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Badge of Confidence

India Lord, Book 4

A Clare Instalove romance featuring a hot military man returning to the small town where he grew up and a curvy single mother. Oh, and a magical Christmas wishing tree that has all the people talking…

I enjoy my single life and army career. And love—bah humbug. My best friends might’ve found love in this small town, but I’m not so easily convinced until I see her—confident, curvy, and charming. My world turns topsy-turvy, and I can’t help thinking that fate has a way of striking right to the heart. Maybe a military life isn’t my sole path.

When a stranger bursts into my house, I’m justifiably concerned, but his quick talking and generosity, plus our mutual friends, curb my initial fears. When he looks at me, there’s heat in his gaze, and he steals my breath. Suddenly I’m thinking about silk sheets and steamy nights, and I’m not alone in that bed. It seems as if Santa has sent me an early Christmas gift, and I intend to savor every moment with Rob until he leaves again and my life returns to post-holiday normal.

Two strangers become intimate, but their opposing goals threaten to blow this fledgling romance asunder. Grab your favorite beverage, sit back, and enjoy small-town instalove in Clare, New Zealand.

Other Books in the India Lord series

Read an Excerpt

I hung out the second laundry load, including the lounge curtains, and eyeballed the bright sun. Hopefully, everything would dry quickly, and my curtains wouldn’t fade. A suspicious amount of color had appeared in the gray water as the machine discharged the last moisture, but they’d badly needed a wash. School holidays were the only time I could catch up on chores since I worked in the office of the primary school Charlie attended. I wiped my brow and brushed a lock of brown hair that had escaped my ponytail off my cheek.

Another tick for my to-do list.

I hustled inside to tackle the next job.

I was in the middle of vacuuming and dragging around furniture when I spotted the white car pulling up in the driveway. Fantastic.

Charlie was home. Perhaps I’d stop work for coffee and a sandwich before I finished cleaning.


“In the lounge,” I called.

Thumps and heavy footsteps pounded in my direction.

“I’m hungry,” Charlie said, her unruly black hair telling me she’d neglected her comb this morning.

“Me too.” I’d decided to start a diet to lose the winter weight that clung to my hips and backside, but my tummy was complaining big-time. “Do you want to ready the bread and sandwich fillings while I finish this room?”

“Okay.” Charlie thumped away to the kitchen.

My daughter had embraced tomboy status as soon as she could toddle, and I’d given up telling her to move with less vigor. That was my Charlie. She threw herself at life and was noisily enthusiastic and unapologetic. So much like her father. My memories of Todd, Charlie’s father, were bittersweet. He would’ve loved his exuberant daughter, but he’d died in a car accident not long after we’d left high school.

He’d passed not knowing I was pregnant.

The vacuuming wouldn’t finish itself, so I restarted and soon had the lounge looking spick and span. I left the vacuum in the spare bedroom and went to eat lunch. Charlie had made cheese and pickle sandwiches. I added salad and sliced tomato and hummed tunelessly to a Christmas carol before I walked outside to sit on the deck and enjoy the sunshine.

Charlie finished her sandwich and rose to get a glass of water. A strange clang followed by a horrified shout made me leap to my feet and tear inside. I arrived to find Charlie standing frozen with the tap in her hand and a geyser of water gushing outward.

“Charlie, give it to me.” The fixture had worked loose before, and I’d solved the problem by screwing it back into place. “Charlie!”

My daughter turned to me with a drama-filled expression, her turned-up nose crinkled and hands planted on her hips. “The bread is wet. I wanted another sandwich.”

“No shit, Sherlock.”


“Yeah, yeah,” I muttered, knowing Charlie would nag me into a swear-jar donation before the day ended. I’d promised her a bike if she cleaned up her language and did her chores without complaint. My daughter wouldn’t let me forget my slip.

I seized the tap and braved the liquid fallout. The geyser struck me in the chest and soaked me to the skin. My attempt to maneuver the fixture back into position told me the thread had worn too much to stay in place. I needed a new one.

“Charlie!” I hollered. “Hold this while I turn off the water.”

My daughter approached with a healthy dose of wariness.

“Hold it here.”

Water hit Charlie in the face when she grasped the tap. She spluttered and uttered a naughty word.

“Charlotte Jenkins,” I said in a prim voice.

My daughter’s brown eyes widened, and she slapped a hand over her mouth. That made the spray fire in all directions, and I laughed as I repositioned the tap and showed Charlie where to hold it to stop the gush. With the water flow halted, I raced from the kitchen to shut off the house water supply. I careened into a hard wall of muscle and fell backward in surprise. A pair of masculine hands shot out to halt my fall, and I stared into chocolate-brown eyes.

“I heard a scream,” he said, sounding uncertain.

I thought back. A strangled yelp had escaped when the cold water struck my chest. I noted my wet T-shirt clung to my braless breasts. When I lifted my gaze, I caught him giving me a swift up and down.
He seemed blindsided and slow in mind.

“I need to turn off the water.” I pushed past the dark-haired man to race outside and shut off the supply before tearing back. The man stood by the sink, holding the tap.

“You’re safe now,” I said. “I’ve contained the aqua monster.”

“Mum!” Charlie gave me attitude—her typical kid reaction to my lame jokes.

I turned to the male, who was staring at me. He wore faded blue jeans and a rumpled button-down cream shirt. He’d rolled the sleeves up to reveal tanned arms and muscles flexing from gripping the tap. And still, he stared with his gorgeous eyes and sexy scruff, making uncertainty jump to the fore. Maybe I had mayo on my cheeks or around my mouth? I self-consciously touched my lips, and my fingers came away clean.

Belatedly, I realized he was a stranger who’d barged into my home. I edged between Charlie and the man. “Who are you? Why are you in my house?”

He blinked those thickly lashed chocolate-brown eyes, and impatience simmered through me. Apart from entering uninvited, he’d done nothing wrong, but he kept up his unnerving staring.

“Do I know you?” I offered another verbal nudge. If he didn’t supply answers soon, I’d call the cops. Since one lived next door, I had him on speed-dial.

The sharp note in my voice must’ve gotten through because his entire body jolted.