ALL FOR YOU by Jessica Scott (February 4, 2014; Forever E-Book; $2.99)
Can a battle-scarred warrior . . .
Stay sober. Get deployed. Lead his platoon. Those are the only things that matter to Sergeant First Class Reza Iaconelli. What he wants is for everyone to stay out of his way; what he gets is Captain Emily Lindberg telling him how to deal with his men. Fort Hood's newest shrink is smart as a whip and sexy as hell. She's also full of questions-about the army, its soldiers, and the agony etched on Reza's body and soul.
. . . open his heart to love?
Emily has devoted her life to giving soldiers the care they need-and deserve. Little does she know that means facing down the fierce wall of muscle that is Sergeant Iaconelli like it's just another day at the office. When Reza agrees to help her understand what makes a soldier tick, she's thrilled. Too bad it doesn't help her unravel the sexy warrior in front of her who stokes her desire and touches a part of her she thought long dead. He's the man who thinks combat is the only escape from the demons that haunt him. The man who needs her most of all . . .
“So how many of you think that behavioral health is for pussies?”
Half the room burst out with coughs attempting to cover laughter. The other half were busy picking their jaws up off the floor. It had been a reckless gamble, one that would have made her father cringe in shame, but one that worked because the tension snapped, fizzling a little bit. Granting her an opening she might not have had otherwise.
“Be honest.” She glanced at the sergeant major, who looked ready to brain the first officer or sergeant that raised his hand. “Never mind, don’t answer that.” She shot a quick grin at the sergeant major and a few more chuckles drifted out of the crowd. “Look, we all know that I’ve got you held captive for an hour and we can stand here and stare at each other or maybe we can talk about what’s going on that we’ve got so many soldiers willing to hurt themselves.”
She made the mistake of looking in Reza’s direction.
He was watching her, his dark gaze intense, his mouth flat. At least he wasn’t glaring at her. That was progress, she supposed.
She gripped the pen in her hand and motioned toward the men before her. “So maybe we can put aside the canned slides and talk about why you hate the shrinks. And maybe I can explain what it is that we do. And maybe, if we work together, we can save a life.”
The silence was back, a wet blanket settling over the room. She glanced around as the brief opening she’d attempted to walk through shriveled and shrank.
“I have a question.” Reza raised his hand. His eyes glittered darkly. “Sergeant First Class Iaconelli, ma’am. My question is: Why do we have to spend so much time chasing after the shitbirds who are smoking spice or some other shit that’s not meant for human consumption and then when we try to throw them out, you all stop the process and tell us they have PTSD?”
“Ike, your attitude is part of the damn problem.” All eyes turned in the direction of a hard-looking sergeant first class. He had no hair and there was a hint of a black tattoo ringing his neck. Sergeant First Class Garrison was a big man. “Intimidating” was too light a word for him. And yet, on his left hand, a wedding ring shone bright gold. Someone had tamed this man. She found herself wondering at the woman who’d married him then pulled her thoughts sharply into focus. “You can’t run around calling our soldiers shitbirds. They’ll always do what you expect and if you expect them to screw up, they’re going to live up to your expectation.”
“I don’t expect them to be smoking it up in the barracks on the weekend,” Reza snapped.
Emily held up one hand. “Sergeant Garrison, thank you for getting straight to the heart of the matter. What you’re talking about is not simply about drug abuse. You’re talking about soldiers who are self-medicating. Instead of using the proper channels to seek care, they’re choosing instead the easier path of smoking marijuana, or what is it you called it? Spice?”
“It’s synthetic marijuana, ma’am,” Garrison said.
She’d had no idea there was such a thing, let alone that soldiers were smoking it. “Thank you. Regardless of their drug of choice, the reason for using is often to deal with symptoms of anxiety that they’re otherwise managing or not managing very well.”
Reza lifted his hand and she swallowed the flit of nerves in her belly as she pointed at him. “Yeah, well, I’ve got real warriors who need help who won’t go to the damn R&R Center because there’s all these slick-sleeved little punks in there trying to get out of drug charges.”
It was a cold statement, one that shook her, reminding her that this was not a sympathetic room. And that Iaconelli was not a sympathetic man.
“You raise an interesting point, Sergeant Iaconelli. The facts are that most of our suicides over the last two years have been among first-term soldiers who have never deployed,” she said, speaking loudly to cover the nervous waiver in her voice.
Garrison straightened where he’d been leaning against the wall. “Y’all know I got blown up a little over a year ago. I had a really tough road back. The thing I learned over that time is that our boys are struggling. Whether we see it or not, our boys need our help.” He turned his gaze to Emily.
Reza scowled and shook his head. “Look, Garrison, you’re not the only one who got blown up downrange. But the point I’m trying to make is that it’s our boys who won’t go get the help because of all the ash and trash taking up the appointments.”
Emily held up her hands but Garrison interrupted her. “Ike, you need to shut your damn mouth. Just because you drink yourself to sleep every night as therapy doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t need a different way to cope.”
“Fuck you, Garrison,” Reza spat. “I’m the reason the rest of your platoon came home from the last deployment.”
A red-haired sergeant stood. His right hand was bunched in what looked like a perpetual half grip and it took Emily a moment to realize that it was a prosthetic hand. Her skin went cold. She’d never seen physical evidence of the war this close before.
“Girls, girls. Can we please listen to the good captain explain to us the services she offers? I for one would like more information on how to not accidentally almost kill myself in the future.”
The room groaned beneath the joke and Emily saw his name tag. Staff Sergeant Carponti. His eyes lit with an impish grin and she wished she knew the story behind how the young sergeant was able to defuse the anger between the two big sergeants with such ease.
“That’s not funny, Carponti.” Reza settled back against the wall.
“It was my accidental overdose. I’ll make jokes if I want to,” Carponti said. “You can’t because that would just be wrong on multiple levels. But I can make all the inappropriate jokes I want.” He turned and grinned in Emily’s direction and she instantly liked him. “How do we fix this shit, ma’am?”
“There are no easy answers,” Emily said once everyone’s attention was off the two combatants. “But while Sergeant Iaconelli mocks the issue of bad homes, the simple fact is that the generation of soldiers we are dealing with have been raised differently than many of us were. A large portion of our force comes from broken homes, have been victims of trauma at a very young age.” She deliberately avoided looking in Reza’s direction. “What I’d like you all to think about is the fact that many of you are combat veterans. Many of you have lived through terrible experiences as adults. But how would your life be different if you’d been beaten as a child? Or sexually abused? You can mock the younger generation and say they’re weak.” She paused, scanning the faces of the warriors in front of her, looking for any sign that her words were breaking through their hardened shells. “Or you can look at the fact that some of them are even functioning as an act that takes the greatest strength.”
About the Author
USA Today bestselling author Jessica Scott is a career army officer; mother of two daughters, three cats and three dogs; wife to a career NCO and wrangler of all things stuffed and fluffy. She is a terrible cook and even worse housekeeper, but she's a pretty good shot with her assigned weapon and someone liked some of the stuff she wrote. Somehow, her children are pretty well-adjusted and her husband still loves her, despite burned water and a messy house.
She's written for the New York Times At War Blog, PBS Point of View: Regarding War Blog, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. She deployed to Iraq in 2009 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn and has served as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas.
She's pursuing a PhD in Sociology in her spare time and most recently, she's been featured as one of Esquire Magazine's Americans of the Year for 2012.
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