Read Spiked Lemonade: A Bad Boy Sailor and a Good Girl Romantic Comedy Standalone Online
Authors: Shari J. Ryan
Copyright © 2016 by Shari J. Ryan
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under US Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
P.O. Box 365, Northbridge, MA 01534
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Edited by: Lisa Brown,
Looking Glass Revisions
Proofread by: Katie Shapcott
Library of Congress Control Number:
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Printed in the United States of America
Some material in this book contains language and scenes for adult audiences only. If you are easily offended by hot men with dirty mouths, this book may not appeal to you.
With so many moving pieces in creating a book, I feel like I never offer enough “Thank Yous” to the people who support me the most. While I always make sure to leave a little something in this blurb, I hope you all know how much you mean to me and that I don’t let a day go by without feeling grateful and appreciative for everything you do with me.
First, and foremost, my editor, Lisa Brown—you’re like the other half of my brain and you totally get me
complete me. I love working with you and I’m happy to have you on this out-of-control ride that sometimes has no driver or direction. Thank you for sticking with me and being my partner in the book world.
Barb Shuler, thank you for always being one of the first to read and the first to point out what needs a little love. It’s amazing to have your support and comforting to know I can always depend on you for honesty and some good laughs. Thank you for everything you do.
Katie Shapcott, I can’t thank you enough for putting the polished finish on this book. Having your detailed set of eyes on all of these words gives me comfort in knowing I’m putting the best piece of work out there for the readers.
A big thank you to Stephanie Phillips for being an incredible literary agent and always having my back. Your feedback and criticism always let me know I can count on you to help me shape my books into something a little better. I’m thrilled to be a part of SBR Media and can’t wait to see what the future holds for us.
Linda Russell and the rest of the crew at Sassy Savvy Fabulous, you are all an amazing marketing and PR team. Linda, you have been my lifeline recently, thank you for holding everything together and managing my book life. I don’t know what I did without you for so long and I don’t know what I’d do without you now. Thank you for laughing at my blond moments and chalking them up to lack of sleep. I’m very thankful to be able to work with you, and I’m looking forward to continuing our relationship for many more books to come.
To my beta readers: Heather, Mignon, Jen, and Stephanie, thank you times a million for being the first readers and giving it to me straight. I hope with all of the feedback you offered, I have made this book bigger and better. I feel so lucky to have you all on my team. Thank you, again.
Readers, bloggers, and fellow authors, this industry is nothing without all of you and as we all come together, I’m even more grateful for each and every one of you for the love and support you constantly offer.
Lori, Mom, Mark, Dad, and Ev, thank you for support and motivation to keep following my dream. Your pride in what I do means everything to me and I hope to continue making you proud as my dream evolves into something larger than I ever expected.
To my friends who support me, each in different ways, even if it’s just to ask how the writing is coming along
, it tells me you care, and to have people like you in my life is so important and special to me. I feel so lucky and fortunate for our friendships. Thank you: Jason, Dominique, Jocelyn, Barb, Stephanie, Marni, Annelle, Jesse, Kristina, Kim, Lisa, and Lindsay—friendships like ours are each unique and I hope to always have you in my life.
Boys—Bryce and Brayden, thank you for constantly calling me an artist and telling people that your mom writes books and that I make you proud. You may not realize it now, but some day when you have kids of your own and they tell you they’re proud of you, it will be everything you never knew you needed to hear. I love you both so much!
Josh, our laughs and conversations over this book for the past few months have molded some of these chapters into what they are, and I have you to thank for that. I appreciate your open-mindedness to creativity and believing in my characters as much as I do. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
FIVE MINUTES AGO
, I was worried I would never forget what I saw over the past year in combat. Five minutes ago, I was focused on making it through another day with a fake smile on my face. Five minutes ago, I wasn’t considering what would happen in five minutes—what I would have to see.
“Jags, we need you to head into Candlewood. The first responders need more help and they’ve just called us because they’re short on medics.”
“For what, sir?” I don’t know what he’s referring to. I must have missed some information or news during my half hour commute here, so I’m looking at my commanding officer with questioning eyes, waiting for him to tell me what the hell is going on.
“There was a double explosion at West-Side Market in Candlewood about twenty minutes ago now. Gather your men and get down there, stat.” We don’t normally get called off base unless the State is desperate for backup. “It was an attack of some sort, son. Watch yourself down there.”
