Now that Broken Soldier is available on Amazon, Kobo, Scribd, ARe and the iBookstore, would you like to take a test drive before you buy? Now that my blog tour is over I’ve gathered all five chronological excerpts here. Give them a read and get to know Connor and Shawn!
Shawn lowered himself down onto Connor and Connor held him tightly, both of them trembling as their orgasms subsided. Shawn’s voice was a shaky whisper next to his ear.
“I love you.”
Connor felt his heart skip a beat. It wasn’t the first time Shawn had said those words. He squeezed his eyes shut and buried his face in Shawn’s shoulder.
“Shawn, I…” But the last two words lodged in his throat and refused to be spoken.
Everyone he’d ever told he’d loved had died – been killed – and left him alone. His parents, his sister, his lover Mark. He never expected to get another chance at happiness and he was going to hold onto it desperately with both hands and not let go. He knew it was completely irrational, but he didn’t care. As long as he didn’t say it Shawn would stay safe.
Shawn lifted himself up slightly to look at Connor and he could see the understanding in Shawn’s blue eyes.
“It’s okay.” Shawn kissed him softly. “I know.”
Dawn was just breaking when Connor felt Shawn stir and he opened his eyes. He hadn’t been sleeping, though. Neither of them had been, really, their minds too occupied with the upcoming mission to rest. They’d instead spent the last hours in each other’s arms, making the most of the time they had left together.
Connor felt Shawn’s hand lightly trail down the back of his neck and across his shoulder and he lifted his head from where it had been resting on his partner’s chest.
“Hey,” Shawn said quietly with a small smile.
“Hey,” Connor echoed then sat up and kissed Shawn for a long moment.
When they moved apart Shawn looked down and unhooked his paracord bracelet from around his wrist, which he then fastened around Connor’s.
“Hang onto this for me, will you?” Shawn asked, trying for a light tone, but failing.
Connor shook his head, refusing to acknowledge the implication of Shawn’s action. He knew how much that bracelet meant to his partner. He’d received it the day he was accepted into the SEALs more than ten years ago and he had worn it every single day since. If he was giving it to Connor he was afraid there was a chance he wasn’t coming back from this mission.
“Shawn. No.” Connor reached for his wrist to unhook the bracelet but Shawn covered his hand.
“Connor. Please.” Shawn’s voice was rough. “Just…do this for me. Keep part of me with you.” Then he swallowed and forced a smile. “Besides, it’s just temporary, so don’t get attached to it. I’ll be asking for it back soon.”
Connor turned his hand over and linked their fingers together. “I’m going to bloody well hold you to that.”
The sun peeked over the horizon then, signaling the start to a new day.
Connor released a long breath and asked Shawn a familiar question. “Are you ready for this?”
Shawn squeezed Connor’s hand. “I am now.”
It was the longest hour and a half of Connor’s life until his shift was over at the club and he was able to get back to the hotel. He found Shawn passed out cold face down on his bed, still fully dressed. Connor crouched down next to the bed and shook his partner’s shoulder.
“Shawn. Shawn. C’mon mate, wake up.”
Another shake and Shawn stirred, his eyelids fluttering open. “Connor?” he slurred.
“Yeah, it’s me. Can you sit up?”
Shawn blew out a breath and then levered himself up slowly, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and resting his head in his hands. “I’m really tired,” he mumbled.
Connor squeezed his shoulder. “I know. You can go back to sleep in a minute. I need you to tell me what happened tonight. How much coke did you do?”
Shawn raised his head and Connor looked into his blue eyes, relieved to see that his pupils were returning to their normal size.
Shawn shook his head. “We’ve moved on to the big leagues. Heroin. Jae’s drug of choice it turns out. He likes to shoot up.”
Connor sat back on his heels. “Fuck. Shawn…”
“I know, Connor. I know. But I’m almost there with him. I have to stick this out. I –“
“– can handle it, I know,” Connor finished for him. He rested his hand on the side of Shawn’s face and kissed him gently, tasting the whiskey on his lips. He sat back and tugged on Shawn’s misbuttoned shirt. “What else happened?” he asked, and Shawn glanced away from him.
“Did you have sex with him?” Connor continued, wanting to know but not wanting to at the same time.
Shawn looked back at him. “No. After we got high he had Eric suck me off while he watched and jacked off.”
Connor was disgusted. “That sick fuck. I hate this, Shawn. I hate what this is doing to you already.”
