The Call of Bravery

By: Janice Kay Johnson

The ultimate test of courage

No emotional connection means zero risk of being hurt. DEA agent Conall MacLachlan has learned that the hard way. And it’s been the key to his survival. So why is his latest assignment getting to him? Could be that he’s back in the town he rejected years ago. But he suspects the real reason is Lia Woods.

He’s instantly and powerfully attracted to Lia—something that’s never happened to him. And running a surveillance operation from her house has them too close—he can’t catch his breath. Between her and her foster kids, Conall feels the domestic ties tighten…yet it’s not so bad. He just needs to be brave enough to take what Lia offers.

“Ready to go in?”

Conall rose to his feet in a smooth motion and held out a hand.

Touching him might be…risky. Still, Lia reached out and let his hand close around hers.

And knew immediately that she’d been right.

His warm clasp felt better than almost anything she could remember. Strong, safe…and yet not safe.

With a gentle tug, he boosted her to her feet. They ended up no more than a foot apart. Her breath caught in her throat. Neither of them moved. He didn’t release her. She wanted, quite desperately, for him to pull her closer, until her body bumped up against his. She wanted him to kiss her.

And she knew letting that happen would be stupid. He was here only for a little while, and she suffered enough every time a child left her. She couldn’t bear anything else temporary in her life.

Yet the temptation...

Dear Reader,

I find myself feeling a little sad at introducing Conall MacLachlan to you, because it means saying goodbye. I don’t know when I’ve been as drawn to my characters as I was writing this trilogy. I fell in love with each brother. Their shared childhood meant they all had major issues, but not the same ones. Conall was the youngest, the most vulnerable, when his family dissolved and the big brother he’d adored sacrificed all to keep the boys together—but in doing so became a tyrant.

In his head, Conall knows that his brother saved him; at twelve, Conall was angry, constantly in fights, drinking alcohol, even going so far as stealing a car. He was in trouble because neither of his parents cared enough to stop him. Duncan did care—but Conall grew to hate his brother’s rules, his brother’s rigidity…his brother. When The Call of Bravery opens, Conall hasn’t been home in over ten years. He’d never intended to come home, but his job brings him back. And now everything he remembered, everything he believed, gets shaken up and settles in a different way.

Of course, a woman has something to do with that. No surprise that Conall has vowed never to have a family—not when his memories are so terrible. I figured he needed to confront his worst fears in a big way, so I made him move in with a beautiful, generous, compassionate woman who has a houseful of foster children—including two recently orphaned boys who remind Conall of himself.

Oh, I loved shaking up this man who believed himself invulnerable and who turns out to be the most vulnerable of the three MacLachlan brothers! Wow. Making the hero of my next book measure up is going to be a real challenge.

Good reading!

Janice Kay Johnson


CONALL MACLACHLAN SLUMPED on the bathroom floor, his back against the tub, a wet washcloth pressed to his face. One eye had already swollen shut, and the other lid barely opened. His nose wouldn’t quit gushing blood. He could taste it in his throat, and thinking about it, he lunged forward barely in time to retch into the toilet. Afterward he stumbled to his feet to rinse his mouth out and then brush his teeth. Neither helped much when blood kept pumping from his nose and running down his upper lip.

He wet then wrung out the washcloth again and lifted it to his face. His hand paused briefly as he caught a glimpse of his face with the swelling, bruising, a puffed lip, two black eyes that were going to be hideous, blood…and tears.

He didn’t cry. He didn’t! He was nine years old, way too old to weep like a little girl. But he felt…he felt… A sob tore its way free and he crumpled again, pressing the cold cloth to his face to stifle blood and tears both.

He’d been beaten up before. He was a shrimp for his age, and hated it. When other boys shouldered him aside or knocked him down for the fun of it, he hit back. Every time, he knew he’d lose, but he couldn’t seem to help himself. He was so full of rage, even he didn’t understand it.

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