Authors: Megan O'Brien
THE TALON SECURITY SERIES
Copyright © 2016 Megan O’Brien
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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y pencil flew over the blank paper as the words stitched themselves together into the elusive chorus I’d been chasing for days. I plucked at my guitar strings, humming the melody I hoped would work with the words I’d written.
The dull ache in my neck and back bordered on pain and I forced myself up and into a stretch. I’d been at it for hours. Why my creativity only ever seemed to flow while I sat on the floor was beyond me.
“Sam!” my roommate Caden hollered from the other room. “Are we out of peanut butter?”
I laughed, shaking my head. Caden was like a big kid most of the time. He was also one of my closest friends.
I wandered out to the kitchen, finding him searching through our pantry as though he could conjure a meal if he studied the bare shelves hard enough. “No need to ‘Samantha’ me.” I rolled my eyes.
He only pulled out my full name when he was desperate. And Caden really only got desperate about one thing: food.
“If you finished it and put an empty container back in the pantry, then yes, we’re out of peanut butter,” I answered him dryly.
“Shit,” he mumbled. “I have to get to work.” He gave me his best beseeching expression, complete with wide puppy-dog eyes.
I sighed. “Let me see what I can rustle you up.”
“Thanks, you’re the best.” He grinned.
“You working late tonight?” I asked as I busied myself whipping him up a quick meal.
As owner of a successful tattoo shop, Caden often worked late, especially on weekends.
“Probably.” He nodded, his eyes on his phone as he fired off a few texts. “Thanks,” he murmured gratefully a few minutes later when I placed a quesadilla in front of him.
“No sweat. Are you going to stay with Danika again tonight?”
Cade had been staying at his girlfriend’s house more often than not. A large part of me worried that he was putting any plans of moving in with her off because of me. With our other roommate, who was also Caden’s older brother, Sid, being gone half the time, and my best friend and former roommate, Piper, having moved to Nevada, I was alone a lot of the time. That didn’t mean it was Caden’s responsibility to take care of me though.
He shrugged. “Probably. What have you got going for tonight?”
“Wild plans, my friend. I want to try to finish that song and then I’ve got a hot date with a
Law & Order
He cocked his head to the side. “So you’re going to sit here and work on the depressing-ass song I heard you fucking around with all day and then sit alone and watch crime shows?” he verified.
I shrugged. “Yep, sounds about right.”
He rolled his eyes. “Sam, let’s be real—you’re waiting on Sid like you always do when he’s been gone.”
“No, I just want to stay in tonight,” I answered defensively.
It was a lie and we both knew it.
He groaned. “Living with you two is getting fucking exhausting,” he grumbled.
“Isn’t it time you got to work?” I suggested with mock sweetness.
He sighed. “Thanks for the grub,” he replied, stuffing the rest of his food in his mouth. “Catch you later.”
“Later.” I waved, watching as he grabbed his jacket and headed out the door.
“Come by the shop later if you get bored!” he hollered as he slammed the door behind him.
Really, he meant if I got lonely.
Caden was looking out for me as usual.
I wandered back to my room and grabbed my guitar. I tried to pick up where I’d left off, but as so often happened with songwriting, my creativity was a fickle thing. It came and went with an unpredictability that could be beyond frustrating. Even when I desperately wanted to write, when I knew it would soothe me to stitch inner turmoil into a song, communicating in a way I wasn’t good at otherwise, I’d never been able to force it.
Music had always been a constant, so honest in its volatility. I needed that now more than ever, with everything feeling like it was changing so quickly. I sighed, setting my guitar down and abandoning it for the night in search of a warm blanket to curl up with.
When his key turned in the lock a few hours later, my heart quickened its pace as I fought the urge to run to the door. Instead, I poked my head up from the couch, watching silently as he set his duffel bag down beside the door.
Dressed in head-to-toe black, his heavy work boots sounded against the floorboards as he walked further into the room. His black T-shirt showcased the colorful tattoos running up the expanse of both of his muscular arms. When his electric-blue eyes landed on me, a warm smile lit his handsome face.
I beamed in return. “Hey. Welcome home.”
“Thanks.” He sighed, running a hand over his recently shorn dark hair. He collapsed on the couch beside me.
I fought the urge to crawl into his lap and hug him. He’d been gone for two weeks, a short trip this time. Sometimes he was gone for months at a time. Every time he went out on a job, I worried about him.
I knew that, as a former Marine and now highly trained security specialist, he could take care of himself. That didn’t mean I didn’t worry about him.
