Silent Love (The Love Series - Book 1)
By Casey Clipper
Former Navy SEAL Sean Millen has been perfectly fine with his bachelorhood until recently, when he realizes he's unhappy with his single status. Unfortunately, his playboy reputation doesn't offer him the type of woman that could fulfill his days and nights as well as settle into the specific life he envisions.
Four years ago, Beth Connors' world was entirely altered. Beth spends her days trying to remain invisible in order to avoid unwanted attention. Each night she sheds grief-filled tears over the former life she once led but will never be able to regain.
When Beth literally runs into HIM. Doctor Sean Millen. A force of nature. A rock. A reputable heartbreaker, who takes an immediate interest in her, there's no place for her to hide. But Beth's natural instinct to push Sean away to save herself and him from the difficult task of adjusting their lives to her shortcomings is always front and center. Yet, Beth secretly longs for love. Is she strong enough to tear down the walls of her self-imposed prison?
Sean finds himself falling for a woman who is determined to reject his every advance and deny their surprisingly deep connection. Can Sean push past Beth's concrete walls that she refuses to destroy? Or will Beth's shocking revelation of her past prevent them from finding the love they both deserve? Or will a tragic accident pull Sean and Beth apart permanently?
Hanging his head back, Sean finally felt exhaustion creep in. His limbs and eyelids grew heavy. Would he even be able to drive himself home? A knock on the door interrupted him about to lose consciousness.
"Hey, brother, need a ride?" Ryan asked. Once again, his brother used his stealthy, ingrained SEAL skills to gain access to the part of the hospital he wasn’t cleared to enter. Sean admired his brother’s lack of ability to follow set rules. He casually leaned against the doorframe and crossed his beefy arms over his chest. Ryan’s normally sharp blue eyes looked just as tired as his.
"Yeah, I don't think I can drive," he answered.
"You gonna get dressed?" Ryan asked and raised a brow.
Sean snorted. "Don't know if I can."
Ryan laughed and jerked his head. "Come on, let's get you out of here."
Slowly Sean stood, his bones creaking and cracking. His body was no longer able to pull these long shifts without paying a hard price. Edging closer to age forty, maybe he needed to consider Courtney's offer.
"Talked to Court," Sean said while he followed his brother.
"Yeah? How is she?" Ryan asked.
"Good, I guess. I didn't ask. She was supposed to come over, but she understood I'm too tired. She had Mary cook for us, though, and left the food in the fridge," he said.
"Thank god. I love Mary's cooking. I don't think I could handle take-out again tonight," Ryan moaned.
"I know," he said. They went into the locker room, and Sean slowly slid into his sweats and tee shirt. "Court offered me up money again to open my own clinic."
"You should take it," Ryan said, seated on the bench, packing his brother's gym bag.
"I don't want to owe Derrick Murphy money," he groaned.
"Derrick wouldn't do that to you or his wife," Ryan countered.
"I know," Ryan answered confidently. "Court would have him by the balls if she ever found out he treated either one of us like a client. Not only that, he feels he's indebted to us," Ryan pointed out.
"True, but I don't want to seem as if I'm collecting on that," he said.
His brother shook his head. "He won't see it any other way, but he will treat us with respect and more than likely give you the money."
“I don’t want a gift,” he said.
Ryan shrugged. “You might not have a say. Derrick’s pretty damn in control of what he wants and when he wants it. No isn’t in his vocabulary. Well, except for Court,” he snickered.
Sean smirked. “True. I don’t know how she deals with that man.”
“She’s lucky to have him,” Ryan noted.
Sean pulled on his fleece, picked up his bag, and both men leisurely left the locker room. They took the elevator to the ground floor and headed towards the VA Hospital employee parking garage. Sean stepped through the double doors that led to the garage and was hit in the chest by a ball of coal black hair and thin limbs in a navy business suit. Before he could reach out and grasp her, she flew back and landed hard on her ass. Papers from folders skimmed across the concrete floor. She landed so damn hard Sean and Ryan winced.
“Good lord,” Ryan said from behind him.
Sean reached down to help the poor girl up. “Are you all right?”
That’s when he was struck by lightning. A set of ocean blue eyes looked up at him, frazzled and confused. Lined with black lashes, they hit him straight in the gut.
“Jesus,” Ryan whispered.
With his hand outstretched, Sean stood struck stupid, unable to find his voice.
Flawless, milky skin contrasted dramatically with her inky hair. Like a porcelain doll.
She reached up and placed her dainty hand into his. Engulfing her palm, he helped her off the ground. Ryan dutifully chased dancing papers around the garage.
“Sorry.” Her voice was soft and delicate. If he hadn’t been paying attention, he might not have heard her.
