Read Reckless Endangerment Online
Authors: Amber Lea Easton
Amber Lea Easton
Mountain Moxie Publishing (2013)
Heroes come in many forms--soldiers who fall and rise, ordinary people doing extraordinary things, women who battle for their marriage, reporters who fight for truth and justice, and men who put it all on the line for the women they love.
Sometimes heroes fall.
Colonel Michael Cedars is a decorated war hero returning home from Afghanistan. Wounded, unsure if he’ll walk again, he’s not sure how he fits in civilian life, and he definitely questions if he wants to remain married to the feisty redhead, Hope Shane.
Hope’s never been one to play it safe. She met the Colonel while working as a war correspondent, fell in love with the man in uniform, watched him get blown up, and isn’t willing to give up on him now.
Back in Denver, Colorado, she’s working as an investigative reporter who becomes entangled in a human trafficking story. As the danger of her story intensifies, Hope and Michael are tested more than they ever imagined. Will Michael be able to see beyond what he’s lost to embrace what remains? Is he still the man she married or has he become a liability that could get her killed? Is he still the hero she claims him to be? Will her reckless pursuit of justice endanger the life they’ve pieced together?
About the Author
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published fiction and nonfiction author. For twenty years, she's worked in the fields of journalism and advertising with a brief detour into the financial industry. Although she holds a BA in Communications & Journalism, she is a perpetual student of life who enjoys taking classes on a wide variety of subjects when time allows. Smart is sexy, according to Easton, which is why she writes about strong female characters who have their flaws and challenges but ultimately persevere. She currently has three romantic suspense novels out in the world, Reckless Endangerment, Kiss Me Slowly and Riptide, with three more slated for publication in 2013. In addition to fiction writing, Easton also edits and writes nonfiction. She also speaks on subjects ranging from writing to widowhood. Some of her videos on romance writing have appeared on the international Writers & Authors television network. Current radio appearances are linked via her website at http://www.amberleaeaston.com. Easton currently lives with her two teenagers in the Colorado Rocky Mountains where she gives thanks daily for the gorgeous view outside her window. She finds inspiration from traveling, the people she meets, nature and life’s twists and turns. At the end of the day, as long as she's writing, she considers herself to be simply a lucky lady liv'n the dream.
Amber Lea Easton
Mountain Moxie Publishing
Copyright © Amber Lea Easton 2013
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real life people, names, places or situations is simply a coincidence. No parts of this novel may be replicated without express permission from the author.
Genre: Romantic Suspense, Contemporary Romance
First Printing April 13, 2013
Heroes come in many forms, from the ordinary person who does extraordinary things, the friend who shows up when you feel alone, the parent who never gives up believing, soldiers guarding our front lines and doctors saving lives. This book is dedicated to all those heroes and more, many who would never consider themselves in that role.
My personal heroes are individuals who have inspired, consoled, motivated, and brightened my life by their mere existence. Their impact on my life is embedded deep in my heart. Without going into why they’re heroes to me, I will simply dedicate this novel to them. Thanks for your inspiration, Bill Thompson, Merle Ordal, Judy Ordal, Sheila Lukes, Tanja Bruner, Michelle Ross Logsdon, Molly Davenport, Lisa Wagner, Tammy Dennings Maggy and Kasey Grantham.
Torture would have been kinder than this. Seven surgeries in five months had led him here...the dead end.
“Having you closer to home will help all of us, Michael,” his mother rattled on until he tuned her out.
He gritted his teeth as she wheeled him inside the New Horizons Institute, the world-renowned physical therapy center intended to transition him back into his life.
He snorted. Paralyzed on his left side from the waist down with minimum feeling in his right leg, he failed to see the reasons for trying to change either his condition or his attitude about it by coming to this place. Transitional facility. Just another word for hell as far as he was concerned. He squeezed the arm on the wheelchair. The fact that he, a decorated officer in the US , Corps, needed to learn “basic life skills” as they called it, fueled his anger.
“Hi, I’m Becky Shane-McGill, your new physical therapist. Welcome, Colonel.” Black hair spiked from her head at odd spurts as if she had recently had a breakdown of some sort and emerald eyes snapped with too much cheer for his current attitude.
Her name rattled his nerves, reminded him of a redheaded journalist who had saved his life and stolen his heart in a desert a world away. Hope Shane. His heart jumped as if waking from a deep sleep as he wondered if this woman with the crazy hair could be her sister.
God, he hoped not. That would be the last straw.
An image flickered in his mind of a woman covered with sand and streaked with blood, flame-colored hair stuffed beneath the ugliest hat he’d ever seen and a smile wicked enough to make him forget the bombs exploding around them.
“Shane-McGill?” His voice sounded strange even to himself. Strained. Devoid of emotion. “Hope Shane’s sister?”
“Yes.” Becky cringed before shooting him a half-smile. “It’s true. After the story she did on you, how could I not request to work with you myself?”
“The story...right.” He squeezed his eyes closed and clenched his fists. So that’s all her sister knew of their connection, a bit in a magazine about fallen heroes. His heart twisted at the confirmation that he’d been left behind after all.
“She wrote of you like you were the biggest hero she’d ever met.”
