NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author
She’s been targeted by a killer.
Widow Danae Sutherland moved to Crimson Point a month ago with her teenage son to begin a new chapter in their lives. Adjusting to small town life is a big change for them both, but it’s been especially hard on her son, and the holidays are making it even harder. When a sexy stranger moves into the cottage next door, she’s not prepared for the undeniable attraction between them. He’s only in town for a couple weeks, so getting involved will only lead to heartbreak. That doesn’t stop her from falling for him. And when danger strikes, she has no choice but to put her life in his hands.
He’s the only man who can save her.
Former Marine Ryder Locke has come to the Oregon Coast to spend the holidays with his cousin Molly and her family. It’s his chance to face his demons head on before returning to his job as a bodyguard for one of Hollywood’s brightest stars. The last thing he expects is to fall for the single mom next door, and for danger to blow up around her. When the threat closes in and her life hangs in the balance, Ryder must risk everything to save her from the man who wants her dead.
Ryder Locke has finally decided to spend the holidays with his cousin Molly and her family. He hasn’t seen them in a while but he used to spend a lot of holidays with Molly. He’s looking forward to this time to hopefully chase his demons away, and not with a bottle.
Danae Sutherland moved to Crimson Point to get away from memories of her late husband. Although her son Finn wasn’t happy leaving his friends. Now she’s dealing with him holing up in his room playing games online with those friends. Only today he’s going to go out with someone from school, and take a bus. Something he never did in Seattle.
Ironically it’s this interaction with Paul and others from his school that leads to the problems we see in this book.
Ryder first meets Finn, then Danae at the coffee shop run by Poppy, the sheriff’s wife. He knew he’d meet all these people through Molly, he just didn’t realize they already sort of knew him. Danae lives in the cottage next to his and she gives him a ride back.
I think one my favorite interactions with Ryder, Danae and Finn is when Danae is outside alone putting up Christmas Decorations. Ryder not only offers to help but insists on Finn helping too.
This is a favorite scene.
She cleared her throat, avoiding his gaze. Okay, she might be out of practice when it came to men, but she definitely hadn’t imagined that. Him breathing in her scent as if he hadn’t been able to help himself. “Thanks,” she murmured, suddenly flushed and warm all over.
“No problem.” He stepped back, giving her space, and it was immediately easier to breathe. “Can I go in and talk to Finn?”
“Sure. Just through there and down the hall to the first shut door.” She gestured to the open garage. As Ryder walked away, she couldn’t help sweeping her gaze over the back of him, tall and strong and way more appealing than was good for her. It was the first time since Terry died that she’d been attracted to a man, yet the intensity of her reaction to him startled her.
Not that it would come to anything, she reminded herself, grabbing another bin of lights to drag onto the front lawn. He was only in town until New Year’s, and then she’d never see him again.
IT WASN’T HARD for Ryder to find Finn’s room. As Danae had said, it was the only door shut along the hallway, and he could hear Finn’s excited, animated voice coming from inside it.
He knocked sharply twice and waited. “Finn?” he said when there was no answer.
A rattling noise. “Yeah?”
He opened the door, almost staggering back a step because of the teenage funk hanging heavy in the air. It was like Finn hadn’t opened the door or a window since he’d moved in. “Hey.”
Finn stared at him a second in astonishment, then whipped off his headset, his long bangs falling over his face. “Hey.”
“What are you playing?”
“Call of Duty.” He pushed a hand through his hair, face full of confusion.
“Nice. Listen, I was just driving by and saw your mom on a ladder out front, trying to hang the Christmas lights. Watching her almost gave me a heart attack, so I made her come down and said I’d do it for her. Mind giving me a hand finishing up?”
Finn tipped the mic on his headset toward his lips. “Gotta go. Back later,” he blurted, put the headset on his desk and hurried toward him.
Good kid. “Ever put up lights before?” he asked as Finn followed him down the hall.
“No. I used to help my dad a bit, but that was a few years ago, and mostly I just stood by the ladder and held the lights coiled up on my arm.”
High time he learned and started helping his mom out more. “Grab your jacket and some gloves. We might be a while.”
In the garage Danae had pulled out various tubs and containers holding outside decorations and lights. “Want to put up anything else, or just the lights?” he asked as Finn tugged on gloves.
Finn glanced in the bins, surprise filling his face, then a hint of a smile, as if the items were sentimental to him. “Yeah, maybe a few of these. If you don’t mind.”
“Not at all.” He noted the basketball hoop and the sports equipment stacked in the far corner. “You play sports?”
