Authors: Sloane Kennedy
Salvation is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 by Sloane Kennedy
Published in the United States by Sloane Kennedy
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Cover Images: ©Zaretska Olga, ©
Cover Design: © Jay Aheer, Simply Defined Art
***Note that reading this warning may cause spoilers so if you don’t want to know, please scroll to the next page****
This book contains flashback scenes that reference rape/sodomy with a foreign object.
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
Rita, thank you for your continuing friendship and support and that little bit of extra polish you never fail to provide. I’m glad to know that Ronan and Seth came very close to being your new favorite SK couple, but I’m also pretty glad to know that you are still hanging on to your favorite SK leads since they have and always will hold a very special place in my heart.
Kylee and Claudia, what can I say? Your little bit of crazy has kept me sane. My new ultimate goal in life is to someday earn the title of honorary soul sister.
This book has two scenes that could be a trigger for some readers. In order to avoid spoilers, the trigger warning is mentioned prior to the table of contents. If you would like to see what the trigger is, please scroll back to just before the table of contents.
The act of saving someone from sin or evil
I ignored the sleek German Shepherd running towards me and kept my eyes on the house that sat up the slight hill several hundred yards away. I’d thought the grove of trees would hide my presence, but I’d been wrong because I’d seen the shadow of the man staring in my direction from his bedroom window, minutes before the back door of the house had opened and the dog had darted through it.
I’d been wrong a lot lately.
Wrong in trusting a man who’d sworn his loyalty to my cause, only to throw it away for a lucrative payout that would have taken an innocent man’s life.
Wrong to think my efforts to save a man I’d come to think of as a friend had done anything other than lead him further into the pit of despair he’d so desperately been trying to escape from after suffering an insurmountable loss.
Wrong to think that I could stay away from the young man who was forever tied to my past…a past I wanted nothing more than to forget.
Did it work for you, Ronan?
A simple question from someone who’d reminded me a lot of the man in the house. It had come in response to my insistence that my choice to pursue justice outside the limits of the law had provided me with an alternative outlet for the hatred that consumed me. I hadn’t answered Jonas Davenport when he’d asked me that. It was a question that, even now, I still refused to answer. Because it didn’t matter. It had stopped being about me the first time I ended one life to save another.
I could hear the dog snarling as he neared me but, as soon as he crossed into the trees, the growling ceased and I put out my hand in greeting and he began whining excitedly. He sniffed and licked my hand repeatedly before settling down next to me and leaning against my leg. I let my hand stroke over the dog’s lush coat. I hadn’t seen the animal in several years, but I wasn’t surprised that he remembered me since I’d been the one who’d picked him out of the litter of eight well-bred puppies and watched him grow up alongside the teenage boy I’d gifted him to.
I looked back up at the house and felt my gut clench at the sight of the open door leading from the expansive patio into what I knew was the kitchen. The invitation was clear.
It wasn’t the first time I’d watched the young man from a distance; it wasn’t even the first time I’d stood in these very woods waiting to see a glimpse of him as he passed by a window. Some days I never even saw him.
Being near him was a need I couldn’t explain, but one I’d given up trying to deny. My only consolation was that I’d been strong enough not to act on the desire that had consumed me on that fateful day when I’d stopped seeing him as a boy and started wanting him as a man. One feather light brush of his mouth over mine and he’d become so much more than the little brother of the man I had been planning to spend the rest of my life with.
My only saving grace, the only reason I hadn’t taken what he was offering, was the promise I’d made to protect him. But I’d known as soon as he kissed me that what he needed protection most from was me.
I gave the dog a final pat and began walking up the hill. Because it was time to keep my promise…no matter what it cost me.
I heard the words the instant I stepped over the threshold into the dimly lit den, but I didn’t respond. Instead, I let my eyes settle on the young man sitting on the leather couch that was facing a set of glass doors leading to a porch overlooking Puget Sound. His back was to me, so all I saw was the back of his head and his wider-than-I-remembered shoulders.
He’d been easy to find because all I’d had to do was follow the dog through the large house. But it wouldn’t have mattered either way because I knew the place like the back of my hand. Not only had Trace and I spent several of our leaves together here in the year that we’d met, but I’d also made countless trips after his death to check on his younger brother. And even though it had been three years since I’d seen Seth Nichols, I wasn’t ready for this moment. I’d never be ready…
The dog trotted around the couch and I saw Seth’s arms move, presumably to caress the animal. I took my time walking towards the couch in the hopes that I could get control of my churning gut. It was a sensation I fucking hated.
I actually paused just behind the couch so I could get a hold of myself and settled my gaze on Seth’s honey blond hair that fell in soft waves just above his ears and nape. I could see the baby fine hairs along the back of his neck and cursed the urge to reach out and feel their softness beneath my fingers. Trace had had the same color hair and one of my favorite things to do as he’d lain on top of me after we’d made love, was to run my fingers through the short strands so I could watch the light play with the different colors that threaded through them.
