The third in the Alpha Ops novella series that features an alpha Navy SEAL and the girl he thought he'd lost forever.
In high school, basketball star Charlotte Stannard and Navy SEAL Jamie Hawthorn were everything but lovers. They shared a ruthlessly competitive spirit and relentless drive, but Charlie, afraid of the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy at seventeen, drove Jamie away. But now Jamie's back in town for the banquet to honor the basketball coach, and finds Charlie, newly home from a successful career in the European leagues and coaching the girls' team. The flames between them are hotter than ever, but Charlie believes Jamie just wants what he couldn't have when they were kids. Jamie's not just playing to win. He's playing for Charlie's heart, forever.
About the Author
After doing time at Fortune 500 companies on both coasts, Anne Calhoun landed in a flyover state, where she traded business casual for yoga pants and decided to write down all the lively story ideas that got her through years of monotonous corporate meetings. Her first book, LIBERATING LACEY won the EPIC Award for Best Contemporary Erotic Romance. Her story WHAT SHE NEEDS was chosen for Smart Bitch Sarah's Sizzling Book Club. Anne holds a BA in History and English, and an MA in American Studies from Columbia University. When she's not writing her hobbies include reading, knitting, and yoga. She lives in the Midwest with her family and singlehandedly supports her local Starbucks.
Read an Excerpt
The SEAL's Second Chance
By Anne Calhoun
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Anne Calhoun
All rights reserved.
Jamie Hawthorn reached deep inside and found an extra burst of speed, putting a couple of feet between himself and his brother, Ian, as they raced up the road that wound toward their childhood home on the Hill. Ian didn't give up without a fight, heaving air into his lungs and closing the gap between them to a couple of inches before Jamie hit the designated finish line first, the lilac bush bowing over the mailbox at the end of their driveway. He slowed to a stop, slapped the pole holding up their basketball hoop, and turned to walk back down the driveway and cool off.
"Not bad," he said to Ian, who was hunched over and all but hyperventilating. "I want barbeque from that place across the river," he added, because over the years the penalty for losing had jumped from a candy bar to lunch.
Ian cut him a glance. "Do me a favor and ignore the way I'll be limping tomorrow," he said.
"It's all the running in the sand," Jamie said, hands linked behind his head as they walked the big cul-de-sac. "A solid surface is easy after that."
"Not much sand in Lancaster," Ian quipped. "Or much reason to run full out carrying the kind of gear SEALs do."
"Sometimes departments send SWAT teams to work out with SEALs," Jamie said.
"No funding for that," Ian said. "But I'll take you up on any workout ideas I can pass on to the officers on the emergency response team. We've got a couple of ex-military on the team. They're always pushing the other guys to stay in shape."
"They see action?"
"One was an MP and another guy did two infantry tours in Iraq," Ian said, breathing more normally. "He's working undercover for me now."
"No problem," Jamie said. "You can find the basic workout online, but I'll put something together for you that's more relevant to typical cop situations."
"Sounds good," Ian said, completely in character. He was more collaborative than competitive, focused on relationship-building. Jamie was the competitive one, wanting the win, the record, the championship, the SEAL's trident badge, the successful mission.
He huffed out a little laugh as the thought of championships reminded him of the real reason he was running races with his brother during his thirty-day leave in Lancaster. His foundation in competitiveness and endurance training happened here. To a certain extent, his coach laid the groundwork, but deep in his heart, he knew playing one-on-one with Charlie Stannard provided the real education in toughness, drive, and intensity.
On the surface he was back for a banquet honoring the coach and the members of the championship teams. Really, he was back for Charlie. Twenty-six days left in his leave. Twenty-six days left of Operation Buzzer Beater, in which he would convince the notoriously prickly, determined, wary Charlie that they were meant to be together forever.
They reached the driveway again and walked up the brick path, into the house. "Where's Mom?" Ian asked, elbows braced on the island in the kitchen, dripping sweat onto the granite.
