04 February 2014

Launch Day Blitz, Interview, Excerpts, Giveaway: Jessica Scott's ALL FOR YOU, book 4 in her bestselling military romance series, Coming Home.

I am so honored to welcome one of my favorite authors back to FFF today. Jessica Scott is an inspiration to me and so many others. Not only is she a career military officer, but she’s also a PhD candidate, bestselling writer, and wife and mother. I don’t know how she manages - I have problems keeping one career in line!

To me, Jessica epitomizes the Renaissance woman of today. Knowing nothing about her, I picked up her first book and became passionate about the characters and story she was telling. Now, knowing a little more about her, I am totally in awe.

So without further ado, let’s welcome Jessica Scott to Fab Fantasy Fiction on the occasion of the release of the fourth book in her military romance Coming Home series, ALL FOR YOU. Jessica’s sharing FOUR excerpts and there are two giveaways, so let’s all sit down for a visit.
Jessica, thank you for joining us today. I hope the coffee is okay? It’s a new blend today. Let’s begin…

(EVW) Is Reza one of your favorite characters? I know that since you introduced him in book two, I’ve been counting the books till his story.
(JS) I think Reza may be my favorite. I’m not sure what it is about him and his story that really just hits all the right notes for me.

(EVW) Were you ever tempted to glamorize the military life in order to provide a more typical romance novel? Frankly I’m really glad you haven’t, because your characters are heroes and heroines because we can not only see them in ourselves, but in our neighbors and friends.
(JS) I’ve struggled with this for a long time and it’s been a real challenge for me to gloss over parts of military life. Part of me vehemently rejects the idea of glamorizing it because it’s so antithetical to what we do and are and frankly, the wars and the deployments suck. So no, I don’t want to glamorize it but sometimes, I have to pull back on how much reality I include, if that makes sense?

(EVW) Speaking of which, each one of your characters, including Emily and Reza in ALL FOR YOU have been given “monkeys on their back” to learn to live with. I’m not saying to escape from or be “cured,” because the sense I have as a reader is that these are all things that they will have to address on a daily basis - whether a loss of a limb, fear of cancer recurring, trust that a spouse will always be there, the fear of living without the charge of battle adrenaline and facing nightmares head-on, the struggle with alcoholism, etc. If you removed these characters from the military and, instead, set them in any small town in America or elsewhere, wouldn’t they be the same in some way. Isn’t this as much the human condition, just magnified and spotlighted because of military service?
(JS) I think it is part of the human condition but it’s also something different. We say support our troops but we really don’t sit back and think about what that means. I wanted to try and reach out to readers that have all these images in their heads about what army life is like and show something a little more realistic but still heroic in their own right.

(EVW) Your novels also have some very HOT romance scenes. Do you have a lot of fun writing those? They always seem quite natural and in line with your characters, but, oh my, did Reza and Emily have some screen melting minutes in my eReader.
(JS) There was definitely a new level of sensuality with Reza and Emily, that’s for sure! I’m very much a slow build writer when it comes to sex on screen. It has to fit the characters and what’s going on. I think the emotional hit is the most important aspect of writing a love scene that really resonates.

(EVW) Speaking of Emily. At first she seems as though she’ll crumble under stress, even in the simulated firefight of the house under siege it seemed like she was going to need to be protected. But each of your heroines has a core of resilience that is amazing. Do you draw that from examples in your own life? Friends, family, parents?
(JS) I’ve known some amazingly strong women in my life and the idea that we are something fragile that needs to be sheltered from the world is just foreign to me and yet, I think there’s a part in each of us that needs to be needed by someone else. How the guys show that need is a little different but yeah, I’m a fan of strong women.

(EVW) Could you tell us a little about who’s next? Will this series continue (please say yes!)?
(JS) Next up is Captain Ben Teague and Major Olivia Hale. Ben is suffering from a bad case of burn out and he’s pretty jaded for the amount of time he’s served. Olivia? Olivia is a woman on a mission and oh will these two clash. I had a good time writing them, even if they were a little tricky to get right.

