On His Six by Patricia D. Eddy
Away from the Keyboard Collection
Release Date: October 09, 2018
Am I a good man? A monster? A hero?
Maybe I’m nothing. Maybe the biggest piece of me died the day I decided to live.
I gave up on redemption.
Until I found her. A light in all my darkness.
My little bird.
I don’t want to love her.
But maybe I have no choice.
One look, one touch, one taste, and I’m gone.
Lost in her light.
I’m broken in all the wrong places.
Wren sees my flaws and calls them beautiful.
Is that it?
In the end…are we all beautifully broken?
A woman sprints around the corner and crashes into me before I can get out of the way. Wrapping my arms around her as her legs buckle, I look into a pair of pale green eyes wild with panic. “Whoa. You okay?”
“Take a deep breath for me, sweetheart.” I don’t know where the term of endearment comes from, but she looks like she needs to hear it. “I won’t hurt you.”
She shoves against me with more strength than a little thing like her should have, and I release her, catching sight of the ropes of old burns winding around my right forearm. Yeah. No wonder she’s terrified. Sometimes I forget. Just for a minute. Most people don’t see anything but a monster when they look at me. Hell, that’s all I see half the time.
The woman flees without another word, leaving behind the subtle scent of honeysuckle. With a shake of my head, I take a seat in the little waiting area the receptionist directed me to.
Wiping my hands on my jeans, I try to talk myself into leaving. After we got out…I only saw Dax once in the hospital. I couldn’t face him. Kept tabs on him through West and a couple of the other SEALs who went back with me to obliterate Hell for good, but every time I tried to pick up the phone…I’d see him in his cell. Hear him screaming. Imagine what he went through after I escaped.
“You can go back now, Mr. McCabe,” the receptionist says with a bright smile and a gesture towards the hallway. “All the way down the hall to the last office on the right.”
My heartbeat thuds in my ears. I don’t know why the hell I’m here. Except…Dax is in every one of my nightmares, and I need to find a way to exorcise those demons for good. Or stop fighting.
Conversations float around me from some of the other offices, and three guys gather around a break area, falling silent and giving me hard stares as I pass.
At Dax’s door, I pause with my fist raised, ready to knock. He’s standing at the window, his back to me, sunlight cutting a slash across the far corner of the office and hitting his shoulder and left arm.
“You never were very good at taking hints,” he says, his voice devoid of all emotion. “Say your peace and get out.”
Stepping inside, I close the door behind me. “I deserve that.”
I’m not having this conversation with the man’s back, so I take two steps forward and reach for his arm. But Dax whirls around, grabs my hand, and twists, sending me to a knee. “You want to get your ass kicked? Happy to oblige.”
A hint of a southern accent colors his words, and I stare up at him in shock. Sweeping my other leg around, I catch him behind the ankles and send him to the ground with a loud oof. Once my hand’s free, I grab his arm again and haul him to his feet. “I’m not doing this with you, Dax. Not now, not ever.”
The door swings open with a loud bang, and a big, burly dude with a few strands of gray at his temples bursts in. “You okay, boss?”
“Fine. Ryker was just leaving, Ford.”
With a quick glance at Ford, I weigh the odds on taking him down. Fair. Not great. But if I run now, I’m not going to resolve a damn thing with the man I know better than anyone else in this world. “No. I’m not.” In my periphery, Ford takes a step closer, but I raise my hands in surrender. “I came here to apologize. Not fight. Five minutes. Give me five minutes, and you’ll never see me again.”
Dax rubs the back of his neck, eyes closed, and sighs.
“Please.” I’m close to begging, and the memories roughen my voice.
“Please. I’ve told you everything I know. I’m just a grunt. A mechanic. I follow orders. I was only on the chopper as a precaution,” Dax says as two men kick him and spit on him.
“Five minutes. Ford, shut the door.”
Once we’re alone again, I stare down at my best friend’s shoes. “I broke the only promise that mattered.”
“Yeah. You did. You deserted me.”
Despite knowing he’s right, I flinch at the words. “If I’d stuck to the plan, maybe…”
“If you’d stuck to the plan, maybe I’d know what my own fucking office looks like.” He takes off his tinted glasses and throws them down on the desk. “Maybe those bastards wouldn’t have held me down and blinded me with acid. Maybe you wouldn’t be so much of a coward that you can’t even look me in the eyes.”
I draw in a sharp breath, because…how the hell does he know?
“I can hear the echo of your voice off the floor, dumbass.”
Raising my head, I blow out a breath. “I’m sorry.”
“You should be.” He shoves his hands into his pockets, the movement highlighting the muscle he’s put on in the past six years. His hair’s longer. The black strands are tousled, partially covering the long, narrow scar across his forehead. “Why did you come? Why now?”
“A lot of things happened. Lucy couldn’t handle being married to a blind, scarred, ex-soldier suffering from PTSD and bolted. I lost my house, my in-laws, half my civvie friends… And the one person on earth who knew the shit I was going through wouldn’t return my calls.”
I wince and rub my hand over my scalp. My hair never grew back right after we got out of Hell, and I feel the half-dozen divots where our captors slammed my head into the edge of a table over and over again. “I had my own demons.”
“Like I didn’t know that. We were twenty feet from one another for fifteen fucking months, Ry. I heard every punch. Every scream. Every time they dragged you back to your cell barely alive. And we vowed to get out. Planned every single day we had the strength to speak. Every day we could move well enough to tap out cryptic messages during shift change. We were brothers. In all the ways that counted. And then—”
“You couldn’t walk,” I snap. “The infection in your calf? You were half-out of your mind with the fever, and we had—I had—one shot. One night without a moon. And how many times did they let us suffer when our wounds got infected? How was I supposed to know they were going to force a couple amoxicillin down your throat? I went through with the plan because I was fucking terrified I was going to lose you too!”
Dax’s silence threatens to choke me. Without the glasses, the shiny, mottled skin around his eyes is obvious. The deep azure irises have faded to a pale, arctic blue. I know he can’t see me, but his stare bores into me, as if he’s trying to figure out if I’m full of shit or regrets.
When he pinches the bridge of his nose, pain deepening the lines around his mouth, I take step closer. “For a year, I picked up the phone every damn day. Trying to find a way to tell you how sorry I was. And every day, I failed. I failed you in Hell. I failed all of them.”
“You didn’t fail me in Hell, Ry. You failed me after we got out. That’s when I needed you. Your five minutes are up. Go back to wherever the fuck you came from.”
If he’d shot me in the heart, I’d be in less pain than I am at this moment. But he’s right. And nothing will give us those six years back.
“If you ever need—”
He growls an oath and lunges for me, grabbing my arms hard enough to leave bruises. “Get gone. Now. Or I won’t be responsible for what happens next.”
When he releases me, I do the only thing I can. Double-time it out of the office and into the elevator.
Patricia D. Eddy lives in many worlds. Witches, vampires, and shifters inhabit one of them, military men and women fill another, with sexy Doms and strong subs carving out the final slice of her literary universe. She admits to twelve novels (though there are at least five unfinished drafts on her desk right now), all while working a full-time job, running half-marathons, and catering to the every whim of her three cats.
Despite this whirlwind, she still finds time to binge watch Doctor Who, all of the Netflix Marvel shows, and most recently, The Handmaid’s Tale. Oh, and she hopes to one day be able to say that she plays the guitar. Right now, she mostly tortures the strings until they make noise.
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