ALPHA SQUAD: Boot Camp
by Lorelei Moone
Alpha Squad #1
Publication Date: December 23, 2016
Genres: Adult, Paranormal Romance, Bear Shifters
Amazon CA: http://amzn.to/2hJyNSF
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2hJqKp3
It has only been a few months since humanity has found out about the shifters that live in their midst. When the New Alliance leadership asks Eric King to join Alpha Squad, a joint taskforce supposed to promote cooperation between the shifters and human authorities, his loyalty to the cause doesn’t give him any choice but to agree. But is the squad actually supposed to be relevant, or is it just an eyewash, set up by the new Secretary for Shifter Affairs to make himself look good? And how is he going to concentrate on his training, when his inner bear is insisting that the squad leader is his true mate?
Major Janine Williams is not at all pleased when she is ordered to set up Alpha Squad. The initiative is just a gimmick, meant to pacify the shifter community, plus none of her male colleagues had wanted the job. But when she starts getting to know her team, especially tough East London bear shifter, Eric, she starts to wonder if perhaps it will be possible to make this task force a success, so long as everyone works together. And so long as she can manage to keep her relationship with Eric strictly professional…
“Come in,” Janine answered the knock on her door.
Individual assessments were an essential part of training, but she was dreading one in particular this time. Eric King.
Of course it was him who had decided to come in first. She held her breath as she observed him enter her office. His movements were much more stealthy and refined than she would expect from someone of his stature. Was it deliberate?
Either way, hopefully, she could get this conversation out of the way quickly, so that she could move on to the easier subjects.
“Take a seat,” she offered.
Cadet King—she’d tried to force herself to think of him in those terms, even if it seemed wholly inappropriate—sat down. He made the substantial wood and leather chair in front of her desk look small underneath him.
Her heartbeat sped up against her will.
His eyes were fixed on her face as he folded his hands and waited for further instructions. Despite Callahan’s observations as well as her own concerns, he had been quite comfortable taking orders all morning. Was it just an act?
“I have a few questions for you, and it’s best if you are completely honest.” Janine shuffled a few of the papers on her desk, pretending to look for the checklist she had prepared earlier. In reality, she was just trying to avoid eye contact.
“Of course, Ma’am.”
His voice still affected her, perhaps even more so than the first time they’d spoken. He was so near and yet so unattainable. She could not wait for this torture to be over.
She glanced up into his eyes and immediately focused on the questionnaire again.
“Why are you here?” she started, folding her hands to resist the urge to fidget with the paperwork again.
“You called all of us in,” Cadet King—Eric—answered.
Janine shook her head. Don’t make this any more difficult than it has to be! “I mean generally. Why join Alpha Squad?”
He paused, stealing a glance downward, presumably at her lips. Her heart skipped a few beats, but she did her best to maintain the same steely expression.
You’re mine, a voice said in her head. Was it a voice, though? It sounded more like a low growl. Janine readjusted one hand on top of the other and continued to stare straight at the bear of a man in front of her. Now she was truly losing it.
“As you will have read in my file, I’ve been involved in the New Alliance. I just want to make a difference, Ma’am.”
And what a difference you’ve made already, Janine thought.
I’m here to claim you, the same voice in her head seemed to say. The hairs on her arms stood upright, tempting her to scratch herself, but she managed to resist the urge. Janine’s eye twitched involuntarily. What was that voice?
“In your own words: what is the purpose of Alpha Squad? The mission statement, if you will…”
Eric continued to look at her directly, his expression as calm as could be.
“To aid the traditional law enforcement agencies in any shifter related matters.”
Janine nodded and made a quick note in his file. “Let’s drill down, shall we? In concrete terms, what are we here for?”
“For example, shifter on shifter or shifter on human crime. We could more effectively investigate the shifters in question. We would be a bridge between the shifter community and the human government.”
