Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Excerpt: BAD GIRLS DON'T MARRY MARINES by Codi Gary

Title: Bad Girls Don't Marry Marines
Author: Codi Gary
Genre: Romance / Contemporary
Publish Date: May 20, 2014
Publisher: Avon Impulse (HarperCollins)
Where to Buy: Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  | iBooks  |  Kobo

Codi Gary, author of Things Good Girls Don't Do and Good Girls Don't Date Rock Stars, has just released her third installment of the Rock Canyon series, Bad Girls Don't Marry Marines! Once you've finished reading Chapter 1, please add her to your shelves on Goodreads! Read on for an excerpt...

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From the book:


The bad girl who stole his heart … 

Valerie Willis has done it all: tattoos, one-night stands, even strip poker. And now she can add getting a messy public divorce to that list. Back in her hometown of Rock Canyon, Val just wants to bury her head and wait for the scandal to pass. But when she suddenly finds herself at a singles' weekend face-to-face with former flame Justin Silverton, hiding from her heart—and the sexy Marine—won't be that simple.

Is just too good to let go … 

It's been ten years since Justin kissed Val, but he still remembers the way they just seemed to … fit. Since then he's served his country and helped his father keep their ranch intact, but he's never forgotten Val or her wild ways. So when a twist of fate brings him the chance to chase her across state lines and spend a weekend winning her heart, Justin's all in. Because when he sees something he wants, he fights for it. And he's ready to fight for the right to call this bad girl his one and only.

Excerpt


Chapter One

Valerie Willis reached for a bottle of Merlot, located on the highest shelf of Hall’s Market, and cursed the shelves’ discrimination against short people. Just barely over five feet, she had a step stool at home for when she needed something high, but out in public, it was like the world conspired against her.

She’d walked to the end of the aisle, trying to get someone’s attention, but the only person who’d acknowledged her had been one of the checkers, and all she’d gotten from her was a look of disapproval.

It was no secret that the people of Rock Canyon thought the Willis sisters were trashy, despite the fact that their father ran a successful law firm and was a former Rock Canyon mayor and state representative. They came from a very wealthy family with connections in high places and yet none of that had saved Val’s older sister, Caroline, from being called a “man-stealer” when she’d barely hit eighteen, or her younger sister, Ellie, from picking up a wild reputation. Val had thought she’d escaped small-town life with barely a dent, but all it had taken was a very high-profile, public divorce, and she became the worst of “those Willis girls.”

Now, she half-wondered if people were standing around the corner with video cameras, watching her struggle for kicks, but decided that no one would be that petty.
Just as she was about to start climbing shelves, a voice behind her asked, “Do you need some help with that?”

Val spun around in surprise and came face-to-face with a very impressive chest under a dark gray shirt. Slowly, her eyes traveled up over the wide expanse of shoulders and a smooth, square jawline that would tempt even the sanest woman to stroke it. When her eyes passed the wide grin to meet amused golden brown eyes, her brain had a severe malfunction.

It wasn’t like she hadn’t seen Justin Silverton around town since moving back, but it was the first time they’d actually said a word to each other in ten years. Not since that night at the high school. That night was one of a handful of unforgettable memories that still made her smile, but that was all he was: a nice memory.

She had to crane her neck to look up at him. Had he always been so tall?

“Valerie? You okay?” Justin asked, that one lone dimple in his left cheek hypnotizing her.
She had been asking herself that question since she’d moved back to town a year ago, holing up like a hermit with only her dog for company. She’d been trying to avoid her father, the people in town, and any man between the ages of 25 and 45, but she had to come out sometime.

The man in front of her was definitely in the to-be-avoided category. Not only had he made her lose her head ten years ago, but it was because of him that she’d spent her last two years of high school in an all-girls school.

Okay, so it wasn’t actually Justin’s fault her dad hated his guts and had wanted her as far away from him as possible, but still, a man like that was dangerous. She’d been with men, had experienced some crazy nights since, but the one night they’d hung out always crept up on her at odd times. She’d been a young woman taking her first big rebellious leap, and he’d been on leave from the Marines, just passing time. The attraction had been instantaneous, like the flick of a lighter, and obviously there was still a spark or she wouldn’t be standing there like an idiot, speechless.

