Series: Away From Keyboard #4
Release Date: March 12, 2019
Six years later, he’s carved out an existence back in Boston. One dependent on routines. On walking the same path. Day after day. Through shadows and pain.
Second Sight is his only refuge. The most elite investigative and security firm in the country—built out of the rubble of his former life—gives him purpose in a world he can no longer see. A world where he always feels out of place.
Dax thought he’d buried the past. But some ghosts don’t stay dead. And some wounds are forever.
Evianna Archer’s life makes sense. A brilliant coder, she’s poised to be the next darling of the tech world—heading up a project that will redefine home security. Until one moment changes everything.
Her life in chaos, she turns to Second Sight, where the unlikeliest of men becomes her guide. Dax is everything she shouldn’t want, shouldn’t need, shouldn’t trust. But she’s drawn to him, even if his darkness threatens to consume them both.
When they uncover a shocking secret, Dax must make a choice. Stay broken? Or risk his heart—and his life—for the one woman who can see past his scars and into his soul.
Second Sight is a slow burn military romantic thriller. All books in the Away From Keyboard Series are standalone romances featuring a different couple, but past couples and characters play active roles in future books.
Six Years Ago
A dim halo seeps around the heavy canvas our captors tack over the cell doors. After so long here, I can almost see in the dark. Small variations in the rock walls. The flutter of air moving a corner of the shroud. My toes—if I wiggle them. Not that I’ve tried recently. The infection will take my leg soon. Or my life.
Let me fucking die already.
Ry’s gone. Escaped. Hours ago. Killed at least four on his way out. We were supposed to go together. But I can’t walk. He set my broken femur two weeks ago. One of the few times they let us stay in the same cell. But what should have been a minor burn festered, and now my whole leg is swollen and hot to the touch. At least they don’t tie me up anymore.
Booted footsteps shuffle down the hall. I’m not as good as Ry. I can’t always tell who’s coming. The canvas is ripped away, and I blink rapidly, the dim lights of the hall searing my eyes after so long in the dark.
Rough hands close around my arms, someone throws a bag over my head, and I’m dragged from my cell. My leg screams in agony, the white-hot pain sending me barreling towards unconsciousness. Until they drop me.
Breathe. In and out. Focus.
“Get him up,” Kahlid—the guy in charge—says, and I’m hauled onto a table. Before I can try to fight, they’ve tied my wrists together, then lashed me down with ropes around my torso, my hips, and my ankles.
Oh fuck. This is new.
“Sergeant Dash. How are you today?” As Kahlid pulls off the hood, I spit at him, but he’s too far away.
The punch to my jaw isn’t unexpected. Hell, that’s how the fucker says hello. I taste blood, the metallic flavor turning my stomach.
His smile worries me. As does the glint in his eyes. “Would you like some water?”
This is some sort of trick. Say yes, and they’ll waterboard me. I grind my teeth together, glaring at him, but in my current state, I doubt it’s very effective. After Kahlid nods, one of his lackeys grabs my jaw and digs in, forcing me to open my mouth. A pill lands at the back of my throat, followed by half a bottle of water, and unprepared, I swallow before I can stop myself.
“Antibiotics only, Dash. Do not look so…frightened.” Starting to pace with his fingers laced behind his back, he continues. “Your friend Ryker killed several of my men last night.”
“Good for him.” Another punch, more blood staining my lips. “You gonna keep that up? You want me to talk, it ain’t gonna happen if you break my jaw.”
“I do not want to hurt you, Dash. I only want to know where your friend Ryker was going. He will not get far. We shot him many times. I am worried for him. Tell me his escape route, and I promise you, he will not be harmed when we find him. We will treat his wounds and send him to hospital.”
“Yeah. And I’m Santa Claus.” I don’t have the energy to keep this up. My leg throbs with every beat of my heart, my split lip is swelling rapidly, and I’m nauseous from the water they forced down my throat.
Kahlid leans over me, and shit. The bastard’s a good actor. He actually manages to look…concerned. “What I have to do, Dash…you will not heal from this.”
Is he finally going to kill me? Fear snakes its cold, bony fingers around my heart, but I’m so far gone, so weak, in so much pain death would be a welcome relief. “That’s not…my…fucking…name. Whatever you’re…gonna do…just get it…over with.”
Behind Kahlid, two of his lackeys pull on thick, rubber gloves, and my stomach churns. Not the blowtorch. Or a belt. Or even a metal rod. This…has to be something different. Kahlid grabs a fistful of my hair—it’s longer now. Hangs into my eyes. “Where is he? Tell me and I will not have to do this.”
“Go…to…hell,” I grunt. “You’ll never…find him.”
Kahlid slams my head down on the wooden table, and the edges of my vision darken. His crooked smile is the last thing I see as a harsh, caustic liquid splashes into my eyes, and I start to scream.