Pulling free of his grasp, her natural warmth left him. An odd feeling of loss briefly washed over him. He watched her brush off her hands and her backside, then pull her jacket into place. Cinched at the waist, that suit highlighted her hourglass figure. It didn’t matter how exhausted he was, his body stirred at the sight.
Ryan approached with a stack of skewed papers. “Sorry, they’re probably out of order.”
“Thank you,” she said, again her voice barely audible.
“You’re welcome,” Ryan said, handing her the papers. “Ryan Millen.”
Sean couldn’t miss how she zeroed in on his brother’s lips. She blushed. “Beth Connors.”
“The guy next to me who’s lost his voice is my brother, Sean,” his dumbass brother said.
Finally Sean shook off his momentary stupidity and rolled his eyes. He stuck out his hand. “Sean Millen. Sorry to meet you like this, Beth.”
She turned his direction and zeroed in on his mouth. Her tiny, pink tongue darted out and wet her full lips. Sean could have sworn his dick punched through his sweats. How fucking embarrassing.
Once again, her soft hand ended up in his, but this time her grasp was firm as she finally looked him in the eyes.
“Hello,” she said softly. “I better get inside. I’m already fifteen minutes late.”
“Nice to meet you, Beth,” he said. “Maybe we’ll see each other again around the hospital.”
Seated at her desk, Beth pulled up the notes on the patient whose bill was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Medicare was auditing the chart, and she had to make certain all the i's were dotted and t's were crossed before the paperwork left the office. About to plunge into the work, a large figure loomed behind her. She'd seen his shadow step into the background of her dark computer screen.
Heart fluttering with nervous excitement, he returned despite her objections.
A gentle hand landed on her shoulder. Spinning in her chair, Sean stood behind her with a giant grin donning those devastatingly handsome features. Gawd, he should be a model for SEALs 'R Us.
"Hi," he said.
"Lunch today?" he asked.
She nodded. There was no way she could turn him down. After he left her house last night, all she did was think of him late into the early morning hours. Thoughts of a potential future toyed with her. There'd been a time in her life when she defined herself by the man who held her heart. That changed a long time ago when she'd needed the support of her boyfriend the most, but he checked out. Disappeared. He'd left her at her most dire time.
"Good," he said. Reaching into his lab coat pocket, he pulled out a small white box tied with white string. "This is for after lunch." He leaned down and kissed the top of her head. "I'll come and get you at noon." He sauntered off before she could argue she'd rather eat lunch a half an hour earlier.
After she'd watched him until he was out of sight, she spun back to her work but eyed the small box. She'd never been a patient girl when it came to gifts. Many Christmases her parents spent coming up with new hiding places for her presents.
Beth pulled her scissors out of the desk drawer and snipped off the string. She unfolded the lid and gasped. A tiny chocolate cake with fudge icing sat picture perfect inside the white box. Tears formed in her eyes. That simple pastry was the most thoughtful gift she'd ever received from a man.
Sean followed Beth to her parents' front door. This meeting could make or break their relationship. They'd been dating for close to two months and things were terrific. Well, maybe an occasional hiccup here and there when Beth got into her own head, but he dealt with those moments, then they moved forward. But a few days ago, before this planned dinner, Beth went home to talk to her parents. When she returned to his house three hours later, she remained unusually quiet and refused to discuss what happened between her and her parents. That had him worried for days. Now, here he was, feeling like he was walking into the lion's den.
Beth opened the front door and stepped inside. "Mom. Dad," she called out.
An older version of Beth rounded the corner towards the back of the house. Good lord, if that was how Beth would look in thirty years, with any luck, Sean would still have her on his arm, he was a damn lucky man. Mrs. Connor was a knockout. Though she stood a couple inches taller than Beth, they could pass for sisters.
"Hi, honey," Mrs. Connors said. Her eyes scanned Sean, but she approached her only child and embraced her with a secure hold. When she pulled back, Beth's mom looked her up and down. "You look fantastic. You glow."
Naturally Beth flushed bright red. Sean wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her into his body for security. She melted into him, and Mrs. Connors perceptive eyes didn't miss their interaction.
"Mom," Beth said softly. "This is Sean Millen. Sean, this is my mother, Jill Connors."
"Mrs. Connors, it's nice to meet you," Sean said respectfully.
"Thank you, Sean. It's wonderful to meet you. Elizabeth has told me loads about you." She smiled lovingly at her daughter. Those matching ocean blue eyes of Beth's glittered with some sort of emotion he wasn't able to decipher. "Please, come inside and meet Mr. Connors."
They followed Jill down the hallway a few steps then took a left into a large living room. As they entered the room, Mr. Connors stood from a recliner in the far corner of the room.
