Authors: Marissa Dobson
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Martinsburg, West Virginia
Copyright ©2015, Marissa Dobson
Edited by Rosa Sophia & Molly Daniels.
Proofread by Brynna Curry & Tersea Riley
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously and are not to be constructed as real. Any resemblance to actual person—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of Sunshine Press. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.
To all the men and women in uniform, who stand up and fight for our country. Thank you for all you do. May your road always lead you back home to your loved ones.
To my readers. Each of you are amazing. Thank you for loving my stories as much as I do. I hope you enjoy Lucky’s book and the upcoming
Marine for You
books. After all, you are the ones who have demanded them. I promise that Angelo and Sam will have their own books soon.
I also want to dedicate this book to my amazing team. My editors, Rosa Sophia and Molly Daniels. My beta readers and my proofers. Teresa and all the work she does for my street team and keeping me on track. You are all amazing.
Last, but not least, to my wonderful husband, Thomas. You’re an amazing, supportive husband, and I couldn’t do this without you. Thank you for watching Pup Cameron so I can write. One day, he will be mature and won’t be such a handful.
Marine Gunnery Sergeant Lucky Diamond has always put his cooking skills to use for the men he served with, bringing a touch of home to the bases. But when he is ordered to take part in a cooking competition to benefit wounded Marines, he wishes he had kept his talent a secret.
Madison North is a public relations expert who has been hired to make the public realize there is more to the military than just war and training. She took the job to get away from one of the biggest mistakes of her life, but it just might lead her to another one she didn’t see coming.
Weeks together throw two former lovers into a tough situation. Their feelings still burn within them, but their lives have pulled them in different directions. Can this time together convince them their love is worth a second chance?
With his long legs stretched out in front of him, Gunnery Sergeant Lucky Diamond sat in front of his Sergeant Major’s desk, unable to believe what he had just heard. He tried to focus his attention on the stack of papers on the corner of the desk, and hide his disapproval from his Sergeant Major because that would only make things worse. If Sergeant Major Dillon Graves knew Lucky didn’t want to do what was at hand, then he’d make damn sure there were more unpleasant duties in the future. Marines followed orders, no matter how nasty they might be.
“It’s customary for you to say something once your Sergeant Major gives you orders, not just sit there like a damn bump on a log.” Dillon clasped his hands on the desk before him and watched Lucky.
“Yes, Sergeant Major.” He wasn’t sure how he managed that without any sarcasm in his voice.
“You’ll do it then?”
Lucky wanted to scream
, that he wasn’t going to take part in a military cook-off no matter what it benefited, but his Sergeant Major would have the final say. It was best to keep his mouth closed until he knew what his orders were. “Are my orders to take part in this charity cook-off?”
“Yes.” Dillon leaned back in his chair. “You’re our best chance of winning.”
“Isn’t there something my time could be better spent on? A volunteer deployment? Crash test dummy? Target for shooting practice?”
Dillon raised an eyebrow in question. “I believe you’re going to be more challenging than I thought. All the times you’ve cooked for the men, turning that shit into something edible, and now you won’t go win this for our branch, for the money to go to wounded Marines. I thought better of you, Gunnery Sergeant Diamond.”
Just as his mother would have used and it worked every time. With a deep exhale, he nodded. “I’ll do it.”
Sergeant Major Graves hit the intercom button on his desk phone. “Send her in.”
A second later, the door opened and in stepped a woman. Her heels clicked along the floor announcing her, but when she came to stand next to Lucky and he caught sight of her, his jaw nearly dropped. That long hair, the same reddish brown he remembered from high school, and her piercing green eyes, were engrained in his memory from their last encounter. “As I live and breathe…Madison North.”
“You two know each other?” Dillon asked, looking between them.
“Yes.” Madison nodded, her gaze still on Lucky. “It’s been years…”
“More than a dozen years since high school.” Lucky rose from the chair, and wanted to wrap his arms around her. It was like time had stopped. She was as beautiful as the last time he’d seen her. “What are you doing here?”
“She’s here to get you ready for the competition. Test out your recipes on her, whatever you need to be ready. You have two weeks before the cook-off,” Dillon explained.
“Sergeant Major, the platoon has a training session the day after tomorrow. There isn’t time—”
Dillon held up his hand, stopping Lucky before he could continue. “You need to focus on winning this for your fellow Marines, so I’ve approved you for leave until after the competition. Now, you better be on your way. I believe Ms. North has already made plane reservations for this evening.”
“Reservations? Where are we going?”
“I had a car drop me off from the airport, so if you don’t mind driving, I can explain on the way.” She ran her hand over the thick leather planner in her hands. “Sergeant Major Graves, I’ll make sure he does his best.”
“I have no doubt about him.” Dillon turned back to the paperwork on his desk, clearly dismissing them.
“My truck is just outside in the parking lot.” Lucky held open the door of the office for her before shutting it behind them. “It’s been too long. What have you been doing all these years?”
“After college, I was offered a job in New York, with a public relations firm. Two months ago, I was hired by the government to bring some good publicity to the military to offset the war. A promotional campaign to show the men and women in uniform in a better light.”
“So, I can blame this cook-off on you, then?” He led her through the building toward the parking lot and his truck, all the time wondering how he had managed to get caught up in the whole situation. Out of all the Marines, how had
been the one they chose, and why?
