Losing My Breath
J. Rose Black
Publication date: November 8th 2023
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Contemporary, Romance
A Marine never says die.
Neither does his princess.
Battle lines are drawn when sheltered debutante Meridian Daly moves across the hall from grumpy former special forces Marine Callan Brand. Situated a bit closer than advertised to ‘crime alley’, Meridian’s neighbor finds himself grudgingly guarding the pampered princess out of habit. But with her sharp wit and killer curves, he can’t help but surrender to temptation…
When their relationship evolves from casual courtship to something more, Callan finds that Meridian’s already discovered his closely-guarded secret. But can he let go of his pride, and tell her the whole truth of who he is and what he’s done—in the name of honor and country?
As Callan’s scars start to reveal themselves, his life spirals beyond the careful control that’s helped him survive—and kept those he cares about safe.
But this tough-in-a-tiara princess won’t back down, even in Callan’s darkest hours. And Meridian just might prove to be more tenacious than a never-say-die Marine!
“You’re following me.” Callan placed the dumbbells on the mat and straightened.
His neighbor rolled her eyes as she stood. “I happen to work out every Tuesday and Thursday at this time.” She flipped her long ponytail over her shoulder. “This is the first time I’ve seen you here.” She pointed at him with her water bottle.
Nice of her to offer. He grabbed the beverage, uncapped it, and took a nice long drink. “Thanks,” he said, and handed it back.
She glared. “Are you this big of a jerk to everyone here, or do I get some special treatment for living across the hall from you?”
“I thought you were offering it to me. It’s bad manners to point,” he said with a chuckle.
“You’re lecturing me on manners? The guy who can’t even introduce himself?” The frown on her face wasn’t even close to cross. She was clearly too good-natured for her own sake, and—if their interactions were any indication—she was also far too naïve. She shouldn’t be in a place like this. Maybe locked in some ivory princess tower, guarded by a monster.
Prissy Neighbor huffed as she stepped around him. She bent down, in those short running shorts with the open sides—to whip a pair of fifteen-pound dumbbells off the rack.
He sighed. Yet another one I’ll need to keep an eye on. Trouble will find her. I have zero doubts about that. The only question is: How bad will it be when it does?
He grimaced. It’s like she doesn’t even live in the same world. Where dark and twisted people exist, killing and preying on the weak. Innocents. She hefted one weight up to her shoulder, turning the grip as she went. But she slung the other dumbbell—engaging back muscles and using momentum to help propel the heavy weight.
She’s mad at me. So she’ll end up injuring herself. He shook his head and crossed his arms over his chest. “Your form is wrong.”
She met his gaze in the mirror. Sweat dripping from her temples like the rain on that day . . .
His eyes drifted to his own reflection. A hard-assed former Marine glared back. She turned her back to him and repeated the awkward movement.
He sighed. “You should lower the weight and go slower. You’re slinging the dumbbell and not getting the full benefit of the effort.”
Prissy Neighbor pivoted and faced the mirror again. He could see her brain processing the information. Her first instinct, the stubborn side of her, stuck out her chin and glared, again, at his reflection. But her more reasonable side must have won out. She put the dumbbell back on the rack—with a loud clatter. Then she repeated the hammer-curl movement with the lower weight.
“You’ll get better results if—”
“What now?” She planted her free hand on her hip. Her lip curled into a snarl.
What do you know? She has some fight in her after all. “I can show you,” he offered.
She flipped the weight to her free hand, then met his gaze. One light-colored eyebrow rose. Another wave of heat flared in his abdomen.
He moved behind her, sliding his fingers along her tricep toward her forearm. He lifted the weight from her hand and set it beside her, then held her wrist in a straight line out from her shoulder. “Hold, right there.”
Warmth radiated from her skin in waves. Her pulse beneath his fingertips. The telltale flutter in her neck. Life. It mattered, was precious. And could be taken away in an instant. The urge to remain there, connected to another human being, stirred an ache in his chest. Her hair smells like strawberries and coconuts.
He fitted one palm against the back of her hand; the other held on to her elbow. “This isolates the bicep.” He helped her complete the movement without a weight.
“One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand.” Her knuckles tapped her shoulder. “Now down in one fluid movement.”
He helped her repeat it once more before retrieving the weight at her feet. She performed eight full reps, then switched hands. She met his gaze in the mirror as she executed the same movement—working the other bicep. He gave her a slight nod, and his reflection added an even smaller smile.
After finishing sixteen reps, she lifted one side of her mouth. “Thanks, Umbrella Guy.”
J. Rose Black weaves stories about obsession, redemption, and the transcendental power of love. From her early days writing fanfiction for a passionate following of international readers, to crafting novels with her own characters, Rose has always been drawn to broody protectors and plucky, no-nonsense women ready to fight for what they believe in.
When Rose isn’t deeply immersed in her latest manuscript, she’s working in cyber security and thwarting the next generation of internet bad guys. Out of the office, she’s #Shipping with friends over her favorite, swoon-worthy couples, heading to the gym to battle the great evil that is Unmovable Baby Weight, or complaining about her husband’s addiction to 3D printing. Also: nagging her children to eat something other than cheese.
To learn more about Rose’s stories and the characters and worlds visited in this book, check out her website: https://jroseblack.com
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