After nine, lonely years as a military wife, Holly McGuire has returned to her late husband’s home town of Marietta, Montana, to finally close that chapter of her life and begin again. She’s spent the last year rediscovering herself and she’s sworn off military men. All she wants is a child of on her own—no strings attached. But her plans are threatened when old, unwanted sparks ignite between her and her husband’s one-time best friend.
Buttoning up the past isn’t what Trey Reyes has in mind when he welcomes Holly to town. Secretly in love with her since day one, his old vow to his friend to watch over her, come what may, doesn’t include enabling a terrible idea. As the men of their old unit—the Band of Brothers—gather to honor her husband, Trey must take one last stand to win her heart and prove Holly wrong about him. Christmas in Marietta, with all the trimmings, may be just the ticket.
Holly ran her forefinger along the rim of her wineglass. “This house is not really a house for a single guy, living alone. You don’t even have a dog. There must be a reason you bought a place like this. Some…one maybe? C’mon, you can tell me. I’ll be sworn to secrecy.”
A muscle in Trey’s jaw jumped. “Actually, I did have someone in mind when I bought this place. Or… maybe it was just a possibility of someone. And I plan to get a dog.”
She knew it. “It’s funny. I never imagined you the settling type. Is it that woman you mentioned? The married one?” She sipped her wine.
“Then…you still have hope?”
“I do,” he answered, staring out the window at his expansive yard. “See, she’s a widow now. And suddenly free. Something I never expected would happen.”
Holly blinked. Then blanched. What?
“Never in a thousand years would I have made a move on her, because her husband was my best friend. For years.”
“I don’t even think she knew how I felt about her. All those years. All the times I thought about her, wondered about if things had been different. If her husband weren’t so careless with her heart. If she would have ever considered falling for another ex-soldier after the one she’d married.”
She set her wineglass down. Oh my God.
“I wouldn’t blame her if she didn’t,” he went on. “Even though I knew she loved him, she had a rough time. She may even be off relationships entirely.”
Holly swallowed past the lump in her throat. “Okay, before I jump to any stupid conclusions here about who ‘she’ is—”
He turned toward her, making her feel small with his size. “Go ahead. Jump. It’s you.”
All the signals had been flashing, but still, she felt shocked at his words. “But…but you never said anything. You never even—”
“And I wouldn’t have. Not ever. Not if Tommy were still here.”
“And this house…” She looked around his kitchen. “You bought it after Tommy died.”
Oh, dear. Was it suddenly hot in here? Holly felt woozy. She leaned her hip against the kitchen counter, hoping she wasn’t about to make a fool of herself. Maybe it was because she was ovulating. Or the way he was looking at her, like there was no more pretending allowed. Like he had just decided to let it all out there to see what would happen.
Her gaze skimmed his handsome face, searching for the trick. The joke. Maybe he was joking. But no. He was dead serious. She could see that in the intense set of his mouth, the flicker of heat in his eyes, and in the utterly foreign vulnerability she read there.
A rush of something entirely unfamiliar ruffled through her. That almost-forgotten feeling of being…desired. Of desiring someone back. Because there was no denying that she did. Who wouldn’t? Trey Reyes was as handsome as the devil and every bit as unpredictable as Tommy had been. But God, this was impossible. She’d set her course. She’d made her decision.
“Say something,” he said gently when the silence had stretched between them too long.
Unexpected tears welled in her eyes. “I—I…” she faltered.
He cast his eyes to the counter with a slow shake of his head.
“I—” she began again “—w-wanted you, too.”