HAPPY HOLIDAYS from myself and all of the members of Shadow Unit! To thank you all for your support this year, here’s a FREE standalone Christmas short story featuring Connor Finley and Shawn Weller. Enjoy!
BLURB: It’s hard to remember to celebrate Christmas when you’re chasing down terrorists.
How to Love Christmas Again
A Shadow Unit Holiday Story
By Jamie Lynn Miller
Sergeant Connor Finley fell back against his bed roll with a grateful sigh, staring up into the thousands of stars shining brightly overhead from where he lay on the edge of the sand in the Sudan desert. It was the end of a successful mission, and for once no one was chasing or shooting at them. The intel they’d collected had been turned over to the appropriate government authorities and they were at their ex-fil location, waiting for the Shadow Unit helicopter that would pick them up at dawn. It was a rare opportunity to relax and Connor was going to take full advantage of it.
Connor ran a hand through his short, sandy brown hair and looked across the small fire at his partner. From the looks of it, Sergeant Shawn Weller had the same idea, also laying on his back, arms behind his head, fingers threaded in his thick, dark hair, blue eyes closed. Both he and Connor had taken off their desert cammo shirts against the heat, hoping for some sort of cool breeze. They’d been chatting while they set up their small camp and ate their MRE’s, then fell into companionable silence. Which is why the single beep from Shawn’s watch sounded so loud in the quiet desert night.
Connor raised his head and looked at his own watch as Shawn sat up and started rummaging around in his backpack. Midnight.
Curious, Connor rolled to his side. “What is it, mate?” he questioned his partner.
Shawn held up a finger and continued pulling out items from his bag until he turned around and triumphantly held up a small box wrapped in plain brown paper. He moved over and sat down next to Connor and held out the box to him.
“Merry Christmas, Finn,” Shawn grinned.
Connor smiled softly in return and accepted the gift. Christmas. He’d nearly forgotten. Easy to do when you were chasing down terrorists. Plus the fact that the holiday had ceased to have much meaning for him for the past decade.
He shook off the thought and nodded. “Cheers, mate.”
“Well go ahead, don’t just stare at it, open it up,” Shawn told him.
Connor shook his head at Shawn’s eagerness and tore off the brown paper to reveal—a box of Earl Grey tea bags. Connor’s laugh was loud and surprised.
“How on earth did you get this?” he questioned Shawn, smiling.
Shawn shrugged. “Chloe gets the credit. I told her what I wanted to get you and the next thing I know the box is on top of my kit bag.”
“Well then I’ll just send her the thank you note,” Connor joked then chuckled at Shawn’s offended expression. “No, seriously, thank you, Shawn,” he said sincerely, as a pang of homesickness hit him, looking at the box. “It’s been ages I’ve had a proper cup of tea.”
“You’re welcome, buddy. Though how you can drink that…” he trailed off and made a face like he was sucking on a lemon.
Connor laughed. “You’re such a heathen! Have you ever even tried drinking tea?”
“I prefer my drinks to be a bit more…manly,” Shawn answered with a smirk.
Connor rolled his eyes. “Well it’s a good thing I got you this, then…”
He turned and dug through his own backpack, pulling out a heavily padded cloth bag, which he handed to his partner.
Shawn looked like a little kid sitting in front of the Christmas tree, his eyes lighting up at the sight of his first present as he accepted the bag from Connor.
Shawn’s laugh was just as surprised and amused as Connor’s had been when he removed the four small airline size bottles of Jack Daniel’s.
“Now that’s what I’m talking about!” Shawn whooped, immediately unscrewing the top off of one of them and taking a swig. “Thanks, Finn,” he nodded with a satisfied grin.
“You’re welcome.” Connor picked up his tin cup from where it was sitting next to his bed roll, still half filled with water. He held it out to Shawn and clinked it against the bottle of alcohol. “Happy Christmas, mate.”
They both drank, then Connor pulled out his canteen and filled his cup up the rest of the way before carefully placing it on the edge of the fire to boil. He didn’t care if it was 85 degrees out and he was in the middle of a desert. It was December, it was Christmas, and he was having a hot mug of tea.
He sat back against a large boulder at the edge of the tree line where they were camped, the stone warm against his bare skin. He looked over at Shawn, who was staring into the flames.
“What’s your favorite Christmas memory?” he asked his partner. “From when you were a kid?”
Shawn turned to look at him, and Connor could see him thinking, going back in time.
“I think it’d have to be when I was twelve, a year or so before my parents got divorced,” Shawn answered. “So we were all still together. It was the year that my brothers and I all got new sleds.” Shawn smiled at the memory. “It was a typical Christmas in Detroit, so there was a ton of snow on the ground. We couldn’t get into our goofy snowsuits fast enough and get outside. We had a small hill out in front of the house. My dad came outside with us and would give us each a push.”
