Tell Me You Need Me (Search and Seduce #1)
I’m so proud of you. You’re a pain in the ass sometimes, but you’re the best brother in the world and I love you like crazy. You always make me laugh and no matter what, I have your back. This may be a romance novel, but I dedicate it to you anyway because secretly, deep down, I know you read them.
Love you, buddy!
Gage McGraw took a pull from his beer then set the long bottle down on the bar. He spun the brown glass on the counter and watched the alcohol swish inside.
Christ, he was nervous. So nervous he was fucking fidgeting.
He was a New Yorker, so the small-town bar he was in shouldn’t have affected him. He’d been in Beaufort, North Carolina a handful of times. It might not be large, but the area was built on a wide variety of outdoor activities. Between the ocean, forest, and vast terrain, tourists flocked to this haven of adventure yearly. Which, unfortunately, meant that every summer people braved the mountains and got lost.
That was where he came in as a lead member of the Search & Rescue team. He traveled the country a lot, usually on missions to track, find, and recover. It was what he did best; what he loved. After getting shrapnel in the leg and being honorably discharged from the military a few years ago, it was also the only job he could do that allowed him to use the skills the US government had taught him.
The local S&R team now taught a survival skills boot camp for anyone going into the mountains without a guide. Plenty of people still got lost, but at least this year the boot camps seemed to have done some good, because when Gage had arrived, there hadn’t been any immediate S&Rs to perform. Instead, his boss said he’d be spending the next few weeks training new S&R recruits.
Which was where tonight’s waiting game at the bar came in. A little free time meant he had a chance to focus on the thing he’d been obsessing over since an S&R last month had nearly cost him his life.
He’d been out searching for a lost climber in the mountains. He’d found him at the bottom of a cliff, his leg broken, the person barely hanging on. So Gage had put on his harness, climbed down the rocky wall, told the climber not to worry, he would be right there—
And the harness that’d been holding him over a fifty-foot drop had snapped. His fingernails dug hopelessly into the rock as he plummeted down the side of the damn mountain and dropped off into the open air, nothing to stop his fall but the hard ground far below.
It was stupid, dumb luck that his flailing hand had found the rope hanging above him.
It’d hit him then—the reality of his mortality. It’d never bothered him before; being injured or dying went hand in hand with rescuing people from dangerous situations. But this had been more. He didn’t have anyone permanent in his life—who would his team have told if he hadn’t walked away? Who would care? He didn’t have a family or a girlfriend. If he’d died, no one would have missed him.
He was here to change that.
He’d come back into town and to this bar with a plan that would take longer than a weekend to carry out. Damn if he wasn’t nervous, though. He could use a little stress relief.
Small town or not, Honey’s was always busy. The restaurant and bar was where the whole town seemed to hang out. There was a sense of community here. With locals hovering around the pool tables, fried food, and good music, he couldn’t help but imagine what it’d be like to set down some roots here. Have a place and a person to come home to.
“Vodka cranberry please,” a sultry voice said to the bartender. Gage glanced to his left, where a tall blonde shimmied her way in and placed her hands on the counter.
The woman spared him a glance. Barely. But enough to catch a glimpse of the greenest eyes he’d ever seen. She tapped her fingers on the bar and leaned forward, waiting to be served.
She was lithe and lean, with curves in all the right places. Her short denim skirt barely covered her ass. Her tank top was simple and black. The thin straps would take little more than a tug of his finger to break. Two seconds was all he’d need to have those high, round breasts bared for his mouth—
“Never seen a woman before, city boy?” she asked.
Shit—he was staring. Gage hid his flush with a smile and recovered quickly.
“I’ve seen plenty of women.” He grabbed his beer and faced her. “Which is why I know when to appreciate an exceptionally fine one.”
That got her to look at him. He unleashed a grin he knew firsthand could melt panties, and he waited for her to swoon.
To her credit, she didn’t.