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Friday, February 22, 2013

Secret Maneuvers by Jessie Lane (Spotlight/Excerpt)

Today we would like to share with you an excerpt from Jessie Lane's work in progress, Secret Maneuvers...



Title: Secret Maneuvers

Author: Jessie Lane
Series: Ex Ops 
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Some mistakes from the past haunt us forever... unless fate steps in with a second chance. 
One 'dear John' letter haunts Bobby Baker's every living moment. It’s the letter he stupidly wrote to his high school sweetheart, Belle, right after he left to join the Army. The letter that he told her that he wasn't so sure if they were ready for forever yet. But before he can let her know that the letter, and his second thoughts, are nothing but a mistake, she up and disappears from the small Georgia town they were both raised in.
Fifteen years later, Belle unknowingly walks back into Bobby's life when her job as an ATF Agent forces her to work with a group of men secretly headed by the CIA to help her track down whoever is involved in funneling black market weapons to a drug cartel in Mexico. 
Bobby will use this mission to try and soothe Belle's hurt feelings while proving to her that their love is still meant for forever. He'll use every dirty trick he's learned since he joined the Army to maneuver her back into his life for the long haul. But Belle's not making it easy as she keeps him at arm's length in the hopes that mistakes of her own never come to light.

Excerpt:






Prologue
Annabelle

             The Georgia summer night air was hot and humid. That didn’t stop me from cuddling as close as I could get to the boy I loved most in this world. The sweet smell from the azalea blossom that Bobby Baker had tucked behind my ear drifted around me, creating a false sense of security. My chin was settled on the back of my left hand as I lay propped up on his chest. With so much weighing on my mind, I was staring over his body distractedly into oblivion in the general direction of Bobby’s beloved 1967 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. The car’s black paint blended with the night, but its white racing stripes glowed brightly down the center in the soft moonlight. Bobby said the only thing that he loved more than that car was me. However, that love wasn’t strong enough to stop him from leaving us behind tomorrow.
He kept telling me that I was worrying too much. That everything was going to be alright. No matter his reassurances, the massive lump of dread in the pit of my stomach wasn’t going away. That uneasy feeling you got when something terrible was about to happen was haunting my every moment, and it was only a matter of time before whatever it was would come to pass. The question was, would I come out alright on the other end of the impending catastrophe?
Sprawled on top of a blanket on the bank of the creek, my mind was moving faster than the speed of light at what lay ahead of us tomorrow. Bobby was holding me tightly while he stared at the bright stars above us. The familiar sounds of the critters in the forest, accompanied with the crickets around us, did nothing to ease the heavy silence that Bobby and I were trying so carefully to tip toe around.
            What felt like a thousand pounds on my chest in pressure eventually became too much. I resigned myself to broach the subject he was trying so desperately to avoid. “What time do you leave tomorrow Ace?”
            Bobby’s hand had tightened on my shoulder for a second before he started stroking the bare skin above my tank top. “I’ve got to be at the bus stop at seven.”
            My chest seized up, and the ability to breathe suddenly felt impossible. Fighting my instincts to sob uncontrollably was almost painful, but necessary, as I reminded myself that tonight would be the last night we would have to spend together for months. Tomorrow he was headed to Fort Leonard Wood in Waynesville, MO for Army Basic Training for ten weeks. After that, it would be at least fourteen weeks that he would be gone during the next phase of training for an Infantryman position. Even longer if he was selected to attend Ranger school. Months and months before I could see, taste or touch him again. To reassure myself in the most basic ways that Bobby Baker, one of the town’s golden boys was really and truly all mine. That someone like him could, in fact, love a girl like me. To have the physical proof from his hands and mouth as they touched me that I was not alone in this world. Those were hard facts for me to accept when Bobby was all I genuinely had here.

            Sensing the direction of my thoughts he grabbed my chin gently and turned it so that I was looking at him. “Don’t think about it tonight Belle. Tonight is just for us, remember? Come here.” Rolling to his side, Bobby pulled me up the last few inches so that we lay facing each other while he stroked his fingertips down the side of my face. “Don’t feel sad baby. What’s our plan?”

