Excerpt #2 – Chapter 1:
“Ben, look at me,” she ordered. That voice had a familiar ring to it. Bossy but comforting at the same time. He’d heard it before. “Let me see you without the sunglasses.”
He removed them without question, his heart slowing while sweat made his uniform shirt cling to his back. At nearly 6:30 a.m, no less. Or, what time was it now? He was inexcusably late. Not a great impression to make on the new Corporal.
The woman stood in front of him, her dark brown eyes concerned as she held him by his upper arms. He blinked twice and tried to get his tongue to work. Mortification brought a dull red flush to his cheeks. I should know her… Gah, why won’t my stupid brain work?
She wore purple nursing scrubs with sprigs of pink flowers on them. Her dark brown hair was pulled back into a braided ponytail, but her eyes—they were the deepest brown he’d ever seen. Several gold earrings pierced her right ear, and one gold stud pierced her left. A delicate scrolled flower tattoo peeked out along her left collarbone. And she smelled of fresh citrus. Like a pitcher of lemonade.
All right, he hadn’t totally lost his powers of perception. A gorgeous woman had just pulled him out of a full-blown panic attack in the middle of main street. Wonderful. He might as well turn in his badge and gun, drive straight to the airport, and fly home.
“Ben, it’s me.” She put her hands on her hips. “It’s Joy.” She looked like she would snap her fingers in his face any second.
He shook his head. Cleared his throat. Wished the pavement would open and swallow him whole. “I remember.”
Joy. When the nightmares came rushing in the night from the bear attack, it was her voice and the touch of her hands on him as she bound up his shoulder that he remembered. And her scent—that was a great memory—citrusy and fruity after the horror of the bear’s mouth and its rancid smell. She had bent over him, bandaging his head with gauze as they tried to save his right ear for the plastic surgeon.
Yes, it was all coming back to him now.
“I’m sorry. Did I hurt you?” Lord, just beam me a hundred miles away from here, right now. This is not how I wanted to meet her again.
“No, of course not. How are you?” She touched his forearm lightly. “I mean really, how are you? You—didn’t text me what flight you were coming in on.”
“Sorry. I got it last minute.” There. At least his voice wasn’t shaking like his knees were. Shaking like a trembling foal.
“Great.” She took a step back as if realizing she was in his personal space. “I’m so glad… you’re back. Most people would never have come up here again after what you went through.”
His right shoulder grated in its socket when he put his hand on his service weapon again. That grounded him. Although, he wasn’t sure hanging on to his gun was what his therapist had in mind when he said to find objects to fixate on during a panic attack. Time to pop another pain pill, but not with Joy in sight.
“Thanks. I don’t blame the bear. He was just being a bear.” Wow. Quit while you’re ahead. She’s more stunning in person than her texts ever let on.