Today I am so pleased to welcome Garrett Leigh to Joyfully Jay. Garrett has come to share an exclusive excerpt from her latest release, Between Ghosts. She has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving Garrett a big welcome!
They didn’t spend much longer in Kuwait. The next morning, Connor was observing Marc’s work in the medical tent when Wedge came to tell them it was time to move out. Another bumpy Chinook flight followed, and before Connor knew it, they were unpacking their gear at Basra Palace, a former residence of Saddam Hussein that now housed a garrison of seven hundred British soldiers.
Back in London Connor had seen pictures of the base, but the images hadn’t done justice to the bizarre sight of British squaddies making themselves at home in the opulent palace. Not that there was much luxury left. Beyond the ornate pillars and shiny floors, it was clear the palace had suffered from fighting, looting, and neglect.
“Quit staring, Regan.” Wedge gave Connor a playful shove. “We’ve got work to do.”
Work turned out to be commandeering a secluded corner on the second floor of the palace, complete with a balcony that overlooked the battle-scarred grounds. A few Royal Marines were unceremoniously ejected before Nat and Marc were predictably called away.
Connor settled down beside Chris, trying not to track Nat as he disappeared into the bustle of the palace. Chris rarely said much, but Connor had fast learned what he did say was worth hearing. “Bit different to your usual digs, eh?”
Chris grunted. “They’ll do.”
“So what happens now? What do you usually do when you arrive on a base you’ll be stationed at for a while?”
“Find a place to eat, sleep, and take a leak.”
“Right, and we’ve done that. So what now?”
Chris huffed out a gusty sigh. “Bit eager, aren’t you? Simmer down, mate. There’ll be plenty to do once Nat gets his nose to the ground.”
“You mean the hunt for Behrouz?”
“Nah, don’t worry about the heavy shit. We’ll handle it. You said you were here to write about the humanitarian stuff. Nat’s good at that. Got a way with the natives. You’ll see.”
It wasn’t something Connor could picture, and a hundred questions came to mind, but Chris put an end to the conversation by folding his arms behind his head and closing his eyes. Connor was dozing to his rumbling snores when Nat kicked his legs a little while later.
“Got something for you.”
He stomped away without waiting for a response. Connor scrambled to his feet and followed him out of the room and down the battered, ornate staircase. “Where are we going?”
“Nowhere exciting,” Nat said. “And get a shift on. I haven’t got much time.”
He led Connor to the equipment store and began pulling things from boxes and tossing them Connor’s way. “Belt kit, boots, helmet.”
“I’ve got boots.” Connor scooped the belt kit from the floor. “And a helmet.”
“Not ones worth having, you ain’t. Where’d you get that crap from? Tesco?”
“No, I got it in Hereford.”
Nat scowled. “Fucking brilliant. They’ll be sending it over here for us next. Penny-pinching bastards.”
He disappeared briefly behind a stack of boxes and came back with a vest. “Here, try this on. We don’t have enough body armour to go round, but this should at least protect your chest.”
Do you have body armour? Connor swallowed the question and held his arms out as Nat fitted the vest to his torso, tying it tight and shifting it around until it was positioned to his liking. His nearness made Connor oddly nervous. Nat smelled good—of sweat and diesel—and it made a heady combination with the brush of his rough fingers on Connor’s skin.
Nat stood back. Connor eyed him and jammed the helmet on his head. “How do I look?”
“I wouldn’t bother shooting you.”
“Um, thanks? I’m assuming that’s a compliment?”
“If you say so. There’s probably a mirror around here somewhere if you’re that bothered.”
Connor wasn’t. He took the helmet off and turned it over in his hands. “The helmet I brought identifies me as press. Does that matter?”
“I don’t know,” Nat said. “Depends what we’re doing. We’ll play it by ear, I reckon, but don’t worry. Whatever happens, I’ll keep you safe.”
Connor blinked. “What?”
“Hmm?” For the first time since Connor had met him, Nat Thompson looked fazed. “I mean, don’t worry about getting shot. I— We’ll all make sure you’re kept out of harm’s way.”
Nat’s flustered frown evaporated like it had never been there at all. “What kind of bonehead question is that? Think I want you getting slotted on my watch? You, or anyone else? Think it doesn’t matter, eh? That it’s just fucking statistics when your friends get killed?”
The sudden fury in Nat’s tone took Connor by surprise. “Of course I don’t think that. I might be an ignorant civilian, Nat, but I’m not a complete dick.”
“Yeah? Well ignorance ain’t no excuse for anything around here. It’s my job to keep you safe, whether you like it or not.”
“Never said I didn’t like it.”
Nat’s eyes blazed, bearing down with a heat that belied the cool blue Connor found so mesmerising, and for a moment Connor was caught, disturbed by the tired pain he’d never seen in Nat before, a pain that was familiar in the worst way, no comfort or warmth, just plain old heartache that would never fade.
In 2003, journalist Connor Regan marched through London to add his voice to a million others, decrying the imminent invasion of Iraq. Eight months later, his brother, James, was killed in action in Mosul.
Three years on, Connor finds himself bound for Iraq to embed with an elite SAS team. He sets his boots on the ground looking for closure and solace—anything to ease the pain of his brother’s death. Instead he finds Sergeant Nathan Thompson.
Nat Thompson is a veteran commander, hardened by years of combat and haunted by the loss of his best friend. Being lumbered with a civilian is a hassle Nat doesn’t need, and he vows to do nothing more than keep the hapless hack from harm’s way.
But Connor proves far from hapless, and too compelling to ignore for long. He walks straight through the steel wall Nat’s built around his heart, and when their mission puts him in mortal danger, Nat must lay old ghosts to rest and fight to the death for the only man he’s ever truly loved.
Garrett Leigh is a British writer and book designer, currently working for Dreamspinner Press, Loose Id, Riptide Publishing, and Black Jazz Press. Her protagonists will always always be tortured, crippled, broken, and deeply flawed. Throw in a tale of enduring true love, some stubbly facial hair, and a bunch of tattoos, and you’ve got yourself a Garrett special.
When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible. That, and dreaming up new ways to torture her characters. Garrett believes in happy endings; she just likes to make her boys work for it.
Garrett also works as a freelance cover artist for various publishing houses and independent authors under the pseudonym G.D. Leigh. For cover art info, please visit blackjazzpress.com.
- Website: http://garrettleigh.com
- Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Garrett_Leigh
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/garrettleighbooks
Cover art enquiries: email@example.com
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