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We are still in the longest war in our nation’s history. 2.7 million service members have served since 9/11 in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands have been killed, tens of thousands wounded, and approximately 20 to 30% have post-traumatic stress disorder and/or traumatic brain injury.
This morning I have a spotlight and giveaway for Leslie Jones’ BAIT. Check it out!
Bait Duty & Honor # 2
By: Leslie Jones
Releasing April 28th, 2015
In the next thrilling Duty & Honor novel, a female CIA agent and a Delta Force soldier must catch a deadly assassin… but do they know where the danger truly lies?
After several assassination attempts on an allied royal, the CIA sends in operative Christina Madison—who bears a striking resemblance to the monarch—to pose as the famous princess and draw out her would-be killer.
When Delta Force Lieutenant Gabriel Morgan’s team is assigned to Christina’s undercover protection detail, he’s less than thrilled. Gabe wants nothing to do with a woman whose rumored screw-up nearly got her last team killed. Not to mention there’s bad blood between Gabe and the CIA—he doesn’t trust anyone who lies for a living.
But once the trap is set and the assassin takes the bait, Gabe must protect her with his life … because danger lurks in the shadows, and now Christina is in the crosshairs.
Leslie Jones has been an IT geek, a graphic designer, and, much like her heroine, an Army Intelligence officer, bringing her firsthand experience to the pages of her works. She’s lived in Alaska, Korea, Belgium, Germany, and other exotic locations (including New Jersey). She is a wife, mother, and full-time writer and splits her time between Scottsdale, Arizona, and Cincinnati, Ohio.
Reports of the assassination attempt on Princess Véronique de Savoie barely made a blip on the news outside of Concordia. The tiny country rivaled Liechtenstein in size and importance. As in, very damned little. Most would be hard-pressed to find it on a map.
Inside the CIA, however, the assassination attempt caused a ripple of reaction, starting in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, bypassing normal channels, and landing directly on case officer Jay Spicer’s desk.
“You want me to do what?” asked Christina Madison, eyes wide as she stared at her boss.
Jay Spicer looked back at her. “Have you been in front of a mirror lately?”
“Sure I have.” Every now and then, someone would comment on her eerie resemblance to the princess of Concordia. Princess Véronique made headlines inside her own country on a regular basis, though rarely outside of it. Concordian cameras and reporters followed her as she labored on various humanitarian projects. She’d been part of a BBC documentary last year on modern royalty in Europe, which Christina had watched out of curiosity. The princess remained gracious in the face of newshounds and paparazzi, even when elbow-deep in dirt planting a new strain of bacteria-resistant corn in Ethiopia or bringing clean well water to rural Bolivians.
Occasionally a European visitor to the Washington, D.C., area would ask if she were, indeed, the princess. Christina would laugh it off with a simple, “Don’t I wish.” Truth be told, she much preferred her anonymous work bringing down money laundering and smuggling operations. Having cameras shoved in her face and every word and action dissected struck her as repugnant.
For the most part, though, Véronique remained one of the royal unknowns.
Christina grabbed a handful of Skittles from the crystal ashtray on Jay’s desk. Red and yellow only. He’d already eaten the green and orange.
“Her face is well known inside Concordia. Resembling someone and taking her place are two different—”
“This comes from the top,” her boss interrupted. “From the director himself. The British government specifically asked for your help.”
Her head began to whirl. The mandatory photographs of the president and CIA director frowned down at her from behind his head. Boring pictures. Boring white walls. The only interesting thing in the whole office was the life-sized cardboard cutout of Captain America planted to the right of the door. “The British? Not the Concordians? I don’t understand, sir.”
Jay leaned forward in his chair and tugged at an earlobe, his ADHD making it impossible for him to sit still. At fifty, he still managed to retain the air of an errant schoolboy. He smirked, cracking his knuckles. Christina crossed her legs, not fooled by his antics. Jay Spicer was a shrewd, brilliant case officer. He counted on his façade to cause people to underestimate him. He would clarify the situation in his own time.
“Princess Véronique is engaged to a landed baron in the UK.”
“He has enough clout to tap the CIA for help?”
“Sort of.” Jay pushed a folder across his cluttered mahogany desk. The beige file sported the banded red and large stamps indicating that it contained classified information.
Christina uncrossed her legs in order to lean forward and snag the folder. She flipped it open. The top page contained a request from … Trevor Carswell?
Jay rocked back, the chair squeaking. He grinned, tapping his fingers.
Rafflecopter Giveaway (10 Digital Downloads of BAIT by Leslie Jones)
Spiked with suspense that builds toward inevitable disaster, this gripping story of the ill-fated luxury liner, Lusitania, demonstrates once again Larson's unparalleled skill at narrative history. For all of us who waited in anticipation of his next book, Dead Wake does not disappoint. Books mentioned in this post Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the... [...]
I've been a fan of Erik Larson's riveting brand of narrative history for years, and his latest book, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, is his finest work yet. Suspenseful and expertly researched, Dead Wake transports the reader to the Atlantic theatre of WWI, where the luxury passenger liner Lusitania and a German [...]
I’m so excited to be part of the Southern Sweethearts blog tour! I asked Sandra Hill, Marilyn Pappano, and Laura Drake how they survive the pressure of their deadlines. Check out their answers, and then enter the giveaway below.
Top 5 items in your deadline survival kit
2. Coffee, but no more than two big cups
3. Alarm clock (I usually get up no later than 4:30 a.m.)
4. Ear plugs (I need quiet.)
5. Comfy clothes (usually lounging pj’s)
1. Lots of Diet Dr. Pepper
2. My ancient, tee-tiny computer that I can tuck away and take anywhere
3. Snacks that won’t transfer too much gunk to the keyboard
4. A bathroom (see #1)
5. My husband, who keeps life on track, reminds me to sleep, looks up any and all information I need, and makes food runs
1. A husband who runs interference with everyday things, and doesn’t expect that I’ll remember a conversation we had, just yesterday.
2. Protein. The only thing that satisfies me.
3. Coffee. Unending gallons of it.
4. My bicycle. It’s where I work out all my plot problems!
5. A schedule. I work backwards to figure out how many words I need a day, and I don’t quit until I’ve written them. Sometimes takes 2 hours, sometimes (like yesterday) 15. But I typed ‘The End” this morning! Whew!
SWEET ON YOU by Laura Drake (August 26, 2014; Forever Mass Market; $8.00)
A Love as Bold as a Texas Sunset . . .
Ex-army medic Katya Smith has always healed other people’s pain. Now she has to deal with her own. Taking a job as an athletic trainer on the Pro Bull Riding circuit seems like the perfect escape from her grief-except Katya doesn’t know anything about bulls, and even less about the tough men who ride them. She doesn’t expect to fall for the sport, or for one tantalizing cowboy who tumbles her defenses.
For rodeo champion Cam Cahill, fifteen years of bucking bulls have taken their toll on his body. Before he retires, he wants a final chance at the world title-and he doesn’t need some New Age gypsy telling him how to do his job. But when the stunning trainer with the magical hands repairs more than his worn muscles, everything changes. Soon Cam finds himself trying to persuade Katya to forgive her past so she can build a future . . . with him.
Laura Drake grew up in the suburbs outside Detroit, though her stories are set in the west. A tomboy, she’s always loved the outdoors and adventure. In 1980 she and her sister packed everything they owned into Pintos and moved to California. There she met and married a motorcycling, bleed-maroon Texas Aggie and her love affair with the West was born. Laura rides motorcycles: Elvis, a 1985 BMW Mystic, and Sting, a 1999 BMW R1100.
In Texas, Laura was introduced to her first rodeo, and fell in love. She’s an avid fan of Pro Bull Riding (PBR,) attending any event within driving distance, including two PBR National finals. She is hard at work at her next novel.
SNOW ON THE BAYOU by Sandra Hill (August 26, 2014; Forever Mass Market; $8.00)
THE BAYOU’S BADDEST BAD BOY IS BACK!
Joining the Navy was the second best thing that ever happened to Justin “Cage” LeBlanc, the rebel son of a no-account convict. The first was Emelie Gaudet, the love of his life . . . until he was forced to leave town and swore there would be snow on the bayou before he ever returned. Now, only his mortally ill grandma can bring the injured Navy SEAL back to Terrebone Parrish, where he must face his past-and Emelie, who’s even more beautiful than she was all those years ago.
