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Roberta BlairDee Henderson has created another fast-paced romantic suspense. Her seals are gritty but tender and her protagonist a vulnerable but capable Christian. A great read.
— Romantic Times
Kelly Jacobs could already see the headline on the front page of the weekly Coronado Eagle newspaper: "Riptide Kills Teen and Lifeguard." The cold water had her by the throat. Six minutes had passed since she'd last seen the boy bobbing in the swells, and they were being pulled out to sea at a horrifying clip.
She had a lifetime of experience in the Pacific waters off San Diego, numerous rescues, but nothing like this. The water in early May, warmer than usual from La Nina, was still only sixty-seven degrees, cold enough to induce hypothermia. The swells dropped her four feet down in the troughs. If she didn't find the boy soon she wouldn't have the ability to get them back to shore. And this was a big ocean for a search party to cover in the dark-to her left the sun had already set and the twilight was fading fast.
The riptide created by the conflux of ocean currents and the outgoing tide had formed late in the day with an explosive suddenness. When conditions changed, the riptide would fade as abruptly as it had formed, but whether it lasted a few hours or a day would not matter in the end. It was already on the verge of becoming deadly.
The fear of what was coming overwhelmed her. This fight to reach the boy was turning into a personal life-and-death struggle. The saltwater burned her throat and sent her gasping as another wave caught her in midbreath. To give up the attempted rescue to save herself, to let the boy drown- It had been years since she had cared about something this much. She wasn't going to give up, and she wasn't going to fail.
Kelly strained to find a way to work with the waves rather than against them. The boy was out here, somewhere near, and she was going to reach him. She thought about her husband as she fought the cold of the sea. Nick, did you die because you drowned? The Navy had never told her.
She would have said it was impossible for her husband, a Navy SEAL, to drown. With all his training, with all his confidence and courage, she had dismissed it as even a consideration, but she was suddenly not sure anymore and the thought was agonizing.
Three years ago she had said good-bye to her husband at the gates of the U.S. Naval Amphibious Base, half a mile down Highway 75 from their home in the Coronado Shores subdivision. It was a typical good-bye-loving but rushed. Nick had been slipping away from her ever since his pager went off forty minutes before, his attention already on the upcoming mission.
She stole one last hug, burying her face against his uniform, wishing he wasn't leaving but unwilling to put that wish into words. She never wanted to hold him back or give him reason to hesitate. She loved him and she would keep everything on the home front together and ready for his return. Nick lifted Kelly off her feet for his kiss good-bye and then strode with purpose through security to join the other members of SEAL Team Nine gathering to hear why they had been paged to assemble at 8 P.M.
A confident man, her husband, serving in one of the elite branches of the U.S. special forces-a Navy SEAL: from sea, air, or land, they would get the job done. Fluent in three languages, a competent backup medic, he was accustomed to being sent to deal with crises around the world where force had to be brought to bear rapidly. They called him Eagle because he saw everything. A useful trait since he walked point for one of the two squads in Golf Platoon.
Kelly dropped him off at the base and returned home, knowing neither where he was going nor how long he would be gone. She trusted his confidence in himself, in the men around him, in their training. They were the best and the best didn't fail.
There had been no welcome home.
A training accident. That was what the Navy officially said as it buried her husband with full military honors and handed her the folded flag.
She knew they were lying. A training accident didn't bring her husband home in a sealed coffin and bring Nick's commanding officer, Lieutenant Joe Baker, home nursing a bullet wound through his shoulder. She never tried to break the understood code of silence to learn the truth. They were SEALs, and she had been a SEAL's wife. The truth was classified.
She nearly dropped the flag when they handed it to her. She had not been able to see her husband; the coffin remained sealed. They handed her the flag he had fought to defend, folded neat and tight with no red showing. It had been prepared by the men in uniform with a solemness of ritual that would allow no slackness in the fabric or imperfection in a fold. They gave her his flag because they could not give her back the man; they gave her his flag to stand in his place. Their salute honored the man, the flag his service, the taps his passing. And it hit her in that instant, the fact Nick was gone for good.
Looking into the eyes of the hurting men of SEAL Team Nine as the funeral concluded, looking into the solemn eyes of men who grieved with her, she was assured that her husband had done his job and not let them down. They were not able to share it in words, but they all shared that truth in their expressions. She clung to the fact Nick died doing what he loved. Under her own grief she was grateful for that.
And yet the pain that had come in the passing days and months ripped deeper than anything she had ever felt. Her life had changed forever. She missed Nick more than words could express. The men of SEAL Team Nine had replaced him because his was a profession that required another to stand in the gap of one fallen. They went on while they always remembered. But no one could replace him for her.
The medallion she wore, Nick's eagle, slapped against her in the waves. She reached for it with one hand, grabbing hold, grateful now she had secured the chain so she could wear it in the water. It had traveled with Nick through five years of missions. Now it was her closest reminder of him.
