Day of Wrath by Anna Butler
DAY OF WRATH
The award-winning Taking Shield series comes to its shattering conclusion in Day of Wrath.
About The Book
In less than a week, Bennet will finally return to the Shield Regiment, leaving behind the Gyrfalcon, his father, his friends… and Flynn. Promotion to Shield Major and being given command of a battle group despite the political fallout from Makepeace the year before is everything he thought he wanted. Everything he’s worked towards for the last three years. Except for leaving Flynn. He really doesn’t want to leave Flynn.
There’s time for one last flight together. A routine mission. Nothing too taxing, just savouring every moment with the best wingman, the best friend, he’s ever had. That’s the plan.
Bennet should know better than to trust to routine because what waits for them out there will change their lives forever.
Title: Day of Wrath
Author: Anna Butler
Series: Taking Shield
Necessary to read previous 4 books? Yes
Category: Sci Fi, Gay mainstream.
eBook Publication Date: 28 June 2018
Paperback: Available now from Amazon or direct from Anna’s website
Publisher: Glass Hat Press © 2018
Editor: Val Selby-Wolfe at Scarlet Tie
Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas
Day of Wrath is available at Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords and iBooks.
Rafflecoptor giveaway to win one of three prizes:
– 25$ (or equivalent) Amazon gift card
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– your pick of an eBook from Anna’s back catalogue
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(choose one of the following three excerpts)
A laser bolt sizzled past him. Shit! They were after him. The scanner was still suffering from Maess jamming, but Flynn could make out four Maess fighters behind him. Another laser bolt flashed past, his scanners showing it blood scarlet against the blackness of space.
Flynn’s scanner picked up Bennet rolling his Hornet to one side. A laser bolt missed him by only a few feet. Close. Too close. There had been all too many of them in the last hour. They’d done nothing but dogfight Maess fighters since they found Jilly and Bennet took back command for their share of the battle.
“Wingover loop,” Bennet ordered. “Best chance we’ve got.”
Good call. They had to get the bastards off their afterburners.
Flynn flung his Hornet up into a vertical curving quarter loop, still at top sub-light speed. He flat-turned at the top and dived down into another quarter loop to flatten out. They were facing the Maess full on, now. The abrupt change caught the Maess by surprise. The four Maess fighters scattered as Bennet and Flynn zoomed at them.
Flynn pressed his thumb onto the firing button and kept it there. Clipped one of the Maess and sent it spinning off to one side, but Bennet got another one head on as they flew through, the lucky bastard.
“Wingover to give chase,” Bennet said.
Flynn repeated the wingover, flat turning to change direction through 180 degrees again, only a few hundred yards from Bennet’s left wing. They were bloody smooth, moving as if they were connected by wires, coming up on the Maess from behind. Best pilots in Fleet, they were. Had to be. Along with Cruz who, as Flynn had expected, was out there with her pilots on Bennet’s starboard flank. He hadn’t had time to do more than greet her on their arrival and try to keep as much of an eye on her as he could spare from watching Bennet’s back.
Flynn centred a Maess fighter on the targeting screen and fired. Hit it. Damaged it enough to bleed its shields, not enough to kill it. Another second to be sure of his aim, and then again, the weapons array had the target centred. Another shot, and Flynn was suddenly flying through a miniature asteroid belt of Maess fighter parts, all bouncing off his shields and making the Hornet rattle.
Best bloody noise in the world, that.
(c 400 words)
The sharp ringing of the bell on the bar cut through all the conversations and laughter. The bartender could yell too. “Quiet! Lieutenant Flynn has an announcement to make!”
Bennet turned his head and jack-knifed to sit upright. Oh, the bastard wasn’t—
“All right, boys and girls!” Flynn was almost bouncing on his toes, grinning. He always did like being the focus of everyone in sight. “We’re here tonight because of mindless military tradition—in our case, getting traditionally mindless on good liquor as we welcome our newest ensigns—but I don’t think they’d mind if I crash their party for a few minutes. Everyone got a drink?”
A host of glasses were waved at him. Bennet tried to choke down a sigh. The bastard was, damn him.
