Author Diane Benefiel is stopping by today to share her exciting new Romantic Suspense release.
On a battlefield in Afghanistan, Sgt. Ryder Bronson makes an oath to protect his dying friend’s wife from a rogue cop—and from the passion that will threaten to overwhelm them both.
After surviving a deadly Taliban attack on his unit, Sgt. Ryder Bronson returns home to fulfill a promise—to keep his dead friend’s wife safe from a scandal so dark that it threatens her life. But protecting her from a distance is essential. To be in close contact with Brenna McMurtrey means fighting the guilt and desire waiting to destroy him. Being honest with her would reveal more than his heart can bear.
Over a year after the death of her husband, Brenna is finally ready to move on. Yet, just as she begins to push past the grief and start living again, danger rises at every turn. Several close calls prove she is the target of a sinister scheme. Nowhere is safe, especially not home. Her next-door neighbor appears to be watching her, a handsome if bad-tempered stranger who seems everywhere at once—and whose gray eyes hold an ocean of tragedy. Even if he is capable of protecting her, a part of Brenna will still be in jeopardy. The part that believes she can never love again.
Headlights shone up ahead, and then disappeared as a vehicle drove down a dip. Running against traffic, she shifted farther to the side of the road and worked at letting the beat of “Paparazzi” pump up her mood. The car topped the rise and seemed to be drifting; if the driver didn’t correct soon, he’d be on the shoulder with her. Brenna’s heart kicked up a notch. This was a straightaway, there was no oncoming traffic, but once again a car was barreling straight at her. With sudden clarity she realized it wasn’t going to correct. The car left the pavement and she dove to the side, scrambling down a short embankment.
A dust cloud billowed when the car sped along the shoulder, kicking up gravel as the tires skidded on the dirt before it spun back onto the road.
She pulled herself back toward the shoulder, gasping for breath, watching until the car’s taillights disappeared around a bend. She jerked her head around at the sound of racing feet, and a tall form streaked toward her.
Ryder reached down a hand to pull her the rest of the way up the embankment. In the waning light his expression was hard to read, but the angry tone came across perfectly. “What the hell were you thinking? Why’d it take you so long to jump clear? He came damn close to hitting you.”
“I’m fine, thank you for asking. And I did jump clear. I thought he’d realize he was drifting and correct, but it was like he was coming right for me.” Her heart was beating so hard she thought it would burst out of her chest.
“Yeah, it was. Piss off anyone lately?”
She raised a brow. “Only you, apparently.”
“Well, you’re my alibi, it wasn’t me driving either car.”
His implication hit her, so glaringly obvious. She felt her mouth drop open before she shut it with a snap. “Do you think it was the same car that came out of the alley last week?” The idea that someone would be deliberately trying to run her down was so preposterous, so unbelievable, she couldn’t get her mind around it.
“No. That one was a Camry. This was a Ford, I think a Taurus.”
“Well, that’s something.”
He gave her a hard look. “I’m serious. Have you pissed off anyone lately? And I’m not talking about routine pissing off, like giving a kid an F he didn’t deserve, but big enough someone would want to retaliate in a serious way.”
“There are so many problems with what you just said, I don’t even know where to start. But let’s just go with the most relevant. No, I haven’t pissed anyone off, as you so elegantly stated.”
“Give it some thought. You should call the police, make a formal report on both incidents.”
“Right. Tell them I was almost run down by two cars I have very limited descriptions of and no license plates for. And no motive. They won’t be able to do a single thing.”
“You’re establishing a pattern and the report will give them something to go on if anything else happens.”
She shook her head. “I’ll call if anything else does happen. This was probably just distracted driving, maybe someone on their cell phone.”
The look he gave her told her he didn’t believe it, and knew she didn’t either. It felt like the cars had been coming at her on purpose. But she was a high school teacher, for heaven’s sake. Why would anyone want to harm her?
“You need to think about runner safety. Sun’s going down, where’s your reflective gear? And it’s plain stupid to run with music blasting in both ears.” He gestured to the earbuds dangling from her collar.
Of course, his running shirt had wide reflective stripes front and back and no electronic earpieces were anywhere to be seen.
Brenna didn’t know if it was the near-miss with the car or his know-it-all attitude but her temper was beginning to simmer. “I know all about runner safety, I just don’t have reflective gear at the moment. I plan on getting some. But it’s not so dark that the driver couldn’t see me.” She raised a hand when he would have spoken. “And my music wasn’t blasting.”
He reached out a hand and picked up one of the earbuds to hold to his ear. He bent his head toward her to listen, and she swallowed abruptly. She had no idea where this tingly urge to run her fingers through that thick mass of hair had come from. It was probably just her senses heightened by the sudden scare. He released the earbud and stepped back. “Loud enough. You should always have one ear free to hear if anyone is coming up behind you.”
She breathed in through her nose. She’d heard that was a calming technique. “If you’re not careful, I’m going to start calling you Preacher Man instead of Grumpy Neighbor.”
“I’m not preaching, it’s just common sense.”
“So I should stick with Grumpy Neighbor?”
“Try Ryder, it’s shorter.” He paused, his expression unreadable. “What did you find out about your tire? Was there a puncture?”
“Something was wedged in the valve stem making a slow leak. Funny, though, that the cap was still on.” She shrugged. “Just one of those things, I guess. The guy at the tire shop inflated it and put it back on the car. He didn’t even charge me.”
Ryder frowned, then said abruptly, “C’mon. I’ll run back with you.”
“There’s no need; the car’s gone. I’ll be fine.”
“I’ll run with you just the same.”
So she finished her run keeping pace with a man she was thinking of calling Mr. Sexy instead of Grumpy Neighbor. Long, muscular body, high cheek bones, and gorgeous eyes. Add to that some intangible pull when he was close. He was still grumpy, but boy, oh boy, was he hot.
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About the Author
Diane Benefiel enjoys writing contemporary romantic suspense. A high school history teacher in her day job, she is always searching for pockets of time to write. Diane enjoys spending time with her husband and two mostly-grown children. They recently bought a trailer and have taken to the open highway to expand their ‘been there’ list. A huge fan of the national parks, last year she visited eight, including her current favorites, Capitol Reef and Mesa Verde. Visit www.dianebenefiel.com to stay abreast of new happenings.
All images courtesy of Diane Benefiel