Salvation (The Protectors, Book 2) by Sloane Kennedy
Trauma surgeon Ronan Grisham lost everything the day the man he loved was stolen from him in a brutal attack. Driven by a thirst for vengeance, he turns his hatred into building an underground group that can do what he couldn’t that fateful day…take the lives of the guilty to save the lives of the innocent. But years later, he’s forced to confront the one link to his past that he can’t sever.
Seven years after the loss of his parents in a violent home invasion that left him permanently scarred both inside and out, 21-year-old Seth Nichols is trying to put his life back together so he can take over the reins of his father’s global shipping empire. But the last person he expects to come back into his life is the man he drove away with one innocent, stolen kiss.
With one brush of his lips, Seth managed to do to Ronan what no other had since the day Ronan watched the light in his fiancé’s eyes go out forever. He made him need again. But Ronan can’t need anyone, least of all his dead fiancé’s younger brother. Because even one touch from Seth could shatter Ronan’s carefully constructed world and Ronan knows there’s no coming back from that a second time.
But when a series of escalating attacks against Seth forces Ronan back into his life, Seth knows it’s his last chance to show Ronan he can be the man the broken surgeon needs. Only the Ronan who returns isn’t the Ronan Seth fell in love with so long ago…
Can Seth be Ronan’s salvation or will he end up destroying them both?
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 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.
“You didn’t want me three years ago,” I bit out. “I get that. But not one word – not one fucking word to let me know that you were okay…to ask if I was okay?”I snatched Ronan’s plate off the island and dropped it into the sink, uncaring that it broke. “Watching me from the woods like some stalker-”
I didn’t get any further because Ronan grabbed me and spun me around and pushed me back against the counter. “You’re a smart guy, Seth,” he muttered even as his hands pinned mine next to my body. “You saw me in your bathroom,” he said as he dropped his mouth close to mine. “You felt me,” he nearly whispered against my lips. “Did it feel like I didn’t want you?”
I cursed my body for responding to his nearness but I cursed the fact that I was so desperate to believe him even more.
“You wouldn’t let me touch you-”
“That’s about me, not you,” he interrupted. His lips actually grazed the skin next to my lips as he spoke.
I wanted to ask what he meant but I was too stunned to realize what he was admitting to. But my fledgling hope died a quick death as what it was that he wasn’t saying hit me. He wanted me but he didn’t want to want me.
“I…I think you should go, Ronan,” I managed to say despite the sudden tightness in my throat.
Ronan hung there for a moment and I wished like hell he’d ignore my request and seal his mouth over mine. But then his hands fell from mine and he stepped back.
“Not until I get some answers,” he finally said.
I nodded because at that point, I was willing to do just about anything to get away from him for good.
After four years abroad, artist Jonas Davenport has come home to start building his dream of owning his own art studio and gallery. But just as he’s ready to put the darkness of his past behind him forever, it comes roaring back with a vengeance.
The only thing keeping ex-cop Mace Calhoun from eating his own gun after an unthinkable loss is his role in an underground syndicate that seeks to get justice for the innocent by taking the lives of the guilty. Ending the life of the young artist who committed unspeakable crimes against the most vulnerable of victims should have been the easiest thing in the world. So why can’t he bring himself to pull the trigger?
After years of fighting in an endless, soul-sucking war, Navy SEAL Cole Bridgerton has come home to fight another battle – dealing with the discovery that the younger sister who ran away from home eight years earlier is lost to him forever. He needs answers and the only person who can give them to him is a young man struggling to put his life back together. But he never expected to feel something more for the haunted artist.
Cole and Mace. One lives by the rules, the other makes his own. One seeks justice through the law while the other seeks it with his gun. Two men, one light, one dark, will find themselves and each other when they’re forced to stand side by side to protect Jonas from an unseen evil that will stop at nothing to silence the young artist forever.
But each man’s scars run deep and even the strength of three may not be enough to save them…
Although Sloane Kennedy always dreamed of being a writer as a teenager, she didn’t take the plunge until March of 2015 when she released her first novel as an independent author. Since then, she has released more than a dozen books including the Amazon best-selling “Barretti Security” series, “Finding” series and “Protectors” series. While she initially began writing M/F romance, she found her true passion writing gay romance and all four of her most recent releases reached the #1 spot on Amazon’s Gay Romance bestseller list and Freeing Zane, her final book in the Barretti Security series, made it to Amazon’s overall bestseller list. Sloane was born in Germany and grew up in Virginia and Wisconsin. Although she currently lives in Wisconsin, the place where she has always felt most at home is Seattle and many of her books take place in the Emerald city. Although she is unmarried, a menagerie of 2 dogs and 3 cats keeps her busy enough and 3 young nieces take care of the rest of her free time. Sloane loves being able to share her passion for romance with readers and she is truly humbled by all the support she’s received from fans and fellow authors alike.
Follow me on Twitter: @sloane_kennedy