A SEAL's Courage


By JM Stewart

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A sizzling series about three friends looking for love-and the sexy SEALs who are ready to fulfill their craziest fantasies.

He’s a man on a mission.

Navy SEAL Trent Lawson isn’t a man to back down from a challenge. Ever since he opened his eyes in that army hospital to learn the men from his unit were gone, Trent has been determined to live life in their honor. Even if that means facing his most terrifying mission yet . . . dating.

She’s done playing games.
Lauren Hayes has standards. In fact, she’s got an entire list of them. There’s only ever been one man to come close to making the cut-Trent Lawson. Except her best friend’s too-sexy-for-his-own-good brother is strictly off-limits.

When Trent and Lauren find themselves matched up by a dating service, the chemistry between them is nothing short of explosive. They both know getting involved is a huge mistake, but life is too short to walk away from something this good.


Chapter One

“I’m going to be a virgin until I die.” Lauren Hayes let out a world-weary sigh and sank back against the plush leather seats. The club around her pulsed, the throbbing beat and surging bodies lending an upbeat atmosphere Lauren couldn’t get into.

Stephanie Mason, one of her two best friends, peered over the rim of her drink, her straw dangling from the side of her mouth. “You need to give up your perfect-man wish list, babe, and settle for Mr. Right Now, because Mr. Right doesn’t exist.”

Lauren eyed the two women seated across the table from her and sighed. “I know it’s old-fashioned, but I wanted my first time to be with someone who’d actually remember my name in the morning. Not some hookup in a bar.”

Mandy Lawson, best friend number two, shook her head, sending her short dark curls swishing over her shoulder. “I’m afraid, sweets, as the saying goes, if you want to find Prince Charming, you have to kiss a few toads. You’re not going to lose your virginity by being picky.”

Mandy had been her best friend since junior high. They’d met in home ec when their teacher partnered them together for a project. She’d told Lauren long ago she was nuts for making that chastity pact in ninth grade. She and a few of the other girls from church promised to remain virgins until they married. At the time, Lauren had made it with good intentions. When she was ten, her birth mother died in a car accident while driving home from another date with yet another fling. Having a single mother who slept around so much she didn’t even know who Lauren’s father was had left a lasting impression. She’d grown up determined to never, ever, become like her mother.

Lauren waved a hand at Mandy. “Oh, I know, but it’s hard to reconcile my ideas of how true love should be with the desire to lose my virginity as quickly as possible.”

Lauren had strict rules for how she lived her life, things she’d gleaned from her adoptive mother, Mary. Mary had started out her foster mother, eventually adopting her when she was eleven. She’d gotten lucky. Not all kids who ended up in foster care got adopted. Mary had been a deeply religious woman and had old-fashioned ideas, particularly when it came to things like dating and sex. Never make the first move. No kissing on the first date. No drinking or staying out late. Number one on that list? No sex before marriage.

The problem was, Lauren had yet to do much actual living. She had yet to know the gloriousness of sex. Or getting so drunk she woke up the next day not remembering how she’d gotten home. Or hell, the simple pleasure of making out with a guy. Wasn’t most of that normal teenage behavior?

Mary had lived a safe—but boring—life. Her strict rules had kept her from living as much as she could have. She’d devoted herself to the church and to raising Lauren, and had died in her sleep, in her favorite recliner with her knitting in her lap. Mary’s death had hit Lauren hard. And it had taught her one thing: life was short. She wanted to have a little fun before she died. To give up “the rules” and do all those things she’d held back on out of fear of doing the wrong thing. So far she hadn’t done any of that.

She picked up her drink—some fruity concoction with sex in the name, courtesy of Steph—and took a sip before eyeing the girls again. “It’s sad, isn’t it? I’ll be twenty-eight next week, and I’ve never even fallen in love. Infatuation, sure, and something that felt an awful lot like love until I realized it was one-sided.”

Across the table, Stephanie waggled her blond brows. “Just do it, babe. Go dance, rub up against some hottie, and let nature takes its course.”

