EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Chapters 1 & 2 of ‘Not A Hero’ by Sarah Robinson Coming October 4th, 2016
Read the excerpt below for a sneak peek into next week’s release, Not A Hero, and preorder!
(Excerpt may contain language and situations that are suited for 18+.)
“Miles Kydd doesn’t think he’s a hero, but he is. A tall, sexy, damaged hero. My favorite kind!” – Award-winning Author Wendy S. Marcus
“This is my first book by Sarah Robinson, and it was wonderfully written, with a heart-wrenching, engaging plot and endearing characters. I finished it in one day, which shows how much I enjoyed it.” – Lady with a Quill Reviews
“I highly recommend this book to anyone who’s looking to honor our military families and loves a true happily ever after.“ – Goodreads Review
“OH MY GOSH, THAT FERRIS WHEEL RIDE!! *fans self* Wow.” -Goodreads Review
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“He’s dead, Miles! He’s dead!” A familiar voice called out to him, panic thundering through his screams. “We need to go. NOW!”
Someone grabbed his arm and roughly yanked him backwards.
Deafening gunshots rang in his ears, drowning out everything else.
His feet were concrete slabs, forcing him to stare at what he’d done. Everything inside him wanted to run for cover, find safety, and forget what had happened. The concrete pushed down, the ground swallowing his feet like quicksand, dragging him down into the dusty red clay as he scrambled to free himself. Greedy and unforgiving, the dirt had his knees and kept reaching for more, and he knew without a doubt this was it.
This is how it ends, Miles thought as he grabbed at the surrounding earth pulling him into a desert grave.
This is how I am punished.
Miles Kydd shot out of his bed like it was on fire, electricity pulsing through every nerve in his body. He swiveled around, blinking rapidly, and taking in his surroundings. He quickly realized he was not on fire, but rather, standing in his boxers in the middle of the barracks filled with rows of snoring Marines in bunk beds.
A few shifted in their cots and glanced at him through half-open eyes before rolling over and going back to sleep. The flash of understanding on their faces quickly went blank as they pretended to be oblivious.
They all know.
Miles’s face heated, and he rubbed his fists into his eyes, attempting to rid the images burned there. Raking his fingers through short, dirty blonde hair, the perspiration that coated his skin transferred to his hands. Taking a deep breath and then slowly exhaling, he wiped sweaty palms on his boxers and walked back to his cot.
Quietly, so as to avoid any more attention, he slid under the scratchy wool blanket almost eight years in the U.S. Marines had conditioned him to find comfortable.
Miles glanced to his right. A few cots over, the desert moon beaming through the windows reflected off the pale skin of Tobin’s shaved head, which was partially covered by the blankets pulled to his nose.
His best friend since childhood, Tobin Leach had enlisted with the United States Marines alongside Miles the day after their high school graduation. They had reenlisted an additional four years together, and now were only a few weeks from heading home.
Seeing him close by calmed Miles, easing the anxiety his nightmares and memories had left behind. He clenched his jaw, pushing down the sudden surge of familiar shame, a constant poison threatening to overtake him if he allowed it. He wouldn’t—Miles never lost control.
At least that’s what he told himself.
Taking a deep breath, he hid his demons in a dark corner of his heart. Ignoring them was the best option he had, or maybe the only one.
It’ll be easier once I’m out of this hellhole. He needed to redirect his thoughts, to focus on his excitement about heading home, his discharge official in a few weeks.
Miles was most looking forward to seeing his father. Walter Kydd had recently been diagnosed with lymphoma, which was why Miles had decided not to reenlist again as he’d originally planned. He needed to be home as much as his father needed him there.
He bit down on the inside of his cheek as he considered his father’s illness—the last man on earth who deserved such a hardship. They were each other’s only family, and Walter had given Miles everything he’d ever needed and more. It was more than father-son, Walter was his everything.
A heaviness pressed on his chest, and he turned over on his cot, attempting to change his line of thinking to something positive, something to push the sadness away. His thoughts drifted to his mother—not a topic which could aid his melancholy state—and he pushed that away as well.
Miles squeezed his eyes shut, exhaling slowly. I can do this.
