Originally published: 01/01/06
Current publication: 08/01/08
Meet three sexy men who individually are Ready, Willing, and Able to go the distance–and together, are unstoppable. . .
Josie McCall left her dad’s mercenary school for a normal job in computers. But now that someone has torched the school and her dad is MIA, Josie’s going to use every bit of her training to hunt down the culprits who took him. Josie knows a lot about explosives, hand-to-hand combat, and tracking. What she doesn’t know about is sex. She has no idea what to do with the volcanic attraction she feels for her dad’s new partner, Daniel Black Eagle. And that feels more dangerous than any bomb. . .
Daniel knows exactly what he’d like to do about that attraction. He can’t get within five feet of Josie without wanting to touch, taste, and protect her. But right now he’s got his hands full figuring out who set that bomb and took Josie’s dad. Daniel’s sure of one thing, though–he’s not letting Josie McCall out of his sight for a single second. . .
Originally published January 2006 in trade paperback by Kensington Brava.
4 Weeks on Nielson’s Nationwide 100 Top Selling Romances
#4 on Amazon’s New Releases Bestseller’s List (multiple weeks in the top five)
#7 on Barnes & Noble’s New Releases Bestseller’s List
debuted at #2 on Barnes & Noble’s Trade Paperback’s list (several weeks on the list after)
#10 on Fictionwise.com’s eBook Bestseller’s List
“Monroe packs this story with heart-stopping action, sizzling romance and a plot that leaves you thinking long after you’ve turned the last page.” 4 Stars – Romantic Times
“Lucy Monroe excels at creating alpha bad boys and authentic erotic romance.” – Michelle Buonfiglio, WNBC.com
“This is a very exciting romance novel, full of action and suspense.” 4 Stars – Maura, Coffee Time Romance
“It personifies the four “S’s” ….. Sensitive, suspenseful, sensational and sexual. I was ready for READY, but WILLING?…..”be still my heart”! 4 Stars – Marilyn, We Write Romance
“Multi-faceted characters, explosive action and adventure, intense sexual attraction and captivating characters are found in Lucy Monroe’s latest gem, Willing. This author once again delivers a story that readers want. I’m eager for book three of this trilogy, …and Able. It can’t come soon enough.” – Tracey West, Road to Romance
“Lucy Monroe gives us wonderfully deep, layered characters in an exciting, hot, and steamy story.” – Alane, Blue Ribbon Reviews
“Go ahead and plan to call in sick when you get this one, because you’ll pull an all nighter to finish it.” – Missy, Reader Review
“Excerpt from letter: What a marvelous story to continue the series. You get to have romance like wildfire and keep up with the other couple too. I cannot believe that you have a girl for that sexy hotwire to challenge. These woman are compliments to their tough men in every aspect. Ladies kick butt. It is a very fast paced thrill ride to the finish. Best of luck to you with this new title”. – Sharon at Munchkinbooks
“Hi, Lucy! I just finished reading Ready, Willing and Able. What wonderful books, I loved each of them, but Daniel is by far my favorite. The perfect romantic hero! I’m really looking forward to the new series, and reading Ethan’s story. And, of course, the other books you have coming out this year. Thanks for the fantastic books!” ~ Jamie
“I have just finished reading Willing. I love the details and the sizzle. Thank you so much!” ~ Abby
“I read it from start to finish once I settled myself down for the night and I have to tell you, this book was the sexiest, steamy and unexpectedly surprising story I’ve read of late, much different from Ready, although I felt Ready was an entertaining read too…but this one just grabbed my heartstrings more so than the other, probably because I’d wished my first sexual experience had been like the heroine’s was with Daniel (Nitro)! I cannot wait until And Able comes out to complete the total trilogy! I’m sure I’ll enjoy that one just as much!” ~ Joni
“I absolutely loved this story, thought it was more than even I was expecting, and hated to see it end (that’s my only complaint Lucy). “And Able” should be another scorching, wonderful story. Can’t wait!” ~ Stacy
“I’m halfway through Willing and I am totally loving it. Daniel is one HOT man. I am cracking up at a lot of things in this book. My favorite line so far is <snip spoilers>… This book is funny, sweet, HOT. What more can you ask for? … Well, I finished it this morning and it was absolutely great. One of my favorites. I can’t wait for Able. ” ~ Debs
Lucy Monroe has penned a fast and exciting, not to mention steamy, must read! 4 Stars – Tracy, Blue Ribbon Reviews
Willing is an explosive, erotic, and tempestuous journey of love, family, and what defines us as unique individuals. –A Romance Review
The tension between them is intense, and when Daniel and Josie finally get together it is explosive. – Romance Reviews Today
Lucy Monroe’s second mercenary story will have your turning the pages quickly, as if pages were on fire from the heat that is sizzling between Daniel and Josie. – Writers Unlimited
“So, why isn’t Josie taking on the partnership?”