Oh, she’d tried that. After Mary’s death, she’d jumped into the dating pool, determined to get herself out there. She’d signed up for several of those dating sites and had gone on plenty of dates. The problem was, they never went anywhere. More than a few of the men wanted nothing to do with a virgin. Some had been a little too eager for her tastes. Most, though, had simply never called her back before she’d even gotten around to admitting that she was a virgin.

Lauren shook her head. “I agree it’s time, but that’s not me. Hell, I’d probably trip over my own feet and make a complete dork of myself.”

She was born with the klutz gene. If she didn’t watch the ground when she walked, she tended to trip over stuff. She couldn’t count the number of times she’d run into a pole or another person because she’d been too wrapped up in her thoughts.

“You know…” Mandy, who was a little more down to earth, took a moment to gulp down the last of her beer. She set the bottle on the table and leaned forward to grin at Lauren. “I could always—”

“Oh, no.” Lauren laughed and held up her hands. She didn’t need to ask to know where this was going. Mandy loved playing matchmaker. “No way am I letting you fix me up again. You’re a fabulous wedding designer, sweetie, but your taste in men sucks. There was Jake the octopus, who had eight arms and wouldn’t take no for an answer. And then there was Guy, who talked about himself all night and how wonderful he was. Need I go on?”

Mandy’s bottom lip popped out, but her cheeks flushed bright crimson. “Aw, come on. They weren’t all awful. I know a hot military guy who’d be right up your alley…”

Lauren laughed again and jabbed a pointed finger at Mandy. “No.”

“Actually…” Mandy looked to her left, flagging down the waitress and signaling for a refill by holding up her empty beer bottle. When the waitress smiled and nodded, Mandy turned back around and leaned her elbows on the table. “There’s a new dating service I just heard of. You remember Jennifer Dillon, from high school?”

Lauren nodded. “Didn’t I see an engagement announcement in the paper last week?”

“Yup. She and her fiancé came into my office the other day for help planning the wedding. In fact, I recommended your bakery for the cake. Ohhh, Laur, you should have seen her fiancé. He’s air force. Tall, broad shouldered, and so polite. Came in dressed in his uniform, all ‘yes, ma’am’ and ‘no, ma’am.’”

Lauren sipped at her drink. “No. I’m not letting you set me up again. I don’t care if he’s got a brother or friends or a million bucks.”

Mandy furrowed her brow, glaring in disapproval. “Will you just listen? While we were talking about her wishes for the ceremony, I asked her where she’d met him. She said they used this service. Military Match. Kind of pricey, but the woman who runs it screens her applicants. So when I went home that night, I checked it out online.” Mandy’s blue eyes gleamed with impishness. “All the men are vets.”

“Oh, I’m definitely in.” Steph nudged Lauren with an elbow. “So are you.”

Lauren couldn’t stop the fierce heat that flooded her cheeks. These ladies knew her too well. Okay, she had to admit it. She had a “thing” for military men. There was something about a guy who willingly put his life on the line for people who couldn’t fight for themselves. The uniform alone could melt her panties.

She sipped at her icy drink in a vain attempt to cool down. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Mandy laughed. “Right. Don’t think I never noticed the way you’d go all tongue-tied whenever Trent came home on leave.”

Steph turned her head, winking at Lauren. “Or the way you drool when he walks away from you.”

Mandy was the youngest of three. Her brothers were ten years older than her and twins. Trent and Will might look identical, but the two couldn’t be more different. Will was clean-cut. The guy in suits and ties rather than jeans and worn T-shirts. Trent had always been rough around the edges, a quiet guy who preferred to work with his hands.

A Navy SEAL, he’d gotten out of the service and returned home eighteen months ago with scars, some visible, some not. He now worked in a custom motorcycle shop doing detail work. Of the two brothers, Trent was the one who had always made her cream her panties. More to the point, Mandy knew she had a crush on him.

Steph looked over at Mandy. “How he’s doing anyway?”

