NIGHT WITH A SEAL (HOT SEALS, BOOK 1)
by NY Times Bestselling Author Cat Johnson
Ten years in the Navy taught SEAL Jon Rudnick one thing—he’s not afraid to risk life and limb for his country. But when navigating military red tape begins to present more challenges than the enemy it makes Jon question his future. So does Alison Cressly, the one woman he can’t get out of his head.
CHAPTER 1 EXCERPT
The glare of the sun bounced off the hood as Jon steered his truck to the curb and parallel parked in front of his buddy’s place. Cutting the engine, he evaluated the house through the dark lenses of his sunglasses. It was nice for a rental. He’d definitely lived in worse. They all had.
He stepped out of the air-conditioned cab of the vehicle and pocketed the keys. It was hot outside, but not unbearable considering it was summer in Virginia. He’d take sunny and high eighties any day rather than the hundred-and-twenty degrees Fahrenheit that would be waiting for him in Afghanistan.
Jon moved around to open the passenger door and grab the cold eighteen-pack from the floor. It was going to be a good day. He had cold beer, good friends and Rick had promised them some tasty barbecue.
Best of all, he was actually stateside for a holiday. It was only Fourth of July—not one of the big days like Thanksgiving or Christmas, both of which he’d spent deployed last year—but it was a federal holiday so officially it counted.
He made his way up the short path to the front door and, case of beer in his hands, hit the doorbell with his elbow.
It was a nice change, walking up to a door in daylight and ringing the bell rather than creeping through the dark wearing night vision goggles and blowing the lock. It was the little things such as being able to approach a door and not have to dodge automatic gunfire that a man grew to appreciate after a decade of combat deployments.
The door swung wide and all six-foot-five of Rick Mann’s hulking frame filled the opening. Built like a linebacker, Rick always had made Jon—whose six-foot-two-inch frame was lean muscle rather than bulk—feel small.
“Dude, good to see you.” Jon held the beer with his left arm and clasped right hands with his former teammate.
“You too. I never thought I’d say this, but I actually miss seeing that smartass face of yours all hours of the day and night.” Rick grinned and stepped back to let Jon inside the front door of the house. “Come on in. The party’s going to be around back on the deck.”
As Rick led the way through the house, Jon glanced around him. It wasn’t huge, but it was neat and comfortable. A big flat-screen TV hung on one wall of the living room. Just past the living room furniture was an island lined with stools and a decent sized kitchen with appliances that looked to be fairly new.
Except for an overabundance of floral throw pillows covering the sectional sofa and the room’s two upholstered chairs—a clear sign Rick lived with a female—a man could be very happy kicking back here.
Jon tipped up his chin and called a greeting to Rick’s sister Darci in the kitchen. With a phone pressed to her ear, she smiled and wiggled her fingers in a wave.
“Nice digs,” Jon said as he skirted around a dining table and chair on his way to the sliding glass doors.
Rick let out a huff. “Thanks.”
He’d sounded less than enthusiastic and as Rick glanced over his shoulder, Jon saw his scowl. “What’s the face for? I meant it.”
Rick made a face again. “You know this is Darci’s place.”
“Yeah. So?” Jon asked. “It’s still nice.”
“I just never thought I’d be living with family at this point in my life. Moving in with my little sister is barely a step up from moving back home with my parents.”
“Hey, it’s not a big deal.” Jon shrugged. “You only got out a couple of months ago. And it didn’t make sense to buy your own place while you were active duty.”
Rick’s brow rose. “You bought yours.”
“Yup.” Jon nodded. “And I’m there less than half the months of the year, but even so, the bills still keep coming every damn month, so who’s the smart one here? You are.”
It had made sense for Rick to live in the bachelor quarters on base for the months their squad was stateside, and then just move his stuff into storage for the months they were deployed. It would be logical for Jon to do the same, except that he rarely did what was logical.
Besides, Jon liked coming home to a turnkey condo that was all his. It was far better than being at the mercy of base housing, which had left more than a few guys without a room after returning home from deployment. Real nice welcome home, that.
Team members without family in the area usually crashed on Jon’s sofa until a room became available for them. Sometimes it took a few days, sometimes a couple of weeks, but Jon didn’t mind the company. At this point, he and the guys spent so much time together he was more comfortable being with them than apart.
“I guess.” Rick continued to look miserable as he yanked open the sliding glass door leading onto the back deck.
Rick was obviously experiencing the grass-is-always-greener syndrome. Jon had seen it before. Guys who were in the military dreamed about getting out, while at the same time guys who’d gotten out lamented about how much better things were when they’d been in.
SEALs were no different than any regular Joe in that respect.
“I’ve got a cooler full of ice in the shade under the tree. You can put the beer in there.” Rick tipped his head toward the cooler and then reached to raise the cover on a stainless steel barbecue grill. “I gotta check the ribs real quick.”
Ribs. That explained the tantalizing scent he’d smelled wafting from the closed grill when they’d stepped outside. Jon sniffed the meat-laden air as he made his way down the steps and across the lawn.
The yard was nice. Small enough to be easy to keep up, but private thanks to a fence and some well-placed landscaping. So far, Jon saw nothing for Rick to be complaining about. Living here, Rick should be a lot happier than he appeared to be. But to each his own.
Kneeling in the grass, Jon paused while tearing open the cardboard case. He breathed in the scent of freshly mowed lawn that hit him now that he was away from the smoke of the grill.
Never mind taking time to smell the roses, after spending so much time in the desert even just the sight of a patch of lush green grass could stop Jon in his tracks. He ran his hands over the shorn blades and felt them tickle his palm. It might be one of the last opportunities he’d have to appreciate things like backyard grass.
The squad couldn’t tell anyone the exact timing, but barring any last minute changes Jon’s unit would be heading back to the sandbox next week to spend the remainder of the year in the war zone.
Summer in Afghanistan sucked. But then again, so did winter . . . and the rainy season . . . and fighting season.
Jon had to think that Rick didn’t know how good he had it.
Catching himself in a grass-is-always-greener moment, he focused back on his task—stowing the beer in the ice. When he got to the last couple of bottles, he closed the lid and carried two longnecks back to the deck. He handed one to Rick, trying not to let his mouth water at the scent of the meat grilling just feet away.
Read the rest of NIGHT WITH A SEAL in the HOT ALPHA SEALS 99 CENT MILITARY ROMANCE MEGASET
NOTE: NIGHT WITH A SEAL is debuting as an eBook exclusively in the 99 cent Hot Alpha SEALs Megaset on July 22. It will be available for purchase as an individual eBook (independent of the bundle) in late August and also as a Trade Paperback!
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Look for SAVED BY A SEAL (HOT SEALS, BOOK 2) releasing Sep16.
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