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Serving My Soldier





Written By

USA Today Bestselling Author

Chelsea Camaron





Smashwords Edition

Copyright © Chelsea Camaron 2016

All rights reserved. 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 Chelsea Camaron, except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976.

This is a work of fiction. All character, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.



Editing by: C&D Editing and Asli Fratarcangeli



Thank you for purchasing this book. This book and its contents are the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be reproduced, copied, and distributed for commercial or non-commercial purposes.


This book contains mature content not suitable for those under the age of 18. Content involves strong language and sexual situations. All parties portrayed in sexual situation are over the age of 18. All characters are a work of fiction.


This book is not meant to be an exact depiction of a motorcycle club or military service member but rather a work of fiction meant to entertain.



Serving My Soldier


For God and Country, Angus Hilliard serves in the United States Army 82nd Airborne. As a third generation soldier, his life is his career. He allows himself no distractions, no entanglements, and no emotions.

Elementary school counselor, Gretchen Devall wants nothing more than to be a positive impact in young children’s lives around her. She allows herself no attachments beyond the kids she serves.


A program sending cards to soldiers for her school aligns their worlds. What happens when her time to serve the soldier is up? Can their connection become more than a classroom project?


A heartfelt story of two strangers supporting each other from afar coming together to build something real.



*Note* This book is intended as a bonus short story to accompany the Devil’s Due MC series.


Devil’s Due MC Series reading order:


Serving My Soldier

Get your copy: HERE


Crossover

Get your copy: HERE


In the Red

Get your copy: HERE


Below the Line

Get your copy: HERE


Close the Tab

Get your copy: HERE


Day of Reckoning

Get your copy: HERE


Paid in Full

Get your copy: HERE


Bottom Line

Get your copy: HERE




Table of Contents


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Epilogue

About the Author

Other Works by Chelsea Camaron

Excerpt from Crossover (Devil’s Due MC Prequel)



Chapter One

GUS


Standing on the front porch of my parent’s home, the flapping of the two flags in the wind catches my attention. Proudly, I look to the black and white POW/MIA fabric.


I fly the POW/MIA flag to never forget,” I hear my father’s words in my mind. “I fly the black and white to remember a time before there was an internet.” He always looks to the sky before he finishes the story of his love for the flag and our country. “When I was a boy, my father was a soldier who didn’t make it back.” Like the many other times, we have shared the flag, he looks to the old red, white, and blue. “For God and Country, we serve.” He salutes before giving his mind time to think on the loss of his own father.


Fayetteville, North Carolina, home sweet home. Coming back to the city right outside of Fort Bragg where my dad retired and we settled, I inhale the scent of the pine trees as I let myself calm.


Currently, it’s also my duty station with the 82nd Airborne. My time on leave isn’t for R&R. I was called home from training to attend the services of my father. Retired Army First Sergeant Angus Alvin Hilliard II is being laid to rest with full military honors tomorrow at fourteen hundred. When my bereavement is done, I’ll return to my unit to finish our term in the sandbox.


My father, my hero; now he is gone. I look to the American flag flying proudly off our porch. I come to attention before I raise my hand to salute. “For God and Country, we serve,” I say to the air around me.


I will serve with honor, integrity, courage, and commitment. I will give my all to protect the freedoms our forefathers came here to have. I will put my needs, wants, and life behind my duty to serve, protect, and uphold the values of the United States of America.


I am Army Sergeant, Angus Alvin Hilliard III, an American Soldier in the 82nd Airborne. I will carry out my orders without delay or deviation. Tomorrow, I will lay to rest the man who gave his all to our great nation. Once I know my mother will be okay, I will make my way back to my unit and prepare to deploy again.


I don’t remember a time in my life where I ever wanted to be anything but a soldier. From the days of GI Joes, to joining ROTC in highschool, the Army has been my life. From the time I could sit still long enough to listen, my Mawmaw and Dad told me story after story of my PawPaw, who proudly served our great nation and never made it back from Vietnam.


Going inside my childhood home, I make my way silently to my bedroom. The Go ARMY poster on my wall has been there since my teenage years; it still makes me smile. Living the Army life, we moved around, but once Dad hit his twenty-year mark, Mom told him they were staying at his last duty station. I was in high school and she didn’t want me to have to change schools once again. Being the smart woman she is, there is also the fact that being near a post, she maintains access to the medical benefits military service provides. I move to the closet and take out the garment bag housing my freshly laundered dress uniform. Unzipping it, I run my fingers over my service ribbons.


Pushing back my emotions, I clench my jaw tightly as I think of handing over my father’s service uniform for his final dressing inside the all wooden casket. All I have ever wanted is to be a man he could be proud of. As I think to the future ahead, I think of the things he will never share with me.


My life has been my career. My father won’t get to see his grandchildren play in the backyard … just like my grandfather never saw me. A name passed on, a legacy of servicemen and a life ended all too soon. I haven’t allowed myself anything outside of serving my country.


I think of my parents who were together for thirty-five years and married for thirty-one of them. I don’t know that I see myself having that. At thirty-two, I haven’t found a woman who could handle the life of a soldier’s wife. It’s hard to spend more time apart than you actually can spend together. I know of only a few relationships that can withstand that kind of separation.


My parents being one of them.


I don’t think it’s in the cards for me to have what they have shared. As I think of the flag draped over my father’s casket, I think of my future. I am married to the flag, until my death due us part.


For God and country, I serve and will continue to serve. Until my days come to an end I will give my all to protect my homeland as my father and my father’s father did before me.



