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Authors: Kendall McKenna

Tags: #gay romance, military

The Final Line

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Table of Contents

THE FINAL LINE

Blurb

Copyright Acknowledgement

Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

About the Author

Trademarks Acknowledgment

MLR PRESS AUTHORS

GLBT RESOURCES

THE FINAL LINE

The Recon Diaries

KENDALL MCKENNA

mlrpress

www.mlrpress.com

Staff Sergeant Corey Yarwood is an instructor at the Basic Reconnaissance Course. His last deployment ended in horror, but he can’t remember those events. Battling severe PTSD, Corey’s drinking is growing out of control.

Sean Chandler walks into a dive bar, and into Corey’s life. An actor and a musician, Sean has the empathy and compassion to sooth Corey’s pain, and the strength to support him as he struggles to heal.

Corey’s lost memories are pivotal to a civilian murder, and a military investigation. Remembering could mean salvation, or destruction. Will the truth be too much for Sean to handle?

Copyright Acknowledgement

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright 2013 by Kendall McKenna

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

Published by

MLR Press, LLC

3052 Gaines Waterport Rd.

Albion, NY 14411

Visit ManLoveRomance Press, LLC on the Internet:

www.mlrpress.com

Cover Art by Jared Rackler

Editing by Kris Jacen

Print format: ISBN# 978-1-60820-875-3

ebook format also available

Issued 2013

This book is licensed to the original purchaser only. Duplication or distribution via any means is illegal and a violation of International Copyright Law, subject to criminal prosecution and upon conviction, fines and/or imprisonment. This eBook cannot be legally loaned or given to others. No part of this eBook can be shared or reproduced without the express permission of the publisher.

DEDICATION

First and foremost, for Portia de Moncur, who wrote the first ever review of
Brothers In Arms
. She also holds the dubious honor of being the first to demand Corey Yarwood be given his own story. Her encouragement is why Jonah, Kellan and Corey live in more stories.

For Stephanie G. for her help with all things Rx related.

As always, for Agnieszka, I am so happy and proud that you are following your own dream.

To every reader, reviewer, and friend who fell in love with the men of
Brothers In Arms
. Special thanks to those who saw something special in Corey Yarwood that I had no idea I’d put there, and called for more to be written about him. This one is for you.

CHAPTER ONE

It was Tuesday night and Corey needed a drink. He hadn’t needed a drink like this in more than two years, when he’d been deployed to Afghanistan. He sat on the foot of his narrow bed in the Bachelor’s Enlisted Quarters and tried not to think of the bottle stashed in the ceiling of his room. The last time he’d needed a drink this bad was just after the cluster-fuck in Diyala, Iraq. It had damn near gotten good men killed, including Corey.

He scrubbed both hands roughly over his face and sat for a moment with his eyes closed. What Corey really needed was sleep, but sleep usually meant dreams, and he couldn’t relive that shit one more time.

Fuck it. He stood up on his bed, pushed the ceiling panel upward and retrieved the black-labeled bottle he’d stashed there. He was a decorated Staff Sergeant now, he didn’t have to hide his stash as well as he had when he’d been a boot PFC. Corey broke the seal and unscrewed the cap, bringing the neck of the bottle to his lips and swallowing greedily.

Whiskey always burned on the first swallow. It probably burned on the second and third swallows, but the first one always stole his breath so he couldn’t think of anything else for several minutes. There was a trail of fire from Corey’s mouth to his gut and it helped him not to think. If he drank the whole bottle he’d probably sleep without dreams. At least he might be too drunk to wake up from them and remember.

Corey was halfway through the bottle when the warmth began to spread. He should stop now, hide the bottle again and get some sleep. He knew he wouldn’t stop. This was his ritual every night. It had been the same since he’d come back from Afghanistan and taken the instructor position at the Basic Recon Course.

Glancing at the bottle, Corey realized if he showed up on the course tomorrow with so much as bleary eyes and no record of having left base, someone might get the idea to toss his barracks room with some intent and efficiency.

Grabbing his cell phone, he called his usual cab company and arranged a pick up outside the front gate. He changed clothes, put his cell and his wallet in the pocket of his jeans, and headed out on foot.

Corey nodded at the young Marine staffing the gate and climbed into his waiting cab. He considered which bar address to give the driver. He liked that dive bar in Bonsal but that was a long drive. He wanted to still be drunk when he got back to base. Corey told the driver the address of a little place on the way to San Marcos. It was slightly more upscale than he preferred, but was usually quiet on Tuesdays.

He intended to drink and had no interest in talking. In fact, his buzz was fading so it was definitely time to pick up where he’d left off.

The bartender, Linda, he thought her name was, gave him a nod of recognition as he took a stool at the far end of the bar. He ordered a shot and a beer. A steady stream of those should dull his senses nicely.

His seat at the bar gave him a clear view of both exits and all of the occupied tables, not that there were many. Corey relaxed slightly. If things stayed like this, he could drink for several hours, make it back to base for a few hours of sleep, and be at the pool early to fish out wannabe Recon Marines before they drowned.

He was starting on his second drink, just beginning to slump over the bar, when a woman stumbled through the front door. Corey took stock of her. At first, he thought she was already drunk. When she sat heavily on a barstool and ordered a rum and coke, he realized she’d been crying.

So, not drunk, just upset and looking to drown her sorrows. Corey could respect that. He made sure to avoid eye contact, though. Usually, the thing that had a woman publicly upset was a man, and Corey had no desire to be tagged as a possible rebound fuck.

