Captain Andrea "Andy" Hollis, Executive Officer of the Twenty Fourth Signal Brigade, is a model junior officer. Growing up a tomboy Air Force brat, she's pursuing an Army career, resolving to be a soldier first and a woman second. For Andy, military correctness is the only way to go-until her principles and perspectives are put to test with the arrival of new Brigade Commander, Colonel Cory Costain, who is far too attractive for Andy's peace of mind.
An easy going extrovert who prefers to treat his subordinates as friends, Cory is determined to get his stiff and starchy Executive Officer to unbend and join the human race-and be all the woman he knows she can be.
Thrown together in the torrid tropics when war breaks out in Central America, Andy and Cory learn all is fair in love and war. But which is it to be? Cory's weapons of choice are tender words, smoldering glances, and gentle touches. It's a hard-fought struggle until Andy finds you sometimes have to lose to win.
An Awe-Struck Release
Having grown up in Arizona, Gwynn Morgan (aka Gaye Walton) finds an endless source of inspiration in the exciting history, the diverse natural beauty and the rich and varied cultural heritage of the southwest. She discovered the twin wonders of reading and writing in early childhood and recognized immediately the truth seen by her Celtic ancestors a millennia or two earlier, that in words lay the most powerful and potent of magic! She gravitated naturally to writing, following in the footsteps of a father who wrote stories and articles about outdoor adventures and a mother who penned verse. After a career with the U.S. Government as a civilian employee of the U.S. Army and Air Force, she settled into a second career centering around writing. She lives in a rustic little house in Arizona's Cochise County, an area rich in history and legend. The house is crammed full of books and shared with her personal hero, a former Marine and cop who also writes, and their two canine 'kids', Butch and Sadie. She is mom to three and "Gramma Gaye" to eight grandchildren. When she's not writing, she can be found bird watching, star gazing, working on sewing and craft projects, picking up rocks, taking pictures of flowers, sunsets, birds and scenery, listening to folk/ethnic music, or reading a book--usually one by a fellow RWA/Outreach writer.
"Andy was determined to make it to General, even though her dad had disowned her when she told him she was going to enlist. He was a General himself, so she was going to make it that far at least. She was a Captain, so she was well on her way...she was caught unaware when Colonel Cory Costain unexpectedly showed up in her office. The very same cowboy to whom she had wrongly given directions to the enlisted check in. Why did he have to be handsome to boot?... Though they both were attracted to each other, they knew that nothing could be done about it, not unless they wanted to put both their careers in jeopardy... This book is extremely well written."Sophie Murphy -- Timeless Tales
"Watching the relationship develop between Cory and Andy is a study in human nature. A military brat, Andy has learned her lessons in doing things by the book the hard way. Cory, on the other hand, follows the rules, but allows himself and those under his command some latitude in how things get done. In short, they find each other's hot buttons early on in the relationship. She's determined to ignore everything but her duty, while he's determined to discover the woman under the uniform. It makes for some interesting reading."Jaycee -- Romance Reviews Today
A glance at her watch told Andy it was eleven thirty. Maybe it would help to get out, breathe some fresh air and grab lunch at the Post Exchange snack bar. Although it was October, the sun was still bright and warm at midday. Leaving the 24th?s offices, Andy walked briskly down the sidewalk which divided the historical two story buildings housing the Fort's many offices from the parade ground. It was a smooth expanse of grass bordered by ancient cottonwood trees.
For a moment, she forgot the aggravations of her job and let herself enjoy the beautiful fall day. She drank in the golden warmth and rested her eyes with the pleasant harmony of blue sky, green grass and gilded leaves. Those huge trees had probably turned a hundred times, witnessed cavalry drills and watched the mule mounted infantry that had guarded the border during World War I. The Army had a fine sense of history which gave Andy a secure, rooted feeling.
At the end of the block, she turned to cross the street. A pickup truck pulled up and stopped even with her. Several years old, its once-bright, metallic-blue paint had faded and spots of rust marred its finish.
"Excuse me, Ma'am, can you point me to the In-processing Section of MILPO?". The driver turned a pleasantly weathered face to her as he spoke. He wore a well-used gray Stetson and a plaid western shirt, mostly blue, the shade perfectly matching his eyes. He spoke in an easy drawl, completely in tune with his rugged, outdoorsy appearance.
Andy could not hide all of her surprise. Why would a cowboy need to find Military Personnel In-processing? She couldn't imagine him in uniform. Still, from habit, she answered with reasonable courtesy, pointing as she spoke. "See that fourth building on the right? In-processing's on the second floor, enlisted at the north end. I'm not sure if they close at lunch time or not."
"Thank you, Captain. Reckon I'll just have to go see, won't I?" The man smiled then, and she gulped. That was a smile and a half. The images of a couple of her favorite old time western movie stars flashed across her mind.
"You're welcome. Have a nice day." Andy replied automatically, still curious. Why, she amended, did a gorgeous hunk of a cowboy need to find In-processing? Well, it wasn't her concern. She turned and started away.
"Ma'am?" The gentle drawling voice arrested her step. "Thought you might not know it, but you've got a nasty run in your hose, up the left leg there."
For a startled instant, Andy whirled back and stared at the man. His tone and expression were both carefully neutral, but something about him still said ?gotcha,? loud and clear.
