SEALed With A Kiss Prequel by Aiden Bates
Tony picked up Ava's stuffed bunny for the thirty-seventh time that day and put it on top of her suitcase. The little girl scowled and crossed her arms over her chest. "My bunny," she said, and patted her little chest. "Not Daddy's."
"You can have it in the car, sweetheart." Tony forced a smile. "Right now, it can't be on the floor or it'll get stepped on."
"Want to hold it!" she whined. Her chin wobbled dangerously.
"Okay, but you haven't been holding it. You've been leaving Bunny on the floor while you go running off to torment Baxter."
Ava stomped her feet on the floor. "Want Bunny!" she howled. "Want Bunny now!"
Baxter, the family's rescue beagle, howled in sad unison with his angry toddler sister. As she screamed, and Baxter howled, Noah stuck his head in from the boys' bedroom. "Dad, can you shut her up? I'm trying to pack!"
Tony glared at his oldest. "You, young man, should have been packed last night. And don't give me attitude about shutting Ava up. She's two. You're eight. You can do better. Do you think your dad stops in the middle of his work to complain because a baby is doing what a baby does?"
The front door flew open, and Luke walked in. Tony wondered, for one wild moment, if the very mention of his husband had summoned him. His handsome face was drawn into its now-familiar scowl. As soon as the fact of his return registered with the other residents of the house, everything quieted down. Noah stopped complaining and drew himself up to full attention. Ava stopped screeching and her little face shifted from red to pale. Even Baxter fell silent.
Something deep inside Tony rebelled at the sight. These were children, and a traumatized dog. They shouldn't fall silent, with palpable fear, at the sight of the head of the household. They should be happy to see Luke. Of course, Tony should be happy to see his husband, too. Instead, all he could think was, Well, this is a complication I didn't need this morning.
It hadn’t always been like this. Hell, sometimes it wasn’t even like this now. Tony got it. He did. An old-hand Navy wife had warned him, just before her husband retired and they moved back to New Hampshire, that there would be problems. Sometimes they can’t turn it off, she said. So Tony understood, as well as someone who hadn’t served could, just why things had gotten to this point. That didn’t mean he had to like it.
"What's all this?" Luke didn't greet anyone. He pulled off his sunglasses and cast his gaze around the room. It missed nothing. It couldn't. "Suitcases? What the fuck, Tony?"
Tony turned, slowly and deliberately, toward Noah. "Take your little sister and bring her to your room. Finish packing. We don't have a lot of time."
Noah scrambled to obey.
Tony turned to his husband. "It's the cruise, remember?"
"I don't know shit about any cruise. I didn't authorize taking the kids on any cruise." Luke narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest.
Tony resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He shouldn’t expect Luke to remember details like that. Who knew what kind of bizarre horror show he’d just had to plan, or be briefed on? The whole “authorization” thing chafed, but he couldn’t expect Luke to leave his “Sarge” side at the base like he’d flipped a switch.
"First of all, the kids aren't going on the cruise. I am. We talked about this back in September. I'm going on a Caribbean cruise. It's a fan thing. I'm getting paid to be there."
"Something’s not right here. I can’t imagine we ever talked about this. I’d never have been okay with you just taking off to cruise around the islands. You’re a Navy husband, you’ve got Navy responsibilities. I’d never have okayed that.” " Luke shook his head and made his way toward the kitchen.
"Well you did, and it's work, so here we are." Tony straightened his back. He wasn't afraid of Luke, not exactly. Luke hadn't ever raised a hand to him, no matter what he did when he was out on deployment. Still, Luke had his ways, and Tony knew he needed to tread carefully here. Things might be bad between them right now, but Tony didn’t want to make them worse.
"Nope. I need you here, at home, with the kids where you belong. Who's going to take care of them, huh? Baxter?" Luke snorted and reached for the whiskey.
Tony winced. Luke wasn’t a huge drinker. He drank, of course. A lot of the guys drank. Tony would drink like a fish if he had to see what these guys saw. Whatever had gone on at work to have him home in the middle of the morning must have been ugly. No wonder he felt compelled to grab onto whatever he could and hold tight.
"You don't get to bail on your responsibilities just because someone wants to throw some money at you." Luke poured some of the whiskey into a glass.
"Excuse the hell out of you." Tony stepped forward, teeth gritted. So much for treading carefully. "First of all, the kids — and Baxter — are staying with my mother. And people throwing some money at me is what paid for this house, not your hazard pay from the Navy. So you can take that judgmental attitude and shove it up your ass. Without lube."
Luke clenched his jaw. "You can't just toss the kids over to your mother's and take off. Do you think I just don’t want to see my own kids? You're a Navy spouse. You have duties, responsibilities, and what the ever loving fuck? They're in school, Tony."
Tony stabbed a finger toward his husband. "I'm surprised you know that, given that you had no idea when their spring break was. Their vacation is right now. I've carefully planned this, yes all by myself. My wee small omega brain is perfectly capable of planning a work trip without a big, strong alpha to tell me where to go and what to do. Believe it or not, I didn't even dip into the joint account to pay for it."
Luke grabbed Tony's arm. "Your assignment is here, Tony. You can’t just up and flit down to the Caribbean every time you feel like it! You’re stationed in Virginia Beach, and that’s all there is to it.”."
Tony shook himself loose. "When are you going to get it, Luke? I'm not one of your SEALs. I'm not even a sailor. I'm a civilian. I have free will. You don't get to give me an order and expect it'll be obeyed. You're Sarge to them, but you're Luke to me."
"I'm your husband, Goddamn it!"
"Then try acting like it!" Tony punched the wall beside him hard enough to leave a dent in the drywall. His knuckles throbbed, but he ignored it. "Quit thinking the family is just another goddamn SEAL unit for you to boss around and try actually loving us for once! The kids are so scared of you they're afraid to make a sound if you're home and you and I haven't even shared a bed in months. Sort your shit out if you want me to come back from that cruise, damn it."
Luke paled and straightened up. “You wouldn’t.” ,
Tony grabbed Baxter's leash. "Kids! Front and center!"
Noah reappeared, dragging his suitcase and his sister behind him. Emma and Liam followed, each with their own suitcases. Tony grabbed Ava's as Luke gaped after them, and he led them out to the minivan.
Loading didn't take long. Tony's things were already in the car. He buckled the kids in, got Baxter settled, and started the two hour drive north to Richmond.
He gripped the steering wheel tight, so the kids couldn't see his hands shake.
Luke could only watch the van pull out of the driveway.
Well, technically that wasn't all he could do. His mind bubbled over with all of the different things he could do to keep Tony at home. He could call base security and tell them Tony was kidnapping the kids, for one. Security would definitely take the word of a SEAL over a washed up ice skater and part time actor.
He could call the airport and have them pull Tony off the flight, have him flagged as a terrorist. He was definitely a terrorist when it came to Luke's heart, if he thought he could up and take off just like that.
