They meet on a beach. . . . Abby Davis isn’t wearing a skimpy bikini or sipping umbrella drinks, not when she’s busy chasing around four little ones. And Matt McKinney isn’t looking for fun—he’s a Navy SEAL, a grown man with a long list of missions . . . and fallen brothers.
They only have a week. . . . Abby has brought her children to this beach to start over, to give them the enjoyable memories they deserve. Matt’s been sidelined by a combat injury, and haunted by the best friend he lost and the promise he made: to remain a SEAL—focused and dedicated. This leaves no time for what he’s always wanted: a family.
But a week is all it takes. . . . Matt opens her heart while Abby soothes his soul. And though they plan to say good-bye when the week is over, something magical happens on that beach, something neither can forget. Something utterly, completely worth falling for.
Praise for Worth the Fall
“I can’t remember the last book that had me crying for hours. I loved this hero and heroine and adored the kids. I didn’t want it to end.”—New York Times bestselling author Carly Phillips
“Worth the Fall is a beautiful, compassionate romance that hits you straight in the heart and will have you falling in love with this family.”—Smexy Books
“This debut mixes passion and compassion in a contemporary story that has emotional depth. Readers will find the story heartwarming but with enough heat to remind them of what falling in love feels like.”—Library Journal
“A brand-new author I think you’re really gonna like.”—New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins
“I can’t get enough of Claudia Connor’s heartwarming stories. Sexy, emotional, complex, dreamy—her characters satisfy on every level.”—New York Times bestselling author Virna DePaul
“Worth the Fall is one of the most touching, heartfelt stories I have read in years. The characters are wonderful, from the Navy SEAL hero to the broken little heroine with her ready-made family just waiting for someone to come love them. I will recommend this book to everyone. It is nothing short of magic.”—New York Times bestselling author Sharon Sala
“I loved this book. A lot.”—New York Times bestselling author Shannon Stacey
“This book was . . . wow! I can’t wait for Worth the Risk.”—Laura Drewry, USA Todaybestselling author of Prima Donna
“This book made me laugh, cry, and stay up half the night because I couldn’t wait to finish it. I loved watching this couple grow, would highly recommend the book, and cannot wait to read more from Claudia Connor!”—Cocktails and Books
“A book that truly touched my heart and had me fighting off tears as well as sighing happily. I am absolutely excited for the next book in the series.”—Sinfully Sexy Book Reviews
“Definitely one of the best books of the summer . . . a must read!”—Underneath the Covers
Includes an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Families crowded the beach, getting in one last trip before school started. A pack of teenagers raced into the water, brightly colored rafts under their arms, and a baby off to his right tasted sand. The seagulls screaming above his head reminded him of his brothers and sister fighting over the last cookie.
He’d gone less than ten yards before he was drawn to the water like the Navy SEAL he was. With strong, even strokes, he cut through the rolling waves of the Atlantic, pushing himself, swimming faster, kicking harder, as if he could prove to his commanding officer he was more than ready for active duty. Prove to him it’d be wrong to sideline him because of a knock on the head. Idiotic medical bullshit.
The cool water brushing past him did nothing to quiet his mind. This final week of mandatory recovery could have been relaxing, but already on edge, his beach companions were driving him to the brink. At thirty-four, what had once been sexy seemed sleazy. Bold and assertive felt more like desperate and aggressive.
He liked sex. He didn’t like being mauled.
Matt continued moving parallel to the shore, catching glimpses of colorful umbrellas and the six towering condos that made up the resort. He preferred the water, but running back under the midday sun would likely burn off more steam than swimming.
As he approached the shore, a small football landed off to his right with a splash and he glanced around for the thrower. No one was anywhere near him in the ocean, but a little boy stood at the water’s edge, watching him.
Matt squinted against the reflecting sun and waded onto the beach, NERF ball in hand. “Here you go.”
The boy looked to be around five or so and stared silently up at Matt as he took his ball.
Deed done, Matt turned to go. He hadn’t taken two steps before something wet hit his shoulder. He sighed at the small blue and yellow football at his feet.
When he looked back, the expression on the kid’s face reminded him of a dog after dropping a ball at your feet for the tenth time.
You probably don’t want to play with me, but I sure wish you would.
Matt lowered his head for a second, debating whether to applaud the boy’s tactics or scream in frustration. What he wouldn’t give to be a kid again with kid worries. To want nothing more in life than someone to play with.
Matt picked up the ball with every intention of walking away and tossed it underhand to the boy. It sailed right through the kid’s outstretched hands, bounced off his bony chest and back toward Matt.
He shook his head, hating himself for thinking it, but he’d grown up with five brothers. You didn’t drop a ball without hearing a jab.
The kid ran over to retrieve his football and stopped short. He glanced over his shoulder and waved at a woman sitting in the sand with three other children. “That’s my mom.”
Matt couldn’t see her face, but she raised a hand at her son, clearly keeping an eye on the situation. Matt waved back.
The boy took a step closer to Matt, stared at his toes and dug them into the sand. “I can’t catch,” he mumbled.
