We’re right on the cusp of the 4th of July holiday in the USA. It is our Independence day. We need to thank all the people who gave their lives, give them our grateful thanks and prayers, for giving everything so that we could have the freedom we enjoy today. And toward that end, our military around the world right now, as well as the vets who have also sacrificed so much for us, should be thanked and appreciated as well. Freedom is not free.
UNBOUND PURSUIT is the sequel to TANGLED PURSUIT, Book 2, of the Delos Series. If you have read it? Then you know Tal Culver, Captain, USMC, and the war she fought on an emotional front with US Navy SEAL, Chief Wyatt Lockwood. He’s a good ole boy from Texas, raised on a ranch in West Texas, and doesn’t take “no” for an answer. If you haven’t read TANGLED PURSUIT, do so, because it will make UNBOUND PURSUIT all the more richer for you to appreciate and enjoy! But it can be read as a stand alone novella.
Captain Talia Culver risked her heart again for Navy SEAL Wyatt Lockwood. The brave, cocky Texan was worth the risk and Tal couldn’t be happier. Still recovering from her injuries she received from her last mission in Afghanistan, Wyatt whisks her away to meet his family on their sprawling Texas ranch.
But things don’t go as planned when Wyatt hears local gossip that his drug dealing ex-friend is out of prison and planning a drug run across the Lockwood ranch. Wyatt wants to enjoy some hard-earned down time with Tal, but he can’t ignore the danger at his back door.
As Wyatt plans a dangerous operation to catch the drug dealers, Tal fears she could lose the man she loves.
EXCERPT Unbound Pursuit by Lindsay McKenna, 2B1, novella, Delos Series,
Pub date: 9.29.2016
Paperback available on pub date Amazon.com and Createspace.com
Tantor Media audio – 9.29.16
Tal Culver had turned around to watch Mattie Lockwood, who with swift, knowing precision had gone to work dumping the paint-filled water from the thirty jars, washing them, and turning them upside down to dry on tea towels she’d set on the countertop. The back door opened and closed, getting Tal’s attention. The children could come and go through two different exits. The side door led to the playground. The rear door, near the sink where Mattie worked, was hidden from view by a large mudroom. The hair on the back of her neck rose, instantly making Tal focus her attention on the entrance.
What the hell?
Normally that reaction served to warn her that there was danger nearby, and it wasn’t something Tal ignored. She was in Texas. In a kindergarten classroom. Why was she suddenly on high alert?
Mattie heard the door open and close, too. She barely looked up, busily washing out the Mason jars. She didn’t want to be late getting Tal back to the ranch. Her mother was making a special meal of leg of lamb tonight for the family, and she needed to get home to help her with making the salad and the mashed potatoes and gravy. She figured it was the parent of a child who had forgotten something in the classroom coming back to pick it up.
A dark shape appeared at the entrance. Mattie turned. She gasped. The Mason jar in her hand slipped and fell to the floor, shattering.
“Mark!” The word came flying out of her mouth. Mattie’s heart pounded in her chest as she stared up into his narrowed gold-brown eyes. He wore a black Stetson, a white long-sleeved shirt with a black leather vest over it, jeans, and cowboy boots. His mouth . . . oh, lordy, his mouth . . . she remembered only too well how wonderful he was at kissing her.
She took a step back, her eyes huge as she stared in disbelief at him. He stood motionless, like a tense statue. Mark’s gaze shot to Tal and then back to her.
“Who’s this with you, Mattie?”
She hadn’t heard his voice in four months, that same low, sensual drawl of his that made her melt, made her lower body burn with need of him. Gulping, she jerked a look toward Tal. “That’s Tal Culver, my friend,” she managed to say, choked up. She turned toward him. “What are you doing here?” Tears clogged her eyes but Mattie refused to let them fall, straightening her spine, throwing back her shoulders, her chin jutting out, anger flowing through her along with her shock.
“I need to talk to you alone,” Mark growled. “Get rid of her?”
Mattie scowled. Anger took over. “Go to hell, Mark!” She jabbed her finger toward the door of the mudroom. “Just get the hell out of my life! How dare you come back into it! You think you can just waltz in here after being gone for months without a word?”