Luke did none of those things. They were within his power, and he couldn't pretend temptation wasn't breathing down his neck. Instead, he sat down and drank whiskey. Sarge had been a soldier for a good long time. Insubordination, especially insubordination like this, didn't just pop up out of nowhere. Somewhere at the back of it all, some kind of command failure was almost always to blame.
And, of course, it would be wrong. Tony had been right. Luke could see it, when he had a little quiet and distance and wasn’t in the middle of things. Tony wasn’t a sailor. He was a civilian. He was a Navy husband, which was a whole different animal, but Luke had been treating him like a low status ensign and that just wasn’t right. He’d run right up one of his SEALs and down the other, if he saw one of them behaving that way.
He didn't remember much from that night. He woke up with a killer hangover, but he managed to push it down with plenty of ibuprofen and water. By the time he made it onto base, no one but maybe Kelly could tell anything was wrong. Kelly knew better than to ask.
By the next day, the silence in the house had worn at Luke just enough to eat at his brain. It was funny how only yesterday, the noise from the kids had sent him into a near frenzy. Now the house felt deserted, or maybe dead. He could hear every creak and every drip from that leaky faucet in the half-bath near the living room. He'd been asking Tony to fix it; he couldn't think what was wrong with him that he didn't.
Except maybe chasing around after four kids, two of whom weren't even in preschool yet, might not exactly leave a lot of time for plumbing. Maybe Luke could handle it, but Tony hadn't grown up doing a lot of handyman type things. He'd been out skating, and then out acting. There hadn't been time to learn how to install a new faucet, although he did his best.
He went to go adjust the faucet himself. Without the kids and dog underfoot, he could probably get it done in half a second. He generally just wanted to relax and unwind when he was home and not working, but he could take the time to fix the damn faucet. Maybe Tony thought Luke didn't pay attention and didn't give a damn about him or the kids. Luke would prove him wrong by taking care of this.
After he fixed the sink, he turned his attention to the cabinet next to the stove. The pullouts the previous tenant had installed had broken down a long time ago, and Luke had been promising to get around to it eventually. Tony had stopped asking, and that was a godsend, but right now Luke thought his husband might have just given up. Tony should have more faith in him.
When the hell had things gone so wrong with Tony, anyway?
He tore out the old pullout with his bare hands. He should have used a pry-bar, but right now he didn't give even half a crap about it. What was he going to do, re-use the old pressboard? The stuff just disintegrated. That's what happened to old stuff that was past its prime.
He pursed his lips. Maybe that was what had happened. He had a good fifteen years on Tony. He hadn't thought Tony cared. It used to be that Tony would run his fingers through Luke’s white beard and hair and give him that little smile, but that hadn't happened in a damn long time. Tony didn't reach out for him at all. He didn't even let their shoulders brush in the hallway if he could avoid it.
Maybe he'd gotten tired of being with a fossil like Luke.
There wasn't much Luke could do about that. He wasn't about to get younger. A SEAL lived a hard life, and he'd lasted longer as a SEAL than most did. It was a hard life for the spouses too, even harder than being a regular military spouse.
Of course, Tony had known what he was signing up for.
Yeah, Tony had probably just decided to throw his geezer of a husband off for a younger model. And he probably wanted someone who would be around more, too. Luke would be the first to admit he wasn't around as much as a father of four should probably be.
Maybe this wasn't a work trip at all. Maybe there was someone else, someone who was already on the boat. Someone who'd pour plenty of sunblock onto those compact, sculpted muscles Luke had once gotten to admire.
Luke gripped the cabinet door. It came off in his hand. He couldn't bring himself to be surprised.
He poured himself some more whiskey and headed for bed. Why the hell not? Why bother fixing the house? It wasn't like anyone was coming home. Tony would take the kids and go live with Ralph the cabana boy or whatever, and poor old Sarge would stay here, staring at the walls.
Yeah, the sooner Luke blacked out and stopped thinking like that, the better off he'd be. He knew better than to think like that. He did trust Tony. He had every reason to trust Tony. Tony had been surrounded by young, beautiful athletes and young, beautiful actors when he’d chosen Luke. He wasn’t going to change his tune and get swayed by a prettier face now.
No, if he left it would be because Luke was showing his ass, acting like very terrible and abusive alpha stereotype in the book.
He scraped himself out of bed the next day and dragged himself onto base. Kelly gave him an odd look, and didn't bother to hide it, but he still didn't say anything. He wouldn't. Tony might feel perfectly comfortable pushing back, but as far as the men were concerned, Luke was Sarge, and they'd never step out of line that way.
They fell in for the day's training and got to work, and Sarge lost himself in the rhythm of a grueling workout. He'd have gone on until Taps, but Lt. DeWitt ran out at around two from wherever it was officers went to officer at each other.
"Sgt. Boone. Can I talk with you for a second?"
Luke glanced at Kelly, who took over managing the men. Then he followed DeWitt a little ways away. "Sir?"
"Sarge, I'm afraid I've got some bad news. A cruise ship was hijacked in near Turks and Caicos."
Luke sucked in his cheeks as the news hit him like a punch.
Tony sat on a deck chair up near the pool and tried to blend in with the other passengers. If he survived this, and his survival was not guaranteed, Luke was never going to let him live it down. Luke would use it as proof that Tony was incapable of deciding anything for himself, ever, and needed to be saved from himself or some crap.
He considered his options. That wasn't going to occupy a lot of his time. There weren't enough options to eat more than a minute or two. The ship had lifeboats, but not enough for all passengers. Getting the lifeboat down to the sea from fourteen stories up would probably be a long, noisy process. Long, noisy processes combined with gun-toting hostage takers made for a bad combination.
And saving himself (and a few others) while leaving the rest to die? That was unthinkable. He could survive the shame of dealing with Luke, especially since he suspected it was all in his head anyway. The guilt of abandoning the others? No, he’d never be able to live with that, and he wouldn’t want to, either.
The other option wasn't any great shakes either. He could sit and wait. The ship had passed into international waters before the entire waitstaff showed up at breakfast with AR-15s. They'd been polite enough. They'd simply made it abundantly clear, as they escorted passengers to the different containment areas, that they would not tolerate the slightest pushback.
When one of the younger guys, a teenager there to try to get advice on becoming an Olympian, tried to grab for one of the guns, one of the gunmen clubbed him into unconsciousness. The terrorists had let Tony bandage him up and get him onto one of the nearby lounge chairs, but that was all. No one else had dared move, and Tony wasn't any better.
Maybe that made him a coward, but he could probably live with that.
For a moment, he felt the hot, sour taste of panic rise up in his throat. He couldn't give in to it. He needed to be strong, for his kids if nothing else. Chances were, most of the hostages would make it out of this alive. Tony had as much of a chance as any of being one of them, if he didn't do anything to draw attention to himself. He needed to get back home and be there for his babies.