            Holding the tears back that threatened to escape from my eyes, I placed one of my trembling hands over his heart. “You’re going to basic. While you’re gone, I’m suppose to stop by your Momma’s as often as possible, so everyone knows I’m okay. If Daddy gets drunk or becomes trouble again, I call your Dad right away to come and get me. Then when you’re done with all of your school you’re going to come back and get me because I’ll finally be eighteen. You’ll take me far, far away from this small town, and we’ll live happily ever after.”
            Cocking his devastating good ol’ boy grin, Bobby nodded his head. “That’s right baby. Don’t forget the plan. You’ve just got to make it a little while without me. Then first chance I get, I’ll be back for you. You’re the town tough girl. You’ll be just fine. Promise me though that if you run out of food again that you’ll go see Mom.”
            My cheeks burned with embarrassment. I knew he was just looking out for me, but who wanted to admit that they often went hungry because their father would rather buy his booze and cigarettes than provide a warm meal for his child. Tucking my chin to my chest I murmured, “Promise.”
“When I get back on leave, we’ll have our happily ever after Belle. You and me forever, with no one standing in our way. I’ll get to wake you up in the morning with those slow kisses you love so much. Put you to bed at night after I’ve touched every inch of your sweet little body with my hands.” My body gave an involuntary shiver at his words. “Come here and give me some hot memories to keep me warm on the lonely nights to come baby.” Bobby’s mouth covered mine. His tongue caressed my own in sweet, smooth strokes that warmed me from the inside out. He kissed me senseless until I had to gasp for air. “Do you feel better now?”
            He wasn’t talking about my emotional state of mind. I’d had a horrible case of strep throat that my dad had refused to take me to a doctor for. After missing a few days of school because my fever was over 102 degrees, Bobby finally talked me into going to his house so his parents could try and help me. His father might be a farmer, but his Uncle was the small town’s physician. After one phone call, a home visit from Dr. Baker, and strict instructions for drinking as many fluids as possible while taking the medication, my fever had finally broken. Now a week and a half later I felt like my old self again. Or at least I would if my heart wasn’t breaking into a million pieces inside my chest.
“Yeah Ace. All better. The antibiotics cleared me right up.”
“Good.” He said softly before gently brushing his lips against my own. I brought my hand up to cradle the side of his face, sweeping my thumb over his cheekbone. My eyes traveled slowly over Bobby’s face, memorizing for the millionth time every feature he had. Starting with his thick, lush chestnut hair with subtle blond highlights, due to his long days spent in the sun. That hair curled around his ears and dropped down into his eyes since he’d forgone his usual monthly haircuts. His extraordinary baby blue eyes with flecks of white and gray reminded me of sunny days spent lazing about in a hammock cuddled next to him in the Bakers’ backyard. They were the most beautiful eyes I’d ever seen. His prominent cheekbones, straight nose, and strong jaw completed a handsome face of a boy that was on the verge of becoming a man. The kind of good looks that you knew would only get better with age. He was attractive now, but when he was older I just knew he was going to be the kind of stunning that women became mesmerized with.
I felt that familiar overwhelming awe fill me for what had to be the millionth time in the past two years. I didn’t know if I would ever be able to accept that the popular hometown boy had taken a chance on the bad girl from the wrong side of the trailer park. He was the football star. I was the angry girl with a massive chip on her shoulder and my middle finger stuck up in the air at the world. Bobby made excellent grades, so all the teachers loved him. For the most part, my teachers ignored me as long as I had a passing grade in their class. Heaven forbid any of them actually take a chance to get to know me. To see that there was a core of goodness tucked away underneath the rebel attitude. Bobby was a good ol’ boy who went hunting and fishing with his Daddy and their friends. Never got in a lick of trouble and seemed to excel at everything. That’s why I’d nicknamed him Ace. He was always ‘acing’ anything he tried, to the point it just about made you sick that he was always so talented. No matter the difficulty level of the task you put before him, he would complete it with quiet efficiency as if he was born to do it. He was perfect. I, however, was as far from perfect as you could get. Bobby somehow managed to see the best in me. He loved me in spite of my flaws.
We were from two different worlds. The town may not think much of me, but none of that mattered. Because Bobby Baker had decided to chase me down, drag me home to his parents, then do his best to show me that I could have a family that loved me. That I didn’t have to resign my life to just a drunk abusive father, who beat my mother into the ground until it killed her. To open paths of possibilities for me, instead of the run down life I thought I was doomed to.
Bobby Baker was my world. My heart. My soul. The reason I woke up every day with the desire to get out of bed and face a world that seemed like its favorite hobby was to find ways to kick me when I was already down. Bobby made putting up with all of that heartache possible.
Hell, he was my hero.
Without him, I doubted I could survive in this crazy world we lived in. Luckily he was always promising that I would never have to worry about a world where there wasn’t some part of him that wouldn’t always be with me. I prayed every night that he was right about that.
Oblivious to my inner turmoil, I watched as he used his free hand to smooth the hair back from my face. Running his callused fingers through the strands as he leaned down over me until our faces were only an inch apart.
“Love you Belle.”
Bobby crushed his lips over mine again, stealing the breath from me as he moved his body over mine. Propping himself up on one elbow, he used his other hand to pull my tank top over my head, lying it on the grass somewhere next to the blanket. His hands roamed my body until I was burning for this boy who meant everything to me.
            When it felt as if I might explode from his torturous play, he sat up to strip off his shirt. Then he shucked off his shorts and boxers so that he stood proudly naked above me wearing nothing except that easy cocky grin of his and what God graciously gave him. Trim body that was lightly muscled from days playing football and hard work on his parents’ farm. Chest, arms and legs deeply tanned in stark contrast to his rich chestnut brown hair and remarkable eyes.
            Kneeling next to me, he quickly pulled my cut off denim shorts and panties down my legs. Covering my body with his, he resumed to make me breathless with scorching kisses while his fingers trailed a slow trail down my body.
“You ready for me baby?”
            My back arched to the building sensation below. “Make love to me Ace. I’m about to come, and I wanna feel you inside me when I do.”
            “First, tell me who loves you.”
“You do Bobby.”
“That’s right sweet baby. Remember that.”
For the next hour, two sweat slicked teenage bodies tangled together in passion. Every thrust became a little more desperate than the last. Every moan a little louder. Each of us determined to show the other without words how much they felt with their hands, mouths, and other parts. How deeply we cared. How consuming our commitment was. Cementing the unbreakable bond that had been in place for so long now, it felt as though we were a part of each other, even when we were in separate houses.
In moments such as this, I felt as if I couldn’t tell where I began, and Bobby ended. He had promised me that this was what it would feel like till they were old and gray. When it was over, we laid on the blanket grasping each other tightly.
            Dragging ragged breaths in, I whispered. “I love you Ace. Forever.”
            Dropping his forehead to mine, “I love you to Belle. Forever baby.”

