Synopsis: Struggling with the emotional and physical scars of war, Marine Pete Cross returns to his hometown, Heart Falls, New York, bitter and broken. The last person he wants to see is the stubborn tomboy from his past, Cara Sands. The guy code of ethics demands he keep his hands to himself where his best friend’s sister is concerned, but Cara never got that memo. Apparently, neither did Pete’s libido, because his desire for her is stronger than ever.
Cara has no clue where the man she loves went, but she’ll do whatever it takes to bring him back. Pete tries to push Cara away with bitterness and anger, but she yanks him right back with understanding and patience. Her persistence drags them closer to an outcome that might destroy them both or show him, once and for all, the power of second chances.
She had an infectious laugh. Her smile uncorrupted by the evil infecting many parts of the world. Unfortunately, sin infested Pete. His hands stained with the blood of hundreds, maybe thousands of people he had never met, his head branded with their agonized screams and inbreed hatred.
Doctors tried to labels his issues. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, survivor’s guilt, uncontrolled aggression, anger, paranoia, words used to simplify his convoluted state of mind. Life and circumstance had twisted him, altering the man who left all those years ago into a mere shell of his former self. He used to laugh without restraint. Smiles came easy all those years ago. A distant dream molded into a living nightmare. He hadn’t slept a full night in months, waking up drenched in sweat and screaming as he tried to break free from the demons, which refused to let him go. Not a second went by when he didn’t feel the dreadful glare of the enemy. He walked on American soil now. No insurgents hid in the mountains. No weapons aimed at his back. According to psychiatrists, he needed to think like a civilian. They didn’t understand. You cannot mold someone into a combatant, train a man to kill, and then expect him to revert into a day after day, nine-to-five sort of guy. One minute you’re charging the field with bullets whizzing by your ear and then poof … you’re typing memos for more copy paper.
It ain’t gonna happen.
It was like trying to domesticate a rabid wolf. Soon or later, your efforts were going to swing around and bite you right in the ass. Pete would rather hike across the desert with an M16A locked in his hands and a full pack strapped to his back than sit at a desk all day tapping keys and peddling papers. Not the kind of man worthy of a woman like Cara Sands, not the kind of man worthy of anyone.
John lunged toward the tray of meat. Cara smacked his hand. “We always say grace in grandmom’s house.”
John raised a brow. “It’s your house now.”
“We will always respect the rules of grandmom’s house. Whether she’s here,” Cara glanced up, “or there.”
John rolled his eyes, but Pete offered her a nod. He understood respect for tradition. Above all else, he understood the responsibility for keeping those customs alive for those who no longer have the ability to do so.
Cara had loved her grandmother Loretta like a mother. Tougher than leather and sharper than a knife, Loretta Sands became the mother Cara needed. He’d liked the old woman as well. No one fucked with grandmom. She offered fierce loyalty to those she loved and a strong hand to those she didn’t. The very same values she instilled in Cara and John.
Cara took John’s hand. She reached out to Pete. He hesitated for a moment. The scene reminded him of the prayers they would say before a mission.
“Come on, Pete.” She motioned her finger, inviting him to join her.
In the end, he surrendered, slipping his hand in hers. The heat of her palm offered him a strange comfort, a reassuring silence he had long forgotten. He tightened his grip on her fingers. A sweet blush spread over her cheeks as she flashed him a soft smile. She closed her eyes and gave thanks for the food on the table and for the return of old friends.
About K.D. Friedrich
K. D. Friedrich is a writer of Contemporary and Paranormal Romance. By day, she crunches numbers, but by night, she’s busy creating interesting worlds and compelling characters, hot alpha heroes being her favorite. In 2013, she placed second in the Golden Palm contest for Paranormal Romance. She’s an overprotective mother (her daughter’s words), lifelong New Yorker, and an obsessed reader of everything romance.