|Cover Art by BitterGrace|
It is the day after New Years and Dale is en route back to Albany in a private jet with Emily Bullen. She is coming back home after turning states evidence on her husband Senator Thomas Bullen.
What no one factored in, not Sanctuary or the FBI, was the lengths Griffin Ryland would go to in the effort to protect himself. Joseph finds out Dale is in trouble and it is only with the help of his team of SEALs that he can make sure Dale is safe and that Griffin Ryland can't cause any more trouble.
A snowy New Years, a deserted airport and a hostage situation with people already dead and suddenly the worlds of Sanctuary and the SEALs collide, with terrifying consequences.
Then, two weeks alone at a resort, falling deeper in love leave the two men with decisions to make and suddenly there is the chance to make forever a possibility
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MM Good Book Reviews – 4/5: Ahhhh. These people are so romantic in their own macho way and they are surprising sweet together. Joseph has a lot of thinking to do about his future. Not just about his relationship, but also what he wants to do in his work life. Dale is just happy to have whatever time he can have with his sexy SEAL, especially if it involves him naked. These guys still have that explosive spark and they are still macho men. what they feel for each other is clear to see in their actions and thoughts and I can finally sigh in relief as they get their happy ever after. … I have to recommend this to those who love alpha men, facing the future, accepting and receiving deep love, bombs, hostage situations, getting the bad guy and a very satisfying happy ending.Hearts On Fire Reviews – 4/5: The last we saw of Joseph and Dale was in The Only Easy Day where we were left hanging with a HFN on their relationship. This installment in the Sanctuary series is all about the two men. I enjoyed the way Ms Scott wove the romance around Dale's taking Emily Bullen back from the west coast to turn state's evidence against her husband the senator. The story gave action at the airport fighting Griffin and his men who tried to kill Emily Bullen and balanced it with a great romance. The sex was hot and well written. There was a perfect flow to the story
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words – 4.75/5: It’s all here. All the things that have made this series such a great one. Realistic, fully rounded characters, a complicated criminal investigation that spreads through the series, and a narrative that moves the plot forward swiftly and smoothly.
Mrs Condit Reads Books – 4/5: I’m glad Ms. Scott wrote a follow up book to their story. Since I love to read series, any time I can read more about past couples it makes me happy … Definite must read for Sanctuary fans.
Rainbow Reviews – While the first half of the book is the usual high-tension story including threats, lots of action, and even a bomb, the second half focuses entirely on Joseph and Dale. They need to reconnect, and I loved seeing how they became closer and closer, how they discussed the future, and how Joseph worked out what he wanted to do.
“It’s not too late, we can still get out of here,” Chief Petty Officer Joseph Kinnon said urgently. He pressed both hands to the glass and stared down at the street below. The city was a white, snowy landscape and at any other time would have been stunningly beautiful. They were ten stories up in a hotel in the heart of the historic district and the place had ledges at each level. As a team they’d dealt with worse. Assessing the situation, he considered the options. “Fuentes, talk to me.”
Luca Fuentes, young, tall, and built like the side of barn with muscles on muscles, was the team’s resident hacker but was also a tactical genius. He joined Joseph at the window. “Chief,” he said formally. His green-eyed gaze unerringly focused in on the view that Joseph had. He frowned as he looked out.
“Can you find egress here?” Joseph asked.
Luca tapped the glass. “Reinforced; we’d need some pretty heavy ordnance to get out—I can get Viktor on that—then zip wire. Get it hooked to the top of the plaza building.” Luca looked up and down, then turned to Joseph. “Forty degrees. We can get down to the roof and get out that way.”
“Fifty-fifty. I think most of us will be okay, but one of our team is scared of heights,” Fuentes said seriously.
Joseph nodded in agreement. “You’re talking about Mike Dexter.”
“He’s a liability, sir,” Luca answered. “I’m not sure his underwear would remain unstained and survive the fall.”
Joseph frowned. “So if we could get a change of underwear for after then we can probably get him down.”
“Yes, sir,” Luca answered immediately.
“I should kill you both,” Dexter deadpanned from behind them. He joined them at the window, looked down at the snowy street below, then shrugged. “Anyway, my mother-in-law-to-be will definitely have all exit points covered.”
Joseph and Luca snorted and suddenly all three men were leaning against the glass and laughing.
“She’d have you strung up by your balls,” Joseph choked out between laughing and trying to breathe.