Thirteen weeks later…
             Pulling my Dad’s rust bucket of a pickup truck into the Bakers’ front yard, I was a step away from hyper ventilating. This was it. I had to beg the Bakers’ to let me move in with them because things had gone from sugar to shit at my house. I didn’t have much time to convince them. If the drunken old coot came to from the nice little nap I’d caused by knocking him over the head with his own whiskey bottle to see that I’d taken his truck, he’d probably beat me worse than he’d already tried to this afternoon.
After today, I obviously could not stay with the inebriated ass that called himself my father anymore. Lord I was up shit’s creek without a paddle. I’d knocked that mean ol’ shit the hell out, and the only reason I wasn’t having a nervous breakdown was because I’d checked his pulse before leaving the trailer. It was a sad, sad thought that as relieved as I was to feel his heartbeat still beating and know that I wouldn’t be going to jail for killing my old man, I was equally disappointed that he was still alive. He’d made my life nothing but a living hell, and I couldn’t care less whether he lived or died. I just didn’t want to end up behind steel bars for being the one that caused his evil ass to stop breathing. Since Bobby had left for the Army, I’d been so stressed out that it had caused me to be physically sick. I’d lost a good fifteen pounds that I didn’t have to lose in the first place. My clothes had gone from loose to falling off.
The fact that I hadn’t heard from Bobby in almost two months didn’t help my nerves either. I might not have felt so lost if my best friend Teagan hadn’t left for the Marine Corps just weeks before Bobby had left for the Army. With her and Bobby both gone though, my life felt like a ship tossing at sea with no land in sight.
The worst had to have been spending my eighteenth birthday alone. My father had tied one on the night before, no surprise there, and then passed out at one of his women’s houses, forgetting all about it. Not that I expected him to care anyways. So I should probably consider his absence a blessing. It didn’t stop the little girl in me from feeling dejected. I’d received a five minute phone call from Teagan, which brightened my day, but not a word from Bobby. That had hurt the most. The rest of the evening after Teagan’s phone call was spent bent over the toilet. It was far from the birthday of my dreams.
Looking in the rear view mirror, I tried my best to fluff my blond hair around my face. As long as the wind didn’t blow it around too much, then the unruly waves should cover most of the purpled bruise that was left behind on the back of my jaw. I couldn’t take his crap anymore. If he so much as tried to lay a hand on me again, I was going to end up being arrested for homicide. Or at least attempted homicide. It was time to get out while I still could before I ended up like my mother. Beaten to death.  Technically Momma had died from a heart attack, but that heart attack had been caused by too much stress from her husband pummeling her bloody, on top of an already weak heart. I didn’t think I had my mother’s weak heart, and I will be damned if I let that bastard beat me to death anyways.
            Mrs. Baker walked out on the porch holding something in her hand. A somber expression on her face. Scrubbing my hands over my face, I forced myself out of the car until I stood at the bottom of the porch steps in front of her.
            “Hi Mrs. Baker, how are you?”

