Monday, October 27, 2014

First Chapter: Aftermath: Guts and Glory by Tyler Robbins

Aftermath: Guts and Glory
by Tyler Robbins


When the brother he idolized is killed in action in Afghanistan, Kyle Barrett is rocked to his core. With his only confidant gone, Kyle struggles to deal with the loss, while fighting to keep his hidden sexuality a secret from his parents.  If only he didn’t have to face them alone.

Army veteran, Ryder Bishop has returned from his final tour in Iraq, when severe PTSD forces him to seek help through a new counseling program back home in Texas.  Just when Ryder thinks he’s reached the end of his rope, he meets Kyle, and their lives take a remarkable turn.
Can the grieving brother and damaged soldier find the peace they so desperately need? Or will they become statistics when the aftermath of war hits too close to home?

They might have shipped the soldier home, but his demons have come with him.

Be Warned: m/m sex, rimming, food play

Tyler Robbins

Copyright © 2014

Chapter One

Kyle Barrett sat in an abandoned oil field, tightly gripping the wheel of his brother’s ’56 Chevy pick-up, a few miles from the home where he had grown up. He loved this truck, with the custom, midnight blue paint job and newly refurbished leather interior, almost as much as he’d loved his brother.
Tears filled his eyes, and hate filled his heart as he caressed the vinyl dashboard, still glistening from the coat of Armor All protectant he’d applied only the day before.
He’d taken such good care of his brother’s prized possession, making sure every detail was exactly as Wade had wanted, right down to the twenty-inch rims they’d picked out together two weeks before Wade shipped out to Afghanistan. Again.
Kyle caught a glimpse of himself as he adjusted the review mirror, and for a split second, he could have sworn he’d seen his brother staring back. The gleam of Wade’s piercing, baby-blues, a Barrett family signature, had haunted his dreams for a solid week, and it killed Kyle to know he’d never look his brother in the eye again.
That’s what they called it. An improvised explosive device, designed to penetrate steel, rip through flesh, and take out as many soldiers as possible with one blast. Easy to make, especially in a world where illegal weapons were as common as haggling over their price.
The sons of bitches didn’t fight face to face either.
They cowered in holes, lying in wait, watching until the time came to savor the carnage when their deadly traps killed more infidels.
Self-righteous bastards, with their twisted religious beliefs. Beliefs Kyle had given up trying to understand long ago. After all, what sort of god deliberately led his flock to slaughter, or expected such heinous acts to be committed in his name? None Kyle believed in, that was for damn sure.
But then, Kyle hadn’t believed in much of anything for a long time now.
Wade never stood a chance, but it wasn’t like he hadn’t known the possibility existed. He’d lost enough friends, so he knew better. Wade just never thought it would ever happen to him.
Kyle hadn’t either—naïve fools.
Kyle leaned in and hugged the steering wheel as if he’d find comfort in the hard, plastic coated metal. The very wheel his brother had always maneuvered so skillfully, blazing a trail down every back road in the county.
So many of Kyle’s memories revolved around his older brother and the hunk of steel now surrounding him. More memories should have continued to be made … but that had changed. Now, all that remained was a hole in the family plot they’d be filling far too soon.
Kyle’s knuckles flared white as the rage he’d struggled so hard to repress vied for an opportunity to be loosed, a chance to break something, and destroy whatever got in the way of release. The day was coming. Kyle sensed the gnawing in his gut, but for today, he had to keep it in check. He had to honor Wade. He owed his brother that much.
Glaring down at the dashboard, a flicker of light caught his eye. Trapped in the tiny space between the windshield and dash vent, Kyle noticed the silver dollar that had rolled into the crevasse the last time his brother had come home.
Kyle recalled reaching to dig it out, but Wade had told him to leave it, saying not to touch it unless Kyle really needed it.
He remembered clearly what his brother said. “You might not be able to hold it in your hands and touch it, but as long as you know it’s there, no matter what else happens, you’ll always have something.
Wade’s haunting words echoed in Kyle’s ears now, bouncing around like some foreboding premonition Kyle would never be able to understand.
Maybe Wade had believed the unthinkable had been possible after all. Maybe the thoughtful words had been Wade’s way of preparing Kyle for what lay ahead.