Mandy shook her head and sighed. “He’s…different. He’s always been quiet, but he crawled into himself after he came home and hasn’t come back out yet.”

Trent had post-traumatic stress disorder. Nightmares. Flashbacks. Coming home, he’d had a hell of a time of it. Mandy was right. He was doing better these days, but he still wasn’t the guy he’d been before his last deployment.

Lauren dropped her gaze, pretending to be absorbed in her drink. “You should sign him up for that dating service. Might do him some good.”

Mandy laughed. “Nope. He won’t let me fix him up, either.” Mandy rose to her feet and came around the table, tugging Lauren out of her seat. “Come on, ladies. Let’s go find us some hotties and shake our tail feathers.”

*  *  *

The following evening, Lauren pulled open her front door to find Mandy standing on her doorstep. She wore a sheepish grin Lauren had seen too many times over the years. It usually meant trouble.

Lauren folded her arms, narrowing her gaze. “All right. What did you do?”

Mandy’s cheeks blazed bright red, and she took sudden interest in her sneakers. “I signed you up. I signed us all up, actually.”

Lauren’s heart took off on a one-hundred-meter dash. She had a sneaking suspicion she knew what Mandy referenced, but she needed to hear her headstrong best friend own up to it. “Signed us up for what?”

“That dating agency.” Mandy looked up then, flashed a please-don’t-be-mad grin, and clasped her hands together. “Steph’s excited about it…”

Lauren’s eyes widened. “Oh my God, Mandy. How could you do that? You don’t know anything about this woman or this service.”

“Actually, I do.” Mandy stepped over the threshold, grabbed Lauren’s wrist, and after closing the front door, pulled her into the living room. Once there, she took a seat on the sofa and patted the spot beside her. “I know I can be a little…impulsive, but I went to talk to the woman. She won’t let me sign you up officially until you come down to speak to her yourself. Laur, you’d like her. Turns out, Karen’s husband works with Trent at the bike shop. She’s really down to earth and sweet. She’s a great big romantic, but she’s strong minded, like you. She wants her clients to feel comfortable with their experience, whether it lasts or not.”

Lauren dropped onto the sofa beside her. Okay, so she was impressed Mandy hadn’t rushed headlong into this, but she had enough experience with Mandy not to let her off the hook yet. “You should’ve consulted me first.”

Mandy nudged her with an elbow. “Come on. You know you would’ve said no. Besides.” Mandy dropped back against the sofa cushions with a tired sigh. “Jennifer was so happy when she came into my office the other day. I mean glowing. So is Skylar. The expression on her face when she looks at Will? I’ve never seen him so calm or so happy. I want that. One guy who makes me feel feminine and beautiful, who isn’t turned off by the fact that I can take care of myself. Clearly I won’t find it on my own.”

Lauren leaned back and lay her head against Mandy’s. “Me, either.”

Mandy reached for her hand. “So do this with me. Us. Go talk to Karen and decide for yourself. You’re right, you know. You shouldn’t lose your virginity to some jerk you meet in a bar. Or in the back of a Toyota like I did.”

Lauren blew out a heavy breath. “Fine. I’ll talk to Karen, but that’s all I’m promising you for now.”

Mandy was right about one thing: since Mary’s death, she’d been thinking about pushing herself beyond her comfort zone.

Mandy threw her arms around Lauren’s shoulders and squeezed gently. “You won’t regret it, Laur, I promise.”

Lauren laughed softly. “I sincerely hope not.”

*  *  *

Lying in the darkness of her bedroom, Lauren stared at the shadowy ceiling above her. A glance at the clock told her it was just past nine. She needed to be sleeping. After all, she had to be up at three, so she could be at the bakery by four. But no matter how many times she closed her eyes, sleep wouldn’t come.

All because she’d gone over to see Trent tonight. Steph’s casual mention of him two nights ago had inspired the worry.

