Rumor (Renegades Novella)
Former Navy SEAL Josh Marx thinks he has it all figured out. He’s living the bachelor lifestyle in southern California, running risk assessment for the Renegades, but most importantly, he’s finally gotten over the unrequited love he’s harbored for his former teammate’s ex wife. Then his buddy calls from overseas, worried because he hasn’t heard from his ex, and asks Josh to check in on her. Josh doesn’t want to get involved, but the same code that urged him to walk away in the first place is suddenly pushing him to change his Christmas plans.
Grace Ashby doesn't appreciate the sexy SEAL trying to step in and take over. He thinks she’s hit rock bottom by working at a strip club, but she knows differently. She could set him straight, but he’s already rejected her once, and she doesn’t need one more man judging her.
She tells him to butt out of her business and her life. But Josh’s conscience won’t let him walk away this time.
Here is a little look inside Rumor: (for adults. Some language)
She strolled to Josh’s side and paused, greeting the bartenders, Sandra and Kelly. “How much did he drink?”
Sandra straightened bottles underneath the counter, and gave Grace a sympathetic grimace. “I cut him off when he’d finished half a fifth.”
Grace grimaced and sucked air through her teeth. That was eight shots. “Shit.”
Sandra lifted a shoulder, glancing at Josh. “He’s a big guy. Averaged about two shots an hour. He’ll be okay.”
“He’s so sweet, Nikki,” Kelly said. “Not to mention smokin’ hot. Kept his back to the stage all night. Kept asking when you’d be off. If you aren’t keeping him, would you mind giving him my number? I never meet nice guys like that.”
Grace sighed and turned her gaze on Josh. His hair was a tousled mess, one closed eye visible beneath the fringe. The sight of his long golden lashes curved against his cheekbone took Grace back to what had seemed like magical months together. From the moment he’d been flown back to San Diego from Syria, Grace had been by his side.
She fingered back the butter-soft strands of hair that had fallen into his eyes. A soft smile turned her mouth, and tears welled out of nowhere. She sniffed them back, then squeezed his shoulder to wake him. “Josh, time to go home.”
His lashes fluttered, but he remained perfectly still as he gained his bearings. Only then did he sit up slowly. He rubbed his face on a heavy exhale. “How long was I out?”
“Not long,” Sandra said.
“Maybe ten minutes.” Kelly added with a flirty smile. “You can sleep on my bar anytime.”
He licked his lips, pulled cash from his pocket and laid out two hundred dollar bills, one for each of the women. “Thanks for keeping me company ladies.”
Both Sandra and Kelly lifted their brows at Grace.
“Okay, big spender, where are you staying? And how are you getting there?” She could easily drive him to his hotel, but she was tired, and absolutely didn’t want to get into another argument.
“Nowhere.” He reached for a small bowl of mints sitting on the bar and popped one into his mouth. “I wasn’t planning on staying. Shit, I have to call my mom.”
He stood and took a few steps away from the bar, the phone at his ear.
“His mom?” Kelly asked in a hush. “God, he’s adorable. I just want to take him home.”
Take him home. That thought lit off flashes all over Grace’s body. “He’s not that adorable. Josh,” she lifted her voice and he turned around. “It’s too late to call your mom. Three hour time difference, remember?”
“But they’re expecting me...” he rolled his wrist to look at his watch—the same watch Isaac and their entire team had worn. “Ah, shit. They think they’re picking me up at the airport... Hey, yeah, mom,” he said into the phone, “it’s me. I’m sorry, I didn’t make my flight... No, no, everything’s fine. I’m still coming. Yes, I promise. Okay. I’ll call you tomorrow. Love you.”
He disconnected with a groan and sank onto the stool again, dropping his head. “Fuck me.”
Kelly’s hand shot up. “Yes!” Grace and Sandy shot Kelly a what-the-hell look, and Kelly gave an impish grin and a little shoulder shrug. “Nikki knows my number if you ever have the urge to offer that up again.”
Josh chuckled. Then turned his head, still resting against his arms. His eyes were clear, sky blue, sleepy, and scanned her face intimately, caressing every surface from her forehead to her chin. “There’s my girl.” His mouth tipped up at the corner. “You look twelve years old again.”
She’d scrubbed off all her makeup, changed into shorts, a t-shirt and flip-flops, and thrown her hair into a pony tail. Yeah, she’d probably taken a decade off her looks. And the affection in Josh’s eyes when he saw the Grace beneath all the props swelled her heart against her will.
“You didn’t know me when I was twelve,” she said.
“But I saw pictures. Remember when your mom brought your photo albums to the team’s BBQ?” He laughed. “God that was sweet.”
Sandy’s hands worked a towel over a glass, but she was shooting Grace her why-exactly-aren’t-you-jumping-this-guy look.
The past washed in and took every ounce of comfort from the moment. Grace answered Sandy’s silent question with, “Long story.”
Customers beckoned and Sandy and Kelly drifted down the bar again.
“You’re even more beautiful than I remember,” he murmured.
She sighed, running her fingers through his hair. “And you’re even more obnoxious.” He grinned, that sleepy, sloppy grin that made her insides ache. “Shit, what am I going to do with you?”
He lifted his head and propped it on his palm, then curled the other hand around hers. “Talk to me, Gracie.”
About the Author:
Skye Jordan is a pseudonym for New York Times bestselling romantic suspense author Joan Swan. Skye’s novels are about enjoying that little wild streak we don’t let out often enough. About those fantasies we rarely get the opportunity to indulge. About stretching limits, checking out the dark side, and maybe even acting a little naughty. They’re about escape and fun and pleasure and romance.
And, yes, even love, because while wicked-great sex is good, happily ever after with wicked-great sex is even better. Skye (aka Joan) lives on the central coast of California in the heart of wine country with her husband and two daughters. As often as possible, she retreats to a hotel with critique partners for a power-writing week where much drinking, laughing, and yes, even working, ensues. When she’s not writing, Skye goes to breakfast with her hubby, attends her daughters’ barrel races, and spends a lot of time with her own horse, Riddle…while her two dogs, Paxton and Indie, tag along. She also loves to read, knit, craft, row, ride, and dabble in photography.
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