My thanks to everyone for showing up to help me keep Amber’s blog busy while she’s away! My name is Kendall McKenna, and I write m/m erotic romance novels, and other stories. This isn’t the first time our hostess has let me visit for her blog, which suddenly made me realize I’m a real pro at this, now. Things have been very eventful for me, too, since my previous visit to Amber’s blog. I was named the MLR Press Best Selling E-book Author for 2013, and my most recent book just received a 5-star review in USA Today. My specialty is writing characters that are authentic U.S. Marines, and scenes of realistic action and combat. When Amber told me that our topic for this year was a romantic scene, I panicked a little bit! Marines aren’t typically known for being emotionally forthcoming. 😐
It took me several days, but I finally remembered one scene I wrote, that is actually a very romantic scene as far as U.S. Marines are concerned. The scene is in Fire For Effect (The Recon Diaries, Book 2), and features my well-loved couple, Jonah and Kellan. Jonah is an active-duty Marine. Kellan is a former Marine, and was even Jonah’s platoon commander when they served together in Iraq.
The first book in The Recon Diaries – Brothers In Arms – is the story of Kellan and Jonah being reunited after five years, and realizing they both wanted to work on having a relationship. Fire for Effect is the follow-up story, which further solidifies Jonah and Kellan’s relationship. Both men are intelligent and strong. They’ve survived combat multiple times. They’ve also both been indoctrinated into the Recon Marine sub-culture of ultra-masculine activities, which tends not to include a lot of emotional, verbal communication. Don’t let all of this confuse you, though. These guys have emotions. They feel things, and they feel them strongly and deeply. They’re just too bad-ass to show it, let
alone talk about it.
FIRE FOR EFFECT – THE BLURB
Hired to investigate the denial of a Marine the Medal of Honor, Kellan Reynolds and Jonah Carver try to untangle a web of lies, deceit, and heroism.
Two years after the events of Brothers In Arms, Kellan Reynolds and First Sergeant Jonah Carver are struggling with their bi-coastal relationship. Following the events in Iraq, Kellan’s expertise in national security is well established and he is hired to investigate the suspicious repeated denial of a KIA Marine the Medal of Honor.
Kellan brings Jonah onto his staff and into his home, but just as their relationship settles into a routine, their investigation heats up. What begins at the Pentagon, leads to Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan, and an ambush that threatens to destroy everything they’ve built.
FIRE FOR EFFECT – THE SET UP
This scene takes place at a very nice hotel in Santa Barbara, California. As with most things in the city, it has a very colonial Spanish look and feel to it. The weather in Santa Barbara is a lot like San Francisco (sadly!), but on the day this scene takes place, it’s sunny and pleasantly warm. An ocean breeze is blowing pleasantly.
This paragraph describes the setting when Kellan arrives at the hotel the day before:
Kellan climbed out of the Town Car and glanced around at the hotel. It was finished and landscaped like an old Spanish villa, very much in keeping with the flavor of Santa Barbara. Blossoming trees and shrubbery were in abundance all around the property. Colorful flowers were woven into trellises and iron work. Kellan inhaled deeply, his body and mind immediately recognizing the moist, salty scent of the ocean. The sun was warm on his face, the heat mitigated by the cool breeze.
FIRE FOR EFFECT – THE EXCERPT
This book is set in 2010, in the year before Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed, so Kellan and Jonah discuss and deal with a couple of issues differently than they would now. Also, Jonah and Kellan do a lot of talking without actually speaking. Their eye contact – or lack of – along with their body language, and things they don’t say, communicates so much. On the surface, this scene seems so sweet and domestic. It looks like two guys having brunch, and discussing their careers. If you know Marines, you realize they’re actually making declarations of love, and committing their
lives to one another.
Kellan went to answer the knock at the hotel room door. He glanced around once more to make sure it wasn’t glaringly obvious two men were staying in a hotel room with a single bed. Not that it really mattered, but like Jonah said, why flaunt it?