Based on that one throw, the kid was right, but Matt wasn’t going to say so. “You’ll get it. You just need to practice. Maybe your dad could throw with you or something.”
“Nope. He can’t throw. He’s dead.”
The kid dropped that bit of info like he was talking about the color of the sky. Matt’s gut twisted. Another person dead. He ran his fingers through his hair, pulling at the ends in frustration. And he’d been jealous of this kid.
He closed his eyes for a second and rubbed at the headache hovering behind his right eye. The one that had been gathering strength all morning. He didn’t have anywhere else to be and he sure as hell wasn’t in a hurry to get back to playing cabana boy.
“I’ll throw with you,” Matt said, taking five steps back and motioning with his fingers, ready for the ball.
The kid gave him a million-watt smile and wound up for his throw. The ball wobbled and sailed straight into the ocean. Nailing Matt in the back had obviously been a fluke. The kid wasn’t any better at throwing than he was at catching, though what he lacked in skill he made up for in enthusiasm.
After his tenth trip fishing the ball out of the surf, Matt turned and came face-to-face with the kid’s mother.
And what a face it was.
Smooth, flawless complexion. Delicate features. She was small, compared to the five-foot-ten Kimmi; the top of her head barely reached his shoulders. Dark hair hung in a simple ponytail, a few strands blowing softly around her striking face.
“Hey, Jack.” She laid a gentle hand on the boy’s head. “Why don’t you go play with Annie?”
“But, Mom, we’re practicing.”
“Jack!” yelled a little girl with long brown braids. “Charlie’s tearing down your castle!”
She watched her son run off to rescue his creation.
Matt hadn’t noticed it at first, but when she turned, the black tank top she wore with black bikini bottoms stretched over her belly. Beautiful and pregnant.
He forced his attention to the kids. Jack and a smaller boy knelt, throwing sand out behind them like dogs digging a hole. “Nice kid.”
“Thanks.” She flashed him a sweet smile and looked away again.
Such a sharp contrast to his current companions but every bit as beautiful. Even more so.
One of the kids, a little girl who looked around three, came up. Her short legs struggled in the sand and her arms strained, dragging a yellow bucket.
“Mommy, wook in my bucket. You gotta see.”
“Wow, Gracie.” She peered into the bucket. “You have a lot of sand.”
“Not just sand, Mommy. I got a creature. He’s in dere ’cause I putted him in dere. You want to see?” she asked Matt.
“Sure.” Matt crouched down beside her. “What did you say was in there?”
She leaned right under Matt’s nose. “It’s a creature.”
A riot of soft brown curls tickled his cheek, giving him a whiff of baby shampoo and little-kid sunscreen, reminding him of nieces he didn’t see enough.
A sexy womanly smell also surrounded him and he breathed in a little deeper. Kneeling as he was, there was no way to avoid the sexy thighs mere inches from his face.
“Oh no! He’s gone! Hey, wittle guy, where are you?” Her nose practically touched the sand. “Mommy, I wost him.”
“Oh, I’m sure he’s in there,” Matt said, jerking his attention back to the bucket. “He’s probably hiding with all of us crowded around. Pretty sure I saw him.”
“Well, I want to see him too. I’m gonna dig him out.” She popped up and the crown of her head caught Matt right in the mouth.
“Ow!” Gracie rubbed her head, then gave him a wide dimpled smile. “I’m okay.” And she skittered off to find her creature.
“It’s fine.” Matt straightened and the woman raised her hand toward his face, stopping midway and lowering it before making contact. But not before Matt caught the gleam of a gold band on her left ring finger. Hadn’t the kid just said his dad was dead?
A white-blond, cherub-faced toddler stopped at her side, his arms raised. Matt tried hard not to stare at her breasts as she bent to pick him up. Yeah. His lip was fine.
She propped the boy on her hip, and he twisted a strand of her hair around his sandy finger. And that sand sprinkled over her smooth, sun-kissed chest, and . . . Damn.
The little boy tucked his head under her chin, his soft baby hair ruffling over his forehead in the breeze. Time seemed to stop along with Matt’s brain. They stood awkwardly for a beat before a squabble broke out around the crumbling sand structure.
She shifted her feet and adjusted the weight of the boy. “Guess I better go.”
Matt glanced at the castle builders. He wouldn’t mind helping.
“Bye,” she said.
Okay. Maybe not.
She took a step, then smiled at him over her shoulder. “Thanks for playing with Jack.”
“No problem. Nice to meet you.” He watched her walk away. All toned legs, tiny ankles, and an ass he was not looking at.
He stood there another minute, waiting on . . . he had no idea what, before heading back in the direction he’d come. That little girl was a doll, with her blowing curls and preschool chatter. And the mom, well . . . he needed to keep walking. And then it hit him.
He hadn’t met her at all. Hadn’t even asked her name. What an idiot. His brothers would laugh their asses off. He picked up the pace until he was jogging.
It shouldn’t matter whether he knew her name or not. It didn’t. Just because he hadn’t seen a man around didn’t mean there wasn’t one. Except . . . if she was here alone and pregnant with four kids, then . . . Then what?