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Worth Fighting For (Warrior Fight Club #2.5)
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Getting in deep has never felt this good…
Commercial diving instructor Tara Hunter nearly lost everything in an accident that saw her medically discharged from the navy. With the help of the Warrior Fight Club, she’s fought hard to overcome her fears and get back in the water where she’s always felt most at home. At work, she’s tough, serious, and doesn’t tolerate distractions. Which is why finding her gorgeous one-night stand on her new dive team is such a problem.
Former navy deep-sea diver Jesse Anderson just can’t seem to stop making mistakes—the latest being the hot-as-hell night he’d spent with his new partner. This job is his second chance, and Jesse knows he shouldn’t mix business with pleasure. But spending every day with Tara’s smart mouth and sexy curves makes her so damn hard to resist.
Joining a wounded warrior MMA training program seems like the perfect way to blow off steam—until Jesse finds that Tara belongs too. Now they’re getting in deep and taking each other down day and night, and even though it breaks all the rules, their inescapable attraction might just be the only thing truly worth fighting for.
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Nothing chased away nightmares and anxiety like nachos. At least, that was what Tara Hunter hoped.
“Anything else?” Matt asked from behind the bar at Murphy’s, her favorite place in the neighborhood.
“A rum and Coke,” Tara said, taking off her coat and unwinding the scarf from her neck. She settled both on the stool next to her. It was eleven o’clock on a Sunday night, and the bar was as quiet as she’d hoped it would be.
Having placed the order, though, she was back to having nothing to distract her from the way her heart wouldn’t settle and her breathing couldn’t quite calm. She knew exactly why her central nervous system was freaking out—because tomorrow was her first day on a new diving team, and that meant getting back in the water again. But knowing didn’t mean she could always control it. Having insight into all the ways her brain was messed up only got her so far.
So Tara forced a deep breath and counted backward from five.
Five things she could see. Her reflection in the mirror that was the centerpiece of the big, carved bar. Her long wavy hair pretty much looked like she’d rolled out of bed, because she had. Without any makeup, her face appeared pale in the dim light of the bar.
The rows of bottles glinting gold and white in the spotlights all along the bar. A couple tucked into the last booth, sitting on the same side and totally wrapped up in each other. Outside the front window, unusual late-winter flurries blew on the night wind.
Tara took another deep breath.
Four things she could hear. The alternative rock song playing on the juke box. Ice clinking in a glass. She peered around, her gaze following the sounds of the other diners. A man sitting in the closest booth was talking on his phone, loudly, one of those people who talked louder on cell phones as if he thought he needed to force his voice down the line. At the other end of the bar from where she sat, a customer thanked the bartender as he slid off his stool.
That time, her breath came deeper, slower, calmer.
Three things she could feel. Her nipples against her sweater, because her anxiety attack hadn’t been able to abide taking the time to put on a bra before she’d bugged out of her place and gone for a walk in the late-February air.
Matt delivered her drink, and Tara took a long pull from it, mentally adding the fizz of the soda as the next thing she could feel. The smooth, cool glass in her hands—that was the third.
The muscles of her shoulders began to relax. It was working. Keep going.
Two things she could smell. The warm spice of the rum in her drink. The almost stale, malty tang of beer which seemed to be common to every establishment that served it.
Her heartrate was normal again.
Finish it. She took another drink of her rum and coke.
One thing she could taste. She’d already used the rum, so she crushed an ice cube between her teeth and concentrated on the clean, cold taste of the frozen pieces quickly melting in her mouth.
She heaved one last deep breath, and the ease of doing so proved for the millionth time that immersing herself in her environment had the power to calm.
The bell over the front door jingled and a gust of unusually bitter wind followed, enough to make Tara hug herself as she glanced over her shoulder to see who else was coming to Murphy’s so late.
She almost choked on the ice cube in her mouth.
Because the man sliding onto a stool about five down from hers was freaking gorgeous. Tall. Broad shoulders with a trim waist, the quintessential swimmer’s build she knew so well after a lifetime of being around swimmers and a career in diving. His black hair was cut short, and his face in profile was a study in hard angles—the square jaw, the high cheekbones, the furrowed brow. She hadn’t seen him in Murphy’s before. No way she would’ve forgotten—or missed—him.
Dark eyes slashed toward her.
When her heart kicked up in her chest this time, it had nothing to do with the nightmares she knew so well. And despite getting caught checking him out, Tara managed a smile. “Hey.”
As he shrugged out of his coat, his gaze ran over her face, making her remember she hadn’t done a thing to herself before walking out her door, and he nodded once. “Hey.”
The bartender greeted New Guy and slid a coaster and a menu in front of him. “What’ll you have?”
“Whiskey, neat, for now,” the man said as he flipped open the menu.
Matt made the drink, then disappeared through the swinging doors into the kitchen. A minute later, he returned carrying a massive oval platter piled high with tortilla chips and toppings. He settled the plate in front of her.