What’s more romantic than a love song? A mixtape full of them.
Twelve bestselling and award-winning authors have curated an anthology
of brand-new, standalone stories inspired by love songs, featuring a
foreword written by NYT bestselling author Laurelin Paige. Press PLAY on
this limited-edition collection that’s guaranteed
to make you swoon.
Elle Kennedy: “Always On My Mind” – Willie Nelson
KL Kreig: “I Just Want To Be Your Everything” – Andy Gibb
Leslie McAdam: “Think I’m in Love” – Beck
Lynda Aicher: “Kiss Me” – Ed Sheeran
Mara White: “All I Want To Do” – Heart
Marni Mann: “S+M” – Rihanna
Nikki Sloane: “Say It First” – Sam Smith
Rebecca Shea: “Thinking Out Loud” – Ed Sheeran
Saffron Kent: “Guys My Age” – Hey Violet
Sierra Simone: “Hallelujah” – Jeff Buckley
Veronica Larsen: “Say You Won’t Let Go” – James Arthur
Xio Axelrod: “Toothpaste Kisses” – The Maccabees
Far from the shores of England another Elizabeth was born to rule a nation…
The daughter of Peter the Great, Elizabeth is a princess by birth, and a warrior by blood. Never content to be a pawn in the game of men, Elizabeth is destined to sit upon a throne. But when her father’s sudden death leaves her mother and sister at the mercy of the scheming Privy Council, she will have to abandon her beloved Russia in order to survive. Little does she know there are things far worse than exile awaiting her…
This is not a fairy tale.
And Elizabeth is not your average princess.
She is a Romanov—one woman in a line of powerful female rulers who will change the face of Russia forever.
WINTER QUEEN is the first prequel to the Stolen Empire series.
Sherry is the author of over a dozen novels for teens and young adults including the best selling Stolen Empire series. She can often be found browsing her local bookstore with a large white hot chocolate in one hand and a towering stack of books in the other. That is, unless she’s on deadline at which time she, like the Loch Ness monster, is only seen in blurry photographs.
Blurb Three wishes.Seb wants to be happy.Matt wants to find ‘the one.’Connor wants them.Two drunken kisses.Seb didn’t plan to kiss Matt and Connor, but he doesn’t regret it, even if it has changed their friendship forever.Matt has never considered dating a man before, let alone two. Despite his confusion, being with Seb and Connor feels right.One uncertain future.Connor’s potential fate has stopped him living and loving. Can he face his fears to be with the men he loves?
Matt adjusted his jogging bottoms and leaned back against the sofa. The next words popped out of his mouth unfiltered. “I could do with a blow job.”
Seb snorted out a loud laugh. “Too much information.” He patted Matt’s shoulder. “But hey, if you’re desperate, I don’t mind obliging.” Seb’s laughter trailed off into a nervous chuckle. “Umm… that was a joke.”
“Yeah, yeah, of course.” Matt couldn’t look at Seb. A week ago, he’d have taken a comment like that and ribbed his friend with it mercilessly. Now, he wasn’t sure at all that it had been meant in jest. He wasn’t even sure that he wanted it to be a joke. He rubbed his jaw, clearing his throat again. “What would you do if I said yes?”
Seb twisted on the sofa so he was facing Matt. “You’re not going to say yes.”
“What if I did?” Matt kept his stare on the ceiling, but he was still able to see Seb shrug out of the corner of his eye.
“I’d give you one.”
Seb’s reply was so matter-of-fact that it sent a chill running up Matt’s spine. It did nothing to ease the pressure in his cock. If anything, blood pumped to it faster.
“Really?” Matt asked. Why the hell was he still talking? It was like he was engaged in a game of chicken with Seb, trying to see which one of them would back down first. He had no idea how far his head, or his cock, was willing to take it.
“Sure, why not? It’s just a blow job, right? It wouldn’t mean anything.”
“But we’re friends,” Matt stuttered.
“Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve sucked off a friend.”
About the Author
Colette’s personal love story began at university, where she met her future husband. An evening of flirting, in the shadow of Lancaster castle, eventually led to a fairytale wedding. She’s enjoying her own ‘happy ever after’ in the north of England with her husband, two beautiful children and her writing.
