SEALed with a Ring (SEALed Series #3)

SEALed with a Ring (SEALed Series #3)

by Mary Margret Daughtridge

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Overview

She's got it all...except the one thing she needs most

Smart, successful businesswoman JJ Caruthers has a year to land a husband or lose the empire she's worked so hard to build. With time running out, romance is not an option, and a military husband who is always on the road begins to look like the perfect solution...

He's a wounded hero with an agenda of his own

Even with the scars of battle, Navy SEAL medic Davy Graziano is gorgeous enough to land any woman he wants, and he's never wanted to be tied down. Now Davy has ulterior motives for accepting JJ's outrageous proposal of marriage, but he only has so long to figure out what JJ doesn't want him to know...

Praise for SEALed with a Promise:
"The author infuses humor, realistic characters, emotion-filled situations, and in some cases brutal honesty to create a storyline that's utterly captivating from beginning to end." -Romance Junkies
"Daughtridge delivers the heat." -Alpha Heroes
"Mary Margret Daughtridge's descriptions awaken the senses to a level that makes a reader gasp for breath and sigh with satisfaction." -Long and Short of It

Praise for SEALed with a Kiss:
"A heart-touching story that will keep you smiling and cheering for the characters clear through to the happy ending." -Romantic Times
"A completely fascinating, enchanting, poignant novel that touches the heartstrings." -Romance Reviews Today
"Mary Margret Daughtridge has done a stellar job writing a realistic romance without trying to sugarcoat the difficulties inherent in any military relationship." -Queue My Review

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402246821
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 03/01/2010
Series: SEALed Series , #3
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 575,181
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Mary Margret Daughtridge has been a grade school teacher, speech therapist, family educator, biofeedback therapist, and Transpersonal Hypnotherapist. She is a member of Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Romance Writers of America, and Romancing the Military Soul, and is a sought-after judge in writing contests. She resides in Greensboro, North Carolina.


Mary Margret Daughtridge has been a grade school teacher, speech therapist, family educator, biofeedback therapist, and Transpersonal Hypnotherapist. She is a member of Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Romance Writers of America, and Romancing the Military Soul, and is a sought-after judge in writing contests. She resides in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Read an Excerpt

Sealed with a Ring


By Mary Margret Daughtridge

Sourcebooks, Inc.

Copyright © 2010 Mary Margret Daughtridge
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4022-3707-2


CHAPTER 1

It had been a nice wedding, if you liked weddings. Davy didn't, much. It took too long to get to the good part. Davy set his almost full champagne glass on a table littered with other barely touched champagne glasses and dessert plates with half-eaten portions of wedding cake. They'd just spent a half hour on champagne and cake nobody wanted — proof of what he was saying.

SEALs didn't have a hell of a lot of free time. And he might have even less before long. The medical corpsman with a unit in Afghanistan had lost most of a leg in an IED ambush. Davy was tempted to volunteer to finish the corpsman's tour of duty. He was still weighing the pros and cons.

In the plus column, having been deployed there, Davy already knew the country, knew the language. He would be useful from the moment his plane touched down. The platoon wouldn't have to baby-sit him until he could fend for himself. In the minus column, he'd returned from deployment only a few months ago. He had used up almost none of his accumulated leave.

Back on the plus side, when he was operating, life was intense, flat out. All his skill, strength, and intelligence were employed to the max, with the added plus that his care made the difference in whether others returned alive.

He didn't know yet. But if he did go back to Afghanistan, he wouldn't want to think he'd wasted his time in America on drinks that weren't for the purpose of drinking and food that wasn't for the purpose of eating. He was ready to get down to business.

The upside of a wedding was the way it attracted girls all tricked out in pretty dresses and in the mood to hook up. Davy did love sex. Every time he looked in the mirror, he thanked the excellent genes that meant he'd never had to work very hard to get it. Nature had gifted him with black hair that, allowed to get the least bit long, had a tendency to curl around his ears, smooth olive skin, and large, wide-set brown eyes. His perfectly straight nose was neither too large nor too small, and his jaw was just wide enough to make his face strong and thoroughly masculine. Oh, and the coup de grâce, a dimple in his left cheek. SEAL training kept the body in perfect trim.