He tipped the middle-aged man who wheeled in the cart and left it by the sliding glass door. When Kellan glanced out to the terrace again, Jonah was comfortably reclining on a chaise lounge, eyes closed. Kellan wouldn’t mind a nap but he needed food first.
Jonah set a low table between two deck chairs placed facing each other, while Kellan uncovered all the food dishes and unwrapped the utensils. Jonah pressed himself against Kellan as he looked over the appetizing food. They loaded their plates, moving around each other in a comfortable silence, finally settling down on the terrace to eat.
Before Kellan could take a bite, Jonah offered him a strawberry from his own plate. Kellan’s pulse fluttered as he took the offered fruit from Jonah’s fingers, chewing slowly. Jonah surprised him by leaning across the small table to place a soft kiss on Kellan’s mouth. When he drew back, Jonah’s expression was warm and affectionate. Kellan enjoyed this gentler side of Jonah.
“So, I optioned for First Sergeant in my latest fit-rep,” Jonah said without preamble.
Kellan stared at him for several moments, trying to gauge what the declaration really meant. He wasn’t quite ready to let himself hope. “Is that because you want to?” he asked carefully. “Or did I pressure you? Because that wasn’t my intention.”
“No, I never felt pressured,” Jonah reassured him quickly. “You gave me a lot to think about and consider that I might not have otherwise.”
“Master Sergeant is a very valid career path,” Kellan said, needing Jonah to be sure. Needing Jonah to say the words.
“I realized you had a good point. I’ve proven my skills and leadership abilities in combat and technical billets.” Jonah paused to take a swallow of beer, looking out over the pool, not meeting Kellan’s eyes. “It would probably be pretty easy for me to make Master Gunny, but it’ll be a challenge to make Sergeant Major.”
“But when you do, you’ll be a well-rounded Sergeant Major,” Kellan said with a smile, pride swelling in his chest. Jonah was exactly the kind of Marine who could, and would, make it through the entire ranks of Senior NCOs before he retired.
Before Jonah could utter the snide remark Kellan knew he was formulating, Kellan pressed a red grape to his lips. Jonah took the fruit into his mouth along with Kellan’s thumb. He sucked gently and Kellan shivered in response.
“So, will you hear about the first round of promotions in time for the next First Sergeant’s class?” Kellan asked casually. The class was held in Quantico and would give them two weeks to be close to each other. Maybe more if Jonah wanted to take leave. Kellan was never sure, Jonah seemed so indifferent at times.
“I should, yeah,” Jonah replied and Kellan wondered if he detected eagerness. “Once I complete that course, I’m eligible for the five weeks of SEPME.” The corner of Jonah’s mouth quirked in a small smile.
“Good.” Kellan returned his grin. “I’m trying to line up as many speaking engagements on the west coast as possible.”
“I could make it easy and just take orders at Quantico or somewhere in D.C.” Again, Jonah looked everywhere but at Kellan.
“But you love California,” Kellan blurted, frowning. It almost sounded as though Jonah was offering more than Kellan had expected.
“No, I like California,” Jonah replied, pushing food around his plate. “I love you.”
Kellan stopped breathing, his blood thundered in his ears. His grip on his fork turned his knuckles white. “Good,” he said breathlessly. “I love you, too. But I don’t expect you to make career decisions to accommodate me.”
“I know, and that’s probably one of the reasons I want to do it,” Jonah said quietly. “Think about it, though; I’ve got a career that offers a lot of opportunity in multiple locations. You need to be in D.C. to do your job. It makes sense for me to move.”
When Jonah finally met his eyes, Kellan saw a myriad of emotions, none of which was indifference. “It would make me very happy to have you close by, but I don’t expect or demand it.”
“What if I’d be doing it for myself?” Jonah asked with just an edge of annoyance. “These last six months have sucked,” he said vehemently.
