I’m so excited to share with you a series that is very close my heart. Because I have a very special Marine in my own life, Heather Long’s Always a Marine Series from Decadent Publishing hits home. I have my review of What Part of Marine Don’t You Understand, as well as info and excerpts from other books in the series. There’s a little something for everyone… Enjoy!
About the Books
What Part of Marine Don’t You Understand?
Matt McCall’s struggles to reintegrate into civilian life have been an ongoing battle for the better part of two years. Daily group sessions and weekly one-on-ones have only allowed him to grow so far. Twice he’s returned to his home state of Ohio and twice, he retreated to Mike’s Place. Uncertain of where he belongs in the world, he battles depression silently. The unexpected gift of a black Labrador retriever perks his spirit…and a chance meeting in the park gives him a precious gift…
Aspiring country singer Naomi Sparks comes from a long line of Marines, she knows all about sacrifice and struggle. When her brother asks her to visit to Mike’s Place on his behalf, she discovers a real opportunity to make a difference. Matt McCall inspires her with the real challenge of discovering love and daring heroes who takes risks. Writing music has never been so sweet…
Can one woman who believes in him really heal the wounds in this Marine’s heart?
My Rating: 5 Stars
A beautiful country songwriter, a handsome Marine struggling to overcome PTSD, and a lovable service dog… the main characters in this hopeful, beautifully written, and warmly romantic story.
I’m a HUGE fan of this series and of this book. Long captures brilliantly the issues facing soldiers and families of soldiers, all while immersing the reader in an emotional and well crafted romance. In a short span of time, she creates characters that you relate to, feel for, and wish a bright future. Both main characters show such great strength, Matt as he works to overcome his demons, and Naomi as the always supportive member of a family of Marines. I enjoyed their relationship immensely, their chemistry, courtship, and eventual happy ending.
This book tells a story that needs to be told: a struggle that many military veterans face and their loved ones face with them. I cried and smiled and hoped my way through this heartwarming, romantic journey that starts with a man in his darkest hour, as he manages to find his way out, towards love and a brighter future.
” ‘I hear a good brother who cares about his family, a good son who respects his mother, a tough Marine who honors his unit, and a strong man facing his own demons. You’re exactly the kind of guy I want to see.
‘But I can’t take you out and do all the things you deserve- real dates, real romance-‘
‘I don’t need those trappings, Matt. I just need you.’ She wasn’t sure which one of them moved, but she went from sitting next to him to sitting in his lap, and his mouth closed over hers.”
*I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
“We have to talk about what happened. You have to remember and not relive it.”
“I’m not reliving it.” Am I? The bitter taste in his mouth burned his tongue. Shouts echoed in the hallway. Feet thundered past. He jerked to his feet and started forward three steps. Jethro butted against him and he stopped. Disoriented, he felt the leash rub against the cuts on his knuckles—and he looked at James.
No feet echoed in the hallway. He wasn’t in Iraq. He was in Allen, Texas.
“Holy hell on a biscuit.” He sat down before he fell down and Jethro shoved his head under Matt’s hand. He couldn’t make it stop. “How do I make it stop?”
“Breathe, Matt. Look at Jethro. He knows you’re upset. Breathe.” If only James’ calmness could flow from the psychologist to him. It was like Matt could hear the words, but he couldn’t quite process them. “You haven’t hurt anyone and you haven’t hurt yourself.”
“Why does my mouth taste like ass?” Sweat trickled down the back of his neck. Oxygen burned in his chest with every breath he took.
“That’s the adrenaline. You got upset. You remembered and you were there. The bitter taste is adrenaline.”
“I’m getting short-changed here.” Amusement and disbelief warred against the craziness swirling inside him.
“No, it’s normal. With a lot of veterans, you start cooking and after a while, you can’t stop it anymore—that’s when you snap. You keep bringing yourself up to the boil and then backing off in full retreat.”
“What gets me cooking?” And why hadn’t they talked like this before? The blood pounding in his skull eased and his heart stopped trying to pound its way out of his chest.
“With veterans it can be a car backfiring, a twig snapping, or a box dropping off a shelf. The sudden, explosive noise reminds them of…”
“Gunshots.” That made sense. He could actually wrap his mind around that.
“But that’s not what sets you off.”
“So what is it?”
