Today I am so pleased to welcome SJ Himes to Joyfully Jay. SJ Himes has come to share an exclusive excerpt from her latest release, Saving Silas (an expanded version of her story in the Home for the Holidays anthology). Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
The pain woke him up, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it was when he woke up in the hospital. Which was exactly where he wasn’t.
Silas carefully moved his head, blinking away the cobwebs left over from the drugs and what he assumed was lethargy from losing so much blood after he got shot. He flashed back to the gun firing, a man dressed all in black standing over him, and he gasped, battling back terror. He wasn’t there anymore.
He almost died. This was the worst school break in the history of all breaks.
Silas let his eyes wander around the room he was in, the long leather couch he was laying on big enough to seat at least five people, the fireplace it was facing, cold and empty. The lamps in the corners of the room were lit, but on low, the golden glow providing just enough light to keep a person from tripping over furniture. Though aside from the huge couch and a large flat screen TV kitty-corner to the couch, there wasn’t much in the way of furniture. The walls were bare, and Silas could just barely make out a few pictures and small items on the mantle above the fireplace.
There was something missing though, other than a hint of the personality of the person who lived here. His father’s house, the old Victorian showpiece, was festooned with holiday cheer, tastefully arranged by a decorator, and Silas had no doubt that the second Thanksgiving was over the Christmas decorations were ready to go. Not that his father did any of it, no. Franklin Warner hired people for that.
The room he was in was big, and there was more than enough space for a tree or a wreath…or whatever faith his hero followed, surely he would have some kind of decorations up for the holidays? Maybe he just moved in?
Cataloging his environment did wonders to calm his heart rate, and Silas gratefully recognized the scent of steak cooking, and onions. His stomach was so empty it was attacking his spine, and he moaned, realizing it had been a few days since he ate anything substantial. He reached up with his left arm and grabbed the top of the couch, pulling himself slowly upright. The room spun a little, and he held still until it stopped moving.
“Are you hungry?”
Just hearing that voice made him want to smile. Silas met the eyes of his rescuer, and his brain finally clicked.
“You just saved my ass, and I don’t even know your name,” Silas quipped with his best smile, needing to be charming. Silas had no clue how to do that, be charming, but damnation, he was going to try.
He was tired, achy, sore and dear-god-hungry, but all he wanted right that second was to hear this man speak. To keep him talking to him. Tall, Dark, and Dreamy was standing halfway between the kitchen and the living room, coat gone, muscled torso delightfully outlined by the dark henley he wore. This man was so far outside his usual experience that Silas had no idea what to do except go for it. He had nothing to lose, right? He’d already lost everything.
Mr. Dreamy walked around the couch and reached down, clasping his forearm gently before tugging him to his feet, holding him steady as the room spun again. The world righted itself, and Silas breathed in the scent and heat pouring off the man standing so close to him.
“My name is Gael Dominic,” he replied, the smile in his voice more apparent in his eyes than anywhere else, and Silas bit back a moan, not wanting to clue Gael in to just how much he affected him. He had to be still high from the drugs, he was never this affected by anyone.
“Gael?” He did his best to pronounce it like Gael did, the subtle tug on the vowels making the name seem both exotic and strong. The bigger man had a slight accent, something Silas was having trouble identifying, and it was more noticeable when he said his own name.
“Most people call me Gee. Too many people want Gael to be Gale, so Gee it is,” Gael told him, and Silas found himself being lead carefully away from the warm comfort of the couch and into the kitchen. “And I know your name is Silas Warner. You need to eat, and then sleep.”
His nose was right; there was a steak smothered in sautéed onions and what looked like portabella mushrooms, and a steaming baked potato nestled in its own deep dish next to the steak. Butter and sour cream rested in a small bowl and there was an unopened bottle of ice tea, condensation running down the sides of the bottle. Silas sighed happily as he was gently guided to the small bar between the kitchen and the dining room, and he slid onto the stool and grabbed his knife and fork.
Gael sat next him, the same setup in front of him, and Silas tore into his food. He was starving.
“Don’t eat too fast—you’ll get sick,” Gael warned him, and Silas nodded as he chewed. The steak was perfect—medium rare, and succulent. Silas’ whole body rejoiced in eating—except for his shoulder, but then he was too hungry to care about how it throbbed each time he cut his steak.
