Halos and Heroes Ch. 18

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Babes

Thank you all who have been reading and following along. I always appreciate getting feedback. It helps with becoming a better writer and it’s always an ego boost, so feel free to reach out. I will always respond!

The usual spiel: This isn’t a stroke story, (more porn with plot.) Be warned, it’s very long. 33+ chapters, and many sexless ones to come before it gets sexy, which is why it was originally published under novels/novellas, but readers asked for it to be put under gay male due to content, so here we go.

This book is dedicated to all of the brave service members and their families who sacrifice so much every day so that the rest of us can enjoy the liberties that they swear to protect 0and uphold.

Although references in this novel may be made to actual places or events, the names, characters, incidents, and locations within are complete works of fiction. They are not a resemblance to actual living or dead persons, businesses, or events. Any similarity is coincidental. In an effort to do the United States Army justice, and to show my respect to my country, I have applied all possible efforts to merge fact and fiction to entertain, while portraying the military, and the hardships and achievements of soldiers, with respect, dignity and accuracy to the best of my abilities. It’s my hope that I’ve done you all justice, and that all of the creative licenses taken with this novel are understood to be the efforts of imagination, and not any judgment or disrespect against the U.S. military. Thank you all for your service.

You try your hardest to raise your teenagers with patience, honesty and good manners, but they still end up being like you…

—Unknown

My phone rang the moment Maplewood was less than three blocks behind me, the screen flashing Tara’s number. I ignored her efforts to get the scoop, making my way back to Sofia’s house instead.

The lights were on though her car wasn’t in the driveway. No one answered when I called out a greeting, but I found Adelyn sitting in the living room. She was indulging in the pointless teenage practice of watching T.V. with the sound blaring from both the set, and the headphones sunk deep into her ears.

Though she was wearing a tee shirt and cut-off jeans in deference to the heat, she was also sporting ankle socks. They were white, and each toe piece was dyed a different color to form a rainbow like a weird tribute to gay pride. It was more likely some teenage fashion statement than a show of solidarity for me, so I kept all commentary to myself.

When Adelyn saw me, she acknowledged my presence with a tip of her head, but immediately looked back at the T.V. Since it was more than I’d gotten out of her in weeks, I settled into the overstuffed couch cushions, planting my heels firmly on the floor instead of on the edge of the coffee table like hers were.

I tolerated the guarantee of future hearing loss for a few minutes before Adelyn reached over and shut off the television. She crossed her arms across her chest as she sat back and looked right at me. “Are you and Father Ben dating?”

Cayden had asked me the same question, but having the right answer meant more now because it was Adelyn. “Why do you ask?”

She rolled her eyes. “Because I’m not stupid. I know you spent the night at his place last week, Uncle Sam. I heard him and Mami on the phone.”

“You shouldn’t be listening in on other people’s calls, Addie.”

She shrugged. “His number popped casino oyna up on call waiting. It was weird that he was calling here that late, so I picked up the phone at the same time Mami did. I was forced to hang up quick so they wouldn’t know I’d been listening, but I heard Father Ben say you were staying with him for the night. So, are you seeing each other or not?”

Since she didn’t mention the reason I’d stayed at Ben’s place, I assumed she hadn’t heard that part, but I still proceeded with caution. “I like him,” I admitted. “But we’re just friends right now. I needed someone to talk to that night. He was willing to listen.”

“You don’t have other friends you can talk to?”

“None that are here in the States.”

“Because you made a whole other life somewhere else.”

“Yes,” I said trying to be patient. “But now I’m starting a life here. I’ll be moving into a new place soon, and looking for a job that will keep me close to home.”

She was harder to read than a professional poker player, but I’d have sworn I saw a glimmer of hurt in Adelyn’s eyes as they lifted to mine.

“You don’t want to live with us anymore?”

It was a classic catch-22, so I lobbed the question back at her.

“Do you want me to stay here with you?”

“It’d make Emma and Mami happy.”

“They’re not the only people living in this house. It has to be unanimous.”

