BUY LINKS COMING SOON
Gower gave up the military for his son. He can’t ask Melina to give it up for him.
Marine Gunnery Sergeant Melina Angel is up for a serious promotion. All she has to do to become a Master Sergeant is not retire. Of course not retiring means more duty, and wartime duty at that. While her life is full of dedicated service to her country when it comes to finding true love Melina can’t help thinking she’s done a disservice to herself.
Former SEAL, Gower Beckett, doesn’t regret resigning his lieutenant’s commission to single parent his son, even though he was barely thirty when he had to make the call. Now if he can just find civilian work he likes before his entire savings runs out, he and Dillon will be just fine. Finding love with that one perfect woman? That’s a dream he no longer allows himself.
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“I don’t know how you can think about getting out when you can’t even stand the idea of them going off without you. You look sad as hell right now.”
Melina whipped her head around as she narrowed her gaze on her next in command. Sergeant Jackson Dallas was a handsome man and a good soldier. And one day soon, Jack would be promoted. When that happened, he’d either take her spot or move on to one of his own. That was how it worked. Ten years in a place like she’d served was a special case for any soldier. Everyone moved on eventually.
“Shut up, Jack. I don’t look sad. I look pissed—because I am pissed. Who in the hell said I was leaving? The captain wouldn’t have said anything. Have you been interrogating Corporal Boyd’s tits again?”
“Negative, Gunny. During work hours, I’m the model of discretion. I’ve been looking into her eyes and saluting silently.”
“Yeah—you and every other male Marine.”
The grin Jack turned her direction had her grinning in return. Melina watched him shrug and grinned wider herself when she observed his proud smirk. Jack was nothing if not confident with the ladies. That confidence had an effort on her as well. It made her pat her own back for being a decent judge of character. She grinned when Jack cleared his throat.
“The good corporal favors my salute… or so she says. But I didn’t hear your news from her. The Captain called me in to talk about my future plans in case you throw this luxurious job away and decide to retire.”
Melina snorted, shook her head, and then sighed. “Figures. Guess I’m taking too long to decide. After twenty-one years, taking more than two days to decide something this large should be a damn given.”
“Agreed,” Jack declared. “Everyone will miss you if you go. Double that for me.” He shouldered his duffle. “You’re better with the green ones than I am. You’re like their fucking mother.”
Melina snorted at Jack’s claim. “Not hardly.”
“Now how can you say that, Gunny Angel? You bought PFC Carlyle a freaking teddy bear.”
Her eyes crinkled as the corners of her mouth lifted in satisfaction. “And I also made him carry it everywhere. I figured if Carlyle was going to whine like a two-year-old, he should carry something to warn people he was a toddler.”
She laughed when Jack did.
Then he nodded in concession. “Hard to argue with your methods when it worked so well. Boy hasn’t complained since. However, it’s hard as hell to correct him during inspections when I see that damn bear reclining on his bunk. It’s all I can do to maintain when I want to laugh my ass off. I don’t know how you kept a straight face about it.”
Melina chuckled wickedly. “I couldn’t. That’s why I made you do inspections. It was like a twofer to get even with you and Carlyle at the same time.”
“Yeah. I figured that was the case,” Jack declared. “Are you ever going to forgive me for my drunk ramblings about you and the SEAL?”
“Not in this lifetime. You better start hoping I leave,” Melina answered.
Glancing at the black monster currently vibrating the tarmac, Melina sighed as she watched her people talking inside its open doors. She couldn’t hear them over the sound of the chopper. They couldn’t hear her either.
She turned to look her second in the eye. “Be truthful, Jack. Do you think I treat them like children?”
Jack snorted at her question but hung his head to respectfully hide the rest of his amusement. “Yeah. Sometimes you treat them like kids, but it works for you. They’d rather die than disappoint you. All of them make their real mommas proud because of you.”
Melina shook her head as she frowned. “Damn it, Jack. They’re supposed to be afraid of me. They’re Marines.”
“Oh—they’re afraid of you. They call you vulgar names in Spanish when you make them mad. I gotta run now, Gunny. They’re waiting for me. Watch that foot.”
“Yeah. I know. Thanks, Jack.”
His reassuring slap on her shoulder as he walked by knocked her askew because of the awkward crutches propped under her armpits. She frowned as he jogged towards the spinning blades. She really was pissed about not going, but a small part of her was also glad not to be heading back to the desert again.
Her conflicting thoughts about it made her feel both disloyal and confused.
She yelled after him. “Watch your head, Sergeant Dallas. All sand is not created equal. The desert is not the fucking boardwalk on Virginia Beach. I expect you to bring the whole team back safely. No casualties allowed.”
“Yes, ma’am. See you in a few weeks.”
As the helicopter lifted in the air, Melina’s cell phone rang in her pocket. She let it go until the noise dissipated enough for her to be heard above the machines. It stopped briefly, but seconds later started ringing again.
She glanced at the caller ID as she pulled it from her pocket. Cassidy was calling? She felt both eyebrows raise as she debated whether or not to answer. The cheating bastard was lucky she’d even left his number in her phone.
