Six years after trading in his combat gear for hospital scrubs, Luke Rafferty still hasn't found what he's been searching for: a normal life. At his job, Luke is faced with things just as heartbreaking as those on the battlefield, none more so than the abused children brought in by a pretty red-headed social worker.
For Devon Manning, being a social worker is a rewarding job, but also a constant reminder of her own troubled youth. Devon takes everything one day at a time—unable to form a relationship with anyone except the children she rescues.
A DESIRE TO HEAL… When Luke meets Devon, he thinks he might have found what he's been looking for, but in order to get the life he wants, Luke has to break through Devon's emotional barriers and make her realize that his healing touch might be just the complication her life needs…
Luke just shrugged. "Hey, you ought to hear some of the foreign-body stories I could tell you. And being in a college town? It's even worse."
Her brow creased. Leery, she repeated, "Foreign bodies?"
He grinned. "You probably don't want to know. People can do very, very bizarre things—and they don't even have the excuse of being a kid."
Now that, Devon understood. She'd had to go to many a home to speak with parents when their kids got hurt doing the normal kid thing. Kids did get hurt, and sometimes, kids hurt themselves in a purely innocent manner, but so often it made neighbors or teachers concerned. As unpleasant as it was, and as much as parents hated it, Devon would rather make those visits than visit the hospital because nobody reported the abuse.
That sobering thought had the smile on her face dying. A hand touched her lightly on the shoulder, a quick, innocuous touch. She looked at Luke to find him studying her. "Where did you go?"
Devon shrugged. "Just thinking. Kids—it's amazing what they can do. One minute they have you laughing, then you're ready to pull your hair out and scream, and then you just want to cry."
"I think you could use a few more of the laughing minutes."
He lifted his hand, and Devon watched, mesmerized, as he caught a flyaway curl. Her hair was a thick, nearly unmanageable mass of curls. Usually she had it gelled and pulled back into some kind of submission, but at the end of the day the first thing she did was let it out of the twists, clips, and knots she used during the day. Loose, it hung halfway down her back. When it was wet, she could sit on it.
"I don't suppose you'd take your hair down, would you?" Luke asked, a little out of the blue.
She blinked, tipped back her head to see his face a little better. "Take it down?"
"Yeah." He continued to rub the curl back and forth between his fi ngers as he lifted his gaze to hers. His eyes were heavy- lidded, giving him a sleepy, sexy look that had her wanting to lean in and kiss him.