Breaking the Rules (Troubleshooters Series)

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9781441850737: Breaking the Rules (Troubleshooters Series)

Izzy Zanella wasn’t looking for another reason to butt heads with his Navy SEAL teammate, and nemesis, Danny Gillman. But then he met Danny’s beautiful younger sister, Eden. When she needed it most, he offered her a place to stay, a shoulder to cry on — and more. And when she got pregnant with another man’s child, he offered her marriage. But Eden’s devastating miscarriage shattered their life together — and made the intense bad blood between Izzy and Danny even worse. Now Eden’s back, and she’s on a mission to rescue her teen brother, Ben, from their abusive stepfather. Even if she and Izzy can prove that their broken marriage is still in one piece, winning legal custody of Ben is a long shot. But they’re not alone: Danny and his girlfriend, Jenn, offer to help, and he and Izzy agree to bury the past and fight for Ben’s future. As they plan their strategy, Izzy and Eden grapple with the raw passion that still crackles between them — while Danny and Jenn confront new depths in their own rocky relationship. But events take a terrifying turn after Ben befriends a girl fleeing a child prostitution ring. When the young runaway seeks refuge with Eden and Izzy, her pursuers kidnap Ben — and a deadly standoff begins. Now they must all pull together like never before and strike back, swift and hard, to protect their unconventional little family and everything they hold most precious.

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About the Author:

Since her explosion onto the publishing scene more than ten years ago, Suzanne Brockmann has written more than forty books, and is now widely recognized as one of the leading voices in romantic suspense. Her work has earned her repeated appearances on the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists, as well as numerous awards, including Romance Writers of America’s #1 Favorite Book of the Year - three years running in 2000, 2001, and 2002 - two RITA awards, and many Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Awards. Suzanne Brockmann lives west of Boston with her husband, author Ed Gaffney.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One


Thursday, 16 April 2009

It happened so fast.

The IED-a car bomb, had to be-went off in the middle of the busy neighborhood.

One minute Izzy Zanella was letting Mark Jenkins use him as a sounding board for the pros and cons of putting in an offer on a house before he and his wife, Lindsey, sold their condo-which was ridiculous, because Izzy had never owned property in his thirty years of life and wasn't likely to change from being a renter anytime soon. But that was probably why Jenk was bouncing his thoughts off Izzy-because said thoughts would, absolutely, bounce.

Of course, their Navy SEAL teammate and resident pain in the ass Danny- Danny-bo-banny Gillman had never owned property either, but he had an Opinion with a capital O on the subject-and that O stood for boring. Dan had spent most of the morning dourly warning Jenkie to not even think about buying anything in this craphell market-not until they had a buyer for the condo locked in.

Jenk, however, was in love-and not just with his adorable yet kick-ass wife. He was in love with his entire life, including Lindsey's whoopsie-daisy pregnancy. It had just happened, or rather, they'd just found out about it. And even though they had nearly eight full months before Baby Day, Jenk really, really wanted to buy what was, without a doubt, his idea of the perfect house, particularly since it sat three perfect houses down from the equally perfect home of SEAL Team Sixteen's former CO, Tommy Paoletti, whom Markie-Mark still loved nearly as much as Lindsey and their fabulous life.

And Izzy had to admit that living down the street from Tommy, who had a more-the-merrier policy to his almost-weekly cookouts, would be pretty flipping great.

Jenkins didn't want to hear any more of Gillman's doom and gloom, which was why he was walking next to Izzy and saying, "If it turns out we can't sell the condo, we can always go to Plan B-"

Which was when the world went boom.

Izzy went from nodding his agreement to soul-kissing the street and inhaling rancid water from a puddle that was part yak piss, part toxic sludge.

He rolled over to do a quick head count of his teammates and encountered Dan Gillman, who was doing the exact same thing, his hand on Izzy's leg-the better to shake him with.

"Zanella, Christ, are you all right?" Gillman asked, far more urgently than Izzy would have expected, considering that Izzy's main reason for finding Dan such a royal pain in the ass was the fact that Dan thought Izzy was the world's biggest load. And he'd come to his opinion about that long before Izzy had gone and married Danny's little sister, Eden, which had, inarguably, made things even more awkward.

In the best of times, they were frenemies. In the worst, they gave in to their animosity, at which point one of their fists usually ended up in the other's face.

And it was usually Danny's fist and Izzy's face. Although they'd definitely vice versa'd it a time or two in the recent past.

Izzy had to spit out the yak piss before he could do more than nod, but then he remembered that it wasn't too long ago that Dan had had the unnerving experience of witnessing a Marine who'd been standing a few scant inches away from him get hit by shrapnel from a similar explosion.

The kid had bled out in a matter of minutes, despite Dan's frantic attempts at first aid.

"I'm fine," Izzy reassured him. Their SEAL teammates-Jenkins, Tony V., and Lopez-were all fine, too, thank God.

In fact, Lopez was so fine, he was already running toward the smoke and flames. Izzy scrambled to his feet and followed, with Jenk, Tony, and Gillman hot on his heels.

They'd been a mere four blocks away from the former marketplace that was the bomb's ground zero, and as they approached, the chaos increased.

More than one bus was on its side. Other cars were flipped upside down, one of them burning.

