Authors: Kristen James
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Holidays, #Romantic Suspense, #Two Hours or More (65-100 Pages), #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense
Special Ops Christmas
They were ready to call it quits, but Aiden realizes he can’t
let his marriage die this Christmas season. Can he make it home to Vivianne in
time to save their love?
Edited by Carol Teegarden
© 2012 Zulu 7 Productions, LLC and Kristen James
Cover Design by Ramona Lockwood
From the author of
Spy for Christmas
A Cowboy for Christmas
Also by Kristen
Embers of Hope
Book 1, Second Gift Series
More Than a
, Book 2, Second Gift Series
More Than Memories
The Enemy’s Son
Profile and Full Book List:
You’re right. We’ve haven’t gotten along or felt that
special spark for several years. I understand why you want to give up. I guess
we should get a divorce.
Aiden’s heart stopped. Not like the normal kind of stopping.
This was the way his heart stopped beating when an IED—an Improvised Explosive
Device—had detonated near Kabul and killed three of his team members.
But this wasn’t a mission where he expected danger. This was
his marriage. His eyes stung and watered as he read her email again. First came
shock. Then anger. And beneath those emotions there was something strange he’d
never felt before.
This was the first time she’d ever ended a note with
anything other than
Is that what he’d meant when he’d sent
that email last night at two a.m.—give up on them? What exactly
said? Aiden went back to his Sent Box and opened the email to his wife.
Vivianne, baby, all we do is fight. Argue. It’s not worth
it. I’m sick of it. Because we want a baby? Because you want me out of danger—when
this is my job? This is my profession. It’s what pays the bills. You knew that
when we got married…
Wow. That was harsh. Cold. Mean. He hadn’t signed his email
at all. Seven years together, three years married, and she wanted a divorce?
They’d just celebrated their third anniversary, in fact. How could he lose his
marriage over his profession?
Aiden was immensely proud of his military career; he had
worked hard to succeed and took his rank as Chief Petty Officer very seriously.
He was totally devoted to his closely knit four-man team. The unit had just
successfully completed another mission, and he was grateful.
Despite his pride in his job and his team, Aiden regretted
the timing of this particular mission, when he needed to work on his marriage.
And right during the holidays.
Why were they talking about a divorce now? At Christmastime?
team would be flying out for the States in two weeks,
unless different orders came down. Plans were always changing; that was a way
of life in this business. Still, they were counting weeks instead of months,
and soon would be counting days instead of weeks. The team, as always, would
spend three days decompressing at a mandatory TLD—Third Location Decompression
area—once they arrived back in the U.S. This initial process allowed military
personnel to begin to adjust after an operational deployment. It was especially
useful to the personnel in formed units, such as Aiden’s, who often had stress
issues or other concerns after a dangerous deployment. Following decompression,
the unit would be allowed to go home. Home. It hurt to even think that word.
Their commanding officer had tried to get them home in time
for Christmas, but it just wasn’t possible. Aiden had even put in for an early
flight home so he could see Vivianne for Christmas, but it was a no go. She was
in San Diego, but that felt like Mars, measured in emotional distance. Here he
sat email-arguing with his wife from half a world away, while at the same time
wishing he could just hold her tight.
Aiden had met Vivianne seven years ago at a bar on Coronado
Island called Mc P’s.
He was out with a group of
friends. In the crowded room, he’d heard her laughing—musical and happy, and
the clear, magical sound stood out among all the other laughing and talking.
He’d searched the faces, looking for whoever could make that sound and found
himself staring at the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Her long, dark
auburn hair framed a sweet, inviting face that was next-door-neighbor pretty
and overtly sexual at the same time. Like a naughty librarian. Her hazel eyes
were arresting, confident and sparkly, pulling him in. She pulled in everyone,
actually. The people around her were all turned toward her and clinging to
every word, waiting for that infectious smile and laugh.
She stood among her group of admirers and gazed back at him
like no one else existed. Very slowly, she tilted her head, her smile turning
flirtatious and curious. Her lips were glossy red, decorated for the holiday.
At the time, Aiden had just completed BUD/S training on The
Strand in San Diego in the Navy SEAL program. He was stacked, his muscles
fine-tuned and sculpted. That evening at Mc P’s, people parted for him as he
walked her way, never taking his eyes off her face. Once there, he offered his
hand. “I’m Aiden O’Riley.”
“Vivianne Basile,” she said. Her last name sounded French,
and he guessed her features might hint that way as well. It was love at first
sight. Aiden wasn’t looking for “the one” or even thinking about settling down,
but in that moment his life changed course. Soon he was taking her out almost
every night and calling her during the day. After a month, they went to Bear
Mountain for a weekend ski adventure. Vivianne had told him how much she loved
the snow; he surprised her with the trip.
They arrived at the resort and hit the slopes within an
hour, discovering they both loved to push themselves to the limit. He already
knew she was ambitious—she was working and putting herself through nursing
school—and she played even harder. She’d get a wicked grin when she tried to
outdo him. Aiden loved that about her.
That evening, they were walking outside, holding hands, when
it started to snow. Vivianne laughed and spun with her arms out.