The concern on his face broke through her dumbstruck daze. “Sorry, Justin, I guess I need coffee this morning.” His gaze shifted to the Local Bean Coffee Shop cup in her cart and she amended, “More coffee.”

“Gotcha.” He stepped up next to her and the smell of his cologne was intoxicating. She caught herself before she leaned right in and buried her nose in his chest, but it was a close call.

Why was she acting like a lust-filled Pepé Le Pew?

A few reasons popped into her head, the first being that Justin was grade-A hot male and completely worthy of her drool. Another had to do with the fact that it had been almost two years since she’d slept with anyone. The last reason was that of all the guys in Rock Canyon, Idaho, Justin had been the only one ever to treat her like more than Mayor Willis’s daughter or one of “those Willis girls.”

“Is this the one you want?” Justin pulled down the bottle she’d been trying to reach and held it out to her.

Clearing her throat, she took it with a smile, hoping he couldn’t read the crazy on her face. “Thanks. I couldn’t find a bag boy, and I’m too vertically challenged for the high shelf.”

“Not a problem. You got a hot date?” he teased.

“No!” Realizing she had almost yelled the word, she wanted to smack herself, just haul off and whack her own cheek, but then he’d really think she was nuts. Dates led to relationships, which led to marriage, and from there . . . well, she’d already been down that road. “Sorry. No, it’s just for me.”

“That’s a shame.” He tapped the bottle and added, “That’s a nice bottle of wine. It should be shared with someone, especially with how cold it’s been lately.”

It was true. They were having record low temperatures this year, some days not even reaching ten degrees, and with nights below zero. If there had been someone in her life, it would have been the perfect plan, but the last thing she wanted was a man. She was enjoying her uncomplicated life, and thankfully, the more she hibernated, the more her father ignored her. Life was never good when Edward Willis came up with one of his evil public-appearance schemes.

Finally getting her bearings, she smiled. “Maybe I’ll call my sister, then. See if she wants to help me drink it.”

“That wasn’t exactly what I meant—”

“I know what you meant, but I’m not dating.” It came out sharper than she’d meant, but she wasn’t ready. Hell, she didn’t know if she’d ever be ready again.

Justin stared at her like he was trying to Vulcan mind meld with her and it brought her back to who she’d been before she’d been sent away, before she’d married Cole and spent three years of her life miserable and lonely. That girl had been wild and reckless and it was painful to wonder how things might have been different if only . . . 

If only she hadn’t been born Valerie Willis and Justin hadn’t been Fred Silverton’s son.
It was no secret how her father felt about Fred Silverton and his sons. She didn’t know the details of what had gone down between them, but apparently, Fred’s drinking had screwed up a deal Edward was trying to make with a big farming outfit. It was supposed to be a win/win situation, but when the deal fell through, Edward had called Fred a drunken waste of space and had tried to convince his daughters that Fred’s sons were no different.

If her father hadn’t discovered her missing that night ten years ago and watched by the window for her return, he might never have known who had dropped her off. Seeing her and Justin together was all it had taken for her dad to go off on a full rampage and pack her off to that convent of a school.

Val almost snorted out loud. Like that had really kept her out of trouble.

She realized how long she’d let the silence stretch between them, and felt bad when she caught Justin’s expression. It wasn’t his fault she’d made a mess of her life and he didn’t deserve her snapping at him.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that,” Val said, placing the bottle in her cart.

He hesitated before he spoke, as if he was weighing his response. “It’s okay, I was just teasing you. I didn’t mean to overstep.”

His face had taken on a blank quality she hated. “It’s not you—”

“It’s you.” He gave her a small nod. “I get it. Hey, enjoy the wine.”

He walked down the aisle toward the checkout and Val called, “Thank you” after him, but he just kept walking like he hadn’t heard her.

Grabbing her cart, she turned it angrily and muttered to herself, “You are such an idiot.”

“I beg your pardon?” Val looked up to find she’d almost crashed into Mrs. Andrews, and by the look on the older woman’s face, she was not happy about it.

“I was talking to myself, Mrs. Andrews.”

“Oh, so you’re insane as well as immoral. It seems to run in the family. I thought for a while there that Eleanor would have learned from the mistakes of her sisters, but from her latest antics, that seems to be too much to expect. “Mrs. Andrews’s tone was cutting, and Val felt every slice. “Now, can you please move your cart?”

