Rogenna Brewer

Hard-Muscled, Soft-Hearted!

Lieutenant Bowie Prince is a lot more laid back than his over-achieving brother and sister. For one thing he’s colorblind and that little deficiency disqualifies him from the SEAL Teams. But it doesn’t stop him from becoming a SeaBee, which as he likes to remind his siblings, is where their father, their grandfather and even the Under Water Demolition Teams of WWII got their start. 

Professor Tam Nguyen, Warden of Midway Islands, can never forget that it was a military man who abandoned her pregnant mother in the middle of a war-torn country. But when she meets the Navy Lieutenant with his easy smile, sent to restore Midway Islands to its natural habitat, she finds it hard to resist falling for a man in uniform. 

Could this colorblind military history buff hold the key to unlocking her father’s identity and stealing her heart?


Spring 1972
Quang Tri Province, Vietnam

WAS IT POSSIBLE FOR A MAN to fall in love in the hours between sunset and sunrise? When he gazed into her beautiful almond shaped eyes, he thought it was. Adoring. Brave. How many times had he been back since she’d saved his ass? Countless, in his dreams. Not enough, in reality.
He could never get enough of her.
The first time he’d left there’d been acceptance in those expressive eyes. The first time he’d returned and every time since, joy.
This time there were tears.
He’d be leaving Quang Tri Province, not just for a few days, but also for a few months. For as long as his mission kept him away. “Don’t cry, honey. I was born under a lucky star.”
His Vietnamese was only marginally better than her English, and he sure as hell didn’t have the vocabulary to say what needed to be said.
Instead he stroked the silk of her dark hair, trying to comfort her the way he would a child. And she was little more than that. Back home in the States she’d be jailbait. While he was twenty-five, fighting a war with no victor, only victims. But somehow when they were together nothing else mattered except what they felt.
What they did. And what they did was make love. He plucked a straw from her hair. He loved to feel its softness against his callused hands. They could hide from the world behind that curtain of hair—he inside her and she moving her slender hips to nature’s enticing rhythm.
But her slow, sensual torture wasn’t enough. Not today.
He sat up, taking her with him. Midnight-black hair fell past her shoulders to the curve of her spine. She wrapped her legs around him without hesitation, then touched his face. And finally her lips to his.
He growled low in his throat, deepening the kiss.
It was less an exploration than an invasion. He wanted to conquer her lips, to demand from her the level of passion she incited in him.
Reaching under her loose-fitting shift, he grasped her slender hips to drive her harder. And harder. As if anything would be enough to drive away his raging need to possess her.
He was a man built for endurance and she was a woman made to be treasured, not treated like some five-dollar whore in Saigon. Yet, she smelled of sweet grass and sex, an intoxicating combination of innocence and experience.
He’d always been so careful. But this time he held nothing back.
Sweat soaked both their bodies. He trailed heated kisses, abraded her soft skin with his stubbled cheek. His mouth found one small breast, suckling her through the transparent fabric of her shift. The only cries coming from her now were those of sheer rapture. Maybe this was what he’d wanted, to drown out the tears.
Maybe this was what they both needed.
To communicate without words.
He wasn’t her first Not that it mattered. Not that he deserved her. But he knew by the way she clung to him he’d been the first to give her pleasure.
It was enough to give him the release he sought. His guttural cries became primitive, and when he was spent he couldn’t even separate their bodies, wouldn’t even look at her, afraid of what he might see.
So he closed his eyes. Rested his head between her breasts. And fought back his own tears, listening to her pounding heartbeat.
He didn’t respond. She cradled his head in her hands. Maybe she’d been holding him that way all along. He felt her fingers in his hair as she smoothed it away from his brow. Then she freed it from the ponytail he wore.
His kind weren’t crew cut soldiers.
The Viet Cong called them “men with green faces.” Their own side called them “baby killers.” As undeserving a moniker as any. The Navy’s Special Ops forces had been misunderstood and underutilized since President Kennedy had commissioned them eleven years ago. What they were—what he was—was a Navy SEAL.
A commando of sea, air and land, able to adapt himself and his fighting to any environment. Even the humid jungles of Vietnam. And because of that...
Feared. Despised.
A man with a VC bounty on his head.
And right now a man ashamed. He put her in danger every time he came here.
“Skully-san, look at Lan. I have displeased you?”
He raised his head to look into her innocent eyes. That she trusted any man after what she’d endured in her young life humbled him. “You could never displease me, Lan.”
She smiled a watery smile and traced the skull-and-crossbones tattoo on his right biceps. “You take Lan with you this time?”
“It’s too dangerous.” At dawn his team headed west to the Mekong Delta in an effort to cut off supplies funneling into North Vietnam through Laos. Every day he’d travel a little farther north, upriver. A little farther away, upcountry.
He didn’t know when he’d be back.
Or if he ever would.
With gentle hands, he lifted her from his lap and pushed to his feet. He tossed her a jumper that looked and felt more like a burlap sack. He didn’t have to search for his pants, they were around his ankles and back up around his hips in no time. His boots were still on his feet. They hadn’t completely undressed. They never did.
