Saturday, July 25, 2015

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Ellery Mountain by RJ Scott

Ellery Mountain—a series of books set in the town of Ellery in the Smoky Mountains and based around the Ellery Mountain Fridays. Finn, Daniel and Kieran meet up every Friday and have something in common—they are all navigating the barren landscape of being gay in a small town. These are the stories of Finn the cop, Daniel the ex-marine, and Kieran who hasn’t quite settled on anything in particular and the men who come into their lives in the strangest ways.

The Fireman & The Cop #1
Rescuing cop Finn Ryan from a burning precinct was easy; it's keeping him alive after that which fireman Max Harrison finds difficult.

Ellery is a quiet town in the Smoky Mountains, at the base of Ellery Peak, and nothing ever happens. Max is escaping from his firefighting job in the city to take up a role as assistant to the Mayor whilst also holding the position of a volunteer fire fighter.

Finn Ryan is one of only three cops in the small town and it soon seems to Max that someone is out to hurt the sexy cop. Rescuing Finn from a burning precinct was the easy part; it's keeping him alive after that which fireman Max Harrison finds difficult.

The Teacher & the Soldier #2
Luke Fitzgerald left Ellery Mountain for college and vowed never to come back. When his father is murdered he has no choice but to return. Luke only goes home to sell off his share of the Ellery Mountain Cabins, but everything changes when he meets the son of the other owner. Daniel Skylar is an ex-soldier who lives every day to the limit and sees a future in Luke.

It doesn’t matter what Daniel says, or how much he needs Luke; Luke isn’t staying once everything is sold off. Surely Daniel can understand that?

The Carpenter & the Actor #3
Jason McInnery, hounded by the paparazzi after his brother's death, runs to the one place where he hopes people will not sell him out. The place where he was born.

Hiding in the tourist cabins at Ellery Mountain Resort out of season he thinks he finally has room to breathe.

If only Kieran Dexter, a man ten years his junior, would stop fixing stuff and generally causing ripples in Jason's calm space.

The Doctor & the Bad Boy #4
Mitchell Ryan, the recovering alcoholic bad boy, meets Doctor Liam Wolfe, the man who shows him it’s okay to love…

No one has every understood Mitchell Askett. The bad boy. The alcoholic. The loser. Buying into the Ellery Mountain resort and placing down roots in the community for himself, his sister and his niece puts him on the radar of the Fridays and Dr. Liam Wolfe.

He realises he has friends in his new home that don’t judge him for what happened before and finally begins to escape his past. When he falls hard and fast for the Doctor he even sees a future for him in Ellery.

When his new happiness is threatened by family and by disaster he begins to lose faith, until Liam shows him it’s okay to ask for help.

The Paramedic & the Writer #5
Paramedic Jamie Llewelyn rescues accused murderer John Doe from a crash and his life will never be the same again.

Paramedic Jamie Llewelyn moves to Ellery to start a new life away from the City. Attached to the hospital and working for his friend Liam Wolfe he's happy—even if he has to keep coming up with excuses to miss the Friday meet ups. He had peace and he could finally make a difference in a community that needed him.

When he and Max rescue John Doe from a crashed car balanced on the edge of a ravine Jamie didn’t know but his life would never be the same again. John opens his startlingly violet eyes and suddenly Jamie is falling hard. If only John didn’t have a gun and could remember why he’d shot the passenger in the car. Then maybe passion could change into something else. Love.

The Barman & the Seal #6
A Navy SEAL with PTSD, a Barman starting a new life. Maybe they can find love in Ellery.

Travis Baranski, Navy SEAL, is the first veteran to attend the Ellery Mountain Veteran Center. He is having a hard time coming to terms with what he had seen and what he has done. When he has a very public meltdown in Ellery stores it is Avery Gideon who steps up to the plate and helps him.

Avery Gideon, a man cut off from his family for being gay, runs the only bar in town - The Alibi - and listens to many a person's problems whilst trying to forget his own.

He sees something in the wounded warrior who needs a friend and very soon finds himself falling in love with Travis.

Nothing will deter him from helping Travis, or from making Travis see he's still capable of loving Avery in return.

The Agent & the Model #7
Michael comes home to Ellery to face his past, only his present keeps intruding in the form of his agent Alex Casey, who won’t take no for an answer.

Michael Hardin is back in Ellery to face his past. The victim of a hate crime, he has memories that lie just out of his reach and nightmares that won’t leave him alone.

Alex Casey loves Michael but he completely ruined everything by treating Michael like someone who needed to be wrapped in cotton wool.

Can Michael discover more about his past and find love with Alex?