She knew coming back to this town had been a mistake, but she couldn’t leave Eleanor, who had gone by Ellie since she was a toddler. Val had never been lily white, especially in college, but she had never been reckless either. Her little sister was heading down a dangerous road, and no matter what Val said about it, Ellie just shrugged her off. Val had watched their older sister almost destroy herself trying to escape their father’s stranglehold, and Ellie didn’t have Caroline’s strength. Beneath all her dramatics, Ellie was just a sweet kid who had lost her way.

She knew all three of them had bad reputations, but she’d seen the way “nice” girls got bullied and taken advantage of. Aside from some weakness where her father was concerned, at least no one would ever take advantage of her. People could believe what they wanted, but she would never be a victim.

However, just because the whole town thought Val was an adulterous slut, it didn’t mean she was going to take their abuse without fighting back. Especially when that venom encompassed her sisters.

Edward Willis hadn’t raised weaklings, after all.

“Mrs. Andrews, I don’t like your tone or appreciate your insults. And to be honest,” Val lowered her voice for dramatic effect, “I find your top offensive. Your tatas are about to pop out.”

In reality, the top wasn’t immodest in the least, but Val felt the warmth of satisfaction when the woman huffed and moved around her. She hoped the cranky old bat went home immediately and burned it.

But her triumph was short-lived as she made it to the end of the aisle and passed a woman with a car seat in her cart. Peeking inside, she saw a pink blanket and the sweet face of a sleeping baby.

Val’s stomach twisted with envy as she turned down the next aisle. It happened every time she saw a pregnant woman or a small child, and the reality of what she’d never have came back to haunt her.

Before she’d married Cole, she’d always imagined having a large family: three or four kids and a loving husband. But after trying for their whole marriage with nothing to show for it, Val had gone to her OB/GYN for answers.

“Valerie, I’ve looked at the tests, the ultrasounds, and the blood work. You have something called polycystic ovary syndrome. As of right now, I see no cysts, but your testosterone and sugar levels are high, which combined with your infertility helped me to diagnose it. This disease makes it very difficult to get pregnant without fertility drugs.”

She’d asked for percentages, read everything she could find on it, and even cut sugar out of her diet. When none of that worked, she’d asked Cole to go to the doctor too, just to check his sperm count. He’d been furious with her at the suggestion and refused.

“We already know who the problem is.”

For two months, tensions grew between them, while Val tried everything to save their marriage. She had been open to adoption, but Cole had nixed that idea.

“If I’m going to raise a child, it’ll be my child.”

She’d just wanted a family.

She had been heartbroken over the discovery that she would never know what it felt like to have her child move inside her for the first time. That she wouldn’t get to hear its heartbeat or look into its face and see herself there.

This is why you need to avoid leaving the house.

Val grabbed a package of premade cookie dough and decided that the rest her grocery shopping could wait. Right now, she wanted to be home, alone, without any catty townspeople, adorable newborns, or men who could make a grown woman turn to mush with just a glance.

***

“Hey, what’s the matter with you? You’re acting like Dad kicked your dog or something.”
Justin had his head under the hood of their old farm truck, so he had no idea why his brother thought he was acting like anything. “I’m just working on the truck.”

“Yeah, but you’re slamming tools and jerking around. What happened? You lose another bet?”

Justin pulled up from what he was doing and gave his brother a level look. “No. I am concentrating. That’s it.”

“Fine, I was just trying to help.” Everett’s wide grin made the scarred side of his face more distinctive. The red, puckered flesh had been healed for several years but still drew the eye. He was a strong man and sported the same square jaw and light brown eyes as Justin, but that wasn’t what strangers noticed first. They noticed the scars.

Everett had been finishing his second tour in Afghanistan when a roadside bomb had taken out his Humvee. After trying to save his friend, he’d ended up in a military hospital with third-degree burns along the left side of his face and neck and damaged hearing. His friend hadn’t survived.

Still, the townsfolk of Rock Canyon looked at Everett as a hero. They didn’t know about his nightmares, though, or the severe PTSD that had cost him his wife, Melanie. By the time he’d come back to Rock Canyon, he’d been seeing a counselor for six months and signed up for classes online. Now he divided his time between his nonprofit organization for military personnel just returning home and helping his dad on the ranch.

