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These U.S. Marines are always the first to fight when it comes to their country…or the women they love.

Wounded former U.S. Marine Scott Green would rather be alone than face anyone’s pity. After losing his leg in a tragic attack on his last deployment, all Scott wants is to make it through each day.

Until he meets Faith Thompson.

Faith wasn’t looking for happily-ever-after, especially not with a surly Marine who turns her down after a kiss under the mistletoe. She definitely didn’t want to see him again when they’re forced to spend the holidays together a year later.

But Scott’s a changed man and there’s no way he’s letting her get away a second time.

“And our last Secret Santa . . .”

My stomach plummets as I get to my feet and scramble back down the hallway, elbowing past relatives. I reach the living room, breathless, and try to wave down my mother’s attention, but Uncle Melvin and his lady love block her from seeing me. They couldn’t care less about what is going on around them, either. They are much more interested in the mistletoe hanging overhead.

“Is our hometown hero, Scott Green!” Mom finishes and looks my way with an expectant expression.

I make panicked eyes at her, but the crowd in the hallway is already parting, and I hear the dreaded steps of Scott making his way to the living room.

Oh, fuck, fuck, fuck!

I’ve never dealt well with pressure. Public speaking gives me hives. I’m known to call in on test days or big presentations. When all eyes swing in my direction, and I look up to find the man who laughed at me after my awkward conversation with Mom, I’m about three seconds away from having a veritable meltdown. 

I didn’t get a good look at him before, because I wished he’d disappear and stop enjoying my moment of humiliation, but I get an eyeful when he draws to a stop next to me.

He’s wearing a red-green-and-black flannel shirt with the top three buttons undone. I’d never noticed how tempting such a suggestive expanse of skin could be. Those three buttons make my fingers itch to undo the rest. A silver chain disappears into the shadows beneath, and my eyes try to see through the material. I have the sudden urge to reach in there and feel the skin-warmed metal for myself. The sleeves of the shirt are rolled to his elbows and leave his muscular forearms and rough-hewn hands bare.

Realizing I’m staring—and so is everyone else—I flick my gaze to my mom, whose eyes are wide as she mouths, “Where’s his present?”

Panic spears through me, and I whip back to Scott. His dark gaze studies me as if we have all the time in the world, a little smile playing around his lips.

Uncle Melvin and his lady push me to get out of the limelight—no doubt to find another room in which to make out. My gaze lifts and my stomach clenches when the mistletoe in the doorway that inspired their kiss only seconds before fills my line of sight.

“Faith,” I hear my mother hiss. She clears her throat. “Faith has your present, Scott.”

Wrinkles form at the corners of his eyes as he full-on smiles. “I must have been a good boy this year,” he says in a low voice that shoots through me like a good shot of whiskey, warm and dark with a hint of heat.

The crowd around me laughs, and I smile half-heartedly. All the attention is making my heart beat double time in my chest. I resist the need to rub my hands on my dress and glance again to the top of the doorway.

Scott’s smile turns contemplative, and he follows my look up to the mistletoe. There’s a tense pause where his throat bobs with a swallow before he looks back at me, and his smile melts from his lips.

“Faith,” Mom says, her voice leaning toward high-pitched. “Why don’t you give Scott his present?”

“Yes,” Scott says, his eyes still twinkling at my discomfort, “why don’t you?”

There’s a dull thudding in my ears, and my heart is beating so fast I could use some of Grandpa’s medication. Before I can second-guess myself, I take a step forward, place my hands on his shoulders, and press my lips to his.

Alpha Hero, Grumpy / Sunshine, Holiday, Military, Protector Hero, Second Chance, Small Town

Description of wounded veteran


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