Title: Soldier Next Door
Tagline: Sometimes, love is right next door.
Reader Advisory: This book contains brief mentions of PTSD and war-related injuries.
Publisher’s Note: This book was previously released as part of the Right Here, Right Now anthology with Pride Publishing.
General Release Date: 28th November 2017
All twenty-seven-year-old Travis Schultz is supposed to do is keep an eye on the kid next door for a few weeks while his parents are out of town. Eighteen-year-old Owen Wheeler has other plans. Newly graduated, with plans to enlist in the Army, Owen wants to get laid before he ships out and he’s had a crush on Travis for years.
The age difference and the responsibility he’s been entrusted with make Travis hesitant, but the attraction is too much to deny. When the casual one-night stand turns into something more, Travis has no idea how to tell Owen how he feels. He misses his opportunity before Owen leaves and is left at home with a broken heart when Owen cuts off all contact.
When they meet again years later, Owen is in the midst of recovery from being injured in the line of duty and Travis will have to decide if he can forgive Owen and try again.
“Travis, sweetie, can you grab the potato salad out of the fridge?”
Travis glanced up from his phone to look at his mom. “Sure, which one?”
“Oh, I made the mustard potato salad since you’re home. I know it’s your favorite. Your dad bitched and bitched, but I promised I’d make him some of his favorite soon.” Judy Schultz fussed with the flowers one more time, even though they were already perfect.
Travis stood and slipped his phone into his pocket. “No, not which potato salad, which fridge?”
“Oh.” Her hand fluttered distractedly. “The one in the basement.” She yelled after him as he turned to walk away. “Oh, and can you grab the big cooler we always put drinks in? There’s ice in it already. And once that’s up, can you set up the drinks on the deck?”
“Sure, Mom.” Travis chuckled to himself and jogged down the stairs. She was always a little flustered before her annual Fourth of July barbecue. It was a huge party—half the neighborhood came, along with all of her book club friends and their families.
Travis paused when he reached the bottom step. There was a man sitting on the couch, knees spread wide, elbows propped on them, head hanging.
“Hey,” Travis called out in a soft voice, not wanting to startle the guy, but he jerked upright and for a moment Travis would swear there was sheer terror in his eyes.
“Fuck,” he swore. Travis saw him take a deep breath and when he set down the can of soda he’d been holding and placed it on the coffee table, his hand was trembling.
“Shit, sorry. Didn’t mean to startle you, man…Owen?”
“Hey.” He stood and half-turned to face Travis.
Owen was taller now. A hell of a lot more bulked up. His voice was even deeper. And his eyes had the shadowed appearance of a man who’d seen far too much. But he still looked like the guy Travis had never intended to fall for.
Travis swallowed hard and stared at the man who’d broken his heart four years ago.