UPDATE: The winner is…Ann Q!
* * * * *
Hey there! I’m up bright and early today. What does that phrase mean, anyway—bright and early? It’s dark as midnight outside at the moment. And you know, I stumbled over the “dark as midnight” too. I wanted to write “dark as fuck”, but figured you might not like that word outside of a scene where the F-word is definitely being used as a verb. The “dark as fuck” is a remnant of a relationship I had with an Irishman. He loved that phrase. Now, it slips far too easily off my tongue and fingertips…
So, there was absolutely no point to that opening paragraph. Hope you didn’t mind the meandering segues. I have a feeling it’s going to be one of those days. I have a shit-ton of editing to do today, and how will I be starting my day? I’m headed to the Pumpkin Days Festival, which a little nearby church in the sticks holds every year. The kids always love it, so of course, we have to go. Games, food, PUMPKINS.
Do you have big things planned for today? I have a suggestion! Read the excerpt below from Hard SEAL to Love, and tell me you’re not tempted to find a SEAL book-boyfriend!
Comment for a chance to win one of my Uncharted SEALs stories
PLUS an Amazon gift card!
Click on a cover to explore the series!
Hard SEAL to Love
Former SEAL, “Big Mac” McLane, is sure he earned all kinds of bad karma somewhere when his next mission with Charter Group is to guard the “Love Boat” and a pretty program director. Okay, so the cruise line is sponsoring a special cruise for wounded soldiers and their significant others—a great cause. Mac doesn’t doesn’t know a thing about spending time with “good” women, but Kylie Hammond is full of surprises. After the initial shock of meeting her, he feels like he has two left feet whenever she’s around. So he’ll do his job, keep it strictly business, fade into the background whenever she’s around, but Kylie seems to have other ideas…
Kylie knows the muscle-bound SEAL isn’t exactly gung-ho for his new assignment, and she isn’t exactly the “princess” he expected, but she can’t be more pleased. The big man’s the yummiest thing she’s ever seen, and coaxing blushes and glares from him becomes her favorite sport. Then someone aboard the ship is killed. The thing her charity most feared—a terrorist attack at sea—appears to be underway. Now, she has to trust Mac and his team to keep her wounded soldiers safe.
Read an excerpt…
Five hours later, Mac stepped through the entrance of the Hampton Inn. The lobby was a study in orderly chaos. Suitcases were lined up and stacked against one wall. Men and women, some in wheelchairs or walking with crutches and walkers, and missing limbs—some multiples—filled the space.
Mac tamped down a feeling of guilt for being able-bodied and whole as he walked through the throng, nodding now and then as he passed the veterans. He headed to the concierge and asked where he could find Kylie Hammond. After being informed which conference room Soldiers’ Sanctuary had commandeered to hand out welcome packets to arrivals, he headed down a hallway, relieved he didn’t have to push through a sea of bodies. He was ready to start this op. Sooner the better. Five days would fly by, and then he’d have the down time he needed to get his head on straight before the next assignment.
Stepping inside the room, he noted two long conference tables filled with plastic buckets of folders. Three elderly men manned the table.
One of them who sported a gray buzz cut and a surprisingly muscular build glanced his way. He lifted his chin in greeting.
Mac decided he was as good a place to start as any and strode toward him.
The old man held out his hand. “Joe Olinksy,” he said, in deep, loud voice. Then he leaned against the table edge and whispered, “You with Charter?”
Mac eyed him then glanced at his two buddies who were moving closer. His presence as part of the security team was supposed to be on a “need-to-know” basis.
Grinning, Joe waved a hand. “We’re part of your support. Eyes and ears only. We’re a little too long in the tooth to be the muscle, but we’re here to help. We’ll be staying in the stateroom next to yours.”
Skeptical that this band of elderly brothers could be of any service at all, Mac drew a deep breath and gave Joe’s two companions another look.
“This is Morty,” Joe said, pointing toward a thin man with a round, pot belly. “And that’s Sly.”
Sly smiled, and his teeth were blindingly white and little too large in his mouth.
“Ex-marines, 3rd Division during Viet Nam,” Joe said. “You a SEAL like Wiley?”
“Semper Fi,” Morty said, grinning.
Mac grunted, revising his original assessment. These guys had seen real action. “I’m looking for Kylie Hammond.”
“She’s out in the atrium,” Joe pointed toward the windows behind him, “getting a cup of coffee. She’s been manning the tables since dawn. And don’t worry about us. We can handle ourselves. After all our help on the last cruise, Poppy made sure to add us to the team. We’ll have your six.”
The three elderly men hadn’t been mentioned in any of the briefings he’d attended back at HQ. Wiley for damn sure hadn’t said a thing, but then again, Wiley had looked a little smug when he’d heard Mac was being assigned to protect his wife’s best friend. He cleared his throat. “Mac McLane by the way,” he said, giving a nod to all three men.
“We’ll see you aboard the Oceanus,” Joe said.
Mac left them and thought about calling Wiley to find out why the hell he hadn’t mentioned his geriatric buddies. Just to bitch because he was already dreading the coming minutes. He didn’t have a lot of experience with Ms. Hammond’s brand of womanhood. He’d served with women in the field, and slept with the women who swarmed bars outside Navy bases, hoping for a hookup with a SEAL.
Women outside those two categories tended to make him nervous. In his experience, women had served only two purposes, as support and/or stress-relief for a SEAL. Not that he looked down on them. He liked the women he’d known. But he hadn’t had to think much about what kind of impression he made or how to talk to them. He could be gruff and blunt. What the hell would he talk about for the days and nights he and the princess would be glued to each other’s sides?
Entering the atrium, he glanced around for someone who fit the picture he’d made up in his mind. She’d be pretty, no doubt. He couldn’t imagine anyone who was friends with Poppy Shackleford and attending her social functions looking any different.
Most of the small round, brightly tiled tables were filled with men and a few women. Probably wives of the wounded soldiers, who’d be accompanying their husbands on the cruise.
One woman sat alone, her head bent over her cell phone which lay flat on the tabletop, a tall Styrofoam cup beside it. Her hair was a mass of dark brown curls. Her body, what he could see of it hunched over the table, was slender. Her bare arms and the tops of her shoulders, revealed by an olive tank, showed well-developed muscles. She wore no jewelry, save for a watch on an olive-colored web strap. Faux military-issue? And now he wondered whether she was one of those who was so enamored of military men she wore cammo pajamas. He’d met a few like that. As he moved nearer, she must have sensed someone watched her.
The woman’s gaze lifted from her phone and locked with his.
As he took in her features, he slowed his steps. Wide-set green eyes whose gaze never wavered, tan skin, rose-colored lips, cheeks that were prominent and high. She was lovely, but didn’t wear a hint of makeup. She didn’t need it. Unbidden, interest flared inside him, heating his blood.
“Are you Mac?” she asked, her voice even and little husky.
His tongue felt thick as he gave a crisp nod and replied. “You Kylie?”
Her smile was a little tight, but she pushed up from the table to greet him, her arm reaching forward.
When he looked down at her hand, with its long fingers and short bare nails, his gaze dropped to her legs. Another shock stole his breath. She wore shorts which ended at mid-thigh, revealing one long, nicely turned limb paired with a shapely thigh that disappeared into the black cup of a prosthetic limb.