by Casey Clipper
Former Navy SEAL Sean Millen has been perfectly fine with his bachelorhood until recently, when he realizes he's unhappy with his single status. Unfortunately, his playboy reputation doesn't offer him the type of woman that could fulfill his days and nights as well as settle into the specific life he envisions.
Four years ago, Beth Connors' world was entirely altered. Beth spends her days trying to remain invisible in order to avoid unwanted attention. Each night she sheds grief-filled tears over the former life she once led but will never be able to regain.
When Beth literally runs into him. Doctor Sean Millen. A force of nature. A rock. A reputable heartbreaker, who takes an immediate interest in her, there's no place for her to hide. But Beth's natural instinct to push Sean away to save herself and him from the difficult task of adjusting their lives to her shortcomings is always front and center. Yet, Beth secretly longs for love. Is she strong enough to tear down the walls of her self-imposed prison?
Sean finds himself falling for a woman who is determined to reject his every advance and deny their surprisingly deep connection. Can Sean push past Beth's concrete walls that she refuses to destroy? Or will Beth's shocking revelation of her past prevent them from finding the love they both deserve? Or will a tragic accident pull Sean and Beth apart permanently?
*This is not a cliffhanger.
**Not suitable for under 18 years old. Contains sexual scenes.
Sean followed Beth to her parents' front door. This meeting could make or break their relationship. They'd been dating for close to two months and things were terrific. Well, maybe an occasional hiccup here and there when Beth got into her own head, but he dealt with those moments, then they moved forward. But a few days ago, before this planned dinner, Beth went home to talk to her parents. When she returned to his house three hours later, she remained unusually quiet and refused to discuss what happened between her and her parents. That had him worried for days. Now, here he was, feeling like he was walking into the lion's den.
Beth opened the front door and stepped inside. "Mom. Dad," she called out.
An older version of Beth rounded the corner towards the back of the house. Good lord, if that was how Beth would look in thirty years, with any luck, Sean would still have her on his arm, he was a damn lucky man. Mrs. Connor was a knockout. Though she stood a couple inches taller than Beth, they could pass for sisters.
"Hi, honey," Mrs. Connors said. Her eyes scanned Sean, but she approached her only child and embraced her with a secure hold. When she pulled back, Beth's mom looked her up and down. "You look fantastic. You glow."
Naturally Beth flushed bright red. Sean wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her into his body for security. She melted into him, and Mrs. Connors perceptive eyes didn't miss their interaction.
"Mom," Beth said softly. "This is Sean Millen. Sean, this is my mother, Jill Connors."
"Mrs. Connors, it's nice to meet you," Sean said respectfully.
"Thank you, Sean. It's wonderful to meet you. Elizabeth has told me loads about you." She smiled lovingly at her daughter. Those matching ocean blue eyes of Beth's glittered with some sort of emotion he wasn't able to decipher. "Please, come inside and meet Mr. Connors."
They followed Jill down the hallway a few steps then took a left into a large living room. As they entered the room, Mr. Connors stood from a recliner in the far corner of the room.
Mr. Connors was an older version of himself. Well, except add twenty pounds, four more inches in height, and two more inches in biceps, thighs, and chest. Clearly the man maintained his work out religiously, noticeable from all the bulging muscles that flexed as the man moved. A military haircut made his distinct features all the more intimidating. The man looked as young as his wife and was just as good looking. Sean would bet money in the man's early days he had his fair share of women. His laser glare focused straight in on him. Shit.
"Daddy," Beth said softly as she approached him.
Mr. Connors reluctantly tore his glare from Sean and focused on his daughter. As soon as his dark blue, piercing eyes met his daughter's ocean blues, the man visibly melted. His features lightened, and he actually smiled.
"Sweetheart," he said, leaned down and kissed her forehead.
"Daddy, I want to introduce you to Sean Millen. Sean, this is my dad, Michael Connors," she said.
Mike wrapped a possessive left arm around his daughter, tucked her into the crook of his body, and stuck out his right hand. "Mr. Millen."
"Mr. Connors," Sean said respectfully.
"My daughter tells me you were in the Navy," Mr. Connors tested.
"I was, sir," he answered. The air in the room was stiff and tense. Mrs. Connors stood in the background watching the scene looking as if she was ready to jump in to interject. Beth gnawed on her bottom lip, her eyes darting between her father and her boyfriend.
"She tells me you and your brother were SEALs."
"That's right," he answered.
Mr. Connors titled his head and studied Sean, sizing him up. "You both went in together?"
"Yes." For some reason, Sean didn't feel too chatty about his life. He didn't like the feel of the room or the interrogation. He was too damn old to put up with this shit. He wasn't an eighteen year old kid about to take a daughter to the prom. For fuck's sake, he was going to be forty in less than two years.
"Why?" Mike barked.
Sean narrowed his eyes.
Immediately Mr. Connors shoved his daughter out from under his arm and got into Sean's face. "You think you're a badass? You think you can come into my house and get our blessing for dating my daughter who's more than ten years younger than you? You need to find someone your own age, SEAL."
He spat SEAL like it was a curse.
"Daddy!" Beth cried.
"Michael!" Jill scolded.
Sean refused to back down. "What is this, some sort of test to see if I'll walk away? Not. Going. To. Happen. I love your daughter. I respect her and admire her. I spend my days worrying about her and my nights holding her close." He took a step closer. "As for my tour in the Navy, I went so I could get a medical doctorate. My parents couldn't afford the schooling. My brother refused to allow me to go in alone. We've always been close, and we couldn't imagine leaving each other for that many years. It was the best decision both of us made."
"Michael," Jill said again. "Look at your daughter."
Mr. Connors' head snapped to his baby girl, whose face was red and tear streaked while her mother held her.
"Beth," Mike breathed. "I'm sorry, honey."
"Beth," Sean said softly.
She left her mother's arms and went straight to...Sean's and buried her head into his chest. He wrapped her up securely, kissed her head, and ran a soothing hand down her soft tresses. After a minute, he lifted her face to look him in the eyes. "It's all right, sweetheart," he assured her. "It'll be fine. We're just feeling each other out, baby. It's what we nasty military men do. We protect the women we love. You're father has probably done that your entire life, right?"
A sniffle and a nod was the only response he received.
"Elizabeth," Mr. Connors said with bite. Clearly he didn't like his daughter choosing her boyfriend over him.
Sean nodded to her father for her to focus on him. She looked her dad's direction but remained tight against Sean.
"You're my only daughter. My baby girl. No man, including this one standing in my living room, who just admitted you're sleeping with, is good enough for you. No one ever will be. I need to make certain he's in this for the right reasons," Mr. Connors insisted. He crossed his large arms over his broad chest. "Got a problem with that, young lady?"
"Dad," she protested.
"Do you?" he barked.
"Yes." Her head went up and her chin out.
Mike's eyes shined with adoration and respect. His mouth quirked up.
"Okay, enough testosterone before dinner," Jill interrupted and put an end to the palpable tension. "Dinner is ready. Everyone to the dining room."
She bustled out of the room with the group dutifully following her.
Beth remained in Sean's arms while they went to the dining room. Well, wouldn't that be a story to tell their grandchildren some day.
Bestselling Contemporary Romance Author Casey Clipper lives in Pittsburgh, PA. She's an admitted sports fanatic and chocolate lover (though that could be classified more as an addiction). An avid romance reader, she loves to lose herself in a good book. Casey is a member of the Romance Writers of America, Contemporary Romance Writers, Pennwriters, the Authors Guild, TRRW, ASMSG, and IAN.
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