Welcome to Saturday Spotlight. A feature hosted by Tina’s Book Reviews as a way of shining the light on Indie/Debut/Self Published authors. Each week I’ll have a guest post written by a featured author.
Join me in welcoming Jessica Scott, author of the Contemporary Military Romance Coming Home series, to the blog today.
Thanks so much for having me here at For What It’s Worth Reviews.
It’s been almost a year since my debut novel launched the return of Loveswept as a digital first imprint and what an exciting year it’s been. When I look back, it’s hard to believe everything this year has brought: lessons learned, laughs and lots of angst.
As a career army officer, military life has influenced every aspect of my writing from my characters to my settings. The theme behind my Coming Home novels is just that: soldiers dealing with how deploying to war changed them. As someone who has dealt personally with both my own experience in coming home from war and my husband’s multiple returns home, it’s something that is deeply personal to me. I try to be cautious when dealing with issues that might bother readers but the overall response to my debut novel BECAUSE OF YOU has been positive.
My 2nd book UNTIL THERE WAS YOU comes out on October 8th and honestly, I’m a nervous wreck about it. It was a tough, tough book to write, primarily because both the hero and heroine are army captains. That made world building more of a challenge because there was no “new” character that the experienced characters could explain things to. But just like Shane & Jen in BECAUSE OF YOU, Evan & Claire in UNTIL THERE WAS YOU have to deal with life after the war.
Below is a sneak peak!
Fort Hood, Texas
Captain Evan Loehr was having a bad day. Granted, it could have been worse. It could always be worse. But as he pulled his Stetson out of its carrying case and dusted it off, he contemplated the consequences for blowing off the mandatory fun of tonight’s hail and farewell. He was not in the mood. Not in the least. Not when he was eight weeks out from leaving on his third deployment and was up to his neck in maintenance issues and, well, other issues that he’d never in a million years thought he’d have to deal with as a company commander.
There were things he simply did not want to know about his soldiers.
But his battalion commander said they were going to the hail and farewell, so Evan was going to the hail and farewell. The brutal Texas summer sun blazed overhead, baking the earth and melting the asphalt beneath his shoes. He hoped like hell there was air-conditioning in the bar.
More, he hoped none of his more illustrious soldiers decided to attend tonight’s shindig. He’d been in command for less than a month, and so far at least one of his troopers had spent a night in jail every single weekend.
Stepping into the bar, he walked into a blanket of darkness, tinged with cigarette smoke and a bouncy country song blaring at him from all sides. The dance floor was surrounded by a low wall and illuminated with flickering strobe lights. He couldn’t believe they were having a military function at a bar where there would be civilians. Normally military functions like these were in separate rooms at somewhat classier establishments, not in rowdy country bars. He wasn’t entirely sure it was a good idea, but then again, he wasn’t in charge of planning the event. Evan made his way to the bar, needing something a hell of a lot stronger than a beer to get him through tonight.
* * *
“You realize it looks bad for you to hang out with your old enlisted buddy, don’t you?”
Claire Montoya looked up at her oldest friend, Sergeant First Class Reza Iaconelli, whom she was no longer supposed to be friends with now that she’d earned her commission two years before. “You’re the only person—officer or enlisted—in this brigade I know. I don’t really care what it looks like.”
“Yeah, well, my commander might have something to say about that if he gets the wrong idea. The guy must have been potty trained at gunpoint.”
“That uptight, huh?” Claire grinned and sipped her beer. She’d been in the Reaper Brigade Combat team for all of three weeks, and Reza was the one person she trusted to have her back. “Where is your illustrious commander, anyway?”
“Working, as always.” Reza grinned, and it was pure evil. “You’ll never guess on what.”
Claire braced for the worst. She could only imagine. “Do I want to know?”
He tossed back the rest of his beer. “Apparently, there are eight new cases of chlamydia in our company. So the battalion commander has tasked him to find out A, where they came from, and B, what he’s going to do to prevent any more outbreaks.”
Claire choked on a swallow of Dos Equis that went down the wrong pipe. It was a long minute before her lungs were clear and she could breathe again, let alone talk. “That is wrong on so, so many levels,” she said when she could speak.
