Authors: Cat Johnson
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Men's Adventure, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thriller & Suspense, #Romance, #War & Military, #Military, #New Adult & College, #Romantic Suspense, #Suspense, #Mystery & Suspense
TEMPTED BY A SEAL
Loner. Biker. SEAL.
Known only as Mack to his SEAL teammates, he’s a stone cold killer when he needs to be, but he’d rather just straddle his Harley and escape from everything and everyone.
The only person who calls James MacIntyre by his given name is his dad, the one family member he has left. That is until his widowed father meets a divorcee and decides to remarry. Suddenly, this woman and her daughter go from being strangers to family, all calling Mack
whether he likes it or not.
The problem is he’s starting to crave hearing his name on the lips of curvy co-ed Lydia.
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Mack glanced at the girl. “You okay?”
She watched him for a second before nodding. “Yes.”
He dipped his head in a nod, not bothering with more conversation. He had his answer, so he turned to move back to his spot and his drink.
“Wait.” She scurried after him, arriving just as his ass hit the barstool.
He cocked one brow. “Yeah?”
“I uh wanted to say thank you.”
“No problem.” He lifted one shoulder and reached for his glass.
He didn’t quite make it before she stuck her hand out to him. “I’m Lydia.”
Yes, she was cute. Yeah, he hadn’t gotten laid in far too long. But this close up, and under the light above them, his initial impressions were confirmed. She was young.
Young and naïve and sweet and everything he had no interest in and no business touching.
Completely ignoring her and her outstretched hand would be rude. Since that wasn’t an option he turned his body enough he could extend his right hand to her. “Mack.”
The corners of her mouth lifted in a smile. “Nice to meet you.”
“Yeah. You too.” He dropped his hold and turned back to reach for his glass.
Mack ran full out until his legs ached and his burning lungs felt close to bursting as he gasped for air.
But it didn’t matter how fast his boots pounded the ground, how hard he pumped his arms, how determined he was to get to where he needed to be, he couldn’t beat the speed of the sniper’s bullet.
He heard it whiz by his ear.
“Sniper!” Knowing it was too late, knowing the word wouldn’t make it to his friend in time, he shouted anyway.
His voice was lost to the wind that whipped the dust of a foreign land around them.
He saw his friend’s body jerk and then fall.
The crimson puddle beneath him widened steadily the closer Mack got to his fallen teammate and he was helpless to stop it.
One glimpse told him that Speedy had been beyond help the instant that bullet pierced his skull—dead center between his now lifeless eyes. Eyes that stared directly at Mack and into his very soul. Questioning. Accusing.
Why hadn’t he been there to stop the bullet that took his friend’s life?
Something tore Mack out of the dream. He woke with a start, gasping, his heart pounding, the adrenaline coursing through his blood making him shake.
He sat up and pushed back the sheets that were soaked with sweat.
Swinging his legs over the side of the bed, he sat on the edge of the mattress and scrubbed his hands over his face.
Even with as inaccurate as it was, the nightmare still felt horrifyingly real.
Sniper bullets fired from a distance hit their target before the victim every heard the sound of the shot that would take him down.
Even if Mack had been there at the time—which he hadn’t been—he wouldn’t have heard the shot or been able to save his friend.
So what the hell? Why had his subconscious crafted that particular torture for him tonight?
Mack knew he’d be haunted by his teammate’s death, but it had been a month since Speedy had been killed in Iraq. He would have thought if he were going to have nightmares about it, it would have happened before now.
Though maybe there was a perfectly logical explanation for the timing. A good reason why his brain had excavated the guilt. Resurrected the pain.
When Mack had first gotten back from Iraq, he’d been numb—mentally and physically. He’d kept himself well lubricated. Enough booze before bed had insured he passed out rather than slept.
Liquor was one way to keep the demons at bay . . . the anger too. Anger that his unit had been there to liberate a city that should have never fallen to ISIS.
So many men had died taking it in the first place. And now his friend had been added to the death toll.
Then, shortly after his return from Iraq, Mack’s being called in and sent to Nigeria just days after Speedy’s memorial service had kept him focused.
In Africa his single-minded occupation was working with the Joint Forces to eliminate Boko Haram.
The action, the guys, the pace had all saved him from having to think, to feel.
If there was one thing SEALs did exceptionally well, it was channeling emotions. Twisting feelings into something they could use.
Mack’s anger at the ISIS sniper in Fallujah had worked well to fuel his determination. He went to Nigeria with the sole goal of taking out every member of Boko Haram he encountered.
Different enemy. Different country. But it didn’t matter.
When he had fallen into his rack he’d slept like a rock from sheer exhaustion. No dreams of any kind, good or bad.
But Mack was back now and, worse, off for the weekend. No meetings. No team workouts or trainings. Nothing but his own thoughts to occupy him.
The team’s transport had touched down just hours ago. He’d handled his shit on base and headed right home where there was nothing to do but think. And remember. And feel guilty.
It should have been him in that sniper’s sights on that rooftop instead of Speedy. Instead, Mack got to live with the knowledge that his buddy had done him a favor by taking his place and he had died for it.
Damn, he needed a drink.
He glanced at the glowing numbers of the clock on the nightstand. The glaring digits showed the numbers nine-twenty-two.
Twenty-one hundred hours might be bedtime for some—Mack among them when he was home—but it was time to start heading out to the clubs for many others. Kids, mostly. Freshly legal to drink and looking to score before closing time.
The females were young and dressed to impress and the males threw money around accordingly.
He wasn’t interested in preying on the party girls, but if nothing else, the scene could be amusing to watch. He’d welcome a distraction as much as the liquor.
Mack’s apartment, cheap and big enough for his needs, afforded him little in luxury, but the one perk he’d taken advantage of many times was the bar conveniently located directly across the street.
One thing was guaranteed—besides that they’d have his favorite whisky always in stock for him—weekend nights were packed.
They played God-awful music way too loudly but they poured the drinks strong and the bartender bought-back for the regulars.
For better or worse Mack was one—a regular. At least when he was stateside.
He might as well take advantage of the last hours he had to himself anyway. He was expected at his father’s house early tomorrow for brunch with Daddy’s new wife and her kid.
Brunch. Stupidest meal ever invented. Why not just call it what it was and be done with it? A big ass meal that couldn’t decide whether it was breakfast or lunch.
Maybe if he kept obsessing over the meal he had to go to he’d forget that his widowed father had gone and married a stranger. Some woman Mack had never even been introduced to.
Maybe he’d forget that Daddy had met and married her all during the period that Mack had been deployed, fighting to regain control of a city the Iraqi army should have never lost control of to begin with.
Even better would be if Mack could forget that it had been his getting that call from his father announcing the marriage that had prompted Speedy to volunteer to take the overwatch in Mack’s place.
Yeah, it was going to have to be one hell of a brunch with massive amounts of alcohol to make him forget all that.
Might as well start trying to forget now.
With a sigh he searched the clothes scattered around the room. That right there was proof he wasn’t feeling like himself.
Normally things went where they belonged. Dirty clothes in the hamper. Anything he could wear again would be hung up or folded.
This mess in his bedroom was a visual reminder of what a shambles he was on the inside. That reminder was one thing he didn’t need right now.
More determined than ever to get out of his apartment, and hopefully out of his own head, Mack tugged on his jeans right over the boxer shorts he’d gone to bed wearing.
With the addition of the clean long-sleeved T-shirt and socks he pulled out of his dresser drawers, he was dressed.
Not exactly dressed to impress, but that wasn’t tonight’s goal anyway. Having a drink—or five—was.
Then again, if a willing woman did happen to fall into his lap, he wouldn’t throw her off.