Subject: Marine Will MacIntyre
Current Status: Medical leave
One day a year Will MacIntyre lets himself remember the woman who left him after he enlisted. But seven years later, on the anniversary of that fateful day, Will is defusing a bomb in Afghanistanand it explodes.
Dr. Oliva Eklund can barely find the boy she loved inside the hard, chiseled body of the man Will is nowa Marine who knows just how to tempt her, just how to seduce her. Olivia is well aware that Will plans to return to his unit after he recovers, but she can't resist trying to heal him. Even if it means sending him back into a war zone. And breaking them apart forever.
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The blast hit his body, a rush of hot air and shrapnel picking him up off his feet and hurling him through the air. The moment he hit the ground, Will's eyes snapped open
His breath came in quick gasps and he blinked, looking around the room to get his bearings. He was home. He was safe. The explosion, so real and intense just a moment ago, had only been a dream. The same dream that returned every night.
Groaning softly, he threw his arm over his eyes and waited until his heart slowed to a normal rate. But someone was pounding loudly on the cabin doorthat was the sound that had invaded his nightmare, the sound his brain had interpreted as an explosion.
Cursing, he got up and crossed the room, dressed only in his boxer shorts. He grabbed a T-shirt hanging on the back of a chair and tugged it over his head, ignoring the incessant throbbing in his head that never seemed to abate. Pulling open the door, he squinted against the afternoon light. How long had he slept? Two hours? Or an entire day? He'd lost track of time.
His sister, Elly, stood at the door of their grandfather's cabin, bundled up against the cold. Will turned away from the door, shivering as an icy wind whipped through the interior. "Either come in or shut the door," he muttered.
She followed him inside, slamming the door behind her. "You missed your doctor's appointment today," she said. "The clinic called me to find out where you were. Dammit, Will, I told you if you needed a ride, I'd come and get you. But you said J.T. was going to take you."
"He couldn't," Will said, crossing to the kitchen. He yanked open the fridge and pulled out a carton of orange juice, took a long drink, then closed his eyes. He'd laced the orange juice with vodka last night, and the alcohol spread a soothing warmth through his bloodstream. There were times in Afghanistan that he'd gone weeks without the taste of fresh fruit, and now all he had to do was open a refrigerator and there it was. "He got a job over in Bayfield."
"Get dressed," she said.
"I've already missed the appointment," he said. "It's too late."
Elly hitched her hands on her hips. "If you're not going to go to the doctor, then I'm going to bring the doctor to you."
Will froze, his hand gripping the carton until it collapsed. He placed it back in the fridge, then slowly turned. "If you bring her here, I will never forgive you," he said.
His younger sister had always been close to Olivia, but after the breakup, she'd been smart enough not to mention Olivia in emails or phone calls. Even so, Calumet was a small town and Olivia was a doctor. Everyone knew her. Hell, his old high school buddy J.T. had heard enough stories about her to fill him in on all the details of Dr. Olivia Eklund's life over the past nine years.
After Olivia had tossed him aside, she'd finished college and med school in record time. She'd married another doctor, but when he'd refused to move to the Upper Peninsula, she'd divorced him and returned to her hometown to set up her medical practice. She hadn't dated anyone in at least a year, but she had reconnected with some of her old high school friends. And she'd delivered J.T.'s son six months ago.
Will didn't want to care about Olivia; he tried not to be curious or imagine what she might look like now. But knowing that the one woman he could never have was living just a few miles away was more than he was able to deal with right now.
"And what if I did bring her out here? Maybe she could talk some sense into you." Elly brushed past him and grabbed the orange juice, taking a long drink. She winced. "Is there"
"Yeah," he said. "It was New Year's Eve. I wanted to celebrate and I didn't have any champagne."
She shook her head and dumped the rest of the juice down the drain. "New Year's Eve was three nights ago. And you shouldn't be drinking." She spun around and grabbed him around the waist, giving him a fierce hug.
"I'm worried about you." She sighed softly. "You can't avoid her forever."
"And I can't erase the past nine years. We're different people, El. I'm not going to magically transform into the old Will the moment I talk to her. I know that's what you expect, that seeing her again will solve all my problems. But that's just some stupid romantic fantasy."
Elly sighed. "I'm sorry." She crossed the room and grabbed a shirt from the back of the sofa. "But you have to get out, Will. You can't stay cooped up here. You need fresh air and exercise. You look like death warmed over."
