Here is my new cover for UNEXPECTED HERO (Buttermilk Valley). Releasing this month!
Gunnar Knox is on his second tour in Iraq when he gets an unexpected lifeline in the form of letters from a stranger, Pastor Trace Atwell. After six months of correspondence, the letters from the pastor stop coming. The last letter contains a family picture of the pastor, his wife and their son and an invitation to come and visit them at their farm when Gunnar’s tour is up.
Eighteen months later, he’s back in the States, with a wish to meet the happy family in the picture. However, things aren’t as he had anticipated when he arrives at the Atwell farm. Pastor Trace has passed away…
Grace Atwell is a widow raising her son alone, starting a new business, and things are falling down around her ears. When the aloof U.S. Marine shows up on her doorstep, she assumes he is there for the advertised handyman position and hires him on the spot. Once he starts helping around the house, going above and beyond, she realizes how much she has missed having a man around the farm—and the feeling of being wanted. No man has ever made her feel this special, this desirable.
Caught off guard by the unexpected emotion he feels for Grace and her son, Gunnar keeps the letters and picture a secret. He believes an unseen force had brought him to Buttermilk Valley, Georgia to help Grace and Daxton, and to protect them. He owed the pastor. After all, his encouraging words had been Gunnar’s support when he thought he’d never make it out of the Middle East alive.
As Grace and Gunnar grow closer, the secret becomes heavier and a dangerous presence awaits an opportunity to tear their passionate love affair apart.
Will love be enough? Will Grace accept Gunnar’s baggage? Did fate bring them together?
And here is an unedited excerpt:
Gunnar recognized her immediately as the woman in the photo. His lungs seized, not wanting to work. He forced air in through his nose and out through his mouth, glad for a moment to gain himself while she was on the phone. He grabbed a peek of her while she stared at his tattoo and then she lifted her chin, meeting his gaze. There went his lungs again, refusing to function. She was much prettier than the picture, but he could see the dark circles rimming her eyes and the happiness he saw in the photo was missing from her expression. She looked tired and he could relate. He knew all too well what it was like to be exhausted in a way that sleep couldn’t fix. Her long, flowing red/blonde hair hung in soft ringlets over her bare shoulders exposed in the nice fitting tank top. Big blue eyes—cornflower blue—surrounded by thick dark lashes, but he memorized that from the picture. A splattering of freckles covering her nose was the only thing that marred her perfect alabaster skin.
He rubbed the bridge of his nose, checking himself on appropriate behavior. In his defense, Grace Atwell was a beauty. But she was someone else’s beauty.
She looked about as surprised to see him as he was to see her, maybe even a bit frightened. He could have that effect on some people, and he guessed he should have taken the time to shave his beard and called first. He took a step toward the door, ready to high tail it out of there. This was a huge mistake.
A smile crossed her lips, but he knew it wasn’t real. He compared it to the one in the picture and it didn’t stack up, not even close. She acknowledged him with a narrowed expression and motioned for him to hang tight while she finished her call. He couldn’t leave now.
He nodded. He wasn’t in a hurry. He hadn’t gotten far enough to plan where he’d go, what he’d do, after he left here.
Not wanting it to appear like he was staring, he turned and examined the room. A maze of boxes scattered the space and the walls were bare, except for a large bulletin board. He scanned the contents with little interest, until he came to the picture of Pastor Trace—younger and he was standing at the pulpit. Gunnar stepped forward, his heart skipping ten beats as he read the newspaper article pinned to the cork board. “Pastor killed in a foiled robbery. A town mourns.” The words seemed to blur as he searched for information—searched for a date.
Then he saw it. Pastor Trace was killed eighteen months ago, two weeks before Gunnar had received the last letter.
His mouth dried. He felt sick to his stomach as the puzzle pieces came together.
He didn’t receive any more letters from the pastor for a reason…he was killed.
Gunnar’s mind spun in circles as he wrapped his brain around the truth. How could this be possible? He’d been in a war forsaken country and lived to tell about it and Pastor Trace, a man who’d saved Gunnar’s life with encouragement and words of support, living in the safety of a small town, was shot to death during a robbery.