Lily Turner was married to her best friend. Trouble was, it wasn’t much more than that. After the romance ended, so did the marriage.
When Lily met Casey Dunlap at a local café, their attraction was immediate, yet innocent, his sexy charm instantly drawing her in. When their harmless meetings slowly evolved into more than just friends, Lily struggled with the magnetic pull Casey had on her, not knowing what to do.
It should have been easy – she was no longer going to be married. She had no reason to drag her feet…
Except that Casey was nearly fifteen years her junior – only ten years older than her teenage son. What would her kids think? How could she possibly do this?
Stacy M Wray loves writing and reading anything romance – Judy Blume being one of the first authors she read in middle school. After all, a world without love, heartache and angst would prove a boring place to live.
Lover of gray and white cats, craver of all things sweet, enthusiast of hiking and camping, wife of an extremely supportive husband, and mom to two amusing adult children, she realizes life is pretty damn good.
She also appreciates that it’s never too late to try something new. Never.
Promised to cruel King Nøkkyn’s harem, Sol Eriksen is out of options, and nearly out of time.
When she meets a distractingly handsome stranger in the Ironwood Forest who claims to be a legendary monster, Sol thinks he must be a madman, or a demon. She knows she shouldn’t listen to him. Or trust him. And she should not, under any circumstances, kiss him again.
As King Nøkkyn’s grip around her tightens, Sol finds her last chance at freedom may lie with her mysterious new lover, the man who calls himself Fenris.
“Ms. Macleod thank you so much for your intense interest in mythology and storytelling. Each story you write is like a dream.” – Amy, Goodreads
“A passionate romance, characteristic of Mrs. MacLeod, that brings with it a love of legend and a light of hope to face an uncertain and dark destiny.” – Adriana, Goodreads
“The Monster’s Lover kept me glued to my kindle. It was so good! From the mythology to the romance to the feeling of freedom and love, I couldn’t put this book down!” – Julia Red Hatter Book Blog
I closed my eyes, tilted my face toward the fading sunlight, and ran my fingers through my wet hair, carefully avoiding the sore lump on the back of my skull. The fear and shame of the day slowly melted from my body, evaporating in the thick evening light. I was safe under the trees, just like Da always said.I can scarcely explain what made me turn. There were no strange noises, nothing out of the ordinary. The river hissed and murmured. Birds cried from the canopy while the wind whispered to the treetops. Shadows pooled beneath the pines’ thick trunks, and the evening insects began their songs. Still, something silent and invisible thickened the air, raising the hairs on the back of my neck. I opened my eyes and turned away from the Lucky, toward the deep forest.He stood a pace away from me, beneath the trees. Not hiding, but not exactly visible. He was so motionless, he may as well have been made of wood himself. My heart jumped, and I grabbed a river-smooth stone in my fist before coming to my feet. If he tried to throw mud at me, I’d smash that stone into his skull.His pale eyes blinked, and he tilted his head to the side as if trying to understand what he was seeing. My breath caught in my throat. He wore no shirt; black curls of hair scattered across the rippling muscles of his chest. His bare skin reminded me of my own nakedness, and my cheeks warmed.“Who are you?” I demanded.He frowned, then tilted his head to the other side.“Are you from the village?” I asked. My voice trembled slightly as I tightened my fingers around the cool rock pressed to my palm. I’d never seen him before, but that meant little. Town people moved around like seeds on the wind.“No.” His voice sounded odd, as though he were unused to speaking. “I am not from the village.”My fingers relaxed around the smooth stone from the riverbank. He wasn’t one of the boys from the village, come to further torment me. Thank the stars. I glanced down at my stained, wet dress spread over the grass, then at my own exposed body. I’d never been naked in front of a stranger before. King Nøkkyn most certainly would not approve. The thought sent an unexpected ripple of heat through my core.“I’m not decent,” I said, wrapping an arm around my breasts and cupping my free hand over the curls between my legs.His gaze dropped, as though he were just now noticing I was completely naked. He watched me for a long time, his eyes widening as they traveled down my arms, over my legs, and along the bare contours of my hips. My skin warmed as he watched me, almost as though he were running his elegant fingers across my body, chasing away the cold of the Lucky’s waters.