(EVW) Extending a bit on question three, is there anything specific that readers might be able to do to provide support - monetary, voluntary, or other- for those in the military who are actually experiencing things that your characters are going through?
(JS) I don’t have specific charities but I would suggest offering your time at the VA or at a local shelter. Donate to local shelters, job fairs. Anything you can do to help out and make sure your elected officials know that you want the troops to have access to the care – both medical and mental health – that we are going to need for the rest of our lives.

(EVW) Now, are you secretly superwoman? How can you be a wife and mother, career military officer, PhD candidate, and full-time, bestselling writer? Truly how do you do it???
(JS) Nope, just a little high strung, that’s all. Honestly, I’m just really good at knowing what needs to be done and having a really good assessment of how long whatever it will be will take me. I start to panic when those things don’t line up.

(EVW) Do you find that your colleagues, troops, are reading these books? Do you ever share them in Beta version? And if so, what do they have to say?
(JS) I don’t talk about my books at work b/c I don’t think it would be appropriate. But a couple of my old bosses have read them and they’re super supportive.

(EVW) Who were your favorite author(s) growing up? What advice would you give to someone who dreams of writing?
(JS) Anne McCaffrey, Piers Anthony and Johanna Lindsey are the short list. For writing advice, don’t give up. Keep at it.

Thank you!

Thank you, Jessica. Now, let’s meet Sergeant First Class Reza Iaconelli (my book crush, I admit) and Army shrink Captain Emily Lindberg.


A Coming Home Novel, Book 5
Forever E-Book
Price $2.99
Publication date: February 4, 2014

Can a battle-scarred warrior . . .
Stay sober. Get deployed. Lead his platoon. Those are the only things that matter to Sergeant First Class Reza Iaconelli. What he wants is for everyone to stay out of his way; what he gets is Captain Emily Lindberg telling him how to deal with his men. Fort Hood's newest shrink is smart as a whip and sexy as hell. She's also full of questions-about the army, its soldiers, and the agony etched on Reza's body and soul.

. . . open his heart to love?
Emily has devoted her life to giving soldiers the care they need-and deserve. Little does she know that means facing down the fierce wall of muscle that is Sergeant Iaconelli like it's just another day at the office. When Reza agrees to help her understand what makes a soldier tick, she's thrilled. Too bad it doesn't help her unravel the sexy warrior in front of her who stokes her desire and touches a part of her she thought long dead. He's the man who thinks combat is the only escape from the demons that haunt him. The man who needs her most of all . . .

Purchase ALL FOR YOU:

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     Emily watched her friend weave through the crowd of broad-shouldered Cavalrymen and toward the captain. Alone at the bar, Emily twirled her wine in the glass, staring into the swirling pale golden liquid.
     She sipped her wine and glanced around the wide open space, feeling the warmth. She was comfortable in this place. A drink after work. A good friend. This was a good life. It was simple. It had purpose. So much better than the complicated mess she’d left behind.
     She lifted her glass, savoring the freedom of her rebellion. She might not fit into her uniform just right but she fit here among these soldiers better than she’d ever fit back home.
     She saw Olivia gyrating slowly with the captain across the dance floor. Her friend’s movements were slow and sensual, a sultry undulation that spoke of power and of sex. She smiled at her friend’s pleasure. It was enough that Emily could enjoy another’s happiness. She’d come here tonight to relax, to help Olivia celebrate.
     “You don’t come here often, do you?”
     Emily glanced at the man who’d appeared at her shoulder. He’d been standing with the group of captains that Olivia had just infiltrated.
     “Not really,” she said, sipping her drink. She thought about easing away, putting space between where their upper arms touched.
     Personal space much? she thought.
     “Are you here with friends?” he asked. She caught a heavy scent of beer from his direction, beer mixed with cigar smoke. It was not unpleasant.
     She glanced over at Olivia. “Yeah.”
     “Not up for company?”
     She smiled and finally glanced back at him. “Not really. Thank you though.”
     He brushed the tip of his hat with two fingers. “My pleasure, ma’am.”
     He swaggered off, leaving her alone at the bar. That had been nice. Too bad she wasn’t interested.    
     Once upon a time, she might have danced but there was something missing from the way he’d carried himself.
     He was missing that power that Sergeant Iaconelli wore like it was second nature.
     She shook her head and took a long sip of her wine. She’d done nothing but argue with the man but now she was thinking about him in a way that was purely unprofessional.
     The heavy iron door swung open at that moment and Emily’s breath caught in her throat.
     “Speak of the devil,” she muttered.
     Reza Iaconelli stood in the doorway, his gaze scanning the room as though he was taking a headcount. What was it about the man that he was always walking through doors at the wrong time?                                  And this time, his gaze swept the bar and landed directly on her.
     His eyes lit up, his mouth flattened. Just a faint flicker, but it was enough to tell her he’d recognized her.
     And the familiar hostility was gone.
     Her mouth went dry and she took another sip. He wasn’t going to come over. It was going to be fine.
     They would keep the rampant hostility and no lines would be blurred.
     It would be fine, right?
     Except that he was now coming over. Weaving through the crowd, his Stetson adding to his height.
     What the hell was she supposed to do about that? The closer he got, the more her stomach flipped beneath her ribs.
     She was too tired to fight. And the alcohol would probably allow her to say something that she’d regret come Monday.
     His clean white shirt accented his shoulders and made his skin look darker, more appealing. His face was shadowed by the brim of the Stetson.
     He was there. A short space separated them. He radiated something—a power.
     A rawness.
     She was doomed.

