They meet on a beach. . . . Abby Davis isn’t wearing a skimpy bikini or sipping umbrella drinks, not when she’s busy chasing around four little ones. And Matt McKinney isn’t looking for fun—he’s a Navy SEAL, a grown man with a long list of missions . . . and fallen brothers.
They only have a week. . . . Abby has brought her children to this beach to start over, to give them the enjoyable memories they deserve. Matt’s been sidelined by a combat injury, and haunted by the best friend he lost and the promise he made: to remain a SEAL—focused and dedicated. This leaves no time for what he’s always wanted: a family.
But a week is all it takes. . . . Matt opens her heart while Abby soothes his soul. And though they plan to say good-bye when the week is over, something magical happens on that beach, something neither can forget. Something utterly, completely worth falling for.
Love Words from Matt to Abby
Matt and Abby’s First Valentine’s
IT STARTED out as the perfect day. Abby McKinney laid warm and loose in her husband’s arms. Her Valentine’s Day wake up call, as Matt had called it.
It was still dark as they laid together, their bodies intertwined, listening to Mary’s baby sounds on the monitor.
“We have to get up.” His voice rumbled through his chest and into hers.
“Yes. We do.” She didn’t move.
Matt patted her bottom and pulled away, but pressed a kiss to her forehead before he stood. “Better get a move on,” he said with a wink. I’ve got big plans for you today.”
Awake now, she watched him grab some clothes to take into the bathroom. He closed the door and she rolled to her back with a smile. She had some plans of her own.
Thirty minutes later, dressed in jeans and a thick red sweater in honor of the day, Abby entered the kitchen. She wasn’t always dressed for breakfast, but Valentine’s Day in elementary school was almost as big as the day before Christmas Break.
She’d been over everything in her mind, but just for her own satisfaction, she took a marker from the drawer and went to her TO DO List on the refrigerator. She drew a line through:
Valentine boxes, A, G, J,
Valentines A, G, J
Icing for cookies
L to the W
No way Matt would know that last one meant new lingerie to the wash.
J belt ? —She prayed she could find Jack’s karate belt by 4pm. No doubt Annie’s was already laid out with the her gi even though her class was two days away.
She passed Matt where he stood at the sink with baby Mary over his shoulder and kissed his freshly shaven cheek. “Mmm,” she whispered at his ear, as she always did when she smelled his aftershave.
Their four other children sat at the kitchen table, wearing various pieces of school uniform. Except Charlie, who didn’t wear one in preschool, and Annie who was already completely put together, including a matching plaid headband.
“Jack, put your bowl in the sink if you’re done. Gracie, hurry up and put all your cards back in the bag,” Abby said, taking Mary from Matt.
“So, I’m hitting Jack’s party at eleven and Annie’s at eleven thirty,” Matt said, handing her a mug of coffee.
“Right. And you’ll have Mary with you while I run crafts in Gracie’s class.”
“Got it.” He was looking forward to all the kids’ parties, but especially Annie’s. He knew she still held a small seed of doubt that he’d really show up. But it was precisely this kind of thing that would eventually rid her of all her fears.
“I’ll nurse her right before, but you’ll need powder formula just in case she gets fussy.”
“Roger that. Formula, pre-measured, small water bottle.”
Abby opened her mouth to continue the daily run down when their three, almost four, year old let out a desperate cry from the table.
Gracie had upended her cereal bowl all over her Valentines—because she’d insisted she needed to count them one more time. She and Matt both took a step to minimize the damage then spun in unison at the crash behind them.
Jack stood open mouthed over shards of glass and the chocolate covered strawberries she’d stayed up late last night to make for the teacher’s luncheon. Every one of them lay scattered and ruined among the glass. Except for the one frozen in midair between Jack’s fingers.
As Gracie continued to wail over her now soggy Valentines, Annie jumped out of her chair to avoid the milk ready to drip into her lap.
Matt moved fast and caught Annie before she stepped on the glass. Then grabbed Charlie under his other arm as the two year old wild man had decided he’d like a strawberry and wasn’t at all deterred by the broken platter.
“Everybody freeze.” Matt didn’t yell but his low, commanding voice got their attention.
“You.” Matt pointed at Jack, who still stood barefooted in the kitchen, a tiny bit of blood on his shin where a shard had hit him. “Don’t move.” He carried Charlie and Annie a safe distance away and put them down. Then went for Jack.
