She unknowingly threatens his control.
Single mom Tala Baldwin is no stranger to sacrifice. After losing her leg while serving her country, she’s now training to become a competitive biathlete. With her daughter off to college, she’s able to shoot for her dream of making the national masters team. Even her Christmas break in Rifle Creek doesn’t slow her down. She’s asked her trusted friend Braxton to help her train—all while trying to pretend she doesn’t ache for him. Braxton was there for her during the darkest day of her life and he’s been there for her since…but only as a friend. In fact, he seems more determined than ever to hold her at arm’s length—until a deadly blizzard traps them in the mountains with a wanted killer hot on their trail. Now Tala once again finds her life in his hands as they face the lethal threats together.
Now he’s at his breaking point.
Sgt. Braxton Hillard is a master sniper, renowned for his ability to operate without emotion. Except with Tala. She’s all he’s ever wanted—but can’t have. For four long years he’s kept his distance. She’s way too good for him and she would realize that if he ever made a move. But the attraction between them is too powerful to deny, and once she makes it clear she wants him, he can’t keep his distance any longer. As they fight to survive in the mountains, all bets are off. Braxton is ready to sacrifice everything to protect the woman he loves—even his own life.
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Tala stopped, looking up at him, her pulse skipping at the focused look on his face. She couldn’t read his expression but his stare was intense. As if he had something important on his mind that he needed to tell her.
“Is…everything okay?” she asked slowly.
He shifted his feet but didn’t answer, and his hesitation worried her.
“Brax? Is something wrong?”
He glanced away, ran a hand over his jaw, then focused on her again. “What you said earlier. About me being part of the family.” His voice was low, taut, the muscles in his jaw and shoulders tight.
She frantically tried to gather her scattered thoughts, wondering what had upset him. “What about it?”
“Is that how you see me? As family?”
Something in his tone, in the silent tension coming from him, gave her pause and warned her to phrase her answer carefully. Especially when she took into account the things he’d said earlier. Was he hinting that…
Voicing her feelings aloud made her feel incredibly vulnerable, but she needed to be honest right now, because this would change everything, one way or the other.
Holding his gaze, she drew a steadying breath before answering. “If you’re asking if I think of you in a brotherly way, then… No.” Not even a little.
He stilled, his gaze sharpening, the leap of heat of that dark stare sending a ripple of shock—and hope—through her. “So how do you think of me?”
She looked away, fighting a blush as her discomfort level skyrocketed. She didn’t want to make a fool of herself or be humiliated if he didn’t reciprocate her feelings. “I…”
“Tal. Look at me.”
She did, and felt herself drowning in those deep brown eyes, all the feelings she’d repressed for years suddenly rushing to the surface.
“Say it,” he rasped out.
I’ve wanted you forever.
The unspoken words got tangled on the tip of her tongue. But she couldn’t look away. Couldn’t drag her eyes from his, her pulse pounding in her ears as she waited for him to say something. Do something to put her out of her misery.
He took two steps toward her, stopping inches from her boots to reach both arms past her. He leaned in to cage her against the truck doorway with his big body, his hands on either side of her head, the muscles in his arms, shoulder and jaw standing out.
And his eyes. The sudden, volcanic heat in them made the breath stall in her lungs.
Shock punched through her, followed by a wave of molten desire as she stared up at him, his face mere inches from hers. She had to be reading this wrong. Had to be, because he was staring at her like he wanted to devour her and was struggling to hold back.
“Tal.” His voice was low, his taut expression making her heart thud against her ribs. He’d only ever looked at her like this in her dreams.
“What?” she whispered back, anticipation and need swirling inside her.
Touch me. Oh, God, touch me…