     It was fate. It had to be. A slow warmth unfurled inside him as the doctor he could not get out of his head looked up at him, her cheeks flushing pink.
     She was all buttoned up at work. Tonight, she looked different. Looser. Unbound.
Compelling. That’s what she was. Her fire at work. Her refusal to let him bully her. He’d admired her backbone before.
     Tonight, he admired her in an entirely new light. Her hair framed her face in careless curls. He hadn’t expected to see her outside of work. He damn sure hadn’t expected to see her here. An old familiar need rose inside him. A need for touch, human and warm. A need to lose himself for an interlude in sweat and sex and stunning pleasure. He’d given up drinking but women had apparently fallen into that category as well.
     It had been months since he’d felt a woman’s hands on his body.
     This woman was not someone he needed to be talking to at the bar tonight but he found himself walking toward her anyway.
     After the week of confrontation they’d had, he’d be lucky if she didn’t slap him the minute he approached her.
     He could do this. He could talk to a woman without drinking. Right?
     Emily met his gaze as he approached. He almost smiled.
     “Not your usual scene?” he asked, leaning against the bar.
     She shifted, putting a little space between them. That slight reclamation of power. He made a noise of approval in his throat. “I’m surprised you’re talking to me.”
     “I’m surprised you’re here. Shouldn’t you be home reading medical journals or something?” Her cheeks flushed deep pink and he wondered how far down her body that color went.
     She tipped her chin then and looked at him. “Have you been drinking?”
     He looked down at the bottle in his hand. “I don’t drink anymore,” he said quietly. No reason to delve into his abusive history with alcohol. “You?”
     “Glass of wine,” she said.
     Reza shrugged and leaned on the bar, taking another pull off his water and being careful not to lean too close. She looked like she’d bolt if he pushed her. “That would explain why you’re talking to me. We haven’t exactly been friendly.”
     Her hair reflected the fading sunlight that filled the room from the wide-open patio doors. He wanted to fist it between his fingers, watch her neck arch for his mouth.
     She motioned toward his bottle with her glass. “‘Anymore’?”
     He simply took another pull off his water. He was going to be damn good and hydrated after tonight. He wondered what she’d do if he leaned a little closer. “Long story.”
     “One you’re not keen on sharing?” she asked. She leaned her cheek on one palm. The sun glinted across her cheek.
     “Let’s just say alcohol and I aren’t on speaking terms. Bad things happen when I drink.” It was nothing to be ashamed of but there it was. Shame wound up his spine and squeezed the air from his lungs. He was just like his dad after all.
     “You say that like giving up alcohol is a bad thing,” Emily said quietly.
Reza snorted softly. He should have guessed she wouldn’t let it alone. She had stubbornness that could last for days. “It’s not something I’m proud of.”
     Her hand on his forearm startled him. Soft and strong, her fingers pressed into his skin. “But stopping is something to be proud of.”
     Reza stared down at her hand, pale against the dark shadows of his own skin. A long silence hung between them.
     He lifted his gaze to hers.
     “It takes a lot of strength to break with the past,” she said softly.
     “What are you doing?” Her eyes glittered in the setting sun and he thought he caught the sight of the tiniest edge of her lip curling.
     Her fingers slipped from his skin. “Offering my professional support?”
     His lips quirked. “Was that a joke?”
