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Operation: L.O.V.E. (Military Edition)
by Anne Elizabeth, C.H. Admirand, Tara Nina

Category: Romance Night Owl Romance Reviewer Top Pick
Description: NAVY, COAST GUARD, AIR FORCE, ARMY, & MARINES Five sweet romantic stories delving into the world of Special Operations from authors whose family and friends are part of the military community. The memorable twists in FUNNY BONE, B&B BIVOUAC and ANGEL FROM ABOVE will tug at your heartstrings, while the action and adventure of MISSION: DEVIL DOG and SO OTHERS MIGHT LIVE will get your heart pumping. OPERATION: L.O.V.E.--Locate, Observe, Vector, and Encounter--may it share optimal methods for securing the sweetheart of your dreams. (Authors: Anne Elizabeth, C.H. Admirand, Tara Nina, DC DeVane, and Lindsay Downs)
eBook Publisher: Highland Press/A Wee Dram, 2009 2009
eBookwise Release Date: July 2009

eBookeBook

Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [344 KB]
Words: 75561
Reading time: 215-302 min.


"Five sweet romantic stories delving into the world of Special Operations from authors whose family and friends are part of the military community. The memorable twists in FUNNY BONE, B&B BIVOUAC and ANGEL FROM ABOVE will tug at your heartstrings, while the action and adventure of MISSION: DEVIL DOG and SO OTHERS MIGHT LIVE will get your heart pumping. OPERATION: L.O.V.E.--Locate, Observe, Vector, and Encounter--may it share optimal methods for securing the sweetheart of your dreams. This anthology contains five sweet reads that were well researched by all five authors. It's a tribute to the men and women of our armed forces as well to their families. Such a charming and cute read. What woman doesn't fall in love with a man who saves her life? C.H. Admirand does a tremendous job with this story. This team isn't talked about much and I think it's great she based a story on the Coast Guard. If you need another reason to purchase this anthology I have the best reason for you. Part of the proceeds from Operation: L.O.V.E goes to the Special Operations Warrior Foundations."--Wild Plum, Long and Short Reviews

"Ah, the memories that Operation: L.O.V.E. brings to mind. As an Air Force nurse who married an Air Force fighter pilot, I relived the days of glory through each and every story. While covering all the military branches, each story holds a special spark of its own that readers will love!"--Lori Avocato, Best Selling Author

"This collection of short books is a credit to the authors who researched the branches of the military as well as those men and women of whom they wrote. The anthology, written by five different authors, presents a tribute to each branch of service. Not only was the book a great romantic read, it was informative as well. It was obvious they knew of which they spoke."--Brenda Talley, The Romance Studio

"This is a very good collection of stories involving all branches of the military. Each author used a member of a different branch of the service for their story. Every one of them is full of romance and very different from the others. Each and every one of them is well worth reading as they are full of great characters and very readable plots, perfect for a Memorial Day read. I would be hard put to pick a favorite, all are very well written and I read this anthology straight through from the beginning until the end."--Maura, Coffee Time Romance & More

"Operation: Love is a book filled with so many great stories from talented authors. It's hard to not like them all. Each one has a gorgeous Navy Seal, Coast Guard or Army soldier that will entice any reader. My favorite of course is Riley's story. I loved that she will do anything to get her man including embarrassing him well with a Pink paintball. Those two were so in love with each other. Each author shined in each story in Operation Love. It's also great to know that they all wrote a story to support charity. Loved all of them."--Melinda, Night Owl Romance


Chapter 1

A slight movement in the distance caught his eye. What was Worthington doing here?

Sergeant Jackson (Jack) Stone couldn't believe his eyes. Shifting his weapon by mere millimeters, he examined the high-powered scope on his sniper rifle without giving his location away. From all aspects, the scope functioned properly so it had to be Worthington crouched low and sneaking through the underbrush. His eyes never failed him, especially at this short range. Three hundred yards was nothing. Repositioning his rifle, he adjusted the scope and zoomed in on the familiar Marine.

