Copyright © 2016 by Lynda Aicher
Permission to reproduce text granted by Random House
Rain sputtered down in an annoying drizzle that collected on the windshield and blurred Tanner Dorsey’s view of the two-story Tudor. The urge to switch his wipers on, even for a single pass, was blocked by his trained instincts. Movement gave away position, and he wasn’t ready to be seen.
Nothing had changed, at least from the outside. The manicured lawn was green, the shrubs trimmed into neat containment. The olive-toned siding was accented by the red-brick entry and white trim that highlighted the distinctive narrow gables, thin windows, and timber framing. Its stark bareness stuck out beside the abundance of seasonal decorations littering the other houses. The blinds were drawn tight on the ground floor, lights extinguished, zero activity detected.
He inhaled, released it slowly, and clicked through the refuse clouding his thoughts. An easier task than sorting out the strangle of emotions he’d blocked since returning stateside. Eighteen months overseas, ten focused solely on the mission. Plenty of time for things to go to hell.
For him to fail on his duty to his brothers while serving his duty to his country.
The gray light camouflaged the time, trapping the world in a depressed state of uniformity. No brightness or shadows. Consistency at its worst, but it was preferable to the blistering blindness of the unrelenting sun.
Sweat clung to his nape and plastered his undershirt to his back, yet a shiver trembled down his spine. He suppressed it without thought. He was free to move here. Free to yell and scream . . . or cry. He wouldn’t, though. To crack was to fail when he couldn’t repack everything that had escaped.
The car engine ticked as it cooled, the cold creeping in the longer he sat there. His plane had landed that morning. He’d booked the first available flight out of San Diego once his debriefing was done, and his leave had officially begun. There’d been no question on where he’d spend his time off, and no guilt either. His family didn’t even know he was back on U.S. soil. He’d call his mother later. After this was done.
He needed his brothers now. Not his blood relations, but the ones who knew him better than he knew himself. The ones who’d become his family the second he’d stepped off the bus at Parris Island and placed his feet in the same yellow footprints that’d welcomed so many recruits.
But there was one brother who needed him more than anyone else—and Tanner needed him too.
He was a Navy brat by distinction of his father’s job, but he was a Marine by choice—one he’d never regretted. Not through almost twenty years of service. Not through all the wars, deployments, and missions. Not through the pain of battle and loss.
Not . . . until yesterday.
One message. That was it. One single text had sucked the breath from his lungs and almost dropped him to his knees.
He hadn’t read the rest of the updates until he’d begun waiting for his flight. Nine months that chronicled the status of the brother to his right and the one who was no longer to his left.
The ache in his throat swelled until he forced it back with a hard swallow. A few blinks and the burning sensation faded from his eyes. Another long exhale to the count of heartbeats. One, two, three, four.
He’d ended his information-gathering after that. Everything else that’d happened while he’d been in the dark could wait. The deluge of information was standard after returning from an extended special operations mission where a blackout of personal communication had been required. Almost a year without civilian contact of any kind. No emails or texts. No video messaging or calls. Care packages were a joke. Much like showers and clean clothes. All sacrifices he’d willingly given in the name of freedom.
There were many, many more who’d given everything.
He closed his eyes, flashes of faces racing past in a silent tribute to his fallen brothers. He’d had the misfortune—or fortune if one chose to look at it that way—of serving the majority of his military career during a period of war. Would he have changed his mind when he’d enlisted in the late nineties if he’d known what the next two decades would bring? Not a chance.
The memories weren’t all great. Many haunted him in his nightmares, both awake and asleep. But it was his life. One that’d given him purpose and inclusion, shaped and saved him in ways only other Marines understood.
He jerked the door open and exited the rental car in a single movement. He’d changed quickly when he’d stopped by his storage shed on base to grab his prepacked suitcase and his garment bag. He could buy anything he’d forgotten.
He yanked the flight bag out of the back, left the garment bag, and glanced up and down the street as he closed the hatch. Shoulders back, chin high, he strode to the green Tudor. He scanned the perimeter, checked between each house, eyed the windows. The street held a deserted feel that coincided with the midweek work schedule of most civilians. The dreary December weather didn’t help with the welcoming, either.
The rainy mist coated his leather jacket and spit at his face, but was easily ignored. This was nothing, and didn’t even register on his annoyance scale. His shoes were silent, his bag held at his side. His pulse quickened with each step closer to his destination. There was no valid reason for the anxiety stacking up within his chest. His extended absence wasn’t unexpected, nor would it be criticized. Yet the worry had built over each long hour it’d taken him to get to Portland.
