ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS & Giveaway with Jessica Scott

 

 

All Major Patrick MacLean wanted was Christmas with the woman and child who were his family in everything but name. But Captain Samantha Egan has come back from the war a different woman than the one who left – and she doesn’t know if she can love him anymore.

But neither of them counted on the determination of a little girl they both call daughter and if Natalie has her wish, her parents may have no idea what’s coming for them. It’s going to take Christmas miracle to bring these two wounded warriors back from the edge of a broken heart.

 

It was not a gentle kiss. It was not tame or timid or questioning.

It burned her down to the root of Sam’s soul. It touched something deep and dark and hidden.

Something she’d thought was long since dead and buried and gone.

Patrick’s tongue slid against hers, stroking to life the very sensations she thought she’d never feel again.

It was electric, the feel of his mouth against hers. The scrape of stubble against her chin, the taste of him. The smell of his skin.

He nipped her. Pinched her bottom lip between his teeth and sucked it. And she sighed at the pleasure, at the raw ache his taste and touch aroused in her, pushing aside the darkness that haunted her.

Sam felt him. Felt everything. The heat of his skin. The warmth that drew her closer. That made her want to crawl into his lap and unzip his pants and push up that damned flannel shirt until they were skin to skin and there was nothing between them but sweat and heat.

One hand slid down her side. Tugged at her fleece and…

“Dear lord how many layers of clothing do you have on under this thing,” he muttered against her lips.

She smiled. “You weren’t wondering why I wasn’t cold?”

“Well you’d be a champ at strip poker right about now,” he murmured.

Then his fingers found her skin and she was no longer thinking.

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Jessica’s ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS novella is also included in  HOME FOR CHRISTMAS with JoAnn Ross.

 

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 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 served as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas.

She’s pursuing a PhD 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.

ALL FOR YOU and giveaway with Jessica Scott

 

Emily watched her friend weave through the crowd of broad-shouldered Cavalrymen and toward the captain. Alone at the bar, Emily twirled her wine in the glass, staring into the swirling pale golden liquid.
She sipped her wine and glanced around the wide open space, feeling the warmth. She was comfortable in this place. A drink after work. A good friend. This was a good life. It was simple. It had purpose. So much better than the complicated mess she’d left behind.
She lifted her glass, savoring the freedom of her rebellion. She might not fit into her uniform just right but she fit here among these soldiers better than she’d ever fit back home.
She saw Olivia gyrating slowly with the captain across the dance floor. Her friend’s movements were slow and sensual, a sultry undulation that spoke of power and of sex. She smiled at her friend’s pleasure. It was enough that Emily could enjoy another’s happiness. She’d come here tonight to relax, to help Olivia celebrate.
“You don’t come here often, do you?”
Emily glanced at the man who’d appeared at her shoulder. He’d been standing with the group of captains that Olivia had just infiltrated.
“Not really,” she said, sipping her drink. She thought about easing away, putting space between where their upper arms touched.
Personal space much? she thought.
“Are you here with friends?” he asked. She caught a heavy scent of beer from his direction, beer mixed with cigar smoke. It was not unpleasant.
She glanced over at Olivia. “Yeah.”
“Not up for company?”
She smiled and finally glanced back at him. “Not really. Thank you though.”
He brushed the tip of his hat with two fingers. “My pleasure, ma’am.”
He swaggered off, leaving her alone at the bar. That had been nice. Too bad she wasn’t interested. Once upon a time, she might have danced but there was something missing from the way he’d carried himself.
He was missing that power that Sergeant Iaconelli wore like it was second nature.
She shook her head and took a long sip of her wine. She’d done nothing but argue with the man but now she was thinking about him in a way that was purely unprofessional.
The heavy iron door swung open at that moment and Emily’s breath caught in her throat.
“Speak of the devil,” she muttered.
Reza Iaconelli stood in the doorway, his gaze scanning the room as though he was taking a headcount. What was it about the man that he was always walking through doors at the wrong time? And this time, his gaze swept the bar and landed directly on her.
His eyes lit up, his mouth flattened. Just a faint flicker, but it was enough to tell her he’d recognized her.
And the familiar hostility was gone.
Her mouth went dry and she took another sip. He wasn’t going to come over. It was going to be fine.
They would keep the rampant hostility and no lines would be blurred.
It would be fine, right?
Except that he was now coming over. Weaving through the crowd, his Stetson adding to his height.
What the hell was she supposed to do about that? The closer he got, the more her stomach flipped beneath her ribs.
She was too tired to fight. And the alcohol would probably allow her to say something that she’d regret come Monday.
His clean white shirt accented his shoulders and made his skin look darker, more appealing. His face was shadowed by the brim of the Stetson.
He was there. A short space separated them. He radiated something—a power.
A rawness.
She was doomed.

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Stay sober. Get deployed. Lead his platoon. Those are the only things that matter to Sergeant First Class Reza Iaconelli. What he wants is for everyone to stay out of his way; what he gets is Captain Emily Lindberg telling him how to deal with his men. Fort Hood’s newest shrink is smart as a whip and sexy as hell. She’s also full of questions-about the army, its soldiers, and the agony etched on Reza’s body and soul.

