Beyond Valor (Harlequin Romantic Suspense Series #1739)

Beyond Valor (Harlequin Romantic Suspense Series #1739)

4.8 21
by Lindsay McKenna
     
 

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"You make me forget everything else."

Luke Collier knows his duty. A marine corps combat medic, his job is to save lives—not satisfy his own desires. Megan Trayhern is his corpsman, but the beautiful redhead can't be anything more. Luke has already given his heart once, and he understands the toll the corps can take on a woman, on a

Overview

"You make me forget everything else."

Luke Collier knows his duty. A marine corps combat medic, his job is to save lives—not satisfy his own desires. Megan Trayhern is his corpsman, but the beautiful redhead can't be anything more. Luke has already given his heart once, and he understands the toll the corps can take on a woman, on a romance…on a marriage.

Megan has her own mission. While she doles out medical care in the nearby village, she's also gathering intel. It's a dangerous assignment that the onetime military brat undertakes without fear. She needs to focus—and be careful—and the growing passion she feels for Luke can only put them both at risk. Honor binds them both, but the heart gives its own orders….

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780373278091
Publisher:
Harlequin
Publication date:
01/22/2013
Series:
Harlequin Romantic Suspense Series, #1739
Pages:
282
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.50(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

"Your number's up, Luke," Sergeant Bucephalus warned.

Navy field medic Luke Collier looked up from what he was doing. Their Marine Corps company had just been choppered into Lar Sholtan in the Nuristan Province of Afghanistan. He stopped adding medical items to a cabinet he'd just hung on the wall. As he studied the grizzled thirty-year-old Marine Corps sergeant, his mouth curved. "I'm going to set up a Scrabble tournament as soon as I can, Buck. I know you like to play. And win."

The sergeant ambled over to the dusty desk where Luke was working. "I know you like your Scrabble tournaments because you win a pot of money, but this has nothing to do with it."

Outside the room was a small mud-and-rock structure where he and several other men from Lima Company had been assigned to sleep. It also doubled as his medical facility. Luke looked toward the open door. The early June sunlight was strong, shafts entering and making it easier to see around the Afghan hovel.

"What, then?" Luke asked. Tension mingled with urgency because Lima had just replaced another Marine company for the next year. The Afghan village of Lar Sholtan was a dangerous place. The villagers were equally scared of the Taliban and the Marines.

"Sit down," Buck said, and gestured to a nearby wooden keg. He pushed his fingers through his short brown hair. "I just got done talkin' with Captain Hall, and he's one unhappy dude. He's only happy that this assignment is gonna land in your lap and not his." He added a toothy grin, revealing that one of his front teeth was missing.

Frowning, Luke stared at the hillbilly-born Marine sergeant. Buck ran the company and had nearly as much power as the captain and the executive officer, Lieutenant Speed. The Kentucky sergeant was the glue between the officers and the one hundred thirty enlisted Marines in Lima.

"Uh-oh," Luke teased. "I guess this is a sit-down moment?" What on earth could Buck be talking about? Luke was on his third deployment in Afghanistan, and nothing surprised him much anymore. He set the bandages aside, pulled up the wooden keg and sat down.

Buck took the other keg, wiping the sweat off his darkly sunburned face. "The captain just got a call from Black Jaguar Squadron at Camp Bravo. You know about 'em, right?"

Searching his memory, Luke shrugged. "Not a whole lot. I've been stationed down south in Helmand Province for the last two tours. I know Camp Bravo is a big CIA forward operating base. They have a lot of stealth stuff going on. Their mission is to stop the Taliban from crossing into this country."

Buck settled his large, spare hands across the thighs of his desert camouflage utilities. "You've got good scoop. I've been over here for—" and he held up his fingers and counted "—three tours. Comin' here to Lar Sholtan is number four."

"You win that round," Luke said, enjoying the humor dancing in Buck's green eyes. He liked the hillbilly sergeant, but so did everyone else. His Kentucky drawl and his easy way of managing the Marines had earned him trust among the men. "For once, you look serious. This must be bad news."