“Son,” he said with a sigh as he picked him up and surveyed the damage.
“I just wanted to try one,” Jack said, choking on the last word, tears welling in his eyes.
“Okay, Bud.” Matt rubbed his back. “I think you learned a lesson, huh?”
Jack nodded and sniffed. “I’m sorry, Mommy.”
Abby looked up from where she stood at the table, comforting Gracie and saving as many Valentines as she could.
“But I already wrote my name twenty-four times!” Gracie cried.
“It’s okay, baby,” she said to Jack, inwardly groaning at her own lost work. “It was just an accident. You might as well eat that one.”
Jack looked at the strawberry now squished in his little hand. “I don’t want it anymore,” he said, with hiccuping breaths.
Matt growled like a bear and went for the strawberry in Jack’s hand, drawing a small smile from his son.
“OKAY, HERE’S what we’re going to do,” Matt said, looking around the room at his family. Even with the chaos, he knew he was one lucky bastard. “I’ll take Jack to medical—” He sat Jack on the counter and opened the kitchen drawer that held Bandaids — “Then after I tackle the floor Gracie and I will make a quick fly-by the store and get more Valentines.”
Gracie started to protest again, not wanting to write her name even one more time.
“You only need to redo about five of them,” Abby said, sorting the damp from the ruined. “The rest are fine. See? I bet Annie had enough extra ones.”
“Okay, even without the extra pit stop, we need to hustle. Okay, team. Shoes, socks, teeth.” Matt carried Jack a safe distance away and watched the older three race up the stairs then turned to smile at Abby. “And they said the circus wasn’t coming to town.”
She just shook her head. Nothing surprised them. “After the parties I’ll take Mary and Charlie home for naps so you can make your afternoon meeting.”
He nodded. Partly true. Abby didn’t need to know he’d also be finalizing his plans for the night.
“Then Beth wanted to decorate cookies with the girls after school,” Abby went on.
“And Jack has karate at four.”
“Yes. I guess Valentine’s Day isn’t reason enough to cancel class.”
“Pfft.” Matt made a face as he scooped up the last of the broken glass. “After all the sugar that will be consumed today, they’re going to need to kick some boards.”
“Ah, damn. Darn,” he corrected even though the kids were out of the room.
Matt held up his phone. “A text from the sitter. Cancelled. Said she’s sick.”
And his stomach sank. He really wanted this special night for Abby. “Don’t worry. I’ll ask my mom. As long as none of the others have hit her up, we’ll be good.” He hoped.
Abby took Mary from her swing and Matt took a second to watch her as he often did. His wife. Their baby.
He kissed Mary’s cheeks until a stampede sounded on the stairs. “I think we’ve covered all the mission objectives. Except the last one.”
“Mmm.” Abby shifted Mary to the crook of her arm, and wrapped a hand around his neck. “What’s that?”
He pressed a kiss to her lips. It was their first Valentine’s Day and he was going to make it one she never forgot.
THREE HOURS later, Matt and Abby pulled up side by side. They’d need separate cars since Abby would be taking home little ones for naps while Matt checked on a few construction sites.
By the time she got out, Matt was already at the back passenger door, reaching in for Mary.
“Hello, my angel. Hello, angel.” Mary drooled and gurgled like any woman would when Matt cooed at them. Gently, he reached for her.
“Are you sure you don’t want to leave her in her car seat?”
“We’re sure, aren’t we, baby? Who wants to sit on the floor when there’s a party going on? Huh?”
Abby smiled as she loosened up the straps of the Baby Bjorn infant carrier to fit over Matt’s wide shoulders.
Drawing on his years of Navy SEAL training and strapping on parachutes & high tech gear, Matt worked to get Mary situated. He slipped her tiny legs into the carrier, then fastened the sides with the skill and mom or Team Leader would be proud of, then made sure her clothes were straight and she was comfortable.
Abby had to admit, he was better at it than she was. Not that she minded, she thought with a smile. It was exceptionally hot. Still smiling, she redid the Velcro on one of Mary’s pink buckskin booties. “You know you’re going to be the hit of the party, don’t you.”
“Of course she is.” Matt kissed Mary’s head.
Abby grinned. “I was talking about you. Mary’s not going to be the only one drooling. I almost feel sorry for them.” And God, she truly did. Dark jeans hugged his massive thighs, a long sleeve knit shirt hugged his upper arms. The brown eyes.