Janine scribbled his response onto a further sheet of paper, rushing so much the end result was hardly legible. Still, if her previous interactions with this man were any indication, she wouldn’t need the notes to recall his answers word for word. This conversation would get re-played and analyzed over and over during those moments when she lay in bed at night with sleep still eluding her.
Whether she liked it or not.
“Very good. So would you say you are here because you believe Alpha Squad will continue to let you make a difference?” As soon as Janine finished her question, she listened for his response, as well as any more comments from that weird imaginary voice she’d heard before.
“Yes. Absolutely.” That was it. The other voice remained silent.
Janine glanced up at him briefly again. He sounded firm and determined, but there was something in his eyes that suggested that he was either hiding something or not completely convinced of his own answer.
Fair enough, neither was she. He talked the talk, though, and that was all that mattered for now.
She asked him a few more routine questions about his background, how he grew up, his skill set, and what he thought his strengths and weaknesses were, and that concluded the assessment. The mysterious voice seemed to have gone away by itself.
Her phone rang with impeccable timing.
“That’s all, then. Excuse me,” she said, gesturing at the phone.
Eric, no, Cadet King, nodded and started to get up while she lifted the receiver to her ear.
“Ma’am, the Secretary of Shifter Affairs is on the line for you. He wants an update on the Squad,” Callahan explained.
“No problem. Put him through.”
Janine watched as Eric left. That had gone pretty well, hadn’t it? She hoped she’d been able to disguise her discomfort well throughout his assessment.
Meanwhile, a voice she’d previously only heard in the media answered the other line. “Major Williams? This is Oliver Teese. You are the officer in charge of Alpha Squad, am I correct?”
“Secretary Teese, this is unexpected! Yes, Sir, I am. Training has only just begun, though…”
“No matter, I was hoping to receive regular updates from you throughout training anyway. This initiative is important to me, so I expect to be kept in the loop.”
Bloody brilliant. If Oliver Teese had his way, she would end up reporting on Alpha Squad’s failures to General Stone while telling Teese stories about how she was doing the best she could. What could possibly go wrong?
“Anything I can do to help, Sir.”
“Wonderful. Why don’t you tell me about your initial impressions of the recruits,” Oliver Teese said.
Janine rested her head in her hand. This was not how she liked to conduct her training. At least military men like Stone had a solid understanding of the unwritten rules and boundaries.
“As I said, it’s still early days. We have a lot of work to do just for assessment purposes. I would be more able to report on the trainees’ performance at the end of the first phase of boot camp,” she explained.
Oliver Teese sighed at the other end. He was obviously not pleased with her answer.
“I don’t need to remind you that you report to me now, do I? Alpha Squad was my project, and I intend to know what is going on with it.”
Janine rolled her eyes. His project. “I understand, Sir. It’s just that I have not even had the chance to individually assess each of the cadets yet. Reporting on their performance would be really premature.”
“Fine. But I do hope I can count on you to check in as soon as you have something to of note to tell me, yes?” Teese insisted.
Janine ran her hand over her smoothly tied back hair. “Of course, Sir.”
“All right then. I’ll be waiting for your call.” With that, Teese cut the connection.
At that very second, there was another knock on the door.
“Blackwood here. May I come in?” a voice asked.
“Just a moment,” Janine responded, as she dialed Callahan’s extension.
“Yes, Major?” the private answered.
“Could you get me a glass of water, please?” Janine put the phone down again and located Blackwood’s grade sheet on her desk.
Between resisting her attraction to Eric and warding off intrusive questions from politicians, Alpha Squad was turning into an even bigger headache than foreseen. Not to mention that weird voice she’d heard.
And this was only day one.
ABOUT LORELEI MOONE
Lorelei Moone is an up-and-coming author of paranormal romance based in London. A lover of all things sweet, and caffeinated, when she’s not writing about sexy bear shifters and their strong-willed curvaceous love interests, Lorelei can be found baking cookies or cakes for her family.