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Fighting for Freedom (Modern Battles 4)

Fighting for Freedom (Modern Battles 4)
Release Date: 20 June 2014
Description:

Luiz Oliveira, a US-born Brazilian, joined the US military when he was eighteen to escape his ambassador father's tyranny. Once his active duty obligation ends he starts a private investigation and security company with his Army buddy, Reinaldo Valverde. Years later, Luiz learns Colombian drug lords have kidnapped his childhood friend and teenage crush, Dr. Pascal Taylor-Cornett. Geography and their careers may have kept them apart, but they have been attracted to each other since they were fifteen, so Luiz is determined to come to Pascal’s rescue.

Pascal is a dedicated emergency doctor who defied his rich father's wishes to become a surgeon because making a contribution to world health means more to Pascal than money. Once qualified, he volunteers for Médicins sans Frontières, first in Sri Lanka and Chad, then in Buenaventura, Colombia. There he discovers that American-owned pharmaceutical Biomedical Inc. is selling ineffective vaccines to MSF, but before he can gather enough evidence to expose their scheme, he is kidnapped by a drug lord.

The battle for Pascal’s freedom isn’t easy, but some things are worth fighting for. Luiz and Pascal want a relationship—but they will have to stay a step ahead of their powerful enemies.


Pages: 200
Words: 67,000
Heat Index:Heat Index
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase
Book Type: E-Book, Paperback

CHAPTER 1

 

Monday, May 22, 1991, Wimbledon, England


“We have to talk.” Luiz Oliveira pulled the first ball from his sports short’s pocket, twirling the squash racket in his right hand as he glanced at his best friend. He’d waited for them to be in the glass-enclosed indoor court for their regular Monday game so nobody could overhear them. His father, the Brazilian ambassador to the United Kingdom, believed in being well-informed about his children’s activities and had his spies everywhere, so Luiz needed to be careful.

“What? Now?” Pascal Taylor-Cornett raised his light brown eyebrows almost high enough to reach the bangs of his somewhat shaggy haircut. “I thought we were going to play? It’s my turn to win, you know.”

“Ha, ha.” Luiz grinned and threw the ball against the front wall before catching it, just for fun. “Of course we’re going to play, but there’s something we need to talk about. And this is pretty much the only place we can be sure not to be overheard.”

Pascal glanced around the soundproofed squash court and nodded before bouncing on the balls of his feet to get ready for their game. His legs were muscular from all the running he did, and his whole body radiated an energy Luiz found increasingly attractive. They’d been best friends since they’d met when they were nine, both enrolled in the prestigious King’s College School, but in the last few years Luiz had become more and more aware of Pascal’s body in a far-beyond-best-friend way. And even though they were both about to turn eighteen and theoretically free to lead their own lives, neither of their families would make it easy for them.

Luiz snorted at the understatement of the century while moving to the service box on the left of the court to line up for his serve. His father was determined to see Luiz follow him into the diplomatic service, and Pascal’s parents, a rich British businessman and the heiress of a vast vineyard in France, were equally sure Pascal’s destiny was to become a surgeon. Both fathers had already picked women the two young men were supposed to marry, with engagements planned for late in the summer. Being gay was not an option. Neither of the boys wanted their futures mapped out for them, but they would be close to destitute if they didn’t follow their families’ dictates.

“Okay, give it to me.” Pascal’s brown eyes twinkled with mischief as he took up position and crooked his finger in a come-hither motion intended to make Luiz lose his concentration.

“You’re on.” Luiz grinned, hamming it up for anyone who might be watching. While Luiz had no idea if anyone was watching at this moment, he’d learned not to assume. He’d also learned to turn his head so nobody could see his lips moving when he didn’t want them to know what he was saying.

The first few exchanges went easily, Luiz scoring a few points for show. He’d need the advantage as soon as he started talking about his father’s newest attack on Luiz’s plans for his life once he got his international baccalaureate at the end of June.

“So, what’s on your mind?” Pascal hardly moved his lips and pretended to be totally focused on their game.

“My father informed me yesterday, totally out of the blue, that I won’t be joining you to travel across Europe like we planned.” Luiz barely managed to hit the ball as anger about his summer being arranged for him, yet again, surfaced and made him seethe.

“What the hell?” Pascal turned to him, totally ignoring the ball that hit the wall, then the floor, before rolling off into a corner.

“Exactly my reaction.” Luiz was too upset to worry about keeping their cover of a friendly game going for a moment. He stood and stared into space, trying to calm down.

“Shit!” Pascal retrieved the ball and threw it at Luiz, making him catch it automatically. “We were looking forward to this trip forever. It was supposed to be our reward for passing with straight As. They agreed to let us go. Damn, we need a break before Oxford.”

“Yeah, they decided to unagree, I guess.” Luiz tried to hold it together, but the thought of not spending the private time with Pascal so they could just be friends and explore all those feelings between them almost made him cry. Or kick something. Possibly hit his damned overbearing, domineering shithead of a sperm donor.

“Did he say why?” Pascal took up a waiting stance, expecting Luiz to serve. “Not that he needs to, but I’m just wondering.”

“Yeah, he did.” Luiz totally botched his serve. “He informed me it was important to start networking, and that a visit to the Rothfords in Washington, DC, was just the thing. They’d be able to help me along in my career as a diplomat, and they’d been good enough to agree to being my hosts for a month of summer courses and socializing with the right set of people.”

