Authors: Latrivia S. Nelson
The Lonely Heart Series
Latrivia S. Nelson
RiverHouse Publishing, LLC
1509 Madison Avenue
Memphis, TN 38104
Copyright © 2016 by Latrivia S. Nelson
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.
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First RiverHouse, LLC Trade Paperback Printing: 08/01/2011
This book is dedicated to all the service members of every branch of the United States Military who have served this country with pride, honor and dignity. Your work will never be forgotten.
I would like to acknowledge four very important people for helping me complete this project. To my husband, Bruce Welch, thank you for reading my work, critiquing conversations and allowing me to see things through a man’s eyes. To my editing team, Miranda Howell, Michelle Jackson and Karen Moss, who are very much my friends, thank you for encouraging me and combing through each detail of this final work that culminates my career as Latrivia Nelson and starts my career as Latrivia Welch. I appreciate all three of you so much for your own service to this country, both foreign and domestic, and the sacrifices that all three of you have made for us. It is an honor to call you friend, colleague and in my case, husband.
This is it! My last book under the name Latrivia S. Nelson. As I think back on all the wonderful memories that you’ve given me through your unwavering support over the last six years, it truly brings tears to my eyes. I’ve connected with you all on a level that I never knew was possible through the power of storytelling.
It’s only fitting that the last book in this chapter of my life be The Grunt 2 from the Lonely Heart Series. This series is truly about love saving people from heartbreak and restoring their faith not only in man but also in themselves. Each of the characters is seeking something different and they find it in the person that they fall in love with. And in each story, the African-American woman is always the hero. Regardless of what race you are as my reader, you have to admit that’s pretty awesome. We’re breaking barriers with our books and exploring new perceptions of the interracial romance experience. And with your support, we will continue to push the envelope and challenge the norm.
Now, I start a new journey. Same great stories. Same sincere passion. New name. Latrivia Welch is the beginning of a new life with new experiences that I hope to share with you for many years to come.
I hope that you enjoy my last book as Latrivia S. Nelson, but I hope you’ll be geared up and ready to buy everything new from Latrivia Welch. And don’t worry. All the other stories that we’ve been working toward will still be completed.
Till the next time…
Your friend and author,
Brett Black wished for winter. In his mind, he literally pondered what snow would feel like hitting his skin in the middle of a white
blizzard, just so he could mentally cool his body down from the scorching summer heat that was tipping just over 120 degrees today.
He had learned the trick of mind-over-matter a few tours ago. It didn’t
take lots of water and a little shade to keep the body from overheating. It took a steel-trap mind that was determined not to falter in order to fight Middle Eastern summers,
unless you wanted to be one of the poor bastards that got a silver bullet up the ass by a less than gentle Corpsman
. He had experienced that back in Recon training many years ago. It had not been pleasant or forgettable, which was why now, he drank more water than probably half of the men in his unit combined….no way was he getting power drilled by the silver bullet ever again.
Today, the sun blazed down on his body like hell’s fury, nearly singeing his retinas even though he had on his favorite Ray-Ban shades. Everything on him was sunburned, a true testament to a deteriorating ozone layer that no one wanted to talk about. Plus, he started to chafe in very intimate areas, despite the use of baby powder, and his farmer’s tan had to be the most pronounced he had ever experienced.
God, he hated this place. He hated the heat. He hated the smell. He hated the irritation. But war was like that, never easy or pleasant, even in the smallest of ways.
Brett took a deep breath and looked out over the camp as he quietly gathered his thoughts. He had spent all day mulling over briefing materials, cleaning up strategy and looking at satellite photos. And before he began his descent into his necessary evil and purpose for existence, he just wanted to look out over this shithole and take it all in exactly as it was one last time.
The hot wind was course and thick with the distinct smell of burning waste from the open-air burn pits. The hellfire wind carried with it little bits of sand that stuck to the body and slowly dug its way into pores, which always made him itch. And when he wasn’t itching and sweating, he was chaffing.
He had been here in the armpits of the earth for seven months. One more month and he’d be back at home. Back stateside. Out of the shit. It was the second most pleasant thought he could conjure. But for the moment, number one was snow. Lots of snow.
Spitting dip down on the sand beside his dirty boots, he glanced at his watch and realized it was his favorite time of the day.
Walking back into the barracks, he headed to his room to make his call. It was the one call he looked forward to, that thing nothing – no matter what – got in the way of him making this call. Hell, this special part of his day was the only reason he was still sane.