“You’re quite beautiful,” he said at last when his light eyes returned to my face.Beautiful. How many times had I heard that? Ever since I was a child, I’d been dogged by that word. I’d grown to hate it.But, coming from his soft, full lips, the word brought me pleasure. Beautiful. It was unreasonable, but I was glad to hear he found me beautiful. My lips started to curve, and I turned away, embarrassed to have the stranger see me smile.“Excuse me,” I said.I bent toward the grass and let the rock slip from my fingers when I grabbed my dress. It was still wet, but I pushed it to my chest anyway, making sure the damp, stained cloth covered my breasts before I stood again.He’d moved. The stranger was one step closer to me. I blinked, trying not to stare at the way his muscles curved and arched toward his hips. He was totally naked, and I had to force myself to tear my eyes away before they could linger between his legs. Was he mad? Was this a demon from the fiery depths of Múspell? He was certainly handsome enough to be a demon, with his pale eyes and high cheekbones. His hair spread over his shoulders, a dark amber like the last flash of life in a dying fire. A tiny green twig twisted in the strands. Something unexpected tightened deep inside me as the silence between us stretched taut.Perhaps he was trying to lure me toward him, so he could grab me around the waist and drag me back to Múspell. I watched him through narrowed eyes, wondering about Múspell. How would his demon fires compare to the cold stone of King Nøkkyn’s fortress?I’d never seen the fortress of Nøkkyn the Mountain King, of course, but everything I’d ever heard about it was frightening. Some of it was downright terrifying, like the stories of rotting heads on iron spikes lining the gates. Even the head of his first wife, if the rumors were true. Could life with the demons of Múspell possibly be any worse? If this strange madman dragged me away, I’d look at those bright blue eyes every day, those full lips and high cheekbones, that thick, auburn hair swirling around his temples. My heart thrummed against my breastbone so loudly, I worried he’d hear it.“What do you want?” My voice wavered like sunlight across the water.
Born and raised in Colorado, Samantha MacLeod has lived in every time zone in the US, and London. She has a bachelor’s degree from Colby College and an M.A. from the University of Chicago; yes, the U. of C. really is where fun comes to die.
Samantha lives with her husband and two small children in the woods of southern Maine. When she’s not shoveling snow or writing steamy sex scenes, Samantha can be found teaching college composition and philosophy to undergraduates who have no idea she leads a double life as an erotica author.
Weston is Olivia’s high school crush, and she’s spent sixteen years pining for a guy who she thought would never return her affections.
Olivia was the one girl who Weston tamped down his feelings for. He pushed her away, believing he wasn’t worthy of her attention.
When they meet again under harrowing circumstances, Weston saves her. The embers are stoked back to life. Their passion is ignited and the fire finally burns bright. But will it all go up in smoke? Because She just may need to rescue him right back.
Kara Liane is a lover of all things romance. She holds several degrees, including a Master’s in Management from Wayland Baptist University. Her husband of 15 years proudly serves in the military, and together with their twin elementary-age sons and two adult dogs, reside in New Jersey. Kara works full-time as a Lab Tech in the wastewater field. In her spare time, she reads and writes various things including poetry, stories about her kids, and her new novels. As a family, they love to go camping. Kara loves to hear from her readers, so be sure to stay connected with her!
If you haven’t been introduced to my writing, thank you for taking a
chance. If you have, thanks for coming back. The guys are waiting for you all!
Made In Manhattan by Ana Newfolk
Will they get a second chance to rekindle their love? Isaac was kicked
out by his family at a young age. It took him years of hard work to become his
own man. Now he’s helping the LGBTQ youth of Lisbon so they don’t have to go
through the same. Max has a long and troubled past. An ER nurse in New York
City who volunteers at the local Liberty center, he knows first hand what it’s
like to lose your family and having to make it on your own. A chance encounter
between the two a year ago has them hoping for a happy ever after, if not for
the distance between them, but when Isaac takes a temporary work placement in
Manhattan, the two men have an opportunity to find what their love is made of.
