The Doctor Prince and the Outsider by Cami Checketts
1ST CHAPTER - MATCHMAKING THE BODYGUARD AND THE PHILANTHROPIST
Petty Officer Manuel Leandro “Wolf” to his fellow SEALs ran along Padre Island, watching for the sun to rise on an already-warm late July morning. His two-week leave to visit his family in Corpus Christi, Texas ended tomorrow. He hated to leave his family at a time like this, but part of him was relieved to escape the nightmare of the past two days and get back to his team, the action, and intense training.
He was worried about his beloved mama, but knew all of his brothers would watch out for her. Part of him wondered if it would be a relief for her to not look at him and be reminded of his scum of a dad. Everybody had always said Wolf was ‘just like his dad’ in looks, charm, and personality.
Not anymore. He loathed his former hero. His gut hurt and his body felt weak. He was grateful Cap wasn’t here to bark at him to up his pace.
Two women jogged toward him. He gave them a cursory glance as they drew closer, more a habit to check friendly or foe from ten years in the Navy than checking them out as potential dates. The last thing he wanted right now was a date. He would do everything in his power to not fulfill his dad’s prophecy of being ‘just like him’.
A blond and brunette were both smiling at him—both beautiful, mid-twenties, average height, fit.
“Hi!” The brunette called out. She had a huge, welcoming smile—friendly, boisterous, probably accrued boyfriends faster than Wolf’s mama could flip pancakes.
The blonde drew his attention like a moth to a flame. The blonde’s smile was sweet but there was a tinge of sass there. Her blue eyes radiated charity, warmth, and welcome.
He couldn’t drag his gaze from her. The oddest sensation washed over him, as if this was no chance meeting and this was no ordinary woman. This was the woman he should’ve been looking for all his life.
He shot that thought down and quick. Crazy thinking like that had no place in his life. He wasn’t looking for a woman. Especially not at this moment.
He’d have to blame his mamacita watching over him from heaven. He could just imagine the tiny Spanish spitfire that he’d adored trying to instill fanciful and romantic thoughts that couldn’t factor into his life right now. He was grateful being a SEAL with one of the most elite units in the world was so demanding of his time and focus.
Mamacita and Mama both believed happily ever after with an angelic sweetheart was still on the horizon for him. Optimistic angels the pair of them. Idealistic, optimistic, and unrealistic. He’d think his mama would realize if he was anything like his dad he should never let down his guard and fall in love.
“Hi,” he managed to get out and then the ladies were past him.
Wolf’s heart was racing out of control, and it had nothing to do with his run. He wanted to whip around, jog with them for a stretch, ask the blond her name, her number, her ring size …
He shook his head and wished Cap or Chaos were here to thump some sense into him or Preach was chomping at the bit to quote him a scripture. Was there anything in the Bible warning a man not to pursue a woman he would never see again? It wouldn’t be fair to her or to him as he was not viable boyfriend material and he was leaving in the morning.
There was plenty in the Bible about adultery and his dad should be preparing to visit purgatory in his mind.
‘You’re just like your dad’.
No. He wasn’t. He would prove it by staying far away from all women. No matter how appealing or kind they seemed.
Dang those blue eyes and that radiant smile. He wanted to bask in the sweetness of her smile and soak up the warmth radiating from her gaze.
He couldn’t be that weak. It was better, or at least wiser, to just hold that sweet face in his memory. He didn’t know her from Eve and he’d probably not be as smitten if he got to know her … or he could become too smitten to walk away.
That could never happen. His SEAL team and their mission was his life and focus. Especially now. His poor Mama bemoaned missing him all the time. If he couldn’t settle down to keep his beloved Mama happy, and especially to stay by her side through the worst trial she’d faced, no way was he settling down for a beautiful woman.
The blonde was miles past appealing—intoxicating, mesmerizing, enthralling, fascinating … Please stop, he begged his mind. Could he blame this on too much time away from his SEAL unit? Cap kept him grounded, Chaos kept him laughing, and Preach kept him uplifted. Being around his family the past two weeks had been a slice of heaven, until he’d found his dad and the church secretary naked in the back of that truck yesterday.