"Garden Club meeting," Jamie said, running water into a glass and handing it to his brother. "Last-minute planning for the reception the day before the banquet. You gonna puke?"
"Even odds," Ian said with a grimace that was probably supposed to be a smile.
"You're in good shape," Jamie said. "Just not SEAL-shape."
"Fuck you," Ian said good-naturedly, and straightened. But he took a tentative sip of the water, knowing not to gulp it so soon after the workout. Jamie followed suit, looking out the big picture window at his mother's pride and joy, the winding paths and cultivated beds of her English garden. The house occupied a prime position at the top of the Hill, nothing behind it but sky and the long, steep drop to the tracks, and the basketball court that was the site of his crazy, magical, frustrating nights with Charlie.
Would the passion still be there? He'd spent hours with her back to the tree, her long, lean, muscled body arching wantonly into his, held all of the yearning of an adolescent hormones and all of the explosiveness of an adult's desire. So many variables might have changed: Maybe she didn't shoot hoops to relieve stress anymore. Maybe she used her key to the high school gym, rather than the rundown court next to the railroad tracks. But the rainy spring weather had cleared, and he was counting on the spring night sky and the fact that she'd have to know he was back in town to tempt her down to the court tonight.
He couldn't manufacture an excuse to see her. It had to feel normal, believable, inevitable, or the wary, wild Charlie would turtle up or bolt. He had plan B, of course, and C, and even D, because he was a SEAL and that's what he did.
"What's this?" Ian, finally recovered enough to look at the note on the island, interrupted his train of thought.
"Mom wants us to clean out the eaves and go through the stuff up there while I'm home. The neighborhood garage sale is coming up, and she's threatening to put everything out there if we don't claim what we want."
Ian blew out his breath. "Good thing we're already sweaty," he said. "It gets hot up there when the sun clears the trees."
They took the stairs to the second floor, then walked down the hallway to the suite they'd shared as kids — two bedrooms, a shared bath, and a sitting room where they'd watched TV and played video games with their friends. Only a year apart in school, they'd shared the same social circle until Jamie graduated and left for the Navy.
"Mom redecorated a few years ago," Ian said.
"I remember," Jamie replied, looking around at the delicate furniture and the white carpet. The sitting room was now a library, the fireplace cleaned, the insert holding about twenty white pillar candles, her favorite quilt folded neatly at the bottom of the chaise where she read. One of the bedrooms was now a guest room, where his seabag and hanging bag took up very little space in the closet. "We better put down drop cloths to protect the carpet."
A couple of minutes later they had most of the furniture clumped up at the far end of the sitting room and the drop cloths spread over the floor. "You ready for this?" Ian asked.
"Ready as I'll ever be," Jamie said.
They opened the narrow door leading to a narrower, steep staircase. Ian climbed to the top, looked around, and said, "Fuck."
"I think she's got every toy, book, game, and art project we ever made," Jamie said, then sneezed. "None of it dusted, ever."
"That's why Dad hired a cleaning service, remember? Mom would ignore the house for the garden seven months out of the year. Start passing me boxes," Jamie said.
Ian grabbed whatever was closest and handed it down to Jamie, who stacked the totes and boxes three high. "That's good for now," he said.
Ian came down the stairs sideways, not trusting his size-twelve feet on the shallow treads. Dust clung to his hair and shirt. "Did Mom say what she wants us to do?"
Jamie turned the note over. "'Three piles,'" he read. "'Keep, garage sale, donate. And the keep pile better be the smallest one. Tell your brother he's taking his stuff with him.'"
"I've got a one-bedroom apartment," Ian protested. "What else is she planning to keep up there?"
"'I need room for my grandkids' toys,'" Jamie read.
Ian snatched the paper from his hand. "It does not say that," he said. "Fuck. It does say that."
"Consider ourselves hinted," Jamie said. "Pick a box, any box."
Ian took a tote and popped the top off while Jamie unfolded the flaps on an unlabeled box. "What do you have?"
"Books," Ian said. "You?"
"G.I. Joe action figures and army men."
