Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Jim Lester - Till The Rivers All Run Dry - PROMO Blitz




Coming of Age, Historical Fiction
 Date Published:  July 27, 2016

In 1941, when thirteen-year-old Ricky Parker’s family is uprooted from their home in Arkansas and relocated to Venezuela, Ricky thinks his life is over. But what he finds in a rough and tumble oil camp on the banks of Lake Maracaibo is the adventure of a lifetime. An adventure filled with Nazi spies, treachery, betrayal, true love, and even murder.

While touching on issues that remain relevant today, such as racism and America’s reliance on foreign oil, this coming-of-age novel is a page turning, high-octane suspense tale of star-crossed young lovers set in exotic wartime Venezuela.

 Excerpt

One Friday evening right before the Fourth of July in the summer of 1941, I answered the front door and my whole life changed.  

Two men in suits stood on the porch. One of them was an older fellow, wearing a cheap brown suit and a high starched collar that was wilting from the summer heat. The band in his rumpled fedora was stained with sweat. He had a droopy mustache that was part black and part white and an Adam’s apple that looked about the size of a baseball.   

The other man was younger and had on a nicer suit. He removed his hat and showed off a thick head of blond hair. His face was pasty white, and I knew right off that he’d never done a lick of farmwork in his life.  

“Is Mr. Chester Parker at home? We’d like a word with him if it would be convenient.” The younger man sounded like Mr. Hunter who taught English over at El Dorado Junior High, where I had just finished the seventh grade. They both talked real educated and proper-like.  
“I reckon he’s out back,” I said. “Y’all come on in and I’ll get him.” I looked past the two men on the porch and saw some angry-looking dark clouds gathering off to the east, promising a summer rain.   

The two men stepped into the living room. The older man removed his hat and scratched his bald head.  

Before I could fetch Daddy, Mama stepped into the living room from the kitchen. She was wearing her big red apron that was dusty with flour from making the biscuits for supper. She had a dot of flour on her nose. “Who is it, Ricky? Did you . . .” She pulled up short in the doorway and drew in a quick breath.  

“Howdy, Dixie,” the older man said. “How you been?”  

Mama eyed the man like a dead garden snake she’d found on the back porch. “Evening, Mr. Taggert. I reckon I’m fine.” Mama’s tone filled the living room with a chilling frost.  

The older man ignored Mama’s coldness. “This here is Mr. George Quinn. He’s from Washington. We need to have a word with Mr. Ches if we might.”  

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Washington? What on earth would some stranger from Washington, DC, want with my father?  

Mama wiped her hands on her apron. “Ricky, run on out to the shed and fetch your daddy. Be quick now.”  

I scampered back through the kitchen and out the screen door and sprinted across the yard to the shed. I found Daddy hunched over his worktable lost in thought, staring at the parts of a radio he had spread out in front of him.   

Daddy could fix anything as long as it was mechanical. Big machines, little machines. It didn’t make any difference. My father could fix all of them.  

His pipe was clinched tight in his teeth and the sticky sweet smell of his burning tobacco filled the tiny shed.  
“There’s a pair of fellows in suits here to see you,” I said, a little breathless from the ru
n across the yard. “I don’t think they want you to fix anything. I think they just want to talk.”   

 Daddy smiled and stood up from the worktable. “Then I guess we better go in the house and see what’s going on.”  

My father was a tall man, skinny as a rail as the saying went. He had black hair slicked back with Brylcreem. Some folks said he looked Italian, but that was mainly because he’d spent so much time out in the sun that his skin was all brown and leathery looking. He always wore a blue work shirt with the sleeves rolled up past his elbows even in the summer.   

Daddy had been a drilling supervisor at Murphy Oil and a real good one from what everybody said, but one day back in ’39 something happened out on one of the rigs and Daddy came home, put his lunch pail on the high shelf up in the pantry and announced that he’d never work for Murphy or any oil company again. And that was that.  
My father didn’t do much but hang around the house for a few weeks. He’d sit at the kitchen table and take old radios apart and put them back together. Finally other folks started bringing him their busted radios and percolators and mix masters and stuff to fix and Daddy cleared out a space in the old shed out near the chicken coop and went into the small appliance repair business.  
Daddy never hurried anywhere. Even after I told him about the two visitors, he ambled across the yard as if he were just heading up to the house for a drink of water.  