For the longest time after he’d come home, Trent’s PTSD had meant he’d barely left his apartment, even to fill his fridge. It’s what had worried his family so much and why she’d taken to going over to see him on a regular basis. She’d wanted to help. A decision to bring him food one night had launched a thousand arguments and a thousand conversations.

Over the last year, he’d become a friend. She’d gone over to check on him one night after work, nine months ago now. Bringing him meals he could keep in the fridge and heat up later had always just been an excuse. She’d expected him to be his usual grumpy self, that he’d glare at her and tell her to leave. It’s what he always did. She’d barge into his apartment—because she’d been instructed not to take no for an answer—and he’d follow her around as she made him a meal or cleaned and complain about her “invading his damn house.”

This particular time, though, he’d actually invited her to stay. Ever since, it had become a tradition. Once or twice a week, she’d take him a meal or two, and he’d invite her to have dinner with him.

So it had been when she’d gone to see him after work today. They’d sat and chatted about their days while chowing down on the lasagna and garlic bread she’d brought over.

Now, hours later, she couldn’t sleep because she couldn’t stop seeing his smile. Being a serious man, he didn’t smile often, but when he did, he was downright magnificent. It transformed his whole face. Harsh, cut features softened, and his cobalt-blue eyes lit up like the sun.

God, she swore she’d gotten over her crush on him in high school. After all, he’d gotten married and had gone overseas, and she’d grown up and moved on. But since he’d come home, those scintillating feelings had begun to sneak up on her again. Except Trent was now divorced. Single. And that solitary fact teased her senses. Her body didn’t seem to care that he tended to treat her like she was another sister. That he didn’t seem to see her as a woman.

No, she always came away from time with him more aroused than she knew what to do with. Trent was every woman’s dream. Polite. Charming. Funny. A hard worker. And it all came in a rock-hard package. God help her, he’d become her naughty little secret.

Even now the addicting rumble of his laugh echoed through her mind, shivering down her spine and landing straight in her panties. He’d teased her about her need to clean whenever she came over. It had started as an excuse to stay, to force him to interact, but had long since become a nervous habit.

Tonight he’d bumped her shoulder and laughed, and that one simple contact lit her body on fire. Because lately she couldn’t help imagining what that hard body of his would feel like pressed against hers.

Giving in to the pull, she closed her eyes and slipped her hand inside her panties. Already hot and wet, a single glide over her swollen clit sent a heated shiver running through her. Her breathing hitched as her mind filled with the now familiar fantasy. Her favorite. The heat of his body against hers. His hot mouth skimming her neck, her shoulder, her ear. Teasing her sensitive skin. He’d slip those wonderfully long, warm fingers into her panties, massage her aching clit.

It was so real, she swore she could feel the hot huff of his breath in her ear. The callouses on the tips of his fingers. All too quickly, the luscious, achy pressure built. Heat prickled along her skin, and her inner muscles began a rhythmic squeezing, tightening and loosening. She rocked her hips into her hand, all the while imagining her fingers were his. Massaging. Circling. Driving her out of her mind with their ability to send her careening toward bliss at breakneck speed.

It didn’t take long. Just the thought of him had made her so hot a few flicks over her engorged clit pushed her over the edge. Her orgasm tore through her, a luscious, hot bubble that burst inside of her. She massaged through every blinding pulse, determined to make it last as long as possible.

When the luscious spasms finally subsided, she collapsed back onto the bed and opened her eyes, lying there a moment, limbs deliciously heavy, while attempting to regain control over her breathing. The shadowy ceiling came back into focus, and the quietness of the house seeped around her.

The unbearable loneliness crept up right behind it. The way it always did. The one thing missing in this scenario was the warm, masculine body against her side. She longed for the pleasure to have been shared and for strong arms to hold her while she slept, and their lack left an emptiness deep inside.

Now, staring up at her ceiling, all she could see were the similarities between her and Mary. Mary had been a sweet woman with a heart of gold. She’d given Lauren a good life and had made her feel loved. But Mary had never been willing to take risks, had never put herself out there. And then she’d died alone, never having found her true love. What if Lauren ended up the same way?