Only one more month in Afghanistan.
Only one more month until his feet would be back on American soil. Then a few weeks later, he’d be walking down those Pennsylvania roads he loved.
It was time to go home.
“You know what I’m most excited to see?” Tobin leaned across the plane aisle toward him, an excited grin plastered across his face and a glassy look in his eyes as he sloshed down his fourth mini-bottle of whiskey.
“What’s that?” Miles warily eyed his friend’s glass, taking note in case things got out of hand. He’d never known Tobin to understand boundaries, but his friend’s drinking had increased since Afghanistan. Not that Miles blamed him after what they’d seen over there.
Miles lifted his own glass, considered the whiskey inside for a minute before putting it back down on the tray table and pushing it away. At the rate Tobin was going, one of them would need to maintain a sense of control.
“Grass, Miles! When is the last time we saw a patch of grass, man? Whole meadows of grass and big trees everywhere you look?” Tobin had a distant look in his eyes as he leaned his head against the headrest. He lifted the mini-bottle of booze to his lips, only to realize it was empty. Frowning, Tobin reached above his head and pressed the call button to summon the flight attendant.
When she didn’t materialize in half a second, he pressed it again…and again…and again.
“Tobin, quit it!” Miles scowled. “She’s coming. Don’t you think you’ve had enough anyway? We’re landing soon, and you don’t need to be completely shit-faced when you see your mom again.”
Tobin scoffed, shaking the small plastic bottle in front of Miles’s face. “I’m going to need more than this kid-sized bottle if I’m going to see Janiiiice.” He grimaced as her name left his mouth.
“Kid-sized booze?” Miles rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I think you’ve had enough.”
“I just want to see a patch of grass, Miles.” Tobin’s voice was softer now, nostalgic.
Miles couldn’t help smiling and nodding his head. He knew exactly what Tobin meant. One of the many things their camp in Afghanistan had lacked was the lush green grass and trees they’d grown up with in their home town of Slipwick, Pennsylvania.
“I miss the lake.” Miles mused over fond memories of the woods near Lake Arthur where his family home was.
His father had built their house—it was really more of a cabin—from the ground up, right on the lake’s and completely off the beaten trail. It was farther from town than most of Miles’s friends when he’d been in school, but he’d never minded since spending every warm weather day on the water had been worth the trek. He’d practically lived for the hours spent in the old canoe, or equally ratty rowboat.
Tobin chuckled, rubbing his hand over his bare head. “You and that damn lake.” He rattled the ice in his cup, pressing the call button a few more times.
A snarl escaped Miles’s lips, swiveling in his seat to shoot his friend an angry glare, any sense of calm gone. “I swear on your fucking life, Tobin, if you press the damn button one more time, I will break your finger clean off,” he barked.
Tobin’s eyes widened, but Miles’s continued seething, his thoughts taking off at a sprint. The incessant ringing from the call button. The ringing in his head.
Ringing like the sound of the first explosion, knocking him to the ground.
“Damn, Miles.” Tobin put his hands up in defense. “Relax.”
Miles blinked and looked around, suddenly self-conscious. He’d drawn the attention of a few neighboring passengers. From the looks of concern on their faces, he’d be lucky if they didn’t call the Air Marshall on him.
Forcing a tight-lipped smile, he sat back in his seat and faced forward. Guilt washed over him when he noticed Tobin still staring at him with a look of suspicion.
“So grass, huh? What’s next after the greenery?” Miles asked.
An unspoken apology passed beneath his question, and Tobin grinned. All was forgiven. It had always been that simple between the two of them. “Hair. I can’t wait to let it grow out and finally meet some women. A lot of women—you remember how chicks loved my hair. I won’t be able to keep up with them all.”
“Yeah, right. Mr. Romantic suddenly becomes a player. That’ll be the day.” Miles chuckled, smoothing a hand over his own head, his short, dark blonde hair tickling the underside of his palm. “Bet you fifty bucks you’re in a relationship by the end of the month.”
“Hey, not my fault they keep coming back for more.” Tobin rubbed his thumb and index finger over the top of his lip. “I might even grow back my ’stache.”