Will knew she was right. But the dull headache he had now could become agonizing at any moment. And he felt more comfortable alone and in the dark. "I am death warmed over," he joked.
Elly's eyes filled with tears. "Don't say that. You have no idea what we've gone through, wondering if we were going to get the visit, never knowing where you were or if you were safe."
Will cursed himself beneath his breath. Navigating the civilian world was impossible for him. A marine had to be emotionless, and he'd lived in that bubble for so long that now he had no idea how to relate to people anymore, not even his sister. "I'm sorry," he said.
Jesus, how many times had he muttered those words since he'd been back? It was so much easier to isolate himself and avoid these kinds of missteps. Bombs were easier to defuse than human emotions.
"I just need a little more time," he said. "It's hard to adjust to being home. Hell, I'm not sure it's even worth trying to adjust. As soon as I'm clear, I'll head back to my unit."
"Why can't you be done? Just stop. Now."
"It's what I do," he said. "I'm good at it."
"You could be good at other things," she said.
Will knew that wasn't true. This past month had been enough to prove that civilian life wasn't for him. And though his future in the military was still in doubt, he had every intention of finishing his tour and signing up for another.
He'd always wanted to be a marine. His father had been a marine, and his grandfather had been a submariner in the US Navy. Will had grown up with the stories about WWII and Vietnam, about honor and glory and serving with courage. Will had felt compelled to honor the family tradition.
His mother and sister had wanted him to wait to get his college degree. And Olivia had never accepted his plans, assuming he'd change his mind at some point or she'd change it for him. She'd never understood how deeply the military was etched into his DNA and he'd never been able to explain it to her.
"I'm going to pick up the boys at school and take them to hockey," Elly said. "Jim is working late and we're going to meet him for pizza after practice. You could come with us."
In truth, all Will wanted to do was crawl back into bed and close his eyes. But Elly was right. He should at least make an attempt to socialize. After all, there was a possibility the doctors wouldn't clear him to return to his unit and somehow he'd have to figure out how to belong in the land of the living again. "Give me a minute to get dressed," he said, raking his hands through his hair.
Elly handed him the shirt and gave him a grateful smile. "Thank you," she whispered.
She waited for him in the rusty SUV while Will pulled himself together. It took him a while. Since the explosion, his brain had been scrambled and it took longer to sort out the steps in any task. The doctors had said it would become easier once the effects of the head trauma faded.
He spent five minutes searching for his sunglasses, then found them on the kitchen table, in plain view. He slipped them on as he stepped outside into the low afternoon light. Drawing a deep breath of crisp, clean air, Will paused to let his head clear before starting toward Elly's truck.
As they drove into town, a country song started blaring from the radio. Wincing, Will reached out to turn it off and Elly glanced over at him. "Are you all right?"
"It's just a little difficult to process noise," he said. "It makes my head hurt."
"I'm calling tomorrow to make another appointment for you at the VA. You were supposed to go when you arrived home and that was three weeks ago. You should"
"They said it would take time," Will interrupted. "It's hardly been four months since the accident. The doctors expect it to take at least twice that before I start to feel normal again."
"What if it doesn't get better?" Elly asked.
"Then I get a different MOS," he said. "There are a lot of things I can do in the corps."
"But not in Afghanistan?"
"I don't know," Will snapped, his irritation rising. He wasn't sure he could survive a life outside of active duty. In the past three weeks, he'd felt as if he was moving through mud, all his senses slowing until he could hardly breathe. He craved the adrenaline rush of his job, the chaos that surrounded him every day, the pulse-pounding excitement of his work.
His dad had always said he'd never felt more alive than when he'd faced death as a soldier. He'd told Will that every man needed to experience these deeply held fears before he could gain perspective on the rest of his life. Strange how it was the exact opposite for Will. He'd learned to feed on his fear, to use it like a drug to numb his body and his mind. He didn't feel alive. He was dead inside.
"You've got to find a new line of work," Elly said, an edge of sarcasm coloring her words.
They drove into Calumet and headed toward the school. But Elly pulled over in front of the post office, then grabbed a package from the rear seat of the SUV. "Could you run that in for me?" she asked, reaching for her purse. She held out a ten-dollar bill.
"What is it?" he asked.
"A swimsuit. It was supposed to be for our vacation to Mexico in March, but I look like the great white whale in it. I hate winter. I get so plump."
"You've got to find a new place to live," he said.
Elly laughed. "I'm going to run and grab a couple bottles of Gatorade for the boys. I'll be back for you in five minutes."
