Authors: Haleigh Lovell
Copyright © 2014 Haleigh Lovell
A New Adult Romance with Heat and Heart
Gathering Leaves Editing
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This novel is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, places and incidents either are the product of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is purely
coincidental and not intended by the author.
I eased against the pillow and pressed the
phone to my ear. “What are you doing right now?”
Talking to you.” Vivian’s
drowsy voice wrapped around my heart.
What were you doing
before I called?”
Oh, you know… just being
lazy in bed with a good book and green tea on a Saturday night,
because I’m wild like that.”
My chest moved in a silent
a wild one. Don’t get too crazy now.”
I’ll try not to,” she
said with a teasing note in her voice. “But I can’t make any
promises. You know I’m like an animal in bed. More specifically, a
koala, since I can sleep for more than twenty hours
I laughed. “What book were you reading?”
A steamy romance,” she
said coyly. And though I couldn’t see her, I knew she was smiling—a
warm smile that lit up her face and lingered in her
Mmm.” I closed my eyes
briefly. “How steamy?”
Oh, gosh,” she breathed.
“You won’t believe the amount of
scenes in the last two
cleared my throat twice. “Are they better than the real
Maybe.” Her voice held a
I see.” I rubbed my chin,
filing away that information for another time.
And the guy in the book
is so hot.” She let out a little laugh. “I think I’ll make him my
At this point, I knew she was egging me on,
but I willingly took the bait. “Your book boyfriend?” My mocking
voice turned into one of genuine amusement. “Why would you need a
book boyfriend? You’ve got me.”
True. You come close, but
my book boyfriend is so dreamy.” She released a deep, full-body
sigh. “And it’s not just him. I love all the characters so much,
and I just don’t want the book to end. Sometimes I wish some
fictional characters were real and some real people were fictional.
You know what I mean?”
I think I do,” I said,
reaching down to grab a paperback from a growing pile of books
stacked neatly next to my bed. “Guess what I’m looking at
by Tom Clancy.”
You got the care
package!” she practically shouted.
Sure did. I got it today.
And thanks for all the books, the treats,
your sexy photo.” I propped an
elbow behind my head and stared at that photo of Vivian in a red
string bikini, sitting in my Jeep with her thighs slightly spread,
tiny grains of sparkling white sand sprinkled along those long,
slender legs. Ocean spray clung to her lashes as she looked
longingly at the camera… like she was looking right at
A tide of desire rushed through me and I
Her next question snapped me out of my
reverie. “Did my brother get his care package, too?”
I think he did. He told
me he was gonna zone out and play some video games before we head
Every night, we went out on missions, raids,
and patrols. Right when the sun came up, we returned to base camp,
drained and exhausted, and collapsed into bed. We slept during the
day, worked out, and sometimes zoned out, and then we headed out
and did it all over again.
Vivian knew this was our routine, so it took
me by surprise when she grew quiet for a long moment.
What’s wrong?” I
I worry about you… both
of you,” she said, all humor gone from her voice. I guess she could
only keep up the facade for so long. “This woman I work with down
at the rescue shelter, I hadn’t seen her for days.” There was a
small break in her voice. “Yesterday, I found out her husband was
killed in Fallujah.”
I…I…” She pulled in a
breath, the sound uneven and shaky. “I just don’t want anything to
happen to you and Julian.”
Hey,” I said gently.
“Nothing’s gonna happen to Julian. I’ll make sure of that. And
nothing’s gonna happen to me.” After a pause, I asked, “You
remember that medallion you gave me?”
It’s kept me safe all
this while, and it will keep me safe until I come home. And I’ll be
home soon.” Thankfully, my term in Iraq was coming to an end in
just a few months.
But as much as I tried to reassure Vivian I
would be fine, I knew she wouldn’t stop worrying. And it weighed on
me… all that I was putting her through in choosing a military life.
I knew she was a strong woman. Fiercely independent. But I feared
what my deployment was doing to her.
We continued talking for hours, exchanging
tidbits of this and that, tacitly avoiding any mention of my
missions. When we’d burned up all the minutes on our cell phones,
it was finally time to say good-bye.
Before I hung up, I said softly, “I trust
The thin mattress creaked as I turned on my
side and slid the phone across my desk. Sharp metal springs dug
into my ribcage, but with Vivian still fully on my mind, I barely
registered the stab.
. I trusted Vivian. That was the truth. Call me crazy, but to
me, trust was so much greater than love.
Everyone says I love you.
I love you, babe. I love you, bro. I love
It was used so loosely, like telling someone
to have a nice day.
I loved my cousins. I loved my nephews. Hell,
I even loved my barber, but did I trust him? Not really.
As I stared at the rusted steel walls of my
CHU, I was reminded of that saying: Love all. Trust a few. Do wrong
Well, I loved a few and I trusted only one—I
I trusted her with my heart.
