From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Nicole Blanchard comes a small town military romantic suspense where opposites attract and combust.
He was a grumpy jerk.
And I wanted nothing to do with him.
Absolutely nothing at all.
So why couldn’t I stay away?
I lost everything when my family was murdered. Including myself. After years of therapy and conquering my agoraphobia, all I wanted was to start over. The quiet North Carolina resort seemed like the perfect place.
Until I discovered a dead body.
The only person who believed me is the last person I expected…surly mountain resort owner and recluse Ford Collier. A man who is rumored to have killed his own teammate on his last deployment as a Marine.
As dangerous complications arise, I’ll either learn to trust again or neither of us will make it out alive.
Traitor takes place in the First to Fight series after the novella Honor, but may be read as a standalone. It features spin off characters from the original five books.
Turning to face her, I give her a mental shove to say one more smart-mouthed thing. It’s not a normal day if I haven’t fired her at least a dozen times before lunch. “That could be because I wasn’t trying to pick her up.”
Nell’s eyes twinkle mischievously. “Sure. So that’s why you couldn’t stop staring at her. Well, at least you’ve got a second chance. She left her wallet.”
Cursing lowly, I snag the trendy, frilly thing off the counter and hurry to catch her before she disappears into the woods. By chance I see a flash of blonde hair out of the corner of my eye. I shout her name, but she’s either in her own little word or doesn’t want a damn thing to do with me. I wouldn’t blame her.
When I get close, I tap her shoulder with a hand and she flies nearly a foot up in the air, whirling around, eyes wild.
“Whoa, there,” I say and take a cautious step back. “It’s just me.”
Panicked, wheezing gasps heave out of her lungs. “Jesus, you can’t sneak up on people like that.”
She’s got the wide, panicked eyes of someone afraid of death. I’d seen it enough in my own to recognize it in someone else. Who had hurt her? What had she been through to make her come to Nowhere, North Carolina? “Is everything okay?” The words are out of my mouth before I can stop them, and I regret asking the second I see her hands clench by her sides.
The fear in her gaze hardens and whatever ghosts she was remembering disappear behind her narrowed eyes. She pulls a pair of earbuds out of her ears. “Of course. I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you. Did you need something?”
I don’t miss that she takes a step back as I get closer and it’s a battle to keep myself from scowling automatically. In the years since I’ve been a civilian again, I’d gotten used to a variety of reactions. Hero-worship, disdain, disgust, but the one that really gets me is horror. If Peyton’s shoulders get any closer to her ears, she’s gonna create a spontaneous black hole and swallow herself. Her peaches and cream skin has gone ash-white. If I hadn’t seen her the day before, I would have thought she was sick or something.
She flinches when I thrust her wallet in her direction and this time I don’t bother holding back the scowl, which only makes her shrink into herself all the more. “You forgot this back at the lodge.” If my tone comes out harsher than I intend, I decide fuck it. Pretty little princess wants to play explorer, she’s got worse things to worry about than a beaten down former Marine like me. I may look like a tank, but the last thing on my mind is hurting anyone—especially a woman. Whatever happened to her in the past isn’t my fault.
It isn’t my fault.
I avert my gaze, the rush of memories, regrets, too much to bear. When I open my mouth, I find it’s gone dry, so I bite back the reminder for her to be careful.
She isn’t my responsibility. She can barely look at me without wincing. Maybe I am the monster the media made me out to be.
With that thought, and her frightened stare weighing down my shoulders, I turn on my feet and stalk back to the lodge.
Alpha Hero, Grumpy / Sunshine, Military Romance, Opposites Attract, Damsel in Distress, Protector Hero, Romantic Suspense, Military Romance, Small Town
Graphic Sex / Violence, Murder