Luke's face flashed through his mind, not the way it had been the last time they'd spoken but the way it had been when they'd met. Luke had been different then. He'd been younger, more relaxed. He'd had an easier time leaving the job at the door in those days, and being Luke instead of Sarge. It was just them then, of course.
Christ, Tony missed Luke. He didn’t want to go to his death with their last words to one another having been a fight. He didn’t want to leave, either. He still loved Luke. They had their problems, but who didn’t? He missed the days when it had been just them, but he missed the quiet evenings when they’d been able to put their feet up and just enjoy their family, too. Tony loved being a dad, and he loved the family he’d built with Luke. He didn’t want it to end, and he didn’t want it to end like this.
A shadow fell across Tony's deck chair. He looked up from his musing to see one of their captors looking down at him with huge, gray-green eyes. Oh, crap. I'm dead. He swallowed. "Did I do something wrong?" He couldn't bring himself to address the kidnapper as "Sir." He just couldn't muster up the energy to fake that level of respect.
The other man gave him a little smile. "You looked sad." He was tall, and handsome. He was young, too, with his whole life ahead of him. Too young to be kidnapping people and dragging them out to sea like this.
"Well I have been taken hostage. That's bound to put a damper on anyone's day." Tony met the hijacker's pretty green eyes and pressed his lips together. This was it. He was in for it now. He knew he needed to learn to watch his mouth, but it hadn’t happened yet.
The attacker just chuckled. "I suppose it must. I wish we didn't have to do this." He shrugged. It would have been an eye-catching gesture, with all those rippling muscles, if not for the gun. "Unfortunately, some complete fool decided to make peace with the right-wing paramilitaries back in Colombia, and here we are." He grinned and put a hand on Tony's shoulder. "Try to relax, Mr. Boone. With any luck, everyone will do what they need to do, there will be no problems, and we'll put in at Barranquilla soon enough. Try to think of it as a slightly dull detour."
Tony's breath caught in his throat. He wasn't looking for someone new. He wouldn't, and he definitely wouldn't in the middle of a hijacking situation anyway. It was just that this touch on his shoulder, this casual attempt at comfort from a stranger, was the closest thing to affection he'd had in months. Maybe longer.
He cleared his throat. He couldn't afford to think like that. Whatever the state of things might be back home, he couldn't focus on it. He had to think about safety, and getting back to his family. There was another consideration, too. "You know who I am?"
The hijacker smirked. "Of course. We were part of the crew. It wasn't hard to get a copy of the passenger list, Mr. Boone. And you are the one with three Olympic gold medals to your name." He winked. "I even had your cereal box." He stepped back with a smile. "Please, try to relax. It's not our intention to hurt anyone."
Tony forced a smile. It was hard to match up those words, and that handsome smile, with the big guns and the brutal beatdown of the teenager slumped in the deck chair beside Tony. Pointing that out right now wouldn't exactly get him any closer to safety, though.
The hijacker stepped back to his "guarding" position, and Tony looked out at the ocean.
He missed Sarge. He missed Luke, too. They were the same person, of course, just two different sides. Luke was the once-loving husband who found it harder and harder to separate himself from the job. Sarge, on the other hand, was the tough but loyal commander who got his men home safe more often than any other Chief Warrant Officer.
Luke would have welcomed some loving comfort right now. Anything of the sort had dripped out of the marriage a long time ago. He'd welcome it, but he'd learned he didn't need it. What he needed right now was someone who could come up with a plan to free thirty-five hundred hostages stranded in the middle of the Caribbean.
He needed the man he rarely got to see. He needed Sarge.
Rescue was unlikely. If it came, it wasn't likely to come from the United States. Tony needed to focus now. If he couldn't count on rescue, he'd have to come up with something on his own.
Luke marched into the briefing room with the rest of the men. His hands didn't shake, and his heart beat smoothly and calmly in his chest. It was a stark contrast to the way he'd been before DeWitt had called him into his office, when he'd been so hungover he could barely cover it. And it had been an even sharper contrast to his shock when DeWitt did tell him about the ship.
The hungover haze burned away. He didn't stop to wonder how they had so much information about the ship, and the hijackers. Navy Intelligence was damn good at its job. He'd take their analysts over the CIA, the FBI, Interpol, or anyone else any day.
His gut burned. He guessed he had to be okay with that. He and Tony might be having problems, and they might not be solvable, but this wasn't the way it was supposed to end. His gut could burn itself to cinders, but he'd stay calm and do his job.
Kelly took his seat beside Luke, as he always did. He tried not to be obvious about looking him up and down. For a kid who could sneak through ten miles of brush, or desert, or olive groves, or what have you, Kelly could be remarkably unsubtle. "You doing okay, Sarge?" he whispered.
"Not really." Sarge kept his voice down, but he didn't whisper. Whispering would imply shame, and he had nothing to be ashamed of.
Well, okay. Maybe he should be ashamed of the fact that he'd had Kelly call Tony's mother up in Richmond instead of doing the job himself. He should absolutely be ashamed of the way he’d behaved toward Tony. He could only hope he got a chance to address it. That wasn’t Kelly’s business, though.
DeWitt walked into the room, and any whispering stopped. "Good evening, men." He glanced around at the SEALs present. "We've got a lot of work to do, and not a lot of time to do it in. We deploy tonight. It shouldn't take us long to catch up with the Windmaker."
A couple of the younger SEALs sniggered.
DeWitt gave them a hard look and waited for them to collect themselves. Luke didn't begrudge them their humor. He'd have been laughing too, if his husband wasn't on the boat. They were sailors, damn it. They were allowed to have crude humor. It was expected, for crying out loud.
"At approximately oh six fifteen this morning, the Windmaker was hijacked by terrorists posing as crew members. The captain barricaded himself on the bridge and managed to send out personnel files before the terrorists forced entry. He claimed that the personnel files belonged to the hijackers."
Luke scratched at his chin. The scheme must have been in the works for a good long while, then. Long enough for the hijackers to get hired, anyway.
DeWitt picked up his papers for a second and continued. "We did have video conversation with two of the hijackers after the captain was taken away. They seemed to be unaware that the captain had activated a tracking signal, or perhaps they didn't care. They were more than happy to identify themselves." He pushed a button on the table. The lights dimmed, and an image appeared onto the white wall behind him. "Meet Enrique Espina. He's an old hand with the FARC. We don’t often have operational responsibility for South America, so if you haven’t been keeping up on your South American insurgent groups, FARC was a left-wing paramilitary group that just went mainstream in Colombia. What they’re doing on a cruise ship God only knows, but here he is."
He pressed another button, and another image appeared. This one was of a younger man, with striking gray-green eyes and dark skin. "This is Matias Quintana. He doesn't have as much time with the FARC as Espina, because he's younger and because he spent the past two years in grad school in Miami. Note the Florida driver's license. He's quite the student. They told authorities in Turks and Caicos that they didn't want to hurt anyone, but they were going to go back to Colombia and 'take back their country.'"
