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From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Nicole Blanchard comes a forbidden enemies-to-lovers military romantic suspense!

He’s the last person I ever wanted to see again.

Callum Reece. My late husband’s brother. The man who took my virginity and then left without so much as an I’m sorry. The Marine operator who makes a living from putting his life on the line.

But loving me? That had been too much of a risk.

I’m the one woman he can’t have.

After he left, I moved on. I built a life without Callum…until it came crashing down around me. All I want is to find out the truth about my husband’s death, no matter what it may be.

Sometimes the forbidden is a dangerous temptation.

But when Callum comes back, determined to win my heart, I’ll have to put up the fight of my life to avoid being hurt again.

Operator takes place in the First to Fight series, but may be read as a standalone.

I force myself to release the steering wheel and relax my stiff hands—they never quite worked right after that last deployment. Can’t even recall now, but I took a shot that went through both palms and haven’t been able to work them without pain since. I can’t hide from my past forever. It took me six months to wean myself off the bottle and another month to sell my place in Raleigh, get my shit sorted, and talk Bunny into letting me come back. To be honest, it didn’t take much convincing. Dad’s been on a steady decline since Ian died and they manage several businesses in town and have been short-handed ever since the pandemic. They need help bad if they’re willing to accept mine. 

The last thing I wanted to do when I put Sweet Creek in my rearview was come back here, but it seems I’ll always be chasing their approval. This time, I mean to have it. They need my help, my parents and Gwen, and they’re going to get it whether they like it or not.  

Climbing from the cab of my old truck, I shove my sore hands into my pockets, because to my horror, they’re shaking like I’m coming off a week-long bender. Which would have been an accurate description six months ago. Back then, it would have taken a shit ton of liquid courage to point my truck in this direction when I’d been running away from their disappointment for as long as I can remember.

Gwen’s standing at the fence with Daisy at her side. She looks the same, and yet completely different. The woman in front of me is no longer the sweet-faced co-ed or the blushing bride, but I don’t think Gwen’s ever been more beautiful…or unattainable. Not that a beat-up grunt like me would ever think he deserved something so perfect. I never did, though there was a time I said to hell with what I deserved and took what I wanted. 


A thin sundress the color of her eyes, like lilacs in a summer afternoon, wraps around her legs. Even from a distance I can tell the color of the dress accentuates the purple cast to her pale blue eyes, and I know if I look closely enough, they’d be damn near purple with light gold streaks at the iris. 

Memories don’t hold a candle to how beautiful Gwen is in person…and my memories of her are what used to keep me from losing it completely. Her red hair has softened with time. It’s now a light copper she has pulled up in a loose topknot with strands floating down to frame her face. The freckles on her nose she used to cover up with goop are bare now, making her look as sweet and young as she had before. 

My throat catches and I manage to choke out, “Hello, Gwen,” when I reach the fence, but it comes out strangled. How is it that seeing the anger flush her cheeks makes me want to kiss her till she flushes for a different reason? I’d thought the time apart, the fact that she married my brother, and her clear scorn for me would sate any desire I ever had for her. 

I’d been wrong. 

So very, very wrong.

I want her now more than I ever have, and I’m pretty sure she’d dance on my grave if given the chance.

Alpha Hero, Forbidden Romance, Military, Protector, Romantic Suspense, Second Chance, Single Parent, Small Town

Graphic Sex / Violence, Pregnancy Trope, Mental Health Issues, Suicide


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