Will they make it, or will life’s tests tear them apart for good? Made In
Manhattan is the second instalment in the Made In series by Ana Newfolk. It is
a standalone gay romance novel with a HEA ending and no cliffhanger. Fair
warning, there will be naked man-parts touching, a touch of angst, and the
claws of an overprotective cat. Made in Manhattan is 62k words and features the
same main characters from Made In New York – A Christmas Short Story. You don’t
have to read it, but you may want to find out how Max and Isaac first met.
Ana Newfolk was born in Portugal where she grew up surrounded by
sunshine and countryside. She has always had a deep love of reading, and ever
since she can remember her favorite presents and treats have always been books.
She would often be found in her not-so-secret spot reading her favorite
adventure books (when she was younger) and romance novels (when she discovered
boys). At 20 years old she moved to the UK where she has lived since. In 2015
Ana stumbled across her first MM romance novel by chance, and she was hooked.
She loves reading about men falling in love, hard, fast and ever so sweetly.
This new found love for LGBTQ+ romance has opened a new world for Ana, and in
2017 she decided to finally listen to the voices in her head and write them
down. In addition to the time she spends reading and writing Ana has a
full-time job that involves meeting lots of people with interesting stories to
tell. She also loves baking as much as she loves watching people eat what she
creates, much to the delight of family, friends and work colleagues alike.
There once was a girl who was sold to the devil. The devil ruined her. Destroyed her. Turned her into his pretty, broken girl.
But then her savior came. Her king. He pulled her from hell and cloaked her with his darkness—a darkness that hid her from the devil who wanted his pretty, broken girl back.
By saving her soul and stealing her heart, he managed to put all the broken pieces back together, and she finally found the strength to rise from the ashes.
Brave, fierce, dauntless, ready to slay the devil when he comes for her—and he will come— that girl became a fighter.
She became a queen.
And that girl…is me.
I stepped closer, my reflection in the mirror becoming clearer. The woman I saw earlier was gone. There was no trace of her in the picture before me. Instead, I saw someone else. Someone I had dreamed about for so long. Every night while locked in my cage, waiting to be hurt, waiting for my body to be defiled again and again, I dreamed of this woman. A strong woman. A fierce woman. A woman brave and tough enough to punish those who deserved it. And finally, here she was, in the mirror, staring back at me.
I closed my eyes, and I saw his face. The way blood poured from his body like a fountain of justice. His eyes glazed over, his skin pale, and mouth open while he choked on his own blood. I leaned my head to the side, and I could still hear the gurgling sounds that came from his throat. It was the same sound I heard the night Master V slit the throat of the girl I chose to share my food with. The same night he cut off my ear, mutilating me. And just like the man I killed tonight, her mouth fell open as well while she tried to gasp for air until…her dead body fell to the ground.
The more I thought about that night, the more I started to smile. Because of me, the man whose throat I slit tonight felt that girl’s pain. He experienced the same death as that poor girl. It felt good, thinking about it that way. There wasn’t an ounce of regret anywhere inside me. Only relief…because justice was served.
When the door slammed shut behind me, I opened my eyes and stared straight at Antonio’s reflection in the mirror.
He was standing behind me, his eyes wild and dark. Our gazes remained locked as we watched each other in the mirror in front of me. After what happened tonight, I didn’t once think about the repercussions I would have to face when it came to Antonio. My master. I was too high on the adrenaline, the power…the bloodlust. But now the high was gone, and uncertainty had taken its place.
“You killed a man.”
“I know. He wanted—”
“How did it feel?” He took a step closer.
I licked my lips. “I don’t—”
“Speak the truth, Doe. How did it feel?”
I swallowed, watching him as he moved closer, one calculated step at a time. There was no use denying it. The way he kept my gaze, his eyes cold and hard, he already knew the answer to his question. It was written in the stone expression on my face, I was sure.
He stopped right behind me, breathing down my neck. “How. Did. It. Feel?”
I leaned back against his chest and closed my eyes. “It felt…good.”
All the way from Cape Town, South Africa, Bella J lives for the days when she’s able to retreat to her writer’s cave where she can get lost in her little pretend world of romance, love, and insanely hot bad boys.
Bella J is a Hybrid Author with both Self-Published and Traditional Published work. Even though her novels range from drama, to comedy, to suspense, it’s the dark, twisted side of romance she loves the most.