Chapter Two

GRETCHEN


“Good morning, Mr. Laurence,” I greet the janitor as I make my way into my office. The old man smiles and simply nods his head. He’s never one to talk much, but he’s never one to complain either. He does what he’s paid to do and doesn’t bother anyone.


As I step inside, I look to the frames hanging on the walls. The many pictures of the students who have come and gone, each leaving some impact on my life. I don’t make it to my oversized chair behind my desk before I hear a knock to the side of my open door.


Turning, I smile softly at the school secretary and the young girl behind her. “Miss Devall, we have a new student. This is Kimberly Brink.”


The dark haired girl keeps her head down to avoid eye contact as she twists her hands nervously. Stepping over to her, I reach out and give her hand a squeeze stopping the movements. With a soft smile of understanding, our school secretary, Ms. Hamm, leaves me with the young lady.


“Welcome to Cloverville Elementary, home of the Cougars!” I say enthusiastically.


She takes a seat in the chair across from my desk as I round the corner and find my way to my chair. When I look up, iris eyes meet my stare and for a moment I’m taken back.


Dover,” Raleigh whines at the bedroom door. “I wanna go to Emerson’s.”


Not now,” he barks back at his little sister. “Gretchen is here. I’ll take you later.”


Hi, Gretchen.” I hear her soft voice come through the closed door. Before I can reply, Dover’s lips are back on mine. “I really wanna go see Emerson. You think you could take me?” My boyfriend’s little sister asks, taking me out of the moment with Dover.


With a laugh, I push him off and go to the door. When I open it, her iris eyes meet mine with a glimmer of hope.


Dover is quickly at my back, frustration is laced in his voice as he dismisses her. “Go on, Raleigh. Take your bike and be home before dinner.”


With a tug, I’m pulled back, the door is shut and we are on his bed again. If only I would have known that was the last time any of us would see little Raleigh Ragnes again.


I fight back my own tears as her eyes glisten with her unshed ones. “Hi,” Kimberly whispers and I have to stay focused on my job and not my past.


“Let me get my computer up and running. We can see what we can do for you today, Miss Kimberly.” I sit back and get started planning a schedule for our newest student.


“My dad is in the Army, he’s deployed. Momma moved us back here to be closer to family,” she starts to ramble, as a tear falls from her eyes. “I think we aren’t going back home even when my daddy comes back. Momma says she can’t handle the Army life anymore.”


Reaching to the corner of my desk, I pull out a tissue for the young girl and hand it to her. I wish I had words to take away her insecurity. I wish I had a resolution to all that troubles her young mind and heart. Being in rural Tennessee, we aren’t close to a military base. Most of the students I see have been here since Kindergarten. Everyone knows everyone in a small town. I wish I could pair her up with a student who has been through something similar, but off the top of my head no one comes to mind in her grade.


Just like when little Raleigh never made it home from her friends, I wish with every wish that will never come true that children didn’t have to feel the hurts and devastations they do. After going over her transfer information, I give young Kimberly a tour of our school and show her to Mrs. McCartney’s fifth grade class.


The more I let myself think of the iris eyes of little Miss Brink, the more I want to do something school wide to support our troops and the students we do have who face exactly what Kimberly is facing herself.


How many families deal with the unknown of a parent’s return? How many families are torn apart permanently as the separation becomes too much? How many troops wonder if anyone is home thinking of them?


The more my heart worries over these people and their situations, the more I feel the challenge to do something, anything to leave an impact even if it is only for one person.


Once getting the approval of Mr. Ryan, our principal, it was all about setting up sign ups for our school’s new letter to a soldier program. With a new excitement to help make someone’s world a little brighter, I finish my day.


I may have been helpless to save Raleigh Ragnes, all those years ago, but I’m not helpless to give a little hope to those people serving our country overseas and the kids who miss them.



Chapter Three

GUS


“Banner, did your mom tell the neighborhood to send something this time?” I ask as I look at the box on my rack.


“Nah, man. She said we wouldn’t get another package for three weeks.” My bunkmate replies as I begin to eye the box suspiciously. “Don’t know what you got this time, Hilliard, but it didn’t come from Texas.”


Cloverville, Tennessee. I read the postmark. I don’t know anyone in Tennessee. My mom sends boxes but hers would be from North Carolina, not Tennessee.


Leaving the box in its place, I quickly sit down and remove my boots. Tucking them to the end of my rack so that I’m still at the ready, I begin to let my mind unwind. The thing about any deployment is being always ‘at the ready’. Boots never far away, don’t sleep naked, and always keep your weapon close. As I look down at the desert shade of my boots, I think back to learning to polish my original black combat boots. I think to my father and grandfather who served for so many years. Day in and day out, lacing and tying their boots much like mine today.


Out of the corner of my eye I find myself drawn back to the mystery box beside me. Sitting back on my rack, I grab the box and inspect it once more. Return address to: Gretchen Devall, School Counselor, Cloverville Elementary School.


I certainly don’t remember a woman named Gretchen, nor have I ever attended or participated in anything involving an elementary school in Tennessee. Pulling my pocket knife from my pants, I open the blade and then cut the tape to the packaging.


Inside I find a stack of pages ranging from colorful scribblings to more defined letters all done in school age writing. At the very bottom, I find an envelope addressed to me. The elegant script shows the handwriting of a young woman and I can’t help but smile as my curiosity grows.


