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Hayley Elliott's sister has found a cure for Alzheimer’s and their mom is living proof that the supplement works. To keep everyone safe, Hayley has to return to Montana. But she can only do that with help from Tank—a man who’s living with a secret more heartbreaking than her own.
Tank has spent his life protecting people. He works for one of the most successful security companies in the world, makes more money than most people see in a lifetime, and has a past that no one can ever know about.
With more at stake than their own lives, Tank and Hayley have to decide what is more important—protecting the past or risking everything for love.
Chapter One Look Inside
Chapter One Look Inside
“Someone’s found us, Sophie. Mom and I have to leave.” Hayley looked across the manicured lawn of the dementia unit. She was in trouble. If anyone overheard her phone call to her sister, it could make her life even more difficult.
“But you’ve only been in Fort Wayne for three weeks. They can’t have found you so quickly.”
“I don’t know how they found us in Indiana, but they’re here. Someone followed me when I drove Mom home from the library.”
“Are you sure they were following you? They could have been going in the same direction.”
“We were definitely being followed, but that’s not the only thing that happened. A man came into the nursing home this afternoon. He wanted to speak to Mom.”
She heard her sister’s sharp intake of breath. “Did he see her?”
“He didn’t get anywhere near her. There are strict rules about who can visit the patients.”
“But he knows you’re there?”
“This isn’t good.” Sophie sounded as worried as Hayley. “Did you find out who he was?”
“He didn’t tell the receptionist anything about himself, apart from being a phony long-lost cousin. I tried finding someone who could access the security footage, but it’s Sunday. The admin staff won’t be here until tomorrow morning.”
“I’m sorry,” Sophie said. “I shouldn’t have said anything about the dietary supplement to my professor.”
“You’ve found something that could help people with Alzheimer’s. You had to tell him. It’s not your fault he couldn’t be trusted. We’re okay for now, but I’m not taking any chances. We’re leaving tonight.”
“Don’t leave until tomorrow morning. Someone followed me yesterday. I’ve spoken to the owner of a security company because I was worried about you. He’s sending one of his team to Fort Wayne.”
Hayley focused on the vehicles in the parking lot. She wanted to believe Sophie, she really did. But after six weeks of being terrified someone would find them, she’d had enough.
“I don’t know if we’ve got time to wait for help.”
“You’re safer in the dementia unit than driving on the road.”
“I need to get Mom away from here.” She took a deep breath and tried to calm her racing heart. A young woman crossed the parking lot and headed in her direction. “I have to go. I’ll text you when I find somewhere safe to stay.”
Hayley ended the call and walked swiftly across to Angelique. “Were you able to download the security footage?”
“I can’t access it, but I’ve called in a favor from another staff member. He’ll be here in an hour.”
“Thank you.” She hugged Angelique, grateful that she could trust her friend.
“You’re welcome, but I don’t know why you can’t go to the police. You haven’t done anything wrong.”
“I can’t risk anything happening to Mom. The police won’t do anything until whoever’s following us breaks the law. She could get hurt while I wait for the police to do something.”
Angelique walked back with her to the nursing home. “What are you going to do?”
Hayley looked at the building where she thought they’d be safe. “Pack our bags and leave.”
* * *
Tank looked at the exterior of Woodview, a nursing home on the outskirts of Fort Wayne. He didn’t usually meet clients at nursing homes, but it didn’t matter. It was no different from a consulate in Taiwan or a hotel in Kabul. When someone needed help, he was paid to look after them.
He glanced at the background information he’d been given. Hayley Elliott was a twenty-eight-year-old nurse who worked in the building in front of him. Her mother, Alice Elliott, was an advanced Alzheimer’s patient at the same facility.
His assignment was simple—bring them back to Montana.
Their seats were booked on the next flight out of Fort Wayne. When they arrived in Bozeman, he’d drive them to Emerald Lake. In five hours, Hayley would be drinking coffee with her sister and mom, sharing stories about their adventure in Indiana.
