Join me in welcoming Sharon Hamilton to Highlighted Author.
Sharon Hamilton is the New York Times and USA/Today best selling author of the SEAL Brotherhood series, romantic suspense with Navy SEAL heroes. Her fourth book is SEAL The Deal, and has been released this month.
She writes in beautiful Sonoma County, California, in the heart of the wine country. This is her first novel that takes place almost entirely in her Northern California community. When she is not writing, she is working her organic vegetable and flower garden, getting vera vera dirty, or wandering local Farmer’s Markets trading or looking for Heirloom seeds.
SEAL The Deal
Special Operator Nick Dunn gets the call he has been dreading since before his last deployment. His sister is in her final stages of cancer. Nick only vaguely remembers Devon Brandeburg, his sister’s best friend, but boy has she grown up.
Devon has created a small financial fortune through her success in real estate. Her career is her main focus, but a closely guarded secret is her total lack of experience with men.
What starts as a deathbed promise turns out to be a hot affair neither one expected. Nick becomes Devon’s teacher in her journey to womanhood. As she comes alive in his arms, the student brings the teacher something he’s never allowed himself to want, and now knows he needs.
Devon Brandeburg didn’t see Sophie’s car, but did find a God-awful yellow, totally obnoxious Hummer she’d need a stepladder to mount, parked at an angle and taking up half the parking lot. She knew right away it belonged to Sophie’s full-of-himself SEAL brother, Nick. He’d driven up five years ago, right after he made it through the BUD/S program. He’d been so puffed up with hubris he pushed all the air out of the room when he entered.
The worst thing about the guy, as Devon remembered, was that he automatically thought any girl would fall down on her knees and beg him to do the nasty with her. Devon had been so bold as to ask him one time about suicides increasing in the military. She was going to do an English paper on the subject. His answer was, “Not the SEALs. Hell, why would we deprive the ladies of some fun? We’re God’s gift to the female population.”
He’d given her that big, goofy smile, overly confident and irritating as heck. In SonomaCounty she never ran across such bravado and in-your-face braggadocio.
It had turned her stomach. She’d rolled her eyes then, and when she’d looked back at him he had the nerve to wink!
But later, she’d had a hard time forgetting the sight of his hard body and muscular arms, easily twice the size of anyone else’s she knew. And yes, she did dream about him that night. That really pissed her off.
All that had happened when she was twenty and completely inexperienced. Hell, she was still a virgin at twenty-five, a secret she guarded with her life. The one time she’d extended her heart to someone she thought perhaps she could love, she was hurt so badly, she never let anyone get close again. She poured herself into her work as a means to forget the whole experience.
No, sexual confidence wasn’t something she’d had a chance to develop, but she’d make damned sure, if Sophie forced her to talk to him about his sister’s estate, Mr. Nicholas Dunn would never learn that little factoid.
She’d become a successful realtor and made enough to support herself with a decent lifestyle. She’d mentored under Sophie originally, until Sophie gave up her career in real estate to go into the nursery business. Devon became the professional realtor, while Sophie got her hands dirty tending to a failing business. They remained best friends.
Devon parked her Lexus a safe distance away from the rock-spraying beast of a vehicle Nick was probably driving, and secretly hoped he’d not be there.
Her luck wasn’t that good.
He still sucked all the air out of the room. He was standing at Sophie’s little sink washing dishes. And he was singing, rocking his hips from side to side. Was that the song from Flashdance?
“I’m a maniac—“
She couldn’t resist breaking in.
“Well, look at you…so domestic.” She crossed her arms, tilted her head and enjoyed surprising the heck out of this normally self-composed brute. He to slammed the water faucet shut with his fist and dried his hands. Then he slowly perused the length of her body, leaving no part unexplored. His emerald green eyes were blazing.
Still the same cocky son of a bitch. Devon knew he didn’t care if he got caught ogling her, so confident was he that a rejection wasn’t anywhere in his future. He was all the kinds of maleness she’d been running from.
He leaned his butt against the tiled countertop. Then he threw down the towel and mirrored Devon’s stance with crossed arms. “Been awhile, Dev.”
“Right. Still don’t like me, do you?”
“You’re a good judge of character,” she answered. “I’ll give you that.”
“You’re just as scrappy as Sophie told me you’d be.” He smiled as if his approval mattered to her.
“I’ll just leave you to your work, then.”
“Oh, the dishes are done. I was going to sweep the floor and then wash all the windows. But you go ahead and do all that computer stuff you realtors do. Way beyond me.”
Devon found that comment funny, despite an internal backdrop of curiosity and fear. Attempting to focus on her work, she sat down at the plank tabletop, stacked the listing folders to the side and opened up her computer. She crossed her legs and ran her fingers through the hair at the back of her scalp, took a deep breath and logged on to the Internet to begin a property search. But Nick’s presence still loomed large enough to make her catch her breath.