Life for Davy Graziano, usually called Doc by his buddies, was good.

He had his eye on a couple of pretty girls who had smiled a certain way when they found out he was a SEAL. Toasts out of the way, the bride and groom had started the dancing. Without being rude or making it too obvious that he hadn't come for the party, he could at last pick his partner for the night and get out of here.

Automatically, he checked the position of his SEAL teammates scattered throughout the well-dressed throng of guests. Until awareness was ingrained, SEAL instructors drilled the men in teamwork. Every exercise was a competition that could only be won by keeping up with every other man in the team. But in Davy's psyche, the habit was even more deeply embedded.

When someone called "Doc" or "Corpsman up!" he had the same combat duties as any other SEAL, and he also had to care for the wounded. To find them he had to scramble through disorienting smoke, confusion, din of gunfire, and exploding shells. Knowledge of where they were came through his muscles and bones and sometimes through the very pores of his skin. No way could he leave his buddies, even in a situation as tame as a wedding reception at a country club, until he knew everyone else was okay.

Most of the SEALs here were men he'd been deployed with in Afghanistan only a few months ago. The unit was scattered now, off to new assignments. The wedding of their commanding officer, Lt. Jax Graham, had offered a welcome chance for reunion. The groom, the best man, and Senior Chief Lon Swales were easy to spot in dress blues loaded with gold braid. Most of the others, like him, never wore a uniform if they could help it.

Jax was dancing with his bride, Pickett, holding her in one arm and the cute little boy, his son from his first marriage, in the other. The three of them twirled slowly, smiling into each other's eyes. It looked like Davy's CO was squared away and wouldn't be needing him.

Chief Petty Officer Caleb Dulaude —"Do-Lord" to his friends — was on the dance floor, too, with Emmie Caddington, Pickett's best friend. They were the best man and maid of honor. Emmie wasn't much to look at, but she didn't look quite so much like a dork tonight. Someone had done her makeup, and a strapless bronze-green bridesmaid dress hinted at world-class breasts (Davy considered himself a connoisseur). Like Do-Lord, she was really smart and courageous — but she wasn't date material. Do-Lord no doubt was dancing with her only because he thought good manners obliged him to, at least once.

Or maybe not. Davy rapidly revised his assessment when he saw Do-Lord's hand on the small of Emmie's back move in a slow circular caress. Huh. Was Do-Lord really interested? Davy just hoped Do-Lord understood that girl wasn't the fun-and-games type. A shy girl like that wouldn't know how not to take things seriously.

It was best, Davy had decided long ago, to let women do the picking up. If that limited his selection, hey, nobody scored every time. The important thing was, when women came on to him, he didn't have to worry. The women got what they wanted and knew what they were getting. When they were in charge of the signals, everyone came away happy.

Speaking of signals, yo, mama! The most beautiful woman he had ever seen — the most beautiful woman most men had ever seen — stood no more than twenty feet from him, looking straight at him. Strong, bold features, their incomparable proportions molded by a master, had been set in a classically oval face. She had large, intelligent green eyes, cheekbones as exquisite as they were uncompromising, and a sultry mouth, designed to make any man who saw it think x-rated thoughts. The whole was saved from too much perfection by an assertive little chin sporting just the hint of a cleft.

A gleaming waterfall of coffee-brown hair moved in a sinuous slide over the rosy apricot skin of her shoulders. Her dress, almost the same brown as her hair, traced every generous curve of a perfect hourglass figure. The slinky material ended just north of her knees, showing off long, strong dancer's legs, every curve shaped by muscle.

She was tall. In her heels, she'd probably be eye-to-eye with him. She sized him up with the confident self-possession of an older woman, though he guessed she was about his age. She looked like she'd had experience ordering men around. God, he hoped so. He liked a woman who could take over. When he turned the tables on her, it was so much more fun.

She was looking for someone. It might as well be him. He squared his shoulders, then sent her a devilish grin at the same time he preened and stroked an eyebrow.