He bounded up the short flight of stairs to the small stoop, familiarity settling in. He’d been here before, but it’d been a while since his last visit.
Obviously, too long.
He’d tried to prepare himself for what he’d find behind this door. Tried and failed. The complete lack of information from this source—the direct source—had chilled him more than the updates from Rig and Axel, fellow brothers, mutual friends, and business partners.
The door swung open before he was ready, the slow sweep tensing his muscles until they twisted in his abdomen. The revealed man was a thinned-down version of the brother he knew and loved. Hardened, too. A thick wall of distrust and defiance separated them, unseen but apparent in his closed expression and stiff hold.
Tanner didn’t speak, couldn’t around the hundred different thoughts congealing in a jagged knot in his throat. This move wasn’t his to make. Too much had changed. His coming here now—nine months too late—was the only thing he could do.
The gruff statement cleared a coating of doubt from the layers that’d stacked up in Tanner over the last day. Finn Kelley had morphed into another version of himself that Tanner both recognized and didn’t. But this tone, the seemingly flat statement was very Finn and held more emotion than any buoyant welcome could have.
Tanner nodded. “I am.”
He set his bag down and caught Finn in a hug a second later. Fuck. He closed his eyes, absorbed the contact and connection he’d schooled himself to forget while deployed. He had dozens of military brothers, men he still worked with. But this bond was deeper, longer, and more solid than any other he’d forged before or after.
Finn’s hold was tight, stronger than he’d expected. The intensity soaked through the cold that’d surrounded him for eighteen months. Finn’s frame was smaller; he was the thinnest he’d ever been. The differences flashed through Tanner’s mind in snippets that registered and fled: more bones than flesh, weight braced heavier on his right side.
Right behind them were the familiar notes that rang through the physical damage. Tanner nuzzled his neck and inhaled, reveling in the soap and man scent that was all Finn. The smooth brush of his shaved cheek, the regulation haircut that bristled against Tanner’s temple.
His heart swelled, ached with loss and regrets he couldn’t voice. But over it all was relief. That Finn was alive. That he was here to hold at all.
That Tanner could be here now when he should’ve been here months ago.
A thrilling series featuring rugged men who play hard for a living. When it comes to one another’s hearts, they never back
down—because behind closed doors, the games they play are very different.
“This is an emotion-packed, satisfying read.” – Publishers Weekly
“This story is heartbreaking, breathtaking, an emotional roller coaster. It made me laugh and cry, all within the same paragraph.” – 5 stars, Wicked Reads
“I just really, really loved the book. It was sexy and sweet while staying so incredibly emotional.”
– A+, Smitten With Reading
“If you like gay contemporary romance, army men, steamy hot sex and beautiful stories, you MUST read The Farther He Runs!” – 5 stars, The Book Adventures of Annelise Lestrange
“This is a much softer book than the previous one and I ached for Finn’s losses.”
– 4.25 stars, Prism Book Alliance
“The story is super-hot, with some mild Dom/sub play.” – 4.25 stars, Joyfully Jay
“This book was truly a love story first with a healthy dose of heat.” – 4 stars, Jezabell Girl
“I totally recommend this steaming hot, emotionally engrossing, and very memorable story featuring two men I’m not likely to forget any time soon.” – The Way She Reads
“The Farther He Runs is a story that is rich in character development, emotion, and plenty of steamy moments.” – 4 stars, Sharon the Librarian
“…if you like M/M romances, then this comes highly recommended.” - Ellesea Loves Reading
Book Three: The Farther He Runs
After years away from home, Tanner Dorsey is back and sorting through feelings that have him in a stranglehold. The hardened Marine will do anything for a fallen comrade, so when an accident leaves Finn Kelley fighting for his life, Tanner’s eager to be there for him. In fact, Tanner’s ready and willing to do anything Finn asks—especially if it means finally acting on the sexual tension that’s always kept him craving more.
Finn senses it too—when he brushes against Tanner’s stubbled jaw, when he inhales the scent of the T-shirt that clings to Tanner’s body like a second skin. Now that he’s more vulnerable than ever, Finn knows the time is right to take control, even if it means risking the heart and soul of their friendship. The bond they share goes beyond desire; it’s a bond of brotherhood, forged under conditions few could imagine. But once they cross that line, there will be no more secrets. No more boundaries. And no turning back.