Teaser Tuesday: A SEAL’s Sacrifice

 

A SEAL’S SACRIFICE

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“Tawny has done such a fantastic job about bringing us a hot and sexy little read in such a short book. I loved how these characters learn a tough lesson of you can’t stop the heart when it wants to love. It doesn’t matter if you chose to not go through with it, or to ignore it. You heart will always seek who it wants. I also loved the fact that this was a second chance of love story as well.” ~ Sassy Mom Says: Read Romance Review

Here’s an excerpt from A SEAL’s Sacrifice:

Glitter, gloss and glam combined with champagne, music and revelry. Add in dancing and laughter and a rooftop venue lit bright against the San Francisco night sky and it was guaranteed to be a night to remember.

A ballroom filled with movers and shakers, booze flowing like water and unobtrusive waiters circling the room with trays of hors d’oeuvres.

This was the type of party that had become Gwen Kirkpatrick’s norm thanks to Russell Spencer, commodities broker extraordinaire. Three years ago she’d been a junior financial analyst for a bank when Russell had lured her to his investment firm with the promise of excitement, challenges and, yes, enough events like this one to guarantee she’d put her collection of evening shoes to good use.

Teetering on the edge of the ballroom entrance, Gwen took a deep breath.

She loved parties like this one.

If it were held on any night but New Year’s Eve.

The one night of the year she’d rather be curled up in her flannel jammies with a gallon of Chunky Monkey and a Friends marathon.

She couldn’t blame the newly engaged couple for wanting to celebrate on New Year’s Eve. After all, it was a great time to celebrate beginnings. But to Gwen it meant endings.

As if reading her mind, her date brushed his hand over the small of her back. Leaning into him for a moment, Gwen offered a smile as bright as the glittering lights overhead.

“Are you up for this?” Russell asked, his handsome face set in considerate lines. “I know you prefer to stay home on New Year’s Eve.”

Gwen’s smile softened. He was such a great friend. Understanding and supportive without being pushy or pressuring her to get over the past.

“Don’t be silly,” she said, rubbing her hand over his forearm. The move sent a shimmer of light sparkling off the sequins of her halter dress, the silver vivid against her long black hair. “I’m thrilled for Bryanna and Sam. Your sister is a sweetheart and New Year’s Eve is the perfect time to celebrate her engagement.”

Just because it’d marked the end of hers once upon a time didn’t mean she couldn’t be happy for someone else. Sure, Russell’s younger sister had just gotten engaged to a Navy SEAL, and Gwen had been dumped by the love of her life because he’d he swore that SEAL duty and relationships didn’t mix. Or as Eli—

Noah’s best friend and Russell’s brother—had put it, the two could only succeed if they were mutually exclusive.

The idiots.

And yes, Bryanna’s fiancé was the younger brother of Gwen’s ex and had always mouthed the same beliefs about relationships and Navy service as his big, bad heroes, Noah and Eli. But unlike some people, Sam had gotten over thinking like a narrow-minded, commitment-phobic weenie. So Bryanna would get her happy ever after.

It was great. Just great.

Gwen pressed her lips together to keep the tears at bay. Okay, so she might need to work on that genuine enthusiasm a little bit. But somewhere underneath her miserable envy and the reminder of her own loss, she really was happy for the couple.

“Russell, you’re here!”

Gwen’s stomach clenched as she watched the bubbly blonde in a glittering red dress head their way with a smile bright enough to light the city. Gwen figured she had about three seconds to kick that enthusiasm into gear.

It took Bryanna twice that to hug her brother. One arm wrapped tight around his waist, she turned to give Gwen a warm smile.

“Gwen,” the younger woman greeted, slightly out of breath from her little happy dance. “Thank you so much for coming.”

“Congratulations on your engagement,” Gwen said, not having to dig for sincerity when she saw the joy in the younger woman’s eyes. “I’m so happy for you and Sam.”

“Thank you,” Bryanna said softly, her smile taking on a worshipful glow as she looked past Russell’s shoulder.

Unable to help herself, Gwen followed her gaze.

Thanks to hours of practice her smile didn’t dim when she saw the groom-to-be across the room. But practice couldn’t stop the shaft of pain in her chest at the sight of him.

Because from his dark hair, slashing brow and hazel eyes to his crooked grin, Sam Morelli was a younger, huskier version of his brother Noah.

She knew most people—including her friends and family—didn’t remember that she and Noah had been a thing three years ago. She wasn’t even sure Russell realized the reason behind her annual trek into New Year’s Eve hell. After all, Gwen might have crushed on Noah all through high school, but they’d only dated for a few months her summer after college. They’d been the most overwhelmingly incredible, sexually intense, emotionally charged months of her life. But she and Noah had spent most of them in private, huddled together exploring every delicious realm of pleasure they could find in each other’s bodies. Then he’d dumped her to ship out to live his dream as a Navy SEAL.

Her head spinning from the overload of memories, Gwen tore her gaze off of Sam to look for the handiest exit. Before she could find one, Russell ran a friendly hand over the small of her back again.

