The beginning of the end. Sounds so ominous, doesn’t it? But that’s what this blog is, the beginning of my blog tour for the end of the Semper Fi series. (Of course, if you think this is the end for me and Marines, you’re just being silly!)
These three guys have been quite the adventure for me. Tim was my first paperback, with The Officer Says “I Do.” Talk about a rush! Book two, The Officer Breaks the Rules with Jeremy and Madison, brought about my first real taste of extreme switches. If you’ve read the series, you might be surprised to find out, Jeremy and Madison were meant to be book three! I had Dwayne and Veronica’s book, this month’s new release, The Officer and the Secret, coming first, and the readers would have received another teaser of these two in book two. My editor and I talked about it and, rightly so, decided they needed their story next.
And Dwayne. Oh dear sweet Dwayne. How that boy was a tortured soul. My first, actually. The first real soul I pushed through the shredder. And he came out whole again, if a little battered.
I’ve had such a fantastic time writing these men, and their women, and I can’t imagine giving up military romance just yet! I hope you’ll be able to read the book, and I’ll leave you with an excerpt from The Officer and the Secret, where the hero and heroine meet (in person!) for the first time:
Veronica Gibson settled the last platter of food on the coffee table. “Skye, what else do you need from me?”
Skye bounced on the balls of her bare feet, a broad grin spread over her face. “Relax. I need you to relax and enjoy.” She took a side step and dodged a pair of Marines in polo shirts and cargo shorts heading to the kitchen for drinks. “Hey Steve, Bryson. Beers are in the cooler on the deck, soft drinks in the fridge.” Skye walked toward the front door where there was a small pocket of space, her frothy tangerine skirt swirling and draping around her legs in the process. Veronica followed automatically, though she couldn’t call anything she wore frothy. Or even fun, for that matter. “Jeremy sent us a text right before he picked Dwayne up so we know they’re coming.”
“And he has no idea you’re hosting a party for him?” Veronica glanced around the townhouse, decorated by Skye and Madison in preparation for Dwayne’s arrival.
Skye laughed and waved that away. “He’s a total social guy, he’ll love it. Dwayne loves being around people. Plus, it’s only us and a few guys from the unit. Nothing big.”
“Hmm.” One of the Marines from before—Steve—brushed by and touched her arm lightly to let her know he was behind her. She held back the urge to pull away from the simple, friendly, benign touch. “If you think he’ll be all right with it, you know him more than I do. I don’t know him at all.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. You’ve talked to him several times now,” Skye said with a smile.
“A few conversations on Skype do not count.” Madison saved Veronica from having to elaborate.
“Hey everyone!” Being short, Madison took advantage of the second step on the stairs and waved her hands in the air to grab the attention of the fifteen guests. “Jeremy sent me a quick text from the red light. They’re almost here!”
Veronica wiped damp palms on her khakis. Why was she so nervous? Just another person to meet. This should not be such a big deal.
But it was. She could admit that to herself as she took her place behind the crowd. The few Skype conversations she had had with Dwayne had sparked something inside her. Something she didn’t know she was missing. Interest. Feminine interest in a man. Someone completely unattainable, but it was there none the less.
Through the computer screen, the attraction seemed so safe. They were on different continents, and she could turn the computer off whenever she was ready. But now he was back in the states, back to his friends, and she was going to be face to face with Captain Dwayne Robertson… the star of more than one of her nighttime fantasies.
She was ready for this. She could do this.
No, no she really couldn’t. Just as Veronica turned to slip into the kitchen—under the guise of checking the soft drink supply—the front door opened and her eyes shot to the man she’d been thinking about nonstop.
Terror. White-knuckled, silent-screaming terror was the first thought in her mind. Not hers. His. Though nobody else seemed to notice, Dwayne froze the moment everyone jumped up and yelled, “Welcome home!” And as the swarm of friends enveloped him in a hug, she could see him fighting with every tense muscle not to bolt, or worse.
Her heart ached just a little. Skye swore he was social and would greet the party with open arms, and maybe he was, on a normal basis. But perhaps the party had been too much, too soon. She’d seen that look before, with other missionaries coming back to home base from a bad month of travel.
Jeremy clamped a hand on Dwayne’s shoulder, and Dwayne’s entire body jerked in response. He played it off well, though. With a tight smile, Dwayne shrugged until the hand fell away and nodded at something Tim said.
Every instinct in Veronica screamed to slip back into the kitchen, fade into the background, melt away from sight.
But something about him drew her across the living room until she mixed into her group of new friends. She said nothing, only watching the way his lips tightened in something that looked like a smile-grimace hybrid.
Skye wrapped an arm around her shoulder and pulled her closer. “Dwayne, you might recognize Veronica.” She laughed a little. “You two probably talked more than the rest of us, thanks to luck.”
Dwayne turned her direction, and maybe she was seeing things, but his face seemed to relax, just a bit.
“Hey, yeah. My Skype buddy.” His smile grew. “How are you, Miss Veronica?”
She started to speak, then squeaked when he bent down and pulled her into a hug. Her hands, instinctively coming up to put a barrier between them, were squished between his chest and her shoulders. But Dwayne didn’t seem to notice, only squeezed a little tighter before letting go. And when he let go, she dropped to the floor, the impact jarring her teeth a bit. The man was much taller than expected. Well over six feet.
Veronica quickly stepped back, more out of habit than anything. “Welcome home.”