“I know this will sound like I’m telling you that five plus five equals a pile of hay, but it’s people yelling or laughing or running. Large movements of people. It’s what set you off in the bar. It’s why you didn’t stick it out at Damon’s restaurant. It’s why going home…”
Commander Rick McConnell and Colonel Elijah Masters have been secret lovers for years. They nurtured their very private relationship with planned vacations and leaves, always meeting somewhere different—always escaping off the grid. It worked for them—career officers with a desire to serve their country and a passion for each other. The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell provides them with the tremendous opportunity to come out to their friends and loved ones—Rick wants to seize the day, but Eli isn’t so certain. His hesitation leads to a fight, an ultimatum, and a breakup. Rather than confront their issues, Eli takes a foreign assignment.
A year’s separation changes both of them. The last person Eli expects to see when he steps off the plane is Rick, but the physician wants another chance with the only man he’s ever loved and he has a plan. Will bitterness, recriminations, and loss keep them apart or can these two officers rediscover the faith and loyalty that bound them for so long?
“You’re late.” Eli greeted him with a dry smile. The man looked better than the day before, if that were possible.
“Sorry, surgery ran longer than I expected.” He took the chair next to him rather than the one opposite. “A beer please.” The waiter took his order and left them alone. The best part of the restaurant were the availability of private party rooms where diners could enjoy their meal and not have to share their table with a family of strangers.
“I figured.” Eli gestured to the sushi. “They just delivered it. Your favorites.”
The gesture struck him with its kindness and compassion. Eli didn’t have a favorite kind of sushi, he didn’t particularly care for it. Rick knew he only ate it when they were together because Rick enjoyed it. “Thanks.”
Unwrapping his chopsticks, he tucked into the Philadelphia rolls with their salmon, cucumber and cream cheese. He’d spent nearly ten hours in the operating room. A light day by his usual standards, but he hadn’t had time to eat since breakfast that morning.
“What happened?” The quiet question drew him back to the moment.
“Just a long day.” The waiter brought his beer and they both ordered. Steak and shrimp for Eli. Chicken and fish for Rick. Fried rice for Eli, while Rick chose white. They both wanted extra veggies and Eli added an order of shrimp tempura for himself.
So many little differences, from food choices to the teams they liked. Rick loved the Mets while Eli was a dyed in the wool Yankees fan. He exhaled a humorless laugh and looked sideways at the Marine. “Red meat, fried rice, and fried food—you going for the early heart attack?”
“My first real red meat in a year and the last time I saw fried food it was a McDonald’s drive thru on the way to the airport. I think I’ll survive. Besides I lived on rations more often than I care to count—if that doesn’t kill you this sure as hell won’t.” Eli saluted him with the beer. “What happened in surgery?”
The man possessed homing radar. He always knew what bothered him. Weird how he was an open book while Eli remained a mystery unless he chose to share. “Lost a patient. Complications.” Acid churned in his stomach. “Kid didn’t report some medication he’d been on. Too many bleeders, not enough blood. It happens.”
“Sorry.” No platitudes, no coaxing comfort, just a plain and simple word that encompassed so much more.
“Me, too. Anyway, how’s Christina?”
“She’s good. Recovering. Kid’s cute—well—not really, he’s ugly as sin, but then most babies have that smooshed look, so I figure he’ll grow out of it. Healthy.” Eli rubbed the back of his neck. It looked like he wanted to say more, but their chef arrived and along with Eli’s tempura. They ate in silence and watched the food preparation show.
“You have your new orders yet?” Small talk gave them both an out.
Eli shook his head. “Marine Barracks next Monday. Fitness assessment, and debrief. Probably get them while I’m there.”
“You apply for anything?” With his rank and credentials, he could open a lot of doors.
Shaking his head, Eli speared a piece of meat onto his fork. “I thought about it, but I don’t want a desk job. Colonel Spears asked me to consider a teaching position either at Parris Island or OCR at Quantico.”
A position at either base would keep Eli in country—Quantico would keep him in the region. Rick swallowed back the urge to give him any advice. “Nice.”
“Maybe. What about you? Running your department yet?”
“No.” Rick shook his head. “I didn’t want to play those politics. I like my patients. I like training interns and I like having something of a life outside the hospital. Department Chief doesn’t give me much time for any of that. I am going to Amman in a few weeks, but it’s a three week clinic to train some of the locals at the hospital.”
“Huh.” The bland grunt didn’t reveal as much as the tightness flexing Eli’s jaw. He didn’t like it.
“I like keeping my hand in and they need a cardio thoracic specialist. Too many of their cases have to leave the country, they’ve got some good candidates signed up for the training and the top two will return here for another six months of training that I’ll supervise.”
“You ever think we’d be teachers?” Eli finished all the meat on his plate. He didn’t like mixing his foods. He ate methodically, one dish after the other.