. . . open his heart to love?

Emily has devoted her life to giving soldiers the care they need-and deserve. Little does she know that means facing down the fierce wall of muscle that is Sergeant Iaconelli like it’s just another day at the office. When Reza agrees to help her understand what makes a soldier tick, she’s thrilled. Too bad it doesn’t help her unravel the sexy warrior in front of her who stokes her desire and touches a part of her she thought long dead. He’s the man who thinks combat is the only escape from the demons that haunt him. The man who needs her most of all . . .

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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 written for the New York Times At War Blog, PBS Point of View: Regarding War Blog, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. She deployed to Iraq in 2009 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn and has served as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas.

She’s pursuing a PhD 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.

BACK TO YOU and giveaway with Jessica Scott

You first introduced Trent and Laura a few years ago and readers have been eagerly awaiting their story for a few years. Did you always know when you first created them in BECAUSE OF YOU that this was how their story would play out?

I knew they would have a story to tell but telling their story in this particular way, no I didn’t intend it. It took finding my amazing editor along with multiple attempts at trial and error to get them just right. I’m a nervous wreck about their story, but I’m also really excited because I’m very happy with how their story turned out. Plus, hamsters. Who can argue with that, right?

BACK TO YOU is the incredibly emotional story of a marriage at the breaking point. What or who inspired you to write this story?

I remember standing in the ops one day and one of the guys was on the phone with his wife. He was telling her how much he was sorry, how much he didn’t want to work late. Then one of the other guys remarked that he always says that but he doesn’t ever mean it. So I had this idea of a man who was so driven to get back to war that he let his entire family and personal life suffer, but I also wanted a wife who people could relate to as well. Laura is Trent’s perfect complement.

In your own personal life, you’ve been the soldier that has deployed to a war zone and the spouse that stayed home and has taken care of the family on the home front. Which was more difficult for you in your experience? And why?

That’s a much bigger topic than we have time for but I’ll say this: each one has its own unique challenges. Being deployed, not being able to get home when your kids are crying that they want mommy, that’s brutal. It rips your soul out. But then coming home and your reality doesn’t live up to the fantasy? In some ways I think it’s worse, and that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. As far as being the wife at home? I remember vividly lying awake at night, obsessively checking to make sure my ringer was turned on. I never cared when he called I just wanted to hear his voice. So which one is worse? I can’t really say. But I’m grateful that we’ve made it through each one a little bit stronger, you know?

Which is your favorite story to write—a reunion romances like Trent and Laura’s where each scene is alive with their own history or a fresh romance where they meet for the very first time and everything is new? Why?

I love a reunion story. I love the idea of being able to forgive and love the person you’re with right then and not the memory of someone. I’m a huge sucker for reunion stories, honestly. I love the reconnection, the noting of how things have changed, of learning to love that person all over again, especially after a betrayal or things didn’t work in the past.

Trent is such a compelling character and you do a beautiful job of showing his survivor’s guilt and the resulting anxiety and fear that provokes in him. He’s both so alpha and strong and so very broken. What inspired you to create such a complicated hero? A real life person? A culmination of your own experiences? What you’ve seen yourself in the army? And were you at all concerned about the way readers would respond to him?

Trent is going to be hard for people to read, I suspect. He comes close to crossing some boundaries, and I wanted to do that deliberately: I wanted people to understand that coming home from war isn’t cured in a day or a week. It’s a process. Someone like Trent who has bled in combat isn’t going to be okay after a night of magical sex. I know that’s the fantasy, but I wanted something more: I wanted the fantasy that the couple will be strong enough to make it. So for me, Trent is deeply, deeply personal because I’ve seen friends struggle with some very tough choices. And the truth is, there is no magical cure but there can still be a happily ever after if you have someone strong enough to stand with you.

Laura is such an amazing character because she’s done the best for her family at every turn and supported her husband. But when all communication breaks down with her husband and he just keeps deploying, she serves her husband with divorce papers while he’s serving. It seems like such a taboo to serve papers while your spouse is deployed—is that true? And why did you choose to have Laura, the ultimate good wife, respond this way?

Laura sending Trent divorce papers while deployed I think is the ultimate prohibition. It’s just wrong on so many levels, and yet I wanted to give readers a sense of what could drive someone to their breaking point. Laura is such a strong woman and yet she broke. The strongest of us all have our breaking points. I wanted to show people how hard the war has been on everyone—not just the soldiers deploying but on the kids, on the spouses—but I also wanted to give people hope, too.

Agent Chaos and Fluffy, the family hamsters, almost steal the show with their disappearing acts and they add the perfect amount of cuteness and comic relief. What inspired you to add them into the story?

Ah Fluffy and Agent Chaos. So for readers who don’t know, we have hamsters. It all started when we volunteered to buy the pre-k class pet. I didn’t realize that this would include home visits for the holidays. Fluffy was the first hamster and she promptly escaped within the first 24 hours. After that, we’ve become a multiple hamster household and well, when they escape, it’s madness because we have dogs and cats who, by some miracle, haven’t actually ever managed to capture one of the little buggers.
This story badly needed something to lighten it up. I thought adding in some escaping rodents would be the perfect thing to break up a really tough interaction between Trent and his kids. They provided a bridge for him to cross, a way to reach them while he was still getting used to them.