Daniel Black Eagle didn’t like incongruities and Tyler McCall’s desire to take on a partner for his mercenary school in the Oregon Coastal Range didn’t add up. Not when his daughter was more than qualified to run the school on her own.
Tyler ran his hand over his salt and pepper crew cut, a frown wrinkling his brow. “She’s not interested. Thought one day I’d leave the school to her, but she says she’s spent enough of her life living like a soldier.”
“You’re not ready to give it up.” And probably never would be.
Men like Tyler knew one thing, warfare. Whether training soldiers or fighting, they lived for combat and usually died the same way.
“Not yet. There are still some good years left in this old body.”
Daniel didn’t doubt it. The Vietnam Vet was in better shape than a lot of Daniel’s contemporaries and there was no arguing with the fact that he was still a damn fine trainer. “You’ve run the school for a long time without a partner.”
“Times change. Josie’s ready to move on and I’m ready to let someone else do some of the grunt work.”
Daniel didn’t smile, but he felt like it. Kids would be out of school for a snow day in Hawaii before the man sitting across from him stopped training soldiers in hand to hand combat. “My specialty is explosives, not grunt work.”
“That’s why they call you Nitro.”
It wasn’t. Daniel had gotten the tag long before he learned how to build and diffuse a bomb, but he wasn’t about to explain what had prompted his Army Ranger nickname. It came from a time in his life he never talked about and wished he could forget.
“So, what does Josie want to do?” He couldn’t see her as anything but a highly skilled, highly paid warrior.
“She’s got some idea about becoming a computer expert, or something, working nine to five in an office like normal people.” The way the older man said normal people made it clear he didn’t think much of his daughter’s idea. “She took computer classes online for over a year. I didn’t even know about them. Now she’s moved to Portland so she can go to PSU and finish getting her degree.”
The man sounded baffled by such a plan.
“You don’t want to her move on?” Most fathers would be relieved, not upset, if they found out their daughters didn’t want to be professional soldiers.
But Tyler McCall was not typical in any sense.
“Josie wasn’t raised to fit into a normal environment and maybe that’s my fault.” Tyler ’s jaw hardened. “Hell, I know it is, but facts are facts and my baby girl is going to fit an office environment about as well as forty-four slug in a twenty-two rifle.”
At twenty-six, the highly skilled female warrior was hardly anybody’s baby girl. “She’ll be fine.”
Tyler ’s face creased in a frown. “I wonder.”
“What do you wonder, Dad?”
The softly feminine voice traveled along Daniel’s nerve endings straight to his sex and he got as hard as a pike between inhaling and exhaling. Damn, how could a woman who dressed, acted and fought like a man sound so much like a woman and have such an impact on his libido?
She wasn’t exactly standard wet dream material, being on the short side of average with small curves. And her chin length reddish-brown hair gave her a perky air, not a sexy one, but it didn’t matter. She made him react like a horny teen getting his first glimpse of Marilyn Monroe style cleavage.
He wanted Josie like hell on fire and she’d shown him six ways from Sunday that she wasn’t interested.
Tyler ’s green gaze settled on his daughter. “I wonder how well you’re going to fit into the normal world.”
The smile she’d been wearing when she walked into the austere room that reminded Daniel of Army quarters slipped right off her face. “About as well as I fit into this world, I guess.”
There was something in her voice that confused him, a bitterness he wouldn’t have expected. She made it sound like she didn’t belong, but he’d met few mercs as capable as she was.
Tyler grunted. “You fit in just fine with other soldiers.”