Now, he knew why Gunnery Sergeant Pete Phillips was vague on the details of this particular training exercise. It involved the new branch of Special Ops squad from Parris Island. He'd heard the rumors filtering through the ranks about this particular group. They were the first of their kind in the tough field of Marine Corps sharp-shooters. And he, along with his top-ranked team, had obviously been chosen to test their skills. Apparently, what he'd heard was right. He knew a member of their team, Lance Corporal Riley Worthington. In his opinion, Worthington was a spoiled little rich kid who'd joined the military just because daddy said no. Guess daddy didn't have enough money to pull the right strings to get his kid out of this one. Jack ground his teeth together to prevent the heated laugh from passing his lips. Silence was vital to keeping his position unknown.

One, two, three, he silently counted reining in the ripple of displeasure that rolled through his veins. He'd been tricked. Gunny knew to keep the identity of the opposition in this game a secret or else he wouldn't have allowed his team to participate. In his opinion, the odds weren't even. The Parris Island squad had no chance of winning against his seasoned Marines.

When he'd gotten the word to ready his team, they'd entered the Quantico training field before dawn and blended into the landscape. Each man of his squad knew their mission. The observers were in place as were the rest of his men. Skilled in the art of sniping, they lay in wait for the other team participating in this training maneuver. Kill or be killed in this military version of hide-n-seek.

His men knew the glory of reward for winning the exercise. They received pride for a job well-done and steaks at O'Malleys, Jack's treat. Scout sniper training exercises were essential in keeping their skills honed. He hadn't gotten to the level of Expert Marksman by chance.

He was good. No, he smiled to himself as he leveled the bead on his mark. He was top Devil Dog. No one outshot him. Through the scope, he saw Worthington sink into the cover of the underbrush. To an untrained eye the Marine appeared lost. But to Jack it just added a measure of excitement to the hunt. One shot, one kill, repeated in his head right before he pulled the trigger. Accurate as ever, he hit his mark.

The exercise was over, the opponent was dead.

A sudden sting in his left shoulder dismayed Jack. In a slow subtle movement, he lowered his head and saw the bright fluorescent pink mark from the specially designed paint-loaded practice round. The Corps didn't normally use paintball equipment for training. This had been his brilliant idea, to add a little color to practice, and he'd been hit.

He couldn't believe it. Never in any of their practice maneuvers had he been hit with even a smidgeon of paint. Sharp and shrill, the whistle cut the air marking the end of the exercise. Eagle-eyed operations observers hadn't missed that shot. They knew he'd been hit. But had his opponent? His gut told him that he hadn't missed, brushing the momentary instant of doubt from his mind.

So, this was a tie.

First Lieutenant Haddon McCoy broke radio silence causing his headset to crackle. "Good job, Sergeant. Bring your men in."

Jack lifted to his knees and shook off the hours of non-movement. With rifle and gear in hand, he stood. Scanning the perimeter, the others of his squad popped up one by one like groundhogs until all three were visible. Normally, they worked in pairs but for this maneuver they'd been ordered to spread out and play this round as single snipers. A nod from him and they were on the move returning to base. It was a hike back to the post, but they had a set position where they were to meet for a pick-up. They'd be debriefed of the outcome once they were together with field command. Glancing down, he wished there were a way to make that florescent sign of failure disappear before his men saw it. It was bad enough he'd been hit, but with a shade of hot pink?

Whose idea was that? What Marine in their right mind would choose hot pink for their team's training ammo? Until now, he didn't even know it came in any other color besides red or blue. Then it hit him right between the eyes. Worthington had made the selection. He'd bet the next shipment of his mom's homemade cookies on it. The woman may be in her seventies, but she never failed to send him fresh baked goods every two weeks. Just the thought of what was waiting back in his apartment made his stomach rumble. If he could find a woman who cooked like Mom, he'd marry her.