“We’ll have to toast Briarwood Court,” he said. “Who’d have thought when we moved there fifteen years ago that I’d bring the girl next door with me to celebrate my sister marrying the guy across the street.”

Who, indeed.

“Well, I guess our mothers thought about it if their endless schemes to marry us all off is any indication,” he added with a hardy laugh. “And now they’re a third of the way there thanks to Bryanna and Sam. We’ll have to come up with something to keep your mom from feeling left out, right Gwen?”

Her only response was a pained smile.

“Why don’t I get you ladies a drink so we can have that toast?” Russell offered. “I’ll be right back.”

“Thanks,” Gwen said faintly, hoping he’d make it a double.

“We’ll meet you at the buffet,” Bryanna said. “I want to show Gwen the cake.”

“Yum, cake,” Gwen murmured as Bryanna started across the room.

“I just said that to get you alone,” Bryanna said with a laugh as she tucked her arm into Gwen’s to pull her across the room. “After all, I hear tonight could be extra special.”

“What could be more special than your engagement?” Gwen countered absently, nodding to acquaintances as they moved through the crowd, wishing someone would jump in demand her attention so she could escape the bridal joy emanating from the younger woman long enough to catch her breath.

“Oh, I’d say another engagement would make tonight perfect,” Bryanna told her, all but singing the words. She stopped at the dessert table to offer Gwen a chocolate covered strawberry before flashing a huge smile and rubbing her hands together with barely controlled glee. “Rumor has it that Russell’s thinking about popping the question.”

“Russell is getting engaged?” Gwen frowned. How had she missed that? “I didn’t even realize he was serious about anyone.”

“Um, helloo,” Bryanna drawled, gesturing to Gwen with her second strawberry before nibbling at the dark chocolate shell.

“Me?” Gwen laughed and shook her head. “We aren’t even dating. I mean, we go to a number of parties and social events together, but that’s business. You know what a workaholic your brother is.”

“Sure, but he’s a workaholic who goes to parties and social events now,” Bryanna said with an arch look. “He didn’t do that before you came on board.”

“I’ve been on board for almost three years,” she said, her smile sliding into a frown. She wanted to laugh off the comments as the sweet imaginings from a woman so wrapped up in her own love story that she saw sequels everywhere. But the laugh got caught on the knot in her throat.

“Big brother’s a little slow sometimes.” Bryanna shrugged. “You know how he is, always thinking and rethinking things. Heck, it took him a year to pick the carpet for his office.”

Gwen blinked. Had Bryanna just compared her to a Berber carpet? It didn’t matter. She was sure the younger woman was wrong. She cast a desperate look around the room, searching for Russell so he could set his sister straight.

“Sam thinks it’s cool, too.” Bryanna’s words snagged Gwen’s attention again. “He even promised to try to get leave for your wedding. You’ll let me know when it is soon, right?”

Gwen pressed her fingers over her temple, hoping she could rub away the confusion.

“You told Sam about this?” she repeated faintly.

“Well, yeah. I mean, helloo, we’re getting married. That means we tell each other everything.” When Gwen raised her brows, Bryanna shrugged and wrinkled her nose. “Okay, so I tell him everything. I know he’s got all that top secret SEAL stuff going on now. I’m just glad he didn’t listen to Eli and buy into the whole SEALs go it alone stuff they used to spout.”

With an easy roll of her eyes, Bryanna dismissed her older brother’s oft-spouted beliefs. Beliefs that Noah had bought into, lock stock and barrel.

“Are you okay?” the younger woman asked, gripping Gwen’s arm. “You’re kinda pale.”

Pale, sick to her stomach and filled with such a flurry of emotions that Gwen was surprised her hair wasn’t standing on end.

“I’m going to get a breath of air,” she excused, hoping she wasn’t wheezing. “Back in a flash.”

She considered it a credit to her control—and her four-inch-heels—that she didn’t run for the balcony doors. Instead she made her way across the room in a sedate saunter, which was the best her shaking knees could handle.

Shit, shit, shit.

She liked Russell.

She’d worked with him for two and a half years now, had known him even longer since they’d grown up in the same neighborhood. Russell, Bryanna and their older brother Eli had lived across the street from Gwen, and next door to Bryanna’s fiancé Sam and his brother.

Russell was a sweet guy, and a great friend.

And he’d been a great safety net the last few years, a nice buffer against her mom’s matchmaking and the idea of dating. But maybe she’d given him the wrong impression. She must have if he was thinking marriage.

Marriage that he was going to propose tonight of all nights.

Could this fiasco get any worse?

Gwen took a long, deep gulp of the foggy San Francisco air, hoping it’d clear her head.

Behind her, someone coughed a quiet bid for attention.

Steeling herself with her best social smile, Gwen turned to offer an excuse or a dismissal. Whichever would get rid of the other person until she’d got herself together.

As if the heavens had heard her question and mistaken it as a joke, there stood the man she’d never gotten over. One shoulder leaning against a pillar, his crooked smile was as familiar as her dreams.

“Hey, babe. Miss me?”

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