            “Fine Belle. I’m glad you stopped by; you’ve got a letter from Bobby here. Why don’t you sit down on the swing to read it honey.” Holding out her hand to me, I saw the envelope extended in my direction. Walking up the steps, I took the small envelope from her and stared at it. A sense of dread eased up my spine from a combination of her careful tone and what felt like an envelope that was way too thin. Something didn’t feel right. Wouldn’t Bobby have written me a nice long letter to let me know how much he loved and missed me? I expected lots of pages from him so that he could tell me about everything he had done and seen so far. Not this little envelope that only looked big enough for a few sentences. I could write a book about how much I loved and missed him, surely he wrote me more than one page? Sitting down on the swing, my hands started to shake a little as I opened the envelope, and pulled the short one page letter out.

           
“Dear Belle,
Sorry it has taken me so long to write you back. Life has been kind of hectic since I reached my new base for my Advanced Individual Training. Some days it feels like my world has been flipped upside down and it’s caused me to do a lot of thinking. I’ve seen some cool things that would blow your mind. Met some interesting people too. Guys my age, and older guys who have left their families behind so that they can start a military career. All these new experiences and people have given me a lot to think about. Listening to their backgrounds and stories make me realize how sheltered our life has been up until now. I’ll be honest Belle, I’m not sure I’m ready for forever for us. I’m not sure that we should run off and get married right now. We’re so young. There are so many things we’ve yet to see and do yet in life. You’ve never set foot outside of Sylvania, and I don’t want us to do anything now that we may regret down the road. Maybe we should take things slower. Take some time apart to make sure that this is what we actually want in life before we make such a big jump. I love you Belle. I’ll always love you. You were the first girl who touched my heart. Who made me feel emotions outside of the ones you feel for your family. I’m sorry if this is coming out of left field for you, and I’ll hope you understand.
Love Always,
Bobby”

The words blurred together as small wet spots started to appear on the page. In a matter of just five minutes, my world had officially fallen apart. The paper trembled in my hands as my mind worked overtime and I began the process of turning my heart to solid steel in my chest. Cutting off my emotions. A trick that had been in daily use every day of my life before Bobby Baker had ever stepped foot in it. I couldn’t break down here in front of Mrs. Baker. No one got to see Annabelle Smith cry. Nobody. No matter how much it hurt. It wouldn’t be the first time someone had tried to break me, but it would damn well be the last.
I should have listened to my instincts that had blared big honkin’ alarms the moment Bobby Baker had sat at my table in the high school cafeteria and said hello. Nobody as good and pure as Ace would ever want to settle for a girl who lived off of clearance cans of tuna fish and dressed in thrift store clothes. It was stupid to think anyone other than Teagan, who had placed herself in front of my father’s fists to protect me, was okay to let close to my heart. She’d bought that loyalty from me with bruises and blood. Looking back now I realized Bobby hadn’t bought my loyalty with his love. He’d bought my body with false promises and kisses. Hadn’t I lived a valuable lesson watching my mother take beatings from the man she loved?
Love was a joke.
A fairytale that mother’s told their daughters while tucking them into bed at night just before the man they swore was their Prince Charming knocked the living shit out of them because supper was cold. It was a scam that conned stupid people into letting their guards down so that some jerk could dig their way inside the deepest part of you, place a ticking bomb next to your soul, and then blow it to smithereens. I would never be stupid enough to let my emotional walls down again. Quickly wiping the lone tear from my face, that had escaped despite my efforts, I stood and faced Mrs. Baker. A slight movement in the corner of my eye caught my attention. Looking over I saw Mr. Baker was standing behind the screen door with his head hung almost to his chest, studying his boots in the uncomfortable silence.
“Thank you for giving me the letter Mrs. Baker. I’ll just be on my way home now.”
Side stepping her outreached hand I rushed to the truck and sped from the Bakers’ home, kicking up dirt in my screeching tires wake. Willing myself to keep it together long enough until I could go somewhere by myself to be alone. Somewhere where I could fall apart without anyone else seeing me do it. Somewhere where I could figure out what the hell I was going to do next. It felt like the world had finally turned its back on me. With my shitty luck in life, I should have expected this sooner or later. Who would want to settle down with the town’s trailer trash? Certainly not a respectable boy like Bobby Baker.
I was well and truly on my own. Nowhere to go, no one to care, and more questions than answers about what was going to happen next. As the view in front of me became one blurry piece of landscape that no longer seemed to make any sense, I pulled the truck over on the side of the country road and parked. Dropping my head to the steering wheel, my body imploded with pain as I felt my heart shatter in my chest.    What in the hell was I going to do now?




Like what you read? Want to read more? Click HERE to head on over to the Jessie Lane website where you can read Chapter One!

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3 comments:

Sasha said...

Will you be featuring other excerpts? :)

Sophia Rose said...

This sounds really good. Thanks for sharing the excerpt.

Crystal Leo said...

Thank you Sophia Rose! As for your question Sasha, there is the possibility of more excerpts closer to the books release date. ;)