Friday, January 26, 2024

Tasty Teaser from Hawk's Honor (draft)

I'm just about finished with my own edits and then the book heads off to the publisher. I figured it would be fun to share a little bit of the draft with readers. The following is the first half of the first chapter. I was lucky enough to have a couple Marine pals to answer my kazillion questions and read over my work. Thank you, Whiskey Rick!


Chapter 1

 “Corporal Hawke!”

Zipping his rucksack closed he slung it over his shoulder and stood. His Team Leader approached from across the moonlit yard while men in full battle rattle moved at a brisk pace around her. The Captain displayed the epitome of what every female marine should be…confidant, capable, with grace and style and a military bearing unmatched. Nevertheless, a female officer in special ops, much like shifters, in all reality didn’t exist.

 Native American shifters in MARSOC (Marine Special Operations Command) with security clearance such as his could select the battalion they wished to serve with. Hungry for adventure, he chose one of the riskiest regions and fell into a team who lost one of their Critical Skills Operators in battle. So deep in secrecy, only upper brass and the CIA knew of the group called Spirit Walkers containing several shifters. They went into areas where the enemy had weeks to prepare, booby-trap, and plant enough explosives to eliminate a city block. Together with their fearless leaders, they outsmarted their opponent and completed whatever mission needed to be done.

 Sure, they lost a few to pay the price of war, but what blew his mind were the “routine” tasks completed without a single bullet fired. The teams moved like specters across landscapes and through villages. Night missions often included quietly capturing or killing insurgents and recovering maps.  Day assignments centered on collecting intelligence used to save American and allies asses. Accomplish without leaving any trace. Convinced spirits, ghosts, demons or their own negligence were at work, the enemy never discovered the truth.

Close friendships developed during savage urban battles and intelligent tactical maneuvers. Over the last six and a half months brotherhoods were forged and interesting people met, but the one walking in his direction captivated him. Capt. Andrea “Andy” Nelson wore her shoulder-length blonde hair pulled tight in a bun exposing a naturally beautiful face. She took the typical dominant male bullshit from the guys in stride, often putting them on their asses with a well said verbal jab or one of her many martial arts moves. At any given time, she could flash an icy glare capable of breaking even the most hardened soldiers. Born and raised by a career Marine with two brothers also in the Corps, a beast of a Marine held her own against anyone.

Some of the guys in the unit found her intimidating. Stories about her brothers and father were often recounted during card games, but her experience on the battlefield made men pay attention. Her strategy of well planned and executed operations as well as her calm voice of reason earned their respect and kept them in line. True to the life of a Marine, she pushed everyone to give more than a hundred percent and continue onto the next order.  Always faithful, always forward was their motto. She lived it.

He would readily give his life for her, not only because of her reputation and being a fellow Marine but he saw her as something more. Shortly after being assigned to the unit, his animal spirit declared her as a mate. Other than personal relationships being prohibited between ranks, she had a fiancĂ© back in the states. A giant invisible OFF-LIMITS sign hung over her head like a cloud but his critter didn’t give a damn. Every day became a clash fight with the beast and his heart as he fell in love with her, but he continued to maintain complete control. Being honor bound to the corps he never acted on his emotions. To do so could get someone killed. Instead, he vowed to always protect her the same way he would his brothers in arms and keep his secret from ever being exposed.

“Capt. Nelson.” He gave a quick snap salute.

“Screw the formalities, Hawke.” She stopped next to him and accepted his pistol from the low leg holster for a quick inspection. “This is your last operation. You’ve been kicking a lot of ass around here; you deserve a break. As soon as it’s done your team heads back to base then home. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward sleeping somewhere I don’t have to check for spiders and can fucking eat chocolate chip cookies whenever I want.”

“Hey, I warned you about Dawg’s and my stealth missions to confiscate any boxes from home a marine doesn’t share.”  Rolling his shoulders, he gave a low chuckle when her jaw twitched. “Yeah, yeah…I know. Never take a woman’s chocolate. Lesson learned, Nelson.”

“Damned straight. Out of all the shifters, I get stuck with a lock picking bird and a chocoholic wolf.” A rare smile flashed but quickly disappeared. “The next team coming is minus their captain for three months and brass chose me to fill in for him. You asswipes better have fun tipping back beers while I’m trapped in this hell hole a little longer.”

“How ‘bout I send you a nice heart-shaped box of chocolate from home?” He made a mental note to send something as a joke.

“Fuck you.” She snorted.