Back in the living room, Mama had served ice tea to the two men, who were sitting on the blue sofa when Daddy and I came in. They stood up and shook hands all around. Mama brought Daddy a glass of tea. He drained half of it in one gulp.   

“It’s good to see you again, Mr. Ches,” Taggert said.  

Daddy nodded. “What can I do for you?” He sounded unfriendly and I could tell my father didn’t have much truck with the Taggert fellow.  

The first plunks of the summer rain hit the roof. The smell of Daddy’s tobacco overpowered the living room.  

Taggert and Quinn sat back down, balancing their hats in their laps. Mama leaned on the doorsill, wiping flour off her hands with her apron.  

“Mr. Ches,” Taggert said. “We need to talk some business if you have a few minutes.” Daddy shrugged.  

Taggert turned and looked at me. “Son, why don’t you run outside and play for a while. This won’t take long.”  

“It’s raining,” I said, indicated the front window where the summer storm was pelting the glass. 

Taggert gnawed on his lower lip.  

“Come on, Ricky.” Mama came to Taggert’s rescue. “Let’s you and me run out to the henhouse and fix up those stalls like we been promising to do since school let out.”  

 I didn’t want to leave the living room. Something was going on. Something big. You could just feel it in the air. You could see it on Daddy’s face, hear it in Mama's voice. This was important. And I had to go out and fix up the stalls in the henhouse. I was not happy.  

 But I went.  

 By the time Mama and I hammered all the loose boards back into the chicken stalls, replaced the straw, swept out the walkway, and went back to the house, Taggert and Quinn were gone. 

Daddy sat in the chair in the living room, staring out the window at the rain. The drops pounded the glass and ran down the panes in fast flowing rivulets.   

It was getting dark, but Daddy hadn’t turned on any lights. He just sat there in the chair, smoking his pipe and staring out the window. He didn’t even turn around when Mama and I came back into the house. He just sat and stared and smoked. I’d never seen him look like that.   

“Daddy? Are you all right?” I stood in the doorway to the kitchen, fighting back that awful sense that something was bad wrong.   

My father didn’t say anything. Blue smoke drifted out of his pipe and floated toward the ceiling. The room got darker and darker.  

Two weeks later, he and Mama and I took a train down to New Orleans, got on a big ship, and headed for Venezuela.








Jim Lester is the author of two previous coming of age novels-Fallout, which Booklist called " a fast paced, clever coming of age story, Salingeresque in spirit and The Great Pretender, which received consistently excellent reviews on Amazon. He is also the author of the sports history book Hoop Crazy: College Basketball in the 1950s.

Contact Links
Website: http://www.jimlesterbooks.com

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Monday, 5 September 2016

Kevin E. Hatt - Full Circle - PROMO Blitz




A Haszard Narrative
Crime, Mystery 
Date Published: September 1, 2016



When asked to look into the death of a man in a town known for pagan connections, Haszard quickly makes progress, and it isn't long before matters become dangerous. With little to work with, Haszard makes progress, yet the task is a daunting one, and not everyone he encounters is friendly.

Collating interesting and significant information from various sources along the way, Haszard has to link factors linked with the past, and as he does so, he realizes that in order to save someone from certain death, he is in a race against time.

Other Books in A Haszard Narrative Series
A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
 
Unfortunate in life and unlucky in love, the mysterious Haszard is intrigued by the death of an acquaintance at the local hospital, in which he works. Suspicious about the circumstances, he begins to look into the matter, meeting the woman of his dreams along the way.
After joining forces a local businessman, he speaks to a number of people, discovering irregularities in the life of the murdered woman. As he makes progress, he realises that the key to the matter lies in the dark and murky world of drug dealers, and has to face the possibility that the killer may well be someone he knows . . .
MAPS, LEGENDS AND MISDEMEANOURS

When asked to frame an old map, Haszard discovers that it’s linked to lost valuables from the past. Intrigued, he begins looking into the legend, discovering there to be cryptic clues on the map that must be deciphered. Unfortunately, though, Haszard isn’t the only person interested in the whereabouts of the missing items, and the other contingent resorts to violent tactics, which leads to a chilling climax . . .
PHOENIX FROM THE FLAME

