Army medic Ben Rockwell is in Ellery to work with the Veterans Center creating a new specialist unit for post trauma care. Desperate to make amends for battlefield decisions he regrets, he is focused on the unit and nothing else. Until some stranger moves in next door and throws him a curveball. He’s no hero, even though everyone says he is, and the lies burn inside him.
Leaving drama and chaos in his wake, Nicholas Merrick fled London and is hiding out in his friend Jason’s house, until everything back home dies a death. The choices he made in his life were to keep his best friend safe, but as a result everyone sees him as the bad guy.
When these two meet, the attraction is instant. Can they ever be their true selves, and find love as a result?
Loud banging, with added yelling, pulled Nick out of a nightmare. After a restless, irritable, crunchy-messy night of tossing and turning, he had finally fallen asleep some time before dawn, and now at fuck o’clock in the morning there was knocking at the front door. And some asshole shouting words that he couldn’t make out. Was this part of his dream? He couldn’t tell.
For the longest time he lay flat on his back, unwilling to move. The sheets were wrapped around him like a mummy, the quilt on the floor, and he was still in that half world between nightmare and reality. Even closing his eyes didn’t help dispel the vivid images of him walking up to the Oscar podium completely naked and with the Queen pointing and laughing at him.
Naked as the day he was born, hanging loose and free, and no one saying a thing. Apart from the laughing that was. Like it was okay that one of the Oscar nominees was walking up the steps free of any and all clothing.
Not to mention no one commented on the Queen throwing popcorn at him.
Yep, it had been that kind of nightmare, and it wasn’t the first time he’d had it. And where the Oscar fear came from he didn’t know. There would never be a chance of an Oscar for. Not for the guy whose acting career had happened by accident and formed only because of a personal rebellion against his straight laced family. His resume included two sequels to the highly profitable, but formulaic, shit-bad, Angels of Bedlam franchise, with his entire fee going charity because he didn’t need the money.
Nick hadn’t been in the first UK funded Bedlam film. Said film had been praised for its ingenious twist on a dark horror romance. No, he was the handy British villain in the next two, the studio cashing in on any money that was left out there in a saturated market by ticking all the boxes. Explosions, tick. Strong, but mostly naked, female lead, tick. Sexy down on his luck, in te wrong place at the wrong time, male lead, tick.
And him, the ubiquitous bad guy with the English accent.
The follow up were certainly not Oscar material, and once Nick pulled his fragmented sleep-addled thoughts into line, he focused on the statistical likelihood of even being nominated for an Oscar in the first place, let alone accepting it naked.
“Fuck me,” he muttered to the empty room and rolled onto his front. The banging had stopped and no one actually knew he was here, so, he wasn’t going to answer the door in a place that wasn’t even his.
Jason McInnery and his husband, Kieran, lived in this stunning home, in the small town of Ellery, Tennessee. Glass floor to ceiling, wide open rooms, a pool in the garden, and the most comprehensive jungle gym he’d ever seen for Jason and Kieran’s son, Jonas. Even the damn guest room was beautiful, a huge wood carving took up nearly one wall, and the view from the window out to the mountain was stunning. At least that was the adjective he was supposed to use for what he could see. Objectively, he could see it was spectacular, but was too lost in confusion since he got here to think about it too much. A quick glance at the clock showed him it was five am, like midnight or something back in London, and still dark in the shadow of the mountain, so he rolled over and pulled the covers up to his neck.
Even in the middle of the chaotic remnants of his nightmare he welcomed the heat that cocooned him and willed the knocking to stop. Which it did. The mess of dreams forgotten, he drifted on as many good thoughts as he could muster and was very nearly asleep when the banging started up again. He groaned and hid his face under the pillow, willing the person creating the noise to go away. Then it ceased again, and he closed his eyes, but didn’t remove the pillow. Dawn was too close now and the room would fill with light because he hadn’t even taken the time to pull the drapes.
Unfortunately, his bladder had other ideas about what he needed to do, and cursing, he grabbed the sheets and untwisted himself. Feet planted on the floor he scrubbed a hand over his face, the untamed beard was just another reminder of everything that was horribly wrong about his life right now. Normally he would have just the right amount of stubble, but the last instalment of Angels of Bedlam, cunningly entitled, Bedlam Adrift, called for him to be a castaway, hence the beard, which he’d left to tangle.
No point in worrying about it anyway. He’d left London to get away from paparazzi, and their incessant need for more, and he was in unofficial hiding. Therefore, no one would see his beard, or his bloodshot eyes.
He caught sight of himself in the mirror.
“Jesus, you look fucked.”
Bedhead. Bags under his eyes. Beard. It was a whole cacophony of B-shit. Yawning widely, he padded across the bedroom to the half bath, emptying his bladder and washing his hands. He’d gone to bed as nature intended. Well, warm nature anyway, completely naked, which probably led to nightmare. Packing back home had been done in less than five minutes, his priority was money, passport, his phone, his laptop and associated chargers. It seemed like his messed-up head hadn’t thought any kind of pajamas were needed, or indeed underwear.
The next choice was shower or bed, and the exhaustion of the past few days, the media attention, making sure Heather was okay, fleeing the UK, ending up here in the middle of rural Tennessee, it was all too much and he sighed.
“Bed it is,” he muttered to his reflection. As soon as he woke up he was going online to order everything he’d forgot to pack. Jason had said to help himself to anything he needed but helping himself to his friend’s clothes didn’t feel right.
He yawned again, and stepped out into the cooler bedroom, eyes only half open.
“Hands where I can see them,” someone shouted, and Nick, startled, his heart pounding, fell backwards into the bathroom, catching himself on the jamb as best he could. He blinked to focus on the man in front of him.
The cop holding a gun on him. Immediately he raised his hands, and then lowered them to cover his junk, and then raised them again when the cop didn’t move.
RJ is the author of the over one hundred novels and discovered romance in books at a very young age. She realized that if there wasn’t romance on the page, she could create it in her head, and is a lifelong writer.
She lives and works out of her home in the beautiful English countryside, spends her spare time reading, watching films, and enjoying time with her family.
The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn’t like it one little bit and has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.
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