Morning My Angel by Sue Brown

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Blurb:

Josh Cooper, top US security field agent, is sent on an inter-agency assignment to London, when a partner in his firm goes missing in suspicious circumstances. Used to working in sole charge of his well-honed team, he clashes heads with the handsome, but pompous Cal, his UK co-operator and superior. Josh’s gut tells him something is wrong. He’s being kept out of the loop and Cal’s agenda is running on a different path.

He also has a personal issue to deal with. He’s involved in a cyber-relationship with “Charlie”, an unknown man who connected with Josh by accident. Their banter has led to deeper respect and a sexual interest, but now Josh is faced with a growing attraction to Cal. Between this conflict and the tension of the mission, Josh’s heart and head are overworked and confused. Things can’t get much worse.

Then Josh discovers the enemies he’s seeking have a new target: him.

Excerpt:

The message popped up as soon as Josh Cooper logged on.

“Morning Angel.”

Josh blew the message a kiss and typed a greeting in return.

“Morning Charlie. Need coffee.”

Any further communication would have to wait until Josh found caffeine. After two years Charlie knew Josh wasn’t in the mood to talk until his blood stream was eighty per cent caffeine.

Of course, Josh wasn’t really Angel and Charlie was… whoever he was… but if they wanted to greet each other like relics from a seventies TV show then it was no one’s business but their own. Their relationship—if IM could be called a relationship—had started two weeks after Josh began at CDR, when CDR053 had messaged Josh by mistake. When he wouldn’t give his name, Josh had dubbed the mysterious stranger Charlie. The minute Charlie had called Josh his angel; Josh knew Charlie was sent by his goddess, Farrah Fawcett, to brighten his existence. But he didn’t hear from Charlie every day. Sometimes weeks would go by without a word but, when he’d log on and receive a “Morning Angel”, Josh would send up a thanks to Farrah for making his day golden.

Josh blew one more kiss at the computer even though Charlie couldn’t see it, and wandered off to find live-saving coffee. It was just after nine in the morning and he was about to drink cup number four, which would elevate him from zombie to almost human. He was unashamedly addicted and if he encountered one of those ‘green tea plucked from the Himalayas only on a full moon in a month beginning with Z’ types he wouldn’t apologize for what came out of his mouth. He liked his coffee black and strong, just like his… dog. Josh didn’t have a dog either.

Whenever he said that people would smirk at him and he’d smirk back. He didn’t care what they thought he was going to say. Josh didn’t give a fuck if his men were black, white, built or tiny. When a guy tried it on, Josh stabbed a finger in his chest. “If you think picking me up and banging me against a wall is a sign of a real man you can think again. ‘Sides, I can probably put you on the floor before you lay on finger on me.” And then he would demonstrate. Josh was a show-not-tell man, and the guys who picked themselves up and ran away weren’t worth his time of day. Enough of them dusted off their butt and stayed to make the demonstration worthwhile.

Josh filled his mug with fresh brewed coffee, took a huge swallow, topped off the mug again and returned to his desk at a leisurely pace, waving to the receptionist as he rounded the corner. She blew him a crimson lip-sticked kiss and he caught it, slapped it to his ass and grinned as she giggled. He sat at his desk, pleased to see the cursor still flashing, and typed a quick “Back again.”

“Been caught by Dominic yet?”

“Not yet.” Josh had slid past the operations manager’s office in the hope of being undetected. He couldn’t cope with Dominic Cook prior to being caffeinated. Charlie found Josh’s fractious relationship with Dominic endlessly amusing. Josh had another word—many words— for their working relationship. Amusing wasn’t one of them.

“Did you hide from him?”

Josh pulled a face at the screen. Charlie knew him far too well. “It’s too early to deal with him.”

“Coward.”

“Sensible.”

It was all right for Charlie to fling random accusations around when he didn’t work for Dominic. Josh wasn’t entirely sure what Charlie did for CDR and Charlie was annoyingly closed-mouthed.

CDR, named after its founder, Callum David Ross, provided security for anyone who needed it; whether they were celebrities, big companies, or wealthy individuals who could afford CDR’s resources.

Two years ago, Josh had been head-hunted from his former company after he saved one of CDR’s high profile clients from an assassination attempt. Josh always maintained he was just in the wrong place at the right time but, after a cutting interview with Dominic which felt like he’d had the close hairs shaved off his balls; Josh was employed as part of a field team dealing with low profile but high risk clients. The rest of his team were currently two floors up in the gym beating the living shit out of each other. They were the muscle; Josh was the brains. At least in theory. Josh didn’t want to test it out. He had a feeling both men were more than capable of beating him in both brains and brawn.

Charlie left a new message. “You’ve got a new assignment.”

Josh frowned at the screen. “How do you know that?”

“You know I’m not going to tell you my sources.”

“Fuck. I’ve just got back from the last one. Mr. Truffles is gonna be pissed.”

Josh had recently been adopted by a chocolate brown cat who’d moved in one day and showed no signs of leaving. So far his neighbor had seen more of Mr. Truffles than he had.

“You know Eileen will love to have him again.”

“That’s what I’m worried about, Charlie. I swear one day she won’t give him back.”

“Angel.”

“Yes?”

“Be careful.”

Josh didn’t think Charlie was talking about the potential loss of a cat. He huffed and stabbed at his keyboard. “I’m always careful. You know that.” He’d built his reputation on protecting his clients and his team.

“I know, Angel. But this isn’t like your usual assignments.”

Josh could almost hear Charlie trying to sooth him but he was still feeling huffy. “I’ll do my job. You know. What I’m paid for.”

“I know you will. Just watch your back. Sorry, Angel. I’ve got to go.”

Josh stared at the screen for a long moment. He’d always suspected Charlie was high up in CDR’s ranks, but for Charlie to know about the assignments before he did only confirmed Josh’s suspicions.

“Cooper!”

Josh looked up to see his flame-haired operations manager waving from conference room one. “You yelled, oh great one?”

“Cut the crap,” Dominic growled. “It’s too early.”

“Yes, sir!” Josh saluted him smartly.

Dominic growled again. “Get the boys down here now!”

Josh sent a text to both members of his team and then sat back in his chair to finish his coffee. There was no point in rushing. They would take six minutes and forty-five seconds to shower and arrive from two floors up. In the meantime, he wondered whatever the hell was so serious that it had stuck a bug up Dominic’s butt and worried Charlie. He pulled out his notebook and logged this crisis under number 5440. Josh definitely had OCD tendencies, although not many people noticed until they discovered he never forgot anything, invariably to their cost.

After six minutes Josh headed into the conference room, a full mug of coffee in his hand. Dominic was staring pensively out of the rain-lashed window. He didn’t turn around as Josh entered so Josh took his usual seat and waited for Dominic to acknowledge him. Forty-five seconds later when the rest of the team arrived, Dominic was still staring out of the window.

Landry and Gil Grover, the so-called muscle of his team, took the seats flanking Josh. Twins, six-foot-four, dark skin and dark eyes, they were basically sex on legs. Josh had entertained more than one fantasy about being the filling in that particularly muscled sandwich. Unfortunately, they were both straight, laughed hysterically at the idea of being in the same bed and rejected the offer of Josh’s dick on numerous occasions. He kept trying though, for form’s sake. At least now they rejected him without threatening to rearrange his face. Josh didn’t take it personally. He was born to flirt. Sometimes he got lucky.

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