Buck rubbed his hands slowly up and down his thighs. The heat was stifling, nearly a hundred degrees in the early afternoon. "Well, the cap'n sure thinks it is. But—" and he shrugged a little "—I don't necessarily think so." His grin widened considerably. "But I'll let you tell me how you react to the news."

"Okay, you got me curious."

"You're a scrounger by nature, so you always like knowin' the little details." Buck chortled.

"Every company has a scrounger," Luke said proudly. That was a person who could get items that no one else could. Luke had spent enough time in-country and knew the ins and outs at the U.S. military headquarters in Kabul. Anyone who needed anything came to him. Luke got results. As a field medic, he was trusted by the men with their lives. As a scrounger, he was a demigod who could perform miracles.

"Well, the cap'n just spent a half hour explaining what's gonna happen tomorrow mornin'."

"What is going to happen?" Luke asked, meeting the sergeant's foxlike smile. "Is this a person, place or thing?"

Chuckling, Buck pulled out his canteen and unscrewed the lid. "Naw, this ain't some Scrabble game, Luke. It's a person we're talkin' about. And I've gotta say, it's a sweet deal in my eyes. The cap'n thinks he's just been handed his biggest career killer to date." Buck guzzled some of the water. His Adam's apple bobbed up and down as he drank half of the contents. He then wiped his mouth with the back of his sleeve, screwed the lid on and placed it back in his belt. "How'd you like to be assigned another field medic?"

Luke's brows rose. "Well…sure. I'm busy 24/7. I could use another pair of hands around here. There should be four medics assigned to every company, but there's only me at Lima."

It was no secret that Navy corpsmen were some of the highest casualties of the war. They were the ones who braved hostile fire to get to their injured Marines.

"Is this what it's all about? Another field medic is being rotated in here to help me?" Luke asked. What could be bad about that? Nothing, in Luke's opinion.

Holding up his hand, Buck said in a warning tone, "Now, son, don't get your hopes set too high. There's more to my story. Did you know there's a superse-cret group of women Apache drivers at Camp Bravo? They're called the Black Jaguar Squadron. When you see Apaches in this area, they're being flown by all-woman crews."

"Hey, that's cool," Luke said, admiring the whole idea. "I didn't know."

"Not many do. The woman who started the BJS is General Maya Stevenson," Buck said. "She formed a plan to have U.S. Army women flying the Apaches in Peru to stop cocaine from leaving that country to the United States. She went to the Pentagon and argued it could be successful. The boys, of course, said she'd fail. But the opposite happened. That was fifteen years ago. Since then, Maya Stevenson has proved having women in combat works and works well. She's a general in the Army, stationed at the Pentagon, and came up with another idea involving women."

"She sounds like an effective leader," Luke said. "I knew nothing about this."

"I know," Buck said. "Remember, this is a top secret black ops."

"What does all of this have to do with me?"

"General Stevenson is at Camp Bravo right now. She's spearheaded a new strategy plan through the Pentagon. JSOC, Joint Special Operations Command, has given its full approval."

Curiosity burning bright, Luke could barely sit still as the sergeant, who was well-known for his long-winded stories, took his own sweet Kentucky time. "Okay, okay, so how does it involve us?"

"You always want to ruin a good story, Luke. Ya can't sit still longer than two seconds. You're always flittin' around like a hummingbird."

"Guilty," Luke admitted, holding up his hands. "My mother blames it on the fact that I'm a Gemini, and they're the tumbleweeds of the world."

Buck laughed. "That sounds about right. Okay, so here's the scoop. General Stevenson asked women volunteers to train with the Marine Corps. This group of women came from all branches of our services. They went through one year of combat training and learned Pashto. Some are specially trained to go into the villages and befriend the women. Of equal importance, these gals could get information from the women that none of the men leaders could give the military. In other words, they're a brilliant intel weapon."

