Home > To Love Someone (Baytown Boys #14)

To Love Someone (Baytown Boys #14)
Author: Maryann Jordan

 

1

 

 

He pushed open the glass doors that led from the worn-tiled lobby of the Veterans Administration Hospital in Norfolk and stepped into the sunshine. He rubbed his hand over his beard as he tilted his head back, letting the sun beat against his closed eyes, the warmth knocking off the air-conditioned chill and sterile scent that had settled over him.

Dropping his chin, he pulled his reflective sunglasses from their perch, one stem tucked into the front of his T-shirt. With a flick of his wrist, he snapped them open before sliding them onto his face. A lock of hair fell over his face, and out of habit, he tucked it behind his ear. He jogged down the steps at the front of the building, his boots sounding out a heavy tap on the concrete.

A few people scooted out of his way, but most were used to the eclectic patients and visitors that spent time inside the hospital. Still, the expressions on their faces as they quickly moved to the other side of the sidewalk didn’t surprise him. Tall, bulky, tattoos. Jeans that were clean but faded and leather boots that were scuffed, broken in, and comfortable. The black leather jacket with patches sewn on the front and sleeves sat easily on his shoulders. His motorcycle helmet was held in one hand. His hair and beard were clean but long and shaggy.

And honestly? He didn’t give a fuck what anyone thought.

The news from the hospital had been good, and he felt like celebrating. By himself… he didn’t have anyone to celebrate with. That particular fact, he did give a fuck about. He might be a loner but didn’t always like being alone.

Continuing to stalk to the parking lot, he stopped by his bike, strapped on his helmet, unlocked the saddlebags to double-check his belongings, and swung a long, muscular leg over the bike, settling his ass onto the seat. He started the motor, revving the engine before pulling out of the parking lot. He had no particular destination in mind, not unusual for him. He often got onto the road and veered in whatever direction seemed to make sense at the time.

Now, the idea of heading to the beach, finding a bar with decent burgers and beer, and watching the sunset over the water appealed to him. Entering into traffic as he merged onto the interstate, it didn’t take him long to get to Virginia Beach. He shunned the main boardwalk area and continued along Shore Drive until he got to the less-commercial area that faced the Chesapeake Bay. He knew he was close to the Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, but his time in the Navy had not been spent as a prestigious SEAL who trained there, instead having served as a firefighter on a ship.

Passing the family restaurants and ones catering to tourists, he found a no-frills bar on the beach. Stepping inside, he scanned the interior, satisfied with the evidence it was exactly what he desired. The patrons looked up, but after their first curious glance, no one paid attention to him. The back of the bar overlooked the water, and after ordering his burger, fries, and beer at the counter, he headed outside. There were high-top tables and chairs near the railing. Choosing one at the end of the deck, he was glad there were few people around, preferring to enjoy the sunset without the conversations of others interrupting.

It didn’t take long for the food to come, and he devoured it, realizing he hadn’t eaten since the previous evening. Bloodwork at the hospital required him to fast, so he’d had no breakfast. The testing lasted through lunch, and now he was sure the burger and fries tasted as good as any he’d ever consumed. But then, with a thick, medium-rare burger, crispy fries, and cold beer, how could you go wrong?

With his meal complete, he leaned against the back of the chair and propped his feet onto the rails of the fence around the patio. Staring out over the water, he spent several minutes letting his mind drift with the ebb and flow of the surf. The sun was setting, brilliant colors beginning to streak across the sky. He’d always paid attention to his surroundings. He liked the soothing motion and sounds of the ocean and wasn’t embarrassed to admit it. Well, if I had anyone to admit it to…

As he continued to drink his beer and stare out over the water, a long bridge that stretched into the horizon captured his interest. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.

Picking up his phone, he scrolled through saved emails. Not that he got many, and most he deleted, saving only the very few that meant something to him. It didn’t take long for him to find the one he was looking for. The one from Zac Hamilton. His finger hovered over the button for only a few seconds before he clicked on the email.

Joseph, I figured you’d get this email no matter where you were or what you were up to. I came back to Baytown on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Coming home wasn’t bad considering a bunch of my friends came back after their service as well. I took the job of Fire Chief, then became a paramedic, and now I’m the EMS Captain. Not bad for a Squid. Wanted to let you know that we’ve started an American Legion here. It’s a laid-back, easy way of life on the shore and sure as fuck a great place to call home. So, besides checking in with you, I’m extending an invitation. If going home wasn’t what you wanted it to be or the wandering I know you’re probably doing isn’t keeping you busy, give Baytown a chance. I sent a note to Jason as well, hoping he’ll make it here. Got a lot of new blood moving in, many out of the service who need a good place to call home. Anyway, hope you’re well and if you’re ever on the Eastern Shore, look me up. Zac

He took another long drag from his beer before setting it down on the table. Scrolling through his emails again, he came to one that came in about a year later from another Navy bud.

Joseph, believe it or not, I took Zac up on his invitation and came to Baytown. Didn’t figure I’d stay, but fuck, the people are nice. Starting a business, got a place to live. I know you’re a drifter, but if you’re ever out our way, come on by. I can always use an extra pair of hands. Jason

His eyes lifted from his phone screen, and he scanned the distance over the water. He knew what was on the far side of the bridge. The Eastern Shore. Baytown. Friends. Maybe some work. Hell, it’s not like I’ve got anything else I’m doing. The sun was still setting, and he considered waiting until the next day before trying to cross the long bridge. But the more he stared into the distance on the other side of the bay, a longing built deep inside, pulling at him.

Tossing plenty of money for his meal and a tip onto the table, he planted his booted feet on the floor, grabbed his helmet, and headed out to the parking lot. Once more throwing his leg over his bike, he revved the engine and roared down the road, stopping only to pay the toll at the beginning of the bridge.

The sun was disappearing into the horizon to the west behind him, but the streaks of color to the east offered enough illumination that he noticed the beauty surrounding him. The seventeen miles of bridge that connected the mainland of Virginia with the Eastern Shore offered a unique opportunity to feel completely connected to the Chesapeake Bay. The mostly-still water reflected the color and sparkles with a few whitecaps crashing against the pylons or the rocks near the tunnel entrances. Two underwater tunnels offered the multitude of sea vessels entering the Bay on their way to Norfolk or Baltimore the opportunity for unimpeded progress.

Traffic was light and he wondered if it was always this way. When he’d looked on a map, the Eastern Shore was little more than a narrow peninsula dotted with small towns and rural farmland.

While the beauty of the water and the skies surrounded him, he still wondered why he was making this trip. To see a couple of old Navy buddies? To discover a new place? Or maybe it was just one more stop in his long quest of trying to find a place to call home. Home. Do I even know what I’m looking for? “The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” The quote from Maya Angelou ran through his mind and he grit his teeth, knowing the ache for a home burned in him but had no idea if he was destined to always search, never find.

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