Colin MacCaffe’s personal life comes crashing down around him and he leaves the big city for a fresh start in the small town of Holiday, Vermont. As the Deputy Chief of Police he spends his time making sure the town he now calls home is safe. The only problem is the arrival of the hotter-than-sin house sitter next door. A woman who threatens to destroy his peace.
Brynn Jackson is mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted. All she wants is a couple of weeks of rest and relaxation. What she gets is a trip to the hospital, emergency surgery, and the sexy neighbor making her feel more than she wants to.
With no else to aid during her recovery Colin is roped into helping, against both their wishes. But the more time they spend together the walls around their hearts crumble, giving them a second chance at happiness.
Colin relaxed back into the Adirondack porch chair on his back deck. Propping his feet up on the porch railing, he took a swig of his beer and contemplated the house across the backyard. It was the home of his best friend, Ryan Cartwright, and his family.
Ryan had taken his family to Disney World for two weeks and then was taking his wife, Morgan, on a cruise without the kids, so no one should be there. But no, she had shown up two days ago.
She had been driving him insane for years. From the first moment he had seen her helping her sister move in next door, she had caused a visceral reaction in him, one he still wasn’t completely comfortable with. Their dance at Ryan and Morgan’s wedding hadn’t helped any either.
It had made him want. He didn’t want to want anything. He really didn’t want to want her.
“I think there’s something wrong with Brynn.”
He had been so lost in his thoughts he hadn’t heard the door open. His grandma, Lorena MacCaffe, stood in the doorway, hands on her hips and that “you’re-gonna-do-what-I-tell-you-to-do” look in her eye.
He hated that look.
It didn’t matter that he was thirty-one damn years old, had been in the Special Forces, and on the S.W.A.T. team. When she gave him that look he felt like a ten-year-old-boy again, and he did what she wanted, whether he wanted to or not.
From the way her eyes went from him to Ryan’s house and back to him, he knew she wanted him to check on Brynn.
Putting his beer bottle down on the railing, he glared at her and sighed. Might as well get it over with, he thought to himself. He stood and trudged down the steps. The quicker he checked on the princess, the quicker he could get back to his beer.
In the back of his mind, he worried as well, not that he would ever disclose that information to his grandma.
Ever since his divorce the year before, she had been determined to set him up with Brynn.
If and when he made his move, it would be on his terms and not anyone else’s.
Colin stepped up the back patio next door and took a deep bracing breath. As he opened the door, he was struck by the sheer quiet inside. The house was so still, if he didn’t know better, no one was home.
Brynn either slept like a soldier home from the sandbox or something was very wrong.
“Brynn, where are you?” he called out, striding through the house.
The back of his neck tingled, the hairs standing at attention…
Entering the family room, he had a sharp pain in his chest just before his heart raced, as fast as a horse in the Kentucky Derby. He had found Brynn, but it wasn’t a Brynn he wanted to find. Ever. She lay prone on the bare floor, and from the scattering of food debris, it wasn’t voluntary.
In three strides he was kneeling beside her. He checked her pulse. It was thin and reedy. Her normal sun-kissed face was alabaster white with streaks of red on her cheeks and neck, like someone had colored her with red crayon. He was surprised steam wasn’t coming off her clothes.
Picking her up in his arms, he ran from the house. Reaching his car, he jostled her so he could open the door. Grateful he had purchased a new SUV with all the latest technology, including fingerprint unlock so he didn’t have to put her down to open the door, and a voice-activated phone. Buckling a still-unconscious Brynn in, he ordered the SUV’s phone to call the ER.
“This is Deputy Police Chief Colin MacCaffe, I have an unconscious woman, age twenty-seven, general good health. I don’t know why she’s unconscious or for how long she’s been this way. Her pulse is thin and reedy, she’s pale and is running a high fever. I’ll be there in ten minutes. Have someone waiting for me.”
Not waiting for a response, he hung up and started the SUV. Pulling away from the house, he made one more call.
“Gram, I found Brynn unconscious and am taking her to the ER.”
“Now aren’t you glad I sent you over there?” He could hear the smugness and worry in her voice. “Call me as soon as you know what’s going on.”
“Yes Gram, I am. I’ll call you when I know more.”
Colin let himself into his darkened house.
He was so tired his bones ached from the effort of staying upright. He’d been at the hospital for hours. According to the doctor who treated Brynn, she was lucky he had found her when he had. He stayed until she’d been moved into the ICU.
Now, he needed to make a couple of phone calls he really didn’t want to. He grabbed a beer from the fridge on his way to the room he had turned into an office for himself. Not bothering to turn on any lights, he let the moonlight coming from the two sets of windows guide him to his desk. He turned on the desk light as he powered on his laptop to find the electronic document containing emergency numbers Morgan had emailed him before she and Ryan had left on their vacation.
After finding the document, he took a long drink from his beer and picked up the phone. He knew how close Brynn was to her sister so he called Morgan first. It went straight to voicemail.
And his night just got worse..
He hated leaving these kind of messages.
“Morgan, it’s Colin. I need you to call me back as soon as you get this.” He paused, “I found Brynn unconscious tonight and rushed her to the ER. She was rushed into surgery, her appendix burst, and she was in septic shock when I found her. Please call me back.”