Bourbon Street blues singer Emelie is once bitten, twice shy. When she learns that Justin is back in town, she wants nothing to do with the once wild Cajun teenager who fled with the law on his tail-and broke her heart. But she can’t deny the red-hot attraction between them . . . or his efforts to prove he’s finally changed his hell-raising ways. Can she trust that this time the bad boy of the bayou will be the best man for her?
Sandra Hill is a graduate of Penn State and worked for more than 10 years as a features writer and education editor for publications in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Writing about serious issues taught her the merits of seeking the lighter side of even the darkest stories. She is the wife of a stockbroker and the mother of four sons.
A LOVE TO CALL HER OWN by Marilyn Pappano (August 26, 2014; Forever Mass Market; $ )
It’s been two years since Jessy Lawrence lost her husband in Afghanistan, and she’s never fully recovered. Drowning her sorrows didn’t help, and neither did the job she’d hoped would give her a sense of purpose. Now trying to rebuild her life, she finds solace in her best friends, fellow military wives who understand what it’s like to love-and lose-a man in uniform . . . and the memory of one stolen night that makes her dream of a second chance at love.
Dalton Smith has known more than his fair share of grief. Since his wife’s death, he revels in the solitude of his cattle ranch. But try as he might, he can’t stop thinking about the stunning redhead and the reckless, passionate night they shared. He wasn’t ready before, but Dalton sees now that Jessy is the only woman who can mend his broken heart. So how will he convince her to take a chance on him?
Known for her intensely emotional stories, Marilyn Pappano is the USA Today bestselling author of nearly eighty books. She has made regular appearances on bestseller lists and has received recognition for her work in the form of numerous awards. Though her husband’s Navy career took them across the United States, he and Ms. Pappano now live in Oklahoma high on a hill that overlooks her hometown. They have one son and daughter-in-law, an adorable grandson, and a pack of mischievous dogs.
Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy is the true story of four women fighting for their countries during the Civil War. It's a stunning narrative compiled from personal letters, covert correspondence, and arrest records! The Civil War pit brother against brother, but as Karen Abbott eloquently proves through this book, it also pit sister against sister. This [...]
I haven’t read a Rachel Gibson book in ages, so I was eager to dive into What I Love About You. I loved this book and could not put it down. Blake is a flawed hero, a “raging a**hole” according to heroine Natalie, and he’s only two steps above a Cro-Magnon. He’s suffering from PTSD, and he’s an alcoholic, 62 days away from his last drink. He’s also a bundle of rage; he doesn’t feel that his family is supportive, they keep ragging on him about the littlest things, and all he wants is a little peace and quiet. Hiding out in his new home in a remote Idaho town, he’s determined to beat back his demons without any help from anybody. He’s not a wuss, after all.
What he gets is daily aggravation from the little girl next door a tiny pest with ninja-like skills of stealth. Her pretty mom takes offensive with how Blake talks to her daughter. I don’t know how I’d feel if someone told my kid he shit bigger than her, so I had to excuse her for giving him a piece of her mind. The sparks fly between them, and both of them pretend to want nothing to do with the other. Blake has to concentrate on beating old man Johnny, and Natalie is a single mom, working hard to provide for her daughter. One puppy bomb later, though, and they are sharing custody of Recruit Sparky, much to Natalie’s dismay.
Natalie has been burned badly by the man she loved since high school. After struggling to become pregnant, her husband leaves her, running off with a twenty-year-old – and a large portion of the money he’s been entrusted to invest for his clients. Now he’s serving time in jail for embezzlement, and Natalie is still trying to put her past behind her. She’s not having much luck, however, and her first priority is now the true love of her life, her daughter Charlotte. The grumpy next door neighbor is a pain in the butt, but as long as he stays on his side of the property line, they won’t have any trouble. Too bad she can’t keep Charlotte from ambling over to pester him. Repeatedly.
I thought What I Love About You was a great read. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. I loved how fragile both characters were, and how they both had to learn to trust in themselves and others again. Add in one annoying kid and a rambunctious puppy, and you have a recipe that never fails to please. Blake is a gruff, crass hero, and I loved him. He tells it like it is, and goes after what he wants. He doesn’t always come across as the kind of guy you’d want to wake up next to for the rest of your life, not at first, but his rough edges are smoothed by the end of the story, starting when he befriends the little girl who lives next door. This pushed all the right buttons for me, and I highly recommend it.
What I Love About You
Truly, Idaho # 3
By: Rachel Gibson
Releasing August 26th, 2014
New York Times bestselling author Rachel Gibson returns to Truly, Idaho, and to the fate of sexy SEAL Blake Junger GIMMEE A B-R-E-A-K! Ex-high school cheerleader Natalie Cooper could once shake her pom-poms with the best of them. But she’s paid for all that popularity—her husband’s run off with what’s left of their money and a twenty-year-old bimbo named Tiffany. Leaving Natalie to manage a photo store and having to see some pictures she, well, really shouldn’t. GIMMEE A S-H-O-T! Then she comes toe-to-manly chest with Blake Junger. Exiled to a remote cabin in Truly, Idaho, Blake wants nothing to do with anyone. Instead, he’s determined to struggle with his demons and win—all on his own. But the last thing he needs is Natalie distracting him with her luscious curves and breaking down the barriers of his heart.
GIMMEE YOUR H-E-A-R-T!
Can be read as a standalone. Returns to Truly, ID and is about the second Junger twin, Blake Junger.
Rachel Gibson lives in Idaho with her husband, three kids, two cats and a dog of mysterious origin. She began her fiction career at age 16, when she ran her car into the side of a hill, retrieved the bumper, and drove to a parking lot, where she strategically scattered the car’s broken glass all about. She told her parents she’d been the victim of a hit and run and they believed her. She’s been making up stories ever since, although she gets paid better for them nowadays.
This week, bestselling author Lynn Raye Harris celebrates the release of her romantic suspense Hot Rebel. Featuring a military hero, kick ass heroine, and a Middle Eastern mission gone bad, this is an action packed romance. To celebrate the release, Lynn is hosting a $50 gift card giveaway, so please enter below!
A rebel on the run…
Victoria Royal is a traitor. Or so the U.S. government believes. Victoria was once a promising sniper in the Army, but now she’s gone rogue—worse, she’s just landed in the middle of a Hostile Operations Team mission in the desert and blasted it all to hell.
Nick “Brandy” Brandon doesn’t expect to run into Victoria when he’s bugging out from a mission gone wrong. It’s been more than three years since she disappeared from the sniper course they were in together, and he’s finally stopped thinking about her killer curves and smart mouth.
But now she’s back—and she’s far more dangerous than Nick ever believed possible… Is she really a traitor? Or is there something more at stake? He has to decide fast—because time’s running out and too many lives hang in the balance…
Driven by some emotion she couldn’t name, Victoria turned and walked back over to Nick. He was frowning at her when she reached up and pulled his head down. She pressed her lips to his cheek, felt the roughness of his stubble and breathed the smell of him—sand, spice, and cool water—deep into her lungs.
“Thanks for saving me,” she said, her lips close to his ear.
She started to step away, but he caught her close and turned his head, his lips meeting hers. The contact was shocking—and delicious in a way she hadn’t anticipated. She’d been kissed before, but this… this was better than any of those kisses had been.
His mouth was soft and hard against hers, his hands firm on her hips as he held her against him. The kiss was hot and tame all at once. Simultaneously the most arousing and most chaste kiss she’d ever had. He didn’t force her mouth open, didn’t thrust his tongue between her lips—he just kissed her hard and thoroughly before setting her away from him and taking a step backward.
And, God, she wanted his tongue so badly now. Wanted to feel it sliding against her own, stroking her senses higher.
But the kiss was over and he was looking at her, his jaw firm and a hard look in his eyes.
“You’re welcome,” he said, and it took her a moment to remember that she’d thanked him for saving her.
“I… I have to go.” Her cheeks flamed as she said it because he knew she had to leave as well as she did. The car was running, and she’d left the door open. She took a step backward, and then another.
