Loved by a SEAL (Hot SEALs) by Cat Johnson
Loved by a SEAL is a USA Today Bestseller!
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CHAPTER 1 EXCERPT
A man didn’t appreciate something until he had to go without it for a while.
Brody Cassidy knew that to be true with bone-deep certainty because he’d gone without many things for a good long while. Six months and three days to be exact, give or take a few hours . . . not that he was counting.
As he stepped off the transport and felt the breeze of the Virginia evening blow across his skin he made a mental note of all he’d missed and all he wanted to take advantage of now he was back on U.S. soil.
First, he was going to take the longest, hottest shower in the history of modern man.
And his bed—how he had missed his own mattress every time he’d lay down on his uncomfortable rack to try to sleep. Going to bed tonight on the two thousand dollar support mattress he’d splurged on last year was going to be so good he was almost giddy at the thought.
Of course that would be after he went out and got himself a nice stiff drink because alcohol was one of two more things that he really enjoyed but hadn’t had in six months. Brody was definitely going to partake in both of those things before he lay down his head tonight.
Alcohol was one. The other was a woman. He’d gone so long without the sweet touch of one of those he was starting to dream about it—when he slept deeply enough to dream that was.
But before all of that he had to eat, because good food was right up there at the top of the list of things he missed most on these long ass deployments to some foreign country that never failed to make a man extra grateful to be an American.
Good ol’ downhome cooking. He missed it. All of it, from juicy corn on the cob straight from the field to anything fried as long as it was fresh and hot and crunchy.
He’d give his left nut for Nana’s fried catfish. Or her chicken and dumplings.
And God, her Johnny cakes . . . or even better, her black skillet cornbread. How much would he give for some of that right now?
Crap. Now his mouth was watering and there was no hope of getting the kind of chow he wanted in the near future.
Or was there?
As Brody hoisted his pack over his left shoulder he pulled out his cell phone with his right hand and powered it on.
Years of experience and some smart advanced planning on his part meant he’d anticipated his homecoming and had acted accordingly. Before his unit had moved out of Turkey, while he still had access to secure computers and internet, he’d arranged to have his cellular service turned back on.
During the time away he’d used his cell phone for not much more than taking pictures and playing word games. Oh, and the device made a hell of an alarm clock too, since it seemed he was always working odd hours and having to wake up at times no man’s body was used to.
After six months Brody would finally be able to use his cell as an actual phone again. He sure as hell was going to use it now as it was intended—to call his older brother Chris.
With any luck he could arrange some home cooked grub to celebrate being back. His brother always had been fairly good in the kitchen—at least better than Brody—but since Chris’s retirement from the Navy a couple of years ago, he had expanded his culinary skills enough that at least they didn’t have to eat take-out every night.
It wouldn’t be Nana’s chicken-fried steak, but Chris could definitely grill a mean bone-in rib eye and he was pretty good at frying up onions and baking potatoes. That was one of Chris’s favorite meals to make.
Brody supposed a man had to do something to occupy his mind after retirement but after living the adrenaline-fueled life of being a member of the teams, how could wielding a chopping knife rather than a sniper’s rifle be all that satisfying?
He couldn’t comprehend it but God willing he wouldn’t have to deal with retired life for a good long while.
The future was a far distant worry. His immediate concern was food. Why eat take-out when he could have some home cooking and give his brother something to do?
He swiped through his list of contacts until he found Chris’s name and then hit to make the call.
Brody listened to the ringing through the line as he crossed the tarmac, heading for the bus that would carry him to the base. When the call went to voicemail, he had to wonder what the hell Chris was up to that he couldn’t answer the damn phone.
It wasn’t as if Chris’s only brother had been away in some foreign hellhole training Syrian rebels how to fight ISIS for the past six months or anything.
With a snort of sarcasm, Brody waited for Chris’s outgoing message to end before he said into the cell, “Bro, it’s me. I’m back. Where the hell you at? I gotta check in at base and stow my gear but after that I wanted to see if we could do dinner. Call me back. Bye.”
He hit to disconnect and scowled.
Chris was probably balls-deep in Darci and that’s why he hadn’t answered. After six months of going without that particular pleasure himself the thought didn’t make Brody feel all that understanding.
He sighed and shoved the cell back into one of the cargo pockets in the leg of his tactical pants just as his teammate Thom Grande trotted up beside him.
Brody shot the man a sideways glance as he showed no sign of slowing down his pace. “Hey, Thom! You anxious to get somewhere?”
Thom let out a short laugh. “Oh, yeah. I gotta dump my shit and go. Ginny flew down from Connecticut. She’s waiting on me at the hotel.”
Ah yes, the girlfriend. No wonder Thom was in a hurry, but his rushing to the bus wouldn’t get them to base any sooner. Not when the rest of the unit still had to deplane and load onto the vehicle with all their bags.