Her large green eyes widened in surprise, her mouth dropped open, then she threw back her head and laughed as she caught the joke.

* * *

Even though her cheeks got hot to be caught staring, JJ Caruthers laughed at his parody of his Greek-god looks. He was gorgeous, he knew it, and he was so confident that his worth did not lie in a pretty face, he could make jokes about it. She was surprised at his antics and even more surprised that she could laugh. Seconds before, she'd felt more utterly serious than she'd ever felt about anything in her life. She hadn't intentionally been staring at the young George Clooney look-alike, although the resemblance was amazing. Well, not at first anyway.

He was stare-worthy all right. Cheekbones to die for. Large, thickly lashed brown eyes. Black hair curling around his ears just begged to be twirled around a finger. Lips shaped into a sensual curve above a hard masculine chin and jaw. His olive complexion was so smooth, taut, and fine-grained it had a slight sheen, as if his flesh was covered with something finer than mortal skin. But it was the way the laughing look transformed him that made her feel as if the sun had come out in her heart.

A group of guests heading for the dance floor stepped between them.

Smile fading, she resumed her search for Alexander Garfield. She thought she'd seen her attorney's gray head and short, roundish body just behind the Greek god. She wouldn't have stayed at the wedding reception longer than required to congratulate the bride and groom, if she hadn't needed to talk to Garfield.

He was proving elusive.

Among the throng of mostly strangers, she was surprised to see one face she did know: Lauren Babcock. Lauren was fifty or so and still the most beautiful woman JJ knew, although the strapless gown she wore revealed painfully thin arms. Lauren stood alone, sipping a glass of champagne, an unfocused look in her eyes. Her grief surrounded her like a force field, separating her from the laughing, celebrating people all around. As always, Lauren's blond hair was skillfully highlighted and her makeup flawless, but the petal pink chiffon she wore, though exquisite, was a couple of years past the height of fashion, and more appropriate for spring than Thanksgiving. JJ's heart went out to her. Lauren defined the word fashionista. Nothing could have revealed more poignantly that Lauren had lost interest in life since the death of her daughter.

Watching the man who had once been married to her daughter start a new family — while her daughter lay dead and would never have a chance to find true and permanent love — had to be heart wrenching. JJ really should speak to her.

But JJ never had a chance. Just as Lauren walked, with less than her usual grace, over to a burly man with a kind, weathered face and an impressive amount of gold braid and shiny medals on his Navy uniform, JJ spotted the pink, balding head of her quarry.


* * *


At a table near Davy, the floor-length, green tablecloth lifted. A tot in one of those fluffy, little-girl dresses crawled from underneath. Davy grinned when she barreled past him as fast as her toddler legs would go. Obviously an escapee. He wasn't going to end her race, but he moved to where he could keep her in sight.

Her form was good; she had a winning attitude, which counts for a lot, but physics was against her. Her center of gravity was too high, necessitating a broad-based gait to maintain balance. Unfortunately she hadn't yet learned the importance of equipment. Tiny red shoes with a strap across the instep might be the envy of the nursery set, but they were too stiff and too slick soled for sprinting. She was going to come to grief, and in a second, the inevitable happened. She fell, splat, with enough force to make her little red heels fly up.

Before she had time to work up a good wail, he scooped her up.

He settled her on one arm so he could look into her face. Her chin puckered. Big blue eyes glared at him.

"I wunnin'!"

"I saw that."

"Fall down!"

"Yes. I saw that, too."

"Huht Yay-ya."

Hurt, he could guess at, but he couldn't think of a body part that sounded like yay-ya. She wasn't acting like a kid who was injured.

"What did you hurt? Show me."

After a moment's cogitation, wispy brows drawn over her button nose, she presented him a tiny starfish hand, fingers outstretched.

Hiding a smile, he examined it. There could have been a red spot on the heel of the palm, but without a magnifying glass, he'd never know for sure. "I think it will be all right," he gravely reassured her. He tried to return the hand.

"No!" Her forehead crumpled. Her lower lip pulled down in a serious pout. "Kiss it!"

