Authors: Kat Cantrell
ABOUT THIS BOOK
The war in Iraq stole Evan Silva’s voice. His teammates accept him as is—a SEAL with more shrapnel wounds in his soul than on his body, who’s perfectly happy to let the other guys do all the talking necessary to run the adventure-excursion company the six of them co-own.
Rachel Blume is a different story. The sexy lawyer refuses to be put off by Evan’s strong, silent routine and soon, she’s introducing a whole new level of non-verbal communication that Evan can’t resist. Slowly, she strips away his barriers, only to reveal secrets that Evan never intended to share…especially not with a woman he’s afraid he’s falling for…
ASSIGNMENT: Caribbean Nights
Duchess Island by Kat Cantrell
Claiming Her SEAL
Revealing Her SEAL
Commanding Her SEAL
Miralinda Island by Zoe York
Ruined By A SEAL
Bound By A SEAL
Angel Cay by Anne Marsh
Sweet For A SEAL
Her One Best SEAL
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ASSIGNMENT: Caribbean Nights
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To Zoe and Anne. Together, we make a whole brain. Most days.
eagulls circled the wedding party like a mini-hurricane of feathers as the bride and groom stepped carefully along the makeshift aisle set up on the beach. Evan Silva planted his feet a little deeper in the sand, which seemed to have shifted beneath him in the scant few minutes he’d been standing at the edge of the crystal-blue Caribbean, acting as Dex Riley’s best man. Which was par for the course. The ground hadn’t felt solid beneath his feet since his first tour in Iraq, or any moment since then, and watching his best friend get married wasn’t fixing that.
If anything, Dex falling in love with Emma made Evan’s foundation even shakier. He pasted on the happiest face he could manage, because there was no way in hell he’d let this wedding turn him into a big pansy.
Dex grinned as he and his intended bride drew closer, then swept past Evan to wade out into the water where a preacher with rolled pant legs waited for them with a smile.
Traditional vows. Somehow Evan was surprised that the couple hadn’t done something more suited to a wedding that took place in the water, but whatever. Evan tuned it all out. If the seagulls crapped all over everyone, that would be the most fitting commentary on the institution of marriage that the googly-eyed couple could possibly get.
Sure, it all started out as fun and games until someone got his heart ripped out of his chest and then stomped on as it lay there on the floor, still bleeding, still eking out a few postmortem beats because it hadn’t yet realized it was a lost cause.
Not that he wished that for Dex. Or Emma. He didn’t know Emma that well—or maybe he knew her better than he’d like since Dex had moved her into the bungalow he shared with Evan—but she seemed nice enough. Dex, on the other hand… Dex got him in ways no one on the planet ever would. He didn’t care if Evan talked up a storm or went weeks without a peep.
Evan swallowed as the man he’d done three tours with in the worst extremist-infested crapholes of Iraq turned to the blonde wearing a white bikini and said, “I do.”
This was really happening. Things were never going to be the same. Heaviness pressed on his chest until he saw stars.
Narwhals. Clowns. SpongeBob
. Happy place. Evan thought of a few more things that he liked. No way was he going to freak out during Dex’s wedding. The panic mostly subsided before anyone noticed. He hoped.
Rachel, Emma’s maid of honor, glanced at him. Great. The last thing he needed was for Rachel to take his happy-place face as encouragement. She winked at him, sunlight flashing in the lenses of her horn-rimmed glasses as she turned back to witness the wrap-up of the ceremony.
No lascivious once-over from the supreme flirt? A small reprieve in deference to the solemnity of the occasion most likely. She’d be back to hitting on him with both barrels in about five seconds once they moved to the reception, he had no doubt. After all, as the best man and maid of honor, he was pretty sure God and everyone expected them to dance together at least once. He’d been rehearsing his refusal speech all day:
Evan didn’t dance. Especially not with Rachel, who might as well tattoo “I’m available” across her forehead in case Evan had missed the million or so signals she’d dropped in his lap.
Evan didn’t date either. No woman deserved the bag of crap inside his skin.
The kiss Dex laid on his bride drew hoots and whistles from the small crowd of ex-Navy SEALs and a smattering of employees from the Duchess Island Resort, all of whom lived in the village a few hundred yards up the beach.
As Emma surfaced from the kiss that managed to be both hot and sugary at the same time, Evan’s smile turned real. She and Dex would be happy. Evan would shed blood to help make that happen, come hell or high water.
Dex and Emma held hands and waded out of the water. It was done. Mr. and Mrs. James “Dexter” Riley smiled and waved at their friends as they trod the small stretch of sand toward the party set up nearby. Where else would an ex-SEAL turned excursion-company owner have a reception but at the beach?
