Holiday Edition Book 4
NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author
On Memorial Day, he will stand by her side when she visits her husband’s grave, but he wonders if she’ll ever see him as anything more than her husband’s best friend and the man who accompanied his body home for burial…
Navy SEAL, Chris “Zig” Bykowski, has done his duty to his best friend’s wife by being there to help whenever she or her son needed him. However, now, he has the feeling she wants to put distance between herself and the SEALs who watch over her as the widow of a fallen teammate. Though painful, because he’s grown to care for her, he will let her go, knowing she needs closure to move on with her life.
Andi Westall has picked up the pieces of her shattered life after the death of her husband, Ozzie. Although she knows it will be painful to break away from the SEALs who have given her their support, she is ready to cut ties and move on past the painful memories. However, fate has another idea. When she discovers that she may have a stalker, the only person she knows to confide in is Ozzie’s best friend, Zig. When Zig and the team rush to the rescue, she finds that accepting their aid and continued friendship isn’t as hard as she’d imagined.
While the team works to figure out who is stalking her, Zig insists on sticking close to keep her safe. One night of tearful remembrances ends with her waking up to discover that she wants more from Zig than just his protection. Whether this is love or simply need is something she’ll have to figure out before they both get hurt.
On their last mission Chris “Zig” Bykowski promised his best friend and teammate Ozzie that he would take care of his family should something happen to him. Zig hasn’t gone back on that promise, even now when Ozzie’s son, Jeremy, is able to do most of the chores he does for Andi.
In spite of her feelings for Zig, Andi knows it’s time to push him away. He deserves to have a life beyond taking care of her. She knew he was coming over, he comes over every leave he has. She was surprised to see flowers on the counter near where he was preparing breakfast for them. Unfortunately they weren’t from him and now she’s scared.
This is a favorite scene.
Then she saw the red roses wrapped in hunter green tissue lying on the counter. Had he brought her flowers? Her body went still.
Zig noted the direction of her gaze and blinked. “I didn’t bring them. They were on your porch when I arrived. No card.” Then he pressed his lips together as if stopping himself from saying anything more.
Andi frowned. The flowers were beautiful, but added to the other “gifts” she’d received of late, she was more than a little alarmed. The last two incidents hadn’t frightened her, but this one, arriving at her doorstep, did.
“You have an admirer…” he murmured, his gaze going back to the skillet filled with fluffy eggs.
“I think…” She paused because she didn’t want to say it. If she did, Zig would likely decide he had to do something about it, and this wasn’t his problem to fix. Still, she had Jeremy to consider, and being stubborn about her independence didn’t mean she had the right to risk his safety. She glanced toward Jeremy and was relieved to see him with his nose stuck inside a graphic novel. She moved closer to Zig and whispered, “I think I have a stalker.”
He blinked then turned to the stove, switching off the burner and placing the pan on a cool ring. After preparing one plate with toast, bacon, and eggs, then piling the rest of the meal on one plate and slipping it into the microwave, he slid Jeremy’s plate in front of him. “Buddy, eat up. Your mom and I are going outside to talk.”
Jeremy nodded, his gaze locked on the plate. For her son, food topped anime and baseball. He’d be good for a few minutes by himself.
Zig pulled off the apron, draped it over a chair, and then indicated for Andi to precede him out of the room. Once they were outside on the front porch, he turned to her, his arms folded over his chest. “What’s going on?”
Feeling a little chilled despite the balmy morning, Andi rubbed her arms. “It’s probably nothing.”
“Let me be the judge.”
When she frowned at his words, he held up his hands. “I’m just here to help. You froze when you saw the roses. Do you know who left them?” he asked, speaking slowly.
She’d always liked his deep tones and the way he held so still when he listened to what she said. She blew out a breath. “I don’t. It started last week—”
“Something started last week…? A week…and you didn’t call me?” His blond eyebrows lowered, darkening his blue eyes.
“I thought it was nothing. Besides, you didn’t get back into town until Thursday. I wouldn’t have been able to reach you anyway.”
He closed his eyes for a second then lowered his head to lock his gaze with hers. “Tell me.”
Good Lord, he’d never used that tone with her before—all alpha, kind of hard. A shiver worked its way across her bare arms, and she rubbed them again. “You know I’m teaching at the University, on base.”
He nodded. “Night classes.”
“I’m part of the Workforce Education Solutions department. I’m teaching some basic job search classes—how to complete a resume, what to expect in your first days on the job sort of thing.”
“Helping people processing out of the military, I assume.”
“Mostly, but also some spouses looking to reenter the workforce take my classes, too.” She shrugged. “Anyway, I teach at night, and sometimes, I hang around to proofread resumes or give advice. It’s crazy really. Sure, I worked managing a temp agency early in my marriage, but it’s been years since I was out there. Still, they hired me.”
“Why wouldn’t they? You’re smart. You have the receipts.” The corners of his lips curved, but his gaze was still steady.
She appreciated that he was giving her time to describe her worries. “Anyway, early last week, I went to my car in the faculty lot, and there was a note under my windshield wipers. It said something like, ‘You bring sunshine everywhere you go.’ Then something else… ‘I’d like to soak up all your rays.’” She rolled her eyes. “It was like a bad high school love note.”
“Did you keep it?”
“For a day or two. I checked the handwriting against my students’ when they turned in their papers, but nothing stood out, so I tossed it. Then last night, I found a pretty gold bracelet attached to my car’s doorhandle. I was too spooked to take the time to remove it until I got home. It’s gold all right—eighteen karats. And now the flowers—at my house?” she said, hissing the last word.
