Wednesday, May 15, 2013

No Regrets, No Surrender (Always a Marine #6)

No Regrets, No Surrender

The sixth installment in the Always a Marine series for Decadent Publishing and a first for the series, as a spinoff of Retreat Hell! She Just Got Here. Jazz, Logan and Zach met via a 1Night Stand. This is the business name of an exclusive online dating service run by Madame Evangeline who provides her clients with a possibility of happily ever after or happily for now.

No Regrets, No Surrender
Always a Marine #6
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At the end of their night of frenzied passion, Jazz Winters walked away from the only two men who’d ever made her feel like a woman. Logan Cavanaugh and Zach Evans let her go, but only if she swore all her future leaves to them.

Waiting fourteen excruciatingly long months, visiting Jazz when they can, is harder on the guys than they like to admit. But their work at Mike’s Place, a veteran’s rehabilitative facility, only lets Zach and Logan go one at a time.
Jazz fears their unconventional relationship can’t last a lifetime. The stress of years of military service in hot zones, combined with life-threatening injuries pushes her to the edge. But when she comes home a wounded warrior, not the woman she believes they want,  Zach and Logan are right there to help her, even when she resists.
She’s not alone. Whether she chooses one or both, they have no regrets and they won’t surrender.

Zach stretched his arm and flung it back. He followed Logan to Mike’s Place for Logan’s therapy after their discharge from active duty. Initially, his focus was to get Logan back on his feet, but they discovered a calling here. Logan worked with the difficult P.T. patients and understood them in a way not even their therapists could—because Logan was one of them. The scars on the left side of his body were a mottled collection of hard ridges.  Pins secured the major joints in his left leg and his elbow.

He’d learned to walk and function again, thanks to Mike’s Place. Now he paid that forward to the men and women who needed similar tough love. The final crown to his recovery, though, happened in Las Vegas and currently served in Afghanistan.

An image of Jazz’s sexy, sensual grin flirted across Zach’s mind and he clamped down on the heat that flooded through him. The last thing he needed was tented shorts on the field.  The right corner of Logan’s mouth quirked upwards. Yeah, his best friend didn’t miss much.

“She didn’t call last night, did she?” They’d both worked late, crunching the last of the numbers for their estimates so the Captain could complete his report.  The two shared a three bedroom apartment in the sprawling campus’ residential section.  He’d left before dawn to pick up the uniforms for the team and then hit the field with them by mid-morning.

“Nope. But she and the FET were heading out for meetings so it could be a couple of days before she’s got a secure line to make a call.”  Of all the women to meet, they’d fallen for a Marine.  One, wild night in Vegas, they’d shared her.  Zach signed them up for that one night stand to help Logan overcome a huge hurdle in his recovery—impotence.  It more than worked.

They were both hooked on her. Logan got to see her in Germany over a long weekend while Zach covered his P.T. shifts. Logan repaid that debt three months ago, helping out with the kids sports teams while Zach jetted to meet her in Italy.  Just thinking about those three nights were enough to set his blood on fire.

She was as beautiful as she was tough. She’d just taken the position with FET. He’d argued with her, she was safer in the green zone, running logistics and keeping track of the hundred or so who reported to her. But Jazz wanted to help the people they were working with and, as a woman, she was uniquely suited to reach out to the people most harmed not only by their oppressors but the war in general.

He didn’t like it, but he couldn’t fault her logic. She was fluent in six languages, a skill he certainly couldn’t boast. She could also handle herself, a fact she proved when she dropped him on his ass and had her way with him in the middle of an argument. Laughter fisted in his throat and he chuckled. The boys were at lap thirty, sweating, and not talking so much as grunting encouragement to each other.

They’d be fast friends again and too damn tired to throw a punch by the next day.

“Stop thinking about her, man. Your face is doing the gooey eyed thing.” Logan’s reminder was an easy jest, but his own guarded expression revealed similar thoughts. Jazz was not the kind of woman a man forgot—for either of them.  “How much longer on her contract?”

“Eight months.” The ball zinged back and forth between them. “But she’s loving this new assignment.”

“Yeah, I get that. She likes helping and she likes working with the people.”  What they didn’t say was they understood her need to serve, they shared it. They understood her desire to help, because they did, too.  But they wanted her home and it was the unspoken thorn puncturing an otherwise great balance they’d found in sharing her.

“She can help people here.” Here, in his bed or Logan’s or their shared bed, however she wanted to work that piece out. He didn’t mind sharing with his best friend.  Impatience itched between his shoulder blades. He did mind sharing with the sandbox. He didn’t like saying it out loud and on the one occasion he’d been drunk enough to mention it, Logan reminded him that she was still a Marine.  They didn’t really have the right to demand she be anything else.

Didn’t stop a man from wanting, though.

“She can and if she wants—and when she’s ready, she will.”  It amazed Zach that Logan could be so easygoing about the situation. It was like he didn’t care what she decided as long as they were included in the decision.

“When’s her next leave?” They should really change the subject, but like a dog with a bone, the need to hold onto her intensified.  They talked nearly every other day, every day when she could manage it. Sometimes for five minutes and sometimes an hour, depending on how much time she had.
No phone call in forty-eight hours and his gut churned with worry. He tried to keep a lid on it, but it boiled into everything he did.  Jace and Fin turned the curve on lap fifty and he paused from throwing the ball to whistle.

