Authors: Heather Long
Tags: #Always a Marine Book 21
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Lest Old Marines be Forgot
Copyright © 2013 by Heather Long
Cover art by Mina Carter
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work, in whole or in part, in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
Published by Decadent Publishing Company, LLC
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Also by Heather Long
Always a Marine Books
Once Her Man, Always her Man
Retreat Hell! She Just Got Here
Tell it to the Marine
Proud to Serve Her
No Regrets, No Surrender
The Marine Cowboy
The Two and the Proud
A Marine and A Gentleman
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
What Part of Marine Don’t You Understand
A Marine Affair
Marine Ever After
Marine in the Wind
Marine with Benefits
A Marine of Plenty
A Candle for a Marine
Marine Under the Mistletoe
Have Yourself a Marine Christmas
I never planned to write “military romance.” I didn’t wake up one morning and think, huh, I should write military heroes and the men and women who love them. In fact, it was the last thing on my mind until I wrote about Luke Dexter, a retired Marine, in
Once Her Man, Always Her Man
. He left the woman he loved when he enlisted because at eighteen he didn’t figure on surviving. He was a young man going to war to defend his country—and he grew up to become a man, a Marine, and an officer.
The level of honor I discovered in this one hero, drove me to explore others. We’re a country that has been at war for over a decade. We’ve an entire generation who has known nothing but this activity and who have seen their fathers, brothers, sons, sisters, daughters, and wives serve overseas in hot zones.
Keeping It Real
As romantic as military heroes are, I like to keep it real. Most of the heroes I wrote at first were retired or no longer on active duty. But for those still on active duty—they don’t have control over everything they do because they have to be on call 24/7 even when they’re on leave.
They can’t always commit to a lifetime because their lives aren’t their own. At the end of
, Brody had to go because his leave was only for a couple of weeks. He enjoyed his time with Shannon and you know that he and Shannon are in touch, but he can’t just “quit” and stay with her for a happily ever after.
They Don’t Get To Pick
Applying for jobs or assignments in the military can take time and dedication and clearance. So when you get an assignment you’ve wanted, you can’t just change things overnight because you met someone. The same is true for the potential military spouse—they have to be ready to pick up and move when their spouse gets orders.
The best part of this series is putting a human face on these people who are dedicated to our country and give up what so many of us expect as essential freedoms. I respect and admire those who love them for the sacrifices they have to make as well. At the end of the day, our military and their families are heroes because they go to the places no one wants to be and they do it, knowing they might not return.
The friendships forged, the class walls that collapse, the fact that in the military you aren’t a race, or an economic status or a region—you’re Marines—battle buddies, comrades, companions, and their relationships are forged through your shared experiences.
They are the few and the proud
Every hero or heroine I write inspires me. The
Always a Marine
series fills me with an inexplicable hope—because it’s these men and women who protect my way of life.
A Note from the Author
The mission of the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November, and December each year and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community in which the campaign is conducted. The primary goal of Toys for Tots is to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to these youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.
This holiday collection of the
Always a Marine
series is dedicated to Toys for Tots and the men and women of the United States Marine Corps Reserve who dedicate their time, their efforts, and their funds to delivering this message of hope. A portion of the proceeds from each of these books will be donated to Toys for Tots to continue that mission. Semper Fi.
Lest Old Marines be Forgot
Always a Marine Book 21
Love never dies….
Tossing three bills onto the growing stack in the center of the table, soon-to-be-retired Lieutenant Colonel Tom Baxter leaned back in his chair and stared patiently at the younger man across the table. Luke Dexter, a former captain, studied Tom, not his playing cards.
Just like his father
. Nostalgia stabbed him. Tom had known the Dexters for years, stood up with Luke’s father when he married his mother—and stood again when they’d buried her and Luke’s sister. And, one final time, when he’d been a pallbearer at the Colonel Dexter’s funeral—standing in for Luke when the captain hadn’t been able to attend.
Years of practice kept his expression neutral. Whatever tell Luke searched for in his face—he wouldn’t find it. More experienced men than he had failed in the attempt.
Tapping his cards once, Luke added another set of bills to the pot. “I’ll see your thirty, and raise you another twenty.”
