In HERS TO HEAL, book two of my "Black Eagle Ops" series, my hero wore a prosthesis to replace his arm blown off below his bicep. He was six foot three, ripped, hazel eyes and a light brown mane of hair like a lion that he sometimes wore in a man bun. He had facial hair. And a tattoo which had a dual meaning--one Greek and one more personal. Internally, he was a complex man of many layers.
That's what I fantasized, anyhow. Here's what my publisher gave me...
My publisher hasn't written a blurb yet. The book doesn't release until November 21st. But I will share the opening scene of the book...Chapter One....
Reece Browning hated everything.
He hated that he was no longer a SEAL in Team 5, that he only had one arm, and that he’d mentally changed into a person he barely recognized. He hated wearing a prosthetic arm, which was why he kept throwing it away. And he positively hated how his physical therapist kept carrying the damned arm back in, cleaning it up, and standing over him like a mouthy Marine drill sergeant until Reece reattached it.
What he really detested was that she was a former Marine—a willowy, blonde, brown-eyed, opinionated, ballsy ex-Marine by the name of Gina Wilson. Who, right at this moment, had her powerful hands on his bare ass, giving his wounded muscles and resulting scars one hellacious massage.
Okay, so maybe he didn’t hate this part so much.
“This should take care of some of the pain in your sciatic nerve. Once I’m through, I’ll put an ice pack on it. Keep it there for twenty minutes.”
He grunted in response.
“A word of warning: If I come here tomorrow and you’re not wearing that arm, I’m going to shove it up your ass, Reece. Our goal is to make you as functional as you were before you lost your real arm. Yes, it'll take some time and hard work, but the benefits will far outweigh the efforts. You're not afraid of pushing yourself, are you?”
"Hell no!" Hadn't he pushed himself through every hellish day of BUD/S, placing twenty-sixth in a group of two-hundred and nine who'd earned their Tridents? Initially, there had been a thousand hopeful sailors who'd embarked on the intense six-month training program to become SEALs. He knew more about pushing himself than this physical therapist ever would.
Refusing to give her anything more to harp about, he mentally turned her off and stared at the green wall of his room. His mind drifted. Early in the mornings, in the soft sunlight, the green reminded him of a stalk of celery in a strong, spicy Bloody Mary—his late mother’s favorite drink. Wasn’t it strange as hell how his mind now worked? His mom’s dying words as pancreatic cancer consumed her were, “God, I could use a Bloody Mary.” He hoped they had an open bar in heaven. She’d be drunk as hell if she could see him now.
“Either that or I’m going to program your arm so the fingers clamp onto your penis if you try to remove the prosthesis before nine at night.”
Gina’s persistent yapping invaded his earlier thoughts of losing his mother. Tomorrow would be two years since she’d gotten her angel wings.
“It’s been you and me every day for three weeks, and I’ve had to do all the talking. Three weeks of listening to myself breaking the silence. I gotta tell ya, you have a very limited vocabulary…a male grunt, ‘no,’ and ‘hell no.’ Oh, and let’s not forget your favorite, ‘fuck you.’ You know, just to see if you’d verbally react, I’d say you have a nice ass,” her fingertips lightly caressed his flesh, instantly making him harder than the barrel of an M-4 Carbine, “but then you’re all ass.”
She was goading him.
And, hell, he hated being goaded.
And, hell, he hated being goaded.
“Now I know why your SEAL brothers nicknamed you Steelhead. Damned if you aren’t the most stubborn man I’ve ever met.”
He smiled into the white sheet on the king-sized bed.
“Guess what my nickname was in the Corps?” She slapped his ass and his eyes popped open. “Just guess!”
Motor Mouth? Lip smacker? Talk-n-Plenty?
She began making small circles on his butt cheeks with her thumbs for a deep tissue massage. God, he did not like this part at all. Her first few rotations forced him to suck air and tense his legs.
“Can’t think of an answer?” She leaned over so her breasts pressed against his t-shirt. “Thumbs of Bitchin’ Steel. Tobs, for short,” she whispered in his ear and then straightened to press harder with her steely thumbs.
