G I V E A W A Y E N D E D
@XpressoTours Blog Tours – June 20th to June 24th
Blitz-wide giveaway (INT), 18+ – Open until June 28, 2023
What’s a girl to do when her aim is true?
As a registered nurse at the Boise VA Hospital, Grace Marshall is devoted to her patients, but some wounds require more than medical care. A patient too stubborn and angry to accept the help he needs storms out of her exam room, ruffling her feathers. Yet, when the man returns to apologize, something about him tugs at her heart.
Levi Gibson left for war young and idealistic but returned from Vietnam with physical scars and a haunted soul. He tries to banish the darkness brewing inside him with hard work on his family’s potato farm, but it’s a young nurse’s kindness that brings unexpected light and joy into his life. If Levi can open up to Grace and let her see his pain, could she be the key that unlocks a future full of hope instead of mere survival?
After her father sends Grace a legendary pistol, target practice provides an excuse to spend time with Levi during the summer of 1972. As his shadows overwhelm him, it will take far more than a lucky shot for Grace to hit love’s mark.
She straightened in time to see Levi sprinting through the rain with a vase of flowers.
His cowboy hat had kept his head dry, but Grace was sure she could wring water out of his shirt when he stepped inside. A vision of him shirtless made warmth sear her cheeks as he walked over to her and held out the vase.
“Here,” he said, holding it out to her.
She stared at the vase brimming with fragrant lilacs, white tulips, and pink peonies. The arrangement was stunning, but she had no idea why he’d bring it to her.
Hesitantly, she reached out for the vase. “What’s this?”
“An apology,” he said, removing his hat as she took the vase from him.
She held the vase against her mid-section, longing to bury her nose in the divine lilacs. She’d always loved the scent of them when they bloomed in the spring. On their dairy farm, they had several old bushes that bloomed along the back fence. She’d missed them since she’d moved to Boise. The only chance she got to smell flowers now was while walking in the park, or when one of her fellow nurses received them as a gift.
“An apology?” she asked, giving the cute cowboy a curious glance.
“For Friday. I was rude, and I’m sorry. It wasn’t anything you did,” he admitted, appearing both nervous and repentant.
She ignored the way he’d shoved his left hand into the front pocket of his jeans to hide his injury. His right hand clenched his hat, as though he was anxious. Uncertain.
“Do you really think I’m too young, incompetent, and impertinent to be a nurse?” she asked, keeping her expression unreadable, but she shifted her posture, cocking one hip defiantly.
A slow grin spread across his face as he watched her, appearing to keenly observe her every move. His head shook from side to side. “No, ma’am. I think you are more than qualified to do your job, and you were not impertinent. I’m truly sorry for the way I behaved when I was here. The way I acted was unnecessary and unkind, and it bugged me all weekend that I’d been that way with you. Truly, I’m sorry.”
“You’re forgiven,” Grace said, grinning at him and surrendering to her need to sniff the blooms. She closed her eyes to better savor the fragrance, then opened them to find Levi watching her. “I love lilacs.”
His grin broadened. “We have a bunch of them at the farm just starting to bloom. The tulips were on the north side of the house, or they’d likely be gone for the season.”
“It’s a magnificent bouquet. Do you need the vase back?” she asked.
“No. Ma has dozens of them. She gets the credit for arranging the flowers, though. She said to tell you that she did a better job of raising me than you might have previously considered and to please not hold my behavior against her.”
“I did have a few thoughts about that this weekend.” Grace smiled and hugged the vase a little tighter. “I do thank you, Sergeant Gibson, for these lovely blooms, but I should get to work.”
“I didn’t mean to keep you. I just wanted to apologize and ask for your forgiveness.”
“You are forgiven.”
“Thank you,” he said, taking a step back toward the door.
Grace had never, not once in her life, considered asking a guy on a date, but a sense of panic welled in her at the thought of not seeing Levi again soon.
The words spilled out of her, leaving her unable to stuff them back into her mouth. “Are you busy next Saturday?” she heard herself ask.
Levi appeared as shocked by the question as Grace felt.
“No. Not really. Did you have something in mind?”
The doctor made a few notes in the chart, handed it back to the nurse, then smiled at Levi. “We’ll see you again in six weeks.”
The doctor left the room, but Levi wanted to argue about the need to return so soon. To insist the appointments were unnecessary. Regardless, it made him feel marginally better to hear the doctor say he was healing well.
The only problem, though, was the fact that he hadn’t counted on meeting a spunky young nurse with soulful eyes. When she smiled, her face transformed from pretty into beautiful, showing off exquisite cheekbones. If life were different—he were different—he sure wouldn’t have hesitated to ask her out.
