To become the first female SEAL she’ll have to match wits with the best…
Lieutenant Tabitha Chapel is determined to join the Teams. She’s not about to let a little thing like gender get in her way. She’ll use every wile—feminine or otherwise—and her considerable strength of will to win this battle of the sexes. But the limits of her determination are tested by the only Navy SEAL capable of commanding her heart.
Commander Marc Miller is equally determined to keep her out of the program. As the newly appointed CO of BUD/S, he’s been tasked with cleaning up SEAL Training. He doesn’t need a red-hot redhead compounding the problem. For him Hell Week begins the moment one well-connected junior officer waltzes through his door and gets inside his head.
The last thing he wants is to be her commanding officer when the only thing he wants is her. The only way to have her—and the surest way to lose her—is to see that she fails.
Will love conquer all or tear them apart?
0927 Thursday: The Commander’s Office
NAVAL SPECIAL WARFARE CENTER,
The Commander continued the relentless pacing behind his desk as he read her file. “At ease,” he said without looking up.
He seemed reluctant to give even that much. It wasn’t his tone, resonant and deeply masculine, or his words that gave Lieutenant Tabitha Chapel the insight. It was what Commander Marc Miller left unsaid.
“Yes, sir.” Cover tucked to her forearm, Tabby shifted her weight.
Her feet throbbed in new shoes. There wasn’t a single pesky thread flagging her dress white uniform. She’d clipped them all down to the seam, wanting to make a good first impression. From the look on his face she was making anything but.
But then she’d known this wasn’t going to be easy.
Staring straight ahead, she studied Miller as he moved in and out of her peripheral vision. The man was younger than expected for a Commanding Officer of BUD/S Training, early thirties possibly. A frown furrowed otherwise handsome features, drawing dark brows above a strong nose while his mouth held a firm line. She suspected a smile was rare.
In any case, there were no laugh lines around his eyes.
For Tabby laugh lines on a man were a must.
Except, she wasn’t here looking for a man. She was reporting in for temporary duty–TDY.
He stopped pacing and cleared his throat. “I said, at ease.” Looking up from the file, he snapped it shut and leveled his baby blues at her. “That means relax.”
She knew what it meant. She just didn’t know how to relax while the man held her future in his hands.
“Yes, sir,” she repeated, forcing herself to slacken her stance. Now that she had his undivided attention she was acutely aware of the sharp intelligence shining in his eyes.
Eyes that missed nothing.
He tossed the folder to the desktop and moved around from behind it. Hitching up a pant leg of his khaki uniform, he perched on the corner and gave her the once-over. “Tell me why you’re here, Lieutenant.”
“I believe the orders are self-explanatory, sir.” It was all there in black and white. He must have read them at least a dozen times.
She was here to conduct a feasibility study on incorporating women into SEAL training. Navy SEALs were part of the Naval Special Warfare Command. Miller was a prime example of their physical conditioning.
His biceps strained the stitching of short sleeves as he folded tanned arms across a broad chest. “I didn’t ask what your orders were. I asked why you, Tabitha Lilith Chapel-Prince, were reporting in to my command.”
Tabby tilted her chin. She understood perfectly. He was asking why she, a female, was reporting in to his all-male command. Because she had a lot more brass behind her than he did. At least she hoped she did.
“Then, sir, I’m afraid I don’t understand your question.”
“I don’t buy it. According to your service record, you graduated first in your class at Annapolis. Is the Naval Academy lowering its standards to accommodate female Midshipmen?”
“No!” she snapped, immediately regretting her outburst. If he was trying to get a rise out of her, he’d gotten one. “No, sir,” she corrected.
“Not impressed, Lieutenant. There are only three things that impress me. Deception isn’t one of them.”
Did the top brass in Washington know about this guy? He belonged on a recruiting poster, finger pointing, the words I WANT YOU in bold black letters with Old Glory flying in the background.
“I’m here because I was ordered here TDY,” she said with a touch too much insolence for addressing a senior officer. Commander or not, she wasn’t going to back down. And this man would likely turn out to be her enemy, if he wasn’t already.
“I see.” His tone told her he did see, too much.
“My apologies, sir. I was out of line.”
“You can drop the Academy polish. We’re a little less formal around here. The name’s Marc, but Commander will do if you’re uncomfortable using it.”
“Yes, sir—Commander,” Tabby corrected when his gaze narrowed.
“You’re in serious need of an attitude adjustment, Chapel. An insult is an insult no matter how pretty the package.”
He could have meant the insincerity of her words. But she suspected he was referring to the fact her boss, Rear Admiral Gromley—the Chief of Naval Personnel—had sent her and not a man to do the job.
Gromley being a woman—the highest-ranking woman in the Navy—made the Admiral a natural ally for this project.
Miller straightened from his perch. Tabby’s gaze drifted upward with his movement. At five-feet-ten, an even six feet in pumps, she rarely had to look up to anyone.
“I’m trying to initiate dialogue here,” he said.
“I volunteered to spearhead the study, Commander. I believe women can be an integral part of the Teams.” She maintained direct eye contact, noting the flash of surprise before he set his shuttered expression back in place.
“I see,” he repeated in that all-knowing tone of his. He retreated behind his desk and opened her service record again. As if he’d missed some obvious answer earlier, he searched for it now, flipping through the pages.
She felt the pinch of her toes with increasing discomfort as he delayed the inevitable. “Commander,” she broke protocol by speaking first, “I’m waiting for you to throw me out.”
“And I would do that, why?” He looked up.
“Because you don’t want me here.”
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