So, like a lot of patients, she thought the diagnosis was inadequate if she wasn't given some medicine. Applying the time-tested boo-boo remedy, he respectfully put his lips to the possibly imaginary red spot. To make her forget about it, he blew a raspberry into her palm.

He was rewarded with a chuckle, a surprisingly robust and knowing sound in one so young. He looked around for who she belonged to. Anyone running that hard usually had somebody chasing them.

The moppet put her head on his shoulder. She patted his cheek. Blue eyes peeped at him from under absurdly long, light-brown lashes. She smiled beguilingly. For good measure, she threw in a sigh, a head tilt, and a few lash flutters. "Kiss it? 'Gain, pease?"

Amazing how early they learned what it took to wrap a man's heart around their adorable fingers.

"Leila!" A young woman rushed up arms outstretched.

"Mommy!"

"Here's your speed demon," Davy passed his darling back where she belonged.

"Mommy! Me get kiss!"

"Purely medicinal, I promise. She fell down. She was more startled than hurt."

"Sweetie, I've warned you not to run like that."

Safe in her mother's arms, the miscreant nodded, the very picture of "sadder and wiser." "Huht Yay-ya."

"That's right. You'll hurt Leila."

By the time the toddler's mother had thanked him and borne Leila away, little starfish fingers squeezing a bye-bye "wave," the woman in the brown dress had been swallowed up by the crowd. Never mind. Her signals had been unmistakable. He'd find her again in a minute, or she'd find him.

Speaking of signals though, on the dance floor, even as Do-Lord smiled in response to something Emmie had said, he was hand-signaling to someone behind Emmie's back, asking if he wanted help.

Who did Do-Lord think needed help? Davy followed Do-Lord's line of sight. On the other side of the dance floor, Senior Chief Lon Swales had a slender woman in a pale pink gown draped all over him. For a second, Davy couldn't believe his eyes. Physical displays while in uniform were frowned upon — one reason Davy never wore a uniform socially if he could help it. But Lon? If Lon had a sex life, he kept it discreet to the point of invisibility.

The woman's head turned, and Davy caught sight of a classically perfect profile, marred by turned-down lips and a slack, unfocused look. Holy shit, the woman wrapped around Lon was Jax's ex-mother-in-law, Lauren Babcock, and she was drunk.

An uncoordinated fling of her thin arm almost overbalanced her. She was saved from falling only by Lon's arm around her. At first glance, her head on his shoulder might have looked intimate, but, in fact, she was close to passing out. It was only a little after eight. Too early to be that drunk. It looked like the scuttlebutt that Lauren had become an alcoholic since her daughter's death was true.

Lon's seemingly out-of-character behavior suddenly made sense. He was holding her up while he hustled her toward one set of the wide doors that stood open to the corridor.

That was the senior chief he admired. Making sure problems were taken care of before most people knew there was a problem. "I see what's happening. I'll assist," he signed to Lon.

Unhurried yet moving swiftly toward the corridor, Davy eased between laughing, chattering guests.

Waiting in the wide, cool hallway with its footstep-deadening turquoise carpet, Davy scanned the ballroom through the open doors for the hot babe in the brown dress. The crowd parted again in time for Davy to see her throw her arms around a balding, gray-haired man whose well-cut tuxedo only partly disguised his portliness.

Davy's diaphragm clenched in protest. The man was old enough to be her father — no competition at all — but still. Women didn't always go for looks in a man. A tux like that said money, and Davy would bet the woman's dress, for all its brevity, had cost as much as he made in a pay period.

She launched into a very serious-looking conversation, her shoulders square, feet in those fuck-me heels planted.

Davy relaxed.

For a SEAL, reading body language wasn't just a handy social shortcut to understanding; it was a survival skill. Every line in her killer bod said even if the man was old enough to be her father, she considered herself his equal; possibly his boss.

Whatever she was telling the man, being turned on was the farthest thing from her mind. And despite a dress that glimmered and slid sensuously with every movement, as if her nude body were clothed only in dark water, she clearly didn't plan to use seduction to get what she wanted.