Evan offered Rachel his crooked elbow before he thought better of it. Her smile widened as she shifted her maid of honor bouquet to her other hand and curled her fingers around his arm. His flesh sparked at the contact, but he kept the reaction off his face. Barely. Even with years of practice at schooling his expression, the response he had every time he got near the woman snuck up on him. It was a whack to the skull and then some.
He didn’t get it. Rachel annoyed him. All the time. Didn’t stop his blood from heating when she got close.
So far he’d managed to keep her clueless about that small fact because there was no telling what she’d do with it. Rachel was a toucher, along with being a talker, a flirter, and a laugher. Also known as the exact opposite of Evan, and what a kick in the teeth that she also had a fall of shiny hair the color of cinnamon and an interesting face that he couldn’t stop looking at. Usually he tried to avoid her. Not so easy at a wedding where they made up the sole extent of the wedding party.
Hyperawareness of the paradox at his side chugged through him.
“Guess I finally got you on a date,” she murmured, leaning in close, her breath on his neck where it wouldn’t take but a small, covert movement to turn that into her lips on his neck. “Lucky me.”
He quirked an eyebrow at her. His standard response, which never seemed to bother her one way or the other. It was infuriating. Most women gave up after a few rounds of his strong, silent routine and never figured out it was how he dealt with the hits he’d taken.
If you didn’t talk, people lost interest and moved on. Except this one.
Of course, when it came to Rachel, he wouldn’t have been able to get a word in edgewise even if he’d wanted to.
“One of these days it’ll be for real,” she promised and dragged him toward the reception area, oblivious to the sand she kicked up in her wake.
A woman like Rachel didn’t let a thing like shifting ground stop her. She tromped through the crowd, her fingers firmly anchored at his elbow. He let her. Never hurt to have a shield against the rest of the people at the reception in case someone else got it in their mind that Evan had suddenly developed a hankering for idle chitchat.
She beelined it to where Emma and Dex stood in a ring of Evan’s teammates. Former teammates. The six of them had watched each other’s backs in Iraq, and nothing had changed except the scenery now that they were all co-owners of an adventure/excursion company based in the Bahamas. His team was his family.
Evan had planned to go to college after leaving the military, but a descent into alcoholism had killed that dream along with his ability to dream at all.
When the war had stripped away everything Evan called his own—his wife, his daughter, his sanity, even some of his flesh—Charlie St. Croix, their former platoon commander, had cornered them all after their last assignment, refusing to let them drift out into the world alone.
Instead, they’d stayed a team, forming Aqueous Adventures, a snorkeling and parasailing excursion company that catered to the guests of Duchess Island Resort. They’d all needed it, Evan especially. Charlie had helped him get sober without an ounce of judgment, taking him to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and generally making life less crappy.
Evan owed Charlie his next breath and would honor that debt until the day he died.
“It was beautiful, hon,” Rachel exclaimed and kissed Emma on the cheek, finally dropping her magic fingers from his flesh. He missed her touch instantly.
Emma and Rachel had come to Duchess Island Resort as tourists. And stayed, once Dex had gone gaga over the woman he’d just married. Rachel’s reasons for staying were nebulous at best, though likely had something to do with cutting a wide swath through the male population of the island. She was also acting as the team’s legal advisor, which they sorely needed.
And that alone meant he had to make nice, whether he liked it or not. Aqueous Adventures had a big problem named Jared Anderson, the owner of both the resort and the reef-restoration outfit the team worked for while they built up their company on the side. The billionaire was causing problems for them, and Rachel was their ace in the hole.
Charlie popped open a bottle of champagne and began pouring the bubbly into clear plastic cups. Jace handled the doling out, starting with Dex and Emma, then passing a cup to Jack and then Miles, skipping Evan, and ending with Rachel. Charlie poured his own cup and held it aloft.
“To Dex and Emma.” Charlie blinked, and Evan could tell he meant to say more but either sand had caught in his eye or the moment had grabbed the man by the throat.
Looked like they all had that problem as the other guys all nodded with a lot of throat clearing.
Dex took it in stride, raising his own cup in a mirror salute. Evan lifted his glass of sparkling grape juice, and everyone drank to the bride and groom. He didn’t mind that celebrations for normal people included alcohol, and usually it didn’t bother him. The guys knew he’d been on the wagon for 378 days, and that eliminated any pressure, especially when they went out of their way to include a nonalcoholic beverage for him. No one ever offered him a drink, and better yet, no one blathered on about it.
The guys accepted him as is—an ex-SEAL with more shrapnel wounds in his soul than on his body. They gave him space, room to breathe.
Rachel was a different story.
“I’ll split my champagne with you,” she offered as the guys drifted off, and there came that hot-eyed once-over she’d perfected on their first meeting. “You can come get it anytime you want.”
She took a drink and swirled it around in her mouth, not swallowing, in blatant invitation to drink the wine straight from her lips.
The taste of champagne on Rachel’s tongue would be sharp, sweet. And she’d put those electrified fingers on him while he kissed her.