Authors: Mandie Tepe
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
What happens when the dreams you’ve always dreamed start evolving?
Meg Conlan was enjoying living her dream. She’d worked hard her whole life to make that dream come true . . . traveling the world over as a highly sought-after, critically acclaimed dancer. She and her partner were settling into a six-week position at a prestigious dance institute in San Diego, and she was looking forward to slowing down the runaway train that was her professional life. Little did she know her career would derail and cause her to imagine new dreams . . . and reinvent her whole life.
A satisfied life suddenly becomes unsatisfactory . . .
Navy SEAL, Trace McKenna, had worked his entire life for his dream, as well. He’d met every goal he’d ever set for himself and had settled comfortably into the life he’d always envisioned for himself. He thought nothing of offering his home to his stepbrother and his dance partner, Meg, during their stay in San Diego. Little did he know that she would have him imagining new dreams . . . that he’d never allowed himself to dream for his own life.
Old dreams become new adventures . . . and two lives become one new dream . . .
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
(New Beginnings Series – Book 2)
(New Beginnings Series – Book 3)
(New Beginnings Series – Book 4)
(New Beginnings Series – Book 5)
2009 by Amanda M. Tepe
All rights reserved. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
It had been a long Sunday of cleaning and errands—trying to get ready for his houseguests. Trace McKenna really should have stayed home but couldn’t resist the temptation of going out for a beer with the guys. Hanging out here at Maxie’s, his SEAL team’s “home away from home,” would be more relaxing than waiting at home for his stepbrother and his dance partner to show up at the house. What had he been thinking when he agreed to let Sean . . . and what was her name? . . . Meg, stay with him for several weeks?
Trace hadn’t seen Sean in a few years. Their visits back home with their parents hadn’t coincided in a long time. It was mostly Trace’s fault—or more accurately the US Navy’s fault. It’s kind of ironic that the military doesn’t take off for national holidays. He got back to Missouri whenever he could between deployments.
He had texted Sean to let him know to meet him here at the bar. Maybe a drink together would ease their reunion. It wasn’t that they didn’t get along. They did. They’d just never had much in common.
Trace’s mom and Sean’s dad had been married when Trace was sixteen and Sean was fourteen. Sean had been a student at Trace’s mother’s dance studio. After a few years he was
student at her studio—more gifted than any student she had ever had. That’s how Claire had met Sean’s dad, Michael.
When Michael’s first wife got sick with breast cancer, and they knew things weren’t going her way, she made him promise that Sean could continue with his dance studies as long as he was interested in doing so. After she died Sean clung to dance. It was as though that was the only connection he had left with her and he thrived on it.
The same way Sean’s mother had influenced his life, Trace’s dad had influenced his. Trace idolized his military father. There were periods of his life when his dad, Conrad, was not physically present, but Trace always felt close to him. Conrad was killed in a Marine training exercise accident when Trace was thirteen—a difficult age for a boy to lose his dad.
While some boys might have spun out of control, he stayed the course. Conrad had instilled such a sense of responsibility in him that it was ingrained in him from an early age. It seemed Trace was always aware in his subconscious what it would take to accomplish his goals. And screwing up wouldn’t do it. He knew how to be the man of the house because he had had to do it in the past. His dad had always expected it of him when he was away. And he knew his dad had always appreciated being able to count on him.
After Conrad’s sudden death, Claire moved Trace back to her hometown in Missouri and opened her dance studio. A gifted dancer as a young girl, she had given up her dreams of dancing on Broadway after she fell in love with the handsome young Marine she met in New York during Fleet Week. She had been in New York to study and had danced in several shows’ choruses, but hadn’t yet had her big break.
When she met Conrad, her dreams evolved. That was her expression and she used it a few times on Trace as he grew up—whenever he got so focused on a goal he sometimes got tunnel vision and she worried for him. If the day came when he didn’t meet his goals, she was afraid it would hit him harder than it might other kids. She would hold his face in her hands and say, “Trace, sometimes your dreams just evolve. And that can be a wonderful adventure too!”
Trace had met the biggest goal of his life. He’d dreamed of becoming a Navy SEAL from the age of nine. He loved hearing the legendary stories his dad would tell him about the bigger-than-life SEALs. Conrad had worked with a team of Marines attached as support to a SEAL team. All through high school Trace studied and worked toward this goal—studying all he could about military history and keeping up with the current conflicts going on all over the world. He played football, ran track, lifted weights and even joined the swim team. It wasn’t that he enjoyed racing, but wanted to be as strong a swimmer as possible when his time came to qualify for BUD/S—Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL—training.
As soon as Trace graduated from high school he joined the Navy and started, what he hoped, was a fast track to his NEC classification. He got through basic training and set about passing every physical test he needed to so he could get into BUD/S. Once he got to Coronado he was even more focused. Seventy percent of SEAL candidates washed out without realizing their goal. Week four of Phase I
is called Hell Week and that’s exactly what it is. When Trace was being honest he’d admit he didn’t even remember some of the experience—132 straight hours of non-stop hard labor with no sleep, not enough food and torturous conditions. Once he realized that ninety percent of the strength needed was mental, he could muscle through it. The guys who made it through just had to tell themselves they weren’t too tired, cold, wet and hungry—then try like crazy to believe it. But Trace got through it and that is when the SEALs brotherhood really kicked in. He was still closer to his fellow Hell Week survivors than anyone else in the world. He’d die for any of them and they would for him. And wasn’t that the point?
