Distraction is life or death. And just the sight of former marine Shane Hovland is enough to shake Matt’s concentration.
Shane came to BUD/S training ready to prove himself—again. Semper Fi is forever, but he needs a new start. Not this dangerous heat with a man he barely knows.
Everything they’ve ever wanted is riding on a thin, punishing line. And they’ll have to fight for more than just each other if they want to make it through intact.
After all, the only easy day was yesterday.
This book is approximately 77,300 words
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Embrace the suck, motherfucker.
His boots squelching in the thick sand, the soaking wet fabric of his uniform pants clinging to him, Matt Knytych gritted his teeth against the burn in his thighs and calves.
Mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter. Right? Right.
"Hooyah!" A man sitting under a beach umbrella nearby hoisted his beer can in Matt's direction. "Good luck, sailor!"
After flashing him a "hang loose" sign, Matt refocused on his rhythm and breathing. Toward the end of his seven-mile route, instead of resting, he dropped immediately into push-up position and powered out a set of twenty-five before rolling to his back for some punishing flutter kicks.
He groaned, sweat pouring off him, abs on fire.
"C'mon, boy." His uncle's voice echoed in his mind. "They're gonna push you past what you can endure, and then push you some more. Dig deep. Don't quit."
He didn't quit. Flutter kicks, leg lifts, combat crawls in and out of the surf, Matt kept going, driving himself on, until he was covered head to toe in sand and grit. Finally he surged to his feet and ran full tilt over to a nearby lifeguard tower. With a giant leap, he grabbed on to the cement ledge and went right into a series of pull-ups.
The lifeguard peered down at him. "Hardcore, dude." He jumped off his high perch and propped his elbows against the railing. "You here for SEAL training?" When Matt nodded, the guy's expression morphed into one of admiration tinged with envy. "I thought about trying out someday. I'm a really good swimmer."
Matt dropped back to the sand and fought not to roll his eyes. He heard that every time he told someone about BUD/S. I'm a good swimmer. I'm a long-distance runner. I can bench-press blah, blah, blah. I should try out, too!
"You should" was all Matt said, mainly because the guy was cute and he was hoping for a smile. Sure enough, he flashed Matt some even white teeth and a set of dimples to die for.
"Maybe I will. When do you start?"
"Well, good luck, man."
The lifeguard offered his knuckles for a bump before climbing back into his tower. As he did, Matt took the opportunity to appreciate one very nice ass.
If only he had more time ...
With a regretful sigh, he trudged his way over to the asphalt path that ran next to the beach, grimacing at the sand caking his sodden boots and pants, which had taken on the consistency of cement. Not only that, it was in his nose, his ears, and up the crack of his butt. He snorted. Better get used to it.
After a futile attempt to stomp off the mud, Matt turned to gaze at the Pacific, a thrill of excitement mixed with dread slicing through him. In just a few days, he'd be spending a lot of time in that frigid surf.
Well, bring it on. I'm ready.
He started a slow jog along the road toward the main gate of the base. The path was crowded with people out for their early evening runs and walks, and several times Matt had to dodge groups of women chattering together while they pushed their kids in exercise strollers.
One such group was ahead of him now, being led by a little boy wobbling to and fro on his bike. Concentration scrunched up his face, and his fingers gripped the handlebars. Despite his best efforts, the wobbles were only getting worse.
As he drew alongside him, Matt called out, "Pedal a little faster, buddy! You can't keep your balance going so slow."
Whatever the cause — the sound of the strange male voice, or maybe a desire to check on where his mom was — the boy turned his head to look over his shoulder and that's when disaster struck. Wide-eyed with terror, he careened directly into Matt's path, lost control and crashed.
With a yelp, Matt leapt to the side, almost instantly colliding with a wall of something hard and sweaty that knocked him clear off his feet.