Tinker curled his lip. "Because that's not ominous."
"Right?" DeWitt scoffed. "They all say stuff like that. Anyway. It's thirty-five hundred Americans on board that ship, crew and passengers. We've been given a mission. We get in there, we deal with the terrorists, and we bring everyone home." DeWitt met Sarge's eyes. "Bringing the terrorists home alive is a nice bonus, but it's not strictly necessary."
Sarge took a deep breath. Five hundred hijackers to fight, with a side order of panicking hostages. Thirty-five hundred of them. Awesome. He could almost see Tony among them, but the face kept fading into the sea of other terrified civilians.
He'd been in this type of situation before. It never went well for anyone. It always blew up in someone's face, usually the person who showed up to rescue them. "Do we have plans for the ship?" he asked, foot tapping on the ground. He couldn't just leave Tony there. The kids needed him, for crying out loud.
Of course, Tony wouldn't be in this situation if he'd just freaking listened to Luke in the first place. Maybe this wasn't the time or place for those kinds of thoughts, though. The terrorists were to blame, not Tony. He hadn't been targeted because he was married to a SEAL. He'd just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"Of course." DeWitt paused for a moment, just long enough to remind him that he hadn't said "sir." "We'll look it over on the boat as we head down to intercept them. For now, we move out."
Luke was the first one to his feet.
Technically, he should sit this one out. He was close to this mission, too close to the target. He should back away and let the other guys handle it. SEALs weren't supposed to be emotional about their targets. It got in the way, made them do stupid shit. DeWitt hadn't mentioned it, but Luke had been around long enough to know right from wrong.
And because he'd been around long enough to know right from wrong, he knew his men needed him. Fifteen men, not counting DeWitt, against five hundred, weren't great odds. Granted, those fifteen men were SEALs, but it wasn't like a team of FARC rebels was exactly untrained in combat. They wouldn't be able to pull this off without all hands, and they wouldn't be able to just slot a guy in from another platoon either.
Sarge wasn't going to think about the fact that he wanted to be here. He wanted to be the one to save Tony. He wanted to show Tony he still had something to offer. Maybe Tony would give him another chance, and maybe Tony wouldn’t. But Luke needed to be the one to save him..
Tony wished they'd let the hostages on the pool deck go inside. There had to be someplace to put them. They could go into one of the interminable dining rooms, or into one of the ballrooms. They could go into one of the four gyms. It didn't matter where they went, so long as they got out of the hot sun.
It wasn't going to happen. Matias, the handsome attacker who'd been kind to him yesterday, had taken the time to explain it to him when they distributed blankets to the prisoners. "Your cruise was fully booked," he explained with a little grin. "A lot of these theme cruises, they don't go with a full ship. Evidently there are a lot of people who want to spend a week on the sea with a bunch of retired Olympians." His grin would have been infectious, under different circumstances. "I certainly don't mind."
Tony blushed, just a bit. Flirting couldn't have been more inappropriate, under the circumstances. Tony was a hostage, and he was married. He was still a man, and a lonely one at that. He wasn't immune to Matias's charms. He just knew how to prioritize, he supposed. "Seriously, people are getting sunburned. They're getting dehydrated. That kid with the concussion is in bad shape. I don't know if he's going to make it."
Matias grimaced and glanced over at the still kid in the deck chair. He hadn't regained consciousness, and he'd stopped sweating yesterday. "I hope we can get to Barranquilla soon, and our demands are met. I'm sorry to have to do this to you. To all of you." He gestured to the rest of the group. "We wouldn't do it if it weren't necessary."
How many times had Tony heard that line before? I wouldn't be deploying if I didn't have to. People will die if I don't go. I wouldn't do this if it weren't important, Tony. He rubbed at his bruised knuckles. Maybe he had a type.
He hadn't thought of a way out of this yet, and he hated himself for it. Luke would hate him for it. Okay, Luke probably wouldn’t actually hate him, but surely the man who spent all of his time fighting against massive odds and taking down bad guys would at least sneer a little bit at a bunch of passengers who were too weak to take down a handful of terrorists. Weak men like Tony, whose butt had been planted in a deck chair for so long he could swear it was fusing to the fabric.
A distraction would help, but it wouldn't take out five hundred killers.
Two and a half days into their ordeal, he still hadn't come up with a solution. Everyone on the pool deck had been in the same clothes for days. Everyone stank. Everyone was afraid. Two people had lost their crap entirely and jumped off the side. Tony could hardly blame them.
He didn't know their names. He had no way to tell their loved ones what had happened. Maybe it was better that way. Maybe it was better to tell them they'd been lost in the heat of battle or something.
At noon on the third day, Tony could see gray shapes on the horizon. He knew what they were, of course. He'd been looking at Navy ships for ten years and more. Were they US ships or no? Did it matter?
The ships in the distance brought a whole new level of fear to the people on the deck. Most of their guards were normal, or normal-ish, people. They were young guys with a cause, doing a terrible thing but still human. The man in charge, Enrique, was a terrifying caricature of a man. His face, with its stringy beard, was like a mask over circuitry. Most of the terrorists had some kind of empathy or humanity. They tried to avoid hurting people or killing them, if they could.
The guy with the stringy beard? He would kill in a heartbeat. He had no soul.
He stormed up onto the deck and barked some orders in Spanish. Matias jumped to and ran up to his boss. Not for the first time, Tony cursed the fact that he'd never learned Spanish. He'd focused on German and Russian, as they were more useful in skating.
Matias blanched at whatever Enrique said at lower volume, but he went into the ship anyway. He returned with a camera and with another young man, muscular and probably still in his late teens.
Matias started recording as Enrique strode toward the prisoners. Enrique spoke in English. "The last time we spoke, I told you what we wanted. We wanted arms. We wanted access. We wanted non-interference. We very specifically did not want a North American armada following us around like gulls after a trash barge. You don't seem to take us seriously. We didn't want to hurt anyone, but apparently we need to prove ourselves to you. We will now kill a hostage."
Enrique gestured to the teenager behind him, who stepped forward. When Enrique pointed, the teen's big hands closed around Tony's upper arms and hauled him to his feet.
. Tony couldn't get enough air. He struggled to breathe as the strong teen dragged him forward. He was never going to find a way out of this. He was never going to make it back to his kids, or to Luke. They would toss him overboard and feed him to the sharks. His kids wouldn’t even have someone to bury.
Enrique pulled out his gun.
"I know this one." Enrique's facial expression didn't change. "He's the ice skater, the one on the television. He'll prove I'm serious."
The teenager's breath was hot against Tony's ear. "Don't worry. He's a good shot. It won't hurt at all, I promise." He rubbed Tony's arms gently.
Tony's stomach gave a lurch. He fought to keep the little bit in his stomach down. Was this the kid's idea of comfort? It had to be. What kind of life had he led, that he thought it won't hurt at all was a comfort?
