Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Duke's Curse by Kylie Stewart

Title: The Duke's Curse
Series: Legend #2
Author: Kylie Stewart
Genre: Historical/Adventure Romance
Release Date: March 20, 2017
Legend: The Duke's Curse #2 Alexandria knows the truth behind the lies. Avalon is not human, nor is he immortal. He is neither angel nor demon. He is the once and future king. Now, more than ever, Alexandria’s artistic skills could grant them their first victory in battle. It is she who holds the key to end a curse born over a thousand years ago. Will she walk away from Avalon or stay? The choice is up to her, but more than one fate hangs in the balance now. Avalon’s deepest fears lurk in every shadow. His past haunts him even in the light of day. Unable to protect Alexandria, he turns to Lancer for help. Debilitated under his newly arisen weakness, his only hope lies in Alexandria. Bound by chains of sin and shame, Avalon must fight to the death with who he once was to inherit his future. If he loses, it is Alexandria who pays the price. Can he trust her to save him from eternal darkness? Or will he lose her forever?

With a soft laugh, she shook her head. “Then wait until tomorrow. I don’t want to hate you right now.” He fingers pulled the bow loose. I did my best to keep eye contact, so she didn’t think she was having any effect on me. 
How was I able to control myself so easily? Pain ripped through the tips of my fingers, and I realized I was holding onto the wooden post for dear life. Ah, so that was how. 
“You told me not to have regrets, so I’m not going to.” 
I nearly whimpered. “Are you sure you want to do this, with me?” 
When did I become a modest man?
Alexandria nodded, shrugging her shoulders; the robe fell to the floor.
       
Damn.
She stood before me in an emerald nightgown that went to the floor. A slit ran up her right thigh, exposing pale skin. I blinked.
“Is the Dragon speechless?”
My voice didn’t want to work. My throat grew tighter, and my lungs couldn’t control the intake of air. She was straight from a dream. She was perfect, and she wanted me.
“Avalon, say something. If you don’t want to, I’ll understand.” I saw the embarrassment cross her face. 
I rushed to her, but I kept an inch between us. I wouldn’t strike until she told me to. I allowed my eyes to travel up and down her small frame. I circled her like a wolf stalking his prey. I could see every curve of her body, every ripple of lean muscle through her nightgown.
On the first pass, I hooked my finger under her chin and raised her head. I brushed my lips against parted tiers. I whispered, “Just tell me what you want, and I can make it happen.”
A soft moan passed between us as I rested my hand gently on her stomach. I moved behind her, and I pulled her back to me. Our bodies molded perfectly. With my other hand, I took a fistful of her hair and tilted her neck back against my chest.
We were past the point of no return. She needed to know that. My breathing was coming fast and harsh. I nipped and licked along her neck, stopping at her ear.
“Once I start, I won’t be able to stop.” Her entire body quivered at my words. My fingers tightened around her stomach and dared to play in the space between her hipbones. “I want you, Alexandria, so badly.” 
Pulling her rear into me, I heard a small gasp. I bit down on her shoulder. “That’s all for you if you just say the word.”
   
 Just say the words, woman. Come on, I’m going to rip my trousers.
       
I waited. 
“Tell me what you want, Alexandria.”
Nothing but the sound of her gasping for breath answered me.
“My love ...” I spun her to face me. I captured her cheeks and drew her into a deep kiss. Alexandria hesitated at first, her lips unwilling to move with mine. I waited, nibbling at her lower lip, begging for entry.
Finally, she kissed me back. It was soft, tender, and then her mouth opened in a moan as my hands gripped her bottom. I slid inside and met her tongue. A part of me expected her to bite me, but she didn’t. Instead, her arms wrapped around my neck, and it was as if I was being pulled into her.
She drew soft groans from me as her tongue warred with mine. I got lost in her. So lost, I felt as if I could survive on her taste alone. We barely came up for air as I backed her toward the wall. When she could go no farther, I picked her up and braced her. She remembered. 
Her slender legs wrapped around my waist as we continued to spar. My left hand grew bold and shoved the silky material up her thigh, feeling soft skin below. When I pulled back to look at my prize, the burning in my core became almost unbearable. She was gazing at me as though she wanted to devour me. I would let her.

Kylie Stewart has been writing short stories and books all her life. A native of Hammond, New York, Kylie grew up on the St. Lawrence River dreaming of big things. She has a Master’s of Science in Equine Business from Middle Tennessee State University, which is why there are so many horses in her books. After working in the Kentucky Race Horse Industry, she moved back to Tennessee to pursue writing, audio book narrating, and voice acting. She is a huge nerd and big into anime as well as the cosplay community.
Kylie was influenced by her Scottish heritage to become an independent British history buff. She has a small library dedicated to Tudor history and is lover of the Arthurian legends. She also has an intense love of the supernatural, theological, paranormal, and mythological worlds. Kylie lives in Dallas, TX with her husband and fellow voice actor Eric Rolon, and their two cats, Asuka and Haru.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Thank You for Holding by Elisa Reed & Julia Kent