Once, he thought he had the perfect candidate to fill that position. The memory flashed to the forefront of his brain, crushing all hunger pangs for food. A hunger for something he'd long thought forgotten sprang to life. Images of soft lips, smooth skin, and a set of legs any model would envy fueled a different need. The vision of her face filled his head. He remembered those blue eyes that darkened whenever she was angry or in the mood for love. If he breathed in deep enough, he could almost swear he smelled the strawberry essence shampoo she used on her long blonde hair.

Before he could stop it, their last night together played on the big screen inside his head. He'd planned it right down to the champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries. She arrived promptly at six pm. Punctual. Another key feature in what he deemed as perfect woman qualities. The deep scarlet dress she wore accentuated her curves and, without being indecently short, exposed enough leg to make him drool. The scoop neckline teased his imagination to what lie in store beneath its sweet dip. It was his favorite dress, because it not only added to her beauty, it was the Marine Corps color.

It had taken him all day to prepare his apartment for her arrival. Rose petals led a trail from the living room, to the eat-in kitchen, then did a u-turn to the bedroom. A vase filled to the brim with red, pink, and white roses sat on the bedside table. An array of petals in deep, dark red was sprinkled on the navy colored comforter. A true blend of Marine colors, he'd done that on purpose. If she liked it, she'd have been the perfect woman for this Marine.

After the meal he'd prepared of grilled steaks, mashed potatoes, a fresh garden salad, and a vintage red wine, he led her to that special room. Champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries sat on a tray next to the vase. He positioned her to sit on the edge of the bed, and then popped the champagne cork. After handing her a glass, he held one in his hand, lifted her other hand to his lips and brushed a kiss across her knuckles.

"Here's to us," he'd whispered the toast, touched their glasses together then they both took a sip. It wasn't until he gathered the glasses and returned them half-full to the tray that he saw a fleeting glimpse of indecision in her eyes. But it didn't stop him. He knew the way of his heart..."

Jack snarled, trying his best to lock her out of his thoughts while the image of him taking a knee, a ring in hand for a woman who didn't want him burned bright. A dull ache throbbed behind his eyes at his lack of control over his brainwaves. He pinched the bridge of his nose with his forefinger and thumb, trying to stem the unwanted hurt from rising again.

She was a memory. Nothing more, he reminded himself. The slap of a hand to his shoulder snapped him out of his self-wallowing misery. On instinct, he spun to face the perpetrator and almost brought his fellow teammate to the ground.

Lance Corporal Tim Taylor jumped out of the way of Jack's combat maneuver to remain on his feet. Tim's thick Southern drawl reached his ears as he spoke. "Whoa there, Sarge. It's just me."

Seeing one of his own switched into defense mode knocked some sense into his thoughts and jarred him back to the present. No one needed to know where his mind had been. His friend's next comment set his spine straight and made him fist his rifle tight.

"Oh, man, who got you?"

He had an idea who'd gotten him and it irked his soul. If he were right, a ghost from his past was here to haunt him. He never should have taught that one to shoot. Jack looked Tim directly in the eye and shrugged as he replied in a deadpan tone. "Not important."

Tim laughed. "Not important. No one's ever gotten you before. Guess everyone should've switched to hot pink if they wanted to hit you."

Jack snorted and shook his head. He'd known he was in for a grilling from his teammates. And if he were right about who'd shot him, he'd never hear the end of it. Man, he sure hoped he was wrong.

"You might wanna let it go, Tim." The deep Cajun accent of Jack's next in command and best friend, Corporal Berengere (Bear) Brasseaux, stated as he eased up beside them. The name Bear fit this man due to his overall size. At six-foot-five, Bear towered over everyone in their company and took his position seriously. In hand-to-hand, he was unmatched. As a sniper, he was only second to Jack, so the younger men looked up to him like a giant brother. He and Jack had been best friends since boot-camp.

"Bear, did you see the color he got shot with?" Tim continued, not heeding the warning. "Hot pink. Who shoots with hot pink ammo? That's a girlie color."

As usual, the younger, skinny red-headed man joked. It was what the team liked most about Tim. When they were deployed to Iraq his humor made things more bearable for the rest of them. Not to mention he was a phenomenal tracker and shot. Jack huffed and tried not to let it get to him. But even he admitted the color was a bit too feminine for the Marines.