If Dwayne noticed the weak greeting, he didn’t mention it. “Glad we’re finally meeting, sweetheart. I think Skye’s right. With us crossing paths so often on accident, I talked to you more then these two idiots.” He nudged Tim with his elbow, and got a none-too-gentle nudge in return.
She nodded, trying to unstick her tongue from the roof of her mouth. But along with all the saliva in her mouth, it appeared as though all her brain cells had dried up as well, because all she could do was keep nodding like the bobblehead on Skye’s dashboard.
Dwayne hefted up his olive green duffle bag and tilted his chin at the stairs. “All I have is PT gear, but it’s better than nothing. Mind if I change? Can’t exactly rock the welcome home party in cammies all day.”
Tim thumped him on the back again. “Yeah, sure. Mad ran to your place the other day and grabbed a few changes of clothes. They’re in the office.”
“You guys thought of everything.” Though he said the statement lightly, his eyes were dark, and darted around the room as if on watch for something. “I’ll be back down in a few.”
He disappeared upstairs, his footsteps from those huge boots still echoing clearly as he made his way to what used to be Veronica’s room and shut the door.
“Damn, it’s good to have him home.” Tim grinned and reached over to pull Skye to him. Nuzzling against her temple, he placed a soft kiss there. “Thanks for throwing the party.”
Veronica fought back against the overwhelming sense of longing at watching her cousin and her husband interact. Their marriage—though unconventional from the start, according to stories she’d pieced together from Skye and Madison—was a rock now, and enviable from her point of view.
Madison glanced at the stairs. “Did we plan this all wrong? He didn’t seem quite as excited to see everyone here as I thought he would be.”
“Nah.” Jeremy mirrored Tim’s gesture with his wife and pulled Madison tightly against his side. “Dwayne loves a party.” But as Jeremy tipped a bottle of beer up to his lips, Veronica couldn’t help but notice his eyes darted toward the stairs too, just for a moment, as if thinking quite the opposite.
Moments later, Dwayne thundered back down the stairs to cheers from the party goers. He smiled and waved like a goofy king, bowing at the foot of the steps. “Thank you, thank you.”
Some of the worry smoothed away from Jeremy’s eyes as he called Dwayne back over and handed him a bottle of beer. “You have got to be the biggest ham I’ve ever known.”
“Hardly. You’ve known Madison for almost as long.” He smiled when Madison leaned over to punch him in the gut. But her hand merely made a sharp smack against the man’s stomach, like it had come up against a wall.
Veronica wondered what a stomach like that would look like. Then immediately flushed when she realized that was an awful thing to think. And when her eyes met Dwayne’s, he winked at her as if he knew what she was thinking.
Time for a fast escape. Her specialty. “Anyone want anything from the kitchen?” She took a step back, then another, bumping into a Marine as she put some distance between the potent man and his cocky swagger that seemed to drain all her common sense.
Dwayne held up his beer that he’d yet to open. “Actually, I wouldn’t mind a bottle of water, if you’re heading that direction already. Want to make sure I hydrate after all the travel.”
“Of course. No problem. We’ve got someone out back manning the grill as well. Did you want anything?”
He leaned forward again, like he was about to share a secret. “Steak. Rare as he’ll go.” His lip tilted up a little at the edges and he leaned over. The sheer mass of his shoulders made her feel crowded in, though she had an open room at her back. His voice dropped down a little as he added, “If it’s still mooing when you bring it out, now that’s just perfect.”
She couldn’t help the little shiver that raced down her spine. Men in general were a struggle for her to interact with, but she’d made such great headway in the last few months. Now with one hot look, she seemed back to square one. Her tongue seemed to swell, rendering her speechless, so she just nodded and walked away as fast as she could.
But as she wound her way through the cheerful party attendants, she heard Jeremy’s voice drift behind her.
“Damn, D. Did you have to scare the hell out of her with your southern badass routine?”
© Jeanette Murray, 2013
A big thank you to Jeanette for joining us today! To enter to win one of two copies of The Officer and the Secret, just leave a comment telling us your favorite type of military man! US and Canada only, please leave an email address so we can reach you easily. Winners will be announced on Wednesday, July 10 in the comments.
THE OFFICER AND THE SECRET BY JEANETTE MURRAY – IN STORES JULY 2013
If There's One Thing He Hates, It's a Secret...
Coming home after a rough deployment, Captain Dwayne Robertson wants some stability in his life, and finds it in the friendship he's forged with Veronica Gibson while he was away. But her past is a well-guarded mystery, and Dwayne doesn't know if he can deal with a woman who has something to hide...
And She's Filled with Them...
Veronica Gibson doesn't want anyone to know about her bizarre upbringing. She's finally escaped her missionary parents and would be enjoying her independence if she didn't feel so insecure about fitting in. She can easily envision a glorious future with Dwayne—but can she build a new life on a web of lies?
Praise for The Officer Says "I Do":
"One of the best I have ever read...A phenomenal writer." —Night Owl Reviews, Reviewer Top Pick, 5 Stars
"I could not put this book down." —My Secret Romance
"A genuinely sweet and altogether spicy romance with a military flavor...the characters, the chemistry, and sensual love story will have you begging for more." —Long and Short Reviews
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeanette Murray is a contemporary romance author who is married to her own real-life Marine. When she’s not chasing her daughter or Goldendoodle around the house, she’s building another love story. As a military wife, she would tell you where she lives…but by the time you read this, she’ll have already moved. Visit her at www.jeanettemurray.com.