A Soldier Finds His Way

By: Irene Onorato

Sometimes getting lost is the best way home . . .



After a painful youth spent in foster homes, Special Forces soldier Edward Giordano has all but given up on love. Returning to New York from a dangerous mission in Costa Rica with no one to welcome him home, he knows he must find a way through his bitterness and embrace faith, or he’s destined for misery and loneliness. But he never expects that saving someone else’s life might help him save his own…



Audra Lorenzo is a first-year school teacher with a bright future. All she’s missing is a man to share her happiness. Her father wants her to rekindle her relationship with her ex-boyfriend, but she can’t stop thinking about the handsome, kind, and courageous soldier who rescued her from a near-deadly car accident…



Edward too, has not stopped thinking of Audra. After making peace with God and with his difficult past, he’s ready to re-connect with her and reveal his feelings. Edward knows that opening his heart will mean risking pain, but he’s prepared for whatever comes—from a perilous deployment to Audra’s meddling father…




A Veteran’s Heart Romance






Acknowledgements




I thank God for giving me a creative heart, and my husband for pushing me to use it for writing this novel. A special thanks to my wonderful critique partners who helped whip this manuscript into shape.





Chapter 1




“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have just been cleared to land at Stewart International Airport. Again, we ask that you stay in your seat with your belt securely fastened. We should be on the ground shortly.”

Lieutenant Edward Giordano rubbed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose as landing gear hummed and vibrated his seat. The carrot-top boy in the adjacent seat yanked the tail of his seatbelt tight enough to make grooves in his thighs, glanced up and managed a smile laced with a little fear.

Edward regretted his verbal mistreatment of the child. He’d rejected the boy’s offer of temporary friendship and couldn’t bring himself to respond to his timid smile. Sure, the kid had fired questions faster than a .50 cal machine gun for half the flight, and had poked him with a pencil-sharp elbow as he colored in his book and hogged the shared armrest.

Even so, his conscience nagged him. He could have tried to be civil instead of chewing the kid out and finally telling him to shut up.

Major Greco’s squinty-eyed glare drilled into him from across the aisle. The message was clear. Be nice to the kid, or he’d knock Edward’s teeth out.

Turbulence bounced the plane. The boy gripped the armrests and squeezed his eyes shut. Even if Edward could choke up an apology, now wasn’t the time to deliver it.

“Welcome to Newburgh.” The flight attendant smiled at Edward as he exited the plane.

Greco’s boots clomped beside him on the way to baggage claim. Sergeant Dexter and Corporal Jackson brought up the rear, talking loud, and laughing hard, happy to be back home. Edward couldn’t fault them. Three months of back-to-back missions, dodging bullets in hot, sweaty Costa Rica had zapped the energy out of the whole unit.

Suitcases burst through rubber flaps and started their journey around the baggage carousel.

The redheaded boy waited across the carousel with his parents as the luggage circled a sign that flashed their flight number and origin. The boy said something to his father and pointed at Edward. The boy’s father then shook his fist in Edward’s direction. Edward smirked and shrugged it off.

“Jackson,” Greco said. “Grab my bag when it comes around, would you please? Get Giordano’s too.”

“Lieutenant, I’d like to have a word with you.” Greco strutted past Edward toward an empty baggage carousel. Edward followed.

“LT, what’s wrong with you? That was a nice kid, and you could have treated him a whole lot better. His dad would like to beat the crap out of you, and right now, I’d like to help him. I’ve got nothing but praise for your abilities as a Special Operator, but as a man, you need a lot of work. From this point forward, when you’re wearing your uniform, you will act in a manner befitting an officer in the United States Army. An officer is not rude or unkind to civilians. This includes children.” Greco paused. “Look, your brother Hank told me you were kicked around when you were kid, and I’m sorry about that.”

Edward clenched his fists and turned to walk away.

“Lieutenant, I’m not finished with you. Attention.”

Edward snapped to attention, stood erect, and faced forward.

Greco took a deep breath. “I’m sure whatever you went through as a kid scarred you in some way, but you can’t go around venting your anger on every kid you meet. Giordano, I don’t know why I put up with you. You’re nasty, cranky, and, on the whole, quite intolerable.”

Behind Greco, automatic doors to the outside swished open, then closed. A cold wind chased a few scraps of paper inside and swirled the debris around Edward’s legs. He didn’t flinch.

“My wife, whom you refuse to meet, calls you Lieutenant Sourpuss. You’re unlikeable, yet I like you. I don’t know why, but I do. The guys like you. You snarl and bare your teeth at us at every turn, yet each one of us knows you’d take a bullet for us in a heartbeat. Underneath that rotten disposition of yours lies a good man. I don’t know how I know, but I do.”