“Speak of the devil.” Reza turned and pointed his beer at someone behind Claire. She twisted on the edge of the wall that circled the dance floor, prepared to meet someone starched and rigid. “Evan Loehr, Claire Montoya. You two mingle. I’m getting another beer.”
She was going to kill Reza. He was forever trying to get her to hook up the way he did: with all the discretion of a dog in heat. She stared daggers into his back as he walked off. He never quite understood why she wasn’t into dating. Her track record with men sucked, and she was not about to add to that losing streak tonight. She was getting ready to deploy in less than two months with the brigade. She didn’t need a one-night stand with one of the company commanders to complicate things.
Not that he didn’t look like the perfect candidate for a one-night dance with the devil. If she did those sort of things. Which she didn’t. But still, this man didn’t look remotely the way she’d expected he would. His shoulders were wide and solid, and beneath that starched white shirt, his chest looked powerful. She could easily imagine those arms wrapped around her, holding her tight while he . . . Down, girl. She might not have moved from her spot on the low wall surrounding the dance floor, but her hormones had snapped to attention, that was for sure.
The way Reza had described him made her imagine a man who would show up in military uniform despite the Texas casual dress code.
He seemed out of place in this smoky, seedy bar. This guy seemed stiff and rigid, as if he’d rather be anywhere but here at this moment. The top button of his shirt exposed the strong line of his throat, revealing dark hair and a glimpse of smooth skin and carved shadows. Beneath the First Cav Stetson, his hair was black and cut close to the strong line of his neck. There was confidence in the way he moved, a raw power that wrapped around Claire like the smoke in the bar and drew her close.
Claire stuck out her hand, needing something to distract her from her deviant thoughts. Small talk ought to do the trick. “Nice to meet you. Evan, right?”
“Yeah.” His hand was rough and strong as her fingers slid into his. “How did you get the last name Montoya with hair like that?”
“I have no idea.” Oddly self-conscious, she tucked her red hair behind one ear. “So you’re Reza’s commander?”
“For the last two months.”
“And your first order of business is dealing with sexually transmitted diseases?” His scowled fiercely and Claire laughed out loud, despite her best efforts not to.
“Glad you think it’s funny.“ His voice rumbled over her skin, holding the promise of dark fantasies and primitive yearnings. It had been too long since she’d been with a man. Being around him made her want to do reckless things.
“I’ve never been a commander, but I hope I never have to deal with what you’re dealing with right now.” Evan looked so disgruntled, she smiled. She didn’t know him. She shouldn’t be amused by his discomfort, but the situation was ridiculous. Plus, the conversation came with the added bonus of locking down her hormones. Nothing said sexy like diseases, she thought dryly.
He leaned forward, bracing his elbows on the low wall next to her hips and dragging his hands over his face. “I can’t believe that this is what I’m dealing with. Not weapons training. Not running patrols or shooting bad guys. Sexually transmitted diseases.”
“Well, commander, what’s your plan for dealing with the rash of diseased penises in your formation?”
Evan groaned and buried his face in his hands, then took a long pull off his own beer. Reza emerged from the crowd and clapped him on the shoulder. “I already took care of it. I sent Ramirez to the clinic to pick up a case of rubbers. They’re sitting on the counter in the company ops.”
“I should make them an inspectable item and have every soldier keep one in their wallet,” Evan grumbled. Claire laughed so hard, she almost fell from her seat on the wall. Evan gave her a pointed look.
“I’m sorry,“ she said, trying to stop laughing before she permanently damaged his pride. “But you should see your face.”
He took a pull off his beer. Claire watched his throat move, enthralled by the motion of sleek muscle and dark skin. “I feel like I should have a formation and make the platoon sergeants demonstrate how to put on a condom the correct way.”
“As one of your platoon sergeants, I’ll be the first to refuse that order,” Reza said before taking another drink.
Finally Evan laughed and the sound twisted Claire’s insides, teasing away the tension and the fatigue and the bone-crushing pressure of being the new girl. Something warm unfurled against her heart, like hot steam rising from a hidden vent. Something that told her she needed to stay far away from the source of the warmth.