Shawn chuckled. “We were out there for hours, laughing, sledding, throwing snowballs until we were numb from the cold. When we finally went inside my mom was there with mugs of hot chocolate and cookies.” Shawn paused. “That was one of the happiest Christmases I remember.”
He tilted his head. “What about you, Finn? What’s your favorite memory?” he asked and then Connor saw him immediately grimace. “I’m sorry,” Shawn said quickly. “That was really stupid of me.”
Connor shook his head. He knew that Shawn was well aware of his past, that his parents and younger sister had been killed by a drunk driver ten years ago, an accident that only Connor survived. It had just been an automatic, reciprocal thing to ask.
Being reminded of his loss was always painful. But maybe not tonight…
“No, it’s okay,” Connor reassured him. “I do have a favorite—Katie and I would go with my father every year out to our cottage and choose the perfect tree. We’d always bicker over which one was the best,” he smiled. “When we finally agreed, my father would cut it down and we’d help drag it through the snow to the car. I loved the scent of the pine. It meant Christmas would be there soon. That, and the fresh baked gingerbread cookies my mother always had waiting for us when we got home. We’d eat them as we decorated the tree.” He paused and looked into the fire, his voice quiet. “I haven’t put up a tree since I lost them.”
Shawn reached out and put a hand on his leg and squeezed gently. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
Connor turned to look at him again, pushing away the sadness. “It’s okay. Each year when I smell pine and gingerbread I have the most vivid image of my family in my head. It’s nice.”
The sound of water boiling was a welcome distraction from the somewhat melancholy mood that had fallen over the two men and Connor busied himself with carefully removing his cup and dropping a tea bag in. He didn’t let it steep for long, eager for a taste of home and nearly burned the inside of his mouth on the hot water. He closed his eyes with a pleased sigh as the familiar flavor of the Earl Grey exploded across his tongue.
Shawn laughed beside him. “Dude. It looks like someone’s giving you the best blow job of your life.”
Connor cracked one eye open. “See what you’re missing out on by not drinking tea?”
Shawn snorted and took another swallow of his whiskey, finishing off the small bottle and reaching for another. Connor smiled and closed his eyes again.
They drank in comfortable silence for several minutes before Connor set down his empty cup and turned to his partner.
“Thank you,” he said softly.
Shawn smiled. “You already said that.”
Connor shook his head. “No, for this.” He waved a hand between them. “For us.” He curled his hand around Shawn’s. “This life we live… It’s hard and it’s lonely. I didn’t think it was possible to find happiness among the death and violence that surrounds us. But I found it. With you. You’re my gift, Shawn,” he finished, voice rough.
Shawn was very still beside him, staring at Connor intently. He could tell his words had affected his partner, he saw it reflected in those piercing blue eyes. Not that the hard-ass, tough-as-nails soldier would ever admit it out loud, though. Sure enough…
“Thanks for that Hallmark card moment, Finn,” he cracked.
Connor shook his head in exasperation. “Fuck you,” he laughed.
Shawn moved then, straddling Connor’s waist and cupping Connor’s face in his hands. “God, I hope so,“ he ground out, then kissed Connor hard.
Connor surged up against his partner, wrapping his arms around Shawn’s back, slanting his mouth across Shawn’s, deepening the kiss. It’d been two weeks since they’d been together, since the start of the mission, and Connor desperately wanted to be buried inside Shawn. Right now.
It was obvious his partner was of the same mindset, as he dropped his hands down and started pulling almost frantically at the button and zipper on Connor’s tan cammo pants. Connor pulled back from the kiss, breathing hard, and pushed Shawn’s fumbling fingers away, unzipping his own pants.
In a matter of moments clothing was scattered across the sand, Connor and Shawn’s naked bodies entwined on top of Connor’s bed roll, their mouths once again fused together. They rutted against one another, hard cocks sliding together over and over until Shawn broke the kiss with a gasp and disentangled himself from Connor’s body. Before Connor could ask him what he was doing, Shawn was crawling over to his backpack and digging around inside again. When he turned back he was holding up a tube of lube and wearing a smug expression.
Connor couldn’t help but laugh. “Why am I not surprised you packed that?”
Shawn crawled back over to Connor. “I was a Boy Scout, you know. Always be prepared!”
And minutes later Shawn was, lying on his back, his legs wrapped around Connor’s waist as Connor slowly pushed inside his body, their twin groans of pleasure echoing in the night sky.
They made love under the Christmas stars, Connor setting up a slow, but strong and steady rhythm, pulling nearly all the way out of Shawn before pushing back in. Over and over, sending them both to the edge of the cliff.
Shawn’s blue eyes never left Connor’s, his hands flexing against Connor’s back. “Don’t stop, Finn…don’t stop…” he ground out and Connor heard the hitch in his breath, the telltale sign of his partner’s impending climax.
Connor picked up his pace, pushing in a little harder, a little deeper, searching for that spot deep inside Shawn that would make him fall apart. Shawn suddenly jerked beneath him, fingers digging into Connor’s sweat-slicked skin, his head arching back against the bed roll.