When told by a former colleague that she saw her dead husband walking around a quaint market town, Haszard’s curiosity is engaged. As he begins to look into the matter, he unearths a number of facts that lead him to believe that there’s more to the sighting than merely a dead man walking. Also, there are people who are prepared to kill for something that’s worth a lot of money . . .
THE HEIRLOOM REPOSITORY

Haszard is asked to look for a family’s missing inheritance. Guided by words provided by a medium, he goes about the case with his typical fervour. Side-tracked by other matters, and spooked by a mysterious man in the woods, Haszard soon comes to realise that he isn’t alone in his quest, and persons unknown are not afraid to kill . . .
RACE FOR THE PRIZE

When on holiday with his friends, Haszard sees a girl who went missing a number of weeks previous. Fuelled with his usual determination, he sets about looking into the matter, although all is not as it appears, and it isn’t long before matters become eventful.
Having befriended a local artist, Haszard moves closer to an answer, yet the odds are stacked heavily against him. In order to win through, he must endure his most arduous and perilous challenge yet . . .
NO REASON FOR INSANITY

Intrigued by the bizarre events surrounding the murder of a friend, Haszard is asked by the family to look into the matter. Against the advice of his friends, he begins making enquiries, and is disturbed when he realizes that it may well be someone he knows. As progress is made, further events occur, endangering the life of Haszard and his friends, and he is forced to delve into the deepest recesses of his resourcefulness . . .


Excerpt 

     Driving away we agreed that a chat with Ed Loughmann, a friend of ours who owned a number of pubs, clubs, and gyms, along with a security protection service for the local businesses, would be of value. My immediate thought was to look obviously at what had been said, therefore finding out something about Paul Tudor should be the first move. If anyone could find out anything about him, it would be Ed. Once we had some facts on the table, we’d then be able to look at the situation differently.
     Another immediate thought was the fact that Dean had been in Lamesford, a place that he was unfamiliar with. With him being a creature of habit, this threw up a major question, possibly even being the key to the entire affair; however, it was far too early for blind conjecture.
     Our destination was a pub owned by Ed—the Railway Tavern, the jewel in Ed’s crown. A grand old building in the area of the main rail depot, the Tavern stood out as out of place. Ed had refurbished every aspect of the establishment, from the interior and exterior decor through to the catering, which was among the finest around.
     After parking up we made our way in to see Ed sitting at his usual table, grinning as we approached. Ed was ex-British Special Forces, and in his early forties. He had short light-brown hair, and stood at around six feet, his features somewhat rugged, though they brightened considerably when he smiled.
     “Sabrina, you survived the weekend with this lunatic. Congratulations,” Ed said, raising himself, holding a seat out for Sabrina, and leaving me to fend for myself as always. Ed was an imposing figure, feared by the local criminals. He ran a security service for local businesses and select private residences. “No mishaps or misdemeanors we should hear about?”
     “Other than eyeing the waitress up, no,” Sabrina said, smiling at me.
     “I was only returning her admiring glances,” I defended. “Is it my fault I’m irresistible? Who’s for a drink?”
     Ed told me what he’d like, and I returned minutes later to see Ed with a serious expression. “Sabrina’s told me. Why don’t you leave this one alone?” He paused and looked around the room. “Did you hear that? That was the sound of me wasting my breath!”
     I grinned. “I don’t think there’s anything dangerous this time.”
     “Haszard, you say that every time, and every bloody time it gets worse,” Ed said bluntly. “What’s more, this happened in bloody Lamesford of all places!”
     “I don’t know Lamesford; what’s it like?’ I said, realizing that I’d regret asking.
     “It’s full of inbred bloody sheep-shaggers that still consider cows lying down as a weather forecast. They’re all as mad as March hares, worshipping and sacrificing God alone knows what!”
     “It can’t be that bad,” I said, suddenly thinking back to the name. Lamesford, I should point out is actually pronounced lambs-ford. I thought, there can’t be anything in that, surely.
     “I’ve heard a few things about it,” Sabrina said. “I’ve a cousin who lived there. She didn’t for long. She couldn’t get away fast enough.”
     I shook my head. “All we’re doing is finding out why he was seen in Southington at the moment of his death. If anything, we’ll be concentrating our efforts there.”
     Ed didn’t look convinced. “If laddo did the big splat in Lamesford, I’d say that Lamesford is where you’ll be looking, unless Old Nick had a hand in it, of course.”
     “Ed!” Sabrina snapped. “Dean was the brother of an old friend of mine!”
     Ed held his hands up. “I’m sorry. It’s just that I can’t see his death having anything to do with Southington, that’s all.”
     “I suppose you’re right,” I said, “but I’ll have to bear Southington in mind. It may hold the key as to why he was seen by another party, but why he was killed—well, that’ll be another matter. Maybe it is something to do with Southington, maybe it isn’t. You putting the feelers out on this Paul Tudor would come in handy, though.”
     Ed raised his eyes to the heavens. “How did I know that was coming? When do you want the info for?”
     “Tomorrow would be great,” I said.
     “No pressure, then,” Ed said with a wry smile. “On one condition.”
     “Go on.”
     “We’ve a twenty-twenty match next Friday. You’re captain.” For those not in the know, twenty-twenty is cricket.
     I smiled. “You just try stopping me.”
     “Good man.”
     I thought back to Grace’s call and the request for Phil to pick her up from Cardiff. “Ed, can you get Phil to call Grace? She wants him to pick her up from the airport and says to take his overnight bag. Apparently, there’s a party on.”
     Ed grimaced and sighed heavily. “If it’s anything like the last one, we may not see him for a few days, and I need my members of staff here.”
     “I’m sure it won’t be for long,” I said.
     Ed looked me in the eye. “Haz, that bloody mad woman creates chaos wherever she goes. Yes, Phil has a few days of leave, but I’d like him compos mentis when he gets back. Whoever has shares in rubber, I’d say they’re in for a decent payout. Anyway, now for some good news, your car should be ready in the next week or so. I had a sneak preview and it looks better than it ever did.”
     “Great,” I said excitedly. My car was badly damaged due to a fire a month or so back. I used to work part-time at the hospital and spend the rest of the time at my shop, but I’d been working in theatres full-time of late, having to use Sabrina’s cabriolet, or Grace’s V12 five hundred-horsepower rocket of a car, when I wasn’t cadging lifts here and there. “Ed, I could kiss you.”
     Ed shook his head. “Haz, I know how much you love that roadster, but there’s no need to come across as a bloody pansy.”






