Her entire life has been a lie. Being with Eli is the most honest thing she’s ever done.
Parker Hauser lives the perfect life and knows exactly where she’s been and where she’s going. Parker has to be perfect. Perfect grades, perfect body, perfect life.
Until she meets Eli Winter.
Eli throws her entire life into chaos when he denies her the one thing she wants from him.
One chance encounter stokes her desire for the man who refused to touch her and left her questioning everything.
When Parker tries to help his new business, the spotlight turns on Eli’s military record. And sins from the war he’s tried to forget may come back to destroy them both.
“What do you want?” A murmured question that feels like a demand.
The single word I need is lodged in my throat. It’s thick and heavy, filled with potential and promise.
“You,” I finally say.
“Why?” Such a complicated question. I search his face, looking for an answer, a lie, something simple to fill the space left by his question.
I lift my hand, afraid he’ll see it tremble. It takes every ounce of willpower I’ve got to slide my fingers over his forearm. I’m surprised by the raw power beneath my touch. I expected the tattoos to be physical manifestations of the violence on his flesh. His skin is hot and smooth. My hand looks pale and small against it.
“You seem…” I lift my eyes to his, never removing my hand. “You seem like a straightforward kind of guy.”
A man with rough hands and dark ink carved into his skin. A man so unlike the men I’m used to, it’s not even funny. I lift my hand to his cheek, just above the edge of his beard. I’ve never touched a man with facial hair before. He is still beneath my touch.
A moment before I’m about to press my palm to his cheek, he grips my wrist. Not hard enough to hurt, but he definitely gets my attention.
“Not here.” I swallow. My mouth is suddenly dry. “Where?”
He jerks his chin toward the dark hallway behind us. I follow him silently, wishing he was already touching me, making me feel, letting me pretend I matter, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
He leads me through the maze of small tables and patrons at various stages of intoxication. Away from the noise and the smell of fries and smoke and cologne and all the good things that bars have. We step out of the noise and into shadows and silence. He doesn’t pounce, doesn’t push me against the wall and run those rough hands over my skin.
Instead, he leans against it—a casual, arrogant male.
Waiting. I know for what. For me to make the first move.
For me to step into the space between us. For me to touch him first. I want to. But I am paralyzed. Rooted to the damp concrete beneath my feet. The cool night air might as well be chains, holding me, restraining any thought or movement.
He doesn’t move. His arms are folded over his broad, heavy chest, his T-shirt straining against his body. The silence hangs on, stretching and thick and tight.
“Scared?” he finally whispers. A dare. A terrible, wicked promise in that single word.
“Should I be?” My throat is tight and dry.
His answer is nothing I expect.
And everything I want.
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Jessica Scott is an Iraq war veteran, an active duty army officer and the USA Today bestselling author of novels set in the heart of America’s Army. She is the mother of two daughters, three cats and three dogs, and wife to a retired NCO.
She is the bestselling author of the Homefront series and the Falling series, both about soldiers and veterans adjusting to life after returning from the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan. Her bestselling Falling series features soldiers integrating into life on college campuses.
She’s also written for the New York Times At War Blog, PBS Point of View Regarding War, and IAVA. She deployed to Iraq in 2009 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)/New Dawn and has had the honor of serving as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas twice.
She’s holds phd in morality in Sociology with Duke University and she’s been featured as one of Esquire Magazine’s Americans of the Year for 2012.
Jessica is also an active member of the Military Writers Guild.
Author photo: Covington Photography