Everett was the reason Justin had joined the Marines in the first place, but while his brother had been in infantry, working his way up the ranks, Justin had scored so high on the ASVAB that he had been able to practically choose his assignment. A guy he’d met in basic had chosen a tech position and been stationed in Japan, but Justin hadn’t wanted to sit in front of a computer all day; he had spent his whole life working outside and couldn’t imagine being cooped up.

He’d chosen to be a mechanic—a trade he could take with him when he got out. He wasn’t like Everett, who would have been a lifer, although he had stayed in longer than he’d originally planned. He’d only planned on staying in for the minimum enlistment period, but when most of his unit had decided to reenlist, so had he.

He’d wanted the education and the benefits because without them, the only thing he was going to end up doing was working the farm and taking care of his dad when he got too drunk to stand on his own. But as the years went by, it became more about doing the right thing for his country.

Justin’s mouth twisted grimly. He’d left home at eighteen to escape the life of a farmer and twelve years later, he was right back where he’d started. He could have left any time, if he’d really wanted to, but he couldn’t turn his back on the only family he had. In spite of the times his dad let his demons get the best of him, he was a good man and father.

He was just a stubborn son of a bitch.

“You seem more pensive than usual,” Everett said, handing him a beer as he sat down on one of the stools in the garage.

Justin grinned as he popped the top and took a swig. “Trying to psychoanalyze me, brother?”

“You kidding me? I don’t want to delve any deeper in that head of yours.” Everett tipped his beer up again and wiped his mouth. “Who knows what I’d find?”

“Nothing terribly complicated up here.” Justin tapped the side of his head for emphasis, despite the image of one extremely complicated woman that he couldn’t seem to forget.
He’d seen Valerie Willis around town a few times since she’d moved back, but today at Hall’s Market had been the first time he’d really talked to her. Rumor had it she’d cheated on her ex-husband, Cole Channing, a real up-and-comer in politics, and after he’d divorced her, she’d come home to ride out the scandal. It was hard for Justin to reconcile the Valerie he remembered with the cold, heartless bitch the townspeople portrayed her as.

But wasn’t there a grain of truth to every rumor? People changed a lot in their early twenties, and it was entirely possible that the Valerie he’d met ten years ago was gone. That Val had been beautiful and wild, like a bobcat he’d once seen running across a meadow.

She’d been up for anything: from their first kiss to streaking across the Rock Canyon High School football field. Afterward, he’d dropped her off and kissed her good night, asking if he could see her again. He hadn’t even slept with her, but the little spitfire sure had gotten under his skin. He could still remember the taste of her strawberry lip gloss as she’d kissed him one last time, whispering “yes” as she ran for the side of her house.
But when Justin had gone by her house to see her the next day, her dad had told him Val was gone and that he didn’t want Fred Silverton’s son anywhere near his daughter.

It had stung that she’d left without telling him, but Justin had finally figured out that their night had meant more to him than her. He’d moved on and gotten over what could have been.

Until today, when he’d gone and made an ass of himself, insinuating she should share her bottle of wine with him. When had he become a desperate idiot who needed to chase after a woman who clearly wanted nothing to do with him?

“Hey, are you listening to me?”

Justin realized Everett had been talking. “Sorry, man.”

“What is up with you? Is it girl problems?” Everett asked, his smirk lifting up the good side of his face.

He returned his brother’s smile, but there was no way he was going to talk about his epic strike-out with Valerie. His brother would have a field day with that one.

“I’m fine. What’s up?”

“We need to do something about Dad,” Everett said, picking at the label of his beer.
Justin sighed. It felt like they had this conversation every couple of weeks, but there never seemed to be a good solution. Their dad’s alcoholism was a huge point of contention between them.

Everett wanted to find an alcohol treatment center that would take their dad without his consent, but Justin thought that if it wasn’t his choice, nothing they tried to do would help.

“Come on, Rett. He’s got to do it for himself.”

“I don’t like the way he looks lately. He’s pale, and I swear he’s lost a good twenty pounds. A couple times he’s been helping me and then suddenly he clutches his stomach, and when I try to help, he waves me off and heads for the house. I think there’s something really wrong, but if I suggest he go get checked out, he’s going to tell me to mind my own business.”