I could see the weight of decision in her eyes spurred by an obstinate refusal to let me in, even if part of her wanted to. I understood. I was the usurper in her teenage kingdom.

Leaning forward with my hands on my knees, I said, “It doesn’t matter where I live, Addie. I’m never going to walk out of here again without some plan to come back.”

“Because you’re into Father Ben.”

I sighed. “Honey, this needs to stop. I know I messed up. But being a snot isn’t going to make me leave. You’re just wasting some premium energy.” She stiffened when I reached over and gave her colorful foot a little shake. “I love you.”

Adelyn didn’t answer, but I muscled forward when her slim shoulders slumped and her tough facade chipped a little more. I was determined to keep repeating myself until I obliterated it because I couldn’t keep seeing this level of pain in a person I cared so much about. I didn’t have kids, didn’t see them in my future so Adelyn and Emma were it for me.

“Do you hear me? I love you, I love your Mom, and I love Emma. I’m not going anywhere.”

“I heard you.”

“I can’t change my past decisions, and replaying them gets us nowhere. We have a chance to start over, but you have to be willing to give me a shot.”

Adelyn’s expression crumbled as her eyes filled with tears. I jumped to my feet when she started to flee. Tension rippled from her body to mine like a live current when I firmly drew her in for a hug. She fought me for a minute, squirming, but I held on until her hands slowly came up to rest on my back.

“Addie, I swear to you, I’m not going anywhere. No matter what you say to me, or how much I want to sell you to a goddamned zoo, I’m here. Do you understand me?”

She didn’t answer, but I felt the subtle movement of her chin against my shoulder. Her hair was silky as I ran my hand over the back of her head like I had when she was a kid. I sighed at the same time she did.

“I know you’re mad at me about your dad, and that’s okay.”

I tasted blood. Gnawing the inside of my cheek gave me something to focus on slot oyna besides the sudden burn behind my eyes.

“I wanted him dead and now he is.”

“That wasn’t your fault.”

“I know but…I was happy,” she mumbled. “He was a dick, but then sometimes…”

“I felt relieved at first when I heard,” I admitted, and felt her surprise roll through her body. “It was like a weight off my shoulders because he hurt me too, Addie. Badly. But then I puked my guts up because I realized I was never going to see him again.” I sighed. “He wasn’t always a monster. He was your dad, my brother, and just a man underneath all that. Some of our memories are going to be positive. And I’m learning that as complicated as that is, it’s also ok.”

“So you’re enlightened.”

I snorted but accepted the snark since some of the tension seemed to have left her body, and she was almost cuddling against me. I could handle some smartass if it got me a glimpse of the kid who used to think I walked on water.

“I’m a work in progress. I have some people who believe in me now, so I’m trying. We all have layers like that Shrek troll guy Emma, likes. Sometimes I hate to remember the good times I had with your dad, but the memories are always going to be there.”

Speaking into my shirt, Adelyn’s voice was muffled. “Dad used to do pancake breakfasts with us sometimes when he was home, before he lost his shit…”

I didn’t correct the language because I honestly didn’t care about the occasional potty word, but mostly because she was definitely snuggling now, looking to me to make this better. So fuck Ben’s bad language money jar.

“Remember him like that then. I know that he hurt you, baby. It’s okay to hate him for the bad things he did. I will never tell you otherwise, because your dad did some stuff a kid should never have to experience. But if you hold onto that rage, it’ll break you. Believe me, I know. I’ve been there way too many times and I want better than that for you.”

The tears came freely now, spilling down Adelyn’s cheeks. She rubbed at them with the heel of her hand, smudging the usual indomitable eyeliner beneath her eyes. The ruined makeup made her look younger, more vulnerable. I pulled her closer and rested my chin on the top of her head.

“Don’t push us away, sweetheart,” I said quietly. “Your mom, Emma and me, we love you. We’re what’s left of a family and I’m determined to make that work, no matter what I have to do. Just give me a chance. Please.”

There was a long pause, but then I felt her nod. I kissed the top of her head and then let go. She stepped back and wiped at her eyes again till they were dry, and I bumped her shoulder gently with mine.