"Oh, man," Ian said. "Remember how much fun we used to have with those?"
"I'm surprised so many of them survived," Jamie said, plucking one from the box and examining it for scorch marks and gouges. "Remember when we set the fence on fire tying these guys to fireworks?"
"Mom was so pissed. We burned that entire bed of chrysanthemums," Ian said.
"Do we keep them?"
Ian looked torn, then said, "Nah. Set them aside. I'll go through them, throw out the damaged ones, and donate the rest to the boys and girls club."
They made good progress through a third of the boxes, getting hung up only when Jamie came across the binder holding his basketball trading cards. He sat down on the sheet and flipped through the plastic sleeves.
"That's a walk down memory lane," Ian said. "You used to sort those compulsively."
"I loved playing ball," Jamie said. "That was my favorite part of high school."
"I saw you down at the court last night," Ian said.
Jamie looked up sharply, about halfway through the pages. "Last night? What were you doing out?"
"Coming home from a very long meeting with the FBI. You were alone."
The weather was spotty. That's why he told himself Charlie hadn't showed up. He'd try again tonight. Jamie relaxed and went back to looking at the trading cards. "I wonder if any of these are worth anything," he said absently.
"She lives in the East Side," Ian said.
"I know," Jamie said. At first glance he was surprised she was living in Lancaster's worst neighborhood. After a decade of living in Europe, he figured she'd be in one of the condos going up in midtown, trendy, access to the cool shops and restaurants. He should have figured she'd be back in the East Side, closer to the kids who really needed her, kids who reminded her of herself at that age, full of dreams and promise, teetering between a future full of hope and a one full of disappointment.
"You want her address?" Ian asked, reading his mind.
He wasn't above asking his brother to run a name or a plate in search of information, but Plan A was still viable. "Why would you think I want her address?" Jamie countered, still paging through the trading cards.
"You've never come home for a full thirty-days leave before," Ian said. "All the hoopla around the banquet would take a couple of days, maybe three. Another couple for a family visit, and then you'd be off rock climbing or surfing or sleeping or whatever it is you do with leave. This year, Charlie's back in town."
His brother didn't make detective because their father was the former chief of police and now the mayor. His brother made detective because he was smart, quiet, insightful, a sharp judge of character and motivation. That's exactly why Jamie was back.
"I never got over her," he said, still not looking up. "I've spent the last ten years wondering what might have been, if things had been different."
"Oh," Ian said. "Does she know how you feel?"
"Then or now?"
"Then, yes," he said, remembering the last days of spring before he left for boot camp — his pleas, her refusals. "Now, not yet. But she will."
Ian was quiet for a while, absently sorting toys into the three piles. "I don't think she's been dating anyone," he said.
"How would you know?" Jamie asked, genuinely curious. Ian might spend time at the high school if they busted a pot or steroids ring, but social gossip normally wouldn't hold his interest for more than a couple of seconds.
"A couple of cops have kids in high school," Ian said. "You know the old saying about gossip ... you can telephone, tell a friend —"
"Or tell a cop," Jamie finished. "She was probably pretty busy with the school year and the team. She wouldn't let herself get distracted during the season."
Not Charlie. He flipped to the last page of the binder and froze, remembering what he'd stored there, using the trading cards as an excuse long past their sell-by date for a teenage boy. Pictures of Charlie, snapped just after she'd bounced her wicked crossover and left the opposing player stumbling in the dust; in a tight circle with her teammates, chanting Whose house? Our house! before a game. Some he'd taken himself from the stands when he'd bullied the boys' team into turning out to support the girls, others he'd cut from the local newspaper, now yellowed with age. He sorted through them, assessing the damage of a season's playing time on Charlie's body. Taped left ankle, taped right knee. She'd played the tournament with that knee so sore and swollen she'd had to ice it as soon as she was benched for a breather, or more likely, for foul trouble. Scabs on her elbows and knees from floor burns, fingers taped, a deep-purple bruise on her shoulder when she went to the floor chasing a loose ball in the quarterfinals, the muscles of her legs and arms toned curves against her frame. Her expression in his favorite picture from the paper was one of ferocious concentration. Taken just prior to tip-off, she'd been staring down the leading scorer of the North High Wildcats, letting the girl know that it was on, it was so fucking on, and that any points she got that day would be claimed through a metaphorical fistfight on the court.