Dear Sergeant Hilliard,


My name is Gretchen Devall. I am a counselor at Cloverville Elementary. We have started a new program here called ‘Serving Our Soldiers Overseas’, nicknamed SoSo. Here at Cloverville, we strive to push our students to excellence and not accept getting by and being simply so-so. Instead of being mediocre, we are changing the view of So-So into service. After reaching out to the key wives of your unit we were given a list of names and through a random drawing – meaning our student, Miss Kimberly, drew a name out of a hat – we selected you as our first soldier to serve.


If you do not wish to participate, I understand completely and send you my sincerest apologies for inconveniencing you. I know that time is important and that you are away from your loved ones, as well as the comforts of home so we hope that we can send some warm wishes and let you know that there are people big and small thinking of you.


Thank you for your sacrifices for our country, in the name of service. If you do not wish to be the soldier in which we serve back, please let me know and we will find someone else. If not, do nothing and each month of your current tour, we will send you a package from different students in grade levels Kindergarten through fifth grade.


Best wishes,

Gretchen Devall


I find myself smiling and tracing the script of her handwritten letter. This woman, who knows nothing of me, put time into writing this letter. This school, who know nothing of me or my unit, have taken the time to discuss our service members. As I pick up the contents of the box, it’s page after page of drawings or letters of thanks. Each of these individuals took time out of their day to give a small token of their appreciation.


For the future, I serve.


Each one of these children has a future and it is my job to secure the freedoms that they have yet to fully understand. In the age of internet, email, smartphones, and technology, this woman took the time to create a project to give her service back to a soldier.


It’s the little things in life, son. A letter, a call, those tangible things that your mother can hold onto.” My father said as I prepared for my first deployment. “Give your mother, your wife, when the day comes, to have your undivided attention for just the time to write an I love you or make the call so she can have the reassurance of your voice.”


When I was younger, my father never left home without a note left on a counter or on the fridge, telling my mother and myself just how much he loved us. Even in the ease of email, I still take the time to write my mother a handwritten letter here and there. As I look to the package from this stranger, I immediately feel drawn not only to write my own mother, but to write back to Ms. Gretchen Devall and the students of Cloverville Elementary School.



Chapter Four

GRETCHEN


Slipping onto the barstool, I smile at my best friend, Dawn. “Hey girl!” The raven haired pixie of a woman yells out to me as she serves another shot to a man at the end of the bar. Coming to me, she mixes my Shirley Temple with a smirk before resting on the bar top.


Twirling the straw in my drink, I absently look off to the back wall. “Looks like you need a real drink, Gretchen.”


I give a half laugh and shake my head.


“It’s been ten years. Life goes on,” Dawn says before reaching out and pressing her thumb to the yellow bow that rests on the inside of my wrist.


Meeting her brown eyes with my own, I reply with the only thing I know to say. “Life doesn’t go on for little Raleigh.”


“Dover is gone. Been gone. He packed up, left you, and rode off on his Harley without a look back. He found a way to move on, you should too.”


She is right. She is also wrong. I don’t bother telling her that, though. Dover did leave. He did pack up and leave me very far behind. What he didn’t do was move on. I know Dover Ragnes as well as I know myself. He left on a journey … a journey to find out who killed his little sister.


The afternoon I gave Dover my body was the same day we all lost a piece of our hearts. The effects of one person’s crime going unpunished is beyond measure. Days turned into weeks we spent searching for Raleigh, who never made it to Emerson’s house the night before the worst came true, when her little body was found in a culvert, cold and long dead.


I tried to support my teenage boyfriend. I tried to remain hopeful that justice would be served. As the time went on, the only thing that changed was the year on the calendar. The more people who gave up on finding the killer, the more Dover dedicated himself to being the one to solve her case. I went on to study psychology while he got a degree in criminal justice.


Coming home from the University of Tennessee with his paper in hand was only a means to an end. After working his way to detective, Dover Ragnes dedicated every extra minute to cold case files, most especially his sister’s. The more he worked, the more everything I was holding onto faded.


We went from friends to lovers, to lovers to strangers. The day he pulled out and never looked back was the day I let go of what I thought would one day be my happily ever after. I couldn’t save Raleigh, I couldn’t save Dover, but I can and will give my life to being a positive support system to everyone around me.


He couldn’t let go in his way and I can’t in my own. Raleigh was an innocent girl with a bright future ahead of her.


I sit at the same bar I have frequented, for the three years Dawn has worked here, and sip the same non-alcoholic drink I’ve sipped for more years than I care to count. A loss like young Raleigh keeps everything in perspective for me. The day she was lost, so was any ability I had to ever be carefree again.


No longer could I simply allow myself to get lost in the sensations of the moment because, in a moment, nothing will ever be the same again. While I gave my heart and my body to Dover Ragnes, everything was taken from not only Raleigh, but everyone who knew her. As I freely gave up my innocence – Raleigh’s was stolen. While Dover and I never gave a second thought to sending her away, a predator lurked and seized his opportunity to strike.


When we all woke up that morning, none of us could have ever imagined how the day would end. Even for those weeks we spent searching, we had hope … until there was no hope left to be had.


In an instant, everything can change. In an instant, nothing can ever be the same again.




Chapter Five

GUS


My mind drifts to what Gretchen Devall is like. To have a complete stranger think of me and go through the trouble to have these kids do all this, warms my cold blooded heart. It takes me a few days to figure out the best way to say thank you but after chatting with a few of the guys, I decide what better way to say thank you than by video call to the school.


After getting our schedules aligned and the proper approval from the school board, the time is here to say hello to all the students and faculty that have been so kind to me. I don’t often get nervous, but I’ll admit this has me a little on edge.