Kevin E. Hatt is the author of the Haszard series of narratives. His interest in writing began at school, and he carried it on into his twenties, writing for fun. He wrote the first two Haszard stories in the late eighties, but shelved the project until 2009, when he revived and updated it, going on to write seventeen stories. With the stories having been well received by friends, Kevin published the first five books, and after good reviews is furthering the project.

In 1984 he commenced his training as an Operating Department Practitioner, rising to the height of deputy head, before leaving the profession in 1999 to pursue his other love, that of art. Kevin worked as an art consultant, demonstrator, teacher, retailer and framer, but returned to the medical profession in 2010. His main passions are cricket, running, humour, ale and curries. He lives with his wife of twenty-five years and his twenty-three-year-old daughter. Kevin has never been to Ipswich. Or Scunthorpe.


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Friday, 2 September 2016

Beth D. Carter - Between You and I - PROMO Blitz




Contemporary Erotica Romance
Date Published Aug 11, 2016


A broken engagement left Madeline Shawl feeling like a shattered woman.  When she meets Hunter Caligari, he seems to be the perfect man for some friends-with-benefits action.  But when the easy affair turns into something more, it threatens her comfortable grief.

The passion of the younger man nearly infects her until Hunter tries to articulate it with the three words she refuses to hear. When she pushes him away, wounding his heart, she finds her own broken all over again.

Still, Madeline struggles to leave the past behind and accept that when Hunter said, "I love you," he wasn't just speaking for himself.






Excerpt

“I had a great time,” Hunter murmured.

Madeline wet her dry lips with her tongue. His head moved fractionally closer.

“Me…” She had to clear her throat from the huskiness coming through. “Me too.”

