Breach by Kelly Sokol / #Extract @FSBAssociates @MichCFitz @kelly_sokol

The boundary between battlefield and home front blurs. Are there wounds love can heal?

Marleigh Mulcahy grew up in a boxing gym, the daughter of hard-drinking parents who didn’t keep a stable roof overhead. In the cinder-block Box-n-Go, amidst the sweat and funk, she meets EOD specialist Jace Holt, a highly and expensively trained bomb diffuser with three successful deployments behind him. With a heady mix of hope, carelessness, and a ridiculous amount of courage, they begin a family. When Jace returns to active duty, a roadside bomb resurrects ghosts from the couple’s past and threatens the life they’ve built.An unflinching and timely gaze into the marriage of an enlisted special operator and his wife, Breach is a story of betting it all on love, a couple’s determination to change the trajectory of their lives, and one woman’s promises to the man she loves and the boys they’re raising.

What choices will a desperate mother make to keep her family whole?




As Marleigh pulled into the parking lot, she saw two cars and a crotch rocket parked outside the gym, but no stragglers. Plenty of the guys walked or ran over from the neighborhood, so she never knew how many people were there until she got inside. It was already ten o’clock, so she would only have to wait a half an hour before turning off the lights and locking up.

The gym’s heady, humid smell had been almost welcomed when she entered. She always knew where she stood here. It was a small cement box, but she garnered something like respect when she walked in. It hadn’t been earned; she knew that. Her grandfather’s creation and dedication was a shadow she stepped into and tried to lengthen. But plenty of people enjoyed a security in the world that they did nothing to create. Fancy Graham, for example. Marleigh had to put up with his bullshit—he was a customer for a couple of hours. That girlfriend let him treat her like that, like they both deserved it. And for what?

The only people inside were Terry and the new guy, Jace. Back again. She tried not to stare. He was shirtless and had his shorts gathered high on his muscular thighs, crouched in fighting stance.

His gloves were up, protecting his face. They were in the ring sparring. Terry had him moving through a complicated routine and seemed to make the guy drop lower each time to avoid being clocked in the side of the face with the sparring pad. Terry saw Marleigh first and gave her a quick nod, then got back to business. As Jace stepped, jabbed, crossed, and ducked to make contact with and then avoid Terry’s swing, he saw her. He stood, losing his boxer’s stance—the crouched ready position, weight on the toes, knees bent.

“Marleigh!” he said, his voice deep and masculine, but with a child’s excitement. Terry’s mitt whacked him across the side of his face and split the corner of his lip. She winced. Jace grinned at her like she was a marvel, not some tired waitress covered in shrimp peels. She studied him, too, she couldn’t help herself. His compact muscle on such a tall body, those perfect Chiclet teeth. The curve and bounce of his hamstring, undoubtedly her favorite part of the male body. Remembering that Lynetha told her Jace was EOD, Marleigh wondered what would happen if he hurt his fingers boxing. It was a rookie mistake to clench your fists inside your gloves. Can you disarm bombs with broken fingers? A bomb tech. That meant there was a brain inside that stupidly perfect body. She didn’t really care. She was just happy for any distraction from the shitty night, and how she’d been treated. No one respected waitresses or bartenders, one reason she wouldn’t be one for much longer. It felt good to have someone so happy to see her.

“One more go, Terry. I’ve got this.” They moved through the maneuvers again. Jace was focused and quick. He landed a punch over one of Terry’s mitts.

Marleigh tilted her nose down and sniffed herself, suddenly self-conscious of her dirty T-shirt and shorts, knowing she carried a greasy, shellfish stink, wondering if Jace could smell it. Marleigh picked up one of the cleaning caddies and headed to the bathroom like she was going to restock the toilet paper and clean up for the night. She planned on doing that, of course, but she also wanted to see the damage the night had inflicted upon her. The bathroom wasn’t so bad. No one made it that far to puke, so she almost never had to clean that up. The trainers had to dump and spray the buckets.

She looked in the mirror and dabbed beneath her eyes to clean up the smudge of mascara, holding a wet paper towels to her cheeks to pull the flush from her skin. She clucked at herself. If anyone but Jace was out there, she wouldn’t have given herself a second look before heading home and washing off the day in the shower. Her white T-shirt was short and tight, the Thirsty Camel logo stretched across her left breast, and the hem grazed her belly button. Her black shorts were high-waisted with a minimal inseam, highlighting her tiny waist and perky ass. The uniform didn’t leave much to the imagination.

The round bell sounded, muffled through the bathroom wall. Terry didn’t dawdle at the end of the night. “You gotta work on your foot speed and keeping tight. You’re too tall and goofy to be a boxer.” Terry was just like her grandfather. No bullshit. No puffing up a boxer so that he’d keep showing up and paying and training just to keep getting his ass kicked in the ring. That was for the big money gyms. Marleigh could hear in his voice that he liked Jace and could see something in him. She didn’t want to hear that.

She could get this bathroom clean and just wait him out. They’d be leaving soon, and then she could vent the night’s bullshit on the heavy bag. Nothing could squash her libido quite like cleaning the can. He’d realize he wasn’t really that interested and leave her alone. She gave the bathroom the most thorough cleaning ever, but as she slipped the plastic gloves off and threw them in the trash outside the bathroom door, Terry and Jace were still there, bent over a table. Both turned to look at her. Jace smiled that smile again.

“Don’t tell the other guys,” Terry said, before tearing off a piece of paper and handing it to Jace. He nodded at Marleigh, “And don’t tell boss lady I’m giving you workouts outside the gym, neither.” Marleigh cocked an eyebrow at them. Terry rarely did that.

“Just make sure you’re paid up, new guy.” She wiped down the ropes on the far side of the gym from them. Then she moved to the first heavy bag.

“Don’t stand around staring,” she said, keeping her back to Jace as she cleaned. “We’re closed. Y’all get out of here.”

“Don’t have to tell me twice,” Terry said. “See ya Monday.”.

Excerpted from BREACH by Kelly Sokol, published by Koehler Books. © Copyright 2022 by Kelly Sokol.

Thank you


About the Author

Kelly Sokol’s work has appeared in print and online publications including The Manifest-Station, ConnotationPress, The Quotable, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She serves on the Board of Directors of The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk, VA, where she also teaches creative nonfiction and fiction writing. She also serves on the Board of Directors for ForKids, Inc. and advises the Board of the Seven Cities Writers Project. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Goddard College.

Kelly is a low-lander who dreams, in color, of the mountains. When she is not reading, writing or parenting, she can be found wandering or skiing the backcountry, or training for it. Kelly is represented by Michelle Johnson of Inklings Literary.


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