Noah (7 Brides for 7 Soldiers Book 6)

By: Cristin Harber

PROLOGUE



February, Washington, DC



The sun cracked through the open slats of Noah Coleman’s blinds in the bedroom of his sparsely furnished Eastern market apartment. His Navy SEAL team had landed in Baltimore a little after one o’clock in the morning, and with the time change and travel, coupled with the exhaustion of the intense job, he crashed face-first into his pillow.

But it wasn’t the sun keeping him awake. His roommate, FBI Special Agent Kenneth Murphy, banged on the wall. “Kenny, go away.”

The noise didn’t stop. Maybe Kenny was banging again, from what Noah’s foggy and exhausted mind could tell.

“Stop,” Noah muttered and turned over with his pillow, burying himself under the cool sheets. Two days without sleeping—Kenny could give him the morning.

“I hate to do this to you” came through the wall. “But you have to wake up.”

Noah rolled onto his back again. He’d gone longer with less sleep. Kenny wouldn’t bother him if it weren’t important. “Hang on.”

He pulled on a pair of sweatpants and grabbed his personal cell phone that had been on its charger since he’d left for the special forces op days ago. The screen awakened as he lumbered out of bed.



Twenty-seven notifications.



More than two notifications were unusual, and a dull sense of dread rolled through Noah as he opened his bedroom door and paced down the hallway, glancing at who had reached out. His folks. Lainey. And now Kenny who had banged on his wall when—Noah glanced at the time—his roommate should have been at work, and now faced him in their apartment. “What’s wrong with my family?”

Kenny’s clean-shaven face didn’t have the answers. “All I know is your father called me.”

Noah looked back at his notifications then scrolled through the text messages, finding generic but strongly worded “call as soon as you get this” requests.

Dad might’ve called Kenny, but it was Noah’s cousin Lainey who would tell Noah the unfiltered truth.

He pulled up her name and pressed Send, holding the ringing phone to his ear. “Voicemail.” He did the time-difference math and figured Lainey was either dropping her daughter off at preschool or walking into work.

“Really?” Kenny asked. “Your dad tracked me down at work then didn’t pick up the phone?”

“I called my cousin first. She’ll tell me what my parents will skirt around.” With that many messages, texts, and a call to Kenny, his family back in Eagle’s Ridge was competing to get to him first—or they wanted to make sure they heard from him between special ops. Either way, that type of call was easier when it wasn’t sugarcoated. “I’ll make a cup of coffee and try Lainey again. If she doesn’t answer after that, then I’ll call my dad.”

Kenny nodded as he tossed his keys into the air. “I’m headed back in. If you need anything, let me know.”

A cup of coffee later, Noah decided to call Lainey at work instead of on her cell phone.

“Eagle’s Ridge Pediatrics,” the receptionist answered from the Coleman Center. “Can I help you?”

“Is Lainey Force in?”

“She is, but she’s with a patient. If you have a question, I can send you to the nurse’s voicemail and someone will get back to you—”

“This is Noah Coleman. I’ll hold.”

“Oh,” the receptionist said, in a way that put him on alert. The hairs at the back of his neck stood on end as she hurried off the phone, and a recording of child health safety tips began to play. By the time he heard the first tip twice, his patience was running low.

“You’re home.” Lainey’s sweet voice interrupted a useless-to-him tip about testing bathwater before putting a baby in it. Heaven help the woman who he had children with. Except, never mind. A family wasn’t in his future. He was a SEAL, through and through. The military was his life. Not that he was wild or didn’t want to settle down, but he wasn’t the type to leave the service.

“What’s wrong?”

“Noah, I’m so sorry.”

Her voice stopped him cold, and tension pulsed at his temples. “For what? What the hell is going on in Eagle’s Ridge?”

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