His cock twitched at the sight of his Glock 19 in her capable hands. A woman who knew her way around firearms lit his wick. Being the only daughter of a Master Gunnery Sergeant, she knew more than most. Hell, she was probably born with a gun in her hand.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to strap this to your bird?”

“Packing heat slows me down.” He shook his head. “I can shift in and out of clothes faster without the baggage. A simple in and out is my plan.”

 “But we all know shit happens.” She flashed him a sideways glance. “What about the night vision gear?”

“Nope. I have my earpiece. Dawg will talk me through.” He lowered his voice to prove his point.  “No extra equipment. It’s my call.”

Carefully shadowing his gaze, he took in her appearance. Her 5-foot 5-inch frame looked far from feminine in her baggy cammies and boots. A loose camo jacket exposed the drab olive-green t-shirt underneath.  He imagined her dog tags tucked neatly between her breasts. He could easily lose his mind if it followed the direction of his eyes. Focus shithead, you’ve got a job to do.

“Dawg and Skeeter are in position on the hill to watch from above. You have two four-man fireteams who will have your back; you’ll see them at nine and two as you fly in. They will go in for a sweep after the first detonation. Remember the doors are heavily guarded or booby-trapped.”

“Fun facts already planted.” he tapped his skull. “I found everything during the last couple nights of sneaking in to set the explosives. I know every inch of the structure.”

“Fine, then all you have to do is fly in through the northeast window, ignite and get the hell out.” She slapped the gun into his open palm. “Are you ready?”

 “My people believe the hawk is a messenger.” Tucking his gun into the sack a snarl escaped his lips. “And tonight, I will deliver one final message to these bastards. Fuck, it’ll light up like the fourth of July.” He glanced in the direction he would be flying, lifted his hand and splayed his fingers imitating a firework blast. “Boom!”

“I think you enjoy being a Crusher too much. You could make a career of it.”

“Hey, what can I say?” He shrugged. “I like to blow shit up.”

 “For the record, I don’t like sending a Marine unarmed.” She shook her head, obviously unhappy with his decision not to carry. “You will be covered until you pass over the courtyard wall. Hustle your feathered ass back to collect your pack and join the Chief and me.”  

“We’ve been over this a million times already. I’m good.” He handed the sack to her then lifted M4 rifle from its sling across his chest. “I’ll be back before you have a chance to miss me.”

A shadow passed over her face as she accepted his equipment. Usually, she wished him well then threw a wise crack his way before he shifted for a mission, this time her eyes looked at the ground. The action disconcerted him. Wanting to get away from the negative vibe, he stepped back.

“Hey, I just wanted to say it’s been a privilege serving with you.” The timber of her voice stopped him from walking away. “When I was a kid, my dad told some crazy bedtime stories about his days with shifter Marines. He made them sound like fantasy, but I knew they were true. I always believed in shifters. Over the years, I’ve served with many and commanded a few. But you…you’re different.” Her voice grew tender and she touched his forearm. Heat spread up his arm rousing his spirit. “It’s been an amazing experience seeing you transform and do all the things you do.”

“Aw, come on, Nelson; don’t go all soft on me.” He fought the urge to pull her into his arms and kiss the lines of stress off her face. His honor beat down the pleading of his spirit. “I’m gonna start thinking you’re a girl or something.”

“Seriously, Hawke, I just needed to say it. I think you are a brave and honorable man. There are many like you.” She skimmed her hand down his arm to give his fist a squeeze. “I just have a feeling…I don’t know.” Shaking her head, she blinked then captured his gaze. “I just wanted you to know in case I don’t see you again.”

“Get rid of that vibe or whatever it is…don’t be placing bad juju on me.” He waved his hands around. “Everything is going to be okay. You’ve got the best team and this is a piece of cake.” Something sure had her spooked. Dipping his head close to hers, he whispered. “Thanks, Andy. Coming from you means a lot, but you’re distracting me and you know how I am superstitious about keeping my routine before rolling out. You’ll knock me off my game.”

“Sorry.” A faint rose colored her checks, something he’d never seen. She shook her head and the familiar stern battle face quickly replaced the softness. “Let’s see some kick ass fireworks, marine!”

“That’s better.” He laughed, ripped off his t-shirt and flung it over her shoulder. “Here comes the boom!”

 “Oh and another thing…” She jabbed a finger at his chest. “Make sure your feathered ass comes back, dill weed.”

“Ooorah! I will. I always do. On my honor.” He crossed his heart and winked at her before shifting into his hawk form and heading off to his target.

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