After a tornado drops a feisty fugitive into the arms of a steel-hearted warrior, she must convince him to help her and her not-so-little dog evade a wicked enemy.
When a tornado drops Thea Gale and her not-so-little dog Titan into the arms of a steel-hearted warrior, she has no idea the trouble she is in. Lucky for her, the battle-scarred Navy SEAL who comes to her rescue knows a few things about evading wicked enemies.
Nickolas Steele is certain the right thing to do is to turn the filterless fugitive and her overprotective canine in to the authorities. But is the captivating amnesiac really a threat or is she the one whose life is in grave danger?
Nik can’t shake the feeling Thea’s past has come back to claim her, and discovering who she really is might be more deadly than either of them is prepared for. In order to enlist Nik’s help, Thea must not only confront the trauma of her former life but also penetrate the carefully forged armor protecting what’s left of Nik’s heart.
General Release Date: 30th March 2021
Newly retired Navy SEAL Nikolas Steele rolled an Atomic Fireball around his tongue as he debated continuing down the highway with a tornado watch in effect. The safe thing to do would be to hunker down for a bit, but Nik’s mood teetered precariously toward danger.
Nik didn’t feel retired. He felt cocked and loaded.
‘You’ve been their weapon, now find your peace,’ his teammate Will’s pregnant wife, now widow, had told him before he’d left Coronado.
Clamping the spicy cinnamon jawbreaker between his molars, he crushed it to get to the sweet. How the hell was he supposed to do this ‘normal life’ thing when he’d rather risk driving into a tornado than be alone in a quiet hotel room?
Sticking a fuel nozzle into his four-door, matte black Jeep Rubicon, he set the handle to fill it with gas. Kansas prairie air hung thickly charged and stale all at the same time. The unstable weather in Goodland amplified his thrumming nerves. He just needed to come down off of this last deployment. After his teammate Will’s death, it wouldn’t be easy, but when was it ever?
He’d been invited to go with his best friend Coop and Coop’s brother Leo out to a private island owned by the reclusive billionaire Coop worked for. A little sun, sand, and sex therapy on Marakata Cay was exactly what Nik needed to detox the past several months of adrenaline and anxiety out of his system. Get clean, so to speak. He just had to get to Chicago, his rendezvous point with the guys, and in a couple of weeks maybe normal wouldn’t itch so badly.
Right now, what Nik really needed was a drink, and if he got a drink, he’d need a room, and if he got a room, he’d need… Well, there was only one reason an insomniac like himself could stand being in an uncomfortable hotel bed and sleep had nothing to do with it.
What was he in the mood for tonight? Sweet or spicy? Hardly mattered really, it’d been so long. But given how bad his anxiety had ramped up over losing Will and leaving the Teams, it’d be a miscalculation to hold out any longer for an exotic islander. A Kansas farm girl would do perfectly fine, thank you very much.
If Nik were the kind of guy who believed in signs, he might’ve considered the base-model, white Ford truck screaming in hot and skidding to a stop at the pumps to be one. A blonde with country-girl braids and gold-mirrored sunglasses swung from the truck and quickly jiggled a gas nozzle into the tank.
Pouring from the pickup’s cracked windows was his teammate’s favorite drinking song—Johnny Cash’s Cocaine Blues. Replacing the graphic images of Will’s death, which had haunted Nik most of the cross-country drive, was the vision of the shaggy-haired, surfer-turned-SEAL passionately belting out the lyrics as if he were the infamous Willy Lee on the run from the sheriff of Jericho Hill. The way Will would’ve wanted to be remembered.
The blonde’s hips shifted to the train-chugging rhythm of the rockabilly song as her fingers combed her braids out. Lifting her arms, she fought a gust of wind as she whipped the waves into a ponytail. The motion pulled her oversized hoodie high enough to reveal one of the best asses he’d seen in a long while.
Despite the jumpy energy of the old-timey classic, the pumps continued to run super slow and her wild ponytail danced as she sprang impatiently on the balls of her feet. She might as well have been Tigger the Tiger from the Pooh books—bouncy, flouncy, trouncy… He definitely wanted to pouncy.
Nik knew enough women to realize Tigger’s antsy energy meant she was probably more batshit than bouncy, but crazy sure could be a hell of a lot of fun for a night. And one night was all he had to offer.
The last trace of sun slipped below the wheat tips on the horizon as the ominous cloud cover turned what should be a dusky blue-gray sky into a nearly black one. Activated by a light sensor, yellow and red station signage flickered and fluorescent white overheads surged to ignite. Tigger jerked the hood of her sweatshirt over her head, casting her high cheekboned profile in shadow. Nik squeezed his brows and dropped his chin. With a little chuckle, he briefly considered opening with, Who knew the Unabomber had such a smoking-hot ass?
