Hot SEAL, A Forever Dad (SEALs in Paradise #31) - Maryann Jordan Page 0,1
bin in the parking lot and looked around at the best men he’d ever known. Training, missions, no sleep on cold nights, and running on adrenaline during blistering hot days. Vacations with palm trees and women looking to score a SEAL in between missions hanging out of helicopters over Godforsaken countries where if it hadn’t been for each other, they’d have never made it home.
He dragged in a deep breath before letting it out slowly. “Goodbyes suck ass, but they’ve got to be said.”
One by one, his friends walked over, man-hugs and hearty back-slaps ensuing. Feeling the tightness in his throat, he offered a final chin lift and climbed into the driver’s seat. Starting the engine, he rolled the window down and called out, “If you’re ever on the east coast, look me up. Hope City… as good as the name implies.”
With that, he tossed his hand up with a two-fingered salute and pulled out of the parking lot of the semi-crappy apartment building he’d called home between missions for the past two years. Ignoring the brick and crumbling stucco, he looked into the rearview mirror and said another silent goodbye to the members of his SEAL team. When they were no longer in sight, he sucked in another deep, cleansing breath and stared forward. Long road ahead. But at the end was the woman who’d raised him, nurtured him, made it her mission to ensure he became the man he was. And now, she needed him.
“On my way home to Babciu.” With that thought, he flipped on the radio and settled in for the long drive.
Four days later, Ben drove down the familiar, tree-lined street, observing only a few changes and upgrades to the houses along the way. It had been over two years since he’d last visited his grandmother. Much of Hope City’s housing was made of brick townhomes built over a hundred and fifty years ago for the dockworkers and immigrants that flooded the city in the 1800s. In the area closest to the downtown docks, they were packed tightly together, block after block, neighborhoods filled with square streets and narrow homes with no backyards other than tiny, concrete courtyards. As he drove further away from the downtown area, the townhomes were a bit larger and most included backyards with grass and trees, appearing less industrial.
His grandmother’s house was on such a street, and seeing the neighborhood through adult eyes, he could see how fortunate he’d been. His grandparents had taken an end unit, bought the townhouse next to it, and renovated the two to make one large home with a full backyard. Considering there was a park across the street, he’d had plenty of places to play.
He had spent the long drive from California listening to audiobooks, music, podcasts… anything to keep from facing what he might find when he arrived in Hope City. His grandmother had called the previous month after a mild stroke, asking for recommendations about getting the house ready to sell so that she could move into an independent living facility. Fuck that! His grandfather had been a contractor and had always handled the renovations and repairs, teaching Ben what he knew. The idea of his grandmother being taken advantage of by someone unknown… not gonna happen. And he hated the idea of her moving.
Plus, with the problems he had with his knee, a joint that now was as good an indicator of impending bad weather as the best meteorologist, it was time to separate from the military.
Coming to the intersection, he looked out the windshield as the house came into view. Red brick with a dark green front door and matching shutters on the windows. Two stories with a third-floor bonus room and deck. His gaze dropped to the side and the chain-link fence around the neatly trimmed backyard. The familiarity of the view had memories rushing through his mind, and a smile slid over his face as his heart warmed.
Pulling to a stop just outside the front door near the corner, he parked and climbed out of the SUV. Stretching his arms over his head, he twisted back and forth, working out the kinks from the trip. Hurrying up the front steps, he slid his key into the keyhole, unsure if his grandmother was resting. Opening the front door, he was hit with the familiar scent of her kolachzi cookies and the sound of music coming from the kitchen.
“Babciu?” The Polish word for grandmother was the only word from the