I'll Be Home For Christmas is the upcoming release in the Coming Home series from author Jessica Scott. I'm a huge fan of Jessica Scott and was super excited to be a part of her cover reveal for Carponti's book! I've wanted his book since we met him and am so glad we only have to wait until November 5.
Sergeant Vic Carponti paused outside his company operations office,
taking a deep breath. It was funny how their corner of Fort Hood felt deserted
the night before a deployment. The company colors had already been cased. They
would uncase them in a few weeks, once they got settled into their new home
across the ocean in the middle of the war.
He didn’t know why this deployment was bothering him so much. It
wasn’t his first time heading off to war, so he knew what to expect when the
shit hit the fan in combat. But there was something hanging over his head this
time. A fear that maybe this time his luck would run out.
He sighed and rubbed his face with both hands before walking into
the company ops. The only thing they’d left up was the plaque that bore the
names of their fallen brothers from the last deployment. The commander—Captain
Trent Davila, a man Carponti had known for years—was planning on carrying that
with him personally so it couldn’t ever get lost.
And so no one would ever forget. Carponti reached up and took it
gently off the wall, then strolled into his company commander’s office with a
nonchalance painted on his face that he damn sure didn’t feel. But people
expected him to laugh and joke and make them forget the bad shit all around and
so that’s what he was going to do.
“Don’t forget this,” he said, placing the plaque on Trent’s desk.
He plopped down in a chair, then kicked his feet up on Trent’s desk. “Are you
coming out with us tonight?”
Captain Trent Davila lifted one eyebrow at Carponti’s feet and said
nothing. Carponti looked at his commander and longtime friend, then at the
plaque next to his boots.
“Fine,” he said with a sigh, dropping his feet to the floor. “So
answer the question.”
Trent sighed. “I can’t go out with you guys. I’m the company
commander. I’m not allowed to have fun,” Trent grumbled. “Besides, my boss
would have my nuts in a sling if anything happens while I'm there.”
“It’s the last day before our deployment. You’re allowed to have fun.
You can just say you’re supervising all of us miscreants.” Carponti took the
last Dr. Pepper out of Trent's fridge. “The deployment hasn’t even started and
you already look stressed the hell out. You should be working your lieutenant
to death instead of trying to do everything yourself.”
Trent shook his head and pushed his glasses to the top of his head.
“Yeah, well, my new executive officer seems to think he’s God’s gift to the
army. He’s good but he’s not as good as he thinks he is.”
“Oh, the boys just love him,” Carponti said.
“No, not really. He’s an arrogant fuck who believes his own press.
Personally, I can’t stand him, but luckily I don’t have to deal with him much.
I just sic Sarn’t Garrison on him.”
Trent grinned and reached for the plaque, sliding his hat on top of
it so he wouldn’t forget it. “Yeah, Garrison has a way with words.”
Garrison was Carponti’s platoon sergeant. Garrison and Trent had
been squad leaders many moons ago when Trent had still been enlisted. In
Carponti’s world, it meant a whole lot that Trent had stayed close with his
enlisted friends even after he’d crossed over to the dark side and become an
“I’m swinging by his place on my way home. He needs to go out
before someone shoots his grumpy old ass. He’s been a complete buzz kill since
his wife left him.”
“Your sympathy is astounding,” Trent said dryly. He grinned and
shook his head. “Why do we put up with you?”
“Because I’m charming and funny and good in a firefight?” Carponti
said with a grin.
“Pretty much. You can make anyone laugh.”
“It’s an important life skill. Like balancing a checkbook. So
seriously, find a babysitter and come out with us. Your wife could use some fun
before she has to spend the year dealing with all the spouses in the Family
Readiness Group and chasing your kids around while you’re off on another fun
“I wouldn’t exactly call going to combat a fun adventure.” Trent
rubbed his chest. There was a scar there, Carponti knew. A scar that had damn
near killed Trent several years ago. Carponti wondered just how much stress his
commander was carrying and not telling anyone. Trent’s face flushed when he
realized Carponti had caught him rubbing his scar and he tapped the pencil hard
enough to snap the eraser off. “You know, you’re right. Let me see if we can’t
find a sitter.”
“Excellent. We’ll be congregating by the bar when you get there.
Now I just have to go convince Garrison to come out with us.”
“Good luck with that,” Trent said, pulling his glasses down. “He’s
on the verge of becoming a warrior monk.”
“Not if I have anything to say about it,” Carponti mumbled as he
strolled out of his commander’s office. He wished he hadn’t seen the flicker of
worry that flashed in his commander’s eyes when he’d mentioned his wife. He’d
thought that Laura and Trent were one of the strongest couples he knew. She’d
put up with him deploying back to back to back since he’d almost died a few
But that flicker of worry? Yeah, Carponti hadn’t missed it. There
were problems there, hopefully small ones that Trent would take time to fix
after this rotation into the sandbox.
Carponti looked down at his own wedding ring. It was his last night
home and his last night with his wife.
He was glad he’d convinced her to come out with him and the boys.
