Holiday Heroes [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Rachel Lee & Catherine Mann
eBook Category: Romance/Suspense/Thriller
eBook Description: This Christmas, two military men of honor will go beyond the limit and light up the holidays for two very special women. "A Soldier for All Seasons" by Rachel Lee: U.S. Marine Jon Erikson needed to find peace this holiday season. But attraction sparked when he met park ranger Melinda Hawthorne--a woman also haunted by secrets. Venturing into a perilous wilderness would test their survival skills and growing desire... "Christmas at His Command" by Catherine Mann: Keeping Senator Ginger Landis safe was General Hank Renshaw's top priority. He wouldn't let anything put her at risk--including his growing feelings for her. Danger threw them intimately together, taking them to a passionate point of no return.
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Silhouette Romantic Suspense
Fictionwise Release Date: November 2007
8 Reader Ratings:
Jon Erikson wandered into Conard City, Wyoming, like a man lost in the midst of a wild blizzard. Only he wasn't lost, he had grown up here. But it had been so long, and he'd been so far away, that he felt more lost than he had since his first days in Afghanistan.
He found Mahoney's Bar where it had always been. The thought of bellying up to the bar and ordering a beer had been whirling in his dreams for a long time now. Stomping the snow off his boots, he walked inside.
Nothing had changed, except some of the faces. They all turned to look at him, but none seemed to recognize him. Why should they? He hadn't been back here in a long, long time.
Only Mahoney gave him a second glance, as he drew a draft beer for him and put it in front of him. "I know you?" Mahoney asked finally.
Jon wasn't sure he wanted to answer, but finally he said, "I lived here a long time ago."
Mahoney nodded. "Must've been a kid. You look like you've put in a lot of tough miles."
Jon gave him a nod, then lifted the frothy beer to his mouth.
Mahoney didn't press him any further, apparently figuring it was none of his business. Jon was grateful. He wanted, needed, to be left alone for a while.
The bar was too warm. He wasn't used to central heating any longer. Worse, it seemed to be closing in on him. And the beer…it didn't taste as good as he remembered.
He told himself to cool it, that things were just fine, but he honestly couldn't remember the last time he hadn't felt wired and wasn't sure he knew how to unwind.
So drink your beer and just wait.
The tension would have to let go, sooner or later. There wasn't a threat within thousands of miles. But while his brain knew that, the rest of him seemed unable to accept it. He downed the beer and ordered another one, standing with his foot on the rail, rather than sitting on one of the stools.
"Hey," said a quiet female voice.
Every muscle in his body tensed, and he automatically reached for the weapon that wasn't there.
"Relax," she said. "I just thought I recognized you."
He turned slowly and looked at a pretty dark-haired young woman, maybe twenty-five or so, dressed in a State Park Ranger's uniform with an unzipped green parka over it.
"Aren't you Jon Erikson?" she asked.
He nodded slowly, uneasy at being recognized. That, too, had been trained into him.
Her smile started at her blue eyes, then traveled down to pink lips. "I thought so. You were three years ahead of me in school, so you probably never noticed me. I had a crush on you, though."
He should know how to respond to that. Words should come automatically. Something light, something about how could he possibly have overlooked her, kid or not. Some distant part of his brain remembered how to be sociable, but such things had been burned out of him a while back.
"I'm Melinda Hawthorne," she said, sticking out her hand. "State Park Ranger in these woods."
He shook her hand automatically, then abruptly became acutely aware of the warmth of her skin. It wasn't soft skin; clearly she worked hard with her hands. But it was warm, and human, and it wasn't threatening.
"You look like you could use something to eat," she said. "We can eat a sandwich here, or go over to the City Diner and have a bigger bite."
"I'm buying," she said with a laugh. "It's not often I meet someone from that far back who hasn't been around ever since. I want to hear about the big world."
"Can't tell you much. I've spent most of my time in…" He trailed off. He didn't want to talk about that.
"I know," she said, taking his arm. "Come on, let's go to Maude's. You need one of her steak sandwiches and fries."
Now that did sound good. He was so damn sick of MREs—meals ready to eat? What a joke—and goat cheese. "Fine, but I'm buying," he said.
She shook her head. "I always go Dutch. Unless I buy."
"Dutch it is."
What the hell was going on? A few minutes ago he'd been living in his isolated world with his miserable self, and all of a sudden he'd been yanked out of it by a girl he couldn't even remember.
But she remembered him. And somehow, surprisingly, that made him feel good. As if somehow some part of him hadn't died over there.
Closing up their jackets and pulling up their hoods, they stepped out into the blowing snow. "This is global warming," she said, raising her voice to be heard over the wind.
"Yeah, that makes sense."
"I'm not kidding. We never used to get so much snow or so many blizzards. But I don't want to argue about it."
Maude's wasn't very far, although tonight it was fairly deserted. Maude herself was the only one on duty, and in her usual welcoming way she stomped over to the table, slapped the menus down and said, "Coffee's fresh, kitchen's pretty much closed 'cause of the storm, but I can make you steak sandwiches and fries."
Melinda answered with a smile. "That's exactly what we came for, Maude."
Maude grunted, then looked more closely at Jon. "Aren't you the Erikson kid? Old Lars's son?"
Copyright © 2007 by Harlequin Books S. A.