Title: Forever in Ocala
Author: Connie Y Harris
Genre: Contemporary Romance with military elements
Determined to protect her life and heal her broken heart, equine vet, Ariel Armstrong, seeks a refuge from her violent ex-boyfriend. Her job working with prized race horses enables her to hide in plain sight and care for her brother, an injured Marine. After losing her father to war and witnessing her brother’s daily battle to overcome his injuries, she’s sworn off military men forever.
Gavin Cross, Navy SEAL, and the son of Ariel’s new boss has one mission in life—to serve his country. After showing signs of PTSD, he’s sent home but vows to get back in the action ASAP. The last problem he needs is an emotional entanglement but the beautiful vet’s love tempts him in an undeniable way and has him questioning his need to return to duty. Will Gavin choose a future with Ariel or protection of America from terrorism?
Her gaze flicked to an imposing male figure planted directly in her line of vision, his stance wide, wearing leather combat boots seemingly bolted to the earth. Whoever the man was, he surveyed every detail of his environment with the presence of someone whose self-confidence couldn’t easily be shaken. He carried himself like he belonged here. Hell, like he owned the place. The startling combination of blue eyes, the color of glacier water, against an olive complexion and full black beard created a commanding presence. Glued like a sentry next to the man, Wager, the farm’s Border collie exuded absolute devotion with his tongue lolling out and head tilted up to the hand stroking him.
Jesus, who IS that dude? He can’t be a new buyer interested in our foals the way Wager is fawning all over him but he’s someone important, no doubt. Focus Ariel, you’re here to work, not get infatuated with the first cowboy who comes along.
As if he sensed her curiosity, the enigmatic stranger turned his attention toward her. The intensity of his stare invaded her comfort zone as he coolly and completely assessed her with a visual review of her body that left her feeling undressed. The hair on her arms stood erect. She rubbed them as if removing a chill. The physical reaction was her own intuitive warning system and experience had taught her to listen to her body. She understood all too well about arrogant, possessive men. Her controlling ex-boyfriend was a moral zero and the most deceptive man she’d ever met. The image of him sent shivers skidding down her spine but she quickly thrust the memories aside. He’s out of my life and nowhere near here.
Ariel slid the dog tags back and forth on the chain she wore around her neck, as her new boss, Jeff Cross, walked up the path toward her, wearing a face-splitting grin. He had an athletic build and in spite of suffering a recent, mild heart attack, walked with a definite stride and self-confidence in his step. The hair on his temples was streaked with gray giving him a distinguished, gentleman farmer appearance and the crow’s feet around his blue eyes crinkled when he smiled.
“Doctor Armstrong, good morning. I realize you spent your first night on the property but we’re anxious to put you to work.” He smiled a genuine smile. “We’re glad you’re here.”
“Thanks. It’s great to be here.” A sigh of relief slipped through her lips. Jeff was someone she respected and his warm demeanor told her the feeling was mutual.
Her pulse suddenly quickened as the stranger, his gaze fixated on her, approached, moving with a noticeable athletic grace in their direction.
“Gavin, there you are. I thought you’d gone into town.”
Gavin, Jeff’s son, the SEAL, already here, now? What happened to, ‘when his deployment is over?’
“Doctor Ariel Armstrong, I’d like you to meet my son, Gavin.” Jeff wrapped his arm around the younger man’s massive shoulders. “Son, this is the new vet I told you about. She’s an equine specialist in high demand so I stole her away from the University of Florida and bribed her into practicing medicine here at Wildwood.” He winked. “She’s moved into the guest house and today is officially her first day as our in-house vet.”
Steady. She stuck out her hand and looked directly into brilliant blue eyes, penetrating all the way into her bones. He only hesitated a moment before he gripped her hand in a firm handshake.
“Hello, Dr. Armstrong. So you’re a specialist. A specialist in what?”
“Reproduction.” She answered, stiffening her spine as the warmth of his huge hand enveloped hers.
He cocked an eyebrow and his mouth turned up in a lazy half smile. He kept her hand in his snug clasp.
Jeez, did I just say reproduction to a man reeking of testosterone? Heat rose from her neck to her cheeks. “What I mean is we have studs flown in from all over the world for my reproductive services at the University.” This isn’t getting any better. “Your father asked me to set up a similar program here and please, call me Ariel.” She snatched her hand back and tucked her thumb in the waistband of her jeans. His lips curved into a broad grin.
“I’m sure your reproductive expertise will prove to be invaluable to Wildwood Farms,” he said, with a slight hint of irony in his voice.
The heat of his gaze made her light headed. In an effort to disguise her discomfort, she stuffed the thumb of her other hand in her jean’s waistband and rocked on her heels.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me I promised my furry friend a game of catch. Nice to meet you, Ariel. Stay out of the heat, Dad. C’mon Wager.” The collie fell into step next to him as he strode down the walkway toward the barn. “We’re going to play ball, buddy.”
“Ariel, are you ready to see your patients?”
Jeff’s smile stretched across his cheeks as he gestured toward the barn like he hadn’t just dropped a flash bang in her personal space with the introduction of his SEAL son. She decided to let the newsflash go, for now and nodded, “Lead the way.”
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What’s the first binge-worthy book you read and why was it a must-read?
No Ordinary Man by Suzanne Brockman. This book’s hero started my quest to learn more about Navy SEALs. Rob Carpenter was the most intriguing but flawed and at the same time, believable hero I’d ever read. He could be my neighbor next door but he was, in fact, a bad guy’s worst nightmare.
What makes your featured book a binge-worthy read?
After years of involvement in the SEAL community, my readers are offered an honest peek into the psyche of extraordinary men and a realistic view of what makes them hero-worthy. When these Alpha males are coupled with strong, independent women, the sexual tension and chemistry explodes off the charts.
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With close ties to the Navy SEAL community, Connie’s mission as a writer is to offer the reader a realistic portrayal of men who transfer their alpha tendencies and athletic prowess into serving a noble cause.
A former English teacher and corporate executive Connie holds a B.A. from East Carolina University. Although she spent many years in the corporate world, her first love has always been writing. She maintains a portfolio of songs, poems and stories she wrote as early as ten. When she isn’t creating new plots, Connie enjoys Zumba fitness and claims her best story ideas come to her while dancing the Salsa.
Connie lives near the Gulf Coast of Florida with her German Shepherd Dog and a cat who takes no prisoners.
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Amazon Author Page http://amazon.com/author/connieharris
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