“That wouldn’t be painful enough, Dexter.” Luca smirked. “She’d chop your dick off then hang you up by your balls for walking out on her daughter.”
Joseph clapped his best friend on the shoulder, a quick hug, then he pulled back. “Last chance to escape, Dex, I can get another team in as backup.”
Dexter thumped his shoulder. “Why would I give up the best thing I have?” Dexter said seriously. Everyone went silent. Then Joseph snorted another laugh and he had to step away from Dexter before his friend got a lot more physical.
“And you call yourself a best man, J.” Dexter sighed. He shook his head. “I knew I should have asked Viktor.” That set all three men off again. Viktor played loose and hard with life and the idea of him being best-anything outside of bombs and grenades was just plain weird.
“Speaking of best man and weddings, we’re at T minus twenty and I am out of here. I need to concentrate on my looking-good-in-my-uniform duty.” Fuentes walked to the door.
“Maybe when you grow up you’ll look good,” Joseph called after him.
“Face it, boys, you’re the wrong side of twenty-five and your wrinkled asses make your pants baggy.”
Joseph threw the nearest thing he could find, an apple from the fruit dish. Fuentes caught the fruit and took a bite out of it.
“Later,” he said as he left. Abruptly it was just Joseph and Dexter and one huge empty suite. Joseph’s only line of defense between himself and Dexter being all serious had gone. Joseph even considered calling Luca back at seeing the intense look on Dexter’s face. Joseph knew what he wanted to say but the words in his head just stayed there. He could be serious and focused, just, this was a huge occasion. He’d never been a best man before and he had to work hard to make it look like he knew what he was doing. Dexter crossed to the minibar and emptied the contents of a small bottle into a glass.
He handed the glass to Joseph. “Here, J, drink this.”
Joseph eyed the amber liquid. “Shouldn’t I be saying that to you?”
Dexter smiled. “Why do I need to drink? I’m not the one who’s nervous.”
“I’m not nervous,” Joseph defended immediately.
Dexter shook his head. “You remember that time in Iraq when we had to lie in goat shit for three hours and you were sick on yourself? You’re paler than that.”
Joseph sighed. Dexter knew more about him than he liked. “I don’t like giving speeches, alright? Give me a rifle and I can control a crowd. Make me talk and I fuck it up every time.” He perched on the edge of the sofa and downed the whisky in one. The burn was welcome, but he hoped to hell he didn’t throw the whole lot back up.
“What’s there to fuck up?” Dexter asked gently. He sat on the opposite sofa. “In ten minutes we’re going downstairs, then you tell me what is going to happen.”
Joseph considered the question and decided this wasn’t the time for teasing or his usual shit, this was serious. This was like the run-through for missions where the focus was decided beforehand. For a second he thought of Dale and remembered some of the more thoughtful conversations they had been having recently. He didn’t have to be next to his lover to know how he felt. Whenever he saw Dale’s name light up on his cell he got butterflies. Yes, they’d only managed to meet up once since that first time, but Dale filled every single one of his waking thoughts that weren’t taken up by SEAL business. Thinking of his lover had a smile twitching his lips.
“My best friend is getting married,” Joseph began, “to a beautiful woman who is way too good for him.” Whether it was that simple statement, the effects of the whisky, or even thinking of Dale, he felt himself relaxing. Yes, he was a duck out of water, but the man who had been his best friend since BUD/S was going into marriage with a smile on his face. Joseph could push past any concerns he had about SEALs marrying or about Dexter getting himself killed and leaving a widow.
“J, I wanted to talk to you,” Dexter said carefully. “I’ve been thinking of taking the medical discharge I was offered.”
Joseph’s chest tightened. This was what he had been expecting. Marriage and SEALs didn’t always mesh and he’d watched Dexter recently. The man was edgy and wary and being a SEAL didn’t allow for either. But to lose his best friend from the small expert team they were part of was a terrible blow. He didn’t say any of that. Instead he said, “I can understand that.”
Dexter nodded. “I’m twenty-nine. I found Em. My back is fucked, and I’ve been offered the magic bullet of discharge. I’d like to maybe at least stay stateside if I can, maybe go civilian?”
“The horror.” Joseph smirked. He knew about the medical discharge. Dex was in pain more often than not, and while he could push through it, the SEAL missions were hard on him. The bad back was courtesy of a fucked-up high altitude jump that Dexter was lucky to walk away from. He needed an operation to release nerves too close to scar tissue and he kind of needed it now before the damage became irreparable.