"Oof!" Matt smashed to the ground, starbursts of light exploding behind his eyes. He sprawled out, struggling for air, high-pitched exclamations from the women ringing in his ears.
"You okay?" This voice was deep, and anxious. "Can you breathe? Here, lemme help you —" An arm slid under his shoulders, but Matt shoved it away.
"Get ... off ... me," he gasped. "Clumsy asshole."
"I'm really sorry, dude. It all happened so fast."
Matt blinked as his vision finally cleared and the man's face swam into view.
With his close-cropped blond hair, vivid blue eyes and chiseled jaw, the dude could've walked straight out of a California surfing magazine. His thick brows were dusted with sand and currently drawn together in a worried point. His lips were parted from exertion, the lower one plump and full, the upper one dotted with beads of sweat that Matt had a sudden, insane urge to lick off ...
Dragging his eyes away, Matt struggled to sit up. His temples throbbed, the little boy's wails piercing straight into his skull.
"I am so sorry." The man put his hand on Matt's shoulder and squeezed. "I just didn't see you."
A bolt of awareness skittered down Matt's spine at the touch.
"No harm done," he rasped. "I'm okay." Wanting nothing more than to get away from the crying kid and the man fucking with all his senses, Matt lurched to standing.
The ground gave a sickening tilt. With a grunt of alarm, the man leapt to wrap one strong arm around his waist. Helplessly, Matt leaned against his bare chest, biting back another groan at the arousing scent of his warm, damp skin. As Matt stared, sweat droplets slowly, lovingly, slid down ridged, hair-dusted abs to disappear beneath the waistband of some brief running shorts.
Very thin shorts that were clinging to ...
"Sure you're okay? I landed on you really hard." The man's voice was filled with concern. "Are you dizzy?" He tightened his arm around Matt's waist, jolting him back to reality.
Matt wrenched away as a hot tide of embarrassment washed over him. "I'm fine," he said gruffly. "Just knocked the breath out of me for a sec, but I'm good."
"If you're sure ..."
Please go away. Please.
After receiving the same assurance from the kid's mom that her son was fine, the man cast one last glance over at Matt before waving at everyone and resuming his run. Matt didn't want to look, but he couldn't help himself, sighing inwardly at the perfect V of his shoulders and back, the round buttocks that flexed with every stride of those long legs.
Yeah, that's it. Run right on out of my life there, pal.
As the man disappeared into the distance, Matt busied himself getting the kid's bike upright again. He made sure nothing was bent or damaged before presenting it back to him with a flourish.
"Thanks, Mister Soldier." The boy scuffed his toe. "Sorry I hurt you."
"Aww, buddy." Matt crouched down to his level. "I'm not hurt at all. I'm just glad you're okay." He offered his hand to shake and the boy touched it shyly with his fingers.
Standing, Matt smiled reassuringly at the ladies, then took off at a slow jog, the sand in his crotch now itching like a motherfucker. By the time he finally reached the main gate of the base, he was chafed, sore and exhausted, thoughts of the gorgeous man all but purged from his mind.
The Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado, California, was located on a beautiful stretch of beach only three hundred yards from high-rise condos that cost more than Matt would ever see in a lifetime. In several lifetimes.
He stood at his barracks room window, gazing out at his own million-dollar view. For the next six months, he'd get to enjoy one of the most desirable pieces of real estate in the country, all on the government's dime. Well, as long as he didn't fuck it up.
He had no intention of fucking it up.
"A bunch of us are gonna go hang out in the commons, maybe do a little workin' out. Wanna come?"
Matt glanced at his roommate, Jerrold, a short, extremely muscular man with tattoo sleeves decorating both arms. "Sure."
After changing into PT gear, he and Jerrold made their way out of the barracks and down to the large courtyard in front, which boasted a cabana with a couple of picnic tables, and a nearby sandpit with some pull-up bars. A concrete pad was next to that, where knots of guys were currently doing sit-ups and pushups, or simply sprawled out doing nothing at all.