Brody didn’t bother reminding Thom of that. Instead he pushed down what felt a bit like envy and said, “Have fun.”
“No doubt about that.” Thom grinned and then strode on ahead.
“Where’s he off to?” Rocky caught up to Brody and watched alongside him as Thom took off at a run to the bus.
Rocky snorted out a laugh. “If she’s not hiding out on that bus, he’s got a bit of a wait until he sees her.”
“You got that right.” Grateful that Rocky didn’t have a girl waiting on him, Brody glanced in his direction. “You got plans for tonight?”
“Yup. Sure do. Shower, food and then a little loving from some lucky female.” Rocky had held up his hand and counted the three priorities off on his fingers, starting with his thumb.
Rocky was a man after Brody’s own heart. Those were pretty much his plans too, but he had one more addition. A nice cold one to wash down that food.
There was one destination Brody knew he could get the things they both wanted. “Wanna eat quick and then hit the strip club?”
Chris hadn’t answered his phone and honestly it would be easier for Brody to decompress with one of the team for a few hours than be with his blissfully happy, retired brother.
“Hell yeah. Wanna head over as soon as we dump off our shit? I was gonna shower at the base. Do you have to go home first?” Rocky’s enthusiasm to get going was no surprise. He had been through the same shitty six months Brody had.
Brody shook his head. “Nope. I’ve always got clean clothes in my locker. But shit, my truck’s at my house.”
“My truck’s parked on base. I’ll drive us over to the club. I can drop you home later if you want.”
“A’ight. Sounds good. Thanks.”
It was funny how sometimes teammates, especially after a long deployment, felt more like family than actual blood relatives did.
“No problem. The guy who lives next to me in the bachelor barracks has been running my truck once a week. You know, to keep the fluids circulating and the tires from getting flat spots, so it should be good to go.”
Chris was supposedly doing the same thing with Brody’s truck. He only hoped his brother wasn’t so into playing the happy couple with Darci that he’d forgotten about it.
With Brody’s luck he’d go home to a dead battery. If that happened, Brody was going to enjoy torturing Chris for his negligence for a good long while.
Rocky dumped his pack on the ground next to the luggage hatch under the bus and reached up to scratch his beard. It had gotten pretty long while they’d been gone.
Brody hated facial hair himself. All it did was itch and make him feel hot and dirty.
Rocky was the opposite. Since he’d joined the team about a year ago, Rocky had sported a beard in some form or another. Sometimes he kept it cropped short and neat. Other times he’d grow it so long he looked more Afghani than American, which wasn’t a bad thing for a SEAL.
Brody eyed the length of it now, definitely on the longer side than usual. “You gonna trim that thing now that we’re back?”
Shaving was the first thing on Brody’s list, right along with a shower. Now that fresh razor blades and hot water were readily available, he couldn’t wait to be clean-shaven on a daily basis again.
Rocky stroked his facial hair like a man would caress his lover. “No way. Chicks love my beard.”
Brody cocked up one brow. “Do they?”
“Hell yeah.” Rocky snorted. “You’ll see tonight.”
Tonight they’d be at a strip club where it was the girls’ job to pretend they loved everything about the male patrons, so Brody wasn’t convinced that would be a real good test of Rocky’s theory.
He laughed. “A’ight. If you say so.”
“Eh, you don’t know what you’re missing.”
“Yeah, I do and you can have it.” Brody knew exactly what he was missing not having a beard and that was mostly needing to clean food out of his facial hair after he ate.
Rocky lifted his shoulder in a half-shrug. “All right. More girls for me then.”
Brody had to chuckle. For tonight he wasn’t worried about Rocky’s threat. Where they were going, all he had to do was stop at the ATM for some cash and his evening’s female companionship would be guaranteed.
Brody had to consider that. Had he become such a jaded son of a bitch he would rather pay for female attention than look for some kind of meaningful relationship?
He supposed he had.
Hell, just that term—meaningful relationship—had him wanting to run and hide.
Though, it was more likely he was simply being a realist. He’d done the whole love and girlfriend thing once long ago. All that experience had accomplished was prove to him that things were easier this way.
Looking for Ms. Right Now was so much simpler than trying to find Mrs. Right and then discovering later she was oh so wrong.
The number of divorces he saw in the military was proof of that.
He’d thought he found her once—the girl he might be able to spend a lifetime with—but that hadn’t worked out so great.
Ashley Reed. His first love. Hell, his first for everything.
Christ, how could just thinking her name after a decade raise the memory of that teenage heartbreak all over again? That right there was reason enough to not repeat the mistake of getting involved seriously with a woman.
He rubbed at the tightness in his chest and hoped that it was just indigestion.
It had to be from the shit meal he’d eaten on the transport because he refused to admit one woman could still have a hold on him after ten years.