Matias spoke very quickly, in Spanish. Enrique glowered at him, but then gestured again to the teen. The kid turned around and grabbed another man from a deck chair. This one was older, and balding. He struggled violently, but he couldn't break free from the teenager. The boy forced him to his knees, right beside Tony.
Enrique looked into the camera. Then he turned his head toward Tony and the crying man on the ground. He aimed and pulled the trigger.
Tony had never heard such a loud sound in his life. A spot of red appeared between the stranger's eyes, and he fell over. Blood pooled underneath him.
No one on the deck dared to scream, not even Tony. He had to bite down on his lip hard enough to draw blood to keep from screaming, but he stayed silent. His breath burned in his chest.
Enrique looked back into the camera. "We'll kill another one in two hours if our demands aren't met."
Matias stopped filming, and Enrique stormed back inside. The body was left where it lay, and Matias ran up to Tony. "Are you okay?"
"No." Tony closed his eyes and let out all of the breath he’d been holding. He let Matias help him back to his seat. "No." He couldn't control his shakes. That stranger had just been executed in his place. "What did you say to him?"
Matias looked over at the body. He hadn't regained his color. "I told him your husband is in the Navy," he said after a moment. "And killing you would only get us killed." He helped Tony back into his chair. "Try not to look."
The teenager got the dead man's blanket and covered the body with it. Somehow, that helped.
Luke stood in front of the screen. He could see Tony there, just as clear as day. There he stood with his tilted hazel eyes, pupils blown not with lust but with terror, as that animal Espina pulled out his gun. "Oh, God."
Kelly put a hand on Luke's shoulder. Luke wanted to shake it off, because a Chief Warrant Officer didn't take that kind of comfort from someone under them. He leaned into the touch instead. The platoon was a family, and he needed his family right now.
Then a voice from somewhere off camera intervened. He spoke quickly, but Luke spoke enough Spanish to understand him. "Sir, Tony Boone is married to a sailor in the US Navy. If we kill him right now, they won't stop until us and every last FARC rebel is dead. That's not what we want."
The look Espina gave the camera, or rather someone just past it, could have peeled paint. In the end, though, they pulled some old man out of the crowd and executed him in Tony's stead. Espina threatened to kill another passenger in two hours if their demands weren't met, and the broadcast ended.
"Fuck." Sarge staggered out onto the deck. "Fuck!"
He punched the bulkhead. It didn't give.
Kelly appeared from inside the communications room. He grabbed Luke's hand and took a look at it. "Doesn't look broken." He smirked. "Let's keep it that way, huh? We're going to need that hand when we board that ship and kick some ass."
Luke slammed his back into the bulkhead and slid down into a seated position. He looked up into Kelly's eyes. "We'll never get there in time, and we both know it."
"We'll get there. Tony's as safe as he can be." Kelly sat down beside Luke, a little less violently than Luke had. "We'll get him back. The guy's been trained on how to handle a situation like this. He knows what to do."
"He knows how to sit there and get slaughtered." Luke thunked his head against the bulkhead. "I should have stopped him from going."
"How were you going to do that, Sarge?" Kellywrinkled his nose at Luke. "Seriously, he was contracted to do this, and he's getting paid. He'll probably get paid more when this is all done, since the cruise company clearly didn't do their due diligence and do background checks on half of the crew for this shindig. You can't lock the guy in the house like some kind of prisoner, you know?"
Luke froze at the words. "What?"
Kelly squinted. "Er, you can't lock the guy in the house like some kind of prisoner?"
Luke thumped his head again. "Damn it."
Kelly pulled back, just a little bit. "Sarge, that's not like you. You're the one always telling us to leave the navy at the yard, and not to go acting like family and friends are a hostile force."
"And how do you think I know enough to tell you that, hm?" Sarge closed his eyes and rubbed at his face. "It creeps up on you. You don't even notice you're doing it. I just - I was scared. I forgot I knew about it, and we had words. Okay? I forgot he was going, and I tried to exert some control over the situation." He opened his eyes again. "And he, well, he wasn't backing down."
"That's not like him, I take it?" Kelly's tone didn't change. He was still sympathetic, wasn't judging at all.
"No. He's been fantastic. He's been supportive, and he's been there when I needed him. I guess things have been a little… tense… for a while." He licked his lips. How much could he afford to tell Kelly and still have the man respect him? “He's young, you know? Younger than I am, at any rate. And the job is hard, Kelly. I don't have to tell you that. All you want to do when you come home is relax, and not be bothered."
"Mmm." Kelly nodded. Kelly wouldn't understand that, not entirely. Kelly was single, and had been for a good while. He probably would stay single for a good while, too. He was married to the job and liked it. "Do you think he's getting frustrated?"
"Probably." Luke looked out at the cruise ship on the horizon. Luke was on that ship, scared and helpless. "He knew what he was getting when he married me."
"Fair enough." Kelly looked over at the cruise ship. "Here's the thing, Sarge. I'm not exactly an expert in these things, but civilians don't really do orders. They want to feel like someone appreciates what they do and who they are. And it's hard, man. It's hard to show them. We're coming in from a deployment, and we've seen things and done things they can't even imagine. But the families - especially the spouses. They've been slogging through it all on their own, usually in a strange town far from their families.
"We come home and all we want is to be taken care of, someplace with no problems and no fires to put out. They've been manning the base all by themselves, the kids and the house and whatever other messes have come up, and they want a little help. They want to know someone sees what they're doing, understands, and loves them for it. And maybe they want someone to take care of them, too." Kelly squirmed a little. This kind of discussion wasn’t typical for him. It wasn’t typical for any SEAL, but Kelly had grown up raised by two Navy men. They didn’t talk feelings. They talked shop.
Maybe Luke could learn a lesson here.
"We fought." Luke scratched at his beard. "We fought an awful lot. It was ugly. And it might be the last time we spoke."
"It won't be." Kelly patted his shoulder. "Do you still love him?"
"Of course." Luke snorted and stood up. "The hell kind of damn fool question is that?"
Kelly grinned and rose to his feet. "Then you'll work it out. Come on. Let's go rescue your man. And the others."
Tony had to fight to keep himself still and reasonably calm after Enrique executed the old man. All he wanted to do was bolt for his cabin and hide, maybe cry for a while. Jumping off the ship and running over the water until he got back to Virginia seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do right now, too.
He didn't do it. He still had enough of his wits about him to know what would happen if he did. The only thing that would allow him to survive this was a clear mind. He focused on his kids. He thought about Noah, and the way he held Ava's hand while they got out of the house. He would grow into a strong man someday, a good man. Emma, she was a brilliant little creature, already in second grade even though she was just six. Even with the early advancement her little brain was more than the Virginia Beach schools could handle. Will, with his amazing strength and wicked sense of humor. Ava, with her sweet smile and constant desire to see everyone smile.
He had to get through this, for them.
And hell if he didn't miss Luke, too. He hadn't made Luke understand. He hadn't made Luke see. Maybe the old days were gone, and maybe their marriage couldn't be saved, but they hadn't even really tried yet.
