Title: No Flag
Series: After Everything, Book One
Author: Liz Borino
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: 06/07/2021
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, family-drama, military, war, violence, terrorists, disabilities, amputee, bartender, Dom/sub relationship, domestic discipline, OCD
Captain Mike Kelley does not ignore his intuition, so when sexy bartender Will Hayes captures his heart, Mike embarks on a mission to win him over to a Domestic Discipline relationship. Will accepts with one caveat: Mike must promise not to renew his army contract.
Mike agrees, until the army invokes the stop-loss military policy to involuntarily extend his commission and send him back overseas, rendering him powerless and threatening everything he and Will have built. Will, left alone to cope with a new café, must rely on the support of old friends who may no longer be trustworthy.
A horrific terrorist attack on Mike’s outpost changes everything, leaving them both at a loss.
Mike awakens in a hospital with a devastating injury and no recollection of the attack. As the only survivor, his memory may be the key to national security. Mike struggles to cope with his injury and Will struggles with his new role in Mike’s life.
For Mike and Will, “No Flag” meant “come home alive.” Will has Mike back rather than a folded flag, but in the aftermath of war, can they rebuild the life they had before?
What Love Means to Me – Mike
If you asked me a few years ago, I would have said love was about protecting and guiding my partner. I had to steadfast, tough. Then I met Will, and for the first time in my life, I had the desire to compromise, to somewhat soften my need for control. Now, Will would tell you that ‘somewhat’ is doing a lot of work. But he’s not writing this. I am.
My definition changed again when I was deployed overseas despite my military contract ending. Love became the ability to stick with and remain devoted to someone, regardless of circumstances. I had promised him I wouldn’t have to leave, but Stop-Loss had other ideas. So, for five months, we lived in that love. It was the only time I had someone waiting for me at home, which made being there harder and easier. I had more of a drive to get home safely, but I also had to do my job well, to protect him and everyone. Or that’s what I told myself to keep sane.
Five months after I left, I came home without my left arm. Profoundly broken. I had to relearn how to take care of myself—eating, dressing, bathing, writing, opening a soda—things I never imagined would require two hands. How could I be the man Will fell in love with—the one he trusted to lead him—when I couldn’t so much as button a shirt? I didn’t know if I ever would be the same again.
The truth is I’m not. The trauma changed me. There are things I will never be able to do again, like fold laundry. And, yes, that’s on the list of things that bother me. It takes Will several tries to get it right sometimes, even when he’s trying… Anyway, love is knowing your partner will be there through everything. Love is trusting when you can’t see the other side. Love is vulnerability to each other and life.
After everything, Will trusts me to lead. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
Liz Borino © 2021
All Rights Reserved
July 7, 2012
Bombs exploded on the evening news, one after the other. Body parts flew past the camera. The headline across the bottom of the screen read: “20 Army Intelligence Officers Dead.”
“Early this morning, a bomb exploded in the Army Intelligence building, killing twenty American soldiers from Platoon 518,” the blonde newswoman reported.
Will Kelley squinted as the fuzzy security images played behind the woman’s head, searching through the chaos for reassurance. Nothing. His heart pounded and he tried to swallow but found only dry air in his mouth and throat. The female reporter described the weapons used and structural damage done in vivid detail, which made for sensational television, but failed to answer any questions for the people at home. Victims’ families had to be notified before the media could release their names. So, Blondie would lose her job if she read the list in front of her.
“What the hell are you doing, man? We open in thirty minutes and you’re watching television?” Seth, his roommate, demanded from the doorway of the living room.
“Answered your own question, didn’t you?” Will responded.
“Are you ready?”
“No.” Will did not take his eyes off the screen. “I’ll drive myself.”
The report flashed to an increase in allergies in children, so Will switched to another station while typing “Attack on American S2 Building in Afghanistan” into Google. It wouldn’t be that easy though. So, Will tried several more combinations of search terms before finding a video shot by an insurgent involved in the attack. The camera shuddered. Focused on different areas of the chaos. Men ripping clothes off soldiers. Looting. Bodies blown to bits. A man removing computer hard drives. And only one face. On the severed head of Major Evans.
“Will!” Seth jabbed him in the shoulder with a pen. Will forced his eyes away from the computer. “What happened?”
“Mike’s platoon was attacked. Twelve survivors.”
“Shit,” Seth said. “Can you call…?”
Will took a slug from the nearby water bottle. “Who? No one will talk to me. I’m not my husband’s family.”
Seth stared at him for a long moment and said, “I’ll have Casey cover for you.”
Will stood and shook his head. “Why? I can’t do anything here except watch the same videos over and over. May as well see if I can make some money.” He shut his computer and set it on the side table. “Meet you there. I won’t be too late. Promise.” He had to stop himself from scoffing as the meaningless word left his lips.
“Will…” Seth began.
“You wanted me to move, I’m moving! Go. I’ll be there.” He walked toward his bedroom, Seth’s gaze burning into his back. Stopping to throw a glance over his shoulder, he added, “Don’t tell Casey. I can do without her mother-henning me.”
“Thanks.” Will climbed the steps and closed his bedroom door. He leaned against the wood cutting him off from the rest of the world. His gaze roamed the four walls decorated with art prints, a whiteboard, and his wedding picture. Will strode over and fingered the golden frame. Behind the glass lay a photograph of Will and Mike in tuxes in the middle of their first dance. Their smiles easily outshone the gold on the frame. Mike had always been handsome with broad, built shoulders and muscular pecs, leading to abs you could grate cheese on.
But none of that stood out to Will, not on their wedding day of the year before. Mike’s blue eyes radiated a strength and hope. Will removed his wedding band to read the promise inscribed: No Flag.
Please keep your promise, Mike, Will thought as he took a deep breath and tore himself away from the picture and the crushing memories it brought. He had a job to do tonight.
Meet the Author
Liz Borino has been telling stories of varying truthfulness since she was a child. As an adult, she keeps the fiction on the page. She writes stories of human connection and intimacy, in all their forms. Her books feature flawed men who often risk everything for their love.
When Liz isn’t writing, she’s waking up early to edit, travel, and explore historic prisons and insane asylums—not (usually) all in one day. Liz lives in Philadelphia with her two cats.