This holiday season, three military men of honor must do everything they can to save Christmas.
Mission: Christmas Rescue by Debby Giusti
On the run from a killer, Elizabeth Tate must accept U.S. Army captain Nick Fontaine's protection for the sake of her young niece and nephew. Now her life is in the hands of the very man who broke her heart years ago.
Special Ops Christmas by Susan Sleeman
Researcher Claire Reed's top secret project is stolen, putting her at risk of being kidnapped to unlock it. Her undercover bodyguard—her former love, Green Beret Travis Chapman—is on his most dangerous mission yet.
Homefront Holiday Hero by Jodie Bailey
When someone tries to kill the daughter of a military official, U.S. Army major Tyler Rainey must keep Kelly Walters from harm…while guarding his own heart against very unexpected feelings.
Kelly Walters hit the snowy ground by the road with a thud that knocked the wind from her lungs. The crack of the gunshot echoed off the trees surrounding the parking lot of the Fort Campbell Family Resource Center, shredding the December midnight air.
“Hey!” The shout followed the gunshot and a body leaped over her, pounding footsteps crunching in the fresh snow that had fallen that afternoon. Her fingers dug into the chilled ground and she pulled in a deep breath, the residue of gunpowder tickling her nose. She assessed the damage as she focused on the brittle stars. Toes moved. Fingers moved. She turned her head from side to side. Neck fine. But her bicep… With a sudden rush, the adrenaline ebbed and the pain kicked in. Her fingers flew to her right arm and came away warm with blood. Her blood.
Somehow all of that seemed faraway. This wasn’t happening. She was outside the Family Resource Center on Fort Campbell, not in a war zone like the soldiers whose families she aided as a Family Readiness Support Assistant. Her job involved connecting dependents to resources and holding hands when times got hard, not dodging bullets.
Surely she’d fallen asleep wrapping that mound of presents for tomorrow. That had to be it, because there was no way she was shot by some punk kid who’d flagged her down in the crosswalk to ask for directions.
The footsteps came back, slower this time, a slip in the gait. Major Tyler Rainey took a knee beside her, grimacing as he did. “You okay?”
“Mostly.” Blood smeared across her jeans as she dragged her fingers across her thigh. The whole scene receded, as if she was watching it on a movie screen instead of living in the moment. “Nicked my bicep instead of drilling my shoulder, thanks to you.” If he hadn’t pushed her out of the way… She shuddered, then shoved aside the like her father had taught her. Emotion got you nowhere. If she gave in to emotion, she’d curl up in a ball and whimper like a kicked dog. “Did you get a license plate?”
The dark crossover had pulled up as she and Tyler stepped into the crosswalk on their way to the parking lot. Kelly hadn’t hesitated to lean in when the young man in the passenger seat asked for directions. She’d turned to point down the road when Tyler threw her to the side and the world cracked with a gunshot.
“No. They were gone too fast, but the guard gate will have something on them.” Tyler dragged his hand across the slight wave in his short dark blond hair. “They had to have just come in. The gate’s not even a half mile up the road. That’s what drinking and carrying a pistol will get you.” Dropping to a sitting position, he pivoted and waved his fingers toward himself. “Let me see your arm.”
“Flesh wound.” It burned like fire, but she held it out toward him anyway.
The minute the pressure of his fingers hit her elbow, she looked away. Something about that touch overwhelmed the pain and shot a whole different kind of warmth through her body, one she’d been trying to avoid for months. It was not good when the FRSA couldn’t stop thinking about one of the rear detachment commanders. It was her job to be here for the families left behind during deployment, to be the liaison between them and Tyler as he led the soldiers and civilians supporting the push on the front lines. Tangling the two could get more complicated than twisted parachute lines.
Reluctantly, she pulled herself away. “It’s really just a flesh wound.”
It didn’t seem like Tyler wanted to believe her, the way he studied her face, but, finally, he turned his attention to the guard shack. “You’re right. He nicked you, but having it looked at in the E.R. wouldn’t hurt.” Discussion closed, he pulled out his phone. “Yeah, this is Major Tyler Rainey. I’d like to report a shooting at the Family Resource Center.”
His voice was so calm, it was almost like he was asking for a weather call over the radio. But the words… Kelly pulled her knees to her chest and held on with her uninjured arm. It could have been so much worse.
Tires screeched around the corner, cutting Tyler off in midexplanation as his head whipped around. “They’re coming back.” He was up faster than his knee should have allowed. Shoving his phone into his pocket, Tyler dragged Kelly to her feet by her good arm. “Can you run?”
She eyed his knee, focusing on anything other than immediate danger. “Can you?”
“Watch me.” He gripped her hand and pulled her forward, setting a faster pace than she could handle even on her best days.
They were halfway up the walk to the Family Resource Center when the first bullet spit dirt behind them. She swallowed a shriek. Three more irregular shots, then silence as they rounded the corner of the building.
Kelly pressed her back against the brick and strained hard, listening, while searching for a place to run. Streetlights left few shadows. Leafless tree branches shifted in the breeze. There was a wide expanse of fresh snow between them and the road, which would make their tracks easy to follow. Without a key to get back inside, they had nowhere to hide.
The engine drew closer, humming to a stop under the building’s overhang. She turned to Tyler to see if he’d found them an out.
He scanned the trees, the nearby road, the other side of the building… Likely, he saw what she saw. Nowhere safe to run. They were trapped.
He leaned closer, blue eyes intense, his whisper barely audible. “There are two of us and two of them.”
“And they have a gun.” Not to mention the disadvantage of her wounded arm and his recently reconstructed knee.
“Well, there’s that.” The humor fell flat in light of the footsteps crunching slowly closer. set of footsteps. Kelly hoped the driver wasn’t circling around the back of the building to surprise them from the other side. Her heart beat faster, drowning out every other sound.
Until sirens lit up in the distance.
From a few feet away, a muffled curse, pounding feet, the squeal of tires…then nothing.
Tyler released a long breath and bent at the waist, hand braced on his good knee, exhaling loudly. “I think you’re safe for now.” He looked up at her, face grim. “But I also think we passed the point where you can call this random.”
Jodie Bailey writes novels about freedom and the heroes who fight for it. Her novels include Freefall and Crossfire, from Love Inspired Suspense, as well as Quilted by Christmas, from Abingdon Press. Her devotions have appeared in Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home and Sweet Freedom with a Slice of Peach Cobbler. She is convinced a camping trip to the beach with her family, a good cup of coffee, and a great book can cure all ills. Jodie lives in North Carolina with her husband, her daughter, and two dogs.
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Purchase Holiday Defenders at:
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