He smiled and their gazes met. Locked. She had this sense of free falling, just plunging head first into an unknown abyss. Had she ever felt like this with Kevin? With him everything had been easy. Simplistic. Nothing like what she was feeling now, with Hunter. He brought his hand up to cup her cheek, and she leaned into it, absorbing his heat. His eyelids narrowed a bit and his attention shifted to her mouth. All sorts of delicious tingles spread through her body because she knew he was going to kiss her. God! She wanted to kiss him back so much it was an ache deep in her gut. His head descended and her eyes fluttered shut just as the first touch of his mouth on hers brushed her lips. So gentle, like the dewy wisp of butterfly wings, and she wondered if he had kissed her at all.

She opened her eyes. The desire pooling in his blue eyes brought a gasp to her lips. His head descended again and this time, he held nothing back. Wild. Erotic. He slid his tongue over hers, tangling, dancing, and sending delicious sensations vibrating over all her nerve endings. Hot and smooth, tasting of everything dark and velvety. She’d never experienced a kiss quite like it before.

And she wanted more






I like writing about the very ordinary girl thrust into extraordinary circumstances, so my heroines will probably never be lawyers, doctors or corporate highrollers.  I try to write characters who aren't cookie cutters and push myself to write complicated situations that I have no idea how to resolve, forcing me to think outside the box.  I love writing characters who are real, complex and full of flaws, heroes and heroines who find redemption through love.

I’ve been pretty fortunate in life to experience some amazing things.  I’ve lived in France, travelled throughout Europe, Australia and New Zealand.  I am a mom to an amazing little boy.  I’ve walked a red carpet event and visited the USS Voyager. I hate washing dishes but I love cooking. I hate washing clothes but I love wearing them. Writing my bio is difficult because I never know what to say so I hope you like this one.  My favorite color is red but I look best in black (it’s slimming).  I hate people who don't pick up their dog's crap in public places, people who don’t use turn signals, and I really hate people who are rude and condescending. I especially hate discrimination in all and every form.  And although I love holding a book in my hand, I absolutely adore my ereader, whom I’ve named Ruby.  I love to hear from readers so I’ve made it really easy to find me on the web.


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Connie Ann Michael - A Thousand Shattered Moments - Week Blitz



Contemporary Christian Military Romance/ Women’s Fiction

Date Published: Aug. 9th (print/POD)
Publisher: Anaiah Romance


Sawyer and Raven finally see a future away from the war—if they can only get through this last deployment. But when the military separates them, Raven finds it impossible to protect her, and he worries her post traumatic stress disorder will return. Soon, Raven finds out PTSD is the least of his troubles.

Sawyer is assigned to a bomb removal unit being sent into the most dangerous area in Afghanistan where she’s taken and held captive for weeks. Expecting the worst, Sawyer is ready to die for her country. But when death doesn’t come, Sawyer turns her back on her faith. believing God has left her to deal with the aftermath of her capture alone.

Devastated at the news of Sawyer’s disappearance, Raven’s commitment to her never falters, even when her injuries threaten to take her from him. To make matters worse, he’s being kept from his wife by an angry mother-in-law. Raven is determined to bring Sawyer back to him—But is it be too late? Unfaltering in his faith, Raven knows with God’s help, he will prove his love to Sawyer








EXCERPT
© 2016 Connie Ann Michael

CHAPTER ONE

Sawyer wiped a hand across her forehead, interrupting the drips of sweat heading toward her chin. She settled into a shady spot on the side of the metal structure of the hospital she was currently assigned to in Qatar, Afghanistan. Sawyer balanced her laptop on her knees. Glancing down at her watch, she opened the case and logged on. Raven was supposed to be back from his patrol tonight, and they were going to attempt to video chat. Camp Grady was one of the best set ups in Afghanistan and provided consistent climate control within the tents but lacked the privacy she wanted to talk to her husband. She laughed to herself. She still couldn’t believe Raven was her husband.
“Hey babe,” Raven’s voice broke through the quiet of her hiding spot.

Sawyer pushed a few buttons to get the screen to show the face of the man she loved. His big smile came through at the same time she assumed her face appeared on Raven’s screen.

“Hey babe,” he said again with a sigh.

Sawyer reached out and ran her fingers down the screen, caressing his cheek.

“Can you hear me?”

“Yeah. I can.” Sawyer swallowed down the lump in her throat. “Don’t call me babe. I’m Navy.” Sawyer and Raven had gone round and round on her status as a Navy Corpsman with the Marines. Now it was a topic of levity.