“Evening Staff Sergeant,” one of his men said, walking past him in a purposeful stride.
Brett’s head inclined. “Corporal,” Brett said in a scratchy deep baritone with an authoritative nod. He saw the man’s eyes, wanting to ask if he was going to be present at the briefing. “I’ll be there in 10 mikes, Corporal,” he said, even though the man wouldn’t dare ask it.
As a rule of thumb, a Corporal never asked his Staff Sergeant much, but never did he ask about his whereabouts. Still, the men in his unit were a little more relaxed, a little more like family, especially as the months rolled on and the missions had become more dangerous.
“Yes, Staff Sergeant,” the Corporal replied, disappearing down the hall toward the war room. Everyone knew Corporals had to arrive early. They had something to prove. He, on the other hand, would make them all wait a minute.
Arriving to his room, he closed the door quietly, grabbed his laptop to log on and pulled off his cover. Immediately, his heart sped up a few beats. Sand fell to his wide muscular shoulders. A dirty blonde perfect high-and-tight haircut emerged, tanned around the edges from the sun. He could smell sweat and Axe body spray seeping from the opening of his blouse, and he was soaking wet from the heat. How he wanted to take a shower right then and rid himself of the long day. Just another thought of what he’d do when he got home.
Multiple showers in a day.
The musical hum of Skype connecting him to his little family back at Camp Lejeune made him as giddy as a kid on Christmas. Only three things made him flutter: Courtney, Bella and Cameron. Two rings into the call, his wife, Courtney answered, just as eager to talk to him as he was to her.
“Hey, baby,” Courtney said, gazing into her monitor with a bright smile. The glow from the monitor on her face made her look like an angel. Her hazel brown eyes sparkled with excitement. It was literally the best thing that he’d seen all morning.
“Hey, baby,” Brett said back. Just the sight of her eased his spirit. He pulled the monitor as close to his face as he could, wanting to reach out and kiss her heart-shaped lips. “Whatcha doing?” he asked, hoping she had on something sexy so he could sneak a peek at what he was missing before he logged off.
A man had to have something to do when he was in the shower.
Her voice was low and seductive. She looked around the room as if someone would hear her. “Just put Bella back down to sleep for her morning nap,” she whispered. “She’s right beside me, instead of the crib. I think she likes our bed more. I had to pull the curtains to make it dark in here so she could sleep better.”
Brett had other thoughts about his bed, and it didn’t involve his daughter. Another thing he’d do when he got home.
Bang his wife multiple times a day.
Scratching his nose, he sneezed. “How’s her schedule doing?” he asked, imagining his brand new baby girl curled up with a teddy bear in her crib. God, he wanted to see her for himself. He had memorized her perfect face, every single solitary feature. However, he wanted to hold her in his arms and kiss her adorable little cheeks. He wanted to see her smile for himself, instead of always gawking at her photos.
“She’s getting there,” Courtney said, moving her long black hair out of her face. “How are you, baby? You look so tired.” She studied his aquamarine blue eyes and dark circles under them. Without being there, she knew that he wasn’t sleeping. He never slept.
“I’m bored,” he lied. “We’re not doing shit here.
Hurry up and wait.
Same old thing, just a different day. Trust me. There is nothing going on here.” He quickly changed the subject. “How’s my son?” Brett hated talking about himself. He hated being the center of attention and abhorred having people worry about him, especially Courtney. She had enough on her plate taking care of both kids alone. Thank God for Diane, her mother, who made the effort to help them out.
son is doing fine,” she corrected with a giggle. “He misses you. We all do.”
Brett tried to ignore the obvious sadness in her voice. Every time, she became sadder still. He knew that descent; he had experienced the same with Amy, which made him even more eager to get home. “Has he been doing his homework?” he asked, resting back in his bunk. He kicked his feet up for the moment and rested his head back on his pillow. “Tell him no PlayStation® if he doesn’t get it done on time. Kindergarten is the real deal. It’s the start of his career as a student.”
Courtney laughed at his seriousness. No matter what it was, he was always 100 percent dedicated to success. She chuckled at him. “He’s doing his work and watching the calendar daily. He knows you’ll be home in a month. So, I think he’s starting to clean up shop.”
Brett couldn’t hide his pride. A small smile tugged at his wide lips. “Smart guy.”
“Are you still not smoking?” she probed. They had agreed that he would quit his worst habit at the birth of Bella. Courtney wanted to make sure that he was around for his daughter as long as possible, and she also didn’t want either child suffering from second hand smoke.
