Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers! Here's a treat for everyone--a couple of the Thanksgiving Day scenes from Masters at Arms (from Section One--the prequel to Nobody's Hero, which will be coming out "around" Christmas). Warning: Some adult language. But this is "sweet" by my standards. :)
If you don't have your copy yet, use Coupon Code ZE68V at Smashwords (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/80282) for a free download of the book. (Coupon good through Black Friday, Nov. 25.)
Scene Setup: Marine master sergeant Adam's rescued 16-year-old runaway Karla from a pimp at the bus station and brought her home in the wee hours of Thanksgiving 2002. Her parents, missing their recently deployed son, invited him to join them until he can catch the next bus. Adam is grieving his wife, who died two weeks earlier, and has escaped the chaos at Karla's house to take a walk. He said goodbye to Joni (his wife) at the shore of Lake Michigan then turned to find Karla shivering from the cold, as if standing guard for him. (You'll find out why she followed him in Nobody's Hero.)
Of course, Adam is extremely honorable and hasn't led Karla on in any way--but she has a hero-worship crush on him and is about to lay something on him he really does not want to hear.We begin when Adam turns to find her at the lake. (Oh, boy! I didn't think I'd get to use this picture of "Karla" again, now that she's all grown up in the story and no longer has "godawful" makeup and neon-pink hair, as Adam described it back then.)
...(H)e became aware of the icy pellets pounding his face as a lake-effect squall whipped up. He turned around to make his way back to Karla’s house.
Standing a few feet away from him, as if on guard duty, shivering inside her coat, stood Karla.
“What the f…heck are you doing out here?”
Her teeth chattered as she tried to answer. He took off his jacket and put it on her to give her another layer of warmth, then wrapped his arm around her, hoping to infuse some heat into her thin body. “Let’s get you back home.”
“N-n-no, Adam. I have to tell you something.”
Adam just pulled her along toward the house. “We’ll talk when we get you out of this squall.” She tried to dig in her heels, but he’d have none of it. Damned fool kid needed a caretaker.
He’d been dreading going back into the chaos at her house, but now he just wanted to get her inside as quickly as possible. She’d catch pneumonia out here. They got as far as her front door when Karla wedged her toe against the door and turned to look up at him.
“Wait! Adam, there’s something you need to know, and I can’t say this inside the house.”
Adam tried to block as much of the wind from hitting her shivering frame as he could, but her black-and-pink hair lashed across her face. He reached out and tucked the wild strands behind her left ear because they distracted him from the conversation that seemed so important to her. What in the hell could she possibly have to say that couldn’t be said inside?
Karla splayed her gloved hand on his chest, over his wounded heart, and looked up at him with those big sparkling blue eyes surrounded by that god-awful makeup and pink hair. She searched his eyes for a long moment, he didn’t know for what.
Then he felt a niggling at the scar on the back of his neck—always a sign he wasn’t going to want to deal with whatever was incoming. Fuck. He hoped she wasn’t about to say what he thought she was getting ready to lay on him.
“Adam, I n-n-n-know you have a wife and y-y-y-you think I’m just a kid, but I want to t-t-tell you that…I l-l-love you.”
Double fucking damn. He’d need a minesweeper to navigate these waters. Joni, where are you when I need you? She’d know how to deal with a sixteen-year-old’s crush. She’d been surrounded by teenage girls at the Catholic school where she’d taught until last spring. Help me out here, baby.
“Hon, I love you, too.” Crap. That didn’t come out sounding right, but surely she’d know what he meant.
When her eyes lit up and she pursed her lips as if expecting him to kiss her, he turned his rudder hard to starboard. She’d definitely taken his words the wrong way.
“Like a father, Karla. Hell, I’m old enough to be your father.”
When tears welled up in her eyes and spilled down her cheeks, his gut turned to mush. He always came undone when a woman cried. But, hell, Karla was just a kid. Why did her tears rip him apart even more? How in the hell had he let this happen?
Now, wait a minute there. He’d never given her any indication he wanted to be anything other than a guardian to keep her out of trouble. Fuck, he didn’t know anything about teenage girls.
“Look, hon…” Quit calling her hon, you frigging asshole. “Look, Karla, I’m an old man. Your life is just starting. I’m sure there are lots of boys who’d—”
“But they’re so immature. All they talk about is sports. I don’t have anything in common with them.”
What the hell did she have in common with an old worn-out Marine? God, he wished they made tactical maps for situations like these. He was fucking clueless how to fend off this attack.
“Nothing wrong with sports.” Oh, that’s profound, jarhead. Damn. He liked this kid a lot. Didn’t want to hurt her for anything. But he wasn’t a perv.
Just tell it like it is, man. You’ve never had any problem doing that before. What’s different this time?
She’s a kid! And a girl! I don’t want to hurt her.