Many years ago, Corey had found himself a rebound fuck to help him forget Kathryn. Trouble was, his rebound fuck had been another man and Corey hadn’t been with a woman since. There was no chance of turning back now.

Time passed, Corey drank, and some of the tables emptied out. Everyone left was getting steadily drunker. Corey knew the moment when the men around the bar realized they all only had one shot at getting laid tonight.

“Hey, what’s your name, honey?” one of the men called down the bar.

The woman sat sipping her drink, spinning her cell phone on top of the bar.

“Hey, I said, what’s your name?” he called a little louder.

The woman heaved a sigh. “I don’t want to be rude, but I’m just here to drink. I don’t want to talk.”

“Only one reason a woman comes to a bar alone to drink, and it ain’t to get drunk,” the man growled, his tone becoming decidedly aggressive.

Corey pushed his unfinished drink away. He knew that was bullshit. He never understood why straight men had so much trouble taking no for an answer. Alcohol mixed with testosterone never helped.

The woman thumbed the screen of her phone and put it to her ear. “Are you awake? Yeah, I know that’s why I called you…Can you come get me? I’ve been drinking…We broke up…The same reasons we always break up. He’s just not the one.”

As she hung up her phone, Corey hoped the woman’s girlfriend hurried. All three drunken men at the bar were now trying to engage her in conversation. She glanced surreptitiously at Corey, probably trying to determine why he wasn’t harassing her, too. When their eyes met, Corey recognized pain and loneliness. He’d worn that same look for a couple of years after Kathryn had dumped him. He probably still did, only now it shared space with haunting memories.

Linda tried to calm the men down but had little success. They were growing more rowdy and abusive, probably the whole group hysteria thing. Corey didn’t want to have to intervene, but a good Marine wouldn’t let a woman be treated with disrespect. A good man wouldn’t allow it. Corey tried hard to be both.

The front door creaked open and Corey turned, expecting to see the woman’s girlfriend enter. Instead, Corey’s heart slammed against his ribs and his mouth fell open slightly. A tall, broad shouldered man with the sexiest ski-jump nose Corey had ever seen strode into the bar. He was lightly tanned and had pale eyes that weren’t blue, like Corey’s. Hazel colored, maybe? His biceps nearly burst the sleeves of his T-shirt and Corey could see every ripple of his muscles beneath the thin fabric.

“Hey, Sean, what brings you here tonight?” Linda greeted him.

Nodding toward the woman seated at the bar, Sean replied, “Picking up my friend.”

“You got here just in time,” Linda said. “Things were getting a little heated.”

Sean’s eyes darted to Corey, which made sense, given that Corey was seated closest to his friend. Corey tried to appear disinterested, but he was far from it. Women usually turned to their girlfriends after a break up. Unless one of their guy friends was gay.

Linda shook her head. “Nah, the Marine’s on his best behavior.” She lifted her chin toward the other end of the bar.

Sean’s expression hardened. “We should go, then,” he said, laying a hand gently on his friend’s shoulder.

“You’re here this weekend, right?” Linda asked.

“Me and my guitar, Thursday through Saturday,” Sean answered. “I’ll see you then.”

Corey had no idea what kind of music Sean played but he suspected he’d be stopping by to find out.

“What’d ya call the fag for, honey? You know you came here lookin’ for a real man,” one of the drunks slurred, rising from his stool.

“Carl, sit down and finish your drink,” Linda said sharply.

Sean acted as though he hadn’t heard. He helped his friend to stand and started to lead her toward the door.

“Slut came in here looking to get fucked and now she’s leaving with the faggot,” Carl shouted, his two drunken friends grunting their agreement.

“I’m not a slut and I didn’t come here to get laid,” Sean’s friend screeched, turning back on the men unsteadily. Sean continued to try to get her out the door.

Corey sat up straight, one foot on the floor. Things were going to shit fast and he was going to have to do something. He had no idea if Sean’s muscles were for show or if he knew how to throw down.

“No other reason a woman comes to a bar alone,” Carl rounded the bar, approaching Sean and his friend.

Sean turned on Carl, squaring off and putting his body between his friend and the drunk. “And what the fuck do you come here for? You sit here night after night, hoping someone will come in here, either pathetic enough or stupid enough to finally suck your dick. Why the fuck is that okay for you and not for her?”

Corey came off of his stool and crossed the room in a few strides. He pushed past Sean and slammed a hand into Carl’s chest. “Back off, old man,” he said, using the same tone he’d used in Afghanistan, when he’d faced an unruly crowd. “This is a nice place and you don’t want to cause trouble.” With his free hand, Corey made a flicking gesture behind his own back, encouraging Sean to take his friend and go.

Carl looked up at Corey, gaze blurry and expression belligerent. “This ain’t your fuckin’ business,” Carl shouted, his breath sour with the smell of too much alcohol.

Corey realized he was seeing his own future if he didn’t get himself squared away.

“Carl, you don’t want to mess with him,” Linda said from behind the bar. “He’s twenty years younger than you and the government taught him how to kill people in foreign countries.”

Carl shuffled back a few steps when Corey pushed at his chest. The creak of the door told him Sean and his friend had made their getaway. Carl retreated only as far as the corner of the bar. It was far enough.

Corey turned to Linda. “Thank you for your good service this evening, ma’am,” he said, inclining his head slightly. He’d paid cash as he drank so there was no tab to settle. Corey backed his way toward the door, pulling out his cell phone as he did.

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