Daylight Again (Hell or High Water, #3)
Before Prophet Drews can have a future, he must first put his past to rest.
Prophet Drews is a man on the edge, and he’s pulling Tom Boudreaux, his partner on the job and in real life, right over with him. When his old CO calls in a favor, Prophet asks Tom to join the off-the-grid rescue. But the mission raises all of Prophet’s old ghosts: CIA assassins, the terrorist Sadiq, and most importantly, John—traitor, former teammate, and Prophet’s first love.
To help bury those ghosts for good, Prophet and Tom gather the members of Prophet’s former SEAL team . . . and a spook named Cillian who’s been tailing Prophet for years. In the process, Prophet is forced to face his team’s shifting loyalties, ghosts who refuse to stay dead, and scariest of all, his own limitations.
With everyone’s lives in danger, Prophet and Tom must unravel a tangled knot of secrets, including their own. Prophet must decide how much to reveal to Tom, while Tom must decide how far he’s willing to go to help Prophet lay his ghosts to rest.
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The second his eyes opened in the dark, Prophet knew exactly what was happening.
As he watched, the darkness of his apartment coalesced into pure slabs of concrete. The windows and the bed and everything in the room disappeared until it was simply a cell. And he was locked inside.
The sheets were twisted. He was on his belly on the mattress, pinned. He knew his arms and legs were free, repeated that in his mind, but it didn’t matter. The flashback rolled through, capturing everything in its undertow.
He surrendered for the moment. There was no escaping it anyway, no matter how hard he fought.
“Fuck me,” he whispered, the words echoing off the walls.
He’d said exactly that when he’d woken in this cell almost eleven years ago and realized he’d been saved from a terrorist only to be immediately re-imprisoned by the CIA. He’d psyched himself up for struggling through another ring of hell. After all, the CIA hadn’t been his idea of the cavalry.
This particular flashback was one of the rarer ones, but it’d been threatening all goddamned day, the way it always did after seeing the eye doc. Prophet had hoped that working out harder than normal would bring on a more peaceful sleep, but apparently his demons decided to come out to play.
The same sick feeling rolled in his stomach now like it had then when he’d looked over his shoulder and blinked at the men in black BDUs standing over him. He’d been chained, facedown, to the cold concrete. He heard the hiss of the hose as they sprayed him with cold water, and even though he knew this reliving of what happened wasn’t real, his skin sparked with freezing spikes like fine needles.
But he’d been numb at that point too, refusing to believe that John was gone, that Hal was dead, that the entire mission was a total goatfuck. He also didn’t know anything about the other guys on his team, and he refused to ask, because asking equaled putting them in the crosshairs. Then again, no one was asking him anything yet anyway. They were just trying to break him down.
The smell of fear, anger, and despair mixed with sweat and blood was overwhelming. He ached in places he was always surprised could ache. The water rolled off his skin, soaked his BDU pants, and his dog tags dug into his chest, dragged on the concrete when he shifted his body.
When Prophet was first captured by Azar, the terrorist had taken the tags off. Someone from the CIA had gone to the painstaking trouble to find them and put them back on him.
It would be the last time he wore them.
Come on . . . wake up. This isn’t fucking real.
And yet, when he looked over his shoulder, he saw Lansing coming into the cell. Locking the door behind him. Reaching up to flick off the camera feed and the hallway lights. It was really quiet. Much quieter than it had been over the course of the last four days, and yes, Prophet had forced himself to keep count of minutes and hours so he could keep track of how long the CIA had kept him in this hellhole, how long it’d been since the Humvee John had been driving was hit. How long it’d been since Prophet had been forced to kill Hal so he—and all his specialized knowledge of triggers for nuclear bombs—didn’t fall into the terrorists’ hands.
“Where’s John?” Lansing asked him.
Prophet turned away, put his forehead on the floor, refusing to have another go-round at this. “I want a JAG.”
“You don’t get to make the demands.” Lansing was leaning over him, then kneeling, grinding Prophet’s own knees into the concrete floor. His ankles were already chained to the floor, spread so he couldn’t kill anyone with his legs.
As he worked Prophet’s tattered BDU pants down, Lansing sneered, “Did you and your lover plan this?”
