Once a SEAL Online - Anne Elizabeth

Chapter 1

September 9, Amphibious Base, Coronado, California

Dark clouds filled the sky above her. Please don’t rain.

Aria rubbed her arms, hoping to chase away the chill. It didn’t work. She shook the sand off the hem of her bridal gown and eyed the weather encroaching on her wedding day. It was impossible not to worry about a deluge, her not-present-and-accounted-for fiancé, and the guests who watched her like a hawk.

What would happen if Dan didn’t show?

Her throat constricted. Oh, God, I’d be mortified!

The sun peeked momentarily from behind the clouds, briefly spreading a glittering cache of diamonds across the water. Shouldn’t she relax? Coronado was known for its mild weather; though every now and then, nature kicked her heels, and a rainstorm became a tropical downpour that flooded everything and practically drowned those in its path.

Her hand touched her throat but it didn’t stop the choking sensation from growing tighter.

“Are you okay?” asked a passing guest.

“Fine. Thanks.” She pasted on a smile and dropped her hand, lacing her fingers together, hoping he believed her.

A class of BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) trainees with numbers painted on their helmets ran by. Sweat dripped down their young faces as they shouldered giant packs on their backs. Several instructors nodded at her as the group sped by soundlessly.

“Dan. Where are you?” she murmured. Perhaps the white-knuckle look wasn’t supporting the vision of a calm bride. She didn’t want to be one of those monster brides. But with this completely crazy event—whose fiancé came to the wedding via helicopter? Didn’t that count as understandably upsetting?

Waving back at the group gathered behind her, she said, “Just a few more minutes.” She prayed that comment would be true.

Just then the wind picked up, making her curls fly askew and the white tulle tied to the backs of the folding chairs dance. The simple decorations of flowers and fabric felt right for getting married in God’s biggest cathedral. Really, if it had been a regular sunny day, it would be beautiful.

Concentrate on something positive, she told herself. A memory splashed through her mind.

This spot, this exact spot, was where Dan had proposed.

She’d never forget that day. The sparkle of mischief in his eyes, the way his palms felt sweaty in hers, and the flourish with which he’d bent down on one knee and placed the diamond on her finger. Then he’d asked, “Will you be mine, forever? Please, say yes. I don’t have the heart to take this off.”

She remembered thinking, We’ve known each other for such a short time, almost four weeks now, and yet it feels so right. Tears had slid down her cheeks as she threw herself into his arms. “Yes, yes, yes!” she’d replied before she kissed him with every bit of happiness in her heart.

He’d scooped her up in his arms and found a secluded spot, where they made love.

Gooey warmth and giddiness filled her belly at the memory of their whirlwind romance. They had created memorable times together thus far, and she wondered what the future held for them. If Dan was as caring and loving as he’d been this first month, then it was going to be a wonderful forever.

“You look lovely,” said the wife of one of Dan’s teammates. She smiled kindly.

“Thank you,” Aria replied. “I’m glad you could come.”

Dan’s friends and their wives made up most of the guest list. The only people on her side were her uncle, her brother, and her best friend, Mark. That was it. Friendship didn’t come that easily to her, though she had a whole address book full of acquaintances and work contacts.

“I see the helos,” shouted a tall man in a white uniform.

Oh, thank God.

Her brother Jimmy came running across the beach. All gangly limbs and fourteen years’ worth of awkwardness, dressed in a tux and sneakers. “They’re coming!” he shouted. “You should have seen them jump into the water. It was insane. Can I do that?”

She gave him a placating smile and brushed a strand of his wild hair behind his ear.

“We’ll talk to Dan about it later, okay? Please, go tell Uncle David to come down. We have to take our places.”

“Okay,” he said, ducking out of her reach.

Under her breath, she added, “Heaven help us that this goes smoothly.” She’d never been more stressed-out in her whole life.

The chaplain waved at her. Attired in his formal whites, he looked uncomfortably hot as he tugged at his collar. “Miss Kavanagh, I have another event at 1730. You have about thirty minutes before