That way he could make sure they had a most excellent party and spend time with
Nicole at the same time. He was going to spend part ofthe night chaperoning his guys to make sure
they made the most of it—which meant making sure no one ended up in jail—but
then? Then the time he had left was going to be spent making his wife laugh.
Because try though he might, he couldn’t shake the quiet dread that
settled in the pit of his stomach that tonight was the last night of normalcy
he had on this earth.
Nicole Carponti breathed deeply and fanned her eyes, trying to stop
the burning of hot tears. She leaned against the wall of the bathroom in Ropers
and tried to stuff down all the churning emotions chained to the fact that her
husband was leaving for war tomorrow. Again.
The first time he’d left she’d been scared, but then the war, the
deployment…the waiting…it had all been unknown. She’d worked on finishing her
degree and kept herself busy and waited by the phone like all the military
wives who had gone before her.
The second time he’d left, she’d known better what to expect. The
long waits between phone calls. The silence when he couldn’t talk long. The
quick e-mails saying “I’m alive” that once upon a time would have been too
little, but during the war were more than enough to keep her going.
But this time? This time was different. The Surge was different.
They were sending in massive amounts of soldiers to try to quell the Iraqi
insurgency. It was bloody and deadly and soldiers were getting attacked at
higher rates than at any earlier time during the war.
And Nicole was terrified.
She had to hide it, though. She’d agreed to come out with him
tonight just because it gave her a chance to pretend that she was fine. She had
to keep everything in check until after he left. She couldn’t let him know how
much she worried this time.
Fanning her eyes once more, she stepped out of the bathroom and
into the rowdy country bar. A place like this was guaranteed trouble on a
normal night, but tonight her husband’s platoon was rolling deep. Which was
either going to be a really good thing or a really bad thing for her future job
at the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, depending on how cantankerous
She spotted her good friend Laura Davila at the bar with a cute
blond woman Nicole had met in the bathroom a little while ago. She had already
completely forgotten the other woman’s name. She was terrible with names.
She wound her way through the pulsating crowd until she reached
them. Laura grinned at her and she exclaimed, “I can’t believe you came out
“You’ve already said this twice,” Laura said. They had to shout to
hear each other.
Nicole flagged down the bartender and leaned around Laura to her
friend. “I’m a terrible person but I already forgot your name. I’m Nicole
The petite blond held out her hand. “Jen St. James.”
“Nice to meet you, Jen. I won’t forget this time,” Nicole said with
Laura leaned toward Nicole. “I’m trying to get her out of her
shell. She had cancer and she’s been struggling with her self-esteem ever
Nicole frowned, glancing toward Jen, who was now trying to get the
attention of the bartender. On the other side of her, though, was Garrison, her
husband’s platoon sergeant. He was a big man and he was currently leaning down
to talk to Jen. “How’s that for a self-esteem boost?” Nicole said, gesturing
toward the two.
Laura glanced over, then quickly looked away before she was caught.
Her eyes lit with a brilliant smile. “Oh, that couldn’t be more perfect if I
had planned it.”
Nicole studied her friend through narrowed eyes. “Did you plan it?”
“I wish. But let’s just see how this little situation develops,
Nicole raised her beer in mock salute to her friend. “You, m’dear,
are a devious and loyal friend.”
“I’ll drink to that,” Laura said. “So how’s Carponti taking this
Nicole heard the undercurrent in her friend’s voice. “You know how
he is. Always cracking jokes, which I suppose is a good thing. I’m fucking
“Yeah, I know. I’ve been talking to some of the spouses. The Surge
has everyone terrified. One of the spouses told me it was a death sentence.”
Laura took a sip from her beer, scanning the bar.
Nicole scoffed quietly. “How’s that for melodramatic?” But she
didn’t voice her own fear that this deployment was going to be worse than the
previous ones. “I don’t envy you as the Family Readiness Group leader.”
“Oh, come on, don’t you want to volunteer? You can be responsible
for keeping me from going crazy. It’s a primary duty position, you know.”
Nicole laughed. “Not in this lifetime,” she said. “I always feel
out of place once the spouses find out I’m pretty much a cop.”
Jen leaned over, rejoining their conversation as Shane wandered off
in the direction of Laura’s husband. “What’s going on over there?” she said,
pointing at Laura’s husband.
Nicole sighed heavily and took another drink. “Oh joy. Looks like
Trent is giving one of his lieutenants some love. Couldn’t have the rest of the
night without drama, could we?” She glanced back at Laura and Jen. “We should
go interrupt before the second round of fireworks go off.”
Earlier Vic had gotten into an argument with Lieutenant Randall and
now it looked like Laura's husband was finishing things off with the arrogant
prick. The LT made Nicole’s skin crawl and she wasn’t looking forward to
another bar fight. Not two in one night, that was for sure.
But whatever had happened was over now. She watched as LT Randall
made a beeline for the door. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Garrison
talking to Jen again. And Laura? Once Randall was gone, she and her husband
moved off to a dark corner of the bar and were deep in conversation.