He reached out and rubbed his hands on her upper arms, up and down. The warmth of his palms seeped into her skin, and her knees weakened just a little, making her sway toward him. She found herself leaning against his body, her face turned to the side, one cheek pressed against his chest. He wasn’t nearly as tall as Ozzie had been, but he still topped her by a few inches. His arms were just as strong as they slowly rose and encircled her.
They stood together for a long moment, and she felt his breath feather her hair. It had been such a long time since she’d felt a comforting embrace…
“I need to hit the hardware store again,” he said softly. “I want you both to come with me. I won’t leave you alone here. The flowers were fresh. He might be watching now.”
She jerked back and glanced up into his eyes. “Do you really think I should be worried?”
“I honestly don’t know. Three gifts. One on your doorstep. It’s too much of a coincidence. I’m betting it’s the same guy, and I don’t like the fact he found out where you live.” Once again, his hands moved, this time to her shoulders, which he held gently. “Humor me. We can make a day of it. Maybe hit the store for what we’ll need to harden the security around this place, and then take Jeremy to the batting cages at the park.”
She nodded. “Okay.” When he drew away, she wished he hadn’t. She’d enjoyed feeling his strength and warmth pressed against her. But when he stepped back, his jaw hardening, she realized this was for the best, and that she was maybe reading more into his embrace than what it really was—a friend’s comfort. When he turned away to open the door for her to reenter the house, she felt as though a rubber band snapped her back into awareness of the fact that this was Zig.
This morning, she’d been determined to figure out a way to push him gently out of their lives because she needed to move on. Now, she knew she was in real trouble. Zig was a very attractive man—tall and muscled, with thick blond hair and ice-blue eyes. She’d have to be dead not to notice. Still, the last thing she wanted to do was to cling to him. Hell, he might let her because he felt responsible for her after Ozzie’s death, but he deserved more. He should be out finding the woman who was meant for him, not hovering over a woman five years older than him who had a half-grown child. He deserved a woman who’d give him all her “firsts”—her first love, her first child.
So, maybe she’d let him watch over them this one last time. Let him do the things he needed to in order to make them safe, and then she’d let him go, pushing him out, if she had to, no matter how hard it would be to see him leave.
Besides, she wasn’t even sure what it was she felt. Only lately had she really begun to react to his presence. She’d always known he was handsome and well-built—all of the SEALs on Ozzie’s team were. However, Zig was the leanest, with a runner’s body that was so densely muscled, so well-honed, that watching his muscles flex as he did the most mundane things around the house and yard made her sigh.
Not that he was trying to attract her. But it had been a long damn time since she’d been this aware of a man’s body, and he’d been driving her crazy for a while now. With him following her into the house, she was only too aware of the movement of her hips.
Damn, hussy, she warned herself. She moved forward more stiffly, forcing a smile when she entered the kitchen. “Hey, Jeremy, after we eat, Zig needs to pick up some things at the hardware store.”
Jeremy’s glance went to Zig. He was already smiling, envisioning another manly adventure.
“We’re all going,” Zig said. “After we get what we need at the store, how about we hit the batting cages at the park?”
Jeremy fisted his hand and pulled it sharply inward. “Yes! I’m almost done eating. I’ll go get my bat and glove.”
She followed her son with her gaze while the sound of the microwave beeped behind her. Better to look there than to glance at Zig again. Now, she knew what it felt like to stand inside his embrace and breath in his sea-fresh scent. She felt silly for feeling a little shy.
The slide of a plate across the counter drew her attention to him. He’d divided the food onto two plates.
“Better eat up. It’s going to be a long day.” He gave her a crooked half-smile—so familiar and dear. He’d worn it every time he’d shown up unannounced, trailing Ozzie into the house.
She lifted her chin. “You don’t have to do this, you know.”
He raised his eyebrows. “What? Feed you breakfast? I’m just returning the favor. You’ve cooked for me a million times.”
She pressed her lips together and dropped her gaze. “You don’t have to take care of us. I’m a big girl. I can take care of myself and Jeremy.”
Zig leaned over the counter and used a finger to lift her chin until her gaze locked with his. “Andi, Ozzie asked me to watch over you both, but I’m not doing this because I made him a promise that I would. I want to be here, for you.”
Andi’s eyes widened a fraction, and she licked her lower lip before she could stop herself. Damn, if she didn’t wish he’d kiss her.
Devlin, Delilah; Authors, Paradise . Hot SEAL, In His Memory. Kindle Locations (195-269). Kindle Edition.
Of course Zig calls in the rest of the team and as they investigate, more things add to the suspense.
I love the way this slowly and steadily moves into the relationship they both want and need. When Andi and Zig finally get together they melt the pages with the heat. Even better, Jeremy and his team heartily approve.
I love these multi author series and I will be reading all of these.
5 Contented Purrs for Delilah!
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Up until recently, award-winning author Delilah Devlin lived in South Texas at the intersection of two dry creeks, surrounded by sexy cowboys in Wranglers. These days, she’s missing the wide-open skies and starry nights, but loving her dark forest in central Arkansas with its eccentric characters and isolation–the better to feed her hungry muse! To Delilah, the greatest sin is driving between the lines because it’s comfortable and safe. Her personal journey has taken her through one war, many countries, cultures, jobs and relationships to bring her to the place she travels now–writing sexy novels that hold more than a kernel of autobiography and often share a common thread of self-discovery and transformation.
Delilah Devlin is a prolific and award-winning author of erotica and erotic romance with a rapidly expanding reputation for writing deliciously edgy stories with complex characters. Whether creating dark, erotically-charged paranormal worlds or richly descriptive historical stories that ring with authenticity, Delilah Devlin “pens in uncharted territory that will leave the readers breathless and hungering for more…” (Paranormal Reviews) Ms. Devlin has published over 140 erotic stories in multiple genres and lengths.