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Embattled Seal

January 7th, 2017
Author: JM Madden    Series: Lost and Found #4

When Harper Preston finds himself flat in a hospital bed after a botched op, he’s okay with dealing with the fallout. If he dies, he’s lived well past his expiration date. The only people that will notice his passing are the guys he works with at Lost and Found Investigative Service.

Then his estranged wife arrives.

Cat Preston is thankful and horrified when she’s called to her husband’s side. He’s been shot. Again. But now that she’s found him she’s going to make the most of the opportunity. If it were up to Harper, she would be out of his life completely because he thinks it’s the best thing for the family.

With a little SEAL abduction (for his own good of course) maybe she can convince him otherwise…

This book may contain explicit intimate scenes, so if you are not 18+ then I probably wouldn’t recommend it for younger readers.
My Review

I will opening admit, I wasn’t excited or really wanting to read Harper’s book as he came off as quiet and unapproachable in the previous books, hardly uttering a peep if needed. But I went ahead as I thought, what the heck, I want to hear every LNF heroes story and get to their happy ending. Surprisingly, he isn’t as cold and stand offish as he appears – that is just a front he puts up for his work. He is a totally different person with his wife Cat.

Cat sat in a rocking recliner, her foot pushing the chair into motion steadily. She looked up when he came down the stairs but didn’t say anything. Harper felt like a royal ass when he saw her tear-stained cheeks and the tissues clutched in her hand. Cat was a strong woman. It took a lot to see her cry. The fact that she was crying now made him feel like the lowest kind of scum. Crossing the room, he knelt down in front of her, stopping the chair. “I’m sorry I didn’t respond to you. I’m kind of in shock. When I fell in love with you I just always thought it was forever. Even though my lifestyle didn’t create stability, you did, Cat. You were always my stability. Walking away was the hardest thing I ever had to do. But I did it in the hopes that I could make myself better. It’s not like a damned driving test where if I mark a wrong answer I get to take the test over again. I’m a trained killer. If I had screwed up in our house you or the kids were going to pay for it, possibly with your lives. I couldn’t chance that.” Fresh tears rolled down her face and her expression crumpled. “I know. I knew that was why you left. Or at least that was what I had hoped. But it’s been eighteen damn months—a year and a half—with you not letting us have any contact. If you had talked to us, or wrote…just something to let us know that we weren’t all alone.” Cat sobbed and it broke his heart. Pulling her into his arms then down onto his lap, he held her as she let all her emotions out. Tears choked his own throat as he cradled her to him. “If I had called I would not have been able to stay away.” And that was the gist of his angst. God, yes, he wanted to be with them, but he was willing to give up his own happiness if it kept them safe. Cat’s arms wrapped around his neck and she looked up at him. “I have always had more faith in you than you have yourself. Always.” Nuzzling his face into her damp hair, he nodded. “I know that. Without a doubt. And whether you were with me or not your faith kept me going.” Relaxing into his hold, Cat’s tears began to slow. “I love you, Cat.” Her arms tightened around his neck till he thought something was going to pop. “I love you too, damn it.”
God, he missed her. Missed her steady calm-headedness in the face of all his drama. She never batted an eye at anything he did, but she would smile gently and make some remark that would center him. She understood his craziness and never got rattled.

His family isn’t mentioned much or none at all in the previous books due to him being estranged from them for almost 2 years – he left thinking they were better off without him as he was having trouble coping and adjusting from being back home from fighting.

“He said to tell you you looked beautiful today.” Cat looked down at the table, sudden tears blurring her vision. When they’d been living together like a real family he had told her all the time that he loved her. And every day, without fail, he told her how beautiful she was. She could be scrubbing toilets or landscaping, anything, and he would walk up to her, cup her face in his huge hands and tell her how beautiful she was. As the wife of a Navy SEAL she’d gotten used to the long absences and doing things for herself. But when Harper came home he’d made the most of every day, telling her everything she’d missed hearing while he was gone. Was this some kind of subtle message that he wanted to be with her again? Or was she looking for rainbows on a rainy day?
“What happened?” Harper swallowed, unsure what to tell his daughter. What had Cat told her? “I was shot a couple of weeks ago.” Her eyes flashed to his as if to see if he were telling the truth. “Seriously?” He nodded. “But I’m okay. No big deal,” he assured her. She shook her head, stepping closer. Her hand lifted as if she wanted to touch the wound but she stopped. “Does it still hurt?” “Not much. I’m kind of used to it.” Crossing her arms, she looked up at him, considering. “Mom told me you had been hurt but she didn’t say how or why. I thought she was lying to me again.” Harper winced. “She wasn’t lying. I was shot in the chest and I was hit by glass when my scope was hit. I lost the vision in my right eye.” He rubbed at the scars on his face a little self-consciously. She blinked. “Isn’t that your shooting eye?” Harper looked at her, considering. Damn, she was sharp. “Yes, it is. I’m going to have to teach myself to shoot again. I don’t really shoot much at work, but it’s a skill I need to keep.” Dillon shook her head again, her expression forlorn. “Where do you work now? Mom didn’t know. And we haven’t heard from you in so long. It was like you disappeared off the earth. And now you’re hurt.” Tears filled her eyes again and one slipped down her cheek. She swiped it away angrily, but more began to follow. “Oh, honey.” Harper dared to take a step toward her, heartened when she didn’t bolt. “I’m okay. I really am. And I’m sorry I haven’t talked to you. Believe it or not I’ve missed you too—I just didn’t feel like I could be at home with you for a while. Not because of anything you did, but because of things that were going on in my head. I had to get them straightened out so that I could be with you guys.” Dillon didn’t look like she believed him, but at least she was listening. “I swear to you I wanted to come home, but I couldn’t risk you guys. In my old job with the SEALs I had to go to war in bad places.” “Afghanistan?” He stopped, surprised. But then, why was he surprised? Dillon was damn smart. “Yes. I was there for a good while. And a bunch of other places. And when you get used to doing something, like fighting in a war, it’s hard to change when you come home. I had problems getting used to not fighting. Do you understand?” She nodded, arms still wrapped around herself. “So rather than run the chance of maybe waking up one night and hurting you guys I moved out. It wasn’t because your mom and I had problems, it wasn’t because I didn’t love you and it definitely wasn’t because of anything you kids did. It was just me. Fighting myself in my head. And I worried that if I talked to you guys I wouldn’t be able to stay away.” Tears were still dripping down her cheeks. Harper dared to reach out and tuck a mussed strand of her dark hair behind her ear. “But I promise you I won’t leave you again. Not like this. And I promise I will always talk to you. Okay?” She nodded and took a step forward, as if seeking reassurance. Harper opened his arms for a hug and she folded into him, sobbing. “Oh, baby girl, I love you so much. I’m sorry I hurt you but I really did think it would be better if I just disappeared.” He ran his hands down her long hair and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. “Do you think you can forgive me? I really miss talking to you.” She nodded her head against him and wrapped her arms around him to squeeze, then pulled back with a gasp. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?” Harper smiled. “Nope. Not enough to notice.” He pulled her back for another hug and another kiss on top of her head. “Wanna grab some breakfast?” Dillon nodded and they headed to the kitchen, his arm around her shoulders.

