Cover Design: Wicked by Design
Release Date: May 9, 2017
Phoenix /fēniks/: (in classical mythology) a unique bird inhabiting the Arabian Desert that burned itself on a funeral pyre before rising from the ashes with renewed youth to live through another cycle.
This isn’t mythology, it’s war, and Hendy is left in the hands of Hell’s cruelest gatekeepers.
His team is killed before his very eyes, and despite his efforts to save them, he’s captured and subjected to merciless torture—losing virtually every piece of his identity but his pulse.
After his rescue, he returns home from Afghanistan, saddled with facing the daunting task of healing his physical scars as well as the invisible ones—his emotional demons.
Dr. Presley Cole isn’t one to shy away from a challenge. Embarking on a new journey, she makes it her mission to prove to Hendy that his life isn’t over; that he’s worthy of love.
Because sometimes even a phoenix needs help to rise...
Out of the Ashes.
We both sit frozen, my stare locking onto her lips. They look unimaginably soft, but it’s her eyes that continue to mesmerize me. Like she can peer inside, like she notices what I keep locked deep within, that she can—
Jolting from the loud vibration of her cell phone on the lacquered bar top, Presley jerks away. She grabs her phone like it’s a lifeline as the screen lights up with the name Dylan, signifying an incoming text message.
She scans the message, and I can’t help but notice it’s a generic text saying good night and he’d talk to her the following day. And a part of me feels a little…jealous.
Seriously, man. Get it together. You shouldn’t be getting close to another guy’s woman.
But I’m not getting close. I’m having a fun conversation with a woman who happens to also be my doctor. A woman who’s helped me tremendously in such a short period. A woman who is incredibly smart and beautiful. A woman who doesn’t cringe in horror when she looks at me—who doesn’t appear to register the presence of my scars. A woman who’s a trivia nerd like me.
Damn if that last one doesn’t give me some warm fucking fuzzies. I may have been with more than my allotted share of women who had an ass ton of space between the ears, but make no mistake…nothing turns me on more than a woman who’s smart as a whip. And yeah, I got a semi during Jeopardy, hearing her softly spoken answers each time Alex read a clue. I’m a sicko, I know. But shit, she’s got beauty, brains, and not to mention, she’s incredibly kind. This Dylan guy had better realize how good he has it.
She reaches for her purse, reacting a split second too late to me slipping money to Ryan to pay our tabs.
“Wait! You can’t—”
I cut her off with a look of faux sternness. “You didn’t have to humor me and watch the game with me.” A college football game that consisted of two small schools, no less, but it served as an excuse to get out of the house for a bit. While I hate having to hide behind my ball cap, it doesn’t mean I want to become a damn recluse. “Or share a meal with me.”
“It was my pleasure. But at least let me take care of the tip.” Opening her wallet, she tries to produce her share.
Before she can pluck any bills from it, I lay my hand over hers.
She doesn’t immediately look up to meet my eyes; instead, she appears transfixed by the sight of our hands together, and at the contrast in coloring, my darker, tanned skin to her fairer skin. It’s then my mind veers off like the old Hendy.
To the fucking gutter. Because I imagine linking my fingers through hers while I fuck her against the wall, counter, bed—wherever—all the while whispering in her ear the other naughty things I plan to do to her.
Except she’s taken. I need to remember that. And I sure as shit am not delusional enough to think anyone could love someone who looks the way I do. Least of all, someone as beautiful and sweet as Presley Cole.
Mentally shaking off my thoughts and removing my hand from hers, I wink. “Consider it my treat,” I add softly, “for putting up with me these past few weeks.”
What I get in return is an overly bright smile laced with a tinge of panic. She has such an unnerving way of seeing through me that I hope she didn’t see through to my inappropriate thoughts from seconds ago.
“It’s been a pleasure, Hendy.”
Slipping off the barstool, I wait for her to grab her purse. Presley and I wave at Ryan, thanking him again as we exit and step out into the typical Florida still-humid-as-hell-even-though-it’s-evening weather.
“Where are you parked?”
It’s dark, and although Fernandina Beach, especially the downtown area, is much like Mayberry where the worst crime that occurs is shoplifting a pack of chewing gum, I need to see her safely to her car. Lord knows I gave my mother more than her share of gray hairs as a hell-raiser back in the day, but there’s no denying she raised me to be a gentleman.
“Just over there.” Presley gestures to the small parking lot nearby, a mere four yards away from where we stand. She pauses on the sidewalk, appearing nervous, and her eyes flit to me before darting away.
“Thanks again for tonight.” I watch as she regains her composure, returning to doctor mode before meeting my gaze. “I’ll see you for your adjustment tomorrow.” Then she turns to step off the sidewalk, intent on crossing the street.
Running a hand down my face with a silent groan, I quickly cross the street, following
her. Approaching where she’s standing at her car, I call out her name as her vehicle’s lights flash twice when she unlocks it with her key fob.
“Presley.” Drawing to a stop a foot away from her, I get this strange tightness in my chest at the fact she’s leaving me to head home. Stupid as hell, but there’s no denying it. There’s just something about her.
But she belongs to—is engaged to marry—someone else. Knock it off, man.
Yet when she peers up at me with those eyes—one blue and one green—I could get lost in their depths. Reaching for the door handle, I offer a smile and open the car door for her.
“Get in. I want to make sure you leave here safe and sound.”
At my words, I see something flicker in her eyes. And I know, at this moment, if she says anything remotely sweet to me right now, there’s a good chance it’ll send me crossing that line. And I can’t have that. I’ve got a reverse case of Florence Nightingale syndrome. That’s got to be it. Which is why I add my next words.
“Gotta get you home safe so you can see your man.”
Fuck. It leaves a nasty taste in my mouth to utter that shit. Reminds me of getting the damn desert sand in my mouth when we were out in the middle of nowhere on a mission. That shit makes you want to spit, clean out your damn mouth, and rid yourself of that grittiness.
Her expression is shuttered, smile stiff, and her voice subdued. “Thanks again.”
Closing the door after she’s safely inside and buckled up, I offer a quick nod, tugging the brim of my ball cap lower as I turn to make my way to my truck, which is parked along the curb near the bar. I don’t look back—no quick glance—because the disappointment that the night has to end makes me feel bad enough.
But of all people, I should know best that all good things must come to an end.
One of Five ARC's for Out of the Ashes
RC Boldt is the wife of Mr. Boldt, a retired Navy Chief, mother of Little Miss Boldt, and former teacher of many students. She currently lives on the southeastern coast of North Carolina, enjoys long walks on the beach, running, reading, people watching, and singing karaoke. If you’re in the mood for some killer homemade mojitos, can’t recall the lyrics to a particular 80’s song, or just need to hang around a nonconformist who will do almost anything for a laugh, she’s your girl.
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