The soft sweeping sound of Sophie’s broom against the cool concrete floor began to distract her. Didn’t help much that she could see Nick wrestling the handle with nearly enough force to break it. His forearms were as big as her thighs, for goodness’ sake. His shoulders moved with sinewy grace underneath smooth tanned skin. His mop of blond hair went in all directions. He tickled her ankles as he reached the broom under the table and swept the area around her.
“Does that bother you?” he asked. He’d stopped, leaning his chin on the end of the broomstick.
“As in, were you trying to?” Why were men so obvious?
“Nope. It was an honest question.” The sparkle in his eyes made him out to be a liar. His animal magnetism was bringing up those butterflies again. She needed to get back to the cold hard facts, and the numbers. Things she was asked to do for poor Sophie. This was all about Sophie, after all.
“You want some coffee, Devon?” he asked.
He wasn’t going to leave her alone, was he? “Wow. You clean the dishes, sweep the floor, and you make coffee? The Navy must have trained you well. What did they do, get some of the senior wives to come in and give you pointers?” She wondered where that comment came from.
“I don’t need any pointers.”
In spite of herself, she blushed. Damn. That sticky feeling of not being in control and him standing there, looking all confident and smug sent her pulse racing. She attempted to get back to her computer when…
Just then he fired up the coffee grinder, making her jump in her seat. She began to smell the glorious scent of freshly brewing coffee and her mouth watered.
When she looked up, he had his back to her. A variety of Celtic crosses and symbols poked up above the collar of his T-shirt. She could see discoloration from beneath the white cotton fabric, hinting at tats on his shoulders and lower, in places she forced her eyes not to search. One long stream of tats like footprints of a three-legged toad was inked on his right inside forearm.
It was impossible to ignore the enormous V of his upper torso leading to the small waist, his deltoids and lats so tight they looked like they’d hurt. She began to wonder what they would feel like—
He caught her staring when he stole a quick glance over his shoulder before crossing the room with two mugs of the hot black coffee. Placing one next to her computer, he took a seat right across from her like she was his entertainment.
“I dare you to say there’s a better cup of coffee anywhere.” His deep green eyes were almost iridescent. His smooth tanned face and full lips did cause her to blush. She quickly grabbed the mug, sipping the steamy liquid. She was going to try to ignore him by finding something of interest on the screen.
But then Nick slurped his coffee. She could feel his eyes still focused on her.
Devon didn’t care how long he stared. She wasn’t going to return the gaze. Didn’t the guy have any shame? Or, was this little cat and mouse game a way to process the pain he must be feeling over Sophie’s illness. Either way, it was making her feel like she was spinning out of control.
She frowned, consulted her yellow-lined tablet and kept tapping on the keys. Her red nail polish matched her red suit, but now she wished she’d worn black.
One of her heels fell off and plopped to the ground because her legs were crossed. She briefly looked up at him, only to see the wiggle of his eyebrows, and the unspoken offer to crawl under the table and place the patent leather pump back on her foot. That would mean he’d have to touch her calf as he adjusted the shoe. He’d hold her ankle with both his dinner plate hands, and his fingers—
Feeling very much like an insect pinned in a collection box, she inhaled loudly, stuffed her foot into her errant shoe, and picked up the pace of her typing.
He continued to watch her, occasionally piercing the quiet with his sips.
The room was beginning to heat up. The late fall weather pattern was growing hot, which meant some long, sweaty nights with crickets chirping madly, since Sophie’s house didn’t have air conditioning. Neither did the nursery. She sighed, blowing air up to her bangs.
“You should have worn something sleeveless.”
“A fashionista as well?” She was wondering when he’d take the hint and stop trying to distract her.
“I just notice you’re looking rather hot today, Devon.”
No way was she going to look at him. He had her really bothered now. But then she did look up, and damn, he was fine. She fell into the crease at the right side of his mouth, the huskiness in his voice that made her ears buzz. She had to get him to stop.
“So you sit there and make an obnoxious ass of yourself while you watch me work? You think that’s some kind of fun?” Did he hear the waver in her voice?
“I enjoy watching beautiful women.”
It was getting hotter in the room. “Really? Women who don’t know you? Women who don’t care in the slightest anything about you? Sounds like a rather pathetic way to spend a few minutes.”
“Not from over here.” She could tell he was enjoying laying it on thick, and she was powerless to stop him. She had to act now or she’d be completely lost.
Devon shot up to her feet. “Enough! Nick. Go outside. Make yourself useful. I’m sure there are some weeds to pull or some walkways to rake.”
He shrugged. “Suit yourself.” He took his mug and swaggered outside into the afternoon sunlight. She found herself still gasping for air at the sight of him making his way lazily across the parking lot.
Devon’s heart rate was thumping wildly. A bead of sweat trickled down between her breasts.
Whatever it was she’d dreamed about five years ago was still there. Lurking. Waiting to pounce.
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