Then she turned and got inside the car, determined not to look at him again. But she failed because she looked up, her gaze clashing with his right as she closed the door. And she didn’t look away as they drove off. Nick didn’t move from the spot she’d left him standing in.
It was only when the car turned and he was out of sight that she remembered how to breathe.
USA Today bestselling author Lynn Raye Harris burst onto the scene when she won a writing contest held by Harlequin. A former finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Award and the National Readers Choice Award, Lynn lives in Alabama with her handsome former military husband and two crazy cats. Lynn writes about hot military heroes, sizzling international billionaires, and the women who dare to tame them. Her books have been called “exceptional and emotional,” “intense,” and “sizzling.” To date, Lynn’s books have sold over 2 million copies worldwide.
In July 2014, the Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, claimed that Ukraine wasn’t fighting a civil war in the east of the country but rather was “defending its territory from foreign mercenaries.” Conversely, rumours abounded earlier in the year that Academi, the firm formerly known as Blackwater, were operating in support of the Ukrainian government (which Academi strongly denied). What is interesting is not simply whether these claims are true, but also their rhetorical force. Being a mercenary and using mercenaries is seen as one of the worst moral failings in a conflict.
Regardless of the accuracy of the claims and counterclaims about their use in Ukraine, the increased use of mercenaries or ‘private military and security companies’ is one of the most significant transformations of military force in recent times. In short, states now rely heavily on private military and security companies to wage wars. In the First Gulf War, there was a ratio of roughly one contractor to every 100 soldiers; by 2008 in the Second Gulf War, that ratio had risen to roughly one to one. In Afghanistan, the ratio was even higher, peaking at 1.6 US-employed contractors per soldier. The total number of Department of Defense contractors (including logistical contractors) reached approximately 163,000 in Iraq in September 2008 and approximately 117,000 in Afghanistan in March 2012. A lot of the media attention surrounding the use of private military and security companies has been on the use of armed foreign contractors in conflict zones, such as Blackwater in Iraq. But the vast majority of the industry provides much more mundane logistical services, such as cleaning and providing food for regular soldiers.
Does this help to remove the pejorative mercenary tag? The private military and security industry has certainly made a concerted effort to attempt to rid itself of the tag, given its rhetorical force. Industry proponents claim private military and security companies are different to mercenaries because of their increased range of services, their alleged professionalism, their close links to employing states, and their corporate image. None of these alleged differences, however, provides a clear—i.e. an analytically necessary—distinction between mercenaries, and private military and security companies. After all, mercenaries could offer more services, could be professional, could have close links to states, and could have a flashy corporate image. Despite the proclamations of industry proponents, private military and security companies might still then be mercenaries.
But what, if anything, is morally wrong with being a mercenary or a private contractor? Could one be an ethical mercenary? In short, yes. To see this, suppose that you go to fight for a state that is trying to defend itself against attack from a genocidal rebel group, which is intent on killing thousands of innocent civilians. You get paid handsomely for this, but this is not the reason why you agree to fight—you just want to save lives. If fighting as a private contractor will, in fact, save lives, and any use of force will only be against those who are liable, is it morally permissible to be a contractor? I think so, given the import of saving lives. As such, mercenaries/private contractors might behave ethically sometimes.
Does this mean that we are incorrect to view mercenaries/private contractors as morally tainted? This would be too quick. We need to keep in mind that, although the occasional mercenary/private contractor might be fully ethical, it seems unlikely that they will be in general. There are at least two reasons to be sceptical of this. First, although there may be exceptions, it seems that financial considerations will often play a greater role in the decision for mercenaries/private contractors to take up arms than for regular soldiers. And, if we think that individuals should be motivated by concern for others rather than self-interest (manifest through the concern for financial gain), we should worry about the increased propensity for mercenary motives. Second, although it may be morally acceptable to be a mercenary/private contractor when considered in isolation, there is a broader worry about upholding and contributing to the general practice of mercenarism and the private military and security industry. One should be wary about contributing to a general practice that is morally problematic, such as mercenarism.
To elaborate, the central ethical problems surrounding private military force do not concern the employees, but rather the employers of these firms. The worries include the following:
that governments can employ private military and security companies to circumvent many of the constitutional and parliamentary—and ultimately democratic—constraints on the decision to send troops into action;
that it is questionable whether these firms are likely to be effective in the theatre, because, for instance, contractors and the firms can more easily choose not to undertake certain operations; and
that there is an abrogation of a state’s responsibility of care for those fighting on its behalf (private contractors generally don’t receive the same level of support after conflict as regular soldiers since political leaders are often less concerned about the deaths of private contractors).
There are also some more general worries about the effects on market for private force on the international system. It makes it harder to maintain the current formal constraints (e.g. current international laws) on the frequency and awfulness of warfare that are designed for the statist use of force. And a market for force can be expected to increase international instability by enabling more wars and unilateralism, as well as by increasing the ability of state and nonstate actors to use military force.
These are the major problems of mercanarism and the increased use of private military force. To that extent, I think that behind the rhetorical force of the claims about mercenaries in Ukraine, there are good reasons to be worried about their use, if not in Ukraine (where the facts are still to be ascertained), but more generally elsewhere. Despite the increased use of private military and security companies and the claims that they differ to mercenaries, we should be wary of the use of private military and security companies as well.
I have an excerpt and giveaway for Jessica Scott’s latest release All for You. Check it out!
ALL FOR YOU by Jessica Scott (November 25, 2014; Forever Mass Market; $8.00)
Can a battle-scarred warrior . . . Stay sober. Get deployed. Lead his platoon. Those are the only things that matter to Sergeant First Class Reza Iaconelli. What he wants is for everyone to stay out of his way; what he gets is Captain Emily Lindberg telling him how to deal with his men. Fort Hood’s newest shrink is smart as a whip and sexy as hell. She’s also full of questions-about the army, its soldiers, and the agony etched on Reza’s body and soul.
. . .open his heart to love? Emily has devoted her life to giving soldiers the care they need-and deserve. Little does she know that means facing down the fierce wall of muscle that is Sergeant Iaconelli like it’s just another day at the office. When Reza agrees to help her understand what makes a soldier tick, she’s thrilled. Too bad it doesn’t help her unravel the sexy warrior in front of her who stokes her desire and touches a part of her she thought long dead. He’s the man who thinks combat is the only escape from the demons that haunt him. The man who needs her most of all . . .
USA Today bestselling author Jessica Scott is a career army officer; mother of two daughters, three cats and three dogs; wife to a career NCO and wrangler of all things stuffed and fluffy. She is a terrible cook and even worse housekeeper, but she’s a pretty good shot with her assigned weapon. She’s currently pursuing a PhD in Sociology in her spare time and most recently, she’s been featured as one of Esquire Magazine‘s Americans of the Year for 2012. She’s written for the New York Times At War Blog, PBS Point of View: Regarding War Blog, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. She deployed to Iraq in 2009 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn and has served as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas.
It was fate. It had to be. A slow warmth unfurled inside him as the doctor he could not get out of his head looked up at him, her cheeks flushing pink.
She was all buttoned up at work. Tonight, she looked different. Looser. Unbound.
Compelling. That’s what she was. Her fire at work. Her refusal to let him bully her. He’d admired her backbone before.
Tonight, he admired her in an entirely new light. Her hair framed her face in careless curls. He hadn’t expected to see her outside of work. He damn sure hadn’t expected to see her here. An old familiar need rose inside him. A need for touch, human and warm. A need to lose himself for an interlude in sweat and sex and stunning pleasure. He’d given up drinking but women had apparently fallen into that category as well.
It had been months since he’d felt a woman’s hands on his body.
This woman was not someone he needed to be talking to at the bar tonight but he found himself walking toward her anyway.
After the week of confrontation they’d had, he’d be lucky if she didn’t slap him the minute he approached her.
He could do this. He could talk to a woman without drinking. Right?
Emily met his gaze as he approached. He almost smiled.
“Not your usual scene?” he asked, leaning against the bar.
She shifted, putting a little space between them. That slight reclamation of power. He made a noise of approval in his throat. “I’m surprised you’re talking to me.”
