Hired to investigate the denial of a Marine the Medal of Honor, Kellan Reynolds and Jonah Carver try to untangle a web of lies, deceipt, and heroism.
Two years after the events of Brothers In Arms, Kellan Reynolds and First Sergeant Jonah Carver are struggling with their bi-coastal relationship. Following the events in Iraq, Kellan's expertise in national security is well established and he is hired to investigate the suspicious repeated denial of a KIA Marine the Medal of Honor. Kellan brings Jonah onto his staff and into his home, but just as their relationship settles into a routine, their investigation heats up. What begins at the Pentagon, leads to Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan, and an ambush that threatens to destroy everything they've built.
Kellan climbed out of the Town Car and glanced around at the hotel. It was finished and landscaped like an old Spanish villa, very much in keeping with the flavor of Santa Barbara. Blossoming trees and shrubbery were in abundance all around the property. Colorful flowers were woven into trellises and iron work. Kellan inhaled deeply, his body and mind immediately recognizing the moist, salty scent of the ocean. The sun was warm on his face, the heat mitigated by the cool breeze.
It had never quite felt like home, but some of Kellan's most formative years had taken place in Southern California. Much of the training and the learning he'd done that had made him an officer, a leader and a man, had taken place on, or often right in, the Pacific Ocean. Those memories tightened Kellan's chest.
He shook himself from his reverie when a bellhop came forward, pushing a luggage cart to assist the driver with retrieving Kellan's luggage from the trunk.
"Good afternoon, sir," the handsome, tanned young man greeted him. "Checking in?"
"Yes, I am," Kellan replied, slinging the strap of his laptop case over his shoulder.
"Welcome to the Hacienda Garden Inn." The young man had a gorgeous smile.
"Thank you," Kellan replied distractedly as he tipped the car driver. He'd pre-paid for the transport when he'd booked it.
"Are you staying with us long?" The bellhop pushed the cart holding Kellan's single, large suitcase toward the hotel entrance.
"Five days." That was all the leave Jonah could get, for operational reasons.
"Business or pleasure?" The young man continued with the typical polite small talk.
"A little of both," answered Kellan. "I'm participating in a symposium at UCLA and touring some of the local Navy bases. Afterward, I'm taking a few days to relax."
"Is this your first time in California?" They crossed the lobby toward the registration desk.
"No. I was stationed at Camp Pendleton for four years." Kellan withdrew his wallet from his laptop case.
"You're a civilian now? Where did you fly in from?" The young man's interest seemed genuine.
"Yes, I'm a civilian working in D.C. now." The small pang of loss surprised him, even after all these years. Once a Marine, always a Marine.
"Well, welcome back, sir." The bellhop gestured toward the registration desk. "They'll get you checked in right over there. I'll wait here to take you up once you have your keys."
"Thank you." Kellan gave the man a small smile. He didn't need help with one fucking suitcase. But like Jonah kept telling him, he had an influential job now and should act like the VIP he was becoming.
The young woman at the registration desk was quick and efficient. She gave him a fast run down of the hotel amenities before sliding two key cards into a paper sleeve and pushing them across the counter toward Kellan.
"Enjoy your stay, Mr. Reynolds, and please don't hesitate to let us know if we can help you with anything." She was perfectly professional but her demeanor still held a note of flirtation.
Kellan tipped the bellhop well before closing the door behind him. The young man was very solicitous and seemed eager to please. It wasn't his fault Kellan desperately wanted to be alone so that he could make a phone call.
"Are you all checked in?" Jonah asked in greeting.
"Checked in and waiting for you," Kellan replied, starting to unpack for his stay. He gave Jonah his room number and brief directions to the room, once he arrived at the hotel.
"I'm nearly there," said Jonah. "I still say I should have picked you up at the airport."
"You know how unpredictable L.A. traffic is," Kellan reminded him. "I didn't want us to be stressed out over me having to cool my heels at the airport if you got delayed."
"I wouldn't have let that happen," Jonah said firmly, and Kellan could almost believe he had control of Los Angeles freeways.
"I'll see you when you get here," Kellan said with a chuckle and they ended the call. His heart raced and his stomach knotted pleasantly.
Kellan turned on the television for the background noise and finished hanging his clothes. When he'd laid out his toiletries in the luxurious bathroom, complete with garden tub, Kellan checked his email on his phone. There was nothing that required his immediate attention, since the workday on the East Coast was over.
He smiled to himself as he admired the fireplace in the small sitting area. Kellan pushed open the French doors onto the private balcony that overlooked the swimming pool and tiled fire pit. With the exception of the symposium and base tours, he didn't expect they would be leaving the room very often in the next five days.
Especially once Jonah got a look at the four-poster Queen Anne bed that was the centerpiece of the gorgeous room.
A loud knock sounded at the door and Kellan's heart crashed against his ribs several times before he got himself back under control.
He pulled the balcony doors closed behind himself, fumbled with the TV remote, and nearly crossed the room at a run. Kellan tugged the door open and stood frozen. It had been six months since he'd seen Jonah. Six months since Jonah's TAD had been terminated and he'd been ordered to return to 1st Recon at Camp Pendleton. Six months had passed since Kellan had been able to feel Jonah's skin, smell his scent, and make love with him.