My Forward Operating Base was barren and
brown. Built on exposed dirt, it had been scraped out of the Iraqi
landscape shortly after the US invasion. The structures, the rusted
CHU (Containerized Housing Unit) trailers, the Bradley tanks, the
Humvees, every single military vehicle, and everything on this base
was brown. Desert brown.
I swore never to wear brown when I returned
On the base, I lived in a rusted CHU with
another lieutenant, Brian Merrick.
Merrick, a fellow San Diegan, was the
youngest of seven children from a blended military family. He was
an extrovert with lots of energy and a rock-solid commitment to the
Corps. On the field, Merrick was an exemplary intel officer. But
one-on-one and behind the closed doors of our rusted CHU, his mind
was perpetually in the gutter.
The prevailing ethos was: Do what makes
For Merrick, comfortable was underpants and
his Gibson guitar.
Why so glum, Sykes? You
look like a lovesick puppy,” he taunted. “Miss your
I sighed. Merrick was
right. I probably
look like a lovesick fool. Vivian was constantly on my mind.
She was the face I put to memory to keep me company.
And I missed everything about her.
I missed those tiny freckles on her face that
made up their own personal constellations. When I closed my eyes, I
tried to imagine kissing every freckle on her face and every single
freckle on her entire body… my weight pressing down on her, my
hardness pushing into her.
You miss doing it like
they do on the Discovery Channel?” Merrick began gyrating against
his bed with his guitar between his legs. “Unghh,” he grunted like
a wild boar as he rocked back and forth. “Ungghh,” he grunted even
You need to get laid.” I
shook my head. “Go home to your wife!”
Don’t need to,” he
quipped. “We sext and Skype sex all the time.”
When I remained silent, Merrick set aside his
guitar and turned to face me. “What? You’ve never sexted
I shrugged. “Not really.”
I’d rather talk dirty to
Viv in her ear when we’re alone, or watch her smile as I whisper to
her in public.”
,” Merrick huffed and made a great show of looking around the
spartan interior of our trailer. “Is your girlfriend here? I guess
not. So I guess you’ll have to make do with sexting.”
Sure,” I said, striving
for a bored tone.
Merrick grabbed a balled-up sock and hurled
it at me. “C’mon, man. Don’t be such a pussy.”
I caught it with my left hand and tossed it
back at him. “You’re the pussy.”
A smug smile crept across
his face. “I
what I eat.”
I don’t know why I even tried. That ass fuck
could turn every retort into a compliment.
Go on.” He urged. “Text
her something dirty. Tell her you wanna penetrate her with you
light saber. Tell her you wanna eat her out until she surrenders to
the empire. Tell her you wanna take her in the back of your
show her what it feels like to go light speed.”
I gave a tired laugh. “Do
you ever sext your wife without referencing
Fuck, yeah. You wanna
With perfect disinterest, I said, “Nope. No
Merrick continued anyway. “Now listen up.” He
took a few paces about the room. “Tell her to put her phone on
vibrate against her pussy, and then tell her you’ll be calling her
I scratched my chin. “You’re not very
original, are you?”
Merrick took the bait.
original.” He grabbed his phone off the desk and began scrolling
through his texts. “Ah, this one is a classic.
Eating an Arby’s sandwich. Wish I was eating… your
No.” I gave a rough bark
of laughter. “Just—no.”
Merrick received my dig
with surprising ambivalence. “All right, all right. Check this one
I unzip my jeans, and with a loud
thud, my anaconda-like dick hits the ground, causing an earthquake
so massive it tips the Richter scale
I winced. “Are you trying to turn her on or
are you trying to make her laugh?”
Wait!” he added,
scrolling frantically through his phone. “I
this. Check this one out. It’s
one of my better ones.” I peered over his shoulder to get a good
look at the text, but he was already reading it out loud.
I’m gonna pound you so hard your head
slams through the headboard. Your face will be so busted you can
only drink smoothies through a straw
Um…” I stared at him,
impassive. “That just went from a sext to a possible murder
Merrick gave a careless shrug. “My wife was
turned on. Her panties were drenched. I’m telling you!
Though I had a hard time believing him, I let
it drop when something else on his phone caught my eye. “What the
hell is that?”
What?” Merrick asked.
That,” I said, pointing
at his phone. The text simply said:
Oh,” he muttered. “That
was me when I blew my load.”
A beat passed. And then another. “You
actually typed out your orgasm?”
.” I shook my
head. “You’re not supposed to type out your orgasm.”
Says who?” Merrick
supposed to.” I ran
a hand through my hair. “You know what? You suck at
Merrick laughed good-naturedly and flopped
down on his bed. Almost instinctively, he reached for his guitar
and began strumming a haunting melody. I had to give Merrick
credit; he was an amazing talent and could play everything from
flamenco-inspired tunes to Hendrix-esque rock.