“You know I only have eyes for you,” he said, leaning over Mary’s head to kiss her lips.
She caught his face in her hands. “I love you.”
“I love you.” He took one hand from Mary to curl his fingers around the back of her neck and deepened the kiss.
“I might have a surprise for you later,” she said, smiling against his lips.
“Oh, really? I might have a surprise or two of my own.”
“Mmm. I can’t wait.” But duty called and she forced herself back. “Time to party.”
ABBY HAD just gotten Mary and Charlie out of the van and into their beds, and was desperate for a few minutes of peace after the whirlwind that was classroom parties.
She froze where she was, at the sound at the front door, crossing her fingers and listening for Mary. If the doorbell woke her, there was a very narrow window in which to get her back to sleep before she worked herself up to the point of no return.
So far so good.
By the time she got to the door, a flower delivery van was driving away. Must have dropped his booty and took off. No doubt he had a lot of stops to make.
She smiled as she reached down for the gorgeous arrangement of white roses. Must be three dozen here, she thought, carrying them into the kitchen. Trust Matt not to send the usual pink or red. She pulled out the card, anxious to read her husband’s words.
Rhonda, please forgive me. Please.
The note went on, with tiny handwriting stretching up the side of the small card and onto the back. Tyler was really, reallysorry.
She smiled at the mistake, then had a thought. If Rhonda didn’t get her flowers, this could be very bad for Tyler. Especially if Rhonda received some kind of, I love you, note addressed to someone else.
Before she could look up the florist number listed on the card, her phone rang. She saw that it was the school calling —never a good thing.
She hung up a minute later, closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then called Matt.
“Hey. I just got a call from the school,” Abby said.
“Yeah. Jack threw up.”
“Oh, boy.” Matt laughed softly. “Too many cupcakes?”
“Let’s hope. The babies are napping, but I can get him if you’re still in your meeting.”
“Nope. I just finished. I’ll get him, hose him off, and hide the rest of his candy.”
Abby laughed. “I also got a beautiful bunch of flowers. From Tyler.”
“What? Tyler who?”
“They weren’t for me.” She laughed softly. “They were for someone named Rhonda from Tyler with a plea for forgiveness.”
“Are you kidding? Damn. I’m sorry, babe.”
“It’s okay. Just a mix up.”
“Wonder what he did,” Matt said.
“I know. Me too. And since I have the flowers—”
“Right. I was just about to call the florist.”
They finished their call and she spun around, trying to remember what she’d been on her way to do…laundry room. She opened the dryer and pulled out the lacy, red little number she’d bought last week. She couldn’t wait to see Matt’s face when she came out of the bathroom. Maybe she’d do a little dance, a little striptease.
She pulled the silky one piece up—only it wasn’t smooth and silky anymore. It was wrinkled and scrunched up and… very, very small. Like Mary size small.
She wanted to cry, but her phone rang, not giving her a chance.
The school again. Gracie had thrown up.
This was a bigger problem than cupcakes.
IT WAS almost nine-thirty before Matt got Abby in a room alone. He closed the door then watched Abby fall back on their bed with a sigh.
He stared at his beautiful wife for a minute and let out a deep sigh of his own. “Not exactly what I had in mind for our first Valentine’s Day.”
Abby laughed. “No. Me either.”
Matt crawled onto the bed and laid down beside her.
“I was going to seduce you in this new lingerie.”
Matt rested his hand on her belly. “Don’t let a few vomiting kids stop you.”
She turned her face to him and smiled but there were tears in her eyes. “It’s ruined.”
“Hey, it’s not ruined.” He kissed her lips. “As long as I’m with you—”
“No, the lingerie is ruined. I wanted to wash it first but then I put it in the dryer and…it’d barely fit the cat now.”
“Hmm.” His fingers found the edge of her sweater and slipped under to caress bare skin. “I don’t think Mr. Whiskers would appreciate that. Although you never know. He does have some unusual tendencies,” he added about the stray tabby that had come to visit and stayed.
Abby rolled to her side and threw her leg over his hip, bringing them closer. “Can you believe it was just over twelve hours ago we were laying here with our day perfectly planned?”
“Yeah, if this had been a mission, it would have been called a cluster fuck.” But, his palm spread over her bottom and he pulled her solidly against his growing erection. “I was pretty good at moving the team to plan B.”
