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Saturday Book Tease
NEW RELEASE, C'est la Vie, Soldier
Welcome to another Saturday Book Tease. I’m so pleased to share this week’s book excerpt from my NEW Release (on 8/28), C’est la Vie, Soldier, Book 5 in The Soldiers of PATCH-COM.
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This story has been a long time coming as the two main characters in this book, Nastjia Moreno and Lucien Montcourt, have been circling each other since book 2, Second Chance Soldier. Hope you enjoy the series and this latest edition.
When the U.S. Navy’s first female SEAL meets a cocky French commando assigned to PATCH-COM… sparks fly. But he has a secret, one that could break her heart.
In the beginning, he was annoying and aggravating. Then he became a friend and stalwart protector. Now, her feelings for Lucien Montcourt were causing Nastjia 'Nasty' Moreno a world of internal conflict, and she could not allow herself to become distracted.
A recent sting operation produced a surprising piece of intelligence; her father, who'd been missing for several years, was alive…but in the hands of the Colima cartel! How and why were questions for later. First, she and the team needed to find a way to rescue her dad. Planning the mission, however, is proving harder than anticipated until the FBI provides a way.
With plans underway, Moreno focuses on the operation, promising herself she will deal with these new feelings for Lucien later. Little does she realize her laser-focus is pushing him away, robbing them both of precious time.
Montcourt had long ago decided to dedicate himself to Nastjia in whatever way she would have him, for however long she saw fit. It was the best-case scenario to protect them both from heartache…or so he thought. A tender and passionate moment changes everything, and now he wants more. But does she? When the woman he’s falling for begins to avoid him, Montcourt is left wondering what he did wrong, and if he’ll ever have a second chance. Frustrated, he prepares for the difficult rescue operation determined to protect her from harm, come what may.
When the team is betrayed by a trusted ally, secrets are revealed that endanger Moreno’s life, and threaten to break her heart. Will the mission to rescue her father succeed? And when tragedy strikes, will she be able to save Montcourt, and tell him how she feels, before it’s too late?
Lucien Montcourt followed Nastjia “Nasty” Moreno across the hall. The two soldiers quickly stepped into Senior Chief Vincent “Griz” Torres’s room. Inside, Gerry “Mac” Maclean, Harold Tyler, a.k.a. Eastwood, Art “Cyclops” Diaz, Matt Rogers, Moses “the Prophet” Zigman, and Ben “Doc” Holiday stood, elbow to elbow. The small space had become their command center for planning Operation Save Moreno’s Dad. Missing from their team, by design, were Jackson “Junkyard” Hicks, Carter “Woody” Ridgewood, Major Sydelle Maxwell, and the newest addition to PATCH-COM, Rick “Rooster” Ellis. Jackson had been informed, in the event the team needed a point of contact, but sidelined because the plans being made included the ability to move fast. Despite all his progress, Jackson still required a brace, and although he’d made great strides in ballet class, the extent of his injury was such that he would never be one hundred percent again. He would have a role in this operation, but it would center around his ability to coordinate quickly, quietly, and efficiently with the team for all tech-related needs.
It was decided early on that Woody would not be brought into the fold because, so far, he’d yet to join them on any missions. He had not completed rehab and wasn’t battle-tested by the team. Plus, his loyalties could not yet be determined. Since what was being planned would not—could not—be sanctioned by top brass, that led to the group making the difficult decision to keep their plans under the radar of Major Maxwell. First, she would never be able to get clearance for what they intended, and second, her natural instinct to protect her team might lead her to defy chain of command and help them, which would get her into no end of trouble. No, they wouldn’t do that to her. The team presently assembled inside the room had all either been drafted in by their commanders when they were too broken to object, or they’d been offered a position at PATCH-COM on a voluntary basis—as guinea pigs for the experimental program. For one member, at least, it was a last resort.
So, an alternate route to achieving their goal was now being meticulously plotted. It would require detailed planning, help from rogue quarters, and plane tickets.
“Fill me in,” Ben Holiday said.
It had been three weeks since his return from Moscow, from a mission that had gone sideways and nearly ended in catastrophe. Ben and Moses arrived together but got separated along the way. Zigman fulfilled the mission parameter of secreting the Russian opposition leader out of the country securing an ally for his home country of Israel. Ben stayed behind as a decoy taking a bullet for his troubles. Had it not been for the beautiful Doctor Irina Petrovna, a woman who, herself, had been targeted by the FSB, Ben might never have made it home. Much to his surprise, they’d fallen for each other.