It wasn’t anything Prophet hadn’t already heard over the last several days while in the CIA’s care—obviously Lansing thought he and John had something to do with Azar. Couple that with the fact that there were no bodies on the scene, not John’s or Azar’s or Hal’s, and Prophet—and John—looked guilty as fuck.
Azar was dead—that, Prophet could confirm without the shadow of a doubt. But John . . .
Prophet glanced over his shoulder. “I didn’t plan on getting captured. Personally, I think it was a setup,” he said casually. “How much did you know about the mission again?”
“You goddamned piece of shit,” Lansing snarled. Because this had been Lansing’s mission from start to finish.
Prophet hadn’t moved, wasn’t giving Lansing the satisfaction of fighting. When he heard Lansing pulling his own pants down, Prophet finally looked over his shoulder impassively. “You gonna be able to get it up?”
Lansing slammed his face to the concrete and took him. Prophet didn’t know how long it lasted. Lansing kept up a steady stream of threats as he violated him, telling Prophet all the ways he planned on screwing him.
“Anyone new in your life? Gone. I’ll hunt down your team members like dogs and kill them when I lay eyes on them if I find you’ve met with them. I’ll fuck with your family, with every new partner—on the job or off. You fucked with the most important job of my career, and you’ll pay until you bring me John.”
Prophet hadn’t given the bastard the opportunity to follow through on those threats, although Lansing managed to keep his hold over him anyway. Prophet shifted partners like the wind, kept contact with his teammates to a minimum . . . and there’d been no one new in his life beyond one-night stands. Until Tom. Now, on his bed, in his apartment, Prophet screwed his eyes shut and told himself that this wasn’t happening, that any minute now he’d be free.
That he’d never let Lansing near Tom.
At that thought, Prophet nearly hyperventilated. Cursed. Prayed.
And finally, Lansing pulled out without coming—and fuck, at least he’d worn a condom—and since Prophet refused to speak or fight back, and since Lansing hadn’t been able to come, Prophet felt like he was in the lead, but he hadn’t exactly gotten in the last word. Because Lansing had still fucking violated him.
Until Prophet almost killed him several hours later during the interrogation, and that had been caught on video, then circulated through the CIA offices making Prophet infamous . . . and making it impossible for Lansing to kill him off once and for all.
That video made Prophet a wanted man—and in CIA-speak, wanted equaled highly desired operative.
And Prophet had never said anything to anyone about what Lansing had done to him in that cell. But it was always there, between them. Because to Lansing, what Prophet had done to him in that interrogation room was far worse, and fuck, Prophet could live with that.
Or at least he convinced himself he could, until nights like this.
Once Lansing’s weight was off him, it was only a matter of time before Prophet could talk himself out of the flashback. Come on, Prophet . . . not real . . . open your fucking eyes and look around . . .
Open your eyes and look around while you still can. Because when you can’t . . .
“Asshole,” he cursed himself. He forced his head up, blinked, waited until the cell turned back into his room. He moved his arms. Sat up. He was in sweats, not tattered BDU pants. No tags around his neck, and he was shivering violently. He went to grab a blanket from the end of the bed and saw the figure sitting on the windowsill, staring out into the darkness.
It was the flashback that kept on giving. “Get the fuck out of here,” Prophet growled.
“I’m not the one who keeps bringing me here, Proph,” John said.
John Morse, his best friend, first love, SEAL teammate. The man he’d been captured with. The man supposedly shot by a terrorist because Prophet wouldn’t answer questions. The man who now may or may not be the leader of a terrorist cell himself.
The man whose disappearance was responsible for changing the course of Prophet’s life, for better or worse.
A man who Prophet couldn’t help but believe was alive, until he was shown hard proof otherwise. So far, he’d seen nothing but John’s ghost visiting him, which only proved that he had PTSD, not that John was dead.
But fuck, the guy seemed as real as Prophet. Dressed in desert BDUs, like he’d been the last time Prophet had seen him. Tanned. Pensive. Staring at Prophet.
“You keep bringing me here.”
“Fuck that. Maybe I need to perform an exorcism.”
“That’s not going to help you.”
Prophet sighed tiredly. “What is, genius?”
“Walking away. Letting it go,” John told him. “This is going to kill you.”