I didn’t join the Army for accolades. The gratitude of strangers is greatly appreciated but that’s not why I signed up either. I stand behind the freedoms our flag represents. I believe in the cause of helping those who can’t always help themselves.


Having this woman, who knows nothing about me, still take the time to think of me and go beyond that to teach the students of her school about giving back to service members means more than I ever thought it would.


In all the times I’ve been deployed, I haven’t always been single. One of the greatest things for us and our families is the ability to video chat back home. Honestly, I’ve never been this nervous for one before.


Banner comes back, smacking me on the back of the head, as I fidget in my seat. “Loosen up, Hilliard. You act like a chick on prom night or some shit. You aren’t poppin’ your cherry.”


“Shut the hell up, dipshit,” I call back to him. Just as I get ready to give him hell for fucking with me, the round of the app ringing gets my attention.


Here goes nothing.


The screen blinks, connecting the call. Vibrant blue eyes, curly blonde hair, and a smile that could make every day brighter, comes to life on the screen. I have to blow out a breath as I take in the beautiful woman in front of me. Suddenly, the desert air is dryer than usual and despite being adjusted to the heat, I’m breaking a sweat.


“Good morning, Sergeant Hilliard.”


“Evening Cloverville,” I reply as she raises her device high so I can see the excited children behind her.


It looks like she’s in a classroom where they have moved chairs together to better see me. On the wall behind the kids is a homemade sign that reads, Thank you for your service, Sgt Hilliard.


“Oh that’s right, the time difference. We are just getting started with our day. I’m Gretchen Devall, social counselor here at Cloverville Elementary. The students behind me are just a few of the students who wrote to you.” There is an ease about her that I can see would be of comfort to young children.


Does she have children of her own? What about a husband? I don’t see a ring as she sets her device on a table top and moves back. A woman as beautiful as her must have a man at home. She settles beside a little girl with dark hair and wide eyes. Gretchen is wearing a green tight fitting dress that goes just below her knees and a wide belt under her ample breast making them quietly seductive. It’s a perfect blend of sexy while still being modest and professional. My mind wonders what it would feel like to roam her curves and hold her close.


Shaking my head, I push aside the thoughts before I end up half chub in the middle of this call with children present. I seriously need to get laid. This time in the dessert is a definite dry spell in more than one way.


“Is it hot over there?” one young boy asks. Gretchen leans over sweetly telling the boy to wait his turn.


“Well, it isn’t too bad, but it-,” I stop myself from cussing. “It’s manageable. There’s no place like home that’s for sure.”


“Like The Wizard of Oz,” one small girl squeals with delight.


“I guess you could say that. Only the Army doesn’t pass out ruby slippers for us to find our way back,” I joke with the kids, feeling at ease.


Time passes all too quickly and before I’m ready, it’s time to say goodbye.


Funny, in my lifetime I’ve said many goodbyes, many see you laters, and far too many until I see you again. Something about the final moment with Gretchen Devall and the connection ending changes the way I feel about the closure of our session. Somehow, in this short time, a shift happens in me and I wonder about when the next time I can see her smile again.




Chapter Six

GRETCHEN


“Girl, come on, give me the goods?” Dawn says as she settles onto my couch in her fuzzy peach socks, blue pajama pants with skulls all over them and crazy pink tshirt that she painted, ‘Don’t you wish you could wake up next to me?’ on it. The back says, ‘Too bad, sucka’.


We’re having our traditional Tuesday night in. Every week we take Tuesday night and make it our own. Dinner is always some sort of junk food; like tonight was simply s’mores. Then we paint each others nails, toes, and depending on how many weeks it’s been, we break out the bottles of hair dye.


“There are no goods to give.”


She laughs at me. “You tell a damn lie. Trying to keep your soldier to yourself or some shit? Come on, give me the scoop.”


I curl my legs under me. Rather than the crazy pajamas of my dearest friend. I have on my fuzzy navy blue pajama pants with yellow rubber ducks all over them, paired with the matching yellow t-shirt and no socks.


“He’s not my soldier. It was a video call for the kids. In fact, it was his idea as a way to thank the students. It had nothing to do with me.”


She just laughs and then looks at me. “Come on, this video call is the most action you’ve had since Dover rode out of town with Rowdy, forming the Devil’s Due MC. It’s been years and you know damn well he’s not coming back.”


“This has absolutely nothing to do with Dover. That is long over.” I reach out and grab a handful of popcorn on the bowl from my coffee table. “I do know he’s not coming back. Even if he did, we tried to force something that maybe started in a young way but never had the staying power we both once hoped for.”


“Yeah, well are you gonna be an old maid or you gonna get out there and live life?”


I sigh rather than answer.


“Just tell me: is the soldier hot or does he wear those super ugly brown glasses they issue in boot camp and have a big, crooked nose?”


I laugh at her. Dawn has an unsubstantiated fear of men in glasses with big noses. She dated a guy, once, who wore these square framed, thick glasses and because his nose was huge, every time they kissed she would feel the pain of his nose squishing into her. Then his glasses would slide down and he was constantly pushing them back up. It did not make for good memories as well as being a quick turn off.


“No, he’s actually very handsome. Dark hair, dark eyes, from what I could see in the small screen; he has broad shoulders.”


“Ohhhh,” she croons, “tall, dark, and handsome. He can’t be a slob with a beer belly since the Army has standards.”


I feel the blush heat up my cheeks. “From what I could see, he was quite attractive.”


