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Sunset in Laguna by Claire Marti

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  • Finding Forever in Laguna 3

    Returning to Laguna Beach after four tours in the Middle East, Christian Wolfe leaves the military behind and buys a wine bar, vowing to keep his life simple. He fights to keep his devastating PTSD a secret and refuses to burden anyone else with his baggage. When stunning Kelly Prescott and her red stilettos saunter into town, she drives him past the bonds of his self-control.

    Successful in her father’s stuffy law firm, Kelly’s too compassionate to survive in the cutthroat world of corporate litigation. Leaving behind both family and courtroom drama, she moves to Laguna to become general counsel for a nonprofit veterans’ organization.

    She didn’t bargain on a gorgeous modern-day Heathcliff, and in Christian, she sees another kind of challenge—one she can’t resist.

    Rating:  Spicy
    Page Count: 212
    Word Count: 51391
    978-1-5092-2092-2 Paperback
    978-1-5092-2093-9 Digital

    Excerpt

    Chapter 1

     

    Christian Wolfe squeezed his eyes shut, willing the sharp pain piercing his temples to dissipate. A nasty force tightened the screws of the vise around his skull, and he marveled his eyes didn’t pop out of his head. He sucked in a few deep breaths to steady himself. Would these headaches ever stop kicking his ass?

    Cracking open one eye, he closed the accounting file with a decisive click. Business was excellent at Vines, the wine bar he owned. Despite having a bookkeeper, he couldn’t help double-checking the numbers.

    Once a control freak, always a control freak.

    He surged to his feet and gripped the edge of his sturdy mahogany desk. Fresh air. Outdoors. Even though sunlight could exacerbate the pain, his trusty mirrored aviator sunglasses helped. Where were they? Why the hell weren’t they in their usual spot in the tray on the top left corner of his desk?

    Amber, his exceedingly competent bar manager, entered his office. “Christian, can you—”

    “Not now. Sorry.” He held up one hand once he spotted the glasses on the top right corner of the desk.

    She stepped aside, silent, and he skirted around her to exit the building pronto. She’d seen him bolt out of the restaurant a few times and was always discreet. Probably why he liked her so much.

    He stalked toward the beach in the center of town. Each inhalation of the salty ocean air softened the iron tendrils clutching his skull. Damn it, something needed to change. He couldn’t keep running out of the wine bar every time his head hurt—and it hurt like hell—or when panic bubbled to the surface. Vines would go out of business, and he wasn’t prepared to surrender his new civilian life.

    Many of his army buddies were surprised when he’d decided to open a wine bar instead of pushing paper for the government. But he’d had enough of war and bureaucracy. Besides, he had a soft spot for his grandmother, who’d come over from Italy when she’d been a young girl. Sharing delicious food and fine wine was a nod to his heritage. And running a successful business gratified him. Taking charge, organizing, and pouring wine weren’t exactly saving the world, but too bad.

    He arrived at the small beach, stopped on the promenade, and stared out at the white-capped waves of the Pacific. Although he wasn’t as avid a surfer as his buddies Nick and Brandt, he enjoyed the adrenaline rush from riding waves. Mostly, he loved how the salt air acted like a balm, soothing his pounding head. Especially when he felt amped and anxious, like now.

    Something needed to change. Support groups and doctors didn’t help. No more discussing the horrors of losing some of his men and watching others lose limbs or worse. No more talking about the failed rogue mission on his first tour. Definitely no reviving the crushing losses suffered by his Iraqi counterparts on the subsequent three trips back to the Middle East.

    When he resigned his commission, the doctors proclaimed his headaches and nightmares were symptoms of posttraumatic stress. Screw that. He squeezed his eyes shut, blocking out Laguna Beach’s postcard view, and willed his shoulders to relax.

    About six months ago, Amber had left a pamphlet for Peaceful Warrior, a local veterans’ organization, by his computer. He’d skimmed it. Pondered the various offerings. None appealed except for the meditation classes.

    Although he knew where the center was, he’d avoided checking it out. Yet the meditation group intrigued him. Could it really help him quell the panic attacks? Someone had described meditation as learning to control your mind or direct your thoughts to where you want them to go. Running from the nightmares and stress obviously wasn’t working for him.

    He kept his eyes shut, savoring the warmth of the sun on his skin, and continued to drink in the crisp ocean air—this was as close to meditating as he’d ever achieved. Hell, he’d check out the schedule now. Nobody needed to know. But he’d be damned if he’d wear flowy white pants, sniff incense, or hold those fancy beads that resembled a rosary from his Catholic-elementary-school days.

    He spun away from the comfort of the azure waves and walked the few blocks to Peaceful Warrior. The tree-lined street was quiet. The pedestrians and tourists tended to flock to the main drag. Nonetheless, he glanced over his right shoulder, then flicked his gaze to the left. Double-checked the right side again. Nobody around. He wasn’t paranoid. Just cautious.

    He approached the older brick building and hesitated a few paces in front of the entrance. Took a step back and considered the unimposing two-story facade. He stood taller, assuming his military posture.

    Maybe he just needed a punishing session with the punching bag or a few fingers of Jameson whiskey. Stop being such a damn wuss. Workouts and alcohol weren’t driving the demons away. He stepped forward. Something needed to change.

    “Christian?” A husky voice lilted his name.

    His head whipped to the right. A beautiful woman dressed in a conservative dark suit and tortoiseshell glasses stared at him. Somewhere in his brain he registered dangerously toned legs encased in red skyscraper-high stilettos.

    Sweat popped onto his brow, and he swallowed, his throat suddenly parched. Recognition flooded his system when he dragged his gaze up from those spiked heels. Her tawny cat eyes captured his—Kelly Prescott. Didn’t she live in San Diego?

    “Um, hey, Kelly.” What the hell was she doing at Peaceful Warrior?

    “What are you—?”

    “Why are you—?”

    “Ladies first.” Distract. Deflect. Damn it to hell.

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Sunset in Laguna

Sunset in Laguna

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