Several weeks ago I was sent this book with an awesome cover and the title of Rome. Being a lover of almost all things Italian I was intrigued, so I read the blurb and I was even more intrigued by this book about a soldier who is suddenly home after an IED has left him unfit for duty and for the first time in his adult life he has no clue what he’s going to do with himself. So I picked it up, and proceeded to ignore everyone and everything while I read this book. (You can find my review here). I knew as I was reading it I wanted it to be one of our Sunday Snippets. So here’s one of my favorite scenes from this awesome book.
I pulled into the first bar that looked like it could handle the mood I was in. Independence Day, my left nut. I had had about enough of the revelry and good cheer to last me a lifetime. I just wanted to bury my head in the sand and go back to a point in time that felt comfortable and familiar. I hated feeling like a visitor in my own life, and no matter what I told myself when I woke up in the morning each day, I couldn’t shake feeling like everything I had come back to after my contract with the army was up was a life that belonged to someone else. My family didn’t feel right. The new dynamic in my relationship with rule didn’t feel right. Trying to get used to Shaw being taken care of by my wayward and reckless little brother didn’t feel right. Crashing with Nash while I tried to get my shit straight didn’t feel right. Not having a job lined up or any clear direction of how to support myself doing something other than fighting a war quite possibly felt the most wrong out of it all.
The bar was dark and not a place for those out for a fun Fourth-of-July cocktail. In the back, around several well-used pool tables, was a bunch of guys in biker gear sporting colors and looking like they meant business. Toward the front were several older men who looked like they never even got off the bar stool to go home and shower. Neil young was blasting on the house speakers even though no one seemed like the type to sing along. This was not a place for the hip and trendy urbanites that flocked to Capitol Hill when the weather finally warmed up. I took a spot on an empty seat at the bar top and waited for the guy manning the bar to wander down to me.
He was almost my size, which was rare, only he had a solid thirty years on me. He had a beard that looked like it could be the home to a whole family of squirrels, eyes the color of charcoal, and the grim countenance that could only be found in men who had seen the worst the world had to offer and came out the other side. I wasn’t surprised at all to see a marine tattoo inked on his bulky forearm when he propped himself up across from me and put down a battered coaster in front of me. I saw him size me up, but I was used to it. I was a big guy and other big guys liked to figure out if I was going to be the kind of trouble they could handle or not. “Boy, you already smell like a brewery. You sure you need to have another one?”
I frowned until I remembered the little blonde pouring her beer over my head. She could have found a better way to make her point. I thought as I remembered the soggy state of my T-shirt. I didn’t know what to make of Cora Lewis. She was around a lot. we never really talked much. She was too loud and tended toward the dramatic, hence the Coors Light shower I had just received. Being around her made my head hurt and I didn’t like the way her mismatched eyes seemed to try and pick me apart.
I took my sunglasses off the top of my head and hooked them in the collar of my T-shirt.
“I picked a fight with the wrong pixie and she poured her drink on my head. I’m straight.”
The guy gave me a once-over and must have deemed me okay because without my asking a tankard of beer was set in front of me along with a shot of something amber and strong. Typically I was a vodka drinker, but when the burly brute poured himself one and wandered back over to where I was seated, I didn’t dare complain.
He lifted a bushy eyebrow at me and touched the rim of his shot glass to my own.
I nodded and shot back the liquor. It burned hot all the way down. If I wasn’t mistaken it was wild Turkey.
“I was. Just got out.”
“How long did you serve for?”
I rubbed a hand over my still-short hair. after wearing it cropped close to my head for so long, I really didn’t know what else to do with it.
“Went in at eighteen and I turn twenty-eight at the end of this year. I was in for almost a decade.”
“What did you do?”
It wasn’t a question I normally answered because frankly the answer was long and anyone that hadn’t served just wouldn’t get it.
“I was a field operations leader.”
The bear of a man across from me let out a low whistle. “Spec ops?”
I grunted a response and picked up the beer. “I bet they were sad to see you go.”
The thing was, I think I was sadder to see them go. I wasn’t cleared for active duty anymore. My shoulder had taken a beating when we rolled over an IED on my last deployment and there were all kinds of shit rattling around in my head, constantly taking me out of the game. Sure, I could have taken a desk job, stepped down, and trained the generation coming up after me. But I wasn’t the best teacher and being tied to a desk was the same thing as retirement to me anyway. So I got out and now I had no fucking clue what I was going to do with the rest of my life.
“What about you?” I motioned to the tattoo on his arm. “How long did you put in?”
“Too long, son. Way too long. what brings you in here today? You aren’t one of my regulars.”
I cast a look around the bar and shrugged. For now this place was a perfect fit for my mood.
“Just out having a drink to celebrate America like a good patriot.”
“Just like the rest of us.”
“Yep.” I had to fight the urge to chug the beer down and order him to keep them coming.
“I’m Brite and this is my bar. I ended up with it when I got out and started spending more time in the bar than I did at home. I’ve been through three wives and one triple bypass, but the bar stays true.”
I lifted the eyebrow that had the scar above it and felt the corner of my mouth kick up in a grin.
“Brite?” The guy looked like Paul Bunyan or a Hells angel; the name didn’t really fit.
A smile found its way through that massive beard and pearly-white teeth that were the only bright spot in the dim bar.
“Brighton Walker, Brite for short.” He extended a hand that I shook on reflex.
He dropped his head in a little nod and moved down the bar to help another customer.
“That’s a good name for a warrior.”
I closed my eyes briefly and tried to remember what it was like to feel like a warrior. It seemed like it was a million miles away from this bar stool. The music switched to AC/DC and I decided this was my new favorite place to hang out.
Fun and fearless, Cora Lewis knows how to keep her tattooed “bad boy” friends at the Marked in line. But beneath all that flash and sass is a broken heart. Cora won’t let herself get burned again. She’s waiting to fall in love with the perfect man—a baggage-free, drama-free guy ready for commitment. Then she meets Rome Archer.
Rome Archer is as far from perfect as a man can be. He’s stubborn, rigid, and bossy. And he’s returned from his final tour of duty more than a little broken. Rome’s used to filling many roles: big brother, doting son, supersoldier—but none of those fit anymore. Now he’s just a man trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life while keeping the dark demons of war and loss at bay. He would have been glad to suffer through it alone, until Cora comes sweeping into his life and becomes a blinding flash of color in a sea of gray.Perfect may not be in the cards, but perfectly imperfect could just last forever.
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