Ellery Mountain Series
Book 1 – The Fireman and the Cop
Book 2 – The Teacher and the Soldier
Book 3 – The Carpenter and the Actor
Book 4 – The Doctor and the Bad Boy
Book 5 – The Paramedic and the Writer
Book 6 – The Barman and the SEAL
Book 7 – The Agent and the Model
Book 8 – The Sinner and the Saint
Buy Links – eBook
How can Daniel convince the man he loves, to stay with him in Ellery?
Luke Fitzgerald left Ellery Mountain for college and vowed never to return, but with his father murdered, he has no choice but to return. Luke only goes home to sell off his share of the Ellery Mountain Cabins, but everything changes when he meets the son of the other owner.
Daniel Skylar is an ex-soldier who lives every day to the limit and sees a future in Luke. It doesn’t matter what Daniel says, or how much he needs Luke; Luke isn’t staying once everything is sold off. Surely Daniel can understand that?
Ellery Mountain Volume 1
Volume 1 incorporating Books 1, 2 & 3
Mrs Condit Reads Books – 4/5 – “….a simple love story that left me happy in the end. Luke deserved to find love and Daniel was the perfect one to give it….”
Sensual Reads – 4.5/5 – “….Pick up this delicious story, The Teacher and the Soldier by RJ Scott, and immerse yourself in an excellent tale of love and need. Your emotions and heart cannot help but be touched by both Luke and Daniel….”
MM Good Book Reviews – 4/5 – “….This story is really well written and it does tug at your heartstrings for what Luke had to face alone and also the effect it is still having on him. Daniel and Luke are an excellent pairing and are very hot together. They have a strong connection that goes further than a physical attraction and they make a great couple. The storyline is very good and I liked how Luke seemed to overcome his obstacles to accept the love he is offered and I liked how Daniel didn’t pressure Luke to recount his past. We see Max and Finn (from The Fireman and the Cop) again and Kieran and Liam and I can honestly say that I am looking forward to both their stories (The Carpenter and the Actor, and The Doctor and the Bad Boy) … I will recommend this to those who love facing the past stories, fighting for love, hot sex, great characters, a good storyline and a happy ending….
“Hearts On Fire Reviews – 4/5 – “….The books in this series focus on the quaint little town of Ellery where life is fairly idyllic and the lives of the four gay friends that grew up there. The characters are wonderful and well developed, there is plenty of the much loved angst and a slow build up to love. The stories have HEA endings with just enough twist to hold my interest. The Ellery Mountain series is definitely a worthwhile read….”
Rainbow Book Reviews – “…. The characters are strong, even some of the secondary ones like Luke’s ex and best friend. Thanks, RJ, for revisiting the mountain and introducing us to more fascinating characters….”
The Romance Reviews – 4/5 – “….I’m a sucker for troubled romance heroes and this novella has two. Daniel is further along in his recovery than Luke but they’re both wrestling demons and still taking responsibility for their issues. I like their honest conversations with each other, especially with Daniel’s willingness to be so emotionally vulnerable to Luke. Their romance is intense both sexually and emotionally, and I really liked watching their courtship….”
Only the darkening sky told Luke Fitzgerald what time it was. His cell was in the car with a dead battery, and he never wore a watch. The evening was drawing in, and with it the familiar coolness of a fall night in the mountains. If he wasn’t careful, he would get caught in the regular evening rain he remembered from his childhood. Coming here, to Ellery, to the place he’d called home for the first eighteen years of his life, was something he’d never thought he would do. Not while his dad was alive, anyway.
Leaning against the fence, he stared down at the town nestled in the V of the valley between Ellery Mountain and Mercury Peak. Where he’d been able to see things clearly a few short minutes before, now everything was blurring in the deep gray-blue smudge of evening light. Luke tracked a car’s progress by its headlights as it left the town and made its way up the mountain. There had been a few cars passing by today, but Luke was far enough from the road that no one had stopped to ask him what the hell he was doing rooted to the same spot for hours.