Kee-ryst! No fake.
When his former Commander Zane Quinlan known simply as ZQ, started talking to Reece about coming to Eagle Ridge Ranch to heal in peace and quiet, away from the noise and nonsense of the world’s fast pace, he’d eventually acquiesced. He hadn’t counted on Gina…Motor Mouth…Bitchin’ whatever. He sneered into the bed. He loved this ranch. Her, not so much. No matter how physically attracted he was to her. And wasn’t that a bitch?
Part of his decision to come to the Hill Country of Texas rested on former team members staying on or near ZQ’s twenty-two-thousand acre ranch and the camaraderie they still shared. That, and his love of horses.
Dust, their team’s sniper, was living in Warrior Falls, a small town nearby, with his new wife Kelcee. Dustin Franks had lost part of his leg in Raqqa, Syria.
JJ had been the team’s demolition’s expert, assistant corpsman, and dog handler. Now that Jerryl Jacoby was a civilian, he’d been able to adopt the team’s German shepherd, Ordnance—or Nance, for short. JJ and Nance were both living and working on the ranch.
The team’s beloved service dog had her ear shot off as they’d fought their way through Al Hasakah in Eastern Syria. That’s where Reece had lost his arm above the elbow in one hellacious explosion that pushed the ground away from his boots before it snapped back and bit him in the ass. As he crumpled to the ground, dazed and disoriented by the bomb, radical forces had dashed out of the buildings like armed roaches and taken him prisoner.
For three days, he’d been damn near beaten and tortured to death for information. He’d kept quiet. A SEAL lived to protect his team, his mission, and his country. Every scream, every shudder of pain he’d internalized into a shatterproof reinforcement of the oath he’d taken after BUD/S.
No matter how many times he’d been slashed with knives, whipped with chains, or electrocuted, he hadn’t talked. He’d survived waterboarding in gasping, panicked silence, convinced death was only a waterlogged heartbeat away. His sheer willpower had won against those bastards.
For Nance’s ear, for Dust’s leg, for his arm and the fine line he now walked between sanity and insanity, and for all the women and children Reece had seen beheaded, he hated ISIS with a passion.
His mother had raised him not to hate, to forgive with understanding. Now, hate seemed to plague his soul.
Where there was once light, darkness reigned.
“You’re extra tense today, Reece. Want to talk about it? I’m a good listener.”
He grunted, Gina’s words pulled him back from the edge.
She snapped a chemical ice pack, taped it to his ass, and covered him with a sheet. The bed dipped as she lay beside him. He tensed from his hair tips to his toenails. What the hell is she doing?
“Reece, look at me” Her hand sifted through his hair, an intimate stroke he craved like he craved the rest of his arm, which scared the bejesus out of him. He didn’t want to be attracted, but her silky voice was like a sensual magnet.
She exhaled a long sigh. “Be honest. Is it me you dislike? I want to help you get better and I can’t if you begrudge every word of instruction I give. Do you want me to get you another physical therapist? Because I will. Just say the word.”
He stared at the wall, watched an imaginary crack form and black snakes, with blood red eyes, slither from the crack in vile orange goo. It had taken him months to realize this repetitive horrific sight was all a deranged specter, a part of his PTSD. Now, it barely increased his pulse. While having Gina lying next to him had his heart hammering like machine gun rounds.
What the hell was she thinking getting in bed with him? He was strong enough to overpower her, to assault her. Hell, he was still a man, even with most of an arm gone.
He’d never hurt her on purpose. How could he when her treatments were the high point of his days? His mania fueled by his PTSD was another factor—unpredictable and uncontrollable. Because he could never ignore that unsolicited part of his psyche, he struggled to keep his fascination for her under emotional lock and key.
“Reece.” She tugged on his hair. “Do you want me to quit working with you?”
He inhaled a deep breath and allowed the truth to quietly exhale. “No.” The woman would never know how much that one whispered word of honesty had cost him.
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