Revised and re-released. Available now in ebook from MLR Press.When Soldier shows up to check on one of his properties, he’s amazed to find the old house in disrepair and full of scared boys being cared for by a man who makes him believe in angels. Dillon falls for this big bald man, so scarred inside and out, who comes to mean so much to all of them. All of the boys have such heartbreaking stories and these two men’s mission in life now becomes to make life better, easier, and most of all, safer for the children in their care. Love is all important in building their dream.This story has been previously published.Excerpt:
They both looked up when they heard the back door open and watched as Gom snuck out. He had a sack in his hand and he was heading right for them. Brave little fart. He knew he was supposed to stay inside.
“I’m sorry, Dill. But I saw the man and I wanted to see if he was hungry.” The tiny boy couldn’t seem to help the quick glances at Soldier. “I don’t think he would hurt us. He’s been real still by you. I was watching out for you. That’s my job now, right?”
Dillon shook his head and held out his hand for Gom to come closer. Gom came to stand right between Dillon’s legs, facing Soldier.
“Soldier, this is Gom. He’s been made my second in command at the house and he evidently takes his job seriously.” Dillon looked down and spoke quietly to Gom, smoothing his hand over the bony shoulders. “Gom, you don’t have to protect me. I just made you my special assistant to help me with the others. What do you have there?”
Gom was looking at Soldier with awe. He didn’t say anything.
“Gom?” Dillon prodded.
“Oh. Uh. Sir… Soldier, I mean… is that really your name? I brought you some of the stuff we had left. Do you eat? Why are you always out here? Are we in trouble? I won’t let you hurt Dill.” He leaned into Dillon. “Where are you from? Are you in the Army? Can I touch your face? Does it hurt? You must have hurt bad. You’re awful big. Are you hungry?” ***
Soldier had to smile. How could he answer all that? He couldn’t even remember all the questions. But the kid had showed spunk coming out here if he was worried about how big Soldier was and if he was going to hurt Dill. Dillon.
“I eat. Thanks.” He reached for the sack. Gom handed it to him and smiled, and Soldier’s heart did a little flutter thing. This little one was special. “So, you take care of Dillon… uh Dill, huh?” He tried to think of all Gom had asked. “Not in the Army anymore. I was. Yes, it hurt… real bad. I don’t usually let anybody touch me, at all, but… uh… you can if you want.”
“You let Dill. I won’t if you don’t want me to.” He started to shake a little as he went on, “I was probably being bad to ask you. It’s bad manners, huh?”
“It’s okay… Gom, is it?” Soldier wanted to ease him for some reason.
“Yeah. Gom or Gommy. I’m too little for Montgomery . I would like to touch you once, just for a little… to see how it feels. Are you sure I can?”
“Gom…” Dillon started to say, but Soldier broke in.
“It’s okay. Come here, little one. Here,” Soldier took Gom’s little hand and pressed the palm against the rough scars on his face. He moved it a little so the boy could feel how rough it was and then he dropped his hand and let the kid touch him.
Gom’s eyes were huge as he moved his hand over Soldier’s face. He patted it softly and said, “Does it hurt when I touch it? I don’t want to hurt you.” There were tears gathering in his eyes and he dropped his hand.
“Here, what’s the matter… uh, Gom? It’s okay. It didn’t hurt me.” Oh, shit, what should he do now? He was so out of his element here. “I’m a tough guy anyway, but there’s very little feeling in that side of my face because of the scars. Don’t cry.” He felt awful as tears fell down the little boy’s face. The boy didn’t make a sound, though.
Dillon closed his arms around Gom and sat him down on his leg, saying, “Shhhhh, now, Gom. You heard what he said. You didn’t hurt him. Come on now, don’t cry or you’ll get all worked up. I hate when you cry for so long.” Dillon patted Gom on the back.
Soldier’s eyes widened. He was totally stunned when Gom said, through his tears, “But someone hurted him bad and it makes me sad.” He sniffed and rubbed his eyes. “I can’t help crying. I’m sorry. Don’t be mad.”
“Honey, you’ve got to quit thinking we’re gonna be mad when you cry. It never makes me mad. I just hate to see you sad enough to cry.” Dillon hugged him close. “Come on, now, dry up and tell Soldier it’s okay. I think he thinks he did something wrong.”
“Oh, no. You was nice and let me touch. I wish they didn’t hurt you, though.” Gom did the strangest thing then. He stepped away from Dill and went to stand between Soldier’s legs and put both arms up to Soldier’s shoulders and laid his little head on Soldier’s chest.
Soldier was literally flabbergasted. He couldn’t move. He didn’t know what to do. He looked over at Dillon, who was smiling gently at Gom. Finally, he put a hand up and patted the kid on the back. Gom sighed and relaxed against Soldier. This was too weird.
Soldier looked down and saw that the kid had actually gone to sleep. He looked at Dillon, knowing that Dillon could see the surprise in his face. He handed the sack back to Dillon and gently picked Gom up and settled him against his shoulder like a baby. There was such a difference in size between them, it was almost like the little boy was a baby. Gom turned his face into Soldier’s neck and sighed again.
“Soldier?” Dillon whispered. “That is the first time Gom has ever touched another person as far as I know. He lets me touch him, he wants to cuddle with me even, but no one else ever even tries.” He shook his head, clearly not believing what he was seeing. He went on to explain, “He goes into the worst episodes. He cries and cries. It’s enough to break your heart. You must have something really special. He trusts you like he does me. Do you mind holding him?”
“He gets so little sleep. I even let him sleep with me when he asks, hoping he’ll sleep better.” Dillon’s worry and fondness for the child was clear in his voice. “He doesn’t eat enough and I worry about him. I still don’t know all that happened to him.”
“You know any?” Soldier didn’t know if he could stand hearing about it if it was something really bad, but he felt compelled to ask. He started rubbing softly against the boy’s back and felt Gom relax deeper into him.
jhayboy at Romance Junkies says: (about the original edition)
“…AKM Miles strikes again, this is my third book by this author and I have yet to be disappointed by any. SOLDIER is the latest addition in this author’s growing repertoire of books…”
“…There is tremendous heartbreak, clinging desperation and huge doses of reality that will have you breaking out in shivers; however there is so much hope, so much giving, so much more loving than any of these people had ever known or expected to find in their life, that makes SOLDIER a richer read. I love this book and I have done a re-read – already. AKM Miles is not only becoming one of my favorite authors, but with a story line that drags you into the pits of despair and comes full circle, to give her characters a life that is truer and fuller, just from the fact they met at the right time in their life. My hat’s off to the author, AKM Miles has a way with words that will have you looking forward to the next AKM Miles production.”
Night Owl Romance said: (about the original edition) “Soldier is a very heart-warming story that shows that not all families – foster or otherwise – are traditional. It also shows that not all children in need of foster families do well in traditional households. Soldier is a four tissue read and a definite recommendation.”