Charlie had held the state's leading scorer to eight points while racking up almost thirty of her own. It was that performance that got her the scholarship to Connecticut.
God. He'd been so in love with her. It hit him like a physical punch, freezing his diaphragm as effectively as having the wind knocked out of him. He'd been so in love with her, and if this didn't work, he was totally, epically fucked.
"I always wondered if you kept your porn in there," Ian said from across the room.
"Behind the Hardy Boys books," Jamie said absently. "You knew that. You borrowed it all the time."
Ian laughed. "So what did you keep in there?"
Jamie was past the point of pride about this. He passed him the picture of Charlie, yellowed with age.
"Oh," Ian said, looking at the picture. "Damn. I'd forgotten what a competitor she was. Every time she was on the court it was all-out war."
I never forgot, Jamie thought. "What brought her back here?" he said.
"Coach Gould had a heart attack right before school started," Ian said. "Coach knew Charlie was retiring from pro ball and had a degree in education. I think they pulled some strings with the state to get her a provisional license, but she was here in a couple of weeks. That's the whole reason for the banquet, Coach Gould retiring."
"I knew that," Jamie said. "I just didn't know the details."
"I don't think anyone knew," Ian said.
"How you felt about her."
"She didn't want anyone to know," Jamie said, remembering the chip on Charlie's shoulder, remembering how nothing mattered to her, not him being cop's son, a contributor on the basketball team, popular, smart, good-looking, a good guy. The only thing that mattered to her was basketball, and a scholarship. She said the word like a prayer or a mantra, like she'd studied it carefully, broken the concept down like she broke down plays, understood what it meant. Tuition, room, board. "Tuition" meant an education. "Room" meant a place to sleep. "Board" meant food to eat. It meant that rarest of rarities, a chance to lift herself out of poverty.
"That's not what I said," Ian said carefully. "I wasn't talking about keeping your thing together a secret. I was talking about you."
"I had to keep it a secret," Jamie said. "If I couldn't tell anyone we were ... fuck. We weren't doing anything except playing ball and kissing. You put it into words and it's nothing. But yeah. Inside, it was everything to me."
"But not to her?"
He thought about the way Charlie kissed him, the way she fought on the court, her fierce, humiliated fury the night after his dad arrested her mom for shoplifting, again. "Her mom was a petty shoplifter. She wasn't going to end up like that."
"And she didn't end up like her mom," Ian said. "The question isn't whether everyone knows she's not like her mom. The question is whether she knows she's not."
"That's what I have to find out."
"Go get 'em," Ian said. "Let's get these boxes downstairs. You stink, I stink, and I want lunch."
"You're buying," Jamie reminded him.
They stacked the boxes neatly and headed out to Ian's truck. Ian drove with a cop's confidence, heading down the hill and across the tracks to the barbecue joint the state health department would close down if it wasn't the best ribs in town. They ordered the rib basket, five-alarm-fire hot, and a side of wings, then sat down at the picnic tables in the shade.
Ian looked around, then lowered his voice. "Since you're going to be around for a while, I could use your help on a professional level at the banquet."
"I'm not going to shoot DeMarco Jones for dumping honey in your shoes junior year," Jamie said, shaking pepper onto his fries.
Excerpted from The SEAL's Second Chance by Anne Calhoun. Copyright © 2016 Anne Calhoun. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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
4 - I've loved you since I was seventeen... Stars! I have enjoyed every novella in this series so far. Anne Calhoun was an author new to me prior to starting the first novella, and what started out as a good read with the first story, went to really good with the second, and great with The SEALs Second Chance. All three novellas have been relatively quick reads, but Jamie and Charlie’s reconnection after so many years apart was my favourite, but not by much. But everything seemed to just come together perfectly for them in their story. The first full length book of the Alpha Ops series is up next, with Under The Surface, you a briefly introduced to Eve Webber in this novella but not so much as to know what kind of woman she is or what story she has to tell, so I am looking forward to getting my teeth into her story next.
