The Hometown Heroes Series:
A group of college friends
took part in a weekend cattle drive
on the banks of Lake Okeechobee.
Now, ten years later, they’re saving lives
and winning hearts throughout Florida.
Award Winning Author
The broad-shouldered Adonis standing on Stephanie Bryant’s front porch cannot fathom why the sassy beauty failed to evacuate along with the other residents of Cocoa Beach, but she has her reasons.
With a big promotion at stake, the approaching storm doesn’t figure into Stephanie’s plans any more than falling for the hunkiest cop in Florida.
But more than the landscape changes when a hurricane practically blows Florida’s newest resident into the arms of disillusioned cop Brett Lincoln. While the last thing he wants in his life is another self-centered woman, the keys to his emotional survival just might dangle from Stephanie’s perfectly sculpted nails.
Note: This classic Leigh Duncan original was first published in 2010. Given a fresh, new look for The Hometown Heroes Series, BRETT has been revised and contains brand new material.
Stephanie Bryant’s new position with Space Tech has her moving to Cocoa Beach, Florida. Now she’s aware there’s a hurricane on it’s way but according to the weather app on her phone, it’s not going to make landfall.
Truly clueless to the danger, she sets to unpacking while waiting for the installers to arrive for her phone, internet and cable. The problem is two fold. First as she moved in, her home was boarded up and the Real Estate Agent convinced her she is not in a hurricane zone and would make arrangements to have the boards taken down. Second the home is in a mandatory evacuation zone and the evacuation order had been issued.
Brett Lincoln is making a final round before the storm hits when he sees boxes in front of a house. They hadn’t been there before and there was a car in the driveway. Time for him to do his job and get the resident safely off the island.
“Cocoa Beach Police, ma’am. Are you having trouble?”
The deep, rapid-fire rumble yanked her gaze back into the blinding sun so fast the dreaded “ma’am” almost failed to register.
She squinted, trying to see his face but all she got for her trouble was another blast of light.
“Police?” Blinking, she shook her head. “I didn’t call the police.” Through watery eyes she saw his outline relax a bit, though the man standing on her front porch remained all shadows and glint.
“Sorry, ma’am. When you said ‘about time,’ I thought you might have car problems or something. Everything is under control, then? You’re on your way?”
Stephanie forced her lips into a determined smile and stuffed a growing irritation firmly behind it. Everything was all right, though it wouldn’t be if he “ma’am’d” her one more time.
“Yes, Officer, uh—I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”
“Lincoln, ma’am. Officer Lincoln.”
Three ma’ams in a row—it was enough to make any self-respecting twenty-six-year-old cry. She was twenty-six and self-respecting, but she wasn’t going to cry, even if the eerie quiet of her new neighborhood had shredded her last nerve and left her as jumpy as two double lattes. Instead, she blinked rapidly to clear the pesky, sun-induced tears and, pulling herself erect, squared her shoulders.
“Pleased to meet you, Officer Lincoln. I’m Stephanie, Stephanie Bryant.” She tossed enough ice into her tone so Officer Lincoln would understand they were done with the “ma’am” business. When he tipped his hat, she knew she’d made her point. She spilled a little warmth back into her voice.
“I’m not sure why you’d suspect car trouble, but yes, everything is fine. It will be even finer when the installation guys show up. That’s who I was waiting for. I don’t suppose you have any pull with the telephone company, do you?”
“No, ma—uh. No, Miss Bryant. But they won’t be here today.”
That was close, but she’d give him one more chance. Muscular police officers who smelled like piney woods deserved that, even when they seemed determined to argue. Holding her smile firmly in place, she explained, “I know it’s almost five, but they promised. I’m sure they’ve just been delayed.”
“Delayed till next week, maybe.”
Officer Lincoln reached for his sunglasses. When his posture shifted just enough so the blinding sun disappeared behind his back, Stephanie wondered if the move was a deliberate attempt to make her heart stop. Peering up at a profile so chiseled it might have been carved by Michelangelo, she was pretty sure her breathing had. The man had an almost perfectly proportioned face with a straight nose and barely rounded chin that jutted forward exactly the right amount. Above a strong jawline with the late afternoon stubble of someone who shaved twice a day, tanned skin hugged impressive cheekbones. She followed them to his hairline. Despite its close cropping, the thick, dark hair wanted to curl where the heat and humidity dampened it. She felt an answering, unexpected warmth stir in her chest as, beneath wide slashes of black eyebrows, a pair of black-blue eyes studied her intently.
“Miss Bryant, why are you here?” he asked. “Haven’t you been listening to the weather reports?”
Abruptly, the urge to trail her fingers along his cheek’s sandpaper stubble disappeared. Stephanie remembered to breathe. She also remembered to cross her arms and take a step back while pondering the seriously flawed nature of the male species. This one might look like a Greek god, but he wasn’t listening to her any better than Adonis had listened to Aphrodite. She tried again.
“I just moved in, Officer. I don’t have television or cable service because I’m waiting for the installers to show up. And they’re late.”
“I understand that. But they won’t be here. You shouldn’t be here.”
Officer Lincoln glanced over his shoulder at the street. “Are those your packing boxes at the curb?”
“Why? Are you on box patrol?”