Luke sat thinking about the concept. "It's not a bad idea. Given that in the Muslim tradition here in Afghanistan, women are totally subjugated, they must hear a lot."

"Exactly," Buck agreed. "Women hear everything. They're married to the chief of the village. They talk to the other wives in the village. And you know from being over here, the chiefs of a village often play both sides of the deck with us. They do that because they're afraid of reprisals by the Taliban."

Luke became sad. "We've lost a lot of men to injury and death because a village chief would know where the IEDs were being planted by Taliban sympathizers, but they wouldn't warn us."

"Right on," Buck said. "But what if one of these women soldiers befriends the women of the village? What if she's able to get dental and medical help for a woman and her children? These gals are trained to make connections and then be there if an Afghan woman wants to speak with them. Muslim women aren't allowed to talk to male strangers. It's taboo. Why not use the women instead?"

"That's a helluva plan," Luke agreed, finding the concept fascinating. "Are we getting one of those women here? In our company?"

"Your mama didn't raise a dummy, did she? Yep, we sure are." Buck pulled out a notebook from his pocket and flipped it open. "This gal's name is Megan Tray-hern. She's a U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman second class." He looked over at Luke. "Not all the women volunteers are in the field of medicine. They're all trained in first aid and the like, but Megan is a qualified field medic, so I figure that's gonna make you a happy man. She can actually help out the women and children in this village like you do the boys and men."

Brightening, Luke smiled. "Hey, this sounds great. She's the same rating I am." Finally, he'd have help taking care of the daily health issues of the men of Lima Company.

"Yep, she's your equal. The captain was happy to hear Megan was a field medic, but he sure as hell was unhappy about having a woman in an all-male combat company."

"I can see why," Luke said, thinking about his good fortune. "We've never had women in combat companies since it's against U.S. law."

"Yeah, yeah, I know all that, but General Stevenson argued women are already in combat whether they want to be or not. There are no more front lines. Congress just has to get over it, is all."

"Captain Hall doesn't think women can handle combat?"

"You got that right. Me?" Buck snorted. "This officer is a Northerner. He don't know hillbilly women at all. Hell, they can shoot just as good as any man, or better. They're tough, smart and hardy. Cap'n Hall is a rich city boy who has a very narrow view of women."

"I don't see her as a problem, Buck. Afghan women here won't talk to us. Megan might be a real resource."

"I think so, too, but the cap'n is sour on it. He's worried this woman will get kidnapped or killed on his watch."

Luke could appreciate Hall's dilemma. "If these women have had a year of training in combat and weapons, that should minimize the risk."

"You'd think," Buck said. He tore off the paper with the notes scribbled across it. "Here, you're gonna need this. The woman doc is flyin' in by CH-47 tomorrow at 0800. You're to meet her. The cap'n wants her to stay with you. You're in charge and responsible for her."

Luke laughed. "Oh, great! So if she gets injured or killed, it's my fault?"

"That's about it in a nutshell, Luke. Hall wants nothing to do with her. Out of sight, out of mind."

"Okay, so I meet this woman. What then?"

"Well, she's assigned to this house. She's now one of the boys. No special treatment, okay?"

"Okay." Luke was suddenly excited by the promise of a woman, a field medic, living among them. "I'll take care of her."

"Yep, you will. I'm sure her needs as a woman will be different from ours. I'm havin' some Marines build an outhouse and a private shower stall for her."

"That's special treatment. The Marines probably aren't happy about it, but it would give her some privacy."

"I like women. I don't see that as treating her special," Buck said with a wily grin. He rose and picked up the rifle he'd leaned against the dusty table. "And I know how strong they are. My only worry is you won't respect or admire them like I do. I don't want you pul-lin' a Hall on me."

"No worries on that score, okay?"

"Okay," Buck said, settling the helmet on his head. "But if you got problems, come to me first."