The story is about Navy SEAL, Jamie Hawthorn and women's basketball champion and high school coach, Charlie Stannard. Jamie's always wanted Charlie but she's always been more concerned with basketball, college and proving that she's nothing like her less than stellar mother. It's been 10 years since he seen her and he's tired of waiting to make her his. Jamie is a fantastic, larger than life Navy SEAL. I needed more emotions and more real reactions from Charlie. I feel like Charlie spoke in a monotone the entire story. In spite of this, the story line was great. Looking forward to reading the next book in the series. Received a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated for my review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinion expressed is my own.
Absolutely loved this story about Seal Jamie Hawthorn, kid from the right side of town… home for one thing and one thing only and that’s to win his high school sweetheart for life, pro basket baller Charlie and kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Titled as a novella, this is probably why it only took me three hours to read on a beautiful Sunday morning but the content had the full amount of a complete story. The characters were very likeable and the story 100% believable and easy to read. Had just the right amount of everything and I’m definitely going back for more from this author. The writing was clear enough to place me in an all American town, Jaime with a clear purpose and when they finally meet on the outside court there’s been enough build up for the reader to genuinely want these two to play out their game to see who will win or lose in their court side battle. Through the story there is enough drama to leave you wanting more with the side story of Jamie’s policeman brother Ian. The reason I really loved this book is for the ease of the read, it was so easy to slip into Jamie and Charlie's world. Their background stories had just the right amount of information to build a good picture and the way their game of love played out was entirely plausible and very enjoyable to read. To top it off there was enough interest and mention of secondary characters that I googled them before I finished. Top read which left me feeling happy, highly recommended, thank you Netgalley! Alpha Ops #3 Published by St Martins Press April 2016
I just loooove a second chance romance done well! The Seal’s Second Chance is not only done well, it’s done right! In high school, they only met on the court for their one-on-ones and never made it past third base. Charlie has always been driven. Driven by the fear of making the mistakes of her mother, Charlie refuses to do anything that would jeopardize her chances for a scholarship and an education to get her out of the home she is in. That includes letting her guard down and her heart prevail where Jamie Hawthorn is concerned. Years have passed since high school. Jamie, a navy seal home on leave, has one thing in mind. Getting Charlie back on the court. Hearing she has moved back and is now teaching and coaching at their old high school, Jamie is on a mission. He will finally win and keep the heart of the girl that he has always loved. The Seal’s Second Chance is as sweet as it is sexy. I grinned, laughed, and awed my way through it. Charlie and Jamie have a wonderful chemistry that will have you speed-reading ‘til the end. It’s a fun read that any second-chance-romance fan will absolutely love.