Shifting his stance, Luke pulled away from the fence and stretched tall. His back ached, his head hurt, and he felt like shit. Driving for eight hours straight was possibly the worst decision he’d made since he’d decided to come back to Ellery. His chiropractor was going to have a cow when he assessed the damage Luke was doing to the already heavy tension he carried through his back muscles and up into his neck.
The headlights shot intermittently through the spaces between the fir trees on each bend. Luke identified the vehicle on the last bend as a police car, the white standing out against the darkness of the trees. When it pulled onto the shoulder next to his car, Luke wasn’t surprised. Cops were far more attuned to cars parked off the main road.
The headlights meant he didn’t get a good look at the cop until he was less than four paces away. The new arrival stood loose-hipped, with his hand resting on the weapon in his holster. Peering through the gloom at the cop’s face, Luke knew that fate was fucking with him. Not only had an Ellery cop found his hiding place, but that Ellery cop was Corporal Finn Ryan.
Finn Ryan in the flesh. The man who’d been so closely involved in the death of Luke’s dad. Christ. Way to slap what Luke had hoped to avoid right up in his face.
“Is there a problem, sir?” Finn asked firmly.
Luke pushed his clenched fists into his pockets and stilled the anxiety rising inside him. “No problem, officer,” he said. “Just visiting the town and spending a little time clearing my head after a long drive.”
Finn took another step closer, and a look of recognition passed over his face. Luke remembered Finn as tall, dark, and rangy as hell, although his memories were of a boy of fifteen, not a man of… what would it be now? Twenty-four? He was five years younger than Luke, if he remembered correctly. Luke really didn’t want to remember anything about Ellery.
“Luke?” Finn looked momentarily taken aback before regaining his poise.
They hadn’t been friends in school, just two people who’d known each other by sight. Luke had been in college while Finn was still a freshman. Of course Finn, being a resident, would have heard all the rumors about him and his dad. Hell, he probably knew everything that had happened. Familiar resentment built inside Luke. He was bigger than that—bigger than his dad’s abuse or his mom’s abandonment. Bigger than this town. He wouldn’t let this place drag him down again however hard it tried.
“You missed the funeral,” Finn offered. There was no accusation in his voice. He was simply making a statement, one that hung in the air with no possible answer Luke could give. Or at least not one that didn’t involve reiterating the contents of two years of counseling sessions and eight years of living his life.
“Busy,” was all Luke eventually offered in response.
Finn didn’t call him on the excuse. “You’ve been up here a while, Luke. Widow Jenn called it in. Said a stranger had been standing here for hours, just staring down at the town.”
Luke shrugged. He couldn’t deny that hours had passed as he’d gazed down at the town and the tiny, distant shapes of gravestones in the far churchyard of St Jeremiah’s. He’d deliberately stayed up here until darkness had begun to creep over the mountain. Call it self-preservation, but there was no way he was driving into Ellery in daylight.
“Widow Jenn is still alive?” he said.
Finn took the change of subject in his stride and nodded. “Ninety-eight and thriving on ten a day with a glass of whiskey,” he said.
Luke snorted a laugh. “Does she still have those binoculars?” Widow Jenn was one of the more colorful characters in town, and when he was younger she’d had her fingers in so many pies—evidently that hadn’t changed.
“You got somewhere to stay?” Finn asked.
“Is that cop-speak for what the fuck am I doing?”
Shit. That had been a gut reaction. Luke regretted the words as soon as they’d left his mouth. It wasn’t Finn’s fault, any of this. He hadn’t been a cop back when Luke had had to leave town.
“No,” Finn said evenly. “I assume you’re back to deal with the Ellery Resort issue.”
Luke narrowed his eyes and regarded the solid, calm presence of Finn Ryan in his uniform. Finn hadn’t once mentioned Luke visiting his dad’s grave, which meant inside the cop’s head he was filing away what he knew about Luke and making assumptions. Never mind that they might be the right ones. It pissed Luke off that people assumed he would do things a certain way because of who he used to be. Not this town, not his dad… not even his cheating ex had the right to get inside Luke’s head and presume they knew what he was thinking.
“I am,” Luke said. He extended a hand for Finn to shake.
The cop didn’t hesitate. He shook Luke’s hand with a firm grip.