Prophet turned his back on John. “So let it.”
“Fucking stubborn. It’s too late for me. It’s not for you. Don’t, Proph. Just . . . for what we had. Don’t.”
Prophet turned around, prepared to throw the first thing he picked up at the apparition, then realized he was alone.
You were always alone. As he heard the open and close of a window, he rubbed his eyes like they were fully responsible for the hallucination.
When he stared where John had been sitting, he also heard the jangle of a doorknob, a sound so low and yet magnified to an unholy echo in his mind, that it took him several seconds to realize the room wasn’t turning into a cell again.
He sat there, trying to pick apart the sounds . . . one coming from outside the bedroom window, the other coming from inside the apartment, the creak of a door, the slam of something outside the window . . .
He swore and got out of bed. Ran his hands along his bookcase and his dresser, reassuring himself that this was his room. He turned and looked out the window.
No sign of John. And still, he was shaking.
Something was going to happen. Ever since Tommy came into his life, bearing that video of him and Lansing—a harbinger—he’d known.
Again, he heard a jangle. Maybe he was on high alert from the flashback, but he didn’t think so—if someone was actually there, they’d purposely bypassed the motion sensors. He was up and moving toward the door, but he was still shaky, like he was swimming through molasses.
When he got to the entranceway, he was thrown off-balance, tackled, but caught before being slammed to the floor and rolled so he landed on . . .
Tommy, who rolled him again fast, pinning Prophet underneath him, grabbing Prophet’s wrists and holding them on the ground above his head. Tommy, who kissed him before he could curse or think, an all-consuming, punishing grind of a kiss that promised Prophet exactly the fuck he was in for.
God, he liked those kinds of promises. Needed Tommy to hold him down and make things okay, because he would. But he didn’t stop struggling though, because hell, he wasn’t going to lose his touch, wouldn’t make it easy on the fucker who’d decided to go Houdini and bypass all the security cams, just because.
But even as he surged up, Tom dug in, using his body’s position to hold Prophet to the ground, his knees pressing Prophet’s thighs together.
“You’re going to want me to open my legs,” Prophet murmured against his cheek once Tom broke the kiss and was concentrating on biting Prophet’s earlobe.
“And you’ll do it for me,” Tom drawled, his breath warm against Prophet’s cheek, his hips a slow, steady rock, forcing their clothed cocks to rub together. “Jesus, that’s good.”
“Fucker,” Prophet grunted, Tom’s heavy weight grounding him. “You’ve been practicing.”
“Practicing fighting you or fucking you?” Tom held Prophet’s wrists immobile with one hand and reached to pull his sweats down with the other.
“You tell me.” But Tom had always been good at both the fucking and the fighting. The things Prophet wanted to teach him were beyond that.
Tom’s sweeping gaze was predatory at best, and Prophet shuddered under its intensity. “Well, since you’re already the one pinned, we’ve got that covered. And since your pants are down . . .” Tom’s hand slid along Prophet’s inner thigh, hot and demanding, pressing a knuckle against his hole, and he fought a groan. “Yeah. It’s going to be my cock soon enough.”
Prophet’s legs opened wider, pushing against the barrier of Tom’s legs.
“Yeah, that’s right . . . let me in,” Tom urged, and Prophet wanted to tell him to fuck off, but he couldn’t. Not when Tom entered him with a finger. A few twists to open him, coupled with several swipes of his prostate, and Prophet was pushing his hips up to meet Tom’s motions. “Good. That’s what I want to see.”
“Fuck your good,” Prophet growled, but his voice was too raw and gave away exactly what he was feeling.
Tom added another finger, turned them until Prophet groaned his surrender. The sensation of Tom’s fingertips brushing his gland made him shudder. He kept his hands above his head, didn’t try to break Tom’s grip. He’d have rug burn on his ass by the end of this, and he didn’t care. Tom was here. Home. Safe.
Now, so was he.
“Go ahead—ride them,” Tom encouraged, and Prophet rocked his hips in time with the rhythm, letting Tommy fill him, tease him, and generally drive him fucking nuts.
Tom practically crooned, “So good when you obey and take what I give you. Going to bite you, fuck you. Make you scream my name, for starters. Gonna make you forget everything but me . . . so much I want to do to you.”