She had meant the question as a joke, but Officer Lincoln continued to stare down from his impressive height without even the trace of a smile.
“They can’t stay there. You’ll have to move them inside.”
Stephanie ground her teeth. She had tried to be polite. She had tried to be understanding. She had even tried humor, and look where that had gotten her. It was time to put her foot down.
“Officer Lincoln, I read the brochures. Tomorrow is recycling day. I don’t understand the problem.”
The man drew a folded handkerchief from his back pocket and took his time polishing the lenses of spotless sunglasses.
“Emergency Management has issued an evacuation order for all the barrier islands,” he said. His voice dropped impossibly lower. “That includes Cocoa Beach. You need to get out of here. In fact, you have less than two hours to cross the causeway before it closes, so I’d suggest you get moving.”
Stephanie bit her lip to keep from telling Officer Lincoln exactly where he was wrong. This morning the weatherman had said the storm would turn. She had it on good authority that hurricanes never came ashore in Cocoa Beach. Besides, even if Officer Lincoln was correct, the evacuation order was for the barrier islands, and she wasn’t on a—
Her heart thudded all the way to her feet as she remembered the maps the real estate agent had provided. Several long fingers of land hugged the Florida coast the way fringe dangled from her pink pashmina. Cocoa Beach sat on one of them. “Barrier island?” she mouthed. Images of hurricane-ravaged coastal towns flooded her thoughts. She reached for something to brace herself with, her hands finding and clutching the doorframe. Officer Lincoln’s lips kept moving, but a sound of rushing water and roaring wind filled her head. She couldn’t hear a word he said.
“No,” she whispered. This couldn’t be happening.
Brett stared in disbelief as the compact powder keg in front of him started to smoke. Within seconds there would be an explosion that might take hours to clean up. He didn’t have hours. Hurricane Arlene would be on top of them by then. Her one-hundred-and-fifty-mile-an-hour winds could push seven-foot waves clear across Cocoa Beach, and he did not want to get caught in the storm surge.
As protests spiraled upward and a pair of the bluest eyes he’d ever seen widened impossibly, Brett rapidly reviewed his options. Given enough time, he could talk her down. He had the negotiating skills. Problem was, neither of them had the time.
An unexpected shake might jar her to her senses, but that was almost guaranteed to land him in the middle of litigation. Having seen lawyers in action, he’d rather face hurricanes.
That left option number three, another plan sure to land him in trouble. Was she worth it? One quick appraising glance—and more experience than he liked to admit—told Brett all he needed to know.
Hair did not bounce and shimmer the way her glossy, black curls did unless their owner spent considerable time and money in expensive beauty salons. If his last girlfriend was any indication, a complexion so flawless and cheeks such a rosy pink required serious expenditures at the cosmetic counter. Brett took note of the woman’s narrow shoulders above lush round breasts. Her tiny waist flared into hips with barely enough meat on them for a man to grasp. He recognized the snug fit of layered Lands’ End T-shirts when he saw them, and those strategically frayed capris fit too well to be from Wal-Mart. Expensive clothes to wear on moving day.
He continued his downward assessment, traveling a short distance of thigh to the place where muscular calves tapered into elegant ankles. The woman had good bone structure, he’d give her that, but he knew maintaining such a perfectly proportioned figure meant hours on treadmills and Nautilus machines. The baby-doll-pink toenails in their unscuffed sandals made him grimace.
No doubt about it, she was one of the “me, me” girls. The kind that got his back up, the kind he’d sworn off after his last long-term relationship had self-destructed.
Her lips moved rapidly in a heart-shaped face so perfect it kicked his temperature up a notch. The woman was physically attractive, no sense denying it. But could he ignore her looks long enough to reach a simple conclusion? He could, and he would. If his words were wasted on her, he’d save his breath.
Grasping Miss Stephanie Bryant by the shoulders, he tumbled her forward while slipping his free hand around to his back. In one fluid move, he loosed a pair of handcuffs from his belt and snapped silver around a slim, white wrist.
The petite figure before him immediately immediately stilled and Brett looked down. He had sworn her eyes couldn’t get any wider. He was wrong about that.
Duncan, Leigh. Brett (The Hometown Heroes Series Book 2). Gardenia Street Publishing. Kindle Locations (210-280). Kindle Edition.
Not a very auspicious beginning to a relationship but one that had me commiserating with Brett, the woman really didn’t get it.
Helping a neighbor at the storm shelter, helping employees at her new office, and wondering if she’s made the right choices are all part and parcel of this book.
Plenty of problems, lots of solutions, decisions, laughs, romance and questions as this book progresses from the storm to every day life in Florida.
Glimpses of Brett’s other friends, on which this series is based, has me wanting the next book.
5 Contented Purrs for Leigh!
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Leigh Duncan is the award-winning author of more than two dozen novels, novellas and short stories. Her first full-length book, The Officer’s Girl, was released by Harlequin American Romance in 2010. Leigh went on to write seven more books for Harlequin, including the highly acclaimed Glades County Cowboys series, before she began writing the more complex, heart-warming and emotional stories that have resonated with her readers. An Amazon best-selling author and a National Readers’ Choice Award winner, Leigh lives on Central Florida’s East Coast where she writes women’s fiction and contemporary romance with a dash of Southern sass.
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