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Authors: Sean Michael

Finding the way home

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Finding The Way HomebySean MichaelAmber Quill Press, LLChttp://www.amberquill.com

 

Finding The Way HomeAn Amber Quill Press Book

 

This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author's imagination, or have been used fictitiously.Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.

 

Amber Quill Press, LLChttp://www.AmberQuill.comAll rights reserved.No portion of this book may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the publisher, with the exception of brief excerpts used for the purposes of review.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Sean MichaelISBN 978-1-68175-075-0Cover Art © 2015 Trace Edward ZaberPublished in the United States of AmericaAlso by Sean MichaelArt And SnowflakesBlue CollarCarved In WoodCorpus ChristiCrouching Vegan, Hidden WerewolfDigging For GoldDirty KissesFull DisclosureThe Good LifeInto The Looking GlassLiving The DreamMaking Your Own LuckThe MoonNo RegretsOffice HoursRecipe For LoveRevving It UpRoyal LineServing Mr. RightSilver EdgesSpot The DifferenceWallflowersWelcome HomeThe Wizard And The ThiefWorking It OutWorking To WinChapter 1

 

Sergeant James Miller, retired, sat at the end of the driveway of the little beach house, just about as unsure as he'd been since he'd lost his right arm to an IED blast in the fucking desert. This wasn't what was supposed to happen, right? He was a fucking wounded warrior. He was supposed to go home to Andy, have a hero's welcome. Andy was supposed to hug him, tell him that it was okay, no big deal. It was cool. Stumps were hot. Retirement and pensions were hot.

Instead, what he got was another dude answering the door at the house he was supposed to be coming home to. A fucking psychiatrist to Andy's nurse. A doctor.

"Sorry, James."

"It just happened, you know?"

"You were always gone."

"I didn't tell you because you were hurt."

Motherfucker.

So, what did he do? Did he kill Dr. Shrinker and Andy and bury their bodies in the backyard like he wanted to? No. He'd called Horse and asked if he could couch surf for a few days until he got organized. Now he was sitting in front of some little house on the beach in the Carolinas, trying to get his shit together enough to go knock on the door at the crack of dawn.

The door opened, and a tall, broad stud of a man came out, hands on his hips as he looked down the drive. Horace Grundy the Third--Horse to everyone who knew him.

"Are you coming in or do I need to come get you?"

"Fuck you, man." James slid out of the cab, just about as tired as a man could be. All his shit was in the back of his truck. Everything he fucking owned reduced to one flatbed. Hell, it wasn't even packed tight or anything. "This stuff safe out here?"

"Hell, yeah. 'Til dark anyway." Horse shook his head and stepped out of the way, giving James room to get through the door. "You look like crap."

"Thanks. I feel like hammered shit. And thanks for letting me come down." It felt good, knowing he had a real friend, someone he could count on.

Horse clapped a hand on his shoulder, squeezed. "No problem. You take as long as you need."

The house was small and neat as a pin. If he hadn't known Horse was military, he sure would have guessed it from his home. Horse led him through the little front room that was mostly couch and TV and into a tiny kitchen where coffee was brewed.

"Oh, thank God." James nodded at the offer of a cup. "Please."

Horse gave it to him, just how he liked it--black as midnight--then sat across from him.

Horse didn't say anything, but James could hear the question. He also knew if he wasn't ready to talk, Horse would accept that, too.

"He's living with a doctor, has been for a year. Asshole never said. He claimed he didn't know how to tell me because of this." James lifted his "arm." He wasn't too bad with it, really, although right now it felt like it weighed a thousand pounds.

"Fucking asshole coward."

"Yeah. I mean, I wouldn't have gone there. He'd changed the locks." He'd had to knock at his own door.

"Jesus Christ, Sarge, that's pretty fucking low. You know, I have a gun." Horse's grin was positively evil.

"I do know that. He was lucky I didn't." James managed a grin of his own. Andy hadn't been the grand love of his life, but they'd been together seven years for fuck's sake.

"You just say the word and I won't need a key to that lock to do what needs to be done."

He knew Horse was serious. They'd been through some shit together and had each other's backs, no matter what.

"Thanks, man." This was what James needed. Just this--good coffee, the sound of the ocean outside, and his best buddy.

They drank their coffee in silence, and it wasn't heavy or awkward, it just was.

"You want to crash?" Horse asked.

"I'm gonna try to stay awake, man. I don't want to screw up my days and nights again. They were horked at the hospital." That had been a nightmare. No windows, the lights on all the time. Plus the nurses woke you to give you your meds around the clock. He hadn't known if he was coming or going the whole time he'd been in the hospital.

"There's a small deck out back with some lawn chairs and a rockin' view of the waves. And I've got Netflix and whatnot, if you want to watch something. Hell, I've got video games and board games, too, whatever you want."

"What do you normally do? I don't want to screw up your routine." James didn't want to be in the way.

Horse snorted. "To be honest, I could use the company. There's only so much TV-watching and jerking off a man can do before he's sick of his own company."

"Man, you're doing retirement right." James hooted, and suddenly the world felt better. Real after eighteen months of fucked up.

"Looks like my coffee hit the spot." Standing, Horse stretched, T-shirt riding up.

Hot son of a bitch. The thought wasn't new. Horse was a stud. Here in private, and him without a boyfriend and all, it crossed James' mind that what was new was that he could touch. Which reminded him exactly why he was single. Fucking Andy.

"Let's find a show to binge watch," Horse suggested. "You look like you could use the distraction."

"Totally." James stood up, stretched. "It going to wig you out if I take this thing off, man? It's heavy."

"Hell no. You got that saving fucking lives. It's nothing to be ashamed of. You need help?"