Those were the guys talking shit.
"When I did the Ironman last year, I finished in the top ten in my age division."
"Dude, on mile fifty of that ultramarathon in the desert ..."
"I qualified for the Olympic swimming team, but ..."
On and on and on. Matt rolled his eyes.
"Hey, I think you have the room next to mine. Elias Medina."
Matt turned to see a tall guy with jet-black hair and golden brown skin smiling at him, his hand out.
As they shook, Elias said, "This is my second run at BUD/S. You?"
Smirking, Elias lifted his chin toward the group of men still trying to top each other's athletic achievements. "Lemme tell you, I cried like a baby during Hell Week. I ended up ringing out halfway through, and some scrawny-ass motherfucker made it and is now in the teams. Ultramarathons don't mean shit."
"Yeah, I think those guys have seen one too many movies." Matt hesitated, then said, "My uncle was actually in the teams back in the day. Team Four out of Little Creek."
"What the fuck? Really?" Elias's eyes widened with excitement. "What's the secret to getting through Hell Week?" He grabbed Matt's arm. "You gotta tell me!"
Matt laughed. "Sorry, but there's no 'secret' to getting through Hell Week. You just do it."
Elias's face fell as he let go. "Figured as much."
"And I hate to break it to those assholes," Matt went on, "but Ironman scores aren't gonna mean much here. My uncle says this training is ninety percent mental."
"Hell yeah, it is. I'm proof. Started feeling sorry for myself, and once I did, that was it. Couldn't get it together after that."
Matt gave him a commiserating wince, and Elias socked him lightly on the shoulder, his attention caught by something off in the distance.
"Hey, there's my roommate." Elias gestured toward a red compact car in the parking lot and a man and woman standing next to it. "Whoa, his girl's fine. Lucky fuck."
Matt barely noticed the woman or the baby she was holding, since his eyes were fixed on the back of the dude's blond head. He was wearing jeans and a T-shirt, but those shoulders, that muscular back, those long legs ...
"He used to be a Marine," Elias was saying. "Hey, Shane!" He waved his arms. The guy — Shane — glanced over and held his finger up in a wait a minute motion before leaning down to kiss the woman on the cheek.
The delay was all Matt needed, so he swiftly took the coward's way out.
"I'll just meet him later," he called to Elias as he took off in the direction of the main gate and the jogging path. "Need to get some miles in. See ya!"
As he ran, the same word skittered through his mind over and over.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Here he was, about to start some of the toughest military training in the world, and he needed to have his head one hundred percent in the game. Instead, he was already letting himself get distracted. By a hot guy. In a world full of hot guys.
What 're you, fourteen? Get it together!
Veering off the path, Matt barreled toward the surf and dove into it, fully clothed. The frigid water punched the breath from his lungs, and he gasped for air as he floated, letting the cold seep into his very bones.
Could that Shane guy handle this? Or was he one of those gym rats who thought his bench-press numbers equaled toughness?
Matt grinned to himself. Yeah, the odds were real good Shane would wash out early, just like three-fourths of the men out in that commons would. The attrition rate in the SEAL program was, and always would be, brutal.
All Matt had to do was avoid Shane while he waited around for him to fail. It wouldn't take long, maybe it'd even happen the first day. Hell Week for sure.
Nothing to worry about.
Sloshing up on shore, Matt flopped in the sand, teeth chattering, jackhammer-shivering so hard he thought his heart might stop. Hell fuckin' yeah, this was what he was here for.
He'd keep his eyes on the goal and off that hot ass.
"I need some volunteers!"
"Hooyah, sir." Matt raised his hand and the class leader nodded at him.
"Good. Muster 0430 tomorrow morning at the training tank." He raised his voice to shout, "Uniform inspection! Fall out!"