The shaking and shuddering of the CH-47 helo deepened as it began its descent into the valley toward Lar Sholtan. Megan sat tensely in the nylon-webbed seat squeezed between the aluminum hull and a large shipment of pallets beneath netting in the center of the bird. The loadmaster, a young blond Army spec, sat opposite her. He seemed bored. Looking to her right, Megan felt relief. Her cousin, Captain Rachel Trayhern-Hamilton, was flying. Next to her, in the copilot's seat, was her husband, Captain Ty Hamilton. They were recently married and were now assigned to the Black Jaguar Squadron. Megan's red-haired cousin was guiding the huge, unwieldy workhorse helicopter into a circle to land.

Megan saw glimpses of a wide valley notched between two huge mountain ranges. With her helmet on, she could follow chatter between the Marines on the ground and the pilots in the cockpit. Everyone was looking for a flash from the slopes of the mountains. This could indicate that a Taliban soldier had fired a grenade launcher or rocket against the incoming helo. There was tension in everyone's voices.

Megan held her medic pack across her lap. The shuddering of the helo and the roar of the two mighty engines above them made her anxious. Would she get on the ground in one piece or not? Craning her neck, Megan could see the blue of the sky dotted with fluffy white clouds. Below, she spied the sharp, rocky brown mountains. Everything looked dry and dead, like a desert.

The helo jostled as it hit an early updraft of heat from the valley below. As she gripped her pack, Megan's heart sped up. Her cousin dropped the helo swiftly toward the ground. If it hadn't been Rachel at the controls, Megan would probably have screamed. She held her breath as the aircraft dropped out of the sky. At the last minute, Rachel flared the helo, the nose coming up. In seconds, all Megan could see was yellow dust rising in thick clouds around them. Rachel had warned her this would happen. It blinded both pilots and they had no instrumentation to tell them how close they were to the ground except for an altimeter.

Breath exploded from Megan as the wheels touched the earth. She felt relief. The helo sagged and suddenly the engines were cut. The shaking stopped, the blades whirling more slowly.

The loadmaster was up and hurrying toward the descending ramp. Megan saw Rachel unstrap and squeeze out of the cockpit. She grinned at Megan and gestured for her to get up and move out of the helo. Haste was part of their life here.

Megan quickly jumped up, held on to her pack and hauled her duffel bag behind her. Rachel picked up the other strap and they carried the heavy bag down the ramp.

The dust still swirled and moved around them. Megan coughed and choked. Bits of dust got into her eyes as Rachel guided her off the ramp and toward some unknown point she couldn't see. Eyes watering, Megan felt the tears running down her cheeks. Hurrying, the duffel bag weighing more than ninety pounds, Megan followed Rachel. She was amazed her cousin seemed to know where she was going.

Meet the Author

A U.S. Navy veteran, she was a meteorologist while serving her country. She pioneered the military romance in 1993 with Captive of Fate, Silhouette Special edition. Her heart and focus is on honoring and showing our military men and women. Creator of the Wyoming Series and Shadow Warriors series for HQN, she writes emotionally and romantically intense suspense stories. Visit her online at www.LindsayMcKenna.com.

