Lieutenant Colonel Paul Richter spent twenty years serving as a Special Forces officer in the United States Army. His career came crashing down when an errant bullet fired by a tribal fighter kills the son of a Saudi prince. In an act of political expediency, Paul Richter was unceremoniously retired from the Army. Without a career, and politics preventing him from obtaining a position with an overseas military contractor, Richter's future appeared bleak.
Jack Cullen, a friend of Richter's with ties to the Central Intelligence Agency, approaches Richter with an unusual offer. Cullen's cousin is the principal of a rural South Georgia high school. The principal has had a problem hiring and retaining faculty. Cullen offers to assist in placing Richter as a teacher at the school. Cullen promises Richter that when the political climate changes, he will bring Richter into the Agency as a paramilitary contractor.
Despite his misgivings, Richter accepts Cullen's offer and finds himself in the small town of Wilson, Georgia. He meets Celia Farley, the attractive real estate agent who helps him find a home in Wilson. A relationship develops between them. Celia has an established life in Wilson: a career, two teenage children she adores, and a domineering ex-husband that she doesn't. Richter finds that his military training and battles around the world have left him ill-prepared to deal with the complexities of a romantic relationship.
To his surprise, Richter settles quickly into Wilson and finds that he is adapting well to the community. He likes his job and likes his students, especially a young man named Gator who is standing at his own crossroads. Richter starts thinking about Wilson as his home.
But trouble comes to Richter in the form of local crime boss Baxter Ross and Ross' incongruous dealings with the shadowy new priest of the local Hispanic community's church. Ross is a bully, and reacts violently when Richter implacably refuses to bend to Ross' demands. Ross sends his gang after Richter, and seeks the priest's assistance in dealing with the stubborn teacher's refusal to accept Ross' domination.
The priest is not who he says he is. He is in rural Georgia on a mission vastly different than saving souls. Because of his dealings with Ross, Richter finds that he must determine who the priest really is, and what he is doing in Wilson. To follow that course, Richter must resurrect skills from his Special Forces days that he thought were behind him. Those skills, the violence that arose from them, and Richter's calm reliance on those skills strain his relationship with Celia. She believes they can build a life together, but Richter seems eager once again to go to war.
With the help of Celia, Richter confronts his own identity and the possibility of love and happiness with her in Wilson. She offers him the chance for love and acceptance. Richter wants to love Celia and be part of her life, but he has one last battle.
Richter calls on some old friends and prepares for the ultimate confrontation with Ross and the priest. He fights his own demons as he seeks to distinguish the evil that they represent from the bitter violence that has marked his life. Richter confronts friends and enemies alike as he stakes his claim on who he is amidst the tumult of good against evil, love, trust, betrayal, and grace freely given.