Will got out of the truck and walked up the front steps of the post office. When he got inside there were two people in line in front of him and he waited patiently, hoping no one would recognize him. But his hopes were shattered when the first person in line turned to leave and looked straight at him.
The world seemed to grind to a halt around him as he met her gaze. He held his breath, hoping she'd walk right by, but she stopped.
A tiny gasp slipped from her lips. "Will?"
She didn't look anything like he'd thought she would. His memories of Olivia Eklund had been of a girl frozen at age twenty, young and fresh faced with copper hair and freckles across the bridge of her nose. She still had copper-colored hair, but it was now streaked with blond and fell in soft waves around her face.
"Liv," he murmured. The room felt as if it was tilted and he couldn't keep his balance. God, she was stunning. She was, and always would be, the most beautiful woman he'd ever known.
"II heard you were home," she said.
"Not for long," Will replied. "I'm headed back. Soon. Real soon."
"Oh," she said, forcing a smile. "Well."
"Yes," he said, his gaze drifting down to her lips. He remembered what it felt like to kiss those lips, to taste the sweet warmth of her mouth. He remembered the first time he'd kissed her, on her fifteenth birthday. Will fought the temptation to pull her into his arms and discover whether his memories were accurate. Instead, he balled his hands into tight fists. "You look good."
Hell, she looked beautiful. Radiant. Gorgeous.
She smiled and shrugged. "You look great." Liv drew a deep breath. "II should go. It was great seeing you again. Take care, all right?" She hurried to the door and he watched as she stepped out into the cold.
When he turned back around, he found the postal clerk and the other patron watching him. He recognized them both. The clerk was a girl who'd graduated the year before him in high school and the patron was his old English teacher, Mrs. Paulis.
"Awkward," Will said, forcing a smile. He spun and walked out of the lobby, Elly's package still tucked beneath his arm. He waited outside in the cold, pacing a short stretch of sidewalk until Elly pulled up.
When he got inside, he tossed the package onto her lap angrily. "Did you set that up? Did you know she'd be there?"
"Who? Why didn't you mail this?"
"Are you saying you had no idea she'd be there?"
"No, Liv. Olivia was in the post office."
Her eyes went wide. "Of course I had no idea she'd be in there. Jeez, Will, it's a small town. You're going to run into people you know. Get over it."
"I've been over it for nearly ten years. And I don't need you messing with my life. Just leave it alone."
"Maybe you should stay holed up in that cabin. At least then you wouldn't subject the rest of us to your paranoid delusions." She grabbed the package and got out of the truck.
Will closed his eyes and leaned back in the seat, covering his eyes with his hand and cursing softly. All right, maybe this hadn't been some grand plan of Elly's to throw them back together. And maybe he'd acted like a first-class ass.
There was one thing he did know for sure: his heart was beating faster and his mind was suddenly sharp. He felt alive and aware for the first time since the explosion. And he suspected that it had everything to do with seeing Olivia again.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is an emotionally raw story. Amidst the heated romance of the story Hoffmann makes you really stop and think about the lives of those in the military, and the lives of their families. The reality of the characters’ situations shine through in an unmistakable way. The romantic tension between them is palpable throughout. Not only is the story well told, but Hoffmann allows the beauty of winter to shine through. The main characters in this novel are fantastically well developed. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them as individuals. Their combined histories were revealing and also allows readers to understand the context of the story itself. I appreciated how they were both determined to be true to themselves but in the end, willing to compromise. The supporting cast in this novel wasn’t overly developed, but they all suited their roles in the story. As a whole, this was a shockingly raw & real novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. I would definitely recommend it to others, and will be reading more of this author’s work in the future. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.
Seducing the Marine by Kate Hoffmann is part of the Uniformly Hot series. Will is a Marine working EOD. He comes back home to recover from an explosion. Olivia is his high school sweetheart. Six months after Will went into the Marines she sent him a Dear John letter. She pursued her dream of being a doctor. Both characters were portrayed authentically. Will was a tough marine but he also had to deal with PSTD which included mood swings. The author did not sugar coat what he was going through. Olivia struggled with the idea of being a military wife; having to stay home and worry about what was happening especially after she learned that he was EOD. In the end they both were willing to compromise and we have a happy ending but this is not a fairy tale with fairy tale characters. You can see my full review at More Than a Review dot com where I rate the level of sex, violence, language and drug/alcohol use in books.