“We probably need to talk,” Finn began. “About what happened. About my part in it.”
“No need for talking. What’s done is done.”
“The man who wanted to kill me—”
“I said no.” Luke couldn’t stop the panic in his voice, and it scared him to be showing it to the very first person who’d crossed his path.
Finn held up a hand to indicate that it was okay.
“I need to get moving. I booked in at the hotel.”
“Nice to see you again.” Finn offered the few words with sincerity.
The whole sentence made Luke shudder inwardly. He didn’t need platitudes.
He didn’t answer. Not when his only answer could be, “Wish I could say the same.”
He climbed into his car and made it to the outskirts of town in a few minutes, with Finn not far behind.
The night was really upon him by the time he stepped into the reception of the Mountain View Hotel. Paperwork signed and card scanned as a deposit, he finally got to his room when the clock on the nightstand showed eight p.m. He put his phone to charge then, on autopilot, he took a shower in the clean and tidy bathroom.
The bed was comfortable and the TV had cable—all the comforts of home. He ate an energy bar to calm the hunger in his belly, and when he’d run out of excuses for himself, he checked his charging cell. He’d been avoiding the damn thing for a week, and there was a hell of a lot of missed calls and texts. Silently, he scrolled through the texts, which started off angry, moved to pleading, then to demanding. The last one was Zach completely losing it, and hell, Luke couldn’t blame him.
Zach was the one who’d been cheating. Outwardly, he was the one who over the last two years had destroyed everything they had together. But Luke had let him. He knew that. He’d allowed Zach to control him and his life, fallen into that easy pattern of behavior where he’d hidden his own wants and needs to keep someone else happy. No wonder Zach had cheated on him, when Luke had changed his personality so drastically.
Tell me you at least got there safe.
A simple text and at last one he could answer.
Here, he replied.
He thought about what else he should say. He and Zach had been together six years and had a mortgage together. He wanted nothing of the investment in their small condo, which had been scraped and saved for with his teacher’s salary and the money Zach made as a veterinarian’s assistant. Luke owed Zach some response. The paperwork for transferring everything into Zach’s name should have been dealt with weeks ago. But it had arrived the same day he’d heard about his dad, then it had just sat there. He’d proved his dad right. He had nothing that would last forever, and he’d fucked up big time.
Sighing, he added, Signing and sending tomorrow.
As soon as he’d sent the text, he deleted all the voicemails without listening to them— several from Zach and three from an unknown number. He couldn’t face listening to anything. He was done.
* * * * *
Daniel Skylar was way beyond angry. His day had gone from a good start in the morning to where he was now—angry, frustrated, and ready to get on his bike and leave the meeting. Bill Abbot sat there with a concerned but supportive expression, and all Daniel wanted to do was punch him. Irrational and misplaced anger was something Daniel didn’t do, and he hated that he was focusing his frustrations on the planning officer.
“Zoning will not allow the use, Daniel. I don’t know how many times I have to say that.”
“It’s a damn house,” Daniel snapped. Energy coursed through him and made him unable to sit still. In seconds he was up and pacing. He hated being inside at the best of times, but in this stuffy planning office—with one small window and a view of a concrete wall—he felt trapped like a rat.
Bill held up his hand in a plea for calm. “That’s as may be, but it’s a house in a residential area—”
“Next to a residential area, backing onto the woods; not actually among houses,” Daniel argued. He felt like he was banging his head against a brick wall. He’d sat in the residents’ meeting and explained exactly what he wanted to do, yet all he’d got was passive-aggressive bullshit thrown at him.
“The meeting could have gone better,” Bill said. “I’m not sure they thought you were a serious proposition to run this kind of place.” He added emphasis to the word place.
What the hell? Bill was supposed to be there to support Daniel, and now he thought it was a good idea to make observations like that? “What do you mean, ‘serious proposition?’”
Bill shrugged. “The tattoos don’t help.”
Daniel ignored the comment.
“Parents,” Bill continued, “are concerned about their kids—”
“What? These men are heroes who put their lives at risk to protect their country, and suddenly they’re a danger to children?” Daniel couldn’t believe what he heard Bill say. Despite the fact that he’d come across as a nice guy, he was still talking shit.
