There won't be an installment today or tomorrow since I am finally finishing up the Mossy Glenn book. This is Joaquin and Sebastian's story. Y'all might have met Sebastian just briefly at the end of MG 7. But on to the next book! Spent yesterday deleting and revising half of it, but at least I found the plot mistakes there before I subbed it, so that's good.
I have an excerpt from it for y'all today, however it is unedited. It's a long excerpt, since there's not story installment today, and I hope y'all enjoy it:
Mossy Glenn 8
Vaqueros & Vigilance
Hospitals were awful. Sebastian Honeycutt hated them with a passion. He’d spent more than his fair share of time in hospitals as a kid, and having been brought back to one despite his protests against the need for it had irked him.
Nothing was broken bone-wise…now, at least. Seb knew he’d had some more serious injuries before, over the years he’d been held captive by a mad man. And he’d had some prior to that, as a kid.
“Not going there,” he mumbled as he slipped out of the hospital stairwell. He’d been discharged already, but here he was, lurking like a weirdo. Part of that was his unwillingness to stay in the church shelter, at least for the time being. He might go back, might not. Seb hadn’t decided. It’d be nice to be able to rest up, but staying in such an unfamiliar place was scary. Seems like too much of my life has been lived in fear. Damn it, he was going to depress himself if he didn’t stop thinking about the past.
Instead he focused on why he was there, loitering like a creep. Guilt and something else compelled him to sneak into that one room the night before. It was a stupid, foolish thing to do, and yet, there he was again, waiting for the nurses to be distracted so he could creep into room thirty-two again.
Lord, I probably look like a nightmare. Seb touched his swollen lips, then his nose. Yeah, he was a mess, and not even a hot one. Even so, Joaquin hadn’t flipped out on him last night. Maybe because Joaquin had been stoned out of his ever-lovin’ mind.
Seb had Carlos to thank for knowing Joaquin’s name and room number. Actually, he probably had Carlos to thank for other stuff, too, like for trying to help him in the first place.
So Carlos was cool, and Seb had talked to him some, and there’d been the uncomfortable experience of being grilled by cops. Seb didn’t want to go through that ever again. Cops were scary, even the icy blond guy Carlos had sworn Seb could trust. Seb didn’t trust him, didn’t trust anyone.
But it’d been Joaquin who’d been shot and had almost died, all because Seb had sent up a smoke signal for help.
Now Seb had to figure out what to do. Guilt was holding him in place, or in the area. He’d never had any plan to so much as drive through Montana, much less spend any time there. When he’d left home, he’d had a plan—
Seb almost laughed at himself. He’d been a dumb, young, naive idiot when he’d left home.
One of the nurses left to check on patients. The other nurse was playing on his phone—manning the desk, but whatever, he was distracted and that was all that mattered.
Seb believed people were more likely to notice a person trying to sneak past them, some sixth sense or survival instinct kicking in. For that reason, he stood up straighter and tugged on the hem of the green scrubs he’d been given when he’d been in the hospital there. For once, not having any clothes had come in handy. He had two sets of scrubs now, and those fugly hospital slipper-cover things.
All useful for what he was doing. Even bruised and battered, no one had looked past the scrubs so far. Crossing his fingers, Seb hoped that remained the case.
The nurse at the desk didn’t even do more than grunt at him. Seb muttered, “Hey”, in return. He kept walking until he rounded the corner, then he slipped into Joaquin’s room.
Maybe it was knowing the man had almost died because of him, but Seb felt responsible for Joaquin. He kept telling himself that was stupid. He didn’t even know Joaquin, and even so, Joaquin hadn’t even been aware of Seb’s existence, maybe still didn’t know about it.
Yeah, and would he have been shot if I hadn’t started that fire? Seb knew the answer to that. In his desperation to escape from the man he’d only known as Master, he’d have done anything, including put other’s lives at risk.
And he’d done just that. Lying in the hospital bed, hooked up to tubes and wires that lead back to monitors—there was the proof of Seb’s selfish behavior. He couldn’t even lie and say he wouldn’t do it all again, because he would have died himself if he hadn’t escaped somehow. Master would have killed him.