Big wedding or small? Hamsters or dogs? Sweats or lingerie?

Small wedding. Both hamsters and dogs and cats. Sweats all the way.

Emma and Ethan, Trent and Laura’s kids, are adorable and watching Trent learn how to be a dad again is an amazing thing. How do you think Trent got so detached from his family?

Coming home to be a parent again is probably the hardest thing soldiers do. The kids have changed, they have their own wants and needs and, well, they’re not your soldiers. They don’t listen like your soldiers have to. The noise and the chaos and the constant needs are really tough to get used to again, so I think Trent just ran away because it was too much to deal with.

Since this is such an emotionally charged story, was it difficult for you to write? Or did it come easily?

It was very, very difficult to write. I wanted to push boundaries and create at least a glimpse of what it’s like to come home. I wanted to give readers a taste of the emotions that people go through, the fear, the uncertainty but also the love and the hope and the relief that their loved one is home safe.

Since you’ve been in Trent’s shoes, what is the hardest thing about readjusting to civilian life after a deployment?

The crowds and the entitlement. To this day, I won’t go into crowded stores or wait in crowds. It’s suffocating. And it’s funny because when I first came home, I was so annoyed at people complaining about lines and traffic and school starting. I was just so grateful to be back. Now, I’m much more sympathetic to everyday gripes and groans. I think it’s just part of how we get through our days. 

 

He’s in for the fight of his life . . . 

Army captain Trent Davila loved his wife, Laura, and their two beautiful children. But when he almost lost his life in combat, something inside him died. He couldn’t explain the emptiness he felt or bridge the growing distance between him and his family-so he deployed again. And again. And again…until his marriage reached its breaking point. Now, with everything on the line, Trent has one last chance to prove to his wife that he can be the man she needs …if she’ll have him

. . . to win back his only love.

Laura is blindsided when Trent returns home. Time and again, he chose his men over his family, and she’s just beginning to put the pieces of her shattered heart back together. But when Trent faces a court martial on false charges, only Laura can save him. What begins as an act of kindness to protect his career inflames a desire she thought long buried-and a love that won’t be denied. But can she trust that this time he’s back to stay?

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“So, to what do I owe the honor of this visit?” she asked, minimizing her e-mail to be able to focus.

“Don’t throw me out of the office,” he said, trying to keep his voice light. “But I need to talk to you about Trent’s case.”
Laura leaned back in her chair, folding her arms over her chest, and started counting to ten.
“I know you’re having a hard time with him.”
Laura sucked on her top lip for a moment before answering. “I wouldn’t necessarily call filing for divorce a hard time.”
“And that’s what I need to talk to you about.”
“Patrick…”
“Just hear me out, okay?”
She ground her teeth but after a moment nodded.
“Listen, there’s no case against Trent. It’s weak at best. With the Article 32 about to start, we have a good chance of getting it stopped here before it goes to court-martial. But I need to plant doubt that the allegations against him are true.” He met her gaze. “I need you to do that.”
Laura chewed on her bottom lip, playing his words over and over in her head, not understanding what he was asking of her. “What do you mean, you need to plant doubt?”
“The primary witness against your husband, PFC Adorno—”
“Oh, we’ve met,” Laura said dryly.
Patrick’s smile was humorless. “Yes, well, that’s part of the prosecution’s problem. She’s alleging that Trent was inappropriate but the problem is that she and Lieutenant Randall were caught in their shenanigans downrange.”
Laura frowned. “So you think this is a ploy to get herself out of trouble?
“Her and her husband. If they were working together to steal the missing weapons systems, then what better way to get out of trouble than to make this stuff up against Trent? Takes the focus off her and her husband completely.” Patrick leaned forward, tapping his index finger on the desk. “If I can cast Trent as a sympathetic family man who would never do anything like what she’s alleging, this case is all but dismissed. I’m not attacking her. All I have to do is make Trent look better than the story she’s telling and we’ve got a win.”
“And you need me to paint on a happy face and be the loving wife.”
Patrick shook his head. “No, I need you to be one half of a loving couple. And I need you to do it publicly where everyone can see it—in the PX, in the chow hall, everywhere. I need the officers on this board to believe exactly what I’ll be telling them on the day of the hearing.”
She looked down at her empty ring finger, absently rubbing the bare skin beneath the bandage. “Everyone knows that we’re having problems, Patrick.”
“Then make sure everyone knows you’ve fixed it.” He leaned back. “I wouldn’t ask you to do this if I didn’t think it was our best shot at getting this whole thing thrown out.”
She looked up at him. “Why didn’t Trent ask me to do this?”
Patrick swallowed and looked away. “He refused to drag you into this,” he said quietly. “For what it’s worth, I don’t in a million years believe the allegations against Trent. I don’t think he would ever, ever be unfaithful to you.”
Laura pressed her lips together in a flat line. “You’re wrong, Patrick. He’s been cheating on me for years. It was just with the army instead of another woman.”
“Laura—”
“Let me think about it,” she said quickly. “I won’t say no out of hand but I can’t make this decision on a whim.”
Patrick leaned across the desk, gripping her hand. “I know this is hard for you, Laura. I know what I’m asking you to do.”
She said nothing for a long moment and he gave her a sympathetic but firm smile. “Give it some thought, okay?”
When she was alone, she sat there, staring at the picture of her family. Wondering how she was going to bring him back into the kids’ lives and then rip him out again. What he was asking wasn’t fair. He had no idea what this was going to do to her family.
She glanced at the photo on her desk as she typed furiously, trying to get ahead of the flood of e-mails in her inbox.
There was a quiet rap on her office door. “I’m not here,” she said quickly, looking up.
Her fingers froze on the keyboard. Her heart stopped in her chest.
Trent stood in the doorway. He had a duffle bag slung over his shoulder. His glasses hid the darkness of his eyes. There was a streak of dirt on his cheek. An assault pack hung limply from his left hand.
A thousand emotions ripped through her all at once, rioting for supremacy as she drank in the sight of her husband.
Ex-husband, she reminded herself. Or at least he was supposed to be.
She wished that this were a normal homecoming. One where she would rush across the small space and crash into him. His arms would come around her and she would inhale the strong spicy scent of his skin. Feel the heat of his touch. Savor that first, wild kiss.
Instead she had this. This empty chasm between them, echoing with loneliness.
And she had no idea how to cross it.