The class ran in formation toward the entrance to the grinder, the infamous patch of asphalt where hundreds of men before them had discovered — the hard way — what they were made of. Adrenaline heated Matt's blood and he roared along with the others at the sight of the instructors lined up silently at the edge of the grinder, clipboards in hand.
Here we go. The only easy day was yesterday.
"Welcome to Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, gentlemen." One of the instructors started strolling up and down in front of the group. "My name's Chief Toshi. The festivities officially begin tomorrow morning, but today we're gonna inspect your uniforms. They'd better be in tip-top shape, people." He stopped in front of a guy not far from Matt. "Tell me, why do we do this?"
The guy could only gape at Toshi, thoroughly intimidated.
"Too slow. Drop."
The hapless trainee dropped for push-ups.
"When you're here to become one of the deadliest warriors the U.S. military has to offer, when you're here to become part of an elite community like no other, tell me: Why do we care about your fucking uniforms?"
He stopped in front of someone else.
"B-because it's protocol, Chief?" the guy stammered out.
Another helmet disappeared toward the ground.
"Why. Do. We. Do. This?" Toshi was pissed now.
"Attention to detail, Chief."
Matt's jaw tightened as the deep, husky voice sent a quiver through him. Shane.
"Correct. And why is attention to detail so important?"
"Because if you can't trust me with my uniform, Chief, how're you going to trust me with a weapon?"
"Exactly!" Toshi addressed the group. "How am I gonna trust you with my life out on the battlefield if I can't even trust you to have some fucking clothes squared away?"
He paused to let that sink in before turning his attention back to Shane.
"You know a lot about clothes, do you?"
"No, Chief," Shane said evenly.
"I bet you do. I bet you have a fashion degree."
Derisive laughter from the instructor ranks.
Matt winced. Oh, crap.
"By the way, anyone ever tell you you look like a fuckin' Ken doll?"
"No, Chief." Shane's voice rang out loud and clear. "Because I don't look like a Ken doll."
Matt looked down at the ground. Just shut up, idiot. Or you're gonna catch it.
Toshi propped his hands on his hips. "So tell me, Ken, how'd you know 'attention to detail' was the answer I was looking for?"
"The Marines, Chief." Shane drew in a deep breath. "Second Battalion, First Marines. Best unit on the planet."
"Is that so?" Toshi made a big show of looking around, like he was surprised to see where they were. "Well, you know you ain't a Marine anymore, right, son? You're in the Navy now!"
For some reason the Village People's song "In the Navy" popped into Matt's head, and he dug his fingernails into his palms, trying not to break into nervous laughter.
"Once a Marine, always a Marine," Shane shouted defiantly. "Semper Fi!"
At that, a murmur ran through the group. Although Marines were technically part of the Department of the Navy, the rivalry between the two branches was intense.
Toshi's voice dropped to a growl. "Do you know what 'Marine' stands for, Ken?"
Wisely, no response from Shane.
"Let me tell you what it means: Muscles Are Required, Intelligence Not Essential." Toshi paused, then said softly, "A fact which I think you've just demonstrated firsthand to all your classmates. Instructor Salazar!"
"A little remediation for the smart-ass Marine here, please."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Loving a Warrior"
Copyright © 2018 Melanie Hansen.
Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Sexy, sweet, and evocative! Loving a Warrior is a passionate, military romance that delves into the rigorous physical, emotional, and psychological demands involved in becoming a Navy Seal, and touches on the patience, understanding, support, and trust required to maintain a relationship under those conditions. The writing is informative and authentic. The characters are rugged, single-minded, and encouraging. And the plot is a slow-burning tale full of explosive chemistry, undeniable attraction, grit, determination, perseverance, sacrifice, competition, and love. Overall, even though I didn't find Loving a Warrior as raw and emotional as Hansen's previous novel, Point of Contact, it is still an intense, enjoyable, enlightening read that showcases her exceptional knowledge into the expectations, pressures, and challenges of Navy life.
