Authors: Meredith Clarke,Ally Summers
Tags: #Paranormal, #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Romance, #Forever Love, #Adult, #Erotic, #Shifter, #Mate, #Supernatural, #Protection, #Bachelor, #Single Woman, #Fantasy, #Short Story, #Military, #Rogue Bear, #Doctor, #Medicine, #Volunteer, #War Veterans, #Ex-Soldier, #Delta Force, #Clan Alpha, #Civilian Life
Published By Ally Summers
Copyright © 2015 Ally Summers
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places or events are entirely the work of the author. Any resemblance to actual persons, events, or places is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. Please purchase only authorized editions and do not participate in piracy of copyrighted materials.
Cover art by Satyr Designs
his pack on the bed, looking around the dusty room. It should feel good to be home, but it didn’t. The Army had forced him to take leave. After two years in Razastan and a failed mission that almost cost him his entire team, he was back in the U.S., unwilling and restless.
Nothing about it felt right.
He tried to remember what it was like to live under a roof. The desert sky had been his ceiling. The conditions were rough, but his bear liked being outside. He was trained in the worst conditions. The men around him were tough and fearless. They had to be if they were going to be part of Delta Force.
He closed the bedroom door behind him, inspecting the cabin as he moved room to room. No one had been here since he had left. It wouldn’t be long before his clan knew he was home. He didn’t want to think about the obligations he had to them.
He opened a cabinet door in the kitchen. It was bare. As much as he hated it, he was going to have to drive into town for groceries. He slammed the cupboard, scattering dust around the kitchen. There were a lot of things he could live without, but food wasn’t one of them.
Jax walked to his truck, slid into the driver’s seat, and started the ignition. He could make a quick trip into town to pick up a few things.
a few things in the shopping cart. He felt like all the other customers were watching him. Maybe he was used to being paranoid. Everyone in Razastan was a suspect. Even children carried bombs. He didn’t look at people the same way as everyone else. As far as he was concerned they were all walking weapons.
He tossed a few loaves of bread into the cart on top of everything else and wheeled it to the register.
He reached into his wallet to pay for the bags of groceries.
The woman smiled at him. “Let me guess…you are back with that unit at Fort Phoenix back from overseas. I know an Army man when I see one.”
“How did you know?”
She ran the items over the scanner. “Well, your haircut for one.” She started placing the food in paper bags. “And I saw on the news last night a lot of the soldiers came home.”
Jax rubbed the back of his neck. He didn’t like talking about the Army.
“It’s nice to see you home.” She smiled.
He nodded. “Thanks.”
“Did your family plan a big welcome home?” she asked, loading packages of steak into a paper bag.
“Here.” He handed her the money. “No. Not really their thing.”
She opened the register to give him change. “It’s nice when our soldiers come home. I love the banners and the flowers. I wish we could have a parade for you.”
“That’s not necessary.” He knew he sounded gruff, but she was quickly getting carried away.
“Do you at least have a girl waiting for you? Someone to cook you a hot meal?”
This woman was damn nosey. “No, ma’am.” He took the receipt from her.
“Well, it’s not much, but thank you for your service.”
He tried to smile, but he felt eyes on him, and he didn’t like the attention the conversation was drawing.
He loaded the bags in his arm and deposited them in the back of his truck. He couldn’t peel out of the parking lot fast enough. He wasn’t comfortable in the store. He wasn’t comfortable talking to the clerk. And he sure wasn’t comfortable giving her any information about his military status.
He threw the truck in drive and headed back to the cabin. At least there he would have solitude. He didn’t know who needed it more: he, or his bear.
aley looked at the clock
. It was close to midnight. She rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand. Her shift was almost over. The fluorescent lights overhead made everything look washed out. She wondered why hospitals still used them. They didn’t make the staff happy and they certainly weren’t good for the patients.
She walked to the nurses’ station. “Any new patients?” she asked.
“No, you better get out of here before that changes,” the night nurse responded. “It’s quiet for once around here.”
“I think you’re right.” Haley smiled. “I’ll be in the doctor’s lounge if that changes in the next ten minutes. I hope we didn’t just jinx it.”
She walked down the hall past the patient rooms and pulled the stethoscope from her neck. She massaged the back of her shoulders. She had been on her feet for twelve hours. The only thing she could think about was a hot shower, preferably at home.
“Hey, you clocking out?”
She turned to see Dr. Mors filling his coffee cup.
“Yes, I have three days off. I’m going to sleep through all three of them.” She pulled her bag from her locker.
“Didn’t you sign up for the Help A Hero Program?” he asked.
“Shit. I did. My day is tomorrow isn’t it?”
He took a sip of his coffee, his long nose dipping in the cup. “Yep. You better pick up your list on the way out.”
“Any chance these soldiers sleep in?” she whined.
He laughed. “The ones I worked with were up before the sun.”
Haley sighed. “What are the chances I’ll get the ones that are more nocturnal?” She checked the clock over the door. Finally, midnight.
“You remember what they said in our veterans training about disrupted sleep patterns.”
“Right. I do. It reminded me of my psych rotation. I had just enough to help me with my patients, but not so much I felt like I had to psychoanalyze everyone.” She remembered how much she enjoyed that rotation.
The older doctor chuckled. “Believe me, these guys already think that’s why you’re there. The first two I met practically threw me out.”
“Oh yeah. We know we’re there to help, but it might not come across that way to them. Some of them just want to be left alone.”
She flung her bag on her shoulder. “Good to know. Thanks.”
“Sure thing. I have a patient to check on. Good luck tomorrow, and enjoy your time off. Good night, Dr. Manning.”
