Sophie’s First Date

This story takes place several years after the end of Reset.

For as long as Sophie McKay could remember, she’d lived in the center of London, not far from Victoria train station. But it hadn’t always been that way. Until she was three, she’d lived in Scotland with her mum and older brother. She didn’t remember much about Scotland, only that it was where her dad found her and her life changed.

Not her biological dad, you understand. That waste of space was long gone. No, this was her real dad, the one who chose her—a former Special Forces officer called Callum McKay. He’d sailed into their lives, saved them from the bad people, and taken them home to live with him. To the world, he was a grumpy Scot who terrified everyone around him. But to Sophie, he was the best dad ever and she knew, without a doubt, heloved her to bits. For twelve years, Sophie had admired and adored her “Clam,” believing he could do no wrong.

Until the night of her first proper date.

“You did this on purpose.” She glared at her dad as they stood in the entryway of their home.

“No, I didnae.” He folded his arms over his gray shirt and glared back.

“Yes, you did. You invited them here to back you up while you intimidate my date, and that’s not on.” She scowled behind him to the living room, where the male half of his team were making themselves at home.

They smiled and waved, which made her even angrier.

“First,” her dad said, “I didn’t invite them. They invited themselves when they overheard your mother talking about your date at work. Suddenly, this was a great night for poker. Aye, right. And just for the record, I’m no’ any happier about them being here than you are.”

“You love us really,” Ryan called from the living room, where he was setting up a card table he’d brought with him. “And you need to spend time with friends. Otherwise, you’ll snap one day, break into the armory and spray us all with bullets.”

“That was weirdly specific,” Joe drawled as he carried through chairs from the kitchen.

“I had a dream about it,” Ryan said. “Lots of blood. It wasn’t pretty.”

“Second,” her dad said, ignoring his team, something he was really good at doing, “do you really think I need help intimidating anyone?”

He had a point. But still… “How would you like it if I ruined one of your dates with Mum?”

“Gorgeous”—he cocked an eyebrow at her—“you’ve been doing that since you were a toddler.”

“Whatever.” Sophie rolled her eyes at him. “You can’t all be here when he comes to the door. It’ll put him off me. Do you realize how popular this guy is? He could ask any girl out, but he asked me. I don’t want you lot ruining it.”

“Nope,” Harvard said from the doorway. “That’s not how it works. This guy should feel honored that you said yes. You shouldn’t feel flattered that he picked you instead of someone else. You could date any guy in that school, and don’t you forget it.”

“I agree. No woman should be sitting around waiting for some guy to notice her. Not sure I like this boy,” Dimitri said as he passed them in the hallway. “I think you can do better, Soph.”

“He seems sound enough,” David said as he came out of the kitchen, laden with snacks. “Nothing in his background raised any alarms.”

Oh. My. Goodness. NO!

“Please tell me you didn’t run a background search on my date?” Sophie asked, feeling faint. But she already knew the answer. He was married to the best hacker on the planet, and Elle wouldn’t hesitate to pry.

“You’re one of ours, Sophie,” David said. “We take care of ours.”

How was it possible to feel touched and annoyed at the same time? She wasn’t sure, but that’s how she felt. “You don’t hack people’s lives just because it suits you. That’s an invasion of privacy and probably against the law.”

The ex-spy shrugged and sauntered away.

“You forgot the dip,” Ryan said as he opened a bag of chips. “And how deep did you dive? Did you check out his parents and friends?”

“I am going to scream,” Sophie said to the ceiling, because no one else was listening.

“We did a thorough search.” David pulled out a chair at the card table. “No red flags. And get your own dip. You’re the one who’s going to eat it all anyway.”

“Dad,” Sophie whined as she batted her lashes at him. “Please, you have to stop this. Can’t you see how disturbed it is? Ollie’s dad is a lawyer. He could take you to court if this got out.”

“What kind of name is Ollie?” Dimitri frowned.

“Gets worse,” David said. “Last name’s Jolly.”

“Ollie Jolly?” Ryan started laughing so hard that he almost choked on a chip.

“It’s Oliver Jolly,” Sophie told them. Honestly, they were supposed to be grown men, but they were worse than the kids at school. She pulled out her phone. “I’m canceling. I’d rather he thinks I’m a loser than have him turn up here and know it for sure.”

Her father took the phone from her hand and slipped it into the back pocket of his jeans. “No canceling. I want tae meet this kid who thinks he’s good enough for my daughter.”

“This is hell.” Sophie threw up her hands and started pacing the hallway.

Through the open double doors to the living room, her dad’s team laughed and joked with each other as though they weren’t about to ruin her entire life. It was clear she was outnumbered and needed backup.

“Mum!” she shouted. “Dad and his team are trying to ruin my life.”

Her mother appeared at the top of the staircase, Sophie’s two younger sisters beside her. Great. Now everyone was involved in her life. At eleven and nine, her sisters had no interest in boys and didn’t understand the social catastrophe awaiting Sophie when her date turned up.

“Stop being such a drama queen,” her mum said. “They’re just looking out for you. I’m sure they won’t do anything to ruin your life.” She looked at her husband, narrowing her eyes. “Callum, I’m serious. Don’t you dare embarrass her.”

“Would you rather I let her go out with any Tom, Dick, or Harry who turns up asking for her?” Callum barked. “I’m only going tae talk to the lad and explain the situation.”

“Which is?” her mother demanded.

“That I’ll separate his head from his body if he so much as lays a hand on her.”

“Dad!” Sophie wailed.

Her nine-year-old sister, Samantha, looked positively gleeful. “Can I watch?”

