He’s dead. But they can’t allow it to affect her. She’s too important.
Nine months into the pilot program for the top secret Joint All Female Special Operations School, Katlin Callahan–Malone’s husband is killed in action along with his entire SEAL team. The Pentagon brass wants to know how that happened but the four highest ranking women in all the military services are more concerned about its effect on Katlin. She is pivotal to the success of their test project. Will the death of her husband change her mind about women being allowed in SpecOps?
Unconventional Beginnings sets the stage for the Black Swan series by giving you a glimpse into the lives of several main characters three years before Unrelenting Love, the first book in the series. Although Unconventional Beginnings is the cliffhanger, I have included the first three chapters of Unrelenting Love with this download.
The women pictured above inspire me time and time again as I write the black Swan series. Active duty women go through so much more than their male counterparts. Many men, especially those with antiquated views of female capabilities, do not believe women should even be allowed to serve in the US military. But I know, firsthand, that women are able to achieve any goal they set, although they may do it a different way than a man would.
Lines of Tridents pounded into a fellow SEAL’s coffin are a symbol of how the SEAL community is a brotherhood formed literally by blood, sweat, and tears. These pictures helped me write one important portion of Unconventional Beginnings.
“What do you think she’ll do?” Jack’s question had already been discussed at length by the four women.
With incredulity, Nancy tilted her head in a manner that screamed can-this-man-be-any-more-stupid? Though, she said, “She’ll bury her husband in three days. We’ll give her a week off. Then her training will resume.”
Betsy added, “He will be buried with all the honors of his rank as a Navy lieutenant and as the hero he was as a SEAL.”
“Do you anticipate any problems with her return to the program?” Jack asked as he looked each woman in the eye.
“Katlin is very dedicated to the success of this team,” Nancy confirmed.
Ava glanced away as she considered the unusual request she’d granted hours earlier. Not for the first time, she wondered if she’d made the right decision. “There might be one. Captain Alejandro Lobo is accompanying the body back to her.”
“What?” A chorus of male and female voices resounded as all eyes met hers.
“Lieutenant Malone’s entire SEAL team was killed—” Ava began to explain.
“We know that,” Betsy’s angry voice interrupted.
Ava pushed on. “There was no one left to escort his body home. Captain Lobo volunteered, and I granted permission. He was Lieutenant Malone’s best friend. He and Katlin have been exceptionally close since high school.”
“Hell, yes, they were close,” Jack seethed. “They were lovers for Christsake.” He glared at Ava. “He could fuck up everything we’ve worked for the past ten months. Literally. Neither has had sex in months and—”
“Jesus Christ, Jack!” Nancy shook her head. “Her husband just died. I don’t believe sex with another man will even enter that genius brain of hers.”
“I can ship Captain Lobo back to Afghanistan right after the funeral.” Ava moved to stand beside Nancy.
“We can keep them separated. I want my people to interrogate him before you send him back to the sandbox,” Betsy insisted as the admiral in her came through. “Captain Lobo commanded the company of Marines that backed up those fifteen SEALs who were ambushed. He was one of the first to arrive on the scene, and the senior officer. He has to know something about what happened.”
A pleased grin slashed Jack’s handsome face. “Works for me.” With a nod to Ava and Betsy, he ordered, “Make it happen, but Katlin is not to ever be alone with Captain Lobo. She’s too valuable to the success of this project to let some college fuck-buddy screw it up.” He turned and quickly descended the stairs to the car idling sixty feet below the tower platform.
“Is it just me, or does that man rub your last nerve raw?” Janet asked the other three women.
“He irks the hell out of me, but he’s right.” Nancy picked up the NVGs and searched the trees for the team of young women. “Katlin is pivotal to the success of this experiment. She’s their natural leader. If she were to quit now, we’d have to start all over again to prove that women can be as effective as any trained team of special operators.”
“More effective,” Betsy said as she surveyed the blinking red lights of the now virtually-dead Marines. “Once they complete the CIA training, they’ll be an unstoppable team.”
“Too bad we can’t keep them.” Ava sighed. “This should prove our point that women can, given the proper training, do anything a team of SEALs, Special Forces, Special Ops, and Para-jumpers can…and then some.”
“The real pity is that we have to give them to that jackass until the services allow women in special operations roles.” Janet shook her head. “Damn it. I don’t want him to have control over our young ladies.”
Ava agreed, then smiled. “As soon as they’re done with their CIA training, they’ll know how to play a man. They’re smart. They’ll play him, too.”
“I have an interrogation team to assemble,” Betsy said as she headed toward the steps.
“My plan is to show up at Katlin’s house thirty minutes after her father and uncle arrive.” Ava glanced at her watch and sighed. She’d only get four hours of sleep. “We need to maintain vigilance until we know Captain Lobo is out of the country. I’ll speak with her father and let him know our plans.”
“Thank God he supports the program.” Janet disappeared down the steps.
Nancy turned to Ava at the top of the stairs. “Do you really think Captain Lobo is that much of a threat?”
Ava considered the question for a long time. Because she’d known Katlin all her life, and had personally selected her as part of the original 200 female test subjects, she was extremely familiar with everything from Katlin’s childhood to her last psychiatric evaluation. She knew the young woman often turned to Alejandro Lobo for comfort that he’d readily provided. Would she betray their top secret experiment? Could he convince her to quit? There were too many unanswered variables.
Ava finally confessed, “He might be even more dangerous than we believe.”
Fact: The military doesn’t do anything without years of successful training, most often completed in secret.
Fact: A woman can get a man alone within hours...and kill him in seconds.
Fact: Men always underestimate beautiful women.
Fact: In February 2013 the United States military opened combat roles to women, but no woman has "officially" been trained in military Special Operations.