The Devotion Series #2
by Tracey Jerald
Cover & Excerpt Reveal
Release Date: May 19, 2022
Wander Aguiar Photography
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Trope: Unrequited love, best friend’s cousin, angsty, slow-burn
When linguistics expert Iris Cunningham met Samuel Akin, she fell irrevocably in love. She nursed a crush on her best friend’s cousin. From an instant attraction, it grew to something much more during four long years at college.
She hid despair. He didn’t feel the same.
Computer savant Samuel Akin denied his feelings for Iris until it was almost too late. Every time he was with her, a flood of emotion swept over him. He craved her yet feared he couldn’t be with her.
She dragged his sense out of self to sea.
Their lives irrevocably entwine when love guides them first to an alliance, then marriage and family. They submerge themselves into a sworn existence few are privy.
Validating the half-truths demanded by the terms and conditions of their livelihood, threads of honor and integrity that bind them are tested. Yet while alternately maddened and delighted by the other, they take an opposing side over a fundamental disagreement.
They regret little about their lives together, but this?
When faced with accusations of betrayal, can they stand firm together against the waves crashing against them during the tides?
Or will their love be swept away in a wash of heartbreak?
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I hold out my hand, palm up. “Will you tell me about what your life is like here?”
Hesitantly, Iris slides her free hand into mine. I clasp her fingers to give her strength as she details the days that begin early in the morning, the depth of the learning—not just the language but economics, politics, and current events. Worse yet, the solitude. “If I didn’t occasionally hear from Libby, I might have gone mad. Especially the first month when I couldn’t escape to try to reach yo…anyone,” she quickly adapts her confession.
Guilt crashes over me. I jerk my head inside to the sofa. “Will you sit with me?” It’s time for me to share what I have been doing for Alliance.
Iris looks longingly at the cake. I burst into laughter. “Bring it with you, sweetheart. This story might take a while.”
Iris snatches the plate with the rapidly melting sherbet and makes her way to the couch. I grab our glasses and set them down before flicking on the box that will repel any listening devices.
I intercept Iris’s quizzical look before carefully choosing my words. “It’s good up to fifty yards. It helped us out while we were in Africa about six weeks ago.”
“Too bad I don’t have one. The weekends can get kind of rowdy…” I grab the plate that goes slack in her hands when my words penetrate. She manages, “Six weeks ago?”
After setting the cake aside, I grab her hands which have turned cold as ice. “Yes.”
“Sam, six weeks ago in Africa, there was a bloodbath trying to help American soldiers escape. I presented on it for my class.” Her voice is frantic.
This is where explanations get dicey. “I’m not a field agent, sweetheart, but there are times I need to be in the field to provide comms support.” I pause to let her absorb my words.
Her indrawn breath doesn’t release. I go on. “I’d just downloaded a burst transmission to determine our extraction coordinates when I got your email. God, Iris, I was overwhelmed with joy to hear from you.”
She sucks in her breath even more if that’s possible. “You were?
I twirl a strand of her long black hair around my finger. “I was. I was an idiot before you left Charleston.”
“I knew the flowers meant a lot to you, Sam, but it just would have been awkward,” she begins her apology.
I lift her hand to my lips. “I was jealous.”
“Of what? Of whom?” She cries out.
“Of Cal,” I admit. I hate myself for what I’m going to have to acknowledge about the flowers.
She rears back in shock. “Calhoun Sullivan? The same self-righteous jackass who broke Libby’s heart? For God’s sake, why?”
A slow grin crosses my face when I realize Cal was right. Iris would sooner have spit on the flowers than accepted them from him. “It’s not important.” Iris doesn’t believe me by the squawk that emits from her mouth. “It was my stupid male ego that couldn’t handle something that happened before your birthday dinner back in Athens.”
She gives it some thought before nodding. “I will agree with part of that statement.”
Uh oh, that was too easy. I ask caustically, “What parts?”
“Stupid. Male. Ego. Nothing about Cal should influence what happens between us.” Even as she hostilely enunciates the words, she points back and forth between us.
I take the verbal jab as my due, but there’s more to tell her that will likely set her off if I know Iris Cunningham the way I do. Fundamentally, she’s been forged from a long line of fierce women whose foremost mission is to protect. Taking a deep breath, I go on, “When we were in Africa, I’d just downloaded your email and shot off a response. It was all the time I had when I was sending a burst message back up through the satellite…”
“What does that mean?” Her frustration is evident.
Here it comes, I think. But I lay out the truth. “We were hiding from guerrillas. We had the American soldiers we’d been sent in to rescue with us in camp. And I…” My voice trails off when Iris stands.
“We? What do you mean ‘we,” Sam?” Her voice is trembling, but not with upset. Her fury is shimmering off her in waves.
I stand as well and clasp both of her arms. She winces slightly but doesn’t break my grasp. Recalling the tattoo she had done earlier, I relax my grip slightly. “I was there providing comms support, Iris. The Alliance team was in charge of helping extract American soldiers. I was careless, hurt you—us—because I ridiculously presumed you could read my mind. We didn’t get to a safe spot for days. Then, I swear, I checked my email, waiting for your next response. Only, there wasn’t one.”
Iris wrenches from my arms, back heaving. I make a move to approach her, but her hand flies out. Heart shriveling inside my chest, I finish it. “I’d planned to come to you as soon as we were wheels down, but I couldn’t.”
“Why?” Her voice is raspy.
“After we got back, the Admiral was so pissed about the job being bungled he sent the entire crew out on another assignment—primarily to punish Cal.”
A rough chuckle escapes. Encouraged, I give her a bit of insider information. “He and this Navy SEAL do not get along. They bickered like an old married couple when we were on board.”
Her “Good” comes out forcefully. Then, “Why didn’t you tell me you were working?”
“It’s need to know, Iris.” I remind her gently.
She whirls around, long hair flying around her like an ebony cape. After it lands on her shoulders, she begins to strip off her overshirt as she spits out, “Then you’d better figure out a way to tell me things in the future without saying the words, Sam. After all, I just did.”
That’s when she raises her arm, and I spy her tattoo.
After studying it for a moment, it only takes seconds for me to cross the room for me to have my mouth crashing down on hers as I back her against the closest flat surface—the wall.
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The Devotion Series #1
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Wander Aguiar Photography
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About the Author
Tracey Jerald knew she was meant to be a writer when she would re-write the ending of books in her head on her bike when she was a young girl growing up in southern Connecticut. It wasn’t long before she was typing alternate endings and extended epilogues “just for fun”.
After college in Florida, where she obtained a degree in Criminal Justice swearing she saw things she’ll never quite believe and never quite forget, Tracey traded the world of law and order for IT.
Her work for a world-wide internet startup transferred her to Northern Virginia where she met her husband in what many call their own happily ever after. They have one son.
When she’s not busy with her family or writing, Tracey can be found in her home in north Florida drinking coffee, reading, training for a runDisney event, or feeding her addiction to HGTV.
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