Finn followed his gaze. “Used to, before we moved. Basketball and baseball. You?”
“Same. And football.” He picked up a big container and started carrying it into the front yard.
“How long were you in the Marine Corps?” Finn asked, following with another bin as they stepped onto the lawn.
“Long time. Joined up after I graduated from high school, and just got out a few months ago.”
“How come you left?”
“It was time.”
Thankfully, he was saved from answering more questions about his time in the Corps by Danae coming around the corner. She stopped, her eyebrows hiking up when she saw Finn carrying a bin. “Wow, hi. You’re going to help put these up?”
“Yeah,” he muttered.
“Here, let me help,” she offered, reaching for one end of the container Ryder held.
“I got it.” He shifted his grip, eyeing her. She had on a thin coat, and no gloves or hat. Her cheeks and the end of her nose were bright pink, and so were her fingers. “It’s cold out. You go on in and warm up, we’ll handle all this.”
She looked from him to Finn and back uncertainly. “You sure?”
A smile broke over her face, full of gratitude. “Okay, but only if you’ll stay for dinner.”
He glanced at Finn for permission and got a nod of assent with the hint of a grin. “Sounds good.”
Danae went inside. Ryder adjusted the angle of the ladder and climbed up to check on the installed section of lights. She’d clipped them to the edge of the gutter fine, but the placement of the plug end nearest the edge of the house was awkward, making it hard to hide the bright orange extension cord she’d used.
He undid everything and moved it all, directing Finn on the ground to shift the cord around and use a different outlet. Together they strung the lights across the sides and front of the bungalow, but there were more strands left over when they finished. “Want to put more up anywhere?”
“Around the front windows,” Finn said. “And then we need to wind some really close together around the tree trunks. That’s what Dad always did.”
Ryder felt for the kid. While his own father hadn’t been a part of his life since his parents divorced when Ryder was still in elementary school, Finn’s clearly had, and it must have been really tough on him and his mom when they lost him. Then to be ripped away from his home and friends around Thanksgiving and made to start over in a small town during the holidays… Not easy.
He’d braced himself for Finn to be sullen and maybe even a pill about helping, and was pleasantly surprised to find the opposite. With everything he did, Finn was right there helping, even seeming keen on putting everything up. Ryder asked him about his interests while they worked, about school and any friends he’d made so far.
“There’s one guy, Paul. We hang out together a bit. But my best friends are back in Seattle.”
“That who you play online with?”
“Mostly, yeah. You play CoD?”
“Been known to play the odd campaign from time to time,” he answered, reaching up to connect two strands of lights together at the corner of the large, left-hand picture window at the front of the house. “Got any other hobbies?”
“Not really anymore. You?”
“I like to be out on the water, love to hike, and I still like hitting the range.”
“You mean golfing, or shooting?”
He grinned. “Shooting.”
“I’d love to do that, but my mom won’t let me go yet.”
Ryder would have offered to take him, but that was overstepping when he barely knew Finn and Danae. He could see her moving around in the kitchen on the opposite side of the house, her back to him, the strings of her apron tied right above her heart-shaped ass framed in those snug, dark jeans as she bent over and—
“Wanna play some CoD after dinner?”
He jerked his gaze down to Finn. While he might not have a ton of experience with kids, he recognized that the offer spoke volumes, and there was no mistaking the quiet yearning in the kid’s eyes. “Sure, I’d like that.”
A grin flashed on Finn’s lips as the kid turned away.
Cross, Kaylea. Deadly Valor (Crimson Point Series Book 6). Kindle Locations (537-599). Kaylea Cross Inc. Kindle Edition.
The putting up of the decorations, followed by dinner cements the beginning of a relationship with Danae and her son.
Of course none of this is going to be easy as it becomes apparent the boys Finn has more or less been coerced to hang with, are doing things illegal.
I found myself biting my nails as this story unfolds. We get to see everyone from the previous books and there’s an interesting interaction between a woman and the reclusive Boyd at the coffee shop as well.
Plenty of action, suspense, laughter, tears and just the right amount of sizzle. I can’t wait for the next book in this series.
5 Contented Purrs for Kaylea!
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New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Kaylea Cross writes edge-of-your-seat military romantic suspense. Her work has won many awards and has been nominated for both the Daphne du Maurier and the National Readers’ Choice Awards. A Registered Massage Therapist by trade, Kaylea is also an avid gardener, artist, Civil War buff, Special Ops aficionado, belly dance enthusiast and former nationally-carded softball pitcher. She lives in Vancouver, BC with her husband and family.