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Meet Elijah Breeth...

A woman with a harrowing past. The hero who never breaks a promise

 

After the sudden death of her grandmother, Andie Montgomery finally returns home. It’s the last place she wants to be, especially when she discovers her grandmother has left her house not just to Andie–but to a handsome, yet grumpy former Army Ranger.

 

Dealing with him is the last thing she wants to do, but when someone tries to kill her, he risks his life to save hers. 

 

After making a deathbed promise, former Army Ranger Elijah Breeth is pulled into danger alongside the cold, unfeeling woman he swore to protect. 

 

And the only clue they have as to who is after Andie, is a box of letters left beneath her grandmother’s bed.

 

As Elijah digs deeper into Andie’s past, he begins to realize that the dark-haired beauty is more than what she seems…and her secrets might just be enough to bury them both.

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Popular tropes in Searching for Peace

  • Enemies to Lovers

  • Small Town

  • Fake Dating

  • Forced Proximity

  • Protective Hero

  • Loads of Sizzle (but no spice!)

I always knew my past would come back to haunt me...
After all, secrets never stay secret for long in a small town.

Read an Excerpt

Fresh cookies on a platter, coffee freshly brewed, I wait for gran’s lawyer. Normally, I wouldn’t have bothered for something that probably won’t take more than fifteen minutes. But since Gran would serve refreshments to anyone who walked through her door, it seemed an insult to her memory not to do the same.

I haven’t seen the man who she hired as her lawyer since I was seventeen, but I remember him being a kind man.

            With time to spare, I cross over to the back windows and stare out over gran’s garden. I spent over an hour watering everything late last night. Even if I don’t plan on keeping the place, watching everything she grew wither and die is not something I can do.

            Whoever buys the place will be able to decide what they want to do with it, but until then, I’ll be treating it like gran would. And then I will imagine that it is flourishing.

            The doorbell dings, so I run my hands down the front of my black blazer, then cross over and pull it open. My instant recognition leads to a broad smile. “Mrs. McGinley. It is so good to see you again.”

            “You, too, honey,” she says as she pulls me in for a quick hug. I shut the door behind her and lead her into the living room. “I was surprised to get the call from Otto. I told Enid not to put me in her will.”

            “She loved you like a sister,” I tell her.

            “She was basically mine,” Mrs. McGinley says as she sniffles. “I still can’t believe she’s gone.”

            “Same.” My throat tightens with the threat of tears, but I swallow them back down. No crying today. No crying ever.

            “So, how have you been? Enid couldn’t talk about you enough.” She beams up at me. “You have to know she was so proud of you.”

            “I’ve been good. Business is picking up and I’m getting more and more boutiques to carry my designs, so that’s been great.”

            “I’m so glad.” She pats me on the hand. “After everything you’ve been through, it’s nice to see how happy you are.”

            “Happy. I’m definitely happy.” I say, though it’s fairly far from the truth. Am I unhappy? Not really. But the work I’ve been doing hasn’t brought me much of the joy it once did. Honestly, I’ve been contemplating a change. I’m just not sure what I want to do. And with gran gone, I don’t know that I should even make one.

            Aside from her, my work has been the only constant in my life. If I change that now, then there is no part of my life that will ever look the same.

            The doorbell dings again, so I cross over and pull it open, expecting to see Otto. So when it’s not an elderly man, but a dark-haired woman on the other side, I all but freeze in place. Wearing a black hat and a black dress that hugs every single curve, Rebecca Montgomery sniffles from the front porch of my gran’s house, her green eyes red and swollen.

            What does one say to the woman I haven’t seen since she abandoned me at the age of seven? I’ve kept tabs on her, ensuring I know where she is and who she’s married to, but there hasn’t been any contact in well over a decade.

            “Are you planning on moving aside or should I just walk through you?” she demands, glaring at me.

            How can she not recognize her own daughter? Then again, why am I not surprised?

            “Mother,” I say, regaining my ability to think. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

            Her eyes widen in shock. Which, I suppose shouldn’t come as one to me. Even before she’d left me, Rebecca had been more wrapped up in her own life than mine. “Andrea? Look at you!” she exclaims, then pulls me in for a hug.

            I cringe at the mention of my birth name. Her perfume nearly suffocates me so I pull away as quickly as possible.

            “I can’t believe she’s gone,” she sobs, strangled sounds that are more a production than anything. As far as I knew, she and gran hadn’t spoken in years. “How are you handling it? I’m just a mess! An absolute mess!” She pulls away from me.

            “I’m sorry to hear that, come in.”

            She breezes past me without another look. I’m about to close the door when none other than Elijah Breeth pulls up at the curb.

