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Baker City: Hearts & Haunts Book 5
BY JOSIE MALONE
Two soldiers devastated by heartache, Debbie Ramsey and Rex Sinclair decided to rescue themselves with a mutually supportive endeavor, a “marriage in name only.” He wanted a guarantee after a tumultuous divorce. Betrayed, rejected, and abandoned by her family, she wanted a safe harbor. Amazingly, their scheme actually worked and oh, what adventures they had along the way.
Eight years later, she’s leaving the U.S. Army behind, trading her camos and combat boots for blue jeans and cowgirl boots. Now, the owner of Miracle Riding Stable near Baker City, Washington, Debbie intends to have a riding good time at her new home. Does having a new life mean leaving Major Rex Sinclair behind?
“Sir! We need to talk!”
Recognizing the low, feminine voice as that of the new noncom in charge of the warehouse he operated, Captain Rex Sinclair glanced over his shoulder at the woman in camouflage fatigues standing behind him. “No good conversation ever started with those words, Sergeant Ramsey.” He gestured to the seat next to him. “Pull up a stool before you tell me what an asshat I am, and I’ll buy you a drink. I’m having boilermakers. Want one?”
“No thanks. At least we agree on something, sir. Your behavior is execrable, sir and unbefitting an Army officer.” She sat down, next to him, carefully placing her regulation handbag on the bar. She narrowed the electric-blue eyes that haunted him twenty-four, seven and glared at him. “You bailed on me, sir. You know there’s an I.G. inspection at 0800 hours tomorrow. You should have stuck around, sir, and helped prep for it, not hightailed it before closing formation.”
“I’m getting a divorce and the call from the lawyer today pissed me off. My going to be ex-wife wants beaucoup bucks. Beyond child support for the kids, she isn’t getting a dime.”
“Everything pisses you off, sir. Ranting, raging and yelling obscenities at the top of your lungs is inappropriate, sir, when we have work to do.”
Rex winced, reaching for the shot glass of whisky in front of him. Sergeant First Class Deborah Ramsey was tired. He saw the exhaustion in her pale, lovely features. She’d undoubtedly been working ever since he stormed out of the warehouse. In the past month while assigned to his section, she always arrived before he did and stayed long after he left. She hadn’t gone to the barracks to change out of her camouflage fatigues before tracking him down at this ramshackle tavern. “You’re not letting this go, are you, Ramsey? Are you sure about that boilermaker? You probably need it.”
“No, thanks. I’m not drinking whisky and following it with a beer chaser.” She folded her arms and frowned even more fiercely. “It’s ‘sergeant’s business’ to train junior officers. You know that’s second lieutenants fresh out of college. If you need somebody to wipe your tail or your nose, it’s not me. Man up, sir!”
He tossed down the whisky and took a hasty swallow of the waiting beer, struggling to collect his thoughts. He’d been drinking since afternoon and now it was well into the night. “Cut me some slack, Sarge. My wife, soon to be ex-wife introduced me to what she said was my six-month-old daughter when I got off the plane three months ago. Made a big splash on national TV.”
“You’ve obviously mistaken me for someone who cares, sir. I don’t. Not about your piddly personal problems – .”
“I’d been gone for a year and a half. When I had a week’s R & R, she wouldn’t meet me in New York and now, I know why. She told me she couldn’t get anyone to stay with the other four kids, that the housekeeper was away on vacation. My wife lied to me. She was pregnant with someone else’s kid.”
“Again, I don’t care.” Sergeant Ramsey held up her hand. “You have choices, sir. Divorce her. Reconcile with her. But stop throwing tantrums. You’re grown. Put on your big boy panties and act like a commissioned officer up for promotion.”
“And it’s an ‘embrace the suck’ moment, isn’t it?” He finished his beer and signaled the bartender for a refill. “You deserve a better C.O., Ramsey. If you want a transfer, I’ll sign the request.”
“We can’t both run away, sir. You requested the job here in Texas instead of returning to California after your last combat tour – .”
“Everybody knows my business there. I wanted a fresh start.”
“Then act like it.” Sergeant Ramsey nodded at the bartender when she approached, carrying another two glasses, his next boilermaker.
“What kind of white wine do you have?”
“Put it on my tab,” Rex said. “If the sergeant’s gonna keep ripping me a new one, she needs dinner to go with it. I know she skipped lunch and I’m pretty sure she hopped supper too. Better give us a menu.”
“It’s almost 2300 hours,” Sergeant Ramsey said. “Isn’t the kitchen closed?”
“Not yet. You have ten minutes to select a burger and fries.” The sturdy, gray-haired older woman handed over a grease-stained sheet of paper. “Choose fast, honey.” She glanced at Rex. “Might want to sop up some of that booze with food, Captain.”
“Good idea.” Rex waited until they had fresh drinks before he gestured to a table on the other side of the room. “Let’s move over there to eat. You can bring me up to speed on what still needs to be done for the inspection.”
“It’s hopeless, sir.” She followed him across the tavern, bypassing the men at the pool table. “I could only clean up so much of the mess in the month I’ve been at the warehouse. Your previous N.C.O.I.C. retired. Scuttlebutt is he didn’t want to put up with you a moment longer.”
Rex pulled out a chair and waited for her to sit down. “Unfortunately, there’s more truth than fiction to that story, Ramsey. We’re both fairly new at this base. How do we salvage the situation?”
“I don’t know.” She heaved a sigh. “If it’s like other posts where I’ve served in the last ten years, the senior Army officers won’t care about the crap-fest in our section. They’ll want optimum results whether it’s reasonable or not. So, I’ll get the proverbial ass-chewing tomorrow. It’s annoying, but it can’t be helped.”
“You’ve done your best to rectify a bad situation.” Rex gestured to her wine. “Drink up. I’ve got your six, Sarge. I know I haven’t been doing my share, but it isn’t reasonable to expect us to clean up something this broken in such a short amount of time.”
“It’s not the troops’ fault. They’ve done their best with the minimal, erratic leadership they’ve been receiving.”
“I know that as well as you do. You need more support from the non-commissioned side of the house, so let’s see what we can do to get it.”
She hesitated. “I’m not here for much longer, sir. This is a transition assignment. I’ll be shipping out to Afghanistan before the end of the year. I don’t have my orders yet, but they’ll be coming through soon enough.”
“You’ll be missed.” He paused, waiting for their meals to be placed in front of them. “Let’s eat and then we’ll work out a plan.”
“That’s do-able, sir.”
I live on the family farm, a riding stable in the Cascade foothills. I organize most of the riding programs, teach horsemanship, nurse sick horses, hold for the shoer, train whoever needs it – four-legged and two-legged. And write books in my spare time, Liberty Valley Love, a paranormal western romance series, “where no matter what, soulmates find each other” and the Baker City Hearts and Haunts, a paranormal military romance series – “where love is real and so are the ghosts!”
Links to Josie’s websites, blogs, books, #ad etc.:
Amazon ebook https://amzn.to/3seHOte
Amazon print https://amzn.to/3qDSL7p
Smashwords Kindred Spirits (smashwords.com)
Thanks, Josie, for sharing your book with us!
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!