“Actually, that was my boss. Her son did a barbecue competition a few months ago, and she thought, why not? It would be good promotion, and there could be a prize for different military charities. So, here we are.”
“No, actually, here we are.” He nodded to his silver pick-up truck. “What time is the flight, and where are we going?”
She stopped by the tailgate and looked at her watch before continuing around to the passenger side. “Oh, you have loads of time, we don’t have to be at the airport until seven, and we’re going to Denver. That’s where the cook-off will be held.”
He followed her lead, and got into the truck before starting the engine. He glanced at her. “Seven this evening? That’s only a few hours.” He checked his mirrors, making sure he was clear before dashing across both lanes for the exit he needed.
“Where are we going?”
“If I’m leaving town for two weeks, I need to stop by Ace and Gwen’s house.” He glanced over at her. “I bet you didn’t hear he married almost a year ago, and now they have a child named Roulette.”
She remembered the wedding invitation that she’d shoved on top of the refrigerator. Out of sight, out of mind. “Is he still a Navy SEAL?”
“Could you really see him giving it up?” He laughed at the thought. Ace was as dedicated to the SEALs as Lucky was to the Marines.
She shook her head. “No, it’s what he always wanted to do. What about Wynn? How’s she?” Another wedding invite that had been stored away to forget about, but she couldn’t help but wonder about his little sister.
“She married Boom, a SEAL on Ace’s squad, and she’s about to have a baby girl any day now. Besides that, she’s busy with Roll of the Diamond, her women’s boutique, and Love of a Diamond, a baby boutique. She doesn’t run the day-to-day operation for the stores but she does all their designs.”
“I saw a few of her things in a shop on Fifth Avenue in New York City. I couldn’t believe it. She was also in New York at the beginning of the year. I wanted to meet up with her, but I was out of town on business.” She stared out the window, adding, “I’ll say one thing for the Diamond crew, you were always go-getters. You knew what you wanted and went for it. Nothing would stand in your way.”
“Sometimes there’s a cost to that determination.” He knew the sadness leaked through in his voice, but there was no way to banish it. He had lost a lot because of his commitment to the Marines.
“There’s that as well.” She nodded. “If you want to visit with your family before you leave, you could just drop me off at a café and pick me up whenever you’re ready.”
“No.” He glared over at her. “I won’t have that. Plus, we only need to stop in for a few minutes, to let them know I’ll be out of town. They’ll make sure to pick up my mail for me. Then we can head over to my condo so I can pack. Afterward, maybe dinner before heading to the airport. What do you say?”
He knew asking her to dinner sounded like they were picking back up where they had left off, but if they were going to be forced together for the next two weeks, they had to at least have a civil time together. After all, he wasn’t interested in getting involved with someone. He enjoyed the freedom of his life, seeing whomever he wanted, coming and going as he pleased.
“Why not? We’ll be spending a lot of time together over the next two weeks, so we might as well catch up over dinner before we fly out.” She nodded and slid her hand over her planner.
That had been a nervous gesture in school, and he wasn’t surprised it was still there. He only wondered what had her so worked up. “Everything okay?”
“Fine.” She did it again, clearly lying to him.
“You always used to rub your hand along the curve of your books in school.” When he caught her looking at him, he smiled. “You’re doing it now, with the planner.”
“I didn’t know until I arrived who was chosen to represent the Marines for the competition; otherwise I’d have taken one of the other branches.”
“Why?” Coming to a stop at a red light, he looked over at her.
“After the way things ended with us…” She didn’t seem able to finish her thought, or even meet his gaze any longer.
“They didn’t end
bad. We just decided it would be too hard for us to continue seeing each other.” A horn blared from behind him, forcing his attention back to the road and the now green light. “You were going off to college and me to boot camp. It would have been difficult with the distance. I thought it was a mutual decision, and that we’d stay friends. Sure, we lost touch over the years, but a lot of people do. They get so wrapped up in their own lives they forget about the people they care about. What I don’t understand is why you would avoid coming back and working with me if you knew I was the Marine?”
“Sometimes it’s best to leave the past where it is. There is no reason our history should be dragged into the present. We’ll get through this, you’ll win the competition, and we’ll go our separate ways. It’s as simple as that.”
There was a lingering doubt within him that warned him it wouldn’t be that simple. Fate had brought them together again. It was as if all the years they had been apart melted away, leaving only the longing for what they once had. She was the first woman he’d made love to, the one woman no other could hold a candle to. He never stopped loving Madison, but it had been her idea to dissolve their relationship—as she had kindly put it so many years ago.
Madison sat in the passenger seat of Lucky’s truck clutching her planner as the town she grew up in sped past. She hadn’t been back to her hometown since she left for college. During her sophomore year in college, her parents had decided to leave Virginia Beach and move closer to her father’s family in Florida. After they left, there seemed to be no reason to come back here, even though it was the one place she had always considered home. Florida never felt like home to her. She didn’t even have a room to stay in when she visited her parents.
It wasn’t so much her family’s move that had kept her away; it was the memories of her time with Lucky and the rest of the Diamond crew. Everywhere she looked, she saw ghosts of yesteryear. The pizza parlor in which she, Lucky, Ace, Gwen, and Wynn had spent so much time. Or the movie cinema where she and Lucky had their first date. She wished she could run in the opposite direction. This wasn’t the time to take a trip down memory lane, not with the secret that was growing within her.