Thank You for Holding
Elisa Reed & Julia Kent
Publication date: March 21st 2017
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Having it all is a fantasy, right?
Carrie Shelton thought her boyfriend was too good to be true. Her best friend’s brother? A guy who loved antiquing? Who cuddled on the couch while watching foodie YouTube clips and talking about artisanal spices? Who helped her accessorize her outfits?
Right.
Fantasy.
So when he ran off with Kevin, the owner of an antique shop, right before his sister’s wedding, Carrie’s life went from fantasy to nightmare.
As maid of honor, she can’t back out of the wedding. And her ex is the best man – but now he has his own best man.
She needs a date. Stat.
Enter Ryan. Sure, he’s a hot male stripper at the O Spa where she works as junior designer, but he’s a few years younger and just, you know — a friend.
Perfect. She needs a friend more than she needs a boyfriend.
A weekend of playing her boyfriend so she can save face is a lot to ask, but for some reason Carrie doesn’t understand, Ryan’s all in. Enthusiastic, even.
Especially when it comes to physical displays of affection.
Public kisses turn to private confessions, and pretty soon, Carrie can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality.
Because if Ryan’s just pretending he’s in love with her, then why does the chemistry between them — and between the sheets — feel so real?
Carrie can’t settle for almost, though. She’s already done that. She’s not putting her life on hold anymore.
Turns out Ryan won’t, either.
He’s holding out for more.
Thank You For Holding is a STANDALONE in the On Hold series. You do not need to have read book 1 in the series, but after reading about Carrie and Ryan’s friends-to-lovers adventure, you’ll want to.


Author Bio:
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Julia Kent writes romantic comedy with an edge. From billionaires to BBWs to new adult rock stars, Julia finds a sensual, goofy joy in every contemporary romance she writes. Unlike Shannon from Shopping for a Billionaire, she did not meet her husband after dropping her phone in a men's room toilet (and he isn't a billionaire). She lives in New England with her husband and three sons in a household where the toilet seat is never, ever, down.

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Claimed By Power by Zoey Ellis

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Claimed By Power
Zoey Ellis
Publication date: April 3rd 2017
Genres: New Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Not all angels are angelic…
Thea Robinson has never needed anyone’s charity. Sure, her impoverished existence isn’t desired by most, but her ability to manipulate people’s emotions helps her to blend into the shadows of an unforgiving city. When hideous creatures threaten her life, a surly but gorgeous stranger shows up revealing a world she didn’t know existed. She refuses to put up with his rude, arrogant attitude, but how do you dismiss a warrior angel? And does she really want to when his stormy gaze sends delicious thrills straight to her core?
Cam is one of the most ruthless Power angels in the fight against evil. His devotion to kill demons has made him a celebrated warrior in the Angel Realm, even though his motivation stems from grief. When he is assigned to train and protect a half-angel just coming into her abilities, his rage is unparalleled. Until he realizes Thea isn’t like any others. She stirs a carnal passion in him that he can’t shake. He never counted on her being so beautiful… so fierce… so most definitely his.
Claimed by Power is the first book in the Empire of Angels series, a paranormal alpha angel romance series. If you’re a fan of alpha heroes, powerful heroines, paranormal worlds and falling in love, Zoey Ellis’ riveting, sexy tale is perfect for you.
About the end: Although this book can be read as a standalone, Cam and Thea’s story does continue over the next two books.
Sexual scenes and strong language included. Not suitable for readers under 18.
EXCERPT:
“What exactly are my powers?” Thea asked
The angel stood up. “Not now. It’s time to go. You have your answers.”
Frustrated, she exhaled loudly. She went to her wardrobe and grabbed a bra, top, and another pair of jeans. The angel turned away, allowing her to dress. She eyed him from behind. So angels were real. And they were handsome and powerful and stern. Nothing like she would have ever imagined them to be. He couldn’t even crack a smile and yet mocked her like a child. Were all angels like that? Maybe he didn’t like humans.
“At least tell me why they sent you,” she said, smoothing down her top. “Why you?”
“Why not me?” he said, almost in a growl. “Who would you prefer?”
“I don’t know,” Thea said, lifting her shoulders. “Someone able to smile once in a while?”
He turned to face her, his plain expression flavored with annoyance. “I’m not here to entertain you. You need someone to train you and help you learn how to control your abilities. I’m the best there is. You should be honored.”
Thea shook her head, annoyed. Trained? Like a puppy? Not happening. Especially not by this man, who’d been abrupt with her from the start, despite his careful treatment of her wounds. “I should be honored? Honored that I was attacked by those creatures? Honored that I almost got ripped apart? Honored that you had to come and save me, a poor damsel in distress?”
His face hardened with each word she said, but she couldn’t give a fuck.
“I don’t need to be saved by a warrior who can’t stop the horrors happening in this city every day. Or by a God that keeps himself hidden from those he’s supposed to inspire? People are raped and drugged and killed every day; where are you then? Where is He then? I’ve gotten this far without the help of you or God, and I’ll be fine to continue without you.”
The angel’s stance didn’t change. The only indication of his agitation was in the grounding of his jaw. “You’re being irrational. If I was able to find you here, the demons will find you here. You cannot escape them. Pack. Now.”
“No.” She grabbed her phone. “You go. Thanks very much, but I’ll be fine.”
With a low grunt of frustration, the angel grabbed her around the waist quicker than she would have thought possible. He flew up to the ceiling, his rock-like arm digging into her stomach, pressing her against his chest. He swept his free hand over the length of the room. The room began to glow and then burst into flames, smoke eating up the remaining air.
“No!” She struggled to get out of his arms while her home and everything she owned burned.
He leapt out of the window, holding onto her as he flew over the city.