Tony averted his eyes from the stiffening mass under the blanket on the deck and re-assessed his situation. He knew the approaching ships were Navy vessels. Enrique's words strongly suggested they were American Navy. That was the cavalry, riding to the rescue.
Could Tony do anything to help them?
He looked around at his fellow passengers. None of them were current competitors. They had a few teens, mostly young teens, looking for advice. They had some adults in their twenties and thirties, amateurs looking to improve. And they had a lot of older people who were fans, plain old fans there to enjoy the company of people they'd seen compete. Tony's fellow Olympians were all retired now. Some were coaches, and some had moved on to other careers.
They had exactly one boxer. Considering that he walked with a cane and couldn't stand for long periods anymore, Tony wasn't going to ask him to mount a physical resistance.
Well, maybe they didn't have to make it physical at all. The cavalry was coming. The issue was, cavalry charges tended to be messy. Tony knew it, from the news and from hearing Luke cry out in his sleep. If he could isolate the hostages from the fighting, he might be able to minimize the damage.
He knew it was on Matias's mind too. Matias kept looking out at the ships, which hadn't slowed their advance from the edge of the world. His plush, beautiful lips were raw from biting. Tony could use that.
It only took a couple of significant glances to convince Matias to come over to him. "Something on your mind?"
Matias's voice was an octave higher than it had been earlier. Tony didn't smile at it, even though it was good news for him. "I'm thinking, Matias. I'm worried about the passengers. If those really are US Navy ships, and I don't know for sure that they are, there's going to be fighting."
Matias narrowed his eyes. "We can take them. There are five hundred of us, and we know where all of the hiding places are."
Tony tried not to think about Luke climbing up onto the ship only to walk into an ambush. They were SEALs. They probably dealt with that kind of thing all the time. Getting anxious about it right now wouldn't help anyone. "I'm sure you can. I don't know how many people they'd be sending in, to be honest. I don't know what kind of negotiation they'd try first, either. But Matias, either way, a lot of the passengers would get hurt, and die."
"It's unavoidable." Matias glanced at the body on the deck and closed his eyes. "We're trying to save the lives of millions of Colombians. I know you can't understand what's going on at home, what those bastards in the right-wing paramilitaries have done."
"I can't understand first-hand, no." Tony put his hand on Matias's. He seemed like a nice guy. Tony didn't want to understand what could drive such a nice young man to hijacking and murder. "I can accept that you do, and that it must be bad. Here's the thing. If hostages get hurt because they're in the line of fire? Because your group forced them to stay in the line of fire, knowing a fight was coming? Matias, no one's going to feel a lot of sympathy for your cause. They're going to throw around a lot of phrases like 'human shields,' and 'war crimes,' and your enemies will feast."
Matias' jaw clenched. He glanced back at the dead body. "What do you propose?"
"The main dining room should be able to hold everyone if we're all very friendly. Lock us all in there. In fact, let us barricade ourselves in there. Then you've taken steps to keep the hostages safe." He spread his hands wide in front of him. "Dead hostages don't do you a lot of good."
Matias pursed his lips. "I'll talk to Enrique" he said after a long moment. "I can't promise anything." He went below decks.
He returned after a moment, followed by a handful of his comrades. "You win," he said, and winked at Tony. Then he announced the change of venue to the group at large.
Tony let himself be herded into the big dining room. The rest of the passengers, and half of the crew, followed. It was a tight fit, but they managed to all find places to sit and be comparatively comfortable. Enrique wasn't completely fooled, of course. He was an old hand at this sort of thing. He left five guards in the room, but the majority of his men would have to be out to fight.
One of the younger, fitter former Olympians sidled up to Tony. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Tony recognized him as a former skier. They'd been on the team together in 2000, but Tony couldn't quite remember his name.
Tony nodded and took note of the armed guards. "They can't kill us all. But wait until the fighting starts upstairs." He held up a hand to forestall any arguments. "Otherwise they'll send reinforcements."
If they succeeded, the hostages would be safe. Luke would be proud of him, and maybe Tony showing his competence would help Luke loosen up a little and relax when Tony did his own thing at home.
If they failed, Tony could take comfort in the fact that he’d probably never find out.
Luke slid into the stairwell and paused to listen. His uniform was soaked in blood. They'd decided to go in silent, and so far the plan was holding. The good part of a plan like that was that they could get in and do a whole lot of damage before anyone knew they were there. It was a good way of evening the odds.
The downside was that going in "silent" usually translated to "messy."
At least, that was usually the downside of an operation like this. Sarge didn't like to think of himself as a butcher. He killed when he had to, but it wasn't exactly easy. When it got easy, he felt like it would be time to retire.
This was different. These pigs had dared to touch what was his. Luke was possessive. He was an alpha, and he was an older alpha to boot. He didn't actually own Tony, and he knew that, but no one else had the right to put their hands on Tony. Sure as hell no bunch of terrorists had the right to grab him, and threaten to shoot him, and put him in fear.
Every last one of them was going to burn for that one.
So far, Luke hadn't seen a single hostage. He'd made it up to the seventh deck, the one with the freaking art gallery on it (and who seriously needed an art gallery outside their cabin, for fuck's sake?). Every stateroom was empty.
Adami's words came through his earpiece. "Got two bodies on the top deck. One on the floor, looks like the hostage they shot. The other's in a deck chair, looks like head trauma. Can't have been dead long. Male, teenager."
Luke breathed out a sigh of relief and hated himself for it. "Understood. Get into position."
Luke headed up another level. According to the ship’s plans, level eight would be where the main dining room and the kitchen would be. He crept along the passageway, hiding in doorways until he got close enough to see an enemy.
Two terrorists stood outside a door marked "Dining." Their faces were alert and they held their AR-15s like they knew how to use them. Luke considered his options, and then he pulled out his knives. It only took a second to aim them, and to throw them.
No one ever expected thrown knives. Both guards went down without firing a shot, silver shining in the artificial light.
Luke crept forward and retrieved his knives. That made eleven men he'd killed today. By his calculations, each member of the platoon had to kill or incapacitate thirty-three to pull this off. He needed to pick up the pace.
He crept around the rest of the floor. Someone else had been here already. Luke thought he recognized the unusual precision of the way some of the guards had been stabbed. Only Lupo did that. His suspicions were confirmed when he found Lupo himself at the door to the kitchen.
They sneaked into the kitchen and, working together, took out another seven guards. The guards probably should have shot them. Luke couldn't guess why they didn't, but he didn't waste a lot of time pondering the issue. It didn't take him and Lupo long to take the guys out, either. Lupo stabbed, as was his wont. Luke used his bare hands. It just felt right.
"That clears this floor, Sarge." Lupo carefully cleaned his knives on a dead man's shirt.
"Not entirely." Luke jerked his thumb toward the dining room. "Let's see what's behind Door Number Two."