“Excellent! I like to see our old customs embraced with such fervour. We have another custom, if you remember. If someone gets promoted they buy drinks for the entire OC, am I right?”
Flynn was completely at his ease, the damned treacherous sod.
“You all know that we’re kicking the captain off the ship at the end of the month and sending him back to Shield. But what you don’t know is that Fleet’s put such a polish on the man, such a lustre, that when Shield gets him back they’re punting him up a rank. I reckon that’s worth at least two drinks each. What do you say?”
Bennet put his head in his hands. Someone’s hand connected painfully with the area between his shoulder blades as surprised silence fractured into cheers, yells and foot stamping. Pilots jumped up and down, waving their glasses at him. Another thump to the back and Carson was pulling him to his feet and into the most astonishing hug, yelling in his ear.
Bennet had to laugh. It was that or commit murder.
Flynn let it go on for a moment or two, before getting the bartender to ding that bloody bell again.
Bennet was half-enveloped in hugs, half-deafened by shouted good wishes. Yelling her delight, Cruz flung her arms around his neck, and the smacking kiss to the cheek had his ears ringing. His face felt as if it were on fire.
“Flynn, I am going to hurt you for this.” He smiled in a way that he hoped suggested pleasant anticipation. It was hard to stop grinning and laughing, but he tried. “I’m going to dangle you out of an airlock by your favourite appendage.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Flynn waved a dismissive hand to a chorus of laughter and catcalls. “You always promise me that and so far, you’ve never delivered. There’s only so long a man can hang around waiting. Point is, while we’re sad to see you go, Bennet, we’re delighted that you’re getting promoted. We’ll miss you, and Shield are damn lucky to get you back. Right, people?”
More cheers and yells that died only at the insistent ringing of the bell. Flynn raised his glass. “Charge your glasses, and let’s hear it for the captain—no! For the Shield Major elect. Shield Major Bennet!”
The roar should have split open bulkheads. Bennet yelped and fell back in a scrum of a couple of dozen pilots and more were heading his way. The breath was knocked out of him with a whoosh that could probably be heard parsecs away.
Gods. He’d kill Flynn when he got hold of him. Kill him.
At least, that’s what he promised himself until Flynn fought his way through the scrum to deliver his own bone-crushing hug, and Bennet saw Flynn’s eyes were bleak and that his mouth was drawing down, just as his own wanted to do, and he said nothing. There really wasn’t anything he could say.
The storeroom was empty and Flynn had long ago learned how to over-ride the door mechanism and lock it from the inside. He did so now, not wanting to be interrupted.
And, of course, now that Bennet was back and he had the privacy he wanted, Flynn’s rehearsed speeches vanished from his mind and tongue. Which was annoying. “I don’t suppose you can tell me what you were doing back home?”
“What do you think?”
Flynn managed a creditable laugh. “That I’m playing for time.” He gestured to the back wall, where piles of new uniforms made a comfortable seat. They sat side by side, leaning back against the wall. “I took a leaf out of your book and I’ve been practising what I want to say. Trouble is, I’ve forgotten my lines.”
“Keep it simple then.” Bennet’s grin was lopsided. “I’m running on fumes right now, anyway. I can’t handle complex.”
Flynn nodded. “Well, ‘simple’ is that no matter what I might have said when I was mad with you—and the gods help me, I was so mad with you I couldn’t see straight—you are the most important person in my life. I kinda think you always will be. But we are where we are. You’re going, I’m staying here. You’re Shield, I’m Fleet.” He forced another laugh, but it didn’t sound quite as credible. “Doomed. We were doomed from the start.”
Bennet’s laugh wasn’t any better than Flynn’s. He slipped his hand into Flynn’s. “We were.”
“Star-crossed, I said when you left to go back to Albion.”
“Yeah, and that sucks. Because, you too. No one more important.”
“It sucks balls the size of planets. Galaxies.” Flynn tightened his grip on the warm hand in his. “We only have a few weeks, and I know better than to think things can be different just because of that. We’re still star-crossed. Except, maybe, at the end…?”
He hated that he sounded so unsure, but then Bennet’s mouth curved up a fraction.
