I'm a huge fan of Jessica Scott's writing, she creates such realistic characters and her romances are always completely swoon worthy so I always look forward to reading her books and the start of her new series is no exception to that. I've already had the pleasure of reading Homefront (watch out for my review later today) and trust me you're going to love it. I'm thrilled to have a few excerpts to share with you today so that you can see exactly what I'm talking about but first let me give you a bit more information about the book:
First Sergeant Gale Sorren waited a war and half a lifetime for a chance to get stationed near the ex-wife who left him years ago. When he finally musters the courage to see her, the life he imagined she was living was nothing close to the reality.
She's never stopped loving him . . .
Melanie never stopped worrying about Gale each time he headed off to war. But he's never been there when she needed him and she's had fifteen years to steel her heart against him.
But when Gale moves to Fort Hood, he finally has a chance to make things right with Melanie and the daughter she raised without him.
Can Mel trust her heart to a man who has always let her down?
After the War (May 2015)
Face the Fire (release date to be confirmed)
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“What if he comes here?”
“You don’t know that.”
“You’re right,” he admitted finally. He sighed heavily. “I’ve known him a long time and this doesn’t gel with what I know of him. He's not going to hurt you.”
“You sound so certain.” Her fingers danced over his ribs, as though she wasn’t sure where to place her hands. “Why?”
“Because you’re mine,” he said, giving voice to the powerful feelings he could finally identify for what they were. “And if he puts his hands on you or our daughter, I’ll kill him.”
And then he kissed her.
It was a powerful kiss, filled with a riot of emotions that had started building in him years ago when she’d first left him. It was a kiss filled with fear. With uncertainty.
He gave in to the maelstrom inside him, holding back only enough to be certain that he wasn't crossing the line.
Mel opened to his kiss, wanting badly to push away the sadness and the fear and the worry that had been squeezing the air from her lungs since she’d found Gale outside her office.
There was fear in her response, a tacit admission that this was something fleeting and yet, it was the only tangible thing between them.
He shifted then until their bodies pressed together, until she breathed with him and felt part of her soul take flight from the bonds of worry and sadness and daily life.
Her fingers flexed against his ribs. Gale felt the moment she gave in to the kiss, savored the moment of her surrender. Her body relaxed against his, fitting perfectly against his chest.
This was something good. Something pure. Untainted by the darkness that had caused him to seek her out today, needing her when he needed to lean. This. This was what he craved. His wife’s touch. His wife’s taste.
She was not his wife. That ugly piece of reality crashed into him and he stiffened.
Mel felt it instantly, her body tensing. “What?”
The words lodged in his throat. There was no way he could admit the feelings that churned inside him. That he still thought of her as his wife after all these years.
He nipped at her bottom lip, hoping to distract her. “We should do this more often.”
He felt her smile beneath his lips. “You think so?” There was something light and breathless in her words.
“Very much so.” He kissed the corner of her mouth. The edge of her jaw.
He traced the outside edge of her ear with the tip of his tongue. Felt the pleasure of her gasp against his cheek. His teeth scraped over her earlobe. “That’s nice,” she breathed.
“You like that?”
He closed his eyes, pulling her tight, needing the comfort of her touch, the pleasure to drive away the darkness. He breathed in her scent, holding her close. Her pulse scattered against his cheek and for a moment, he simply held her.
“You make me crazy, Melanie,” he whispered.
“Jamie’s upstairs.” Her voice sounded off. Heavy and sultry. Her eyes were dark and clouded with shadows, and something else.
Something he thought he knew but was afraid to name.
He cleared his throat before he spoke. It was a long time before he found the words he needed to say.
The words he wanted to say started with please and ended with them naked. He wasn’t sure that would go over well.
And besides, he wanted to keep the moment untarnished in his memory. It had been so fucking long since he’d held her.
“So what’s our negotiating position?” he asked.
“On what?” She frowned and looked down at her wine glass.
“I’m going upstairs. Are there any things that are expressly forbidden? I don’t want to undermine you.”
She smiled and it was warm and sunny. “You sound like you know how kids play mom against dad.”
He grinned down at her, fighting the urge to stroke his fingers over her cheek. She was so fucking adorable. “It’s part of the duty description of being a first sergeant,” he said mildly.
She frowned. “I’m quite sure I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Soldiers will try to get between you and your commander. It’s up to the commander and the first sergeant to present a united front.”
She opened her mouth to say something then closed it.
He stepped close. “What?”
“I—” She paused, refusing to lift her gaze to meet his. “I guess I hadn’t thought about it.”
Something he’d said upset her. It cut at him, slicing away the moment before and replacing it with something raw and bleeding. “What, Mel?”
He lifted his hand to her cheek then, more to offer comfort than to steady her.
He was shocked when she didn’t pull away.
“I guess I never thought about you and me being a united front.” Her words were thick and uncertain, filled with fear and old hurts. Because he could find no other way to soothe the aching hurt in her eyes, he lowered his mouth to hers. A gentle kiss. Hesitant. A brush of lips.
Tentative and seeking. He sucked gently on her bottom lip, urging her to open for him, begging her with his mouth to not pull away.
There was fear in his kiss. Terror that she would pull away and slap at him.
But then her lips parted. Just a little, but it was enough for him to feel her breath on his tongue. She tasted sweet and sunny from the wine. He could get drunk on her taste. He deepened the kiss, slipping his tongue against hers and losing a piece of his soul.