Ellery Mountain Volume 1
The Fireman and the Cop

The Teacher and the Soldier

The Carpenter and the Actor

Ellery Mountain Volume 2
The Doctor and the Bad Boy

The Paramedic and the Writer

Ellery Mountain Volume 3
The Barman and the SEAL

The Agent and the Model

What starts out as three friends weekly get-togethers we discover how lives can intertwine over time in very unexpected scenarios that can actually create a pretty good life, community, and family.  Each book in this series centers on a different couple and because of that, strictly speaking each story is a standalone but in my opinion you really should read this one in order because one half of the couple had either a cameo or was mentioned in passing in the previous book.  Also, each of the previous couples have at least a partial scene in the following installments.  For these reasons I'm doing an overall review as opposed to each book having their own write up.  Ellery Mountain has loads of drama, interesting and intriguing characters both main and secondary, hints of mystery, and of course plenty of romance, not to mention what would an RJ Scott story be without some well placed hotness.  So come along with the Ellery Mountain Fridays and see what life has in store for them.


The Fireman & The Cop #1
"Ready for your first fire, probie?"

Max Harrison sent the chief a narrow-eyed look and said nothing. He was focused on the call and they were only two minutes out. Parts of him wished to hell Chief Quinn would quit with the ‘probie’ shit. At thirty-two and with ten years of city fireman experience, he hadn’t been the new guy for a long while in the true sense of the word. He dismissed it most of the time as gentle teasing—in a small place like Ellery, with a fire team staffed by volunteers, he was the last one in. Unless someone else joined the half-permanent, half-volunteer fire team then he would always be the probie, just by virtue of the fact no one had joined after him.

At least there was no malice or hate in Quinn’s ribbing, which was very different to what he had received back in the city. Didn’t matter that the whole crap about who he was or wasn’t dating had been dealt with, he couldn’t force himself to stay somewhere that his sexual identity was deemed a threat to the shift. Assholes.

"The precinct is an old place and burning high," Duncan reported from the driver’s seat. They weren’t bothering with sirens, it was ass o’clock in the a.m. and there was little traffic on these windy back roads even in the daylight. "Fire inspections were cleared but I know for a fact no sprinklers." Duncan turned the heavy engine past the last turn, and finally downtown Ellery—if it could be called downtown—came into sight.

A prickle of excitement started at the base of Max’s neck as adrenaline began to pump through his body. The glow of the fire could be seen over the mayor’s hall and beyond to where he knew the precinct was. He’d started work at the mayor’s office only yesterday. Immediately the rig stopped in front of the burning building, he was off and assessing what they had.

Quinn was feeding instructions to the crew, but this was clearly a fire well past being contained. Turning in a rough one-eighty, Finn assessed the exposure issue. The precinct was part of an older area of town. A jumble of gift shops, a couple of restaurants and the mayor’s building. Luckily, the precinct itself—little more than a large two-storey building—was separated from other structures close by with fifty feet to spare. The only endangered structures that could be subsequently damaged by the initial fire travelling to them were first on the list to hose down.

Like a well-oiled team the volunteer fighters stood next to the full-timers and began their work. A man fell out of the fire-ringed main door and onto his knees in front of Max. He stumbled about, dishevelled and coughing.

Max was there in an instant, manhandling the guy away from danger, and guiding him to the paramedics who had arrived a few seconds after the engine.

"Someone…" A coughing fit overtook the man. "Inside," he finished when he could get his breath. He was pointing back the way he had come out.

Max stiffened. Someone was still inside? He focused on the chaos around him and on shouting.

"Finn’s still in there," someone yelled. A tall man being held back by a group of onlookers was struggling to get free.

No way was a freaking civilian getting anywhere near this scene and Max didn’t even think before crossing to the struggling men.

"Where?" he snapped.

The guy blinked but didn’t falter. "Straight in. To the back and left rear. The lockup. He went in to get Mike."

"That’s Mike?" Max asked, pointing to the old man who had just walked out of the fire.


"Okay. Going in," Max confirmed into his mic.

Quinn spun on his heel at the words to face Max and Max could see his chief’s expression of ‘what the fuck’ coupled with resignation. With a quick wave and no more thought than focusing on the job, Max ensured his face mask was secure and ran straight into the red and orange through the only space he had assessed as suitable ingress. The small area formed from an iron beam holding up the remains of the ceiling in the reception area.

The Teacher & the Soldier #2
Only the darkening sky told Luke Fitzgerald what time it was. His cell was in the car with a dead battery and he never wore a watch. The evening was drawing in, and with it the familiar coolness of a fall night in the mountains, and if he wasn’t careful he would get caught in the regular evening rain he remembered from his childhood. Coming here, to Ellery, to the place he’d called home for the first eighteen years of his life, was something he had never thought he would do. Not all the time his dad had been alive anyway.

Leaning against the fence, he stared down at the town nestled in the V of the valley caused by Ellery Mountain and Mercury Peak. Where he had been able to see things clearly a few short minutes before, now everything was blurring in the deep grey-blue smudge of evening light. Luke tracked the car’s progress by its headlights as it left the town and made its way up into the mountain. There had been a few cars passing by today, but Luke was far enough away from the road that no one had stopped to ask him what the hell he was doing rooted to the same spot for hours.

