Happy Independence Day! This is one of my favorite holidays and I am very grateful to the men and women who made this country what it is today and for giving me the freedom to do what I love to do.
Probably my favorite thing that happens on the Fourth of July is fireworks. When I was little I hated them. I used to hide in the back of my parent’s station wagon because the bang scared me. As I grew older I fell in love with the bright colors and the brilliant displays, especially after I learned to put my fingers in my ears.
To celebrate the holiday, I want to share my Independence Day excerpt from Breaking the Silence. When writing Breaking the Silence I got the extraordinary opportunity to work with Operation First Response, a group that supports our veterans when they return home from combat. They are an incredible group of people and the programs they offer to our country’s veterans are awesome. For more information on Operation First Response, click here!
**Just a warning…The following excerpt is definitely a spoiler. If you plan to read Breaking the Silence then you may want to skip ahead to the really good stuff – the giveaways!!**
They had returned home to finish their wedding planning. Shortly after they arrived, they had found out the venue that they had chosen was double booked. Avery had been crushed, wondering if that was a sign.
Dan had been the one to come to the rescue. He had told them of this resort north of the Twin Cities that he used to go to with his family when he was a child. On a cool, spring day, she and Rico had made the drive to take a look. They had fallen in love with it instantly. The gazebo at the lodge was the perfect place for the ceremony. The lake reminded them of their own spot near the college.
There was going to be a fantastic fireworks display the night of the Fourth of July. And the fact that they could rent a beautiful cabin for a honeymoon getaway less than a mile from the location of their wedding had sealed it. They had booked it immediately then raced home to make the changes. Several wedding showers and a joint bachelor and bachelorette party had led them to the present. Now, here they were, ready to start their forever together.
Avery startled as she felt a hand on her arm. Chloe smiled at her. She smoothed her own crimson, ankle length gown before she signed. The car is here to take us to the ceremony. Are you ready?
Can’t wait. Let’s go.
The two women slipped into the waiting vehicle outside the cabin. Avery’s heart thundered in her chest as they wound along the forest roads to the lodge. Rows of cars appeared then the roof of the building. Hopefully, the love of her life, along with his friends and the minister, would be waiting for her in the gazebo that overlooked the lake.
Her dad opened the car door, helping Chloe out first then Avery. She saw the tears pooling in his eyes as he glanced her over. Avery, sweetheart. You look beautiful.
She placed a kiss on his cheek. Thank you, Dad.
Avery noticed Chloe watching someone approach them. Avery smiled warmly as her father gave Lindsay a hug. Lindsay looked sharp in his dress uniform.
Even though he was her brother, Avery had to admit Lindsay was devastatingly handsome. Lindsay beamed at her as he signed. Dad thought since we have been so close over these past few years that I should walk you down the aisle also. If that is all right with you.
Avery grinned. I think you might like Rico.
She watched Lindsay laugh. Yes. It has grown on me. Like a fungus.
All of them chuckled at Lindsay’s comment. Lindsay gently weaved his arm around Chloe’s to escort her up the walk, pressing a cordial kiss to her cheek. Avery’s father did the same with Avery as they followed them behind the lodge toward the gazebo.
Avery read the minister’s lips then glanced to her Dad to see him speak. Her father nodded to Lindsay then let her go and sat beside her mother. Lindsay placed her hand in Rico’s then looked Rico in the eye. “Welcome to the family. I’m proud to call you my brother,” Avery saw him say to her future husband.
Rico’s deep blue eyes misted with tears. It nearly made Avery cry. She knew that this was the first time since he had been a child that Rico had an actual family to claim as his own. Sure, he loved the makeshift family he was a part of at Hard Drive. But it wasn’t the same.
Lindsay smiled at the both of them then took his spot next to his parents.
Chloe signed for Avery as the minister spoke his message. Then, Avery recited her vows clearly, as she had practiced. As Rico pulled his hands free to sign his vows, she recaptured them.
“I’ve been practicing reading lips. Please say your vows,” she encouraged.
A proud grin graced his face as he began to speak. Tears filled her eyes. She understood it all. He, Rico Choate, was promising her forever. She couldn’t hear his voice, but she knew each word was spoken in truth and confidence. He needed her as much as she needed him. Once the rings were exchanged and the minister pronounced them husband and wife, they sealed their marriage with a kiss.
Then, the party began. A picnic of fried chicken and salads led to conversation and games. Max started a bonfire when the sun set. Avery cuddled with Rico on a blanket laid on the ground as the fireworks began. After she had returned from Afghanistan, she had avoided these displays. Normally the flash of the explosions terrified her. But being held tight in her husband’s arms made her feel safe enough to enjoy the show.