“You should hold onto your money, Marine. You have a pretty new wife to feed.” Tom didn’t hesitate to add another crisp twenty to the stack. The pot currently sat at around six hundred dollars. Three other men occupied the table with them, though they’d folded one by one—it was only a matter of time before Luke did as well.
Their dealer flipped the last card for the game of Texas Hold’em; a queen of diamonds. Logan Cavanaugh let out a long, low whistle. Two queens showing meant a possible three of a kind or four of a kind for that matter, depending on who held the lucky ladies.
Barely sparing a glance at the card, Tom kept his attention on Luke. The captain maintained his cool. He had a lot of his old man in him—a lot. But Luke didn’t have his patience. “Your bid,” Tom reminded him.
“It’s kind of like watching an old West showdown,” Damon Sinclair, the resident chef and restaurant entrepreneur murmured to Cavanaugh. The two men had folded halfway through the hand.
Westwood, their headshrinker, chuckled and tapped the table. “Ante up or fold, Luke.”
Shifting, Luke pulled out his wallet and counted out four crisp fifty-dollar bills. He tossed them with an almost nonchalant air onto the stack. The men’s chatter cut off and every gaze in the room swung to him. Tom put his hand on the stack of bills next to him and shoved them all to the center.
Luke studied him.
The younger man blinked. “Fuck it.” He shoved the rest of his cash to the center as well. “Call.”
Smiling slowly, Tom flipped over the first card. Queen of Spades. Damon whistled. Moisture decorated Luke’s upper lip as he smiled ruefully.
“I am so screwed.”
Flipping the second card, the Queen of Hearts, Tom nodded. “Yes, young man—you are.”
“Dammit.” Luke laughed and revealed his king and jack, which when matched with what lay out in the spread would have given him a straight.
Whistles cut the air and the men cheered. “And now that we’re all broke, we can really get the drinking going.” Cavanaugh was up and heading for the bar.
“No drinks for me.” Sinclair shook his head, grabbed his keys and mimed a salute at Tom. “I gotta go. It was good to meet you Lieutenant Colonel. But I’m off to kidnap Helena for the weekend.” The men had given him a hard time about his attorney girlfriend earlier, but the Cajun hadn’t seemed to mind.
“She say yes yet?” Westwood stacked the cards before sorting the cash in the pot into piles by denomination. They’d been playing for charity.
Sinclair shrugged into his coat. “Why, yes she did. That’s where we’re headed—Las Vegas.”
Tom hid a smile as the other men froze then the war whoops began as one by one they rose, pounded Sinclair on the back and gave him handshakes.
“Why the hell didn’t you say something?” Cavanaugh demanded.
“Because she doesn’t have a ring on her finger yet, but before that clock strikes midnight, she damn well will.” Westwood and Cavanaugh walked Sinclair out, offering a wide range of advice and teasing comments. Luke rejoined Tom at the table and finished counting out the cash.
“Four thousand, pretty nice donation, sir. You sure you will want us to drop it in the kitty for the drive?” They’d hosted fundraising events all month—doubling up their donations to Toys for Tots and Mike’s Place.
“Wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t, son. Why are you questioning my orders?” The last he asked without heat or censure and Luke laughed.
“Fair point, sir. Fair point.” Finishing the count, Luke tied off the roll of cash with a rubber band and locked it in a safe. “It’ll be a while before they get back. I expect they’re going to give Damon a hard time. Cigar?”
One habit he’d never given up in thirty-plus years of service—the occasional cigar during a social situation. Retrieving his jacket from the coat rack, Tom followed Luke out of his office and down a hallway to a sheltered portico. Outside, the air was brisk. A deep freeze had set in following Christmas and their breath easily fogged. Both men were silent as they clipped and readied their cigars.
Tom had considered how to broach a difficult subject all evening, electing to avoid it at least while they were in mixed company. Finally, he said, “You’ve done a fine thing with this place, son. Your dad would be proud.”
A solemn shadow passed over Luke’s face and he glanced out into the dark. “I’d like to think so, sir. We were not close in those last few years.”
Yes, Dex had shut everyone out after his wife died—including his son. Laying a hand on the younger man’s shoulder, Tom gave Luke a light squeeze. “He was proud of you. Don’t doubt it.”