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SERIES: The SEAL Team Heartbreakers, Book 2
GENRE: Military Romance, Romantic Suspense
ENDING: HEA (They’re a couple and live Happily Ever After)
WORD COUNT: Over 100,000 words (very large book)
HERO’S AGE: 30-39
HEROINE’S AGE: 25-29
HEAT LEVEL: Very Sexy (Let Me Show Exactly What I Want)
GRAPHIC LANGUAGE: Some (The occasional “F” bomb, lots of smack talk, some explicit sex)
What happens when a Navy SEAL wakes from a month-long coma to discover he’s being investigated for murder?
When Ensign Brett Weaver is accused of murder, he knows he’s innocent, but how can he prove it with Naval Investigators breathing down his neck? A chance meeting with reporter Tess Kelly offers him an opportunity to get the press on his side. But can he trust her to keep his other secrets off the record?
Tess works hard to live up to her father’s expectations. When Brett offers her information about SEAL training in exchange for an introduction to her award-winning journalist father, she jumps at the chance. The situation Brett lobs into her father’s lap is a major scoop. But the secret she discovers about Brett is just as newsworthy. Will her feelings for this wounded warrior win out, or will she release a story guaranteed to destroy Brett’s SEAL career?
When Tess’s father is kidnapped, Brett’s team is deployed to find him. At the same time, a leak in the investigation puts Tess and Brett’s lives in danger. Will Brett be able to break through the lasting effects of his injuries and prove he’s once again a battle-ready SEAL? Or will he and Tess lose everything at the whim of a vengeful killer?
READ AN EXCERPT
Clara stood before Russell Connelly’s apartment. She balanced the casserole dish of banana pudding, still warm from the oven, and tapped on the door. It swung open almost before her hand had dropped.
“Hello.” Russell smiled. Dressed in knee-length khaki shorts and a t-shirt that hugged his broad shoulders and chest, he looked masculine and fit. “Come in. Evan’s still asleep but should be up any moment.” His large hand rested on the small of her back as he guided her through a small but neat living room. “I don’t sit in here much, I guess you can tell. I prefer the kitchen.” He gestured to the right.
The kitchen was clearly the heart of the apartment. Sunlight streamed through a sliding glass door at the end of the room, brightening the interior, and the pale yellow walls reflected the natural light. A laptop and several files lay on the table.
“May I take that?” Russell asked, nodding toward the dish she held.
“Certainly. If you like it hot I can pop it back into the oven.”
He set it on the stove. “I have to confess, I’ve never had homemade banana pudding, just the boxed stuff. I’m not much of a cook. But like most men, I’m a master at the grill.”
Did her smile look as nervous as she felt? Had she ever been this tightly wound with a man before?
She drew a deep breath. “I’m just the opposite. I’m more at home in front of the stove. If I light the grill without starting a brush fire, I think I’ve done something special.”
He chuckled and leaned forward to pull the aluminum foil from the dish. “This smells wonderful. Evan needs the calories and the potassium.” He smiled again. “I probably don’t, but I’ll have my share.”
“My children swear by it like grandma used to swear by chicken soup. It might help Evan’s meds go down easier, too,” she said.
“Would you like to sit out on the balcony with me until he’s awake?” he asked. “I have iced tea.”
Was he asking her just to be polite or did he truly want her company? She glanced at her watch, though she didn’t have any place else to be. “If you’re not busy. Brett’s gone for a run and has a lunch appointment, so I’m on my own for a while.”
“I’m just wading through some paperwork. You’ll be the perfect excuse to ignore it.” He got glasses out of the cabinet, filled them with ice, and poured the tea.
Clara accepted hers and wandered to the sliding glass door. She unlatched it, pushed it open and stepped out onto the small balcony, a twelve by twelve space at most. The metal railing beckoned, and she leaned on it, looking over the vista of multi-level buildings, all steel and concrete.
Russell set his ice tea glass on a small table and closed the door. “Not much of a view,” he said, joining her.
“I’ve lived in the same subdivision house for twenty years. There’s not much of a view there either, but I have small things. An herb garden, some flowers, and some bird feeders.”
Glancing at him, she found him studying the balcony and turned to scan it herself. The grill was pushed against the wall at one corner. A small table with four chairs took up the bulk of the remaining space on that side. Two lounge chairs with a small square table between filled most of the additional space. Everything was aligned with military precision. And everything was white or gray.
Clara smiled at his rueful expression. “You’re not home much. What would you do with pots of flowers when you’re not here to water them?”
“Thank you for giving me an out, but to be honest, it never occurred to me to add those things. I spend most of my time at the hospital. But I do manage to run three days a week.”
Thus the tan and the muscular calves displayed by his khaki shorts.
“Maybe a cactus.”
He laughed. “How long will you be here visiting?”
“I don’t know, yet. I’ve taught for so long. I’ve lived for my own children, then other people’s. Now it may take me a while to find my way.”
“You could start a whole new career.”
“A flower shop.”