“Not when it’s you and me, babe. You’re not Navy, you’re my wife.” Raven gave her a sad smile.

“You look tired.” Raven’s eyes were shadowed with fatigue, and the lines around his mouth seemed deeper.

Raven nodded. “You look beautiful.”

“I appreciate your ability to lie.”

Raven rubbed at his eyes then gave her a small smile.

“Just got back?” she asked.

Raven closed his eyes and rested his forehead against the screen. “I miss you so much.”

Sawyer wiped a tear that escaped and cleared her throat. “I miss you, too.”

Raven glanced to the side then sat back up and resumed a comfortable slouch in the chair he was sitting in. The torso of another soldier passed behind him on the screen.

“Where are you?” Sawyer shifted on the sand, getting more comfortable. If he was in the Coms center it would explain his quick change of posture. After the past few weeks of silence, being able to truly share their feelings would be difficult.

Raven glanced over his shoulder. “Coms. The internet doesn’t work anywhere else. I can’t guarantee I’ll be with you for long. Things have been worse than normal lately.”

Raven had been redeployed to Camp Dietz, the base where they’d originally met. Raven kicking her out of his unit and the inconvenience of marrying her commanding officer made it impossible to be redeployed together. But at least they were both in Afghanistan, even if they were hundreds of miles apart with bad internet.

“So, what have you been up to?” Raven glanced backward again. Suddenly a bottle of water appeared over his shoulder. “Thanks,” he told the disembodied hand before Raven’s right hand man, Thommy pushed into view.

“Hey, Doogie. Good to see you.” Thommy smiled into the screen.

“Hey.” Thommy had been with them in Dietz and after the mess they went through during their last deployment, the three of them had become close friends.

“Chief telling you about the mess we got ourselves into?” Thommy continued.

Raven punched him in the arm, and after a mumbled conversation, Thommy disappeared.

“You got into trouble?” Raven’s unit was supposed to find trouble. That was their job. They were sent in to find the worst of the worst and eliminate them.

“How are you?” Raven’s expression cleared as he put on his game face and leaned forward, plainly ignoring her inquiry.

Sawyer sighed. He’d been her commanding officer, and she knew that until he was ready, there was no getting information out of him. She pulled the computer closer. “I miss you.”

Raven rubbed the short hair over his ears. He had only recently arrived at Dietz and was almost immediately sent out on a mission. Sawyer had been deployed two months before him. Three weeks after their wedding.

“You doing okay? Staying on base? Not heading out with any teams?” Raven had made her promise to do her best to stay on the base and out of combat, but she was a corpsman and changing her job title to nurse wasn’t going well. Sawyer had suffered a tough bit of PTSD after her last deployment. The guard assigned to her while on her last mission had become a close friend and when he stepped on an IED and blew up in front of her, things got rough. Raven had helped but more so the pastor they had been seeing had allowed her to move forward and ultimately redeploy. Something Raven was not happy about.

“I’ve stayed on base,” she started.

“You’re going out, aren’t you?” His voice was tight. Whereas he had mastered the ability to hide his emotions, Sawyer was an open book when it came to him.

“You do. You just got back.” It was a weak argument but a valid one. It was also the only argument she’d come up with when she’d prepared for this conversation in her head.

“That really isn’t the point. I didn’t pull a gun on my neighbor after I got stateside. You need to take it slow.”

“Raven,” was all she got out before he nailed her with one of his famous cold-as-ice stares.

Sawyer took a breath and tried to approach the conversation calmly. She knew he worried and although bringing up her past wasn’t exactly fair, she knew her actions after her last trip home were hard to forget. “I’m doing fine. But this is my job, and until I fulfill my time, I have to do it. I’ll be careful. I always am, just like I need you to be.”

“I know, baby. I know. But it makes me feel better if I at least ask you to try and be careful.”

Sawyer looked at the new lines appearing around Raven’s eyes. He was always so concerned for his men’s safety. Adding her to that worry was taking a toll on him.

“I’ve been able to stay close for the last couple of weeks.” She reached out and touched the screen again. Raven placed his fingers against hers.

“I know.”

The screen flickered, and Sawyer knew she was going to lose him soon. “I love you, Moses.”

“I love you, too, Emme.” Raven kissed his fingers and touched the screen again. Sawyer did the same.