“Look, Karla. I like you a lot, but I don’t feel that way about you.” When the light left her eyes, he felt like a fucking heel. While he knew the words needed to be said, if it were physically possible, he’d have given himself a good roundhouse kick in the ass for whatever the hell he’d done to make her think he’d welcome this heartfelt declaration. How could he make it not seem like a rejection because there was something wrong with her? She’d make a fine girlfriend and wife for some guy someday. Just not him.
“I still love my wife.” Yeah, that’s good. Let Joni pull your prick out of the fire. He didn’t have to tell her his wife was dead. Besides, he did still love Joni. “You have some growing up to do. I’m sure you’ll meet someone one day who can love and respect you the way you should be loved.”
Karla tore herself away, opened the door, and ran inside.
He laid his forehead against the cold doorframe. What a fucking mess he’d made of that. Maybe it was a good thing he and Joni hadn’t had kids. He’d make a lousy father.
That fucking bus couldn’t get here soon enough.
* * *
Karla tried to eat all the food on her plate, but the lump in her throat, and Adam sitting across the table from her, made that impossible.
“Good news, Adam,” Daddy said, beaming. “I’ve managed to get you a ticket on a red-eye flight out tomorrow night. Direct to San Diego. You’ll be back on base in hours rather than days.”
Karla saw the stricken look on Adam’s face. He must be horrified to think of being stuck with her another whole day. Her eyes brimmed with tears and she hung her head down, hoping they’d fall right into her burgundy cloth napkin without leaving an embarrassing trail.
“That’s really not necessary, sir. I don’t mind—”
“It’s done. The least we can do after all you’ve done for us.”
Luckily, Daddy didn’t add to her embarrassment by spelling out to everyone at the table why they felt they owed this Marine something. But she and her parents knew. All her fault. A few hours ago, she’d have been thrilled to know Adam would be with her another day. Now she didn’t even know what to say or do with him.
Karla had teetered on the verge of crying since she’d been rejected by Adam on the front porch. Of course, she didn’t want to break up his happy marriage or anything. But he could have at least given her a little kiss to remember him by. She’d never find anyone like him to love ever again.
Adam continued to avoid looking at her. He didn’t eat much either, not even the casserole she’d made for him. Another rejection. More tears.
Grandma began sharing stories about her latest cruise and Karla zoned out until she heard Adam’s name.
“Adam, have you ever been to Mexico?” Grandma asked.
“Yes, ma’am. My wife and I went to Cabo San Lucas on a second honeymoon about ten years ago.” He cleared his throat. “Beautiful place.”
Well, even if he wasn’t happily married, he wouldn’t wait for you to grow up, Kitty. No, he was so handsome, he could have any woman he wanted. Besides, he didn’t even know she existed. Karla felt the lump growing in her throat and put her useless fork down. She hoped this nightmare dinner would end soon so she could escape to her room and have a good cry.
Why had she so embarrassed herself on the porch? She needed to make conversation before her Mom hauled her into the kitchen for having such bad manners. Karla looked up at Adam. “I’ll bet you miss her a lot.”
His eyes got sad again and he looked down at his plate. “More than you’ll ever know.”
Yeah, he loved her. She was a very lucky lady. As if to keep from having to say more, he took a small bite of her casserole. She smiled.
Mom said, “Karla, your broccoli casserole gets better every year.”
Adam looked up at her as he chewed, smiling across the table. “Best I’ve ever had.”
Karla’s tummy squeezed tight and she smiled back.
After the dinner plates had been cleared, mom pulled out the Quiddler cards and dictionaries and everyone at the table played. Adam was pretty good at it, but Karla beat him in the last round with the word “domination.” That was the best word she’d ever gotten in the stupid game!
...And this was only the beginning. Read more about them later in Masters at Arms (almost nine years after this scene), in several scenes in Nobody's Angel (order info below), and in Nobody's Hero (available in late December). Of course, Adam and Karla are the glue that holds the rag-tag family of characters together in the Rescue Me series, so they'll figure prominently in every novel in the series.
Please cast a vote for the Masters at Arms cover in the Cover of the Month contest at http://yougottareadcovers.blogspot.com (#14 on the list). My artist (Linda Lynn--a new cover artist) and I would greatly appreciate it!
My writing style is more of a SERIAL than a series--complete with cliffhangers and characters who continue to work on their relationship issues in subsequent novels. (Yes, the heroes and heroines from earlier romances will have recurring roles as they progress toward their ultimate Happily Ever Afters). So skipping any of the novel-length installments will make the subsequent romance subplots in the "serial" less enjoyable. But the good thing is that there are ONLY two novels out so far, so it will be easy to catch up! See below for ordering details!
You won't enjoy Nobody's Hero as much if you haven't read Masters at Arms and Nobody's Angel first, because Adam and Karla's relationship actually began nine years early in sections one and five of Masters—and continued to grow in Angel.
The 115,000-word novel, second in the Rescue Me series,
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Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords,
BookStrand, and All Romance eBooks.
MASTERS AT ARMS (only 99 cents!--or use coupon code
above at Smashwords thru Nov. 25), the
introduction and first novel in the RESCUE ME series,
and at Smashwords.