Mr. Connors was an older version of himself. Well, except add twenty pounds, four more inches in height, and two more inches in biceps, thighs, and chest. Clearly the man maintained his work out religiously, noticeable from all the bulging muscles that flexed as the man moved. A military haircut made his distinct features all the more intimidating. The man looked as young as his wife and was just as good looking. Sean would bet money in the man's early days he had his fair share of women. His laser glare focused straight in on him. Shit.
"Daddy," Beth said softly as she approached him.
Mr. Connors reluctantly tore his glare from Sean and focused on his daughter. As soon as his dark blue, piercing eyes met his daughter's ocean blues, the man visibly melted. His features lightened, and he actually smiled.
"Sweetheart," he said, leaned down and kissed her forehead.
"Daddy, I want to introduce you to Sean Millen. Sean, this is my dad, Michael Connors," she said.
Mike wrapped a possessive left arm around his daughter, tucked her into the crook of his body, and stuck out his right hand. "Mr. Millen."
"Mr. Connors," Sean said respectfully.
"My daughter tells me you were in the Navy," Mr. Connors tested.
"I was, sir," he answered. The air in the room was stiff and tense. Mrs. Connors stood in the background watching the scene looking as if she was ready to jump in to interject. Beth gnawed on her bottom lip, her eyes darting between her father and her boyfriend.
"She tells me you and your brother were SEALs."
"That's right," he answered.
Mr. Connors titled his head and studied Sean, sizing him up. "You both went in together?"
"Yes." For some reason, Sean didn't feel too chatty about his life. He didn't like the feel of the room or the interrogation. He was too damn old to put up with this shit. He wasn't an eighteen year old kid about to take a daughter to the prom. For fuck's sake, he was going to be forty in less than two years.
"Why?" Mike barked.
Sean narrowed his eyes.
Immediately Mr. Connors shoved his daughter out from under his arm and got into Sean's face. "You think you're a badass? You think you can come into my house and get our blessing for dating my daughter who's more than ten years younger than you? You need to find someone your own age, SEAL."
He spat SEAL like it was a curse.
"Daddy!" Beth cried.
"Michael!" Jill scolded.
Sean refused to back down. "What is this, some sort of test to see if I'll walk away? Not. Going. To. Happen. I love your daughter. I respect her and admire her. I spend my days worrying about her and my nights holding her close." He took a step closer. "As for my tour in the Navy, I went so I could get a medical doctorate. My parents couldn't afford the schooling. My brother refused to allow me to go in alone. We've always been close, and we couldn't imagine leaving each other for that many years. It was the best decision both of us made."
"Michael," Jill said again. "Look at your daughter."
Mr. Connors' head snapped to his baby girl, whose face was red and tear streaked while her mother held her.
"Beth," Mike breathed. "I'm sorry, honey."
"Beth," Sean said softly.
She left her mother's arms and went straight to...Sean's and buried her head into his chest. He wrapped her up securely, kissed her head, and ran a soothing hand down her soft tresses. After a minute, he lifted her face to look him in the eyes. "It's all right, sweetheart," he assured her. "It'll be fine. We're just feeling each other out, baby. It's what we nasty military men do. We protect the women we love. You're father has probably done that your entire life, right?"
A sniffle and a nod was the only response he received.
"Elizabeth," Mr. Connors said with bite. Clearly he didn't like his daughter choosing her boyfriend over him.
Sean nodded to her father for her to focus on him. She looked her dad's direction but remained tight against Sean.
"You're my only daughter. My baby girl. No man, including this one standing in my living room, who just admitted you're sleeping with, is good enough for you. No one ever will be. I need to make certain he's in this for the right reasons," Mr. Connors insisted. He crossed his large arms over his broad chest. "Got a problem with that, young lady?"
"Dad," she protested.
"Do you?" he barked.
"Yes." Her head went up and her chin out.
Mike's eyes shined with adoration and respect. His mouth quirked up.
"Okay, enough testosterone before dinner," Jill interrupted and put an end to the palpable tension. "Dinner is ready. Everyone to the dining room."
She bustled out of the room with the group dutifully following her.
Beth remained in Sean's arms while they went to the dining room. Well, wouldn't that be a story to tell their grandchildren some day.
About the Author
Bestselling Contemporary Romance Author Casey Clipper lives in Pittsburgh, PA. She's an admitted sports fanatic and chocolate lover (though that could be classified more as an addiction). An avid romance reader, she loves to lose herself in a good book. Casey is a member of the Romance Writers of America, Contemporary Romance Writers, Pennwriters, the Authors Guild, TRRW, ASMSG, and IAN.
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