“Yeah, do it,” Prophet panted before he could stop himself. “Please, Tommy . . . need this. You don’t understand . . .”
But even if Tom couldn’t understand the why, he did understand. He bit Prophet’s shoulder, then pushed up and eased down his own jeans, kicking them off. He’d taken his boots off before he’d rolled Prophet, which meant Tom’d definitely planned this.
If he’d come in earlier, when Prophet couldn’t get out of the flashback . . .
Tom bit his nipple and he jumped. Tom’s version of an order to stay with him. One that Prophet was more than glad to obey. He glanced at the barbell piercings laddering up Tom’s cock—more impressive when Tom was as hard as he was now. Prophet wrapped a leg around Tom’s calf as Tom eased his thighs wider, ready to make Tom fuck him now.
“Oh, you’re not taking control,” Tom told him. Before Prophet could respond, Tom rolled him half onto his side, while he remained behind Prophet’s ass, propping one of Prophet’s thighs onto his, preparing to enter him while Prophet grabbed uselessly at the rug. “Don’t you come yet.”
It took everything he had not to when the hard and fast slide of Tom’s cock took his breath away, and when Tom jerked against his prostate, he gladly lost the battle, shooting all over his belly and chest, groaning, contracting around Tom’s cock. Then Tom was cursing, and Prophet knew he was struggling not to come too.
Tom slapped his ass hard. Twice.
“Couldn’t help it,” Prophet groaned, his cheek rubbing against the rug. “And I’ll do it again. If you’d hurry.”
“Asshole. Jerked off . . . twice . . . on the flight . . . so I could do this,” Tom managed finally.
“You lubed up before you came in here?” Tom was throbbing inside of him as his own cock stayed half-hard.
“I’m a good planner.” Tom rocked his hips against Prophet, his balls touching Prophet’s ass. Prophet ground against him, like he could get the man deeper, but Tom chuckled and pulled back, obviously planning a hot, slow ride.
All of Tommy’s focus was on him. His hands alternately held Prophet down and then caressed his skin, then held him down again. The touches were proprietary. Possessive. They’d leave some marks. That was usually Tom’s kink, but right about now, Prophet was understanding the benefits of feeling Tom long after they were finished with their grind.
This was part recoupling, part reassurance that time apart didn’t lessen anything between them. Tom reasserting that he wasn’t going anywhere . . . and Prophet accepting it. His fingers wound into the plush carpet, his breathing harsh, his cock impossibly hard even though he didn’t think he’d come again soon.
His balls obviously didn’t get the message. They tightened against his body, and Tom reached his hand around, rubbing his palm against the cum on Prophet’s stomach, using it to jack Prophet’s cock slowly, so goddamned frustratingly slowly. Prophet watched the head of his cock disappear into Tom’s broad, tanned hand as his body threatened to jackknife and spill.
He forced himself under control, needing this to last. Giving himself over, letting Tom take what he wanted . . . this was the kind of helplessness Prophet wanted to handle. Tom was ramrod hard inside of him, his strokes powerful, and Prophet’s whole body throbbed.
“Jesus . . . Tom . . . this is reallyfuckinggood,” Prophet breathed in a rush of words.
“Really fucking good, baby,” Tom echoed, smiling, the way he always did when Prophet was losing control.
Prophet had lost it a long goddamned time ago when it came to Tom, but he’d be damned if he’d admit it. Out loud.
“Tommy . . .”
And then Tom murmured, “Lije,” in his ear, his voice raspy and desperate, and Prophet shuddered, suddenly as desperate as Tom sounded.
Of course, Tom noticed. And that’s when he began fucking Prophet in earnest, saying his name like a cross between a chant and a prayer, and Prophet was damned sure no one had made it sound better. No one had ever shortened it like that, but back in New Orleans, Tom had taken it and made it his own, using it every time they fucked. Like he was proving he knew Prophet, reminding Prophet that he’d let Tom in and there was no backing out now.
