November 25, 2014
Forever Mass Market
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 . . .
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.
She was doomed.
About the Author
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.