Halo

halo

I fell in love with Thomas Wells and knew he was my forever.
I was sixteen when I gave him my heart.
Our love was the kind to last a lifetime.

But Thomas was broken.
The first day we met he told me he was going to become a Navy SEAL.
At nineteen he enlisted.
At twenty he married me.
At twenty five he left me pregnant and didn’t turn back.
I knew he was suffering….
I also knew I couldn’t save him.
He left me broken.
I was scared and alone.

Until I met Ryder St. John a wounded soldier…
He was lost.
I was lost.
Together we made sense.
I fell in love again…

What Ryder forgot to mention was that he held a secret so explosive that it could shatter both our worlds

What Readers Are Saying

From first kiss to major plot twist… two solid love stories for the price of one…a sweet romance about new beginnings.

Kirkus Reviews

A Must Read Epic 5* Read

Tracy, Bookalicious Babes Blog

Wow! This book is simply phenomenal and a much needed breath of fresh air!….I cannot begin to tell you how much I loved this book! With so many “cookie cutter” books being published today, it was so enjoyable to read a story that is truly in a league of it’s own! The story line is fluid, and the characters are extremely well developed. If you are looking for a love story like no other you’ve read before, this is definitely the book for you!

Carla, Stephanie’s Book Reports

What can I say about this EPIC book from RC Stephens? Well, to start off…I absolutely LOVED it!! The story of Halo and Thomas’s romance was gripping, intensely emotional and soul-searingly unforgettable!

Jacquie, Bookalicious Babes Blog

Excerpt

Prologue
Rogers Park, Chicago
Christmas morning 2002
Thomas

I lie in bed waiting for Halo to wake up. I know Christmas was a big deal around her house when she was growing up. Even though her parents are gone I still want her to feel the magic of the holiday. When I was a kid Christmas was another shitty day in my life. Nothing to celebrate. Another mark on the calendar moving me closer to the time I could leave my father and my dirty past behind.

Halo begins to stir in bed, shifting toward me with her eyes shut. A sweet smile plays on her pink, lush lips and my chest bursts with love for this woman.

“Hey.” Her morning voice is raspy and thick. She opens her eyes. I couldn’t love this woman more even if I tried. She’s my everything.

“Hey yourself.” I grin as my eyes roam over her rosy nipples. The memory of making love last night gets me all hard again. I would take her right now if I didn’t have something planned. I let out a grunt.

She stretches out her arms and her body moves into a delicious curve. I lean down and close my mouth over her nipple. Damn, she tastes good.

I groan. “Baby, you can’t be teasing me now. It’s Christmas morning and I got stuff waiting for you under the tree downstairs.”

“Stuff?” Excitement grows in her eyes. “Like presents?” She instantly pops up to her knees, bouncing on the bed. She’s too cute. It’s taking everything in me not to claim her right now. I want to give her Christmas.

Seeing her smile means everything. Not too long ago she was drowning in darkness. The healthy gleam in her eyes tells me she’s feeling good now. It will make my news a little easier to deliver.

“Yes, baby, the stuff is presents.” Before I can say anything else she pops out of bed and grabs her T-shirt off the floor. I must have thrown it there last night during our lustful attempt to actually make it to the bed as opposed to having sex on the floor again.

There’s nothing wrong with floor sex but it can get hard on the back and Halo’s knees. Halo throws on the shirt and darts  down the hallway. I hear the small patter of her footsteps as she makes her way down the stairs. I slip on my boxer shorts and follow her. I placed a number of presents under the tree and she won’t know which to open first.

I swiftly walk down the stairs to the living room where our Christmas tree is shining bright. I look out the window to see a small dusting of snow falling from the sky. Halo seats herself on the floor in front of the presents. This is my second year with a Christmas tree and her second year without her parents—bittersweet.

“Which one do I open first?” she asks like a little girl rubbing her palms together. It makes me laugh. I mean we are young. I’m twenty and she’s nineteen. We were both forced to grow up too quickly. I guess it’s memorable times like this that we cherish.

“If I knew presents made you this excited I would try to get more.” I chuckle.

“It’s not just the presents, Thomas. It’s Christmas. Do you feel that? It’s magical.” She stares out into space with a peaceful look on her face.

“Sure baby, I’m feeling it.” I look down to the chub in my shorts from this morning’s perusal of her body.

“Thomas,” she chides, punching my shoulder.

I chuckle again. “I’m just joking, this day is special for me too.” She’s too cute. I lean in, pressing a soft kiss on her lips. I pull away and lean toward the first box I want her to open. “This one.” I pass her a little red box wrapped in pink ribbon. She opens it in a hurry. It’s a thong from Victoria’s Secret. It’s not meaningful, but I couldn’t help picture how hot she would look in it.

“Thank you.” She leans forward and places a kiss on my lips. Then she rises to her feet and walks over to the closet by the front door. She retrieves a box from the closet and comes back to the tree.