            Of course he would show up.

            Of course he would be here.

            Vultures come in all shapes and sizes after all.

            Even ridiculously handsome, handy, former Army Rangers.

            He steps out of the sedan he parked at the curb and heads up the drive wearing dark jeans and a black jacket, a white t-shirt underneath. I hate that he’s ridiculously attractive. Even more so knowing that, based on the tabs I keep on her, my mother is in between significant others and will likely try to dig her claws into him the second he comes into the room.

            I’ve yet to see a man deny her, so why would Elijah be any different?

            “Andie,” he greets.

            “Mr. Breeth. I hadn’t been expecting you.”

            “I was invited.” He stands on the porch and the tension between us grows. A strong jaw set in frustration, he gives nothing else away. Is he even sad that my gran is gone? Or curious about what she left behind?

            “Come in. Otto should be here any minute.”

            “Here, now!” A man calls out.

            Elijah turns, granting me the sight of the older lawyer rushing down the sidewalk carrying a briefcase. When he sees us, he smiles and slows.

“You’re going to hurt yourself, Otto,” Elijah jokes.

            “I may not be as young as I used to be,” he says, “But I can still take you on in the ring.” He balls up his empty hand into a fist, and lightly taps Elijah’s arm.

            Elijah chuckles. “I’ll take that bet.”

            The easy banter between them makes me nervous. Did Elijah work his way into everyone in gran’s inner circle?

            Otto moves into the room and I step aside so Elijah can come in as well. The moment he enters the space, I note the way he fills it. The man is tall, sure, muscled, absolutely. But it’s more than that.

            It’s the way his gaze travels over the room. The way I know he misses nothing as he heads into the living room and stands in the corner. He stands stiffly, clearly bothered by being here, and the way he focuses in on my gran’s garden out the back windows is the first real show of an emotion other than irritation that I’ve seen from him.

            Shoving thoughts of him aside, I move into the living room. Rebecca is chatting Mrs. McGinley’s ear off about how she’s been living in Rome the past few years, but just discovered her fiancé was cheating on her.

            She tells her how heartbroken she is.

            How he was the one.

            Mrs. McGinley looks about ready to strangle her with the pearls she wears, so I step in front of the group and clear my throat. “Thank you all for coming, I have some cookies and coffee ready if anyone is interested.”

            “I couldn’t possibly,” Rebecca says, her tone breaking. “I haven’t eaten since I heard the news of my dear mother’s passing.”

            “We missed you at the funeral, Rebecca,” Elijah says. His tone speaks to annoyance, but the fact that he calls her by name is personable. It leads me to wonder just how they know each other.

            Rebecca’s gaze narrows on him. “Why are you here? I didn’t realize my mother needed her lap dog even in death.”

            “Easy, easy,” Otto says as he pulls out a manilla envelope.

            I steal a glance at Elijah who is watching Rebecca angrily. Hoenstly, knowing he can’t stand her raises my opinion of him just slightly. Not much, but it’s higher than it was when he first walked through the door.

            “Everyone is here because Edna loved you all very much. She was a kind, generous woman, who often took those under her wing who needed them.”

            Elijah straightens and crosses his arms.

            “Now, if you all are ready, I will begin the reading. Her will was updated just six months ago.”

            “Yes. Yes. Please, let us hear what my mother wanted,” Rebecca says as she dabs her eyes with a handkerchief.

            One stolen look at Elijah rolling his eyes nearly has me smiling. Did I read him wrong?

            “To my best friend. My sister in Christ and in heart, Carmen McGinley, I leave my collection of books. May you find yourself a Scottish Highlander to run off with one day.”

            Mrs. McGinley chokes on a sob and I reach over to grip her shoulder. She pats my hand in return.

            “I leave the belongings in my house to my lovely granddaughter Andie, as well as the contents of my collective accounts. I hope you use the money to continue doing great things, my dearest. And be sure to check under the bed. There’s a wooden box containing letters I would like for you to read. In order, child. No skipping to the end.” Otto meets my gaze. “She made sure I promised to read that part.”

            Tears burn in my throat, but I shove them down. No. Tears.

            “To Elijah, I leave my late husband’s truck, as well as his collection of tools and records. Use them to impress a wife one day, Elijah. You need all the help you can get. There’s no getting by on those looks alone.”

            Otto’s cheeks redden as he reads the letter, and Elijah laughs.

            “Yes, ma’am,” he mutters.

            Another notch for him. Even if I still can’t understand just why my gran came to care for him enough to leave him anything. Could just be my guarded heart, and I admit that.

            “To my daughter, Rebecca, I leave my collection of dinner plates. That way, she may host all the dinners she pleases.”

