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Authors: Heather Long

Tags: #Always a Marine Book 19

Marine Under the Mistletoe (Always a Marine)

 

 

 

The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement (including infringement without monetary gain) is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

 

Please purchase only authorized electronic editions and do not participate in, or encourage, the electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

 

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.

 

Marine Under the Mistletoe

Copyright © 2013 by Heather Long

ISBN: 978-1-61333-623-6

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

Look for us online at:

www.decadentpublishing.com

 

 

 

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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

Her Marine

No Regrets, No Surrender

The Marine Cowboy

The Two and the Proud

A Marine and A Gentleman

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Combat Barbie

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

 

 

 

Welcome Letter

 

 

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
Her Marine
, 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.

 

Semper Fi

Heather

 

 

 

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.

 

http://www.toysfortots.org

 

 

 

~Dedication~

 

To hope. Blessed Be.

 

 

 

Marine Under the Mistletoe

 

Always a Marine Book 19

 

By

Heather Long

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

Aaron Fields’ naked ass was not the sight Kaiden imagined greeting him at the end of the two-mile-long trek up to the secluded Lake House.

“Well, well, well…G.I. Joe came home.” Aaron’s drawled greeting came with a broad smile and he pulled the front door wider, spilling near-tropical warmth out into the chilly December evening.

“So it would seem, and Malibu Ken is missing his tan.” The banter, familiar and yet alien in the same breath, twisted the need to greet an old friend with the desire to withdraw to more neutral territory. Refusing to run, he caught Aaron’s outstretched hand and gripped it firmly.

“I’d offer a hug.” Despite the humor in his tone, Aaron’s gaze held a measure of caution.

“I don’t want to touch your junk.” The men had agreed on that issue years before, and Aaron released him to back up and admit him into the house.

Parked at the edge of the lake, sheltered by trees and protected by an extensive privacy fence at the extreme edges of the property lines, Lake House, sounded far more cottage than it actually was—a twenty-one-bedroom estate house occupying nearly one hundred and fifty acres of prime, forested waterfront property. It defined exclusive and, once past the main gates, skyclad—bare-ass naked—was acceptable to the residents.

At last count, their coven consisted of over thirty active members and their families. The greater Sabbats always brought in old friends, guests, and the occasional curious seeker.

“Your mom and dad aren’t due until tomorrow.” Aaron gestured to the stairs. The main hall was empty, save for the two of them, but sounds echoed from above. “But you have your old room. We always keep it empty for you.”

“Ten years is a lot of holidays to not use the space.” The token gesture however, fit everything he remembered about his coven. Still, he couldn’t shake the feeling of being a stranger entering an exotic world. A stampede of feet descending jerked his attention upward as three pre-teen boys raced down, pushing, shoving, and laughing.

The blissful ignorance of freedom in their still high-pitched voices aroused protectiveness in him that he’d thought long abandoned. The first boy to notice him slammed to a halt at the last step, teetering when the pair behind him collided with his back. “Whoa—you’re Sergeant Nelson.”

Bemused by the kid’s wide eyes and raw curiosity, Kaiden nodded once. “You can just call me Kaiden. At least here.” He traveled in his familiar MARPATS, but he’d take them off as soon as he made it upstairs to change. Shed them for civilian clothes and all the responsibilities and expectations that accompanied them. There, he wasn’t a Marine—he was Kaiden, a son, a priest, and a friend.
Maybe if I say it enough, I’ll start to believe it
.

“Do you have a gun?” The youngest of the three pushed his way to the front and swept his gaze over Kaiden as though searching for the aforementioned weapon.

“No.” He’d never bring a weapon there. It flew in the face of what few moral fibers he had left.

“Jensen.” Aaron folded his arms. “Is that how we greet anyone?”

“No, sir.” Jensen shrugged. “But Sergeant Nelson isn’t anyone—he’s a Marine.”

“Yeah, and he’s been to a real war. I bet he kicked some Al Qaeda butt!” This from the kid who’d stopped first. His red hair and freckled face reminded Kaiden of another, but he couldn’t quite pinpoint whom. Odd to think these boys had been two- and three-years-old respectively when he’d last seen them. He hadn’t paid that much attention to kids back then, not when he’d been so full of piss and vinegar himself.

“Did you, Sergeant? Were you with the men who got Bin Laden?” Not willing to be left out, the third kid shoved up to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with his friends.

“No, stupid,” Jensen said, obviously attempting to sound wise and informed. “The guys that got Bin Laden were SEALS. The sergeant is a Marine. He doesn’t do what the SEALS do.”

“Yes, he does.” The first kid elbowed Jensen. “Marines are badass—”

“Boys!” Aaron clapped his hands. “Manners.”

“But did you do it, Sergeant? Were you there?”

“Parker. Jensen. Spence.” Lifting, clear, and authoritative, the feminine voice silenced the boys in a way Aaron hadn’t managed. Backlit perfectly at the top of the stairs stood an auburn-haired woman dressed in a body-hugging sheath of a dress. “Aaron told you that was enough a few moments ago. And you didn’t listen. What have we told you about respecting our guests and Circle members when they arrive?”

Only his training kept Kaiden from laughing out loud at the crestfallen expressions all three boys wore. Old enough to appreciate the woman’s beauty and too young to be more than tongue-tied around her, not a single one could lift his gaze to meet hers. Instead, they shuffled their feet and kept their heads down.

“That’s what I thought.” She smiled and, even from ten feet away, the promise of sunshine warmed him. “Apologize and excuse yourselves. I think you’ll find that the circle hasn’t been raked nor has the area scoured for any leftover debris. You will work on that this evening
and
tomorrow morning.”

Aaron didn’t bother to hide his amusement and let out a faint snicker at the boys’ predicament.

“You can have Aaron inspect it when you’re done.” She tacked the last on as an afterthought because, while Aaron watched the boys, she watched Aaron and seemed to take note of his amusement at their discomfort. Disapproval echoed in the look she gave him.

He grunted but didn’t complain. The boys cleared out without further warning and the goddess in the pale-gray silk dress descended the stairs slowly. He didn’t get a glimpse of her feet, but the way the long skirt swirled around her gave her the effect of floating.

“Aaron?”

He parroted her tone. “Rowan?”

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