“Good night, Dr. Mors.” She walked out of the lounge in search of the list she needed for the Help A Hero Program.
“Michelle, do you have the volunteer information here?” Haley stopped at the nurses’ station.
“Sure do. Hold on a second.” Michelle returned with a clipboard in her hand. “Looks like you only have one.”
“Mmmhmm.” Michelle handed her the sheet of paper. “And this one didn’t get called in until after five.”
“You mean the list was blank?”
“Yep.” Michelle smiled. “There isn’t much on him. Only that he just returned.”
Haley looked at the notes in the margin and shrugged her shoulders. “Not much to go on, but I’ll pay him a visit in the morning.” She turned for the door. “Good night.”
on the front porch of the cabin. For the past two years he had the same ritual when he woke up. He’d unsheathe the dagger from the case he wore on his leg and sharpen the blade.
It became part of his survival routine. His gun could misfire, but his knife would always be accurate and sharp. The edge of the blade scraped over the sharpening block as he dipped it back and forth.
Jax could hear the engine before he even saw the car. His ears were tuned in to every little sound. He clutched the handle when he saw the car approach. Who in the hell would be driving out here? His cabin was in the middle of the woods.
He stood, scowling at the car. The last thing he wanted was a magazine subscription or to donate money to a political campaign. He glared at the windshield, but he couldn’t see who was behind the wheel. There was enough sunlight filtering through the treetops to cause a bright reflection.
Jax’s eyes narrowed when the car door opened. He crossed his arms, but his heart stopped and his chest seized when he saw whom the driver was.
“Are you Jackson Landon?” she asked from the base of the steps.
The physical jolt to his system was so fierce he almost growled at her.
He looked down at her green eyes. There were depths of green like rolling hills. Flecks of emerald like a glittery jewel. Her raven hair floated over her shoulders. Damn, she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He swallowed hard, gripping the knife.
He thought he would be immune to this type of reaction. Two years of living in the desert, hunting enemy targets had erased his interest in women, or at least that’s what he had trained himself to think.
She stepped back, her eyes landing on the weapon.
“Sorry.” He returned it to its case. “Sorry.”
The tension seemed to ease from her shoulders, but he could see the look of distrust still lingering there. Her eyes continued to dart to the knife.
“Are you Captain Landon?”
He had an instant desire to wrap his arms around her, but he stood anchored to the porch. What was happening to him? Why did he feel like his heart could rip through his chest? As if his blood was boiling under his skin?
“I’m from the Help A Hero Program. I’m Dr. Manning.”
“Help A Hero?” He was trying to study everything about her. He was trying to make sense of the urges gripping him from the inside out.
“Yes, someone added your name to the list of veterans.”
“I don’t understand.” The tighter he crossed his arms, the less likely he would be to reach for her. He’d already scared her once with the knife.
“Well, it’s an organization that checks on veterans when they return home from overseas. Check in to see if you need anything.” She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear that the wind had picked up. “I usually try to do a quick medical intake. It’s one of the perks of having a doctor be your buddy.” She raised a medical bag.
“Yeah, it does sound a little junior high. How about community friend? Or what about local link?” She sighed. “Ok, that sounds worse. This is why I’m not on the creative team. I’ll just stick to medicine.”
“Who added my name?” He hadn’t talked to a single soul since he’d been back. Not even the clan.
“The calls are anonymous usually. It’s just a way the community tries to help our veterans.” She smiled and he felt something warm in his chest.
He slid his hands into his pockets. “I don’t need a checkup, doc. I already did in-processing with my unit.”
“Well, sometimes a second opinion is a good thing.” She smiled. “It will only take a few minutes.”
She took a step toward the front porch and he felt the swell in his chest lurch. Holy fuck, he was losing it. He could smell her hair, and she was wearing some kind of lotion that reminded him of rain. She was affecting every sense he had.
“Can I come in?” she asked. “I promise it won’t take long.”
He was stuck. Stuck because in one moment she had awakened a part of him he had been trying to keep buried. Stuck because he knew he was looking into the eyes of his mate.
His bear was dying to grab her, throw her over his shoulder, and finally unleash everything primal in him that had been in hiding for two years. But he tried to read the doctor’s eyes. She wasn’t here to feed his bear. She was a volunteer. The kind of woman who wanted to help soldiers. Soldiers who truly needed her help readjusting.
“I don’t need medical attention.”
“How far are you from your Army base?”
He considered the drive he had taken yesterday. “About two hours.”
“All right. Then you’re two hours from a medical facility that has your medical records. If something happened to you while you were home we wouldn’t have any baseline information to use.”
He chuckled. “I don’t think I’m going to need medical help.”
“Really?” She eyed his thigh where the knife was attached. “What if you slipped with that knife? Or what if you were in a car accident? You never know, Captain Landon. Isn’t it an Army motto to always be prepared?”
He chuckled. “I think that’s the Boy Scouts.”
“And it’s Jax.”
“What?” Her green eyes searched his.
“My name. I go by Jax.”
“Oh.” She chewed on her bottom lip and he wanted to pull it to his mouth, and taste every inch of her lips. The problem was he knew his bear wouldn’t stop there.
“I promise it will be painless. No needles.”
“You think I’m afraid of the exam?” He cocked one eyebrow higher than the other.
She shrugged her shoulders. “It’s ok. A lot of men are scared of doctors.”
“I am not afraid of doctors.” He could feel his pulse rise.
“Would you tell me if you were?” she teased.
“All right, you can do the exam.”
She smiled triumphantly. “Good.”
He wasn’t sure he had a choice. He was a strong man, but if his mate wanted something, he didn’t think his bear could say no.