“… the brilliant & addictive Jessie Cooke has penned another fantastic story which completely original in the MC genre.” ~The Power of Three Readers
“I was totally intrigued and enthralled throughout this humorous and powerful story.” ~Wendy’s Book Blog
“I love this series & some books I liked more than others. But, this book would be the top of this series for me!” ~Escape Reality Book Blog (Shannon)
Most little girls grow up idolizing supermodels, princesses or movie stars…but not Rebekah Golden. Rebekah “Beck” Golden grew up idolizing two men. One was her father, a Navy hero who died before she was even born…and a biker. Maybe being born along the side of the road in a desert, and seeing the bikers face before she saw anything else had something to do with it. Or maybe it was the letters that Xander “Coyote” Lee sent her every year on her birthday, showing her a side of himself that even those closest to him never saw, but those two men would serve to be the inspiration for almost everything she did for the first thirty-five years of her life.
When Beck finally had to admit that no matter how hard she worked, she’d never be the right gender for the Navy Seals that she coveted, she moved on to her next dream. But if she thought the US Government had a chip on its shoulder about women in their ranks…she hadn’t seen anything yet. Rebekah shows up in California at the clubhouse Coyote built, almost four years too late to gain his support. But she recognizes her hero in his son and manages to convince him to give her a chance. Rebekah will give more of herself for the goal of becoming a Westside Skull than she’d ever given to anything in her life…but will it be enough?
Beck Golden is a lot like the men she will have to fight against for what she wants. She cusses like a sailor. She’s got a dark outlook on life. She’s sarcastic and edgy….and when it comes to sex, she thinks like a man. She’s also drop-dead gorgeous, and she knows it. To Beck, it’s just another weapon in her arsenal of many. To keep from being thought of as just another club girl, Beck will turn that beauty in the direction of an unlikely and unsuspecting biker named Jace. Jace has had a rough life, and his exterior shows it. Big, dark and covered in scars, Jace makes most people want to run in the opposite direction, but Beck Golden doesn’t scare easily. Using Jace to satisfy her almost constant sexual urges will be the easy part though. Not falling in love with him once she starts to see past that frightening exterior…that might just be impossible.
Jace is a biker, a Skull, and in his role as a nomad his loyalty to both the Southside and Westside has been above reproach. He doesn’t believe any differently about women in the club than his brothers do. But what Jace does believe in is Beck. Through Jace and another unlikely champion, the president of the Westside Skulls himself, Beck might just discover that’s all she was looking for all along. Ride along with us and get to know Beck and Jace, and don’t forget to pay attention to the scenery. You might just uncover another secret or two about the club you love along the way.
* * *
Book 7 in the Westside Skulls MC Series.
This is a Standalone Romance Novel but characters from this story, will appear in future books in the series.
HEA and No cliffhanger.
Intended for Mature Readers.
* * *
The Westside Skulls MC Series is about members of the MC club, their friends and associates.
Each story, while focused around one main character, is not necessarily about a Westside Skulls club member, but the story is related to Skulls members and the club.