“Not as a life goal, no. But it makes sense. See one, do one, teach one. Learned that in medical school.” The educational method described most of his internship, fellowship and his current residency. He could have his pick of civilian hospitals, but preferred his military service. Two years as a medic to a forward unit during the initial incursions into Afghanistan taught him more than all his years at a hospital combined.
“Christina tried to set me up with another date.”
The unexpected bit of news sent a shock through Rick. He chewed a piece of chicken thoroughly as he tried to digest the information. He could handle this. “Yeah? Anyone I know?”
“One of her girlfriends from college—thrice married. Apparently she thinks my prospects are limited and wants to fix me up with my first divorce.” If Eli tried to be funny, the humor was lost on him.
“She doesn’t know.” The revelation stunned him. Rick’s family knew about him, his mother was more comfortable with the information than his father, but both accepted it. Eli’s family didn’t?
Why hasn’t he told them? The thought burned through him, igniting a dozen other questions. He clamped a lid on it. In a decade together, Eli never indicated his sexual preference was a secret from his family. Was that the problem? He chewed that thought over and over, eating to try and cover his silence.
Two beers and half the meal later, Rick turned sideways in the chair. Bit by bit Eli relaxed while they ate. Maybe it was the company, the day’s loss or the alcohol—or some combination of the three, but wanted their cards on the table. He wanted Eli back. “I miss you Eli. I want us back. What do we need to do make that happen?”
Marine Paul Torres is used to the casual thing, women who enjoy the pleasure of the moment and whom he can bed with a wink and a smile. Lately though, he’s turned on by the allure of finding the right partner for him with so many of his friends settling down. Attending a wedding in Texas for one of his oldest friends, he meets Lillianna Hansen.
Paul and Lillianna get off on the wrong foot, enjoying a wildly passionate encounter after the wedding. He wakes to find her gone, but still tries to track down her number. Paul wants more than a one-night stand, but his limited leave is up and must return to active duty.
He might be ready to take their relationship to another level, but all Lillianna thought she wanted was a good time. But Paul’s attention—even from thousands miles away—is hard to resist and while she tells herself repeatedly she doesn’t want a relationship with a Marine, she can’t deny the consequences of their passionate night.
And when she finally does reach out, it’s to confess she’s pregnant, and she has to figure out if she’s ready to let the father of her child be her Marine ever after…
Paul eyed the bridesmaid from the moment she made her entrance through the double doors. He was fourth groomsman, which meant he’d get to escort her out. Thank you, Jesus.Gorgeous was the only word that would do. Not that the other bridesmaids weren’t good looking, Jazz was a hell of a looker and if he looked too long, one of her two husbands might be inclined to take his head off.
All in good fun, at least on Zach’s part. Logan was standing right net to Paul. Better to keep his eyes on the more attractive prize. From her rich dark hair piled atop of her head to the deep natural dark tan of her skin. He hesitated to call it brown, but the white gloves and deep navy of her dress looked so smashing against her skin tone. He barely got a glimpse at her eyes and his training kept his gaze forward as they walked.
Photographs would be next and then a drive to the reception at Mike’s Place. If he played his cards right, he’d be in her limo. Sadly, the evening wedding meant the sun was already sinking as they exited and the shadows lessened the chance he could tell what color they were.
But we have to dance… A smile curved his mouth. He would have plenty of opportunity to stare at her eyes and determine their color then.
“Paul Torres,” he murmured.
“I’m sorry, what?” She glanced up at him, a distracted smile softening her expression. It hit him like a fist to the gut. He needed to revise his earlier opinion, gorgeous didn’t do her justice.
“I’m Paul Torres, you must be Lillianna,” the only bridesmaid who missed the big rehearsal dinner. Not that I can complain…He almost missed it, too. But his flight landed an hour beforehand and it was only with some skillful driving that Damon managed to get them both there in time to be in the line up before the bridesmaids did their obligatory walk.
“Yes, sorry. I can’t get over how happy she looks. And Lillianna Hansen.” She let go of his arm and offered her gloved hand to shake. The urge to kiss it was a little too romance novel for him, so he shook it and then held onto it.
“The captain looks pretty happy, too. I think he got the better end of the bargain.” He chuckled. They were all settling down. He’d served with most of the men in the groom’s party and earned his invitation when the wedding coincided with his leave. Unfortunately, Brody hadn’t been able to make it. But he promised to visit the happy couple on his next trip through Dallas.
“I hope so. There’s a tiny part of me that doesn’t like him.” The announcement surprised him, but the photographer summoned them to join the bride and groom so he swallowed the question.