 

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 written for the New York Times At War Blog, PBS Point of View: Regarding War Blog, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. She deployed to Iraq in 2009 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn and has served as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas.

She’s pursuing a PhD 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.

Website     Facebook     Twitter     Goodreads

I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS Cover Reveal and Excerpt with Jessica Scott

Chapter One

Fort Hood, Texas Early 2007

Sergeant Vic Carponti paused outside his company operations office, taking a deep breath. It was funny how their corner of Fort Hood felt deserted the night before a deployment. The company colors had already been cased. They would uncase them in a few weeks, once they got settled into their new home across the ocean in the middle of the war.

He didn’t know why this deployment was bothering him so much. It wasn’t his first time heading off to war, so he knew what to expect when the shit hit the fan in combat. But there was something hanging over his head this time. A fear that maybe this time his luck would run out.

He sighed and rubbed his face with both hands before walking into the company ops. The only thing they’d left up was the plaque that bore the names of their fallen brothers from the last deployment. The commander—Captain Trent Davila, a man Carponti had known for years—was planning on carrying that with him personally so it couldn’t ever get lost.

And so no one would ever forget. Carponti reached up and took it gently off the wall, then strolled into his company commander’s office with a nonchalance painted on his face that he damn sure didn’t feel. But people expected him to laugh and joke and make them forget the bad shit all around and so that’s what he was going to do.

“Don’t forget this,” he said, placing the plaque on Trent’s desk. He plopped down in a chair, then kicked his feet up on Trent’s desk. “Are you coming out with us tonight?”

Captain Trent Davila lifted one eyebrow at Carponti’s feet and said nothing. Carponti looked at his commander and longtime friend, then at the plaque next to his boots.

“Fine,” he said with a sigh, dropping his feet to the floor. “So answer the question.”

Trent sighed. “I can’t go out with you guys. I’m the company commander. I’m not allowed to have fun,” Trent grumbled. “Besides, my boss would have my nuts in a sling if anything happens while I’m there.”

“It’s the last day before our deployment. You’re allowed to have fun. You can just say you’re supervising all of us miscreants.” Carponti took the last Dr. Pepper out of Trent’s fridge. “The deployment hasn’t even started and you already look stressed the hell out. You should be working your lieutenant to death instead of trying to do everything yourself.”

Trent shook his head and pushed his glasses to the top of his head. “Yeah, well, my new executive officer seems to think he’s God’s gift to the army. He’s good but he’s not as good as he thinks he is.”

“Oh, the boys just love him,” Carponti said.

“Really?”

“No, not really. He’s an arrogant fuck who believes his own press. Personally, I can’t stand him, but luckily I don’t have to deal with him much. I just sic Sarn’t Garrison on him.”

Trent grinned and reached for the plaque, sliding his hat on top of it so he wouldn’t forget it. “Yeah, Garrison has a way with words.”

Garrison was Carponti’s platoon sergeant. Garrison and Trent had been squad leaders many moons ago when Trent had still been enlisted. In Carponti’s world, it meant a whole lot that Trent had stayed close with his enlisted friends even after he’d crossed over to the dark side and become an officer.

“I’m swinging by his place on my way home. He needs to go out before someone shoots his grumpy old ass. He’s been a complete buzz kill since his wife left him.”

“Your sympathy is astounding,” Trent said dryly. He grinned and shook his head. “Why do we put up with you?”

“Because I’m charming and funny and good in a firefight?” Carponti said with a grin.

“Pretty much. You can make anyone laugh.”

“It’s an important life skill. Like balancing a checkbook. So seriously, find a babysitter and come out with us. Your wife could use some fun before she has to spend the year dealing with all the spouses in the Family Readiness Group and chasing your kids around while you’re off on another fun adventure.”