Chapter One Mid-Atlantic Ocean Rebekah Golden handed the sailor his bottle of pills through the pharmacy window. He looked at the label and said, “Do they dissolve?” She rolled her blue eyes. “No. You swallow them.” God, she hated this job. “I can’t swallow pills. Does it come in liquid?” “Are you serious? How old are you, sailor?” “Twenty.” “How the hell did you make it to twenty years old without the ability to swallow a pill? Mommy crush everything up for you, did she? Or maybe she had them give it to you in suppository form?” The young kid looked like he might cry. The only emotion Beck felt was disgust. She hated soft, weak people, especially men. Some days, she could hardly stand it at all. The US Navy was full of whiny, immature little boys…who were given preferential treatment over women like her, just because they had a penis. Beck had seen quite a few of them, the penises that is. Just that morning she’d seen her favorite one, her on-ship booty call. His was impressive, but still not worthy of bragging rights in her opinion. Beck had been in the Navy for almost seventeen years. She would be turning thirty-five years old in a couple of months and she could outrun, outlift, outswim, outshoot, and out most of them at just about everything else. She’d been training since day one to be a SEAL. Hell, she had started training for that when she was a kid. It was all she ever wanted to be. And she had gone into the Navy, sure that it wouldn’t be long before the US Government realized how much potential they were wasting. About that, sadly, she had been wrong. In 2017 they still denied women the right to be in combat. They denied them the right to be in the Special Forces of all branches of the military. And their only reason was that they didn’t have penises. It pissed her off every time she thought about it. Beck knew that her balls were bigger than any of these assholes and she proved it on a daily basis, so she had just finally decided…fuck them. She had put in for early retirement and that was happening in a week. If the SEALs didn’t want her, she would go blaze a new trail. “I’m sick,” the sailor said. “My throat hurts. Can you please…?” The sound of the alarm drowned his whiny voice out, thank God. Beck didn’t waste time by asking him to repeat what he said. She didn’t care to begin with, and the second that alarm went off…her switch was flipped. That sound opened her adrenaline valve and it poured into her system. It made her feel strong, sharp, and most of all, alive. Beck slammed down the window in the pathetic little sailor’s face and twisted the lock before grabbing her EMT bag and running for the door. She locked it on her way out and paused only long enough to hear what was coming over the radio speaker mounted overhead. The screeching noise stopped and a scratchy, robotic voice wafted out. “White smoke, Compartment 2B L Aft CPO! Explosion, fire, black smoke, Compartment 2B L Aft CPO! Away the Flying Squad, away! Away the Flying Squad, away!” Those words were music to Beck’s ears, especially when the voice followed that up by saying, “This is not a drill.” 99 out of 100 times that alarm went off, it was a drill. Those were okay too…they at least broke up the monotony of her day-to-day job as a nurse, or more accurately, a pill pusher. Beck had always sought out danger and thrills, and she had picked the nursing squad when she first entered the Navy, imagining herself on the frontlines as a medic, or like one of the nurses on the old television show, MASH. What she got was eight hours a day of looking at rashes in strange places and inflamed dicks because these idiots were too stupid to wear a rubber. She handed out more penicillin and Ibuprofen than she did anything and it bored her to tears. So, the second she was given the chance to join up with the Flying Squad, she jumped at it. Amazing that someone without a penis was good enough for that…but, in this case, she wasn’t complaining. “Away the Flying Squad” was the Navy’s call to the elite group of sailors she belonged to. They were comprised of people from all specialties such as machinery repair, damage control, hull technicians, medical personnel, and firefighters. They were the first line of defense on a ship when an incident occurred out at sea. These sailors were put through basic and advanced damage control classes and then they learned to perform every position on the team from the top command in charge to the guy that mopped up the mess afterwards. They responded to fires, floods, toxic gas leaks, and many other types of emergencies. It was the only thing that Beck lived for lately…that, and her plans for after retirement. She raced toward the left aft, the port side of the back of the ship. Anyone and everyone on the ship that wasn’t a part of the Flying Squad, or involved in the emergency itself, would still press pause on whatever they were doing. They would look toward the speakers on the wall and wait for the orders to come. Even those sailors that were sleeping would be expected to wake up and be ready in the event that they were needed, or that an evacuation was called for. Beck reached the main hallway, still running, balls-out. Even as she saw the foot traffic in front of her, she didn’t slow her motion. She yelled out a warning, and if they didn’t move they would get mowed down. Either way, Beck would arrive at her post ahead of most of the rest of her team every time. The Flying Squad did enough drills that the other sailors knew what to do when that alarm went off. Their main jobs were to stay alert and get the hell out of the way. Beck likened it to pulling over to the right-hand side of the road to let an emergency vehicle pass. Any idiot knew the drill, and Beck had knocked them down like dominoes more than once…just so they never forgot again. Beck knew every inch