Shifting his stance, Luke pulled away from the fence and stretched tall. His back ached, his head hurt and he felt like shit. Driving straight through for eight hours was possibly the worst decision he had made since he’d decided to come back to Ellery. His chiropractor was going to have a cow when he assessed the damage Luke was doing to the already heavy tension he carried through his back muscles and up into his neck.

The headlights shot momentarily through spaces in the fir trees on each bend. He identified it on the last bend as a cop car, the white standing out against the dark of the trees. When it pulled onto the shoulder next to his car, Luke wasn’t surprised. Cops were far more attuned to spotting cars parked off the main road. The lights of the car meant he didn’t get a good look at the cop until he was less than four paces away. The cop stood loose-hipped and with his hand resting on the weapon in his holster. Peering through the gloom to the cop’s face, Luke knew that fate was fucking with him. Not only had an Ellery cop found his hiding place, but that Ellery cop was Corporal Finn Ryan.

Finn Ryan in the flesh. The man who was so closely involved in the death of Luke’s dad. Christ. Way to slap what Luke had hoped to avoid right up in his face.

"Is there a problem, sir?" Finn asked firmly.

Luke pushed his clenched fists into his pockets and stilled the rising anxiety in him.

"No problem, officer," he said. "Just visiting town and spending a little time clearing my head after a long drive."

Finn took another step closer and a look of recognition passed over his face. Luke remembered Finn as tall, dark and rangy as hell, although his memories were of a boy of fifteen, not one of…what would it be now? Twenty-four? He’d been five years younger than Luke if he remembered correctly. Luke really didn’t want to remember anything about Ellery.

"Luke?" Finn looked momentarily taken aback before regaining his posture.

"Hi, Finn."

They’d not been friends in school, just people who knew each other by sight. Luke was at college whilst Finn was still a freshman. Of course Finn, being a resident, would have heard all the rumours about him and his dad. Hell, he probably knew everything that had happened. Familiar resentment built inside Luke. He was bigger than that, bigger than his dad’s abuse, or his mom’s abandonment, bigger than this town. He would not let this place drag him down again however hard they tried.

"You missed the funeral," Finn offered. There was no accusation in his voice. He was simply making a statement and one that hung in the air with no possible answer Luke could give. Or at least not one that didn’t involve reiterating the contents of two years of counselling sessions and eight years of living his life.

"Busy," was all Luke eventually offered in response. Finn didn’t call him on the excuse.

"You’ve been up here a while, Luke. Widow Jenn called it in. Said a stranger had been standing here for hours and he was just staring down at town."

Luke shrugged. He couldn’t deny the hours had passed as he’d gazed down at the town and the tiny distant shapes of gravestones in the far churchyard of St Jeremiahs. He had deliberately stayed up here until darkness had begun to creep over the mountain. Call it self-preservation but there was no way he was driving into Ellery in the daylight. He changed the subject.

"Widow Jenn is still alive?" he said. Finn took the change of subject in his stride and nodded.

"Ninety-eight and thriving on ten a day with a glass of whisky," he said.

"She still has those binoculars?" Luke snorted a laugh. Widow Jenn was one of the more colourful characters in the town and when he was younger she’d had her fingers in so many pies—evidently that hadn’t changed.

The Carpenter & the Actor #3
Jason McInnery pulled another blanket from the pile at the bottom of his bed and used it to block up any small space around him that could let in the cold. When he’d gone for rustic he hadn’t realised he was getting the equivalent of sleeping in a tent. No heating that he could get to work, two in the morning and sleep had so far eluded him. The hot water bottle he’d found in the cupboard above the sink was still warm, but at this point it really needed to have the water replaced with steaming boiling heat. That would mean getting out of bed though and placing his feet on the icy cold wooden floor.

"So not going there," he muttered to himself. The new blanket helped and finally he had a cocoon that at least meant he wasn’t shivering. No wonder the cabin had been cheap to rent if it didn’t come with working heat. He knew he should have stopped at the chain motel he’d seen just outside Ellery. But no, his idea of hiding was self-imposed isolation halfway up the mountain and twenty minutes’ drive from the town he’d been born in. He should have gone to his parents’ house in Las Vegas and got some of that desert sun.

Freaking paparazzi. They knew where his parents lived, and would assume it was one of the places he would go. Hell, he was lucky they hadn’t followed him to Ellery, or had any inkling he would go back to the town he’d left before he was old enough to remember it. His cell phone sounded and he rooted around under the covers where he’d pushed his only link to his other life. The life where he was a popular, successful, openly gay actor who had charmed his way into millions of hearts on a successful TV comedy and in two kids’ films. The actor with the brother who had died. The screen lit brightly and the name wasn’t a surprise.

"Hey, Mom," he answered. The cell was warm from where it had been wrapped in the quilt. Midnight at his mom’s place meant his dad snoring in bed and his night-owl mom watching recorded shows. "It’s two a.m., you know."