Now, though, he just wanted to escape her presence.
As though she sensed his thoughts, she reached behind her and lifted his shirt. She held it out for him to slip his arms into the sleeves.
The very idea of having her help him dress incensed Levi. That simple act smacked of him being an invalid. A victim. Weak. Needy.
And he wouldn’t stand for it.
With a fierce glower, he snatched the shirt from her hands and rammed his arms into the sleeves. The hint of her tropical fragrance teased his senses, further infuriating him as he reached behind her for his hat. He stormed out of the office, shirt tails flapping in the breeze created by his fuming stride.
Angry with himself, angry at the world, he got into his pickup and sped back toward Star. He was nearly home before he remembered he needed to go pick up parts for his dad and groceries for his mother.
Checking to make sure no one was coming, he turned around in the road and roared back into town. As he drove, a vision of a lovely brown-haired nurse refused to budge from his head. How dare that woman make him feel like a bumbling fool!
“Are you sure I can’t drive you home?” he asked, stopping his pickup close to her car so she could basically go from one door to the other without getting too wet in the process.
“I’m sure, Levi. I’ve driven in the rain plenty of times. I had such a nice time with you today. Thank you for letting me come out and shoot the pistol as well as see the farm.”
“I’m the one who should thank you for hanging out with me and enduring dinner with my parents.”
“Your mom and dad are fantastic. They both have a great sense of humor, and they really made me feel welcome. Besides, your mother is an amazing cook. How do you stay in such great shape with all the good food she makes?”
“Work. Just the day-to-day work of a farmer.”
Grace knew that type of work well from growing up on her family’s dairy farm. “Thanks again for inviting me to come today.” She scooted closer on the bench seat and gave him a hug as the gear shift pressed into her thigh. She’d anticipated lingering a few minutes, savoring their first real kiss, but Levi merely gave her a hug in return, then kissed her cheek. Granted, he seemed concerned about the growing darkness and increasing severity of the storm and her driving home in it. But still, she’d been looking forward to finding out if he was as good at kissing as she imagined him to be.
“Call you tomorrow?” he asked, his hand on the door handle.
“Definitely. Thanks again, Levi.” She watched as he jumped out and raced around the pickup, head ducked against the pelting rain.
He opened her car door then the pickup door, and moved back.
Grace tossed Cindy’s hat into the car so it wouldn’t get wet, then got out of the pickup and looked at Levi one last time before leaving. His hair was plastered to his head from the rain, and his shirt was soaked to the skin, outlining defined muscles in his shoulders and arms. The heat was back in his eyes, burning like an incandescent flame.
A flame that might consume her if she let it.
Before she did something she shouldn’t, she turned to get into her car but suddenly found herself hauled against Levi’s hard chest. His arms encircled her again, and she felt the weight of his hands at the back of her waist.
She leaned into him, into his strength, and let her fingers twine into the damp tendrils of his hair at the back of his head.
His gaze fused to hers, as though he searched for something and found what he needed before his lips touched hers gently, tenderly.
A soft groan escaped from Grace, and Levi pulled her closer. He deepened the kiss—exploring, demanding, giving.
Grace felt lost in that moment.
Lost to the emotion swirling through her. Lost to anything but how perfect it was to be with Levi, to give herself over to the rapture of receiving and returning his powerful kisses.
When he finally raised his head, water dripped into their eyes and ran down their chins, but she smiled, and he kissed her again.
“You need to go,” he shouted to be heard above the storm.
“I know!” Instead of leaving, she pulled his head back down for one more intense kiss that left her senses so addled she wasn’t sure she could remember her own name, let alone how to drive home.
“I could do this all night, Grace, but I can’t let you stay.” Without warning, Levi lifted her up and set her in the car, kissed her cheek, and then closed her door.
He mouthed “good night” and stood in the rain, watching her leave. Even in her rearview mirror as she looked back, he remained rooted in place, observing her departure.
Chilled from the rain and the unfamiliar sensations coursing through her, Grace turned the heat on high and drove home.
A smile slowly spread across her face. Levi Gibson was an even better kisser than she’d imagined.
USA Today Bestselling Author Shanna Hatfield writes sweet romances rich with relatable characters, small town settings that feel like home, humor, and hope.
Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”
When this farm girl isn’t writing or indulging in rich, decadent chocolate, Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller. She also experiments with recipes, snaps photos of her adorable nephew, and caters to the whims of a cranky cat named Drooley.
To learn more about Shanna or the books she writes, visit her website http://shannahatfield.com or find out more about her here: linktr.ee/ShannaHatfield