* * *
The formal portion of the evening was about to get started, and Evan found himself regretting that. He was enjoying himself immensely, a feeling both surprising and unexpected. Claire Montoya was proving a sexy detour for the night, and while Evan didn’t do one-night stands, he was not above taking her to a quiet corner of the bar. Her mouth drew him. She had the kind of wide, full lips that were made for kissing.
He wondered how his big platoon sergeant knew her, but couldn’t drum up the energy to ask. He simply hoped he wasn’t spending the evening flirting with one of Reza’s castoffs. It hadn’t taken him long to learn that Sergeant Iaconelli spent his free time curled up with a bottle or a woman.
“So other than unprotected sex, what do you think about being a commander?” Claire asked. Her breath kissed his skin as she leaned close enough so she didn’t have to shout.
Evan leaned in, fighting the urge to lift her hair away from her ear. “I love it. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. But it’s the most stressful, too.”
“You don’t seem like you relax very often.”
He shrugged, sipping his beer. “I don’t. There’s not a lot of time for relaxing when you’re getting ready to take a company downrange into combat.”
“Guess they’re getting ready to do the introductions.” Claire tipped her chin toward the stage. “Guess I need to get ready to smile and wave for the crowd.”
Evan frowned. “You’re a soldier?”
She smiled, and her green eyes glittered in the smoky bar. “Yeah.”
There was a sinking feeling in Evan’s stomach. “What rank are you?”
She frowned. “Does it matter?”
She grinned, and it was wicked. “What, afraid you’ve spent the evening flirting with an enlisted woman?”
“I don’t date army women as a rule.” Evan breathed out sharply. “Dirt and dust on deployments aren’t exactly great conditions for love and sex.”
“Pretty stiff restrictions on letting yourself relax, huh?”
“Everything in my life comes with conditions,” he said softly. “Besides, you don’t look like you’d be in the army.” He felt a flush creep up his neck as he heard the rudeness of his own words, but Claire didn’t look offended. “Sorry. I didn’t mean that how it sounded.”
“Relax. I’m a captain.” She looked up at him, studying him quietly. “You should see your face. You were really worried, weren’t you?”
Evan couldn’t get the tight knot in his chest to relax. She had stunning red hair and green eyes cast in dark, smoky shadows. A body that took Evan to a dark and primal place. Her dark red hair tumbled down her back and she looked like a woman who spent more time at the mall than on the weapons range. He couldn’t picture her in uniform. Thankfully, she didn’t seem to care that he had been worried about her rank.
“I’m prior service. Did a stint as enlisted before I went to Officer Candidate School down at Fort Benning.”
She bumped her shoulder against his, her eyes sparkling. “You really need to relax. It’s mandatory fun, and you don’t look like you’re having any.”
He turned his attention to the dais, where the brigade commander was introducing new folks to the rest of the brigade.
Her hand on his forearm dragged his attention away from the stage. He glanced down at her fingers, long and slim against his skin, burning him. “This is a really big deal for you, isn’t it?”
“No, just a surprise.”
A big surprise. One that would complicate things tremendously.
“Captain Claire Montoya.” The brigade commander called Claire’s name, and she hopped off the wall without a backwards glance at him. “Claire hails to us from . . .”
Evan stopped listening, lost in his own thoughts, which were a hell of a lot more than unprofessional. He waited until she was up on the stage before he melted into the dark safety of the bar, putting a stop to what would have been a very big mistake.
Jessica Scott returns with an all-new contemporary eBook original romance, following last fall’s release of her sizzling debut novel Because of You.
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.
You can order UNTIL THERE WAS YOU at these ebookstores or wherever ebooks are sold! B & N | Amazon | Powell's| iBookstore
Jessica Scott is a career army officer, mother of two daughters, three cats, three dogs and two escape-artists hamsters, wife to a career NCO and wrangler of all things stuffed and fluffy. She has commanded two companies, served in Germany, Korea, Fort Hood and Iraq, and been lucky not to get fired. She is a terrible cook and an even worse housekeeper, but she’s a pretty good shot with her assigned weapon. Somehow, her children are pretty well adjusted and her husband still loves her, despite burned water and a messy house. You can find her online at Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Giveaway open until Saturday 8/25 at 11:59 PM ET. Winner announced Sunday 8/26