“Oh, hell no.” Miles dropped his head back, laughing loudly. Several passengers turned to glare at his most recent outburst, but this time, he didn’t care. “No woman is going to go near you with that dirt on your face again.”
“Hey, I got no complaints.” Tobin huffed, pushing out his chest defensively. He took the next mini-bottle of whiskey from the flight attendant and swigged it down in a single chug. Belching, he pounded his fist to his chest. “At least I wasn’t the town kiss-ass.”
Miles lifted one brow. “Town kiss-ass?”
“You heard me,” Tobin continued. “Once a golden boy, always a golden boy.”
It’d been a while since Miles had thought about his reputation back in Slipwick. All-star high school quarterback, prom king, and class president—he’d been treated like royalty in the small town. Not to mention, he was the late Violet Kydd’s son, the elementary school teacher nearly every single person in town had adored.
His mother, or “Vi” as everyone called her, had been well loved for her sweet demeanor, generous heart, and the brilliant smile that seemed to find its way into even the coldest hearts. Miles had never officially met her since she’d died during childbirth due to complications, but her legacy lingered in every framed photograph at home and every person on the street who stopped to tell him how much they missed her. The Mayor back then had even elected to plant a tree in the main courtyard downtown with a bronze plaque at the base dedicated to her.
“I’ve never been a kiss-ass,” Miles clarified, lifting his chin. He couldn’t control how the town saw him, but he’d certainly never been an angel—especially with a best friend like Tobin. “What about the time I set off an M-80 in Mr. Fenton’s rowboat? Sunk that sucker in less than thirty seconds. Would a golden boy do that?”
“Only ’cause I gave you the firecracker to begin with!” Tobin laughed, a deep belly laugh that always made Miles smile, along with anyone else who heard its unique lilt. “You were so scared—you bolted the second you tossed it in.”
“What else would I do? Wait around for it to blow my eyebrows off?” Miles was laughing just as hard now. “Those things are illegal, you know. I wasn’t about to end up in jail thanks to you.”
“Hey, true friends do time together.” Tobin pointed a finger at him, one brow raised. “I regret nothing.”
“I bet you regretted setting your arm on fire with bug spray,” Miles countered.
Tobin’s cheeks reddened slightly, but he shrugged. “Scientific research—plus now we know bug spray is flammable.”
“Yeah, reading that exact warning on the side of the can didn’t make it clear,” Miles said, laughter flowing easily between them.
“Trust but verify, my friend.” Tobin cocked one eyebrow as he opened his next mini-bottle, downing it in one go again. His face twisted at the taste, coughing until his throat cleared. “My life’s motto.”
“When your life motto leads to death, it’s time to pick a new one,” Miles said, shaking his head. “You’re reckless, man.”
“I prefer the term fearless.” Tobin crossed his arms over his chest. “And if I do kick the bucket, you better hope I don’t come back and haunt your ass.”
Miles tried to stretch out his legs into the aisle, feeling cramped in the tight plane seat. “There’s no such thing as ghosts, Tobin.”
Tobin didn’t respond right away.
Miles turned to see him staring out the tiny, square window, down at the landscape hundreds of miles below them.
“After what we did, you still believe that?” Tobin asked.
The reminder of the incident lashed out at Miles as if Tobin had slapped him across the face. He looked away, swallowing hard. There wasn’t anything to say about Afghanistan, or what they’d done over there—more accurately, what he’d done over there.
So, he said nothing.
“I’m just glad to be going home, Miles,” Tobin continued, his tone hushed and heavy now.
Miles opened his mouth to agree, but his voice caught in his throat as painful memories pushed into his mind. Finally, he cleared his throat and nodded.
“Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman,” the flight attendant’s voice came over the intercom. “We’re beginning our descent into Pittsburgh…”
Both men eagerly sat straighter at the mention of their destination, Miles’s anticipation growing as the flight attendant described the landing protocol and droned on about the weather on the ground. He drew his seatbelt across his lap and clasped it, pulling the band tighter around his waist.