Screw him.
Kyle pounded the seat beside him, his knuckles taking the brunt of the burn from the leather. He doubled his fist and pressed it to his mouth, savoring the slight sting ricocheting down his fingers as his raw, scraped skin made contact with his lips.
None of it made sense. None of it ever would.
Kyle’s cell phone buzzed on the seat beside him. He glanced over, picked it up, and clicked the little red button, rejecting the call.
It was Reesa—again.
He couldn’t talk to her. Not now. What would he say? Hey, I’m sorry my brother’s dead. Hope you get over it soon, and move on with your life?
Theresa Garland and Wade had dated on and off since they were sixteen.
When Wade left for Afghanistan, he’d tried his best to let her down easy, but Reesa wasn’t the type to give up because a few thousand miles separated her from her high school sweetheart. She’d written Wade faithfully, and had made it a point to check in on their mom from time to time. Hell, she’d even come to Thanksgiving dinner and actually brought Wade’s favorite green bean casserole.
Kyle appreciated the gesture, not to mention her great cooking skills, but he couldn’t stand to hear whatever pain might accompany her sweet voice. It would only add to the anger already wrenching Kyle’s insides.
He reached over, popped open the glove compartment, and pulled out a photograph Wade had left along with his insurance and roadside assistance cards. The photo of Kyle, Reesa and Wade, had been taken a few weeks after Wade’s high school graduation, before he’d left for boot camp.
As Kyle stared at the photo now, he remembered a conversation he’d had with Wade a short time later when Wade had come home on leave.
“I don’t know what to do about Reesa, man.” Wade tapped his dog tags against his pursed lips, staring straight ahead. “I tried to get her to move on, but she still kept writing.”
“So, you don’t want to have anything to do with her anymore?”
Wade’s expression contorted. “No. Just the opposite, but it’s not fair. No matter how much I care about her, isn’t it selfish to keep her on the line when I’m half a world away for months at a time?”
Kyle shrugged. “Isn’t it worse to push her away when you feel so strongly about her?”
Wade cocked his head to the side. His gaze zeroed in on whatever had held his attention outside of the truck, but he didn’t reply.
Kyle fidgeted, suddenly feeling uncomfortable with the topic of discussion. “You do feel the same, right?”
Wade sighed and closed his eyes. “Sometimes her letters and just knowing she’s here … praying for me, worrying about me … makes the time fly faster.”
Kyle looked across the dusty field at the “Posted” sign dangling from the fence. How many times had they trespassed onto private property to blow off some steam, break up the monotony? “Maybe it’s like coming here. Signs are posted telling us not to, but we do it anyway because it’s where we’ve always come to get away. Maybe Reesa is your oilfield, that place you can be yourself and forget all the crap. The situation might be dangerous where your heart is concerned, but it feels too right to stay away.”
Wade’s brow creased, and he actually looked surprised. “How the hell did you get so damn smart?”
Kyle blushed, embarrassed by his sappy comparison. He forced a chuckle to play-off his sincere emotions concerning the words he’d said. He understood the need for something to hold on to, something to stifle the fear of his brother’s life being on the line half a world away knowing there was nothing he could do about it. “Not smart, just trying to make sense of it all.”
Wade reached across the truck and squeezed Kyle’s shoulder. “At least I don’t have to worry about you. You have shit figured out just fine.”
Kyle cringed as the memory of Wade’s words echoed in his head. If only he was sure he’d be just fine. The thought of it felt impossible.
He was right not to answer the phone. He couldn’t talk to Reesa right now. Maybe he could later at the funeral, if he absolutely had to.
It was hard enough to look into his parents’ eyes and see the empty void staring back at him. That void only Wade could have filled.
The house had been deafeningly silent for days now, so hanging around hadn’t been very comfortable. People came, brought food, paid their respects, and waited for final arrangements to be made. That hadn’t taken long since all that remained of his brother amounted to a few mementoes consisting of his dog tags, a leather brown journal full of drawings nobody had the balls to skim through yet, and Wade’s wallet with a few charred photos and I.D.
Not much considering how full Wade’s life had already been for a twenty-three year old. It was all pretty much bullshit really. The entire life of someone who had died for his country fitting neatly in a small metal container not much larger than a shoebox.
