Authors: Sherryl Woods,Sherryl Woods
“Because you’re a good guy. You’ve spent your life being a hero for your country. You’re smart, occasionally funny and breathtakingly handsome, though I wouldn’t let that go to your head. Good looks rarely make up for a lousy disposition.”
A smile tugged at his lips. “I’ll try to remember that.”
Kelly regarded him seriously. “Michael, there are a lot of blessings in your life. You should try counting them, instead of focusing on what you’ve lost.”
“I will,” he promised, his own expression suddenly serious. “I hope you won’t mind if I put you at the top of the list.”
Kelly’s breath caught in her throat. “Dammit, why did you have to say something so sweet?” she asked. “I was just getting comfortable being furious with you.”
He reached over and gently brushed away a tear streaking down her face. “Well, now, I couldn’t have that, could I?”
Silhouette Special Edition
Never Let Go
Edge of Forever
In Too Deep
Miss Liz’s Passion
Tea and Destiny
My Dearest Cal
Joshua and the Cowgirl
A Daring Vow
A Vow To Love
The Parson’s Waiting
One Step Away
Riley’s Sleeping Beauty
Finally a Bride
A Christmas Blessing
Natural Born Daddy
The Cowboy and His Baby
The Rancher and His Unexpected Daughter
A Ranch for Sara
Danielle’s Daddy Factor
The Littlest Angel
Natural Born Trouble
The Cowgirl and the Unexpected Wedding
Natural Born Lawman
The Cowboy and His Wayward Bride
Suddenly, Annie’s Father
The Cowboy and the New Year’s Baby
Dylan and the Baby Doctor
The Pint-Sized Secret
Marrying a Delacourt
The Delacourt Scandal
A Love Beyond Words
Do You Take This Rebel?
Courting the Enemy
To Catch a Thief
Wrangling the Redhead
Not at Eight, Darling
Come Fly with Me
A Gift of Love
Can’t Say No
One Touch of Moondust
Silhouette Summer Sizzlers
“A Bridge to Dreams”
“The Paternity Test”
So This Is Christmas
“The Perfect Holiday”
The Unclaimed Baby
The Calamity Janes
has written more than seventy-five novels. She also operates her own bookstore, Potomac Sunrise, in Colonial Beach, Virginia. If you can’t visit Sherryl at her store, then be sure to drop her a note at P.O. Box 490326, Key Biscayne, FL 33149 or check out her Web site at www.sherrylwoods.com.
ven through the haze of pain, Michael was aware of the charged atmosphere in his San Diego hospital room. The doctors had just delivered their dire predictions for his future with the Navy SEALs. Nurse Judy, normally a fountain of inconsequential, cheery small talk, was fluffing his pillow with total concentration, carefully avoiding his gaze. Clearly everyone was waiting for his explosion of outrage, his cries of despair. Michael refused to give them the satisfaction—not just yet anyway.
“Okay,” he said, gritting his teeth against the hot, burning pain radiating through his leg. “That’s the worst-case scenario. What’s the best I can hope for?”
His doctors—the best orthopedic doctors anywhere, according to his boss—exchanged the kind of look that Michael recognized. He’d seen it most often when an entire op was about to go up in flames. He’d
been seeing it a lot since a sniper had blasted one bullet through his knee, then shattered his thigh bone with another. The head injury that had left him in a coma had been minor by comparison. The patchwork repairs to his bones had apparently just begun.
He still wasn’t sure how long he’d been out of touch, left for dead by the terrorist cell he’d penetrated. He did know that had it not been for a desperate, last-ditch effort by his team members, he would have died in that hellhole. He should be grateful to be alive, but if his career was over, how could he be? Though he was determined not to show it, despair was already clawing at him.
“Just tell me, dammit!” he commanded the expressionless doctors.
the best-case scenario,” the older of the two men told him. “Worst case? You could still lose your leg.”
Michael felt a roar of protest building in his chest, but years of containing his emotions kept him silent. Only a muscle working in his jaw gave away the anguish he was feeling.
His entire identity was tied up with being a Navy SEAL. The danger, the adrenaline rush, the skill, the teamwork—all of it gave him a sense of purpose. With it, he was a hero. Without it, he was just an ordinary guy.