“I wouldn’t exactly call going to combat a fun adventure.” Trent rubbed his chest. There was a scar there, Carponti knew. A scar that had damn near killed Trent several years ago. Carponti wondered just how much stress his commander was carrying and not telling anyone. Trent’s face flushed when he realized Carponti had caught him rubbing his scar and he tapped the pencil hard enough to snap the eraser off. “You know, you’re right. Let me see if we can’t find a sitter.”

“Excellent. We’ll be congregating by the bar when you get there. Now I just have to go convince Garrison to come out with us.”

“Good luck with that,” Trent said, pulling his glasses down. “He’s on the verge of becoming a warrior monk.”

“Not if I have anything to say about it,” Carponti mumbled as he strolled out of his commander’s office. He wished he hadn’t seen the flicker of worry that flashed in his commander’s eyes when he’d mentioned his wife. He’d thought that Laura and Trent were one of the strongest couples he knew. She’d put up with him deploying back to back to back since he’d almost died a few years ago.

But that flicker of worry? Yeah, Carponti hadn’t missed it. There were problems there, hopefully small ones that Trent would take time to fix after this rotation into the sandbox.

Carponti looked down at his own wedding ring. It was his last night home and his last night with his wife.

He was glad he’d convinced her to come out with him and the boys. That way he could make sure they had a most excellent party and spend time with Nicole at the same time. He was going to spend part of  the night chaperoning his guys to make sure they made the most of it—which meant making sure no one ended up in jail—but then? Then the time he had left was going to be spent making his wife laugh.

Because try though he might, he couldn’t shake the quiet dread that settled in the pit of his stomach that tonight was the last night of normalcy he had on this earth.

<orn_sb>

Nicole Carponti breathed deeply and fanned her eyes, trying to stop the burning of hot tears. She leaned against the wall of the bathroom in Ropers and tried to stuff down all the churning emotions chained to the fact that her husband was leaving for war tomorrow. Again.

The first time he’d left she’d been scared, but then the war, the deployment…the waiting…it had all been unknown. She’d worked on finishing her degree and kept herself busy and waited by the phone like all the military wives who had gone before her.

The second time he’d left, she’d known better what to expect. The long waits between phone calls. The silence when he couldn’t talk long. The quick e-mails saying “I’m alive” that once upon a time would have been too little, but during the war were more than enough to keep her going.

But this time? This time was different. The Surge was different. They were sending in massive amounts of soldiers to try to quell the Iraqi insurgency. It was bloody and deadly and soldiers were getting attacked at higher rates than at any earlier time during the war.

And Nicole was terrified.

She had to hide it, though. She’d agreed to come out with him tonight just because it gave her a chance to pretend that she was fine. She had to keep everything in check until after he left. She couldn’t let him know how much she worried this time.

Fanning her eyes once more, she stepped out of the bathroom and into the rowdy country bar. A place like this was guaranteed trouble on a normal night, but tonight her husband’s platoon was rolling deep. Which was either going to be a really good thing or a really bad thing for her future job at the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, depending on how cantankerous tonight got.

She spotted her good friend Laura Davila at the bar with a cute blond woman Nicole had met in the bathroom a little while ago. She had already completely forgotten the other woman’s name. She was terrible with names.

She wound her way through the pulsating crowd until she reached them. Laura grinned at her and she exclaimed, “I can’t believe you came out tonight.”

“You’ve already said this twice,” Laura said. They had to shout to hear each other.

Nicole flagged down the bartender and leaned around Laura to her friend. “I’m a terrible person but I already forgot your name. I’m Nicole Carponti.”

The petite blond held out her hand. “Jen St. James.”

“Nice to meet you, Jen. I won’t forget this time,” Nicole said with a smile.

Laura leaned toward Nicole. “I’m trying to get her out of her shell. She had cancer and she’s been struggling with her self-esteem ever since.”

Nicole frowned, glancing toward Jen, who was now trying to get the attention of the bartender. On the other side of her, though, was Garrison, her husband’s platoon sergeant. He was a big man and he was currently leaning down to talk to Jen. “How’s that for a self-esteem boost?” Nicole said, gesturing toward the two.

Laura glanced over, then quickly looked away before she was caught. Her eyes lit with a brilliant smile. “Oh, that couldn’t be more perfect if I had planned it.”

Nicole studied her friend through narrowed eyes. “Did you plan it?”

“I wish. But let’s just see how this little situation develops, shall we?”

Nicole raised her beer in mock salute to her friend. “You, m’dear, are a devious and loyal friend.”

“I’ll drink to that,” Laura said. “So how’s Carponti taking this deployment?”

Nicole heard the undercurrent in her friend’s voice. “You know how he is. Always cracking jokes, which I suppose is a good thing. I’m fucking terrified, though.”

“Yeah, I know. I’ve been talking to some of the spouses. The Surge has everyone terrified. One of the spouses told me it was a death sentence.” Laura took a sip from her beer, scanning the bar.

Nicole scoffed quietly. “How’s that for melodramatic?” But she didn’t voice her own fear that this deployment was going to be worse than the previous ones. “I don’t envy you as the Family Readiness Group leader.”

“Oh, come on, don’t you want to volunteer? You can be responsible for keeping me from going crazy. It’s a primary duty position, you know.”