The landing was suddenly making him a little nervous, which was odd since he hadn’t been afraid of anything in last eight years from raiding terrorist camps to returning enemy fire, even coming face to face with death.
Miles exhaled slowly, closed his eyes, and leaned his head back. Only a few more minutes and they would no longer be active duty Marines. They would be home.
And maybe that’s why this landing made him so nervous.
Getting off a plane was by far one of the most irritating parts of Miles’s journey home. Standing behind dozens of other passengers waiting to disembark, his head was awkwardly cramped to the side, unable to stand straight with the plane’s low ceiling.
He shot a look of frustration at Tobin, who was a few inches shorter and had no problem being completely upright. By the time they managed to shuffle off the plane and through the gate, Miles was beyond ready to get his bag and go.
Silence fell naturally between the men as they headed to baggage claim, trying to spot their gear bags amid the sea of black, wheeled suitcases.
While they waited, Miles watched the other passengers being greeted by loved ones—wives with signs of love, children holding My Daddy is an American Hero banners, and mothers wringing their hands with a nervous energy that was almost infectious. Shouts of excitement, tears of joy, and raucous laughter filled the room, and yet Miles felt the exact opposite—his skin crawled with unease from the cacophony.
Someone grabbed Miles’s shirt from behind, and he sprang forward, away from his assailant, pivoting quickly, his hands in the air prepared to fight, his breathing suddenly ragged and unsteady.
A small child stood in front of him, his knees wobbling and eyes wide. The stunned look on the child’s face told Miles he’d accidentally grabbed him before the little boy quickly crumpled into tears, his wailing immediately alerting a man—presumably his father—nearby.
Tobin stared over at him, one brow raised, surprise evident on his face. “Uh, Miles?”
“What the hell is your problem, man?” the boy’s father yelled, quickly scooping his child into his arms and staring Miles down with all the ferocity of a papa bear.
Miles dropped his aggressive stance and opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. He swept his fingers through his short hair as the father stormed off, his bawling child tucked tight in his arms.
Tobin cocked one brow higher than the other. “Dude, what the fuck was that? Where do you think we are?”
Miles shrugged his shoulders, heat settling in his cheeks. “My bad.”
Tobin stared at him for another moment then frowned and went back to watching for their luggage.
Miles took the opportunity to scan the room, hoping finding a familiar face in the crowd might distract him from wondering why he’d reacted so impulsively to the child touching his back.
A deep-seated longing filled him—a desire to have someone there to greet him, someone who cared he’d just spent eight years and multiple tours overseas, or even someone to simply offer a hug or handshake. He already knew his father wasn’t coming because of his failing health, but the optimistic little boy in him looked around hoping to spot him anyway.
Tobin gave him a puzzled look. “Are you expecting someone?”
“No, just looking,” Miles replied. “Lots of happy people here…” His voice trailed off at the end, and he started looking for his gear bag instead.
“You know Walter would be here if he could.” Tobin clapped him on the back. “Cancer is a bitch, Miles.”
“What about your mom?” he asked, changing topics not-so-subtly.
Tobin scoffed and shoved his hands into his pockets. “Yeah, right, like Janice would ever take the time out of her day to do something for her son.” Tobin cleared his throat, his voice lowering to a mutter. “She probably doesn’t even remember I’m coming home—never responded to my last letter.”
Miles got the hint and dropped it; he had known Tobin long enough to know when his friend didn’t want to explain further.
Janice Leach had always had a drinking problem, along with some illegal activities they’d been too naïve as a child to understand. So, it was safe to say she’d never been one to count on.
Miles had never had a sibling, but Tobin had a younger sister who’d died when she was fourteen years old. After that, it had been just the two of them, and Tobin became the brother he never had. In fact, Miles had no childhood memories which didn’t include him, since Tobin had spent most of his time at the Kydd house.
Tobin smacked Miles on his arm and pointed to a military duffel bag falling off the carousel’s starting point and making its way around to them. “Isn’t that one yours?”
Miles pressed through the throng of people in front of him and grabbed it. Minutes later, both men had collected their bags and headed to the shuttle that would take them home.