“He isn’t actually going to do that,” her mother said as her dad said, “Aye.”

“So this is how I die,” Sophie said to anyone who’d listen. “I thought I’d be accidentally blown up during one of the many attacks on the Benson Security office, but no, I’m going to die of embarrassment instead. Murdered by my own father. Yay for me.”

“Will you both stop overreacting?” her mum said. “Callum, they’re only going out for a burger and to see a movie. It’s not like he’s taking her to meet the Taliban. What could possibly go wrong?”

There was silence for a moment. And, like an idiot, Sophie thought it might be a sign her mother was getting through to them. But no. From the looks on their faces, they were wondering what the possibility of Taliban involvement would be.

“Maybe one of us should shadow them, just in case,” Dimitri said to his friends.

Harvard inclined his head. “I can do it.”

“No!” Sophie shouted as she pointed at the men. “No following me. No spy tricks. No tracking. No hacking. Nothing. Can’t you just be normal for one night?”

They looked at each other and shrugged.

“Uh, no,” Ryan said.

This was going nowhere, so she tried another tack. “Dad, please listen to me. I know you worry, and I understand you’ve seen a lot of bad stuff in your career, but this is just me going to see a movie with a friend from school. It’s no big deal. You don’t have to panic. I have my phone, and I’ll ring if I need you. Plus, I’ve been doing self-defense classes with you for years. I can handle myself. So, please, just back off and let me have tonight. Can you do that?” She tried the puppy-dog look that had let her get away with murder when younger, and for a second, it seemed to sway him.

Until Dimitri piped up: “I wish I’d poked my nose into my sister’s life a bit more, then she might not have been kidnapped.”

“Seriously?” her mum snapped. “You’re pulling the Katrina card? I’m calling your sister to tell her you said that. And stop trying to emotionally blackmail my daughter.”

“He has a point, though,” Joe said. “Better safe than sorry.”

They all nodded, and her dad looked even more determined than usual.

Sophie took a step closer to him and lowered her voice. “If you humiliate me, the next time you put on your prosthetic legs, you’ll find them full of jelly.”

He narrowed his eyes, reminding her that he’d been the one to teach her how to intimidate other people. “You do what you have to do,” he said. “And I’ll do the same.”

Sophie wanted to scream. The only saving grace in all of this was that her big brother, Jack, wasn’t there too. She suspected he’d have been worse than all the men in the room put together.

It wasn’t much of a bright side.

She was still contemplating her options—stay for the disaster that was about to unfold in her hallway, or lock herself in her bedroom and never come out again, or sneak out a window and head Ollie off before he walked into their trap—when the doorbell rang. And any choice she may have had evaporated. With one glance at her dad, Sophie ran for the door, hoping to get through it and away before the A-team descended.

She threw open the door, smiled at Ollie, and rushed forward. Before she could escape, a hand clamped on her shoulder.

Ollie’s eyes were on her, and he was smiling. “Hey, Soph, you look g—” Those same eyes widened when he noticed who stood behind her.

Furious, Sophie glanced back at her father. “Dad, I’m leaving now,” she said pointedly.

That’s when she spotted the men at his back. All standing shoulder to shoulder, staring at her date. It was as though they’d morphed into a wall of pure muscle and fury. It was intimidating.

“Ollie, is it?” Her dad’s voice was a threatening growl. “A word before you go off alone with my daughter.” He cocked his head toward the garden that ran between their converted carriage house and the Benson Security office at the front of the property.

Ollie didn’t move. Sophie wasn’t sure he could even blink. In fact, she was pretty sure he was struggling to breathe.

“Dad,” Sophie protested as he gently moved her aside and stepped out of the house.

“Over here.” Her dad jerked his chin toward the decked area and the seats.

Ollie stayed frozen in place.

But the men behind her didn’t. To Sophie’s utter horror, they strode past, surrounded her date, and swept him along in their wake.

“Mum!” Sophie shouted, her gaze still on poor Ollie.

Her mum appeared at her side. Shorter than Sophie by at least half a head, Isobel McKay was still someone to be feared.

“I’m going to kill every last one of them,” she said before stalking right into the middle of the group of men.

Words were exchanged. Sophie didn’t catch many of them. A few seconds later, her mother stalked back out of the group, dragging a pale, shaking Ollie behind her.

“Here.” She thrust the boy at Sophie while plastering a fake smile on her face, her eyes blazing with anger. “You two have a lovely time.” She tossed Sophie’s cell phone to her and gestured toward the gate.

Awkwardly, with at least two feet between them, Sophie and her date made their way out into the street—watched every step of the way by the men. Ollie barely said a word for the rest of the evening. And he definitely didn’t try to touch her. When he walked her home at the end of the night, he waved goodbye fromseveral feet away and then ran.

It was the last time she dated Ollie.

Or, actually, even spoke to him.

After Sophie calmed down, she realized she’d learned a few things that night.

The first was never mess with Isobel McKay. Furious at how the men had treated Ollie, Isobel had vented her rage at all of their wives. Who, in turn, vented at their men. Sophie took some comfort in the fact their suffering lasted way longer than her date. On top of that, her mum invited her three sisters to stay for a week, and they all had plenty to say to Sophie’s dad. It was a joy to watch.

The second thing she learned was to pick guys who were tough, honorable, and able to hold their own around her father and his crew. It took her a while to find boys like that, but she managed and even got to have a first kiss in the end. She also figured out that meeting her dates at the cinema instead of at her house was definitely the way to go.

Lastly, she learned that she had a whole team of badass men and women behind her. Ones who cared enough to look out for her and to step in if needed. Even when they weren’t wanted.

And that was much better than a proper first date.