How about you introduce yourself by providing the basics?
“Hello Ladies, my name is Dustin Franks, former SEAL and problem child for author Vonnie Davis.” He shakes his head and leans forward, his massive forearms resting on his spread thighs. “I never set out to be such a problem for her. But, you see, her editor at Loveswept told her she wanted a series on wounded warriors, SEALs in particular, who were also dealing with PTSD. What her editor didn’t know was Vonnie’s grandson was in the middle of his own dark battle with post-traumatic stress from serving in Afghanistan and seeing two of his Army buddies blown up with some of their body parts landing on him. A couple months earlier, he’d tried to commit suicide, so Vonnie wasn’t sure she could write this series and keep the emotional grandma out of it, you know?” He shakes his head again. “The woman was a mess. She stalled by reading books on life as a SEAL and PTSD. She cried.” Dustin rolls his eyes. “Like I wanted to deal with an author who bawled every time she opened her manuscript and read ‘Chapter One.’ Finally, I leaned over her shoulder and whispered, ‘Type what I tell you.’”
What do you like most about being a SEAL?
“For the most part, I was a sniper. Some would say I was one of the best in the teams, but I’m not so sure I deserve that distinction. I enjoyed taking a high point and protecting my SEAL brothers from enemy attacks. I cleared a safe path for them. SEALs are cross-trained to do all operations required to secure an area. My buddy, Wysocki, and I were clearing a building when we saw a crying toddler. Wysocki had kids back home, so instinctively went to pick up the kid.” Dustin pinches the bridge of his nose. “That’s when I saw the trip wires over the infant’s chubby legs. Before the words of warning were out of my mouth, the explosion killed my friend and took off part of my leg below the knee.” He taps the prosthesis under his jeans.
Did you always want to be a SEAL?
“No. Actually, I graduated from University of Maryland as an architect and worked for a firm for a while, but I couldn’t stand spending all day inside in a cubicle. I swam and ran track in college. I missed the activity, so I joined the Navy. When my superior officer talked to me about going through BUD/S, the challenge of training for a SEAL spot appealed to me. I love a challenge.” A smile slowly spreads. “I suppose that’s why my first meeting with Kelcee sparked my interest, even though I was mad as a hornet.”
How did you end up on a ranch in Texas?
“Zane Quinlan, or ZQ as we called him, the Commander of SEAL team 5 retired after our time in Syria. His dad was dying of cancer and he returned to the family ranch to help out. Slowly, one by one, his old team members started drifting in. First was JJ, demolitions expert and dog handler. He’d adopted the team’s service dog, Nance, who’d been wounded just before me. JJ couldn’t handle the noise and social hubbub of Columbus, Ohio. He needed quiet to deal with his demons. When I landed in a high tech hospital in San Antonio after my time in Bethesda Naval Hospital, ZQ visited me the first few days, read me my favorite poetry. When he told me I was welcome to spend time at Eagle Ridge Ranch, I took him up on his offer.”
What attracts you first to a woman? You mentioned a lady named Kelcee. Is she your current love interest?
“Oh man, she’s my whole world. Curly strawberry blonde hair, a shade plump the way I like my women, and eyes that will singe your skin when she’s angry. She got upset with me the first time we met, which was in her bookstore. She’d just inherited it from her former boss and wanted to update it. ZQ thought I’d be ideal guy, with my architectural training, to come up with some ideas. Little did I know he was playing matchmaker.” Dustin scratches the back of his head. “I still don’t know what I said to fire her up like that, but she all but tossed me out of the store on my ear.” He leans his head back and laughs. “How could you not love a woman like that? Whooo, she’s got spunk. She was also in the Witness Protection Program, but that’s revealed later in the book.
Vonnie Davis welcomes readers to Warrior Falls! In this sizzling contemporary series, broken heroes meet women worth fighting for—and discover the healing power of love.
Navy SEAL Dustin Franks can handle physical pain; it’s his soul that needs mending. After losing part of his leg in an explosion, the panic triggered by his PTSD nearly drives him over the edge. So Dustin retreats to the Eagle Ridge Ranch, a charming hideaway tucked into the Hill Country of Texas. There he finds solace in the arms of a beauty who reawakens desires he thought he’d lost forever—and who makes him want to lose control, just when he needs it most.
Kelcee Todd sees beyond Dustin’s scars to the real man beneath: fiercely protective, strong yet tender. She wants nothing more than to feel his battle-hardened hands on her body. However, Kelcee is not the ordinary small-town girl she appears to be. Her brother is a killer with ties to the Russian mob, and after her testimony put him in prison, he’s out and eager for revenge. Now Dustin is her best defense, even if it could cost him everything. Kelcee could never ask him to make that sacrifice . . . but she can’t stop him, either.
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Kelcee didn’t know what to expect when ZQ spoke to her about his friend who was just getting out of the hospital. She anticipated someone frail. This man, with the one earpiece of his sunglasses clamped between his teeth, towered over her and had broad muscled shoulders built for hugging. Even though one large bicep bore three jagged scars, she imagined they would deliver strong hugs in return. His face was scarred on one side and no doubt he had more scars elsewhere, especially since he used a cane.
Being scarred like that would probably take him some getting used to, particularly on the face where everyone could see them. She extended her hand. “Hello, welcome to my little book nook. My name is Kelcee Todd.”