“If you have a problem, just come talk to me. I can pretty much guarantee that my advice won’t always be spot on adult, but I can learn. I just want to be part of your life, Addie.”

She nodded slowly. “I don’t think you should move out then. Having you here makes Emma feel safe…” She hesitated, and I reached out to tug a stray strand of her hair.

“That’s good enough for me,” I said, giving her an out that she accepted with a surprised, almost shy smile. “We’ll put a hold on the move for a little while. Tara will understand.”

Adelyn nodded. “OK.” She worried her lower lip between her teeth for a moment. “Uncle Sam?”

“Yeah?”

“I… I don’t want to hate anybody. I just…”

“It’s easier than feeling the hurt,” I said, finishing the sentence, canlı casino siteleri smiling a little when she nodded. “I know. Give it time, kid. No one here is judging you, especially not me. We can try and fix ourselves together, ok?”

She nodded again and then started a backward retreat.

“I’m going to go upstairs. Mami and Emma went to the deli to get some food. We’re going to the beach when they get back. Do you…” She paused and I resisted the urge to smile because I didn’t want to make her feel self-conscious about the new timidity that reminded me of the little girl she used to be. “You want to come with us?”

“Yeah, sure. Thanks kid.” I grinned and met her effort of creating a bridge between the past and present in the middle with, “Want me to find ‘Under the Sea,’ for the drive? I bet I can download it on Spotify.”

She rolled her eyes at me, but she was smiling and her, “whatever,” wasn’t infused with its usual venom. She ran halfway up the stairs then stopped and turned back on the landing. “I broke up with Jake… You were right, he’s a total tool. Told me he’d find another girlfriend if I didn’t have sex with him. Which I didn’t,” she said, smirking at my immediate scowl. “I might stay single for a while. Guys are retarded.”

As much as I hated to disagree with that point right now because we were obviously having a moment, I took the high and potentially stupid road “Not all guys. You’ll find the right one, one day. But there’s no rush. Wait a few weeks, a few months, till our next election cycle maybe. All good options in my book.”

I earned another grin at my expense. “I have time, but you’re getting old,” she teased. “So… maybe give Father Ben a call and see if he wants to come too.” She shrugged when I quirked my eyebrow. “He’s been our friend, almost family for years. He gets us, and obviously he gets you too. Just… don’t break his heart, okay.”

“Not in my game plan.”

She smiled and after her steps faded away, I pulled out my cell. I hesitated for a moment before I found Ben’s number. Taking romantic advice from a sixteen year old was a little sad, but it was easier to use her as an excuse than admit that I was just looking for any reason to talk to him.

My palms felt clammy, and I inhaled deeply when I heard the call connect. “Hey, Ben, it’s Sam.”

“Hey! Nice to know I don’t have to wait another week to hear from you again.”

“I deserve that,” I said as I went to my room and closed the door behind me. “Sorry I’ve been such a pain in the ass.”

“It’s all right, but I do hope that this call means you’ve reconsidered coming over later?”

“Though that thought has been on replay in my head, I’m actually calling about something a little more G-rated.”

“Oh? I’m intrigued. Go on.”

“My family invited you to come to the beach with us. I’m sorry its last minute, but I just got home and found out the plans.”

“Don’t be sorry. I’d love to join. Still want you to come over later for hijinks that are a little less family friendly though.”

Things low in my body clenched at the rumble of Ben’s laugh. I wondered if he’d make those same sounds of pleasure when he was so deep inside me I’d feel him for days.

I cleared my throat hard. “One step at a time.”

“Sounds like that military sense of order is coming out to play,” Ben teased. “Meet you in an hour or so?”

“Sure, I’ll text you the name of the beach after I talk to Sofia,” I said, catching my smile in the mirror over the dresser. “I’ll see you soon.”

I texted Max as soon as I hung up with Ben.

Seeing Ben soon. Grabbing the bull by the horns.

The ping back was immediate. Go for the balls.

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