“I’ve been offered a job with Sanctuary when I get out,” Joseph admitted. “But me leaving the Navy? That’s like ten years or more to retirement. Jake said if I knew anyone else that might be interested…” The comments had been serious but Joseph had dismissed them as something he could think about another day.
“Sanctuary, eh? Sounds like a cool idea. I was thinking about you and me, some kind of security team when you finally get out,” Dexter said thoughtfully.
“Me?” Joseph shook his head. “I’m only nine years in, I have eleven to go. I’m not that old yet.”
Dexter smiled. “Wait till you get to be nearly thirty like I am,” he said.
“Four years yet, old man.”
“And you have Dale now. He’s important to you, and J, aren’t you just a little bit tempted by working privately one day? If not that, then you could move sideways to a Navy posting, or into SEAL training?”
Joseph needed to change the subject. Spending time with Dale, building something with the sexy man, was way up on his to-do list, but to look that far into the future, leaving the SEALs…to leave the Navy after his twenty, even? To stop what he was damn good at? That was a hard one.
“I know what I’m good at,” he said finally. His usual defense.
“Look at it this way, buddy. Do you remember Garret Connor?” Joseph nodded. He recalled Lt Garret Connor, the tall, dark-haired guy with the serious expression. He knew what had happened to Garret. Every SEAL team was more than aware—being a SEAL made you part of a very small family. Garret had been MIA, separated from his entire team. Tortured, injured, his mind messed with, then left for dead. He was still suffering now.
PTSD. Joseph had seen too much of it, not just the Navy but in all the forces fighting in the theater of war.
“A good guy,” Joseph offered lamely. He knew exactly where this conversation was going.
“He’s thirty-one. He’s in a bad place. Every time you suit up, you put yourself in the firing line.”
“I get that, it’s what we do. Garret was unlucky.”
“And we’ve been lucky so far, Joseph.”
“We’re highly trained, we don’t rely on luck—”
“Then neither should Garret. He wasn’t unlucky—it was his time to get hit.”
“Sanctuary isn’t exactly safe either,” Joseph said. He sounded more than a little desperate to his own ears.
“Just think on it in ten years, and if the time is right, we can maybe talk again?”
Joseph relaxed. He liked conversations that could be put off to ‘another time’, particularly a conversation ten years in the future. “Okay,” he agreed. He’d just have to spend the next ten years or so avoiding a civilian Dexter and any mention of breaking up their team. Easy.
“Joseph, there’s one last thing. I need to ask you something.” Dexter sounded deadly serious.
“Before I get out…hell, after I get out, if anything ever goes wrong and I don’t make it home? Look out for Em?”
Joseph opened his mouth to say what he’d instantly thought, the usual response that nothing was going to happen to Dexter. Instead he simply said, “Always.”
“Then shall we do this thing?” Dexter stood and extended a hand to Joseph, who grasped it and levered himself to stand. After a final hug they separated and with shared smiles, left the suite.
The whole team was here: him, Dexter, the Lieutenant, Fuentes, Freddy…even Viktor. The guy had somehow managed to time his arrival to exactly two minutes before the start, looking disheveled and with lipstick on his uniform. If the man wasn’t a damn genius with ordnance then he’d never get away with half the shit he did on his downtime. Joseph exchanged glances with the LT, Viktor had been slowly getting more and more on the ragged edge and something needed doing. The LT nodded in return and Joseph sighed. He liked Viktor and the man was good at his job, but he lacked control in his private life and something was messing with his head.
His attention moved back to the room. The family was lucky to get this room in the hotel in Albany on New Year’s Eve. It wasn’t the best or most exotic location for a wedding, but that wasn’t what Em and Dexter wanted. The team’s needing to fit it in their thirty-day downtime was tight but Em’s family had somehow managed to snag this room and a judge on this snowy holiday.
Em looked stunning. The slim redhead who had brought big, gruff Mike Dexter to his knees was smiling up at Joseph’s friend and teammate as if he hung the moon and the stars. It warmed Joseph to see it. Added to that she was a feisty partner who was in the Navy herself, based at Oceana with family in Albany and close by. Dexter and Em had been in love since they met at fourteen at school according to how Dexter told it, and today was perfect. The love that was in each vow was obvious.