“It would be worse if I didn’t have you,” Shawn said quietly and Connor furrowed his brow in question. “It’s you…us…I think about. You’re getting me through this.”
The last of Shawn’s energy left him then and his eyes slid closed. Connor caught his shoulders as his body started to slump to the side and eased him back down onto the bed. Connor rested his hand on Shawn’s chest, felt his heart beating strong and sure beneath his palm, in contrast to the exhaustion written on his face, even in sleep.
“But not fast enough…”
By the time the door to Jae’s room opened again an hour later, Connor’s muscles were so rigid with anger he could barely move to step aside as Jae and his entourage emerged.
Up until tonight, Connor had only had Shawn’s vague mentions of what transpired between himself and Jae. But now he’d seen it for himself – what Shawn was willingly putting himself through for the sake of the mission. The expression on Shawn’s face tore at him, his heart seizing up in his chest at the humiliation he saw there, and that Connor was witness to it. Fury burned through Connor’s veins and it took every ounce of self-control he had to not to break Jae’s neck right then and there. And again right now as Jae stepped out and then turned to address him as Kwan, the dancers and the other security guard filed past them, headed downstairs.
“Connor, I’m taking the limo. Please see to it that Shawn gets back to the house.”
Connor unclenched his fists and swallowed. “Of course,” he answered, forcing a small smile on his face, which disappeared the instant Jae turned his back and walked away.
Connor couldn’t get back in the room fast enough, but what he saw stopped him dead in his tracks.
“Oh, Christ…” he breathed, closing the door behind him.
Shawn lay face down on one of the couches, completely naked except for a gold chain around his neck. There were red marks on his back and near his hips, obviously made from Jae’s hands and fingers. He could see where Shawn’s skin was wet and sticky from the champagne Jae had poured over him. Shawn’s clothes were scattered on the floor, along with two of the empty champagne bottles…and a used condom.
Concern for Shawn overrode his anger and disgust and he pushed those feelings aside as he crossed the room quickly and dropped down beside his partner. Shawn was breathing hard, his blue eyes glassy with pinprick pupils, caught in the grips of another heroin high.
Connor swallowed hard. “Shawn…mate…can you hear me?” he asked quietly, reaching out and resting a hand on Shawn’s bare shoulder.
Shawn’s reaction was immediate and explosive.
“No!” he yelled, knocking Connor’s hand away and scrabbling backward on the couch, as far away from Connor as he could get, curling in on himself. “Get out, Connor! Get out!”
Connor shook his head, moving down toward his distraught partner. “No…Shawn…”
“I don’t want you to see me like this! Get out!” he pleaded, voice breaking.
Connor felt angry tears flood his vision at the anguish in Shawn’s voice. He reached out to lay a hand on Shawn’s bare leg.
“Don’t touch me!” Shawn yelled, striking out.
His swing was clumsy but it caught Connor unaware and he managed to clip Connor on his jaw before he could get out of the way, and Connor tipped sideways back against the table.
“Oh, God…” Shawn breathed. “I’m sorry…I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean…” he rambled, reaching out for Connor.
“It’s okay,” Connor reassured him. “I know. This isn’t you.”
And it wasn’t. Connor knew the heroin was responsible for Shawn’s erratic behavior and wild emotional swings.
Shawn grabbed two fistfuls of Connor’s t-shirt and pulled him close, resting his head on Connor’s shoulder. “Don’t go, Connor…don’t go…” he panted.
Connor continued on, pointing at Shawn, his voice rising. “Look at him! We’ve turned him into a fucking addict! Do you know why he’s here right now? Because he was so strung out last night that I couldn’t leave him alone!” Connor’s voice was steel, his eyes flashing anger. “This has gone too far. Pull him out. Now!”
“NO!” Shawn pushed himself to his feet and slammed his hand down on the table.
He knew full well that he looked like hell and knew what he was turning into. But he also knew he was a soldier and not a fucking quitter when things got rough. He would see this mission through to the end, not be consigned to the sidelines.
“No one’s pulling me out,” Shawn said forcefully. Connor angrily shook his head and Shawn ignored him. “Not when we’re this close to nailing this asshole.” He pointed to Mandy. “We don’t even know if we can use anything on that drive. But I know the weapons will be here soon. I can get the name of the supplier and where the exchange is going down.” He stared straight at MacDonald. “Leave me in.”
There was utter silence in the hub as the team waited for MacDonald’s answer.
After a long moment where neither Shawn nor MacDonald broke eye contact, MacDonald finally tipped his head. “Very well. I trust your judgment.”