For him, it was a matter of case closed and onto the next one.
But Hayley Elliott obviously had other ideas. For the last few minutes she’d been throwing suitcases into her car. She was in a hurry.
He glanced at the other vehicles in the parking lot before getting out of his SUV. He didn’t want to scare her, so he made as much noise as he could.
She moved one of the suitcases around, then reached for her jacket.
He was only a few feet away from her, but she still hadn’t noticed him. It was no wonder she needed protection. He cleared his throat. “Hayley Elliott? I’m—”
She spun on her feet, her arm stiff and straight.
Twisting sideways, he blocked her with his forearm, but not quick enough to miss the pepper spray aimed at his face.
The pain nearly blinded him. He moved forward, grabbing her as she ran around the side of her car.
Instead of pulling away, she stepped into his arms and kneed him in the groin.
He swore something fierce, turned her around and pushed her against the side of the car, trapping her between the cold metal and his aching body.
“Let me go,” she screamed. “Help! I need help!”
“I am the help,” he ground out. “Your sister sent me.”
Hayley didn’t stop twisting and turning. “You’re lying. Get off me, you big oaf.”
“Your sister is Sophie Elliott. She works at Emerald Lake with Ryan Evans.”
“Anyone with half a brain could have looked that up on the Internet. Tell me something the rest of the world doesn’t know.”
“She’s discovered a treatment for people with Alzheimer’s. It’s not patented.”
Hayley stopped moving. She sucked in a lungful of air. “Keep talking.”
“John Fletcher owns the security company where I work. Your sister asked us to bring you and your mom back to Bozeman. If I didn’t think you’d spray me again, I’d give you my phone to call him.”
She relaxed against her car. “I don’t know who John Fletcher is, but I believe you.”
Tank wasn’t taking any chances. He blinked hard, trying to force the spray out of his eyes. “Where’s the pepper spray?”
“I don’t know. You knocked it out of my hand.”
There was no point looking for it. He couldn’t see anything.
“I’m sorry for spraying you.”
He grunted. “Kneeing me in the groin didn’t help, either.”
“Are you okay?”
He let go of her wrists and stepped away from the car. “My face feels like it’s on fire and other parts of my body aren’t much better.” If he rubbed his eyes he’d be in even more pain. He leaned forward, resting his hands on his knees.
“I’ve got some ice inside. You could…you know…”
“I’ll be okay,” he muttered.
“It will help with the swelling.”
Tank didn’t want to think about what his body was doing. “As soon as I can see, I’m taking you and your mom to the airport. We’re going to Bozeman.”
“Not on a plane, we’re not.”
He bit back a reply. “We’re flying to Bozeman tonight.”
“Mom can’t fly. She gets really agitated.”
“Enough for the airline staff to stop her getting on a plane. It’s her Alzheimer’s. She doesn’t like the noise the engines make.”
Tank’s eyes narrowed. “I’ll hire a private jet.”
“It won’t make any difference. Mom will have to be heavily sedated and with her health issues, it could kill her.”
His five-hour time frame disappeared. “Is your mom okay traveling in a car?”
He stood up and held back a groan. “It looks as though we’re switching to plan B. We’ll drive to Bozeman.”
Hayley sighed. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”
Tank frowned. He thought he did, but a five-foot-eight blond with a can of pepper spray had surprised him.
And that hadn’t happened in years.
* * *
Hayley squirted another cotton ball with baby shampoo.
“This is ridiculous,” Tank muttered. “We’re wasting time.”
“Stop moving. You can hardly see out of your eyes. If we don’t dissolve the pepper spray, we’ll be here for a lot longer.”
Alice, Hayley’s mom, came to inspect what she was doing to their bodyguard’s face. “You smell lovely.”
Tank opened his eyes and frowned.
Hayley bit back a smile. He did smell nice, but she wasn’t commenting on what he didn’t want to hear. Convincing him to sit still for long enough to remove the pepper spray had been hard enough. Agreeing with her mom would only make him more irritated.
