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Navy Seal&apos;s Deadly Secret
Cindy Dees


“Here we are,” Brett murmured as he pulled into the parking lot beside the salvage yard.

She fumbled at the door lock, and before she could get the thing opened, Brett had come around to her side of the truck and opened the door for her. He held out an expectant hand and she stared at it doubtfully. Men’s hands and she didn’t have a great track record together. His palm was calloused and hard. That hand had seen plenty of hard work in its day.

“How’d you get that scar across your wrist?” she asked.

“Knife.”

She flinched. She couldn’t help it. God, she hated knives.

“Caught one in combat. It wasn’t that bad a cut,” he said quickly. Crud. He must’ve seen her reaction to his mention of knives.

She headed into the store, which was cluttered with all manner of antiques, knickknacks, and—face it—junk. “Morning, Vinny!” she called.

“Anna!” a voice called from the back of the mess. “How’s the prettiest girl this side of the Rockies—” The voice broke off as Vinny stepped out of a back room and spied her and Brett.

“I’m fine. Do you still have those windows you said you would hold for me?”

“They’re back here. Follow me.”

She wound along a narrow path through the mountains of junk toward his voice. Brett seemed bemused, staring around like he’d entered an alien world. To a man like him, this place probably was alien.

Vinny led her to a half-dozen window frames stacked in a pile to one side of a warehouse-sized space. “You wanna measure these again?” he asked her.

“If you say these’ll fit my window frames, I believe you,” she answered.

Vinny smiled intimately and sidled closer to her. “Would I lie to you? You’re far too pretty for that.”

He was so awkward she felt sorry for him. It was sweet of him to flirt with her, but she was damaged goods.

He touched her arm lightly, innocently pointing out where to go, but she couldn’t stop the shiver that passed through her. Vinny steered her to one side of the warehouse, and she braced herself out of long habit. The windows. She needed the windows.

Without warning, a big shadow loomed beside her and a heavy arm landed across her shoulders. Brett. “Hey, darlin’. You about ready to start loading up those windows of yours? I have plans for us today, and I want to get this errand over with.” Innuendo lay thick in his voice.

She stared up at him, shocked. What was he doing?

Vinny took a quick step back, scowling up at Brett, who exuded something very male and very dangerous at the moment.

Oh.

One guardian angel to the rescue.

She leaned into Brett’s side and played along. “Can I call on all those big, strong muscles of yours to help me load my windows into your truck?”

Brett grinned down at her. “Only if you’ll give me a back rub later for my troubles.”

“Sure,” she choked out.

That did it. Vinny turned away, his face red, and stomped to the front counter to ring up the sale. Brett’s grin turned lopsided as she slipped out from under his arm.

It took Brett only about two minutes to load all six windows in his truck, layering them with cardboard boxes folded flat to act as shock absorbers and protect the original, heavy glass.

They’d started driving back toward Sunny Creek when Brett asked abruptly, “Why don’t you like men touching you?”

Oh, Lord. Did he have to be quite so observant? “What are you talking about?”

He glanced across the cab at her. “You flinched when Vinny touched you.”

“I didn’t flinch when you touched me,” she retorted.

“You went stiff as a board.”

She shrugged. It wasn’t like she owed him any explanations. Brett let the subject drop, for which she was deeply grateful.

When they got back to her place, Brett offloaded the windows with quick ease, carrying them into her house and depositing four of them in front of her living and dining room windows and one in the kitchen.

“Where do you want this last window?” he called as he came in through the front door.

“I’ll take it.”

“I’m already carrying it,” he retorted. “Just tell me where to put it.”

Men. So bossy. A girl couldn’t tell one anything. “My bedroom,” she huffed.

He barged into her inner sanctum and stopped cold as he stepped across the threshold. Fine. So she liked white lace and pink bows. Shoot her. She was, in fact, a girl. She glared at him defiantly as he emerged from her frilly bedroom, and wisely made no comment.

“Do you have the tools to install the windows?” he asked.

“I think so.”

“Let’s get them into the frames so this place can be properly heated.”

“I can do it myself,” she declared.

“I’m sure you can,” he replied evenly. “But it’ll go faster if we work together.”

He was not wrong about that. She wrestled with the dilemma of accepting the help or going it alone and getting away from his disturbing presence. He took the decision away from her when he ripped down the plywood covering one of the living room windows and a blast of freezing air slammed into her.

Pesky guardian angel!

Brett lifted the window into the frame and looked over his shoulder at her expectantly. “You gonna nail it in place or not?”

Jerk. But a helpful jerk, she mentally conceded.

She had to give Vinny credit. The window was a perfect fit and took practically no shimming or shaving to fit into the slot intended for it. While Brett hammered in the last nails holding it in place, she caulked around it, sealing the opening securely for the first time since she’d lived here.

They unboarded the window openings and installed the remaining windows, working mostly in silence. With each one, her furnace caught up a bit more in its efforts to heat the house. Natural light streamed in for the first time since she’d lived here, and the cave-like gloom retreated. Her spirits lifted along with the temperature.

This house might turn into a livable home, yet. “Thank you so much for your help, Brett. You made that go a ton faster. I owe you huge. Let me pay you.”
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