“Fuck! Oh, fuck…right there, right there…so fucking good…” Shawn rambled, digging his heels into Connor’s lower back. He gasped sharply as Connor tilted his hips just slightly, changing the angle of penetration. “Fuck! Finn, I’m gonna…” And before he could finish his sentence he was coming with a shout, his cock pulsing between their bodies, painting their stomachs with his release.
Connor groaned deeply as he felt Shawn’s body clenching around his cock as he came, pulling Connor’s own climax from him as it raced down his spine, and he spilled himself inside his partner’s body in long pulses.
Shawn pulled Connor down against him and they kissed as their bodies shook against each other until they were both spent and boneless. They eased back from the kiss then, soft smiles on both their faces, their breathing slowing, and Connor regretfully slipped from Shawn’s body. He rolled onto his back and Shawn followed him, flipping over to blanket Connor’s body with his own.
He wrapped his arms around Shawn with a contented sigh as his partner settled against him, closing his eyes and kissing Connor softly on the side of his neck. A moment before sleep claimed him, Shawn shifted, sitting up and leaning over Connor’s body. Connor turned his head and watched as Shawn drew a Christmas tree in the sand.
Shawn smiled gently at him as he laid back down beside him. He brushed his thumb across Connor’s cheek and whispered three words against his ear.
Connor’s breath caught, his chest constricting with the emotion welling up inside him at Shawn’s small gesture, his thoughtful gift, and his words. He held his partner tightly and let his eyes drift closed.
Maybe he could learn to love Christmas again.
Don’t miss Connor and Shawn’s next holiday story – SNOWBOUND SOLDIERS – available exclusively at my Payhip site for only $0.99 – https://payhip.com/jamielynnmiller
SNOWBOUND SOLDIERS (A Shadow Unit Holiday Story)
With memories of the past coloring their present, Sergeants Connor Finley and Shawn Weller use an unexpected 24 hours together in an isolated cabin on Christmas to help one another make peace with their ghosts and look toward the future together.
(Set between Broken Soldier and Rogue Soldier but can be read as a standalone)
Then get caught up on all of Connor and Shawn’s previous missions – BROKEN SOLDIER, ROGUE SOLDIER AND HUNTED SOLDIER – available at Amazon and your favorite online ebook retailer – https://www.amazon.com/Jamie-Lynn-Miller/e/B00IMRJVM6/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1
BROKEN SOLDIER (SHADOW UNIT BOOK 1)
Sergeant Connor Finley and Sergeant Shawn Weller are dedicated soldiers working covert ops for Shadow Unit — a joint UK/US anti-terrorism task force.
Partners in the field and out, they had been through hell together for the last four years and made it through standing side by side. But when their latest undercover op to bring down an arms dealer plunges them into a world of drugs, sex and violence, Shawn must literally get in bed with the enemy in order to complete the mission. And Connor is forced to watch, helpless, as his partner is broken into pieces.
Will love be enough to put them both back together or will this be their final mission?
WARNING: Contains scenes of drug use, graphic sex and realistic situations
2016 Rainbow Awards Runner-Up
ROGUE SOLDIER (SHADOW UNIT BOOK 2)
Shadow Unit may have overturned the illegal arms cartel in Kuala Lumpur, but the harrowing undercover op left emotional scars on Sergeants Shawn Weller and Connor Finley. Slowly, patiently, they piece their partnership back together, closer now than ever before.
But the arrival of Julian Montgomery, Shawn’s former CIA handler and lover, threatens to tear them apart. Julian knows all of Shawn’s secrets as well as the past Shawn has kept hidden from Connor. Now the self-serving Julian wants Shawn back—with the CIA and with him. No one will get in his way. Including Connor.
When the joint Shadow Unit/CIA mission to stop the supplier of a deadly biological weapon goes sideways, Connor is captured, tortured, and used as a human test subject. It’s a race against time to save his life. But who can Shawn trust?
And who has gone rogue?
HUNTED SOLDIER (SHADOW UNIT BOOK 3)
The hunters become the hunted when the past returns to haunt Sergeants Connor Finley and Shawn Weller with deadly vengeance.
In the wake of the harrowing missions in India and Pakistan, Connor struggles to come to terms with causing the accidental death of a child, while Shawn tries to put Julian’s betrayal behind him.
Adding to the emotional fallout, new trials arise – the appearance of a young man from Connor’s past turned stalker may have fatal consequences for him, while Shawn must confront his former heroin addiction and break free of the hold it still has on him.
The challenges continue when a Shadow Unit undercover op in Bangladesh to shut down the pipeline of terrorists being smuggled into the UK draws Shawn and Connor into a web of lies and deceit from a man hell bent on exacting revenge on the two soldiers – demanding a life for a life.
Will Connor and Shawn survive? Or will the jungle become their final resting place?