Air Force flight surgeon Tallie Cavanaugh is going home to Oklahoma - but only under duress. Her best friend has signed her up to speak at the local base’s graduation ceremony--without her knowledge. As a decorated veteran of several campaigns, she’ll do it for the Air Force, but going home means putting up with the pomp and circumstance she’s always despised.
When a mid-air collision between two jets calls Tallie's skills into action, she meets up with the one man she hasn’t been able to forget - fire chief Connor Jackson.
Connor knows all about Tallie’s career, hell, he and every other person in their small town have followed her achievements. Fifteen years have passed since he’s seen her, and for most of those years he’s been able to forget all about her - the way her mouth tasted on a hot May night, but he’s avoided seeing her until now because of the memory of what one little kiss had done to him all those years ago.
Lieutenant Colonel Tallie Cavanaugh strode into Deke's Tavern, sure of only one thing - she was going to kill Malone. She bellied up to the bar, not caring that she was still wearing her flight suit, only concerned with getting her hands around her fellow surgeon’s neck.
“Where is he hiding, Deke?”
“Now Doc, you know I can’t give him up when you have every intention of breaking your Hippocratic Oath.”
“Jesus Deke, you’ve gotta remember to leave the day job at the college. C’mon, just tell me where he’s at. I promise not to hurt him - that badly.”
Deke laughed. He was more than a bartender, he was a retired C-130 pilot who’d been there and done that in Vietnam and now taught English Composition at the local university. “Hell Tallie, it’s not that big a deal, is it? All you’ve gotta do is bore a bunch of wet-behind-the-ears lieutenants and their parents for half an hour and eat some overcooked chicken at the O-Club.”
Tallie dropped her head in her hands and groaned inwardly. How in the hell her best friend could have set her up her like this was a mystery.
“It’s not so much the speaking part as it is facing the town fathers and the women’s auxiliary. Last time I was home they almost gave me the key to the freakin' city - ergo, I don’t go home anymore.”
Sure, she visited on occasion, but more often than not, her parents hopped into the RV and visited her at whatever base she happened to be stationed at. Right now that happened to be Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina.
As for her brother - God only knew where Mike was. He’d finished his pull in Desert Storm and disappeared off the face of the earth. She still had a private investigator on the payroll to find him, but no one in the family had heard from him in almost fifteen years. The consensus was that he was dead, but she couldn’t, wouldn’t give up hope until she saw the proof for herself.
Deke slid a mug of Guinness in front of her. “Don’t worry, Tallie-girl, you’ll have that key yet.”
That’s what she was afraid of.
Tallie straightened the cummerbund on her mess dress, the military’s version of black-tie, and grimaced into the mirror. Oh, she looked fine, her blonde hair pulled into a chignon, her make-up flawless, but she really wasn’t looking forward to the meet-and-greet reception line prior to dinner, or the three hours of monotonous chit-chat with the wing commander and the various town dignitaries who were sure to be at her table.
The one bright spot in her day had been reconnecting with one of her old friends from Bosnia, a flight nurse who was now the commander of the hospital on base. Well, that and the fact that she’d managed to muscle Malone into being her “date” for the festivities. If she had to choke down mystery meat at the Club, then she was taking him down with her.