Davy almost felt sorry for Gramps. No man — not even a guy that old — could think about anything but sex around her. Hours of sweaty sex, her hair drifting over him like cool, heavy silk, his hips caught in the clasp of those long, strong legs.

Lon had worked his way to the edge of the crowd. If the girl in the brown dress was gone by the time Davy got back, there would be others. But damn, Davy wished he'd had a chance to ask her to hang around until he returned.

His hospital corpsman identity took over as Lon steered his charge into the wide hall.

Davy was pretty sure Lauren was drunk, but other conditions could mimic alcohol intoxication — diabetic coma or stroke at the top of the list. Most he could rule out. Pulse and respiration were normal. He leaned forward to check her breath for the classic Juicy Fruit gum odor associated with diabetes but detected only the sour smell of wine.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Sealed with a Ring by Mary Margret Daughtridge. Copyright © 2010 Mary Margret Daughtridge. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
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.

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Sealed With a Ring 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
MasonCanyon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The sensuous book cover caught my eye, the blurb on the back pulled me in and the intriguing story held my attention until the end. Bewitching J.J. Caruthers is a smart, successful businesswoman who has it all and is about to lose everything.Sexy Davy Graziano is a Navy SEAL medic who has a way with the ladies and lives in the moment until his world is turned upside down.When these two collide at a wedding, one thing leads to another. After a night of mind-blowing sex, J.J. wakes realizing what she¿s done and quickly leaves despite protest from Davy. She knows only his first name, but he knows nothing about her.Back to facing reality, J.J. has one year to marry or lose what she holds most dear - Caruthers Car Dealership. She has no desire to marry, but is forced to pick one of the four husband candidates her grandfather has selected for her. Always the responsible one, she will do what she has to protect her business and her employees.Meanwhile, Davy returns for another tour in Afghanistan and is seriously injured in a raid. His brain injury results in some memory loss. He comes home to recuperate, finds his mother has died and he is now responsible for his three siblings on top of trying to regain his memory and return to the career he loves.Just as J.J.¿s time is running out, fate brings her and Davy together again. She remembers him, but he has no memory of her. J.J. realizes marriage to a military man would solve her problems. Her new husband would be away on missions and not underfoot. She could meet her grandfather`s requirement, save her business and still be on her own. She quickly proposes and Davy has his own reasons for accepting. As their attraction grows, each begins to learn more about their own self as well. Trying to do the right thing, even for the wrong reasons, can sometimes take you in unexpected directions. The story also points out you don¿t always know what you think you know.This is a funny, romantic adventure with plenty of twists and turns. Author Mary Margret Daughtridge gives readers a delightful new look at a macho Navy SEAL and a sassy businesswoman.The story flows fluently and draws the reader in. You feel J.J.¿s loneliness and helplessness, while understanding Davy¿s loyalty and frustration. This book is not just about romance, but compassion, caring, understanding, and commitment. From the first page to the last you will be cheering for these two tantalizing characters. SEALed with a Ring is a wonderful must-read book.SEALed with a Ring * Sourcebooks * @2010 * ISBN: 978-1-4022-3698-3 * Paperback * 416 pages
sharon1JT More than 1 year ago
Fun book. I really enjoyed this story. It's so much fun watching an alpha male's view about sex and/or love. JJ's plight is believable. Loved the line about choosing "him or the dog" and she choose the dog. We've all read books about someone needing to get married within a time frame for one reason or another, but none more enjoyable than this - with a very happy ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
donnasteele More than 1 year ago
Every time I read Mary Margaret I think that hero is my favorite. These guys get under your skin and are as real as flesh and blood. Davy Graziano is perfect - in body, face and mind or is when JJ Caruthers meets him. But that last deployment spoils some things for him. And she's too embarrassed by their first meeting to look too closely at the changes. But for right now at least, they need each other. Since either have ever needed anyone before, it's a tough lesson to learn. Don't miss this one - third in a series you do not want to miss!
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BA51 More than 1 year ago
As a Navy Wife and worked for the Navy I know the work that Mary Daughtridge went thru to write such wonderful books. I encourgage everyone to read them. BZ (Bravo Zulu) Good job@
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