Authors: Heather Long
Tags: #Always a Marine - Book 4
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Proud to Serve Her
Copyright © 2012 by Heather Long
Cover art by Mina Carter
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work, in whole or in part, in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
Published by Decadent Publishing Company, LLC
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Proud to Serve Her
Always a Marine - Book 4
A 1Night Stand Story
For everyone who believes in feeding the soul
“Needs a cup of Bailey’s and a dash of cayenne, John-John.” Damon Sinclair handed the large wooden ladle back to an assistant and moved on to check the cornbread coming out of the triple ovens in the back of the bustling kitchen. Opening night hummed in the kitchens with every swing of the doors as waiters and waitresses rushed in, dropped off orders then picked up piping hot food to rush it back out.
Wiping his hands on a towel, he approved all but the last cornbread. “Break that one up and soak it in the red beans.” The woman nodded, whirling away with the trays for cutting and adding to the meals, while the last one was passed down to the station chef handling the big pot simmering on one of a dozen stovetops that made up the entire right wall of his kitchens.
served only the best; if the food wasn’t crying to get to the table, it didn’t leave his kitchen. He stopped a waitress carrying a large tray, plucked the garnish from a crawfish platter and waved it at John-John. “No weeds with the seafood.”
“Aye, Mr. Sinclair.” The cook didn’t need to call him Mr.
. The aging Marine served the best gumbo in the Quarter. He enjoyed the chaos, and handled it with a firm hand that reminded everyone of the drill sergeant he’d once been.
Damon lured him to
with the promise of having his own kitchen to run. John-John deferred to him as owner, even if Damon was thirty years his junior. Amused, the chef upended the entire parsley garnish onto his cutting board and diced it at high speed before dumping the lot into the Jambalaya. With no garnish to add to the plates, the steward wouldn’t make the mistake again.
“Captain Dexter’s here.” Ginny Mayer sailed in with an empty tray held aloft, neatly dodging Jackson Cooper’s heavier load as he carried out a serving tray steaming with cornbread,
“Excellent. I reserved the six-top for them.” Damon paused at the dessert counter, studying the beignets with a critical eye. “These are almost too large, you want smaller portions. Remember…each one’s a kiss of the south, think brush of the lips, not tongue-thrusting wet.”
Demi, the pastry chef, gave him an arch look and worked her mouth into a pout, but the playful gleam in her eyes betrayed her.
“Save the look for the Gunny, Demi. He’ll be happy to give you all the tongue thrusting you could want. Give my customers an angel kiss.”
“Sir, yes, sir.” Her laughter followed him through the kitchen to the doors where he leaned out to look. Immense satisfaction wound through him. It was seven on opening night and every table was populated save for two, one of which he’d reserved for his private guest.
My date who is now
, he glanced at his watch,
thirty minutes late
He’d really hoped his hook up from Madame Eve would make it before the rush, but the line out the door coupled with the chatter and laughter making the rounds of the tables filled his soul.
Luke Dexter held a chair out for Rebecca, his fiancée, the stunning chestnut-haired beauty he’d left behind when he enlisted, then won back nearly a decade later. Damon gave the Captain a quiet salute, a gesture the man returned easily. A gasp and sudden rise in volume rolled up the line waiting at the door. James Westwood guided his date, movie star Lauren Kincaid, through the throng of well-wishers. A couple of flashes went off, and Damon slanted a look at Javier the maître d’ and nodded his head.
The man diverted from his post to corral the amateur photographers back to their tables with a calm word and a stern expression.
wasn’t the place for the wannabe paparazzi. James shot him a grateful look, but was quickly distracted when his blonde bombshell pounced on Lauren. The women hugged with a giggling fierceness reminiscent of high school.
They must speak the silent code of the popular
“You gonna change, boss?” Jones, a waiter, paused at his side, an empty tray dangling from one hand. All of his employees were inactive Marines or related to a Marine. Jones fell in the latter category.
“Soon. Any word?”
“Nope. Javier’s checking the line periodically, making sure she doesn’t get hung up waiting. But nothing.”
Her tardiness annoyed the Marine in him. The schedule called for her to arrive at six-thirty. He took pride in promptness. “Well, I’ll change when she gets here. Table seven needs coffee, grab some of the beignets for table fourteen, and bring out two bottles of white for the Captain’s table.”
“On it.” Jones vanished into the kitchens. A wave of oohs and aahs rose from the bar. Matt demonstrated flair with a pair of bottles dancing up in the air. The press of feminine bodies coupled with laughter and applause amused Damon. McCall had come a long way since trashing his car six weeks before. He’d even made plans to spend Thanksgiving with his family.
