Starting From Scratch
November 21, 2013
Military Contemporary Romance
Christmas is the perfect time to start from scratch
Lieutenant Sully Jax saved his unit during an IED attack, but he couldn't save his marriage. He can't even remember it. Recovered from his injuries, he's come home to the family and friends he knows—and an ex-wife who's a stranger to him.
Lucy Crabtree was heartbroken last Christmas when Sully announced his plan to go on one last tour of duty, and devastated when he asked for a divorce after he awoke in the hospital with no memory of her. She's finally moving on from her hurt and from losing the man she loved more than anything, and her cookie-baking business is taking off just in time for the holidays. But now Sully's back, and she can't deny she still loves him. But how can she trust her heart to someone who breaks it every time she sees him?
Sully might not remember Lucy, but something inside won't let her go. With every bite of her cookies, he finds a new love for Lucy, and he soon realizes he wants to rebuild his life with her by his side.
She had to be dreaming. Or maybe the stoves were malfunctioning, spewing fumes she hadn’t noticed, and she was actually lying on the floor unconscious. That made more sense than Sully appearing out of her confused thoughts to kiss her as if starved for the taste of her. For months Lucy had fantasized about this; Sully sweeping in to announce his memories had returned and would do anything to make amends for daring to forget her. That she was loved, and cherished, and she would never be alone again because he’d finally remembered that he adored her.
Man, she loved that fantasy.
Blindly she set aside the pastry bag, not caring where it landed. It wasn’t important. What was important was that she could once again sift her fingers through Sully’s hair, as soft as velvet and irresistibly thick. She had despaired she’d never again experience that sensation, or revel in the way he slanted his mouth against hers so that the seal was perfect. A shuddering breath escaped her, a dry sob she couldn’t help as happiness and relief pierced through her with such purity it bordered on painful. At long last, she could welcome him home the way she’d yearned to.
One of his hands slid up the line of her spine to cradle the back of her head, supporting her under the onslaught of his devouring kiss. Wallowing in the sensation, she wrapped her arms around his powerful frame and prayed he felt how much she’d missed him in the strength of her embrace alone. More than anything she wanted him to focus on the here and now, and not her dreadful silence when he’d shipped out. The past didn’t matter. What mattered was that she’d been lucky enough to have him returned to her, perhaps not in one piece, but by God he was still breathing. Nothing was more important as that.
His kiss was an open and unapologetic seduction. The crushed silk texture of his lips softened their granite-hard press, a press that conveyed without words a depthless hunger only she could satisfy. She could easily become drunk on his taste—clean and dark all at the same time, and the sensual flick of his tongue against hers had her breath catching somewhere between her heart and throat. She arched up, chasing a deeper sensation, and her mind faded under a blanket of bliss when her breasts flattened against the solid wall of his chest. The thunder of his pulse rocked her universe, matching the wild thrum of her own.The twin weights of grief and worry vanished as if they had never been, so much so she thought she might actually float off the ground if he hadn’t been holding on to her so tightly.
He was home. At last, her man was home.
A Promise Kept
Before I begin, I’d like to thank Braine and everyone at Talk Supe for giving me a chance to chat about STARTING FROM SCRATCH, a military homecoming-themed holiday novella. It’s one half of Carina Press’s GIFTS OF HONOR, with the other half comprised of Rebecca Crowley’s wonderful story, HERO’S HOMECOMING. Happy holidays, everyone! ^_^
For children, Christmas is a magical time—or at least it should be. But for the children of Sully’s army Ranger buddy killed in the line of duty, this is a difficult time of year. They’ll always have their Uncle Sully, though, who’d made a promise to look after them whenever Christmas rolls around. STARTING FROM SCRATCH opens with Sully, who’d just mailed off a very special message…
Dear Samantha and Theo,
Merry Christmas to you both! I know it’s been a while since you heard from me, but it’s not my fault, honest! The thing is, I got a bump on the head and it conked me out for a while, but I’m back on my feet thanks to the doctors who made me feel much better. In fact, I’m now feeling so good, I couldn’t wait to send off a few Christmas presents to you guys. Your dad called me his brother, after all, so that makes me your uncle, and it’s an uncle’s privilege to spoil his niece and nephew at Christmastime.
Samantha, you’ve got to be five now, right? Wow, you’re getting to be so big. Your daddy told me that one of his favorite things to do when he was home was tuck you in at night, sit with his arm around you and read you to sleep. I’ll never forget how he said you fit perfectly against him, like you were a piece of himthat had found its way home. That leads me to breaking with tradition, and telling you what I got you (I need you to know how to use it properly). I got the biggest, cuddliest teddy bear I could find so that you could lie against him and have his arms wrap around you while you read some books that I’ve also sent along (I hope you like American Girl). I know it’s not as good as a Daddy-hug, but we both know he’d want to give his favorite little girl the next best thing, right? So do me a favor and think about how much he loved to be with you every time you snuggle into your new teddy bear. And when you think about him and remember how much he loved you—how much he’ll always love you—it’s like he’ll be sitting right there with you. At least, I hope that’s how it will feel, and I hope it makes you smile. Merry Christmas, Samantha.
Theo, I know you’re only three, but from what I’ve seen of you, you’re going to be the spitting image of your dad! Next year I’m probably going to go crazy with baseball stuff for you (your dad was a HUGE White Sox fan… don’t ask me why, ha), but this year I wanted to do something special that you and your mommy can share. I’ve collected pictures of your dad and put them in a book for you to look at whenever you start wondering why your nose wrinkles when you laugh, or why your hair sticks up in the back no matter how many times you comb it down. You’re like that because you are your father’s son, and that is something to be proud of. I know you don’t have a lot of memories of him, but over the past year I’ve come to realize just how important memories are. If you don’t have any of your own about your father, you can borrow my memories of him. Believe me, they’re good ones. (And if you don’t like that gift, I’m also sending along a really noisy baseball video game. I’m sure your mom will LOVE the noise!)
This much I know—your father loved you both very, very much. Even if you can’t see him anymore, he’s always with you in spirit, and he’s so proud of both of you. As your unofficial uncle, I’m proud of you too, so don’t be surprised if I check in on you every now and again. I hope you have a merry Christmas, and a wonderful New Year.
Memories are a sore point with Sully, since that “conk on the head” erased the one woman he’d ever loved out of his life—his now ex-wife, Lucy. But even as he puts the pieces of his life back together, it is Sully’s connection to these children—and their now-deceased father—that ultimately caused the destruction of their marriage. But Christmas is a season of miracles, and Sully and Lucy will need one to realize that while love can be “forgotten”, it can never be permanently erased.
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A competitive figure skater from the age of eight, Stacy Gail began writing stories in between events to pass the time. By the age of fourteen, she told her parents she was either going to be a figure skating coach who was also a published romance writer, or a romance writer who was also a skating pro. Now with a day job of playing on the ice with her students, and writing everything from steampunk to cyberpunk, contemporary to paranormal at night, both dreams have come true.