“I’m not a hero, far from it,” he said, unable to meet her gaze. “I’m not supposed to be here.”
“Timing worked in our favor.” His dad slapped him on the shoulder. “C’mon, Mike, the sooner we get you settled, the sooner you’ll be able to come home.”
Home. He had no idea what that meant anymore. He clenched the box in his hands, thumbs stroking the worn wood at the edges. He hated this entire situation. None of this had been in his life plan and he simply didn’t know what to do.
Coming to the New Horizons Institute in Denver, Colorado, had been his family’s idea and he’d opposed it from the beginning. Close to his parents and son in Colorado Springs, yes, but the connection to Hope Shane concerned him. He knew her well enough to suspect she had more to do with this transition than anyone would admit. Damn her. She was like a pit bull wearing lipstick when it came to her determination to interfere with his life.
Maybe she hadn’t returned to her hometown. He’d seen her on NBC several times while he recovered in a hospital bed. Perhaps she was still putting herself in danger’s way or—worse yet—dancing with another man in an exotic location, making love with him, laughing with him, and holding him.
Good. Fine. He didn’t want her anyway. Good-bye once and for all.
He clenched the box like a football and watched Becky lead the way down the hall. He had left too many loose ends and worried that the great unraveling would take place any minute.
When his mother steered him into his suite, he glanced at the extra-wide door, low countertops, yellow walls and denim-covered sofa. End tables were covered with family photos and Dalton’s drawings. Homey, he believed his mother called it. Sweet hell would be more accurate.
Dalton shifted from foot to foot, his six-year-old self looking uncomfortable in this adult situation. Shaggy brown hair fell over his eyes when he glanced over his shoulder at him. “Do you like it, dad?”
He nodded even though he wanted to scream.
“Let’s go check out the bedroom,” his father grabbed Dalton’s hand and led him away, but Dalton kept his eyes on him as if challenging him to say more, do more, and be more.
He watched his son and wanted to explain. But how do you explain war was more than a video game to a six-year-old?
“As you know, Colonel, this is a transitional facility not a hospital. Although we will continue with your physical therapy, our main purpose here is to prepare you for life on your own with your new challenges,” Becky said with her perpetual grin.
Challenges. Right. He stared at his unmoving legs. Everyone was too politically correct for his taste.
“Oh, it’s going to be great having you so close. We’ll come up every weekend to see you. Dalton is very excited,” his mother, Gwen, said in that too-fast-too-cheery-too-desperate voice of hers that was driving him nuts.
He closed his eyes. He dreaded the idea of spending every weekend with people who expected him to be the guy he was before Afghanistan. He saw it in the eyes...the expectation that he’d snap out of it and be the son they’d once known. But Dalton deserved a father, he knew that, so he’d try. That’s all he could do, try.
And somewhere out there was that damned redheaded journalist pulling strings to get him here and waiting to pounce, he knew it even though no one would confirm it. Just thinking of the expectations she’d hold made him sick to his stomach.
His father and Dalton returned from the bedroom, beaming smiles and good will. As they chattered about how wonderful it was, he realized they had all gone insane. Completely nuts. The plant was just a plant, no adjective needed. The place was another trap, another illusion of progress and healing.
He wanted out. What he would give for a drink, a cold beer or a shot of whiskey. God, what he wouldn’t give for one day of freedom. One day with no one telling him what to think, when to roll over, what to eat, when to shower, what to say. One day of normalcy. One day without sympathetic looks or discussions about his injuries. One day when he wouldn’t think about war and loss.
“Dad,” Dalton approached him with a toothless grin, pulling up his jeans as he moved. “Grandpa and I set up the XBOX in your bedroom. Wanna play me sometime? I’ve been practicing.”
“He would love to play, wouldn’t you, Michael?” Gwen squeezed his shoulder.
“Sounds good.” He looked at his son and hated the awkwardness between them. He had been overseas so long…too long…and now he didn’t know what to do or how to be.
Again he thought of Hope, felt her arms around his waist as she had half-dragged, half-carried him to safety from a burning Humvee, her husky voice warning him not to pass out, pleading with him to stay alive, promising him a bottle of ouzo if they ever made it back to the States together. She had saved his life.
He would never forgive her for that.
“Michael?” Gwen leaned over him, concern shadowing her eyes. “Are you okay? You look exhausted.”
“Long flight, long day.” His gaze flicked over the wrinkles that had deepened on her forehead. Being his mother had aged her beyond her years. He looked away.
“Colonel?” Becky’s turn to hover.
“I’m tired. I have a headache.” He wheeled his chair toward the windows overlooking a courtyard. The front range of the Rocky Mountains framed Denver’s skyline. Aspen trees with leafless branches swayed in the cool breeze.
“We need to leave dad alone, grandma. Let’s go,” Dalton said to Gwen as he tugged her long skirt. “Let’s leave dad alone.”
He glanced at his son. More than anything, he wished he could undo his time away from his boy. When he thought he would die, he’d made Hope promise to come back to the States, find Dalton and tell him how much his dad had loved him. Now here he sat within five feet of his son and couldn’t say the words he felt in his heart.