“But I’m not a soldier, Dad.” She sat down on the edge of a twin size Army bed pushed up against one wall and put one foot on the mattress, then looped her arms around her knee. Swinging the other leg, she gave her dad one of those serious looks that always caught at something inside Daniel he didn’t want to deal with. “I’ve never been enlisted. I don’t owe my undying allegiance to any world government.”
“You’re a better soldier than 99% of the armed forces.”
She shrugged and turned to face Daniel, her small but tempting breasts outlined by her khaki tank top. “How are Wolf and Lise?”
It took him a second to respond to her words rather than the seductive force of her body. “They’re expecting a baby.”
Primal male tension filled him as he waited for her to ask about Hotwire. She’d shown a definite preference for the other man’s company on their last mission.
Oblivious to his tension, her pixie face lit up and her smile made her seem too damn sweet to know as much about bombs as she did. “Hotwire didn’t tell me. They must have just found out.”
What the– “You keep in touch?”
Her pale green eyes warmed in a way that made Daniel want to hit something. “He’s been helping me with my computer training.”
For no discernable reason, Daniel’s muscles contracted into battle ready mode. “He never mentioned it.”
“Probably because he knows you don’t like me.”
“What are you talking about?” Not like her? He wanted her more than he’d wanted any other woman.
Despite her total lack of encouragement in that area, he couldn’t get rid of the desire that made his blood bubble like molten lava whenever she was around.
She rolled her eyes, her nose wrinkling. “You didn’t exactly make a secret of it on the mission with Wolf and Lise.”
“I never friggin once said I didn’t like you.” Could she really be this blind?
Her laugh was hollow and her eyes went dark with something he didn’t have a hope of defining.
The only thing he understood about women was their sexual response and since Josie’s was about as clear as an overcast day, he didn’t understand her at all.
“You didn’t have to. I mean actions speak louder than words, don’t they?”
Hell, he’d always thought they did, but since meeting her, he wasn’t so sure. “I don’t dislike you.”
Her eyes went wide at his tone, but he wasn’t used to having to explain himself. Most of the time he wouldn’t have even bothered, but having her believe he didn’t like her bothered him. For all her strength as a soldier, there was something vulnerable about her.
“Maybe you don’t dislike me, but you don’t exactly like my company either. You made it pretty clear I was just in the way on the mission.”
“You weren’t in the way.”
“That’s not what you said the last night of the mission.”
“I was in a bad mood.” She’d been all over Hotwire after treating him like the untouchable man on their cross country drive together.
“Which seems to be your constant state of being when you’re around me.”
He opened his mouth to argue when he suddenly remembered they weren’t alone. Tyler McCall sat on a straight back wooden chair, an arrested expression on his weather beaten, darkly tanned face. Daniel’s lips snapped together and he frowned, first at Tyler and then at Josie.
“We can discuss this later.”
“Further dialogue on the blatantly obvious facts would be redundant.” The words and her stiff posture told him that he had been unsuccessful in convincing her that he did not dislike her.
The anger he’d learned to control fought to slip its leash as frustration ripped at his insides. It was like she was being deliberately obtuse, only she was too natural to be putting on an act. She really thought he didn’t like her.
Did that mean she’d similarly misread his sexual signals?
He wanted her and the truth was, an emotion as lukewarm as liking didn’t begin to come into it. His feelings where she was concerned were much too hot for mere liking.
He kept his lips firmly closed over that piece of information. He hoped he was smart enough not to say that kind of thing in front of her father. Daniel had heard stories of how protective the former vet was of his daughter. He wasn’t afraid of the older man, but starting off a new partnership with a fight was not the most auspicious of beginnings.
Josie kicked the covers off and flopped onto her back to stare at the dark ceiling above her.
Staying the night at the compound had been a bad idea. Nitro hadn’t driven back down the mountain to his hotel until well after dinner and her dad had insisted she stick around to discuss plans for the school with them. Even though she was no longer going to teach, he wanted her opinion on the new training program he’d been devising.
Usually, being asked for her opinion by her dad made Josie feel good. Tonight it had been an instrument of torture, keeping her cooped up in the same room with Nitro and his testosterone laden body.
She wouldn’t have been at the compound at all, but her dad had finally consented to her computerizing his files. She’d finished the week before and was done installing the new software. All she had to do was go through the easy entry procedure with him.
She supposed she’d have to show Nitro too, since he was going to be her father’s partner.