“You know there’s no reasoning with the ‘Not In My Back Yard’ groups, Daniel. I’m sorry. I tried my hardest.”
Daniel stopped pacing. The house he’d found was as isolated as it could be near a large city like Knoxville, and had enough rooms to help maybe up to eight veterans back from Afghanistan. It was perfect. What should he do? Fight this? Try to see this from the side of the residents?
He deflated. Of course I should.
If he had kids, then maybe having eight veterans invalided by war moving into his neighborhood was something he would be fighting. Hell, the residents had probably all seen films featuring ex-forces guys with PTSD and had pre-formed opinions. He’d actually lived it, had seen it first-hand, and he should remember they hadn’t. He wanted the place to be close to the hospital in the city—that was paramount—but what if he downgraded it? Maybe if he just looked at minor injuries, psych evaluations and support—thought smaller, maybe…?
“What do you want to do, Daniel?”
Daniel looked at Bill and used the focus to think about what to do next. Where was inspiration when he needed it? Ellery had a hospital, but was Ellery ready for a place for veterans? Could the hospital staff have any thoughts on helping? Frustration rolled inside him.
“Give me a couple of days to think about it. I’m not pushing this one. I don’t want a battle that can’t be won. I want a place these guys can go where people will welcome them and give them space, not pull them into a nest of resentment.”
God, how many times had he said that? After his three months in the hospital, he’d come home to Ellery, and people had been pleased to see him, had supported him. His mom was such a big part of the town. Would it have been different if she hadn’t been?
“I have some ideas,” he said.
“I’m sorry, son,” Bill said. His tone was rueful and gentle, and the frustration inside Daniel subsided a little.
“It’s not your fault, Bill.”
After they had said their goodbyes, Daniel left, and for a few minutes he stood by his bike and considered his next move. Left would take him out of Knoxville and up into the next state. The Carolinas on his bike seemed like a mighty fine option for a guy with no ties and enough cash to last him a year or two of drifting. Right was back to Ellery—up into the Smoky Mountains and to his mom. Home. The only thing that had really kept him alive after it had all gone to shit under the blazing sun of the Afghan sky.
He started the bike and pulled away, aiming right. He thought of his list of things to do. First stop was St Martin’s Hospital. Liam Wolf, the chief doctor at the hospital, was a good guy, and maybe he would know whether the hospital would have the funding to support a community outreach program. Maybe Daniel had been thinking about this the wrong way. Maybe Ellery was the place to build something that would mean the same support he’d received was available to others?
Two hours later, he pulled up in front of the hospital and parked his bike next to Liam’s BMW. The damn thing was so shiny he could see his face in it, and he smiled at the thought of the teasing he would throw at Liam. Liam had once spent so long polishing the ten-year-old car that Daniel had suggested Liam should marry the damn thing.
They’d become close when Daniel had needed medical support here in his hometown. They’d even kissed, then had fallen apart laughing at what they’d done, vowing never to do it again. Liam was all blond hair, blue eyes, and confident, in-your-face stubbornness. He was too similar to Daniel in that aspect—that stubborn confidence in both men would be bound to clash.
He made his way down two corridors to the staffroom and let himself in. People here were used to Daniel just dropping in on the staff, all of whom he called friends. There was no one in there, but the coffee machine worked, and he threw some dollars into the honesty jar and made himself a coffee. Liam would make his way here eventually.
The hospital wasn’t large—maybe ten beds and three doctors. Most major trauma cases were moved to Knoxville, but Liam had been talking about expanding—hiring more paramedics and getting their harassed administrator some support. Daniel had listened to his friend long enough to know Liam would listen now.
A text alert sounded, and Daniel checked the screen, smiling as he read a text from Kieran Dexter. His friend’s message was characteristically short and to the point. While Kieran could talk the hind legs off a donkey, when he texted he managed to keep everything crisp.
Bring more beer and Diet Coke.