She gets up and goes to the kitchen, returning with two small cups of ice cream and spoons. Handing me one, she settles back in on the couch beside me.


“So, have you emailed him personally to thank him for his time.”


“No!”


“Why not?”


“This is professional. I can’t email him personally. This is a student project after all.”


“Bullshit. People cross the personal – professional line all the time. It’s not like it’s against some school policy.”


“I don’t even know what to say. I lined out the program. He knows we will continue to send him monthly packages. I even went online and found a way to make cakes in a jar. With the kids art projects, letters, and a few of the teachers helping to add some food stuff, we should be able to give him some comforts of home.”


“Well look at you, Miss Domestication. That sounds pretty personal to me.” She raises an eyebrow at me, her small nose ring sparkling under the light of the nearby lamp.


“What the heck do you expect me to say?”


“Thank you for your time yesterday. It was great putting a face to a name.”


“I don’t know.” I scoop a spoonful of ice cream to keep from having to talk. It’s not five minutes later, my laptop is out and the email is sent.


I have completely lost my mind. More than that, I just gave into peer pressure something I teach children not to do.


As Dawn would say: that’s what friends are for … or something like that.



Chapter Seven

GUS


Sgt Hilliard,


I wanted to take a moment to personally thank you for taking the time to video chat with the kids. It was truly treasured by everyone who participated. If there is anything you need or want from the States to be shipped with our next package, let me know. I’m happy to be at your service ;).


Thank you,

Gretchen Devall


The email from the sexy school counselor has my heart beating faster and my dick getting hard at the thought of little Ms Gretchen Devall being at my service. Thanks to social media, it was easy to scope her out without anyone knowing I checked up on the woman. Turns out Ms Devall is single. She lives her life around her students and hanging out with her best friend, Dawn.


My first thought, when she checked in at a bar online, was people share far too much on social media these days. As beautiful as she is, Gretchen needs to be a little more careful when alerting every sick fuck in the world of her location.


Absently, I rub my chest trying to soothe the ache forming, thinking of the blonde bombshell. If she was mine, we would have a few serious lessons in at home protection. The first being, social media is not a safe outlet to journal day to day activities.


Certain things on her profile make me curious. Like the posts she makes every major holiday in memory of a little girl named Raleigh Ragnes. I can’t seem to sort out the affiliation between Gretchen and the girl, but I honestly haven’t had time to devote to it either.


I notice the email isn’t from her work email, but rather a non-descript personal one that millions of people sign up for online every day. Logging into my own personal email from my government one, I copy and paste over her email.


Ms Devall,


The pleasure was all mine. The students and staff of Cloverville Elementary have certainly impressed, not only me, but my entire unit as I share the art work and letters with everyone. Thank you for initiating such a wonderful project.


What’s life like in small town Tennessee? I’ve traveled many places, but I can’t say I’ve ever spent any length of time in Tennessee.


In your debt,

Gus – Sergeant Hilliard is reserved for work, you can call me Gus


I click send with the hope that it doesn’t end up in her spam folder. Laughing at myself for acting like some teenage girl with a fucking crush, I shut down the computer and decide to go for a run. The more I think of the cute blonde with the adorable southern drawl, the more my dick gets hard. Rubbing one out has lost it’s appeal since seeing her smile. Every time I close my eyes, I immediately wonder how bright she would smile as my tongue worked her over, sending her to ecstasy. Would she drag out my name? Would she call me Gus or Sergeant?


Yes, I definitely need to pound some ground with my feet before I suffer the worst case of blue balls since I was a teen.


As much as I fight myself, as soon as I return back from my run, I find myself on my rack opening my laptop. I can’t believe how anxious I feel when I see my inbox has a new email. Could it be from Gretchen?


I hover the mouse over the button. Finally, I click.


New credit card offer – fuck, I need to get my shit together. Hopping up, I close the computer and make my way to the head to shower. Maybe a cold shower will get my mind off the gorgeous stranger who has occupied far too many of my fantasies lately.


Refusing to give into my temptation to check my email again, I let the rest of the day pass. Just before laying down for bed, I open the laptop with no expectation. After all I’m half a world away and, given time zone differences, I doubt Gretchen has had time to read my reply. It’s not like she’s on pins and needles wondering if I’m thinking of her, anyway.



Chapter Eight

GRETCHEN


Oh my heavens, he emailed me back! I fight back my urge to squeal like a little girl. Rather than open it, I climb out of bed to start my day. There is no way I can calm my nerves enough to message him back.


Like any modern day, shy woman, I looked him up on social media. Angus ‘Gus’ Hilliard doesn’t have much of an internet presence. His profile picture is of a turtle. He seems like one of the good ol’ boys my grandmother would have swooned over. He likes hunting, fishing, hiking, and anything outdoors. He’s in the Army but has all of his location settings to private.


This only piques my interest more.


Arriving at work early, I can’t stop the nagging feeling in the back of my mind to check the email. Then my Grandma Thelma’s voice sounds in my head, “Don’t be rude, Gretchen. We live in the south. Even if you don’t have anything nice to say, you give them your best ‘bless your heart’ and move on, sugar.”


Well, Memaw, I don’t have anything to say because this is a man’s kind of man here. I certainly don’t want to offend him. He also intimidates me. The deep baritone of his voice, the strong lines in his jaw. The tight fit of his uniform, well, that alone is panty melting.


I have always had a thing for a man in uniform. When Dover and I were still trying to make a go of things, there was nothing more sexy than when he came home in his police officer uniform.


