Title: TAKING CONTROL: RICK’S STORY
Author: Morgan Malone
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Summer on the Jersey Shore and all Rick Sheridan wants is some solitude at his beach house. Then he spots a lean, leggy blonde coming out of the surf and his plans are shot to hell. And the dangerous looking knife strapped to her arm tells him this is no damsel in distress. As a not-so retired Marine, at 51, Rick’s learned that nothing is for certain, plans can spin out of control and shit happens.
Wounded and weary from one too many wars, Britt Capshaw thought a summer at the Shore, hanging out in her family’s beach cottage, would help her heal. And figure out what to do with the rest of her life. Out of the military, disillusioned and distrustful of any two-legged male, Britt’s one love is Alex, the yellow Labrador retriever she rescued from Afghanistan.
Rick and Britt are immediately attracted to one another, but after years in combat, they are wary of letting down their guard, of giving up control. The summer heats up and fireworks are flying between them even after the Fourth of July. But, ghosts from their pasts haunt them and finally bring them face to face with some dark secrets that may destroy the fragile trust they’ve built.
Can Britt trust Rick with her dangerous past? Will Rick be able to let go of the rigid control he needs to keep Britt and himself safe from more heartbreak? These two brave souls fight against surrendering their hearts and finally finding love. Who will win?
ORDER YOUR COPY:
The tang of the salt air hit Rick before he saw or even heard the Atlantic Ocean. He rolled down the window of his battered green Jeep and took a deep, cleansing breath. A calm he hadn’t felt in months began to spread through him—almost, but not quite, reaching his troubled soul. Nine months since he had been down the Shore. Nine months of running away, nine months of searching.
Springsteen was singing about glory days on the radio. Rick sang along for a few bars then abruptly switched off the radio. His glory days were long behind him. Not that any of my days were glory days. Hard to glorify any of the campaigns, missions and damn stupid forays the government had sent him on over the last twenty-five years. Mud, dust, dirt and blood comprised most of his memories. The silence in the Jeep was filled by the crashing of waves and the ocean breeze. Cool air flowed through the window, blowing away the heat and humidity of the July evening, washing some of the bitter regret from Rick’s face. He glanced in the rearview mirror before he put on his turn signal to leave the highway and cut toward the shore. The man who stared back at him looked weary and old. The highlights in his strawberry blond hair appeared golden in the light but he guessed it was probably just more gray hair. His dark tan seemed to emphasize the wrinkles that creased his forehead and fanned out from the corners of his eyes. Years of facing bright sun and fierce winds were embedded in those lines.
Zipping down Long Beach Boulevard, Rick caught a few glimpses of the water between the houses. The moon hung low in the summer sky, casting a glittering path across the waves and brightening the road ahead of him. With a great sigh of relief, Rick turned down First Street, then pulled the dusty Jeep into the sand-covered drive of a three-story house facing the Atlantic. Built into the dune, the garage faced the street; access to the front of the house was up a flight of wooden stairs. Rick swung his long, jean-clad legs out of the Jeep. With dusty cowboy boots planted in the drifting beach sand, he paused for a moment. Home. Reaching into the back seat, he pulled a worn green canvas bag out and slung a leather computer case over his shoulder. Traveling light meant only one trip up the long flight of stairs to the ocean-facing deck. He paused by a loose brick to feel around under it for his spare key. Hmmm, not precisely where I left it the last time. What’s up?
Easing his gun from the small of his back, he climbed the deck stairs swiftly and silently. Rick left the duffel and briefcase on the edge of the deck, glanced briefly out at the beach before moving quickly to the French doors to his right. He tried the handle, but the door was locked. Shifting the gun to his left hand, he quietly unlocked the door. Nothing in the open-plan living and dining area, or in the kitchen appeared to be out of place. The space was neat and dust-free because he had called ahead so his cleaning service would prepare the cottage for him—including stocking the fridge and pantry. And wine rack, he noted, as he slipped silently through the room and up the stairs to the second floor. A quick search of the two bedrooms and bathrooms on the upper level revealed nothing and no one.
Still puzzled, with the pistol still in his hand, Rick went back down to the main floor. As he stepped into the living room, he saw a small mahogany box on the couch, weighing down a sheet of folded grey paper. He recognized the box. He had sent enough of them to grieving parents and spouses. Purple Heart. Kat.
A wave of regret swept through him, tugging at a heart he frequently maintained had lost any ability to feel. But, he had come close almost a year ago and his brush with the beautiful and brilliant redhead had sent him running away from the inevitable pain and disappointment he knew he would cause her.
I guess she took me up on my offer. His last gift to her had been flowers and a note telling her to use the cottage while he was away, advising he probably would not return until the Fourth of July. The Fourth was hours away, but for a moment he was transported back to the autumn when he had almost fallen in love with the gutsy widow of a JAG soldier who had died in Iraq ten years earlier. A lawyer who had been blown apart by an IED—like so many men Rick had known in the past decade. A fate Rick had narrowly escaped on too many occasions. I’ve dodged the bullet so many times. My luck must be damn close to running out. Or it should be.
He stared at the medal receptacle and message for several minutes. Then, sighing and squaring his shoulders, he sat down on the sofa and eased the short letter out from under the gift Kat had left him. His hands were shaking as he unfolded the heavy grey stationery. The unshed tears in his eyes blurred the bold handwriting.
To Rick. For gallant service above and beyond the call of duty, in honor of all your scars—seen and unseen—this medal is yours. You are an officer and a gentleman—and I will never forget you. Kat
Rick opened the box. Damn it, Kat. You still know how to get to me. Inside, resting on velvet, as he knew it would be, was a Purple Heart. Awarded to Kat’s late husband posthumously, delivered to Kat by some unremembered officer, accepted with tears and a tremulous smile. And a vacant, sad face that said without words, “What good is this? How will I live without him? I don’t want a medal, I want my husband back. But I will take this in his honor and I will hate it and the war that did this to us. And you for being the bearer of this final reminder of how much I have lost.” Rick knew. He had delivered such medals to grieving widows, sorrow-stricken mothers, and bereft fathers. Until the day, long ago, when he had gone silent, had disappeared into the secret society of warriors who went unmentioned, unnoticed and with nothing but a helmet sitting on a pile of stones to mark their passing.
For the first time in many years, Rick hung his head and wept.