Letter from St. Nick
Nicole S. Patrick
“Last call for flight one eighty-nine, nonstop service to Jacksonville, Florida. All seats boarding.”
Thad Sinclair groaned at the stiffness in his kneecap, the result of sitting too long. Twenty-four hours ago he’d left Afghanistan, flown to Istanbul, and was at the tail end of a six-hour layover in New York City. God, he was beat. Plus, he was a grubby, ripe mess in his cammies and combat boots. He grabbed his rucksack, following the other stragglers in line to the Jetway for the last leg of his journey home.
Wherever that was.
The gate agent smiled, thanking him for his service when she took his boarding pass. Many people had stopped him to say “Thank you” or “Welcome home” since he’d arrived at LaGuardia Airport. It was good to be back on US soil and see friendly faces instead of watching his back and fighting insurgents at every turn.
He stowed his bag in the overhead compartment, settled in his seat then took a creased and worn sheet of paper out of his shirt pocket.
Not two weeks ago, Lieutenant Grant had kidded, “Sinclair, here’s a bunch of mail for you. What’d you hit the jackpot, my man?”
He sighed and shook his head.
Thad unfolded the letter and a sharp sting hit the back of his throat. Aw, hell. He blew out an unsteady breath as wetness seeped behind his eyes. His gut clenched just thinking about the man who had been more “Dad” than his own ever was.
Thad, my laddie, if you are reading this letter it means that I’m gone. And it also means there are some things you need to be apprised of. My good friend and attorney Rupert Green has all the information for you about my estate.
It’s time, Thad. Stop the globe-trotting and fighting the bad guys, and come back. Plant some roots, son. I’m just sorry I won’t be here to greet you.
You are the son I never had. I’ve always been very proud of the path you took. To this day I think your father was a jackass for all the pain he caused you, rest his soul. I hate writing this sentimental drivel, but I figured your aunt Maeve would’ve wanted me to.
Not many people knew I was sick so don’t go beating yourself up or getting upset over things. There was nothing you could’ve done. No use in fighting the inevitable. I’m going to join my Maeve now, and I’m okay and ready for it.
Thad slid up the window cover to gaze at the planes parked side by side in the terminal.
It’d been more than three years since he’d last seen his uncle. Yes, three years ago at Dad’s debauchery of a funeral right here in New York. His parents’ decision to leave what remained of their fortune to charity had turned ugly at the reading of their will. The Sinclairs were not a forgiving bunch. That was a fact. No, the stuffy, upper-crust, uptown cousins he couldn’t stand looked down their noses at the soldier in the family. He’d given up years ago making the correction that he was, in fact, a Marine.
None in the Sinclair branch of the family tree had ever pardoned him for being the “disappointment” to his father, even after the old man passed away.
Uncle Nick and Aunt Maeve were the only family who’d accepted him despite all of his faults, shortcomings, and “unrealistic”—according to dear old Dad—aspirations. Thad never understood how unrealistic it was to want to serve and protect the country which helped shape the Sinclairs into their successes. Ironically, Nick had been a black sheep in the Sinclair clan too. Maybe that was why they’d become close before he’d shipped out to begin his stint in the Corps.
Thad racked his brain to recall any telltale signs in Uncle Nick’s appearance the last time they’d met. But the strapping giant had embraced him with the same spine-cracking hug, kidding him about making nice with the rest of the family.
Had Uncle Nick been sick back then? Understandably, he’d been sadder since losing Aunt Maeve, and not nearly as animated as he normally was during the Sinclair family get-togethers. More like battles. But nothing else had seemed different.
He sniffed and swiped his eyes, sinking against the cool leather of his upgraded first-class seat. Damn! Why hadn’t he reached out sooner? Why had he chosen to be gone for so long? Perhaps the day-to-day shit storm of war was what had held him back from at least sending e-mail? What a lame excuse. He could’ve found the time. The motives for staying away may have been valid at the time, but for some reason he couldn’t recall any of them.
Now he’d never get to say goodbye. Talk about feeling lower than a junkyard dog. He’d wasted so much time not keeping in touch with the family who actually cared about him. His parents, for certain, hadn’t given a flying… Stop it, Sinclair. No use thinking about them now.
He clenched his jaw and swallowed hard. Anger waned into the familiar ache of loneliness, as it always did when he thought of his parents. He tamped down the vise of pain surrounding his insides, just as he’d done eons ago when he was a young Marine.
He scrubbed a hand down his face and placed Uncle Nick’s letter on the vacant seat beside him. He closed his eyes as a headache crept up the base of his skull.
The thought of going back to active duty after this leave was over made him twitchy. He had to admit, the bum knee was shot, and someday he feared it just might get in the way of his survival. Maybe it was time to let the younger, gung-ho guys take over. Was he actually considering throwing in the towel?
Focus on the now, Sinclair. Once he arrived in Florida, it would be a quick trip to Jacksonville to get his truck from his buddy’s garage and retrieve what remained of his scant personal belongings from the storage unit.
“We’ll be taking off momentarily, folks.” The pilot’s voice cut through the speakers. The announcement, coupled with the engines firing up, jolted Thad out of his musings.
Two weeks ago he wondered about his next destination. Now he knew—Amelia Island, Florida.
About Nicole S. Patrick:
Nicole S. Patrick has always loved to read, and in her teenage years, she “borrowed” her mom’s books to sneak away and become lost in the world of romance. After more than ten years in the corporate world of tech recruiting and HR management, she decided to stay home and raise children. But with so many romantic stories and characters floating around in her head, when the kids napped, she was compelled to put those words on a page and pursue this crazy dream of becoming published. Nicole writes romantic suspense and her heroes are those alpha males in uniform. She lives in New Jersey with her real-life hero, her husband, and her two sons.
For more information about Nicole, please visit her website at www.nicolespatrick.com.
REVIEW TO COME SOON