Joseph remembered the rings and was even lulled into a false sense of security up until they sat for the wedding dinner and it was his turn to talk to the fifty people in the room. He stood and tapped a glass. The chatter stopped and every face in the room turned to him expectantly. Terror punched him like a bullet to a vest and stole his voice. He coughed. Then he saw Fuentes giving him a big thumbs up and that was enough to get his focus back on what he was doing
“When Mike Dexter asked me to be best man I thought he was an idiot,” he began. Great, that sounded better in his head than when he’d actually said the words. Fuentes nodded in encouragement. “Only because, while I can dismantle a gun and get it back together in record time and belch curse words with the best of them, I’m actually not good at standing up and talking.” Everyone laughed at that.
The laughter was welcome and he took a sip of his champagne. He was doing this speech on a mild alcohol buzz and he’d not drunk in so long that this was a very nice feeling, with the word ‘nice’ in capital letters. He continued, “In fact, there is only one person I would do this for and he is the man who got married today. Dexter is my best friend and I guess that allows me to say things about how I think Em and Dexter together are perfect.” He stopped again and glanced at Dexter and Em.
“Thank you,” Em said softly.
“Anyway, I could launch into many an embarrassing story about Dexter here, including the one with the mountain lion and the cheese, but I’ll save that for his sixtieth birthday party.” He smiled at Dexter, who grinned back. Joseph didn’t think he’d ever seen Dexter this happy. “I just wanted to say, congratulations to the best friend a man could wish for, on and off the field. Raise your glasses.” Joseph paused as everyone stood and raised the crystal champagne flutes.
“To Em and Dexter.”
The crowd repeated and finally Joseph sat down, his job done and a huge weight off his shoulders. Now perhaps he could relax. He reached for more champagne, his second glass, and on top of the small whisky from before he was really feeling relaxed. His thoughts immediately turned to Dale—wondering how the other man was doing. He was working an assignment to bring Emily Bullen back home from the West Coast where she had been laying low. But when he finished, they had an entire two weeks together planned at a resort, courtesy of Jake and Sanctuary, and he couldn’t believe how excited he was at the thought. He’d bought Dale a gift for his birthday—his lover was turning thirty in a few days—and he had plans for absolute honesty when they were together.
He fingered the piece of paper he kept with him in his pocket at all times. Not a picture of Dale, after all he did still have his balls. This was a print of a message Dale had sent him on his cell not long after they pulled Beckett from the Bullen Mansion. He’d been back at Oceana by then and only just got the message in time before he locked his cell away to be pulled out on his return from his next mission.
Stay safe, kick ass, come home. Love you.
Such a simple message, but the “Love you” didn’t have any kind of qualification. There was no I think I love you or I am falling in love with you, but a really simple, easy message.
I love you.
Just reading that message the first time had created feelings inside Joseph that he never thought he would feel. They’d been together such a short while but Dale just got him. He was funny, loving, strong, opinionate, good with a gun, tall, sexy, fantastic in bed, and a skilled kisser. All in all he was the perfect candidate for the post of Joseph’s forever-guy.
Just touching the note grounded Joseph in the here and now. Slowly, over the course of the last few months, the space in his life that had once been filled by the team he was with, by the job, by staying alive, had seen a full-frontal assault by the man he had fallen in love with.
The note wasn’t the last time that Dale had said those words. He’d never considered love at first sight—lust yes, love no—but this whole thing with Dale? That was love. A new love, one that was growing every day.
When the dinner ended and people drifted away to freshen up, Joseph determinedly walked through the lobby and out into the frigid air. He wanted to connect to Dale if he could—to check in on him. Just to hear his voice.
It was seven pm in Albany, earlier in LA, and he hoped he would get Dale on first try. He dialed the number he had in memory and Dale answered the phone immediately.
“Hey, sailor,” Dale said softly.
“Hey. Can you talk?” Joseph asked. He stamped his feet and settled back under the awning over the front door and as close to the wall as he could get without touching the icy brick. The snow had started and stopped a dozen times through the ceremony and the roads in Albany were covered in sparkling white. The snow covered any blemishes and left the area pristine and somewhat empty for a New Year’s Eve. Just for a second he debated returning to his room for a jacket but decided against it when he heard Dale’s voice.
“Hang on.” Joseph listened as noises indicated Dale was moving from one place to another. “Here,” he finally said.
“Tell me you’re not sitting in the bathroom,” Joseph said.