Her voice was shaking, she was so angry and hurt. And he looked so delicious to her. He was half Chippewa Indian through his mother, who was now dead. He had his mother’s coppery skin, that shining short black hair, those glittering, intelligent wolf eyes, as she used to refer to them, a gold-brown mixture. His mouth thinned, relaxed a little. For a split second, Mattie thought he’d smiled, or that maybe some amusement had flittered across his narrowed, intelligent gaze.
“I’ve been real busy, Mattie. That’s not the welcome I was hoping for.”
Mattie gulped back her tears. “What the hell else did you expect?”
Mark shrugged lazily, lifting one shoulder, keeping his gaze pinned on Tal. The woman seemed like someone he wouldn’t want to mess with. Mark saw the look in her eyes, saw the fine tension in her body, and felt the energy around her. If she wasn’t law enforcement, then she was military. He met her gaze and hardened his look in her direction, willing her to stay right where she was. Missing nothing upon first perusal, Mark could quickly size up another person and know just how dangerous they were. This woman was damned dangerous, even though she wore a camel-colored pantsuit with a bright orange tee beneath it. She wore no makeup, her black hair lying like a shining cloak around her proud shoulders.
His gaze moved back to Mattie. “I need to talk to you,” he repeated.
Snorting vehemently, she snapped, “I want nothing to do with you, Mark!”
His gut clenched, his heart twisting with guilt and need of her. Mark tried to bury the pain he carried deep within him. He watched the flare of righteous anger in Mattie’s slitted dark green eyes. Reining in the desire for her that was always with him, he rasped, “Okay, then here it is: you tell your father to keep his wranglers out of the northeast corner of your ranch two nights from now, Mattie.” His voice dropped.
“This isn’t a joke. You need to keep everyone out of that area.” He started to turn, stopped himself, lifting his head, meeting Mattie’s tear-filled eyes. Less gruffly, the hardness in his gold-brown eyes dissolving, almost turning tender, he said, “Take good care of yourself, Mattie . . .”
Before Mattie could snarl at him, he turned on his heel and was gone. When the door slammed shut, Mattie jumped. She was breathing raggedly, her heart sledgehammering in her chest. Gulping, she looked at Tal.
“Are you okay?” Mattie asked in a trembling tone.
Giving a slight nod, Tal said, “I’m fine. Is he gone?” She gestured with her chin toward where Mark had disappeared.
Turning, Mattie quickly walked out to the mudroom. Peering out the window, she saw nothing but the outskirts of Van Horn. It was as if Mark had never been there. But he had. She had goose bumps across her skin, and she absently rubbed her upper arms, feeling stunned by his sudden and unexpected presence.
She heard Tal get up, the chair scraping back against the tiled floor. Because of her ankle, she couldn’t move quickly, and Mattie hurried back and met her at the sink. “He’s gone.”
“Did you see where he went?”
Shaking her head, she whispered, “No . . . I looked, but he’s like a ghost. Just . . . gone.” Touching her brow, she added apologetically, “I’m so sorry, Tal. You didn’t need this. God, I didn’t need it either.”
Tal reached out, feeling her shaking. Mattie’s face was white, her freckles standing out against her tightened skin. “How are you doing? Do you want to come and sit down? Can I get you a drink of water?” Tal could feel the tension in her, saw the tears glimmering in her eyes. Mattie was valiantly trying not to cry.
“Come on,” Tal urged her gently, “come and sit down for a minute.” Mattie looked so shaken Tal wasn’t sure she wasn’t going to faint on her. And if she did, Tal wouldn’t be able to break her fall, thanks to her weakened ankle.
Jerkily, Mattie nodded, covering her eyes for a moment, trying to hold herself together. She tried to shove down her dark past, her love for Mark. After all he’d done to her! If the townspeople ever knew what had happened, she’d never live it down. Never had she ever wanted anyone but Mark. It was a destiny and a curse. She still loved him. Mattie denied it, but inside, in her private moments, her heart ached for Mark.
