Authors: Nikki Winter
A SEALed Fate
Copyright © 2014 by Nikki Winter
All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or shared in any form, including but not limited to: printing, photocopying, faxing, recording, electronic transmission, or by any information storage or retrieval system without prior written permission from the authors or holders of the copyright.
This book is a work of fiction. References may be made to locations and historical events; however, names, characters, places and incidents are the products of the authors’ imaginations and/or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), businesses, events or locales is either used fictitiously or coincidental. All trademarks, service marks, registered trademarks, and registered service marks are the property of their respective owners and are used herein for identification purposes only.
Published by: Nikki Winter Publishing
Cover Art: Bree Archer
Table of Contents
A SEAL’s Heart
Signed, SEALed, Delivered
More about the Author
Nikki’s Other Works
Thanks for reading!
A SEAL’s Heart
“Ma, you have to stop crying. I’m just going to basic training.” It didn’t matter how many times Fitzgerald Carrigan pointed that out, his mother only seemed to cry harder.
” Miriam squeezed him about the waist, her face buried just under his chest as he hugged her back. Fitz turned pleading eyes to his father as his brothers stood on the sidelines, laughing.
Dolan swallowed an obvious smile and stepped up to take his wife by the shoulders, officially dislodging her from their youngest son. “Sweetheart, he’s going to be fine.”
“We don’t know that! We won’t even be able to talk to him!” Miriam cried.
“Just during boot camp, Ma. I’ll be back before you know it.” When his parents had found out he’d enlisted in the Navy with the aspiration to become a SEAL, there had been a mixture of trepidation and pride in his family. Seemed one was weighing more heavily today.
Her lips trembled, green eyes wide and watery as she stared at him. “That’s way over a year from now!”
“I’ll be able to write you. And I will. I promise.” Fitz shifted from one foot to the other. Growing up as the youngest boy had been a blessing and a curse. The curse was visiting at the moment.
She worried her bottom lip. “Swear it.”
He nodded. “I swear.”
Dolan grinned. “It’ll shoot by, love. You won’t even notice he’s gone.”
Miriam took in a trembling breath. “I will. Because there’ll be more food left over every night.”
Fitz’s lips twitched. “If anything I’ll be back just for the cooking.”
She scooted away so his oldest brother Cael could pull her into a hug. He and Fitz nodded at each other. He’d said his goodbyes to Cael, Riley and Sullivan already. They’d got him good and blasted off his ass just a day and a half ago. He appreciated it more than they’d ever know.
His dad patted him on the cheek. “You’ll be fine. I know it.” Dolan cast his stare over Fitz’s shoulder. “There’s someone else here to send you off,” he said softly.
Shoulders tensing, Fitz cast a glance behind him and felt the breath leave his lungs. He hadn’t known if she’d make it in time since she was living on campus downstate now. But there she stood. As beautiful as ever. His best friend. His confidant. His everything. His Zuly. She didn’t know it as of yet, but she was going to be his wife. He’d come back in his formal dress and get down on one knee, telling her everything he’d wanted her to know from the moment he’d saved her from a spider in the second grade.
Fitz would tell her his fascination with the knock-kneed girl he’d used to know had cultivated into something far deeper than love. He’d tell her how he could remember her slight lisp and how wild her hair had been. How he loved the way she’d said his name with a funky look on her face when he’d first introduced himself, bird chest puffed out. He’d explain that he searched her face out in group photos just to glimpse her smile and how when she laughed he could see heaven’s gates. He’d let her in on the secret that he’d tried to count how many lashes she had shielding her startling golden eyes the last time she’d fallen asleep at his place while watching a marathon of
He’d tell her all of this. And then he’d make her his own forever. Because she could never and
never belong to anyone but himself. He loved her with a part of him that only the good Lord above could touch. The thought of not hearing her voice, seeing her face for so long hurt him physically but this was what he had to do—what he was meant to do.
Fitz could recall how she’d time his swims out at the lake. How she’d goad him into pushing himself harder. How she convinced him he was meant to be a hero. He could recall her look of fear then confidence the day he announced his enlistment. Now here they were. He wondered if she regretted supporting him, wondered if she had any idea how much he adored the very ground the soles of her feet touched. God, he was in love. But there was nothing he could give her now. There would be plenty he could give her later. He’d prove to her, to his family, to her family, to everyone, that he was not only going to serve and protect his country but that he was going to serve and protect Zuly Hines too.
“You gonna come say good-bye to me, Z? Or are you gonna just stand there?” Fitz finally asked, breaking the spell of their staring match.
