(A Love and War)
Publication date: February 28th 2015
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
A Love and War stand Alone
These DO NOT NEED to be read in any order
I crashed and opened my eyes . . . there you were, fierce and protective, and I knew . . . I just knew it was you all along.
Ex-Marine Trent Reed has been shot at, in a coma, and placed in war zones, but when his best friend calls in a favor, he is faced with the most dangerous situation yet—to be the best man. Trent’s turbulent past with races other than his own taints his view on the interracial marriage, and he’s none too happy to deal with the ill-tempered maid of honor. To accept the position means understanding that his friend is soon to be out of his life—for good.
Tough-girl Teal Lofton has struggled all of her adult life, from her weight to the color of her skin holding her back in work and love. When she agrees to be the maid of honor in her friend’s wedding, a hormonal bride and a jerk of a best man who she is strangely, yet wildly, attracted to, amplify those struggles.
As tensions and tempers rise, Trent disappears with the wedding rings and Teal braves a snowstorm to bring them back, determined to fix yet another problem. But a tragic accident brings together the unlikely pair, forcing them to face the prejudices of their pasts. In doing so, Trent and Teal embark on an inevitable course of self-discovery and passion like they’ve never experienced before—until a secret from Trent’s past threatens to destroy it all.
She gave him a half smirk. “Why you, of course. You are the reason I came out here in the first place.” Damn if she didn’t wish she wasn’t lying on the floor, but so close to the fire had made her shivers slow down considerably, allowing her to form full sentences.
He scoffed. “Of course you would! I didn’t ask you to come the fuck out here. You crashed into the truck, not me.” Trent threw his hands in the air. “Shit, if you don’t want me to check you, I won’t. But if you bleed to death internally, don’t fucking blame me.” He stood and lumbered away while she fumbled with her one good hand to get the pillow and strap from around her neck.
Reason told Teal to be grateful for what he and the two strangers had done for her, but the other part—the part she wasn’t so proud of—wanted to slam it in his face that this whole scenario was his fault.
After removing the crap from around her neck, she took a moment to catch her breath. Her body ached all over and she wanted to ask Trent for those pain pills, but first she needed to assess her situation.
Teal fought to just sit up. Feeling her body for broken bones, she realized she really had no clue what to look for. What did a broken bone feel like other than pain? She covertly glanced up at Trent and spied him eyeing her with a disinterested look on his face. Well, fuck you too, dickwad.
When her hand made it to her knee she winced. She pulled the dress up to see it was swollen and turning purple. It would be impossible to get up and look for ice. “Shit,” she whispered. As much as she didn’t like it, she had a choice.
She could sit there, silently stewing in pain and wait for the neighbors to come back, or she could ask Trent for help after she’d already pushed him away. Holding her swelling wrist she leaned her head back, supporting it against the wall and closed her eyes. She considered herself capable and strong, but each person had a breaking point and hers was fast approaching.
Taking deep, calming breaths pacified her a bit and reassured her that nothing was broken, at least not in her chest. A cold sensation made her jump and when she opened her eyes, Trent’s hand placed a towel filled with snow on her knee. She hadn’t even heard him go outside.
“Thanks,” she choked out as he stood and walked away. Teal gathered the towel and gently held it to her knee. Trent walked back to his spot and leaned against the wall. “When are those two people coming back?” she questioned.
“Why?” he asked sharply. “You don’t trust me to take care of you?” His arms folded over his massive chest and that frown she hated graced his lips.
“No, I don’t,” she hissed. “I don’t know you and from what I hear, you aren’t too fond of people like me, so excuse me if I want to make sure I get proper help until real help arrives and not this shit you are doing.” She pointed to him, meaning the fact that he was all the way on the other side of the room.
Trent let loose a bark of laughter. “Yeah, well out there you couldn’t let go of my fucking hand. If you want, I can pick your ass up and place you right next door with Lee and Dana. I got this cabin to stay away from people, not bunk with them. And I definitely don’t need your shit.”
She called his bluff or at least she hoped it was a bluff. “Fine, take me over there.” She lifted her arms like a child who wanted to be picked up. “Since my presence offends you so damned much that you have to stay on the other side of the fucking room, then please, by all means, do yourself a favor and get rid of me!”
When he moved forward, Teal braced herself. If that man so much as tried to pick her up, she would use her good hand to ring his balls right off his body. Trent side-stepped her swatting hand and scooped her up.