Well, I thought I couldn’t find anything sexier … until a simple video call the other day, that is. Now, Sergeant Hilliard has emailed me from his personal email. It could mean absolutely nothing, but in my day dreams it absolutely means there is something more here.


Did he feel it too? When his eyes met mine through modern technology, did he find me attractive?


This is stupid. I’m a thirty-two year old woman, and have had one lover in my entire life. Angus Hilliard is way out of my league. I shouldn’t open the message. I should pretend it was lost in cyber space.


One click and there is his email. The temptation is too much. I can’t help but smile when he asks me about Tennessee. Gus, his name rolls off my tongue making my mouth feel dry thinking of him hearing me say it. My fingers hit reply and type before my brain catches up.


Gus,


I’m happy to hear back from you. Miss Devall and yes, it’s Miss is used at work, so feel free to call me Gretchen. Life in Tennessee is all about football, food, and fun. My town is very small, think back to Mayberry and the Andy Griffith show only we have paved roads, not dirt. We have one diner, an elementary school, a middle school, and then, of course, a high school. The local community college is two cities over. We have a small grocery store, but not a chain store. Our neighbors are close, meaning they share a row of bushes between their yard and the next, but not a wall like the bigger cities have row houses.


Cloverville is full of charm and not of the lucky variety, lol. Just kidding with you. In the spring, the yards run rampant with the white blooms on the little clover flowers found in everyone’s grass.


It’s a community for families. We don’t have many tourists. In fact, no strangers really come around unless their car breaks down or something.


Tennessee, as a whole, is a great state. We get to enjoy all four seasons without having so much snow we need a plow in the winter and so much heat we need to stay indoors in the summer. The changes are mild. Sweet Tea is a must have drink and it’s brewed not instant, there is a difference if you didn’t know.


If you are looking to see some sights, Memphis is great, and of course, Nashville. I can’t say I’ve traveled much since I’ve never left the great state of Tennessee. My Grandma Thelma raised me after my momma died in a car accident. With her being older, we didn’t leave home much. I graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro and brought my tail right back home.


Grandma passed away two years ago. My friend, Dawn, and I are saving up to do a summer road trip just once around the US.


What’s it been like being in the Army? Where are you from? What has been your favorite place to see so far?


The bell just rang for the students to get to class so it’s time for me to get to work. I hope you have a great day, Gus.


Thanks,

Gretchen


I click send with trembling hands thinking I shouldn’t have rambled so much. I smack myself lightly on the forehead. What the hell am I thinking?


It’s done now, no turning back. I can simply sit back and wonder what will happen next.



Chapter Nine

GUS

Three Months Later


After a long eight days out, I’m happy to be back at camp. The first thing I do after my shower is open my laptop. With each ping of my inbox, I smile bigger. There are far too many things I can’t share with Gretchen. Honestly, it’s easier to focus on the information I can share. I did explain, early on, there will be times I can’t email or call for a few days during which she won’t know where I am or if I’m okay.


In the last three months, the packages from Cloverville Elementary have come in regularly. More than that, my contact with Gretchen has been almost daily. We have had a handful of video chats, some phone calls, and daily emails. I’ve been surprised to find myself looking forward to each and every moment with Gretchen.


Gus,


I’ve noticed you haven’t replied in two days. I’m going to assume this is one of those times where our contact will be limited. I hope you are safe. Christmas break is coming soon. The students are so excited to have time off. I’m sure you’re on countdown to finishing this term.


Today is full of staff meetings, as we prepare for our holiday programs and mid-year evaluations. Thinking of you and looking forward to hearing from you soon.


Always,

Gretchen


Not a day of my absence did she skip an email. We have this friendship that feels genuine, like those we form early in childhood before becoming jaded by life.


Knowing my deployment is coming to an end, I start to plan my leave. First up, visit my mom, who I have kept in contact with. Then, just as a certain school counselor prepares for her holiday time off, I’ll be making a surprise trip to Tennessee.


With a plan in place it’s time to countdown to the end. As a man who has never thought about anything beyond my current mission, I find it strange, yet comfortable, to think of having something more in my life. Connections, complications, attachments, and the likes have always been something I kept away. Some how this amazing woman found her way into my world and it fits in a way I didn’t see possible.


I can’t help but wonder if we could have more. My mom is even curious after I told her I’ve been talking to a woman. With the distance between us, it’s too much to push for more right now. What we have is solid. I don’t want to risk it all when we have oceans between us.




Chapter Ten

GRETCHEN


You have brightened all the days of my deployment, Gretchen. I hope these flowers brighten yours until I can make my way to the great state of TN to see you. Gus.


I keep tracing the edges of the card on my desk and looking up to the flower arrangement on my desk that is filled with lilies and tulips in different shades of whites, pinks, and purples. In the last four months, Gus and I have emailed, video chatted, and talked on the phone most days. There were the occasional times that he would have to go out for work and communication was too limited to take time for me. As much as I missed him, I understood.


Smiling, I think of when the time comes that I can actually meet him face to face. After so much build up, I can only hope I’m not a disappointment. I don’t have the best dating history. My experience with men is limited to one man who lived behind a shadow of regret. This whole thing was so unexpected. This project started as a way for students, like young Kimberly, to connect with service members. It was a way for our community to do our part to give back. It was an opportunity to educate our students about the United States military and the people who sacrifice so much for the freedoms we easily take for granted.


What began innocently enough has become a genuine connection for Gus and I. Our friendship is strong as we have shared our pasts and goals for the future. With only four days left until Gus is stateside again, I am on pins and needles. I know I won’t hear from him as he travels and transitions his way back home. There are two days left in my work week before I have three weeks off for Christmas vacation.


