Protecting Her SEAL

By: Kat Cantrell

Miles Lynch liked explosions of any sort, but only when his fingers were the ones holding the detonator. Watching someone else do it—badly—on a crappy TV show only reminded him that it had been a long time since he’d blown up something.

He should remedy that. Maybe a good blast would shake loose whatever had frozen up inside since he’d come back from Iraq. Nothing else had worked.

The idiots on the inane TV show tried to outrun the explosion and, wonders of wonders, actually succeeded. Magic of Hollywood. You couldn’t do that in real life. The chemical reaction expanded too fast, eating everything in its path. But whatever.

“Why are we watching this again?” Miles wondered out loud as Jace, his TV buddy of late, snorted at the screen.

Miles had done about five years in the teams with the kid, and he’d always appreciated Jace Custer’s ability to bring the party. The guy had a smile for everyone, a quality in short supply. What he did not have was the ability to recognize classy entertainment.

Jace flipped dark hair out of his eyes and poked a finger toward the show. “Because it’s hilarious. C-4 doesn’t spontaneously go kablooey when you drop it. Morons. Besides, it irritates Charlie when we watch terrorist shows, and that’s always a plus.”

Miles flashed Jace a brief return grin and settled deeper into the worn cushions of the couch that took up better than half the real estate in the bungalow Jace shared with Charlie. And now Audra, Charlie’s girlfriend or fiancée or whatever she was this week, lived there too, at least until the lovebirds found another house, which wasn’t so easy to do in a small place like Duchess Island.

Miles should probably go back to his own house down the way and do something constructive. Hard to come by when you lived in paradise and co-owned an excursion company with five other ex-SEALs, all of whom wanted to put a stake in the ground and make a place for themselves after leaving the Navy. There wasn’t a lot to do until the time slots when they had parasailing bookings. But still.

Lately he’d labeled himself the invisible partner in Aqueous Adventures. He cared about the guys he’d served with in Iraq, pledged loyalty to them even now because he owed his life to them many times over. The reverse was true too, or they wouldn’t be such a tightly knit unit a year after voluntary separation from Uncle Sam and America in general. But outside of Dex, Evan, Charlie, Jack, and Jace, there was precious little Miles cared about. The ice inside grew a new layer every day, and it was getting really thick.

Sometimes he didn’t even care about that.

He should probably care about that.

But one thing he’d learned in Iraq—happy endings didn’t exist. Sometimes you could fight for all you were worth, bleed for the cause, do the right thing, really care about something, and still wind up broken and disillusioned in the end.

Easier not to care. Better.

Charlie emerged from the back of the house, rubbing his wet hair with a towel. “You guys watch more dumb stuff on that idiot box than the whole of a frat house combined.”

Now that Aqueous had a huge infusion of cash courtesy of Charlie’s father, they all did a lot of sitting around most mornings, waiting for their first scheduled parasailing booking of the day. No one had to slog through side jobs anymore to make ends meet, so they’d all quit their various forms of employment except Jace, who collected way too many room keys while tending bar in Freeport to give that up.

“This is quality TV, bro.” Jace scowled at his roommate and nudged Miles. “You gonna let him talk to us like that?”

Miles shrugged, mystified why Jace liked to yank Charlie’s chain so much. They’d literally just talked about how stupid the show was. “Last time I tangled with Charlie, I lost forty-seven bucks and bled for two hours. I’ll keep my shirt on this time.”

Charlie laughed. “I had forgotten about that. You used to have such a short fuse. Glad we yanked that out of you.”

That had been a lifetime ago, during their first deployment, when Miles had been too young and dumb to know that marching into hell with a do-gooder attitude was a recipe for getting killed. No one had actually expected to win the war in Iraq. Except Miles, apparently. Funny how he’d thought he’d make a difference, save people’s lives in a fight for liberty and justice, only to learn that was a fairy tale the admiral—also known as Miles’s father—had sold him.