A second chance/reunion romance with a hero in pursuit theme? Yes, please! This story of Jamie, an active Navy SEAL spending a month of leave at home wooing Charlie, the girl who stole his heart in high school hit all the right buttons for me. They grew up on opposite sides of the tracks, but met in the middle at an old basketball court, evenings spent together battling on the court and experiencing all those feelings of first love. It's been ten long years apart, during which Charlie went on to an illustrious basketball career and now coaches the high school girl's team in the same poor area where she grew up and succeeded in making something of her less than ideal circumstances. Her feelings for Jamie were just as strong back then, but she refused to let him in too deeply, for fear of it derailing her determination to better herself. Jamie grew up on the right side of the tracks, with a police officer father and all the opportunities in the world. Choosing to follow a military path came naturally, but he's been waiting for years to see Charlie again, and he's not going to miss this opportunity to prove to her that they still have a chance together. Charlie is a wonderful character as a strong, caring mentor and coach. She beat the odds to pull herself out of a disadvantaged and emotionally challenging childhood to make something of herself, and she's determined to show the girls she coaches that they can have anything they set their minds to. Her feelings for Jamie are complex, especially now that he's shown up in her life again. She was so sure that he was the one thing she could never have, and she still believes that, even as her heart aches with that knowledge. He's here for a month, in part to honor their high school basketball coach as a guest speaker at a banquet, and she'll play that game with him again, the one that leads finally to the bedroom even knowing there is an end date. But Jamie's plans are long term, and when Charlie realizes this it takes everything in her to put her faith in him. Their love scenes are sexy and emotional as they finally give in to all those feelings that they've held back for years. Midway through the story, I couldn't see how there could be a happy ending for them, with Jamie stationed far away and Charlie firmly rooted in their home town. Well, the author cheats a little bit there, because we only get a happy for now ending in this novella length story. We're left with the promise that they are both on the same page and not going to waste any more time not being together but the details are left to the imagination. There is a very brief cameo of the guys from the first two stories in this series (Jamie's retired Navy teammates) and equally interesting, there is a lead in to the series that will follow this one which is also set in the city of Lancaster (and looks to feature Jamie's brother Ian in a starring role at some point, as a police officer there). In summary, a delightful sexy novella with very likable characters and a sweet second chance at love. 4.5 stars.
THE SEAL’s SECOND CHANCE is the third installment in Anne Calhoun’s adult, contemporary ALPHA OPS erotic, romance novella series focusing on a group Navy SEALs and Special Ops warriors. This is Navy SEAL Jamie Hawthorn, and former professional basketball player Charlotte Stannard’s story line. THE SEAL’s SECOND CHANCE can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty. Told from dual third person perspectives THE SEAL’s SECOND CHANCE focuses on the return home of Navy SEAL Jamie Hawthorn to honor his former basketball coach but a return with ulterior motives. Jamie hasn’t seen the woman he loves in years, and is hoping to rekindle what they once had before Charlotte pushed him away years before. What ensues is the rebuilding of a relationship-a second chance at love- for two people whose lives went in different directions. The relationship between Charlotte and Jamie is one of second chances. The attraction between one another has never waivered but Jamie knows that he will never be able to get back the lost ‘years’ or the fact that he will never be Charlotte’s first. The $ex scenes are intimate and intense. Most of the previous story line couples/characters play secondary roles (if only by way of mention). Their importance appears to set up the next story introducing the reader to Eve Webber and the latest Alpha Op mission. Once again, I had issue with the ‘lack’ of Alpha Ops action or involvement. The story focuses on the rekindling of a relationship that was destroyed by a young girl’s fear of what might have been. To address the elephant in the room, the heroine (at seventeen years old) supposedly pushed away the boy that she loved to protect her virginity and to prevent any sexual activity fearing a pregnancy that would destroy her basketball career. To be honest this ‘excuse’ didn’t sit well with me and was never a major aspect of the story, and never brought to the forefront. There is little to no explanation that addresses the heroine’s past actions and in this, the story line focused more on the present and felt –incomplete. THE SEAL’s SECOND CHANCE is a quick read that left me disappointed due to the lack of resolution regarding the fears of a seventeen year old girl who pushed away the only man she would ever love. I guess, after all is said and done, I wanted the heroine to acknowledge why she pushed away the only man she would ever love.
An awesome second chance story that's packed with humor, emotion, and all the feels for a great romance. It's a quick light read that's perfect for a lazy afternoon read. Jamie and Charlie (Charlotte) were high school sweethearts but Charlie's determination for something better than her mother had has her pushing Jamie away. Now she's achieved her dream of a professional basketball career in Europe and is back home coaching the local high school team. Jamie is back in town as well to honor his old coach who is retiring. He's made the military his career and is now proud to be a SEAL but he never forgot the girl who stole his heart all those years ago. The attraction between them is as strong now as it was then and he's determined to get her to finally give them the chance they both deserve. Definitely a book I recommend.