"People drown because they panic."
She clung to the words Nick had so often said. During SEAL training the instructors tied his hands and feet and dropped him into the deep end of the pool for thirty minutes doing various tasks-the drown-proof test. Nick knew what he was talking about. He just hadn't told her how hard it was not to panic.
Relax. Do your job.
Nick would wonder why she was panicking when she'd been trained for hard tasks such as this. She put her energy into judging the swells, riding them up to scan the surrounding water. The boy had been south of her the last time she had seen him.
She surged toward him with a hard crawl, willing to use the last of her energy, knowing this might be her last chance before darkness fell.
The teenager had been surfing with a friend; both boys got into trouble in the heavy surf. She went into the water to back up her partner. Alex reached them first, securing a hold on one boy bleeding from a gash on the forehead and pushing his float board to the other boy. As Alex headed toward the shore towing the injured boy, she went for the other teen, not surprised when in his panic he fought her. At the same instant she got hit in the eye, they hit the riptide. The sea tore them apart.
The sea helped her this time, tossing her the last few feet. She snagged the boy's arm as she slammed past him, spun into him, the wave breaking over her head and into her face. She coughed hard, struggling to clear her lungs as she held on for all she was worth. She was not going to lose him again.
The fight had gone out of the teen. The straps of the float board that had been pushed to him were around his left wrist, his right arm hugging it. Even though she desperately needed a few brief moments of rest, she was careful not to put any of her weight onto the float board. It had kept his head above water during the last long separation and been a factor in keeping him alive. It would never support them both.
Sandy blond hair, blue eyes, slim, younger than she originally thought, fourteen or fifteen, long, skinny arms and lanky, still trying to fit into his sudden growth spurt. Both his fear and fatigue were obvious in his face. The waves sent them up and down and rocked them back and forth in a never-ending sensation of movement that made seasickness too calm a word for the reality. "What's your name?" She leaned close to him to be heard.
He was swallowing water, coughing, and his voice rasped. "Ryan."
"I'm Kelly." Fighting fingers that were stiff, that did not want to do as she asked, she unwrapped the nylon rope at her waist and maneuvered the buddy line around his waist, securely tying the line. She wasn't going to take a chance on the sea once again tearing them apart. She put her hands on his face, smiling at him, even as she studied his eyes and assessed his condition. "That was a pretty impressive wipeout you did on the surfboard."
He gave a glimmer of a smile back. "My dad is going to kill me. I wasn't supposed to be surfing."
Hypothermia. She could hear it in the dragging words and see it in his swollen eyes as he struggled to keep them open against the sting of the saltwater and the cold-induced fatigue. She wasn't in much better shape herself.
She looked to the east. The twilight was almost gone; the shoreline appeared only by reflected lights on the horizon. The distance was distorted by the dim twilight, but even by optimistic assessments it was far away. Getting them back to shore was no longer possible. Even if she had the strength, she would not be able to judge the location of the beach and the dangerous rocks in the descending darkness. There was little she could do but keep the boy talking and hope help arrived soon. She knew the rescue crews would be out looking. As soon as Alex had reached shore, the call for help would have gone out.
"Who's your dad?" The conversation was as much to distract her as to distract him. Waiting was almost harder than searching. She had to figure out some way to get them through the coming ordeal while she still had the clarity to plan. The cold water was a deadly foe for it ruined the ability to think clearly.
"You live here in Coronado?"
"Across the water on the Point Loma peninsula. Dad bought a place on Hill Street."
A wealthy man's son. The homes on Hill Street bordered Sunset Cliffs National Park. That stretch of shoreline had the most beautiful rock formations carved out by the sea she had ever seen. "Those are beautiful homes."
"The house is okay."
"Just okay?" she asked, amused at the perspective of youth.
"Our home in Hong Kong was more exotic, but we had to leave three years ago when the lease expired."
"On the house or the country?"
He laughed; it was weak but there. "The country actually. Dad's British. He had to move his company headquarters to San Diego when Hong Kong reverted back to China."
Having never traveled outside of California, Kelly felt a little envious. Hong Kong sounded intriguing. "That must have been fun for your mom."
"It's just Dad and me."
"It's okay. I barely remember my mom, Amy. She died when I was little."
Even though his words were matter-of-fact, she heard the wistfulness in his voice. He missed not having a mom. And in that simple brief exchange, Kelly felt like she took a step toward understanding him. He would hide the depth of his grief, hang out with friends, and wonder why they thought their moms were the worst when he thought their moms were pretty great. Kelly knew it was after the loss that you missed what had been taken for granted. "My mom died about five years ago. It's rough."
Ryan looked toward her. "Did she-" His hand slipped from the float, momentarily dropping his head below the surface. His panic was instantaneous.