"Sir." Lupo put a hand on the door. "Say the hostages are in there. Do you really think they'd be unguarded? Are we ready to give ourselves away?"
Luke bit his tongue for ten seconds. It wasn't Lupo's place to second-guess him - except when it clearly was. "Let's keep moving."
They ran up the stairs to the ninth deck, home of lounges, a casino, and more dance clubs and bars than Virginia Beach. Luke ignored them and focused on getting through the few hijackers they found there.
They'd gotten through about twenty men each by the time they got to the bridge level. The other SEALs met them there, having cut through their own rations of hijackers. "We've done what we can below decks," Luke told Captain Jimenez, on the Scituate. "It's show time."
Luke and his men waited in the shadow of the bridge. Adami was the exception. Even Luke couldn't see him. He was hiding somewhere secure, someplace where he could get a good shot off. Luke knew the general plan, but he had no idea what the specific words Jimenez would use to draw out the remaining hijackers.
He just knew whatever the captain said, it worked.
The door to the bridge slammed open, and a stream of men poured out. A shot rang out, the first one fell, and it was time to fight.
Luke knew it was okay to take some of them alive. It was even preferable. He just didn't feel like it. He aimed for the head, and for the heart. He knew what he was doing. He noticed that two of the bastards disappeared toward the stairs, and he sent Kelly off to deal with them, but for now all he wanted to do was to tear through the men who'd hurt his beloved.
It was over quickly. The hijackers were very willing to fight, and to use the weapons in their hands, but most of them weren't very well trained. They managed to graze Kulkarni's arm and Tinker's leg, but that was about it. Only twenty of the men who'd initially surged out of that bridge survived.
Kelly returned from the stairwell. The two hijackers who'd run marched in front of him, hands held high in surrender. One of them was the teenager who'd put his hands on Tony in that video.
Luke jumped at the kid, before he knew what he was doing. Kelly stopped him. "They took us to the hostages, Sir." He met Luke's eyes. "Do you want to see Tony or not?"
Luke bolted for the stairs.
When the hijacking first happened, Tony hadn't believed he'd get out of it alive. He'd hoped, but he hadn't believed. If someone had told him he'd present his alpha, SEAL husband with five angry prisoners, bound with their own belts and gagged with their own shirts, he'd have suggested sunstroke.
From the looks of things, Luke didn't believe it, either. He frog-marched Matias into the dining room and made a beeline for Tony, like he expected Tony to be an illusion that evaporated once he got closer.
Matias, though, just gave Tony a fond smile and shook his head. "I knew you had something up your sleeve, Mr. Boone. You're very smart."
Tony tried to ignore the twinge of guilt that ran through him. "I never lied to you, Matias." He wiped a smudge of blood away from Matias’s face. He owed him that much, at least.
"No. No, you didn't." He sighed. He couldn't do much more, bound as he was. "Another time, another place, and maybe things could have been different."
Matias was deluding himself if he thought they could have been together before Tony and Luke had gotten together. Matias had been all of fifteen at that point. Still, the thought flattered Tony and brought a smile to his face.
Luke didn't seem to appreciate that. He reached out toward Matias's neck.
Tony stepped in between them, stopping Luke in his tracks. "Luke, he saved my life."
Luke deflated. Then he licked his pink lips. "I think we need to talk."
Tony's limbs went cold. When he first saw Luke, his knees had gone weak with relief - and with a little bit of lust. Now he was just terrified. "Maybe in private?"
Luke's lieutenant, a youngish guy named DeWitt, cleared his throat. "I think we can handle things from here, Sarge. Go on."
Tony gave him a look.
"You've got a cabin, right? Go on. Talk. Life is short." DeWitt made a "shoo" motion with his hands.
Luke grabbed Tony's hand and led him away. "Er, where's your cabin and do you have a bunk mate?"
"No, I have a single occupancy. Perk of being one of the 'celebrity guests.'" Tony couldn't believe he could speak so calmly right now. Of course, an hour ago he wouldn't have believed he could take someone's assault rifle and bash them in the face with it.
A person learned a lot about themselves, when their feet got held to the fire.
Tony led Luke down to his cabin. He didn't miss the blood, or the occasional body. He stepped around them. Later he would have time to break down. Right now, things needed to be said.
Once they got into the room, Luke closed the door and locked it. Then, without another word, he took Tony into his arms and held him close.
Tony stiffened at first. That didn't stop Luke, and after a few minutes Tony found himself burying his face in his husband's chest.
"That must have been terrifying for you." Luke's voice was only a little more than a whisper in Tony's ear.
Tony nodded, wordless.
"I'm so sorry. I couldn't stop thinking of all the things I didn't say." Luke kissed the top of his head. "I couldn't - I love you. I know things have been tense. Maybe we need help, or maybe we just need to try harder. Probably both. But I love you. I was so afraid I'd lose you. It's hard for us out there. But it's hard for you back home too. It's just hard in a different way." He kissed him again, this time on his face near his mouth.
Tony's brain overflowed with words, but none of them made it to his mouth. There were too many of them. They were too jumbled together and none of them made any sense. The fight with Luke seemed like it had happened ten years ago. He remembered why they'd fought, and it was still important, but so much else had happened and he just needed.
He’d heard about, and read about, the adrenaline that took over when a person survived a life-threatening experience. He’d just never experienced it for himself. Right now, his body demanded that it prove itself alive right now, thank you very much and he couldn’t find it in himself to fight.
He licked his way into Luke's mouth, reacquainting himself with the familiar taste of his husband. On some level, he knew he must smell terrible. He'd been out in the sun forever, plus he had the stink of fear to get through. On the other hand, Luke didn't seem to mind. He tore at Tony's clothes, eager to get at the flesh underneath.
Tony had survived. Tony was going to go home. He was going to see his babies again. He and Luke were going to get a chance to turn things around, and make things good again.
He didn't care that his husband was literally tearing the clothes from his body. He never wanted to see these clothes again anyway, and it had been a damn long time since Luke had shown this kind of passion. His body got hotter and hotter as his clothes fell away, and finally he was bare in front of the man he still loved.
"God I'm glad to see you." He tugged at Luke's uniform.
Luke removed his uniform carefully, but quickly. He felt strongly about it, after all. All of these guys did. Once he'd safely taken off the clothes covering his beautiful body, he let Tony look his fill. "Still something you want to see?"
"Always." Tony didn't have to think about it. He reached out and put a hand on Luke's sharp hipbone. "You've always been beautiful to me, Luke."
"So you'll come back to bed?"
Tony didn't want to talk about that right now. Instead he pulled Luke toward him.
It felt so good just to have Luke beside him, bare flesh to bare flesh. Tony had no problem giving himself over to pleasure. He didn't know where Luke found lube, and he didn't care right now. He just wanted to feel his husband deep inside of him.