Her hands fisted at her sides her while her body tingled the way it did every time she thought about him. Seeing him again had her hot and bothered and from past experience, she knew the feeling wouldn’t be disappearing any time soon.
Her body acted like a radiation detector at a nuclear fallout site whenever she got within ten feet of the big, brooding mercenary.
He was just so sexy. Everything about him turned her on and she wasn’t used to feelings like this. From mahogany brown eyes that looked like they held the secrets of the universe, to black glossy hair he wore just a little long, to a muscular but flexible body she desperately wanted to touch, he was the most appealing man she’d ever known and she’d known a lot of men.
Her father’s school had seen hundreds of pupils over the years and she’d gotten to know pretty much all of them, ninety-eight percent of which had been male. None of whom had impacted her like Nitro did.
Maybe if she’d been able to spend any bonding time with the women who came through the school, she would now know what to do with the feelings Nitro elicited in her, but she hadn’t known how to relate to the female soldiers. She had no more fit in among them than she had in the public school she’d tried out for a couple of months before returning to home-school at her father’s mercenary training compound.
She’d always felt like the rest of the world had a secret handshake she’d never been given, so she would forever be on the outside looking in. The only person in the world she was really close to was her dad and he wasn’t exactly sane by society’s standards.
She didn’t fit anywhere and she wanted to change that. As much as she acted like one of the guys she wasn’t one and meeting Nitro had brought that home to her in a way nothing else could have. She wanted him with a physical ache that was actually painful and didn’t even know how to tell him so.
She’d thought he wanted her too…until he started acting like he hated her.
She didn’t know what she’d done to turn him against her, but it hurt. She’d spent so much time around men with nary a twinge of physical reaction that the wave of sexual desire that crashed into her upon meeting him had about sent her to her knees in shock. She’d never known anything like it, not before or since.
She’d tried dating a few times in the past months, but none of the men she’d gone out with had made her heart race or her hands itch to tear their clothes off. Her teeth gritted against the sexual desire tormenting her. If seeing him for such a short time this afternoon did this to her, what was going to happen when he was here every time she came to visit or upgrade the computer system?
She just could not believe Nitro was going into partnership with her dad.
Oh, sure, the two men had plenty in common. Both were consummate soldiers. Both were so self-sufficient they didn’t really need anyone else, least of all her. They were powerful, tough males with not an ounce of weakness in them. Still, it wasn’t fair that her dad would pick as his partner the one man destined to torment her with what she couldn’t have.
She knew her dad was disappointed she hadn’t wanted to take a more active role in the training camp, just as he’d been disappointed when she’d opted for real missions over training others since reaching adulthood, but did he have to punish her by taking on Nitro as his partner?
She sighed, acknowledging she wasn’t being fair to her dad.
He knew nothing of her feelings for Nitro. In fact, she’d told him she didn’t like the man who made her throb in places she hadn’t known existed. Ignorant or not, her dad’s decision had her edgier than a deer scenting a bobcat.
With a groan of frustration, she climbed out of bed and into her fatigues. Maybe a walk would clear her head enough to sleep.
Forty-five minutes later, she had walked the entire perimeter of the camp and didn’t feel any closer to sleep. She hadn’t even had the satisfaction of moving undetected by her father’s pupils because there weren’t any.
It was the usual two-week hiatus between training groups and the camp was deserted except for her and her dad. Even the part-time teachers that helped her dad teach stuff he wasn’t so hot on, like computers and offensive driving, were gone. Not that most of them lived on site, but some stayed at the school during sessions.
Giving up on getting any sort of peace with the walk, she started jogging back. Exercise was supposed to be the panacea for all ills.
Suddenly, the ground shook and a huge boom rent the air. She fell to her knees and was getting back up when she saw orange flames licking toward the sky from the office section of the compound.
She started to sprint, her legs moving with fear based adrenalin pumping through them. Where was her dad? He had to have heard the explosion, but she didn’t see his big body silhouetted against the flames.
She by-passed the office and the bedroom all the students thought he slept in to the back of the building and the windowless room he actually used. The wall looked seamless, but she knew he had an exit and it didn’t take her any time at all to trigger the release on the hidden door.
