It began with an unspoken attraction. He is her protector. He promised her brother, his best friend, he would keep her safe…body, heart, and soul…

They’ve been friends for years, during the war and after they relied on each other. Now Max is in trouble and he has where else to turn. Will Victor be able to help him? Will Victor agree to protect Ava? Or will all be lost…

Victor’s friend says he is in trouble and make him promise to protect his sister. Three days later Max is gunned down. Was he really in trouble? With what? And why?


Chapter One

The rain poured down his neck as he stood by Ava’s side. Spine erect, Ava stared forward never moving. The crowd was small. Not many had shown for the early morning burial.

Speaking loudly to be heard over the drip, drip, drip of the falling rain, the preacher extolled the virtues of his once best friend, Max McClane. The man told how Max had left an “imprint” on many lives in his brief time here on earth. From his perspective not one person who knew Max came away untouched. So at the end of the preacher’s sermon, he instructed each visitor who had been touched by Max to come by the casket and place their handprint on the shiny wood, thereby leaving their own “imprint” for Max to take with him.

Victor gulped back tears as he followed the mourners. How had this all happened?

Three days ago:

Victor Mitchell paced the small office. Worry held his fist clenched. Max had called. All he’d said was “I’m in trouble. Can you come?” Victor had dropped the phone and gotten the next plane ticket.

Arrival back in the small southern town hadn’t been what he’d expected. The lukewarm welcome for one of their own was new to him. The last time he arrived on a plane in this very airport there had been a parade and fanfare, he’d come back a war hero. Now no one knew who he was. He was just another person getting off a plane. Possibly another annoying tourist.

After about an hour of sitting in the glass paneled office, Max walked in. His suit was rumpled, his hair dishelved, black circles rested under his eyes. He looked like he hadn’t slept in weeks.

Victor hurried over, hands outstretched ready to greet his long time friend. But before any words could be spoken, Max started pacing. Words came out of his mouth in a ramble while eyes shifted around the room in an agitated manner.

“Victor. I’m so glad you came. Don’t sit down, there isn’t time. Look I’m sorry to do this, I really am, but I need something from you.”

Sarcasm rested on the tip of Victor’s tongue but he never got a chance to express it as Max continued. “I need you to promise me that if something happens to me you will protect Ava.”

“What?” a brow rose in confusion.

“Promise me. If anything happens you will protect Ava.”

Victor nodded. Max visibly relaxed. A smile twitched at the corner of his lips as he went to sit behind his massive oak desk. As he leaned back to sit in a swivel desk chair, the phone rang. Placing the receiver to his ear, Max said, “I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

The grimace directed Victor’s way sent a chill down his spine. “Thanks for coming Victor. Hopefully I’ll see you soon.” Max started to walk out the door but turned around quickly and came back to Victor, hands placed on his upper arms, Max stared intently into his friends eyes and said, “Don’t forget your promise.”

“I won’t,” said Victor, as he watched Max turn on his heel and leave for the last time.

Present:

The funeral was over and now Victor had a promise to fulfill. As he watched Ava McClane saying good-bye to those who loved her now deceased brother, Victor realized what he’d gotten himself into. Not only had he volunteered to protect someone from an unknown threat but he’d also volunteered to protect a woman who he loved and always would. What would happen now?