“I’m surprised you’re here. Shouldn’t you be home reading medical journals or something?” Her cheeks flushed deep pink and he wondered how far down her body that color went.
She tipped her chin then and looked at him. “Have you been drinking?”
He looked down at the bottle in his hand. “I don’t drink anymore,” he said quietly. No reason to delve into his abusive history with alcohol. “You?”
“Glass of wine,” she said.
Reza shrugged and leaned on the bar, taking another pull off his water and being careful not to lean too close. She looked like she’d bolt if he pushed her. “That would explain why you’re talking to me. We haven’t exactly been friendly.”
Her hair reflected the fading sunlight that filled the room from the wide-open patio doors. He wanted to fist it between his fingers, watch her neck arch for his mouth.
She motioned toward his bottle with her glass. “‘Anymore’?”
He simply took another pull off his water. He was going to be damn good and hydrated after tonight. He wondered what she’d do if he leaned a little closer. “Long story.”
“One you’re not keen on sharing?” she asked. She leaned her cheek on one palm. The sun glinted across her cheek.
“Let’s just say alcohol and I aren’t on speaking terms. Bad things happen when I drink.” It was nothing to be ashamed of but there it was. Shame wound up his spine and squeezed the air from his lungs. He was just like his dad after all.
“You say that like giving up alcohol is a bad thing,” Emily said quietly.
Reza snorted softly. He should have guessed she wouldn’t let it alone. She had stubbornness that could last for days. “It’s not something I’m proud of.”
Her hand on his forearm startled him. Soft and strong, her fingers pressed into his skin. “But stopping is something to be proud of.”
Reza stared down at her hand, pale against the dark shadows of his own skin. A long silence hung between them.
He lifted his gaze to hers.
“It takes a lot of strength to break with the past,” she said softly.
“What are you doing?” Her eyes glittered in the setting sun and he thought he caught the sight of the tiniest edge of her lip curling.
Her fingers slipped from his skin. “Offering my professional support?”
His lips quirked. “Was that a joke?”
“Maybe,” she said. “I’m working on developing a biting sense of humor. Defense mechanism against raging asshole commanders.”
Reza barked out a laugh. “You look different out of uniform,” he said lightly, pressing his advantage at this unexpected truce.
“So do you.”
He angled his body toward hers. “You like my makeup?” he asked.
Her lips parting as she tried to figure out if he was kidding or not. Finally, she cracked the barest hint of a smile.
Something powerful woke inside him and he moved before he thought about it. He reached for her, brushing a strand of hair from her cheek. The simple gesture was crushing in its intimacy. Her lips froze in a partial gasp, as though her breath had caught in her throat.
“Sergeant Iaconelli,” she said quietly, her voice husky. But she didn’t move away. Didn’t flinch from his touch.
“Reza.” He swallowed the sharp bite of arousal in his blood, more powerful without the haze of alcohol that usually clouded his reactions. “My name is Reza.”
His breath was locked in his lungs, the sound of his name on her lips triggering something dark and powerful and overwhelming.
He wanted this woman. The woman who’d stood in opposition to him this week. The woman who lifted her chin and stood steadfast between him and his soldiers.
There was strength in this woman. Strength and courage.
“I’m Emily.” Her words a rushed breath.
He lowered his hand, unwilling to push any further than he’d already gone. This was new territory for him. Unfamiliar and strange and filled with potential and fear.
“It was nice talking to you tonight, Emily,” he said when he could speak.
He waited for her acknowledgment that she’d heard him. Some slight movement of her head or tip of her chin.
Instead her throat moved as she swallowed and she blinked quickly, shattering the spell between them.
He left her then because to push further would challenge the limits of his restraint. He wasn’t ready to fall into bed with someone. No matter how compelling Emily might be.
He waited and he watched for the rest of the evening. Watched her slip out with her friend, leaving an empty space at the bar.
Leaving him alone with the fear that included the empty loneliness as well as the cold silence of sobriety.
His thoughts raced as he made sure his troopers all got home that night, and Teague crashed on his couch.
He fell into bed later, need and desire twisted up, filling the cold dead space left inside him by the lack of alcohol. A dead space he usually filled with work while deployed. Tonight, though, unfamiliar pleasure hunted his thoughts, whispering that he could still love a woman, that he didn’t have to be drunk to climb into bed with someone.
But Emily wasn’t a random someone.
And she was so far out of his league, it wasn’t even funny. Even if there was some sexual attraction there, she wasn’t likely to go slumming with a burned-out infantryman like him.
He lay there in the darkness, waiting, clinging to the single, simple pleasure of her touch, hoping that maybe tonight he could sleep, avoiding the nightmares that reminded him of the monster he’d become.
A beast who had lost his compassion somewhere on the road to Baghdad.
I am thrilled to welcome Lindsay McKenna to the virtual offices this morning! She has a special post to share, as well as an awesome giveaway for you to enter!
Post 6: A Heroine with a Cause
Title: TAKING FIRE by Lindsay McKenna: A heroine with a cause
One of the hallmarks of my writing, as my loyal readers will agree with, is that I write ‘fresh.’ Well, what does that mean? It means I’m not writing what everyone else is writing. I want to write from different slants and perspectives than are normally thought of to write from.
I wanted to create a heroine who was not a SEAL, but worked in deep black ops. This is an area that few can write about except those who have been in the military, or who have great military consultants who can give them useful information in defining and creating a character who is in this super secretive area of undercover work.
My heroine, US Marine Corps Sergeant Khatereh Shinwari, is someone you’ve never read about before. She’s deep black ops. Blacker than black, as they say in the trade. And when the hero, SEAL Michael Tarik meets her, he runs into a black-out on who she is. And he wants to know her—or else. So how to find out about a person that your heart is invested in and she’s not talking? In fact, a deep black ops individual will never tell you anything. They don’t give you leads and they don’t give you clues, either.
I had a great time creating scenes between these two Type A, competitive military combat people. Mike is black ops and he’s got a top secret clearance just like every other SEAL does. Most people think that’s as far as clearances go, but it doesn’t. Khat Shinwari is so above him on the black ops food chain, that it defies discovery by Mike.
Part of the fun of creating this book is the ultra-secret status of Khat. Who IS she? Why is she operating out in the Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan alone with no back-up? No help if she gets in a bad situation? Mike just can’t understand her or her status. One thing SEALs are really good at? Finding out the unknowable. And you, as the reader, will be with him as he gets serious about finding out who this brave, black ops woman really is. Why? Because he is drawn to her and isn’t about to just blow her off. At the same time? Khat isn’t telling him a thing about herself.
So come along and watch how a SEAL operates in some pretty murky, deep black ops water and watch what happens!
Not all are meant to walk in the light. Marine Corps Sergeant Khat Shinwari lives among the shadows of the rocky Afghani hills, a Shadow Warrior by name and by nature. She works alone, undercover and undetected—until a small team of US Navy SEALs are set upon by the Taliban…and Khat is forced to disobey orders to save their lives.
To go rogue.
Now, hidden deep in the hills with injured SEAL Michael Tarik in her care, Khat learns that he’s more than just a soldier. In him, she sees something of herself and of what she could be. Now duty faces off against the raw, overwhelming attraction she has for Mike. And she must decide between the safety of the shadows…and risking everything by stepping into the light.
Lindsay McKenna is proud to have served her country in the U.S. Navy as an aerographer’s mate third class—also known as a weather forecaster. She is one of the original founders of the military romance subgenre and loves to combine heart-pounding action with soulful and poignant romance. Her latest book is the romantic suspense Taking Fire.
Dogs on Duty : Soldiers’
Best Friends on the Battlefield and Beyond
By Dorothy Hinshaw Patent
Walker & Company. 2012
Grades 2 – 5
To write this review, I checked a copy of
the book out of my local public library.
Dogs are man’s best friend. We’ve
reached for the tissues when reading Finding Zasha (Barrow), Cracker!
: The best dog in Vietnam (Kadohata), Letters from
IT’S ALWAYS BEEN YOU by Jessica Scott (March 4, 2014; Forever E-Book; $2.99)
She plays by the rules . . . Captain Ben Teague is many things: a tough soldier, a loyal friend, and a bona fide smart-ass. He doesn’t have much tolerance for BS, which is why he’s mad as hell when a trusted colleague and mentor is brought up on charges that can’t possibly be true. He’s even more frustrated with by-the-book lawyer Major Olivia Hale. But there’s something simmering beneath her icy reserve-and Ben just can’t resist turning up the heat . . .