It swung outward and she saw her father’s form sprawled across the bed outlined in the eerie light. The explosion had caused part of the wall to fall on him and he was dangerously still. Heat blasted her as she ran toward the bed, the fire having reached the secret room through the decimated wall.
She didn’t waste any time checking for a pulse, but started throwing debris off of him. When he was free, she dragged him out of the burning building, her muscles straining against his weight. They made it outside just as the wall collapsed with a whoosh of fire and a deafening crash. She kept moving until they were clear of it, relief flooding her as she saw his chest rise and fall with one choking breath after another.
Running to the jeep parked away from the office, her own lungs heaved against the smoke billowing around her and she brought her arm to her face, breathing into the crook of her elbow. She sent prayers of gratitude skyward for the jeep’s undamaged state as she drove to where her father lay.
Her own small Justy was a goner, having taken a direct hit of fire heated timber when the office exploded.
It took more strength than she knew she had to get his unconscious weight into the passenger seat, but desperation sizzled through her muscles. With a flick of her wrist, she shoved the car into gear and started driving down the mountain as fast as she could without going off the track.
Her dad stored explosives underground, with each component carefully separated from the others, but she wasn’t taking any chances on the initial explosion being followed by another. Her caution was justified as the ground rocked under the jeep, almost sending them sliding off the narrow track. She kept driving, the vehicle barely under control, her mind focused entirely on escape.
They were more than halfway down the mountain when she used the jeep’s CB to call the explosion and possible forest fire into the fire service. It had been a wet spring and she had no doubt the water copters would have the fire under control before the forest surrounding the compound could be severely affected.
She hit the coastal highway at a speed beyond legal limits and just kept going, making a split-second decision to head toward the major metropolitan hospital to the east rather than the small community hospital ten minutes closer and to the west.
The instincts her dad had told her she would learn to live by were screaming at her that no carelessness on her father’s part had caused that explosion tonight. If someone was trying to hurt her dad, they’d have a better shot at him in the small coastal town than the more anonymous metropolitan area surrounding Portland .
She drove without her lights until she hit the outskirts of civilization, glad for the three quarter moon that lit the highway. Unless they were using night vision or radar, no one followed her. She made it to the nearest major hospital less than twenty minutes later, ignoring speed limits in the downtown district and pulling into the emergency parking lot with squealing tires and honking her horn.
Tyler McCall had not moved so much as a muscle during the entire trip. Emergency room personnel came rushing out and her dad was on a stretcher headed into ER within minutes.
She spent the next half hour discretely securing the perimeter of her dad’s environment while the doctors examined him. She was leaning against the wall, surreptitiously watching the emergency room entrance when a doctor in a white coat and with an energetic demeanor approached her.
“I’m Doctor Wells. I’ve been treating your father.”
“He has a nasty hit to the head, but he’s regained consciousness.”
Air escaped her lungs in a whoosh and she sagged against the wall. “Can I see him?”
“Yes, but I think there’s something you need to know.”
“He’s experiencing a certain level of confusion and I believe it’s brought on because his memory has been compromised by the blow he received.” His mouth tightened with exasperation. “Not that he will admit it.”
That sounded like her dad, not to admit to weakness. It was a measure of the doctor’s powers of observation that he’d noticed anomalies in her dad’s behavior enough to make the diagnosis.
“He has amnesia?”
“Partial. He knows who he is, but avoided answering questions about where he had been or what he had been doing before the explosion.”
“That doesn’t mean he can’t remember.”
“I get that impression, but he wouldn’t tell me what day it is either. He knows the year, but it’s my guess there are some gaps in his memory and without his cooperation, we have no way of determining what they are.”
She almost wished the doctor good luck, but kept the facetious comment back. Her dad was stubborn and distrustful of authority. Apparently the doctor had already figured that out.
“Will his memory come back?”
“There’s no way of knowing, but in most cases, unless there is significant damage, the brain learns to rewire itself going around the affected area and retrieving knowledge. Without a pervious MRI to compare his current condition to, it’s hard to tell how widespread the impairment to brain tissue is. From what I can tell, it is limited to a small area in his left frontal lobe corresponding to a large external bump and gash.”
Her dad wouldn’t like knowing they’d been taking pictures of the inside of his head. He was funny about stuff like that and they’d only gotten away with it because he’d been out cold, but it didn’t bode well for his mood when she got to see him.