Brett smiled bigger. He didn’t have to lie
. “Yep. I haven’t smoked once.” He did avoid, however, telling her that he’d taken up chewing tobacco, but he was pretty sure he could kick that too before he headed home. “So where you wanna go when I get home?” They had been talking about vacationing for months but had yet to come to a conclusion, mostly because they both felt it bad luck to plan so far in advance.
“Since you’re taking 30 days’ leave, I was hoping we could go to two places,” she said, sitting up in the bed. As she moved the monitor, he got a glimpse of her pink lace nighty.
“Damn,” he said, forgetting what they were talking about. His eyes narrowed on her dark brown skin and the contrast of it against the pink lace. He licked his lips. “What do you have on, girl?”
Courtney grinned; glad she had his full attention now. “Just a little something I threw on for the call.” She moved the monitor where he could get a better view of it. Her voluptuous frame quickly came into view. “Do you like?” she teased.
“Pregnancy does the body well,” he said, biting his lip. What he wouldn’t give to taste her right now. An image of her hoisted up on his desk across the room came to mind, but as quickly as he had thought about it, he had to suppress it. Couldn’t go into the briefing with a glaring hard on. “Did you send me the pictures I asked for of you in the shower?”
“I sent them five minutes ago,” she said, raising her cell phone. “You better not let anyone else see them. I’m not playing.”
“Are you kidding me? I’ll be guarding those pictures like they are the President,” he said, licking his lips again. “I want you so bad.” His voice was husky now. “It’s been fucking forever. I’m dying over here.”
Courtney adjusted the monitor where she could see his face again. Her eyes flashed with sincerity. “I want you too,” she said, biting her lip. “One more month and I’m all yours.”
“Just thirty days,” Brett said, taking a deep breath. “Shit,” he adjusted himself. “You might want to get that birth control you were talking about before I get home. We’ve had seven months and thousands of miles between us. I’m not standing for anything else between us when I get home. No condoms. No bullshit.”
Courtney laughed. “I’m already on it,” she said yawning. “The doctor says that I could be very fertile right now. So, I don’t want to take any chances. Don’t get me wrong. I love having your children. I just would like to space them out enough to have some time for myself.”
“I hear ya.” Brett had to change the subject or he’d be walking around with full wood for the rest of the night, even talking about getting her pregnant turned him on. “So what two places do you want to go to?”
“The Bahamas and to New Orleans,” she said, pulling something off the bed. Waving papers into the monitor, her voice pitched high. “I’ve already been researching traveling options. I found some great deals that won’t break the bank. Plus, there is a military discount for both.”
“I guess I’m good for something,” he joked.
“Whatever you want, baby,” Brett said, looking at his watch.
Damn it. It was time to go
. “I hate to cut us short,” he said apologetically.
Courtney tilted her head. “But you’ve got to go because you’re bored and you have nothing to do,” she finished his sentence condescendingly. “Just sitting around doing nothing, eh?”
“Yep,” Brett said with a huff. “You know the drill.”
“Just be careful doing nothing and being bored,” she said with sarcasm lacing her voice. Touching the screen, she pursed her lips together.
How she missed him.
Not as an afterthought, but almost, she inserted, “And tell my big brother to be careful too.”
Brett laughed. “He’s always the most careful asshole on the Base.”
Courtney couldn’t help but laugh. “He loves you now. You’re his brother-in-law.”
Brett shrugged. “Love is such a strong word. I think he tolerates me. But I’m okay with being tolerated…it requires less attention than love. And no one wants the Captain’s attention.”
Courtney grinned, even though her eyes were a bit wet. “Well, I love you.”
He paused and drank her face in. It was amazing that he was still so smitten with her. “I love you, too,” he said, kissing his fingers and putting them to the screen. “Kiss my babies. Tell them Daddy will be home real soon.”
“Bye,” she said, hating to have him go so soon.
“Bye, baby.” Logging off, he closed his computer and placed it back on his desk.
Yep, he’d rather be anywhere but here most days. The heat. The stench. The sand spiders. The occasional dysentery. The insurgents. The food. He spent so much time reflecting on what other things that he could have done with his life. Only he loved the Marine Corps, and he loved his wife and they intersected dead smack into one another to make his life more complete. So, this must have been where he was supposed to be. There was very little argument to make about that. But at this very moment, it wasn’t just anywhere he was thinking about. He knew exactly where he wanted to be…home with his family.