"There was a show on, and I was thinking about you."

"You need to stop watching those gossip shows, Mom," he said patiently.

"I can’t help it, J. It’s everywhere."

Jason shifted deeper under the covers and sighed inwardly. He’d grown a thicker skin now. Having his private life plastered over magazines and TV shows was part and parcel of the whole celebrity lifestyle. That didn’t mean it had got any easier over the last seven years since the small comedy show he starred in had gone ballistic. And hell, it wasn’t ever going to get any easier for his poor mom. Not only had Ben died with too many secrets and too many lies twisted around him, but Jason had been smacked around the face with the fallout of his brother’s actions and his own subsequent arrest.

"I’m fine, Mom," he said gently.

"I just wanted to…" She didn’t finish the sentence. Jason’s throat tightened with emotion. He didn’t call her on phoning him this late—she’d wanted to hear his voice. Losing Ben had destroyed his parents. Maybe he should have gone home to Vegas and forgotten the fact that doing so would have put his mom and dad in the spotlight. They were struggling as it was.

"I can be home by tomorrow," Jason offered. He could get tickets and be on a plane in a few hours. Hell, it would probably be warmer on a plane anyway.

"No, Jason, we talked about this. I love you—I just wanted to tell you."

"I love you too, Mom."

With the call finished, he clutched the cell to his chest and pulled the blankets up and over his head. Grief balled in his chest and not for the first time since he’d left LA, he wondered what the hell had made him come to Ellery. He may as well have stuck a pin in a map as a way of deciding where to hide out.

He had three weeks. Three weeks until the next season started filming. Ellery was as good a place as any.

* * * * *

Loud noises woke him to bright sunlight streaming through the large windows and he glanced at his cell phone. The screen showed it was just after seven a.m. He’d banked five hours’ sleep, but he still felt like complete shit. His dreams had been filled with Ben and a scene that was something like a film, with him and Ben running. He hated the running dream—it never failed to leave him frustrated and tired beyond reason and had occurred on too many occasions recently. Rolling onto his side, away from the window, he screwed his eyes tight shut and willed sleep to happen.

The knocking on his door was part of a dream—it had to be. No one would be knocking on the door of this remote cabin at ass o’clock in the morning for any reason he could imagine.

Groaning, he shifted until he could listen with both ears. The knocking wasn’t stopping. This wasn’t the short, sharp knock of someone at the door. This was repetitive and noisy and…hell, right outside his window. What the fuck was happening? Pulling the blankets back over his head, he attempted to sleep. When that didn’t block out the banging, he searched on his phone for an app that could produce white noise. When that didn’t work either, he gave up sleeping as a bad thing.

The Doctor & the Bad Boy #4
Mitchell Askett knocked firmly on the door then stepped back. After glancing down at the piece of paper with his hastily scribbled instructions, he again checked the cabin. There was no number on it or sign to indicate this was where Brenda Skylar lived, but the directions had led him this far.

"Uncle Mitch," Bobbie called from the car. "It hurts. I feel sicker than before."

"I’ll be with you in a minute, sweetheart." Mitchell knocked on the door again. If there was no answer, at that point he would skip finding where he was supposed to be staying and meeting the other owners. He’d find the nearest hotel room and get his niece tucked up into bed. Maybe if he was really clever he could locate a shop in Ellery that sold dry crackers, or eggs. He always liked eggs when he had a hangover. Not that twelve-year-old Roberta was facing the awful post-alcoholic binge effects like he did. No, she just seemed to be suffering from car sickness. Or she had a bug. Or something.

"I’m gonna be sick," she whined. Mitchell was torn. No one was answering. He should just go and find the hotel, or hell, maybe even a doctor, just to get her checked out.

"I’ll be right with you," he called.

To be fair, they’d been driving on and off for quite a few hours and their diet had consisted of whatever they could get from gas stations en route. At twelve, he would have jumped at the chance of a road trip fuelled entirely on chocolate and Doritos, but the normally buoyant Bobbie had refused everything he’d offered.

The front door finally began to open.

"Unca Mi—" he heard, then the sound of a car door opening and retching.

Suddenly torn between what he had come here to do and what he needed to do, he threw a hurried "Sorry" to whoever had just answered the door then jumped the steps back down to the car. Sliding to a halt around the passenger side, which faced away from the cabin, he stared in horror for a second. Not only had Bobbie been violently sick, but she was curled in a ball and sobbing.

Without further hesitation, Mitchell crouched down next to her and in a smooth move had her up in his arms.

"Baby? Are you okay?" Stupid question, but all he wanted was for her to open her eyes.

"What’s wrong?" a voice broke through his concern. Holding Bobbie protectively close to him, he swivelled to face the owner of the soft words. A short woman with grey hair and a concerned look on her face stood with her arms outstretched like she wanted to take Bobbie from him. He tightened his grip, only for Bobbie to whimper at the hold.

