Ebook ISBN: 9781311301949
[ Military Romance, MM ]
Captain Hugh Wilkes is on his last tour of duty in Afghanistan. The British Army is withdrawing, and Wilkes expects his posting to be event-free. That is, until he meets his Afghan interpreter, Rustam Balkhi, who awakens desires in Wilkes that he’d almost forgotten about, and that won’t be ignored.
Captain Hugh Wilkes sucked in a deep breath, steeling himself for the heat he was about to be subjected to, though he already knew all the deep breaths in the world wouldn’t help. Darkness had fallen on Camp Bastion, in the notorious Helmand Province of Afghanistan, but there would still be residual warmth left to seep away throughout the small hours. Then the sun would rise, and it would start all over again. It was a damn desert, after all. But, all being well, it would be his last ever tour of the godforsaken place. The British Army was already preparing to pull out. The manpower had been reduced drastically over the previous months. It was time to leave the Afghans to get on with it. They weren’t being abandoned—far from it—they would still receive aid, training and money for years to come. But the British Army was no longer needed, apparently. It was still a volatile place, which would no doubt be monitored very closely, in case strategies needed to be reconsidered.
None of that was down to Wilkes, though. He was here with his platoon for six months, doing whatever they were ordered to do by their Company Commander, Major Hunter. It was unlikely they’d be doing any fighting—they weren’t here for offensive operations. More probably they’d be accompanying their vehicles, weapons and ammunition across the country as it was transported to the air base to be sent back home, or patrolling towns and villages as a show of presence, to reassure and protect the inhabitants.
There was only one way to find out. Grabbing his kit, he headed toward the ramp of the huge C17 aircraft with his colleagues, and followed them out onto the airstrip. Immediately, he was hit by the overwhelming smell of aviation fuel. As he moved away from the airplane this was replaced by the dry atmosphere.
Wilkes imagined he could feel the grains of sand coating his throat and tongue. He’d soon get used to it—he always did. Plus, on the bright side, he’d end up with a nice tan at the end of his deployment. Mentally, he crossed his fingers for a nice, event-free tour of duty. Letting his guard down wasn’t going to happen, naturally, he just hoped it wasn’t necessary. Hoped the insurgents would play nicely. The country was completely different to how it had been when Allied forces had gone in after 9/11. Some fantastic progress had been made, but it still wasn’t completely safe. But then, where was? People died in picturesque villages in the English countryside—though generally not courtesy of IEDs, AK-47s or suicide bombers.
Shoving the thoughts from his mind, Wilkes walked along the tarmac with the other members of the platoon, ready to find out where he was sleeping for the night. A few hours of shut-eye were absolutely necessary, as he’d no doubt be called to a meeting with his boss, Major Graham Hunter, first thing in the morning. The last thing he needed was to be tired and fractious when he was due to talk with the bombastic old fucker—he barely tolerated him as it was, and keeping a firm grip on his temper was a must. He was worried that one day Hunter would make one homophobic comment too many, and Wilkes wouldn’t be able to bite his tongue. Telling the Major exactly what he thought of him was something he’d dreamed about many a time, but he remained realistic—it would be Wilkes that would end up being given a dressing-down for insubordination, and no doubt Hunter would make his life hell. Even more than he already did, anyway. Not to mention if he flew off the handle, he’d be outing himself at the same time. He’d remained firmly in the closet ever since he’d joined the army—he wasn’t about to make it general knowledge now.
Still, at least once he’d had the meeting with Hunter, he could bugger off to wherever he was being sent and spend the majority of the next six months not having to see him. There would be occasional meetings and frequent contact, obviously, but it was easier to tolerate the man when he could pull faces and make rude hand gestures at a handset without anyone seeing.
Wilkes often wondered if the older man wasn’t actually protesting too much—did he have something to hide?
Rocking the boat wasn’t something he wanted to do, though, so he’d continue to bite his lip and get through the next six months—with any luck Hunter would retire soon and leave him alone.
Without even realising it, he’d been lagging behind, and his platoon sergeant—next in the chain of command after him—had fallen into step beside him. “All right, boss?” said the younger man, Marcus Bay. “You’ve barely said a word since we hit the ground. In fact, I don’t think you’ve said anything at all.”
