Future Under Fire - Trish McCallan

Chapter One

She’d turned him into a fucking stalker.

Brett (Tag) Taggart grimaced as he swung by the boxy blue house and slowed his truck to a crawl. A bright red Nissan Sentra was parked neatly along the curb.

She was home.

He sped back up, scanning the yard as he drove past.

She’d clustered her clay pots in the corners of the decorative white picket fence line, but instead of tall stalks of blue flowers—like there’d been two years ago—the tubs were overflowing with mounds of cheery yellow. The grass was just as green, just as lush, and longer than he’d ever let it grow. But it was the southern oak towering above the porch that really tweaked him. It stood half as tall and a third as wide as it had two years ago.

He scowled, frustration piercing him as he turned the corner at the end of the block. He’d spent six months trying to convince her to cut that damn tree back. But she’d held fast against his arguments, clinging to what the oak had looked like while she’d been growing up. She’d had no trouble modernizing her childhood home’s kitchen or putting in a master bath, but even the suggestion of cutting back her tree to prevent it from snapping during a wind storm and crushing her house—or her, for fuck’s sake—had brought the evil eye and adamant objections.

Apparently, Mitch was more persuasive than he, and not just when it came to trees. Oh no, the lying, cheating bastard had persuaded her to marry him too, while Tag hadn’t even been able to convince her to cut back that fucking oak.

The knowledge burned like acid across his chest.

What the fuck did she see in him?

With a deep breath, Tag cut the question off. He was no closer to that answer today than he’d been on that morning two years ago when she’d dumped him and hustled back to Mitch.

Easy bro…don’t let it get to you…over and done…long past time to let go and move on.

And he had…let go and moved on, that was. Regardless of what his buddies on ST7 thought, he wasn’t carrying a torch for her. This trip was simply one last effort to force her eyes open, to make her see that the guy she was about to hitch herself to was bad news, as in pissant ugly bad news.

This visit wasn’t about him, or her, or them. That fucking boat had sailed two years ago. It wasn’t a bid to take up where they’d left off before she’d suddenly gone back to Mitch. This trip was about trying to prevent a friend from making a mistake. A big mistake. One she might never recover from.

No matter what kind of pitying, irritated or disgusted looks this visit provoked, he couldn’t let her walk down that aisle without one last attempt to make her see, really see, that the guy she was marrying was a goddamn sociopath.

The next time he arrived at Sarah’s house, he parked his pickup along the curb and stared at the red brick path that marched up to the stairs leading to her front porch. It had taken a full week of leave to jackhammer up the original concrete, haul the debris to the dump, and lay down the brick. Sarah had expressed her appreciation in the most creative of ways. They’d spent the weekend in bed, or on the couch, or counter, or table, or hell—even in the shower. They’d been exhausted come Monday morning. He smiled sourly. If memory served, she’d even called in sick.

Lovesick, she’d called it.

Yeah, right.

He absently rubbed his aching chest and forced the memories aside. Happened a long, long time ago. A lifetime ago—or at least that’s how it felt these days.

He cut the truck’s engine and shoved open the door. No sense in procrastinating. The sooner he got this done, the sooner he could hit the Bottoms Up Tavern and drown the memories.

The handrail wobbled beneath his grip, and the stairs gave with an ominous craaaack and creeeak. He scowled. Sarah could break her neck on these damn things. Mitch needed to get his ass in gear and do some repair work before someone put a leg through one of the steps.

The scowl gained force. The bastard was probably too busy hooking up with the various froggies who stalked the Bottoms Up. The BU was never short of SEAL groupies, and Mitch had apparently made it his life’s ambition to work his way through every single damn one of