Miles led the way and Tobin followed, balancing his luggage on his shoulder. “Time to head home, Tobin.”
Tobin grinned like a kid on Christmas morning. “God bless America!”
The shuttle dropped Miles off at the end of a dirt road pointing down to his family cabin on Lake Arthur. The driver refused to go any farther because of the narrow space between the trees and how large the vehicle was, so Miles agreed to walk the rest.
With a nod to Tobin and a promise to see him tomorrow, Miles slung his bag over his shoulder and stepped out onto the dirt road, which had mostly been formed from years of trampling and tire grooves.
It took Miles about twenty minutes of walking before he spotted the familiar home through the trees. It was a dark brown, wooden, two-story house with a slanting roof and an always-smoking chimney. Walter loved having the fireplace going, even if it was the end of summer and plenty warm outside.
The front of the house was circled in rows of flower bushes that only paused for the stairs leading to the porch. The wraparound porch had been his mother’s request back when Walter first built the house, and still one of his favorite parts of the whole place. It extended completely around the house, leaving plenty of room for lounge chairs, potted plants, a birdcage, and other eclectic items that had found their way there over the years.
The front of the house boasted two tall windows on either side of the red front door—another request from his mother who inexplicably insisted every home should have a red door.
Miles couldn’t stop the smile from spreading wider on his face as he increased his pace—bounding up the front steps, two at a time. The cool metal of the doorknob in his hand was the only reminder he needed—he was safe, he was home, God bless America.
Eagerly, he swung the door open, tossing his bags to the side of the front room. It didn’t even faze him that the front door was unlocked— Slipwick was a trusting town and the closest neighbor was miles away.
Familiar scents battled for his attention as he inhaled—the cedar walls, the breeze from the lake, the ashes from the fireplace, or the fresh iced tea always ready for visitors.
Miles smiled, the kind of smile that spread deep to his soul. Two years had passed since his last visit home, and it had been over eight years since he’d lived there officially, but it all looked exactly as he remembered each time.
He’d known he missed home, but it hadn’t truly sunk in how deeply he had longed for it until the swelling in his chest brought every memory rushing back into him. Miles closed the front door behind him, heading straight through the house and into the kitchen where a side door led out to the back porch.
The door was wide open with only a screen blocking the way, which Miles knew meant his father was out there like he was most evenings. The back porch connected around to the front, but was much higher off the ground due to the slope down to the lake. It had a great view of the lake, despite a few trees in the way, and had always been his father’s favorite place in the early evening.
Miles walked over to the fridge, pulling it open, and found the homemade iced tea he had been craving. Pouring himself a glass, he tilted the cool liquid to his lips, letting it slide over his tongue—some of the dust from his tours overseas sliding away with it. He finished the entire glass in a few gulps and placed it in the sink, heading for the porch door next.
Miles pushed the screen to the side, spotting his father exactly where he’d predicted. Walter was sitting at the patio table playing solitaire—one of his favorite pastimes.
He paused for a moment, registering the extreme changes in his father’s appearance. Walter had lost at least thirty pounds since Miles had last been home to see him, and looked as if he’d aged twenty years since then. An oxygen tank rested on the wood deck beside him, a tube hooked around his father’s ears and tucked in his nostrils. The quiet whirring sound of the oxygen pushing its way into his father’s nose fit right in with the chattering night life in the surrounding woods.
Miles struggled to fit the image before him with the father who had always exuded vitality. This man was different. This man was frail and breakable—two things Miles had never associated with his father before.
Despite the shock, he did his best to push his worries away, plastering a forced smile on his face and stepping out of the doorway, closing the distance between them.
“Dad!” Miles called out as he approached.
His father’s face lit up as he turned to look at him, smiling ear to ear, and raising his arms in greeting. “Miles, my boy, you’re home! Come give your old man a hug!”
Miles relaxed, glad to see the familiar twinkle still shining through his father’s eyes. “Good to see you, Pops.”
“Me? Look at you.” Walter held him at a distance, hands on both of Miles’s arms as he looked him up and down. “You’re huge! They trained you hard over there, huh? Man, my little boy is long gone, isn’t he? Hiding somewhere under all that scruff.” A nostalgic smile crossed his father’s face.
