Rachel Grant
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RACHEL GRANT
Romantic Suspense
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Copyright 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 All Rights Reserved
Catalyst Title

Catalyst
Bastian watched her leave, utterly confused as to why he felt like a shit for hurting her feelings, when she’d been the one who’d tried to undermine a Washington tribe’s treaty rights so her daddy could add to his billions.

The Kalahwamish Reservation, his tribe’s land, was on the Olympic Peninsula. Their land hadn’t been in jeopardy, but tribes from across the state had all come together, much like tribes across the country had rallied to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.

His belly churned, as it always did when he thought of DAPL. He was in Djibouti, serving his country, and that same country he loved and risked his life for had screwed over the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. For months now he’d been asking himself if it was time to get out of the Army and go home to take up the fight to preserve freedom for his tribe and all Native Americans. How could he continue to risk his life for a country that didn’t give a crap about his people?

But damn, he loved being a Special Forces operator. After Cece burrowed her way into his family until there was no room left for him, his A-Team had become his family. Who would he be without the uniform? Without his brothers?

He loved his country. He loved his tribe. And sometimes it felt like they were still at war with each other.

He paid the bartender for the beer he’d barely touched and left the club. Night had descended while he spoke with Gabriella, or Brie, or whatever her name was now. It was full dark. The air was muggy and hot, and escaping into his air-conditioned quarters held no appeal. He was restless. Antsy. Pissed off.

He walked out, beyond the buildings that clustered around the club. They couldn’t see the Gulf of Tadjoura from this part of the base, but there was an open area that offered prime stargazing.

Ahead of him, he could see the silhouette of a woman. She stood in the open with her face toward the night sky, her long dark hair glinting in the yellow glow of a nearby light post. He stepped closer and caught the shine of tears on her cheek.

He shouldn’t feel guilty for calling Gabriella Prime—or Brie Stewart—on what she’d done, but somehow, he did.

She was the embodiment of everything he despised. But damn, that body. She wore simple clothes that hugged her slight curves.

The jeans and long-sleeved T-shirt were nothing like the tailored suit she’d worn all those years ago. He’d been a senior in college and had known nothing about women’s clothing, and yet he could tell her suit had cost big bucks, as had her hair and makeup. Ten years ago, she’d looked like a glossy business fashion ad in the flesh. From his front-row seat, he could practically smell the money on her and it had never occurred to him that money could smell so damn good.

Cece had noticed his fixation and called him on it, claiming he had white-girl fantasies. He’d been trying to break up with her for nearly a year at that point and had wanted to tell her, no, he wasn’t having white-girl fantasies, he was having anyone-but-Cece fantasies, and the women he dreamed about came in all colors.

Gabriella Prime just so happened to be the latest and whitest.

Staring now at the woman who’d played a role in some rather hot relationship escape fantasies, it was amazing he’d recognized her. Brie Stewart bore only the slightest resemblance to the polished Gabriella Prime, but she was every bit as compelling. More so now, because she looked real.

She wasn’t Oil Company Barbie anymore.

“Are you just going to stand there and stare at me, Chief Ford, or did you follow me out here to tell me more about why you suspect me of wanting to harm the people I work my ass off to help?”

“I didn’t follow you. But if those are the only choices, I guess I’ll go with continuing to stare at you.”

“I’m flattered.”

“You’re a beautiful woman, it’s a simple fact.”

She laughed softly. “No, I’m not. I mean, I clean up well—I’m not being falsely modest—but you don’t live in my world and get to maintain the illusion you’re anything special, not when everyone is so eager to point out that my eyes are too wide, my face too round, and that I should have a surgeon take care of my unfortunate nose.”

“Unfortunate nose?” He’d never even noticed her nose. It was just a nose. “What’s wrong with it?”

“It’s giant, obviously.”

“White people are weird.”

“I’m sure that’s true, but in this case, you might mean rich people.”

“They’re the weirdest white people of all.” He cocked his head. “So, you still rich? I mean, should I make a play for you because you’re loaded?”

She pressed her hand to her heart. “You’d be willing to overlook my unfortunate nose?”

He shrugged. “If you’ve got money, sure. I can work around the beak.”

Her laugh was genuine, and she wiped her cheek, erasing her tears. “Thank you. I needed that.” Then she approached him, stepping farther from the streetlight and into the darkness that separated them. She came to a stop in front of him and placed her hand on his chest.

He knew this was nothing more than a tease, and yet his heart rate kicked up, which was insane. Worse, she could feel the rapid beat, and there was just enough light to see her smile.

Damn, she had a smile. Sweet, sexy. He didn’t notice her unfortunate nose because he was too busy looking at her perfect lips.

She placed her other hand on his chest and rose on her toes, sliding both hands over his pecs, giving every sign she was impressed by what she felt through the thin layer of his T-shirt. She brought her mouth to within an inch of his. “Do you want to kiss me, Bastian?”

“Strangely, I do.”