Title: Twilight, Texas #5: Christmas at Twilight
Author: Lori Wilde
Publisher: Avon Romance
Release Date: October 28, 2014
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
It's Christmas in Twilight, Texas. The Cookie Club is baking, the town is decorated, and Delta Force Operator "Hutch" Hutchinson has finally, reluctantly, returned home . . .
. . . only to get pepper sprayed by the delicious- looking stranger who's taken over his house. She says her name is Jane, and she immediately sets down ground rules. Top priority: no touching. For Hutch that isn't easy—he was wounded in action, but one part is still working very well.
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He’d never understood before how truly terrible those two words were. The names of his lost team members were indelibly etched into his brain—Joe Prince, Lincoln Johnson, Rick Gutierrez, Kwan Lee, and Michael Keller. Known affectionately in The Unit as Razor, Axe, Hurricane, Wolf, Killer. To think he would never see them again whittled his insides to shavings.
Deciding to take the high road, Hutch picked up the Magic Slate that his speech therapist had given him. It was a peel-back, dry-erase drawing board most commonly found in children’s Christmas stockings back in the sixties and seventies. The speech therapist insisted he use it to strengthen hand-eye-brain coordination through old-fashioned handwriting as opposed to using modern technology to communicate in face-to-face conversations.
Feeling like a jackass using a kid’s toy, he grasped the red plastic stylus attached to the drawing board with a string, wrote F-OFF, and held it up for Jenner to see.
“Ah, anger, the most vocal stage of grief. See, even without your voice you can still express yourself. You’re making progress, Captain Hutchinson.”
Hutch added X’S 2 to the F-OFF..
“I realize you’ve been through great emotional trauma.” Jenner spoke slowly, deliberately, as if Hutch was stupid instead of simply incapable of speech. “But it’s time. You need to speak.”
Hutch narrowed his eyes, shook his head.
“I know it’s not easy, but you’re Special Forces. This is nothing compared to what you’ve faced in training, and on the battlefield, not to mention the troubled past that drove you to the army in the first place.”
The blood in Hutch’s body chilled, slowed. Why was the bastard talking about his childhood?
Jenner smiled as if he wasn’t courting a fist to the face. “A mother with a personality disorder. She kept a revolving door of men coming and going through her life that threatened you and your little sister too. You’ve fought a lot. Fought hard. Fight this.”
Hutch’s anger flared from vibrant red to gas-flame blue. His mother had been no saint, but she’d done the best she could, and she’d loved him the only way she knew how. He hadn’t doubted her love for a second, not even when she’d screamed that she hated him. Where did this jerkwad get off badmouthing his mother?
“You want to tell me off, don’t you?” Jenner taunted. “Do it then.”
The psychologist was baiting him, trying to provoke a reaction. Hutch wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction. Difficult as it was, he uncurled his fists and hauled in a deep breath all the way to the bottom of his lungs.
“Bravery is feeling the fear and doing it anyway, right?” Jenner’s tone softened.
Everyone in the room was watching them, bodies tuned for hair-trigger response, nerves tensed, waiting for an explosion.
Hutch exhaled, felt his muscles loosen, but his anger darkened, lingered, smelled of brimstone.
“Speak,” Jenner commanded, as if it were just that easy.
Hutch’s throat spasmed the same way it did every time the speech therapists worked with him. He clenched his teeth to keep from wincing. No one seemed to get it. He could not speak. His trachea was too damaged.
Avon © 2014 Lori Wilde
Lori Wilde is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over 70 works of romantic fiction. She is a two-time RITA award nominee, a four time Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice nominee and has won numerous other awards. She earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Texas Christian University and holds a certificate in nursing forensics. An animal lover, Lori is owned by several pets, and lives in Texas with her husband, Bill.