That brief memory of Trace was quickly tainted by my final memory of him…one where his beautiful hair was soaked in blood while the green of his eyes started to fade, his pupils growing larger, their inky blackness glazing over as his last breath left his body.
The thought of Trace and how he’d been taken from me was enough to obliterate all of my anxiety and replace it with the familiar, bitter cold that settled in every part of my body. I welcomed it like an old friend and then walked around the couch. I’d already read the police report so I knew to expect the bruises, but words on paper weren’t the same as seeing them firsthand.
“How long?” Seth repeated, his eyes still on the horizon even as I stepped up to him and put my fingers under his chin. He stiffened slightly, but didn’t resist when I tilted his face up to examine the black and blue mark on his left cheek, another on his lower jaw and the small gash next to his left eye. His forest green eyes connected with mine for a moment before shifting away as he pulled free of my hold.
In so many ways he looked exactly the same as I remembered him, the damage to his face notwithstanding. But as painfully young as he still appeared to me, there was something missing that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. He’d filled out in the three years since I’d last seen him but he’d never be a large guy. I knew him to be a couple inches shorter than Trace, which meant he was at least three or four inches shorter than me. Fortunately, the few features he shared with Trace, like the eyes and the hair, weren’t strong enough to make it feel like I was looking at a younger version of my dead lover. But that fact only heightened my desire to put my fingers back on his warm skin.
“How long what?” I asked as I stepped away and sat down on the coffee table in front of him. I was both glad and annoyed that he refused to look directly at me. But the thought was short-lived because his eyes shifted to me before he answered.
“How long have you been watching me?”
I debated playing dumb but decided against it. It was beneath me…and him. “Off and on,” I answered. “How did you know?”
Seth shrugged and then reached next to me on the table for an icepack. He pressed it gingerly against his cheek. “I’d get this feeling once in a while like I was being watched.” Seth nodded towards the dog that had settled at his feet. “He’d always start acting funny, too…agitated. Thought I was going crazy for a while,” he muttered.
The thread of anger I heard in Seth’s voice didn’t surprise me but it bothered me more than it should have. Not that I didn’t deserve it because I did. I’d even steeled myself for it but a small part of me had hoped he’d still look at me the way he used to when he was younger…like I was his hero or something.
“What happened?” I asked as I motioned to his face. I already knew what had happened but I wanted him to tell me.
“What are you doing here, Ronan?” Seth asked. “And don’t tell me some bullshit about you just stopping by for a visit. We both know you can’t stand to be around me.”
I flinched at that. I’d never explained my reasons for walking away the day he’d kissed me. I hadn’t even said a word, just as I hadn’t looked back, even when I’d felt his hopeful gaze boring into my back as I’d walked to my car. He’d called and sent texts over the first few weeks but I’d steadfastly ignored them. I’d nearly broken when I’d heard his final voicemail, his voice heavy with unshed tears, as he’d told me how sorry he was and begged me not to leave him. I’d had my finger hovering over the call back button for several long minutes as I’d listened to it over and over again. But then I’d done the right thing and deleted the message because I wasn’t the man Seth wanted…I’d never be that man again.
“What happened?” I repeated, but when Seth’s jaw hardened, I felt a shimmer of lust roll through my belly. He’d always been so meek and innocent as a child. And as much as I hated to think he’d lost some of the gentleness that had made him so different than his brother, the darkness inside of me responded to the challenge of bending his show of strength to my will. “I’ve kept tabs on you,” I finally admitted. “I was…made aware of the police report you filed.”
Curiously, Seth seemed unsurprised by my words because all he said was, “Then you already know what happened. Next time use the front door,” Seth said as he stood. “Code’s the same.”
I grabbed his wrist before he could walk away from me and I heard him gasp at the contact. I had no doubt it was because he was feeling the same rush of electricity and heat that I was. My dick hardened even more in my pants and I was supremely grateful that I was sitting down. I gently tugged Seth until he was once again sitting but all his anger had fled and was replaced with unadulterated arousal.
“I want to hear you tell me,” I managed to say as I forced myself to release my hold on him.
It took Seth a moment to collect himself and his eyes quickly shifted away. “I was mugged,” he finally said. When I remained silent, he continued on his own. “I was walking to my car in the garage underneath my office building when this guy came up behind me and demanded my wallet and keys. He hit me a couple times, took my wallet but left my keys and ran when he heard someone coming. The cops found my wallet in the alley next to the building. All my cash was gone but everything else was there.”
“Did he hit you before or after you gave him what he wanted?”
Seth dropped his elbow to his knee so he could rest his jaw against the icepack he was holding in his hand. “Before, I guess. I already had the keys in my hand and I was getting my wallet out when he punched me the first time.”