After finishing the first phase and then Phases II and III training—diving, weapons, demolitions and small unit tactics—he was on his way to jump school at Fort Benning in Georgia. It was there that he fell in love. The rest of the training seemed like a means to an end, but jumping out of an airplane with a parachute on your back—that was fun! That month went by way too fast, but at least he had the consolation of knowing that he would be able to parachute on a regular basis. He finished his training back in Coronado and finally graduated. He was assigned to a team based out of Coronado and got to work.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
“Why are you brooding so much?” Trace wasn’t expecting the slap to the back of his head. He jumped and glared over at his friend, Sonny. He and Sonny had been paired up as swim buddies in BUD/S and had dragged each other through Hell Week. After graduation they had been assigned to the same SEAL team and were closer than brothers.
“I’m not brooding. I just drifted away for a little while.”
“Ever since we got here you’ve been staring into your beer, glancing at your watch and watching the door. You’re no fun at all tonight.”
“And there’s no cute girls at the bar, either,” Charley chimed in. “What a waste of an evening.” Charley was, as usual, hanging out with Trace and Sonny. The trio spent a lot of time together—working together, fighting together,
playing together. Sometimes Trace wondered why they didn’t get more sick of each other.
“Let’s just call it a night,” Sonny said.
“Well, I can’t leave now. Sean should be here any minute. He should have been here already, actually. You talked me into coming, so don’t leave me here alone. Besides, Ginny is over on the other side of the bar giving me that look and as soon as you leave I’m defenseless. Safety in numbers,” Trace laughed. Ginny was one of the local SEAL groupies who hung out at Maxie’s and preyed on the SEALs. The further away he could stay from all of
“You’re supposed to be a big bad SEAL and you’re afraid of Ginny?” Charley laughed.
“Don’t laugh. I know she scares you too,” Sonny chimed in.
“Only because she caught me once and when that happens it’s hard to shake her loose. Stalker time. I had to piss her off so she’d leave me alone.”
“I know. That’s why you can’t leave me here alone ‘til Sean gets here. You’re the only thing keeping her over on that side of the bar. You’re my human force field!”
“Whoa! Changed my mind. I can stay a while. Cute
girl just came through the door. Don’t think I’ve ever seen her here before.” Charley’s whole demeanor changed. It was suddenly an interesting night at Maxie’s.
Trace turned around to see who had caught Charley’s attention. She
cute. She was a little thing wearing one of those cute denim mini-skirts that was ragged at the bottom, like a pair of cutoffs, and a plain pink t-shirt. She had a lightweight hoodie tied around her waist by the sleeves. The beer sign on the wall behind her reflected off her dark hair turning some of the strands burgundy and purple where the red and blue neon light bounced off it. She didn’t walk on in—just stood there, a little uncertainly, looking around. She glanced over her shoulder at the door as it opened. In walked Sean. He stopped beside her, said something and looked around.
Trace felt a small sense of disappointment. She must be Sean’s dance partner, Meg. They seemed comfortable together as if they were very familiar with one another. He had heard her name mentioned while home visiting his mom and Michael. They talked about her like she was family, but he had never met her.
“Back off, Charley. That’s Sean’s partner. She’s off limits.” Then he stood up and waved to get Sean’s attention.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
“Over this way,” Sean said as he steered her toward the back of the bar.
Meg glanced over and noticed a man standing beside a table waving them over. There were two other men seated at the table but they jumped to their feet as she and Sean reached them.
“Hey! Trace! How you doin’, bro?” Sean said with a huge smile.
“Hey, Sean!” he said. They grabbed hands and bumped shoulders in the manner guys used as a substitute for a hug. “How was your trip?”
“Great. The plane got in a little late and the agency got our car rentals messed up. Took a while to get them straightened out. Sorry. You been waitin’ long?”
“Not too long.” The man glanced over at Meg.
“Oh! Hi! I’m Meg Conlan, Sean’s partner. You must be Trace,” she said. “I’ve heard a lot about you.” Uh oh. She was babbling. Was she babbling? She snapped her mouth shut.
“Hi, Meg. Yes, I’m Trace. Nice to meet you.” He looked at her strangely. Was her mascara smeared? She had been traveling all day. Maybe she looked horrible and was blissfully ignorant.
He continued, “These are my buddies, Sonny and Charley.”
“Ma’am,” they said in unison.
“Just Meg. Hi. Please sit down.” The smaller, wiry one named Sonny reached over and pulled an empty chair out for her. He had dark hair and fine, almost pretty boy features. She sat down. Only then did they all sit down.
Sean looked toward the bar and said, “I’m going to go get a drink. Does anyone want anything?” The three guys declined and he looked at her.