“Are you hungry?” I asked. “We’re kind of low on supplies at the moment but I managed to make you something and hide it from Cade.” I grinned.
He chuckled. “Wow, I’m amazed you could hide anything from him. He has a better sense of smell than a bloodhound. I’m famished. But I can get it.”
He started to get up but I stopped him. “You’ve got to be exhausted. I’ll get it.”
He sighed, not putting up much of a fight, which further confirmed how tired he must be.
My brother had formed Talon security after getting out of the SEALs and had recruited Sid and a few other men to join him. They only took a few contracts a year, providing security for corporations doing business in areas of disruption overseas. Most recently I knew Sid had been somewhere in the Middle East. He’d also traveled to Africa in the last year. Aside from where he went and how long he’d been gone, he couldn’t share much. It was just as dangerous as when they’d served in the military if not more so; I knew that much.
I heated up the pasta dish I’d made him and watched it revolve in the microwave, trying desperately to tamp down the turmoil that was my constant companion when it came to Sid.
After years of close friendship, my feelings had changed unexpectedly, morphing into something terrifyingly close to love. When I really thought about it, I knew those feelings had always been there. They were present in the twist of my gut when he looked at another girl, or the butterflies in my stomach when he wrapped an arm around me. Despite the time they may have taken to bloom, it still felt like a light switch had flipped on and now I was grappling with what the hell to do underneath the bright lights.
“How many episodes in are you?” he asked, breaking me from my reverie, his eyes turned to the
Law & Order SVU
marathon I’d been watching.
“Three,” I admitted.
He chuckled, shaking his head at me.
I placed the plate in his hands and sat back down, curling up with a blanket over me at the other end of the couch.
“Trav get back okay?” I asked after my brother.
He nodded, taking a huge bite of pasta. I knew he wouldn’t say much more and I didn’t press him.
“Everything okay here while I was gone?” he asked once he’d swallowed.
I shrugged. “Yeah, same ole same ole. Cade’s been staying at Danika’s most nights. I think they’re getting pretty serious.”
He nodded, a thoughtful expression passing over his face at hearing about his little brother. “Looks like you guys actually cleaned up a little bit,” he noted, looking around our living room.
Sid was by far the cleanest of us. I didn’t tell him it had actually just been me who had cleaned up, that I didn’t want him to come home to a messy house. Instead, I shrugged, trying to appear indifferent.
He finished his meal and placed the plate on the coffee table in front of him, patting his lap in silent invitation. I stretched out my legs across his muscular thighs in our typical TV-watching position.
Sid and I had always been somewhat affectionate. However, the sheer need to touch him as of late was new and something I was still desperately trying to understand.
“All right, Sam, I’m cutting you off,” he said after the episode ended. “How about we watch something less depressing, hmm?”
I let out a dramatic sigh. “Fine.”
He started an episode of
Curb Your Enthusiasm
and with the exception of the occasional laugh, we fell into a comfortable silence I only ever had with him.
“Hey, sleepy girl, time for bed,” his deep voice came to me through a dream.
“Hmm?” I mumbled, forcing my eyes open.
Sid stood peering down at me. He reached for my hand, his skin warm and rough against mine. “To bed,” he ordered, his tone light as he shuffled me to my room. “Christ, I really hope there’s never an emergency I have to wake you up for—you’re always so out of it,” he complained as I shuffled awkwardly to my room. “Night, Sam,” he said quietly as I flopped on my bed.
Because I was half-asleep, the next words escaped my lips of their own accord. “Glad you’re home safe, Sid, missed you,” I murmured sleepily.
I closed my eyes against the look of surprise that crossed his handsome face.
The text from Cade the next evening made me smile. A drink at our neighborhood bar sounded perfect.
Be there in 20
, I responded, wondering if Sid would be joining us. I hadn’t seen him all day and my heart leapt at the thought.
I was relieved the three of us still spent so much time together. When the guys had first come to me about breaking up the band, I’d been crushed. We’d been playing together off and on since college, but with Caden’s tattoo business picking up and Sid traveling so much, it just wasn’t possible. Plus, they had their own dreams to chase. I was still sorting out mine.
It was closer to thirty minutes by the time I walked in to the dimly lit dive.
Sid and Caden were immersed in a game of pool at the back of the bar. Sid’s beautiful blue eyes studied the table intently. He wore a ball cap pulled low, masking his expression. I watched him, trying not to drool over the way his tongue swept over his full lower lip as he concentrated.
I shook myself out of my Sid haze and walked over to the table, picking up a cue. “I play winner.” I grinned by way of greeting.