"Does she need a doctor?" the woman asked in a rush.

"I don’t know," he said. God, he felt worse than useless. What would Annabelle do? Not that he could remember his sister having to deal with a sick Bobbie, as Bobbie was usually one healthy child.

"What’s wrong, sweetie?" She touched Bobbie’s head. "She’s very hot."

"She complained of stomach ache, but it’s been getting worse."

"Let’s get her to the hospital."

Mitchell felt suddenly as sick as his niece. Hospital? That sounded like this was serious. He’d only been responsible for her for two days and he’d already fucked up.

"Hospital?" he said.

"Our doctors are there—we just need to get her looked at. Wait…" The woman ran up the steps then came back out almost instantly. In her hand she had wipes and some keys. She locked the door behind her then came and climbed into the back seat.

"Give her to me," she ordered firmly. "You drive."

"I’m not— I don’t…" he stammered. Bobbie was curled up in his arms, then her head lolled back and suddenly Mitchell’s instinct to get things done kicked in. In seconds, he had her laid with her head in the woman’s lap, and he pulled a blanket from behind the seat up and over her.

"Where?" he asked quickly. Bobbie was crying quietly and the woman shushed her gently with soft words.

"Left out of here and down into Ellery," she said.

Forcing the car into gear, Mitchell wheel-spun on the loose gravel and the car lurched as it gripped and surged forward. In a few minutes, he was back at the road. Only when they were on the main route to town did he speak again.

"Is she okay?"

"She’s very hot, and listless," the woman said.

Mitchell realised he couldn’t keep thinking of her as ‘the woman’.

"I’m Mitchell Askett. Mitch."

"I know who you are, Mr Askett. Brenda Skylar."

"The little girl…my niece, Roberta—we call her Bobbie." Or Bobs when she was cute, or Roberta Jane when she caused mischief.

Brenda had a cellphone in her hand, talking to someone, possibly the hospital, but Mitch had to watch the road. He came to a three-way stop and for a moment was confused, then realised which way he needed to go. Down. Into town. Where was the hospital? The last time he’d been in Ellery, he was only twelve or so, the same age as Bobbie. All he remembered was that the limousine he had been riding in had a mini bar and that he’d had his first taste of brandy. It hadn’t made him sick but it had taken the edges off the anxiety inside him.

They hit town and he spotted the sign for hospital and in no time at all he was pulling up at the Emergency Room door. Maybe the doctor would be elsewhere, but Bobbie was shaking and crying and in pain. The ER was certainly the place to take her. He threw the car into park, jumped out and pulled Bobbie into his arms. She reached a hand up around his neck and gripped hard to his long hair. Just like she used to when she was a baby. Compassion, love and fear warred for dominance. A small group of people waited at the entrance, but Mitch saw none of it. Someone took Bobbie from him and in the next instant she was on a gurney and all Mitch could hear was shouted words like ‘ultrasound’ and ‘emergency’. He ran in after them, then stopped at the glass internal doors beyond which he could see two women and a man checking Bobbie out.

The Paramedic & the Writer #5
Jamie Llewellyn didn’t do early mornings. He had never quite got used to waking up at the ass-crack of dawn for any reason, not even emergencies or early shifts.

Unlike Daniel and Max, who thrived on the early mornings and were chatting about a TV room and exchanging sarcastic remarks while stretching, ready to go for a run.

"I hate early mornings," Jamie muttered. He narrowed his eyes suspiciously when he caught Max grinning and Daniel reaching into his shorts pocket and handing over a five-dollar bill.

"You should have known it was the first thing he’d say," Max said. He placed the note in his pocket and zipped it. "You’ll never win."

"I thought he would at least say good morning," Daniel groused.

"When has he ever done that?" Max crowed.

"Guys. I’m right here," Jamie reminded them. "And given both of you fell asleep in your drinks last night at the planning meeting in The Alibi, then you can’t talk. Some of us work well in the morning, some of us normal people at night."

Daniel glanced at Max and the two of them began laughing in earnest. Jamie turned his back on them so they didn’t see him smiling along with them. Instead he used the advantage to begin the run and get ahead. Max and Daniel were both really competitive—it didn’t take them long to realise he’d gone and within a minute they had caught up. The three men fell into a companionable rhythm. The direction took them out of the cabins where they had met and into the forest behind. Jamie didn’t need to think about the direction—it was so familiar to him now. Through to the road, over the road, across the bridge, down into Ellery, then back to the cabins with a punishing uphill finish.

The time in the forest was more steeplechase than run—jumping fallen trees and small stream beds—and by the time the road was in sight, Jamie was feeling the warmth in his muscles. They crossed the road and made their way to the narrow bridge over the canyon between the two levels of Mercury Peak. Jostling for position, Jamie decided he’d let the other two go first and it was lucky he did. In holding back for those few seconds he glanced over the side of the bridge and saw the car.