     “Maybe,” she said. “I’m working on developing a biting sense of humor. Defense mechanism against raging asshole commanders.”
     Reza barked out a laugh. “You look different out of uniform,” he said lightly, pressing his advantage at this unexpected truce.
     “So do you.”
     He angled his body toward hers. “You like my makeup?” he asked.
     Her lips parting as she tried to figure out if he was kidding or not. Finally, she cracked the barest hint of a smile.
     Something powerful woke inside him and he moved before he thought about it. He reached for her, brushing a strand of hair from her cheek. The simple gesture was crushing in its intimacy. Her lips froze in a partial gasp, as though her breath had caught in her throat.
     “Sergeant Iaconelli,” she said quietly, her voice husky. But she didn’t move away. Didn’t flinch from his touch.
     “Reza.” He swallowed the sharp bite of arousal in his blood, more powerful without the haze of alcohol that usually clouded his reactions. “My name is Reza.”
     His breath was locked in his lungs, the sound of his name on her lips triggering something dark and powerful and overwhelming.
     He wanted this woman. The woman who’d stood in opposition to him this week. The woman who lifted her chin and stood steadfast between him and his soldiers.
     There was strength in this woman. Strength and courage.
     “I’m Emily.” Her words a rushed breath.
     He lowered his hand, unwilling to push any further than he’d already gone. This was new territory for him. Unfamiliar and strange and filled with potential and fear.
     “It was nice talking to you tonight, Emily,” he said when he could speak.
     He waited for her acknowledgment that she’d heard him. Some slight movement of her head or tip of her chin.
     Instead her throat moved as she swallowed and she blinked quickly, shattering the spell between them.
     He left her then because to push further would challenge the limits of his restraint. He wasn’t ready to fall into bed with someone. No matter how compelling Emily might be.
     He waited and he watched for the rest of the evening. Watched her slip out with her friend, leaving an empty space at the bar.
     Leaving him alone with the fear that included the empty loneliness as well as the cold silence of sobriety.
     His thoughts raced as he made sure his troopers all got home that night, and Teague crashed on his couch.
     He fell into bed later, need and desire twisted up, filling the cold dead space left inside him by the lack of alcohol. A dead space he usually filled with work while deployed. Tonight, though, unfamiliar pleasure hunted his thoughts, whispering that he could still love a woman, that he didn’t have to be drunk to climb into bed with someone.
     But Emily wasn’t a random someone.
And she was so far out of his league, it wasn’t even funny. Even if there was some sexual attraction there, she wasn’t likely to go slumming with a burned-out infantryman like him.
     He lay there in the darkness, waiting, clinging to the single, simple pleasure of her touch, hoping that maybe tonight he could sleep, avoiding the nightmares that reminded him of the monster he’d become.
     A beast who had lost his compassion somewhere on the road to Baghdad.
USA Today bestselling author Jessica Scott is a career army officer; mother of two daughters, three cats and three dogs; wife to a career NCO and wrangler of all things stuffed and fluffy. She is a terrible cook and even worse housekeeper, but she's a pretty good shot with her assigned weapon and someone liked some of the stuff she wrote. Somehow, her children are pretty well-adjusted and her husband still loves her, despite burned water and a messy house.