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Beyond Valor 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
rhonda1111RL More than 1 year ago
Beyond Valor by Lindsay McKenna 5 STARS Beyond Valor is a new series of books that starts off from a old series from Lindsay, Morgan's Mercenaries. Megan Trayhern is a trained nurse and medic. Her father is Noah Trayhern a retired Coast Guard officer. Megan has kind of followed her family's tradition of serving in the armed forces. She could have been a Officer but chose to be in the field helping. Megan is sent into Afghanistan near the Pakistan border. Megan as a women can go into the nearby village and treat the women and young children. They could not recieve medical help from men. She is made welcome by the Afghanistan chief's wife. Given 4 widows to make a clinic and help her. Her commanding officer is not thrilled to have a women in his combat unit. They only have one medic where they need at least 3. He assigns Luke Collier, A marine corps combat medic to be in charge of her. Luke is excited about this trial program because he sees the need for women to help the other women when they need it. Luke and Megan are drawn to each other right away but they both fight it. While they are equal in rank they can be quartmashelled if they have a relationship. This novel is full of action and drama, strong characters, explains pretty good the life the Afghans villagers must face with different factions willing to kill anyone who does not belive like them. Some of the things that we take for granted they have to fight for. I was drawn into the story and did not want to put the book down till I had finshed it. Thier is one love scene in the book. I enjoy reading Lindsay McKenna's work and look forward to reading more of it in the future. I wish I new where I put the Morgan Mercenaries novels that I have in a box some where. I was given this ebook to read in exchange for honest review from Netgalley. 01/22/2013 PUB Harlequin Imprint Harlequin Romantic Suspense 288 pages ISBN-10: 0373278098
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Comes in
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He padded in
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can i join.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pads in. It is hard to tell whether it is a cat, wolf, dog, or badger.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sits in a corner and glares around.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im 7 moons now....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ghsdv
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A golden shecat padded in. Someone ased for a medcat?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow! I looked at your poem and the others responses and it seems you touched most of theirs hearts. So wonderful!!! You should enter that poem and another poem in a poetry contest at 'helena (by chad hofmann)'! Read rules first though!! So touching!!! ~PC~ &spades &hearts &hearts &hearts &spades
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A unknown cat jumps and sinks her claws into hi neck
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Please don't kill yourself. Just because one guy doesn't care about you doesn't ean others don't. Please dont kill yourself you'll hurt others.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Please don't kill yourself! You only have one life, so live it to its fullest. Just because one dude went off with another girl doesn't mean you have to kill yourself. There's always more fish in the sea, my mom would tell me. And so I pass on that advice to you. I'm sure if you killed yourself there would be people in your life who would miss you alot. Live for them. You'll soon get over the pain, but if this pain is handled the wrong way, there will be no recovery. So live life while you can, handle your pain the right way. Commiting suicide is the wrong way. You shouldn't have to kill yourself so young. You should be able to live a long, happy life, not have it be cut short by a reckless desision. Please don't kill yourself. We would all appreciate it. Even the people who don't know you. We all care about every single person in the RP, and if one thinks about commiting suicide irl, then we're there to reassure them that it's a bad thing. Once this happened to a pony named Boomer, and everyone in rp was there to reassure him not to go along with it, and he didn't. I just want you to know that all of us care and don't want to see anyone commit suicide in vain. Please live to see drinking age at least. Longer, even. Just don't die now. Btw to Jordan: How would you like it if you decided to commit suicide and I told you to go along with it because no one likes your fat as<_>s? Shut the fu<_>ck up and get out of here! If you don't have something nice to say don't say it at all!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is venomstar leave her alone u dick !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