* * *
The metal tray lands on the stone floor with a crash, and I jerk awake, my heart racing. The cell door slams shut, and a weak glow of light dims as the canvas flops back down. I don’t know how long it’s been since they blinded me. Kahlid told me I screamed for half a day. Then he broke the last two fingers on my left hand when I still wouldn’t talk. The one time they dragged me out of this cell since, my whole world was a muted sea of dull, washed out colors and agony every time I forced my swollen eyes open.
Crawling slowly, only able to use one arm and one leg without passing out from the pain, I feel along the filthy stone floor until I find the edge of the tray.
Fuck. I hope Ry made it.
I scoop up a bit of the rice slurry with my uninjured hand, then let it fall through my fingers. I can’t. They’ve taken everything. Dax Holloway doesn’t exist anymore. Hell killed him. I don’t know when it happened. Every beating. Every scar. Every time they threw me in that goddamned hole. Left me there until I was out of my mind with hunger.
I can’t walk. Can’t make a fist with my dominant hand. Can’t…see. Why keep fighting? Months ago, I was ready to give up. Starved myself for what I think was a week. Until they force fed me, then whipped Ry until his back was bloody. But he’s gone. Safe. Or dead.
Forcing myself to sit up, I grab the tray and fling it against the bars. That’ll earn me another beating. More broken bones. I don’t give a shit. “You want me to talk? How’s this? You’re all a bunch of sadistic fucks. You can carve me into a thousand pieces, and I’ll still never tell you what you want to know!”
I collapse, my head hitting the dirty floor. Shouts echo down the winding stone hall, and I try to scramble back, knowing they’ll come for me. I don’t care what they do, but I won’t make it easy for them.
Despite all the months I’ve been here, I still can’t understand much Pashto. But Kahlid’s men sound panicked. Heavy footsteps race down the hall past my cell, and then…
Not AKs. Not Taliban guns. Colt M4s. SEALs. Special Forces. Rangers.
“Go, go, go!” someone shouts, a hint of a Southern twang coloring their words.
“Four hostiles down,” another voice responds. “Clear.”
Wrapping my good hand around the bars, I try to pull myself up. “American,” I call weakly. “Here.”
“Get that goddamn door open. Now.” Light flares, bright enough to penetrate my swollen lids, as the canvas is ripped away, and a dark shadow looms as someone breaks the lock. “Holloway?”
“Yes.” I reach out a tentative hand and find a tactical vest as the man kneels next to me. “Who—?”
“West Sampson. SEAL Team Eight on a joint op with ODA. Can you—”
“Where is he?” Ryker roars from down the hall.
Oh God. He made it.
“Third cell,” West calls. “I’m bringing him out.”
Only a few feet away now, Ryker growls, “No one touches him but me. Dax?”
I jerk my head towards his voice, opening my eyes, desperate to see him. Except…I can’t. Not after what those fuckers did to me. The pale reddish glow from the hall brightens as the heat of a flashlight paints my face.
“Fuck. Dax, what the hell…? Your eyes.”
“Questions later,” West says. “This place is coming down as soon as we’re clear. Get him up and move.”
“Where’s Kahlid?” Ryker asks as he hauls me over his shoulders in a fireman’s carry, his arm hooking under one knee as he grips my wrist tightly. Unable to see or tell up from down, I can’t orient myself, and nausea crawls up from my stomach when he starts hustling down the hall.
Shouts, another three shots. “Blue Team Alpha approaching egress point. Need a location on Target Zulu,” West says.
We start to climb. I’m…safe. I’m going home. The tears gathering in my burned and blistered eyes send shooting pain through my skull, but I don’t care.
“Roger that. Kahlid’s down. They’ve got him at the mouth of the cave. He’ll be dead in five minutes.”
“Then we’ve got time.” Ryker’s voice lowers, turns grave. “He’s ours, Sampson. Give us sixty seconds alone with him, then we’re gone.”
West doesn’t respond—at least not that I can hear. The first whiff of fresh, free air smells like heaven, and then West orders everyone to fall back. Somewhere below me, I hear raspy, rattling breathing.
“I told you I’d kill you,” Ryker says as he bends and sets me on my feet. Keeping an arm around my waist so I don’t collapse, he presses a pistol into my hand.
“I can’t see, Ry,” I whisper. “You have to—”
He shifts me. “Put your other arm around my shoulders and hang on. I’ll aim for you. We fire together.”
With a nod, I clutch the back of his tactical vest so I don’t fall, and he supports my left arm with his. To my right, he cocks his pistol.
“Fifteen months, asshole. Every day, I pictured this moment. When your last sight would be the two men who took down Hell. Say your prayers, fucker.” After a beat, Ryker snorts. “On second thought…don’t.”
We fire together, and as the gun falls from my shaking hand, Ryker says, “We’re going home, brother.”
Home. As Ryker half-carries me down the mountain and a series of explosions shakes the ground under our feet, I start to sob. We might be going home, but I’ll never see Boston again.