He didn’t know when Charlie would come calling, eager to collect his reward.
He zipped his pants and belted the holster for the sheathed knife he wore. He didn’t need more than that to survive in the jungle. But he carried enough to arm a small country.
Because his uniform was whatever he wanted it to be, he’d ripped the sleeves from the standard issue green fatigue. He wanted his tattoo visible, wanted his reputation to precede him.
She watched him, growing agitated as she always did when it came time for him to go. He tilted her chin so she had to look up at him.
“You’re better off without me. You know that, don’t you?” Who was he trying to kid? Like hell she was. He could marry her. Send her to the States. She’d be safe. Maybe a little scared at first.
But safe.
“If you say so, Skully-san.” There was no mistaking the pout to her lips. Lips he wanted to kiss again.
“I say so,” he almost barked at her, his gruff voice hiding more than it gave away. He always got a little testy when it came time to leave her.
If he married her, what would he do with her during all those months it took to cut through the bureaucratic red tape? It wasn’t easy to send a war bride home. He didn’t even have time to get her to Saigon. Some servicemen kept women, wives, set them up in apartments. But a village girl like Lan would be shunned by her family for such a thing.
And if anything happened to him, he’d be condemning her to a life on the streets. Too many young girls found that out the hard way.
Besides, with a bounty on his head she’d be a liability. They were better off keeping things the way they were. And she’d be better off with her family.
He wanted to laugh at that.
Her family had sons fighting on both sides of the war, drafted or recruited. He didn’t know the right or wrong of it himself, so he could hardly blame them for choosing one side over the other.
Except her parents had betrothed their only daughter to a high-ranking North Vietnamese Army officer more than twice her age. An arranged marriage to an older man. Same thing as slavery. And he did find fault with that.
Her engagement to the NVA officer was to last until she turned sixteen, almost a year.
To hell with them all. She belonged to him.
There had to be a way they could be together.
She’d be exchanging one old man for another. Compared to her youth he’d lived a thousand lifetimes. Yet there was more than innocence in her eyes. There was wisdom, too.
And heartache. Too much heartache.
“I will come back for you. When it’s safe. You know that, don’t you?” He almost choked on the promise.
“San Francisco, U.S.A.”
The corners of his mouth turned up at her careful pronunciation, and he pulled her close. “That’s right. I’m gonna take you home and fatten you up.” On his mother’s cooking. With his babies. Lots of babies...
Shit, his old man would have a coronary. Amerasian babies? A Vietnamese bride? Maybe not Northern California, near his folks. But they’d find a place to call their own. When the war was over.
Only one catch.
They both had to survive. And she had to remain his. He wasn’t feeling that lucky. Before the month was out there’d be some G.I. to take his place. Some guy who’d do right by her and marry her. Or some guy who’d do her wrong. Maybe a lot of guys.
Because like him, she was a survivor. And survivors did whatever they had to do to stay alive.
His gut ached just thinking about it.
She was crying again.
She tried to bury her head in the crook of his shoulder, but he held her at arm’s length, memorized every inch of her face. That beautiful face.
“Ah, hell.” He whipped out the small notepad he carried in his shirt pocket and scribbled across the page. “This piece of paper makes you my legal dependent. My common-law wife. Do you understand?” He shook the paper in her face and waited for her nod. He’d written words to that effect along with his name, rank and serial number. “You’re not to show this to anyone. Not your parents. Not your brothers. But if there’s trouble, big trouble—” he emphasized “—you get to the U.S. base in Da Nang any way you can. You show this paper to the guard at the gate. He’ll take care of you.” He explained it all again in Vietnamese.
She sniffled and swiped at the tears, all the while nodding. He only hoped she really understood.
He could tell by the gaping holes in the sod roof that dawn threatened. Their time together had come to an end. He shoved a wad of bills into her hand. “Four hundred dollars, U.S.” A month’s salary for him. More than enough to keep her and her family for a year. “You don’t spend this unless—”
“Big trouble.”
“That’s right. Big trouble. You’ll need it for travel. And bribes. Understand?”
She nodded. God, help her.
Then he took one last thing from his pocket and handed it to her. A picture. The only thing he’d actually intended to leave behind. “Me and the guys,” he explained unnecessarily. “Keep it hidden, too. But if you ever miss me...well, you just look at that ugly mug and know I’m thinking of you.”
She pressed the items to her breast.
“You deserve better than me, Lan. But I promise I will come back for you.” He looked for doubt in her eyes, saw only love shining there. “This is a hell of a way to get married.”
There were no good choices. He could only hope he’d made the right one.
“You very good man, Skully-san. I make you good wife. Lan speak better English when you come back.”
“Your English is perfect. You’re perfect.” He buried his nose in her hair. For the first time in a very long time he actually had something, someone, to live for. To fight for. To die for. He would take her earthy scent to his grave if it came to that. “Don’t change a thing, honey. I love you just the way you are.”