Unfortunately this just didn't work for me and I wasn't able to finish the whole book. I really struggled to connect with the characters or get invested in their story so it made it feel like I was slogging through the book. While I found the writing to be very good I just wasn't interested in the high level of detail put into the BUD/s training. It does create a lot of understanding for what these people go through when trying to become a Navy SEAL but I also wanted more of the story and not just constant drills, obstacle courses, running, and working out. I liked Shane as a character and Matt was alright; I didn't get far enough to really dig into their backstories but I had no objections to them individually. But when they were together they just acted liked teenage boys -- arguing, fighting, and trying to one up each other. It made them seem too juvenile to me which then made it hard to believe they had what it takes to become a SEAL. I just didn't feel any chemistry between them, at least in the portion I read. Even their coming out to each other and their first kiss felt out of left field because we'd spent so much time on training instead of their relationship. I'm sure others will love this book but it just didn't grab my attention.
set during navy seals bud/s training, loving a warrior is a slow-burn romance between two leads who have chemistry so explosive they nearly tear each other to pieces before they figure it out. shane hovland and matt knytych have a lot to prove to themselves, to their families, to their teammates before training is over. the rivalry that sparks up between them is enough to keep them strong throughout training, but it's also what keeps them apart. teammates can't be in romantic relationships with each other. not that either of them is looking for a relationship. i'm not kidding when i say this is a total slow burn of a story, but the deep emotions and feelings that these characters feel for each other. the understanding and bond that they share, you believe it because they endure the unendurable and hold each other up in the end. i enjoyed this romance and loved these two characters together. **loving a warrior will publish on november 26, 2018. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/carina press in exchange for my honest review.
4 Hooyah!!Stars Loving a Warrior is the first book in this series by Melanie Hansen. This is actually my first book by this author, but it certainly not be my last. I loved the slow burn, very low angst military story. Shane and Matt literally run into each other the day before they start training at a chance to become a Navy SEAL. At first, it is awkward, but they soon develop a friendship of sorts, to push each other through training. The author does include details of all the training, to show that these men just can’t go to a bar and grab a beer and watch the game. The training is beyond intense. The physical endurance and mental fortitude it takes to takes to become a SEAL is incredible. These men are pushed beyond human limitations. When they do have down time, they are still training on their own. Yes, this is a slow burn romance, but that absolutely worked for me. Seeing how their friendship grew with patience and trust because of their training, was perfect. Both Matt and Shane were very likable. Shane was funny and outgoing, where Matt was more quiet and liked to think everything through, but they knew what each other needed. When they finally do get together, it is explosive. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book in the series, Keeping the Warrior I received a copy of this book from the publisher/Net Galley, in exchange for an honest review.
Torn on reviewing this one. Overall I enjoyed the story very much. It's a wonderful M/M romance between Matt and Shane. They first meet in BUD/S training. Their relationship is a great slow burn as they initially resist getting involved considering the training they were going through. The heart wants what it wants though. What troubled me about these characters is that neither of them seem to have that alpha male trait one needs to reach this level of military service. Sexuality aside they just didn't feel very SEAL like. Perhaps I am generalizing but again I just don't see someone reaching this level without that trait. That said I still enjoyed this story very much and both the main characters are memorable making it a great read I would recommend to others.