He forced himself to slow down, not wanting to vomit in front of Gael. He chewed on a piece of beef while sneaking peeks at Gael out of the corner of his eye. Skin that wasn’t quite dark gold was covered sporadically in dark tattoos, and the sleeves of his shirt were pushed up past his elbows, revealing partial tattoo sleeves. Some kind of military tattoo held a huge portion of Gael’s inner right forearm, and he could see the letters CM under the gray-tone design of a sword and two snakes.
“What does CM mean?” The question came out strangled as he swallowed, and he had to repeat it. Gael gave him a concerned look, but answered when he took a deep breath and went back to eating.
“I was a combat medic for the army in Iraq ten years ago,” Gael said, reaching for his own ice tea, his left arm thick with muscles, and the sight of ropey veins running under black and red tattoos made it hard for Silas to swallow. Gael was going to kill him, forget dying from his injuries—the sight of Gael up close was making him want to choke.
Silas finished his bite and risked reaching for his drink, but the motion stressed his shoulder and he froze, a sickening wave of pain almost rolling him under. His head dropped, and he panted through the pain, waiting as it receded. He swallowed back his food, hoping he wouldn’t puke in front of the hottest guy he’d ever seen.
“Combat medic?” Silas squeaked, refusing to acknowledge how badly he was hurting. He looked up though when he felt the cold bottle moved into range of his left hand, and he gratefully pulled it in for a sip.
“Go slow,” Gael admonished. “Drink a bit more, then I’m helping you to bed. You need sleep.”
Silas nodded, sweat rolling down his temple, the pain now a hard throb that beat in time with his pulse. He really needed to lay down. Appetite gone, Silas leaned on the bar, mournfully eyeing the remains of his steak.
“I’ll put it in the fridge, don’t worry. I’ll make you a sandwich later after you wake up,” Gael said, and Silas gratefully accepted the helping arm that wound around his waist and guided him from the stool. He put his tea down after taking one last drink, and let Gael take him from the kitchen and down a dark hall.
He looked up, and Gael’s face in the shadows brought a memory up from the depths of his pain-rattled mind.
“I saw you,” Silas breathed out, as Gael stopped at a closed door at the end of the hall, opening it and flicking on the light with his free hand. Gael all but carried him into the bedroom, to a perfectly made bed covered in a thick blue quilt. “It was you who found me in the alley. You’re a paramedic.”
“I am, yes,” Gael confirmed, pulling back the bedspread and sitting Silas on the edge of the bed. He knelt on the floor, and Silas bit back a moan wholly unrelated to pain at the sight of the incredibly sexy Gael on his knees in front of him. Thankful he was too tired and pained for an erection, Silas let Gael take off his bedraggled shoes and lift his legs up and under the covers.
“Thank you,” Silas said, earnest and sincere. He needed Gael to know how much he appreciated everything. “I don’t know why you’re helping me now, but thank you. You saved my life twice.”
Haunted by his years at war, Boston paramedic Gael Dominic spends his time saving other people’s lives. An empty house, a single friend, and living at work, Gael is not content with his existence, but he’s close. Gael was expecting his overnight shift on Thanksgiving to be the same as always—manic crowds, heart attacks…until catastrophe strikes, and Boston’s streets run with blood.
On the run from an abusive and politically powerful father, Silas has been on the cold, mean streets of Boston for days, injured, hungry and alone. When he wakes up in the middle of a nightmare, he expects to die in the same alley he was calling home.
Brought together by tragedy, Silas and Gael can’t resist their attraction. Gael may have saved Silas, but it’s his alleyway angel who brings Gael back to life.
As Christmas approaches, Silas and Gael learn how to love, despite their pasts. And as Silas’ past closes in, Gael learns the greatest gift he could ever give isn’t something bought in a store, but freely given from the heart.
SJ Himes is a nomad, traveling all across the USA, finally stopping in New Orleans. Enchanted by the music, food, and family, she’s decided to stay in the Deep South…for now. Accompanied by her trusty computer, the books in her head, and her grumpy dog Micah, SJ has plans to see the rest fo the country eventually. Until then, she has some books to write, some characters to appease, and plans to expand her lesser known pen name, Revella Hawthorne.