Elisa Hall is good at starting from scratch. Leaving an abusive relationship in her rearview, she packs everything she owns into the trunk of her car and heads for refuge with her friend in Hope’s Crossing, North Carolina.
Alex Rojas returned from his second deployment as a Navy SEAL to find his condo empty and divorce papers on the breakfast table. Now he’s building a life for himself and his daughter at Hope’s Crossing kennels training younger dogs and handlers to search and rescue, struggling to adjust to life back in the States and as a single father.
When Elisa shows up at the kennels, it’s obvious she’s running from something. Luckily, the dogs and trainers at Hope’s Crossing are more than capable of warding off trouble. And with every minute he spends with Elisa, Alex becomes even more and more determined to protect the woman he’s certain he won’t be able to live without…
Beautiful blue-gray eyes met his briefly before the woman dropped her own gaze to focus on someplace lower on his face, like his nose or mouth. Subtle. Most people would probably not even notice the way she avoided direct eye contact.
But then again, not many people made eye contact a challenge the way he and his colleagues did. It wasn’t on purpose, really; more of a common quirk in their personalities.
Funny, he hadn’t expected to see her again. Okay, maybe he’d been hoping to find her at Revolution MMA for those self-defense classes he’d recommended. But here she was. A weird tingle jolted through his chest.
This woman was about as non-aggressive as possible without cowering outright. Despite her upright posture, her hands hung at her sides in a loose, non-defensive position. Her left wrist was covered in a brace and it was easy to see she held something in her right hand. She was far enough back on the landing to easily drop down a step or two without having to back up more than a few inches.
But the mannerisms didn’t fit her energy, the straightness of her shoulders, or the set of her jaw. Whoever this woman was, she’d developed habits. She wasn’t a mouse by nature. He wouldn’t be as irritated to see these behaviors if these things came naturally to her.
Who had forced her to assume those mannerisms to survive?
“Mr. Rojas.” Her voice was steady.
Another sign of her being more than what she seemed, as far as he was concerned. The timbre was almost soothing, and he realized he’d balled his hands into fists. Well, shit. He let his hands loosen.
She presented the object she held in her right hand. “I think your daughter left this behind at the ER last night. I hope you don’t mind, but the logo for the kennels was on the inside label, so I googled the address.”
Slowly—because he didn’t want her to snatch her hand back—he took the glove from her. “Thanks.”
“The hospital lost and found was overflowing, and I wanted to make sure Boom got her glove back,” the woman continued, then bit her lip. “And I wanted to be sure to thank you.” Her cheeks took on a fascinating pale pink blush.
Caught by surprise, Rojas raised his eyebrows. “Me?”
Maybe his tone had been the right encouragement, because she looked up again, her gaze meeting his, and the chemistry shocked him right down to his toes, hitting every vital organ—including his balls—along the way.
Blue-gray, cool as a calm day out on the water, her gaze held his. “You were very kind last night, and I didn’t thank you then. I try to thank the kind people I meet. So thank you.”
Rojas cleared his throat. “You’re welcome.”
He didn’t know what else to say. He’d only given her some ice, a cup of coffee, and a card about the martial arts center. Boom had a good sense for people, and when she’d said the woman needed the referral for the self-defense classes, he’d been inclined to agree.
She broke their eye contact, and he felt the loss as if someone had broken the circuit on an electrical current. “I should be going now.”
“Wait.” He didn’t know what made him ask her to. But she paused, balanced on the balls of her feet at the edge of the landing. He was sure if he didn’t catch her now she’d be gone for good. “I didn’t get your name.”
“Oh.” She turned to face him. Another sign that she’d learned caution but she wasn’t afraid by nature. She was open. A people person. Or at least more of one than he was. “Elisa Hall.”
Check out my review of book 1, Extreme Honor!