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by Michelle Cornish
(A Salvation Society Novel)
Publication date: February 7th 2021
Genres: Adult, Romance, Suspense
Sometimes love happens when you’re running for your life . . .
Carolina Borden isn’t interested in being tied to a man. She’s worked hard to build a life for herself, and her dream career as a fertility counsellor is all she needs.
Retired Delta Force Operator Duncan Kade just wants to start over somewhere he isn’t a danger to anyone. But danger follows him . . . everywhere.
When faced with a deadly cartel, Carolina and Duncan must rely on each other to save themselves from the pasts they’ve each tried so hard to hide.
Falling in love wasn’t part of their plan . . . It wasn’t sanctioned.
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Why am I so bloody nervous? I’m a trained hostage negotiator for Christ’s sake. I’ve talked people through some of the most stressful situations there are. “You’ve got this,” I say to myself and take a deep breath before getting out of my modern black Dodge Charger. I can’t mess this up. I need to get working again.
Natalie is rounding the corner as I enter Cole Security Forces. As the office manager, I had my initial interview with her, and she’s the one I’ve had the most contact with since. I give her a little wave.
“I’ll be right back,” she says, passing by me with a file in her hand. When she returns, the file is gone and she tells me I’ll be meeting with Carolina Borden in her office. “Carolina is on loan to us for your assessment.” She doesn’t say from where. Even though Natalie told me the next stage of the hiring process was a psychological assessment, the words put me on edge. My stomach swirls with nerves.
“Sparkles!” someone yells as we pass an office. It sounded like Mark. I’ve only met him once, but I’d recognize his voice anywhere.
Natalie turns to me. “Sorry. The boss needs me,” she says. “My office is the next one. Carolina is waiting there for you.”
“Thanks, Natalie.” I continue to her office. When I get there, I raise my hand to knock, but pause, enjoying the view.
Carolina is nothing like I imagined. She looks at her phone, completely unaware I’m watching her. I should probably knock but pause to enjoy the view a little longer instead. Her long black hair is pulled up and I find myself wondering what it looks like when it’s not tied up.
I clear my throat and she looks at me with the most beautiful dark eyes I’ve ever seen. I introduce myself and offer her my hand. She stands to greet me.
“Nice to meet you, Duncan,” she says, and I detect a subtle Spanish accent that cuts straight to my heart. Keep it together, Duncan. You’re a professional. Here for the job, that’s it. I let out a quick breath to remind myself I need to stay at the top of my game if I’m going to pass this assessment. Getting this job will be a major step in moving on with my life. No one can know what happened in Cartagena.
Carolina starts the assessment by asking if I know what it’s all about. Natalie mentioned what happened with a couple former employees and I know they want to make sure I’m not going to lose it like those two. Delta Force was no walk in the park. I’ve seen a lot of shit and lost a lot of friends. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is all too common in the military.
I explain that I’ve seen a therapist in the past and believe my symptoms have completely resolved. I keep the reason for the PTSD general. There’s no way I’m telling her it was because of what happened in Cartagena.
“All right,” she says and puts on a pair of dark-rimmed glasses. When she looks up from her notepad, I get a strong sexy librarian vibe. What’s wrong with me? I need to focus if I’m going to pass this assessment. “Let’s get started,” she says.
I fold my hands in front of me and hang on her every word. My answers are short and to the point. I keep her talking as long as possible so I can enjoy that sultry accent.
When she finishes the verbal assessment, she hands me a two-page self-assessment and asks me to fill it out. She offers me her pen and I grab it close enough to her hand that I skim one of her fingers as I take it. The pen is warm from her touch and I let the heat soak into my hand as I write. Get a grip, Duncan, get a grip.
As I walk along the boardwalk with Sofia and Jasmine, I listen to Sofia drone on about this doctor friend of her ex’s she wants to fix me up with. She still sees ex number three, Diego, for the occasional booty call, and so Jasmine can see her step-father. Jasmine’s father took off before she was a year old, so Diego is all she’s really known for a father. Sofia’s other two kids, from her first husband, are teenagers and wouldn’t be caught dead on the boardwalk with us. This is why I prefer to focus on my career. I don’t want to end up like Sofia—a single mom with three kids to raise by herself. It was her choice—Diego still thinks she hung the moon. Finally, I tell her I already have plans just to get her to shut up.
“What?” she says. “You never told me you were seeing someone.” Little does she know, I’d never voluntarily tell her I was seeing someone. She’d likely start right in on the marriage talk.
“It’s just a guy from work,” I lie. “It’s really not a big deal.” Part of me wants to say we’re serious just so she’ll leave me alone and stop trying to fix me up with her ex’s nerdy friends. We’re nearing a concession booth, and I turn to Jasmine, hoping Sofia is done with the fix-up talk. “You want an ice cream, Jas?” Sofia and I have been friends for so long we’re more like sisters and I think of her kids as my nieces and nephew.
“Yes, please,” Jasmine says. I know I’m not supposed to have a favorite, but it’s Jasmine. She’s not a teenager yet, so she still talks to me, and she’s polite. We get in line for the concession stand. The boardwalk seems busier than usual today.
“So, tell me about this guy from work,” says Sofia. Ugh. Why can’t she just let it go? I’m not sure talking about men is the best conversation to have in front of Jasmine. Actually, I’m quite certain it’s not. She’s only ten for crying out loud. There’s plenty of time for her to learn about boys.
“There’s nothing to tell,” I say. “I barely know him. I just agreed to go out with him so he’d stop asking.” Can’t she see I don’t want to talk about it? Thankfully, it’s our turn to order. We all order an ice cream sandwich and I reach in my bag to grab my wallet.
“I got it,” a man says from behind me and his arm juts in front of me with a wad of cash. I continue to get money out of my own wallet. Who does this guy think he is? I’m not some damsel in distress that needs rescuing. I’ve been taking care of myself for years. I turn around to give him a piece of my mind. It’s Duncan, and he has a smirk on his face. My mouth gapes and some strange noise comes out. What is he doing here?
“It’s the least I can do,” he says as the teenager in the booth takes his money. “I owe you one.” I hate it when people say that, and I have no idea what he means. If he’s referring to the assessment, I was only doing my job. We take our ice cream and slowly walk away from the booth.
I open my mouth to tell him he doesn’t owe me and Sofia jumps in. “Is this the guy from work?”
Michelle Cornish is a recovering CPA with a passion for stories. Writing mostly romance and women’s fiction with strong female heroines, Michelle’s books often include nods to her former life as a CPA. When Michelle’s not writing, she’s hanging out with her two boys and husband in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, BC, Canada.
Author links: https://www.michellecornishauthor.com/ https://www.instagram.com/michellejcornish/ https://www.facebook.com/MichelleCornishAuthor https://twitter.com/Chellevester https://www.amazon.com/Michelle-Cornish/e/B06VVP9C91 https://www.bookbub.com/profile/michelle-cornish https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16470961.Michelle_Cornish