Seb closed the door as quietly as possible. He leaned against it for a moment and just stared. He’d bet Joaquin was one fine man when he wasn’t injured. Right then, he had lines around his mouth, kind of bracketing it, and deep, discolored circles under his eyes. His black hair was tangled around his head, and even with the dim lighting, he had an unhealthy greenish tinge to his skin.
But he had a long, straight nose and perfect lips, not too plump and not too thin. The top one had a deep bow to it and looked chapped as hell. So did the bottom one for that matter. Seb took another moment to appreciate the sharp angle of Joaquin’s jaw, the square chin with the faintest hint of a divot in the center. The dark stubble on his face and neck was something Seb couldn’t decide if he liked or not. It didn’t matter, anyway. Wasn’t like Joaquin was his anything.
Seb tip toed closer, not wanting to wake Joaquin. Last night, he’d been surprised to find Joaquin watching him from one second to the next. The man had been out cold, Seb had been certain of it. Then he’d been alert, his dark eyes tracking every move Seb made.
Tonight those eyes were still closed. Seb crept to the side of the bed. He’d have liked to sit down, but the chair was against the wall, not close to Joaquin. Moving it might wake the man.
Seb’s hands itched to touch. He didn’t do any such thing, instead looking, studying Joaquin. He wanted to know what made a man risk his life for someone else, even if Joaquin hadn’t done so on purpose. Would he do it again, if he knew it’d save me? Selflessness was a rarity, at least in Seb’s experience. Then again, he’d had years of being treated worse than any human should ever be treated. One thing he knew about himself, though, was that he wasn’t selfless. He was incredibly selfish, and he’d do anything to survive.
The ‘why’ of that puzzled him. It wasn’t as if he had anything in particular to live for. Regardless, dying wasn’t something he was in a hurry to experience. His youthful, ignorant dreams of running off to Hollywood to become a star were no longer a factor. He knew better than to think he’d be anyone important.
And he was scared, which pissed him off, a lot. What did he have to be afraid of now? He asked himself that over and over. Seb still didn’t have an answer.
Seb jolted at the rasped words. He might have even squeaked in surprise had he not been trained to be silent. Even so, he still moved, flinched, his heart trebling its beat when Joaquin spoke.
Joaquin blinked slowly, then licked his dry lips and winced.
Seb touched his own lips. Still swollen, sore. He had to look awful—but at least he could get his own drink if his lips and mouth were dry.
“Here,” he whispered as he reached for a cup sitting on the stand beside the hospital bed. A half inch of water was in the cup. There was a packet of petroleum jelly lying out as well. “There’s…there’s not much.” Seb was nervous, really, really nervous, and he didn’t know why.
Joaquin’s throat made a clicking sound as he tried to swallow.
Seb brought the cup to Joaquin’s lips, then tipped it carefully.
Joaquin drank the last bit of water, then sighed. “Thanks.”
“Here.” Well, Seb wasn’t going to win any awards for witty repartee. He opened the tube of petroleum jelly.
“Your lips—dry.” Seb pressed his own together. If he couldn’t get a complete sentence out, he was better off being quiet. He dabbed some of the thick stuff on his finger, then carefully applied it to Joaquin’s lips.
The warm, rough feel of Joaquin’s lips did funny things to Seb’s insides, things he was going to ignore. Touching someone willingly was weird, and he couldn’t escape the expectation of getting in trouble for doing it.
“Thanks,” Joaquin said while Seb was still smearing the petroleum jelly around. The warmth of his breath tickled the fine blond hairs on Seb’s knuckles.
“Sure.” Seb wanted to groan. That wasn’t right. “You’re welcome.” There. That’s better. You had manners, once.
“You’re not real,” Joaquin said a moment later, when Seb was wiping his greasy finger on his pants.
“Huh?” Obviously, he was making a good impression—Not.
Joaquin blinked slowly, like it was hard work to raise his eyelids back up. “Said, you’re not real. Don’t have a blue-eyed boy to come visit me.”
At least Joaquin could see what color his eyes were. Seb had been afraid the swelling would never go down, that he might lose sight in both eyes. As it was, his left one wasn’t much use yet.
He didn’t know if it was wise to tell Joaquin he was real. Even though he was having a silent debate about it, his mouth and tongue must have decided for him, because the words tumbled up and out. “I’m real. Sebastian.” And damned if he still didn’t sound like a dumbass.
