Breaking the Rules

Thanks, as always, to the usual suspects—the team at Ballantine, including my editor, Shauna Summers; my agent, Steve Axelrod; and my patient family: Ed and Jason Gaffney; Melanie, Dawson, and Aidan; and my parents Fred & Lee Brockmann.

A special shout-out to Scott Lutz for being an early-draft reader.

A huge thank-you to both the real Kathy Gordon and the real Nicola Chick. Your generous donations to The First Amendment Project are deeply and sincerely appreciated!

Thank you to the fabulous team at Advanced Physical Therapy in Sarasota: Casey, Lijah, Molly, Pam, and their fearless leader, Kitty Devine. Thanks for getting me back on my feet—and for enduring an author on deadline in the process!

Big thanks to New York Times Bestselling Author Brenda Novak for all her hard work raising money for diabetes research. For several years, I’ve participated in Brenda’s enormous annual online charity auction. It’s personal for Brenda, and now, after bringing Ben Gillman to life, it’s become personal for me, too. Visit and help make a difference.

Last but certainly not least, I want to thank you, my readers, who trust me enough to follow wherever I will take you, and who continue to give me permission to write the stories of my heart.

As always, any mistakes I’ve made or liberties I’ve taken are completely my own.



Other Books by This Author

Title Page




Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-one

About the Author





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