"Max! Daniel!" He slid to a stop as he shouted. Peering over the edge, he tried to make out what the hell had happened. But it was Max with the experience and Max who suddenly was on point with this.

"Hell," he said with an added curse. "Car, off the road." He indicated back to the barrier on the corner. They hadn’t even seen the bent and buckled metal. Max leaned over the bridge and Daniel passed him his cell phone.

"Car off the road under the bridge at Mercury Peak," he relayed to emergency services. "Through the barrier. We’ll need shoring… It’s right on the edge. No sign of passengers—"

"Wait," Jamie said. He concentrated on the driver side where he thought he’d just seen movement. Then he saw it again. A hand gripping the open window covered in the scarlet of way too much blood. "There’s someone in there." Without conscious thought he was up and over the rail and scrambling down as far as he could get. He was about six feet away when the car slid from him. Only a few inches but it was enough to have him stop absolutely still.

"Max, the car’s sliding!" he yelled up.

"Stay where you are!" Max shouted. "I’m coming down."

Jamie opened his mouth to protest. If the car had moved because of him, then adding Max to the equation was going to have the car falling over the edge. But Max knew what he was doing. Not everyone was like his ex-boyfriend, Zach.

Not everyone wanted to put their life at risk, whatever the cost.

He watched as Max carefully made his way towards the car. Instead of taking the direct route, as Jamie had, he moved slowly and tested the ground before each inch.

"Help…" The word was faint but Jamie was attuned to small voices in difficult situations.

"We’re here," he called to the driver. "Help is coming to you. Stay very still."

There was no answer. He hoped to hell that meant the guy was still, and not unconscious. He concentrated on locating ingress. The driver’s door looked intact but the entire windshield was gone. Jamie’s inspection tracked the outside of the vehicle, a grey sedan, of which make Jamie couldn’t see. This close it was easy to see someone under the car. Little more than three or four feet away from where he was, Jamie found himself staring into sightless eyes and so much blood and damage that it was clear this guy was dead. His face was a mess, carved and bloody, and his neck looked broken from the unnatural angle of his head.

"Passenger through the windshield and wedged under the car," he summarised for Max. The fireman wouldn’t be able to see the body from the side he was approaching the wreck. "He’s dead," he added. Max nodded and carried on to the trunk of a tree that grew at a crazy angle from the side of the peak. It had probably been that which had saved the car from going the whole distance into the ravine itself down the sharp drop. Max finally disappeared from sight and Jamie imagined the large man checking to see how unstable the car was.

"Help…" The word was fainter.

God, Jamie wanted to move. Every fibre of him needed to check the driver out, but he couldn’t—years of training and he was still like a statue until he got the all-clear. Finally, Max crawled back up.

"We’re okay. It’s steady for now," he said, "but wait. I’m coming to you. I need to counter some of the weight."

Max steadied himself by digging his feet into the mud and pushing back, then he gripped the underside of the car hard. He looked over at Jamie and nodded. They didn’t discuss what they were doing. Max was doing his thing, and Jamie hadn’t hesitated to climb down to help with injuries. It was what they did.

"Help’s coming," Max said. In the distance Jamie could hear sirens. There would be lifting equipment, but who knew how hurt the guy in the car was? Time was a luxury they couldn’t afford. He slowly slid forward until finally he was right by the car. The driver’s door opened easily and Jamie got a clear look at the driver. One hell of a lot of blood, but he was still in his seatbelt.

"Can you tell me your name?" Jamie asked as a matter of habit. Asking a name gave a first responder a level to work with. Was the patient aware?

The man muttered something that sounded like ‘no’, but Jamie couldn’t make it out.

"Where does it hurt, sir?" he asked quickly. He needed to get a feel for whether the guy was able to talk coherently.

"O-o-over…" the man stuttered. "All…"

Jamie got himself a better foothold and leaned in to check his pulse. He couldn’t see the main wound that had caused all this blood and considered that maybe it was from the dead passenger. Then when the driver shifted it became obvious—a slice out of his thigh, and he was losing too much of the red stuff.

"He’s bleeding," Jamie called urgently. As he said it, the car shifted another inch and the metal groaned.

Max cursed. "Pull him out."

Jamie reached in and checked that there was nothing trapping the man’s legs. "What’s your name, sir? Can you hear me? We need to get you out of here." Jamie could smell petrol and knew that they had to get away.

"Jus’…leg…" the victim said. He opened his eyes and stared right at Jamie with a gaze so deep blue it was near violet. Shakily, the injured man reached for the belt. "Help…" he said. His voice was raw. "Out." His hand slipped and Jamie caught it and instead assisted him to release the belt. Under his own steam, the driver moved towards Jamie who cautiously helped him free. The car shifted a little and he could hear Max cursing up a storm. With a final tug the victim was clear and lying half on Jamie. Something hard was between them and when Jamie shifted a little he could see a gun gripped in the driver’s hand.