Despite the humor of it, he couldn’t get past the hoodie. The jagged edge to the atmosphere no longer bit down, but the humidity still threatened to choke him out. And she was in a freaking sweatshirt. Women. Why were they always so cold?
Leaning back against his Jeep, Nik crossed the Nile croc cowboy boots Coop had talked him into spending a small fortune on the last time he’d visited Texas. He pretended to check his phone while he kept eyes on Tigger, waiting for his opening.
Her attention, however, had caught on a horse trailer in front of her. The rig had pulled in a few minutes before and Nik had quickly determined that offering to pump the elderly driver’s gas while she went inside would likely earn him an earful, as she was not your average granny. It wasn’t just the long, silver ponytail she sported, either. There wasn’t a single thing soft or round on her lean, work-toned body, leaving Nik quite certain not only that the lady had hooked up the six-horse gooseneck trailer she was hauling all by herself but that she’d also bucked the bales of hay stacked on top.
Tigger panned the convenience store parking lot before climbing up on the fender step to stroke the brown and black muzzles poking through the aluminum slats. After slipping something to them—an apple core, maybe?—and a couple of quick pecks to their soft noses, she hopped down with a little bounce before the lady returned to catch her.
Nik’s fingers worked to unwrap another Fireball. The kissing bandit would turn his way soon. Not to be cocky, but it was surprising she wasn’t already showing interest.
Years of working Special Ops made observing people second nature, and he paid extra attention to the ones who didn’t fit perfectly in their boxes. Tigger had definitely bounced out of her box. She was attractive, but didn’t call attention to it with makeup or clothing. Small-framed, but her posture carried her taller. Imitation gold aviators hid her eyes despite night coming on. And she wore that awful baggy hoodie and jeans even though the heat along the dry line crept up to the mid-nineties.
More annoying than the sweatshirt, the hot-blooded Kansas farm girl was more interested in kissing the lips of horses than the cold-blooded American soldier trying to catch her eye.
He wasn’t the only one frustrated. Tigger repeatedly clasped the fuel nozzle, trying to get it to pump faster. Damn, if those delicate pink-tipped fingers were closing around him, neither one of them would be frustrated for long.
Or if she’d only turn his way, he could take care of them both.
Gather some quick intel, disarm her with a grin and maybe a subtle shot of his abs, divert her to one of the dive bars farther off the highway and buy her a round before finding a hotel and going a different kind of round…or two…or four. Simple.
The mission fresh in his mind, and tired of waiting for her to initiate contact, he rocked his body off the Jeep. Discreetly he shifted his concealed carry holster from appendix to hip, because flashing the six-pack with a semiauto sticking out of your waistband tended to send the wrong message. Run, so I can use you for moving target practice wasn’t the look he was going for in this particular application. You live. You learn.
His Sig P365 safely out of sight, Nik strode forward with a good ol’ boy swagger the Lucchese boots lent him. At the first scuff of his leather soles, her mirrored-sunglass gaze snapped his way. One side of his mouth cocked up. Tigger was paying attention after all.
God, having her full focus turned Nik’s blood a little wild, his breathing just south of controlled. His gut flickered with vulnerability. Feelings he was accustomed to having while palming sketchy explosives, but never from a woman.
Damn if he didn’t love things that go boom.
With calculated casualness he stroked his palm up his stomach, bringing the hem of his black T-shirt with it… Just a peek. Okay. It was a cheesy move. Maybe not as blatantly so as the ol’ yawn and stretch, but he’d fully admit it was the male equivalent to pushing one’s boobs together. Like the boob-squeeze, the ab-flash was a seasoned hook when time was limited. Know a good place to get a drink around here? hovered over his tongue, but she held up her hand, ensuring the words never made it past his teeth.
“Save it, cowboy.”
Cowboy? Coop would get a kick out of that.
The sexy curve to her bare, pink lips teased him closer as her patronizing tone backed him off. All he could do was hold position on the oil-splattered pavement. Before he could even ask her if she wanted to save a horse and ride him instead, she cut him off. “From the way you’ve been staring at my ass, you’d only last two minutes, and I don’t even have time for one.”
His bouncy little Tigger was a tiger after all. Even better. “In that case, darlin’, which would you prefer—I wreck your plans for the next several hours defending my stamina or accept the challenge of getting you done in one?”
Her plush lower lip plumped between her teeth, a clear indication she was considering picking the former. But as easily as she threw the nozzle at the pump, she tossed back at him, “Get yourself done in one.”
His speechlessness was rewarded with a devilish smirk as she swung her hot tail into the truck and peeled away. In true Tigger fashion, she bounded over the curb to avoid oncoming traffic. A protest of honking followed in her wake.
Nik chuckled. Sweet and spicy. Yep, she’d be one hell of a tiger to have by the tail. With any luck he’d have another shot at a piece of it farther down the road.