Nicole laughed. “Not in this lifetime,” she said. “I always feel out of place once the spouses find out I’m pretty much a cop.”

Jen leaned over, rejoining their conversation as Shane wandered off in the direction of Laura’s husband. “What’s going on over there?” she said, pointing at Laura’s husband.

Nicole sighed heavily and took another drink. “Oh joy. Looks like Trent is giving one of his lieutenants some love. Couldn’t have the rest of the night without drama, could we?” She glanced back at Laura and Jen. “We should go interrupt before the second round of fireworks go off.”

Earlier Vic had gotten into an argument with Lieutenant Randall and now it looked like Laura’s husband was finishing things off with the arrogant prick. The LT made Nicole’s skin crawl and she wasn’t looking forward to another bar fight. Not two in one night, that was for sure.

But whatever had happened was over now. She watched as LT Randall made a beeline for the door. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Garrison talking to Jen again. And Laura? Once Randall was gone, she and her husband moved off to a dark corner of the bar and were deep in conversation.

She hoped it was a good one. She didn’t like the worry she’d seen in her friend’s eyes when she talked about her husband.

She snuck up behind Vic, sliding her hands over his hips and up his t-shirt and the smooth hard skin of his body, placing a kiss at the little indentation at the indentation between his shoulder blades.

He turned and wrapped his arms around her shoulders. “There you are.” He kissed her fiercely, reminding her of how much she loved this man. “I was about to send out a search party for you in the little girls’ room.”

Nicole wrapped her arms around his waist and lifted her chin to meet his eyes. He was leaner than he’d been when he’d come home last year. His body was more solid from long ruck marches and hard training for this deployment. His eyes, though, were the same bright, mischievous green that they’d always been and she counted herself lucky that whatever he’d gone through in the war, he’d come home okay so far. She just prayed their luck held.

“No search party required,” she murmured against his lips. “I was talking to Laura. I’m impressed that you got Garrison and Trent to come out.”

“You should be,” Carponti grumbled, biting her bottom lip gently. “I had to guilt both of them into it. It’s like they both turned thirty and amputated their fun genes or something.”

Nicole laughed against his mouth. “Dance with me?” she asked.

“What in our history makes you think I know how to dance?” he grumbled even as he allowed her to lead him onto the dance floor.

“You’ll figure it out,” she said, sliding her arms around his neck. She rubbed her body against his, sensuously moving her hips in time with the music.

He dropped his hands to her hips, guiding her exactly where he wanted her. “Keep that up and we’ll have to sneak out to the car,” he said, his breath hot on her ear.

She nibbled on his bottom lip, biting it gently. “I think you’re trying to seduce me,” she whispered. She dug her fingers into his back, her blood humming with latent arousal. God but she loved this man.

“I’m absolutely trying to seduce you,” he said. He angled his thigh between hers, pressing close to the juncture of her thighs. The pressure sent vibrations through her body and straight to her core.

“I’m kind of ready to go home.” Her words were a gasp as he rubbed his thigh against her swollen center. “Before you get into any more fights with your lieutenant.”

“Can we not talk about work when I’m trying to turn you on?” he mumbled. He slipped his hand beneath the hem of her shirt, stroking his thumb down the centerline of her back. A shiver ran through her.

“You don’t want to talk about work? That doesn’t turn you on?” She undulated against him, grateful for the crush of bodies that swayed around them and enabled them to be lost in the crowd.

“No, trying to get you naked turns me on,” he said. “We really need to get out of here.” His breath traced over her ear a moment before he bit her earlobe gently, a fierce burst of pleasure in the pain.

“That sounds like a brilliant idea.”

He sighed as a commotion cleared a corner of the dance floor. “I hate being one of the responsible adults.” He kissed her hard. “Let me get everyone out of here first? That way no one goes to jail on our last night in the States.”

She kissed him fiercely. “I’ll be waiting over here for you to get done being all caveman.”

“I’ll show you caveman later,” he said with a grin before wading into the crowd and diffusing the situation between Garrison and Trent.

It took the better part of an hour before they’d shuffled everyone off to their respective cabs and vehicles. Nicole talked with Laura and Jen and tried not to notice how Jen kept watching Garrison. Oh now wasn’t that interesting?

It felt like forever before her husband strolled across the parking lot and scooped her up, carrying her toward their vehicle.

Their car was parked deep in a shadowed corner of the parking lot, and the moment her husband closed the door Nicole crawled into his lap on the passenger’s seat. He pulled her close, kissing her hard and fast. Pouring a thousand unsaid things into that kiss. His hand threaded into her hair and he slanted her mouth until he owned her—all of her—and she was lost in his taste, his touch.

Then he broke off abruptly. “What the hell?”

“What?”

“Who is that with Garrison?”

Nicole twisted around in time to see Garrison, one of Carponti’s oldest friends, lean in to kiss Jen.

“Oh now that’s interesting,” Carponti whispered.

Nicole spun around. “Don’t you say anything to him,” she said.

“Why not?”

“Because this is the first time Garrison has done anything for himself since his wife left him. Leave him alone.”

Carponti blinked innocently. “What makes you think I would say anything?” he said. His words slurred and Nicole grinned before fishing around in his pockets for his car keys. “A little more to the left.”

