While conducting an ordinary defense demonstration, Lucy is taken hostage by terrorists. After a daring marine rescue, the trip back to the States leads to exciting detours. An appointed position in Washington, DC, awaits her return with undiscolsed expectations and passion. Lucy becomes a pawn in the power struggle between the agencies. And a new threat lies in wait, resurrecting nightmares of the past. You will be asking yourself, will Lucy's grit and grace save her from losing all she's achieved?
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.55(d)|
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GRIT AND GRACE
By S. Marie
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2011 S. Marie
All right reserved.
Chapter One"I don't remember anything like this being in my horoscope today." Lucy thought wryly as she ran across the arid terrain.
Thirty yards more and she'd be protected by the row of rocks. Adrenalin propelled her as she leapt to safety behind the nearest boulder.
"Oomph!" expelled from her lungs at hitting the hard ground.
Trying to catch her breath, she inhaled sandy dirt. It tasted awful. Unfortunately, she had no spit to spit out the grit.
Off to the side she thought she heard "Lucy stay down!"
Lucy had long since learned to listen to the angels around her. She flattened herself as close to the ground as possible. Suddenly a body slid in next to her kicking up a thick cloud of brownish yellow dust.
"Are you hurt?" A hushed male voice asked. She managed a "no".
The male voice asked another question. "How many are there?"
"Three." She answered, then corrected herself. "Two now."
"Are Wedo and Dahms okay?" He continued gathering data from her.
"Yes, but Dahms was starting to look pale." She was concerned he might be having a heart attack.
"Rhino one this is Peacock one. One target is down. I have the priority package. She says there are two inside with the parcels." His voice sounded familiar as she listened to him report.
A few moments passed till he spoke again. "Roger that Rhino one."
Silence ensued for several minutes. Lucy shifted to peek around the rock they were behind. The military man moved with her keeping her body shielded. In this position, she could see the majority of the open area where the mobile unit had stopped. A group of men in desert camouflage descended as one into its rear shadow.
"Roger that Rhino one. I see you moving into place." He spoke in a low tone.
Lucy saw one of the soldiers stealthily stepping along the side of the vehicle. He stopped to the side of the door. A few hand signals were made to the rest of his team. They swung around to flanking positions to their leader. Lucy feared they were going to storm inside the vehicle. Would Wedo and Dahms duck out of the way or be used as human shields by their captors?
"Lucy breathe!" the man pressing into her commanded.
She'd been unknowingly holding her breath. The director must have yelled action. One of the two remaining captors opened the door to call in Arabic. The soldiers were statues. As soon as the captor stepped outside to see what had happened to Lucy and her guard, the assault ensued. Yelling and shots could be heard. Then all went quiet.
"Roger Rhino one I read you—all clear." The soldier stood. Lucy saw the American soldiers step out of the unit with Jack and Willie.
"Ma'am?" His hand reached down to help her stand.
Finally facing her protector Lucy gasped "Jed!"
Jed immediately spoke into his headset. "This is Peacock one. How far out is the chopper?"
Lucy took hold of his offered hand while he waited for a response. "Roger that. Have the doctor on stand-by. Peacock one out."
She stood, or at least tried to. The desert floor pitched unexpectedly causing her to fall against the well muscled marine.
"Take your time. You probably have a concussion." Jed said compassionately.
After righting her, they walked from behind their natural shield. They met the group mid way, but Lucy didn't stop. She continued towards the mobile unit.
One of the soldiers blocked her path. "Ma'am it's safer here."
Lucy looked around to identify the commander.
"Rhino one?" She approached the man who had led the charge.
"Yes ma'am, I'm Lieutenant Brawn." Rhino one responded.
"I need to see how much damage has been done inside the unit." She told him the purpose.
The lieutenant declined her request. "No ma'am."
"Excuse me lieutenant?" Lucy asserted her authority. "I have to assess the damage."
"No ma'am." Lieutenant Brawn was not going to willingly yield to her.
Willie Wedo interjected. "Lieutenant, I'm afraid she is correct. The unit must be assessed and the computer system shut down."
The lieutenant spoke to Willie. "Sir, then you can do that, but Seeir is not going inside with that dead body."
Lucy held her venom tongue.
Willie rubbed his face as he spoke. "Well lieutenant there's a problem with that. I am one of the mechanical engineers on this project and don't know how to shut down this computer system securely."
"One moment please." The lieutenant said to step away from them.
He put his hand to the mouth piece of the headset. Lucy could only guess he called his commanding officer to find out what to do.
Lieutenant Brawn waved her and Willie over. "Ma'am I apologize. I was not informed of your rank. Sergeant Major Warloc escort Seeir to the Armadillo."
Her title as staff or project expert had never been put that way before. And she'd spent plenty of time with the military over her twenty year career. But then again this was the first time she'd ended up in combat.
Sergeant Major Jed Warloc escorted her to the vehicle.
On the short walk, she asked him about what had transpired. "What happened on the radio for Brawn to cave?"
