~ LIZ BORINO ~
CIA Agent Aaron “Angel” Collins doesn’t take many things on faith. He trusts his gut, his eyes, and his husband, Jordan, an Army Captain. When his commanding officers deliver news of Jordan’s death, Aaron needs proof. The facts don’t add up, and Aaron must decide if he can trust Major General Troy Hart to assist in his quest to discover the truth.
Captain Jordan Collins is battered and disheartened in an Afghanistan prison, but definitely not dead, though he learns his own government believes he is. His only mission now is to stay alive and make it home to Angel, if he can find an ally among the enemy. But someone in the US government will stop at nothing to make sure he never leaves that prison, And Jordan must reevaluate the lines between friend and foe if he is ever to return to his Angel.
Even as he entered the diner to find Aaron waiting, Jordan still struggled to believe that he’d persuaded Aaron Larson to leave the mixer by using the worst pick up line ever. But as he’d stood across the room, all he could think was, Angels should smile. I’m going to see if I can change his mood. Jordan’s gaydar had sharpened as soon as he’d entered the military and hitting on the wrong person could cost him his job.
“Hey Angel,” Jordan said, taking a seat at the booth.
“Are you honestly going to continue calling me that?”
“Is it going to continue making you blush?” Jordan countered, deepening the red in the man’s cheeks even further. “I’ll stop if it bothers you.”
Aaron shook his head. “Doesn’t bother me. It is an odd descriptor for someone you only met a half hour ago. Unless you make a habit of judging people by their appearance.”
Appearance tells more than most people like to admit, but Jordan would get there eventually. “Fair enough. What if we got to know each other a little better and reevaluated if Angel fits you?” Jordan posed, opening the menu.
“Okay. It won’t,” Aaron told him. “The burgers here are fantastic if you’re a meat eater.”
Jordan raised his eyebrow. “Do I look like a vegetarian?”
“Now not only do angels all look the same, but vegetarians, as well?” Aaron threw back.
“That has a biological basis. Vegetarians eat less protein and therefore build less muscle than people who eat from all the food groups,” Jordan said.
“Every single vegetarian in the history of the world consumes less protein than the general population?” Aaron asked.
Jordan raised his hands in surrender. “I need some food before entering into verbal volleyball.” He ordered French fries and a cheeseburger from the waitress. His jaw dropped when Aaron requested a salad. Jordan quickly closed his mouth so as not start another debate,
but damn if Aaron wasn’t proving Jordan’s point about body types by eating salad instead of meat.
“By the way, I’m not a vegetarian. I am selective with what goes in my body,” Aaron clarified, seemingly reading Jordan’s thoughts.
“Yeah? That’s good to know.”
Aaron rolled his eyes. “You’re infuriating.”
Jordan smiled. “You like it.”
“Why would you say that?” Aaron asked.
“Still here, aren’t you?”
Releasing a breath, Aaron said, “Yes, yes. What makes you think I’m an angel?”
“What makes you think you’re not?” Jordan leaned back to assess the man across from him. He had to ensure he was not pushing too far. But so far Aaron seemed to be enjoying his annoyance, because no matter what he said, Aaron kept the tiniest smile.
“Do you always answer a question with a question?”
Jordan fused their gazes. “Only when your answer is more important than mine. See, I called you Angel because the light made your hair shine. And… every other time I have seen you, you’ve been helping someone.”
Aaron tilted his head to the side. “What are you talking about? We haven’t met before tonight.”
“No, but I’ve seen you around. First time was six weeks ago in the writing center at Georgetown. You were working with a football player to keep his scholarship. Then last week, you stopped a dog from getting hit by a car,” Jordan told him.
The conversation paused as they thanked the waitress for their drinks. Once she left, Aaron asked, “Have you been stalking me?”
Had he truly been concerned about sitting across from a dangerous stalker, Aaron’s voice would have heightened and his body would be stiff. Neither of those things was the case, so Jordan smiled and replied, “No, I happened to be in the writing center working with a tutor at the same time as you, and I was jogging across the street when you saved the dog. At that point, I would have stopped to introduce myself, but I had a drill sergeant screaming a few paces behind me.”
Aaron’s gaze darted around room before leaning closer and lowering his voice. “Speaking of drill sergeants, we need to discuss you being out with me in your uniform. I never had a closet to come out of, so if you’re seen with me, people would have reason to be suspicious.”
Jordan caught Aaron’s smoldering grey eyes, covered his hand with his own, and took note of the other man’s tripping pulse. “Relax. My comrades know. My superiors have guessed. Could the wrong person start trouble? Sure, but my private life has never interfered with my job or schoolwork. It never will.”
“So you’re telling me that you’re the exception to the law? Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell doesn’t apply to you?”
“Of course it does, but the fact is I’m smarter than most people. I can read a room within seconds of walking in. I have never once incurred bullying for my sexuality. I don’t hit on men who aren’t gay, and I avoid flamboyant men. They would get me in trouble.” Jordan moved his hand, but kept eye contact. “If I want to get to know someone, I don’t let my job stop me. Granted, certain things are more difficult. For example, I can’t bring my partners as dates to work events, and it’s probably a bad idea to take them on base.”