“Nope, back up against the front door facing inwards. Sitting between the target, who is currently in the bathroom, and any bad guys brandishing guns.” Dale chuckled as he said this.
Joseph could imagine his lover sitting, leaning back against the door. He’d done it himself at times when he needed time out but couldn’t leave the room. Stop the bad guys’ getting in the door.
“Are you expecting guns?” Joseph asked conversationally. He refused to let his voice carry any indication of the worry that pierced him at the thought. Dale meant too much to him to lose at the end of a bullet but they hadn’t exactly covered the emotions surrounding possible loss of each other in their brief chats. Anyway, how could he show he was worried about Dale when he himself wasn’t exactly working a nine to five in an office?
“Not really. Adam is running the op and there’s nothing indicating any shit near a proverbial fan. Emily Bullen is a low-rent witness now that she’s given access to records. This whole job is just a taxi service.” Dale didn’t sound impressed and Joseph smiled at the irritation in his voice.
“Adam’s running this? Not Manny?” Joseph liked Manny, the guy had an old head on his shoulders and he ran Ops like one of the best SEAL support teams.
“Manny and Josh are taking New Year’s off. Something about having to save Jake’s ass at Christmas.”
Joseph wrapped an arm around his middle. He was freaking cold but hearing Dale’s voice was too much to give up the peace and quiet of the outside. There were too many people inside pushing for attention and wanting to talk to him.
“When do you leave LA?”
“Wheels up in three hours. Big issue is that there’s no letup in that damn snow at your end. Hoping to move out this evening if they clear us for takeoff. Will you still make it to the resort?”
“If it kills me,” Joseph said without thinking. The thought of two weeks with just him and Dale and a Lake Placid Lodge had his cock half-hard and his heart swelling with affection. Realizing what he’d said, he went quiet and banged his head back against the wall. Idiot. Their relationship was still in its infant stage and as much as he wanted much more with the gorgeous blond who slammed into the middle of his life, he didn’t want to make himself look stupid by admitting it too early.
“I can’t wait to see you,” Dale confessed softly.
“Really?” Joseph said quickly. Jeez. His brain needed to focus better. That damn whisky added to two glasses of champagne was messing with his head.
“I missed your SEAL ass,” Dale admitted. “Especially when you didn’t make it back before Christmas.”
Joseph recalled exactly where he’d been on Christmas Day and grimaced at the memory. That particular date had been some particularly squirrely shit and the image of what he’d seen and felt was permanently etched into his thoughts. They were all fortunate to make it to Dexter’s wedding alive.
“I missed you too,” Joseph said. “I’ll see you when you make it to Albany,” he added. He needed to finish this call before his balls froze. They were already in danger of shriveling up and falling off with all this romantic sappy shit. The same shit he was loving to hear.
Joseph ended the call before he said anything else. Seeing Dale, wanting Dale, with all those love words thrown around whenever they met, was a deeply unsettling feeling.
Dale banged his head back against the wood of the door. When he and Joseph met up they needed to have a talk. Joseph sounded introspective, as usual, and it wasn’t as if Dale was much better. How was it Morgan and Nik made being in a relationship seem so damn easy? Dale swore under his breath. He and Joseph had been apart for a while now, months, not that he was counting or anything. Joseph must have noticed that their phone calls had become tenser, but he hoped that his lover would understand why.
For Dale it was because he had so much inside him he knew that if he started to talk, he’d scare Joseph off. The affection and lust he’d had spiraling inside had just grown exponentially and tomorrow he was going to lay his emotions bare and actually tell Joseph how he felt. He’d texted the I love you, he’d emailed it, had even said it to Joseph’s face on Skype, but not in person yet. At least today he’d laid some of the foundation by admitting he missed Joseph. That was a step in the right direction.
“How long now?” The voice roused him from his thoughts and he blinked up at Emily Bullen, who stood just outside the bathroom. She looked immaculate—as if she was just going to pose for a photo op. Pearls wound around her throat, and her powder blue suit screamed of more money than Dale made in a year. Her hair was sprayed to within an inch of its life and Dale doubted a hurricane would mess with the helmet. He sighed as he looked her up, then down. He’d asked her to wear pants and flats. She had at least made one concession Dale had demanded. She was wearing flatter heels. But they were still heels.
“What if we have to run?” Dale said evenly. “You’ll break your neck.”
“A lady of my age doesn’t run,” Emily replied smoothly.