That was a touching poem. But why waste one life for a man who never deserved you in the first place? You only get one life...so your going to waste it? Your not going out of this world fighting it? Why? You dont get do overs. Pain goes away eventually...what you are planning will end pain...but there can be no recovery. Without recovery, there cannot be forgiveness. Ask yourself this question. "What comes next?" Now ask this question. "Who will be hurt by this quick decision?" Personnally i have thought of suicide...but why, i ask myself, why bother? Theres no need...im just upset. That man hurt you...so your going to finish the job? Why? This is coming from a man spottedkit. Love is a strange emotion. It will tinker with ones mind. Its starts with obsession then it grows. The obsession i speak of is a longing for another individual. You crossed paths with this man then he hurt you...now your going to dig a grave for yourself? I mean this as kindly as i can. Get over him. Is this pathetic person worth ending your life over? Let me tell you a story. The priestess of a world was cursed. She needd the help of a soldier she cared for named Ende. After a series of events they grew closer. In the end the priestess knew the only way to keep this curse from destroying the world was to kill it...and herself. Ende loved her enough to jump off the edge of a cliff with her and spend his last moments with her. They died for a reason...you are not. Do you think life is just something you can just throw away? An old toy that you no longer wish because someone played with it and left it slightly broken? Now...ask yourself this..."is this man really worth it?" I want you to close your eyes. Go on. Listen to the sounds of life...breathe in air. Open your eyes and see the world around you. Please, if you will, go outside and walk around. God, as i believe im not sure about you, gave you a gift...one so precious, strong and fragile. Life. Let me tell you how fragile life is and what could happen if i changed your mind. I read a book called 'the rifle.' It was a story of a flintlock rifle so accurate, everywhere it went death happened. On the last chapter a spark ignited the powder inside it and accidentally killed a boy on christmas eve. The second that bullet entered his head, eighty years were lost from his life. The book told what his future was. He would have seventy eight moonlight walks, one marriage, three thousand twenty two kisses with his wife, got a phd in medicine, cured cancer and on top of that won the nobel peace prize. But the second that gun went off all of that was gone. Now, he did not have a choice, but you do...are you going to throw it away? You could and probably will be great in the near future...so why waste that chance. Let the wheel of fortune spin! Youve sufferd enough for free spins! As for that man, hes a lowly, worthless worm of a man...i dont know the details but it sounds like he was a coward for picking on a charming poet such as yourself. Cowards are worse than anything. They deserve to be punished like bullies. This man does not know the true meaning of courage...but should that stop you? I challenge you...live another year...go on. Do this. Watch the changes in life. I want you to take things day by day. Now, if he wont leave you alone, you have us to talk to and on top of that, speak up. You have a voice! Use it. Please...consider my words...and i want you to ask yourself one question...just one please i beg you. Why?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Do it! No one likes your que<_>er as<_>s anyways!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Poems. They express us shout our feelings out. They let us write our life down in lines and sentences. <p> My life is a lie. He loved me. He held me hand. Until i saw him with another girl in the stands. I take my match. One stroke to start a flame. One to start a fire. One to silence him. <p> One two. He said i love you. Three four. He came to my lifes door. Five. He lied. Six seven. I put his life to heaven. <p> One knife. One blade. One cut of shame. Blood spills. Drips of red now soak the bed. I see no more. Only black. After su<_>ic<_>ide you cant come back. <p> Love has been called everlasting. Love has been called a bond. Oh it's been called many things. But it doesnt matter when youve been wrong. We all know it hurts, but not all are broken. There is still hope for those who can find it. <p> Dont double cross me. You give me dread and fright. I do know who you are. Youre the de<_>m<_>on on my left shoulder. Not the angel on my right. But i could not agree with you more. The bullying. The anger. Feels like i'm some wh<_>ore. So i can vanish like a kite. I guess i di.e tonight. <p> A locked door. A rusty razor. A towel stained red. A broken mirror. A girl lays dea.d. A tangle of emotion. The room seems to swirl. She was mommys little princess. She was daddys little girl. <p> You. Its true im tired but what remains a secret. Its true im hurt but who is in the dark. Yes, im sick with what is still the question. You act like youre better than me. And that might be true. But why Why do you hang it over my head? Cant you just let it go. Or is it the thing that you do. Dangle it over my head like nothing is wrong with what youre doing. How come you dont just let me go. I dont change for anybody. And you arent the exception. That just makes you next in line. You never stop yelling long enough to hear me out. So why do you bother. You know it hurts to talk to you. But i try to anyway. Just to make you happy. Why did you settle for me. When theres plenty of others. Its you. Im tired of you. Im hurt by you and im sick of you. <p> Reaches for her razor. Its edge smooth and keen. Her screams will be unheard. But her scars will be seen. <p> How do you know im hurting if you cannot see my pain. To wear it on my body tells what words cannot explain. <p> Life was pain. Pain is regret. The things i want most, i cannot get. The memories dont seem to fade. I pierce your heart right from the grave. Time. It all passes too late. All i want is to be safe. I tried to be a brave soldier. Rescue me from life. For that is what makes me want to die tonight. <p> ill die alone and out of sight. Ill die along. Ill die tonight. <p> All the hate. And all the pain. All the loss. But wheres the gain? All the lies. And all the fright. But dont worry darling. It ends tonight.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She races over o it trying to determine wht was wrong.