Hey hey it’s release day! My military romance novella, Alive Day, is now on digital shelves near you!
Alive Day is the second installment of the Homefront Trilogy, about three soldiers trying to fit back into the world after a tricky tour of duty. Of course it turns out their heroines need just as much redemption as they do, and although slotting their various fractured pieces together isn’t always easy, in the end they all find a way to become whole.
Although it’s not technically Excerpt Monday, I thought I’d share one anyway, on account of I’m a rebel like that. And in the meantime you can find Alive Day on sale at Amazon, Amazon UK, Kobo and Barnes & Noble!
The shop’s big space felt small thanks to the haphazardly arranged shelves and precarious towers of unsorted volumes dotted around the floor. Kenna, the thirty-something, broomstick-skirted, nose-studded owner smiled and greeted him by name and he nodded a hello. At least his insomnia was supporting local business—he bet he personally generated seventy percent of the shop’s revenue.
“What are you in the mood for today?” Kenna chirped from behind the counter. “More military history? I’ve just gotten a good one about Caesar’s thirteenth legion.”
“I think I need a little escapism. Can you recommend any mindless thrillers?”
“Of course.” She grabbed one of the shop-branded bookmarks she included with every purchase and wrote three names on the back. “Shelf in the corner, all the way against the wall.”
He thanked her and threaded his way through the maze of shelves. Maybe if she bothered labeling these sections she wouldn’t have to spend so much time telling customers where—
He turned a corner and stopped short. Mia stood with her back to him, her head bent over the book open in her hands, dark hair falling forward to obscure her face.
That familiar rush of adrenaline that had been upsettingly absent when he looked at Chelsea a few minutes earlier now surged through his veins. It wasn’t the same uncomplicated, thrill-of-the-chase excitement that characterized his romantic advances previous to the Kunar deployment—the memory of her scrutinizing, penetrating gaze in his kitchen was as discomfiting as ever—but it was evidence of thaw in his frozen-over capacity for human connection.
His smile felt lopsided but he kept it in place, firmly shoving his reservations aside. Readying his deliberately cheesy pickup line, he touched Mia’s elbow.
She flinched so violently she dropped the book. Its hardcover binding hit the wooden floorboards with a resonant thud.
“Ethan, hi.” She greeted him warmly, her easy tone bearing no relation to the hot flash of fear slowly retreating from her eyes. “What are you up to?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“You’re fine, I was just engrossed in this chapter.” She leaned down to retrieve the book, and he could see the rapid contractions of her ribs. When she straightened again her smile was significantly more believable, but her knuckles were white where she clutched the spine.
“I’m on the hunt for some pulpy novels with as little literary merit as possible. Have you read any of these?” He held up the bookmark, investing his words with as much lightness as possible given the shame twisting his gut. Was she afraid of him? Did she think he’d hurt her? She’d seemed to take him in stride, from his bottle smashing to his peppermint tea, but maybe that was all an act. Maybe he really was as irredeemable as he felt.
“Let me see.” Mia moved to his side to read the slip of cardstock. Her scent reminded him of orange liqueur and freshly sliced lemon, sophisticated but not stuffy, refreshing and restrained. He blinked, registering how unnecessarily close she stood, how her body pressed needlessly against his. Almost like his nearness was reassuring. Like she thought he could protect her.
He fought a visceral urge to wrap his arms around her slender shoulders and promise to keep her safe, to do anything she wanted to whoever had hurt her and made her afraid. Was it her dad? An uncle? An ex-boyfriend? Or a complete stranger?
“I haven’t read him, but this guy’s books are the most action-packed, and this one’s plots are more twisty. It depends on what you want. Stuff blowing up or shocking surprises?”
She looked up at him over her shoulder, eyes as dark and soft as melted chocolate and free of the fleeting terror that had hardened them so instantly. And for the first time in months, he knew exactly what he wanted.
He smiled. “Shocking surprises, every time.”
Before she could reply he raised his hand, slowly enough for her to see it coming, giving her plenty of time to stop him, and swept her hair off her shoulder. She watched, unmoving, as he trailed his finger down the line of her neck, parting her lips as he stopped at the ridge of her collarbone. He paused, waiting for permission, for confirmation that this wasn’t all in his messed-up head.
Mia put her hand over his, holding it in place with a light squeeze.
His heart lurched into motion, beating frantically yet unevenly, disoriented, as if jerked from the middle of a deep sleep. Her touch was almost surreal in its tenderness, its encouragement.
He angled closer, unable to stop his gaze from dipping to her slightly parted lips. He wet his own, wondering how hers would taste. Would she let him find out? Would he ever deserve to know?
“Ethan? Did you find everything okay?”
Mia jerked away as Kenna rounded one of the bookshelves, putting a foot of distance between them. The shop owner’s smile was broad and friendly and totally unsuspecting, but he still felt like he’d just been caught kissing a girl in an empty high-school classroom.
“Actually, I think I’m ready to check out.” Mia hefted the hardback in her hand and Kenna nodded eagerly.
“Great, let me bring this up front for you.” Kenna took the book and headed back to the counter. Mia turned to follow her, then flashed him a conspiratorial smile.
“I’ll see you on post, Captain Fletcher.”
“You will.” He ducked his head in farewell and she was gone.
He remained in the spot for another couple of minutes, idly listening to the muffled chatter, crinkling paper bag and swishing door that signaled Mia’s departure, but he wasn’t trying to avoid her like he’d tried to avoid Chelsea. Instead his ruminations were mostly internal, mentally weighing and examining and classifying the distantly recognizable emotion that simultaneously loosened his muscles and straightened his spine. It was vaguely familiar, but so foggily remembered that it took him a while to find its name.
When he did, his grin was so immediate it almost startled him. Hope.