Navy SEAL Sean Patterson didn’t mean to marry his best friend’s sister. But when he wakes up in a Reno honeymoon suite with a vicious hangover, a platinum band on his ring finger, and a mostly naked Keri in his bed, he knows the attraction he has spent half his lifetime repressing must’ve finally burst out of control—to disastrous consequences.
Keri MacKinnon has had a crush on her brother’s best friend Sean since he rescued her from imaginary pirates when she was six. When he returns stateside after a harrowing tour of duty leaves him with a death wish, Keri will do anything to help—even pretend to be married. But as her crush blossoms into love, she must convince Sean to trust her with what really happened on the battlefield, or their fake marriage won’t ever grow into the real thing.
Navy SEAL Sean Patterson had survived six grueling months of BUD/S training, parachuted thirty-five thousand feet into enemy territory, and disarmed twenty blocks of C4. And he’d rather do all three at the same time than shake his ass in a Reno nightclub while the entire city celebrated the first night of summer.
But Vapor was where he’d traced his best friend Ty’s ex-fiancée Brittany, so Vapor it was. And he wasn’t leaving until Bri was at his side, heading toward the parking structure for the drive back to San Diego. He couldn’t afford to fuck this up—not when the broken engagement was his fault.
He found a vantage point at the top of the stairs that led to the DJ booth, but the strobe lighting, over-capacity crowds, and fog raining down from the ceiling all conspired to reduce his visibility. Damn! He was going to have to do this on foot.
He threaded his way through the dancers crowding the floor. All the women seemed to be blondes, which defied the rules of biology, not to mention complicated his search for a blond cocktail waitress.
The next blonde was taller than Bri. The one after shorter. And the next wasn’t a blonde at all.
Sean stopped short.
His heart rate kicked up to Mach 11. His vision tunneled, focusing on the brunette seated at the bar. Something about her…
His gaze finally penetrated the camouflage of that sexy mussed hair, curve-hugging dress, and I-spent-the-last-hour-kissing lips. Keri MacKinnon, Ty’s little sister.
What the hell was she doing six hundred miles from home at a meat market like Vapor?
What the hell business is it of yours? Keep moving.
But he hesitated, and some kid wearing a T-shirt with a fraternity insignia sauntered up to her. Sean couldn’t hear what Frat Boy was saying, but the dude’s gaze wasn’t on Keri’s deep brown eyes.
The kid put a hand on her shoulder, and adrenaline charged through Sean’s system. He shoved through the crowd, only to see Keri removing the guy’s pasty white digits with practiced ease. “I’m meeting someone.”
Frat Boy crowded in as close as he could without actually touching her. “How ‘bout you meet me instead?”
A deep growl clawed up Sean’s throat. “How about you back off before I shove your head up your ass?”
The kid jerked backward, spilling half his beer, but Keri turned smoothly, like she’d somehow expected to find him behind her. “Hey, Sean.”
Even shouting over the music, her voice had that husky, I-want-you-in-my-bed rasp she was blissfully unaware of. And he reacted the way he always did—like he was thirteen years old and completely unable to control his body.
Damn it, he needed a drink.
At least Frat Boy was gone, scared away by Sean’s glare. Stepping into the empty space next to Keri, Sean signaled the bartender for a shot of vodka.
The cheap alcohol burned his throat, doing nothing to cool him down. “What are you doing here?”
Keri took a gulp of her drink. She had a beer instead of one of those frothy pink things the women next to her were drinking. Damn if it didn’t make her even hotter, and she was already well beyond a ten in his book. She always had been. Just like she’d always been off-limits.
She also hadn’t answered his question, and he didn’t want to think about what that meant. “Keri?”
Her gaze darted away. She traced the circle of condensation her glass had left on the bar with one slim finger. “I’m here for a bachelorette party.”
She was lying. Yeah, he could see the woman with the plastic tiara that read The Future Mrs. Bennett, but the group surrounding her hadn’t so much as looked at Keri since he’d arrived.
Something was wrong.
He leaned closer, trying to keep the concern out of his voice. “C’mon, Ker Bear. I’m not gonna call Ty and tell on you.”
Her eyes widened with what looked like panic. “I’m waiting for my friends. They were supposed to be here twenty minutes ago, but they’re always late.”
She must be meeting a guy. He didn’t like that idea, and he tried to wash it away with another shot, but it stuck. Any asshole who’d drag her all the way to Reno, only to ditch her at some pretentious club, didn’t deserve her. That was for damn sure.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
He couldn’t tell her he was looking for Bri. If Ty found out Sean had brought her back to San Diego, he’d be too proud to take her back. So Sean gave Keri the same story he’d given her brother. “I needed a vacation.”
That part wasn’t even a lie. His XO had given him a choice between an extended vacation to get his head on straight or a discharge.
Those brown eyes narrowed, locking onto him like a sharpshooter sighting a target. “Your first real vacation in five years, and you choose Reno?”
“Some buddies tipped me off about The Towers. It’s this place right outside of town. Supposed to be great for cliff diving.”
Keri stiffened. Was her date here? Sean turned, searching the crowd, but with so many people crowded into the club, it was impossible to tell.
“When?” she asked.
She grasped his arm near the elbow. “When are you going cliff diving?”
The part of his brain that dealt with reason and logic and forming sentences shut down. All he was aware of was Keri. The firmness of her grip. The contrast of her light skin against his deep tan.
He pulled his arm free, and just enough rational thought filtered into his brain that he could answer the question. “I don’t know. I’m going to play it by ear.”
“Well, if you don’t have definite plans, we should hang out tomorrow. I know this great hike in Tahoe that goes past four different waterfalls. You like to hike, right?”
The strobe lighting hit her, highlighting that same hopeful-despite-the-odds smile as when she’d ask Ty if she could tag along to the movies with them back in high school. Except she wasn’t fifteen anymore. Every muscle in Sean’s body knew it, even though he hated himself for the thoughts.
Wasn’t it enough that Ty would never walk without a limp? Would never be able to return to the SEAL teams? Did Sean have to fantasize about his best friend’s little sister, too?
“Not a good idea.” He laid enough cash on the bar to cover his tab, then pushed away. He couldn’t look back, or he was going to do something stupid.