Determination expanded inside of her. She pulled her hand from her panties and moved into the attached bathroom. After relieving herself and washing her hands, she strode down the hallway and into the kitchen. There on the counter sat the notepad she wrote her grocery list down on. She pulled it close, grabbed the pen beside it, and started making a list of all the things she’d never done but had always wanted to.

1: Lose my virginity

She paused, frowning down at the pad. Accomplishing number one would require finding the guy first, though.

Her conversation with Mandy two evenings ago came flooding back.

Go talk to Karen and decide for yourself, she’d said. You shouldn’t lose your virginity to some jerk you meet in a bar.

Mandy was right. If she really wanted to lose her virginity, she needed to put herself out there.

She turned back to her list, making another note.

2: Call Karen at Military Match.

*  *  *

Lauren eyed her image again in the full-length mirror beside her dresser. A week had passed since she’d made the decision to call Karen at Military Match. Tonight was her first date. Turned out Mandy was right. Talking to Karen had all but made the decision to sign up easy. The woman had impressed her. Karen had a firm vision for her business, one with her clients’ needs at heart.

Over the last week, as she’d waited for tonight to arrive, she’d also added a few more things to her list. She wanted to make out with a guy in public, and she wanted to get drunk. Just once. After all, wasn’t that what college kids did? She hadn’t, and she wanted to know what it felt like.

She’d also made a decision about tonight’s date. She had every intention of checking off a few items from that list, and if she was doing this, then she was going all in. Tonight she was going to seduce her date. Have a hot fling for the first time in her life with a decent guy.

She’d need help, though. She hadn’t a clue what to wear, and she was so nervous she couldn’t stand herself. So she’d called Mandy and Steph for help. She’d planned her entire day so that she wouldn’t have to worry later. She’d gone to the bakery extra early this morning to make certain all their orders were filled and the shop’s shelves were packed. She’d left Lauren’s Chocolates and Pastries an hour earlier than usual, so she’d have extra time to fret over what on earth to wear.

When she got home, Steph and Mandy waited on the porch, arms loaded. God bless her best friends.

Now, an hour later, Mandy had taken care of her hair and makeup. Steph had brought over the wardrobe. Mandy, at least, hadn’t gone over the edge. She’d dolled up her usual perfunctory makeup and forced her to take her hair out of the ponytail she usually kept it in.

Steph, however, had gone completely crazy. Tonight’s outfit was something Lauren wouldn’t normally have been caught dead in. The zebra-striped blouse Steph had chosen lay open down to the button between her breasts. The V of the thin black sweater overtop was cut almost to her belly button. The black jeans at least she was comfortable with, but they were tighter than she would have preferred.

She turned to frown at Steph in the glass’s reflection. “Are you sure this is the right look for tonight?”

“You’re just lucky I decided to let you wear jeans and not that skirt I brought over.” At Lauren’s frown, Steph looked up, meeting her gaze in the mirror. “You want to get laid, right?”

“Yes, but…” Lauren eyed her reflection again. As a divorce attorney for a local firm, Steph was the more adventurous and confident of their trio. She had no qualms about wearing something formfitting and low cut, and she had the perfect hourglass figure to pull it off. Lauren, however, had always been tall and gangly and just this side of awkward. She’d never worn something so risqué.

“Uh-uh. No buts.” Steph frowned in admonishment. “If you want to get laid, babe, you’re going to have to leave behind your schoolmarm wardrobe. I still think you should’ve gone with that skirt instead of these jeans. Show a little cleavage and a little thigh and he’ll be following you around like a lost puppy.”

“We’re just meeting for coffee. It’s not like we’re going to a club or anything. That skirt was way overdone.” And too damn short for her tastes. “You realize I’m going to break my ankle in these heels, right?”

The heels were gorgeous, and they did make her legs look awesome. She felt sexy. Her and heels, though, had never gotten along well. More than likely she’d trip over the sidewalk and fall flat on her face. As usual.