Joaquin grunted and opened his eyes wide. “C’mere.”
Seb bit his bottom lip and shuffled closer. His heart was beating even faster now, and he was kind of dizzy. Fear clogged his throat, and that was stupid. Joaquin couldn’t hurt him. The man was injured, had almost died from what Seb had heard.
Even so, he had to lock every muscle in place to keep from running when Joaquin raised one shaking hand.
Seb scolded himself mentally. He should have come up to Joaquin’s injured side. Then the man wouldn’t be extending those trembling fingers toward him.
Yet Seb couldn’t move, was rooted in place by emotions he wasn’t even certain he could name. Joaquin touched his forearm, brushing dry, rough fingers over Seb’s skin.
“Huh.” Joaquin closed his eyes and dropped his hand back onto the bed. “Some hallucination.”
“I’m—“ Seb swallowed back the denial that he was a real person. Maybe it was best that Joaquin not believe him to be anything other than a figment of his imagination.
While Seb debated over what to do or say next, Joaquin grimaced.
Seb worried the man was hurting. Before he could ask, Joaquin peered at him through narrowly parted eyelids.
“You could at least talk. Standing there staring’s kind of a creepy thing to do.”
Seb ducked his head and considered what Joaquin’s words.
“Tell me a story,” Joaquin urged. “Mama used to when I was sick as a kid. She’s gone now…”
When Joaquin closed his eyes again and didn’t say anything else after a solid minute, Seb took a step back. He thought he was going to leave while the leaving was good. Except, maybe it wasn’t so good after all, because he found himself clearing his throat, and moving back to the bedside once more.
Then he surprised himself as he began to talk, telling Joaquin a story he remembered being read as a child. What parts he couldn’t remember, Seb made up, and when Joaquin drifted off to sleep, Seb snuck out and headed back to the shelter.
He’d been able to escape his own worries for a little while, standing in the hospital room and telling stories. Once he was outside and wandering somewhat in the direction of the church shelter, though, Seb was hit with so many worries he could hardly breathe.
In fact, he thought he was having a heart attack for a few minutes, and he stopped, bending over to brace his forearms above his knees as he struggled to get some air into his lungs.
Headlights alerted him to an approaching car, coming from behind him. Seb straightened up quickly and peeked over his shoulder. The police cruiser scared him, even when he saw who was driving it.
Officer Ian McCain had been professional with Sebastian during interviews, but Seb was still scared of the man—scared of any police officer, for that matter.
And this wasn’t Officer McCain anyway. Some cop who probably thought Seb was a criminal had pulled over to the curb and was looking at him expectantly.
Seb tried his best not to fidget, to which end he folded his arms over his chest and hoped he didn’t look scared—or guilty. Maybe having my face beat to hell is a good thing in this case.
The police officer finally drawled, “Out for a midnight stroll?”
Seb took a step back before he could stop himself. Even if his body was ready to go into flight mode, his tongue wasn’t showing signs of fear. “Is there a curfew I’m breaking?” he asked. At least he’d kept the sarcasm back.
“Only if you’re under the age of eighteen. Are you?”
“No sir, I am not,” Seb said. “I’m twenty-two.”
“Well, you look like you’ve had the tar beat out of you, and this isn’t the safest neighborhood in Bozeman. Makes a cop suspicious.” He put the car in park, and Seb’s heart thudded heavily.
“I was in an accident, and just got released from the hospital,” Seb got out, eyes glued to the police officer’s face as he took another step back. “I just want to get home. Visions were threatening to play out in his mind, memories, only they weren’t just in his head. He would swear he could see them, see Master coming for him, swinging that belt—
“All right. Just be careful out here.” The officer restarted his car.
“Yes sir, I will.” Seb walked until the cop car passed him, then took a right at the end of the block. Only then did Seb turn and run, hearing nothing but screams he hoped were only in his past. When he reached the church, Seb crawled through the window he’d left open, then quickly closed and shut it before sliding down to the floor, his back to the wall.
After several minutes, when he finally believed the cop was going to leave him alone, Seb got to his feet again, and quietly made his way to the room he’d been assigned. If he wedged his bed up against the door after locking it, there was nothing wrong with that. It made him feel safer.
But Seb still didn’t manage to sleep.