Author Bio:
Zoey Ellis spends her most of her time thinking up stories that explore how love and romance can be tested by the darker side of our personalities and the heart-wrenching challenges that must be overcome for love to win, even if two people belong together.
A lover of the fantastical, Zoey enjoys how intense and vast the challenges can be for couples in the paranormal romance genre. Her goal is to build a body of work depicting thrilling, fantastical romances between demanding alpha heroes and fiery heroines hoping the love they make will scorch ereaders and melt hearts. With a soft spot for angels, dragons and alpha shifters, Zoey blends her love of a Happy Ever After with strangely unique worlds and complex plots.
If you're interested in hearing about Zoey's new releases first, as well as her bonuses and giveaways, sign up to her newsletter.

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Rolling Thunder by Mark Berent


Historical Fiction/Military Fiction

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Rolling Thunder is an historical novel about the decisive role politics played during the Vietnam War. Its characters range from men in the field to the Pentagon and the White House. Fighter pilots and Special Forces warriors try to do their best but are hampered by President Johnson, Secretary of Defense McNamara, and their staff members who despise the military. Only one aging USAF general, who fought in Korea and WWII, is on their side. His clashes with his Commander in Chief, Lyndon Johnson, are epic in proportion and startling in content.

In Rolling Thunder, the time is late 1965 and 1966 in war zone places such as Saigon, Hanoi, Bien Hoa, Da Nang, and Tahkli. While back in Washington, LBJ sits over lunch and personally picks bombing targets in an attempt to fight a limited war. In Vietnam the war knows no limits.

There, as the hostilities escalate, the fates of three men intertwine: USAF Captain Court Bannister, overshadowed by a famous movie star father who fought in WWII as a B-17 gunner, driven to confront missiles, MiGs, and nerve-grinding bombing raids in order to prove his worth to his comrades -- and to himself...Air Force First Lieutenant Toby Parker, fresh from the States, who hooks up with an intelligence unit for a lark, and quickly finds his innocence buried away by the lessons of war...and Special Forces Colonel Wolf Lochert, who ventures deep into the jungle to rescue a downed pilot -- only to discover a face of the enemy for which he is unprepared.

Four airline stewardesses, who fly the civilian MAC contract flights that bring American soldiers to and from the war zone in Vietnam, have difficult love affairs with G.I.s and fighter pilots. After one flight they come under attack while on an airbase.

Young American G.I.s are cursed and taunted as they return to the United States.

Through their eyes, and those of many others -- pilots, soldiers, lovers, enemy agents, commanders, politicians, profiteers -- Rolling Thunder shows us Vietnam as few other books have, or can. Berent captures all the intensity and drama of that searing war, and more, penetrates to the heart and soul of those who fought it. Rolling Thunder rings with authenticity.

Other Books in the Wings of War Series



Five months after we left them in Rolling Thunder, Steel Tiger brings back USAF Major Court Bannister, Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel Wolf Lochert, and USAF First Lieutenant Toby Parker, now scattered to their new posts: Bannister in Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California, Wolf Lochert at Lang Tri, Republic of Vietnam, carrying out covert operations in Laos, and Toby Parker, in the pilot training program at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas. Soon their diverse paths will lead all three men back to Vietnam for a second tour of duty -- in the very heart of the conflict.


In Phantom Leader (May 9, 1991) Berent, himself a highly decorated Air Force Pilot, once again captures the intensity of the most controversial war in modern history. Phantom Leader shows readers exactly what it was like to be a pilot caught between the immediate reality of death and the distant decisions of Washington.


In Eagle Station (June 8, 1992) the newest installment in his Vietnam War series, Berent puts on the heat and raises the stakes, creating his most electrifying tale of war to date. Beginning with a hair-raising cliff side helicopter rescue under heavy fire, and racing toward a climactic ground battle played out in the dark of night, engaging top secret USAF first special operations gun ships, Eagle Station is filled with adventure and acts of daring, woven into a compelling and powerful plot.


Storm Flight, (Book Five of Five) the intense conclusion to his saga, the action is touched off by a daring raid on the Son Tay prisoner-of-war camp that reveals some startling information. With American prisoners in terrible jeopardy and crucial national secrets in danger of being discovered, the characters we have met in Berent's earlier books are put to the ultimate test. They must call upon all their skill, leadership, guts, and strength to complete their missions.

