“Lucky, this is a good offer.” Barely seated, his father thumped a finger on the envelope containing the bid from Summerfield corporation lying on the tabletop between them as they settled in with their drinks. He wasn’t going to beat around the bush. “What kind of money can you put on the table?”

“I can’t match their bid, but I can put down about thirty percent and the bank will lend me the rest.” He bit back a smile when his dad’s eyebrows shot up at the figure. It wasn’t chump change.

“Can I ask how you got that kind of money?”

He took a sip of the cold, sweet beverage and didn’t meet his dad’s eyes. It made it easier to avoid directly answering the question. “I got a very nice severance package when I left my last employer.”

“I didn’t think the government paid that well.”

“They do if they want something from you.” Everything had a price, including silence.

His father dropped his gaze, tapping the tabletop with blunt, rough fingers as he considered the offer. Lucky did the same thing when he was making a decision.

“Why do you want the farm?”


“I think it’s a fair question, since you’re offering to buy the place when I really need to sell it.”

Lucky stared, the mask of control bred by the Marines coming to good use as his dad gave him the hairy eyeball across the table. He didn’t want to lie, but he didn’t want his dad to think that playing the white knight was the only reason he made the offer.

“You know about the debt, right? Isn’t that why you’re offering?” Owen asked.

“It isn’t the only reason, but I’m glad to do it. I’m tired of living with a gun in my hand.” The bottom line was that he was just plain tired—period.

“Okay, that tells me what you don’t want to do. I asked why you wanted to do this.”

“I need it. I need something to get the ugly shit out of here.” He tapped his head on the right temple.

“I see.” His dad got up, the chair legs scraping against the hardwood floors and raking down his nerves like claws. Placing his glass in the sink, his father turned, leaning his big form against the edge of the countertop, arms crossed against his chest like a barrier. “Like I said. I’ve been to war, so I think I understand what you’re going through. You’ve done this before, come home to rest and get your head straight—it’s what home is for. You need a place where you can find your peace.”

Lucky braced himself—literally digging his heels into the floor —waiting for the “but” to follow.

“But that’s no reason to buy a farm and saddle yourself for a lifetime with something you always said you didn’t want.” His dad paused, struggling with his words. “All I ever heard when you were little was that you wanted to be a Marine. You achieved your goal, served admirably, and now you’re just plain worn out. After you rest, this life might not be what you need anymore.”

He had to stand up or go crazy. Lately, everything he wanted was something he couldn’t have—the farm, Taylor—it was so frustrating. Moving was the only thing that was going to keep him from yelling.

“If I were Tim you wouldn’t hesitate.”

His father didn’t react to the low blow except for a slight shift in his shoulders. The deep impact of the words etched in the tightness in his expression. If he was here to try to build bridges, this was not the way to do it. They’d never been close—not like his dad had been with his brother, Tim—and the strain after his death had pushed them further apart. This wasn’t helping, but damn he was sick of feeling like the runner-up son.

“You’re right. Your brother wanted to farm this land since the day he was born, but you didn’t. I wouldn’t be much of a father if I let you take on this farm because you feel like you need to bail your old man out.”

He was right. He’d never wanted this when he was little. But his first thought when he’d dropped his resignation papers on his commanding officer’s desk was to come home and never leave this place. Well, the second thought, anyway. His first one had been of hazel eyes and a woman he wanted more than his next breath.

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