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It Came Upon a Midnight Clear [Tall, Dark, and Dangerous Series Book 6] [Secure]
by Suzanne Brockmann

Category: Romance
Description: Something Worth Fighting For.... As Christmastime settled quietly over the countryside, Navy SEAL William "Crash" Hawken was faced with a deadly conspiracy. And he had only one person to turn to--the caring passionate Nell Burns. For though Crash had long ago accepted the fact that there was no place in his dangerous world for the simple pleasures of home and family, Nell had been the only woman who had ever tempted him to dream of another kind of life... Now, as he needed Nell more than ever before, he was beginning to see all that they could have together. What the future might be. If only he could be assured that they had one...
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Silhouette Romantic Suspense, 2007
eBookwise Release Date: September 2007


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Available eBook Formats [Secure - What's this?]: OEBFF Format (IMP) [446 KB]
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Chapter 1

One year earlier

It was only two days after Thanksgiving, but the city streets were already decked with wreaths and bows and Christmas lights.

The cheery colors and festive sparkle seemed to mock Nell Burns as she drove through the city. She'd come into Washington, D.C. that morning to do a number of errands. Get a new supply of watercolor paper and paint for Daisy. Stop at the health food store and get more of that nasty seaweed stuff. Pick up the admiral's dress uniform from the dry cleaners near the Pentagon. It had been a week since Jake had been in to town, and it looked as if it would be a while before he returned.

Nell had saved the hardest, most unpleasant task for last. But now there was no avoiding it.

She double-checked the address she'd scribbled on a Post-it note, slowing as she drove past the high-rise building that bore the same number.

There was a parking spot open, right on the street, and she slipped into it, turning off her engine and pulling up the brake.

But instead of getting out of her car, Nell sat there.

What on earth was she going to say?

It was bad enough that in just a few minutes she was going to be knocking on William Hawken's door. In the two years since she'd started working as Daisy Owen's personal assistant, she'd met the enigmatic Navy SEAL that her boss thought of as a surrogate son exactly four times.

And each time he'd taken her breath away.

It wasn't so much that he was handsome….

Actually, it was exactly that he was handsome. He was incredibly, darkly, mysteriously, broodingly, gorgeously handsome. He had the kind of cheekbones that epic poems were written about and a nose that advertised an aristocratic ancestry. And his eyes…Steely gray and heart-stoppingly intense, the force of his gaze was nearly palpable. When he'd looked at her, she'd felt as if he could see right through her, as if he could read her mind.

His lips reminded her of those old gothic romances she'd read when she was younger. He had decidedly cruel lips. Upon seeing them, she'd suddenly realized that rather odd descriptive phrase made perfect sense. His lips were gracefully shaped, but thin and tight, particularly since his default expression was not a smile.

In fact, Nell couldn't remember ever having seen William Hawken smile.

His friends, or at least the members of his SEAL team—she wasn't sure if a man that broodingly quiet actually had any friends—called him "Crash."

Daisy had told her that Billy Hawken had been given that nickname when he was training to become a SEAL. His partner in training had jokingly started calling him Crash because of Hawken's ability to move silently at all times. In the same manner in which a very, very large man might be nicknamed "Mouse" or "Flea," Billy Hawken had ever after been known as Crash.

There was no way, no way, Nell would ever consider becoming involved with a man—no matter how disgustingly handsome and intriguing—whose work associates called him "Crash."

There was also no way she would ever consider becoming involved with a Navy SEAL. From what Nell understood, SEAL was synonymous with superman. The acronym itself stood for Sea, Air and Land, and SEALs were trained to operate with skill and efficiency in all three environments. Direct descendants from the UDTs or Underwater Demolition Teams of World War II, SEALs were experts in everything from gathering information to blowing things up.

They were Special Forces warriors who used unconventional methods and worked in small seven-or eight-man teams. Admiral Jake Robinson had been a SEAL in Vietnam. The stories he'd told were enough to convince Nell that becoming involved with a man like Crash would be sheer insanity.

Of course, she was failing to consider one important point as she made these sweeping statements. The man in question had barely even said four words to her. No wait—he'd said five words the first time they'd met. "Pleased to meet you, Nell." He had a quiet, richly resonant voice that matched his watchful demeanor damn near perfectly. When he'd said her name, she'd come closer to melting into a pathetic pool of quivering protoplasm at his feet than she'd ever done in her life.

The second time they'd met, that was when he'd said four words. "Nice seeing you again." The other times, he'd merely nodded.

In other words, it wasn't as if he was breaking down her door, trying to get a date.

And he certainly wasn't doing anything as ridiculous as not only counting the number of times they'd met, but adding up the total number of words she'd ever said to him.

With any luck, he wouldn't even be home.

But then, of course, she'd have to come back.

Daisy and her longtime, live-in lover, Jake Robinson, had invited Crash out to the farm for dinner several times over the past few weeks. But each time he'd cancelled.

Nell had made this trip into the city to tell him that he must come. Although he wasn't their child by blood, Crash was the closest thing to a son both Daisy and Jake had ever had. And from what Daisy had told her, Nell knew that Crash considered them his family, too. From the time he was ten, he'd spent every summer and winter break from boarding school with the slightly eccentric pair. From the time his own mother had died, Daisy had opened her home and her heart to him.

But now Daisy had been diagnosed with an inoperable cancer, and she was in the very late stages of the disease. She didn't want Crash to hear the news over the phone, and Jake was refusing to leave her side.

Copyright © 1998 by Suzanne Brockmann.

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