Now that Irina’s future was set, and her pathway to citizenship ensured, his life had settled into a happy routine. Together, they rang in the new year, sharing laughs, making love, and helping Jessica and Griz shop around for a new place to live. Ben’s sister and the man she chose despite all his warnings, misgivings, and eventually a begrudgingly offered blessing, had decided to move in together. Still, he couldn’t be happier. Especially since it gave him and Irina more room to romp naked. His beautiful personal physician had already begun putting her own stamp on the house by rearranging the bedroom furniture and dragging him out into the front yard to prep it for spring planting. They’d made so many memories already, and he spent most of his time smiling like a fool in love. But playtime was over. Duty called.
Moreno took point, turning to Ben. In short order, she filled him in on what she and Griz had discovered while he was gone, from the carved wooden bird found in the possession of one of the rescued children in the human trafficking sting to the information gathered by the senior chief’s mercenary buddies south of the border. It was a lot to take in. At the end of her speech, Ben nodded, his arms crossed, and lips pursed in thought.
Beside Moreno, Lucien Montcourt stood, hands clasped behind his back, at ease. The expression in his eyes was anything but. The French marine, too, was deep in thought. Still, his body language and bearing indicated to Ben, and everyone else in the room, that he was firmly with Moreno, on guard and supporting her every decision. It came as no surprise to the team. Since his arrival at Camp Lazarus and induction into PATCH-COM, the man had been drawn to the first female Navy SEAL like a moth to a flame. In the beginning, she was annoyed by it. His non-stop flirtatious comments coupled with the man’s characteristic snark and sarcasm had rubbed the men the wrong way, so much so that Mac had threatened bodily harm if the Frenchman didn’t back off.
The rest of the team started a pool to guess how many more days would pass before Nasty gave Montcourt a beat-down. When Moreno’s responses gradually changed from pissed to mildly irritated, the terms of the bet also changed: How long before Montcourt wore her down and the two ended up together? Moreno found out about the first bet, but they were sure she did not know about the second one. The reasons why were clear. If she found out, she’d exact her revenge on her teammates, and the truth of the matter was that as much as they respected her, they also knew how lethal she could be. No one wanted to be on the receiving end of Nasty’s ire.
The only one brave enough to step up to that line had been Montcourt, and now, he was her stalwart protector. The devotion in his eyes when he looked at her was palpable. No one doubted he would guard her with his life, and had, in fact, done that only weeks before. Following the brothel sting, Nasty and Montcourt had been inseparable. They shared duties, ate at the chow hall together, and hung out in the common room each night watching movies or playing cards with the rest of the team. But when the evenings were over, Montcourt escorted Moreno back to her room, only one door down from his own and across the hall from Griz’s. It was there where the Senior Chief first noticed a change in their relationship. And that awkward moment changed everything.
On only the second night back at base, Griz came upon them standing outside the door of her quarters. He’d nodded at the two, saying goodnight, but as he turned to open his own door, he realized something. Glancing quickly over his shoulder, he confirmed it. Moreno was blushing. He’d quirked a brow and then bit his tongue, hard. The temptation to tease Nasty for looking like she’d been caught in a compromising position was great, but he was no fool...and there were no locks on their bedroom doors. To give into that temptation meant sleeping with one eye open because Moreno would surely kill him in his sleep. Instead, he cleared his throat and turned away, stepping into his room. But once inside, he immediately texted Mac and Eastwood. That’s when the stakes on their bet grew, and the betting began all over again in earnest as the pot tripled.
Ben Holiday chewed his lip, deep in thought. Finally, he looked at Moreno and said, “So, what you’re saying is, we’re going to Mexico for spring break?”
She smirked. “Something like that. But without the wild parties, out of control drinking, and hairy hangovers.”
“Might get to kill some very bad guys though,” said Eastwood, a grin on his face.
Flashbacks of a cold night and a dead Russian thug bleeding out all over him raced through Holiday’s head. Prior to the mission to Moscow, Ben’s career had been about saving lives, not taking them. And although he wasn’t the one who inflicted the fatal wound, it happened at the height of a fight for his life. He still had not found a way to reconcile that with his conscience. Not completely. He just couldn’t be as nonchalant about it as some of the team members. Many of them had special forces combat backgrounds. Mac and Eastwood both had seen things, done things they would never discuss. And God knew what Griz had done for his country deep undercover for the CIA and DEA south of the border; even before that as a career Navy SEAL. He felt he had more in common with Rogers and Diaz, both of whom had only been lowly enlisted grunts. Now they were all getting a crash course in special forces training in this high-tech, top-secret experiment unit dubbed PATCH-COM. As far as he could tell, taking life would forevermore become part of his job. He needed to learn to suck it up, and fast.
“And hopefully save Moreno’s father’s life,” he added. That part, he was down for.
Eastwood shrugged and grinned. “Of course.”
Ben sighed, then looked at Nastjia. “Okay. Then I’m in.”