"Clear," Jamie called. Max must have let go as a ton of Toyota teetered for a second then crashed in three loud bangs down to the river at the bottom of the two-hundred-foot ravine. Jamie pulled the gun out of a loose grip and tossed it to where Max was, then held his patient tight. He realised immediately that they were sliding as the car had torn away mud and grass. Max grabbed them both and dug into the mud to stop the slide. Jamie cast a grateful look his way then focused entirely on John Doe. He rolled him off as soon as it was safe and realised he had an unconscious survivor in his hands.

"He’s still bleeding," Jamie summarised. He ripped off his running top and pressed it on the open wound.

"Take his weight, they’re sending down a gurney," Max said quickly. Jamie nodded and did as he was instructed.

Max assisted the guys at the top with getting John Doe on the lifting apparatus and suddenly it was just Jamie and Max left alone.

Jamie knew the guy would be whisked away. St Martin’s Hospital in Ellery could probably handle it.

The Barman & the Seal #6
The cold was biting. The cutting wind carried ice and snow high up in the Salang Pass three thousand metres up in the Afghan Mountains northwest of the capital Kabul. Normally his captors covered him—they would tell him in their broken English they weren’t completely lost to conventions of how to look after prisoners. But tonight was different. From the vantage point in the centre of the camp, two feet off the ground in the small metal and wood cage, he could see them drinking and the campfire that warmed them was the only light in this small unsheltered area. Tents flapped in the wind and the raucous laughter was enough for him to know they’d probably stumble to their tents in drunken stupor. The SEAL wasn’t important. He called for help. No one heard him or brought over the tarpaulin that was his only protection against the night.

He had curled over seven of his ten fingers when the sun rose this morning. Yesterday it had been six fingers to count the passing of time. Seven days in this place and the infections in his leg and arm were nothing to the rattling cough that had his chest squeezing in pain and his back in spasms. He shifted to find comfort and ended up twisted like a pretzel in the five-foot cube with his back to the worst of the snow. His cold weather gear, including his boots, had long ago been shared out to the rebels and he was left in combat pants, a tee and his thin under-jacket. Sneakers finished off the protection for his skin. He was fucked and he knew it. Even if someone got him out, even if any of his team had survived, he was broken in half by this place.

The pain in his back increased and he heard the inhuman whimper that left his mouth. He needed antibiotics and pain meds. Little by little his humanity was being stripped from him. He was dying—an hour at a time the ice was burning his skin and he curled his hands and feet so he wouldn’t lose them to frostbite.

Feebly he rocked in the cage, hoping the whole thing would topple on its side. Then if it crashed to the floor at least someone could possibly cover him from the snow and ice. A lethargy stole over him. He should be trying to get out, but there was no point. He’d seen the explosion, seen the mountain fall, crushing the team—he was lucky he’d been covering their six and his only open injury was the evil laceration from his knee to his ankle that now oozed pus and hurt like a bitch. All his equipment gone. Any hope gone.

He was sweating and bile rose in him, but his stomach was empty. He didn’t fight the retching or the pain—if he concentrated hard enough on home, on the hills and valleys of Virginia, then he could at least escape in his mind. He stretched his legs and the extremities of the cage held him solid. Pinned.

He cried…

Then he woke up in a bed thousands of miles away. He couldn’t see the stars through the bars of a cage, or feel icy wind bite into his skin. He was safe.

* * * * *

"Hey," Daniel said from the stove. Travis almost turned on his heel and left the kitchen. It was three a.m.—no one was supposed to be up. Especially not Daniel with his sensitive observations, his no-nonsense assessments and his damn understanding green-eyed gaze.

"Hey," Travis said in reply. He felt like shit. The dream of being back in that place, with the pain—and the crying—had wrenched him from sleep. Again. He couldn’t remember the last full night of sleep he’d had.

"You want hot chocolate?" Daniel asked. He shook the tin of chocolate powder in front of his face and smiled. "I can’t promise cream and marshmallows like Luke uses, but I can mix hot water and powder."

Travis debated. Saying yes meant Daniel and he would probably have to talk. Travis didn’t want to talk. His throat was still clogged with tears and his head and shoulders ached with tension. Damned sleeping pills weren’t even working if the terror in his head could drag him so sharply out of sleep. Sickness rolled in his stomach as the thought of chocolate hit his mind. Can’t even drink fucking hot chocolate. For fuck’s sake.

"I just came in for some water," Travis lied. "Need to take some pain pills." Why did he do that? Why did he even talk let alone elaborate. Yes, he could get water in his own room, but he could have got away with no more talking if Daniel had just accepted his excuse. But no—idiot—he had to go and mention pain. Daniel made that patented frowning face of his then nodded. The frown was so quick it was blink and you miss it, and though Travis may well be a fucked-up, washed-up ex-SEAL, he still had the ability to read expressions in a millisecond.

