USA Today Bestselling Author
After being rescued from the Ethiopian rebels’ prisoner of war camp, Keene Soto returned to the United States a broken man. His torture had been of an especially personal nature. He believed himself to be only half a man, and that half hadn’t worked since his return to the USA. He was too damaged for any female, so he given up hope of finding love.
Until she touched him.
Kelly Edson had moved to the Holt farm with her son Jock when her stepbrother and his best friend opened the Holt Agency. She’d hoped living on the farm in the middle of nowhere Indiana would change her luck. She’d been a loser magnet. Almost every man she’d ever dated was a failure at life, pulling Kelly and her son down with him. Working two jobs and studying for her next nursing certification while raising a son, she hadn’t dated a loser in over two years. Because she hadn’t been on a date. She was surrounded by hot single men who all worked for her brother and considered her a little sister. Except Keene. She looked forward to their nightly conversations on the porch swing.
When Kelly and Keene discover she’s the only one who can help him recover from his POW physical and emotional damage, will her brother keep them apart?
When Kelly disappears, will the truth keep Keene from helping them find her?
Keene has PTSD and some severe nightmares since Ethoipia, his physical injuries are of a private nature and really impact his emotions. He’s now working for the Holt Agency and has purchased land from the Holts. He’s mostly doing the construction himself with the occasional contractor and even the occasional teammate. He really needs his own space.
Kelly Edison also lives on the ranch with her son, Jock. She’s Ajax’s stepsister and treats all the men like her brothers. Truly a joy to be around, Kelly’s a home healthcare Certified Nursing Assistant in this rural area, working two afternoons a week. She works mornings at the diner for the rest of her income and studies to be an EMT at night. Her boss is a genius at getting the approvals for those in need. Right now, she has several patients spanning both ends of her territory. When she arrives at the first one for the day, Mr. Munson, the signs were that his other caregiver had not been in.
He tells her Shelby hadn’t been there since the previous Tuesday. Apparently, he fired her. Something he really can’t do, but the girl left anyway and hadn’t been back. Now Kelly had to find a replacement, hopefully quickly. With her boss Rudy’s approval, she goes to local high schools to see if the know of recent graduates who might need a job and be interested.
The counselor at the second school sets her on edge, to the point that she talks to Keene about what she saw on his laptop. It’s enough to have him looking into it the next morning. Ajax and Keene arrange to meet with a state trooper at the diner where Kelly works.
It’s really busy and Kelly has a bit of a confrontation with some construction workers.
This is a favorite scene.
Kelly grinned right back at him and stepped into his personal space. “Do you like it hot?” She mixed seductive and teasing in her voice.
“Oh, yeah, baby.”
She shoved the hot pot into his chest. When he stepped back, she pushed him into his chair and set the pot of coffee on the table in front of him. “Good. I’m sure your buddies like it hot too, so why don’t you be a gentleman and pour coffee for everyone at your table? We’re little bit busy today and that would really help out.”
She gave the large table of eight men a huge smile. “Gentlemen, see that sign up there?” She pointed to the We have the right to refuse service sign. “If he, or any of you, touches a server in this restaurant again, none of you will be allowed to step foot in here ever again. It’s twenty miles in the opposite direction of the old Nelson farm to the next restaurant that serves breakfast.”
She put her fist on her hip. With her father’s clientele, she’d learned to defend herself as a teenager and expanded those skills working in bars. “Does everybody understand the rules and consequences?”
She looked at each man in the eye. She got a few “yes, ma’am” responses, a few chin lifts, a couple of nods, and then she looked at Loudmouth.
“I was just trying to have some morning fun. Start my day right with the pretty girl on my lap.” His smile didn’t soften his words or entice her to forgive him. “I didn’t expect to be served by a bi—”
“I wouldn’t finish that sentence if I were you.” Keene’s deep voice rumbled from behind her. She knew he had at least five inches and twenty-five pounds of solid muscle more than Loudmouth.
“You will start with an apology to my sister.” Ajax stepped beside her, right behind Loudmouth’s chair. He was thinner than Keene and had an inch or two in height but had regained his badass SEAL body at the farm.
Without looking behind him, Loudmouth said, “And who’s gonna make—” Before he could finish the sentence, his ass was on the floor. Her brother had simply tipped the chair forward then pulled it out from underneath him. Keene reached down and picked him up by the shoulders, planting him directly in front of Kelly but out of arm’s reach.
“What the fu—”
“That doesn’t sound anything like an apology.” Ajax stepped between Kelly and Loudmouth. Keene stepped beside her. Both men kept glancing at the table of construction workers, but nobody made a move to help their coworker.
“I really hate to repeat myself, but I obviously need to for you.” Ajax dropped his hands to his sides, elbows slightly bent. When he rolled to the balls of his feet, Kelly fought a smile. She knew this fighting stance. He was prepared. “Now, apologize to my sister. In case you can’t read it on her nametag, it’s Kelly. Not Red.”
Before she could say anything, Keene popped in with, “Sorry for what?”
Loudmouth took a deep breath and stood a little taller, holding her gaze. “I’m sorry, Kelly, for pulling you into my lap.”
“And…” Her brother made a rolling gesture with his hand for Loudmouth to continue.
His eyes went big. “And what?”
Her brother shook his head. “You’re not at all good at this, are you?”
“What else do I need to apologize for?”