Five hundred photographs later, they were dismissed to make their way to the waiting limousines. A small fleet of them waited, Jazz and her husbands loaded into one, the freshly marrieds got their own, James and Lauren claimed the third, and Paul drifted back a little, and fortunately Lillianna waited for him as Damon and A.J. helped their bridesmaids into a limo and joined them.
Score. We get the last one to ourselves.
“Everything all right?” She eyed him expectantly.
“Fine, I just wanted to check a button.” Lame, Paul. Lame. But it was the first excuse to pop into his head. He motioned for the limo and she shook her head and led the way. He beat her to the door and opened it, and handed her inside before slipping off his cover and joining her.
She sat opposite him in the wide area of the stretch, and on the far side. He considered swapping seats, but he liked looking at her better—even if only in the illumination of passing headlights. “I hope you’re ready for a big party.”
“Me too.” Lillianna didn’t sound like she was ready. He raised his eyebrows and she moistened her lips.
Damn. Mind out of the gutter. He gave his body the order, but it was too late to prevent the shock of reaction running riot through his system. If he hadn’t already been curious about her before, he definitely was now. Out. Of. The. Gutter.
Greg Rainwater lost a piece of himself in the deserts of Iraq, a piece that his Shaman great-grandfather would call his soul. After months of grueling physical therapy at Mike’s Place, he’s still empty. When his discharge papers arrive, Greg has no idea where to go until A.J. calls and invites him to Freewill. The ranch turns out to be exactly what he needs—hard physical labor, horses, and the mountains soothe his injured soul. If only Old Man Crane’s granddaughter didn’t look at him with such scorn in her eyes… Determined to put her out of his mind, he signs up for a one-night stand.
Under her skin…
Stuck in Freewill, Georgia Crane gave up her own dreams to look after her grandfather. She hates small towns, she hates busybodies, and she really hates outsiders, but she adores her grandfather, so she stays. If only the old man wouldn’t keep wandering off. The self-proclaimed medicine man insists on walking the hills and the mountains, communing with nature and the spirits. Her frustration increases when a new arrival encourages his lunacy. Not content to hunger after the man replacing her in her grandfather’s affections, Georgia signs up for a one-night stand.
When Greg is paired with Georgia, his blood boils—the woman turns him inside out. Georgia’s as shocked as he is…after all, this is the guy her grandfather keeps wandering off with. Stuck together for the evening, distrust turns to attraction and irritation to desire, but can they bridge the distance in just one night?
The beautiful woman marched straight for them and sent all the blood in Greg’s body south. He’d spent most of his time on the ranch or at Mike’s Place. The women he knew were therapists, Marines, sailors—or A.J.’s girlfriend. This lady, with her mane of midnight black hair, sun kissed skin, and soft pink lips reminded him of all he’d been missing, a sprite of nature given living, breathing form.
“I’m sorry, son,” Crane muttered and picked up his pace. “Georgia…”
“Don’t you Georgia me.” The beautiful sprite turned into a fire-breathing dragon, right down to the heat flaming in her eyes. “You’re supposed to be taking it easy, Grandpa. This—?” she waved her arms toward the ranch and included Greg in her sweep. “Is the complete opposite of taking it easy.”
“I’m fine. Georgia, this is—”
“I don’t care who this is.” She exhaled a hard breath and looked at Greg. “No offense. I’m sure you’re very nice. I know you served, and we’re grateful. But this is my grandfather you’re dragging all over the back of beyond, not one of your Marines.”
“Georgia Crane.” The older man frowned.
“No. You’re an hour late. You didn’t tell me where you were going. You didn’t leave a note. I’ve looked for you everywhere. If I hadn’t run into A.J., I wouldn’t know where you were now.” She held up a bottle and shook it. “You’re supposed to take this, on schedule, three times a day. You can’t skip.”
Anger tightened the lines around her eyes and her mouth had a hard pinched look. Greg hadn’t encouraged the older man to take a long walk, but he hadn’t discouraged him either.
“It was good to meet you, Greg.” Crane turned away from his granddaughter pointedly and offered his hand. Greg shook it. “Don’t forget to keep listening.”
“I won’t. You two all right to get back to town?” He didn’t doubt for an instant the little firecracker could handle it, but in her current frame of mind, they might need a mediator.
“We’re fine.” The older man didn’t seem hurried. “Georgia, this is Greg Rainwater.”
“Miss Crane,” he echoed her tone.