A big step.
Damon had offered to travel with him, but the man declined. He still received counseling from James regularly, and between the psychologist’s support and the rest of the unit, Matt was getting it together.
“Yo, boss….” The call tugged his attention back toward the kitchen, but a tingle on the back of his neck warned him to wait. Threading through the line at the door was a long-legged brunette, her short dark hair angling around the smooth, alabaster skin of her face. A modicum of makeup—he supposed it was makeup—highlighted fine cheekbones, delicate eyes and a direct, no-nonsense stare that shot a sizzling jolt to his cock.
Oh, please let that be Helena Blake
Willowy didn’t begin to describe the slender woman. A white scarf hung around her neck and dangled between her small, pert breasts. The gray sleeveless top and smart black skirt seemed too sedate for the sensuality in her plump lips and dark eyes. His gaze roamed down her body, pausing only when the crowd surged between them then parted again. The press of people annoyed him, he wanted more than peek-a-boo glimpses.
He watched Javier guide her past the velvet ropes to the private dining area set up just off the main room. Close enough to be public, but private enough to indulge in good conversation.
Whirling from the door, he darted past the servers to check the white chili with fresh chicken and shrimp bubbling in a separate pot. “Whatcha need John-John….”
Helena eased around the restaurant’s overflowing tables. She hated to be late. The maître d’ cut a path through, but she had to hurry to keep up or risk the press of bodies refilling the empty space. The overwhelming noise level rattled her after relaxing to Tchaikovsky on the drive. She’d hardly believed the email when it arrived two days ago. Had it really been a year since she’d signed up for Madame Eve’s exclusive 1Night Stand service? Had it taken the woman that long to find a possible match?
Skepticism chased the frustration cramping her stomach. Smells assaulted her—first the tang of a fish broil overlaid with the roasting smell of meat, then the sweet pastry aroma of a bakery—all layered together. Her stomach roiled in a vociferous growl. She latched onto each new scent like a drowning man desperate for driftwood. Not eating since the rushed yogurt and protein bar before court had been a mistake.
The rich, piquant scent of gumbo served to the table on her left distracted her, and she bumped into the young man lurching up from the table on the right. She swayed dangerously on her four-inch heels. A firm hand latched onto her arm, steadying her. The maître d’ pulled the kid out of her path.
“Not a problem.” But the hard look he gave the poor boy earned her a fast, mumbled apology and an open path through the crowded restaurant to a table segregated by red velvet ropes and carefully placed dividers.
Her escort pulled out a chair for her and she sat, crossing one leg over the other. She hadn’t expected to be the first to arrive, particularly since she’d run so late.
“Would you care for a drink?” The man offered no menu or wine list and she pursed her lips. A glass of wine sounded heavenly if not for the small fact that she’d be asleep ten minutes later.
“Actually, I’d love a cup of coffee. Black. No sugar.”
Three sugars and loads of cream sounds way better but would add way too much to the hips. So, black it is
“Right away, ma’am.” Her escort gave her a grin and vanished back into the chaos that was
. Elbow propped on the table, she perused the crowd. It was mix of upper middle class to mildly wealthy, sprinkled liberally with college students and young adults. The bar seemed to be the most popular spot, where the ratio of females exceeded the males. The bartender must be something to see.
Exhaling, she stared at a tray of piping hot bread bowls filling a waiter’s tray as he ducked through the swinging doors of the kitchen. Her stomach pinched. The carbs alone would kill her diet. Salad would be her best bet, particularly considering her blind date was late. The last thing she needed was to fall on the food like a starving woman.
Another steaming tray of shellfish and cornbread sailed past and she wanted to weep. She’d pay her soul for the spicy combination of crawfish washed down by cold beer. A third man appeared through the swinging doors, and she forced her attention back to the round table in front of her. The heavy red linens on the white cloth added to the atmosphere of city chic meets down home charm. Crystal wine glasses decorated the place settings along with heavy silverware and three cloth napkins per place setting. The restaurant served delicious, messy meals and the napkins would be used.
Except she planned to have a cup of coffee and a salad washed down by water and lemon. Her stomach snarled. She pressed a hand firmly under her rib cage and concentrated on the breathing exercise learned in Yoga. It always got her through a difficult deposition. She couldn’t afford to gain any weight. She had a hard enough time getting a date as it was.
Look at me, sitting in the exclusive, isolated spot, waiting for some man as hard up as I am, all to scratch a primal itch that normal people didn’t need a special service to arrange
. It had sounded so much better in theory.