The flakes grew fatter and fell quicker. She grabbed his arm
and spun him against her to dance. When she looked up at him with snowflakes on
her eyelashes, he hoarsely whispered, “I love you, Vivianne.”
She smiled even wider.
His love for her was so compelling, so authentic, that when
he told his friends, no one even mentioned that he’d only known her a month. He
asked her out to dinner and a movie, another ski trip, and then a whirlwind mix
of serious and crazy outings, anything just to spend time together. Aiden
couldn’t get enough of her, and she was head over heels in love with him.
How had they gone from that—complete, happy, wildly in
love—to looking at a divorce?
“What’s up, bro? Why the face?” Daniels slapped a hand on
his shoulder. Although this snapped his mind out of his memories, Aiden didn’t
move. He didn’t look up from his iPhone where the email still stared back.
He finally shook his head. “Nothing.”
His best friend didn’t buy it.
had known each other far too long and could read each other with just a glance.
They had met in San Diego during BUD/S orientation and had endured the rigorous
training together. Their friendship had strengthened over the years as they
faced danger after danger during missions and shared their personal ups and
downs. Aiden respected Daniels’ skills as well as his in-your-face, no bullshit
Daniels sat down on the edge of his bed and leaned over,
elbows resting on his knees. Aiden pulled in a breath and started to explain,
but he couldn’t talk. His chest and throat constricted. Running his hand down
his face, as if that’d wipe away this pain, he handed his phone over.
A few seconds of silence followed. Then, “Damn.”
Suddenly his phone whacked him in the chest.
“What the hell?” They both spoke the exact same words at the
Daniels leaned across the space and shoved Aiden’s
shoulder. “I told
when my mom died and when Ricky cheated on me. Why
didn’t you say something?”
“I know, I know.” Aiden was defenseless. Daniels’ dark eyes
were full of hurt and worry. Aiden felt like he was crouched in a deep hole,
shovelfuls of dirt clobbering him, burying him. Even though he had a tough
exterior, he possessed true compassion for people he cared about.
“You said it helped when you went home in September. Things
have been falling apart since then, and you’ve said nothing?”
War and tours of duty had put a strain on the marriage.
Aiden had known that, but he had believed, one hundred percent, they would work
We had a job to do.
They weren’t out for Sunday lunch
here; they were Navy SEALS. Vivianne should realize the physical and mental
intensity he dealt with daily. As far as Daniels, well, he didn’t feel he
should share his personal crisis with his friend while on a mission because any
distraction could endanger the team. But what might his silence cost?
“I thought I could fix it!” Suddenly, Aiden’s mind filled
with her eyes, how they looked as she watched him leave at the airport on his
last trip home. Before, Vivianne had always put on her brave face for the last
few minutes. She would stand strong and nod, clearly trying not to send her
worries with him. But the last time home, she’d folded her arms across herself,
and her big hazel eyes were teeming with tears. She was literally holding
herself together. He looked back twice, and the second time he mouthed, “I love
you.” It was all he could give her right then.
Things had been tough, even desperate, that last trip home.
She’d begged him not to go on his next mission. She wanted a husband who was
around all the time, or at least more often. She wanted to start a family. He
wanted those things too, but he had made a commitment to his country and his
“I need some air.” He abruptly pushed up off the bed and
rushed past Daniels.
“O’Riley!” Daniels yelled after him. Aiden kept going, right
out the door, as Daniels’ words followed him. “We’re
giving up on
He didn’t want to give up. But he’d messed up. Big time. Now
he was losing his marriage. Vivianne. The best thing that had ever happened to
Vivianne had hardly slept but didn’t allow herself to get up
and check her email. She had written to Aiden last night so that he would get
the message when it was morning in Afghanistan. They were on opposite sides of
the planet, living opposite lives, and going in opposite directions like two
bats out of hell.
Here it was almost Christmas, and she was alone again. Aiden
and the rest of SEAL Team Seven were supposed to be flying back home early next
year, and then they would be stuck in decompression.
How was that helpful, especially compared to being home with
family? Okay, she knew decompression was beneficial, but it was hard for her to
understand. Even though she was aware she was being selfish and irrational, she
couldn’t seem to help it. Her hormones were off the chart, and she knew she’d
been fighting mild depression for a while. The holidays were hitting her hard.
She finally rose and made her way to the living room. A
modest tree sat in the dark corner, just a soft shadow with its lights
twinkling. In years past, she’d always turned on the Christmas lights in the
early morning. They had a different kind of magic at that time, brightening the
dawn as the world was gradually awakening.
She’d woken up this morning and reached for him. Even
through their arguing and the two-way hurt, she needed Aiden and missed his
physical presence. She had actually rolled to his side of the bed before
remembering that he was on a mission. Normally, she wasn’t like that, but she
missed him worse this time— probably due to her condition. There was also her
vivid dream… He was there, gently waking her up by trailing his fingers up her
back and kissing her curve of her shoulder and neck. The sensations were so
real she thought she smelled him. For a few glorious seconds she let herself
think he’d somehow come home early and was actually in her bed with her.