“This is for you,” she says, extending the box with one hand. I pull her toward me, guiding her to sit in my lap. Then I open my gift. It’s a dog tag. Engraved. “I will always love you. You are the light in my darkness.” My chest grows tight.

I enlisted in the navy and went through SEAL boot camp, passing with flying colors. Then I was shipped out to Coronado, California a year ago for more training.

Becoming a SEAL was a dream I had all my life. Originally I wanted to be a SEAL to get away from my father. Then I met Halo. She was only fifteen and perfect. She made me want to be a SEAL for an entirely different reason—I wanted to prove myself worthy of her.

I haven’t told her yet, but I’m deploying. I was putting it off until I knew the depression was better. I also know that she could feel me itching to leave. My friends from boot camp had already been assigned to teams that had left for Afghanistan. Being a newlywed meant I could put it off for a while. Now I was deploying. I worried she would take it hard. That’s another reason I wanted to make Christmas extra special for us.

“Halo, it’s perfect, baby.” I lean over and give her a kiss. “You are the light in my darkness. I know you know I need to leave. I wanted to talk to you about it, but…”

Her finger presses to my mouth. “I know…I know you need to go. I’ve known for a while. I guess I was selfish trying to keep you here all this time.”

“There isn’t a selfish bone in your body. You were having a hard time and it was completely understandable. You’re stronger now. You’re going to be okay. You’re busy with school and you have Jenny. You will be fine without me, Halo. I don’t think you realize how strong you really are.” I pause for a minute because I want her to open her next gift. “Here, open this.” I pass her a little silver box; this one has a little gold bow on top. She turns on my lap so she is sitting with her legs wrapped around my waist. She opens the box and her jaw drops.

“Thomas, it’s perfect,” she gasps taking it out of the box. It’s a silver locket.

“Here, let me.” I take it out of her hand and show her the engraving on the back.

You’re my Halo, my ray of light.

I will always find my way back to you

She laughs.

“We clearly think alike.” She nods, proud of herself. It’s true her name is quite original. We’ve used “halo” as a term of endearment many times. It’s a reminder that when a person is drowning in darkness, another person can show them the light.

“It’s perfect, Thomas.”

“It opens up. You can put two pictures inside,” I explain, showing it to her.

“I will have to get some pictures made.”

I place the necklace around her neck and her palm closes over the locket, holding it close to her heart. I place the tags around my neck.

“Baby, I ship out tomorrow. I’ve known for a couple of weeks, but I didn’t want you walking around sulking for my last days at home. I thought it’s better we had a quick goodbye.” I speak the words softly, but inside I’m cringing, hoping she isn’t mad.

“Thomas…” Tears roll down her cheeks. “I know this has been coming. I know you need to go. It’s okay. I’ve told myself it’s okay since we had our first date four years ago. I’ve been preparing myself mentally for this. You will be great and you will do good in this world.” She leans forward and places a wet kiss on my mouth. I can feel her tears on my face. I love her so damn much it hurts.

“Baby, I love you. I’ll probably be gone for a while. I’ll try to stay in touch as much as I can but I’ve been told that I may be off radar for long periods of time …” I pause because my next words aren’t easy. I take a deep breath. There really is no easy way to say this… She’s young and beautiful and we fell in love and married young. If something were to happen to me she needs to know that she needs to move on.

“Don’t say it, Thomas.” Her tears continue to fall and she nods. “You’re it for me, baby.” She says it adamantly and I believe her. I was her only boyfriend and her first everything.

“Halo, listen to me.” My thumb grazes her cheek, wiping away her tears. “I’m a SEAL now. We go on high-risk missions. I need to know that if something happens to me that you won’t check out. You need to find yourself a new husband and make a life. You are nineteen years old and the most beautiful thing I have ever seen walk this earth. I know I’m asking for a lot here, but I need to hear you promise me you will. Now that being said, I promise you that I will do my damnedest to come home to you. I will find you in the dark; you can trust that. Just in case, please say the words.” I beg her as if it’s my last breath. I know she would always keep her promises to me and this one is important. My own tears spill.

I’m a realist. Living a difficult life makes you into one. There are no ifs about it. I wipe gently at her tears and look at her with pleading eyes, chipping at her stubborn walls until they are fully broken.

“I promise.” She nods then claims my lips hungrily. The thought of her being with another man makes me crazy possessive. I know deep down I need to do everything I can to stay alive, but the reality of being a SEAL doesn’t always allow for that. The heat between us ignites and within seconds I yank down my boxer shorts and have my cock buried between her legs as she rocks on top of me. I need to own every inch of her because that conversation about her moving on has just done crazy things to my insides. As I bury myself inside her, I cleanse my mind. There is nothing else—just me and her. The way it should always be.

Chapter One
Five years later
January 15, 2008
Rogers Park, Chicago

Halo

It’s happening… This. Is. Real.

Shit! I lean over the side of my bed and brace myself. Slow breaths, Halo. You can do this. Everything will be okay. I take a slow breath, but the pain is too intense.

