Hot SEAL, In His Memory
On Memorial Day, he will stand by her side when she visits her husband’s grave, but he wonders if she’ll ever see him as anything more than her husband’s best friend and the man who accompanied his body home for burial…
Navy SEAL, Chris “Zig” Bykowski, has done his duty to his best friend’s wife by being there to help whenever she or her son needed him. However, now, he has the feeling she wants to put distance between herself and the SEALs who watch over her as the widow of a fallen teammate. Though painful, because he’s grown to care for her, he will let her go, knowing she needs closure to move on with her life.
Andi Westall has picked up the pieces of her shattered life after the death of her husband, Ozzie. Although she knows it will be painful to break away from the SEALs who have given her their support, she is ready to cut ties and move on past the painful memories. However, fate has another idea. When she discovers that she may have a stalker, the only person she knows to confide in is Ozzie’s best friend, Zig. When Zig and the team rush to the rescue, she finds that accepting their aid and continued friendship isn’t as hard as she’d imagined.
While the team works to figure out who is stalking her, Zig insists on sticking close to keep her safe. One night of tearful remembrances ends with her waking up to discover that she wants more from Zig than just his protection. Whether this is love or simply need is something she’ll have to figure out before they both get hurt.
Read an Excerpt
Chris “Zig” Bykowski woke in an instant, thinking for just a second that the voice was real and right beside him. Then, as had happened too many times to count, his heart thudded inside his chest before he remembered that the man who’d whispered those words was no longer among the living.
Zig lay in the dark for several minutes, just breathing, and trying not to think about the events that had stolen the life of his best friend. Michael “Ozzie” Westall had been dead for nearly a year now. His mind was just playing tricks on him. He hadn’t heard him whispering.
Still, the voice had sounded real—so real, he wondered whimsically whether his friend was haunting him.
When out on a mission, he and Ozzie had often placed their bedrolls close to each other because Ozzie liked to talk before he slept, sometimes falling asleep mid-sentence. Too many times, Zig had been on the brink of sleep when Ozzie would whisper in the dark, “Hey, Zig,” to talk about mundane things—never anything to do with a mission. Usually, he liked to talk about the chores he needed to do around the house, the trips he wanted to take with his small family, or the ballgames he planned to attend with his young son, Jeremy, when he was back stateside.
He’d ramble on and on, but Zig had never minded. He’d liked hearing about Ozzie’s plans, offering suggestions and smiling whenever Ozzie included him in those plans, because, “Hey, you’re family, bro.”
Ozzie, Jeremy, and Ozzie’s wife, Andi, were the only family he’d had. At first, Zig had wondered if Ozzie had felt sorry for the fact Zig had no one, and maybe that had been part of why he’d stuck close to Zig when he’d first joined the team. However, once Zig had no longer needed a mentor, and was a fully established member of the unit with many “brothers”, Ozzie had continued including him in family get-togethers and events. One time, Ozzie’s mom and dad in Oakland had even invited him to spend a Christmas at their place when the team had been home for the holiday. When they’d headed back to Coronado, his mother had kissed him on the cheek, and then looked directly into his eyes, asking him to, “Look out for my boy, won’t you?” He’d proudly accepted her kiss, and had made another promise he’d had no business giving and little hope of fulfilling. “Safe” and “SEAL” didn’t occupy the same reality.
For a time, his life had been full and fulfilled—as part of an elite team with tight bonds, the “brother from another mother” to Ozzie, and the extra “uncle” to young Jeremy.
Everything had changed the day Ozzie had taken a bullet in Afghanistan. One bullet had stripped away Ozzie’s life and Zig’s tether to his family.
Zig sighed, knowing he wasn’t going to get any more sleep. He swung his legs to the floor, sat on the edge of his bed, and checked his watch. It was Saturday, and their commander had forbidden them from coming in that day. They all needed a break after back-to-back missions. So, they’d been given a rare non-holiday, three-day weekend.
His teammates were scattering to the wind. Inferno, Gator, and Mars were planning to hit the beach for some surfing, and would likely wind up guzzling beers and playing darts at McP’s. Heartbreaker was planning to surprise Alicia with a romantic date. Joker had pursed his lips after hearing Heartbreaker’s plans and decided he’d better up his game and make plans for April. Wolf had left the team’s locker room planning to hit the organic grocery store before heading downtown for a cooking class—something the rest of the team ribbed him about. Bear and Pops had been vague about their plans, but both had mentioned needing to “gas up” their vehicles, so likely they’d be out of town.
When Zig had been asked what he’d be up to that weekend, he’d shrugged, but he was sure the guys knew he’d be spending at least some of his time at Ozzie’s place.
While they all pitched in to help Andi with whatever needed to be done around her small house, and often grabbed Jeremy to play catch or head to an amusement park, Zig was the one constant.
It wasn’t a penance. Or even to do with “the promise.” It had been long enough since Ozzie’s death that Andi had started giving him looks when he showed up. Though she hadn’t said anything yet, he was sure she was working herself up to saying something.
The last time he’d shown up to mow the lawn, she’d said Jeremy was old enough to handle the job on his own. The boy needed manly chores. So, he’d supervised, making sure Jeremy knew how to safely gas up the mower. Then he’d stood watching as the boy cleared twigs and rocks before starting. And yeah, the rows he’d mowed had been even, and he hadn’t missed a spot.
When he’d finished, Jeremy’s mouth had stretched wide in a smile very reminiscent of his father’s. “See, Zig? I can do it all by myself.”
Zig dreaded heading over to their house today. Every time he was there, he felt as though Andi was drawing further and further away, distancing herself from him and the other guys.
He knew it was painful for her to see them. She was still part of the SEAL family—she would forever be as the widow of a fallen SEAL—but he’d seen the way she looked at them. Although her eyes no longer teared up, her mouth still tightened. She’d worked hard to build another future for herself and Jeremy, joining the faculty of National University on the naval base.
Juggling her job and Jeremy had taken another kind of toll on her. Zig was sure she wasn’t getting enough rest or downtime, but it wasn’t his business to tell her so. No matter what Ozzie had said.
Zig closed his eyes, remembering that last night before they’d slipped into that tiny, sleepy hamlet in Afghanistan that had harbored a remnant band of ISIS fighters. They’d decided to bed down until the wee hours to get some much-needed rest after they’d been dropped by helicopters several miles away to make the march to their target location…