Miles chuckled, nodding in agreement. He rubbed his hand over the stubble on his chin, which he used to only need to shave once a week, sometimes less, when he’d first joined the service. Now he had a shadow by noon, and stubble by evening—not to mention his body sculpted by the Marines. “Oh yeah, people shooting at you is a proven motivator to get off your ass and run.”
A momentary flash of worry crossed his father’s face, but was replaced quickly with pride. His father was a veteran of the Vietnam War, so Miles knew he’d been equally terrified and honored when his son had joined the military at eighteen.
“We missed you around here, Kydd,” Walter said, using their last name as a nickname just as he always had.
“Missed you too, Dad,” Miles said, patted his father on the back. “How have you been doing? I see they have you on oxygen now…and a wheelchair?”
This was why he’d come home—no reason waiting to address the elephant in the room.
“Lymphoma will do that to you,” Walter confirmed. “All this crap just makes it a little easier on me to get around for what time I have left.”
“Dad—” Miles started.
“It’s okay, Miles,” Walter interrupted, his eyes misting over slightly—a sure sign he was thinking of Miles’s mother, Violet. “I’ve lived a great life and I can’t wait to see your mother again.”
Uncomfortable, Miles looked away. “Don’t talk like that, Pops. People survive cancer—you could be one of those people. Stay positive; fight it.”
“I am being positive,” Walter replied, still smiling. “That doesn’t mean I want to fight it, though. I haven’t seen your mother in twenty-six years—she is still the love of my life, you know.”
“You’ve only told me a million times.” Miles gently squeezed his father’s shoulder, loving hearing about his mother even if it was in this context.
“And when are you going to find your Violet?” Walter didn’t pull any punches, shuffling the deck of cards in front of him.
A laugh slipped out as Miles took the cards from his father and began cutting the deck between the two of them to start a game of war—one of their favorites. “That’s not happening any time soon, Pops.”
“You never know,” Walter said, his brows lifting.
Miles divided the deck into two piles as the screen door slid open behind them and soft footsteps landed on the wood. The air left his lungs in a whoosh and his breathing became staggered as he jumped up, almost knocking the table. He swirled to face whoever was approaching. Adrenaline coursed through his veins, leaving him shaky. His muscles tensed as he pushed himself to his full height, spreading his arms and legs in a solid fighting stance, preparing for an attack.
The young woman standing in front of him let out a shocked gasp as a look of fright overtook her features, her hand flying to her chest.
Then she faded and Miles only saw fire.
Flames that stung his eyes.
The smell of burnt flesh.
If you liked the first two chapters, please make sure to preorder NOT A HERO on Amazon today!
(Click on the desired retailer below to purchase!)
Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon CA
From the bestselling author of the Kavanagh Legends MMA series, Sarah Robinson’s Not A Hero is an emotional standalone military romance where love battles trauma, and there can only be one victor.
Former Marine, Miles Kydd, is trying to readjust to civilian life after ending his career and returning to his small home town when he learned his father was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Once the town hero and star quarterback, Miles no longer feels like the man he was, or who he’s expected to be—possibly because his demons have followed him home from Afghanistan.
Meeting Zoe Brooke, his father’s live-in nurse, gives Miles the slightest glimmer of hope that he can still find happiness despite the dark secrets he holds inside. The chemistry between them is undeniable, and together they are explosive—in more ways than one.
A helper at her core, Zoe is more than willing to care for Miles’s heart, but not at the expense of her own, and she’s not afraid to tell him that. She knows what having a painful past is like, and she wants to help him with his, if he’ll let her.
Things get complicated fast when Miles realizes burying his secrets isn’t actually the same as healing from them and if he wants the girl, he’s going to have to tell her the truth—the one thing he can’t do.
This book is suggested for 18+ years of age, contains graphic content, sensitive subject matters, and sexually explicit material.
Preorder Not A Hero (Coming 10/4/16):
(Click on the desired retailer below to purchase!)
Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon CA
This novel is available FREE on Kindle Unlimited, and is currently only available in the Amazon Kindle store.
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