She moved closer, wiping along his jaw as fast as she could. “Can I ask you a question?”
“If it gets us out of here faster, sure.”
“What’s your name?”
“As in the large vehicle used by the Army?”
“Do you have a last name?”
“Nope.” He winced and closed his eyes as she ran the cotton pad across his nose. “Have you finished yet?”
“Almost. Open your eyes.”
He opened his clear blue eyes and glared at her. “Someone’s looking for you. We need to leave.”
Hayley handed him the bottle of baby shampoo. “I agree—which is why you’re going to wipe your hands and neck while I finish getting Mom ready.”
He took the shampoo and started scrubbing. “We’ve got a long couple of days ahead of us. Take everything your mom will need. Where are your clothes?”
“In my car. I packed them earlier today.”
“Did anyone see you?”
“I don’t think so.” She turned to her mom. “Let’s go to the bathroom, Alice.” She helped her mom walk across the room. “We won’t be long, Tank. There’s one more suitcase in the bottom of Alice’s closet. After that, we’re ready to go.”
Her mom patted her hand. “You’re a good girl. Your parents must be very proud of you.”
“They are.” She glanced at Tank, hoping he’d missed her mom’s softly spoken words.
He looked at her with the same deadpan expression he’d worn when she’d first introduced him to her mom.
She kept moving. “My dad used to tell me that one day, my sister Sophie and I would change the world.”
Her mom reached for the door frame, steadying herself for the next part of their journey to the bathroom. “He sounds like a good father.”
Tank pulled the case out of the closet. “I’ll put this in my SUV and get the other bags out of your car. Where are your keys?”
Hayley took them out of her pocket. “The red button unlocks the doors.”
“I’ll be back soon.”
Hayley nodded and turned to her mom. “Ready?”
“What for, dear?”
“I’m taking you to the bathroom.”
Her mom’s face creased into a frown. “I don’t need to go to the bathroom.”
“We’ll be traveling in the car for a long time. Just try for me.”
“Where are we going?”
“We’re driving to Montana.”
Alice looked around her room. “Where did Tank go?”
“He went…you remembered he was here?”
“Of course, I remembered. He’s such a nice man.”
Hayley’s eyes misted over. Most of the time her mom couldn’t remember what had happened two minutes ago. Remembering Tank was here, and his name, was important. “Let’s go to the bathroom before he gets back.”
Her mom shuffled forward. “Is he taking us somewhere?”
“We’re going on a car ride, Alice.”
The smile on her mom’s face made Hayley happy, too. Six months ago, her mom could barely move out of bed. The fact that she could now stand on her own and walk short distances was a miracle.
When Tank returned to her mom’s room, they were ready to leave.
Hayley looked at the wheelchair he pushed through the door.
“We need to move quickly.” He held out his arm to her mom and helped her into the seat. “Bring the walker with you, Hayley. There’s enough room for it beside Alice.”
With one last look around her mom’s room, Hayley followed him into the hallway.
Her mom waved at the other residents, looking for all the world like she was going for a Sunday drive. Apart from Tank and Hayley, there was only one other person in the nursing home who knew the truth.
As they passed the main reception desk, Hayley nodded at Angelique. After they left, she’d finalize her mom’s paperwork and let the nursing director know that Hayley wouldn’t be back.
As far as anyone else knew, they were going to live with relatives and enjoy the heat of a warm Florida summer.
She wished it were that simple.
Fans of Netflix's Virgin River series will love this small-town, feel-good romance!
Hayley's sister has found a cure for Alzheimer’s and their mom is living proof that the supplement works. To keep everyone safe, she has to return to Montana. But Hayley can only do that with help from Tank—a man who’s living with a secret more heartbreaking than her own.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “This series was hard to put down! Lots of drama, love, and laughter.”
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "Fell in love with the town, the characters, and their heartwarming journey."
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "A treasure of a book. The kind of story you want to read over and over."