Former Marine Captain Brett Brennan loves a good practical joke—when he’s the prankster not the prankee. Unfortunately, his twin brother has learned a lesson or two from the master and springs Operation Payback on him, thrusting Brett into a fake engagement to his former corporal, Trisha Jennings, in front of her matchmaking, District Attorney father.
Relationships are so not his thing, but realizing Trisha is struggling to come to terms with a horrific incident from their recent deployment, Brett takes matters into his own hands, using their fake relationship to keep her on his family’s resort ranch, the perfect place for her to find peace and heal. After all, he would never let one of his own men down.
Except, Trisha is no longer a corporal under his command. Out of uniform, she is all woman, and his unexpected attraction to her soon has him forgetting their prank relationship is only for show. Who knew payback could be so sweet?
Twisting to face the captain who now stood next to her, she studied him as he stared out at the mountains. Blue eyes, rivaling the vivid summer sky, expressed a rare seriousness not often found on the commander outside of battle.
“This is a good place to find peace,” he stated, slowly turning her way. “And to heal.” His gaze slammed into hers, full of quiet understanding. “Take all the time you need, Corporal. It’s been a tough tour.”
She was okay, really. Keeping things in had become a necessity overseas the past few years. She was real good at it, too. A master…until he reached out and lightly squeezed her shoulder. Darn it. She knew what he meant. He was referring to that day. The school. The senseless loss.
Clamping her jaw, Trisha had all she could do to keep the tears at bay. Giving in to the anger, and sorrow, and all the other emotions churning inside would prove her weak.
I. Am. Not. Weak.
Lifting her chin, she held his unblinking gaze as she nodded.
“I have no problem going along with the charade for a few weeks,” he continued, dropping his hand, but not his stare.
“Thank you, sir,” she said, a lone tear escaping down her cheek. She swiped it away before he could react, and straightened her spine. “I promise I’ll stay out of your way. You won’t even know I’m here.”
He threw his head back and laughed. The unexpected sound sent those darn goose bumps down her body again.
“I highly doubt that, Corporal,” he said when he sobered. “I always know when you’re around.”
Happy for the change in subject, and mood, she tipped her head and playfully punched his shoulder. “Hey, are you trying to say I talk too much, sir?”
“Well…” His brows rose with his tone.
“Because if you are…I’d have to agree.”
His lips twitched. “Would you now?”
“Yes.” She gave a slight nod. “You see, I have the gift of gab, and it’s not curable.” Although, she had to admit, today she’d been unusually quiet.
“Now I have to disagree.”
A sexy smile tugged at his lips, and she readily repeated his question. “Would you now?”
She folded her arms across her chest and stared up at him. Knowing she shouldn’t take the bait didn’t stop her from asking the inevitable question. “So, you’re saying there’s a cure?”
“Yep.” His gaze dropped to her lips then slowly rose back up, mischief and heat sparkling in his eyes.
Her heart skipped a beat. Don’t say it. Don’t you dare say it.
He said it.
Ask a dangerous question, receive a dangerous answer.
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