Home > Shadow of the Heart (Shadow SEALs #7)

Shadow of the Heart (Shadow SEALs #7)
Author: Sharon Hamilton

 

Chapter 1

 


Maggie’s red hair draped defiantly off the side of the bed as her deep rose lips inhaled the lifegiving oxygen of her fiercely feminine side, her chest rising and falling to the command of her breath. She was a woman of contrasts, her sweet sleep disguising the fiery soul filled with stubborn “No’s.” The first time she’d told him “No,” he’d known he’d wait forever for her to change her mind.

Forever. It would only be a long time if he managed to stay alive, another thing he didn’t expect.

Brady was her devoted servant—marked, scarred, and tatted to the extreme, like most the other brothers on his SEAL Team—but his heart was branded with the invisible M he carried deep inside. If they opened him up some day when his warrior days were over, they’d see her initial emblazoned on his still cold heart, a fire letter to be sure, complete with its own energy field unextinguished by death no matter how much they carved up his carcass. That M would remain, just as his love for this woman would never end.

A man of few words and little expectations, he never saw himself falling in love or imagined a life with a soft goddess at his side, someone to take his mind off the wars he’d fought and the battles he’d struggled and won, inside as well as outside his huge well-toned cyborg of a body. He was a man-killing, dangerous sort of beast who might eat a vanquished man’s heart in a macabre victory celebration like his Viking ancestors if the Navy hadn’t injected some human decency and mental body armor to quell his self-destructive side. Before Maggie, all he sought was a good death.

He wanted to ride her body again, the two of them streaking across a desert plain in perfect sync, her flawless peachy skin held like precious treasure in his gnarled and twisted fingers, that smooth flesh ripe and ready to be tasted, squeezed, and then smoothed over with his sandpaper palms. Every time they made love, he was her conquering hero, come to fully enjoy the fruits of their love, his reward for removing the battle armor and allowing just one person in the whole universe to enter and see the real man inside.

There would only be one Maggie, one woman. First, there was none. Then, in a miracle, there was one but only one.

She loved with stubborn determination to keep up with him, to embrace the throne he’d created for her, his warrior princess to rule over all time, long after his ashes were thrown into the sea. She would rule over all the hearts of heaven after his death, and she would never cease to be. She would defy death itself.

With one large claw, he spread his fingers over her bulging right breast, then arched her back beneath her shoulder blades with his other hand, serving her up to his hungry mouth. He placed his belly against hers, as his lips and tongue violated her nipple, waking her to arousal, his warrior maiden, while he felt the rumble of her moan all the way down to his root.

She’d told him many times that just his gaze upon her created a clothing malfunction of epic proportions. Those quick and urgent dashes to any platform where he could ram himself inside her sweet channel and ride her hard until they both lay exhausted were the highlights of his days and dreams.

She flirted around the edge of her orgasm as he coaxed her, whispered things to her he could feel back in the sudden rapid beat of her heart. When he whispered, “Dear sweet Beloved, I am yours,” he meant it with every cell of his body. He wanted her to shelter and grow inside her tender belly his sons and beautiful daughters to share the seasons of life with, to send him to Valhalla a happy man. He fucked with the art of legacy, the possibility of miracles, and the future he never deserved.

Maggie’s form turned. Her smile became seared in his memory, her eyes fixed on him then on the wall behind him as he moved his head to the side to indulge a tender kiss to her long, fragrant neck.

That’s when it started to change. The little serpent of regret coiled in his belly in a flash before her image dissipated into a cloudy peach mirage, expanding until the form was lost. His rod throbbed from unfulfilled passion, and he groped the bed sheets. Sweat poured down the ridge in his back along his spinal column.

“No!” he screamed to her. Then he begged in his silent, lover’s voice, “Don’t go. Stay with me, Maggie. Just a little while longer. I can bring you back. Return to me, my beloved.”

But it was no use. The bright morning had turned cold. The only heat remaining was in his groin, his forehead, and, yes, the M emblazoned on his heart. He could hear the hiss as the brand seared deeper into his chest cavity.

Exhausted, he fell onto his backside. Opening his eyes to the wooden ceiling of his hideaway in the foothills of Northern California, he knew he was even more dangerous than before.

Brady waited until his breathing became normal, refusing to do one of the mind control techniques the Navy doctors had taught him. He even rejected the poses and meditation his yoga master lovingly demonstrated. His thoughts were filled with torching his bed with a flamethrower and, in one sweeping stroke, eliminating the source of pain: the bed that no longer smelled of Maggie. It was the same mattress they’d worshiped each other’s bodies on in San Diego for a whole glorious year, before the events that took her away from him forever.

Tate, former Master Chief Brady Roger’s huge black Doberman, came to the bedroom, stopped at the doorway, and sat with a small howl like he’d located a cactus needle in his butt. The dog was his protector now, government issue, but the one thing he was given after his nearly dishonorable discharge that he held onto. If he was being honest, clung to.

“Fuck, Tate. I’m okay. Just another goddamned dream. And no, she’s not coming back. But fuckit, I sure tried this time. I got real close.”

Tate angled his head as if in full comprehension. That little nod of the head, the quiet way he respectfully approached his master, the concern only a canine could have for such a fucked-up human being was Brady’s lifeline now.

That and the CBD he grew in his garden.

“Come here, boy,” he commanded the dog, who dutifully jumped on the bed and took up the space beside him. His paws pushed on Brady’s stomach and thigh, smarting a bit. He was sure it was Tate’s way of showing that, contrary to what Brady thought, the old SEAL was the owner, but Tate was the owner’s master.

He scratched around Tate’s ears as the hundred-pound dog laid his snout on Brady’s chest.

“Another day in paradise, right, Tate?” he said to the dog, who licked his hand when he briefly stopped the ear scratching. “You got any plans today, boy?”

The dog placed his snout back on Brady’s chest.

“Me neither. Just another fuckin’ day. Maybe we’ll check our little grow down by the creek, see if we can shoot a trespasser, huh? You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

Brady laughed. He hadn’t caught one yet. A trespasser, that is. He’d caught lots of unsuspecting deer and even a wild boar trying to rut his way through his grow and paying for it with his life. He was a tasty motherfucker, Brady ruminated. Tate enjoyed some ribs even though he wasn’t supposed to have them, served raw for his own protection. He devoured the bones as fast as the mulberries he liked to eat off the old tree that had fallen over during one of the storms but refused to quit bearing fruit while lying on its side.

But the truth was, Brady was itching to kill someone. He was going to have to wait until he got the opportunity. After all, the man was still a Naval officer.

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