Raven and Sawyer sat silently, staring at a grainy picture on a dusty computer screen. Their time together had been so short. Their marriage one of long distance conversations behind barracks and sweating in poorly air conditioned tech centers.

“Have you talked to your mom?” Raven’s voice was quiet.

Sawyer closed her eyes and shook her head. “No.”

“Why?”

Sawyer looked into the deep brown eyes that veiled so many emotions and knew Raven was hurt by her not telling her mom she had gotten married.

“Are you ashamed? Embarrassed?” he started.

“Why would I be either of those?”

“Regretful?” he added.

“Are you?” she snapped back.

“Me?” Raven snorted a laugh. “You’re my heart. You’re my life, Emme. I want to shout from the roof tops how much I love you. And I did. I told my family. The difference is they don’t care, yours will. Why won’t you tell your mom?”

“I.” She paused. “I have always had a strained relationship with her. I want to be able to tell her with you there. I don’t want to do it on my own.”

“You need back up.”

Sawyer smiled, and he winked. “Yeah. I guess I do. It’s harder to tell me I made a mistake if the infamous Sergeant Ravenscar is standing beside me.”

“I’m a mistake?”

“No. Never. She just thinks anything I do that wasn’t her idea is a mistake. I want you with me so she can see how you could never be a mistake.”

“Then I shall stand by you, Mrs. Sergeant Ravenscar.”

“It’s still Sawyer,” she corrected him.

“Not for long. The paperwork should be through soon. The Navy just likes to do things slow. Now if you were a Marine…”

“So now I’m not a Marine?” she teased back.

Raven’s jovial mood subsided, and he looked to the side, something or someone was talking to him just to the right of the screen.

When he looked back, the expression on his face made it clear he was getting a directive to get off the computer. “I got assigned to an EOD Convoy.” Sawyer couldn’t let him go without knowing as many details of her mission as she could give him. They had promised to tell as much as they could so they could pray for each other’s safety, and she needed as much help as she could get to keep her head out in the field.

The curtain of a non-emotional Marine dropped over Raven’s face as he kept his emotions in check. “An Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team? Why do they need a corpsman? Don’t they sit in the trucks and play with robots?”

Sawyer laughed. The men on the EOD teams spent a lot of time playing with little robotic machines whose job was to disarm IED’s. Improvised Explosive Devises were the number one killers in this war with over fifteen thousand people having been killed in the last year. The team’s job was to go out and clean routes so the Army or Marines could move forward without fear of blowing up. The problem was the insurgents could replace bombs faster than the team could find them, so often times they ended up running over bombs in areas they thought they had just cleaned.

“Sergeant Holloway, he’s the commanding officer, asked me to come.” She shrugged. “Told me I was coming.”

“Do you know where?” Raven wiped at something on his side of the screen.

Sawyer knew Raven was doing his best not to explode at the prospect of her being out with a bomb patrol. Which was another reason she was thankful she couldn’t tell him where exactly she was going.

“You can’t tell me where you’re going?” he asked.

“No.”

“I’ll tell you where I’m going if you tell me,” he teased, his commanding officer fa├žade slipping a little.

“All I was told is we are headed to Gor Tepa on a route referred to only as Route Z.”

“That sounds safe.”

“I’ll be fine,” was all she got out before the computer fizzled, and Raven disappeared into the blackness of the screen.

Sawyer needed to see Raven’s face and looked forward to the video chat sessions, but more often than not the internet connection failed, and they were cut off without closure, leaving her feeling uncomfortable walking away. Conversations always left hanging. Words left unspoken.

Sawyer snapped the laptop closed, collected her things and headed back to the bunk she shared with a nurse. They were on opposite shifts most of the time so they rarely slept in the room at the same time. Storing her laptop in a box sworn to keep the sand out but lacking the actual ability to do so, Sawyer sat on the edge of her bed and waited for the sense of unfinished words to subside.

A courtesy knock came just before the door swung open and Petty Officer 2nd Class Omar stuck his head in. “We’re meeting in the mess hall for a briefing in five.”

“Roger that.”

Sawyer barely saw the man’s face before Omar closed the door behind him. With a sigh, she got out the ammo box where she kept her personal possessions. Inside were the paper cranes Raven made her with messages of love as well as candy and the tiny heart given to her by Tahk, her guard who had been killed during her last tour. Sawyer tucked them into her pockets as reminders that they were always with her and headed to the mess hall.