. . . and he’s determined to break them The only thing riskier than mixing business with pleasure is enjoying it . . . and Olivia can’t resist locking horns-and lips-with Ben. He’s got more compassion in his little finger than any commander she’s ever met, a fact that makes him a better leader than he realizes. But when the case that brought them together awakens demons from Olivia’s past, she will have to choose between following orders-or her heart . . .
About Jessica Scott:
USA Today bestselling author Jessica Scott is a career army officer; mother of two daughters, three cats and three dogs; wife to a career NCO and wrangler of all things stuffed and fluffy. She is a terrible cook and even worse housekeeper, but she’s a pretty good shot with her assigned weapon and someone liked some of the stuff she wrote. Somehow, her children are pretty well-adjusted and her husband still loves her, despite burned water and a messy house.
She’s written for the New York Times At War Blog, PBS Point of View: Regarding War Blog, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. She deployed to Iraq in 2009 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn and has served as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas.
She’s pursuing a PhD in Sociology in her spare time and most recently, she’s been featured as one ofEsquire Magazine’s Americans of the Year for 2012.
Olivia looked away. The first packet was heavy in her hand. “The quick summary is that you have five drinking and driving, two assaults, three hot urinalysis tests and five soldiers caught with other intoxicating substances.”
“Define ‘other intoxicating substances’? What the hell does that mean?”
“Huffing, spice, bath salts.”
“Bath salts? What the hell are bath salts?”
Olivia pulled out her phone and pulled up a website explaining the drug. “They’re really new but we’re starting to see more of them. They’re meant to be a synthetic drug that mimics cocaine and ecstasy but they’re really bad stuff. Some of it is variants of plant food.”
Ben reached for her phone and angled it so he could see. His hand was big and rough against hers. Hot where their skin met. If he noticed, he didn’t give any indication. “Plant food?”
Olivia tried to ignore how his hand felt against hers. Because, oh yes, she’d noticed. Heat spread across her skin, sliding up her forearm and tingling down her spine. “Soldiers will smoke anything these days,” she said quietly.
“That’s a whole ’nother discussion,” she said, easing her hand out of his. “The short version is that intoxicating substances are prohibited by regulation and I advise you to do two things with these kids: send a strong message that this behavior won’t be tolerated but also enroll them into drug abuse counseling to send a message that you’ll help those who want it.”
Ben studied the paperwork in front of him. Tormented emotions flickered over his face and it was everything she could do not to ask him what was on his mind. She didn’t have time or reason to go crawling around Ben Teague’s head but that didn’t stop the want pulsing warmly over her skin.
“I know this kid,” Ben said quietly. “I served with him downrange last deployment but ever since he’s come home, he’s been nothing but trouble to the old commander. Zittoro has three previous drug charges,” he said.
“Private Zittoro is a different case. I recommend you separate him from the military under a chapter nine, rehab failure.”
She heard his quick intake of breath. Saw the conflict flicker over his sharp features.
He cleared his throat roughly in the awkward silence. “Zittoro… he’s got nowhere to go. He’s got a deadbeat dad and his mom is… well, she’s not winning any parent of the year awards.” His fist clenched on the table in front of her. “If I throw him out of the army, what happens to him? He’s an addict.”
She flinched at the pain in his words. Ben had only been a commander for a couple of hours but the strain was already obvious in his voice.
“You can’t save everyone,” she whispered. She waited until his eyes met hers.
“You know that, right?”
There was no comfort she could offer. This was the burden of command: to balance the needs of the army over the needs of the individual. A tightrope he had to walk alone.
All she could do was give him the facts and her opinion. But in that moment, she had the sudden urge to save him from this. “If you keep him, do you have the manpower to keep going to his room and making sure he hasn’t overdosed every night? Do you trust him enough to give him a weapon and believe he’ll do his job?”
Ben’s throat moved as he swallowed. “Guess not,” he said quietly. He leaned back and it was as if a wall of glass crystallized between them. “What other fun things do you have in there for me?”
Olivia wasn’t convinced by the sudden shift in Ben’s mood but now wasn’t the time or the place for digging any deeper. She reviewed the rest of the drug packets, watching him tense more with each one. She stopped after the last driving under the influence.
“Why is this bothering you so much?”
He offered a half-assed cocky grimace that failed to mimic the smile he was going for. A pretty shitty attempt to cover the darkness twisting beneath the surface. He took a deep breath. “I’m a big boy. I’ll do what has to be done.”
“I didn’t imply that you wouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean it’s not bothering you.”
He drummed his fingers on the table. “Let’s finish this up. I’ve got to get down to my company and start digging out from the mountain of crap that my predecessor left me.”
He brushed her off. The action was as insignificant as a paper cut.
She leaned back and picked up the next packet and wished it didn’t sting like it did. Then she made the mistake of meeting his gaze. There was such a dark lack of hope in his eyes. A bleak resignation to the things he was forced to confront. She almost reached for his hand. It would have been a simple gesture of support. But he looked at her as though a single touch might have shattered him.
He was not her problem. She didn’t do damaged and introspective.
Because there were people counting on her not to get distracted.
But looking at him now, she wondered about the glimpse of the tired warrior she saw behind those tormented brown eyes.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about A SEAL’s Kiss?
[Tawny Weber] A SEAL’s Kiss is an Engagement of Convenience story between two complete opposites. Sage and Aiden have known each other all their lives, but now a mission of mercy puts them in much closer contact than ever before.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
[Tawny Weber] I loved writing this story because I started with the concept of ‘how does a girl get engaged to a guy without him having clue’ and it sort of blossomed from there. Since I knew I the story would be an Engagement of Convenience, I wanted to start with weddings to show Sage’s feelings about the institution—which I didn’t actually know the depths of until I wrote the scene LOL. Sage is such a free spirit and Aiden is so regimented, both of them think they want different things; Sage to follow her bliss and Aiden to do the right thing. But really, they both just want to be happy.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
[Tawny Weber] The devotion both of the characters had to Sage’s father and to doing whatever they could to make his life happy. I know they are fictional, but feeling that kind of unconditional love, even in a book, gives me such hope.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What gave you the most trouble with this story?
[Tawny Weber] The ending – Sage and Aiden are both pretty mellow, so a realistic and logical dark moment was a challenge for sure.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?
[Tawny Weber] My cell phone
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.
[Tawny Weber] Iced tea, a bouquet of flowers and my dog Daisy Mae.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you were stranded in a secluded cabin during a blizzard, who would you most like to be stranded with?
[Tawny Weber] Hmm, if the blizzard is in fantasy-land I’d love to be trapped with Johnny Depp (and his guitar). If it’s in the real word, I’d like my husband there. I know he can keep the fire going ;-)
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
[Tawny Weber] I garden and scrapbook, knit and, of course, read. A lot :-)
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?
Obstacle: Deploy “Mission: (Fake) Engagement”…without actually falling for his fiancée!
The goal of Mission: Engagement is simple—a fake engagement concocted to bring happiness to Sage Taylor’s ailing father.
1) Treat it like a military mission
2) Keep the truth undercover
3) The “engagement” lasts as long as the professor’s health depends on it; and
4) No sex…especially with each other!
But the incredibly spirited (and a touch quirky) Sage has never been one for rules. Especially when they involve Aiden’s rock-hard navy bod and a ton of smokin’-hot sexual attraction. Which means in order to seduce this sexy SEAL, she’ll have to completely outmaneuver him….
Military Super-bundle of ten novellas and novels by New York Times, USA Today and award-winning bestselling authors: Delilah Devlin, Sharon Hamilton, Anne Marsh, Cora Seton, Zoe York, Roxie Riviera, S.M. Butler, Kimberley Troutte, Jennifer Lowery, Elle James.