And years ago, abandoned by his parents, separated from his brothers, Michael had made a vow that he would never settle for being ordinary. Ordinary kids got left behind. Ordinary men were a dime a dozen. He’d driven himself to excel from his first day of kindergarten right on through SEAL training. Now these doctors were telling him he’d never excel again,
at least not physically. He might not even walk…at least not for a long, long time. As for losing his leg, that was not an option.
With that in mind, he leveled a look first at one man, then the other. “Let’s see to it that doesn’t happen, okay? I’m a mean son of a gun when I’m pissed, and that would really piss me off.”
Nurse Judy chuckled, then bit off the reaction. “Sorry.”
Michael shifted slightly, winced at the pain, then winked at her. “It always pays to keep a man who’s itchy to use a knife aware of the consequences.”
She touched a cool hand to his cheek and studied him with concern. Since she was at least fifty, he had a hunch the gesture was nothing more than a subtle check of his temperature. The woman hadn’t kept her hands to herself since he’d been brought in two days ago with a raging fever from the infection that had spread from his leg wounds throughout his body. She’d been with him when he was rushed straight into surgery to try to repair the damage that had occurred halfway across the world. The doctors in the field hospital had done their best, but there had been little doubt that his injuries would require a higher level of medical skill.
He gave the nurse a pale imitation of his usually devastating smile. She was beginning to show signs of exhaustion, but she hadn’t left his side, unless she’d stolen a catnap while he’d been out of it in the operating room. Obviously she’d been hired by his bosses because she took her private-duty nursing assignments seriously. And given his own level of security clearance, hers was probably just as high in
case he started muttering classified information in his sleep.
“How about some pain meds?” she asked. “You’ve been turning me down all morning. This stoic act of yours is beginning to get old. You’ll heal faster in the long run if you’re not in agony.”
“I wanted to be alert for the prognosis,” he reminded her.
“I think I’d better stay alert to make sure those two stay the hell away from my leg.”
Just then there was a flurry of activity at the doorway, a hushed conversation, and then two tall, dark-haired men were pushing their way inside, ignoring the doctors’ protests that no visitors were allowed.
“Why not take that medication, bro? We’re here now. Nothing’s going to happen to your leg on our watch,” the older of the two said, pulling a chair up beside the bed and shooting a warning look at the doctors that would have intimidated an entire fleet of the Navy’s finest.
An image floated through Michael’s hazy memory. He looked again and suddenly a name came to him, a name he hadn’t thought of in years. “Ryan?”
“It’s me, kid,” his oldest brother responded, squeezing Michael’s hand. “Sean’s here, too.”
To his total chagrin, Michael blinked back tears. So many years, but there had been a time when he’d shadowed his two older brothers everywhere they went. They had been his heroes, at least until they had deserted him. To a shaken four-year-old that’s how it had seemed on the day he’d been taken away to live with a different foster family—as if the cornerstones of his world had abandoned him. Coming on the heels
of his parents’ vanishing with the twins, it had been too much. He’d pushed all thoughts of the other Devaneys from his mind, kept them locked away in a dark place where the memories couldn’t hurt him.
And now, all these years later, his older brothers at least were back, the timely arrival just as mysterious as the untimely disappearance.
“How did you find me?” he asked, his voice thick with emotion. “Where did you come from?”
“We’ll get into all that later. Right now, you need some sleep,” Ryan soothed.
Michael studied him, then sought out Sean. He would have recognized them anywhere, he thought. It was like looking in the mirror: the same black hair—even if his was military crewcut short—the same blue eyes. They’d all inherited Connor Devaney’s roguish good looks, for better or for worse.
Their father had been a handsome devil, one generation removed from Ireland and with a gift for blarney. An image of him crept into Michael’s head from time to time, always accompanied by deeply entrenched bitterness. If there was a God in heaven, Connor Devaney would rot in hell for taking his wife and their youngest sons and walking away from Michael, Sean and Ryan.
“Lieutenant, how about that pain medication now?” Nurse Judy asked gently.
Michael wanted to protest. He had so many questions he wanted to ask his brothers. But one glance at the way Ryan and Sean had settled in reassured him that they weren’t going anywhere. Nor was any surgeon going to get anywhere near his damaged leg as long as
“Sure,” he said, finally giving in.
Michael felt the prick of a needle in his arm, the slow retreat of pain and then his eyes drifted shut and for the first time since he’d been flown home to California, he felt safe enough to fall into a deep, untroubled sleep.