As always, Berent highlights his knowledge of little known facts about the war, and his keen insight into the minds of members of the fighting forces. In one exhilarating sequence, Parker and his instructor pilot Ken Tanaka each shoot down two MiGs in the course of one fight, involving four MiGs and an unarmed transport. Despite the chewing out that they receive later from their superior officer, the two fighter pilots refuse to shoot down the transport. Ironically, that decision was the one that saved the life of one of their strongest critics, Jane Fonda, who had once called fighter pilots "professional killers." (This incident is based on a true story.) Parker later makes "ace," a title given to the rare fighter pilot who shoots down five MiGs.


Excerpt
CHAPTER ONE


1320 Hours Local, 17 December 1965

Airborne in an F-100D near

Bien Hoa Air Base, Republic of Vietnam


Precisely how a crashing jet fighter breaks up is a function of its speed, of its angle of impact, and of the topography of the ground it strikes. A high speed impact at a ninety degree angle ensures small pieces mashed into a neat circular hole with narrow wing trenches extending from each side. Depending on soil consistency, the engine can burrow down 30 feet and be compressed from twelve feet in length to three. Lesser angles of impact splash the wreckage in the direction of flight. A near-zero glide angle on smooth terrain is another matter entirely. Unless the air­craft cartwheels, which it often does if one of the landing gear collapses, the wings will usually remain intact al­though probably separate from the aircraft. Large sections of the tail assembly and fuselage usually remain. If the pilot is not killed upon impact, he may survive if the wreck doesn't burn. Usually they burn.

USAF Captain Courtland EdM. Bannister knew all this as he delicately babied his shotup F-100D Super Sabre jet fighter toward his home base of Bien Hoa located 15 miles northeast of Saigon in III Corps, South Vietnam. There were six half-inch holes in his airplane, two nearly lethal.

Less than an hour earlier, Bannister and his flight leader, Paul Austin, had been scrambled from runway Alert to aid an American Special Forces unit in trouble up near Loc Ninh in War Zone C. In pairs, Bien Hoa F-100 pilots pulled three types of Alert: runway, cockpit, and standby. Each flight of two could be airborne streaking toward a target in one minute, five minutes, or 20 minutes.

Almost all Bien Hoa missions, whether scrambled from or scheduled the night before on the Frag Order, were air-to-ground doing what the USAF had been sent to Vietnam to do; support U.S. or Vietnamese troops in battle. The weapons hung under their wings were a mixture of bombs, rockets, napalm, and cluster bomb units known as CBU. Each carried 800 rounds of ammo for the four 20mm cannons mounted internally under the scoop nose of the fighter.

A radar controller in a small dark room had Bannister on his scope.

"Ramrod Four One, I have you twelve miles out on the 275 radial of Tacan Channel 73. Squawk Three Four, acknowledge, Bien Hoa." To ‘squawk,’ a pilot toggled a switch to send a burst of energy to the radar scope.

"Bien Hoa, Four One, squawking Three Four. I have a situation here. I need a straight-in. I'm leaking bad; gas and, ah, hydraulic fluid. Get me down quick, you copy Four One?"

"Roger, Four One, GCA copies."

The Ground Control Approach controller had picked up Ramrod Four One from Bien Hoa Approach Control who advised him the pilot had declared an emergency due to battle damage and low fuel. Bannister had not mentioned he was bleeding. Approach Control also said they had no contact with Ramrod Four Zero, Bannister's flight leader.

As the controller prepared to transmit, another voice broke in. It was neither as low pitched as that of the GCA controller nor as calm.

"Four One, this is Ramrod Two speaking, Ramrod Two. You got gear? You got three good ones down? How about flaps? You got flaps? Where's your flight leader?" Ramrod Two, Bannister's operations officer and immediate commander, had channeled into the conversation using the squadron radio.

Bannister didn't have time to answer his nearly hysterical operations officer. He was busy keeping his crippled airplane aloft. Suddenly, a red warning signal lit up drawing his attention to a small hydraulic gauge on a lower panel in his cockpit. The needle of the gauge bobbled twice, then yielded up the few remaining pounds of utility hydraulic pressure as the main pump ground to a halt, then violently broke up deep inside the big fighter. Bannister thought he could feel the grinding. He quickly raised his eyes out of the cockpit to see if he could spot the runway. He had to squint and to blink away blood. All he could see was the jungle canopy a thousand feet below stretching out for miles into a reddish haze.

Several slugs from a big quad-barrel Russian ZSU-4 12.7mm antiaircraft gun had stitched his Super Sabre from scoop shovel nose to just short of the tail section. They had punctured and ripped tubing and control lines causing a loss of hydraulic fluid which required Bannister to engage his emergency flight control system. That system was powered by a Ram Air Turbine called RAT by its acronym. The engine itself was untouched. One slug, however, had ripped a small hole in the belly fuel cell allowing fuel to stream out behind the F-100 like a smoke trail.