Nicole laughed then climbed into the driver’s seat as Garrison stepped back, letting Jen walk to an ancient sedan. “She’s cute. She’s friends with Laura.”

Laura, who was being carried across the parking lot by her husband. She hoped for Laura’s sake the happiness lasted longer than just tonight. The war was taking its toll on everyone, and Nicole had noticed more than once that there was a strain in her friend’s voice when she talked about her husband.

Vic just looked at her. “Oh really?”

Nicole drove them away before her husband could interrupt what had looked like something very sweet between Jen and Garrison. She’d known Garrison as long as she’d known her husband and it was long overdue for him to find someone that made him happy outside of the army.

She glanced at her husband, who had closed his eyes the moment the vehicle started moving, a lazy smile on his lips. Something warm bloomed inside her.

She wished Garrison could find the kind of happy that she had with Vic.

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Meet soldier and author, Jessica Scott with giveaway of UNTIL THERE WAS YOU

Thanks for taking the time to visit Manic Readers.

First things first, how’s your dad?

Thanks so much for having me at Manic Readers! I’m thrilled. My dad is doing just fine, thanks so much for asking!

Why the Army?

Honestly? I’m a product of the 90s army. Economy was doing great but I didn’t really have the grades or the money to go to college so I figured I’d join the army, get out of small town Maine and figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Turned out it was a good fit and it stuck. Best decision I ever made.

I really enjoyed your POV posts.  A bit about your spot on Point of View for those who aren’t familiar with it, please.

Back in 2010 when I first came home from Iraq, I was invited to blog at PBS Point of View Regarding War Women and War. We discussed a couple of opposing view points about women and war and I was the only currently serving active duty female presenting any ideas. It was a great experience getting to see how different women view the military.

What are the main differences between being a company commander and being a Mom?

A romance writer?

Oh the differences are legion. Being a commander is an awesome responsibility, just like being a mom. You’re responsible for everything your team does, good or bad, just like being a parent. I used to think that being a writer was like being a mom in that you raise your kids/book to go out into the world without you but I’ve changed my mind. Writing is in no way like being a parent. You develop a story to be told and you let it go. While others might disagree, identifying a book as your child is only going to set you up for emotional abuse when someone hates your book. So I don’t recommend thinking of your book as your child or using parenting analogies for writing. It’s vastly different but your mileage may vary, you know?

Are you ever teased about your books?

Only when my husband decides to do dramatic interpretation of my books. I laugh my tail off when he reads them out loud. Needless to say, it is somewhat challenging to write a deeply emotional scene with him over my shoulder.

Bet that is a hoot!

Plans to retire at twenty years?

Nope. I love my military career and I get to make a difference in ways I’d never have in the civilian world. I’ll stay as long as the military lets me.

How do you juggle so many balls?

I’m somewhat OCD about my calendar. Seriously, if its not on my calendar, it’s simply not going to get done. I was originally really excited about reminders from apple but they don’t work for me. For some reason, it has to be calendar. I’ve also developed – probably not the best techniques – for managing my to do list. I’m always up for better ideas on work flow improvement though!

Favorite place you’ve been stationed?

Germany, hands down. There was so much history and literally everything in Europe was 6- 8 hours away (except Italy and Spain).

Are your military romances a way of high lighting the special challenges faced by soldiers and their families?

They are but then again, I’m too close to the issues and it ends up being very challenging for me to write about the military in ways that civilians can understand. Just getting the language right can be a challenge, you know?

Please, do tell about UNTIL THERE WAS YOU.

UNTIL THERE WAS YOU is the story of two soldiers coming home from war and starting to unpack their ruck sacks of all the baggage they’ve carried around with them. Combat changes a person and one of the things I love dealing with in my writing is how combat changes you. Not everything is PTSD, you know?

Here’s the official blurb!

He plays by the rules, she’s not afraid to break them. Now these two strong-willed army captains will prove that opposites attract . . .

A by-the-book captain with a West Point background, Captain Evan Loehr refuses to mix business with pleasure—except for an unguarded instance years ago when he succumbed to the deep sensuality of redheaded beauty Claire Montoya. From that moment on, though, Evan has been at odds with her, through two deployments to Iraq and back again. But when he is asked to train a team prepping for combat alongside Claire, battle-worn Evan is in for the fight of his life.

Strong, gutsy, and loyal, Captain Claire Montoya has worked hard to earn the rank on her chest. In Evan, Claire sees a rigid officer who puts the rules before everything else—including his people. When the mission forces them together, Claire soon discovers that there is more to Evan than meets the eye.

He’s more than the rank on his chest; he’s a man with dark secrets and deep longings. For all their differences, Evan and Claire share two crucial passions: their country and each other.

 

Here’s the Prologue, Chapter One and Chapter Two of UNTIL THERE WAS YOU for your reading pleasure and titillation!

Does it stand independent of Because of You and Back to You?

Yes, UNTIL THERE WAS YOU is not connected to BECAUSE OF YOU and BACK TO YOU.

Here’s the Prologue and Chapter One of BECAUSE OF YOU for your reading pleaure.