"Nah." James stripped off his shirt, unfastened the chest strap, and eased the arm off. "Good thing I'm left handed, huh?" It had been the first thing he'd said when Horse had found him in the chaos, his right arm lying about three feet away from him.

"Yeah, because you're not stubborn enough to have learned to be left-handed if you weren't already."

Horse was always giving him shit.

"Fuck you, man. Is there somewhere to leave this?"

"Let me show you your room."

Horse led the way down the hall. There were three doors--two on the right and one on the left. "First door on the right's the head. The second is your bunk." Horse nodded at the door on the left. "That's me."

"I really appreciate it, man. I could've gone to my folks', but..."

Horse had always been his one phone call.

"You didn't call me first, I would have kicked your ass all the way here," Horse told him, opening James' bedroom door for him.

The room was small, but just as neat as the rest of the house. The twin bed was pushed under the window, leaving enough room for a wardrobe and a small desk with a chair.

"Perfect." James put the prosthetic on the desk.

"It's not big, but it's more comfortable than we're used to, I guess. More private, too." Horse nodded toward the window. "I opened it when you called, got the room aired out some. You're not on the beach side, but you can still hear the waves."

"It's perfect, man. Thank you." James had expected a pull-out sofa.

"I can bring your stuff in while you get settled, if you want. Anything you don't need here can go in the shed out back."

"The only furniture I brought was my grandparents' rockers. Maybe there's a space on your deck?"

"Let's see if we can't find some place in the front room for them--I'd hate to have the weather get at 'em."

"Sure. Whatever turns you on."

Horse barked out a laugh. "Not rockers, I can tell you that."

Before James could answer, though, Horse left the room.

James emptied his pockets, took off his belt, and then headed out to help Horse unload the truck. It was his stuff, after all. Horse had the tailgate open, and the truck's contents were now piled next to it. All those strong muscles looked fantastic in motion and James took a long look, admiring the way everything moved together.

Slamming closed the tailgate, Horse grabbed one of the rockers and turned back up toward the house. Giving James a grin, Horse nodded back the way he'd come. "You wanna get the door for me?"

"Sure. Sure, sorry. I was..."Staring."...woolgathering."

"Yeah?" Horse looked around as he passed James on his way to the door. "I don't see any wool, man."

"I don't know." James rubbed his stubble. "I need a shave in the worst way."

"So grab your kit bag and go shave, have a shower, whatever. I can get this stuff inside. It's not like it's a big job." Horse put the chair in the middle of the main room, and looked around.

"Yeah? You don't mind?" James asked.

"I'm not in the habit of making shit up to be polite, you know that."

"Yeah, that's not your MO." On impulse he gave Horse a hard hug. "You rock, man."

Horse hugged him back, strong arms holding him tight for a few seconds before Horse let go. "Anything you need."

"Thanks, man."

He had all he needed right now. Space, a good friend, and time.

* * * *

Horse pushed the couch so it was angled across two walls, still facing the TV, which gave him room to put both rockers by the window, side by side. He could almost picture Jim's grandparents in them, rocking together. He put Jim's bags on the bed in the spare room, and then went back out to make sure the truck was secure.

He couldn't believe Jim's man had done him like that. Well, unfortunately, he could believe it. Jim wasn't the only friend Horse had whose relationship had crumbled beneath the stress of being deployed.

It was still shitty as hell and Jim didn't deserve it. Horse wanted to break some heads.

At the same time, Jim was free now and Horse had wanted the man since they'd first met. He wouldn't call it a crush because he was a fucking soldier, but he'd been hot for Jim since the start.

Horse poured himself another cup of coffee, grabbed a bag of cookies, and turned on the TV.

Jim headed in a few moments later, shaved and wearing a pair of shorts and a tank top. The man looked fine. He was lean, with a belly to fucking die for, blond hair a little shaggy, but the stubble was gone. Wow.

Yeah, Horse was still hot for the man. He wasn't going to jump Jim's bones two seconds after he'd been dumped, though. That would be fucking creepy.

He looked at Jim's stump. It was smooth, the surgeon had done a damn good job.

"Wanna look?" Jim walked right up, put what was left of the arm in Horse's hands. It had been blown off at the elbow, and the surgery had taken another inch and a half or so. It was warm, alive, the flesh healthy. Instead of taking away from Jim's appeal, it made the guy even hotter.

Horse slid his hand over the stump. "They did well by you, man."

"They did. It doesn't hurt. I was lucky."

"And you're having good luck with the prosthetic?" He continued to hold the stump, stroking Jim's skin idly.

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm learning. I imagine it'll always be easier just to use my left arm, but it works."

Horse finally let go and patted the couch cushion beside him. "Grab a seat."

"Thanks." Jim plopped down, sighed like he was a hot air balloon losing all its air. "God, it's good to see you."

"You, too, Sarge." It had been well over a year since Jim had been sent stateside with his arm blown off.

Horse changed channels, finding a marathon ofNCISjust starting up. "This good?" He was easy, really.

"Uh-huh. Like Gibbs. Reminds me of you."

"That pretty boy? Me?" Horse laughed it off, but he was pleased.

"Yeah. You." Jim settled back, eyelids heavy.

Horse sat back, grinning like a fool. He thought maybe having Jim here was going to be great. Someone to grill and share a beer and a pizza with. Someone to play HALO with. A friend.

He spent half his time watching the TV, the other half checking Jim out. A dark tattoo curved around Jim's hip. He knew the design of lines and spikes continued up Jim's back. He'd seen it any time they'd been in the showers at the same time, when he'd pretended not to look. His fingers had always itched to trace those lines ever since Jim had gotten it.

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