“Grandpa, come on. You need your meds and probably something to eat with them. We can pick up sandwiches on the way.” She may as well have acted like Greg wasn’t there, but since the pair seemed likely to engage in an argument at any moment, he left it alone.
After she loaded her grandfather in the car and walked around to the passenger side, she set her fierce gaze on him again. It raked him from head to toe before she gave him a grudging nod, although her expression didn’t ease one iota.
He stared after the car long after it disappeared into the distance and he listened.
If only he was certain what he listened for.
She’s his best friend’s sister…
From cradle to grave, Derek and Keith grew up together, enlisted, served, and rose through the ranks together. When Keith died in the field, the last thing he asked for was Derek to keep watch over his sister. But every time Derek is around Kara, he wants to touch her. A promise stands between them and he refuses to seduce his best friend’s baby sister. Determined to get her out of his mind, he signs up for a one-night stand.
He’s the one she wants…
Ever since Kara ran into a shirtless Derek, she’s known he was the one. He promised to bring her brother home and he was there for her at his funeral. But he remains unattainable, no matter their chemistry. Frustrated, she takes a girlfriend’s advice and signs up for a one-night stand.
The last person they expected…
Dressed to kill, Kara doesn’t know whether to scream or cry when Derek turns out to be her date. He’s furious that she’d sign up for a night of sex with a perfect stranger, but together their reunion is combustible and neither can deny the power of their attraction.
He may have been her brother’s best friend, but she wants him to be her Marine with Benefits.
He needed to get it together. Tonight was about purging demons and having a good time. When the waitress delivered his jack and coke, he swirled the ice around in the glass, watering down the alcohol. An icy hot shiver skated over his skin. Twisting in the seat, he looked toward the entrance in time to see her walk in the door. It was like every cell in his body leaned in her direction, drawn by the inexorable force of nature that was Kara Childs. He’d know her anywhere.
Steel bands squeezed his chest, compressed his lungs, and bruised his heart. She was gorgeous. A red dress hugged her luscious curves, too much so. His dick stood at attention without a second thought for courtesy, commitment, or promises made. And damn if she didn’t make an entrance, her arrival captured more than a few looks of interest from the single men at the bar and a few not so single men at the tables.
Rising, he crossed the room toward her. The moment her gaze collided with his, heat flashed through him. She had no business being out in a dress like that much less in a club like this.
“What are you doing here?”
“I planned on asking you the same question.” He caught her arm and turned her around, not quite hurrying her back up the red-carpeted steps toward the front door. “And why aren’t you wearing some damn clothes?”
Kara stopped, and unless he planned on picking her up or knocking her over, he had to stop, too. Although, he had to admit the former idea held a certain appeal. “Let go Derek.”
“You shouldn’t be here.” He kept his voice low and leaned into her. The scent of plum and flowery blossoms in the soap she favored smelled like coming home.
“Really?” The cold spray of her gaze flicking over him cooled his ardor. “I live here. What’s your excuse?”
“I’m moving here—moved here.” Yeah, not how he planned to drop this particular bomb. And from her shocked expression, not one she expected either. “I planned to call you,” and it was a little to late to apologize. “After I settled in.”
Her chest rose with her swift inhale and his gaze dropped to the warm curves of her breasts visible above the strapless line of her dress. That dress was made for her. His cock jerked in his pants and he was grateful for the lower illumination near the door. “Well, thanks for the notice.” She turned away from him and surveyed the room beyond. “If you’ll excuse me, I have a date.”
Violence rocketed through him. “With who?” He didn’t even realize he gritted his teeth until he tried to speak.
“With a gentleman called none of your damn business,” she tugged her arm out of his grasp.
Flushing hot and cold and then hot again, he moved to stand next to her and studied the room. Who the hell was she meeting in a place like this? How did she even know a bar like this existed? Keith’s baby sister did not belong in a club like this. “Who are you here to see, Kara?” He bent his head, his lips damn near brushing the warm curve of her ear and half tempted to kiss it while he was there. Locking down that urge, he ordered his body to knock it off.
She was—and had always been—way out of bounds.
About the Author
A national best selling author, Heather Long lives in Texas with her family and their menagerie of animals. In addition to military romance, Heather writes a wide variety of romance from paranormal historical western romance to contemporary romance and romantic suspense. She loves characters and the stories they have to tell.
As a child, Heather skipped picture books and enjoyed the Harlequin romance novels by Penny Jordan and Nora Roberts that her grandmother read to her. Heather believes that laughter is as important to life as breathing and that the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus are very real. In the meanwhile, she is hard at work on her next novel.
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