She blinked, a sheen of tears quickly wiped away by the back of her hand before she reached out and shook Ben’s. Gratitude radiated from her brown eyes. “Thank you.”
Beside her, Montcourt reached out and patted Holiday’s shoulder. “Yes, thank you, Ben.”
“You bet. So, what do I need to do?”
Griz took over then, outlining the plan. February was the target month, second week. They had until then to secure leave for all involved. It would take some doing and depend a hell of a lot on nothing coming up between now and then from chain of command. But each of them had been at Camp Lazarus for quite some time, rehabilitating, training, and taking on missions. If anyone deserved a break, Griz figured it was this group.
“If all goes well, if my sources are accurate, and we pull this off,” Griz said, “maybe we can spend a night or two actually enjoying a margarita on the beach. God knows we deserve it. Until then, no one discusses any of this outside of this room. Got it?”
Everyone nodded their agreement.
Griz stood. “Alright then, team. Dismissed.”
Moreno and Montcourt waited until the rest of the team filed out, then wished Griz a good night. He patted her back and closed the door behind them.
In the hall, Lucien watched as Art Diaz and Matt Rogers ambled off to the common room. Mac and Eastwood had already left the sleep quarters to head out on a long drive home back into Las Vegas. It was rough on those two having residences in the city two hours away. During the week, they stayed on base, but as soon as the weekend rolled around, Harry and Joely drove to their condo and Mac returned to Connie at their house on the northwest side of the city. Griz would be moving out on the weekends soon too. His relationship with Jessica had progressed to the living together stage. Montcourt figured there would likely be a wedding in the not-too-distant future.
Silence intruded on his thoughts and he looked at Nastjia. They were alone and once again, standing in front of her doorway. She leaned her shoulder on the jamb, her eyes cast down at her hands as she fidgeted with her fingers. He reached out, capturing her hands in his own, his thumbs caressing her knuckles. When she didn’t pull away, he smiled, staring down at the top of her head. A few stray tendrils of her dark hair curled loosely falling over her forehead. A strong urge pulled at him to reach up and smooth the curls back, just to see if they were as soft as they looked.
But he resisted. It was enough she accepted his touch, and his heart skipped a beat at the momentous occasion. “What is it, Chéri?”
Moreno hid a smile. The term of endearment that used to annoy the hell out of her now seemed to have the opposite effect. Somehow, somewhere along the line, Lucien had become important to her. Maybe it was saving her life, or his damnable constancy. No matter whether she wanted him around or not, he was there. He went from being a pain in her ass to a teammate who had her back, and now...something else. His warm hands on hers, his nearness, and even the deep, soothing tone of his voice when he called her “dear” in French had begun stirring feelings she wasn’t sure she was ready to deal with. But she also didn’t want to push him away. It was a conundrum, for sure.
“I just don’t know what to think right now,” she whispered.
Montcourt’s heart swelled.
“I mean, so many things can go wrong, Lucien. What if my father is there because he chose to be there? What then? What am I supposed to do if my dad is really some deadbeat with cartel ties?”
Montcourt’s ego deflated. He blew out a breath, which stirred her hair and recaptured his attention. With a finger, he reached up and lifted her chin until their eyes met. “Listen to me, Nastjia,” he said, his voice both warm and no-nonsense. “There is no way that the man who raised you to be such an amazing young woman could be involved with garbage like the Colima cartel. We will handle anything that comes up. I won’t let anything happen to you,” he said, his hazel eyes locking with hers. “We will find your papa and rescue him. Do not doubt it. Do not doubt him.”
She stared at Lucien. “How do you know?”
He smiled his usual cocky smile, the one that used to piss her off. Only this time, it caused another emotion. Suddenly, she couldn’t seem to get enough air.
The finger under her chin stroked her jawline. “I just know. Trust me, Nastjia. You can always trust me.”
Moreno swallowed, then backed up. A nervous cough escaped her lips before she reached for the doorknob. “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see,” she said, stepping into her room.
Montcourt’s eyes followed her, a speculative gleam glowing in their depths. “Oui, we will see,” he said, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips. “Goodnight, ma chéri.”
He turned toward his own room and stepped inside. Closing the door, he leaned against the heavy wood and reached up, rubbing his temples. Sighing, he made his way to the bathroom and opened the medicine cabinet. He reached inside and pulled out a bottle, unscrewing the lid, then popped two pills in his mouth. Filling a glass with water, he swallowed them down, then left the bathroom and laid down on his bed in the dark. As the pain of the headache increased, he distracted himself with thoughts of Moreno. It wasn’t a lot, but tonight, she gave him reason to hope. But what good was that, he mused? What hope did he really have?
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