It wasn’t much of a promise, but he’d take what he could get. Flynn leaned his head back against the metal wall. An instant later and Bennet copied him, rolling his head to one side until he was almost touching Flynn’s. A better outlook than Flynn could have hoped for, even a couple of weeks earlier.
Flynn let the deep, mostly subliminal hum of the Gyrfalcon’s engines soothe him. “I don’t suppose we could stay in here and never come out?”
“They’ll come looking for us.”
“Yeah.” Flynn had to concede that. “So, did you get the Hyperion back?”
“No.” Bennet pulled a face at him. “They bumped me up to major. I’ve got a Shield battle-group to look after. Three Shield ships to command.”
“A promotion? Seriously?”
“Yeah. Not formally until I step off this ship, but yeah. Shield Major.”
“We don’t have majors in Fleet,” Flynn said.
“Well, I’m not Fleet. And the Shield Regiment doesn’t have that ‘regiment’ tacked onto the name just because someone thought the two words sounded well together. Shield started out in Infantry centuries ago, and Infantry does have majors.”
Flynn made a tchtching noise. “Some people have no shame, confessing to low origins like that. But seriously, that is brilliant news!”
“It would be brilliant if I didn’t have work going on with the Strategy Unit again. You know, I’m seriously thinking that I’ll give it a year, then I’ll get out.”
Flynn blinked. “That’s a bit drastic.”
“It’s a family tradition that we all serve, Flynn. But some days I reckon I’ve done enough. More than enough.”
Flynn couldn’t hold back the derisive snort. “Only if you have that sense of duty surgically removed.”
Bennet stared at him, mouth turned down at the corners, his lips pressed tight together. After a moment he blew out a noisy sigh and lifted one shoulder in a slight shrug. “I know. It’s a fantasy that I have choices.”
“You said it yourself to the kids, Bennet. Stand and fight.” Flynn found his grip on Bennet’s hand had slackened. He glanced down at them, his brown hand curved around Bennet’s long white fingers. He used his thumb to make little smoothing motions over the back of Bennet’s hand, relishing the almost imperceptible shiver Bennet gave. “If you did leave the military, what would you do? The history thing back at the museum?”
“Maybe. But what I’d like to do some front-line archaeology. Trace our route back to Earth and do some star-mapping and exploration, run a few digs when we find something worth investigating. Never stay anywhere long, just keep moving. I’d like that.”
Flynn saw that for the first time in a long while Bennet’s expression was relaxed, open; that the fine, tight lines of tension around his mouth and eyes had eased. “A ship of your own? You’ll need a crew.”
“Do you want to sign up?”
“Well, there won’t be any fraternisation rules, will there?”
Bright eyes glanced at him sidelong. “No. There won’t.”
“A pittance. You do it for academic glory.”
“I prefer cash.” Flynn smiled at Bennet’s amused snort. He was silent for a few minutes. Beside him Bennet relaxed. “Well, I like the idea of wandering around and exploring stuff and having adventures. That sounds exciting. The digging part of it sounds more like hard work than I’m strictly comfortable with.”
“It never killed anyone yet.”
“I’m gonna have to see the medical studies before I take your word for it. It’s beside the point, anyway. I have delicate hands and shouldn’t ruin them with a shovel. But all in all, it sounds like a reasonable job.” Flynn smiled at Bennet’s profile. “I’m on—if I can sign up as First Mate.”
Bennet tilted his head until it was resting against Flynn’s. “The job’s yours. Until I get a better applicant, of course.”
“In your dreams.” Flynn let it all smooth away, slip into a comfortable silence. He had less than four weeks of this before Bennet was gone again, and he wasn’t going to waste any of it. Not one second.
He brought his other hand across to enclose Bennet’s in both of his, and let his eyes close.
Anna was a communications specialist for many years, working in various UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to organizing conferences for 10,000 civil servants to running an internal TV service. These days, though, she is writing full time. She lives with her husband in a quiet village tucked deep in the Nottinghamshire countryside. She’s supported there by the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockerpoo, who is assisted by the lovely Mavis, a Yorkie-Bichon cross with a bark several sizes larger than she is but no opinion whatsoever on the placement of semi-colons.