Around her, from childhood onward, Mark had been vulnerable, despite his hard life. Mattie had seen the scars where his flesh had been peeled back when his angry, alcoholic father would unmercifully beat him with his belt. She knew he’d gotten those scars when he’d stepped between his father and his sister, Sage. Matt had made himself a target to protect Sage from being sexually molested. His body had been deeply scarred over time. To this day, Sage’s loyalty to her brother was solid, and Mattie knew why. Mark had protected her from her father. And Sage loved her brother as fiercely as Mattie did, but for different reasons.
Sitting down, Mattie was grateful for Tal’s quiet strength, her hand resting on her slumped shoulder as she tried to control her inner tumult. “I don’t know why he suddenly showed up,” she whispered, her voice quavering. Tears spilled down her cheeks, and she turned her head, ashamed that Tal would see her cry.
“Did you know he was coming?”
“N-no,” she whispered, quickly wiping the tears away, humiliated that her future sister-in-law-to-be was seeing her like this, a muddled mass of jellied emotions, pulverized by Mark’s shocking appearance.
“Has he done this before?”
Shaking her head, Mattie said hoarsely, “I have not seen him in three months. I figured he’d just disappeared out of my life forever. That’s why I was so shocked to see him again.”
Frowning, Tal smoothed her hand gently across Mattie’s shaking shoulders. She was crying. Tal put herself in Mattie’s place. This would be a helluva shock for anyone to take. Almost like a dead person returning from the grave.
“I-I’m sorry, Tal. I shouldn’t be crying. You’d think I’d learn my lesson . . .”
“Sometimes, when you love someone, it takes a long time to get over it,” Tal told her.
“I-I shouldn’t still love him!” she rasped, giving Tal a confused look. “How can I?”
“Only you can answer that,” Tal said gently, smoothing back some strands of red hair that were sticking to her damp cheek.
“Love and grief are entwined, I’ve found. And it’s a process you work through. There’s no time limit on it.”
Sniffing, Mattie pulled a tissue out of her pocket, wiping her eyes and blowing her nose. “There’s so much grief and sadness shared between us. I knew one day he’d leave for good. And I thought he had. But he’s back . . . I-I never expected to ever see him again.”
Never mind she still dreamed like the child she was of what might have been if they’d married once they were out of high school. The year they spent together when they were teenagers, after their relationship moved from friendship to something more, had been heaven on earth. Mark been so gentle and open with her, so incredibly loving. Sometimes, Mattie felt as if Mark had a lifetime of love stored up for her from the time he was born. At six years old, seeing him in the first grade, she’d fallen in love with him. It was the most beautiful feeling in the world to have him unveil the deepest, most beautiful parts of himself, his dreams, his wishes, with her. People called it puppy love, but the feeling had never gone away. And when she was sixteen and he finally opened up to her, let himself be as vulnerable as she was, and tenderly loved her, her soul had wept with joy and pleasure. He had been that loving. But then their lives had spiraled into a darkness she could never have imagined. And it had torn them apart even though they still ached to be with one another.
After that, Mark had changed abruptly. Forever. He was no longer open with her; he shut down. She knew why. It was a secret both of them would carry to their graves. The more Mattie tried to remain close to Mark, the more he retreated from her, those hard shields that he had always kept between himself and most other people began rising against her, too, cutting her off from his soft side. Mattie was too ashamed, too guilty and young, to figure out how to salvage the love they held for one another. And to this day, she beat herself up, knowing that one night had changed their lives and made Mark suddenly disconnect from her forever.
“We need to get home,” Tal urged her quietly. “Can I help you get things straightened up around here so we can leave?”
Mattie gave a jerky nod, wiping her cheeks dry. “Y-yes, Dad and Wyatt need to know what happened,” she whispered unsteadily, pushing the chair back. “You stay put, Tal. It will take me about ten minutes to get everything in order. I don’t want you trying to run around on that bum ankle of yours.”
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Want to listen to TANGLED PURSUIT? Here’s the info of when it will be available! Coming in 2016, audio version of UNTANGLED PURSUIT!
Audio (Tantor Media) 6.26.16