Freeze or I’ll shoot!” Aaron yelled and aimed the gun at Jordan’s chest.
“Angel, no, please.” Hacking fluid-filled coughs broke up Jordan’s words.
“Jordan?” Aaron whispered his name as recognition painted a mural of memories of their life together on his face.
“Yes.” He coughed red into his dirty hand. “Please help.”
So begins Angel’s Truth, the sequel to Angel’s Hero. Army Captain Jordan Collins arrives home, only to find the man responsible for his imprisonment, torture, and near-execution with his husband. Had his Angel moved on without him?
Aaron “Angel” Collins has driven his family and friends away in his quest to learn the truth of Jordan’s fate, leaving only Major General Troy Hart willing to help him. When Jordan miraculously returns, with a spirit more broken than his body, Aaron realizes Hart was really a liar with an agenda of his own. Aaron is unable to take time to heal his own emotional wounds, because he and Jordan learn Hart’s betrayal is even greater than they originally believed, threatening the entire nation. Now the reunited couple must race against time to keep a promise to Jordan’s savior and prevent Hart from bringing terrorism once again to American soil.
“Freeze or I’ll shoot!” Aaron yelled and aimed the gun at Jordan’s chest.
“Angel, no, please.” Hacking fluid-filled coughs broke up Jordan’s words as he sat sprawled on the kitchen floor.
“Jordan?” Aaron whispered his name as recognition and memories of their life together flashed across his face.
“Yes.” He coughed red into his dirty hand. “Please help.” After being imprisoned for more than two months in Afghanistan, Jordan needed his husband more than ever.
“No! Jordan’s dead.” Aaron’s hand shook so hard his grip on the gun loosened.
That’s what the Army told him. Now I have to deepen those memories. Show him they’re real. Jordan met Aaron’s gaze, and found confusion with a flickering spark of hope. “Not unless you shoot,” he replied, and somehow knew he had nothing to fear even with a gun pointed toward him.
Aaron set the Glock on the table. He held it down while keeping his eyes locked on Jordan’s. Not moving closer. “How?”
Before Jordan could answer, the front door shut. “Who was that?” he asked, struggling to sit straighter, his gaze darting around the room. The faint click of the far away lock sent his pulse into overdrive.
“Um,” Aaron glanced at the door and back again, “Troy.”
Hart! No! Jordan’s breath came in short spurts, increasing his coughing… and blood on his sleeve. Blood that Hart caused by leaving him in that godforsaken prison. Angel doesn’t know that… and I can’t fucking tell him.
Aaron crouched down in front of Jordan. “You need to go to the hospital.”
“Not yet.” He coughed again. “Are you seeing him?”
“No,” Aaron answered. “He’s my only friend right now.” At Jordan’s confused expression, Aaron explained, “When they told me you died, I lost it because their story sucked. Cost me my job. Troy stuck by me and helped me investigate your ‘death,’” Aaron put air quotes around the last word. “Then he…” Aaron’s words trailed off.
“He what?” Jordan prompted.
“Showed me a picture of your body after they executed you,” Aaron answered. “But… it obviously wasn’t you.”
“No,” Jordan responded.
“Troy must have made a mistake,” Aaron tried.
“You don’t believe that,” Jordan said.
Aaron shook his head. “Why were you scared when I told you his name?”
“He kept me there on purpose,” Jordan sputtered. And ordered my death.
His head snapped up and he caught Aaron’s gaze. “Don’t give me that condescending tone.” More coughing.
“I’m sorry,” Aaron whispered. “I just…”
“Angel.” Jordan softened his voice. “I can’t tell you how I know yet, but I promise you, I do.”
Aaron hesitated only slightly and then said, “I believe you.”
“Thank you.” Jordan extended his hand and brushed Aaron’s cheek. “My Angel.”
Aaron’s tears streaked a line through the dirt Jordan painted on his face. “Oh, Jordan,” Aaron cried, kissing his palm, igniting his husband’s own wet cheeks. “I love you is not strong enough.”
Jordan leaned forward and kissed Aaron’s cheeks. “Maybe not, but we are. If …”
“If what?” Aaron questioned.
“If you want to be,” Jordan replied, flitting his gaze away again.
“Yes, more than you know,” Aaron answered. “Let’s get to the hospital.”
He shook his head. “I can’t.”
Aaron scrutinized him. “You’re coughing blood and pale.”
As pale as a mixed race Korean and African American could be, anyway. “I have either TB or pneumonia, an ankle that’s been broken repeatedly, and I haven’t slept in at least three days,” Jordan reported between coughs.
“Um. Yeah. You need a doctor. Probably a team of doctors.” Aaron started to stand up, but Jordan grabbed his arm.
“The Army thinks I’m dead.”
“Uh-huh. We’re not making them prophetic,” Aaron told him as he extracted his phone from his pocket. As Aaron dialed the last one, Jordan snatched the phone and threw it to the other side of the kitchen. “Jordan!”
“I can’t! Angel, what if they lock me up?”