“So much for worrying if I had a neck injury!” she yelped. Okay, so maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to stay on the floor with him on the other side of the room. Teal wouldn’t admit her regret. If Trent dumped her out in the snow, so be it. I am not about to—
The thought died in her head when he sat her gently on the bed.
“You don’t have a neck injury. Looks like your wrist is sprained and your knee is bruised maybe worse. Since I can’t check you for anything else, I’ll just assume your fine. If you die, I’ll tell Logan it was by your choice.” He picked the covers up from the floor and cleaned the mess that was her previous spot. “Logan would skin me alive if I left you to that couple. Though I am more than tempted to do it.”
He glanced back at Teal and at that moment she took stock of his face. There was swelling from Logan’s fist, but now he had scratches on his face along with a bruised cheek. What the hell had happened out there and why did he look as bad as she did when she was the one who’d crashed?
She stopped adjusting herself on the bed and raised a brow. “I’m supposed to believe you care about Logan’s opinion? You don’t even care that he loves the woman he is about to marry. You tried to ruin his happiness. What kind of friend does that?” Her lip curled in satisfaction when he frowned.
“She’s a liar,” he said, as if it were common knowledge.
“Watch what the fuck you say about her,” Teal warned. She was in no position to warn him about shit, but that didn’t stop her. There was no way this guy was going to talk shit about her friend.
He raised his hands in mock defense yet his lips held a devilish smirk. “Hey, I’m just callin’ it like I see it. She got knocked up and then didn’t tell him about it. Omission of the truth is a lie, do you not agree?”
Okay, well he had her there. She had a good ass comeback too, but it wasn’t Teal’s place to tell him Katie’s reasons for anything. “Whatever, man. I’m not going to argue about something you know nothing about.” Teal leaned back on the bed and closed her eyes to ignore Trent’s smirk and the growing aches in her body.
Fine, he thought he had her. But it seemed she knew more about what was going on between Katie and Logan than Trent did. She guessed that made sense since Trent was so against this union in the first place.
Teal wondered if Katie’s race was the only reason Trent didn’t want to see the two married. She thought back to the words Trent could have used, the words he must have used before if he was a racist, but he hadn’t used any derogatory terms since he’d arrived. It was clear there was more going on with this man then she first thought, and Teal was a bit intrigued.
“That’s normally how it works with you guys.”
She cracked a lid to see him still on the opposite side of the room as her. “You mean black people.” There was no inflection to her voice. She hadn’t meant it as a question.
“Fuck no.” Her eyes opened at that and watched as he spoke. “I mean women. Y’all wait until we are makin’ sense and then you say ‘whatever’ when you know we’re right.”
She didn’t know what to say about that so she didn’t say anything, knowing he’d take it as an admission of guilt. Teal’s pain pushed her to ask for the meds. “What are those pills that lady left?”
Trent looked over to the table. “Percocet. You need some?” Teal nodded. “I need to set that sprain,” he added, heading to the sink and pouring a glass of water. “Is it okay if I touch her royal highness?”
She rolled her eyes at his statement. Taking the pills when he handed them to her, she was about to put them to her mouth when she paused. “I can’t take these without eating something first. You got crackers or anything?”
Before she’d finished, Trent strode to the counter and grabbed a bag of chips. “These work?” he asked, shoving the bag at her.
“Yeah.” She took them and ate a few.
Trent grabbed his coat and shrugged it on as she finished chewing. After carefully reading the bottle, she opened it, poured one into her hand, and popped it into her mouth.
“Where are you going?” she probed just as his hand touched the door knob. He froze, as if caught in the act.
“I’m going to thank Dana and Lee and give them their stuff back.”
She eyed his other hand, spotting the covers and sheets. Teal couldn’t quite figure Trent out. One second he was rude and insulting and the next he was helpful and polite. He eyed her with an inscrutable gaze before opening the door and exiting. Teal glanced around the small cabin. Everything was tidy and neat, except where she’d been placed.
The cabin was more like a room with a bathroom. Teal couldn’t see herself staying here much longer. Clean and neat be damned, the door to the bathroom was missing. She’d be holding it for as long as it took. A half wall shot up from the floor, hiding the toilet she spied when Trent had carried her to the bed. Behind a smaller wall, sat a shower.
Teal sighed. “This is my hell,” she muttered, laying back completely on the bed as she closed her eyes. The medicine was taking hold and making her tired. Now that she was just about sure she wasn’t bleeding internally or suffering from a massive head wound, rest seemed less daunting. Actually, it seemed necessary as her eyes closed and she started to drift.
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