Justin had also noticed their dad seemed to be dropping weight. “I’ll mention to him that he looks like shit and see what he says. Who knows, maybe he’ll agree to go; miracles happen every day.”

“Well, I can’t ask for more than that,” his brother said, setting his empty beer bottle on the workbench. “I better go tend to my chores. See you later.”

Justin shook his head to clear it and said, “Yeah, see ya.” Finishing his beer, he turned up the radio and the heater, his breath still fogging in front of him.

“Thank you for listening to the Kat, and stay tuned, because we are stocked up with prizes to help you make it through this Valentine’s Day. For all you lucky people out there who already have Valentines, or at least someone in mind, stay tuned for your next chance to win tickets to see Brad Paisley, February 14th! Just listen for Brad’s ‘Little Moments’ to win.” Kat Country DJ Callie Jacobsen called out through the speakers, and Justin’s ears perked up. He’d tried to get tickets to that show, but they’d sold out so fast, he’d been shit out of luck. “And for all of you singles, how would you like to win an all-inclusive weekend vacation to the place where perfect matches are made? Just listen for this jingle . . . ”
***

Val stood in front of her stove stirring in the powdered cheese packet of her mac and cheese while her English bulldog, Gus, sat at her feet, licking his monstrous chops.

“This is my lunch, Gus-man. Your belly is starting to drag.”

The dog whimpered and pawed at her with his short front leg, his brown eyes begging for her to share. She loved her dog, a gift from Cole for her twenty-third birthday, and she had fought hard to keep him during the divorce. Cole had wanted Gus for breeding but had finally relented when she’d let him have her Porsche. It was a silly car to have, especially in winter, and Gus was worth it. She’d had his sperm collected, since he did have champion lines, and neutered him.

She was just pouring the milk into the saucepan when there was a pounding on her front door and she sloshed it all over the counter.

“Crap.”

Whoever it was, they were knocking so hard it was shaking the door of her comfortable little ranch house. It couldn’t compare to the huge mansion she’d lived in with Cole, but the house actually felt like a home and not a prison. She hurried to the door and swung it wide open, ready to give whoever it was a piece of her mind.

Ellie stood on her doorstep with three suitcases and a woebegone expression. Val’s heart sank.

“What happened?”

“Nothing, Dad’s just overreacting. Again.” Ellie hefted up one of the bags and gave Val her best pleading look. “Can I stay with you for a while? Please?”

Val groaned and leaned her head against the doorjamb. She loved her sister, but she was five years younger than Val, and instead of going off to college somewhere, she’d decided to just take classes at the local junior college, where she was barely passing and spent more time skipping class than going. Her friends were the troublemakers in town, and Val did not want them coming over all the time, wrecking her house and pissing her off.

Standing firm, Val laid down the law. “Rules first.”

“Come on, Val, it’s freezing,” Ellie whined, making her usual dark beauty dim a little in Val’s mind. Her sister had definitely gotten their mother’s body, with curves to make a man sweat, but she wasn’t as mature as she looked.

“Rule number one: pick up after yourself. I am not a maid.”

“Fine. Sure. Hurry up,” Ellie pleaded, hopping from one UGG-booted foot to the other.

“Number two: your little friends are not allowed in the house when I’m not here.”

“God, you really need to get laid,” Ellie said, but when Val started to shut the door, she yelled, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry! Yes! No friends over when you aren’t home.”

Val stepped back and Ellie started dragging her bags in, kissing Val’s cheek on her way. As she started down the hallway, Val remembered one last thing. “And no men in this house. This is a man-free zone.”

Her sister muttered something Val couldn’t hear, but she let it go. Her sister could think she was being an uptight prude all she wanted, but Val believed her attitude was more about self-preservation.

Looking down into Gus’s smushed face, she frowned. “Did I make the right choice?”
Gus growled, and Val had to agree with him.

About the Author

Codi Gary
From the time I could put a Disney Book cassette into my little stereo, and read along, books have held a fantastic distraction. When I was eleven, I decided I wanted to be one of those magical people that brought stories to life. Devouring a book a day sometimes, my first romance novel stuck with me. I've always been a sucker for a happy ending (and the great romantic gesture) and that's what I try to put into my stories. I am so honored to be a part of Avon, and am so excited to have my own dreams coming true


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