape their demons will take the ultimate act of courage: letting go and learning to trust each other.
Beautiful blue-gray eyes met his briefly before the woman dropped her own gaze to focus on someplace lower on his face, like his nose or mouth. Subtle. Most people would probably not even notice the way she avoided direct eye contact.
But then again, not many people made eye contact a challenge the way he and his colleagues did. It wasn’t on purpose, really; more of a common quirk in their personalities.
Funny, he hadn’t expected to see her again. Okay, maybe he’d been hoping to find her at Revolution MMA for those self-defense classes he’d recommended. But here she was. A weird tingle jolted through his chest.
This woman was about as non-aggressive as possible without cowering outright. Despite her upright posture, her hands hung at her sides in a loose, non-defensive position. Her left wrist was covered in a brace and it was easy to see she held something in her right hand. She was far enough back on the landing to easily drop down a step or two without having to back up more than a few inches.
But the mannerisms didn’t fit her energy, the straightness of her shoulders, or the set of her jaw. Whoever this woman was, she’d developed habits. She wasn’t a mouse by nature. He wouldn’t be as irritated to see these behaviors if these things came naturally to her.
Who had forced her to assume those mannerisms to survive?
“Mr. Rojas.” Her voice was steady.
Another sign of her being more than what she seemed, as far as he was concerned. The timbre was almost soothing, and he realized he’d balled his hands into fists. Well, shit. He let his hands loosen.
She presented the object she held in her right hand. “I think your daughter left this behind at the ER last night. I hope you don’t mind, but the logo for the kennels was on the inside label, so I googled the address.”
Slowly—because he didn’t want her to snatch her hand back—he took the glove from her. “Thanks.”
“The hospital lost and found was overflowing, and I wanted to make sure Boom got her glove back,” the woman continued, then bit her lip. “And I wanted to be sure to thank you.” Her cheeks took on a fascinating pale pink blush.
Caught by surprise, Rojas raised his eyebrows. “Me?”
Maybe his tone had been the right encouragement, because she looked up again, her gaze meeting his, and the chemistry shocked him right down to his toes, hitting every vital organ—including his balls—along the way.
Blue-gray, cool as a calm day out on the water, her gaze held his. “You were very kind last night, and I didn’t thank you then. I try to thank the kind people I meet. So thank you.”
Rojas cleared his throat. “You’re welcome.”
He didn’t know what else to say. He’d only given her some ice, a cup of coffee, and a card about the martial arts center. Boom had a good sense for people, and when she’d said the woman needed the referral for the self-defense classes, he’d been inclined to agree.
She broke their eye contact, and he felt the loss as if someone had broken the circuit on an electrical current. “I should be going now.”
“Wait.” He didn’t know what made him ask her to. But she paused, balanced on the balls of her feet at the edge of the landing. He was sure if he didn’t catch her now she’d be gone for good. “I didn’t get your name.”
“Oh.” She turned to face him. Another sign that she’d learned caution but she wasn’t afraid by nature. She was open. A people person. Or at least more of one than he was. “Elisa Hall.”
I am loving this series!
The combination of knowing Alex and his daughter Boom from the first book ( Extreme Honor ) and having read the first chapter of this book at the end of that one guaranteed that I was going to have to read this one ASAP. It didn’t disappoint–once I’d started, I was pretty much good for nothing else until I’d finished. The perils of reading well-written romantic suspense… 😉
Alex and Elisa had great chemistry together (which helps make up for the insta-lust at the beginning of the book), and the “stalker ex” storyline–especially when the ex is someone with power and influence–is always good for ratcheting up the suspense in a story. I loved that Alex’s perceptiveness clued him in almost immediately that Elisa had some major issues with trust and that she was probably on the run from someone or something, and that he was able to understand it and put her at ease. Souse, the German Shepherd dog that Alex had been trying to find a new job for, was one of my favorite secondary characters in the book, and I loved the purpose they do finally find for him.
And don’t even get me started on Boom. I love that kid.
The book’s ending is a bit rushed–the way in which Alex and Elisa are separated and the tie-in to an ongoing issue from the first book were both on the abrupt side and almost too convenient, and it’s not clear what Elisa is going to be doing with herself professionally by the book’s end (though presumably we can find out from Brandon and Sophie’s story, Absolute Trust )–combined, these are the main reasons for the overall four instead of four-and-a-half star rating that I would have given the first 80% of the story. Still, it was one heck of a ride, and once again seeing the characters from the next book here and that gosh darn teaser excerpt at the end has me all but salivating for the next book in the series.
Ultimate Courage can absolutely be read as a standalone, though the bit at the very end will make more sense if you’ve read David and Lyn’s story. Since Brandon’s won’t be out until December(!), though, there’s plenty of time to read them both. 🙂
Rating: 4 stars / A-
I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
Also in this series:
About Piper J. Drake:
Piper J. Drake (or “PJ”) began her writing career as “PJ Schnyder” writing sci-fi & paranormal romance and steampunk. She has recently received the FF&P PRISM award for her work as well as the NJRW Golden Leaf award and Parsec award.
Now, PJ is exploring the complexity of romantic suspense, incorporating her interests in mixed martial arts and the military into her writing.