Kelly suddenly found herself pulled down as Ryan tried to claw his way back to the surface using her, his hand pressing down painfully into the nerve in her shoulder, his knee catching her in the calf. She broke to the surface, grabbing him from behind and wrapping her forearm under his chin. "Easy!"
"We're going to drown out here!"
She yanked the float board back by its rope. "Hug it across your chest and stop moving," she ordered, treading water for both of them, knowing just how precarious their situation was.
Ryan went still but he was crying now, the sound of his sobs carrying across the water, the fear overwhelming him. Kelly's heart broke at the sound, knowing for a boy his age, tears would be the last thing he wanted someone to see. She smoothed her hand over his hair trying to comfort without embarrassing him. "It's going to be okay. Just relax. I won't let you drown."
His grip on her arm finally eased enough so circulation could return. "How can they find us in the dark?"
She looked around, deciphering in the flickering moonlight that the waves were increasing in size. There had been a low front coming through this evening and its front edge of wind was already reaching them. "Spotlights. Searchlights. The boats will be out, even helicopters." She didn't add what she knew and feared. Even with the resources, finding them before morning would be difficult if not impossible.
No. She couldn't let herself doubt.
Joe would find them.
"Kelly, I would like you to meet my new boss, Lieutenant Joe Baker."
She turned at the touch of her husband's hand on her shoulder. Standing beside Nick, Joe seemed dwarfed, a good four inches shorter, the same powerful muscles but less bulky. But then at six feet four Nick broke the rules for what made a good SEAL physique. Joe could have been the prototype. He was a triathlete if she'd ever seen one. He had the warm copper tan of a man who spent most of his days outside.
Joe had nice eyes. She always looked there first because nothing told her more about a soldier than his eyes. Joe's were blue, like the sea she enjoyed watching at dawn, and they were calm. He held her gaze as she looked at him, doing his own study. She knew the man was brave. He was known in the SEAL community as one of the best, and that said a lot among men who didn't give accolades until they were earned. He also looked kind. The fact he was taking time to come and meet the families of his men said a lot. She offered her hand with a smile. Her husband would be in good hands.
"Lieutenant. Thanks for coming to the cookout." She felt the warmth as his hand closed around hers and could feel the texture of calluses, the strength of a man who could fight hard and yet still touch with tenderness.
"I never turn down an invitation to good cooking, Mrs. Jacobs."
Kelly was very happily married, but she wasn't immune to the man; she felt the impact of being the focus of his smile and the warmth in those eyes.
Excerpted from True Devotion by Dee Henderson Copyright © 2004 by Dee Henderson.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted March 25, 2008
I found this book in our church library and as soon as I started reading it, I could not put it down. I finished it within days. I also read the 2nd one and will be reading the third one soon.
6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 23, 2010
When I purchased the three books, I wasn't aware of the focus on Christianity. I knew nothing of the author. Overall, they are good books just not what I was looking for.
5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 27, 2012
One of the best books that i have ever read. A "Must Read ". Heartfelt from the first page to the last. GREAT JOB DEE.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 31, 2012
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Posted August 18, 2013
No "heavy breathing" or sweaty bodies to read past. I appreciate that about Ms. Henderson's books. I felt this one was much more heavy handed and "preachy" than some of her other books.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 15, 2013
Liked the storyline and characters but could do without so much prayer. I don't mind some but it seems a bit too much for my taste although I will probably follow the series. 247 pagesWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 4, 2013
I have loved everything I have read from this author so far. This one is no exception. It is something I believe anyone could read and enjoy. It had the right balance of action, romance and faith. It was full of action that kept your attention. The characters have some depth and progress with the story.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 2, 2013
This book was really good. I liked the characters and the plot. I also liked the Christian values in it, but I felt the ending was lacking. But over all this book was a well written, good book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 28, 2012
Posted August 24, 2012
Many Christian romances are stiff and stuck in a rut. This story is
fascinating - suspenseful, endearing, the kind that makes you plan how
you can carve more time out of your day to finish the book. Dee
Henderson became one of my all time favorite authors this summer. All
her books are great.
Posted August 9, 2012
A great mystery and love story. I loved how Dee wove their faith into the story. I couldn't put it down because I was truely invested in the characters. Thats proof of the Ms. Henderson's awesome talent. I will definately be reading more of her work.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 16, 2012
Posted July 10, 2012
After reading True Devotion and The Fire and Ice Legacy, I can say with smiles that my weekend will be very relaxing and devoted to more reading of exciting stories. True Devotion gripped me all the way to the end. Not only is it inspiring, it is educative and insightful, with characters that are very real and emulative.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 23, 2012
This story wad surprisingly good and held my interest. Their were unexpected twists and I enjoyed the characters. The actiion was not drawn out. This is also a good read if you enjoy books that involve the military.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 22, 2012