This was previously published. Re-edited and with new cover art.
A Navy SEAL with PTSD and a Barman starting a new life. Maybe they can find love in Ellery.
Travis Baranski, Navy SEAL, is the first veteran to attend the Ellery Mountain Veteran Center. He is having a hard time coming to terms with what he had seen and what he has done. When he has a very public meltdown in Ellery stores it is Avery Gideon who steps up to the plate and helps him.
Avery Gideon, a man cut off from his family for being gay, runs the only bar in town - The Alibi - and listens to many a person's problems whilst trying to forget his own.
He sees something in the wounded warrior who needs a friend and very soon finds himself falling in love with Travis. Nothing will deter him from helping Travis, or from making Travis see he's still capable of loving Avery in return.
About the Author
RJ Scott is the author of the best selling Male/Male romances The Christmas Throwaway, The Heart Of Texas and the Sanctuary Series of books. She writes romances between two strong men and always gives them the happy ever after they deserve.
Read an Excerpt
The cold was biting. The cutting wind carried ice and snow high up in the Salang Pass three thousand metres up in the Afghan Mountains northwest of the capital Kabul. Normally his captors covered himâ€”they would tell him in their broken English they werenâ€™t completely lost to conventions of how to look after prisoners. But tonight was different. From the vantage point in the centre of the camp, two feet off the ground in the small metal and wood cage, he could see them drinking and the campfire that warmed them was the only light in this small unsheltered area. Tents flapped in the wind and the raucous laughter was enough for him to know theyâ€™d probably stumble to their tents in drunken stupor. The SEAL wasnâ€™t important. He called for help. No one heard him or brought over the tarpaulin that was his only protection against the night.
He had curled over seven of his ten fingers when the sun rose this morning. Yesterday it had been six fingers to count the passing of time. Seven days in this place and the infections in his leg and arm were nothing to the rattling cough that had his chest squeezing in pain and his back in spasms. He shifted to find comfort and ended up twisted like a pretzel in the five-foot cube with his back to the worst of the snow. His cold weather gear, including his boots, had long ago been shared out to the rebels and he was left in combat pants, a tee and his thin under-jacket. Sneakers finished off the protection for his skin. He was fucked and he knew it. Even if someone got him out, even if any of his team had survived, he was broken in half by this place.
The pain in his back increased and he heard the inhuman whimper that left his mouth. He needed antibiotics and pain meds. Little by little his humanity was being stripped from him. He was dyingâ€”an hour at a time the ice was burning his skin and he curled his hands and feet so he wouldnâ€™t lose them to frostbite.
Feebly he rocked in the cage, hoping the whole thing would topple on its side. Then if it crashed to the floor at least someone could possibly cover him from the snow and ice. A lethargy stole over him. He should be trying to get out, but there was no point. Heâ€™d seen the explosion, seen the mountain fall, crushing the teamâ€”he was lucky heâ€™d been covering their six and his only open injury was the evil laceration from his knee to his ankle that now oozed pus and hurt like a bitch. All his equipment gone. Any hope gone.
He was sweating and bile rose in him, but his stomach was empty. He didnâ€™t fight the retching or the painâ€”if he concentrated hard enough on home, on the hills and valleys of Virginia, then he could at least escape in his mind. He stretched his legs and the extremities of the cage held him solid. Pinned.
Then he woke up in a bed thousands of miles away. He couldnâ€™t see the stars through the bars of a cage, or feel icy wind bite into his skin. He was safe.
<p style="text-align: center;"><strong>* * * *</strong>
"Hey," Daniel said from the stove. Travis almost turned on his heel and left the kitchen. It was three a.m.â€”no one was supposed to be up. Especially not Daniel with his sensitive observations, his no-nonsense assessments and his damn understanding green-eyed gaze.
"Hey," Travis said in reply. He felt like shit. The dream of being back in that place, with the painâ€”and the cryingâ€”had wrenched him from sleep. Again. He couldnâ€™t remember the last full night of sleep heâ€™d had.
"You want hot chocolate?" Daniel asked. He shook the tin of chocolate powder in front of his face and smiled. "I canâ€™t promise cream and marshmallows like Luke uses, but I can mix hot water and powder."
Travis debated. Saying yes meant Daniel and he would probably have to talk. Travis didnâ€™t want to talk. His throat was still clogged with tears and his head and shoulders ached with tension. Damned sleeping pills werenâ€™t even working if the terror in his head could drag him so sharply out of sleep. Sickness rolled in his stomach as the thought of chocolate hit his mind. Canâ€™t even drink fucking hot chocolate. For fuckâ€™s sake.
"I just came in for some water," Travis lied. "Need to take some pain pills." Why did he do that? Why did he even talk let alone elaborate. Yes, he could get water in his own room, but he could have got away with no more talking if Daniel had just accepted his excuse. But noâ€”idiotâ€”he had to go and mention pain. Daniel made that patented frowning face of his then nodded. The frown was so quick it was blink and you miss it, and though Travis may well be a fucked-up, washed-up ex-SEAL, he still had the ability to read expressions in a millisecond.
"Cool" was all Daniel said. He didnâ€™t push on the pain meds or the fact Travis was awake or that he probably looked like shit. He was soaked through with sweat and he knew from looking in the mirror that his face had a gaunt, haunted look. Five weeks heâ€™d been here in the middle of freaking nowhere at this place and every single night heâ€™d had these dreams. Afghanistan would never leave himâ€”the scars on his body and in his mind a permanent reminder.
Pathetic. You cry like a freaking girl.
He crossed to the sink, pulled down a glass and filled it with water. Then quietly and with a soft goodnight he left the kitchen and made his way back to his room. A hot drink would have relaxed him maybe. His mom had this way of adding cinnamon to hot chocolate and he needed that connection. Heâ€™d talked himself out of his room on the promise of finding god damned cinnamon.