Another slug had crashed through the starboard quarter panel glass of the windscreen, smashing the gunsight, zinging fragments of metal and glass into Bannister's face. His helmet and oxygen mask protected all but the area around his eyes and forehead. He wore no sunglasses and had not lowered either the sun visor or the clear plastic visor mounted on his helmet. The fragments had etched a few minor lacerations above Bannister's right eye. While neither particularly painful nor disabling, the wounds produced prodigious capillary bleeding effectively causing Bannister to lose the sight of his right eye. Wiping with his gloved hand smeared it worse. Bannister unhooked his blood-filled oxygen mask and let it dangle. Pooled blood splashed down the front of his parachute harness and survival vest and mingled with his sweat. He heard the measured cadence of the controller through the headset in his helmet.

"Ramrod Four One, check gear down. Prepare for descent in one mile."

Bannister cupped the mask to his face with his right hand, bracketed the control stick with his knees, and pushed the trans­mit button on the throttle with his left hand. He countered a right wing drop with a leftward motion of his knees pressing on the stick.

"Bien Hoa, my situation is a bit worse. No Utility pressure, Flight One is out, Flight Two is going, and I'm not getting much RAT pressure, flight controls stiffening. Yeah, and I only got about 100 pounds of fuel." Bannister still didn't mention the blood. He did not consider himself wounded, merely inconvenienced at a rather harrowing time.

"Where's your leader, where's Four Zero? Ramrod Four One answer me."

"Get off the air, Ramrod Two," the GCA controller broke in, "there's an emergency in progress and I've got it." His voice was brittle, not the calming one he used with Ramrod Four One.

Bannister shoved down a lever with a replica of a wheel on it. The lever released the lock pins allowing the gear doors to open and the heavy wheels and struts to fall free. Then he pulled the lanyard that shunted emergency hydraulic fluid into the last two feet of hydraulic lines locking the nose and left main gear into place. The right main didn't lock causing its cockpit indicator light to remain red. Bannister pushed to test the green indicator bulb. It worked. He already knew his flaps wouldn't go down; he had tried them at a higher altitude doing a damage check. His flight leader was not there to assist him and report whatever damage Bannister could not see.

"Ah, Bien Hoa, the right main is still red. I don't think it's locked in place. And this will be a no-flap landing. Put the barrier up, I've got to make an approach-end engagement." Without flaps he had to bring his plane in fifteen knots faster. Bannister didn't intend to eject unless the engine quit.

He punched a button activating a solenoid that released a heavy steel bar with a hook on the end which extended under the aft section of his plane. If he touched down in the right place, the hook would snatch the cable stretched across the approach end of the runway and yank him to a stop in a few hundred feet, exactly the way a Navy fighter engages a cable during an aircraft carrier landing.

"Roger, Ramrod Four One, Bien Hoa copies. Barrier crew noti­fied. This is your final controller, how do you read?"

"Loud and clear," Bannister yelled into his dangling mask. From here on he needed his right hand on the control stick, his left on the throttle.

"Ramrod Four One, you need not acknowledge further trans­missions. Steer right Two Six Five degrees and start your descent...now."

The controller frequently released his mike button for an instant in case Ramrod Four One had to make a transmission that his emergency was worsening.

Bannister concentrated on his heading, but did not start the standard 600 feet per minute rate of descent that would give him a smooth 3 degree descent angle to the runway. He needed to hold his altitude until the last minute in case his engine quit from fuel starvation. Then he would decide if he was close enough to glide in or if he would be forced to eject. He rapidly blinked his eyes as he scanned his instruments every few seconds while simultaneously searching forward for the runway. His right eye cleared. When he finally spotted the white concrete landing strip he started to breathe more rapidly as he estimated altitude and distance to the point of touchdown. His airspeed gauge indicated two hundred knots. He was flying into a five knot headwind giving him a speed over the ground of 230 miles per hour or 338 feet per second. In 23 seconds he would be on the ground, one way or another.

The controller's voice faded for Bannister as he concentrated on aligning his craft and deciding when to start his last minute descent. If he was too late, his steep descent angle would cause him to overshoot the runway which would force him to bailout or crash, since he did not have enough fuel to go-around and try again. If he started too soon and the engine quit, he would also have to bail out or crash short of the runway.

One mile from the runway Bannister decided it looked right and started an abnormally high rate of descent. He could see the crash crew lined up along the side of the runway; red foam trucks, a yellow wrecker, and a blue ambulance. At 800 feet above the ground and 4000 feet from the end of the runway his engine sucked up the last drops of JP-4 jet fuel and quickly unwound.

"Flameout," Bannister yelled into his mask.

The big plane wanted to quit flying but Bannister held his speed by shoving the control stick forward which forced the nose down more. His rate of descent increased to 1000 feet per minute. Airspeed had to be high to spin the RAT and give him hydraulic pressure to work the flight controls. He would need a lot of control response to break the glide and flare for touchdown. Though Bannister's heart rate went up another notch, he felt confident he could make it. All the numbers were right. He calculated he had enough altitude to trade for airspeed to make the touchdown point where his hook would grab the cable. The camouflaged airplane plunged closer to the jungle, barely topped the palm trees, streaked across the half-mile clearing before the concrete, then flared smoothly as Bannister applied enough back pressure on the control stick to break the rapid descent but still make a firm touchdown so the hook wouldn't bounce over the barrier.