of the ship, the USS Alaska III. She’d not only been deployed out to sea on it several times now, but as part of her training in the Flying Squad, she had to pass a test, labeling every inch of the ship, every nook, cranny, and closet. She could do it in her sleep now, or behind a curtain of thick, black smoke. They often piped the smoke in during their drills to allow them practice using their gas masks and oxygen tanks, and the team members were expected to get to where they were going, quickly and blindly. Beck made it to the control locker where all the equipment was stored in under a minute. The Fire Marshall was already there, handing out the equipment the team would need as they arrived, and issuing orders. The locker held breathing apparatus, fire extinguishers and hoses, medical equipment…and much more. Everything they might need in an emergency situation was in the control locker, and Beck was confident that her commander knew exactly what he was doing when he barked out his orders. “There was an explosion on the fantail and there’s a fire. We have one man down that I know of. I have no idea if he was injured in the explosion or the fire, or if it’s smoke inhalation. Take a litter and make sure your radio is on. I’ve already notified the medic chopper and they’ll be standing by for orders.” Beck grabbed a second medical bag and in one fluid movement she and her partner picked up the litter, the basket that they would transport the sailor out in if need be. Her partner placed it up against his back and held onto it with one hand while he reached up and grabbed the furthest rung he could reach on the ladder with the other. Beck steadied the basket on his back with one hand and slowly climbed up behind him. As soon as he was up top, he pulled the litter the rest of the way through and Beck tossed up both of her bags and then followed them. The smell and the smoke were both overwhelming. She slapped on a pair of latex gloves and put the gasmask on; so did her partner, and they moved forward through the thick, black smoke. It was like soup and they were both moving by memory and not by sight. It smelled like oil was burning, which made sense, since the deck they were on was where the storage containers were kept in a compartment all the way at the aft of the ship. It looked like the firefighters almost had the fire contained already as they got closer, but Beck knew that the toxic, billowing smoke could be twice as deadly as the flames. Her partner dropped to his knees and let the basket drop down next to him on the deck. Beck slid in on her knees, opening her bag before she even stopped moving. She was at the sailor’s head and she positioned it so that his airway was open. She put her thumbs in his mouth and pulled it open so she could see if there was anything blocking his airway. What she did see made her cringe. His tongue was black and so was the back of his throat. Her partner had cut open the man’s uniform and was putting the AED pads on his chest and ribs, and it was Beck’s job to put the non-rebreather mask on and make sure he was getting oxygen. She hesitated. If they were able to restart his heart, this sailor was in for a long and arduous journey and from what she saw, he would more than likely have lung damage and suffer from breathing problems for the rest of his life if he made it. He would probably die en route to the hospital after they cracked a few ribs to get his heart restarted. That was almost exactly the way her father had died. When she was old enough, she requested a copy of the death report from the Navy. He had been near an IED that exploded and set a gas pump on fire. He inhaled too much smoke, but the medics saved him…long enough for his cracked rib to puncture a singed lung and cause him to choke on his own body fluids and die on the way to the base. “What are you doing, Golden? Get the mask on him!” her partner snapped. “He’s gone,” she said. “Are we really doing him any favors at this point?” “Damn it! That’s not your call and you know it.” Her partner pushed her out of the way. Beck didn’t like to be manhandled and her first impulse was to go back at him, but she was stopped by another one of their teammates. He was a friend of hers and when he grabbed her from behind he said: “Do you really want it to end like this, Beck? Seventeen years…and a dishonorable discharge?” Beck looked down at the man on the deck. She saw her father’s face. He was twenty-two years old when he died…a horrible death. She never got to meet him, but she always wondered if he thought about her in those moments right before he took his last breath. He was discharging from the Navy in less than two weeks when he died. He was coming home to be with her and her mother. She wondered if this kid on the ground had any kids of his own…or one on the way. “Beck,” the friend who was still holding her said softly. She nodded and pulled away from him. Her partner was back on the AED. Beck took hold of the rubber bulb and began to force oxygen into the man’s lungs. Just about the time they heard the chopper approaching, the AED informed them that the man had a pulse. The next second he began to cough and choke and wheeze. He was choking on his own blood and vomit as they loaded him into the litter and attached it to the cable the chopper had lowered down to them. Beck didn’t wait around and watch him go. As soon as she let go of the litter, she was gone. She turned in her equipment and went straight to her quarters. She would get her ass chewed out for not staying for mop-up and debriefing. She might even get written up for it, but if there was one thing that Rebekah wasn’t about to do in front of any man, it was cry.
Jessie Cooke writes hot romance novels about tough guys, bad boys, bikers, fighters and lovers and the women of strong character who tame them.