With a genuine smile for his long-time friend and colleague, Wilkes apologised. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be so quiet. Just got a lot on my mind.” Glancing around to see who was nearby, he lowered his voice. “Not looking forward to seeing old Hunter tomorrow, for starters.”
Bay snorted with derision. “Yeah, I don’t blame you. Fucking pain in the arse, that bloke. No offence, but I’m glad you’re the one that has to deal with him. I’d end up chinning him, and that’d be my career down the toilet sharpish.”
“Oh trust me, I’ve wanted to chin him many a time myself. Somehow I’ve managed to keep a lid on it.”
Shaking his head, Bay replied, “I don’t know how you do it. At least he’s good at his job, though. That’s something. It’s just his attitude that stinks. Someone needs to tell him that he needs to raise morale, not treat us all like shit and make us fucking miserable. Being stuck in the arse end of nowhere, Afghanistan, is bad enough without him being a cunt.”
Wilkes couldn’t help the laugh that burst from his lips. “I couldn’t agree more. But, like you say, at least you don’t have to deal with him. And even I don’t see him face-to-face all that often. In small doses, I can just about put up with his bullshit. Let’s hope he gives the orders quickly tomorrow, so we can get out of here.”
“Absolutely. Come on then, shall we find out where we’re all kipping tonight? Then get the lads some scoff. Then I’m going for what’ll probably be my last decent shower in weeks.”
“Sounds good to me.”
Heading off the airstrip and into the base proper, the group of men quickly made contact with the relevant person, who’d sorted their accommodation. Apparently, because there were currently more beds than bodies, they’d be in an accommodation block usually reserved for civvies, senior officers and VIPs – they’d each have their own room.
“Woohoo!” Bay whooped and punched the air. His sentiment was echoed throughout the rest of the team. “Fucking brilliant,” he said, grinning at his boss. “Not only do I get a decent shower and a semi-decent meal, I get a whole room to myself. I can walk around naked and have a luxurious tommy tank. This is shaping up to be the best tour ever!”
Wilkes smirked. This was typical Bay—on finding out he had his own room, his thoughts immediately turned to getting his kit off and masturbating. Never mind a good night’s sleep without some other bastard snoring his head off just feet away. No, his sergeant was much more interested in the wellbeing of his cock and balls. Given the opportunity, he’d find a willing woman to take back to the room with him. He brought a whole new meaning to the clichéd phrase about charming the birds from the trees. If there was a woman around, Bay would find her, and he’d bed her. No doubt about it.
Shaking his head, Wilkes turned to their liaison. “Sorry about that. So, can you point us in the right direction and we’ll be out of your way.”
Half an hour later, Wilkes dumped his bag on the spare bed in his room and made a half-hearted attempt at unpacking. Not because he couldn’t be bothered, but because he couldn’t see the point. He wasn’t staying long. In the end, he emptied the bag, putting everything back in it that he wouldn’t need that night and the following morning. His wash kit, clean clothes and book he left neatly lined up on the mattress.
Frowning, he remembered that he’d almost finished the book. Hopefully he’d be able to get his hands on one someone else had done with. Either that or he’d have to swap with one of the other guys in the platoon when he’d finished his—not an ideal situation, given some of the shit his close colleagues read. It was down to them that he’d read some very eclectic stuff—from autobiographies of people he hadn’t previously heard of, to graphic novels and even a dirty romance novel one of the guys’ wives had sneaked into his bag. That last one had actually been passed around like the best kind of porno magazine. Every single bloke had said, reluctantly, that although it was mainly a load of mushy crap, that the sex scenes had been incredibly erotic. They’d found themselves skipping through pages just to get to the horizontal action.
Being a hetero romance, the sex scenes hadn’t really done anything for Wilkes, but he’d been so damn bored and had read every other scrap of reading material to hand, so he’d been left with no choice. It was either that or stare at the wall—he could never drop straight to sleep after getting into bed. He liked to read before sleep, even if it was only for ten minutes or so. It was a habit he’d gotten into when he’d discovered a genuine fondness for reading in his childhood, and had never managed to break. Not that he wanted to, either—it was a nice way to wind down before heading off to the land of nod.
Making a mental note to source another book while he was there, Wilkes headed off to the mess.