A smirk crossed the marine's handsomely weathered face. "Well he was told your equivalent civilian ranking would be somewhere around a lieutenant colonel. And you were not to be, excuse the language, fucked with."
She shook her head in amazement.
He stopped momentarily at the door into the unit. "Are you okay with this?"
She answered him with a glib remark. "Not like the highest ranking officer here can chicken out now."
The burst of gun fire rat-a-tat-tatting against the metal sides of the mobile unit took them by surprise. Sergeant Major Warloc grabbed her by the arm to drag her to the rear of the vehicle. The soldiers in the opening returned fire as they hurried to the row of rocks. Willie and Jack were both shielded by the other soldiers.
"Rhino one, I can't see anything!" The sergeant major yelled into the headset.
It felt like an eternity crouched behind the mobile unit. Scanning the area behind them, Lucy thought she saw something in the sky. She tugged on the marine's jacket then pointed.
He spoke into the headset. "Rhino one, whirlybird sighted five clicks out."
The gun fire fray continued. Lucy started getting nervous. A shadow caught her attention from the right side of the vehicle. Jed must have seen it too. He quickly and quietly switched spots with her.
He whispered one word into her ear: "Stay."
Then he sprang around the corner to open fire with his rifle. After a minute of this, he swung back next to her to change clips.
"You ready?" He asked.
Before she could think about what he meant, he grabbed her. "Run!"
The sergeant major sent her in the direction of where the soldiers had entered earlier. As they bolted across the stretch of vulnerability, Jed fired non-stop. There was a steep four foot high wall of dirt in front of them. At 5'3" in comparison to the marine's 5' 11", Lucy didn't know how she was going to scale it. Reaching the wall, Lucy didn't have time to think anymore about it. Sergeant Major Warloc quite literally threw her over the top. She was shocked she didn't stay aloft very long. The drop on the other side was barely two feet. The marine soon landed next to her.
"You still with me?" he checked.
She found her breath to say "yes".
The helicopter flew directly over them.
Evidently the lieutenant radioed the sergeant major. "We see it Rhino one, but we can't make it. Load up the parcels. We'll try for the original landing spot. Over."
The helicopter sent a few small missiles in the direction of the enemy. This allowed time to safely land and load. Then it took off again. Jed and Lucy began the trek to their pick up point. Even though they suspected the enemy assumed they had left too, the marine remained on alert.
They hadn't gotten very far when Lucy's brain began fully functioning again. "Can you get your commander on the radio?"
"Yes, but why?" He asked skeptically.
"I have to talk to him before those people get any part of the Armadillo." The seriousness of what she had realized undeniable in her tone.
Jed recognized the urgency. "Yes ma'am."
"This is Peacockone, Priority package urgently requests the commander." The marine said across the radio.
While he waited he took off his helmet revealing his silver trimmed military cut. "Yes sir, hold for Priority package."
He tugged off the headset to put it in place on Lucy. "Go ahead talk."
"This is Lucy Seeir, with whom am I speaking?" She asked sternly.
"Ma'am, this is Commander Spiers on the Arlington. Do we have an issue?" Commander Spiers had been briefed on the exercise when Lucy and her co-workers had arrived.
"Commander Spiers, I am ordering you to destroy the Armadillo for the sake of national security." Lucy knew she had no choice and neither did the commander.
"Ma'am is it really that serious?" He asked concerned.
"Yes commander, there can't be anything more than a scorch mark left of it." Lucy didn't sugar coat the true seriousness of her request.
"I understand completely ma'am. I need to talk to the sergeant major." The commander knew what had to be done.
As they were switching the headset, Jed abruptly threw her to the ground and started shooting above her head. Shifting to see what was going on, she saw a figure coming in from the opposite direction. Using pure instinct—Lucy pulled the marine's pistol from its holster, wrapped her arms around him to put her hands together, aimed and fired till the figure fell. When she stopped firing, Jed didn't move.
For a moment, she thought he'd been shot, but then he whispered, "Any others?"
"I don't think so." She answered feeling her hands start to shake.
The marine cautiously rolled off of her to peer around. Appearing safe, he helped her sit. The shakes were beginning to move along her arms into her body. An odd intermittent buzzing noise came from nearby. Jed stood to fetch the head set which had gone flying.
Putting it on, his eyes squinted in pain at the loudness of the commander's yelling. "This is Peacock one. We are alright. I repeat. We are alright."
Sergeant Major Warloc listened to the commander. "Yes sir. An ambush, but they've been eliminated. Priority package is safe. Will radio again when we are out of range. Peacock one out."
"How far is out of range?" Lucy asked trying to refocus to stop the shakes.
"We need to be one mile away when the missile hits the Armadillo." The marine stood her up to start walking that mile.
She remained quiet. Her brain was doing the math involved to identify the type of missile that would be used. This completely alleviated the adrenalin overload from the attack.