Part of me feels crazy, but I have booked a hotel room in Fayetteville, North Carolina for two days after Christmas. I’m going to drive there, have dinner with Gus, spend the night and then make the drive home the next day. This way there is no holiday pressure and I can actually see the man who has worked his way into my heart.


After Dover rode out of town, turning in his badge and never looking back, I didn’t think there would come a time in my life where I would be open to having a relationship. Yet, call after call, message after message, the days, the weeks, the months passed and Gus is everything I want in a man and more. He’s more than the attractive soldier, he’s become my safe place. He’s become my friend before even having an opportunity to be my lover.


As the bell sounds, I try to push out thoughts of my sexy soldier and get my mind back to work. We have a school wide presentation in the auditorium at eleven. The day should pass quickly and that gets me another day closer to meeting Gus.


The students are already filed in when I make my way in and to my seat. The space is decorated in red, white, and blue. The back wall to the stage has a huge ‘Thank You’ sign hanging and I can’t help but wonder what the assembly is for since it doesn’t seem to be the holiday program I was anticipating.


It all is a blur as the rumble of the students’ roars through my ears. Our principle comes to the stage and begins the opening.


“Good afternoon, students and staff of Cloverville Elementary. I know we’re all excited today to be out of our rooms; but students, please remember we have to keep our voices down,” she starts and the children quiet some. “Today, we’re here to celebrate the success of the SoSo project here at Cloverville. I’m so proud of each of you, Cougars, for being so dedicated to giving service back to those sacrificing their lives at home to protect our country.”


My heart rate picks up as tears threaten to spill over. Mrs. Rivera looks over to me and smiles.


“At the beginning of the school year, our counselor Miss Devall came up with this project. Over the course of these last five months, the SoSo project has grown from featuring one soldier to now giving back to four individuals with added gifts for each of their units as a whole. The first soldier to benefit from this project is Sergeant Angus Hilliard the third of the United States Army, eighty-second airborne division.”


Excitement fills me hearing his name. I look around not knowing what to expect.


“Miss Devall, come up here,” Mrs Rivera instructs and I follow. “Sergeart Hilliard has traveled a very long way to give his personal thanks to you and the students who have sent him so much over the last few months.”


The students clap as my eyes move straight to the auditorium doors to watch as Gus makes his way inside. His uniform is crisp, as he takes each step confidently to me. The closer he comes, the harder I have to fight to keep my legs from buckling beneath me.


Until this very moment, I never thought I would know what it is to feel love again. Yet, as the distance between us closes, my heart fills with hope. Gus is right here, my Gus, my confidant, my soldier is here. His eyes meet mine and the heat between us has my face flushing.


Somehow, serving my soldier is definitely becoming a gift back to myself.



Epilogue

GUS

Six Months Later


A year ago, I never thought I would even consider a future with a woman. I’ve been with my mother, looking for houses off post, so that Gretchen can move in with me. The traveling back and forth we have done the last few months is tiring. Summer break is only one week away and I want to have a place for us so she can begin looking for jobs in Cumberland County.


I’ve stayed on post for my career because it’s cheaper than having an apartment out in town. As much as I deployed it was also easier than storing things or worrying over utilities, while I’m away. The closer Gretchen and I have gotten, over these months, I’ve wanted nothing more than to build a home and a life with her.


Today, I sign the lease and pick up keys to what will be our first place. The paperwork at the realtor’s office doesn’t take long and I can’t help but smile as I climb in my truck with the keys to our house. Pulling up to the small ranch home, I immediately use the video application on my phone to call Gretchen.


“Hi honey,” she greets with a bright smile. I want nothing more than to have her in my arms and kiss her once again. She tastes sweet like honey and I can’t get enough.


“Welcome home,” I give her with a view of the house behind me.


“Can’t wait to be there with you, Gus.”


“The furniture you picked out online will be delivered in three days and I’ll be to you in four, baby.”


“I can handle four days, soldier.” She gives me a wink.


We have taken the time to discuss the future. There is no way I can turn my back on my country and walk away from my career. Luckily, Gretchen is the kind of woman who understands this. Even as I laid out the good, the bad, and the oh so very ugly parts of my job, she took it. As much as I didn’t like hearing about her ex; apparently, my woman has a thing for men in uniform. Her previous relationship was with a cop. More importantly, a cop dedicated to his career above everything, including her.


It’s not my place to judge. I’ve never been in a position to be between a woman and my job, much less, something as personal as the loss Dover Ragnes faced.


The sound of motorcycles pulls my attention from Gretchen. I see six Harley’s pulling in behind my truck.


“Baby, let me call you back. Seems we have our first visitors.”


She raises an eyebrow in question at both my comment and my tone. “Okay, love you, Gus.”


“Love you, Gretchen.”


The bikes all pull in parking two by two in a line behind my vehicle a little too comfortably. I walk up to them so my unwelcoming greeting shows.


“Fellas, I think you got the wrong house,” I say looking at each of them one by one. The first man removes his half shell helmet revealing dark hair that’s a little shaggy but not overly long. When my eyes meet his, I know instantly who he is.


“Sergeant Angus Hilliard,” he says climbing off his bike. His tone is firm and a lesser man may be intimidated.


I’m not a lesser man. I stand about an inch over his six foot frame and carry a similar build of tone muscle. Neither of us are afraid to hit up a gym obviously.


“Dover Ragnes,” I give back with my hands on my hips.