She's written for the New York Times At War Blog, PBS Point of View: Regarding War Blog, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. She deployed to Iraq in 2009 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn and has served as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas.

She's pursuing a PhD in Sociology in her spare time and most recently, she's been featured as one of Esquire Magazine's Americans of the Year for 2012.

Keep in touch with Jessica
     “So how many of you think that behavioral health is for pussies?”
     Half the room burst out with coughs attempting to cover laughter. The other half were busy picking their jaws up off the floor. It had been a reckless gamble, one that would have made her father cringe in shame, but one that worked because the tension snapped, fizzling a little bit. Granting her an opening she might not have had otherwise.
     “Be honest.” She glanced at the sergeant major, who looked ready to brain the first officer or sergeant that raised his hand. “Never mind, don’t answer that.” She shot a quick grin at the sergeant major and a few more chuckles drifted out of the crowd. “Look, we all know that I’ve got you held captive for an hour and we can stand here and stare at each other or maybe we can talk about what’s going on that we’ve got so many soldiers willing to hurt themselves.”
     She made the mistake of looking in Reza’s direction.
He was watching her, his dark gaze intense, his mouth flat. At least he wasn’t glaring at her. That was progress, she supposed.
     She gripped the pen in her hand and motioned toward the men before her. “So maybe we can put aside the canned slides and talk about why you hate the shrinks. And maybe I can explain what it is that we do. And maybe, if we work together, we can save a life.”
     The silence was back, a wet blanket settling over the room. She glanced around as the brief opening she’d attempted to walk through shriveled and shrank.
     “I have a question.” Reza raised his hand. His eyes glittered darkly. “Sergeant First Class Iaconelli, ma’am. My question is: Why do we have to spend so much time chasing after the shitbirds who are smoking spice or some other shit that’s not meant for human consumption and then when we try to throw them out, you all stop the process and tell us they have PTSD?”
     “Ike, your attitude is part of the damn problem.” All eyes turned in the direction of a hard-looking sergeant first class. He had no hair and there was a hint of a black tattoo ringing his neck. Sergeant First Class Garrison was a big man. “Intimidating” was too light a word for him. And yet, on his left hand, a wedding ring shone bright gold. Someone had tamed this man. She found herself wondering at the woman who’d married him then pulled her thoughts sharply into focus. “You can’t run around calling our soldiers shitbirds. They’ll always do what you expect and if you expect them to screw up, they’re going to live up to your expectation.”
     “I don’t expect them to be smoking it up in the barracks on the weekend,” Reza snapped.
Emily held up one hand. “Sergeant Garrison, thank you for getting straight to the heart of the matter. What you’re talking about is not simply about drug abuse. You’re talking about soldiers who are self-medicating. Instead of using the proper channels to seek care, they’re choosing instead the easier path of smoking marijuana, or what is it you called it? Spice?”
     “It’s synthetic marijuana, ma’am,” Garrison said.
     She’d had no idea there was such a thing, let alone that soldiers were smoking it. “Thank you.      Regardless of their drug of choice, the reason for using is often to deal with symptoms of anxiety that they’re otherwise managing or not managing very well.”
     Reza lifted his hand and she swallowed the flit of nerves in her belly as she pointed at him. “Yeah, well, I’ve got real warriors who need help who won’t go to the damn R&R Center because there’s all these slick-sleeved little punks in there trying to get out of drug charges.”
     It was a cold statement, one that shook her, reminding her that this was not a sympathetic room. And that Iaconelli was not a sympathetic man.
     “You raise an interesting point, Sergeant Iaconelli. The facts are that most of our suicides over the last two years have been among first-term soldiers who have never deployed,” she said, speaking loudly to cover the nervous waiver in her voice.
     Garrison straightened where he’d been leaning against the wall. “Y’all know I got blown up a little over a year ago. I had a really tough road back. The thing I learned over that time is that our boys are struggling. Whether we see it or not, our boys need our help.” He turned his gaze to Emily.
     Reza scowled and shook his head. “Look, Garrison, you’re not the only one who got blown up downrange. But the point I’m trying to make is that it’s our boys who won’t go get the help because of all the ash and trash taking up the appointments.”