“Yes, sir,” I respond while running through a to-do list in my head. I’ve only been home from Afghanistan for a few weeks, but I feel disoriented, preparing for the unknown at home in the United States. This shit isn’t supposed to happen here.
But it does
. All the fucking time now.
We arrive at the location and find complete chaos. My men disperse into different areas to help people while I just stop for a moment and look around. I take it all in for a long second, needing to evaluate the situation as a whole before I decide on a plan of action.
People are screaming, running in every direction. Many are injured, blood dripping down the sides of their faces. Others are limping, with clothes torn or being used as tourniquets.
But worst of all is the children. Some are hurt badly, and some look lost, standing still in the middle of the parking lot, utterly confused and terrified, crying for their parents.
Fuck, fuck, fuck!
I think, running my hands through my hair. I’m not ready for this! Now is the time I shut it all off—all my human feelings and emotions. I can’t allow myself to feel anything right now, or I’ll break. I’ll fall to my knees and beg God for an answer I’ll never get. I’m trained for this, but these civilians—the children—they’re not.
My focus freezes on one particular little girl who can’t be more than eight or nine. She has long, strawberry hair and glowing freckles that are mostly covered with a film of dirt, except where the tears are streaming down her face. I walk past the State Troopers and up to her. Kneeling in front of the girl, I wrap my arms tightly around her little body, pressing her head against my chest. “You’re going to be okay, sweetheart. Are you looking for your mom or dad?”
Through heavy sobs, she sputters out, “My aunt and brother are inside. I couldn’t find them after the boom and I ran outside, thinking they would be out here too. But they’re not!” she continues to cry as she tucks her arms in between us, curling herself into me as she shakes like an old washing machine. “Will you help me find them, sir?”
I pull back and grip her shoulders, looking her straight in the eyes. “Yes, I will help you find them.” Bringing myself back up to my feet, I take the little girl by the hand and walk her toward the nearest State Trooper. “What’s your name, sweetheart?”
“Ella-Beth but people call me Ella for short.”
“Well, Ella, I’m going to ask this nice officer if he will stay with you while I go find your brother and aunt. Okay?” Despite my determination to feel nothing, the desperate look in her eyes goes straight to my heart.
“Can I go with you?” she asks under her breath. “Please don’t leave me, sir. I’m really scared,” but there’s no way I can promise to keep her safe if I take her inside with me. Not to mention it goes against all of my training for these types of situations.
I kneel back down in front of her, needing to make direct eye contact as I answer her honestly. “Ella, I don’t know what is happening inside that grocery store right now,
and I need to be able to keep you safe while I find your family. You want to be safe, right?” When I see a hint of stubbornness in her eyes, I suspect she’s not going to agree with me.
“No, I want to find my brother and my aunt. I’m going with you, sir.”
There’s a burning struggle in my head—the right and the wrong fighting against each other. “It may not be safe in there, Ella,” I say.
It’s definitely not safe in there
Tears bubble in the corners of her eyes and the sight of them brings a stabbing feeling to my chest. “I’m eight. I can be brave too,” she says in a not-so-brave voice.
“You need to stay right next to me. You need to listen to every word I say, and you need to keep quiet.” I don’t know what I’m walking into, and I know I shouldn’t be bringing her with me but leaving her out here alone would make this worse on her than it already is.
I approach the nearest State Trooper for details. “We were called in. What’s the status?” I hide Ella behind my leg, hoping to avoid having the cop take her away right now, but his focus seems drained, and his attention is locked on the front doors of the store.
“There are three gunmen, and two explosions were set off in different aisles. One of the gunmen is still alive and holding thirty-five people hostage. We’re working on taking him out and once that happens, we need to get in there and sweep for the most serious conditions first. We’ve been told there are at least fifteen people dead and ten critically injured.” His words are emotionless, straight to the point, and nothing an eight-year-old should ever have to hear in her lifetime. I’m guessing Ella agrees, as I feel her hands ball up inside of mine.
“She okay?” The cop finally notices Ella but doesn’t seem nearly as concerned about her as I am.
“She’s fine,” I tell him.
The cop’s radio blares out, “Gunman three—down and out—ready to sweep.”
The cop runs from my side toward the front doors, ready to take action, and I’m still debating what to do with Ella. I look down at her, catching her gaze staring up at me. She shouldn’t have to see what she’s about to see, but now I don’t have anyone to leave her with. “It’s not going to be pretty in there, kiddo but I can’t leave you alone out here. Let’s call your mom or dad before we go in, though.”