Prophet couldn’t say anything. It wasn’t for lack of trying, but anything that came out was pretty fucking incomprehensible. He was a ball of sensation, his entire being focused on being impaled by Tommy, owned by him for these moments. He was on his side, with Tom between his legs, bending one of Prophet’s legs forward against his belly, which let him drive his cock deeper . . . without Prophet being able to do a damned thing about it. One of his arms was half-trapped under his own body, the other trying to gain some purchase, but he gave up and let his face push against the rug as Tom just completely claimed him.
“Tommy!” he cried out as his orgasm rushed through him with an intensity he hadn’t expected so soon on the heels of his first climax. It nearly paralyzed him for several seconds, his muscles stiffening as he jerked helplessly on Tom’s cock.
“Lije . . . yeah, that’s it, baby . . . God, fuck . . .” And then Tom came, spurred on by Prophet’s climax, dragged along for the ride. Prophet could feel him pulsing through the condom.
They had to get rid of those, and soon. Soon.
He made a mental note to tell that to Tom as the man half collapsed on him for a few moments. He reached up, ran a hand through Tom’s sweat-soaked hair, yanking him down hard for a kiss. Tom’s tongue claimed his mouth, his way of telling Prophet that it wasn’t over, not until Tom said so.
And no, he wasn’t stopping. The rest of it was a blur, with Tom pulling out, turning Prophet onto his back, taking his time licking, sucking, not leaving any of Prophet’s skin untouched. And Prophet was patient enough to allow it, the haze of orgasms softening him for the moment.
That didn’t mean he wouldn’t come again. Which he did, a hot, nearly dry orgasm with his cock in Tommy’s mouth. That one pushed him over the edge, left him a strung-out, groaning mess, so full of sensation he didn’t know what the hell to do. So he lay there, spread out on the rug like a sacrifice, everything forgotten except Tom.
Tom’s body was finally sated and decidedly lazy as he stared up at Prophet from between his legs. “Didn’t you jerk off while I was gone?”
Prophet’s laugh was a low rumble of contentedness, his gray eyes closer to blue than their usual storm-colored slate. “Twice a day, yeah.”
“Still a teenager in so many ways.”
“Got that right, old man.”
He climbed up Prophet’s body and pinned him again, with Proph offering zero resistance. “Keep pushing. You won’t have a voice left.”
Prophet laughed weakly. “I’ll risk it.” He looked so comfortable, boneless, Tom knew that unless he carried Prophet to bed, they were sleeping right here where he’d brought Prophet down with his tackle.
They played this game every time he came back after being away or working a lot. It’d started out as a joke, then a bet, and finally, a source of pride for Tom.
Prophet had been shaking when Tom tackled him, but he knew Prophet wouldn’t admit he’d recently had a flashback. Tom wouldn’t push him, but he’d witnessed them enough. But if he’d stopped to coddle the man? Yeah, he would’ve had his ass handed to him, and not in a good way.
He reached up and grabbed the blanket off the couch. And a pillow. They shared it, curling on the carpet in the dark.
Tom’d only been gone for two weeks, but that was the longest he’d been away from Prophet since New Orleans. If there was other news, something that’d triggered Prophet’s flashback, Tom didn’t want to know tonight. “We gonna stay down here all night?”
“Says the man who fucking rolled me in my own doorway.”
“You said to make myself at home.”
Prophet snorted, but ran a hand through Tom’s hair at the same time. Four months out of the bayou, four months of Tom living with Prophet, but neither of them said anything about making it a permanent thing. Tom had gotten kicked out of his place unexpectedly, Prophet had taken him to his place, and that was the end of the discussion.
Four days after he’d moved in, Tom had left for an EE mission. He’d come back to find that Prophet had unpacked his sad twelve or so boxes, his stuff intermingled with Prophet’s.
The sudden ease with which it had been done had hit him harder than he’d thought possible. Prophet put up a hell of a fight, but when he surrendered it was so completely, unmistakably beautiful. Actions spoke louder than anything Prophet could ever say. Even though both of them knew it was simply the calm before the inevitable storm their lives would become—could become, at any moment—they had an unspoken agreement to make the most of this normalcy. Probably the closest either of them’d ever had, Tom figured. And while it made each of them slightly antsy in their own way, for the most part it worked, and it worked well.
Prophet turned on his side to stare at Tom. “I like the nickname.”
