"Hey." His Southern drawl put Matthew McConaughey to shame. Slow. Sexy. And familiar.
Her gaze traveled up the muscled torso to a pair of dark chocolate-brown eyes.
"Hunter James." His name breathed past her lips on a whisper.
For the second time that night her heart stuttered and her stomach clenched tight.
Hunter blocked her path, his towering six-foot-four frame packaged in a tight-fitting black T-shirt and jeans that showcased his muscles. His arms had to be twice the size they were the last time heâd been here. His gaze twice as intense. Her reaction twenty times that.
According to the town gossips, heâd been back in Mercy for a couple of weeks, but so far heâd avoided her. And sheâd prayed daily he would stay away. Every time he came home on leave, he seemed to make it a point to show up here. At her bar. With another woman on his arm. Making sure she saw heâd moved on. And each time her heart broke a little more.
"Need some help?" he asked.
Her brain took a full minute to kick into gear, then another minute to reconnect to her mouth. "What?"
"You look like you could use some help. Can I do anything?" His serious voice passed through lips that were way too tempting.
She couldn't think. The man standing before her had gone AWOL with her heart over five years ago, like the tail end of a twister after a storm. Part of her had been happy he'd left. The other part had been devastated. Their love had been wild and crazy, but ultimately destructive.
She noticed the knotted wood cane leaning against the table beside him. "What's with the cane?"
Hunter grinned and shifted his weight to the side. "What's with the wet clothes?" He extinguished his cigarette and stepped away from the doorway leading to the upstairs apartment, his limp noticeable.
Evie crossed her arms over her chest, the action squeezing more beer out of her bra. Her lips pressed into a tight line and she forced herself to answer, "Wet T-shirt contest. It's a new thing weâre trying."
Evie straightened her arms, clenching and unclenching her fists at her sides in time with the ticking in his jaw. A couple dayâs stubble graced the hard planes of his face, only a little shorter than the black hair buzzed close to his scalp. He looked as if heâd been chiseled from steel.
Hunter leaned in close and Evie's stomach knotted. Lust built inside her, pushing against her dam of resistance. "I bet you won."
He wasn't staring at her chest, she had to give him that. No, his target appeared to be her mouth. His head lowered to hers and her mind went blank. If she had been thinking like a full-grown woman, she would have jerked back before his lips made contact. But tonight her brain had pointed and aimed but failed to fire.
Home meant facing memories of abuse and neglect. Of dark closets and evil nightmares. Of his own relatives intent on killing him. But now his brotherâs kidnapping forces him to face those demons. Only this time, Jared isnât a scared little boy. Heâs a full-grown Special Forces operative bent on revenge.
As a little girl, Sparrow Pickney risked her life to free two abused boys. As a grown woman Sparrow needs to earn a place in her adopted familyâs business or be forced into a life of degradation. The chance to prove her family loyalty comes when she catches Jared spying on the compound and captures him.
When Jared sees his captor, he realizes sheâs the girl of his dreams and vows to rescue her from a life of poverty. What Jared doesnât know is Sparrow may not be the savior he remembersâ¦but the one responsible for abducting and torturing his brother.
Jared is determined to find the truth. But that truth may be more than his heart can take.
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