The man with short wavy, dark hair removed the shades from his mouth and tucked the one temple bar under the neckline of his t-shirt. He flicked his hat back which allowed her to take in blue eyes so serious, they seemed to read the secrets of her soul. She nearly gasped as his hand encased hers and a tingle zigzagged up her arm. “Pleased to meet you. I’m Dustin Franks. ZQ said you wanted to rearrange your place.” His voice was dark and dangerous like a thunderstorm at midnight.
“Yes.” She cleared her throat and waved her open hand around. “The original owner had things to suit him. I’d like to give the shop a fresher appeal without losing any of its charm.”
“Charm?” His gaze swept over the interior as if he were getting ready to condemn the building.
Suddenly she wasn’t so sure she liked this guy and his square jaw with the cute indentation in it. Still, she kept talking. “The layout the previous owner had isn’t the most efficient, plus I want to be able to see people as they come in.” She paused and worried her lower lip with her upper teeth for a minute. “So I can greet them as they enter.” Or see if it’s my brother or one of his men.
“You two talk. I have a book to pick up for Mom.” ZQ tugged a slip of paper from his shirt pocket. “It’s for that book club she belongs to; the one Wanda runs. Mom claims she picks the worst books to talk about.” He chuckled. “Too highbrow for her tastes. ‘Literary snobbery’ she calls it. I practically force her to go or she’d hide out on the ranch with Dad gone. She needs some social interaction.”
“This month’s selection is around the corner of this row of shelves, the middle one.” She pointed to the row and ZQ meandered off. She returned her attention to Dustin who was giving the shop some close scrutiny. His nose was scrunched as if he smelled something foul, which further ruffled her feathers. She worked hard to keep the store clean.
“This place ever been checked for termites, being so close to the water?”
“Of course! Every year.” She was more than ready to defend her shop.
“Well, that’s one thing in its favor. The building’s substructure should be evaluated for stability. What about mold?”
A haze of red lowered over her vision and her hands slapped on her hips. “Mold?”
ZQ peeked around the corner, his eyebrows raised to his hairline.
“Yeah, being so close to all that constantly flowing water would make it an ideal place for mold to grow. How old is this…” He waved his fingers around as if he were searching for the right words.
“Bookstore, Dustin,” she forced through clenched jaws. “There’s not a damn thing wrong with this building that some updating wouldn’t take care of. I drew up rough floor plans of the store. They’re to scale as best I could do. I measured the place and its windows. I’ve got it over here.”
He followed her as she stepped behind the counter at the far side of the building. “Is this where you want to keep your register and computer?”
She removed her drawing and a pad of graph paper from the shelf beneath the computer. “No. I’d like my computer where I won’t keep bumping my knees on this stupid shelf. But that would mean rewiring for the register and everything. And that sounds costly to me.”
Two weeks earlier, she’d found an envelope containing some money in a drawer under Frank’s worn stockings. Her quick call to the lawyer told her anything she found was hers.
Choosing whether to spend it on her living quarters or in the store had been a tough decision. She’d bought paint, curtains, a new mattress and box springs, and a sofa. Enough to make her new place livable and clean. Now she wished she’d saved the monetary windfall for the store. The money Frank had in the bank and her savings, she’d earmarked for future taxes and a car.
“Here’s my drawing. I had to tape four sheets of paper together.” She opened it for him to see.
Dustin stepped behind her and she noticed a slight limp and the gentle tapping of his cane. The fragrance of male soap overwhelmed her. He leaned over her and studied her version of a blueprint. “Not a bad drawing. I graduated as an architect before I joined the Navy. I couldn’t handle sitting inside in a cubicle all day. No view of the outside.”
“I know what you mean. I love those large windows that allow me to see the falls. It’s almost like being outdoors.”
“Do you want your work counter over there?” He jerked his thumb in that direction.
“Yes, but wouldn’t that make me more vulnerable to someone passing by?” Cripes, why did I say that? Now, he’ll wonder. She twisted her neck to check his reaction to her careless remark and met his blue eyes. Oh, they were something.
“Vulnerable to whom? Are there a lot of troublemakers in this little town?” His gaze had locked hard on her and his hand closed gently around her elbow. The warmth of his touch made her want to sigh, which was so silly she got a shade or two pissed with herself.
She shook her head. “I can’t say. It’s nothing, really.” She’d never have said what she did if the man touching her hadn’t rattled her so by invading her space.
“Okay, if you say so.” He removed his hand and she missed his gentle, yet almost sensual touch. “I take it these little ovals are the windows since you’ve noted their size.” He kept staring at her, or so it seemed.
She swallowed and forced her gaze to stay focused on his eyes and not drift to his scars. “Yes. And these little parenthesis thingies indicate doors. The little x’s are outlets.” She pointed to indicate what she meant.
“Well, you’re certainly thorough. I don’t see the front porch on the drawing.”
“No. It stays as is. Men come here every day to play checkers or chess. Women like the wooden rocking chairs to sit and rest a spell, listen to the falls, and gossip.”
BIO: Vonnie Davis is an award-winning, international author who likens herself to a freshly baked croissant: Warm, crusty, wrinkled, a tad flaky–and best served with strong coffee.
By day, she hunches over her laptop, bringing to life the men who strut through her dreams at night with that delightfully self-assured swagger. They end up in passion-filled contemporary and contemporary paranormal romances with a strong spice of suspense and dollops of humor.
Vonnie’s heroes are always that delightful blend of alpha male with a chewy chocolate center. And her heroines? Her heroines are feisty females, who take life’s adversities and turn them into advantages. The settings for her stories range from the Scottish Highlands to the gulf side of Florida to the hill country of Texas to her favorite city, Paris.
You may stalk Vonnie here:
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