Just who did he think he was? He might be good looking, but he really was crude! Andy huffed, faced around, and marched on toward her destination. Not until she was safely inside the PX did she stop and check her nylons.
Darn it, he was right. She did have a run, a big one. It went from her ankle clear up over her knee to vanish under her skirt. She hated to appear anything short of perfect when in uniform, and that sure ruined the effect. Why hadn't she noticed before she left the office? This was turning out to be a lousy day!
* * *
But the worst was yet to come. Why should Colonel Standish be out of the office when his replacement arrived? He'd told Andy they were old buddies. Not only was he out but Stacy too, leaving only Andy herself and Sergeant Rita Perez, her enlisted clerk.
Buried under the constant deluge of paper, Andy barely heard the outer door open and Rita's pleasant greeting, perfectly correct for someone dressed in civilian clothes.
"Good afternoon. How may I help you?"
The reply caught her attention. It pulled her to her feet and across toward her open door before she actually registered anything familiar about the low drawling voice.
"I was hopin' to have a few minutes with Colonel Standish."
"I'm sorry, but he's not in this afternoon. I think they're picking up his household goods. His wife is in poor health, so he wanted to be there himself. This is his last week on duty here, you know. Could someone else help you?" Rita gushed, her tone almost sugary.
Why was she being so much more effusive than normal? If Rita was almost falling over herself in an effort to be helpful, Andy had to wonder why. The young sergeant was usually much too casual, about as likely to say "Yo, dude" as "Yes, sir."
Then Andy reached the door, looked out, and understood. The visitor had his back to her, but she recognized the blue plaid shirt and the wide shoulders. What business did he have in Twenty Fourth Signal?
"Maybe Captain Hollis, the Exec . . . ," he was saying.
"I'm right here, Sergeant Perez." As always when caught off guard, Andy fell back on military courtesy, the stiffer the better.
At the sound of her voice the visitor turned, a smooth facing turn betraying long familiarity with military drill. The motion was oddly at variance with his dusty, scuffed cowboy boots and the faded jeans which fit his narrow hips and long, lean legs like a well made glove. He looked at her, one eyebrow cocked quizzically, surprise and only the merest hint of recognition in his faded blue eyes.
"Captain Hollis . . ." he said, with barely perceptible hesitation, "I'm Colonel Cory Costain."
Andy shut her mouth sharply, the only way to keep from blurting a torrent of profanity. No! It couldn't be, it just couldn't. But it was. Same hat, same shirt, same ruggedly appealing face and lazy drawling voice.
Andy felt her face redden as the same barnyard epithet kept repeating in her mind. She shut her eyes and fought the maelstrom of embarrassment and regret. And she'd been concerned about first impressions - Enlisted In-processing, she'd said, assuming. Ohmigod! No, no, no!
There was only one thing she could possibly do: drag out the very best of her rigid military courtesy and pretend the other incident had never happened. What would she say and do, how would she act if she had never laid eyes on Colonel Costain before? That's exactly what she'd say and do.
Cory took a deep breath and counted backwards from ten. For a long moment, neither spoke. They simply looked at each other. He felt sure Captain Hollis also mulled the consequences of an event which neither of them could erase, however much they both might wish it. So much for first impressions. Oh hell, what have I done to deserve this? Earlier, he really hadn't noticed much about her appearance. He'd been too aware of her attitude, but now he did notice. Captain Hollis might be spit and polish, even snooty and stuffy, but she was also attractive, damned attractive in spite of herself.
She wore no obvious makeup and her short, dark brown hair sleeked into a simple, almost severe style. She was clearly a woman who had no intention of flaunting her femininity, not that she needed to. A man could not deny or ignore it. She had snapped to attention when he identified himself, which put her shoulders back and lifted to prominence the curve of her breasts.
Under that crisp and carefully tailored uniform, he'd bet she hid a fantastic figure. He could see just enough hints of it to speed his pulse. Even if she did wear the lowest heels available on the official black pumps, her legs were definitely great. He remembered he'd been looking at them when he spotted that unfortunate run.
He didn't usually pay so much attention to a woman's appearance, but there was just something about Captain Hollis. She wore the dress uniform instead of the camouflage Battle Dress Utilities or 'BDUs', in which almost everyone looked bulky and untidy. In the tailored uniform, she appeared neat and precise, almost recruiting-poster perfect. The contrast of that with her undeniable feminine attributes struck him forcibly.
She finally spoke, with almost robotic formality. "Welcome aboard, sir. I'm Captain Andy Hollis. At present, I'm the Brigade XO. When did you arrive on post, sir?"
This time he recognized her voice: the same one he'd heard on the phone when he called from Korea. It had nagged at the back of his mind ever since. Now he knew why. Though low pitched, it was definitely a feminine voice. How could he have missed that?
Down two strikes already. There was just one thing to do: pretend he'd never seen her before. Cory knew he wasn't good at conning himself, but he'd better try. He could use military courtesy too, when necessary. He stood a little straighter, called up his command presence, and gave back as good as he got.
"I just arrived, Captain. At ease, please. This is a very unofficial visit. Rick...er...Colonel Standish and I go back a ways. I hoped I could catch him for a few minutes, but since he's not here, I'll get out of your way."
Cory forced himself to relax, revealing none of the tension and dismay he felt. This assignment wasn't going to be the comfortable last post he'd hoped for after all, was it?