"Cool" was all Daniel said. He didn’t push on the pain meds or the fact Travis was awake or that he probably looked like shit. He was soaked through with sweat and he knew from looking in the mirror that his face had a gaunt, haunted look. Five weeks he’d been here in the middle of freaking nowhere at this place and every single night he’d had these dreams. Afghanistan would never leave him—the scars on his body and in his mind a permanent reminder.

Pathetic. You cry like a freaking girl.

He crossed to the sink, pulled down a glass and filled it with water. Then quietly and with a soft goodnight he left the kitchen and made his way back to his room. A hot drink would have relaxed him maybe. His mom had this way of adding cinnamon to hot chocolate and he needed that connection. He’d talked himself out of his room on the promise of finding god damned cinnamon.


The Agent & the Model #7
Just beyond Shenandoah National Park, Michael Hardin finally stopped the car.

He had three hundred miles in his rear-view mirror tracing back to New York with only a couple of stops, and he was starting to feel it.

Following signs to Staunton was easy enough—finding Staunton Choral Gardens B & B less so. He’d been in a daydream and had entirely missed his satnav telling him to leave the road at the next right.

What he found when he doubled back on himself was a gorgeous place, all white sidings and a garden tumbling with a riot of colours. The extended house was stunning. And quiet. So blissfully quiet. Michael parked then grabbed his overnight bag from the seat next to him. He considered whether he should get his cases out of the back.

I’m only staying here one night.

After minutes of staring aimlessly at the cases in his trunk trying to make a decision, his New York side won out over his Ellery side and he juggled both wheeled cases out of the car. Just making that one decision had him feeling a little more confident that he could carry this ‘normal life’ off. No makeup artists fawning around him, no clothes draped by dressers on his body, no shouting, or chaos, or his damned agent ordering him here and there.

He locked the midnight-blue Porsche, then checked he’d locked it again. When parked in the city, his car wasn’t just locked—it was one of many left in a garage with security guards. In fact, the thing hardly ever moved and not for the first time he considered why exactly he’d bought the car.

To spend money, that’s all, he answered his own question.

When he turned to look up at the B & B, he faced a guy standing right by him on the grass staring with a Cairn terrier in the crook of his arms. Michael flushed at the fact that this stranger had seen the whole procrastination over cases and locking the car sequence.

“Just checking it’s locked,” Michael explained. Why he didn’t know. The man nodded like he understood the motive behind the explanation then he deliberately looked Michael up and down.

“Good morning to you,” he finally said, before ambling away and muttering something under his breath. For all Michael knew the man could be talking to his dog but he doubted it. He was used to people staring and feeling that they owed it to themselves to comment on his appearance.

Michael pushed his shades over his eyes. If the guy had a problem with tight designer jeans and a bright lime T-shirt that fitted like a second skin, then he wasn’t worth worrying about.

He awkwardly made his way up the steps to the foyer, then waited at a small desk after pressing the bell.

“One minute, sir,” a female voice came from an open office door behind the desk.

“No rush,” he called back. He pushed his sunglasses back into his long hair and waited patiently, amusing himself by checking out the various posters with views of the surrounding area. Maybe he could leave Ellery a couple of days earlier than he’d originally planned and take a detour on the way home and out into the Valley. He needed a break. Rolling his head and shoulders, he heard the cracks of tension and grimaced.

I need a massage.

He would do the couple of weeks in Ellery, spend time with his nan, Avery and Travis—be Mikey for a while. But Ellery was always sensory overload for him so maybe he should end his road trip by coming back here to this B & B to sleep. Just sleep—for a week maybe—before he’d have to go back to the place where he was Michael again.

Author Bio:
RJ Scott has been writing since age six, when she was made to stay in at lunchtime for an infraction involving cookies. She was told to write a story and two sides of paper about a trapped princess later, a lover of writing was born.

As an avid reader herself, she can be found reading anything from thrillers to sci-fi to horror. However, her first real true love will always be the world of romance where she takes cowboys, bodyguards, firemen and billionaires (to name a few) and writes dramatic and romantic stories of love and passion between these men.

With over sixty titles to her name and counting, she is the author of the award winning book, The Christmas Throwaway. She is also known for the Texas series charting the lives of Riley and Jack, and the Sanctuary series following the work of the Sanctuary Foundation and the people it protects.
Her goal is to write stories with a heart of romance, a troubled road to reach happiness, and most importantly, that hint of a happily ever after.


The Fireman & the Cop #1
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  ARe

The Teacher & the Soldier #2
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  ARe

The Carpenter & the Actor #3
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  ARe

The Doctor & the Bad Boy #4
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  ARe

The Paramedic & the Writer #5
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  ARe

The Barman & the Seal #6
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  ARe

The Agent & the Model #7
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  ARe

Ellery Mountain Volume 1

Ellery Mountain Volume 2

Ellery Mountain Volume 3

No comments:

Post a Comment