Keene cocked his head to the side. “Let’s start with disrespecting her. That’s no way to treat a lady.”
Loudmouth let out a huff of air. “I’m sorry for disrespecting you.” With a bored expression, he glanced at Ajax then Keene. “Can I get back to my breakfast now?”
Kelly looked at the construction workers’ table and realized that Clara had served their food during the apology.
“I accept your apology. Sit down. All of you. Eat before it gets cold.” Kelly looked at both Keene and Ajax. She tilted her head toward the kitchen.
“Who are they?” Loudmouth asked as she stepped through the swinging door.
“Navy SEALs,” several replied from the table of elderly gentlemen.
She heard grumbles from the construction workers before the door closed.
Turning, she punched her fists on her hips. “I was handling the situation.” She glared at the two tall men. “Although I appreciate you backing me up, I had it handled.”
“You’re welcome.” Her brother held out her keys, ignoring her protest. “You needed a new battery. Actually, you need a new car. That one is on its last legs.”
“I also need a vacation in the Caribbean, but I can’t afford that either.” Could this day get any worse? Now she had to worry about her car falling apart or dying on her as she cut down a country road the back way between patients. She couldn’t tell her brother that she barely made enough money to pay Nancy and Frank rent, feed Jock, and put gas in her crappy car. She was doing everything she could to better herself so she could get a job that made more money.
“We’ll talk about this at supper. I have errands to run.” He moved his gaze to Keene. “Give me about half an hour and I’ll be ready to go back to the farm.”
“Will do.” Keene and Kelly watched her brother leave. “Are you okay?” He looked at her with concern.
“Yes.” She thought she was fine. Pissed at her brother and Keene for taking over when she had handled it. Tired from lack of sleep and rushing like crazy all morning. Now worried about her car conking out on her. Then there was coming up with money for Jock to play baseball that summer. Other than that, everything was wonderful.
“Then why are you shaking?” Keene stepped in and wrapped one arm around her back. With the other, he gently pushed her head to his massive chest. “You’re okay.” He rubbed his hand up and down her back, holding her tight.
She let out a heavy sigh and melted into him. She wanted to cry but had no idea as to why. She felt so safe and secure wrapped in Keene’s arms. No man had held her like this in years. Exactly when was the last time that a man held her? Except for dancing at the wedding, she hadn’t been in a man’s arms since moving to the Holt farm over two years ago. Before that it had been months.
Damn, she needed to go on a date. She liked dating. She liked men. She also liked sex. She hadn’t been laid almost three years. The idea of sitting across the table from a man, enjoying adult get-to-know-you conversation, eating food made by a real restaurant chef, sounded wonderful. Nancy was a very good cook but she made comfort food and they ate family style.
There was little privacy in their home. She craved interaction that was just for her. Someone to tell her she looked pretty. A reason to dress up.
She wanted more of the feelings she was beginning to get from Keene holding her.
He continued to reassure her that she was all right and safe.
It took her a while, but she got ahold of her emotions. Thankfully, she hadn’t cried. Taking a deep breath, she stepped back, immediately missing his strong arms and the feeling of safety.
Looking into his beautiful hazel eyes, she wasn’t sure what to say. Finally, she decided, “Thank you,” was appropriate.
“You’re welcome…anytime.” She swore she saw a glimmer of hope and desire before he masked it. She’d felt him start to get hard, but it hadn’t developed into much. Maybe he was just comforting her, the way a friend would. The way he would his boss’s sister. He wasn’t interested in her as a woman.
Clara flew through the swinging door. “If you’re done making out with tall, gray, and handsome, I could use some help out front.”
Oh, my God. She’d totally forgotten where she was.
She grabbed Keene by the biceps. “I’ve got to get back to work. Thank you for everything.” She went up on tiptoes and brushed her lips across his. Hugging him, she whispered in his ear, “You have no idea how much that meant to me. Thank you.”
She grabbed plates and their ticket from the finished food counter and headed through the door to table six.
Her lips tingled from that slight brush with Keene’s. His lips were soft, but she’d surprised him. Besides, that was a friendly kiss. And Kelly wondered how he would kiss her if given the chance. Would he be wet and slobbery like a dog? Or would he take her lips and mouth, softly nipping and biting, slow and sweet?
She almost walked past the table where she was to deliver the food.
Cooper, KaLyn; Agency, Holt. Unchained (Holt Agency Book 2). Kindle Locations (876-944). Black Swan Publishing. Kindle Edition.
There are several things going on here, from the suspicious counselor to having to talk about her marriage and Jock’s father, to getting the replacement for Shelby.
I really loved the interaction between Kelly and Keene. The attraction is definitely there and grows rapidly even as he makes a startling, life changing discovery.
Love, Laughter, Suspense, Romance and Sizzle surround the characters in this book.
I can’t wait to read the next installment of the Holt Agency!
5 Contented Purrs fo KaLyn!
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KaLyn Cooper’s romances blend fact and fiction with blazing heat and heart-pounding suspense.
Twenty-two years as a military wife has shown KaLyn the world, and thirty years in PR taught her that fact can be stranger than fiction. She leaves it up to the reader to separate truth from imagination.
She, her husband, and Little Bear (Alaskan Malamute) live in Tennessee on a micro-plantation filled with gardens, cattle, and quail. When she’s not writing, she’s at the shooting range or on the river.
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