IT TAKES A SEAL by USA Today Bestselling author Delilah Devlin:
When Susan heads to the Bahamas, she thinks the sexiest part of the trip is that she can count it as a tax deduction. After all, her agency has new offices in the Bahamas, and she needs face-time with her employees, who also just happen to be her best friends. However, things go quickly awry when their island benefactor comes under threat. After a night of partying on his yacht, she awakens to discover she’s stumbled into a sting operation to lure the bad guys into the open. She’s got to pretend she’s the billionaire’s trophy girlfriend, which isn’t hard when the man taking his place is a sexy ex-SEAL. When the bad guys kidnap the couple and imprison them on a deserted island, it’s up to ex-SEAL Justin to orchestrate an escape.
SEAL MY HEART by NY Times and USA Today Bestselling author Sharon Hamilton:
Kate Livingstone’s engagement is at risk the instant she sets eyes on the handsome elite warrior sitting next to her on a plane trip to visit her sister. Navy SEAL Tyler Gray had thought he knew what he wanted in life, until he meets Kate and their obvious attraction for each other sparks something deep in his soul. What starts out as innocent letters between friends turns out to be much more. Can someone fall in love deeply just with words and letters exchanged, or is this just a pleasant fantasy that will ruin their lives forever?
SMOKING HOT by National Bestselling author Anne Marsh:
When an ambush kills his teammate, Navy SEAL Tye Callahan steps in to fulfill the fallen man’s obligations. He vows to spend the summer in Strong, California, fighting fires with the smoke jumper team and looking out for Katie Lawson, his teammate’s fiancée. Now, as the summer heats up, they must decide if the chemistry burning between them might just be their second chance at living their own lives… together.
THE NAVY SEAL’s E-MAIL ORDER BRIDE by National Bestselling author Cora Seton:
Mason Hall, Navy SEAL, has fought insurgents, drug lords and terrorists, but his current mission is one for the records. Not only must he find a wife—and get her pregnant—or forfeit the ranch his family has prized for over a hundred years, he also must convince his three brothers to marry, too—before the year is up. Who knew one city girl and three wayward brothers could put up such a fight?
FALL OUT by Zoe York:
Drew Castle is a Navy SEAL with a bad case of indifference. Until Annie Martin shows up on his doorstep, scared out of her mind, and all of a sudden, keeping her safe becomes the most important mission of his life. And this time, he’s on his own. Annie knows that letting Drew whisk her away under the guise of protection is a recipe for disaster, but he’s the only person she can trust. Drew’s strange mix of laid-back bossiness takes some getting used to, but as they escape to a Caribbean hideaway, she finds herself wondering what it would be like if they came together at a different time. As the threat is resolved, a new danger arises: one of passion, heat and desire so overwhelming neither can resist, no matter the cost.
CLOSE QUARTERS by Bestselling author Roxie Rivera:
When Navy SEAL Leland Gates runs off to his family’s secluded cabin to lick his wounds, he never expects to find makeup heiress Jamie Pearson hiding out there. His sister’s best friend swears she’s only there for a weekend of relaxation, but his well-honed instincts tell him that she’s in big trouble. Getting tangled up in Jamie’s latest hot mess—or her sheets—is the very last thing he needs, but in close quarters like these, there’s no denying the white-hot passion blazing between them.
KILLING HONOR by International Bestselling author S.M. Butler:
Returning home after a disastrous extended deployment, Navy SEAL Brody Battles struggles with nightmares and government secrets building a wall between him and his wife, Devyn, especially when a security breach compromises his identity. While they’re adjusting to being a family again, an old enemy waits in the shadows, salivating for the sweet taste of revenge.
COMING IN HOT by Award-winning author Kimberley Troutte:
For Navy SEAL Mack Riley, rescuing a family in Colombia is not as hard as seeing the admiral’s daughter again. He’d sworn a vow to steer clear of that heartbreaker. But since the family was taken hostage on Jenna’s watch, she’s determined to join the rescue team. When the admiral orders him to protect Jenna, Mack is forced to keep her as close as body armor. In the heat of battle, love Mack and Jenna deny breaches their defenses. With missiles locked onto their coordinates…can they save the family and get out alive?
A SEAL’s SONG by Golden Heart Finalist Jennifer Lowery:
Navy SEAL Jack Taggart’s plans to catch some much-needed downtime between deployments are demolished when he risks everything to rescue beautiful wedding singer, Darci O’Shea, from a band of thieves. Will the battle between their inner demons be the hardest one to fight, or will they find rescue in each other’s arms?
SEALS’s EMBRACE by USA Today Bestseller Elle James:
Navy SEAL, Ceasar Sanchez has it bad for Army Lt. McGee, a nurse at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. When a rescue mission goes bad and he ends up being medically evacuated, she’s there. Not sure whether he’ll walk again, he’s afraid to pursue the pretty nurse, not wanting to shackle her with half a man. Lt. Erin McGee is a Critical Care Air Transport Team nurse, responsible for ensuring her patients arrive alive at the next level of health care. Fighting an attraction to a sexy Navy SEAL she outranks, she resists the risk of losing her commission for fraternization. But one sensual tryst behind a supply building isn’t enough and the SEALs determination to see her wear at her resolve. Ceasar and Erin share a medevac plane ride to Germany with a critically wounded Taliban leader who could provide information to the whereabouts of four missing soldiers. Transferred to the hospital at Landstuhl, Caesar undergoes surgery, restoring movement to his legs in time to stop a hostage takeover of the ICU where Erin is in charge of the Taliban leader’s care. Together they fight to save lives and halt a Terrorist attack, while finding that love trumps rank every time.
Injured Navy SEAL and the critical care nurse he’s attempting to woo join forces to stop a terrorist attack at a military hospital
Navy SEAL, Ceasar Sanchez has it bad for Army Lt. McGee, a nurse at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. When a rescue mission goes bad and he ends up being medically evacuated, she’s there. Not sure whether he’ll walk again, he’s afraid to pursue the pretty nurse, not wanting to shackle her with half a man.
Lt. Erin McGee is a Critical Care Air Transport Team nurse, responsible for ensuring her patients arrive alive at the next level of health care. Fighting an attraction to a sexy Navy SEAL she outranks, she resists the risk of losing her commission for fraternization. But one sensual tryst behind a supply building isn’t enough and the SEALs determination to see her wear at her resolve. Ceasar and Erin share a medevac plane ride to Germany with a critically wounded Taliban leader who could provide information to the whereabouts of four missing soldiers.
In the hospital at Landstuhl, Caesar and Erin fight their attraction for each other while a terrorist plot is underfoot to rescue the Taliban leader. Together they struggle to save lives and halt the an attack, while finding that love trumps rank every time.
“Sanchez,” a firm voice called out.
Caesar spun, his pulse ratcheting up as he faced the woman he couldn’t get out of his system.
Irish backhanded him in the chest. “I think you’ve met your match in that one.”
By the way Lt. McGee was shaking her pretty red head, Irish might have it right. What Irish didn’t realize was just how much Caesar had been working to break down the lady’s defenses. “Trust me, at this very moment, she’s on the brink of raising the white flag.”
“And her skirt?” Irish snorted. “I seriously doubt it. Wanna lay down another bet?”
“Sorry, I have to go. My future awaits.” Caesar took off across the floor, his focus on the petite nurse with deep auburn hair and emerald green eyes.
With her full, luscious lips pressed into a thin line, she led him deeper into the clinic to an examination room. All the way down the aisle, Caesar couldn’t help but notice the way her hips swayed beneath the flight suit that hugged her body like a tailored glove.
His groin tightened along with his resolve to have this beauty.
“Sit,” she ordered, pointing to the examination table.
Caesar hopped up on the table and spread his knees wide. The only way she was getting to that cut finger was to step between them. Still wearing his PT shorts, he realized the mistake that was. With nothing much to hold him back, he tented the shorts in an instant when the door closed to the room and they were alone.
“You really have to stop cutting yourself. This camp is full of all kinds of germs. Keep this up and you might lose that finger altogether.” She pulled a gauze pad out of a drawer, alcohol pads and a bandage before she turned and met his gaze, her own green eyes dancing with humor. “And the answer is no.” She pressed her lips together.
“How did you know I was about to ask a question? I might really be here to seek aid for my cut finger.”
