Three former Navy SEALs
Injured in the line of duty
Desperate for a new beginning…
Searching for a place to call their own.
Single mom and Revival Ranch’s on-site therapist Monica Finley has dedicated her life to helping brave servicemen and women, but former Navy SEALGabe Cortez is the one man whose shell she just can’t crack. Yet with the holidays fast approaching, she may finally have a plan. In a bid to get Gabe to open up, she’ll ask for as much help as possible—cutting down the Christmas tree, stringing lights, the whole nine yards.
Who could possibly be a Grinch with so much holiday cheer in the air?
Gabe has always hated Christmas—the holiday never fails to remind him just how alone he truly is. But the more time he spends with Monica and her young son, the more he finds himself drawn to their cozy little family…and the more he begins to realize his long-suppressed Christmas dreams may finally be coming true.
When a thump sounded loud somewhere out by the porch, Monica frowned. Her first thought was Colin had woken up, but it wasn’t right above them, like it should have been for that.
“Oh no,” Becca said, looking at where the thumping had come from.
“What? What is it?” Rose asked, wide eyed.
“Ron Swanson’s on the roof.”
Monica groaned. “Not the goat. Please, not the goat.”
“That’s what that sound is. He’s up there.” Becca looked imploringly at Monica. “You have to get Rasputin.” Becca’s rooster was the only thing that could ever get Ron off the roof. “I mean, I could get him, but I’d need someone to hold me upright, as the world’s kind of spinning.”
Monica wasn’t exactly steady on her feet, but she wasn’t going to send a pregnant woman or a completely loaded woman to do the job. Which meant it fell to her. She pushed to her feet. “Rose, I hope your retroactive bachelorette party doesn’t involve goats or roosters.”
“From your lips to God’s ears,” Rose returned as Monica pulled on her winter gear. She lost her balance a bit but caught herself by leaning against the wall as she pulled on her second boot.
“You okay there, champ?” Rose asked with some concern.
“I think a little drunk is necessary for me to even attempt to touch that rooster.” Monica pulled on her hat. “If I’m not back in twenty, send a search party after me. I imagine the rooster has pecked my eyes out.”
“Rasputin wouldn’t do that. Not both eyes anyway.”
“Uh-huh. I’ll be back.” Monica stepped out into the icy night. As she stepped off the porch, she looked up at the dazzling sky above. Stars twinkled everywhere, and the moon’s light bathed the snowy ranch in silver. Becca had strung Christmas lights all over the house and barn, so red and green cut through all that white.
Monica took a deep breath. Oh, it was beautiful. How lucky she was to have come here, to get to experience this.
Then she remembered herself and turned to look up at the roof. And there was a goat, munching on a wreath, while red and green lights sparkled around him. She doubted very much that many people got to experience this.
She pulled her phone out and took a picture of Ron Swanson on the roof, chuckling to herself. Before she could head for the barn to get Rasputin, she heard a truck rumble in the distance, then saw headlights cutting through the dark.
When the truck came to a stop, Jack slid out of the driver’s seat and glared up at the roof. “Damn goat.”
“I’m on my way to get Rasputin. Unless, as the only sober one, you want to handle that for me.” Monica smiled winsomely.
Jack grimaced. “Oh, fine, but keep an eye on those two. They’re going to need help getting to the bunkhouse. Just keep them inside the truck till I’m back.”
Jack strode to the barn and Monica peered into the truck. She thought both Gabe and Alex were passed out, until the back door swung open.
Monica jumped, taken aback as Gabe stumbled down from the truck. Monica waved a hand in front of her face as the smell of alcohol and bar hit her like a punch. “Dear Lord, how much did you have to drink?”
“S-still conscious s’apparently not ’nough,” he said, falling to a knee, then getting back to his feet and brushing the snow off his pants.
“Jack said you’re supposed to stay in the truck.”
“Jack ain’t never been my commanding officer, and he’s not starting now.” Gabe took a step toward her, stumbled again, and she reached forward to try and help keep him upright. Except then they were both somehow in the snow, Gabe something like half on top of her.
He didn’t get up, and she was shocked enough to just lie there in the cold, icy snow with his dark eyes assessing her.
“You smell pretty.”
Monica laughed in spite of herself. “You need to work on your drunk compliments.” She pushed at his chest. “Get off me.” Good Lord, it was a hard chest. Even under his coat and heavy shirt, she could feel the strength of him.
But Gabe rolled off her and got to his feet. He held out a gloved hand, and she let him pull her to her feet. But then he pulled her closer, not letting go of her hand. His head tilted down to her ear, much like it had in the bunkhouse the other day.
“I doubt you want to hear my other compliments, s-sweetheart.”
It was a slur more than a stutter, and he was falling-down drunk and foolish, so she did not shudder at that. Not at all. “Don’t let alcohol put words in your mouth, Gabe.”
He kept his grip on her hand, pulling her so close their bodies touched. It shouldn’t have mattered. They were both wearing enough layers to ward off the cold of a Montana winter night. She didn’t feel cold. Shivery maybe, but not cold.
“Oh, I have those words when I’m sober too. I’ve just got enough sense to keep them to myself.” His lips barely touched her ear as she spoke. “Sparks, remember?”
She could only stare at him, and she didn’t feel all the icy wetness on her back or the frigid chill of the air around them. She only felt his big hand holding on to hers and, somehow, all that heat emanating off him. “I remember.”
He leaned closer, so close his cheek actually pressed to hers. Everything inside of her rioted to some sparkling life. A feeling so long forgotten it was almost foreign, centering itself low in her belly.
“Drunk enough to make a bad decision?” he asked in a low, rough voice.
She paused. Even knowing it should be an automatic no, there was that foreign part of her tempted. A bad decision with him sounded enticing instead of wrong. Something she deserved instead of something she should avoid.
But he was drunk. She was a little too. That was all that foreign part was. The loss of sense and control, and she’d never let herself give in to that. “N-no.”
He grinned, pulling back, all wolfish in the silvery light of the moon. “Too bad.” Then he was striding…well, stumbling, toward the bunkhouse.