With: Susan Stoker
Lowell “Black” Lockard, former Navy SEAL, has watched his fellow Mountain Mercenaries settle down with the women of their dreams, but he’s convinced he doesn’t need love. Then he gets a call from Harlow Reese—a chef at a local women’s shelter—and begins to reconsider his decision.
After being continually harassed by a local band of punks, Harlow asks Lowell to give the women of the shelter lessons in self-defense. She doesn’t expect him to take such a special interest in her safety, but he insists on escorting her to and from work, never taking no for an answer. Not that Harlow minds the personal touch…especially when it’s coming from her former teenage crush.
Despite her long history of bad dating luck, seeing Black again makes Harlow rethink her self-imposed celibacy. Easy on the eyes and hard to forget, the man has morphed into an alpha stud. And Harlow may be exactly the type of woman Black is looking for. Making her feel safe isn’t only a duty; it’s a pleasure. But the threats are escalating. The motives are a mystery. And as the danger burns almost as hot as their passion, there’s much more at risk than their hearts.
“Thanks for walking me to my car,” she told Lowell when she clicked her door locks.
“You’re welcome. What time are you getting here in the morning?”
Harlow bit her lip. “Well, I usually try to get here around five. That gives me time to prepare breakfast and get some fresh bread or biscuits baking before everyone gets up and going. Edward’s been bringing doughnuts and stuff, but I like to offer a variety of things for everyone to choose from.”
“Then I’ll see you here around five.”
“That’s early,” she told him.
He grinned. “Yeah, but it’s fine. I usually get up around four thirty to work out. I’ll just sleep in a bit, meet you here, then go home and start my run.”
“Really? You get up at four thirty every morning?” she asked.
“Yup. Guess all those morning workouts in the Navy stuck with me. I usually can’t sleep past six, even when I go to bed late. You?”
“Me what?” she asked.
“Are you a morning person?”
“Well, yeah. But I’m not getting up to work out … obviously.” Harlow gestured at herself as she said the last part.
“Duh, Lowell. Look at me. Do I look like I work out?”
He moved so fast, she didn’t see him coming until he was right in front of her, his hips against her own, pressing her back against her Mustang. “You look like warm nights and beautiful sunrises.”
Harlow stared up at him. “I don’t know what that means,” she whispered.
“It means whatever you’re doing, just keep on doing it,” he said in a low, husky voice.
Harlow didn’t know where to put her hands, so she rested them lightly on his chest. “Oh. Okay.”
“And you should know … not tomorrow, but the day after … I’m picking you up at your apartment at four in the morning. Is that going to be an issue?”
Harlow widened her eyes in shock.
“Four? Why so early?”
“It’s a surprise, remember?” he said.
“I’m not sure about this. Nothing’s open that early.”
“I do, it’s just…” She stopped herself from saying anything else and shook her head. “Fine. At least I know it’s not a date, because no one goes on a date at four in the freaking morning.”
He grinned at her and, ignoring her commentary, said, “Text me when you get home.” Then he reached around her for the handle of the car door.
“So I can make sure you got there all right.”
She wrinkled her nose and asked, “You aren’t going to follow me home? I mean, you’re being all protective and stuff, so I just assumed.”
Lowell stared down at her for a long moment before grinning again. “Oh, I’m following you home. I just wasn’t going to tell you.”
Harlow rolled her eyes, not sure if he was kidding or not. “Whatever. Go home, Lowell. You’ve done your bodyguard duty for the night.”
“I’ll see you in the morning. Drive safe,” he said softly. He closed the door behind her and headed for his Mazda.
Don’t read anything into his behavior, Harlow warned herself. He was a SEAL. He rescues women for a living. Just because he’s going to ignore your demand and follow you home anyway doesn’t mean he wants anything more. Besides, you don’t date … remember?
Knowing she was losing the battle to keep herself emotionally separated from Lowell, Harlow drove home, watching his headlights in her rearview mirror … and feeling comforted and safe the entire way.
Susan Stoker is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. Her series include Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes, SEAL of Protection, Delta Force Heroes, and Mountain Mercenaries. Married to a retired Army noncommissioned officer, Stoker has lived all over the country—from Missouri and California to Colorado and Texas—and currently lives under the big skies of Tennessee. A true believer in happily ever after, Stoker enjoys writing novels in which romance turns to love. To learn more about the author and her work, visit her website, www.stokeraces.com, or find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/
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