Tom had noticed, but it was the first time Prophet’d actually brought it up. He’d learned Prophet’s real name months ago, but didn’t use it outside of sex. He kissed Prophet’s collarbone, then flicked his gaze up to Prophet’s eyes. “It’s not as simple as Elijah is a Prophet. You get those same feelings I do. You predict shit.”
“Not like you, Tommy. Just seems that way. I notice things before other people, so it just looks all spooky and voodoo-like.”
Tom brushed his knuckles over Prophet’s cheek. “I like it. Suits you.”
Prophet’s face flushed. No smart-assed answer came back. Just a hint of an almost-shy smile and a change of subject. “Your trip okay?”
“Until the blizzard.”
“A dusting,” Prophet scoffed.
“It’s a foot at least.”
“I’ve offered to build a swamp out back to make you feel more at home.”
Winter in upstate New York had been brutal so far. After four days’ delay and rerouting, he was finally home. And no place had felt like an actual home to him in a really long time. “Already there,” he told Prophet.
“Did you do your paperwork?”
“Cope told me he’d file it.”
Prophet tucked an arm behind his head. “Impatient?”
“If you’re just figuring that out . . .”
Cope had clapped him on the shoulder when they’d touched down, telling him, “Go on, get out of here. Loreth’s picking me up later on, so I’ll do the debriefing with Phil.”
Tom had accepted that offer, mainly because the mission had been a simple one, as the last three had been. Short-term bodyguarding assignments of high-profile executives, completely routine, not an ounce of trouble, unless he counted the executive’s mistress showing up when the executive was hooking up with a new chick.
After he and Cope defused the situation, the executive had ended up having a threesome with the two chicks.
Now, Prophet stretched, and Tom traced his ribs with a finger. He was leaner than Tom had seen in a while—he’d upped his workouts like he was a prizefighter in training. Since John Morse was involved, Tom supposed it was the same thing. It’s why he was also training every chance he got.
Prophet wasn’t dealing with this alone.
“It’s not the same without you at EE. Everyone says so.” Tom hadn’t been sure he’d wanted to bring this up at all, but since he’d gone there. . . “He wants you back there.”
“Don’t play dumb. You know I’m talking about Phil.”
Prophet frowned. “I don’t want to think about any Marines during my afterglow.”
“Come on . . . let’s go to bed.” Tom half dragged Prophet up, luring him to the bedroom with promises of more orgasms. Of course, Prophet fell asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow. Tom went to grab something to eat and came back to bed with a turkey sandwich and chips. He put the plate on the night table, and his eye caught on a shadow in the corner of the room by the window. He moved toward it, bent down, and scooped up some sand.
He held it in his palm, remembering he’d seen sand around the box Prophet kept on his dresser. Maybe Proph had been going through some things. He stood, went to the box, and gently brushed the sand from his palm back to its rightful place.
Prophet grabbed his phone after a single ring. He’d been buried under Tom, who now shifted and muttered but didn’t fully wake up. Prophet had gotten used to these middle-of-the-night calls, usually from Mal or King, passing along intel or checking in.
But it was Zack, his first CO, who launched right in after Prophet’s “What’s up?”
“I need your help, Proph. Dean’s in trouble.”
Prophet stared out the window in the dark. Fat snowflakes drifted by, the pavement below already coated and quiet, and Tom’s breath was warm against his chest. This was real. “Tell me everything.”
LT did. And after he’d laid out the problem, Prophet said, “I’ll be there in twenty-four hours.”
After he hung up, he lay in the dark for a few minutes.
He’d dreamed about LT two nights ago. And a couple of times last week. He’d told himself it was because he was talking to his old team constantly these days, instead of just quick checking-in texts, because they were getting too close to an old wound that had never been allowed to heal.
But something about spending time with Tommy—and his voodoo shit—made Prophet realize that his own instincts had strengthened over the past year. And sometimes, things in Prophet’s life came up that coincided so goddamned eerily that he was sure someone up above was fucking with him.
He’d also started noticing how much past he had—and was learning that unpacking it was the only way to have some peace. So he’d started by letting Tom in. Part of that was the physical unpacking of the boxes Tom’d been dragging around with him—forcing him to settle. Because Prophet wasn’t the only one with commitment issues.