Kellan knew when to let something go. Jonah had made his decision and Kellan was convinced he’d made choices he would be happy with. That Kellan was lightheaded with joy as well, was just a side benefit.
Clearing his throat awkwardly, Kellan changed the subject. “How are the guys of First Recon?”
Jonah lifted a shoulder negligently. “Same badass door kickers as always, just getting younger every year.”
Kellan chuckled. “How is Corporal Yarwood doing?”
Jonah brightened when he answered. “Much better. It’s like having the old Corey back.”
“I’m glad to hear that.” Kellan meant that. He’d liked Corporal Yarwood when he’d met him in Iraq, only Corey had been a private back then. When all the facts had been compiled regarding the events surrounding Kellan’s abduction, both he and Jonah had been surprised to learn just how heroic Corey had been, despite a concussion. “You’ve shown impressive leadership by helping him overcome his difficulties.”
“I don’t know how true that is,” Jonah said dubiously.
“Leadership is about more than issuing orders and administering discipline,” Kellan reminded him. “Did he ever confide in you?”
Jonah sighed heavily. “It’s the age old story of being dumped by a Suzy-Rottencrotch.”
There was something in Jonah’s tone that told Kellan there was more to the story. “And?”
“Corey has rebounded in the arms of strange men,” Jonah replied, completely expressionless.
Kellan narrowed his eyes as he regarded Jonah. He realized he wasn’t surprised. “Is he in denial?”
“Not at all,” Jonah said with a shake of his head. “But his family is, and I think drinking dulls the pain of their disapproval.”
“Poor kid,” Kellan sighed.
“He’s going to be okay, I think,” Jonah replied. “It didn’t get in the way of his making corporal, and it seems the promotion woke him up to reality. He’s been doing really well lately.”
“Good. I’m glad to hear that.” A sense of peace settled over Kellan that he hadn’t felt since before he’d met Jonah for the first time.
Jonah cleaned up the remnants of their meal and brought Kellan another beer. He sank down into his chair with a deep sigh.
“They’re sending a car for me in the morning,” Kellan blurted, unable to find a way to ease into the topic.
Jonah nodded but said nothing.
“You’re welcome to ride with me, or drive yourself,” he said, pressing for an answer. “I don’t know how open you want to be about us.”
“You know I hate hiding,” Jonah said impatiently. “I like my privacy; I don’t ever flaunt anything about my personal life. But it feels wrong to pretend I’m something I’m not. It’s inconvenient to avoid doing something I wouldn’t think
twice about if I was straight.”
“You know how I feel about it,” Kellan replied. “But I’m not likely to be beaten, killed, or discharged if someone connects the dots.”
“Realistically, neither am I,” Jonah mused.
Kellan glanced at Jonah in surprise. He suspected Jonah was right, and was impressed that he’d come to that conclusion as well. “With a two-front war and all the time and money they have invested in you, they’re probably more than willing to look the other way as long as you’re not obvious.”
“They’re already gearing up to implement the repeal,” said Jonah. “It’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of when.”
Kellan was surprised by Jonah’s confidence and candor. Scuttlebutt on the Hill was that DADT was terminal. That belief had made its way to the troop level, too. That made Kellan happy on both a professional and a personal level.
“So, are you catching a ride with me tomorrow?” he asked.
“If you don’t mind,” Jonah said quietly, looking at Kellan sidelong.
Kellan held out his hand which Jonah immediately clasped in his own. “I would very much enjoy it.”
Awwww! It’s romance, Marine Corps style! Those big, tough guys are so cute when they’re being emotionally obtuse.
If you’d like to learn more about Jonah and Kellan, and their fellow Recon Marines, you can read about my books here, on my website. You’ll fine buy links there, too.
You can enter below for a chance to win an e-book copy of either of Jonah and Kellan’s installments of The Recon Diaries – Brothers In Arms (book #1) or Fire for Effect (book #2).