The men from EOD Platoon 432 had settled in long green lines at the tables that set parallel to each other. Sawyer had avoided making any close friends on the teams. She hadn’t been assigned a guard this time around and was frustrated about the barrier it caused between the men and her. Tahk allowed an access point to the team that was difficult to find without a senior team member on her side. Sawyer tried to tell herself it was easier if she kept her feelings in check and developing relationships made the inevitability of war that much more difficult. But keeping to herself was hard, and life with this team was lonely. Sawyer hung in the back and leaned against a wall to listen to the plan—alone.

SSG Halloway stepped up to the front of the room, waving a hand until the men quieted. “Our orders came in. We will be taking three Buffalos out with full teams.”

The Buffalos were six wheeled, mine resistant, ambush protected, armored vehicles. All the wheels and the centerline were mine resistant. The bottom of the truck was fitted with a ‘V’ shaped chassis that was supposed to keep the force of a blast away from the occupants. Each truck was fitted with a large, articulated arm used for ordinance disposal. Plainly speaking, it got rid of bombs.

“The Afghanistan National Army is going to be riding in the sweeper truck.” He pointed to a few of the men. “You won’t be taking WALL-E with you. We’ll pack them in the lead and second truck.”

WALL-E was the name the men gave the Cobham tEODor, the Navy’s technical term for a robot they used for bomb clearing. Each truck carried at least one when they went out on sweeper missions.

There were some groans from the team having to ride with the ANA. None of the men really enjoyed being paired with a group that was supposed to be taking the lead on this war but most of the time were a bunch of clowns with guns.

Halloway waited for the group to quiet down before continuing. “The Army is going to attempt to take over a town known for heavy Taliban activity, and they need the route cleared. Route Z is the heaviest bombed road in Afghanistan. There is a good chance as soon as we get the bombs off the road and past them there will be guys going in and replacing them. It’s going to be a tight mission. All eyes need to be watching and ready. We don’t want to get blown up, and we don’t want the Army coming in on hot soil after we’ve cleared it.”

Sawyer fidgeted with the zipper on her digis. When she avoided telling Raven where they were going, she hadn’t been trying to be elusive. The people of this culture didn’t name things. The military had spent the majority of their time in the country making maps trying to give the teams some direction as to where they had been and where they were going. However, Route Z seemed as scary as the name implied.

“Doogie.” Halloway nodded toward where Sawyer stood. The men turned to look in her direction, and she lifted her hand in a half salute. Sawyer had been given the nickname Doogie during her last deployment. It was an honor to be given a nickname by the Marines, but the majority of the time the nickname wasn’t meant to be nice. Hers’ was in reference to the young age when she had joined up. “She’s our corpsman. She’ll be watching out for us and the Army if needed.”

The men nodded back at her then shifted around to listen to the rest of the briefing. Sawyer had been impressed with Raven’s unit. There were some incredibly brave individuals serving under him. But this new group of men took service to a new level. The EOD’s were the ultimate bomb squad. They were trained to disarm not only explosive devices but to neutralize chemical threats and even nuclear weapons. The Navy Explosive Techs were trained to perform some of the most harrowing, dangerous work in order to keep others safe. And Sawyer was going out with them. If injuries occurred, they would be severe and most likely deadly. The pressure of her task sat heavy on her shoulders.

“We’re pulling out at zero eight hundred. Dismissed.” They had approximately thirty minutes to pull themselves together and meet on the Buffalos.

Sawyer only needed fifteen. She had learned through her first deployment to always be ready. Taking long enough to gather her ruck, a gun, and email Raven to tell him she loved him, Sawyer was the first to arrive at the large armored truck that would be her ride down the deadliest road in Afghanistan.






Connie Michael began her writing career after her two boys grew up and didn’t want to hang out with their mom anymore.  A graduate of Washington State University Connie has been a teacher for twenty-five years. Specializing in Bilingual Education she recently left her home state of Washington to begin an adventure with her best friend and husband in Montana. Currently a fifth grade teacher on the Crow Reservation, Connie can be found biking, hiking, kayaking, or just hanging out with her two dogs



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