Graphic via LM Creations. Thank you to everyone who participated in the Unraveled cover reveal tour. I so appreciate you spreading the word about my book. The following is a little excerpt from Unraveled.
“You sure I can’t give you a ride, Sgt. Phillips?” the sixty-year-old woman I’d sat next to on the airplane asked for the fifth time.
“No ma’am,” I replied promptly. “Where can I put these for you?”
“Right here is just fine.” She pointed to a luggage cart.
“I’d be happy to carry them to the car for you.” The cart might be easy for her to maneuver but lifting the heavy luggage into her trunk by herself? Not happening.
“My son is picking me up and I promise I won’t lift a thing.”
I looked around skeptically but didn’t see anyone but my own ride. I gave Bo Randolph a chin nod of acknowledgment but held on to the carry-on bag that looked like someone had puked flowers all over it.
“What’s up, man?” Bo bumped my fist in greeting and then pulled me in for a hug.
“Just making sure Mrs. Kremer gets to her car in one piece.”
“We’re waiting for my son,” she chirped. “And there he is now.” Mrs. Kremer’s son looked to be balding and forty. One glance from Bo and we silently agreed that despite her son being there, we’d be helping them out. Over both their protests, Bo and I picked up the luggage and placed it in the back of the four-door sedan. Mrs. Kremer gave us both a kiss, leaving behind the smell of lilacs and baby powder.
“Always the good Samaritan,” Bo joked as we walked to his crackerjack box of a car.
He just shook his head. “Only because I’d have looked like a fool standing there while you hauled her luggage around.”
“She looked frail,” I protested. “Besides, you and I’ve both carried far more weight over much longer distances. Enough about the woman, let’s talk about your damn car. Will my pack even fit in there?”
“Yes, princess, it will. How come you didn’t ask Noah to pick you up if you hate my baby so much?” He hit a button and a sorry excuse for trunk space appeared at the rear of the vehicle.
“I didn’t want to make you cry. You’re an ugly crier,” I said. I threw my seabag and pack into the trunk and wedged myself inside the even tinier interior.
“True that. Seriously, forty-five days? How’d you manage that?”
“How do you think? I’m a lucky fuck.”
“So The Honorable Dennis Phillips came through?”
“Guess so.” My old man was on the House Armed Services Committee and had pulled some strings to get special dispensation for me take forty-five consecutive days of leave at the beginning of summer. Some of it was helped by the fact I’d taken almost zero leave for the past eight years and that I possessed a spotless record, but it was still a big deal. Other Marines would have killed to have even half that many days off in the summer. Literally knifed me in the gut. I shifted in the seat, which seemed too narrow for my six-foot-one, two-hundred-and-five-pound frame. “This car is too fucking small for you.”
“I like ’em tight.” Bo stroked the leather dash of his sports car.
“Given your dick is so tiny, it’s no wonder you need ’em small. AnnMarie’s still a virgin then?”
“What?” He jerked his hand back and glared at me. “No talking about AnnMarie and sex. Besides, I saw you staring at my junk plenty while we were in A-stan.”
“Because you whipped it out every five seconds.”
“Can’t help that my dick’s so big my regulation pants couldn’t keep it in.”
I shook my head but knew I was grinning like a loon. “Missed you, man.”
“You too,” Bo said, smiling back. “Forty-five days is going to be gone in a blink of an eye.”
“I know.” My return grin dimmed a little. This wasn’t entirely a vacation. My exact orders from Congressman Phillips were to pull my fucking head out of my ass and sign my reenlistment papers or start applying for college. He wanted me out and my grandfather wanted me to stay in. I felt a little like a sorry bone between two angry pit bulls.
I had eight years under my belt, a new meritorious promotion to staff sergeant that I wasn’t sure I deserved, and some serious doubt about whether being a career Marine was the right choice for my future. I made the mistake of mentioning during our Christmas dinner that making sure everyone was using knife hands while running during physical training didn’t seem to hold a lot of meaning and Dad pounced.
“There’s plenty of room for you outside the Corps,” he’d said.
Then Pops had bristled. “Corps was good enough for me and good enough for you. No sense in planting doubt in the boy’s head where there was none before.”
Match to kindling, the two were off in one of their heated arguments. Having two career Marines scream at each other like they were trying to make the other break first resulted in Mom leaving the table in tears and my two older brothers glaring at me. I wanted to sink under the tablecloth but since I started it, I sat there and took it like the man I was supposed to be.
Since then I’d told Pops that my commitment was as sound as ever and Dad that I’d think about college. When Bo and Noah, two former Marines in my platoon, invited me to spend my leave at their posh pad with a bevy of college coeds at the ready, I fled before the yelling could start again.
“You really in a tizzy about whether to re-enlist?” Bo asked, surprise evident in his voice.
“Marines don’t get into tizzies,” I scoffed. “We get angry. Also drunk. Shitfaced. Tired. No tizzies, though.”
“Which one are you?”
“Tired. I’m supposed to shit or get off the pot.”
“Is shitting staying in or getting out?”
“We all know that re-enlisting is for the motards who can’t stop wearing all their USMC gear off the base, has more than one Marine tattoo, and can recite the Marine Hymn by heart.”
“So you, essentially.”
I slunk down in the seat and pressed a thumb to my temple.
“Which is why I should get out before I become one of those Marines that we all made fun of when we were lance corporals.”
“What’s the real problem?”
I pressed harder. “The real problem? Let’s see. I didn’t sign my re-enlistment papers yet, causing Captain Billings to call my dad, who then decided to gleefully tell Pops he had lost. They yelled. Mom cried. Oh, and my ex is sniffing around again.” And it sucked being responsible for people instead of just equipment, but I didn’t admit that last one out loud.
“Do whatever it is to make your mom stop crying,” Bo advised. “If mama isn’t happy, ain’t no one gonna be happy.”