I’m excited to once again welcome talented and all-out lovely fellow writer Cerise DeLand.
Getting in the party mood for a weekend away with his SEAL teammates is no easy deal for “Zeus” Calderon. He’s hung up on a woman he saved from terrorists months ago, but he should be able to forget a gutsy blonde reporter who showed resilience and humor under fire. Shouldn’t he?
Kim Stansfield got the instant hots for the hunky Navy SEAL who led her out of harm’s way—and she’s got proof Zeus feels the same about her. He’s stubborn, but she’s devised a plan to conquer him.
When she shows up in Key West and surprises him on the beach, Zeus learns that once in a lifetime a man meets a woman he can’t forget—and every day without her is no easy day.
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Excerpt, CONQUERING ZEUS by Cerise DeLand, 2012-3. All rights reserved.
Pissed at himself for leaving Coyote and Ghost at the rockin’ Friday night beach bar scene hours earlier at Sunset Pier, he pushed through his temper and used it as fuel. Of all the women in all the joints in the world, the blonde bombshell who doesn’t walk in there tonight is the one I want.
He pounded through the waves, spotting someone lean and female strolling the beach with a sizable dog.
They were harmless. He had jumped in naked. No matter. Whoever it was would be long gone by the time he hauled his bare ass up the sands toward the house.
He angled for the shore, fighting memories of doing a door-to-door in an Egyptian shantytown to find her. His team had landed the night before, marched hours over abandoned desert to the tribesmen’s village, then fanned out to search for her and her two fellow hostages. Amid machine gun fire, he discovered her in a tin-roof lean-to, weary and weak, dehydrated, blindingly beautiful and bravely smiling at him in her filthy rags.
“Keep your head down,” he had whispered, pushing her to sit beneath the edge of the window in the hovel where the Bedouin tribesman had tied her to the post of an old iron bed frame.
With a classic profile, Nordic and tall, Kim Stansfield, reporter and hostage, stared at him, sunburned and dazed from hunger and thirst. Despite her dire condition, she smiled, pointing at his face and the green and brown desert camouflage paint that disguised his features. “Are you wearing make-up?”
“What? You don’t like a man to wear foundation?” He fluttered his lashes at her, whipped an MRE drink from his vest and shoved it toward her. “Guzzle this.”
Grasping the pouch with shaking hands, she downed it while he sawed off her chains with his Spyderco blade. She coughed, choked, then hacked some of it back up.
“Cancel the guzzle. Sip it. Let me see how fit you are.” He ran his hands over her body, checking for sprains or injuries from beatings. God knew what these animals had done to a blonde Western woman who didn’t suit their ideals for dress or habits. After seven days of captivity, her body was still sleek, but limp from lack of nutrition. Outside, the rat-tat-tat of machine gun fire and bursts from his buddies’ Sig Sauers told him his team had run into her captors and it was his job to snatch her and run.
“I can’t go with you,” she rasped, wiping drops of the liquid from the corner of her mouth with the sleeve of her dirty linen abaya.
The hell you can’t. He shot her a look that spoke his thoughts. But hostages, especially women, needed assurances. He knew how to do that. Grandmothers, mother, sisters and cousins. He had gentled them all. The only man in a huge Tex-Mex family since his father had passed away when he was a baby, Jesus “Zeus” Calderon knew how to talk to women. “You’ll be fine. Do as I say.”
This female, he knew, tended not to follow anyone’s orders. Not her newspaper editor’s. Not the American government’s. He had studied her top-notch professional background and her tough-as-nails character, all as part of his team’s mission prep. She might look like a runway model, but she was an Amazon in spirit and truth. Though she hailed from preppy American and crusty British diplomatic stock, Kimberly Morran Stansfield was a dare devil, thirty-one-year old investigative journalist who spoke fluent Arabic and had used her excellent skills to file stories from Bengazi and Cairo during the Arab Spring. For more than three years in the Middle East, she had strolled through gunfire, air strikes and riots. Seven days ago, while working an angle on famine in Egypt after the overthrow of Mubarak, she had been abducted and held for ransom by a renegade tribe of Bedouin.
“You don’t understand,” she objected, clutching his shirt in one fist. “They expected you. Planned for you.” She coughed again and he fretted about how deeply the spasms wracked her. “They’ll kill my cameramen Johnson and Hassan if you take me. Said they’d torture them first.”
“No, they won’t.”
“We’re getting your two guys. No worries. Then we’re putting down your captors.”
“How many are you?” she asked, the reverence in her voice a prayer.
“Enough.” He smiled at her then and it was as if the sun multiplied into a thousand more when she grinned back at him. “Drink all of that. Fast as you can. It’s got your meds in there.”
She had a chronic condition of high red platelets. That was the reason the SEALs had come for her and her two colleagues as quickly as they had. Delay by even two more days and she would have died. Besides, this particular group of Bedouins had shown their hand at violence last year when they had kidnapped a French female television commentator. That woman they had brutally tortured and killed. Without a cause, save their own enrichment, this nomadic group tried to ransom those whom they abducted. And they always abducted women.
“They’re cowards,” he told her as he checked her bare feet, concluding he would simply carry her with him. “And they’re dead meat.”
Laughing hoarsely, she put a hand to her temple and swayed in delight. “Woosy. Think I’ve had too much to drink. Can you do that? Take them all?”
“My only job is you.”
She had laughed then, giddy with the strength of the MRE. Drawing his face down to hers, she planted a big fat kiss on his cheek. “Color me grateful, SEAL of my heart. Your wish is my command.”
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