They’re broken in one way or another—society’s misfits. One man brought them together to forge a unique team of men. Each one chosen because they have nothing to lose. They’re a band of brothers who swore to right the wrongs and protect the innocent.
They’re dangerous, deadly, and they never play by the rules.
They are the Warrior Breed.
Trace Savage is a loner, a drifter, he doesn’t need anyone. He’s always been trouble. His mother was a prostitute in one of the raunchiest houses in New Orleans and your guess is as good as any who his father might be.
He dropped out of school and hit the streets when he turned thirteen, ended up in juvenile detention, and from there, the Army, but they didn’t want him either. Yeah, he still doesn’t follow orders very well.
Then he runs into a group of men. Men just like him, and everything changes. He’ll do whatever they ask, without hesitation. Even acting bodyguard to a spoiled rich lady who gets on his last nerve.
He doesn’t care that she’s all softness, delicate features, and has curves in all the right places. No way is he going to let his baser instincts take control, no matter how desirable she is. Not going to happen.
Willow’s mother tried to kill her. That day still haunts her, but over the years, she’s learned to hide her emotions. Until someone tries to kidnap her.
As the heir to a vast fortune, she’s always been a target, always had someone watching over her. Except her bodyguard is injured during the attempted kidnapping, so Willow’s grandmother turns to an old friend for help replacing him.
Is her grandmother getting senile? They call him Savage! He’s not bodyguard material. He’s crude, rude, and obnoxious and she’s feeling very vulnerable right now. He’s also the hottest man she’s ever been around, and he’s making her lose control!
"Willow, where are you, sweet baby?"
Willow's head jerked away from the TV screen and the cartoons she watched. Cold chills ran over her body, and her heart began to pound faster inside her chest. She recognized the voice: high-pitched, almost singsong. Maybe she'd only imagined it?
"Willow, Mommy has a surprise for you."
She clenched her fists as she jumped to her feet, her legs trembling so much they barely held her up. Where could she hide? She looked around the living room. Nowhere in here. Outside?
Her mother's footsteps were getting closer to the foyer as her heels clicked on the black and white tile floor.
Soon, Willow would have no place to run. She couldn’t take a deep breath as she backed up, her legs bumping the sofa. Her brain didn’t want to work.
“Willow, come see what Mommy has for you.” Laughter trilled after her words.
The bedroom! She ran up the stairs and down the hall, fumbled with the doorknob, and quickly slipped inside, closing it behind her as quietly as she could. Her gaze quickly scanned the room as a wave of dizziness washed over her.
"Willow, you left the TV on." Her mother's muffled words floated up the stairs.
She didn't have much time.
She hurried to the closet and started to open the door, but changed her mind. Mommy always looked there. A sob caught in her throat. She slapped a hand over her mouth. No sound! She couldn't make even a little one or Mommy would find her.
Under the bed? No, that wasn't good either. The toybox. Maybe if she got in there, Mommy would give up and go away, and she wouldn't hurt her this time.
She opened the top and quickly scrambled inside, then pulled it closed. Think good thoughts, she told herself. Like when Mommy pulled her close and smiled down at her. The way she’d make pancakes that looked like funny animals. Or when they went to the beach. Mommy wasn’t always bad. She wasn’t.
A door down the hall opened. The bathroom? Maybe.
Her door squeaked open a moment later.
Willow held her breath.
"Are we playing hide and seek?"
She didn't move. Please, don't let her find me, she silently prayed.
"Now, where can you be? Under the bed? No, not there. The closet?” There was the sound of the door opening. “Not there either. Mommy's little girl hid very well this time." The lid to the toy box crashed open. "But I always find you." Her high-pitched laughter filled the room.
"Mommy, please don't hurt me." Her words trembled. “I love you, Mommy.”
"Hurt you? My precious little girl? Now, why would I hurt you?" She gripped Willow's arm, fingernails digging into the tender flesh.
Willow began to whimper as warm liquid ran down her legs. Please don’t let Mommy see that I wet myself! She dared a glance at her mother's face. It was twisted and contorted, becoming something evil.
"Willow, you've had an accident. I thought you were through wetting yourself. After all, you’re almost ten years old. Well, this won't do. Daddy will be home soon, and we must look pretty for him. I know, I'll give you a bath, and we'll fix your hair really nice. You can wear the new party dress that Daddy bought you for your birthday. You remember when you went out shopping a few days ago. Neither one of you thought that I might want to go."
"But you said you had a headache. You told us to leave so you could take a nap."
"But I didn't tell you to buy the dress, now did I?"
"Now, let’s go make you look pretty."