It all worked. The hook snatched the cable with the immense force generated by 17 tons of mass in motion at 300 feet per second. The four-foot brake drums on each side of the runway feeding out cable screamed and smoked, absorbing kinetic energy as they decelerated the big fighter. The jet slewed sharply left, then, at 100 knots, the right main gear collapsed, slamming the right wing to the ground and starting a cartwheel.

Bannister's head banged against the canopy as the wing hit the ground. He grunted as he pushed without results on the now frozen control stick and rudder pedal to counter the violent movement that would end in a fireball. Of the three remaining forces acting on the plane, forward momentum, right roll, and hook deceleration, the hold-back by the hook was the most powerful and won out. The left wing rose ten feet off the ground, the plane pivoted thirty degrees on the crushed right wing tip, the hook held and slammed the flat-bottomed airplane back onto the concrete runway. Bannister's seat survival pack absorbed most of the impact for him but his head, weighted by the three-pound helmet, thudded down on his chest harness so hard the metal snap gashed his chin. The violent impact dazed him. For an instant he was on the edge of consciousness.

The fire trucks and crash crew surrounded the wreck almost before it settled. They shot great streams of sticky white foam over and under the plane, around the hot engine and aft section. Without fuel there was little chance of a fire. Four firemen in aluminum suits, looking like bulky astronauts, ran to the airplane, two to each side. One jerked the external lanyard blowing the canopy off while the others positioned a ladder and ran up to get Bannister, who was rapidly coming around and able to undo his own helmet, harness, G-suit, and oxygen connections. The years of programming himself to instinctively perform all the ground emergency egress actions were paying off.

 The fireman at the top of the ladder on the right side thought so much blood in the cockpit was unusual. Usually a guy hit this bad wouldn't make it back. He passed Bannister's helmet to another fireman, who, facing aft toward the open cockpit, was straddling the nose of the aircraft like a horseback rider. "Are you okay, Sir?" the closest fireman asked through his helmet faceplate.

 "Yeah, Chief, fine, thanks. How about fire? We got any fire?" Bannister, thinking the plane would blow up, was struggling to get out.

"No, no fire. No sweat, Sir, just hang on a minute." The firemen gently placed his gloved hand on Bannister's shoulder. He held the groggy pilot down until the Flight Surgeon from the ambulance could climb up the ladder and check his condition.

"Hey Court, how ya doing? Where ya hit?" Major Conrad Russell, MD, asked as he leaned over Bannister to wipe away blood and assess damage. He saw the facial rips and tears where the blood had already clotted. He thumbed up Bannister's right eyelid and noted that the eyeball looked intact and functional. The nick in the chin was barely oozing.

"No place. I'm not hit. Just some junk in my face. Is my right eye okay?" Bannister asked. He looked up at Russell, squinting his gray-blue eyes as much from the residual blood as from the sun behind Russell's back. Bannister's brown hair, released from the confines of his helmet, soaked with sweat and plastered against his head, was trimmed almost to crew-cut length. His close-shaved sideburns ended at mid-ear. His face was square, his jaw line strong. Bannister was six foot two and normally trimmed out at 190. Vietnam heat and O’ Club food had dropped him to a dehydrated 170. He was 30 and had been a USAF fighter pilot for ten years. This was his first crash.

Major Russell, his preliminary check complete, said, "Come on, let's get out of here. We gotta clear the runway. Other guys want to land too, you know. Your eye will be fine." He tugged at Bannister to get up and climb down the ladder.

The Flight Surgeon started to smile and hum as he moved his bulky figure down the ladder, accepting the helping hand of a nearby fireman. Doc Russell was doing what he loved best. He wore standard Shade 45 USAF blue two-piece fatigues which were now smelly and stained badly by the foam. His name, rank, and Flight Surgeon wings were embossed on a piece of leather stitched to his left breast. Russell was overweight, rotund in fact. His round, young-looking face vaguely resembled that of Baby Huey, the cartoon character. The fighter pilots at Bien Hoa, particularly those of the 531st, the squadron he was responsible for, quickly gave him that nickname. Russell, a 34 year old major, would have been a pilot were it not for optic problems so bad that his eyes tended to cross whenever he was tired.

He walked Bannister to the ambulance. The letters and devices on the leather nametag on the pilot's left breast stated he was Courtland EdM. Bannister, Capt., USAF. A star above his pilot's wings indicated he had flown at least seven years and had amassed 2000 flying hours and was rated a senior pilot. Below his pilot's wings were the parachutist's wings he had been awarded after training with the Special Forces in Germany. Bannister still wore his G-suit and survival vest, and carried an olive-green bag stuffed with his helmet, kneeboard, and maps. On his feet he wore Army issue jungle boots which were perfectly suited for tropical wear but would provide no ankle support in a parachute landing.