“Uh huh.” She shook her head and stepped between his knees. “Two times in the same week is suspicious. Three times cutting the same finger, and that the injuries just happen to be on the same days as I’m volunteering at the clinic, is proof. You’re stalking me.” She bumped the inside of his thighs with her hips and sucked in a sharp breath, moving back quickly, her cheeks turning a rosy shade of pink.
So, she wasn’t immune to his presence. She just needed a little persuasion.
“Lt. McGee, mi amor, I’m crushed.” He pressed his uninjured hand to his chest. “Can I help the fact that I’m clumsy and deeply in love? Have coffee with me just once, and I won’t bother you again.”
“What do you know about love?” She pushed a loose strand of red hair behind her ear, twin flags of pink flying high on her cheekbones. “And I only have two words for you: fraternization and sexual harassment.”
Crooking an eyebrow, he grinned. “That’s four.”
“Yeah, I know, but with you, they all go together.” She swiped the alcohol pad across his finger, careful not to sway sideways and touch his thighs.
At the sting, Caesar bit down on his tongue to keep from hissing.
Two seconds later, she had the wound cleaned, and a bandage plastered over it. “There. Your booboo is all better.”
Before she could move away, Caesar hopped off the table and captured her wrist. “What do I have to do for you to look at me as other than a patient?” They stood so close, he could feel the heat of her body through the flight suit.
Her free hand rose to his chest, her eyes widened and her breathing grew more ragged. “An act of God?” She wet her lips.
That simple act sent Caesar over the edge of reason and he swooped in to steal a kiss. “Rules be damned.” He captured the back of her head, and bent to crush his lips against hers.
For a moment her hand pressed against his chest, then her fingers curled into his T-shirt and her mouth opened on a gasp.
Caesar thrust his tongue through, sliding it along hers in a long, wet caress. She tasted even sweeter than he’d imagined. When he lifted his head, he whispered against her mouth, “Muy precioso.”
The lieutenant gazed up into his face, her eyes glazed, her lips parted. Then she blinked and the spell was broken. She glanced down at his hand on her wrist, and her gaze narrowed. “Do you know how wrong this is? Let go.”
Immediately, he released her. “For now. I still want to have coffee with you.”
“No. It’s a bad idea.” She eased back a step.
“Are you afraid of me?”
“No. I’m not afraid of you.” She turned back to the cabinet, fished something out of a drawer and a bottle out of the cabinet above. “Drop your drawers.”
“What?” He frowned. Had he read her wrong? Surely she wasn’t going to…not here…anyone could walk in. His heartbeat quickened.
“You heard me.” She turned toward him, syringe in hand and fire in her eyes. “Drop ‘em.”
He held up his hand. “Seriously? You’re giving me a shot for a little cut on my finger?”
“No, for three little cuts on your finger.” She tilted her head, her brows rising in challenge. “Are you afraid of me?”
He stared at the syringe she wielded like a weapon. “Frankly, yes.”
About the Author
Elle James spent twenty years livin’ and lovin’ in South Texas, ranching horses, cattle, goats, ostriches and emus. A former IT professional, Elle is proud to be writing full-time, penning intrigues and paranormal adventures that keep her readers on the edge of their seats. Now living in northwest Arkansas, she isn’t wrangling cattle, she’s wrangling her muses, a malti-poo and yorkie. When she’s not at her computer, she’s traveling, out snow-skiing, boating, or riding her ATV, dreaming up new stories.
You can reach Elle James at www.ellejames.com or email her at
If you're a news junkie like me, there are times when even the cornucopia of journalism available isn't enough to sate your curiosity or answer all of your questions. It's just too hard to fit the history of the Cold War or the shifting boundaries of Eastern Europe into a six-minute news segment on NPR, [...]
My daily walk to work takes me through West Point’s cemetery. Founded in 1817, the cemetery includes the graves of soldiers who fought in the American Revolution, and in all of the wars our country has fought since. I often stop and reflect on the lives of these men and women who are interred here. Many headstones are of West Point graduates who were killed in World War II, including several on D-Day. Others fell in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, and Korea and Vietnam. One section holds special significance for me, since it contains the graves of former cadets and colleagues I have known in the past 14 years who died in Iraq or Afghanistan. No matter how preoccupied I may be with the vagaries of day to day life, a sense of peace and calm envelopes me as I stroll among the headstones. I feel I am among friends and comrades and there is a sense of connectedness with the past.
One of the soldiers interred at West Point is Lieutenant Christopher Kurkowsi. Chris graduated from West Point in 1986 with a degree in Engineering Psychology. He became an artillery officer and was killed on 26 February 1988 when the helicopter he was in crashed while on a routine training mission. At the time of the accident, Chris’s academic mentor at West Point, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy O’Neil, had initiated paperwork to send Chris to graduate school in psychology with a follow-on assignment to his old department at West Point. According to Lieutenant Colonel O’Neil, Chris would have made a tremendous psychologist and professor. Chris’s death exemplifies the loss of talent and potential of all of the soldiers buried at West Point.
Earlier this month, West Point held its annual “Inspiration to Serve” cemetery tour. All members of the West Point Class of 2016, who are finishing their second of four years of academic study and military training at West Point, participated. On this day, classmates, family, or friends of the fallen stand by a gravesite, and tell the story of the deceased to the cadet attendees. Of special interest this year, MaryEllen Picciuto, one of Chris Kurkowski’s classmates, told his story of service and sacrifice. The cadets stood respectfully and listened intently, as Ms. Picciuto brought Chris back to life through her remembrances. As she did this, other cadets stood by other graves, hearing the life story of other West Point graduates who gave their lives in the service of our country.
As a Nation, our move to an all volunteer force has distanced most Americans from direct experience and knowledge of the military and the men and women who serve. Cognitive psychologists make a distinction between semantic and episodic memory. The former is memory of generalized facts that are not part of our own personal experience. The latter, in contrast, are of events personally experienced. Think about your own memories. Those that are episodic are likely more vivid and tangible, and perhaps have more meaning in your own life story. You “know” from semantic memories, but you can “feel” in episodic memories.
Perhaps this Memorial Day, in between picnics and family activities, you can visit a veterans cemetery. Walk among the headstones, read the inscriptions, and reflect on what these men and women sacrificed for our Nation. Like Lieutenant Kurkowski, they had dreams, ambitions, life goals, and family and friends who loved them. Through such a visit, perhaps you can form an episodic memory by honoring the fallen for their service, and in doing so forge a more personal connection with these American heroes.
Note: The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not reflect the position of the United States Military Academy, the Department of the Army, or the Department of Defense.
Michael D. Matthews is Professor of Engineering Psychology at the United States Military Academy. Collectively, his research interests center on soldier performance in combat and other dangerous contexts. He has authored over 200 scientific papers and is the co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Military Psychology (Oxford University Press, 2012). Dr. Matthews’ most recent book is Head Strong: How Psychology is Revolutionizing War (Oxford University Press, 2014).
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Photos courtesy of Michael D. Matthews. Used with permission.
Women Heroes of World War 1: 16 remarkable resisters, soldiers, spies, and medics
by Kathryn J. Atwood
Women in Action series
Chicago Review Press. 2014
Reporting Under Fire: 16 daring women war correspondents and photojournalists
by Kerrie Logan Hollihan
Women in Action series
Chicago Review Press. 2014
Grades 8 and up
This reviewer used copies
O-Dark-Thirty is a literary journal for veterans, current military personnel, and their families. Created by the Veterans Writing Project, it helps those who have served tell their stories — and makes sure those stories are accessible to the rest of us.
For many soldiers, especially those who have served in combat roles, returning to “regular” life brings a new set of challenges. In Paving the Road Back, psychiatrist and Warrior Wellness Unit director Rod “Doc” Deaton gives those who serve our veterans a deeper understanding of the stresses of this transition.
At Powell's, our book buyers select all the new books in our vast inventory. If we need a book recommendation, we turn to our team of resident experts. Need a gift idea for a fan of vampire novels? Looking for a guide that will best demonstrate how to knit argyle socks? Need a book for [...]
Reading the newspaper these days feels a little like time traveling. After eight years of war in Iraq and (let's be honest) at least three years of societal amnesia, it's startling to wake up to headlines about sectarian violence and the president's requests for resources to fight ISIS, the radical Islamic organization conquering vast swathes [...]