“He has some surface bruising, but no internal damage.” She’d hedged when asked what had caused his injuries and could sense the doctor’s curiosity now.
“I’d like to see him.”
The doctor frowned, but nodded. “That might be best. Maybe you can convince him to cooperate in his treatment.”
That brought a cynical twist to her lips. “I can try.”
A nurse led her back to a curtained cubicle. Her dad was sitting up in bed, his eyes obviously unfocused, but scanning the room for any signs of danger nevertheless. The consummate soldier in crisis.
She walked to stand beside the bed and laid her hand on his forearm. “How are you feeling?”
“The doctor thinks you’ve got partial amnesia.”
Her dad’s pale green eyes narrowed. “Damn impudence.”
She smiled, the first glimmer of humor sparking inside her since the ground shook beneath her feet. “Are you saying you don’t?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Do you know what day it is?”
“No…” He put his hand to his head, his eyes closing, sweat breaking out on his brow. “There are gaps.”
“Don’t worry about it. The doctor said it will probably all come back eventually.”
“I suppose he thinks he knows because he used that fancy machine to look inside my brain.”
“He was just trying to assess the level of damage.”
“If you say so.” But clearly her dad didn’t believe it.
She sighed. She supposed for a man considered being asked for his middle name a gross invasion of privacy and who had refused to go to a doctor in the decade since, an MRI would be over the top of his comfort level.
He opened his eyes and pinned her with a look he used for interrogation. “What happened?”
“You don’t remember that either?”
“No, but if it was serious enough to land me in this white prison, I think I should.”
“There was an explosion.”
“The office and your mock room, but the fire was spreading fast when I pulled you out.”
“You saved my life.”
His jaw clenched. “I can’t remember what day of the week it is and I sure as hell don’t know why someone tried to blow me up.”
She didn’t bother denying the explosion had been planned. Her dad’s instincts were better than hers and hers were screaming the same thing. “Don’t worry about it. I’ve got your back.”
He nodded and then winced, bringing his hand to his head again. “Damn, this hurts.”
The next two hours were tense with Josie avoiding the probing questions of the ER staff and a duty officer who had been called in to try his luck when they were unsuccessful. She told them her dad had had a fall.
They were bothered because that didn’t explain the condition of her clothes or his. She refused to enlighten them, having learned a long time ago that no answer was a better form of evasion than adding lies on top of the initial one. Finally, a nurse came into say they would be moving her dad to a private room for observation.
After the nurse left, her dad said, “Call Nitro.”
She supposed his new partner deserved to know their school had been blown to smithereens. “I will in the morning.”
She frowned. Dawn was less than an hour away and she could call Nitro an hour or so after that. “Why now?”
Confusion clouded her dad’s face. “I don’t know. Just do it.”
He didn’t like weakness and he’d always been a bear when he was sick so she didn’t take issue with his general-in-command tone.
“Okay, but if you don’t know why then I don’t see how you’re going to tell him anything.”
It sounded reasonable to her, but at his glare she gave in. Bending down, she kissed his cheek. “Fine. I’ll go call him right now, but don’t blame me if he doesn’t like being woken up before the roosters.”
“He’s a soldier. He’s used to it.”
When Nitro answered the phone with an instantly alert voice five minutes later, she had to concede her dad was right.
She’d gone outside to an isolated phone and made sure no one was in hearing distance, but still she spoke in a low tone. “There’s been an explosion at the Mercenary Training Camp. When I left it looked like most of the compound was gone.”
“Are you all right?” The words whipped out like bullets.
“I’m fine. I was out walking.”
“What about Tyler ?”
She couldn’t help noticing he had asked about her first.
It made her feel tingly inside and she wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do with a feeling like that. “Dad was sleeping. He got hit by debris and he’s in ER right now. They’ll be moving him to a private room shortly and he wanted me to call you.”
She told him the name and grimaced at Nitro’s curse. “I wanted the anonymity of the city.”
“Yeah, but it’ll take me an hour and a half to get there.”
“We’re not going anywhere, not right now anyway.”
“Tell your dad to stay put until I’m there, but here’s my cell phone number just in case he doesn’t listen.”
She wrote down the number and rang off, her heart beating too fast for a simple telephone conversation with her dad’s partner.