“Well, you look smokin’ hot.” With one last small adjustment to the thick brown leather belt around Lauren’s waist, Steph smiled in satisfaction. “You’ve got a great body, hon. You just need to learn how to show it off.”

And that right there was the flaw in her little plan. She wasn’t comfortable baring her assets to the world the way Steph was. She had too many memories of watching her mother get dressed for one of her dates. She eyed her reflection again and sighed. But wasn’t stepping out of her comfort zone the whole idea of this?

Mandy appeared beside her in the mirror and looped an arm around her shoulders. “He won’t know what hit him.”

Knowing that, however, did nothing for the nauseated sensation swirling in her stomach. She had one too many memories of guys promising to call but never actually doing it. If she didn’t hurl on her date’s shoes or fall flat on her face, it would be a miracle.

*  *  *

Trent Lawson paced the sidewalk along the windows of the Starbucks. He scanned the street around him as he walked, his heart hammering from the vicinity of his throat. For the first time in almost twelve years he had a date.

This wasn’t where he’d seen himself the day he married his now ex-wife. Wasn’t where he’d seen himself when he’d come home eighteen months ago with his shoulder blown out, his leg in pieces, and his mind scattered to the wind, either. Hell, he still wasn’t a hundred percent. He was still healing, still getting a handle on his PTSD, and his triggers were everywhere. Just last week the pop of a child’s toy gun had sent him into a tailspin. He’d hit the ground before realizing it wasn’t real. He still woke most nights covered in sweat from nightmares about the brutal things he’d seen overseas.

How the hell could he support someone emotionally when he was still drowning himself? But he missed the warm body beside him in bed at night. So here he was, standing in front of a coffee shop, divorced and waiting on a woman whose name and face he didn’t know.

That was supposed to be fun part of the dating service he’d signed up with a month ago. He’d gotten the name of the place from one of the guys he worked with. Gabe Donovan and Marcus Denali co-owned the custom bike shop where he worked. Fellow SEALs, the guys had become his good friends since he started there six months ago. Who else but a fellow vet could possibly understand his aversion to large crowds and loud noises?


  • "A tale of enduing love!...The trysts between Cassie and Ty are red- hot and explosive, but they are always crackling with sexual tension because of the deep emotional bond they have."—FreshFiction on Claiming the Billionaire
  • "Timely and filled with hot, sexual chemistry...For readers who want a happy ever after, Stewart delivers."—Library Journal on Claiming the Billionaire
  • "There is a wonderful sensuality in BARGAINING FOR THE BILLIONAIRE for the reader to get deliciously lost in. The scenes of sizzling passion pack extra intensity because of the depth of the feelings Maddie and Grayson have for each other and the history that they share. Grayson makes a determined and caring suitor."—FreshFiction.com on Bargaining for the Billionaire
  • "Top pick! 5 stars! While this story is steamy, it's also filled with vulnerable moments and angst, that make this book hard to put down...For those who enjoy a great second chance love story, this needs to be your next read!"—HarlequinJunkie.com on Bargaining for the Billionaire
  • "There is so much raw emotion and a delicious sense of longing...Winning the Billionaire has a winning combination of love, lust, and great storytelling."—FreshFiction.com on Winning the Billionaire
  • "What starts out as a strictly physical bit of great erotica morphs into something much more as the emotional intimacy between Hannah and Cade grows...Bidding on the Billionaire is an exceptionally sensual romance with emotional punch, and characters you care about."
    FreshFiction.com on Bidding on the Billionaire

On Sale
Jul 11, 2017
Page Count
240 pages
Forever Yours

JM Stewart

About the Author

J.M. Stewart is a coffee and chocolate addict who lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, two sons, and two very spoiled dogs. She’s a hopeless romantic who believes everybody should have their happily ever after and has been devouring romance novels for as long as she can remember. Writing them has become her obsession.

Learn more at:
Twitter: @JMStewartWriter

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