She smiled and shook her head.
“Your husband was military.”
“Yes. A Marine. He was killed by friendly fire during Desert Storm.”
His expression blanked, then settled into a frown. “Jesus. I’m sorry.”
Always the same reaction. Shock, regret, and then sympathy. A life cut short. But not wasted. Joe had given her children, and so much more. “It’s been a long time.”
“You never remarried.”
She shook her head. “Evan’s mother?”
“We’ve been divorced since Desert Storm. She remarried and lives in Los Angeles.” He leaned down to rest his arms on the railing. “I’ve had several deployments since then. This last one will probably be my last. I’m getting a little old for battlefield medicine.”
“Not if you still have a passion for it.”
“Thanks. But I feel as though I’m doing more good here now. They’re trying to nudge me toward a more administrative position at the hospital. Head of my department, but I’m not sure that’s what I want.”
He glanced at the sliding glass doors. “I’ve taken some leave while Evan’s here. Maybe It will give me time to decide.”
“So it seems we’re both at crossroads,” Clara said, taking a sip of her iced tea.
“Not always the most comfortable place to be.”
“No. Retiring has been the riskiest thing I’ve ever done. But after everything that happened last April, I—wanted to be free to enjoy my family, certainly. But I wanted to see what more I could do besides teach.”
“What do you think you want to do?” he asked. He took a drink of his tea, his throat working. He was bigger than Joe, over six feet. His hands were square and large.
His eyes weren’t green or gray, but hazel. With his face so close to hers and his gaze focused on her so intently, Clara became self-conscious and looked away. She concentrated on her ice tea glass, uncertain of what she’d read in his gaze. “When the kids were little, I used to have a passion for photography. I even won a contest once. It was a picture of Zoe.” She fell silent a moment. “I’ve saved a little cash. I thought I’d invest in a really good camera and see where it takes me.”
“That sounds like a plan,” he said.
She glanced in his direction to find a smile curving his lips. “It may be a pipe dream, but I’ll have fun with it,” she said and shrugged.
The sliding glass door opened behind them and they turned to see Evan standing in the doorway. “Hey,” Evan nodded to Clara. “May I speak to you, Dad?”
Russell set aside his ice tea and entered the apartment.
“What’s she doing here? Is she one of your women?” Evan asked, his voice carrying before the door closed.
Clara’s face burned and her stomach dropped. Evan didn’t want her here. Though the knowledge hurt, she understood he was ill and might not feel up to having a stranger visit. Trapped on the balcony, Clara turned away to avoid witnessing their discussion through the glass door. Humiliation whipped through her, curdling her stomach.
One of his women? Was Russell Connelly a player?
Tears burnt her eyes, and she blinked to clear their sting. She took a sip of the tea and then another, seeking calm, though her chest felt tight. Russell and Evan’s voices carried through the glass as she approached the door. She flinched and tried to block out the words. She tapped to warn them she was coming in.
Their heads whipped around as she slid it open. “I have to leave.” She stepped into the kitchen. The tension between the two men hummed in the air. “We’re attending a barbecue tonight, and I need to prepare some things.” She plastered a smile on her face as she nodded to Evan and avoided looking at Russell altogether. She set her glass in the sink and collected her purse from the counter. “I’ll see myself out.”
“Clara—let me see you to the door,” Russell said, following her.
“It’s all right.”
“No, it’s not,” The frustration and anger in his voice made his tone adamant.
She forced herself to look at Russell. “He’s ill. He needs your undivided attention right now. I’ve intruded and it was never my intention—” Or was it? “I hope he gets well soon. Truly I do.” She fumbled for the door, but Russell’s hand was there on the knob blocking her escape.
“I’m sorry, Clara.”
She nodded. “I have to go.”
His hand rested against the small of her back, the pressure light, his touch comforting. Warmth tumbled through her. Her heart clenched.
Her gaze rose to his face. The look of pain and confusion she read in his expression triggered an ache of loss beneath her breastbone. “It’s all right.”
Russell opened the door. She escaped out into the hall. Though the urge to rush was strong, she forced her steps to remain slow and measured, aware he watched her walk all the way to the elevator. She pushed the button. Come on, come on. Drawing several deep breaths, she closed her eyes against the fountain of tears pushing against her lids and practically leapt aboard the elevator when the doors opened.
MEET Teresa Reasor
After twenty-one years as a primary art teacher and ten as an adjunct college instructor, New York Times and USA Today Best-Selling author Teresa Reasor has finally landed the best job EVER—Full-Time Writer. This is what she has to say about it:
“Writing is both a joy and a curse. To write is to be driven to put words on paper and to share those words when the job is done. But it never is. Once you finish one book, you have another idea you have to explore, and before you know it, there’s another in the works. So many stories roll around in your head it’s hard to choose which is clamoring the loudest to be written.”
Whether it’s the most intense character or the story with the most convoluted conflict that wins out, it’s an incomparable joy to mold those ideas into a work of fiction you hope the reader will love.