Every Friday, he and Kieran met up with Finn Ryan and drank beer. Well, to be fair Finn only drank beer when he was off duty, which he clearly was tonight if Kieran’s text was anything to go by. Then again, Finn had taken to bringing his fireman lover Max with him, and hell, that boy could down Diet Coke like no tomorrow. Nice guy, Max. A man of action who had saved Finn’s life not once but three times, he had earned his right to sit with them on a Friday for beers. Being gay in a small town, it was self-preservation to have to make time to meet and shoot the shit. Maybe he should ask Liam to join them? The kiss might not have worked, but Daniel wanted some of what Finn and Max had—affection and laughter… and sex. Well, at the very least the sex part. Maybe he and Liam could just skip all the relationship stuff that made them laugh at the absurdity of it all and move to a friends-with-benefits arrangement. Liam was pretty—very pretty. And his lips would look very nice wrapped around Daniel’s cock.
Daniel shifted in the lumpy seat a little as his dick began to fill at the thought.
“Where did you go?” Liam’s voice, filled with laughter, jerked him out of his thoughts. “You’ve got the heel of your hand pressing your dick, and your tongue was poking out.”
“Fuck you,” Daniel replied quickly. Glancing down, he realized Liam was right. It was a good thing it had been Liam who’d walked in, and not Abby the administrator, or one of the nurses. “Get out of my head,” he added.
Liam snorted a laugh in response and filled a cup with the bitter black brew. He drank it with extra cream and sugar—something Daniel shuddered at. Liam might want the frou-frou, but Daniel liked his coffee black and strong.
“You’re not due in until next week,” Liam said. He always said things like that. Unspoken was that sometimes Daniel needed to sit somewhere quiet where no one asked stupid questions, and that him sitting in here was perfectly fine.
“Missed your ugly face,” Daniel said. Then he smiled and settled back on the sofa. “Do you have ten?”
Liam checked his watch. “Ten is all I have. Abby has me on a short leash.” Not an inch over five feet, the tiny woman knew exactly how to work her resources, including Liam.
“You asked me what I was going to Knoxville for…” Daniel hesitated.
Liam raised his eyebrows in question. He’d suggested that Daniel was disappearing to the city for tail, and Daniel had never said anything different.
“Do I need to sit down?” Liam sat anyway, then leaned forward expectantly.
“It’s kind of simple, really, but I wasn’t ready to share. See, I have this idea. A place for vets like me to get some down time, space to think, some medical help. Nothing major,” he added quickly. “No trauma surgeon stuff… y’know, just mind-fuck shit like me.” He circled a finger at his temple, then tapped himself on the forehead.
“I wish you wouldn’t call it that,” Liam said. He sounded like Doctor-grumpy-Liam, and Daniel smiled at his friend’s immediate defense of him.
“Whatever. Just, the place I found in Knoxville was a bust. Too many locals protesting against plans, and not enough understanding.”
“You mean the whole ‘I wont have a veteran with a gun in my garden’ thing?”
Daniel frowned. How had Liam hit the nail on the head so quickly? It had taken Daniel this long to get his head around the constant battle to get people to see there was such a thing as an acceptable risk.
“Yeah,” he offered. “That.”
“I can see where they’re coming from. Wait—” He held up a hand to stop Daniel from speaking. “Playing devil’s advocate here, some of the stuff people put online about crazy vets wielding guns kinda sits in your head. Not everyone comes back with problems and has the strength of mind to be able to help themselves like you did.”
“I didn’t have PTSD—”
“A healthy dose of survivor’s guilt, though, Dan. You have to admit that one. So what do you need to talk to me about?”
“I just want to know, if I got planning approval for something here, would the hospital support an outreach program, work with these kids like you did with me?” Daniel leaned forward, mimicking Liam’s posture.
This was the vital question. He had given himself away calling them kids. A lot of these guys would be younger than him—it was the nature of warfare—but for some reason today Daniel felt older than his years. For a few seconds, it looked as if Liam was thinking. Then in a flurry of motion he rose and placed his dirty coffee mug in the small desktop dishwasher. His back to Daniel, he carried on the conversation as if there hadn’t been a pause.
“Where do I sign up?”