She hoped it was a good one. She didn’t like the worry she’d seen
in her friend’s eyes when she talked about her husband.
She snuck up behind Vic, sliding her hands over his hips and up his
t-shirt and the smooth hard skin of his body, placing a kiss at the little
indentation at the indentation between his shoulder blades.
He turned and wrapped his arms around her shoulders. “There you
are.” He kissed her fiercely, reminding her of how much she loved this man. “I
was about to send out a search party for you in the little girls’ room.”
Nicole wrapped her arms around his waist and lifted her chin to
meet his eyes. He was leaner than he’d been when he’d come home last year. His
body was more solid from long ruck marches and hard training for this
deployment. His eyes, though, were the same bright, mischievous green that
they’d always been and she counted herself lucky that whatever he’d gone
through in the war, he’d come home okay so far. She just prayed their luck
“No search party required,” she murmured against his lips. “I was
talking to Laura. I’m impressed that you got Garrison and Trent to come out.”
“You should be,” Carponti grumbled, biting her bottom lip gently.
“I had to guilt both of them into it. It’s like they both turned thirty and
amputated their fun genes or something.”
Nicole laughed against his mouth. “Dance with me?” she asked.
“What in our history makes you think I know how to dance?” he
grumbled even as he allowed her to lead him onto the dance floor.
“You’ll figure it out,” she said, sliding her arms around his neck.
She rubbed her body against his, sensuously moving her hips in time with the
He dropped his hands to her hips, guiding her exactly where he
wanted her. “Keep that up and we’ll have to sneak out to the car,” he said, his
breath hot on her ear.
She nibbled on his bottom lip, biting it gently. “I think you’re
trying to seduce me,” she whispered. She dug her fingers into his back, her
blood humming with latent arousal. God but she loved this man.
“I’m absolutely trying to seduce you,” he said. He angled his thigh
between hers, pressing close to the juncture of her thighs. The pressure sent
vibrations through her body and straight to her core.
“I’m kind of ready to go home.” Her words were a gasp as he rubbed
his thigh against her swollen center. “Before you get into any more fights with
“Can we not talk about work when I’m trying to turn you on?” he
mumbled. He slipped his hand beneath the hem of her shirt, stroking his thumb
down the centerline of her back. A shiver ran through her.
“You don’t want to talk about work? That doesn’t turn you on?” She
undulated against him, grateful for the crush of bodies that swayed around them
and enabled them to be lost in the crowd.
“No, trying to get you naked turns me on,” he said. “We really need
to get out of here.” His breath traced over her ear a moment before he bit her
earlobe gently, a fierce burst of pleasure in the pain.
“That sounds like a brilliant idea.”
He sighed as a commotion cleared a corner of the dance floor. “I
hate being one of the responsible adults.” He kissed her hard. “Let me get
everyone out of here first? That way no one goes to jail on our last night in
She kissed him fiercely. “I’ll be waiting over here for you to get
done being all caveman.”
“I’ll show you caveman later,” he said with a grin before wading
into the crowd and diffusing the situation between Garrison and Trent.
It took the better part of an hour before they’d shuffled everyone
off to their respective cabs and vehicles. Nicole talked with Laura and Jen and
tried not to notice how Jen kept watching Garrison. Oh now wasn’t that
It felt like forever before her husband strolled across the parking
lot and scooped her up, carrying her toward their vehicle.
Their car was parked deep in a shadowed corner of the parking lot,
and the moment her husband closed the door Nicole crawled into his lap on the
passenger’s seat. He pulled her close, kissing her hard and fast. Pouring a
thousand unsaid things into that kiss. His hand threaded into her hair and he
slanted her mouth until he owned her—all of her—and she was lost in his taste,
Then he broke off abruptly. “What the hell?”
“Who is that with Garrison?”
Nicole twisted around in time to see Garrison, one of Carponti’s
oldest friends, lean in to kiss Jen.
“Oh now that’s interesting,” Carponti whispered.
Nicole spun around. “Don’t you say anything to him,” she said.
“Because this is the first time Garrison has done anything for
himself since his wife left him. Leave him alone.”
Carponti blinked innocently. “What makes you think I would say
anything?” he said. His words slurred and Nicole grinned before fishing around
in his pockets for his car keys. “A little more to the left.”
Nicole laughed then climbed into the driver’s seat as Garrison
stepped back, letting Jen walk to an ancient sedan. “She’s cute. She’s friends
Laura, who was being carried across the parking lot by her husband.
She hoped for Laura’s sake the happiness lasted longer than just tonight. The
war was taking its toll on everyone, and Nicole had noticed more than once that
there was a strain in her friend’s voice when she talked about her husband.
Vic just looked at her. “Oh really?”
Nicole drove them away before her husband could interrupt what had
looked like something very sweet between Jen and Garrison. She’d known Garrison
as long as she’d known her husband and it was long overdue for him to find
someone that made him happy outside of the army.
She glanced at her husband, who had closed his eyes the moment the
vehicle started moving, a lazy smile on his lips. Something warm bloomed inside
She wished Garrison could find the kind of happy that she had with