I’m losing it. What should I do? It’s too soon. This baby wasn’t meant to come for another three weeks. Jenny and Dave aren’t back from Florida yet. Who the hell should I call?

Fuck! Here comes another one. Holy hell, it feels like my insides are being squeezed to death. This can’t be good. My contractions are five minutes apart. Little beads of sweat trickle down my forehead and my heart accelerates.

I never anticipated being alone for something like this. For this I was supposed to have a partner by my side.

Thomas had stuck by my side. He’d put his own dreams on hold. I knew with everything in me that he would always be by my side.

The contraction subsides. I rise from the bed, huffing out slow breaths as I wobble over to the window facing the backyard. I place my hand on the cool glass, which feels nice on my heated skin. The sky is a midnight blue and the stars are sparse. I watch the clouds slowly moving and concentrate on breathing slowly through my nose and exhaling out of my mouth.

I’m on the verge of panic. Being alone means I don’t have the luxury of melting down. “Even darkness must pass,” I whisper the wise words of Tolkien, keeping my eyes glued on the large backyard covered in at least two feet of snow, anything to distract my mind from the fear that threatens to swallow me whole. Thomas and I had shared a love of books. We quoted Tolkien’s words all the time.

I look back to the clock on the night table. It’s three a.m. Even though Thomas has been gone for just over seven months, I still sleep on my side of the bed. It’s messed up, but when someone like Thomas makes a promise to come back to you no matter what, you believe it, you breathe it and it enters your soul. People like Thomas are loyal. They don’t make promises and then break them. They sure as fuck don’t walk out on their pregnant wives. When he left on previous deployments I always missed him when he was gone and waited for his return. This time was different. I waited for him to make contact. It never came. Then the divorce papers were delivered and I understood…

Fuck ! Fuck! Fuck! I usually don’t swear, but I can’t stop cussing. This pain is maddening. I’m going to lose it in a minute. Maybe it’s good Thomas isn’t here for this because all I can think about right now is gripping his balls and twisting so he can understand my pain.

Flakes of snow begin to fall from the sky. Usually I love watching the snow fall. It relaxes me on a good day. Right now it’s only adding to my anxiety. I’m worried about driving myself to the hospital with the snowy roads. My car is more of a death trap than a vehicle. I turn away from the window and walk over to the closet. I grab an orange beach bag off the floor and I begin to fill it with pajamas and a change of clothes. I thought I had more time to prepare.

My best friend Jenny was overdue for all three of her children. I thought going beyond the baby’s due date was the norm. I was hoping Thomas would sense my broken heart and walk through our front door when I needed him most.

I tried reaching him through all the routine channels. I even called some of the wives of his fellow SEALs on his team. I figured they would be sympathetic to my situation and they definitely were. They asked their husbands about Thomas. Avery, the wife of one of Thomas’s fellow SEALs, said that Thomas had seemed pretty messed up but that he was definitely on active duty. I then asked her to send the message for him to call home since she was in contact with her husband. That call never came. A couple months later I learned his team had gone dark and they were expected to stay that way for a while.

I step into the bathroom and with shaky hands throw my toothbrush and some toothpaste in the bag too. I planned to take off school a week early and buy diapers, get sleepers and fix the truck. With being a teacher I didn’t want to leave the classroom while in the middle of a unit. I wanted to wrap things up. With the baby coming three weeks early my plans have been quashed and I am now unprepared. Unfortunately for me none of my plans ever seem to work out.

Ow! Shit! Here comes another one. The bag slips out of my fingers and my hands go to my swollen belly to brace for the impending contraction. My face scrunches up. I can’t do those damn slow breaths I was taught to do, because these damn contractions are owning my ass.

I think that was four minutes. I hunch forward as the contraction rips its way through me. I close my eyes and pray. I pray that Thomas will walk through the door this second, or that Jenny will for some unforeseen reason end her vacation in Florida early.

“Charlie what should I do?” I ask, looking into the brown eyes of my Golden Retriever. She stares back at me and I can tell she understands what’s happening. I’m sure she’d try to help if she could speak. I don’t know how I would have gotten through these last months without her. She has cuddled me and let me cry on her more times than I care to remember.

“What do you say, Charlie? Ambulance or a taxi?” Charlie tilts her head to the side and lets out a cute little moan followed by a louder bark. “Taxi it is then.” I pat her head. An ambulance will make me even more anxious than I already am. I’m about to lose my shit in another minute.

I walk over to the phone on the nightstand and call the cab company. A man with an East Indian accent picks up and tells me he could have the cab here in five minutes. I bet that’s even faster than the ambulance. My heart is racing a mile a minute and my hands are clammy. I hang up the phone and try to focus. I’m not sure I will make it through this on my own. I always had it in my head that somehow he would come home for this. I really believed that when he left it wasn’t final. I was his Halo. He promised me that I was his fucking Halo…


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