Who needs a prince when there’s a sexy soldier in your bunk? Hoo rah!
Sergeant Ryan Pettit blogs anonymously as Groundpounder, recording non-confidential details of a deployment where every day feels exactly the same—until a female reporter shows up at his firebase. And he realizes nothing will ever be the same again.
Though his orders are clear—protect her, but make her life so miserable she high tails it back to London—the last thing he wants is to watch her leave in a cloud of Afghanistan dust.
Intrigued by Groundpounder’s blog posts, Vicki Vanover flirted, bribed, and outright threatened her way to the front lines outside of Kandahar. Nothing has ever stopped her from getting a story, but an accidental night in Ryan’s bunk is a distraction—and attraction—she never anticipated.
Yet Afghanistan leaves Vicki with more questions than answers. Why won’t Ryan let her anywhere near the local women she wants to interview? Who is the mysterious, red-headed Lt. Wales everyone treats with such deference? Worst of all, why is watching Ryan run toward danger, instead of away from it, enough to stop her heart?
Product Warnings: Contains super-hot sexual encounters in the war zone. This book has been previously published.
EXCERPT (rated G)
There had been one constant in Ryan’s life while growing up. Even if as an Army brat he’d had more first days in a new school than any of his non-military cousins. Even though he had so many new bedrooms his posters had no corners from being repeatedly hung up and taken down again. Through it all there had always been the “Field of Poppies”.
Of course, it hadn’t been the real painting. The original one was by Claude Monet and hung in some museum somewhere, but the framed print was his mother’s favorite possession. Even when some pieces of furniture had to be sold because the new base housing they were moving into was smaller than the old, the colorful print still came with them, carefully wrapped in plastic bubbles so the frame wouldn’t get nicked during the move. Whether they had been living in the States or outside the continental US, it had always hung in a place of honor where his mother would often gaze at it. Her personal piece of home no matter where in the world they happened to be.
Ryan’s gaze swept the expanse of brightly colored blooms now, only this was no Monet. This was Afghanistan during the yearly poppy harvest, and every one of the seemingly innocuous flowers may as well have been an RPG, recoilless rifle, or parts for an IED, because that’s exactly what they would turn into— weapons used to kill American soldiers.
Like it or not, that was just the way things were in today’s post-Taliban Afghanistan. Poppies turned into drugs, illegal drugs that when sold supplied the baddies with money, money that funded terrorism.
After his tour here, poppies and thoughts about his mother’s painting would be ruined for him forever. At that moment, Ryan hated the Taliban for mutilating one of the most comforting memories of his childhood and home.
He hated them even more for the fact they had innocents harvesting the blooms—locals comprised of the very old, the very young, men, women and children. They were all trying to survive in the face of the failure of their own non-drug-related crops due to the extreme weather in the region that year. Through his scope, Ryan could see them out there right now, far in the distance. Because of that, simply bombing the area, wiping out both the drug crop and the workers, was out of the question.
The much-needed local wheat and almond crop had failed miserably this year, but the poppies were still going strong. Didn’t it just figure? The only bright side was that with everyone, both the locals and the bad guys, busy picking and transporting flowers for heroin production, enemy contact during the harvest had been nearly non-existent. That was one thing to be grateful for. During his years in the service, Ryan had learned to take what he could get.
With a sigh, he turned helplessly away from the horrible, beautiful view.
Ryan saw Walker, a soldier in his unit, come to relieve him. His patrol was finally at an end. For today, at least. A shower, a meal—most likely meat patty— and a short sleep before going out to help with some of the construction work on one of the new buildings all sounded pretty good to Ryan right about now, even the meat patty.
On his way back to his living area, Ryan spotted Black and Moraches, two more of the guys from his squad, out on the makeshift volleyball court. As the new and still fairly white volleyball they’d gotten as a donation from the States popped high into the air, Ryan heard shouts in both English and Pashto, the local language, as various players called the play. His troops were trying to teach the
Afghani Army guys, who resided with them at base, the game of volleyball. Luckily, the phrase, “I got it” translated fairly easily between Pashto and English. Ryan smiled. Multinational volleyball. That alone would probably go much farther toward establishing friendly diplomatic relations with the locals of the region than all the government’s official efforts, but wasn’t that always the way? Besides, a little bit of diversion such as playing volleyball went a long way to raise troop morale and break up this very long deployment. It felt a bit too much like that movie Groundhog Day. Each and every day seemed essentially the same as the last, while at the same time being different. It was enough to really mess with a man’s head if he didn’t watch out.
While considering that the Groundhog Day analogy might be a good theme for his next blog entry, Ryan opened the door to his sleeping hut. It had grown a bit more crowded within the tiny space since Wally had moved in with him and Hawk after the collapse of his living quarters. Privacy was an even rarer commodity now, so Ryan was not at all surprised to find at least one of his roomies in residence when he stepped into the dimly lit hut.
“Hi there, Hawk.”
His squad leader nodded in his direction, not even looking up from the papers in his hand. “Hey, Pettit. How was the patrol? Any action?”
“Nah. It was as quiet out there as Afghanistan during the poppy harvest,” Ryan joked.
As he stripped off his weapons, Ryan watched Hawk crack a small smile and nod at the truth of what he’d just voiced.
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