            Elijah chokes on his coffee.

            I look to Rebecca, a smile playing at the corners of my lips. Gran hated her dinner plates. They broke constantly and chipped too easily. Based on the confused look on my mother’s face, she’s expecting more, so when Otto continues, I’m only half paying attention.

            “As for the house itself, I leave its future up to Elijah Breeth and my granddaughter, Andie Montgomery to decide on together. They will be co-owners until they both decide what to do with it.”

            “I’m sorry, what?” I ask, my head whipping toward Otto so quickly it nearly gives me whiplash. “Can you repeat that?”

            “As for the house itself, I leave its future up to Elijah Breeth and my granddaughter, Andie Montgomery to decide on together. They will be co-owners until they both decide what to do with it,” he repeats.

            I whirl on Elijah. “Did you know about this?”

            “Do I look like I knew about it?” he growls. “Surely you’re mistaking,” he says to Otto.

            “I assure you, I am not. We had a very detailed conversation about it when she asked that it be added into the will. The house belongs to the both of you. So whatever happens to it, must be agreed upon.”

            I don’t even have time to fully process the news before my mother’s temper tantrum starts.

            “She left me dinner plates?” Rebecca snaps as she shoves to her feet. “What else? You’re mistaken. My mother left me money. She knew I needed it and she left it for me.”

            Otto shakes his head. “She did not.”

            “Dinner plates?” she screeches, then whirls on me. I barely have enough time to get to my feet before she’s in my face, fury in her eyes. “You traitorous little brat. I always knew you were going to be a blight! How dare you take what is mine! How dare you!”

            “I didn’t take anything. Gran—”

            “My mother would never have left me nothing! She knew how much I needed help! You stole all of this! Didn’t you? You little—”

            “Rebecca.” Elijah’s stern tone leaves absolutely no room for her to continue. He steps up to my side, so close I can smell his woody aftershave. I hate that the nearness of his body calms me just slightly enough to be noticeable. “Get out of Andie’s face. Now.”

            “Or what?” she sneers. “My mother isn’t here to pat your head so what, you’re moving on to my daughter instead?” She looks to me, gaze murderous. “He’s probably a bit too young for your tastes, isn’t he, darling? And unmarried. I heard you like them attached.” Lifting her hand, she uses her thumb to brush over the inside of her ring finger.

            My cheeks heat and I choke on my words. Pain burns in my chest, bile rising in my throat. How dare she.

            “Your mother left you nothing because she knew what a parasite you are. Something she made very clear eight months ago when you showed up here begging for money,” Elijah replies before I can get my head together.

            Rebecca’s cheeks turn bright red. “You have no right—”

            “To what? Keep you from attacking the only family you have left?” he asks, sliding between us. His muscled back in front of me, I’m momentarily shielded from Rebecca. Which gives me just enough time to get my bearings.

            “She stole from me! You little brat! You are still ruining my life! First you turned your father against me, and now this!”

            The harshness of her tone shoves me back into my adolescent years, a young girl who just wanted her mother to love her. “I didn’t steal anything,” I say softly.

            “Your grandmother was so furious when she found out I was pregnant. Did you know that? I chose to keep you! Even when your father wanted nothing to do with you. And this is how you repay me?”

            Closer to tears than I have been in years, I struggle to keep my composure. "Leave,” I tell my mother. “The will reading is over and you need to get out of my house.”

            She looks from me to Elijah, then back to me again. “It’s not just your house. She didn’t trust you to keep an eye on it alone.”

            “Then get out of our house,” Elijah says. “Or I’ll call the Sherriff and have you forcibly removed.”

            Rebecca mutters something under her breath, then grabs her purse. “Keep the dinner plates. I don’t need her charity.” She marches out the door and slams it behind her.

            Adrenaline spiking, my vision wavers. When was the last time I ate? I start to fall, but a hand on my arm steadies me on my feet.

            “Are you okay?”

            I look up at Elijah, momentarily surprised to see him standing so close. Until I realize it’s his hand on my arm. I rip it away and place a hand on the back of the couch for support. “Fine.” I turn to Otto. “Is that all?”

            “It is. I’m sorry, Andie. I didn’t realize how bitter she would be.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“Honey, are you sure you’re okay? You look pale.” Mrs. McGinley reaches up and gently pushes some hair behind my ear.

The tenderness makes me squirm. “I’m fine.”

“If you need me, call,” Otto says as he reaches into the folder and pulls out a slip of paper with Deed and Title written across the top. There, in black and white, are the names Andie Montgomery and Elijah Breeth.

            Seeing them there makes it all the more real. Why in the world would my grandmother leave her house to the both of us? And what am I going to do about it?

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