“Fuck!” Connor spat, then threw his arms out. “Am I the only one that sees his judgment is impaired?”
Shawn blew out a long breath. “Connor, I can –“
Connor jabbed a finger at him. “Don’t you fucking say you can handle it, Shawn!” He crossed his arms over his chest. “I mean, do you even have any idea how you’re supposed to get back in Chan’s house undetected? You were supposed to have been there all night.”
“Actually, yes, Connor, I do,” Shawn snapped at him, angry that his partner suddenly seemed to have so little faith in his ability to do his job and it stung.
“I found a blind spot in the security camera grid outside of the pool. I purposely left the doors unlocked in case I ever needed to use that route to get in or out unseen,” he explained. “I noticed that the guards do twelve-hour shifts and they change at noon. Right now there’s only one at the house. Jae took the other two with him. The guy who came on at midnight will have thought I went with Jae to Jakarta, so he wouldn’t have been wondering where I was last night. The guy who comes on at noon and then sees me in the house will think I’ve been there all night.”
Connor’s brow furrowed. “That’s bloody risky.”
“Maybe. But it’s all I’ve got,” Shawn said simply. He looked down at his watch. “And I’ve got to go if I’m going to time this right.”
“Watch yourself,” MacDonald told him.
“Will do, boss,” Shawn answered, bending down to pick up his drawstring bag then turned and headed for the stairs.
Connor caught up with him halfway down, taking hold of his arm, stopping him. Shawn pulled out of his grasp, his expression hard.
“I’m not going to apologize for being worried about you,” Connor said. “I’ve seen things they haven’t. I know what’s been going on between you and Chan. They don’t.” He put his hands on Shawn’s shoulders, his voice quieting. “It’s not that I don’t think you can do your job. I just don’t want to lose you to it. I can’t.”
Shawn’s eyes softened. “You won’t, Connor.” He touched his paracord bracelet still on Connor’s wrist. “I told you I’d be back for this. And I always keep my promises.”
Connor cut himself off as Shawn let out an angry yell and swung a wild punch at him. Connor was forced to release Shawn’s wrist to avoid his partner’s fist, which would have caught him right in the face. He stumbled back a step, hitting the refrigerator, nearly losing his footing on the items strewn about on the floor. Just as he straightened up, Shawn grabbed a coffee mug off the counter and hurled it at Connor’s head. Connor dropped to a crouch and the mug smashed into the refrigerator.
Keeping low, Connor went at Shawn like an American football player, ducking under his partner’s arms and catching him around his middle. Shawn’s back hit the edge of the counter and both of them slid to the floor. Shawn’s fists began pummeling at Connor’s arms and chest as Connor got Shawn first onto his back then flipped over onto his stomach, straddling his waist. Shawn tried to buck him off, yelling angrily and Connor was amazed at the strength the desperate craving for the heroin gave him.
“Please, Connor, please,” Shawn pleaded with him, breathing hard. “I just need a little bit. Just a little and I’ll be fine…”
Connor quickly pulled the syringe out of his pocket and used his mouth to pull off the cap, which he spit out onto the floor.
He swallowed hard. “I’m so sorry, mate,” he said, voice rough, then injected Shawn with the sedative.
“I need it, Connor, I need it…” Shawn mumbled as his eyes closed moments later, succumbing to the effects of the sedative.
Connor slid off of Shawn’s body then, slumping against the counter next to him, his face in his hands, gutted to the core by what had just transpired. A lump formed in his throat as he lifted his head and looked at his partner, lying there unconscious. Shawn’s face was drawn, flushed and wet with sweat, battered and bruised with dark circles under his eyes that had looked at him with such pain and desperation.
Shawn was the strongest, bravest man Connor had ever known, now reduced to this broken soldier before him.
All because of duty and loyalty to his unit and his mission. For the first time Connor feared that Shawn had been shattered into too many pieces to ever be put back together again.
His chest constricted at the thought, the grief and anger inside him suddenly too much to contain any longer. He grabbed for Shawn’s hand and held on tight as he broke down, the first sob tearing through him. He cried for Shawn, who was fighting a battle he might not be able to win and he cried for the two of them, wondering how they’d survive if Shawn didn’t.
He cried until there was nothing left inside him, until his eyes ran dry and his throat burned. He gathered Shawn into his arms then and held him tight, wishing he could take his place, but instead willing every ounce of strength he had into him, the only thing he could do.