A remarkable piece of fiction following proudly in the footsteps of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, The Yellow Birds and Redeployment. Wars never truly end for everyone involved and this is the territory Michael Pitre explores in his impressive debut novel.
On the eve on the Arab Spring in Tunisia three men are grappling with their futures now that their war has supposedly finished. Each is scarred and tainted by what they have witnessed and the decisions they have made. They are changed men returning to a changing world not sure if they achieved what they were fighting for. And if they possibly did whether it was worth the price.
Lieutenant Pete Donovan led a Marine platoon in charge of repairing potholes outside of Baghdad. What sounds like an innocuous responsibility is in fact extremely dangerous work as every pothole Donovan’s platoon must repair contains an IED. Every time.
The novel is told in flashbacks. Donovan has resigned his commission as an officer in the Marine Corps and is studying for his MBA in New Orleans. He is removed and detached from his class mates as well as the men and women with whom he served.
Lester ‘Doc’ Pleasant was the corpsman in Donovan’s platoon. His war ended with a dishonourable discharge. All the doors that Donovan’s service opened for him are closed for Lester who became isolated and detached from the rest of the platoon well before their deployment finished.
The third man is known only as Dodge. He was the platoon’s Iraqi-born interpreter. Through Dodge we see what the war means for Iraqis. The damage it has caused not just physically on the towns, cities and countryside but that damage it has caused to families, friendships and individuals.
Dodge’s story is the most powerful and insightful of the novel. While the lives of Donovan’s platoon are directly in his hands, Dodge’s own life and the people around him are a day-to-day juggling act where loyalties are won and lost, tested and betrayed.
Each man must try to make sense of the senseless violence they have lived and breathed and work out if they can possibly resurrect a new life from the aftermath.
War is never one-sided. It is all-encompassing and personally harrowing. Pitre has captured this aspect of war with compassion, complexity and clarity. It maybe a cliche to say that this is an important book about war that we should all read but it is only a cliche because it is true. We can’t understand a war until we have seen all its sides and Michael Pitre’s powerful debut novel is the first to explorer the pain and destruction wreaked on both sides of this long and different war.
As a US Marine, Lucas A. Dyer engaged in combat with the Taliban in Afghanistan’s heroin capital of Helmand. As a small unit leader and platoon commander leading Marines in battle, he fought terrorists and their allies on their home turf, witnessing unspeakable violence in the process. He and his fellow Marines realized that an eye for an eye would not accomplish their objectives so, relying on counterinsurgency operations, they began shaking hands one at a time and ultimately drove the Taliban away. Day by day and week by week, they proved that a small fighting force could work together with Afghans to become brothers-in-arms.
In his memoir, Lucas recalls the events of his time in Afghanistan, sharing true stories from the front lines of how his company was able to win their battles through handshakes.
Hi Lucas, please tell everyone a little about yourself.
Lucas: I was born in Randolph, Vermont where I grew up a pretty normal life for being raised by a single mother of two. I was an athlete my whole life and achieved honors earning my way into a private school where I was a star hockey player. I then graduated heading off to college where I made a last minute decision in August of 2000 to join the United States Marine Corps and become an Infantry Marine. I deployed four times and served thirteen years on active duty and transferred to the reserves in the summer of 2013. I started writing professionally in 2012 where I was picked up by Jiu-Jitsu Magazine and wrote monthly articles on nutrition for the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)/Jiu-Jitsu community. My current book, A Battle Won by Handshakes, was a project I started in 2010 after returning from combat in Afghanistan. It was completed and published in June of 2014. It currently is the number 1 best seller iUniverse.
When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
Lucas: I first got into writing in early 2010 when I started working on my recently published book A Battle Won by Handshakes. The genre is non-fiction/military/bio. Along the side of working on this book, I wrote weekly blogs on nutrition for athletes and later got picked up by a popular MMA magazine called Jiu-Jitsu Magazine. Jiu-Jitsu Magazine has become the second most sold magazine under UFC for MMA.
When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
Lucas: When I got the idea to write this book, I wanted to finish it as soon as possible. I felt that that book should come out sooner than later so it would be relevant to the current war in Afghanistan at that time. However I realized that it wasn’t that easy. There were a lot of details and facts to check on. Names of places, people and events that I had to research to make sure I was correct on all accounts. I wanted it to be perfect so not to upset anyone by quoting someone incorrectly. After talking to several other authors, they all shared one final thought in common, to take my time and don’t rush. They told me to write a little, take a break, and to write some more, then take a break. It ended up being the best advice I had received.
Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?
Lucas: My recent book is titled A Battle Won by Handshakes and as of now it is a stand-alone. I do have ideas for another one to follow but I will keep them to myself. The book is about my experiences as a United States Marine fighting against the Taliban in Helmand Afghanistan. What was unique about this battle was that after a short period of time we realized that fighting the Taliban with weapons was a very challenging task so we utilized a tactic called counterinsurgency (COIN) operations. The idea was to get the Local Nationals on our side, and gain their trust. In turn they would help provide information free of fear instilled by the Taliban. Our unit was very successful in doing so and it makes for a great story. It gives amazing insight to what goes on in combat for those who have always wondered.
Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?
Lucas: Although I don’t really have characters so-to-speak. There are stories about Marines in this book that I feel have the reader cheering for them to survive. There were some close encounters with death and several of us were lucky at times. On the opposite end there are also some who were not so lucky and did not make it back. One in particular that has grabbed the hearts of many was one of my Marines Lance Corporal Donald Hogan who was killed August 26, 2009 protecting his Marines. His story is remarkable and has earned him the second highest medal under the Medal of Honor for his bravery.
Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?
Lucas: I found it very helpful to write a little bit, then turn away for a week or so to collect my thoughts. It helped me feel more organized to write several pages, and then walk away. This technique was useful.
How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
Lucas: The most influential aspect that helped my writing was being a Marine and having first-hand experience on the subject being written about. My upbringing only added to the drive and determination to be able to say “I am a published author”.
Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.
Lucas: The reviews are amazing. I have been blessed with so many fans. However the ones that really get to me are the ones from fellow Marines that I served with, who have had a hard time dealing with some of the losses on this deployment. When they tell me the book heals, or helps them, I really tear up. Here is a recent one:
So today I decided to open your book and it brought back a lot of emotions that I knew would resurface. It took me many years to accept what happened and I tried to live a better life for Swanson. As the pages started turning, an old life style, and brotherhood I miss so much came to life. I have not finished reading your book yet, and to be honest I don’t want the book to end. Your book has brought back many memories of the brotherhood I miss so much. I still have many memories of good times we have shared. I want to thank you for sharing your story. I hope all is we’ll and I look forward to seeing your book at #1. Semper Fi brother.
What are your current projects?
Lucas: I am currently working on a Sports Nutrition book for the MMA/Jiu-Jitsu athlete. I have a years’ worth of nutritional articles that I am slowly turning them into a nutritional guide.
Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
AEGIS: an elite team of ex-military men working under the radar of most governments. If you have a problem no one else can handle, they can help.
A former SEAL and Black Ops specialist who left the CIA, Nick Donovan gave up a life on the edge to work in the private sector. But that didn’t stop his enemies from coming after him—or his family. In a case of mistaken identity, a drug cartel kidnaps his sister-in-law’s best friend … a woman from Nick’s past.
One minute Jennifer Grayson is housesitting and the next she’s abducted to a foreign brothel. Jennifer is planning her escape when her first “customer” arrives. Nick, the man who broke her heart years ago, has come to her rescue. Now, as they race for their lives, passion for each other reignites and old secrets resurface. Can Nick keep the woman he loves safe against an enemy with a personal vendetta?
Kay Thomas didn’t grow up burning to be a writer. She wasn’t even much of a reader until fourth grade. That’s when her sister readThe Black Stallion aloud to her. For hours Kay was enthralled—shipwrecked and riding an untamed horse across desert sand. Then tragedy struck. Her sister lost her voice. But Kay couldn’t wait to hear what happened in the story—so she picked up that book, finished reading it herself, and went in search of more adventures at the local library. Today Kay lives in Dallas with her husband, two children, and a shockingly spoiled Boston terrier. Her award-winning novels have been published internationally.