Howdy all! I hope you’re having a wonderful day.
In the meantime, here’s the blurb and an exclusive excerpt to tantalize you!
Kidnapped in a foreign country, Lana Burns’ faith in herself and the world has been shaken to the core. Once home, she finds her world mangled by nightmares and depression. Refusing to give in to fear and torment, she searches for answers. Now she must escape a dark mental place before it swallows her whole.
Former Force Recon Marine Aaron MacPherson made it through war without a scratch, but he doesn’t count thick scars carved into his mind, threatening to unhinge his happiness forever. His equilibrium teeters on the edge, his battle moving from combat to everyday life. One wrong word from a total stranger sends him on a path to destruction.
Both Lana and Aaron have seen hell, and group therapy might show them the way out. Forging a link between them could prove perilous to their hearts. When danger strikes without warning, Aaron and Lana must use their bond to create a way to survive the night.
When they reached the steps outside the clinic, people headed into the parking lot. All except Lana. She looked for Jillie’s car. No sign of her. She checked her watch. The group had broken up on time.
The outdoors rushed at her, and a blast of fear grabbed her by the throat. At this time of the year, the sun hadn’t yet dropped below Pikes Peak. Temperatures had dropped into the high seventies. Aspen and Ponderosa pines planted many years ago surrounded the building and branches swayed in the breeze. Leaves and pine needles rustled and whispered. Honking horns and other sounds of traffic filtered up from the street. She rubbed her arms as a breeze drifted over her. She drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. Half her battle came in remembering to breathe. She leaned back against the door. The fanny pack around her waist acted as the only barrier to the world. No. No. I’m not going to panic.
Aaron had started down the steps, but he hesitated and looked back up at her. He returned to the top step.
“You okay?” he asked.
“I’m fine.” All her senses heightened as a prickle went over her skin. She didn’t want him close to her.
“You need a ride somewhere?”
“No. I’m waiting for Jillie to pick me up.”
He nodded. “Your friend that was on the bus with you.”
Damn it, Jillie. Couldn’t you be on time for once?
She didn’t want to be ungrateful. She was damned lucky Jillie was willing to drive her.
He tilted his head to the side and looked her over with one swoop. Not an insulting once-over, but with a smooth, admiring gaze she recognized as masculine appreciation. Okay, so he liked what he saw. She didn’t want him to notice her that way.
He shoved his hands into his jeans pockets. “Then I’ll wait with you.”
“Oh, no. You don’t have to do that.” Please don’t.
“Yeah, I do. Doesn’t look like there’s anyone else around, and I’m not leaving a woman here by herself.”
Okay, so he was thinking more of her as a woman alone and not a woman he wanted to hit on. Good.
“Thanks,” she said, feeling twenty types of lame in that one moment. “But I’ve got pepper spray.”
He smiled, and this time it was a genuine, amused expression with real warmth. It changed his look from bad news to drop-dead hot in a heartbeat. Her pulse thrummed. Oh, no. No. She wasn’t going there. Now was not the time to find a beat-up, violent, unpredictable man attractive. She didn’t do relationships with broken men. Not now. Not ever.
“It’s okay.” He leaned against the wall next to the door quite a distance from where she stood. “I’ve got all the time in the world.”
What could she say to that? Her fingers curled around the metal railing at the top of the steps. “That’s very chivalrous of you.”
“My parents taught me right.”
He tilted his head slightly to the side. “Do I make you nervous?”
She didn’t expect that question, but she’d always been a direct person…at least she had been until a few months ago. “Honestly, yes you do.”
“Don’t worry. I’m not a violent guy normally. When I hit that idiot in the diner…I’d never done anything like that before. And I’d never put my hand on a woman in anger. Ever.”
“You think you were justified in hitting him?”
He smiled and shifted on his feet. He stuffed his hands into his front pockets. “Hell, no. I knew better. I just couldn’t control it. Something snapped.”
“Yet you don’t think you have PTSD? What do you think is wrong?”
His face turned stony. “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll figure it out coming to this group.”
“What would you be doing if you weren’t here?”
“Tuesday and Thursday nights are the same as any other night for me. I haven’t done much since I retired in April. You heard me say I was going to get my Masters in History. Obviously that isn’t happening.”
She was curious. Way too curious. She wanted to ask him dozens of questions, and that surprised the hell out of her. No, it shouldn’t. If she talked, she wouldn’t think about the world rushing in at her.
“Do you have agoraphobia?” he asked suddenly. “You look like you wish you were back in the building.”
Surprised, she said, “Yes. No. Not really. It’s a sort of half phobia. I get nervous driving…it’s a part of the PTSD. Jillie takes me shopping and…” She trailed off, aware that she was babbling, talking about herself too much. Okay, so she’d pushed that far enough. “I wouldn’t be this nervous, but my time in Costa Rica sort of screwed with my sense of safety.”
“You went through a lot.”
He shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. Even a marine put in that situation would have stress trying to survive.”
She slowly released the railing and then rubbed the back of her neck.
They fell into a silence with questions hanging between them.
“Your friend always late picking you up?” he asked.
“Not always, but she is chronically late for a lot of things.” Once the words came out of her mouth, she wished she hadn’t answered. Fear spiked inside her. Not a smart thing to tell a stranger her plans. Anger at herself replaced the fear.
His eyes narrowed in disapproval, and she could see questions running around in his head again. “But she helped get you out of Costa Rica.”
“Yes, she did.” She drew in a slow breath. “You’re very direct.”
“One of my many faults.”
The cocky side of her, which she’d subdued since the kidnapping, returned in a heartbeat. “What other faults do you have?”
He lifted one eyebrow in apparent surprise. “I’m anal. A bit of a control freak.”
“Hmmm. I leave the toothpaste cap halfway off. I don’t roll the tube from the bottom. I don’t organize the bills in my wallet so all the numbers face one way.”
“Damn, well, that’s a deal breaker.”
She gave a half smile, genuinely amused for the first time in days. “Deal breaker?”
“Yeah. I was considering asking you out.”
A snappy comeback almost came out. Almost. No. Don’t do it. Memories flooded her of time in the hut in Costa Rica, The Cave, as she’d named it in her mind. She drew in a deep breath, remembering how her therapist had coached her to regain her confidence, to find her way back to her true self.
“Really? No sweat. I wouldn’t have said yes anyway,” she managed to get past her lips.
A big smile broke over his mouth, a genuine grin reaching mesmerizing green eyes that made him look twenty times less intimidating. God, was he a walking, talking poster for marine hottie? Yep, he was.