Some demons can’t be shaken off. Some wounds won’t heal. Until a pair of hazel eyes knocks you on your ass, and you realize it’s time to stop running. Meet Stuart Knight Dec. 29, 2014. #SexyCowboy
One to Leave By Tia Louise *unedited draft, subject to change Release Date: Dec. 29, 2014 Years earlier, behind enemy lines. Long nights, sitting against the wall staring into darkness. We’d shared just about everything to pass the time, to keep from going insane from the monotony combined with the stress of knowing at any time we could be blown up or shot. We were walking targets, and we’d been lucky. “You’re right,” Derek exhaled, looking away again, out at the expanse of beige. “I’m proud of my service, but when the time comes, I’ll walk away.” “You’ve got another road ahead of you.” I didn’t think any less of him. Some guys in this outfit didn’t have the right stuff, the right attitude or the honor, but that could never be said of this guy. “I’m glad we served together.” “Now who’s getting soft?” His deep laugh was the last sound I heard before the staccato CLANK! of a grenade dropped into the space with us. We had seconds, if that long. No time to speak, only time to act. Reaching down, I grabbed it, and threw it as fast and hard as I could. It was just out the window when the BLAST! threw us both against the wall. My back had been curved from the throw, and I hit a bare space. I was winded, but not hurt. Derek was out cold. White smoke filled the room. Our luck had run out, and we were under attack. Shots fired outside as I made my way through the blindness to where his dark body was slumped on the stone floor. “Fuck!” I shouted. He was as big as me and twice as heavy, but I’d be damned if I left him. With a deep grunt, I hauled him onto my shoulders. His voice was a groan in my ear. “Stuart. Go on. Go.” “You’re not dying today, soldier,” I shouted back. Months of working out and not much else between the explosions and the darkness had me strong as a damn mule. I went up the short flight of steps to the exit. I had no idea what I’d be stepping into when I went through that door, but they knew we were in here. We couldn’t stay. I held Derek steady on my back as I peered into the smoke and dust filling the air. Two bodies in robes right ahead of us. Not Americans. There wasn’t anything we could do for them, but I would do something for us. A convoy had been preparing to transport the last of us two houses down. If I could make it that far, it was possible we’d be safe. I couldn’t see a damned thing as I made a break for it. My thighs burned with the exertion and the extra weight, and my lungs seized from the smoke. Derek was a fucking dead weight on my back, but I barely noticed with the adrenaline pumping in my veins. I was born for this. Blinking hard, I could just make out the hulking shapes of the armored trucks waiting to take us away. “We’re almost there,” I shouted, even though I was pretty sure he was out again. Taking the first step, I dug in with my heel, trying to gain speed with traction. Combat boots, thirty-seven pounds of weaponry, ordnance, spying shit, and my commanding officer. I ran as fast as I could to the symbol of safety. I was just there when my feet went out from under me. My ears rang with the noise of the explosion, and pain shot like fire through the lower half of my body. I flew forward and landed on my chest in the dirt. I couldn’t stop shaking. It wasn’t fear—it was adrenaline combined with the effort I’d been pushing to get us to safety faster. My brain tilted on its side. The trucks were near, but they couldn’t see us in all the smoke and confusion. Bodies were running all around us. I needed to get up, but I was dazed. God dammit! I was made for this. I tried to force myself to get up, but my body didn’t respond. I was above myself looking down. Derek lay on my back exposed, unprotected. What the fuck was happening to me? I fought against this pansy-assed flake-out. I had to get back down there. I had to carry my brother to safety. I was stronger than this. Somebody had to see us, but the whole place was in confusion. Another whistling rocket, another explosion. I struggled to open my mouth and yell for backup. Nothing came out. I saw a truck jolt and fly back. It was hit. Then, like an old-fashioned television switching off, everything blinked to black. I didn’t see anything anymore.
Tia Louise is a former journalist, world-traveler, and collector of beautiful men (who inspire all of her stories… wink)—turned wife, mommy, and novelist. She lives in the center of the U.S.A. with her lovely family and one grumpy cat. There, she dreams up stories she hopes are engaging, hot, and sexy, and that cause readers rethink common public locations~ It’s possible she has a slight truffle addiction.