Of course, he had come to lend a hand when she first got home from the hospital. But that didn’t mean he was ever going to be anything more than a friend again. She’d been done with him the moment she’d caught him kissing some short-skirted and very drunk naval officer outside the club the two of them so often frequented.
Sighing in resignation, Melina touched the accept call symbol. He was already talking before she even got out hello.
“Is it true you’re leaving?”
Melina looked around the tarmac for him but didn’t see her torturer. Chris was a terrible joker, and it would be just like him to be standing nearby when he called her to talk.
“Rumors really are flying around here lately, aren’t they? I heard you were leaving too,” she answered, dodging any commitment. “Where the hell are you, Chris?”
“On the first helicopter that took off. This is my last deployment. When I return, the only sand in my future is going to be under my ass on a friggin’ US beach. I saw you watching your guys leave. You looked sad, honey.”
Melina’s bark of laughter startled even her. “And here I thought you knew me better than that. I’m just pissed about being stuck on the ground. I should be going too.”
“Why would you go if you don’t have to anymore? If you’re done, Melina—be the hell done. Maybe we could…”
“Fuck, no. Nothing like that is happening ever again,” Melina said sharply… and she hoped firmly. “Our nine months together was an aberration. Count your blessings it’s over and be grateful I let you keep your nuts.”
“Our time together was an education for me, and I have learned my lessons. I want you back. That’s not bullshit.”
Melina snorted before answering. “I have a video running in my head of your hand on her breast under her shirt and your tongue moving in and out of her mouth while she moaned. Every time we talk—like now for instance—that gets superimposed over the conversation. Then I get mad and start reaching for my KA-BAR to separate you from your balls just before I remember we’ve been friends for a decade. Luckily for you, friendship trumps my urge to make sure you can’t cheat on the next good woman in your life.”
“It was a one-time error in judgment, Gunny Angel. Hell—I never slept with her. How many times do I have to tell you I was just fooling around?”
“Zero times, Lieutenant. I never asked for any explanation of your actions. My eyes told me all I needed to know. You were turning forty that night, but you were acting like some horny twenty-year-old. Plus, you knew I was coming to meet you. That self-defeating behavior smacks of something only a shrink can help you with. Don’t look to me to take it on, Chris. Just go live your life and have a good one.”
Melina smirked at the loud, resigned sigh blasting her eardrum.
“So that’s your final answer about us?”
“Yes. Always will be,” Melina said firmly. “I don’t even have a lump in my throat talking about it. We were a bad idea from the very beginning. Your reputation with women guaranteed us to crash and burn. I don’t know why I was so surprised by the reality.”
“Look… I’m truly sorry. We were good together, weren’t we? How are you going to find a man to replace me, Melina? A woman as hot as you isn’t meant to be alone.”
“Being hot is a moot point since I’m not looking at the moment, but thanks for your lack of confidence in my feminine allure. I hope you find a woman worth being faithful to who screws around on you so you can know what it feels like to be betrayed and humiliated in front of all your friends. She can finish your fucking so-called education.”
“Damn, honey. That was pretty heartless of you. I thought you were supposed to be my guardian angel.”
“Oh, I still am. That’s why I took your phone call when I didn’t want to,” Melina said brightly, grinning at his obvious frustration with her quick, cheerful reply. “Take care of yourself over there, Whale Bait. I do still like your cheating ass. I just don’t want to fuck it anymore. Am I making myself clear enough, Lieutenant?”
There was silence on the line. Melina waited it out. “Chris? Answer me.”
“Yes, ma’am. Loud and clear. No more fucking.”
Another resigned sigh whispered into her ear. It was easy to visualize Chris squirming in his seat. She was still attracted to the two-timing bastard, but not enough to sacrifice her self-worth. It eased something in her to know he was finally retiring. It meant she wouldn’t have to see him so much anymore if she did decide to reenlist. The man was always going to be a temptation to her if he hung around. She didn’t need that kind of grief.
“I’m glad we finally got that straight, Cassidy. Keep your head down over there and give me a call when you get back. But when you do, I want to talk about something other than the past.”
She hung up without waiting for a reply to her last command. Her grin was because she knew he’d be cussing her six ways from Sunday in that stupid Alabama drawl of his. Her heart still had a soft spot in it for the SEAL—always had if she wanted to be real honest with herself.
Her devastation had been so complete that day, she’d stood there staring until Chris had finally raised his head from the woman and seen her gawking in shock.
Yet despite catching him with someone else, if they’d kept talking just now, Chris might have actually finagled his way back into her life. Then she’d have to go through that betrayal hell all over again. She’d discovered the hard way that she wasn’t the kind of woman who could hang on to a slippery SEAL.
Melina couldn’t prevent herself from grumbling aloud as she tucked the phone into her pocket and hobbled back to her office to look for a ride.
“And that’s why when I get horny next time, I’m only letting a fellow jarhead into my pants. He better live Semper Fi in every sense of the phrase or I’ll kick his cheating ass to the curb too. I’m too old to deal with anyone’s shit but my own.”
LENGTH: 29,466 words
RELEASE DATE: Oct 2018