“Really?” Abby pressed her center against his growing erection, making him groan. “And what’s our plan B?”
“It definitely involves getting you out of this sweater.” And he made quick work of that goal.
He rolled her to her back and laid a string of open mouth kisses between her breasts. He slid one cup of her plain white bra aside. “You know that lingerie would have come off anyway. This is what I want.” He took her nipple between his lips. “Right here.”
When she was gasping and pulling at his hair, he moved to take her mouth.
The kiss was soft at first, a slow exploration of tongues and gentle caressing hands. But as always, it quickly turned to possessive and desperate. He kissed her neck, her shoulders, her mouth, until she was quivering under him.
Abby fought his shirt over his head and he sighed at the feel of her hands on his skin. Her fingers digging into his shoulders as his tongue stroked hers and rocked against her core. It was the sweetest torture, making love to his wife.
He left her just long enough to get rid of the rest of his clothes, then hers. She raised her arms, silently calling him back, but he took his time, dragging his lips up her stomach, molding his hands around her breasts.
He slept beside her every night, and still her scent, her taste, made his heart race. It was a physical need for her, but also an emotional one. To touch her, to feel the love in her kiss and know it was also in her heart.
She spread her thighs wide and he slid through her hot, wet folds. And when she wrapped her legs around his hips, he pushed deep inside with one long thrust. Abby gasped and moaned her pleasure, tightening the hold she had on him.
He stayed like that a moment, both of them still like they did sometimes, dragging it out. Slowing it down.
His hands moved to cup the sides of her face, their eyes held in a silent exchange of love and need and promises. Abby was the first to move, arching her hips up with a whimper in the back of her throat.
She raised her hips again, he buried his face in her neck, and then began a slow thrust. Together and apart, giving and taking until he heard her gasp, felt her tighten around him. He lifted his head to watch her face as she gave herself over to that moment of ecstasy. And when she drew in a slow, shuddering breath he plunged one more time and followed.
ABBY HELD Matt tightly while their heart rates returned to normal. With one arm wrapped around his wide shoulders, the fingers of her other hand slipped slowly through the hair at his nape. This was her favorite time—okay, second favorite—when Matt was still inside her, her core still pulsing with small tremors.
He wouldn’t stay there too long, always afraid he too heavy for her. And so, after another minute passed, he rolled and shifted until she had one leg slung over his and her cheek rested just over his heart.
“Damn,” he muttered and the sound vibrated through his chest.
“I didn’t even give you your card. And was on my way to get you your flowers when you called me about Jack.”
She smiled and kissed his chest. “I forgot to give you yours, too. What did my card say?”
“It wasn’t nearly as wordy as Tyler’s.”
Abby laughed. “I should hope not.”
“It said, I love you. And thank you for being my Valentine.”
Abby raised up so she could look down into his face, then caught his face in her hand. He hand came up to cup her cheek as well and her heart swelled. “I love you, too. And this has been the very best Valentine’s Day I’ve ever had.”
Matt looked at her a long time, and just when she thought he might laugh, his expression turned serious. “You know, I can actually believe that.”
“Yes. Because it’s my very best one, too. And…” He reached over to the bedside table and rolled back with something dangling from his fingers. “I do have a little something for my Valentine.”
Her breath caught at the beauty and the sweetness. On a delicate silver chain hung a tiny diamond studded heart shaped cut out dangling loosely over a bar of iridescent pearl. It was small, simple, elegant. Something she could wear always, never taking it off.
She swallowed against the thickness in her throat. “It’s beautiful.”
“So are you. Happy Valentine’s Day, baby.”
“Happy Valentine’s Day.”
About the Author
Claudia Connor is an award winning New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Contemporary Romance, including the beloved McKinney Brothers series. Claudia writes, warm, heartfelt romances with a bit of steam, a lot of family and always a happily ever after. Claudia attended Auburn University, where she received her undergraduate and masters degrees in early childhood education, and completed her studies in Sawbridgeworth, England. When she’s not writing, she enjoys movies, reading, and travel, with a heavy dose of daydreaming during all three. Claudia lives near Memphis, Tennessee, with her husband and three daughters.
You can find out more about Claudia’s books at http://claudiaconnor.com. News on upcoming releases, promotional sales, fan club swag, and chances for advanced reader copies can be found in her monthly Newsletter.