Title: Haven’s War
Series: Safe Haven #2
Author: Parker Williams
Genre: M/M Dark Romantic Elements
With Haven on an extended honeymoon with Sammy, bad guys around the world are breathing a lot easier. No one is better at permanently removing these lowlifes who target children—and the brutal murder of two teenage girls makes clear it’s past time to return to work. Haven’s first assignment back results in a new family member and a renewed sense of urgency to protect and avenge the innocent. There is nothing ‘usual’ about the business of hunting predators, but when several of Haven’s fellow agents are killed, a pattern emerges. The hunters have become the prey, tools in a bitter vendetta for a perceived wrong. Despite years of working alone, when the target shifts to someone unexpected, Haven calls in reinforcements—a friend to stand between the family he loves and a ruthless killer. Teamwork may be the only way to win this fight—unless it’s already too little, too late. Haven tries to approach this as he would any other assignment. Find your enemy and make sure they suffer before you eliminate them. But when a member of his team goes off-book and ends up dead, everything changes. It’s no longer a battle. Now it’s war.
He glanced up at the evening sky. A haze enveloped the quarter moon, giving everything an ethereal glow. Though the night would be considered sultry, it lent itself to romance, walking hand in hand with someone you cared for, sharing whispered words, promises that might last an evening or be the foundation for a lifetime commitment. These people had no idea how quickly something like love could be ripped away, how those things said to one another would be worth less than the air you spent on saying them.
He shook his head. Now he needed to focus, not lose himself in memories of what might have been if things had been different. God, how he wished things could have been different.
The street could only be described as quaint. Small houses, each nearly identical to the next, but with a few tweaks that marked them as individual. The place he focused on had a small flowerbed, bursting with a variety of a flower he knew, but couldn’t recall the name. Tulips, maybe?
The slate gray siding, the maroon shutters on the windows, and the solar-powered pathway to the door that lit up in beautiful colors at night. The overall effect could only be described as charming. A lot of love went into making the house something special. It reminded him of what he’d lost.
He’d taken refuge in a house across from the home for six days, getting the lay of the land, taking note of the occupants’ arrival and departure schedule. Then every night, he drifted off, thinking about the place. It had been a dream of theirs, to own a little farm of their own, where no one would send them off to the corners of the world to handle problems. And for one very brief instant, they’d achieved it. But that dream had died in more ways than one. One day it was there, the next it was gone, as ephemeral as if it had never existed.
He tugged the collar of his black jacket and wished for a cool breeze. The earlier rain had sent the humidity soaring, and sweat was building up under his bulletproof vest, matting the sparse hairs. What he wouldn’t give for a tall glass of iced tea about now. He tried again, lifting the bottom of the vest up, hoping to let a little air in to cool him down, but nothing helped. He glanced at his watch. He’d need to make his move tonight. No way could he stand to be in this place any longer. The memories and wistful dreams alone threatened to drown him, but this heat had him sweating to the point where even he could smell himself. When he grabbed a coffee at the convenience store down the street while his target was out, the man behind the counter had a hand on the phone. Probably thought he was a vagrant. He sure as hell looked like one. He hadn’t showered in days, and his dark blond hair felt greasy to the touch. The beard he’d grown over the last year hadn’t seen a razor either. He looked like shit.
When he heard the hum of an engine on the quiet street, he crouched down. Though his patience had long ago come to an end, he needed to see this through. He would wait as he’d been trained, even if every fiber of his being rebelled against the idea. Still, he was an assassin, and he had a job to do.
The woman—Sarah, according facts he’d assembled—slid from the driver’s seat, her blond hair pulled back into a ponytail. She laughed at something the other occupant shouted, then opened the rear door of the van. It took several minutes for her to get set, then she stepped away as a ramp slid down to allow the man in the back to wheel out and be lowered to the ground. She bent over and kissed him, then walked to the passenger side where she took a baby from the car seat. She held the child up, and then blew a raspberry on his belly, which caused the kid to laugh and wiggle. Regret tore through him. He wished there could be another way, but two months ago he’d approached the man—Daniel Tollifson—there had been angry words exchanged, as well as the threat of police involvement. He couldn’t allow that, because there would be no one else to take down his ultimate target.
He forced himself to focus on the here and now. He needed to remain detached. Better to not let facts like these intrude on his mission—a few weeks ago, he’d gone to Daniel, begging for information. He’d been rebuffed. That wouldn’t be the case today.
If the man wouldn’t help him when he asked, then he’d have to find another way to get his message across. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a photo of a man whose smile had never wavered. Terry had been his whole world, and then had been ripped away from him in a matter of moments. All he wanted had been the name of the person responsible. Why couldn’t Daniel see he wasn’t asking for much? How would he feel if it had been his wife? Or his child?
Daniel disengaged himself from the ramp, and Sarah started to come around to the other side. It had to be now.
He’d run out of tears a lifetime ago, but again he wished he had another alternative. He didn’t. He raised the rifle and peered through the sights. The woman and baby had gotten too near the man, and he refused to hurt the innocent. Not like Terry had been. He lowered his weapon.
He waited while the two were engaged in conversation. She touched her husband’s face, then bent down to blow a raspberry on his cheek, which had them both laughing. She held out the baby to him and gestured to the chair. He frowned, shook his head, and waved her off. She laughed and stuck out her tongue, dodging the swat he attempted to lay on her ass, then strode to the house, singing something loud and only slightly off-key. Her husband yelled something about the neighbors, and she merely laughed. He could see the obvious love the two of them shared, and that made what he had to do even more difficult.
Regret tore through him. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, no longer sure who the sympathy was for.
She opened the front door, and her husband began to roll toward the house. Now would be his chance. Despite his misgivings, he had to take it. He again raised the rifle, closed one eye, and locked in on his target. The wheelchair stopped at the curb, and the man tried unsuccessfully to move it. He called out to Sarah, an edge of frustration in his voice. She laughed and took eight steps toward him when the trigger of the M24 he held in slightly trembling hands depressed, and a loud bang split the quiet suburban street. Less than a second passed before Daniel’s head exploded, blood and other materials spattering his wife and child. For a moment, she stood there, eyes wide. She gripped the baby close to her chest, and then screamed.
Before the echo died away, he had already scurried off into the night.
It wasn’t a perfect shot. He could hear Terry cursing at him, making him do it again and again until he got it right. But Terry had died, and though two years had passed, he would finally be avenged.
Daniel Tollifson had been the first, but there was no doubt he wouldn’t be the last. Though he didn’t want to kill anyone, there had to be a penalty for those who refused to help him get justice for Terry. He needed to track down and eliminate the person who’d been responsible.
No matter who had to die in the process.
(Warning: This may be considered a trigger for some people. The images used in the video are stock photos and not real pictures of violence against children.)