Before they were over, he helped her to her feet and led her to his Jeep. The night sky above the trees was filled with bright color as they drove back to the cabin.
Her heart raced again as they stepped inside, and Rico locked the door. He pulled a long, velvet box from his tuxedo jacket and handed it to her. My wedding gift to you.
She slowly opened the lid. A beautiful, white gold, double heart pendant lined with diamonds held on a fine chain rested on the satin. She gasped as she threw her arms around his neck and hugged him. “Thank you. I love it. But I didn’t get you anything.”
Rico’s smile was pure sin as he pulled her back to look at her. His eyes roamed over her. Actually, I have been waiting all day to open my gift from you. It has been killing me.
He ran his tongue along his bottom lip. I will admit—the wrapping paper is absolutely beautiful. But I am ready to rip off the gift-wrap and get to my present.
She felt her face grow hot as she met his hungry eyes. She understood then that she was his present. It was their wedding night, and they had yet to sleep together. Would she be able to compete with his other lovers?
That thought fled her mind as he tugged her back into his arms and engulfed her lips with a devouring kiss. She gasped softly as he jerked the zipper of her dress down and let the garment pool on the floor. Suddenly, there was no doubt in her mind that this would be the best night of her life.
Buy links for Breaking the Silence. A portion of the proceeds to Breaking the Silence goes to Operation First Response to support our nation’s wounded, injured and critically-ill Heroes and their families.
Sweet Cravings Publishing: http://store.sweetcravingspublishing.com/index.php?main_page=book_info&products_id=238
Now for the Giveaways!
For a chance to win the e-book version of the entire Hard Drive Series plus a $5 Amazon gift card, just leave a comment below! I’ll be drawing a winner on the morning of July 7th.
Thanks for stopping by! Happy Fourth of July! And don’t forget to stop by and visit the other Freedom Hop Blogs!
Reese went back to Las Vegas to fight after his agent threatened to not only ruin him but those he loves. Lily is still in Braden but pregnant and about to marry a man she doesn’t love. Is there any hope for them? Let’s find out!
“Get your hands off my fiancé!” Connor shouted, drawing the attention of the travelers around them.
“Reese,” Buddy hinted.
Reese broke the kiss, not pulling away. “Envelope is in my back pocket.”
“Are you serious? I’m not fishing around your ass.”
“It’s been nearly twelve weeks. I’m not letting her go. Get it.”
“Fine.” Buddy dodged around Connor, tugging free an envelope poking out of the back pocket of Reese’s jeans. He waved it at Connor. “Two thousand dollars, Connor. A limo. A prepaid luxury hotel room. All the gambling and strippers you can do in three days. All you have to do is break off your engagement.”
Lily wanted to protest. Connor certainly wouldn’t sell her out. But she was frozen, confused, in Reese’s arms. From the corner of her eyes she saw Connor snatch the envelope from Buddy and study the contents. He was silent for a brief moment before he looked up at her. “Keep the ring, Lily. I got it for twenty bucks from the pawn shop. It isn’t worth trying to sell back. Have a nice life.” Whistling, he started to walk away. “Where’s my ride, Buddy?”
Buddy looked at Reese. Reese sighed as he reluctantly let Lily go. “Fine. We could just let the son of a bitch wander around the airport.”
“Your plan won’t work then,” Buddy reminded.
“I know. I’ll hurry. Come on, Connor.” Reese led the man through the crowd towards the baggage claim, disappearing from sight. Lily could have sworn she heard Connor giggle.
Lily shook her head silently as tears filled her eyes again. “I don’t…” She spun around at Buddy. “Why did you bring me here? I thought you hated Reese for leaving.”
Buddy took her arm and led her away from the crowd. “I did. Then the truth came out.”
“Reese’s agent, Roxy, showed up at my bar to shoot a quick documentary on his life in Braden to show for promotion for the fight. She told me why he left. He never told her he was healed. He planned to retire and never step foot in the octagon again. His life was in Braden, not Las Vegas. She had to get the information from his doctor. She threatened to sue him if he didn’t leave immediately and take this fight. He didn’t pay her cut from the last fight. He used the purse to buy other things. If he didn’t fight she would take everything he had.”
“He didn’t have anything,” Lily protested weakly.
“Just before he left he put a down payment on a house in Braden and on half of my bar. The house is four down from me. And he bought something else I’m not at liberty to say but I can tell you it’ll look beautiful on you.” He tilted her head up to look into her eyes. “He planned to quit fighting. He was never going to leave Braden. He tried to tell you goodbye, to tell you he’d be back. You were visiting Adam. Roxy said he wouldn’t stop talking about you. It drove her crazy.”
Lily shook her head again as her hand dropped to her slightly rounding belly. “But Reese doesn’t know.”
“Yeah, Lilybug. I do.”