How many books do you have planned in your Coming Home series?

 I won’t say I’ve got a number in my head, honestly. There is at least 1 more book under way and well, we’ll see where the story takes me after that.

Why a military romance instead of say “literary” or just plain fiction?

 I have no idea how to answer that question, lol! My books don’t fit neatly into the boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back genre niche but then again, they are focused on the relationship between one man and one woman. I will confess to having a hard time finding a home for these books because when people say military romance, they think romantic suspense and Navy SEALS and these books are not those books.

Is there another genre or sub-genre you’d like to explore?

 It dawned on me today that while I love a good paranormal, I absolutely suck at it. My world building skills are just terrible. So ultimately, I’d like to get better at that and there are several kinds of stories I’d like to explore. Right now, I’m focusing on the Coming Home books, you know?

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

 Getting the opening of the story right. Man openings are so hard for me. After that, it’s revising without ripping the book apart and starting over.

Easiest?

Revising that almost final draft when it’s just layering and tweaking. Favorite part.

Who’s in charge, you or the characters?

My characters. I’m not an instinctive plotter so I have to work on it. I’ll have one idea for the story but I continually end up surprised by how much my story will change once I get a really great feel for my character.

Do you have a writing schedule or is it whenever the mood/opportunity presents itself?

I sit down on my computer usually by about 8-9 pm every night and try to write at least 2000 words. Some nights, this is easy peasy. Other nights I just give up. But I try to stay on target, you know?

Does your muse require music, chocolate, caffeine, chips, or anything at all?

I can really rock when I’ve got a song stuck in my head. I don’t know why but something about having a song on repeat taps into my muse I just start nailing words to the page. It’s really awesome when things flow that way.

Do you have a favorite genre to read? A favorite book?

I read a lot of non fiction, trying to find the answers to the billion questions in my head. I loved the Hunger Games books because they made me think, you know? Plus I was left with an emotional hangover for DAYS at the end of that series. I mean, totally and completely destroyed me. So so good.

For those who don’t know Fluffy, could you share a bit about her with them?

Fluffy is the dark hamster of the apocalypse. She was the pre-k class pet last year who continually kept coming back to our house and moved in at the end of the school year. She is constantly escaping and threatening to kill the cat. She’s a funny little hamster. She has her own facebook page now for all the shenanigans.

What can readers look forward to from you?

I’m not sure what next year will bring. BACK TO YOU is coming out in September and that will close out this portion of the Coming Home series. I’ve got a couple of ideas dancing around in my head so we’ll see what happens. I’m also releasing a book from my blog about my year in Iraq so readers can look for that as soon as I finish cutting through some red tape!

Thanks so much for having me on Manic Readers!

Thank you for taking the time to visit, Jessica.

Y’all are sooo lucky.  Sue at Romance at Random is graciously offering one lucky commenter a print copy of UNTIL THERE WAS YOU.  Giveaway ends @12 am est on 10-15-12.  Sorry, US only.  Meaningful comments only.  Good luck!

Manic Readers Review of UNTIL THERE WAS YOU.

 

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Jessica Scott’s thoughts on Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day!

First, thanks to Ivy for inviting me here today to celebrate the day of love with fellow romance readers and authors. Its always fun for me to see how folks celebrate Valentine’s Day.

So here’s a little secret: I’m not a huge Valentine’s Day person. I’m not a fan of anything that puts extra pressure on you to perform when it’s not really that important. I’m even somewhat of a scrooge now a days but that’s a whole other story.

Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about showing someone special in your life that you love them, right? But why should we just limit it to one day a year? Honestly, think about it. What’s the best thing you can do for someone you love?

Love them year round. So for Valentine’s Day, instead of running out to buy chocolate and flowers and running with the crowd, why not break away from the commercialized traditions? Here’s a few ideas to do something really special and the best part? They don’t have to be only on Valentine’s Day. Try them out whenever the mood strikes you or better, when the mood doesn’t strike you.

The Love List

  • write the person in your life a note and leave it in their lunchbox, on their driver’s seat, on their sink. Tell them something that will make them laugh.
  • take five minutes in the morning before you rush out of bed and snuggle. make sure you set the alarm to snooze because it’s waay to easy to fall back asleep and end up late for formation, er, work
  • send them a random i love you text message
  • sexting is always an option. just make sure you don’t send these to the wrong person as that can be awkward at best and possibly criminal.
  • make their coffee, tea, protein shake before you rush out the door
  • give them a pedicure. sure, it’s easy enough to go to the salon down the street but it’s much nicer to take the time and lavish some attention on his or her badly abused feet
  • instead of doing the dishes, take some time to just sit on the couch. relax and just be together.
  • put the kids to bed early and lock the bedroom door. let your imagination go wild. try something different. I doubt you’ll be able to get your guy to go for anal beads but hey, you never know. I’m kidding. No really, I’m kidding. That’s a terrible idea.
  • remember mix tapes? Maybe I’m dating myself but make the person in your life a playlist or a CD of special songs.

 

Those are just some ideas. What are your ideas to celebrate Valentine’s Day every day?

Jessica brings a unique perspective to her military romance series because she’s both a soldier and author.  Check it out.  

 

 

 

 

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