Read an Excerpt
What Madeline Wants
By Linda Style
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
Copyright © 2003
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
"Hey, Reb. You're up next."
J. D. Rivera, aka Rebel, watched the F-14 fall away in front of him. "Nice vapes," he said on the flyby. High speed and
low altitude created dramatic vapor trails - a visual display he'd never tire of watching.
His turn. He banked left taking the Tomcat into a dive between two other F-14s, his execution flawless. The cloudless
blue sky was perfect for the air show. And after one more pass, they'd be on their way home.
In plenty of time for the wedding rehearsal.
"Time to spare," he told Eric, his radar intercept operator and about-to-be best man.
Eric, aka Zeus, hadn't wanted to do the show, but J.D. had insisted. Hell, he had to do something to take his mind off
the fact that in twenty-four hours he'd be walking down the aisle. Something he thought he'd never do.
"What's he doing! Watch your twelve o'clock! Zeus shouted.
The F-16 came out of nowhere, swooped up in front of them, pulling their Tomcat into its jet wash. In the turbulence,
the blast distorted the airflow to his right engine and Boom! - in less than a second, the engine flamed out.
The tail swung around in a yaw. He shoved the stick to correct, but he couldn't bring the nose up. Now they were
spinning and dropping altitude fast.
"Punch out!" J.D. shouted.
"We're too low!"
"Eject! Now!" J.D. grabbed the loud handle. The canopy exploded and shot upward, and he blasted out of the cockpit on a
tornado of wind, debris spraying like buckshot. Something crashed against his leg, and at the same time he heard a
Through his screaming pain, J.D. felt the pilot seat fall away. His chute ballooned open, snapping him upward. He
squinted, searching for Eric's chute, but saw only the black contrails of the F-14 as it crashed into the ground in a
ball of flames.
J.D. bolted awake drenched in sweat.
Dr. Chastain, his physician at the V.A. Hospital, walked into the room. "How're you doing? Ready to go home?"
Home. Where the hell was that? For seventeen years, the navy had been his home. His life.
"I can't walk. How the hell am I supposed to go anywhere?"
"You've made excellent progress in the three months you've been here. It'll take a while for the surgery on your leg to
heal completely, but with physical therapy you should be able to get around just fine with a cane."
"Yeah, between my cane and my disability checks every month, what more could I want?"
The doctor frowned. "You're alive. You've still got your leg, and I've got ten other patients a lot worse off than you,
Rivera, so stop feeling so sorry for yourself. I made a recommendation for you to see Dr. Lange. The rest is up to
A freaking shrink. What was a shrink going to do? Could he bring Eric back?
The pain of losing his career didn't even come close to the grief J.D. felt over Eric's death.
"You're going to be discharged tomorrow morning, sometime before noon. Do you have a ride?"
"Yeah. I've got transportation." The Yellow Cab Company. Because his fiancee - his former fianc�e - was in
Hawaii on the honeymoon they were to have taken together. Jenna had postponed the wedding as he'd expected. He hadn't
expected her to dump the relationship. But why not? What good was he to anyone now?
The doctor moved toward the door.
The white-haired man turned to look at J.D.
"Sorry I was such a crappy patient. I appreciate all you've done."
Yeah. Eric was dead and he was going to walk away. They should've let him bleed to death.
* * *
He killed a man.
The words - spoken in low hushed tones behind his back at the general store yesterday - echoed in J. D. Rivera's
Only two weeks since he'd returned to Los Rios, Arizona, and the locals were already talking. He should have stayed
away. Stayed in the flea-ridden motel where he'd spent the past six months.
Twenty years away from this town hadn't changed a thing.
Bam! Bam! Bam! Three loud thuds sounded outside, the perfect accompaniment for the killer headache about to
split open his skull. He burrowed under the pillow and wrapped both arms over the top. If he died right now, it
wouldn't be too soon.
Probably what the two guys who'd ambushed him on the road last night had in mind. He touched the baseball-size lump on
the back of his head.
The banging noise sounded again, from the front of the house somewhere. He groaned and rolled his battered body to the
side of the bed, shoved both legs over the edge and sat up, vaguely aware of the cool adobe tile under his bare feet.
After a few shaky starts, he made it upright, but just as he did, a lightning bolt of pain shot up his leg. His knee
buckled, and he swayed to the side.
Groping wildly for something to hold on to, he crashed into the nightstand and spiraled down, knocking over the lamp
and a half-empty can of Michelob before he hit the floor on his knees. Stabbing shards of pain launched him
forward - flat on his face in a puddle of stale beer.
He closed his eyes, the smell of alcohol a potent reminder of all the nameless hole-in-the-wall bars where he'd spent
the last year and a half.
Waiting for the pain to pass, the sting of inadequacy and his own helplessness burned in his gut.
But lying there wasn't going to get the work done. He braced himself on an elbow, sat for a second, then grasped the
rumpled sheets and struggled to his feet again.
Gently, he put pressure on his leg, testing it a couple of times. Yeah. That's it ... Okay. He was ready ... He hoped.
Excerpted from What Madeline Wants
by Linda Style
Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd..
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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