Still, unpacking Tom had been more for Tom than for him, because in Prophet’s eyes, the man had already moved in everywhere: Prophet’s place. His room. His heart. And Prophet knew when it was time to give up the ghost. It was too late to save himself.
For Tom’s bodyguarding, missions, they’d settled into a routine. Tom would get called in with Cope and he’d go; Prophet would threaten Cope with severe bodily harm if anything happened to Tom; Cope would tell him to fuck off; and then to deal with Tommy being gone, Prophet would throw himself into the planning of the biggest mission of his life. Because the trap was elaborate, and Prophet needed to ensure that it was far sturdier than the house of cards it appeared to be.
At one point, Tom came back with another tattoo hidden under the bracelet he’d worn since his and Prophet’s first mission together. A tattoo that was almost an exact replica of the bracelet.
“So no one can take it off me again,” he’d said in response to Prophet’s unasked question. Because when Tom had been jailed in New Orleans, he’d been forced to take it off, and he’d then waited until Prophet could put it back on him.
The superstitious voodoo bastard.
But Prophet had to admit it made him smile when Tom wasn’t looking. And once he’d discovered it, he’d taken the time to trace it with his tongue and nip it with his teeth, marking Tom hard, wanting to give tangible proof to his feelings.
When Tom found out about the other shit—his eyes, everything else he was hiding—he might run, but Prophet resigned himself to the fact that his heart could get ripped out. Again. And it would be worse this time. Way worse, because Prophet knew more, felt more, loved harder.
Tom heard the change of cadence in Prophet’s voice immediately. Even half-asleep, he knew the difference between usual news received and trouble—and Prophet’s tone meant the latter.
He slid out of bed, headed toward the living room where Prophet was sitting on the windowsill, staring out, unmoving. He didn’t glance in Tom’s direction, but there’s no way he didn’t know Tom was there.
Instead of attempting to figure anything out, he went to the kitchen to put on coffee. Because they’d need it. And he’d just poured the mugs and put the eight tons of sugar and lots of milk into Prophet’s coffee, when Prophet came up next to him. As he reached for the mug, he put his cheek against Tom’s bare shoulder, rubbed his scratchy stubble against Tom’s skin. He did that often, in different spots, with his cheek or with a bite, all of it marking Tom. Tom didn’t think Proph even knew he was doing it.
He took a sip of his own coffee, penned in against the counter by Prophet’s body, his chest pressing against Tom’s back. Over the past several weeks, he’d gotten very little sleep, but he was on full alert now.
Prophet finally said, “I’ve got to go to Djibouti.”
“That’s a requirement now?”
Prophet snorted, then moved away so Tom could turn and face him.
“No. It’s a favor for my old CO. His brother, also a former SEAL, has been living and working there for years. And he’s been kidnapped. LT’s already on his way with the ransom.” He paused, then added, “And no, this isn’t John-related.”
“LT retired before that last mission. Dean was out before John and I enlisted.” Prophet’s phone gave the distinctive beep of a text message. He punched a few keys, then looked up at Tom. “Will you come with me?”
The man was so serious, like he thought Tom would actually think about saying no. Like Tom wouldn’t have insisted on going, whether invited or not.
But being asked like this? It was fucking everything. “When do we leave?”
Prophet gave a small smile, almost shy, before he ducked his head to text more. “Two hours.”
“If this was about John, the answer would’ve been the same.”
The coffee had cooled enough for Tom to finish his mug in several quick gulps before pouring another mug. “I’m going to grab a quick shower.”
“I’ll join you. But check in with Phil first, yeah?” Proph didn’t look up from his phone.
“Yeah. All right to mention this?”
Prophet glanced up at him. “Phil knows the guy. So yeah.”
“Won’t he wonder why LT didn’t call him instead?”
Prophet glanced up at him steadily. “No.”
Okay then. Tom went to the hallway to retrieve his bag from where he’d thrown it earlier before he’d tackled Prophet. As he waited for Phil to answer, he picked up the blanket and pillows from the floor, put them on the couch, then carried his bag to the bedroom to switch out clothes.
“Go,” Phil barked. His usual greeting. Granted, at five in the morning it was rougher than normal.
