Embattled Hearts by JM Madden
Lost & Found Series; Book 1
Published: December 13, 2013
Published by: J.M. Madden
John Palmer hasn’t felt like a real man since he was injured during combat in Iraq. Though not content with his new life, he is mostly adapting, just like the other vets at the Lost ‘N’ Found Investigative Service. When Shannon Murphy is hired on as the new office manager, life suddenly gets a lot more interesting. Before long, John finds himself wondering if he could ever be the kind of man Shannon needs.
Shannon Murphy wasn’t really looking for love when she hired on at LNF, but finds herself hopelessly attracted to the sex-on-wheels former Marine, John Palmer. The man is grumpy and nearly impossible to work with, but his brand of masculinity appeals to her on a basic level. Soon Shannon is wondering just what it would take for John to want her the way she wants him.
When an old enemy tries to settle a vendetta against Shannon, John insists on protecting her. He moves into her house, fanning the spark of attraction into a blaze. But the danger continues to escalate. Will the connection that they’ve found survive when they’re thrust into a fight for their lives?
The Texans stood to make their goodbyes, and John pulled his attention back, glancing at his watch. He was eager to leave Duncan’s office and join Shannon for lunch. As often as he could he tried to join her in the break room. Even such casual contact calmed him, and made him appreciate relating to another person. They didn’t talk about anything in particular. For the most part, Shannon carried the conversation, and he was content to just sit and listen. And wonder. It sounded like she had an interesting life, with her animals and her family, and the house she’d moved into last year. Totally different than his own boring day-to-day routine. She didn’t badger him with questions about what had happened to his legs or try to dance around his disability. The only time she hesitated was when she told him she jogged occasionally. He knew by the reaction on her face that his own must have reflected a crushing desire to feel the hot asphalt beneath his pounding feet. Smiling softly, she had left the table, but not before she rested her hand gently on his shoulder. “Believe me,” she told him softly, “you’re probably faster in that chair than I’ll ever be on my feet. Maybe you can join me sometime.”
And, just that easily, she made one of his greatest losses just a bit easier to bear.
He powered out of Duncan’s office. He didn’t care if he was abrupt. They usually shook their heads at him no matter what he did.
Shannon wasn’t at her desk when he rolled by, nor in any of the other offices down the hallway. His heart began to pound as he pulled up to the break room door and looked in the half window. There she was. Laughing and gesturing with her hands to Roger Stottsberry, one of the Night detectives. Roger had been coming in every Friday for Shannon’s lunch since she started the practice. And John didn’t blame him. When not at the agency, it seemed he just sat at home and stared at the walls. There was only so much brainless TV you could watch before you slowly went insane. It was hard to go out in public, both physically and mentally, and these offices had turned into a haven for the men who worked here. Duncan had let them convert one of the empty offices into a multi-purpose room, with a couple of bunks in one corner in case somebody needed to crash. There was also exercise equipment and a TV and game system on the opposite wall to help them relax. The refrigerator was always stocked with easy, microwaveable foods. John found himself occupying that room more and more. As did a lot of the other guys.
Every week the shift teams—Day, Night and Graveyard— got together for some kind of tournament, be it darts or Jeopardy or anything they could think of to be competitive. It built camaraderie between the teams and was a great way to blow off steam. At first they’d tried to separate into whichever branch of the military they’d been discharged from, but because there were so many more Marines than any other branch, it hadn’t always worked out.
He rolled through the break room door and was immediately warmed by Shannon’s broad smile. Any aggravation she felt earlier in the day had apparently faded away. The tension in his own body eased.
“I was just telling Roger about my niece naming one of my kittens Boohini. I had called him Houdini because he kept getting out of wherever I put him, and somehow she changed it around to Boohini.”
That was kind of cute, and he chuckled along with them, before he wheeled around the table to the large Crockpot on the counter. His mouth watered before he even lifted the lid. Shannon’s food was phenomenal. But by the time he got his meatball sandwich made and situated on his lap for the return trip, Shannon had gathered up her things to leave. He almost dropped his plate as she stretched behind herself for a cola, her luscious breasts outlined by the cloth of her peach-colored sweater. Man, she looked nice in that sweater. Dragging his gaze away, he situated himself at the table. She plunked the cola in front of him, threw her stuff away and told the men goodbye.
He watched intently until she disappeared down the hallway, curvy hips swinging.
Roger had his head tilted to one side, and his dark brown eyes were squinted in laughter. “Oh, so it’s that way, huh?”
John picked up his sandwich. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
The former Marine laughed and slapped his leg with his good hand. The molded right hand rested on the table, currently immobile. John admired Roger, because his amputated arm had been replaced with a state-of-the-art prosthetic that was actually wired into the nerves of his arm. It was truly a wonder to watch, because it was so lifelike. Even the skin tone was incredibly close to Roger’s dark walnut color. It was seriously cutting-edge stuff. There were military medical trials going on with paraplegics and quadriplegics using stem cells and spinal implants, but John had chosen not to participate in them. If he’d had a family, maybe it would have been a different story.
Roger had leaned down to try to catch his eye.
“What, damn it?” John shoved his plate away and sat back in his chair, ready to fight. Adrenaline coursed through his veins, disproportionate to the situation.
Roger held up his hands before sitting back in his own chair. “I didn’t mean anything by it. I think Shannon is a great girl. Why do you think I get myself out of bed so early every Friday?”
John narrowed his eyes and tried to breathe deeply. Was Roger interested in her like he was? He could understand some women would be attracted to him. The man wasn’t bad looking, even with the shrapnel scars covering one side of his face and the prosthetic forearm.
And Roger at least had legs.
“I didn’t realize you had a claim on her.”
“I don’t,” John grumbled. That was the whole problem in a nutshell. He had no claim on her. He didn’t even know if he wanted to claim her. Yeah, she turned him on, but what could he offer her? Certainly nothing long-term. What would an active, vibrant woman like her want with a broken man like him?
John tried to think of other things as he finished his sandwich, and ignore the ache in his chest.
Meet JM Madden~
NY Times and USA Today Bestselling author J.M. Madden writes compelling romances between 'combat modified' military men and the women who love them. J.M. Madden loves any and all good love stories, most particularly her own. She has two beautiful children and a husband who always keeps her on her toes.
J.M. was a Deputy Sheriff in Ohio for nine years, until hubby moved the clan to Kentucky. When not chasing the family around, she's at the computer, reading and writing, perfecting her craft. She occasionally takes breaks to feed her animal horde and is trying to control her office-supply addiction, but both tasks are uphill battles. Happily, she is writing full-time and always has several projects in the works. She also dearly loves to hear from readers! So, drop her a line. She'll respond.
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