     Emily held up her hands but Garrison interrupted her. “Ike, you need to shut your damn mouth. Just because you drink yourself to sleep every night as therapy doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t need a different way to cope.”
     “Fuck you, Garrison,” Reza spat. “I’m the reason the rest of your platoon came home from the last deployment.”
     A red-haired sergeant stood. His right hand was bunched in what looked like a perpetual half grip and it took Emily a moment to realize that it was a prosthetic hand. Her skin went cold. She’d never seen physical evidence of the war this close before.
     “Girls, girls. Can we please listen to the good captain explain to us the services she offers? I for one would like more information on how to not accidentally almost kill myself in the future.”
     The room groaned beneath the joke and Emily saw his name tag. Staff Sergeant Carponti. His eyes lit with an impish grin and she wished she knew the story behind how the young sergeant was able to defuse the anger between the two big sergeants with such ease.
     “That’s not funny, Carponti.” Reza settled back against the wall.
     “It was my accidental overdose. I’ll make jokes if I want to,” Carponti said. “You can’t because that would just be wrong on multiple levels. But I can make all the inappropriate jokes I want.” He turned and grinned in Emily’s direction and she instantly liked him. “How do we fix this shit, ma’am?”
     “There are no easy answers,” Emily said once everyone’s attention was off the two combatants. “But while Sergeant Iaconelli mocks the issue of bad homes, the simple fact is that the generation of soldiers we are dealing with have been raised differently than many of us were. A large portion of our force comes from broken homes, have been victims of trauma at a very young age.” She deliberately avoided looking in Reza’s direction. “What I’d like you all to think about is the fact that many of you are combat veterans. Many of you have lived through terrible experiences as adults. But how would your life be different if you’d been beaten as a child? Or sexually abused? You can mock the younger generation and say they’re weak.” She paused, scanning the faces of the warriors in front of her, looking for any sign that her words were breaking through their hardened shells. “Or you can look at the fact that some of them are even functioning as an act that takes the greatest strength.”
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     Reza felt Emily hesitate before she climbed the hill toward the MOUT site behind him. His gaze fell to his gloves on her hands, and an unexplained warmth spread somewhere in the vicinity of his belly as he watched her.
     He wasn’t entirely sure what the hell had happened to him. Not so long ago, he’d gone up one side of her and down the other for keeping information about a soldier from him. Not so long ago, he’d told her she did not belong in the army.
     Now she was out at the range with him, wanting to know about the world he lived in.
     A world he didn’t want her to know. The scars on his body were testament to the ragged ugliness of war.
     She’d watched movies about combat. He’d led men in combat. Bled with them.
     What on earth had possessed him to bring her out here?
     He knew what it was and it pissed him off. If she was going to deploy, maybe something she learned today would save her life later. He hated to think of her in a bunker with rockets landing all around. His stomach twisted hard. He wouldn’t be there to keep her safe.
     People like her simply didn’t recognize the world for what it was: a cruel, hard place that would crush the best of them. It was a world that required exactly what they were about to do: train.
     If he couldn’t protect her, he could train her. At least a little. A little was better than nothing.
     If she backed away from the shoot house, he wouldn’t let her go. She needed to do this, to see this in training where it was safe. No matter how much he wanted to protect her from the smoke and chaos of war—even a mock war like they were getting ready to wage today—the simple fact was she was going to deploy. Better to learn what she could here today rather than head to the desert with zero training. The threat of violence was a very real thing in his daily life and if she was going to deploy, she needed to understand that.
     He watched her as she approached, careful to keep his expression neutral.
     Part of him wanted her to run, to turn away from the violence of his life.
     But another part of him, the dark part, wanted her to join him in the muck and the mire. That darkness held a powerful lure, a quiet shame mixed with the pride: he was good at what he did.
     She flexed her hands in those gloves and his guts clenched. Down, boy.
     “You ready for this?” he asked as she stopped next to him.
     She peered up at him intently through her army-issued protective glasses. They were at least three sizes too big. “Is one ever really ready for something like this?” She didn’t look nervous but he heard the stress in her voice.