Standing next to the squadron jeep edged up to the blue USAF ambulance, watching them approach, was Ramrod Two, Major Harold Rawson, five-ten, black hair combed straight back, a pencil-thin mustache over his thin upper lip. He looked the type who missed the days of puttees and riding britches. He wore, instead, the standard K-2B cotton one-piece green flight suit with the standard thirteen zippers. On his head was a regulation USAF blue flight cap with silver officer piping on the rim and the gold oak leaves of a major pinned front right. Rawson was the operations officer of the 531st Tactical Fighter Squadron, second in command to the squadron commander and responsible for day-to-day fighter operation. The commander, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Warton, was back in the States on emergency furlough leaving Rawson in charge. He felt burdened with the unexpected responsibility.

Rawson watched Bannister and Russell approach, barely resisting the temptation to run up to Bannister crying "What in hell did you do?" Instead he waited until the two men drew closer.

"Where's Four Zero?" he asked. Then, unable to contain himself, "How could you lose your leader?"

Before Bannister could answer, Russell shoved him toward the ambulance and said to Rawson, "Look, Harry, I've got to check this guy out before you or anybody from Intel gets to talk to him. Now back off."

Bannister's face colored. He seriously considered slamming his fist into Rawson's small, turned down mouth which seemed to perpetually sneer whenever its owner spoke.

"I didn't lose anybody, Goddammit. Austin got hit and went straight in," Bannister said in a tight voice over his shoulder as he climbed into the back of the ambulance. As the double doors swung shut he turned to see Rawson struggling with only limited success to control himself.


In the coolness of one of the nested trailers that served as a hospital on the Bien Hoa Air Base, Russell remained silent until he had finished swabbing the cuts on Bannister's face. They would not require stitching and would heal quickly if kept clean.

"Well," he said straightening up, "all that blood and these cuts are worth a Purple Heart."

Bannister stood up and walked to one of the small sliding windows that looked out. He had taken off his G-suit and dark green net survival vest. The sweat beneath was crusted white with salt and starting to dry on his flight suit. He dug a crushed pack of Luckies from his zippered left sleeve pocket and lit one before he answered. The Zippo he used had a thick rubber band around it. He had learned that trick from his Special Forces buddies at Bien Hoa to both keep the lighter from slipping out of a pocket as well as prevent it from clicking on another metal object.

"Forget it." He inhaled deeply, held it, and blew the smoke out in a long sigh. He could still see the fireball that Major Paul Austin's plane made after it hit the ground.

 "Why?" Russell asked after a minute.

"Too piddly."

"Well," Doc Russell said, "I guess I understand that." He stood up. "At any rate, Paul Austin will get one." He was silent for a moment. "Hell of a way to earn it, though."

After another pause he added, "Isn't his dad a general in the Pentagon?" He nodded to himself. "Sure he is, a three-star. So that's why Harry Rawson is so distraught." He looked to Bannister for corroboration.

"That's the one," Bannister said. He hoisted his gear and started for the door. "I've got to go debrief. There's big stuff going on up there near Loc Ninh. We stumbled into something hot and I don't mean just gun barrels."

"Okay," Russell said, nodding. "Keep your dirty mitts off those cuts. Maybe I'll see you tonight at the club."

Bannister walked out the door thinking about the intelligence debriefing session he was about to face in the wing headquarters building. He knew he could convince the lower ranking Intel people that something was up at Loc Ninh, but he wasn't at all sure whether the high level ones at Saigon would agree. They had their own concepts and didn't like input that upset them. That was one problem he could probably deal with. He wasn't so sure about the other.

What weighed on Bannister's mind far more than the Loc Ninh buildup was the lie he planned to tell the Flying Safety Officer about why Paul Austin crashed.





About the Author


Mark Berent is admirably suited to have written his historical fiction five-book Vietnam Wings of War series for he lived each story. He served four years and one day in the Vietnam War during the period from November 1965 until August 1973.
When asked why he kept going back, he replied: "A lot of reasons; because it was there, because I wanted a MiG, because when the threat goes up the paperwork goes down and the weinies run for cover, but mostly because the guys were still fighting. Everyday I'd pick up a paper and find another buddy KIA, MIA, or POW. I just couldn't stay on the beach."
Now he writes about these men. He has five books in print and Ebooks; Rolling Thunder, Steel Tiger, Phantom Leader, Eagle Station, and Storm Flight. Although historical fiction, the books are about the men and women who gave everything they had in a war they weren't allowed to win. FAC pilots, Phantom crews, Thud, Hun, and Buff crews, gunship pilots and gunners, green berets, grunts, carrier jocks, MAC contract stews, boomers and tankers, from corporals to colonels; the whole nine yards about the day-to-day heroism and heroes we all know and loved . . . and some we hated. By way of contrast, LBJ in the Oval Office and McNamara in the Pentagon E Ring are included and the words they spoke as they picked strike targets over lunch are included in great detail, yes indeed. As are those of Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden.