Emily appeared younger than her sixty-five but that was probably clever makeup and maybe even a little plastic surgery here and there.
“You’ll run if I tell you to,” Dale said firmly.
Tilting her head she stared down at him, a look that reminded Dale far too much of a tiger sizing its prey. “Why are you sitting on the floor?” she asked.
Dale ignored her and smoothly came to stand almost eye to eye with the woman who was driving him mad.
She was clearly bored or something when she pivoted on her heel and stalked into the sitting area. “Are you hoping to trip them up when they come in through the door?” she asked frostily as she walked away. Dale bit his tongue. He’d done a lot of that since Christmas. Damn woman had a stick firmly up her perfumed ass. Dale ignored her as he checked the locks on the door again then crossed to the table. Flight plans, schematics of the jet, and details of Swithuns private airport lay on the flat surface. This would be the first time that Dale had ever worked with Sanctuary where he had transferred someone on a plane, and he wanted as much intel as possible. Swithuns was just outside Albany. It had one runway that ran east to west with mountains at one end and a large lake at the other.
His phone signaled an incoming call and he connected immediately.
Jake didn’t waste time with niceties. “We may have a problem,” he said.
“What kind of problem?”
“We have intel that Griffin Ryland is back in New York state but we lost him.”
“Lost him how?” Dale asked. Sanctuary didn’t lose people they were tracking.
“He isn’t without resources or money,” Jake said firmly. “We were lucky to get his tail in LA.”
Dale glanced over at the Senator’s wife who, despite appearing serene, had a look of fear in her eyes. He crossed back to the door, which was a good ten feet away from his charge.
“What does he want with her?” he asked. “I don’t get his motivation. He’s fucked. There is so much evidence piled against him that he’s going down. Her testimony is only underlining his part in it all.”
“The Senator could have paid him to pull this off?” A second voice joined Jake’s. Sean Hanson, Jake’s partner now—or so Kayden said—was adding his two cents. “Politics is thicker than marriage,” he added dryly. “It’s him she has the most against at the end of the day.”
“I’m thinking of getting a partner in for your backup,” Jake said seriously.
Dale considered the situation as it stood. They were a two-minute walk to the plane. Jake’s pilot flew the damn thing. All he had to do was get out of LA in one piece.
“I’m not seeing I need anything. Easier for me to get her home with as little fuss as possible.”
“Your call, Dale,” Jake agreed. “Edward is your pilot and we have a newbie working next to him. Stephanie Kellen is new to us, but she’s trained and good at her job.”
So now all he had to do was kill a few hours until it was time to leave.
* * * * *
As soon as the plane door shut on them Dale finally released a noisy breath. That had to have been the longest two-minute walk of his life. He immediately called in a sit rep then checked the plane from one end to the other. Edward Martins was the pilot, an old friend of Jake’s and keeper of the Sanctuary jet, his copilot was Stephanie Kellen. Stephanie was eager to please and as soon as she saw Dale she was shaking his hand and talking. She hardly came up to his shoulder and her dark hair was pulled back from her face in a smooth twisted knot. She looked about eighteen but Dale was sure she couldn’t be that young.
Dale half listened as he cast a glance around the small cockpit and the solid interior of the plane. This wasn’t a cozy millionaire’s jet, this was black leather and dull steel and only had four seats. According to Jake it was in the middle of some kind of refit but Dale kind of liked it the way it was. Solid and unassuming. If a jet could be unassuming.
“So yell if you need anything,” Stephanie said. Dale looked back at her and realized she had stopped talking. “Just ask,” she added.
“I will, Stephanie, thank you.” She waited and he considered why she hadn’t moved off. “Welcome to Sanctuary,” he said.
She beamed at him then took her seat next to Edward. He’d obviously done the right thing. Dale buckled himself in opposite and as far away from the Senator’s wife as he could manage, and finally the jet left LA. The time in the air was going to be about six and half hours then they had one stop for fuel, although Dale didn’t know where. That was Edward’s job.
His charge had her nose in a book and he grabbed a file out of his flight bag. His next job was a babysitting gig for Albany PD starting at the end of January and he had brief details he could at least begin to learn. Barring disasters or emergencies he was a free man for most of January—his downtime. Not only that, but Joseph was also free. At the thought of Joseph, Dale was half hard. Jeez, every time he remembered the touch of the man, the sounds he made when they were making love, the scent of him…it was a surprise his dick wasn’t raw. He could get off on the memories of what had happened between them.
