Broken on the inside
Megan Hunter has worked hard to get back on her feet, leaving the nightmare of her teenage years behind. The last thing she wants or needs in her life is a man. But when she is attacked by someone from her past, a scarred stranger intervenes, saving her life and that of her little girl. Looks can be deceiving, for despite the man's rough appearance, she feels safe with him. And for the first time in her life, she knows the stirrings of desire.
Broken on the outside
Nathaniel West paid a high price serving with the Marines in Afghanistan. He returned to his family's ranch in the Colorado mountains to heal—and be alone. Disfigured as he is, he has put all thoughts of sex and romance aside. But something about Megan brings him back to life, heats his blood, makes him feel like a man again. As danger pursues her, and the truth about her past is revealed, he vows to protect her—and to heal her wounded spirit.
But confronting the past is never easy—especially when it's carrying a gun. Megan will have to learn to trust Nate to survive and to claim a passion that is much more than — Skin Deep.
Read an excerpt below...
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"Be careful. It's hot."
"Thanks." Megan took the mug of steaming chamomile tea from Nate, a part of her craving something stronger.
While he put more wood on the fire, she sipped, struggling to pull the pieces of herself back together. She felt drained, weak, ragged. It seemed unreal to her that she'd just bared the darkest side of her soul to a man she'd known only for a week, but she had. She'd told him everything.
More than that, she'd buried her face in his shirt and sobbed while he'd held her. The only other men she'd let touch her like that were Marc and Julian, but that was different. Marc was her brother, and Julian... Well, he was like a brother.
What she felt for Nate was very different.
She couldn't deny that she was attracted to him. Usually that meant she'd want to get as far away from him as she could, and yet something about him set her at ease.
He poured himself another drink and sat on the sofa. "Are you warm?"
She nodded, grateful for the blanket he'd wrapped around her shoulders.
He leaned back into the cushions, his eyes narrowing as he looked at her. "Can I ask you a question?"
"Sure. Why not?" She no longer had any secrets where he was concerned.
"That reporter your brother took hostage when he broke out of prison—he got her pregnant while they were on the run, and she married him, didn't she?"
Nate's question, as blunt as it was, wasn't what Megan had been expecting.
She laughed. "He and Sophie have been married for almost four years now, and they have two kids—Chase and Addison."
Nate shook his head, a bemused expression on his face. "That's ... interesting."
Megan smiled. "Believe it or not, Marc can be very sweet. You haven't exactly seen his soft side."
"No I suppose, I haven't." Nate chuckled. "I don't blame him for watching over you the way he does. If I were in his shoes and spotted some strange guy walking up to my little sister's front door after she'd been attacked, I probably would have done the same thing."
"Marc knows I get— uncomfortable around men, and I guess he does his best to make certain I feel safe." Megan looked away, took a sip of tea.
"Do you feel uncomfortable around me?" It was a sincere question, no defensiveness in his voice, no hint that she needed to lie to protect his ego.
Megan found herself studying him from his short sandy brown hair to his deep set blue eyes to the tanned skin on the left side of his face to the scars on the right. "No—which is kind of strange."
It was both fascinating—and frightening.
"Well, that's good—I think." The smile lines around his eyes crinkled, a hint of humor in his voice.
And she knew she would never get a better time than now to let him know where she stood. "I'm never going to be with a man, Nate. I'm telling you this now because...because I don't want to mislead you. I don't like being touched. I don't like sex. I've never once enjoyed it."
"Never?" His brows bent in a frown.
"Never." She glanced away for a moment, unable to bear the scrutiny of his gaze. "When a man touches me, I feel ... revulsion. I instantly feel sick to my stomach. It's all I can do not to shove him away. What those men did to me—it's in my DNA."
Even years of therapy hadn't changed that. A hug from a male acquaintance, a man's arm around her shoulders, an overly long handshake—they all made her want to pull away and run. She couldn't even go to a male doctor.
"I'm sorry. If I'd known... " Nate's frown deepened. "Did I make you feel that way just now when I held you?"
"N-no." Warmth rushed to Megan's cheeks.
"I'm glad to hear that." His forehead furrowed, and he seemed to think about this for a moment as if it were a puzzle he needed to solve. "How about when I caught you when you fell getting off the horse?"
"No." Her cheeks burned hotter.
"What about the times I've held your hand?"
Could he see that she was blushing? God, she hoped not! "No, not then either."
His gaze locked with hers. "And last night—when I kissed you?"
"No." She rushed to explain. "But we were interrupted, and I... I think maybe there just wasn't time for me to react."
Nate set his drink down on the coffee table. "Do you want to test that theory?"
Megan's heart took off at a sprint. "Wh-what do you mean?"
"I could kiss you again just like I did last night—soft and easy—and since we're not going to be interrupted this time, you'll be able to see whether that sense of revulsion kicks in. If it does, we stop."
"And if it doesn't?"
He gave her a lopsided grin. "We'll know you've been kissing the wrong men."
She felt that flutter in her belly again, and time was measured in heartbeats as he watched her, waiting for her answer. Some part of her was afraid their little experiment would fail. Some part of her was afraid it would succeed.
There's no point in trying. You know how this will end, girl.
But did she? Everything had been different with Nate so far.
She drew a steadying breath. "How would we do it?"
"We could do it like we did last night." He spoke matter-of-factly, as if they were discussing how to change a tire. "I'll sit close to you and kiss you nice and slow, and we can see where that takes us."
She nodded. "O-okay."
In a single slow motion, he shifted so that he sat beside her, his face inches from hers, his arm stretched out on the back of the leather sofa behind her. "You tell me if you start to feel queasy or repulsed, alright?"
It was hard to think with him sitting so close. "All right."
"Ready?" He reached out, stroked her cheek with the knuckles of his right hand.
Without closing his eyes, he leaned in, brushed his lips over hers once, twice, three times, the feather-light contact sending shivers through her.
"How are we doing so far?" His eyes looked straight into hers, his voice husky.
"Good." She didn't wait for him this time, but rested her palms against the hard wall of his chest, rose up on one knee, and caressed his lips with hers, increasing the pressure.
His eyes drifted shut, his lashes long and dark. One big hand came to rest on her hip as he steadied her. He caught her lower lip between his, and gave it a soft tug.
Her eyes drifted shut, her hands finding their way up his chest and over his shoulders as she drew herself against him, needing to be closer to him, her arms locking behind his neck. She tilted her head, kissed his upper lip, then his lower lip, then the corners of his mouth, her tongue tracing the outline of his lips, her senses stirred by the taste of him, by his masculine scent, by the hard feel of him.
And Megan forgot she'd always been repulsed by this. All she knew was that she wanted more.