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Chapter 1Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland
Delta Force Operator Captain Brian “Hutch” Hutchinson hated group therapy almost as much as he hated the mind-warping meds.
He slumped in the hard wooden folding chair that was part of a circle of ragtag military burnouts, watched the clock over the door, and counted off the seconds until this charade was over. His legs, encased in desert camo fatigues, were sprawled out in front of him. Muscular arms, crisscrossed with scars, lay clamped across his chest, a don’t-fucking-look-at-me scowl digging a trench between his eyebrows. All the damn benzos they pumped into him left the inside of his head feeling as jagged as glass shards, and conversely as foggy as a hot breath on an icy winter morning.
You sure it’s the benzos and not brain damage?
To keep from thinking about that too much, Hutch studied the olive drab wall behind a legless GI in a wheelchair who was detailing his fantasies of eating a bullet.
Someone had taken a pathetic stab at decorating for the holiday. A cardboard rendition of a live turkey had been taped to the wall along with a cherubic boy in a Pilgrim costume carrying a big black musket. Brightly colored leaves, gathered from the hospital grounds had been stuck underneath the cartoon boy’s feet, strung out like a path, leading him right to his target. The opposite wall depicted a Thanksgiving feast, complete with a golden roasted bird, foretelling what was in store for the hapless turkey.
The room fell silent. The legless GI had stopped talking, his eyes filled with so much damn pain that Hutch felt it in his own gut.
“We all understand what you’re going through,” said the group leader, Major Jenner, a skinny-assed psychologist with a bad comb-over.
Hutch tightened his arms and snorted. Jenner had never been within sniffing distance of a battlefield. He knew shit about life. Or death.
The major pivoted to face him.
Aw, hell. Why had he snorted? So far, he’d managed to stay off the shrink’s radar.
“Captain Hutchinson, you’ve been here for three weeks and you’ve yet to share in group. It’s time.”
What the hell? Hutch glowered and slapped the raw scar at the base of his throat.
Jenner dipped his head, and shot Hutch a this-is-for-your-own-good glance over the top of his glasses. “Yes, yes, you suffered an injury to your throat, but have you even tried to speak?”
What did the son of a bitch think he did all day when he wasn’t stuck in this claustrophobic room with five other guys just as screwed up as he was?
Anger flashed through him, hot and quick. He bolted upright in the chair, and clenched his hands into fists against his thighs. Once upon a time he’d been the easiest going operator on his team. Always ready with a smile. A cracker of jokes. More friends than he could count. He’d been the one to break up fights, calm hotheads, smooth choppy waters. The skill had earned him the moniker Igloo in a group that was already known for their cool heads, because he was so unflappable.
But those days were gone.
Just like everything else.
He stared down at his left hand that was missing the index finger. A lost finger, a damaged trachea, a pinch of PTSD. He was lucky, damn lucky, and he knew it. All he had to do was look across at the legless GI for confirmation. He’d made it back, relatively in one piece. Not so the rest of his squad.
Series: Twilight, Texas #10
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Avon (October 28, 2014)
It's Christmas in Twilight, Texas. The Cookie Club is baking, the town is decorated, and Delta Force Operator "Hutch" Hutchinson has finally, reluctantly, returned home . . .
. . . only to get pepper sprayed by the delicious- looking stranger who's taken over his house. She says her name is Jane, and she immediately sets down ground rules. Top priority: no touching. For Hutch that isn't easy—he was wounded in action, but one part is still working very well.
Then Hutch learns the truth. Jane harbors a frightening secret—she's really Meredith Sommers, on the run from a dangerous ex-husband and desperately in need of the safety Hutch can provide. In that moment, he vows he'd do anything in his power to protect her. And as Christmas approaches, they discover that their love can conquer the past and overcome any obstacle—but what price will they pay?
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