In the end of Chad and Lora’s story, Harper was badly injured, which results in reuniting Harper with Cat as he heals from his wounds in the hospital. Cat hopes this is their chance to mend everything and they can be a family again. Once he is on the mend, Harper is reunited with his children – Dillon and Tate. Tate greets his Dad like he never left, but Dillon is anything but warm towards him as she is mad and hurt for him leaving, which I totally felt and seen that coming. Eventually Dillon warms up to Harper after seeing the bullet wound on his chest – she thought Cat was lying about what happened – which makes her cry and realize everything she has been told about him being away was true. I loved seeing Harper interact with his children as to others he is this big intimidating former sniper for the Navy Seals, but to his children, he is just dad – a loving and protective force in their lives, which he was the same way with Cat.

Tate saw him first and bolted toward him, Iron Man backpack falling from his fingers to the concourse floor, gap-toothed grin wide. Harper leaned down and caught his son as he slammed into him, lifting him into his arms. Then Tate’s strong little arms were unyielding in their strength as they wrapped around his neck. Harper absorbed the unbridled joy and returned it tenfold. “You’ve grown so much,” he whispered, amazed at what a man his child was turning into. Both kids were beautiful. Tate looked a little wild after sleeping on the plane. Dark hair stood on end and his fair skin was flushed, but his burnished golden eyes, the same as his mother, shone with happiness. Dillon had the dark hair but had inherited his own gray eyes. And right now they were as cold and unyielding as he knew his own could be. The girl stood cradled in her mother’s arms. There were tears in her wounded eyes but she refused to let them fall. Still carrying Tate Harper walked forward, one hand held out. But Dillon turned her face into Cat’s chest. He tried not to be hurt at the rebuff, but he was. And she had every right to treat him that way. Time after time he had let her down. Hell, if he boiled everything down he’d basically been a sperm donor. Other people had been there to welcome her into the world, cheer her on for all her milestones. As he thought about everything he had missed nausea turned his stomach.
“I love you, Harper.” His hands reached up but he only cupped her hips, letting her continue on her journey. She pressed a kiss to the scar across his right deltoid, an old injury from one of his first deployments, then his left collarbone, broken on a training trip to California. Then, moving carefully, she pressed kisses to the new scar still healing on his chest. That one had been too close to taking his life. Thank goodness he had been able to receive medical care as quickly as he did. Cat moved down Harper’s muscled abs and the slim line of black hair there. “I think everything about you is beautiful.” He puffed out a little laugh but she looked up at him with reproach. “I do. Your body is superb, even wounded. It always has been. That’s why I always have to beat the nurses off you.” She flashed him a grin. “Your mind is devious and brilliant, but I love that. The loyalty to your family and your men is humbling.” She stroked a finger over the tattoo that echoed those sentiments on his right pectoral. “Your unfailing courage in the face of everything that has happened is astounding. I know whatever we have to face you will conquer with that same indomitable, dogged, Navy SEAL will. And your heart,” she moved back up his chest to press a kiss to his sternum, “your heart is more loving and willing to try than I ever could have hoped. We’re going to put our family back together,” she promised. Harper stared up at her for several long seconds before he closed his eyes, but not before she’d seen the shine of moisture in their depths. He pulled her down on top of him, burying his face into her neck. “You are every bit the woman you’ve always been, calm and understanding, willing to put up with my shit. And I have to tell you. All of those things you see in me? I wouldn’t be any of them without you. And I mean that. You’ve supported me through everything. You flew across the country to be at my bedside even though you didn’t know the kind of reaction you’d receive. It amazes me that you would take that chance. But I’m so glad you did. I love you, Catherine Marie Preston. I always have.” She flashed a smile at the use of her full name. “And I love you, Harper Broderick Preston. I always will.”

I’m glad that JM really fleshed Harper out and made you see that there was more to him than the quiet, intimidating, stand offish sniper that he seemed to be in the other books. His story turned out much better than I thought it would, which I am glad I gave it and his character a chance.

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