New Adult Contemporary Romance


She never met a stray she didn't love...

In high school, Sam Pennywell had a massive crush on Rick Russo. But he was her cousin’s boyfriend and strictly off-limits. Meeting Rick again years, later she can hardly recognize the man he’s become.

As a paramedic, Rick’s career is all about helping others. But in the line of duty, he’s become one of the injured. He’s caught in a dark place he can’t escape on his own. He can't make Sam any promises of love. Promises are too easily broken.

Sam spends her life taking care of sick and homeless animals. She's never met a stray she didn't love, and Rick is the most important rescue she'll ever make.


Thanks to a bowl of tortilla chips, Sam Pennywell was trapped in the broom closet....

Sam stepped into a little closet off the kitchen of Britt's apartment and found what she was looking for. While inside the broom closet, which doubled as a pantry, she heard someone enter the kitchen. Two someones, speaking in hushed tones. She immediately recognized one of the voices as Britt's.

“All right, Rick. What's so important that you need to get me away from my own party?”

Rick? Rick Russo? Sam's breath caught when she heard his name. Her skin prickled with goose bumps. When had he arrived? Though she hadn't seen him in years, she'd never forgotten him. But she doubted he'd remember her.

“We need to talk,” Rick said.

“Okay,” Britt answered. “Let's talk.”

“Since when are you a lesbian?”

Sam's mouth fell open. Seriously? He went there?

Britt, to her credit, kept her cool. “You're kidding, right? You don't honestly expect me to have this discussion with you.”

"I think I'm entitled.”

“Entitled?” Britt's voice rose in disbelief. “Uh, no. Think again.”

Sam wanted to groan. She should so not be listening to this private conversation. Staring at the cans of corn, tuna fish, and tomato soup lined up on the shelves in front of her, she wished she could teleport herself somewhere, anywhere else. But there was no way she could leave the closet without being seen.

So she took the coward's way out and stayed hidden. She was stuck, an unwilling eavesdropper. Maybe she'd luck out and the conversation would end soon.

Britt hadn't finished. “You may be a friend, but—”

“Come off it, Brittany.” Rick's voice was a low rumble from deep in his chest. It sent a tingle through Sam, much as she hated to admit it. “We were a hell of a lot more than friends.”

True. Britt Hadaway and Rick Russo had been an item all their senior year of high school. It only made sense, them getting together—the hottest guy and the prettiest, most popular girl in the class.

“You can't blame me for being surprised,” Rick went on. “Hell, shocked. I mean, we're out of touch a few years, and when we reconnect, you're into chicks? I don't buy it.”

“You don't buy it? Rick, we haven't seen each other in five years. Sure, we were close. But that does not entitle you to drop back into my life and ask a bunch of nosy-ass questions. Understand?”

Sam nodded in satisfaction. You go, Britt. Tell him.

“Wait a minute. Is that what this is about? We break up and then you—”

“What, Rick? If I couldn't be with you, I completely gave up on men? You were good, son, but not that good.”

Sam grimaced. Ugh. Total sexist, bro thinking. A girl decided to turn gay because some guy screwed her over. Or because she hadn't met the right guy in the first place.

“I didn't mean that.” Though she couldn't see him from her hiding place, Sam heard the embarrassment in Rick's voice. “I just—”

Somehow Britt kept from tearing Rick's head off. She even managed to sound calm. “Look, you're a friend. I'm really glad we reconnected, so you could be here for my birthday.” Her tone was firm. “We had some good times back in high school, but those days are over. I've changed since then, and you have, too.” Then, with a smile in her voice, she added, “We're missing all the fun in here. Come on, let's go back to the party.”

Sam sagged with relief. Conversation closed. They'd return to the rest of the group soon, and she could make her escape with no one the wiser.

The kitchen door creaked softly, signaling their departure. Sam held her breath and waited in silence for the coast to clear. When she heard no other sounds, she emerged from the broom closet. She stepped into the kitchen and froze. Rick was still there, leaning back on the counter and taking a pull from a bottle of beer.

She could only think wow. If he'd been hot five years ago, now he was positively scorching. Time had improved on what nature had given him. Six-plus feet of solid muscle, from his broad shoulders to his hard chest that tapered to a taut middle. His tight T-shirt didn't hide much. She was sure his jeans didn't either, though Sam didn't let her gaze drift lower for fear of passing out.

If she'd been a cartoon character, her eyeballs would have popped from their sockets and pinballed across the room while her tongue unrolled and flopped to the floor. Her heart would have boinged right out of her chest, dangling from a spring.

His eyes widened in surprise before narrowing in a glare. Deep brown eyes sat above a strong Roman nose. He wasn't handsome in the way of pretty-boy movie stars, but strong-featured and completely masculine. “Where did you come from?”



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Nona Raines