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Thank you all who have been reading and following along. I always appreciate getting feedback. It helps with becoming a better writer and it’s always an ego boost, so feel free to reach out. I will always respond!

The usual spiel: This isn’t a stroke story, (more porn with plot.) Be warned, it’s very long. 33+ chapters, and many sexless ones to come before it gets sexy, which is why it was originally published under novels/novellas, but readers asked for it to be put under gay male due to content, so here we go.

This book is dedicated to all of the brave service members and their families who sacrifice so much every day so that the rest of us can enjoy the liberties that they swear to protect 0and uphold.

Although references in this novel may be made to actual places or events, the names, characters, incidents, and locations within are complete works of fiction. They are not a resemblance to actual living or dead persons, businesses, or events. Any similarity is coincidental. In an effort to do the United States Army justice, and to show my respect to my country, I have applied all possible efforts to merge fact and fiction to entertain, while portraying the military, and the hardships and achievements of soldiers, with respect, dignity and accuracy to the best of my abilities. It’s my hope that I’ve done you all justice, and that all of the creative licenses taken with this novel are understood to be the efforts of imagination, and not any judgment or disrespect against the U.S. military. Thank you all for your service.

Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.

—Denis Waitley

Ben was sitting on the middle of the staircase when I came out of Cayden’s room. I gave him the condensed version and by the time I was finished, the little vein at the corner of his left temple looked ready to explode.

“I knew it had to be Eddie starting it,” he said, looking up at the steps above us. “He’s rubbed me the wrong way since day one, but I’ve never caught him in the act and Cayden wouldn’t talk to me.”

“If it makes you feel better, the kid didn’t want to tell me either.”

“But he did. Thank you, Sam.”

I shrugged, uncomfortable Şirinevler Escort with the praise. “It’s not a big deal. You were right. He’s not a bad kid, just having a tough time.”

“Maybe you can make this a regular thing? Come and hang out with the kids? We’re always looking for volunteers.”

It was on the tip of my tongue to say no, but for some reason I found myself offering a short nod. “Maybe after I get settled in at Tara’s.”

Ben’s eyes narrowed in curiosity. “You’re staying with Tara?”

“We talked about me renting her basement apartment this morning. I think giving Sofia and the girls some breathing room might reduce some of the strain at the house.”

“Or it could cause more. I can tell you Sofia won’t be thrilled.”

“I know, but Tara lives close by. It’s not like I’m going back to Afghanistan.”

“How are you feeling about that?”

I considered the question before answering. Whenever I’d been stationed in Afghanistan, I’d been afraid that I’d never be able to leave my experiences behind me. Like the constant adrenaline fest would leave me marked, craving the chaos like a junkie in need of his fix. My edge was all that kept me alive back there. But being home was changing that. Now that I knew there was no going back, I was trying to accept my new normal.

Despite the recurring nightmares, things were better. I could feel the difference in the way I allowed my body to relax; held my jaw less rigid. I no longer made immediate moves toward an invisible gun when I was startled. I was learning to cope, and each day got a little easier.

“I’m doing okay. Though I should probably get going. I promised Emma we’d do lunch today.”

“You’re good with her,” Ben said, getting up when I did to walk me out to the porch.

“One day I hope I can say the same about Addie.”

“She’ll come around. In the meantime, enjoy being the object of an adorable five-year-old’s adoration.”

“Split adoration,” I corrected. “She recently told me I’m just one of her best friends, you being among that elite group. Though she did assure me I could share you.”

“Oh? Are we talking 50/50 splits or do I get to choose who I want to stay with longer?”

Ben’s smile was addictive. I ducked Şirinevler Escort Bayan my head before mine could grow to the point it couldn’t be hidden. “I’m sure you’d have more fun playing with Emma than me.”

“That’s debatable.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond to such blatant flirting. Max teased, but I knew where I stood with him and that allowed me a certain level of surety. Ben’s confident gaze stole any certainty right out from under me. My ears heated, and nerves made me fumble for the cigarettes in my back pocket.

“What are you talking about?”

“Do I need to spell it out for you again?” Ben’s smile widened when he leaned into my personal space. He flicked my ear. Hard.

“Hey!” While I howled a protest, he snatched the unlit cigarette from my hand and tossed it over the edge of the porch.

“I like you and want to get to know you better,” Ben said crossing his arms over his chest. “To help that happen, you need to stick around and not pollute your body and soul with garbage. Stop with the booze, put down the cigarettes and talk to me.”

“Are you crazy?”

“Insane in the membrane. But I just saved you from potential lung cancer, so I’d say you at least owe me dinner.”

I rubbed my ear, grumbling. “You couldn’t just say that?”

“I figured a little show and tell would add to my declaration of intent. Come on, Sam. I know you’re interested.”

“It was just a kiss, Ben.” I told the lie with as straight a face as I could. “A drunken pass that I never should’ve made.”

“Bull. We connected, Sam. You ran away that day on the hill because you felt it too, and it scared you.”

“I’m not scared. I just know it’s too soon for us to feel anything real for each other, and I’m not the kind of guy someone like you should pin their hopes on—”

My brain stopped communicating with my lips when I found myself trapped between the rail of the wraparound porch and Ben’s body. He stopped close enough to block the sun’s touch from my face.

“A guy like me?” he repeated.

“Yeah…” Shit. “…a good guy.”

He grinned and didn’t budge. “Most people consider that a positive trait.”

He was right. Most people would cream their drawers to be with a man like Ben, Escort Şirinevler who made even the classic good guy look like a chump. I just didn’t have a good track record with nice guys.

“I have to go.”


There was nowhere for me to run when Ben stepped even closer, putting us a breath apart. One hand splayed on the column beside my head, boxing me in. I waited for panic to hit, but instead of feeling trapped, I was hard as a rock.

“If you want me to back off, Sam, say the word and I’m gone,” Ben said, leaning in close enough that I felt the cinnamon on his breath heating my face. “But don’t crown me a saint just to avoid this thing between us.”

Not since I’d first enlisted had anyone put me in my place with such ease.

It was hot.

Ben swept me with an assessing look. “You don’t want me to back off, do you?” he murmured. “I wonder how that whole taking orders thing translates into civilian life…”

My dick forgot to be indignant as it tattooed itself with my zipper. I inhaled short and sharp. Ben noticed at once.

“You were saying something about guys like me?” His smile dared me to repeat myself, but my throat had gone dry.

Instead of shattering the moment by opening my mouth, I just stood there. When Ben’s head dipped, I was waiting for him.

My arms slid around his waist to bring him even closer when he pulled me into his body. I kissed him like I’d wanted to the other night, when everything had been so fucked up and just hearing his voice had settled me down.

I felt Ben smile against my skin when I turned my head to nip at the warm bare skin of his throat.

“Come over to my place tonight,” he murmured.

I could feel my self-control weakening. “You want more than one night and I can’t do that.”


“Well, hello!”

Ben and I broke apart like guilty children when we heard Tara’s voice. He recovered faster, grinning at Tara where she stood at the base of the steps with one hand over her eyes, openly peeking through her fingers.

“Next time, warn a girl. Sam, I’m surprised you’re still here.” The smug note in her voice said otherwise.

I cleared my throat. “I was just heading out.”

“Of course you were,” she said sweetly. “But since you’re here now, I’ll give you the extra set of keys to my place.”

She made the toss and I caught them in mid-air, already making my way down the steps past her.

“And, Sam?”

I turned back in time to hear her say, “I can see you like to hang to the left, but it’s a right to the house.”

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