The interview of a lifetime.
When Aaron Strickland’s assigned to write a feature article on Caleb Douglas, the first openly gay soldier to receive the Medal of Honor, he’s over-the-moon. Meet a sexy, real-life hero? Yes, please. And in the weeks leading up to their interview, the former soldier becomes a recurring player in Aaron’s fantasies.
A man Caleb can’t forget.
Years earlier, lost in the throes of depression and PTSD after an ambush left his body and soul scarred, Caleb was on the brink of giving up when a magazine article changed his life forever—an article written by Aaron. Emerging from the depths of his pain, Operation Better Tomorrow—part homestead, part halfway house for those down on their luck—was born.
Tragedy lurking on the horizon.
As the days pass, Caleb and Aaron’s tragic pasts bind them in ways they aren’t prepared for, but it also leaves them vulnerable. Pushing forward means breaking down walls they’ve built to protect themselves, and just as they’re poised on the precipice of happiness, a darkness descends on the homestead, a hatred that will leave one man clinging to life and the other willing to risk everything to save him.
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Caleb’s lower lip trembled ever so slightly. “You didn’t know me back then. I could barely walk or—”
“I don’t give a flying fuck. You don’t walk away from the person you profess to love just because they’re a little wounded.”
“You didn’t see me back then. The braces, the crutches. The fresh scars.”
“Doesn’t matter.” Aaron grazed his thumb over the largest scar along Caleb’s cheek. “And please, for the love of God, stop defending that asshole. He doesn’t deserve it.”
“The scars’re bad. Really bad.”
“Is that the reason you’re wearing this shirt?” Aaron tugged on the collar. “Do you think I’ll find you less attractive if I see your…” Aaron tried to devise the best word to describe Caleb, but words failed him. For a writer, that was pretty damn telling. “Imperfections?”
“But I’m not an asshole. Besides, news flash, handsome. I saw you shirtless when I first arrived, and as you might remember, I found you pretty damn hawt.”
“I was careful to keep you on my right side.”
Frustration forced Aaron to his feet. He could think of one surefire way to get it through Caleb’s stubborn skull that the scars didn’t matter. Besides, they couldn’t be that bad, could they?
Aaron held his hand toward the former soldier. “Come here and show me.”
“You heard me. Get up here and show me your scars.”
Caleb didn’t move.
Aaron took the other man by the hands and tugged until Caleb relented and they stood face to face. Caleb stood an inch or so taller, but in the soft overhead light, he seemed to loom.
Without a word, but careful to maintain eye contact, Aaron released Caleb’s hands, took hold of the edges of the T-shirt, and stepped closer.
Caleb shook his head, his arms remaining at his side, his body still and unmoving. It was like holding a tree trunk, only warmer.
Aaron held tighter. “I want to see you. All of you.”
“I can’t, Aaron. I don’t… I… They’re… Fuck. I hate this.”
“Shh.” Aaron pressed a palm to the other man’s cheek. “I want to see all of you, Caleb. You’re not gonna scare me away.”
“I scared him. I showed him everything, and he thought I was disgusting.”
Fuck. Caleb might as well just stab Aaron in the heart. No wonder Caleb wanted to hide himself. Those we loved the most had the ability to cut us the deepest.
“I’m not him.” Aaron pushed a hand down the hard lines of Caleb’s torso, to the elastic of his trunks, and slipped an index finger inside. Just the index finger. “I wanted you before I got here, and I still do. Let me prove to you just how undisgusting I find you.”
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Brandi Evans was raised by a caravan of traveling Gypsies. She spent her days learning the ways of her people and her nights lost in legends as old as time. Okay, not really, but that’s way more interesting than the truth!
In reality, Brandi grew up the oldest child of an ordinary family. Grade school, middle school, high school. Nothing extraordinary happened until she left the nest. She joined the military, went to college, got married, and became a mom. And somewhere along the way, she discovered she liked to read—and write!—stories hot enough to melt eReaders.
These days, she calls The Natural State home where she lives with her hubby, two beautiful daughters, two dogs and a cat who has yet to realize she doesn’t own the place. Soldier. Wife. Mom. Multi-published smut writer. Brandi’s life might not be “traveling Gypsy” interesting, but she’s had fun. And in the end, isn’t that all that really matters?
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