The Rule-Breaker by Rhonda Nelson - Romance>Contemporary
Subject: Ranger Eli Weston
Current Status: On leave
Mission: To honor his fallen friend--and protect his secret
Obstacle: His fallen friend's ex, who's off-limits...and off-the-charts sexy!
Ranger Eli Weston always does the right thing--even when it means defying orders. Now he's back in town to help with a memorial in honor of his fallen military buddy. This time it's not just about what's right. It's about ensuring that a secret never comes to light. A secret that only he and his friend's ex-girlfriend know...
Clothing designer Shelby Monroe has always felt an illicit something for Eli. But when the two find themselves working together to ensure the media never discover the truth about the town's fallen hero, temptation unfurls...hot, wicked and irresistible.
How far can they bend the rules before they break?
Captain Eli Weston glanced at the invitation again, grimaced then tossed it back into the passenger seat of his rented truck as the city limits sign loomed into view. His belly clenched with dread, and tension inexplicably tightened his fingers on the steering wheel.
He so didn't want to do this.
In fact, Eli could confidently say that if he could choose any place on earth he wanted to be right now, Willow Haven, Kentucky, would undoubtedly occupy the dead-last position on his list.
Not because it wasn't a perfectly lovely little town, the quintessential Southern burg with lots of antebellum homes, majestic oak trees and a festival for every food group. Not because he could think of a million other things he'd rather do on his much-needed, too-short leave. He'd seen enough war--enough of the ravages of it, more specifically. Not even because he'd be working on the memorial for his late, beloved friend, Micah Holland.
It was the damned lying he most dreaded.
He'd been doing it for the past eight months, insisting to every superior officer who'd interrogated him about Micah's death that his friend had been cleaning his weapon when it misfired, that he'd actually witnessed the accident.
Accident, of course, being the key word.
Lies, all lies. And they knew it, too. But they couldn't prove it, so his "eye-witness" account stood.
And it was because of that account that his friend's parents had been able to confidently bury their beloved oldest son in hallowed ground, believing his death was an unhappy circumstance, not a deliberate act by his own hand. Having lost his own father to suicide, Eli was well-acquainted with that particular brand of grief and had decided within seconds of Micah's death to spare the Hollands that aspect of the misery, to do everything he possibly could to preserve his friend's memory and military legacy. Micah had been one of his best friends and a damned fine soldier. He'd been like a brother. Eli swallowed, his throat suddenly tight, an inexplicable anger welling inside of him.
It was the least he could do, really.
Well, that and sling a hammer, he thought, glancing once more at the invitation in the passenger seat. Honestly, had Sally, Micah's mother, not called and pressed him into coming to help build the Micah Holland Memorial in the heart of the town square, Eli wouldn't have come. He'd have simply begged out of the event or made up an excuse as to why he wouldn't be available--being deployed, in that sense, had its advantages.
But when Sally had told him that they'd simply plan the event around his leave, his schedule, he knew he wasn't going to be able to get out of it. And considering how good the Hollands had been to him--they'd practically taken him in as one of their own as soon as he'd graduated--he could hardly refuse. Eli's own family tree had withered and died with the death of his father, so being brought into the Holland fold had filled a void he'd scarcely realized was there.
Sally was the quintessential Southern mom. Her love language was food and nothing made her happier than a full table and full bellies. There was always a cake on the covered stand, cookies of some sort in the jar and cold iced tea in the pitcher. His lips quirked. And the emergency casserole in the freezer, of course, should she need to quickly provide a meal, either for her family or for someone else's.
Carl Holland was a farmer with a degree in Agriculture from Auburn University--and had two Toomer's Oaks grown from seedlings standing in the front yard. He had a deep affection for things grown in the soil. He was wise...