“Hey!” A female voice yelled from behind him. “A little help!”
Wolf whipped around, and he couldn’t possibly hide his grin. The brunette was hanging on to the blonde’s waist and trying to drag her to a stop as the blonde struggled to free herself and keep moving away from him.
“Everything all right?” he asked, striding back toward them and laughing at their tug-of-war. This could turn out to be interesting. Maybe Mamacita was working overtime and really wanted him to meet this girl.
The blonde looked around, froze in her struggle, and her cheeks tinged a becoming pink. “Hattie,” she hissed. “Stop it.”
Hattie, apparently, stopped tugging on her gorgeous friend as Wolf approached. The blonde straightened her shirt, licked her lips, and fluffed her ponytail. She looked embarrassed and irresistible.
They all faced each other and Wolf didn’t know if he should say something. He imagined the brunette would take care of any lead-in for him. The brunette, Hattie, would not only know how to secure her own boyfriends she was a good wingman, or wingwoman. If the blonde was actually interested in him.
“My cousin, Sadie, thinks you are ‘the most beautiful man the good Lord has ever created’,” Hattie said, grinning widely.
Wolf’s brows went up and heat filled him, delicious, tantalizing heat that he didn’t want to tamp down. Sadie. He liked the name—pretty, sweet, and a little sassy. Did it fit the woman?
“‘I’m going to cut your tongue out with a spoon’,” Sadie threatened in a low, husky voice that he could listen to all day.
“‘Why a spoon cousin?’” Hattie asked, playing along and obviously thinking she, and the entire interaction, was hilarious.
“‘It’ll hurt worse’,” his new dream woman said. Yes, her name fit.
“Robin Hood.” Wolf chuckled at their teasing and slight adaptation of the Sheriff of Nottingham’s line. They both smiled, but Sadie still seemed embarrassed her cousin had told him what she’d said about him.
Time to be far more transparent than he should, but what did a little harmless flirtation hurt? He could enjoy flirting for a minute without risk of injury. Or could he? Is that how it had started for his dad? He shoved all thoughts of his dad away.
“I think Sadie is the most beautiful woman the good Lord has ever created so I guess we’re even,” Wolf said to Hattie, not taking his gaze off of Sadie.
Sadie’s smile grew.
“Yes!” Hattie cheered. “I knew it! I saw the look.”
Wolf couldn’t deny he had been looking, and dreaming, but he wasn’t about to admit to it.
“It is very nice to meet you, Sadie and Hattie,” he said, wanting to get Sadie alone and flirt a whole lot more, get to know her, see where she lived and if there was any hope of seeing her after today.
No. The nightmare with his dad cheating was too raw and overshadowing every thought right now.
It all made sense, now, why his dad had been happy two years ago when Wolf hadn’t made it back from a harrowing assignment in time to walk down the aisle. Leaving a woman waiting next to a preacher in a chapel in a white dress in front of all of their friends and family was not good form. To make it even worse, his dad had told him he was ‘just like him’ and could never settle down to just one woman. Not knowing at the time his dad was a pathetic excuse of a man, Wolf had assumed his dad was saying Alecia wasn’t the right one. He’d broken things off with her.
Luckily he was tough, well-trained, and his four brothers had his back. When Alecia’s brothers and cousins attacked him they were going for blood and pain. They might’ve killed him. He’d enjoyed that fight a lot, but the reason for it had been tragic. He knew now he and Alecia wouldn’t have been great together and he didn’t love her, but listening to his dad’s advice all his life had messed with his head. He didn’t want to be in that position with a woman, or hurt someone he cared about that deeply, ever again.
Which is why he needed to get his head on straight. Right now.
Thankfully he was leaving and wouldn’t have a chance to get to know the appealing Sadie, breaking her heart in the end. Less than twenty-four hours and he’d be wheels up on his way to Virginia Beach on a Navy transport. Then who knew where his SEAL unit’s next assignment would be? Far from Texas and beautiful, sweet Sadie, that was a guarantee.
“What’s your name?” Sadie rushed out.
“Wolf.” He extended his hand.
