Mariah Conrad has come home. Badly wounded on active duty in Afghanistan and finally released stateside, she has no family to call on and nowhere to go--until Quinn Walker arrives at her bedside. Quinn...her brother-in-arms, ex-lover and now maybe her future.
Quinn brings Mariah to his log cabin in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky to rest and recuperate both physically and emotionally. While she's incredibly grateful, Mariah is also confused and frustrated. She's always stood on her own two feet, but now even that can literally be torture. She's having flashbacks and blackouts, hearing helicopter noises in the night. She wants to push Quinn away--and hold him closer than ever.
But will she get the chance? Those helicopters are more than just post-traumatic stress; they're real--and dangerous. Bad things are happening on the mountain. Suddenly there's a battle to be fought on the home front, and no guarantee of survival.
Rebel Ridge, Kentucky
Sniper at three o 'clock. Get down! Get down!"
Bullets ripped through walls. Someone screamed. Someone was praying to God to let him die.
Quinn was on his belly, crawling toward an opening to get a bead on the sniper, when the world exploded.
One minute Quinn Walker was back in Afghanistan watching PFC Wooten's head explode all over again and the next moment he woke up. He sat straight up in bed, his heart pounding, his body covered in sweat.
He threw back the covers and staggered to the window overlooking the high mountain meadow. Less than an hour until sunrise. The sky was already showcasing the imminent arrival of a new day.
Why did this keep happening? Why couldn't he let it go? He leaned his head against the window and closed his eyes, willing the nightmare back to hell, and wondered if there would ever come a time when that horror faded--when he was able to accept that he was back home in Kentucky?
The little something called PTSD he'd brought home from the war had an ugly habit of recurring just when it was most inconvenient. It wasn't like sand fleas, which fell by the wayside after a good dose of tea tree oil. There were no meds, no vaccines, no magic wand to wave and make it go away. It was the gift that kept on giving, night after night in his sleep, and in the bright light of day when he least expected it. A word, a sound, even a scent, was all it took to yank him back. It was the son of a bitch on his back that wouldn't go away.
Too early to get ready for work and too late to go back to bed, he made a quick trip into the bathroom, and then grabbed a pair of sweatpants and headed downstairs from the loft.
The hardwood floors in the cabin echoed his steps as he turned on the lights and moved into the kitchen area to make coffee. As soon as it was done, he took his first hot, steamy cup outside to the wraparound deck to wait for sunrise.
Disturbed by Quinn's appearance, an owl suddenly took flight from the A-frame roof and flew into the trees.
Fog hovered waist-high above the ground all the way to the trees. He caught a glimpse of something moving off to his left and waited until a large buck with a massive rack slowly emerged from the fog. It was the prince of the forest, and the antlers were its crown. The buck suddenly stopped, as if sensing he was no longer alone.
Although Quinn didn't move, he knew the buck smelled him--or at least smelled the coffee--but it wasn't enough to spook him. After a few moments the buck moved on through the clearing in stately fashion and disappeared into the forest. It was a far better greeting to Quinn's day than his nightmare had been.
He sat on the top step with his elbows on his knees, waiting for the coffee to cool, remembering when this had been his grandparents' place, and he and his family were still living at home. Only this cabin wasn't the house that had been there then. This one was new. Quinn had built it with the help of the family after the old home place was blown up during a gunfight with some hired killers from L.A.
They'd come to silence a witness who was hiding here in the mountains, intent on keeping her from testifying against their boss. That witness was not only a distant relative but his brother Ryal's long-lost love.
The bad guys lost the fight.
Ryal and Beth and their baby daughter, Sarah, were living happily ever after.
Quinn was still trying to outrun a war.
A few moments later a coyote came out of the tree line near where he was sitting, lifted its head then tucked tail and...
Don't Cry for Me
By: Sharon Sala