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The last place ex-Special forces soldier, Kyle Musgrave, expected to find himself was in a joust at a renaissance fair. There’s a prize for winning, however—her name is Cameron and she’s just as horrified by her medieval circumstances as Kyle. She needs his help badly to escape her would-be suitors. For Kyle, that means donning uncomfortable armor, galloping to victory on a stubborn steed and claiming a reward he never expected. If she’ll have him.
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Kyle Musgrave had lived in blissful ignorance of renaissance fairs all his life.
Grown men strutted past like relics from the days gone by, some in chainmail or knightly costumes, others in floppy shirts and hats of questionable origin. Kyle, who’d gone with his usual jeans and a T-shirt, was already earning stern disapproval from the weekend pass holders, their elite status proclaimed with orange plastic badges.
As he moved closer to the ticket window, a group of revelers laughed their way into the entrance, each of them with a dagger secured in a scabbard at their waist. When Kyle felt the mounting tension in the man beside him, he turned and sent Jason a silent look. Yeah, safe to say neither one of the ex-Special Forces soldiers were thrilled about spending the day around strangers with weapons. They weren’t fully capable of leaving the battleground behind on a good day—and in no way could frolicking with pretend peasants be defined as good.
“Naomi likes to try new things,” Jason said, referring to his wife. “With the fair happening right outside of Nashville, she insisted I invite you, but you didn’t have to come.”
“Nah, man, it’ll be fine,” Kyle responded. “Besides, if I’d turned down the invitation, I would have missed seeing you with a real live baby strapped to your chest.”
A gurgle brought Kyle and Jason’s attention lower, to the baby boy wrapped in a sling, his open mouth leaving a trail of drool on his father’s T-shirt.
“So what’s that like?” Kyle asked, pointing at the squirming infant. “You have a baby. I don’t know if I mentioned it.”
“Only about nine times.” Pride crinkled the corners of Jason’s eyes. “Being a father is…amazing. I’m the luckiest bastard alive.” He was quiet a moment, his hand roaming up and down his son’s back. “Didn’t think I’d be into the sling, but I’d be a wreck if he was crawling around in a place like this. Christ, it’s official. I’m going to be a helicopter parent.”
Kyle laughed. “You’re a helicopter husband, too. The longer Naomi takes to get back from the bathroom, the greener you get.”
“Noticed that, did you?” Jason muttered, craning his neck around the line once again to look for his wife of just over a year. Kyle still remembered he’d witnessed them in the same room together on a visit to their home in St. Augustine. It had been like watching the future play out, right there in front of him. Two people had never been more opposite or more perfectly suited. “Look,” Jason continued, his voice gruff and concise, as if they were preparing for battle. “I’m going to have my hands full watching these two—”
“Don’t worry about me,” Kyle said, waving him off. “I’ll find something to keep me busy.”
No sooner were the tickets purchased did Naomi return from the bathroom, a crown of pink flowers on her head and an excited smile on her face. Kyle shook his head at Jason’s reaction to his wife’s appearance, which was nothing short of a man being struck by Cupid’s arrow. Again. With heart eyes fully engaged, Jason wrapped an arm around the baby and went trudging after a skipping Naomi, like a lovestruck bodyguard. And Kyle watched them go, nothing short of speechless.
As much as Kyle and Jason were cut from the same cloth, his friend now seemed capable of so much more. Domesticating. Putting down roots and being content with a new routine. Hell, he seemed way more than content. Euphoric was a better word. Was that kind of thing possible for everyone?
Was it possible for Kyle?
He had been discharged from the Army two years ago. Since that day, he hadn’t sat still. He physically couldn’t. Living in one town for longer than six months made his feet itch like crazy. Made him feel confined. In the middle of a war zone, when a man remains stationary too long, the enemy finds him—and so the need to move gripped him tight and wouldn’t let go.
A memory of a small window sliding open on a metal door trickled into his consciousness. Four walls tightening around him inch by inch, an untended wound in his side. No, his time as a prisoner of war was true confinement. Kyle knew that. His brain was another story.
With a cough into his fist, Kyle forced himself into the flow of the crowd, careful not to step on the velvet robe of the woman walking in front of him. What the hell was he going to do for the next few hours? There was a signpost up ahead, the top arrow pointing east. This way to the joust.
He’d expected flute playing and a Maypole dance.
Things were suddenly looking up.
Kyle bought himself a beer from one of the vendors and headed east along the sawdust trail, not bothering to hurry. For all his pick-up-and-move mentality, Kyle had been raised by southern musicians in a traveling band, so he understood the fine art of taking his time. Before the age of ten, he’d seen both coasts of the United States, most of it through the back window of a converted yellow school bus while his mother sang folk songs up front.