Southern hospitality would call for a handshake. However, I’m not hospitable and he’s not a friend, no need for any false formalities. He doesn’t extend a hand either so it looks like we’re on the same page.


“Rumor has it Gretchen Devall is moving here,” he pauses and looks me dead in the eye as his darken with a protective glare, “with you.”


“What business is it of yours? Last I heard, you rode out of town and didn’t look back.”


“I’m not gonna bullshit with you. I rode out of town, but I always look back. I gave Gretchen the best thing I could give her. Freedom. You should understand that, you fight for it.”


He’s not being overly aggressive, it’s more like he’s sizing me up. “Left a damn good woman behind, Dover.”


“Sure did, because I’m not the good man she needs. Question is, are you?”


“That’s what this is about. You ride up to my house with your band of brothers to check up on the woman you left heartbroken. You can’t be serious. I get that maybe, in your world, you have this need to see whose dick is bigger, but let me make something perfectly fuckin’ clear to you, Mr. Ragnes. What I do and don’t do with Gretchen is between me and her. If she wanted you to know something, you wouldn’t be in our front yard talking about rumor has it. You and your boys can climb back on your bikes and turn your ass around to go back where you came from. Got me?”


The hardened man in front of me tips his chin and gives me a half smile. “Take care of her and you won’t see me again. I gave her enough pain for a lifetime; you give her more, I’ll be back to collect the devil’s due for her hurt.”


His words piss me off. I get he thinks he’s coming from a good place, but fuck him and his buddies for coming here to get in my business. “Who collects on your debt, Ragnes?”


Pain flashes in his eyes, “Every fuckin’ day, I pay in. I got nothing to lose, Hilliard. Take care of Gretchen. What we shared was a lifetime ago. She didn’t deserve what I gave her. Your job is to give her better.”


I don’t reply as the man turns his back to me and climbs on his motorcycle. With a nod, all his buddies crank their machines. I stand firm in the spot behind my truck as they each drive off. The last one to pull out with a patch on his cut that read ‘Trapper’ stops in front of me.


“Don’t fuck up, soldier boy; I’m sure you understand where Collector is comin’ from. We respect what you do, but we protect what we claim. Gretchen has ties, never forget that.”


“Gretchen has me.”


The man smirks at me. “That’s what I like to hear. Take care of yourself and the rest will fall into place.” He gives me a salute before he pulls away to catch up with his crew.


The back of his cut reads ‘Devil’s Due MC’ and I see where Dover Ragnes has found his new purpose in life. Good luck to him and his brothers, but they have no business coming back here. My phone pings with a text from Gretchen.


Are you okay?


Rather than text back, I click the video app and within seconds her bright face is in front of mine. All is right with the world when I look in her eyes.


“Four days from now, you’ll be back to serving your soldier,” I joke with her.


“For the rest of my days and nights, I’ll gladly give my all to you Sergeant.”


Damn, I’m one lucky man. Never in my life would I have thought a school project would change my life in such a profound way. I couldn’t have imagined I would ever find love and want the future I’m going to have with Gretchen Devall. She proudly serves her soldier, while I proudly serve my country. She is my support system, my rock, and my safe place to come home to. She’s everything and I dedicate my all to her. Dover Ragnes and the Devil’s Due MC have nothing to worry about with me. I’ll never risk what Gretchen and I have. I’ll do everything for the rest of my days to protect her from any pain.


And that’s forever our happily ever after.


The End


If you’re wondering what happened with Dover Ragnes and whether his sister’s murder was solved, find out in IN THE RED (Devil’s Due MC Book 1) available now on all major eBook retailers.


Get your copy of IN THE RED: HERE


Want the whole Devil’s Due MC series – it starts in Crossover, available now for FREE through all major eBook retailers.


Get your copy of CROSSOVER: HERE






To all the men, women, and children – every person impacted by the tragedy on 9-11-2001 may we be a county united and may we never forget all that was lost that day. I give you my love, prayers, and support for now and forever.



About the Author


USA Today bestselling author Chelsea Camaron is a small town Carolina girl with a big imagination. She’s a wife and mom, chasing her dreams. She writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and romance thrillers. She loves to write about blue-collar men who have real problems with a fictional twist. From mechanics, bikers, oil riggers, smokejumpers, bar owners, and beyond she loves a strong hero who works hard and plays harder.


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Other works by Chelsea Camaron


Love and Repair Series:

Crash and Burn

Restore My Heart

Salvaged

Full Throttle

Beyond Repair

Stalled

Box Set Available


Hellions Ride Series:

One Ride

Forever Ride

Merciless Ride

Eternal Ride

Innocent Ride

Simple Ride

Heated Ride

Ride with Me (Hellions MC and Ravage MC Duel with Ryan Michele)

Originals Ride

Final Ride

Take a ride with the Hellions MC FREE here!


Hellions Ride On Series:

Hellions Ride On

Born to It

Bastard in It

Bleed for It

Bold from It

Broken by It

Brazen being It

Better because of It


Roughneck Series:

Maverick

Heath

Lance

Wendol

Reese


Devil’s Due MC Series:

Serving My Soldier

Crossover

In The Red

Below The Line

Close The Tab

Day Of Reckoning

Paid In Full

Bottom Line


Almanza Crime Family Duet

Cartel Bitch

Cartel Queen


Thriller Series:

Stay

Seeking Solace: Angelina’s Restoration

Claiming Retribution: Fallyn’s Revenge



Stand Alone Reads:

Romance – Moments In Time Anthology


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