She’s shy, he’s stoic…not the hardest personality traits to overcome, but Sophie Carson and Roman “Chief” Proudfit have their work cut out for them.
Sophie has a crush on the silent-but-studly firefighter next door. She’s been pining away silently while secretly helping the hardworking man by mowing his lawn—which he thinks is being done by her nonexistent husband and/or boyfriend. He’s definitely not big on neighborly chitchat, but with her stutter, that suits Sophie just fine. But now a misunderstanding at a bar has put him even further out of her reach.
Roman’s difficult upbringing on an Indian reservation is a sore spot, so when he thinks Sophie is taking advantage of poor people for medical trials at her workplace, he lets her know exactly what he thinks. But when he discovers he misunderstood, he’s man enough to admit it…and also that he should have opened his eyes to his beautiful, sensitive neighbor sooner.
As the couple gets closer, each helping the other overcome lifelong pains, for the first time in years, Roman has something to live for other than his job. And, as he discovers when Sophie puts herself in danger, something even bigger to lose…
** Shelter for Sophie is the 8th book in the Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes Series. Each book is a stand-alone, with no cliffhanger endings. **
“Soph, I don’t know how you do it. You always manage to find the most vulnerable people for our studies.”
“It’s a gift,” Sophie responded, the pride easy to hear in her voice. “S-Sometimes disadvantaged people are the easiest to convince. Honestly, s-sometimes I feel bad about pressuring patient’s families, but then I think about how it affects m-me and the institute, and the m-money it will ultimately bring in, and I’m perfectly okay with m-my actions.”
Chief chugged the rest of his beer, stood, and informed his friends, “I’ll be right back.”
He swallowed down the bile that had crept up his throat. He didn’t know his neighbor, but he was disappointed nevertheless. Growing up on the reservation in New Mexico, he’d experienced “do-gooders” first hand who’d tried to take advantage of his people. They’d come in pretending to have their best interests at heart, when in reality all they’d wanted was a Native American body for whatever experiments they wanted to do. Drug trials, mental health counseling, magic pills to “cure” alcoholism…the list was never ending.
The fact that his pretty neighbor might be like the leeches he remembered from his childhood sat like a thick black ball in his gut.
Chief used the restroom and looked in the mirror as he washed his hands. The face looking back at him had been called handsome by more than one woman. He kept his hair long, but pulled back into a ponytail that hung down his back to honor his heritage. Being part Native American was as much a part of who he was as being a firefighter. It was literally in his blood.
Gritting his teeth as he dried his hands, Chief knew what he had to do. He’d promised himself when he’d moved to Texas and off the reservation that he wouldn’t stand by and let anyone take advantage of those weaker, poorer, or not as fortunate as him. Even knowing it would cause problems, since he lived next door to the woman, he couldn’t leave without confronting her and making her agree to lay off the poor teenager she had in her sights.
He left the restroom and saw his lovely neighbor standing at the bar talking to Erin, one of the bartenders. Realizing it was the perfect chance to talk to her away from her friends, and his, Chief went right up to her.
She turned in surprise and looked at him with wide eyes. To give her credit, she didn’t gape at him as she had in her driveway. “Yeah, that’s m-me. Hi.”
She held out her hand in greeting and Chief ignored it. He knew he was being rude, but he didn’t want to pretend he liked her when he was so pissed.
“It’s not cool to prey on the poor.”
“Pardon?” Sophie asked, dropping her hand and shifting uneasily.
“I heard what you told your friends. That the poor teenage boy with the single mother can’t afford treatment so you just happened to be there to jump in and offer to pay for it…as long as they entered your program. That’s not cool. Not at all.”
He ignored the cute little furrow in her brow as she looked at him in confusion. “I’m s-sorry, but I don’t understand what you’re talking about.”
“I’m talking about you offering to help the ‘poor black boy’ who doesn’t have any money. I’ve seen it time and time again when I was growing up on the reservation. You know they can’t afford to pay for the treatment they need so you play savior and offer to pay for everything…as long as they take the drugs you want them to and allow you to take his blood and do who knows what else in return. You make him a pin cushion and a human scientific experiment. It’s disgusting and vile. I know I can’t stop you from doing it, but I’m hoping I can make you at least think twice about it.”
“I think there’s been a m-misunderstanding,” Sophie insisted. “That’s not what I’m doing. I m-mean, I do look for patients who can’t afford treatment, but—”
“There are no buts about it,” Chief interrupted, thoroughly disgusted. “I’ve seen what burns do to people firsthand. They hurt, and when people hurt, they aren’t thinking right. They’ll sign whatever bullshit agreement you put in front of them if you say there’s a chance it’ll reduce that pain.” His lip curled in derision and he didn’t care that the woman in front of him saw it. “I think I’ll go to the hospital tomorrow and have a talk with that poor kid’s mom. Tell her what she’s really getting into.”
Instead of looking scared by his threat, Sophie put her hands on her hips and glared at him. “You do that. Ask for Traynesha Washington and her s-son, Diontray. And m-make s-sure you ask her exactly what S-Sophie promised her, too, while you’re at it.”
They glared each other for a heartbeat before Sophie shook her head and turned to Erin who had been standing on the other side of the bar shamelessly eavesdropping. “I just wanted you to know we’re gonna call it a night. We’ve called cabs and will be out of here in a bit. Thanks for the drinks tonight.”
Stoker, Susan. Shelter for Sophie (Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes Book 8) (Kindle Locations 189-233). Stoker Aces Production, LLC. Kindle Edition.