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Moments of Beauty by J.B. Heller


Moments of Beauty
J.B. Heller
Publication date: March 23rd 2017
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Ugly. It the only word to describe my upbringing.
It drove my need to capture every moment of beauty I could find. A glimpse of a mother’s love. A feather floating in the breeze. A ray of sunshine emerging on a rainy day.
And then there was her, Eliza Quinn, she signified everything I didn’t deserve. She showed me more beauty than I ever thought possible. And I took it all, despite knowing I was going to leave her, and never come back.
Leaving her five years ago was my biggest mistake, and my greatest regret. Now I need to make amends. I thought leaving her was the hardest thing I’d ever have to do, but that was before I knew I had to win her back.
EXCERPT:
ELIZA
It’s him.
Huxley Haynes.
The boy who thinks he’s invisible, but I see him.
I didn’t know anyone else knew about this spot. Well, not exactly, I know I’m not the first person to ever find it, but I’ve never run into anybody else here.
The expression on his face is comical. Something between terrified and busted. I watch him as he watches me, and I wait for him to say something. But he doesn’t. He just stands there gripping a camera in his hands like it’s a life raft.
“I won’t bite.” I say, in an attempt to break the ice.
He frowns for a moment then says, “I know.”
“So why haven’t you said anything?” I ask.
His Adams apple bobs as he swallows, “Ah, I’m not sure what you want me to say?”
I shrug, “I don’t mind. You could say something like, ‘Hi Eliza, nice running into you.’” I do my best to imitate his deeper voice and he cracks a small grin.
“Hi Eliza, nice running into you.”
It sounds so much better when he says it. His voice is deep and husky, it sends a shiver through my body and I grin back. “Hey Hux, what are you doing here? I haven’t seen you here before.”
He scratches his temple before answering me. “You know who I am?” he asks.
“Of course I do. What, have I been living under a rock for the last seventeen years?” I ask incredulous. I’m actually a little offended he doesn’t think I know who he is. We’ve lived in the same town since we were born.
The corner of his lips lift slightly at the sass in my tone. “No, but I’m not exactly your kind of crowd.”
I raise a brow, “Are you trying to offend me?”
He shakes his head, just slightly, “No.”
“So what’s with the line of questions?” I shoot back.
He scratches his temple again, “We don’t, I mean, I’m not,” he sighs and looks at his feet, “I just didn’t think you knew who I was.”
My hands have moved to my hips now, “Why wouldn’t I? We’ve lived in the same town and gone to the same schools since forever.” Then I realise what he means, “Oh, you think I’m one of those conceited bitches who doesn’t acknowledge people I deem as beneath me. How nice of you to judge me when you don’t even know me.”
His head shoots up and there’s panic in his grey eyes, “No, I don’t think that.”
I snort, “Really? Cause that’s the vibe you’re giving off right now.”
He shifts his backpack around and puts his camera inside the open pocket then zips it back up. “This is a really strange conversation,” he supplies.
“You’re the one making it that way. I was being friendly,” I snark at him. And I don’t know why I’m acting like this. I’m not normally so defensive. But his short answers and the fact that he clearly thinks I’m one of those people annoys me. I don’t care if other people think I’m like that, but not him.
Swinging his pack back over his shoulder he chews the corner of his bottom lip for a second and nods, “Yeah okay. Sorry. Guess I’m not a great conversationalist.”
“Do-over?” I suggest, and when he nods I continue, “Hey Hux, fancy seeing you here.”
He hooks his thumbs into the belt loops of his dirt covered jeans, “Hi Eliza, nice running into you.”
I can’t help the smile that takes over my face, “So, what are you doing here? And why are you so dirty?”
Looking down at his jeans he gives me a sheepish grin, “I was de-rocking a garden bed this afternoon, it’s dirty work.”
I snicker because my mind goes to naughty places when he says that. And the twinkle in his eyes says he knows exactly what I’m thinking, so I don’t hold back. “Dirty work for a dirty boy, huh.”
He chuckles, “Something like that.”
Oh my…I’ve never heard him laugh before, it sounds so good. But that’s when I notice a big blackish-blue bruise on his upper arm, “What’s with the bruise? Did the rocks object to being de-rocked?”
He glances at his bicep and grimaces, then clears his throat, “Something like that.”
Right, doesn’t want to talk about the bruise. I change the subject, “Nice spot huh?” I say looking around at the moss covered boulders and the crystal clear water around my ankles.
“Yeah, I take pictures here sometimes.”
And I’m shocked he gave me that much of an answer. But before I have a chance to ask him about it he says he has to go. I can’t deny I’m disappointed, I’ve wanted to talk to him for ages. But he’s not exactly approachable.
“Oh, okay. It was nice to see you Hux.” I say as he begins walking away from me.
He looks back at me over his shoulder, “Yeah, you too.”
Then he disappears into the trees.


Author Bio:
JB Heller is an average Aussie housewife in her late 20’s with a wicked sexy imagination. She and her super sexy husband are the parents of three minions, two Great Danes and a Cat who thinks she’s a person.
She spends her days running around after her wildling children and jotting down stories in her flower embossed leather notebook (She is very particular about her stationary.). She’s a self-confessed Stationary Junky who’s constantly on the lookout for more.
Most day’s JB can be found glued to her laptop, taking advantage of school hours- writing as fast as she can while she can. Or trolling Pinterest for her next potential muse. And when she needs a break from the voices in her head she indulges in her favourite past time, reading.
Want to know more about JB? Check her out, you’ll be guaranteed a good laugh if nothing else.

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