Home > Speed King (Men of Action #1)

Speed King (Men of Action #1)
Author: Ahren Sanders

 

 

Prologue

 

 

Almost 11 Years Ago

 

 

Achilles


“I can’t believe today’s the day.” Harley’s voice quivers.

My fingers lace with hers and squeeze lightly. “We’ve talked about this. You promised you wouldn’t cry.”

“Doesn’t change the fact that I hate it. It feels like punishment.”

“Joining the Marines isn’t punishment. It’s an honor.”

Her blue eyes are loaded with misery. “I know. It’s selfish of me. But you are my best friend. I don’t have many of those. Girls are so complicated. With you, it’s always been easy.”

“That’s because high school girls are bitches. Plain and simple. They’re jealous of you.”

Her eyes bulge in disbelief, and she makes a waving gesture up and down her body. “Jealous? Please. Look at me. There is nothing special here. My hair’s a mess most days, my style isn’t cool, and people think I’m a nerd.”

I grind my teeth at her perception of herself. My gaze roams down her body, appreciating the way her sundress highlights her curves. She’s wearing her favorite faded pink Chucks. “Your hair is pretty, your style is cool, and being smart isn’t nerdy. It’s commendable. You’ve already been awarded scholarships to two of your top colleges.”

“If there is any jealousy, it’s none of that. They’re envious of you. After prom, the rumors started you took me as your pity date. Tons of girls wanted you to ask them. That makes me think I may have coerced you into going with me.”

Fury boils in my gut. I’d heard that rumor, too, and now regret not shutting that shit down. I bring our joined hands to her cheek, running my thumb along her jaw. “Fucking bitches, Harley. Every girl in that school knows they had no chance. If it wasn’t for you, I’d have ditched the whole thing. It wasn’t coercion; it was a privilege.”

Her lips curl, and she gives me a small smile. “I’ll miss you.”

“Boot camp is no joke. But I’ll message if I can.”

“You better. Dad, Mom, and I will be at your graduation.”

“Don’t break too many hearts your senior year.”

This time, she rolls her eyes high to the sky. “Forget about that. Dad won’t let me date. You’re the only guy he ever let me go out with alone. He’s so protective.”

“Rich is wise and knows how precious you are. I understand exactly where he’s coming from.”

“Recruits! Board up!” A man in uniform barks out the order sharply.

“Do you need to say goodbye to Sandy again?”

I follow her line of sight to my mom, who is standing with Harley’s parents, Amanda and Rich. Notably absent is my father. Harley didn’t mention it, but her expression when Mom arrived alone gave away her curiosity.

She knows my home life was messed up, but she doesn’t know the extent of it. Rich and Amanda are salt of the earth, good-to-the-soul people. They may have some faults, but I doubt it. Whereas my parents, Pete and Sandy Kingston, have a lifetime of fuck-ups behind them. Dysfunction is putting it mildly.

My dad’s currently sobering up in a detox facility. Rich has promised to monitor his progress and push to keep him on track.

“Nah, Mom will start crying again and it will be awkward.”

I’ve barely turned my head when Harley lunges into me, wrapping her arms tight. She lightly pecks over my cheek, neck, and ear before whispering, “I’m so proud of you. Please be safe.”

I clear my throat, her sweet floral scent washing over me, and the skin she kissed tingling.

God, she feels good against me. The teenage boy comes alive. My cock stirs, and I bite my tongue to tame it down. “I’ll be good.”

She steps away, reaches inside her pocket, and shoves a folded piece of paper into my hand. “Don’t read this ‘til you’re gone.”

I nod.

Slowly, she backs away, not breaking eye contact until she gets to her parents. I give them all a chin jerk and shift the bag in my hand, then get on the bus.

The mood is solemn and quiet, nothing like the chatter and bustling outside. I nab a window seat and look out in time to see Harley crumble into her dad, her body rocking violently. Tears streak down Mom and Amanda’s cheeks. Rich stares back at me with a look that blows straight through me, piercing somewhere deep.

Pride, admiration, respect.

The bus drives away, and I open the note.

Achilles,

Thank you for being my friend.

Thank you for being the best, most wonderful, most loyal friend in my life.

Thank you for letting me know the incredible person you are hiding from the rest of the world.

Thank you for not embarrassing me that first day when I declared we were friends and you weren’t getting rid of me.

There are a thousand little things to thank you for, but last, I’ll say thank you for being such a good man.

All my love,

Harley

A knot coils tight in my stomach, and my heart thunders in my chest.

I type a quick text to Rich—Take care of her.

His reply comes back within the minute—Always. Do good, son. Go become the man you want to be.

I power the phone off, knowing that was the last communication with my life as I know it. In a few hours, all personal belongings will be stripped and bagged.

Go become the man you want to be, replays in my head, fueling my determination.

This is the beginning, the first step of finding the man inside me that is good enough for Harley Christine Jacobs.

No matter how long it takes. Because when I find that man, I’m coming back for her.

 

 

1

 

 

Achilles


“We’re applying for SWAT.” I lay it out, not wanting to prolong this more than necessary.

Major and Talon stand to my right and Ford to my left. Without looking, I know we stand in solidarity—legs planted, arms crossed, and serious expressions. This is not up for discussion. Our decision is firm.

The statement hangs in the air as Chief Boyd’s face hardens and his eyes move over us. He has no idea who the four of us are outside of our applications and any documentation of records in the academy. I’m surprised he even accepted my request for a meeting today

“Pardon me?”

“We’re applying for SWAT,” I repeat.

“I’m not deaf. I’m wondering where you four rookies got the balls to come into my office and make that announcement. You haven’t completed your first round of field training, and you’re already looking to move up the ranks.”

“It’s not balls, it’s respect.”

“Respect? You men may be ex-Marines, but you’re on my force now and I call the shots.”

“Marines,” I correct him. The temperature in the room chills, all giving off the same disapproval of his assessment.

“What?”

“Marines. We’re not ex-Marines. We’re Marines.”

“Being in the Reserves doesn’t make you active.”

Major lets out a low, bitter sound, pulling Captain’s attention to him.

“I’ve already had to jump through hoops and fast track your asses through the academy. There are some pissed-off people in this department who think you received special treatment because of who you know.”

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