Civilians were everywhere. Crying. Bleeding. Some of them were running away, some not doing much of anything but lying, dazed, where they'd fallen, slapped down by the blast's giant invisible hand.

The United States Marines, God bless 'em, were already on the scene, a female officer coolly and efficiently taking command of the rescue effort-getting the injured people out of the vehicles, evacuating the surrounding buildings, putting out the fires.

Izzy's ears were still ringing, but he saw what Lopez was doing with the hot Marine lieutenant's blessing. He was creating a first-aid station for the injured, right there on the sidewalk.

Sirens were wailing in the distance, emergency vehicles coming from every direction. But the streets were filled not just with people but with rubble and smoke, and holy shit, the front of an entire row of buildings, including his favorite shawarma stand, had been blown to hell. And the crater from the bomb had made the street here beyond the marketplace impassable every way but from the north.

Help was coming, but it wasn't going to arrive soon enough.

But Lopez was a hospital corpsman-the Navy equivalent of an Army medic- and he was focused on saving the lives that he could. Normally soft- spoken, he was using his outdoor voice to inform any other medical personnel on the scene about his makeshift triage area.

It was then, as Izzy was pointing out Lopez to an ancient woman who was half carrying her bloody and dazed nearly-elderly-himself son, that he noticed Mark Jenkins was looking a little pale. The height- challenged SEAL was holding his right wrist tight against his side, as if he'd jammed it bad when he'd forcefully come into close personal contact with the street.

"Y'okay?" Izzy stepped closer to ask, exactly as Dan, too, came over and inquired, "Jenkins, are you hurt?"

Jenk shook his head in a mix of both yes and no. "Help me find a piece of wood for a splint."

"Shit," Izzy said as he helped Danny sift through the rubble of what used to be that restaurant. "Is it broken?"

The owner had survived, thank God, but he was sitting now among the debris, stunned. "Hang on, Mr. Wahidi," Izzy called to the man. "I'll be right over to help you."

Everything was either too big or too splintered or too full of nasty- ass nails.

"A brace," Jenkins corrected himself as he bent to pick up a piece of what had once been a sign for tea. "I meant a brace. Son of a bitch."

His wrist was definitely broken.

He turned another more greenish shade of pale, his golly-gee freckles standing out on his nose, because he'd jarred his arm trying to measure it against that piece of wood.

"Maybe you should sit down, bro," Gillman suggested, which was stupid. No way was Jenkins going to sit down and surrender to a relatively mild injury when there were so many more severely wounded people to assist.

Of course, maybe Dan only meant it, like, Maybe you should sit down for a sec, bro, because it is going to hurt like a screaming bitch when we belt your arm to that splint.

But any mention of giving in to the pain would have pissed Izzy off royally were he in Jenk's tiny boots, so he took charge. "He's fine where he is," he told Dan, told Jenkins, too, because the man looked like he needed encouragement, and adding to Dan, "Don't bother with your belt."

Izzy found his spare bungee cords in his vest pocket and pulled out a couple. Those little suckers were useful, even when the SEALs weren't up in the mountains. They would work better than a belt to keep Jenk's broken arm supported by that piece of wood.

The wood, however, left much to be desired. So Izzy tossed Dan the cords, reaching down and untying his own bootlaces, even as he told Jenk, "I say go for it. Buy the house of your dreams."

As he'd expected, Danny objected, which was good. Jenk needed a little distraction. "And hold two mortgages if the condo doesn't sell?" Dan said.

"Sure, why not?" Izzy quickly stripped off his sock. It was a little soggy and extremely aromatic, but it would do the trick.

Dan was sputtering. "Because . . . it's insane?" But he saw what Izzy was doing and held out his hand for the sock and covered the piece of wood's ragged end with it, even as Izzy jammed his bare foot back into his boot.

"No, it's not," Izzy told Jenkins as he took the sock-covered wood from Dan and tested it against his own hand. Not great, but much better. Uncovered, that slice of raw wood would've scraped the shit out of Jenkie's palm. His sock gave it at least a little bit of padding and protection. "Because if you don't sell it, you can rent it. That's a great Plan B, my brother. You know, my lease is up in a month. I could be your tenant."

Jenk and Lindsey's condo was much nicer than his current place-which stupidly still reeked of memories of Izzy's too-short marriage to Eden. Although how that could be, Izzy didn't understand. He'd been married to her for . . . what? A week? Damn, he'd only made love to her once-but it had been in his bed, in his bedroom, in his stupid, stupid apartment, on their wedding night.

It had been an event of momentous importance that Izzy still dreamed about-both feverishly at night and in unguarded moments during the daytime, when his thoughts wandered off to a fantasyland where wishes came true.

Not only was Eden uncommonly beautiful with her big brown eyes and lustrously dark hair, her flawless smooth skin, heart-shaped face, that sensual mouth that was quick to smile. But she also got Izzy's jokes. She spoke his language. She was funny and smart and courageous, and yes, a little bit crazy. Reckless. Unafraid to dance to a different drummer.

All that, plus a body that didn't quit . . . ?

Back when they'd first met, Izzy'd fallen in lust with her at first sight, and solidly in love within the first five minutes they'd talked. But she didn't stay in San Diego for long. She left almost immediately, to visit her Army sergeant father in Germany.

But then, six months later, when Eden had resurfaced back in the States, she'...

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