     “Would it help you to know that I’m looking forward to this? This is the fun stuff I signed up for.” Not the killing parts. No, not those. But the force-on-force mock fights? That was the fun stuff.
     “Fun? Are you serious?”
     “Hey, Sarn’t Ike, check this out!” One of his old lieutenants, Miller, ran up from the entrance to one of the blown-up windowless buildings of the mock city. He lifted his shirt, showing a brilliant purple and red welt on his side.
     “That shit’s going to hurt like hell tomorrow,” Reza said with a low whistle. “Did the medics check you out?”
     “I’m not fu— Nah, I’m good,” Miller said, stopping himself once he realized there was an officer present. “Ma’am.” He saluted and Emily returned the courtesy.
Reza almost shook his head at the sharp perfection of her salute. She obviously hadn’t learned the half-assed officer salute that so many officers passed off as real customs and courtesies. He watched her expression change from horror to pure curiosity.
     “Is that—”
     “Some of the guys were screwing around, Ma’am. Doesn’t hurt that bad.” Miller had turned about as red as the bruise on his side.
     “How did that happen?” she asked, peering closer.
     Miller glanced at Reza for permission and Reza nodded. Unless he was mistaken, that bruise had come from an epic case of fucking around and he didn’t mind Emily hearing that. She needed to see the fun side of the guys in addition to the fucked up stuff inside their heads. Maybe if he could get her to see them as people, she’d stop thinking of them as victims.
     “Couple of the guys cornered me. I let my guard down and well…there you have the results.”
     Reza grinned, feeling the warm comfort of familiarity slip around him as Miller ran back toward his boys. This, Reza knew. This was the only thing that kept him from crawling back into the bottle. A chance to lead his boys again.
     He wasn’t in charge today. No, that day was still a long way off. But he wanted—no, he needed—to be back with guys like Foster and Miller. With captains like Teague.
     “Just follow me and stay close. It might get a little loud.” Reza watched as she tried to get her bearings over the sounds and the movement and the noise.
     People who had never been to combat didn’t understand the chaos on the battlefield. It was oh so easy to second-guess the actions of the men and women on the ground when the videos captured everything, but in the thick of the fight? Yeah, it was never as easy as the video games and armchair quarterbacks made it seem. There was too much smoke, too much yelling, far too many people.
     One wrong choice and the squeeze of the trigger ended a life. It might be fun, what they did in the shoot house, but that fun ended the minute they rolled with real rounds in the chamber.
     “A little loud?” She was shouting. “I’m not sure it can get any louder.”
     “If you’re still talking to me in a few months, I’ll take you out on an op in the tunnels. You want to talk about loud.”
     “We do tunnel training because we never know when we have to go below the cities, or literally in tunnels.”
     Her eyes widened slightly as though she was only just starting to grasp the variety of situations his boys faced. It was fascinating watching the scales fall from her eyes. She took everything in. Watched with a fascination that told him she wasn’t missing anything.
     Her brows drew down in a slight frown. “What?” he asked.
     “Nothing. You’re just…You’re different out here.” She tipped her chin at him. “More intense. You really do enjoy this stuff, don’t you?”
     The strange feeling in his belly unfurled completely, spreading warmth wide through his blood.      “There is nothing better than leading men in combat,” he said over the noise.
     Nothing until he held that experience up next to the possibility of touching Emily again.
     What would he give up for a few more minutes alone? To touch her the way he wanted, to feel her soften beneath his mouth and his fingers.
     An explosion ripped through the noise and he ducked, more on instinct than anything else. When he looked over at her, her jaw had tightened in determination.
     And Reza fell a little harder.
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series to your bookshelf today
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Keeping his men alive is all that matters to Sergeant First Class Shane Garrison. But meeting Jen St. James the night before his latest deployment makes Shane wonder if there's more to life than war. He leaves for Iraq remembering a single kiss with a woman he'll never see again- until a near fatal attack lands him back at home and in her care. Jen has survived her own brush with death and endured its scars. And yet there's a fire in Shane that makes Jen forget all about her past. He may be her patient, but when this warrior looks her in the eyes, she feels - for the first time in a long time - like a woman. Shane is too proud to ask for help, but for Jen, caring for him is more than a duty -it's a need. And as Jen guides Shane through the fires of healing, she finds something she never expected - her deepest desire.