When Luke did finally slip inside of him, deep and hard and inexorable, Tony never wanted it to end. He rocked himself onto Luke's cock, trying to take him even deeper. Sex couldn't erase the past few days, but it would go a long way toward making him feel more human.
It couldn't last forever, of course. Tony came first. His pleasure poured out of him, taking with it all of the tension and fear of the past few days. Luke followed within a couple of minutes, and they lay together in a heap.
Then, after they'd recovered for a few minutes, Luke wrapped an arm around Tony and kissed his cheek. "Come on," he said. "Let's go home."
The ship had been in international waters when rescued. The closest port was Kingston. The Navy ships sent to intercept the cruise ship escorted the Windmaker there, where the passengers and crew were more than happy to board flights back to the States. None of them spoke much, at least not while Luke was around them. A couple of them did approach Luke to tell him how brave Tony was, but they all tried to avoid one another's eyes.
Luke couldn't blame them.
He’d seen it before. People felt all kinds of things after a situation like that. He could sit them down and tell them they had nothing to feel guilty about, and cooperating didn’t make them cowards it made them smart, but that didn’t mean they believed it. They could sit down and process with their families, and their therapists, at home.
Tony didn't join them on their civilian flight. He stayed with Luke. He didn't get clingy, like Luke half expected. He let Luke do his job without a problem. He just wanted to stick with Luke. Surprisingly, brass didn't have a problem with it.
Apparently they could be remarkably sensitive to the needs of a civilian, when that civilian happened to be a Navy spouse who’d just organized the defense of three thousand passengers.
They sailed back up to Norfolk once they'd dropped people off in Virginia, complete with their prisoners in the brig. Tony insisted on visiting that one prisoner, Matias Quintana. That pissed Luke off, he wasn't going to lie, but he could see that Tony wasn't trying to hide anything with it.
For a hot minute, Luke wondered if his husband might have gotten a case of Stockholm syndrome. It happened. As Luke watched more of Tony's interactions with this Quintana kid, though, he didn't think that was the case. Tony was just being generous. He was a natural nurturer, and always had been. Quintana had shown him kindness, and he wanted to show him kindness in return. Luke didn't like it. He was jealous, but in the end he couldn't resent it. Tony was being Tony, and the guy had saved his life.
Once they were back in Virginia, Luke applied for leave. He got it, too, without any fuss. It seemed as though even a bureaucracy as big as the Navy understood that when a man's spouse got hijacked, the family might need a little bit of time to cope. Tony's mom kept the kids for a few days, and they stayed at the house as a couple.
At first, they were both a little hesitant. The last words in the house had been spoken in anger, and neither of them had forgotten that. In addition, the fight had followed a long-building resentment, like radon gas.
Once Tony managed to get settled in, though, and touched everything he'd thought he'd never see again, they were able to sit down on the couch like adults. They talked.
They went to Portsmouth and found a marriage counselor. Luke chafed at that, but he understood they needed it. Luke found a counselor of his own, too. And after half an hour, he welcomed it. They both had things they needed to work on. Luke already knew he needed to do a better job of coping with the things he saw and did on the job, and he needed to remember he wasn't the Chief Warrant Officer at home. There was no shame in getting help with that.
And Tony needed to stop letting things build up. There was no virtue in making a martyr of himself. . Luke wanted to be a good husband to him, but he couldn't read his mind. Some things he might be able to guess, or maybe a normal husband could suss out. Luke's mind was very different from an accountant's or a bricklayer's. He didn't have the mental cycles to make guesses about things. He needed to be told.
After a few days, Luke and Tony drove up to Richmond and got a hotel room. They took the kids to a few tourist sites, places they'd never been together. Luke even took Noah horseback riding, which turned out to be a great time for both of them. The kids stayed with Grandma at night. After a few days, they brought the kids home.
Tony didn't sleep on the couch anymore.
Luke went back to work after three more weeks of leave. By this point, they knew Tony was pregnant again. Luke almost felt bad about that. Tony had already given him four beautiful children, and raising them alone hadn't been easy on him. Tony certainly wasn’t complaining, though. He loved being a father. He loved having a big family, and he was downright giddy about the prospect of adding another to their roster.
They might not be perfect, but they were doing better..
The men were all happy for Sarge, too. None of them had kids of their own, or at least none that anyone knew about. Until they paired off, which might not happen for a long time given their line of work, they lived vicariously through their Sarge.
When the hijackers went on trial, Tony insisted on asking for leniency. He didn't just ask for it in Quintana's case. He asked for leniency for the jackass who'd pulled him out of the crowd for execution, too. "I know what they did was wrong," he told the court. "Believe me, I've never been so scared in my life. But these two - they did their best to make a bad situation bearable, not just for me but for everyone. Mr. Quintana got blankets and water for all of us stuck out on the sun deck. It was Mr. Nieves who covered the body of the hostage Espina killed. Mr. Nieves is young, and when we believed Espina was going to kill me he did his best to soothe my fears."
Tony wiped a tear from his eye. "I'm not asking you to let them go free. I just want you to consider that in their mind, they were fighting a war. They did what they could to make that fight a little easier for the people caught in the crossfire."
In the end, Quintana and Nieves both got ten years in Supermax. It was better than most of the rest of their peers, who got between twenty-five and forty years. Espina would have been lucky to get that much. He was sentenced to death.
Luke thought he'd feel something when the sentences came down. In fact, he found out about them months later, when Tony was the approximate size of a barge and Luke himself had just returned from a lengthy deployment in France. He didn't care. Tony was safe, and their baby was safe. That was all that mattered.
Turn the page for your preview of Book 1, SEALing His Fate!!!
SEALing His Fate
A Navy SEAL. A vigilante warrior. A bizarre alliance with lasting consequences.
Mal has been fighting terrorism and fascism in Europe since he was a child. It’s a rough life, but he believes in his cause. He saves people every day, from terror attacks and worse.
When he first encounters SEAL Team Twelve, they’re an inconvenience – albeit a very attractive one. The next time he encounters them, they’re in the same place, looking for the same crew. When Mal and his sister intervene to save the SEALs’ lives, he’s thrown into a mission from which there is no turning back.
Trent’s an Alpha Navy man, from a long line of Navy men. Being a SEAL, though, is a new honor in the Kelly family. Trent feels the honor keenly, and he’s proud to serve on the only all-alpha platoon. He’s attracted to Omega Mal when they meet, but he tries to keep his passions to himself - until they just can’t keep their hands off one another anymore.
Mal and Trent’s superiors forge an uneasy alliance, throwing them back together for better or for worse. Just when Mal turns out to be pregnant, the SEALs are yanked home by internal politics.
Will Mal and Trent’s attempt to start a family together be doomed before it begins, or will they find a way back to each other? And what about the terrorist conspiracy they were supposed to be fighting?
Hot and heavy passion meets sizzling action in this 100,000-word gay M/M mpreg romance novel, SEALing His Fate. Extra steamy scenes make this story suitable for adults only.
Copyright Text and Footer Links