The mountain, waiting to go in and rescue Beckett, and Joseph unbuttoning his pants and pulling out his cock. The look on the SEAL’s face when he asked to suck Dale’s cock and that utter determination by Dale to get to Joseph first. Even if they hadn’t ended up connecting emotionally, they sure as hell connected physically. Expectation of what they would be doing when they met up had him hard. He could imagine pressing Joseph up against the wall and kissing him, enjoying that time of being in control before Joseph took over and pushed Dale to feel him for days.
They’d had one chance to kiss since they met. That was all. Less than ten minutes in a freaking janitor’s closet.
Dale closed his eyes and leaned back in his seat. He could picture Joseph clearly. Beautiful gray eyes and close-cut dark hair with a body to die for and crazy ninja skills. Dale had never imagined himself with another SEAL. Not that Dale was still a SEAL, but when he was going through BUD/S he certainly hadn’t lusted after any of his fellow sailors. Joseph was different, a warrior but without steel running through every pore of him. There were softer parts that Dale wanted to know more about. He must have fallen asleep from the overdose of sappiness because Edward shaking his shoulder and talking to him was a shock.
“We’re flying above storm clouds at the moment,” Stephanie confirmed. “Snow is heavy around Albany but Swithuns should be fine because it’s sheltered by the mountains. We’re landing to refuel in twenty. Want some coffee?” Coffee sounded like heaven and Dale took the insulated mug gratefully. Refueling meant they were more than halfway through the flight.
“The storm anything we should worry about? Do we need to change anything?” Like maybe landing somewhere hotter. Miami sounded nice. Although, of course, Miami didn’t have Joseph waiting for him. Restless, he left his seat and leaned against the frame of the cockpit.
“This is driving me freaking mad,” Edward muttered as he tapped one of the gauges then peered at it closely. “Stephanie, do me a favor and check the hydraulics on the right wing. Damn dial is stuck.” Edward sounded pissed. “I let people in my plane and they touch my stuff,” he grumped.
Stephanie gave another one of her wide grins and unbuckled herself. “He obviously hates when they mess with the interior.”
“Don’t need to touch mechanics to put in carpet,” Edward pointed out. Dale stood back as Stephanie went past and into the main cabin.
“They’re going to put in carpet?” Dale glanced back at the bare floor of the jet. The metal was familiar, a reminder of his BUD/S week when the only chance of sleep was during transport. Amazing what a pack and a rolled-up jacket could do for comfort on the floor of a truck or a warehouse.
Edward shrugged then huffed a laugh. “It’s for when we move kids. Opening up places on the West Coast means we have sometimes to move families. Not to mention the Canada safe house.”
Stephanie came back into the cabin and slid into her seat. She looked pale. Sick.
“You need to go and look,” she said carefully.
Edward frowned. “Why? What did they do? Jeez, how bad can it be?” She didn’t answer but there was something in her expression that had Dale following Edward to the uncovered wires over the right wing. Edward crouched down and peered into the hole.
“Fuck,” he cursed. Settling himself on his stomach, he shuffled forward to put his entire head down the hole. There was muttered cursing and then he slid back and up into a crouch. Gone was the laconic pilot and in his place was the ex-fighter pilot that had flown tours in Desert Storm. His expression was utterly focused and carved from stone.
“We need to call this in,” he said.
“What is it?” Dale asked immediately. Edward gestured for him to lie down as he had.
“Look at the rear of the panel with the K and 6 on it. Follow the wire back to the rear. You see the blinking?”
Dale looked closely. He wasn’t an expert in planes but he knew enough to see the wires and tubes for the hydraulics. Then he saw the blinking red light. He edged a little farther and the better view had him inhaling sharply. A timer. So small you could miss it. Wrapped to enough explosive that the jet wouldn’t stand a chance against the hole blown in its side. Letting out a curse, he pulled his cell from his pocket, which was awkward in this position, and snapped off a few shots of what he could see. The flash was bright and he hoped to hell the light was enough to help show decent photos so Jake could get a handle on this. Then he sat back upright.
“What do you know about explosives?” Dale asked Edward.
His expression remained impassive as he shook his head. “Nothing,” he said.
“Enough to get us all killed,” Stephanie said from the cockpit. Dale connected to comms and uploaded the photos and watched as they were sent slowly.
“Dale?” Jake answered immediately.
“A bomb, Jake. We have a bomb on the plane.”