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Sergeant First Class Shane Garrison has spent a year recovering from his combat injuries. A year spent in the arms of the woman of his dreams. But loving Jen comes with a price: every time he touches her, he faces the uncertain fear that loving her might mean losing her forever. Jen is a breast cancer survivor and with Shane, she’s found a man who loves her despite her scars. But her scars may be too much for their love to survive. As their love grows, so does the risk to Jen’s life. And Shane must make the toughest decision any man can make to save the woman he loves.

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A by-the-book captain with a West Point background, Captain Evan Loehr refuses to mix business with pleasure--except for an unguarded instance years ago when he succumbed to the deep sensuality of redheaded beauty Claire Montoya. From that moment on, though, Evan has been at odds with her, through two deployments to Iraq and back again. But when he is asked to train a team prepping for combat alongside Claire, battle-worn Evan is in for the fight of his life. Strong, gutsy, and loyal, Captain Claire Montoya has worked hard to earn the rank on her chest. In Evan, Claire sees a rigid officer who puts the rules before everything else--including his people. When the mission forces them together, Claire soon discovers that there is more to Evan than meets the eye. He's more than the rank on his chest; he's a man with dark secrets and deep longings. For all their differences, Evan and Claire share two crucial passions: their country and each other.

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There's nothing in the world Army Sergeant Vic Carponti loves more than his wife and his country. Smart-mouthed and easy tempered, he takes everything as a joke . . . except his promise to come home to his wife, Nicole, for Christmas. As he prepares to leave for his latest deployment into Iraq, Vic will do everything he can to shield his beautiful, supportive wife from the realities of war . . . and from his own darkest fears. As a career army wife, Nicole Carponti knows just what to expect from her husband's tour of duty: loneliness, relentless worry, and a seemingly endless countdown until the moment Vic walks through the door again. But when the unthinkable happens, Nicole and Vic's bond is tested like never before and changes everything they believe to be true about the power of love and the simple beauty of being home for the holidays.

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He's in for the fight of his life . . . 
Army captain Trent Davila loved his wife, Laura, and their two beautiful children. But when he almost lost his life in combat, something inside him died. He couldn't explain the emptiness he felt or bridge the growing distance between him and his family-so he deployed again. And again. And again...until his marriage reached its breaking point. Now, with everything on the line, Trent has one last chance to prove to his wife that he can be the man she needs ...if she'll have him
. . . to win back his only love.
Laura is blindsided when Trent returns home. Time and again, he chose his men over his family, and she's just beginning to put the pieces of her shattered heart back together. But when Trent faces a court martial on false charges, only Laura can save him. What begins as an act of kindness to protect his career inflames a desire she thought long buried-and a love that won't be denied. But can she trust that this time he's back to stay?

Publication date: 4 February 2014
  Can a battle-scarred warrior . . .
Stay sober. Get deployed. Lead his platoon. Those are the only things that matter to Sergeant First Class Reza Iaconelli. What he wants is for everyone to stay out of his way; what he gets is Captain Emily Lindberg telling him how to deal with his men. Fort Hood's newest shrink is smart as a whip and sexy as hell. She's also full of questions-about the army, its soldiers, and the agony etched on Reza's body and soul.
. . . open his heart to love?
Emily has devoted her life to giving soldiers the care they need-and deserve. Little does she know that means facing down the fierce wall of muscle that is Sergeant Iaconelli like it's just another day at the office. When Reza agrees to help her understand what makes a soldier tick, she's thrilled. Too bad it doesn't help her unravel the sexy warrior in front of her who stokes her desire and touches a part of her she thought long dead. He's the man who thinks combat is the only escape from the demons that haunt him. The man who needs her most of all . . .

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Publication date: 4 March 2014

Jessica Scott’s true life journey

My name is Jessica Scott. I am a soldier. I am a wife. I am a mother. There are many stories from the Iraq War, but this one is mine. 

In 2009, Army second lieutenant Jessica Scott deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. It was a year of many firsts. 

This is the first person journey through a combat tour in Iraq, through being a woman in the army and learning to be an officer in the unforgiving environment of a brigade combat team. This is the journey of a writer, learning to find her voice. This is the journey of a mother, confronting the emotions of leaving her children. This is the story of an inexperienced lieutenant, growing into a leader. 

This is the journey as it happened, without commentary.



Watch trailers for books one and two

Watch a trailer for Jessica’s autobiography, TO IRAQ AND BACK

Watch an interview with Jessica Scott on One Plus One