“It’s Tom. I’m going out of town with Prophet for a job.”
There was a long pause. “Who’s in trouble?”
“Some guy named Dean, brother of Proph’s old CO?”
Phil muttered several strings of curses, then ordered, “Talk him out of going.”
Wow, no love lost there. “Seriously, Phil?”
“Do I sound like I’m joking? You have influence over him. Use it.”
For a brief second, Tom understood how bulls must feel when a cape was dangled in front of them—a flash of red clouded his vision, and he wanted to smash the phone against the wall. He took a deep breath and told Phil through clenched teeth, “We’re going.”
Phil cursed. “At least make sure LT doesn’t ask Prophet for anything more after you get Dean out. You think you can do that much for him, Tom?”
Phil hung up then, obviously not requiring an answer, which was good, because he wouldn’t have liked what Tom wanted to say. Phil, like Prophet, expected Tom to follow orders without question, and even though Phil had asked Tom to bring Prophet back into the fold, he still kept Prophet’s secrets close to his vest.
Prophet had quit EE nearly nine months earlier, and from the looks of things, he had no intention of going back. No matter how badly Phil wanted him to. And Tom had only agreed to remain working at EE in order to get more training, so he’d be a better partner to Prophet, no matter what they decided to do, work-wise, once all this John crap was finished.
Whether Prophet’s quitting EE was for better or for worse remained to be seen, but Tom never worried about stuff like that. The specifics didn’t matter—following the path was what did. Everything that happened was part of his life with Prophet—a path, the next step. Tom refused to miss a moment of it.
At this point, Tom’s return to EE after all was said and done was probably on shaky ground as well.
He moved into the shower, the water cool to fully wake him up. Whatever was happening with Mal and Cillian on the John Morse front was being handled well enough that LT’s brother could take precedence for the moment.
At times, it almost hurt to watch Prophet’s loyalty in action. Obviously, Phil thought so too.
A few minutes later, Prophet slipped into the large, glass-door–enclosed shower. He was already in planning mode, Tom could see, because he absently grabbed for the soap and missed. Three times. And then started rubbing his chest with his hand, until Tom moved his hand, made the water warmer, and soaped him up.
This—the showering together, the taking care of Prophet when his head was someplace else—was familiar. Routine. Tom liked to think of the shower as his way of bringing Prophet back down to earth. And when he was like this, Tom didn’t treat him gently—the way he rubbed Prophet down with the soap was brisk, a different kind of foreplay. And even though Tom understood how Prophet got when he was planning, the subtle pullback still brought him back to the time when Prophet hadn’t let him in.
“Phil’s good with me taking the time,” Tom semi-lied as he rinsed Prophet’s hair.
Prophet snorted. “He wants you to tail me, get me the fuck away from LT as fast as possible, and talk me into going back.” Prophet opened his eyes. “And no, I didn’t spy on you. But come on, it didn’t take much to figure out. Especially when your jobs are so short and easy.”
Tom bristled. “Easy?”
“It’s not like you’re fighting your way through an international incident,” Prophet pointed out. “You haven’t even been able to use a flashbang or a grenade. It’s not a mission until that happens.”
And yes, Prophet was still an asshole. It was almost comforting.
Almost. “So don’t fucking bring me then. Unless I’m just coming to carry your bags.”
“Is that all you can do?”
Tom sighed. “You’re deliberately pushing my buttons. Any particular reason?”
“Yes.” A warm, flat palm landed on Tom’s chest. “Just fucking accept it, Tommy.”
“That you’re a dick before a mission?”
“Yeah.” Prophet’s eyes flashed, a warning signal that Tom had seen before.
Dealing with Prophet wasn’t entirely unlike dealing with a live grenade or a Claymore mine. You had to know when to ease off the pressure and when to stay firmly planted and unmoving so you didn’t die in the explosion.
Then again, Tom supposed that Prophet would say that dealing with Tom wasn’t all that different. “That’s good. I wouldn’t recognize you otherwise.”
Prophet snorted and just like that, they were on an even keel again.
Word Count: 63,800
Page Count: 272
Cover By: L.C. Chase
Series: Hell or High Water
Release Date: 05/03/2014
Release Date: 05/05/2014