Bear eyed the paint, then met Jack's darkened gaze. "He's right, Jack. That's a girlie color. Any idea what squad they sent out?"

"I've got my suspicions." Jack returned his gaze to scanning the perimeter. "Where's Slick?"

"Bringing up the rear, Sarge."

Jack spun around as did Bear, but Bear spoke first, "Son, you ought not be sneakin' up on us like that. One 'o these days it might jes' get you killed."

"Ah, come on, Bear. I know you heard me the moment I was within a klick of you."

Bear grinned and gifted Slick with an open hand tap to the back of his head. "You know I did. But there may be a day that the hearing might fail and I won't. Now fall in beside Tim. Jack and I've got the rear."

Slick grinned as he followed the order. It was obvious when the youngest member of the team noticed the hot pink on Jack's shoulder. His big black eyes widened as did his grin. "That the new standard color for camouflage, Sarge?"

"Fall in, Marine," Jack stated in as stern a tone as he could muster. It wasn't like him to command his men with an iron fist. He commanded them with respect. From the respect he'd given his men, they in turn respectfully nicknamed him 'Sarge' and he allowed it when other Marine Sergeants wouldn't have.

Instant regret filtered through his system at his harsh tone with Slick. The Private First Class didn't deserve it. Never had he met a man named Slick before and didn't believe this one until it was proven on his military records. PFC Slick White was his real name, given to him by a drug-addict mother who'd died shortly after he'd been assigned to Jack's platoon. Though he'd tried not to show it, the death of his mother had hit Slick hard. Only when he returned from the funeral in a drunken state did Jack find out the truth behind his life.

He understood the man's pain. He'd come from a single parent upbringing as well and understood the traumas of going without and doing whatever was necessary to survive. Jack always figured it had made him a better Marine. What Slick told him while intoxicated was a secret kept between them from that night forward. The man had proven himself to Jack as a Marine time and time again and that was all that mattered.

"Yes, Sarge." Slick gave him a grin and took his position at the lead with Tim.

Jack couldn't help but shake his head, and let a weak smile split his lips, at the sight of Slick shoulder-bumping Tim. The two had become instant friends. Much like he and Bear, this tight-knit friendship made their team even better in his opinion. More than once, knowing each other like brothers had helped them survive in the Iraqi desert during maneuvers.

"Care to talk about it?" Bear broke the silence between them in a hushed voice so the other two wouldn't hear.

"Nope."

Bear didn't heed his one-word reply. "Have anything to do with a certain Marine I think I saw crawlin' around in the bushes?"

Jack shot Bear a look that if it were a loaded gun, he'd be dead. So Bear had seen Worthington as well. He halted, stopping Bear in his tracks. "If you spotted the target, why didn't you shoot?"

"Same reason you hesitated." Bear's all-knowing stare made him rethink his actions before the shot.

He did hesitate. That wasn't like him. One shot, one kill. Never a miss. Never a second guess. But he had taken a second and that had cost him. If he'd pulled the trigger the moment Worthington was in sight, he wouldn't be sporting a hot pink stain.

Jack opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. There was nothing he could say, so he closed his mouth. In the game of life, Marines made no excuses, especially the MARSOC company snipers. They took the shot and backed it with intelligent reasoning. Mistakes weren't allowed. His stomach sank, weighed down by the guilt of his hesitation. This was a mistake that would cost him. Glancing down at the fluorescent color on his favorite camouflage fatigues, it was a higher price than he was willing to pay. Anger crawled up his spine and knotted like a fist inside his chest.

The image of Worthington flashed inside his head. The muscle in his cheek twitched and his jaw tightened. That was one Marine he intended to make pay. This was the first day of a week-long training mission between his team and Worthington's. He had six more days to prove who was the better marksman and he didn't intend to fail.

Oh, yeah, Jack decided. He'd collect payment for his moment of failure at Worthington's expense. No one shot him. No one.


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