Raid Kristen Ashley

Chapter One

Raiden

I sat in Rachelle’s Café. Today’s seat was facing the door.

I tried to switch it up so he wouldn’t know.

If my back was to the door, maybe one day, if he noticed me, he wouldn’t think I was looking for him, waiting, hoping for a glimpse.

Even though I was.

Raiden.

Raiden Ulysses Miller.

An amazing name for an amazing man.

The bell over the door rang, and having months of practice in not letting my hope and eagerness show, I slowly lifted my eyes to look, my heart skipping a beat.

It wasn’t him.

I brought my coffee cup to my lips and took a sip, hiding my disappointment.

I’d started crushing on Raiden Miller when I was six and he came to Grams’s annual picnic.

He was nine.

He was also beautiful.

Over time, he got more beautiful. He was just one of those boys who started out gorgeous and just got better.

So by the time I got to high school, a freshman to his senior, I was gone for him. He was the most popular boy in school. Tall. So tall. Six foot four. Broad. Muscular. His hair a rich, dark brown, and even back then there were burnished highlights in his hair like he went to Betsy’s Salon.

He didn’t. It was natural and still the same. His sister Rachelle had the same hair. Everyone was jealous.

Even me.

Only of Rachelle.

As for Raiden, I just wanted to touch his hair, see if it was as thick and silky as it looked.

Just one touch and I’d be happy.

After high school, everyone thought it was so cool he went into the Marines. The perfect fit for him. Even as a boy, he was a man’s man. His Dad had taken off and after that everyone knew he’d taken care of his Mom and sister. He kept their yard looking nice, fixed stuff at their house, and even though he played football in the fall and baseball in the spring he got jobs to help make ends meet.

He was a good kid, grew up fast because his Dad was gone, and he easily took on that responsibility which made everyone like him. So the Marines were a natural choice, Raiden deciding to serve our country and doing it by joining the baddest of the badasses, as everyone knew the Marines were. Or maybe this was just me thinking Raiden was the baddest of the baddasses because he stepped up at a young age and looked after his family. But I think most everyone agreed.

What surprised folks was when he got out.

I’d heard people talking.

“Off the grid.” I’d heard Paul Moyer, who owned the feed store, say. He’d gone on, “Suppose it’s not a surprise, what with what went down over there, ole Raid losin’ his buddies like he did. Gettin’ that medal. What he had to do to get it. But still, sad to see a man like him… lost.”

I knew what went down. His squad had been nearly annihilated. They’d lost almost everyone. Word was Raiden had almost singlehandedly saved the few who survived, and not only that, he’d made certain the bodies of his comrades went with them so the enemy couldn’t get them.

I knew this because everybody talked, but also because it was such a big deal. It was all over the papers.

But the minute he could get out after that, he did.

Everyone thought he’d make a career of the Marines.

He didn’t.

Then, six months ago, he came back to Willow.

The first time I saw him, having popped by Rachelle’s to grab a coffee, I’d stopped breathing.

He was no less gorgeous, not after all these years, nearly fifteen of them.