“Hit the showers, clean up. Be back here in the morning at oh-eight-hundred sharp.” The practice field emptied out rapidly with Jace and Fin walking and thumping each other on the back in good humor.

Nothing like a little ass busting to make the heart grow fonder. The tension in Zach’s neck wouldn’t go away nor would the nagging sense of worry. He hated being on this side of the waiting game. It would be easier if he were there, in Afghanistan, with her.


His phone buzzed in his back pocket and he waved Logan over. His shoulder burned from too many throws and he was going to end up icing it later.  Tossing his friend the ball, he pulled his phone out. The number in the caller ID flashed familiar and he thumbed it on to answer.

“Yo, Brody!” Lieutenant Brody Essex, the last member of their unit and one of the Captain’s good friends, still served in the sandbox. A reassignment sent his unit to Afghanistan just two hundred clicks from Jazz.  He’d checked in on her now and then just to give Zach the news that yes, she was fine. “How goes the south side of hell?”

“Hot and crispy.” The man’s voice was tinny, echoing the distance between the calls. “Look, man, we just got word. The FET unit hit an IED in Bamyan. At least one serious injury. I don’t know if it’s her…”

The late afternoon sun turned icy cold.

“Zach?” Logan braced him with an arm.

“IED, Bamyan. A FET team was hit.”

“I don’t have any more details, but the news is going to hit state side any minute. There were reporters there with one of the Army units. We’re on our way now. Hang in there, buddy.” Brody’s team was on their way now. Brody’s team specialized in recovery, alive or dead.

“Is it her?” Logan asked, a low growl thrumming his words.

“He didn’t know. But she’s in the field. She never says where she’s going, security.” The words popped out, one at a time, like bullets being emptied from a clip. “She didn’t call last night.”

“Don’t lose it.” Logan’s hand tightened on his shoulder. “We don’t know anything yet.”

She didn’t call.

Zach stared at his phone, willing her to call.

It didn’t ring.

Sarah's Review:

When I first read "Retreat Hell! She Just Got Here." I didn't know that this story was going to be following.  It's amazing how much you can find out from Facebook and interacting with authors.  Heather Long is fantastic about interacting with her readers.  After I read the first five stories I was looking for more and Ms. Long said that this one would be coming out along with a few others .  I wanted to know more about Jazz, Logan and Zach and this story gives that to us.   This story is almost 3 times as long as "Retreat Hell! She Just Got Here." but it was completely necessary and so worth it.  I cried, I laughed, and I got angry.  This one is a tough one for me to review, but I am going to try. 

This story starts out with Jazz on deployment in Afghanistan while Zach and Logan are at Mike's Place in Texas.  Jazz is with the FET, Female Engagement Team, that were scouting for women and girls that were interested in education.  FET members were able to engage these women because the women in Afghanistan were not allowed to communicate with men.   During one of there scouting trips, Jazz and the team were attacked when they were finishing up the meeting.  Zach and Logan receive a phone call from Brody (from Her Marine) that someone on the FET was injured  but they were not sure who.  It turns out it was Jazz and this is where we begin this heart wrenching story about love and healing.

Zach was able to have make arrangements for Jazz to do her recovery at Mike's Place instead of Bethesda or Walter Reed.   Zach and Logan meet Jazz and her medical escorts at the airport to bring her back to Mike's Place.  The airport scene made me cry when a little girl ran up to Jazz and told her that Mr. Huggles (a teddy bear) wanted to say Thank you.  Jazz, even being severely injured, treated the little girl with respect and looked Mr. Huggles in the face and said "Thank you, Mr. Huggles."  and gave the bear a kiss.  Jazz thanks the little girl for bringing him to see her.   (Yes, Heather, you killed me with that scene!)

While the relationship with Jazz, Logan and Zach was a part of the story, the primary focus, in my opinion, was the struggles that our Veterans face when they return home and begin the recovery process.  I appreciated that Ms. Long did not give Jazz an "easy" recovery but didn't make her recovery seem impossible either.   Our Veterans don't have an easy time recovery from their time in Afghanistan and Iraq and Ms. Long found a way to respectfully and honorably display that in her writing.  After all, Mike's Place is a huge part of this series.  

In terms of their relationship, I love seeing how different Zach and Logan were when it came to dealing with Jazz's injury and her resulting recovery.  I felt for Zach the most of the guys because for the second time, he was helping a stubborn, hard-headed Marine recover from serious injury but this was different because he is in love with Jazz.   Logan, oh dear sweet, stubborn Logan, didn't treat Jazz with kid gloves like Zach wanted to do.  Logan laid it out there and pulled no punches when it came to Jazz's recovery.  Why?  I truly believe that it is because Logan knew what he hated when he was recovery and didn't want to have Jazz hate the same things.  Logan understood what she was going through.  I love that Logan took control when he felt Jazz pulling away from the two of them and forced her to see that she was wrong. 

 I will be honest and say I never understood how a menage relationship could work, but after reading this story, I am beginning to.  Jazz loves both Zach and Logan and even she didn't understand how it would work.  I love the way that Zach and Logan laid it on the line for her and helped her see that it was okay for her to love both of them.  

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