Fulfilling a favor and executing a business plan, Luke Dexter arrived at Dallas' Sybarite Club for a one-night stand. He never imagined that in the darkened club with bluesy strains of jazz playing he'd come face to face with the woman he left behind a decade earlier.
Rebecca Rainier fell in love with Luke Dexter in high school and was crushed when he dumped her to join the Marines after 9/11. Now, waiting for a date her best friend and business partner set up, she's unprepared when Luke walks in.
Can Luke and Rebecca bridge the pain of a decade long abandonment in one cold Texas night?
Luke’s chest hurt, but he braced himself against it. Shock wrinkled the line between her brows, the emotion far more brutal to him than a firefight in Kandahar or Kabul. She didn’t turn to look at him. But her reflection in the mirror didn’t soften. The familiar, flirtatious smile fled from the cool, firm line of her lips. Color drained from the face of the woman who shifted on the bar stool. Movement to his right caught his attention. A man approached, intent on her, but meeting Luke’s iron expression, the would-be interloper diverted to another table.
Satisfied, his attention returned to the girl—no, the woman—gazing at him, pain etching the softness of her lips. The memory of her lips got him through Paris Island. He’d thought about them, about her smile, every single, damn day.
“Hello, Luke.” Her voice poured over him like warm honey.
Life doesn’t always offer second chances….
“May I join you?” He nodded to the stool next to her.
“It’s a free country.” And just like that, she turned her back and the warm honey chilled, hardening over his chest.
“Thank you, ma’am.” He tacked the ma’am on as an afterthought. But the steel wrapped in her velvety voice jabbed his kidneys. Perching on the edge of the stool, he motioned to the bartender. “Two more of whatever the lady is having.”
She watched him from the mirror. Hungriness reflected in the gold flecked, tawny brown eyes, a perfect contrast to the tight jaw and stiff fingers wrapped around her wine glass. She tossed back a third of a glass like a shot of vodka.
A shot of vodka sounded like a great idea. But he needed his wits about him. IEDs laced the battlefield in front of him and patience and procedure and about eighty-five pounds of protective gear weren’t handy. But the trick to survival was to examine what was right in front of him and to react to it. He could do that in the field, he could do that with her. It was what he did best.
After the bartender served the drinks and took his credit card, Luke sat sideways, intentionally brushing his leg against hers. She didn’t recoil—exactly—but did shift away after a few seconds.
Definitely treading in dangerous waters.
Sneak Peek at A Marine of Plenty
“Miss Grimaldi?” A deep, smooth, masculine voice pulled her back to the present and the officer dressed in the deep dark tan and olive MARPATS waiting inside the door. He stood easily over six-foot. The uniform did little to disguise his broad shoulders or thick muscular arms.
Rising, she adjusted her bag and held out her hand, fumbling for a greeting. “Hi. Captain…?”
“Sparks.” Quiet hesitation arrested his features and a muscle ticked in his jaw.
The congressman’s brother was her escort.
Her heart thudded against her ribs and her nerves stretched taut. Captain Charles Sparks gave the order that led to her brother’s death—a communication failure. She understood all the terms, the reasoning, and the apologies. Even his letters expressed his heartfelt condolences and apologies. Letters she’d answered, and he’d returned regularly.
He grasped her hand and the world seemed to shrink away, as though someone dropped her in a drum and banged it loudly from the outside. His words had provided a desperately needed source of comfort—straightforward, blunt, and without any pretty excuses. A mistake had been made, a mistake that cost a good man his life. He didn’t ask for her forgiveness. He’d never asked her for it, no matter how many exchanges they’d had.
Staring into his coffee brown eyes, she knew he hadn’t forgiven himself. And that’s why Congressman Sparks offered his help and asked for mine. Weak-kneed, she sat abruptly. Her fisted grip on the captain’s hand pulled him forward a step.
Concern rippled across his face. “Ma’am? Jana?”
Unexpected grief locked her throat and tears filmed her vision. She held up her other hand and he wavered. Fighting the urge to sniffle, she squeezed her eyes shut and concentrated on breathing. Grief might be the one emotion everyone had in common, but acceptance came in its own ways, on its own time. Understanding the concept intellectually and experiencing it, however, were two completely opposite things, because the crappiest part of her grief lay in how she couldn’t control it.
“I’m okay.” She fought to get the words out. “I’m sorry.”
“No,” he said, his voice gruff. “I should apologize. I thought you received my email about being your escort.”
“I haven’t looked at my email since leaving Dallas, I’ve been so focused on getting here.” Moistening her lips, she struggled to bring her tumbling emotions back into focus. It would be easy to hate the man, to blame him for what happened, and to let anger take over her grief.
But easier didn’t make it right or fair.
Belatedly, she glanced up, surprised at her white-knuckled grip still firm on his hand. He didn’t pull away or try to let her go, but sadness clouded his eyes—sadness, and quite possibly regret. “I didn’t mean to fall to pieces on you, Captain Sparks.”