She slid her hand against his. He clasped her much smaller palm in his and at that moment he lost all resolve to stay detached and he also lost some needed brain cells.
Was this what heaven felt like? Warmth and sparkle and happiness and connection. His body leaned toward her without him even consciously realizing it. She was a magnet and he was a helpless piece of metal hurtling toward her. He’d never known he could feel so ecstatic, so dazed by a pure, shining woman, simply holding her hand in his and staring in a trance into her beautiful blue eyes.
He could’ve stood there all day. He forgot about her plus one.
“This is enchanting. I feel like I’m in the middle of the best romcom every produced.” Hattie rubbed her hands together. “Ooh! I’m so happy right now!”
Wolf released Sadie’s hand and stepped back. Severing the connection helped him regain his sanity, but it didn’t eradicate her magnetism. His body was drawn to her and he was filled with an unearthly desire to be close to her. A draw like this had never happened, not even with Alecia who he’d once believed he wanted to marry.
He hated the disappointment that flickered in Sadie’s eyes, hated it as much as every time he hugged his mama goodbye. Disappointment was better than the pain that would be there if he allowed this insane connection to continue to grow. He didn’t think this desire was from heaven and feared it was born of being ‘just like his dad’.
“Wolf is really your name?” Hattie planted her hands on her hips and gave him a challenging look. She would not tolerate him breaking her cousin’s heart. That made two of them.
“Yes, ma’am it is.” He didn’t need them to know his real name. It was personal enough at this point. If he shared the name that only his mama called him, the name he now despised as he shared it with his unfaithful father, that would be a level of trust he couldn’t afford.
“Did your mama not like you?” Hattie demanded to know.
Wolf laughed at that. “The blame for that one does not lie at my mama’s feet.” He studied Sadie, wishing he could tell her his real name. “I have to go,” he admitted. “Nice to meet you both.”
It was harder than not ringing the bell during Hell Week to pull his eyes from Sadie and pivot the other direction.
“Meet us at Coco Beach Restaurant at seven, and bring a friend,” Hattie demanded.
Wolf glanced back. The sun rose at that moment, lighting Sadie’s face like a vision from heaven.
How could he not agree to meet her? More time with her was all he wanted. He couldn’t say that he’d ever craved more time with a woman. Alecia had been a lot of fun, until the relationship became a huge burden. He’d never craved her.
What an intense word, craved. It fit so perfectly as he stared into Sadie’s blue eyes. This woman, the longing to be with her was a physical and emotional wrench. Dang the magnetic pull. He wasn’t sure how to fight against it.
But Wolf knew … momentary pleasures were there and gone, then somebody had to pay the piper. His mama with tears streaming down her face as he held her and told her what he’d seen. He shuddered.
Sadie would be hurt in the long run if he let himself fall for her. Until he figured out how to not be like his dad, he had to stay away from all women. Even this seemingly-perfect one.
“I’ll try,” he managed to get out.
Would he? He stupidly might, if he couldn’t forget the way she looked right now, an angelic, irresistible sweetheart.
“What’s your damage?” Hattie demanded, flipping her long hair and challenging him to a nonverbal battle.
He focused on Sadie. She’d be the one ‘damaged’ if he couldn’t be strong, couldn’t get his dad’s voice out of his head, and make certain he wasn’t walking down his dad’s path.
“Take care,” he said, trying to convey to Sadie with his eyes that any man would be lucky to spend more time with her, have her look at him with longing and light in those gorgeous blue eyes of hers.
Sadly he wasn’t ‘any man’. He had to cut bait and run. A SEAL always fought, never shied away from a hard battle, but if he didn’t run, he’d beg her to spend the next twenty-four hours with him and he feared he’d fall in love. That could not happen.
‘The only easy day was yesterday’ was the SEALs motto. Yesterday had been horrific and flying away from his mama in her time of deep need tomorrow would be almost as bad.
Leaving Sadie felt devastating, and he didn’t even know her.
Wolf had never been such an emotionally-wrecked mess.
Running away was his only option at the moment.
* * *
Find Matchmaking the Bodyguard and the Philanthropist here.