Navy Seal Protector
SOS Agency Series, Book 3
October 1, 2017
A sexy hometown hero returns to rescue the one who got away
Ten years ago, bad boy Nick Anderson left home—and a brokenhearted Shelby Stillwater in his wake. Now the retired navy SEAL has inherited the family ranch Shelby calls home. Almost in foreclosure, the property is being sabotaged to force a sale…and Shelby is in mortal danger.
As Nick and Shelby work together to stop the vandals, old passions and new threats arise. The ranch carries painful memories, and Nick's not sure if he's willing to work to save the land. But as he finds new purpose and a new home, he remains determined to keep Shelby from harm…even if it means risking everything he holds dear in the process.
EXCERPT FROM NAVY SEAL PROTECTOR
(Copyright 2017 by Bonnie Vanak)
Shelby took her order pad from her apron. Tonight she had to have a steel backbone. Forget the honey-sweet flower attitude. The man deserved pure vinegar.
Be courteous. The pencil nearly snapped in her tight grip. "May I take your drink order?"
He turned. Soft light from the overhead lamp put the angles of his face into sharp relief. Shelby bit back a gasp at the jagged scar carved on one angular cheek. It looked as if a vicious animal had torn his skin apart.
It made him no less handsome; indeed, it made him look more ruthless and dangerous.
Nick dropped the guarded expression, replaced it with a heavy-lidded assessment. "Shelby Stillwater. You are a lovely sight for weary eyes like mine. What are you doing here, darling?"
At sixteen, the compliment would have thrilled her. Now she was older and wiser to his charms. "I'm working. And you?"
Nick's gaze shuttered and a slight tension rippled through his muscled body. "I returned for the funeral."
His Deep South accent was barely noticeable. And this Nick was different. Still charming and suave, but something lurked beneath the surface. Not the scar-Shelby dismissed that, for she'd never let such superficial markings bother her. But shadows lingered in his dark eyes.
"Nice of you to finally come home. Too bad you were too late to say goodbye to your father."
His expression darkened. "Soon as Dan found me and contacted me, I was on my way back here. I dropped everything because he was sick."
"I'm sorry for your loss," she said in a gentler tone. No matter if Nick didn't care when Silas fell ill, the man was still his father.
He gave a rough nod.
"Where are you staying?" She didn't want to be polite to this man, who'd broken her heart ten years ago when he'd pushed her aside like the boys in high school who called her "trailer trash." But Nick was Silas's son, and for the sake of honoring his dad, she'd mind her tongue.
Long as he didn't kiss her again. Your tongue wouldn't mind that, huh?
Shelby told her dancing female hormones to get lost, and mentally recalled the dead rat. Worked wonders for lowering a libido.
"At the ranch." Nick stretched an arm along the booth as he watched her.
She managed to conceal her surprise. "I'm sure your cousins will be happy to see you."
Nick's gaze turned hard. "Doubt it. Dan and Jake won't want me around long."
She blinked in surprise. "You're always welcome, Nick. You were the one who left."
Everyone in town knew how Silas and Nick had clashed like two stubborn bulls in an arena, while Dan and Jake got along with the old man just fine. Shelby didn't understand how Nick could leave home and only return for his father's funeral.
Her parents had been drunks and when they left town, Shelby barely noticed. But Nick came from a long line of solid, upstanding Barlow denizens. Andersons had served on the town council as long as anyone could remember, and the Belle Creek had been an icon in the community for years, sponsoring 4-H competitions and Little League teams.
Something flickered behind his dark gaze. "I'm ready to order. Why don't you sit a minute, take a load off? You look as if you've been running ragged."
Pride struggled against the need to do exactly as he said. Weariness won. Shelby perched on the edge of the booth and put her pad on the table. Best to not show how much her hands shook, let him know his raw animal heat still could affect her, like a blast furnace. "Thanks."
"Where are you laying your head at night these days, darling? Apartment in town?"
Nick's deep, smoky voice made the question sound sinful and inviting. Shelby tapped her pencil against the battered order pad. "Silas converted the space above the garage into an apartment for myself and Timmy."
The scar on his cheek turned white as his jaw tightened. "Timmy?"
"My nephew. My sister and her husband are living overseas in Iraq. He's an engineer, got a very lucrative twenty-four-month contract."
Nick's mouth thinned, and he shook his head. "You couldn't pay me enough to live there. Did three tours in Iraq. Managed to survive, despite all the suicide bombers."
She knew this, knew it every day, and worried one day her sister and brother-in-law might not return home. "It's why they left Timmy with me."
"Still the same Shelby, living in the same place, taking care of everyone," he murmured, his gaze never leaving hers. "Darling, are you ever going to leave the Belle Creek? That old place has been trapping you there for years."
Shelby bristled at this truth. She'd given up her dream of traveling in order to care for Timmy. It was a reality she'd cheerfully accepted, but hearing it from his sexy mouth made it hurt. "My sister and her husband couldn't pass up this chance to make good money. They're moving back here when they return, and they promised I could live with them to save money for travel. Now, are you ready to order?"
"I'll have sweet tea, salad with raspberry vinaigrette, the chicken, baked potato and carrots."
"You like breasts or thighs?"
His eyes moved in a slow caress over her body that made all her hormones sing. "Both look good to me."
Damn that color rising to her cheeks. Nick chuckled. "Breast meat. Grilled."
After scribbling down the order, she stood. "Be right up."
He smiled, a genuine smile that added tiny lines to the corners of his chocolate-brown eyes and dimpled his right cheek. A bedroom smile that she suspected had lured many women into his arms. "It's good to see you again, Shelby. You're the one person in this town I like seeing again."
She wished she could say the same. The sooner Nick Anderson left, the better for her. The man had a habit of disarming her, shaking up her world. In a world that was already pretty rattled, she liked the idea of stability.