After surviving horrors lesser men wouldn’t have, Blake’s home on leave and run down by a car while out for a morning run. The angel standing over him when he wakes up from surgery is his assailant, and then his caretaker. She’s hot as hell and the woman of his dreams, but she has a “No Sailors” policy.
Rachel can’t live with the guilt of the accident, so she plants herself in his home until he’s well enough to care for himself. But when he shows up on her doorstep a couple of weeks later, offering her everything she’s ever wanted from a man—respect and tenderness—she has to decide if her aversion to military men includes him.
Blake Sanchez woke in a cold sweat, gripping the sheet in his fists, a cry of anguish lodged in his throat.
The bed was soft beneath him. Silence surrounded him. The room was dark, save for the faint yellow glow of the streetlight peeking through the gap in the curtains.
Slowly, he released the breath he’d been holding while he slipped from a desert hellhole back into his bed in San Diego. One by one he loosened his fingers from their grip on the sheet and dragged in a deep breath, trying to clear his mind.
He’d seen a shrink—more than one—and talked it out. The night terrors were a form of PTSD. He thanked God daily that it was just nightmares, that it didn’t intrude in his day-to-day life. Too many of his brothers came back from the Middle East totally fucked up. He was one of the lucky ones. He only relived the horrors of that day in his dreams.
Sitting up on the edge of the bed, he stretched out the kinks in his neck and shoulders as the cool air dried the sweat on his skin. Day three of his month-long leave was about to dawn, according to the clock on his nightstand. The first two days he’d spent on the sofa, binge-watching the last season of Breaking Bad and eating junk food; he’d been a little too busy fighting the bad guys and rescuing soldiers to keep current. Today it was time to head out into the city and live a little.
He showered, shaved, and dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, then strapped his armband for his phone to his bicep, tucked a few bucks and his ID into it, put in his earbuds, and headed out into the chilly morning darkness for a run.
It took only minutes for him to catch a stride, AC/DC pounding in his ears, as he headed for the waterfront. The sky was slowly lightening as he turned onto Shelter Island Drive. He’d grown up out east on the Maine coast, where his dad had fished for tuna until the day he died. Blake had no desire to be a fisherman, but he loved looking at the yachts. To head out into open water, kill the engine, and just float with the current... That was his dream.
He was thirty-nine years old and a year from making the decision to stay in or get out. He had a tidy nest egg in the bank—he didn’t have much besides rent and food to pay for—and he often thought about buying a little Bayliner. He had enough banked to do it now, but growing up with a fisherman father and a schoolteacher mother had taught him to be thrifty and prepare for the future, because there was no telling what could be ahead.
His feet hitting the pavement rhythmically, the hard thud of heavy metal in his head, the rising sun at his back, he turned and headed back with plans to stop on the way home for a coffee and bagel breakfast sandwich at Winchell’s.
* * * * *
Rachel Jones rushed out of her condo, cursed under her breath, and ran back inside to grab her keys off the kitchen counter. Out again, she locked the front door and dashed down the sidewalk to her car.
“God damn it!”
The asshole in 6B had parked behind her again. He always parked too close. She opened her door, threw her backpack and jacket on the passenger seat, and got in. The motor of her new little Honda purred like a kitten, and she five-point turned her way out of the too-tight parking spot and onto the road, careful to keep her speed under twenty-five. She’d gotten three tickets so far this year for speeding in her residential neighborhood. As soon as she hit the main road, she sped up and tried adjusting her visor to block out the sun piercing her brain, but it was impossible. The sun was still too low in the sky.
Too late, she saw it—a figure on the road. She slammed on the brakes and swerved, but not fast enough. “No!” she screamed, even as a sickening thud came from the side of her car, and the body seemed to bounce onto the grass beside the road.
Heart in her throat, she jumped out and ran back to where he’d hit the ground, where he lay now, holding his arm against his stomach and muttering curse words she hadn’t heard since the night her last boyfriend got drunk and tried to beat her brother to death.
“Don’t move. Don’t move,” she said as she dropped to her knees beside him. “I’m a doctor. Just don’t move.”
His voice was low and steady when he said, “My arm is broken.” And then he looked up at her with the most gorgeous green eyes she’d ever seen. They were clear, bright, alert. “Really broken.”
“Okay, what about the rest of you? Your legs?”
He sat up, and she pushed him back down by his shoulders. If he had a spinal injury… She tried to unwrap the black headphone wires from around his neck.
“I’m fine. Except for my arm.” He glanced down at his armband holding a smartphone, the face of it cracked. “Shit.”
“Your legs? Your back?” she asked, worried he’d do some major damage being a macho sailor. He was obviously Navy. If the gray T-shirt with the word emblazoned across the front hadn’t given it away, his haircut and rock-hard body would have. Besides, they all had a certain look to them, and this guy had it in spades. However, he seemed a little older than the average twenty-somethings that populated the Naval base.
As if to prove to her he was fine, he rolled to his knees in a smooth motion that startled her, then onto his feet. He lost his machismo when he swayed, and she grabbed him around the middle to steady him.
“You smell good,” he muttered as he leaned against her.
“You’re going into shock. You shouldn’t have stood up. Sit down and I’ll call you an ambulance.”
The laugh that slipped out of her was half nerves, half fear. She was, in fact, a doctor, and this was not a good place to be. Dear God, she prayed there wasn’t any internal damage. “Come on. I’ll drive you to the hospital.” She was headed there anyway, and it would be faster than waiting for an ambulance.
She got him to the car and buckled into the passenger seat. The hospital wasn’t far, but as soon as she got the car moving and glanced over at her patient—victim—his head was lolling and eyelids drooping.
“Hey, Sailor, what’s your name?”
“You look awfully white for that name.”
He chuckled. “It goes back a few generations. My parents were as white as sheets.” He sucked in a hard breath when she hit a pothole.
“Sorry. I’m so sorry. I work at Scripps. It’s closer than the Naval Med Center. Is that okay?”
He nodded. “Fine. Fuck.” The curse was little more than breath. “Guess it’s a good thing I’m on leave.” He chuckled again, but this time it was slightly raspy. “Did you see who hit me? I jumped out of the way, but I think the mirror clipped my hip. I think my hip would hurt worse if my arm wasn’t throbbing so bad.”
She swallowed hard. “I hit you. I couldn’t see with the sun in my face.”
He rolled his head to look at her. He blinked once, slowly, then smiled. It was a goofy, lopsided grin.
Holy shit, he was really in shock.
Soon they were at the hospital, and she pulled right up in front of the emergency room door and got out as a nurse came outside.
“Need a wheelchair. Pedestrian versus motor vehicle. Broken arm. Other injuries possible.”
Within moments they were wheeling him into the ER. She parked her car in the staff lot then went back into the ER to ask the nurse to page her when there were updates on his condition. Then she headed to the cardiac ward to begin her morning rounds, sending up another prayer that the sailor would be okay.