A romance about SEALs that's different from any other I've read. I've read a lot of SEAL romances, both M/M and M/F, but Loving a Warrior was quite a bit different from any other and I loved it. I read a few reviews where people complained that there was too much information about BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) training. For me, this is what really set this book apart from other SEAL romances and I thought it was great that Melanie Hansen used this information in the book. Loving a Warrior is a fairly longish read at 310 pages but I couldn't put it down. Ms. Hansen just about ripped my heart out with her book, Point of Contact (a very complex story). Loving a Warrior wasn't quite as gut-wrenching for me but it affected me in other ways. If the BUD/S training she writes about in this book is even half as grueling as what she describes, my appreciation for this outstanding group of armed service members hasn't been strong enough previously. The level of emotional stuff going on in this story was high and I was in tears more than once. Besides the UST (unresolved sexual tension) between Matt and Shane, there is the story of Shane's sister and her relationship with his best friend. This is one meaty story. I was really happy to learn that there would be another book in this series coming out next year. A bit of warning to those who will read only M/M books, Keeping a Warrior is an M/F story. Lucky for me I enjoy all types of pairings in my romance books. A review copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley but this did not influence my opinion or rating of the book. ***Reviewed for Xtreme-Delusions dot com*** (posting on November 26, 2018)
4.5 stars- This author is hands down my favorite when it comes to military romances, and Loving a Warrior is a prime example of why. I never question the authenticity of the military experience when reading one of Miss Hansen’s novels, the research and first-hand knowledge is evident throughout the narrative and in every exchange. To this end, her novels tend to focus more on the characters and their development, both as individuals and within their relationship, and in doing so there are a lot of details about military life. While some readers may not enjoy this, I find it gives me a better sense of the characters and their motivations, ensuring I’m fully invested in them over the course of the series. From the start, I was instantly hooked to this book and these characters. I loved how they were so different in their approach to BUD/S and what being a Seal meant to them, and yet they came together to make a really strong partnership. I also enjoyed how well we got to know each of them on their own. Not only did it allow their characters to really develop over the course of the book, but it also explained their interactions and hesitance in pursuing a serious relationship. The romance between Matt and Shane was definitely a slow burner, which matched the steady, unhurried overall pace of the novel. The writing was strong and descriptive, delivering an honest depiction of Matt and Shane’s experiences rather than romanticizing or glazing over what military life entails. And though the relationship between Matt and Shane is really only starting at the conclusion of Loving a Warrior, I know I will be eagerly anticipating the next release to see where this love story between two Navy Seals goes next. *eARC Reviewed for Alpha Book Club*
4.25 ~> Dynamic without being Overly Dramatic ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩ 4-STAR ✩ REVIEW ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩ > > Judging a Book by its Cover > Looking Deeper Third Person Matt and Shane are training to be SEALS at Coronado. Both want it for different reasons, one’s a natural fighter, one’s a born leader and motivator. Together, they will keep each other on track or be the reason for ringing out. Strong cast with smart dialogue and believable interactions. The chemistry built naturally and their relationship wisely grew with caution. The plot was entertaining and the story flowed smoothly. There were a few conflicts that added dynamics without being overly dramatic. Predictability was low. The conclusion was more implied and barely a Happy/Happily anything but it did give the impression of a vague HFN that may continue on in the background of the next book. Overall, it was an enjoyable read from an author I’ve not yet read. I’m glad I took the opportunity to give it a try. . Rating: [R] ~ Score: 4.25 ~ Stars: 4 ========================== ⭐ ⭐ **** Disclosure of Material: I received a copy of this book from #Netgalley and the Author/Publisher with the hope that I would voluntarily leave unbiased and unsolicited feedback. I was not asked, encouraged, or required to leave a review - nor was I compensated in any way. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising". ***** ⭐ ⭐
Loving A Warrior by Melanie Hansen is a story full of emotion in the best possible way. With Shane and Matt we have two strong men focused on succeeding with their life goal of becoming a Navy Seal. Each comes into this experience with their own expectations of what their future holds. Neither guy was ready for the other. What starts out as rivalry turns to friendship. Friendship with an added attraction to each other. This develops into real feelings. How can they maintain the distance they need in order to achieve their goals? Loving A Warrior is a slow burn romance that builds as the story moves forward. Shane and Matt slowly let down their guard and start to trust each other. I was swept up in their story and was happy to go along for the ride. There are so many wonderful secondary characters that add depth to this story. I’m hoping for more stories with Shane and Matt. I’m not ready to say goodbye!