The look she gave him made his lungs seize.
She shook her head. “No.”
His brows rose. “No, what?”
“I’m not saying good-bye to you.” Walking ever so slowly, she stopped in front of him. “Good-bye means I won’t see you again. Good-bye means this is the last time I get to say something about how huge your ears look with your hair being so short.” Fitz cracked a smile. “Good-bye means that there’ll be no more
marathons.” Her mouth twisted and to his horror moisture filled her eyes.
She shook her head again. “Nope.” Her voice had dropped to a whisper. “I’m not saying good-bye.” Then she was hugging him, arms locked tight around his body in an embrace that said everything she hadn’t.
Fitz dropped the backpack from his grip, the noise of the airport drowned out as he gripped her just as fiercely.
“You’re coming back. You’ll always come back,” Zuly whispered. “And when you do, we’re gonna spend a whole weekend camped out at the lake. Hanging off the tire swing and howling at the moon just like the–”
“–coyotes,” he completed for her. “Damn right we are. Maybe that fucking hammock will hold up this time.”
A sound between a sob and a laugh left her. “Maybe.”
“It’s just basic training, Z. It’ll be a while before I go on an actual mission...”
“I know. I know,” Zuly said. “But there will be times when I won’t be able to hug you before you leave.”
His eyes closed as he buried his face in her hair, inhaling the sweet scent of citrus and vanilla. “I know.”
“So this is for all those times.”
Fitz nodded as his arms tightened around her. “Right.”
They stood, locked like that until he was finally called to board with the other recruits. He let go of Zuly with reluctance, his heart crying out to keep hold of her. It was just a year. Only a year. He’d be back. He’d take things slow. And when he was in his formal dress he’d get down on one knee, telling her everything that he’d wanted her to know from the moment he’d saved her from a spider in the second grade.
Fifteen years later...
Crickets and the occasional howl was all he could ever hear anymore, all he’d heard for the past two months. That and the incessant sound of his phone ringing. He’d stopped that the day he snapped it in half. Seemed his family and friends had gotten the message when his answering machine said one thing—
“Leave. Me. Alone.”
He didn’t want to talk to anyone, look at anyone. Didn’t want to sit around his ma’s table for Sunday dinner or throw around a football with his brothers. He couldn’t do any of those things the normal way—couldn’t pretend he was whole so what the fuck was the point?
“I understand your frustration, Mr. Carrigan, but...”
was always following something. It had followed Fitzgerald Carrigan from the time he’d become a SEAL until the time he was honorably discharged. It had followed him when he was still attending rehabilitation for a knee that had been shot to shit and it followed every message left on his answering machine. He was sick of hearing it; sick of the pity that crossed every familiar face when he limped around town with his cane. Sick of feeling alone.
But he had no one to blame for that last little factor aside from himself, did he? Fitz had sequestered himself in his cabin for a reason, only venturing into town upon necessity. He didn’t want to be seen, didn’t want someone patting him on the shoulder and thanking him for his bravery.
Even now that word made him snort as he sat with his damaged right leg stretched out on his screened-in porch, staring at nothing. Bravery? Yeah, Fitz had been brave all right. So brave that he pushed every person who ever meant anything to him right over the proverbial emotional cliff and waved goodbye as they fell. So brave that he wouldn’t call his own mother for fear of hearing any possible disappointment in her voice. So brave that he wouldn’t answer the door when his father and brothers came knocking. He hadn’t even gone to his niece’s birthday party because he was too afraid he wouldn’t be able to keep up with all the little ones; too afraid he’d hear Riley or Sullivan or Cael say, “
Leave Uncle Fitz alone. He’s not feeling well.”
Perspiration from the long-neck beer bottle in his hand slickened his palm as he squeezed the glass. Not feeling well. What a fucking joke. He was feeling a lot of things. Anger, hurt, frustration. Yeah,
definitely wasn’t included. Yet it wasn’t just his family he had shoved off, was it? Oh, no. There was one more person. A woman. A woman who he loved so much scalding tears burned the backs of his eyes every time he imagined her face. A face he would probably never see again due to his own stubbornness, his inability to admit he needed somebody. Not just anybody–her.
She’d never speak to him again. Fitz was sure of that. But he deserved it, now didn’t he? His self-imposed hell was brought on by no one but himself. Exactly how was he supposed to take it if she gave him that all too familiar stare? The one that said, “
I’m so sorry you’re not as complete as you should be.”
Or if she suggested that he go to see a counselor like countless others had done?