“Did you lose consciousness at any time during the attack?”
Seth shook his head.
“The doctor should have given you stitches for this,” I said as I carefully turned his face to examine the cut next to his eye. It wasn’t a particularly deep injury but a stitch or two would prevent scarring. The fucker who’d hit Seth must have been wearing a ring of some kind…
“I didn’t see a doctor. I refused medical treatment when the cops showed up.”
“Why?” I asked as I let Seth pull away from me again. A few years ago he would have welcomed my touch.
“I’m tired, Ronan. I need to lie down for a bit. Have a safe trip back to wherever the hell it is you live now,” was all Seth said as he once again stood.
I was about to reach for him again when the dog jumped up from between us, a low snarl emanating from its throat. It tore out of the room at the same time that a voice called out Seth’s name.
I had my gun out long before the man rushed into the den, the dog at his heels. “What the hell?” he said in shock at the sight of me and then his eyes shifted to Seth whose jaw had dropped at the sight of my weapon.
“Jesus, Ronan,” Seth whispered as he stepped into the line of fire. “He’s a friend,” Seth said, though his eyes never left my gun even after I lowered it and let it hang loosely by my leg. Fuck, now I’d have even more explaining to do.
“Seth?” came the shaky voice from directly behind him.
Seth stepped away from me and went around the couch. His friend was still watching me but as soon as Seth neared him, his face went slack. “Oh my God,” he murmured as he reached his arms out and wrapped them none too gently around Seth. I didn’t miss the way Seth winced at the contact and I bit back the urge to order the little shit to let Seth go. But it wasn’t just because his hold was too rough…it was because he was holding Seth at all.
I let my eyes scan the man as his attention was on Seth. He was in his mid to late twenties and was actually a pretty decent looking guy in a sweater-wearing, pocket protector kind of way. His height and build were average and his brown hair was carefully styled. His clothes looked expensive and everything matched so well that I had no doubt he was the type who spent a lot of time in front of a mirror getting his look just so.
“I came as soon as I got your message,” the man said as he pulled back enough to get a look at Seth’s face.
“I told you that you didn’t need to come,” Seth said. “I know you had patients to see…”
The man made some type of dismissive grunt and then he was pulling Seth back into his arms. “My favorite patient needs me, I’m there,” the man insisted.
Patient? The guy was a doctor? What the hell was Seth seeing him for? And what the fuck kind of doctor acted so familiar with a patient?
“I knew it was too soon for you,” the man said with a shake of his head. “I wish you would have heeded my advice…you know I only want what’s best for you.”
When the man finally released Seth after running his hands up and down his arms for a ridiculously long time, his beady eyes shifted to me. “Who’s your friend?” he finally asked. I didn’t miss the way he swallowed hard as his gaze fell to the gun I had yet to put away.
“Barry, this is Ronan Grisham. He’s an old friend of the family,” Seth said.
I was pleased to see the man made no attempt to shake my hand. In fact, he actually moved back a couple of steps as I came around the couch and approached both of them. I barely hid my smile at that.
“Ronan, this is Dr. Barry Fields,” Seth murmured. “He’s been helping me work through some things,” was all he offered in way of an explanation.
Barry laughed and reached out to pat Seth’s arm. “Now, now, Seth. You know we’ve come to mean much more to each other than just doctor and patient,” he said jovially.
Seth shifted uncomfortably at either the words or the intimate contact but he made no move to extricate himself from the other man’s lingering contact. Since I couldn’t rip the fucker’s arm off his body, I settled for stepping forward until Barry was forced to move back enough that he couldn’t maintain his hold on Seth.
“Time for you to go, Barry,” I said coolly.
“Well, uh…I think it would be better if I stayed,” Barry stammered. “Even you should be able to see that Seth needs a doctor,” he added arrogantly.
“He has one,” I interjected. “A real one.”
“Ronan…” Seth warned but I ignored him.
Barry’s mouth was opening and closing like some kind of fish gasping for breath. “I don’t know who you think you are, Mr. Grisham, but Seth is my patient-”
“You’re right, Barry,” I said calmly as I put my gun into one of the double shoulder holsters under my jacket. “You don’t know who I am.” I fisted my hand in his expensive sweater and shoved him back against the wall. “And believe me, you want to make sure it stays that way. Now get the fuck out!”
I held him there for several seconds as he squirmed to break free of my hold and when I finally did release him, he gave Seth a quick glance as he straightened his sweater. “Seth, I’ll call you later to see how you’re feeling.” The man straightened as best he could and then nodded at Seth and slowly left the room as if leaving was his choice.
It wasn’t until I heard the front door slam closed that I turned my attention to Seth. I was surprised when he pushed past me and said, “It’s your turn, Ronan. Get the fuck out.”