Kyle slipped the gearshift on the steering column into drive and held firmly to the brake with his left foot while bearing down gently on the accelerator with his right. The truck’s revving engine caused it to shake and rumble. The powerful engine screamed for release, much the same way as Kyle’s fury. The back wheels scraped and spun in the loose gravel beneath the truck, and the sound of rocks flying echoed throughout the cab.
Kyle’s heart raced as the engine growled and grumbled until he finally lifted his left foot and let it all go.
The truck instantly pitched to the left and fishtailed, tires scrambling for traction. More gravel flew, and Kyle slammed into the door as the wheel jerked from his hands. He gained control, and held the wheel firmly, dragging it to the left, causing the truck to drive in a tight circle. Kyle pressed on the brake pedal again and floored the accelerator, forcing the vehicle to whirl around in a furious ring of flying dirt and rocks.
Dust shrouded the truck and encased Kyle inside the man-made cloud, temporarily shielding him from the reality of the truth he wished he could hide from forever.
His brother was really gone. Nothing would change that.
Kyle’s heart pounded as he recalled more memories of him and Wade ripping through the field, spinning out, and laughing so hard his ribs had hurt for days. Now though, he ached from the pain of loss, and from endless hours of crying like some sniveling little kid. 
Wade would kick his ass if he knew. He’d tell Kyle to suck it up and be a man. He’d remind him that real men weren’t pussies. They’re supposed to take bad news like they would a punch in the gut: biting down, grinning and bearing it, savoring the burn, and storing it up as fuel to retaliate.
Whom could he fight though? His enemy was on the other side of the world, nameless, faceless murderers, hidden in some desert, oblivious to the aftermath of shattered lives their evil deeds had left in their wake.
Kyle clenched his jaw and let go of the wheel, leaving his fate up to chance.
The truck lunged again, flinging him backward as it righted its path, and barreled across the oilfield toward the abandoned control shed. Seconds ticked like hours as the morning sunlight reflected off the shed’s sheet-metal roof, blinding Kyle, and burning his eyes even through puddles of tears.
He glanced up into the rearview mirror, and once again saw his brother peering back at him with an angry, heated scowl that Kyle translated as disgust, and disappointment.
A rush of panic overcame him. Kyle jammed both feet onto the brake pedal and resumed his death grip on the steering wheel as the truck skidded to a violent, abrupt stop. His head slammed forward, and a stinging pain shot across his lips and front teeth. The sudden metallic taste of blood filled his mouth. He’d busted his lip on the steering wheel.
A deafening silence settled around him as the dust sifted to the ground, clearing the air. Kyle sat back, his heart throbbing in his chest, a heavy ball of air lodged in the back of his throat, and his head swirled with confused thoughts. Had he lost his freakin’ mind? What the hell was he thinking?
He shook his head and swallowed hard before easing his trembling hand to the gearshift and slipping it back into park.
“Not like this, little bro.”
Kyle jumped, startled by the unexpected sound of Wade’s voice resonating beside him. He shot a quick glance toward the empty passenger seat, half expecting to see his brother sitting there.
A cool breeze splashed over him, and Kyle shrugged off the chill. “Wade?”
Kyle dragged in a deep breath to calm his rattled nerves. The shock of the tragedy had finally taken its toll. He was seeing and hearing things now. Gotta get a grip. He needed to find a way to carry on. If not for his own sake, then for his parents. They’d lost so much already. Neither could survive the loss of yet another son. Not now. Not like that.
He sat up, squared his shoulders and exhaled hard, alleviating the tightness in his chest. One way or another he’d get through the next few hours.
There would be plenty of time to grieve later, and even more time to contemplate what he would do next. For today though, he’d put on a brave face, head to the cemetery, and say his goodbyes to the brother he loved and the solider who had given his life for his country.

Tyler Robbins will choose one commenter to a free digital copy of Aftermath: Guts and Glory! Leave a comment or question below. Be sure to include your email address.


  1. love the cover and book sounds great

  2. please count me in

  3. Replies
    1. Forgot the email addy!

      luvbear65 (@) aol (dot) com