Only a few minutes later, they found a jeep. It probably belonged to the two that had ambushed them. Sergeant Major Warloc checked it over quickly for any incendiary devices before climbing into the driver's seat. As soon as he had the engine running, he motioned for Lucy to take the passenger seat.
Getting a mile away from the Armadillo didn't take long.
The sergeant major radioed in. "Peacock one to Arlington, over."
The ship responded.
"Yes sir. We acquired a jeep. We should be at the pick-up site in ten minutes, over." He kept it short.
The commander spoke longer than she anticipated.
"Yes sir. We'll look for Rhino one at the new rendezvous point. Peacock one out." The marine acknowledged his orders without question.
"I gather we have a newer new plan?" She asked.
"Yes ma'am" was the only thing the marine shared.
"How long till we get to the next rendezvous point?" She tried a different tactic.
"Approximately six hours ma'am." Again he didn't elaborate.
Her patience had run out. "Okay marine, we are stuck with each other for the next six hours. I've been kidnapped, pistol whipped, tackled, thrown and shot at. I have the Sahara fucking desert in my mouth, hair, boots and bra. I need you to tell me with great detail where the hell we are going and how you plan on reaching that objective. And don't ma'am me one more fucking time until we are in the presence of other military personnel."
As if to emphasize her point, the explosion destroying the Armadillo echoed and quaked across the barren landscape.
When the noise dissipated, Sergeant Major Warloc merely asked one question. "Is that an order ma'am?"
"Yes!" She exclaimed in exasperation.
The sergeant major obeyed her order. For the next five minutes, he explained. They were heading to a small town called Hacki. The lieutenant would have a helicopter waiting. The helicopter would take them to the USS Arlington for medical treatment and debriefing.
When he finished talking, she thanked him graciously. Knowing things were under control, she went silent. An hour into the drive, she began feeling nauseated. It was probably due to the suffocating heat and extreme thirst. A town appeared on the horizon within the next half hour. She hoped they could stop to find water to keep the rising nausea down.
The marine spoke. "We'll be stopping in this town for fuel and water."
"Thank you." She hiccupped.
Jed looked in her direction. "Lucy, are you alright?"
No sooner had he asked than she demanded "stop!"
He hit the breaks hard enough to cause the vehicle to slide a good distance. She didn't wait for the jeep to come to a complete stop before she bolted out. A few steps she fell to her knees to vomit. The last time she'd eaten had been breakfast ten hours ago. The vomiting turned into painfully exhausting dry heaves. When those stopped, she had no energy to move.
He knelt next to her. "Lucy please, it's only a few hundred yards into town. Once there, I'll take a good look at your head injury and find something to help you feel better."
She complied. With his strong arms helping her, she made it into the jeep. When they drove into town, the sergeant major drove directly to what looked like a market of sorts. By the time he parked, she had regained her composure somewhat. They walked into the array of tents filled with people. Oddly enough, no one seemed to take special notice of the marine in combat gear and the woman next to him with a bloody face.
Not far in, Jed directed her to a doorway. There was a sign down one side of it, but it wasn't in any language Lucy could read.
As they entered, the proprietor approached them. The marine conversed fluently in the man's native tongue.
After which, he leaned close to her to whisper in her ear. "There's a flaw in my plan that I hope you can help with."
Turning her head to look in his face, she cocked her head curiously as to what he hadn't considered.
Still whispering so the proprietor couldn't hear him, he admitted his error. "We don't carry money on a mission. How much do you have?"
As awful as she felt, this brought a smile to her bruised face. The mighty marine made a mistake. And the woman he'd been sent to rescue was going to trump him. Not feeling at all guilty about how horrendous her breath must smell; she put her mouth against his ear to answer. The skeptical look he gave her after hearing what she said, had her wanting to rub his face in the vomit stain on what had been a crisp white cotton shirt.
She nodded her head while giving him her "yeah buddy, I'm not stupid" look.
He shrugged, then moved away with the proprietor to close whatever deal he'd made. Jed motioned for her to join them. Embarrassed by her appearance she stared at her feet. It didn't take long for a woman swathed in dark heavy cloth from head to toe to appear. She led the way to a room on the second floor. Once there, the native woman left them alone.
Jed explained what they were doing. "We have the room for two hours. You can wash up while I find a few things we need in the market and get the jeep refueled. I need the money to take care of all this."
For lack of anywhere else to sit, Lucy sat on the bed. She tried reaching down to unlace her boot, but she became dizzy almost falling onto the floor. Strong arms caught her before she had another hard landing.
Excerpted from GRIT AND GRACE by S. Marie Copyright © 2011 by S. Marie. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
S. Marie writes a captivating story and draws you in. You are fascinated by the mix of the civilian world with the military, and find yourself wondering what will come next. The opening series of events draws you in and the story keeps you focused until the end... and then leaves you wanting more. A wonderful romance!
This was a compelling story that I just could not put down. I really loved the way the author really made you like the charactors and want more. I cannot wait for more from this Author.