She began dragging Willow toward the bathroom down the hall. It would do no good to fight her. Mommy was stronger, and she always won, but still, Willow dragged her feet all the way.
Mommy was breathing hard when she shoved the bathroom door open, and it bounced against the wall. The faucet was already on, and she could see the steam rising off the hot water in the tub. Mommy pushed her down onto the toilet seat. She flinched when Mommy grabbed the scissors and turned back toward her.
"First, we're going to fix your hair."
"Please don't, Mommy."
"But you want to look pretty for Daddy, right? After all, he called you Princess. Apparently, I'm no longer his princess." She began to cut.
Daddy always said she had beautiful hair, just like Mommy, but now she watched as the long blonde curls fell on the floor. Her scalp burned as Mommy pulled tight on the long strands of hair and cut them off close to her head. When her mother finished, she held a mirror in front of her.
"Now, don't you look pretty, little Princess?"
She began to cry.
"Oh, no tears now. Daddy will love your hair. Let's get you bathed before he gets home."
She grabbed her around the chest and dragged her over to the tub, swinging her in.
The water burned her legs. "It's hot!" She tried to get out, but her mother pushed her back.
"It will make your skin glow. Daddy will love it."
She pushed her head under the water. Willow’s arms splashed as she tried to get out, but Mommy was stronger. She tried to hold her breath as long as she could, but she couldn't fight anymore.
Mommy pulled her back up, face contorted in her fury.
“See, isn’t this a fun game!” she growled. With one hand fisted in her shirt, she grabbed Willow by the chin and glared at her. "I hate you. I never wanted you. You’re ugly and lazy. Why he dotes on you, I don't know. I was always the pretty one. The one he adored. Then you came along. I knew you would take him away from me."
"Mommy, please don't," she whimpered.
"I hate you! I hate you!" she screamed.
She shoved her head under the water again.
Willow couldn’t struggle anymore.
"Julie, what the hell are you doing?"
Daddy's voice came from a long way off. Then she was jerked out of the water. She began to cough and choke, vomiting the water she’d swallowed.
"I was bathing her so she would look pretty for you. Don't you want your little princess to look pretty?"
Willow began to cry, and she couldn't stop coughing as her father rushed down the stairs with her cradled in his arms.
"It'll be okay, baby. Daddy will get you some help."
She glanced over his shoulder as he laid her on the floor of the foyer. Mommy stood at the top of the stairs with a strange look on her face.
Her father pulled out his phone and punched in some numbers. "Yes, I need an ambulance. My wife tried to drown our daughter. Yes, she's breathing, but she's been vomiting a lot of water." He gave the address and then ended the call.
"Are we having company then?" Her mother frowned. "Look at me. I'm a mess. I have water all over my clothes. I must get changed. Your mother would have a hissy-fit if she knew I greeted guests looking like this." She turned and went toward her bedroom.
Her father hugged her close. "I'm so sorry. I didn't know she’d stopped taking her medicine. My poor little girl. What has she done to you?"
The sirens were faint at first but grew louder. Willow felt as though she had slipped outside her body and watched everything from a distance. Men came running into the house and hurried over to her. More men came in and raced up the stairs. Her mother smiled as they brought her down, a man on each side holding her arms.
"Would you like some hors d'oeuvres. I can have the housekeeper make a tray." She frowned. "No, I told her to take off today. I'm sure I can find something, though."
"Will my daughter be okay?" her father asked.
"She’s in shock. The doctor will check her out once we get her to the hospital."
"And my wife?"
The man taking care of Willow looked at her father funny. His lips pressed into a thin line. "I'm sure they'll take good care of her, too."
Willow didn't really remember the ride to the hospital. Some of the neighbors came outside and watched everything that was going on. Grandmother was going to be mad. Grandmother always said you don't draw attention to yourself. We had a reputation to take care of. Willow wasn't quite sure what a reputation was, but it must be pretty important because Grandmother talked about it all the time.
There were a lot more people at the hospital swarming around her like busy bees. They were friendly, though. She heard them talking about water in her lungs and pneumonia.
Then Grandmother got there. Willow knew her mad look. She was wearing it right now. They stepped out of her room, but she could still hear their voices.
"How could you let this happen?" Grandmother hissed.
"I didn't know she was off her meds again."
"She almost killed her this time. No more. Willow comes with me."
"Dammit, she's my daughter!"
"If she doesn't come with me, the money will stop. Now, which will it be?"
There was a long silence.
Later, when Willow was all better and living with Grandmother, she realized which choice her father had made. Apparently, she wasn't his little princess after all.