He then hedged his bets with Morgan and sent a 911 text to Ryan. Refusing to leave anything to chance when it came to Brynn, he left messages on her parents’, her brother Case’s, and even Ethan’s voicemails. He wasn’t surprised no one had answered as it was the middle of the night, but he couldn’t believe Ryan wouldn’t answer a 911 text.
Finishing his beer he decided to tackle the problem of Brynn and her situation in the morning.
Colin walked into Brynn’s room in the ICU the next afternoon, surprised to find her awake. Sitting in the chair by her bed, he noted all the wires attached to her, to monitor her heart and oxygen levels, the IV in her hand, the blood pressure cuff on her arm and the nasal cannula in her nose to help with her breathing. Her face was still pale and had a slight sheen to it.
Seeing her awake, Colin felt the muscles in his shoulders relax the tension they had held for the last twenty-four hours. He had forced himself to stay away from the hospital that morning, telling himself she was still out of it from her surgery the night before.
He settled instead for a phone call to the hospital, grateful they lived in a small-enough community the hospital staff knew he was the acting police chief while Ryan was gone, and Brynn was the police chief’s sister-in-law. The nurses had kept him appraised throughout the day on how she was doing.
“How are you feeling?” he asked.
“Like crap. How do you expect me to feel after emergency surgery and then to find out there were complications. Only old people and babies are supposed to get peritonitis. Not healthy women in their twenties. Add in the blood pressure so low my heart is barely pumping, and I’m as fine as Georgia peach.”
Her fake southern twang, as she said “Georgia peach,” made him smile for the first time since he’d found her the night before.
“And because of these flippin’ complications I can’t stay by myself.” Her displeasure was evident in her voice.
Colin attempted to stifle his chuckle at her grumbling. If there was one thing he knew about Brynn, and he knew more than he should, she hated being down.
“Well I’m sure you’ll find a way to keep yourself busy. You won’t have the energy to get into as much trouble as you think for a while.”
When he’d returned from his run that morning he’d checked his voicemail to see if anyone in her family had called him back.
Not one single member of Brynn’s family had returned his call.
He had assumed they had called the hospital instead, not thinking about any of it until he had gotten to work and found a note taped to his computer, a message one of the other officers had written from Ryan asking him to take care of Brynn, as Morgan wasn’t going home to take care of her.
“Have you heard from your family? I called your parents, Morgan, and Case last night to let them know what happened.”
“Did you tell them how sick I am?”
“No, I told them you had to have an appendectomy but that’s all Why?”
From the “I’m talking to an idiot look” she was giving he assumed he was supposed to know something he clearly didn’t.
“Unless you told them how sick I really am, no one in my family is going to call me or visit me. So I’m not surprised no one returned your call.”
Colin sat there in stunned disbelief. He knew how close her family was, so to discover they had not and would not call was a shock.
“Why doesn’t it surprise you?”
She crossed her arms and harrumphed. He wasn’t sure if it was at him or her family.
“When I was seventeen I had to have my tonsils out. I hated every minute of it. I had a bad reaction to the anesthesia, and it made me sicker. I vomited for days. I was so miserable I made everyone around me miserable. My dad hid at the office. Morgan suddenly had to go to some basketball camp, and Case had to spend the summer working for my grandpa as his assistant. My mom, out of desperation, asked the housekeeper to take care of me so she didn’t kill me. So if you called my family and told them I’m sick, they will ignore you, and hope you take care of me. They usually only last about two days with me when I’m sick.”
By the time Brynn was done with her explanation Colin was laughing so hard he had tears running down his face. The image of her driving away her family was too much for him.
Brynn looked at Colin.
This was the first time she had seen him since the wedding. When Morgan had asked her to housesit while they were gone, she had taken it as a sign she needed to start returning to life.
That meant facing everything Colin made her feel.
Of all the scenarios she had played in her mind when saw him again, being at Colin’s mercy wasn’t one of them.
She wanted to be in control of the situation.
Not be stuck in a hospital bed and certainly not feeling like she’d been on the losing end of a battle with a real, full-sized, yellow Tonka truck. She was hot, and sweaty, her body ached from the roots of her hair to the skin on the soles of her feet, and she was moments away from crying all the time. It wasn’t those pretty tears either, but instead the giant crocodile tears that made your face swell, your eyes turn all red and blotchy, and your nose run. Finally, to make matters worse she couldn’t brush her teeth, and she really wanted to brush her teeth.
“So why are you here? Don’t you need to make sure the criminals stay away?” She cringed inwardly at the bitchiness in her voice. She hated acting that way. It was the complete opposite of who she really was.
Colin leaned back in the chair he had commandeered and stretched out in, wiping the moisture from his face. It wasn’t funny how her family acted when she was sick, but she was the only one who thought that.
“I’m here because not one single member of your family answered his or her phone last night. Nor have they called to check up on you and, according to your doctor, you need someone to stay with you to make sure you take it easy and don’t overexert your heart. It took quite a beating. Not to mention your ruptured appendix. Ryan, the chicken shit, left a message for me at work asking me to take care of you. So what do you need?”
Brynn couldn’t tell whether Colin was happy or angry about having to take care of her. She had mixed emotions about it. It had been a long time since someone other than her family had taken care of her, and it hurt too much to think about the last person who’d taken care of her. Over the years she’d erected a wall as sturdy as the Great Wall of China around the part of her that craved having someone to lean on, to take care of her when she needed it.
She had a feeling, however, that if anyone could breach that wall it was Colin. Whether she wanted him to or not was the question.
End of Excerpt