He held himself viciously in check. Barely cupped her cheeks as he fought the turbulent need inside, as it surged up, wanting her, only her. To remind her that she was his, she’d always been his.
But this was a campaign, not a single battle.
He eased back before she could pull away. “I’m here now.” His words brushed against her mouth. “For as long as you’ll let me, I’m here.” He stroked his thumb over her cheek. “I know I haven’t been someone you can count on.” He brushed his lips against hers again. “But I’d like to be.”
Olivia grinned wickedly and it was the smile that Mel remembered all too well. The smile the other woman used when she was about to rip someone a new one. “Well, since you put it that way.” She took a sip of coffee. “We’re trying to build relationships that will strengthen the community. We’ve got a massive problem with soldiers being involved in misconduct off post and we want to get civilian agencies involved before the police get involved.”
And just like that, all the pieces clicked into place. “So you’re bribing the landlords with shitty coffee and donuts in the hope that we’ll call you guys instead of the cops?”
“More or less.” Olivia set her coffee down and retrieved a folder from the table. “We’ve got this handy little quick reference guide with all the unit phone numbers. Kind of a cheat sheet of names and numbers to call. We even laminated it to make it durable. Isn’t it nice and shiny?”
Mel shot her friend a wry look. “Is this even legal?”
“I’m not going to offer an official opinion on what I think of this program.”
“Why don’t you approve?” Mel asked, keeping her voice low.
Olivia sighed. “Because it enables some people’s misconduct to be hidden away and covered up. I prefer we work things through official channels. Transparency and all that.” Olivia’s smile could have cracked glass. “Community outreach with the realtors keeps problems handled through informal networks instead of the Bell County legal system.”
Melanie opened her mouth to speak but the words locked in her throat.
The tea in her stomach turned bitter and cold as her guts twisted with recognition and surprise at the last person she’d expected to see here today.
Her heart slammed against her ribs as anxiety and something else knotted in her belly. For a moment, she thought about turning away. About hiding from the man who’d just walked into the room like he owned it.
But it was too late.
Because across the conference room, near a tray of donuts and a box of coffee, her ex-husband’s eyes met hers.
The world tilted beneath her feet. He was supposed to be stationed at Fort Lewis, halfway across the country. And instead he was here. In this room. At this moment. As a first sergeant?
Closer than he’d been in over two years. His jaw was iron, his shoulders broad and strong. It was criminal how good that uniform looked on him. And damn it, she was not going to notice these things about him.
But despite herself, she noticed everything about him. His dark brown eyes were hard and filled with shadows now. Colder than she remembered. A smarter woman might have been intimidated by him. A younger woman might have already been wringing out her panties. But she remembered him for the boy he’d been. The boy she’d loved.
The boy she’d left.
He was not that boy anymore. And she was no longer the scared uncertain girl trying to find her way in the world.
"Are you okay?" Olivia's voice came from very far away.
"Yeah. Excuse me a sec?" She hated bailing on her friend but this was not a conversation she wanted to have with an audience.
She offered a tense, flat line in place of a smile as he approached. Defenses up, that’s what she needed. She could not do this with him right now. “I’m not exactly sure what the correct greeting is,” she said, doing her damnedest to keep her voice level.
As though they were perfect strangers, talking about unimportant things.
The hush between them swelled into a living thing, pulsing with raw and ragged emotions.
“I can explain.” His voice was rough and deep.
“How long have you been here?” Her words were too sharp on her own ears. She sucked in a deep breath, trying to stave off the riot swirling in her belly. No matter how much time they spent apart, every single time they were around each other things went to shit in a rapid, predictable manner. She really wanted to avoid that at the present moment.
“Long enough.” Gale cleared his throat and had the decency to look embarrassed. “I should have called you.”
“And yet you didn’t, so there we are.” She turned, looking for her cup, needing space, needing distance between them before she broke apart into a million ugly pieces in front of her peers and coworkers and a half dozen random strangers.
Gale’s hand was rough and strong on her shoulder. “Mel…”
“Don’t.” She moved away from his touch, barely keeping her voice low. “You don’t have permission to touch me.” Mel bit her lips together, inhaling a deep, hard breath. Gale lowered his hand and they stood there at an impasse.
A few months. No call. No note. Nothing. Hadn’t tried to see Jamie. Just move to town and don’t say a word.
That told her all she needed to know about where she and Jamie stood in his priorities. Just like always, the Army won. She bit down harder, trying to divert the pain in her heart to the pain in her lip. “Jamie will be happy to see you,” she said finally.
She didn’t mean to throw Jamie in the middle but that’s the way things were with them. It was the way it had been since…since always.
He stiffened. His hands flexed by his sides. Like he needed to do something with them that hopefully didn't involve her.
“I meant to call.” There was a rough edge to his voice. A blade, like cut steel, ragged and raw.
“I’m sure you did.” Her words were brittle. She headed for the door in what she hoped was a relatively inconspicuous manner.
She needed a few minutes to put everything back in the box she marked “Gale” and did her best to ignore.
Because she’d be damned if she was going to cry over this man one more time.
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 also written for the New York Times At War Blog, PBS Point of View Regarding War, and IAVA. She deployed to Iraq in 2009 as part of OIF/New Dawn and has had the honor of serving as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas twice.
She's pursuing a graduate degree 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.
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