“That senator and his wife who’ve supposedly done much good for your father’s career? The ones your parents pretended to be best friends with when your dad was ambassador to the US? The creepy guy you never really trusted?” Pascal sneered as he took his turn to serve and smashed the ball against the front wall with a vengeance.

“Yeah, those Rothfords.” Luiz slipped into automatic play mode as he responded to Pascal’s volleys. “Makes me feel like a debutante or something.”

Pascal snorted. He didn’t look happy, and the small frown on his high forehead made Luiz wish for different parents all over again. He’d never felt loved, what with everyone else being more important than he and his younger sister since he could remember, but this latest attack on his personal freedom took the cake.

“So, what are you going to do?” Pascal scored the final point and dropped his arm, holding the racket loosely as he stood and caught his breath.

“I don’t know yet.” Luiz shrugged and walked toward the door. “But one thing is certain. I am not going to Washington, DC, for all of July to spend time with those creeps. My father still wants me to go to Oxford University, and I don’t think it’s the only place I could get my law degree, so he’s going to have to choose. Either he lets me go on the trip and I do as he wants, or he can kiss my career as a diplomat following in his precious footsteps good-bye.”

“Wow.” Pascal’s eyes widened. “You’re going to take a stand?”

“Yeah.” Luiz nodded as he opened the door to let them out of the squash court. “I think it’s about time, don’t you?”



Two days later Luiz was still seething as he walked into the school’s library to meet Pascal for their Wednesday study session. The confrontation with his father had not gone well, as expected. What he hadn’t counted on was exactly how badly his progenitor had taken the news of him refusing to follow the grand plan his father had so carefully put in motion. Apparently, Luiz was ungrateful and not worthy of his father’s attention if he didn’t appreciate the wisdom of Oliveira Senior’s planning. The man had told him in no uncertain terms that he expected Luiz to either shape up and do as he was told, for his own good, of course, or he could consider himself disinherited and on his own.

While Luiz hadn’t expected his father’s reaction to be this extreme, he couldn’t honestly say that having to make it on his own hadn’t been at the back of his mind ever since he’d realized he might have feelings for his best friend. Feelings deeper than the friendship they had shared for so long. A congratulatory hug at Pascal’s seventeenth birthday last summer had left them both panting for breath and with a physical reaction they hadn’t known what to do with. It was the physical confirmation of the emotions Luiz had felt for much longer. And one thing his father had always been clear on was his hatred for what he called sexual deviants and sinners. The moment Luiz let on what he really felt for Pascal—not that he’d planned to do it without finding out if Pascal felt the same way about him—he knew his father would kick him out without a second thought.

Now that he needed a backup plan much sooner than expected, he was ready—at least in theory. He had no idea if part two of his plan would work. Minutes later he found Pascal sitting at the table they usually shared when they met here, unobserved by anyone other than students and the odd librarian walking through.

“Hey.” Luiz put his messenger bag next to the second chair and sat down.

“Hey, I thought you’d forgotten about me.” Pascal glanced at his watch, then back at Luiz. “Ten minutes late is not like you.”

“We have a lot to talk about.” Luiz pulled his books out, building a low wall around his notepad to give them added privacy, and bent low so they could whisper unobserved.

“How did yesterday go with your dad?” Pascal lowered his face so they were on the same level.

“Much worse than I expected.” Luiz took a deep breath to control his anger and enable him to keep whispering when he wanted to yell. “He barely listened to what I had to say.”

“Can’t say I’m surprised.” Pascal sighed. “You were basically trying to blackmail him.”

“Yeah, and he’s much better at that than I am, I know. But I had to try.” Luiz shook his head. “Not a chance though. He made me realize this isn’t going to be easy.”

“I get that.” Pascal frowned. “So, where does that leave us and the trip?”

“I had to agree to cancel the plans and stay with the Rothfords.” Luiz scowled.

“Shit!” Pascal ducked his head as if he could reduce the volume of his outburst after the fact. “So you’re stuck?”

“You don’t seriously think I’d let myself be blackmailed like that? This is my entire life we’re talking about! If I give in to him now, he’ll have me engaged to Esmeralda what’s-her-face next. I cannot stand the idea of him running my life. I want to be a lawyer and do something useful like defend the innocent, not some diplomat whose highlight of the week is getting drunk at some other dignitary’s party!” Luiz fisted his hands, the only physical outlet for his anger he could have without giving the both of them away.

“But what can you do? He’ll disinherit you if you don’t toe his line!” Pascal’s eyes widened. “And we’ll never be able to go to Oxford together like we planned.”

“I know. He said as much. But I can’t give in. So you’re right, Oxford is no longer going to happen.” Luiz raised his hand to stop Pascal’s protest. “But there is a way out of us having to do what our parents want, maybe even a way to be together.”

“There is?”

“It may not get me to being a lawyer anytime soon, but my first priority is to get away from my father’s influence and to find a way to make a living, maybe even be able to afford some sort of college eventually….” Luiz paused to let Pascal catch up with his train of thought.

Pascal opened his mouth but then decided to nod instead.

“So, I pretended to agree with my father’s plans after all and told him I’d go to see the Rothfords as he planned. Because all I need is to make it to the US, so I can sign up with the Army. It shouldn’t be a problem since I was born while my father was the Brazilian ambassador to the US and I’ve got dual citizenship. I’ve done some research, and all I need to do is one tour of eight years, with five years active duty, after which I can go to college on the GI bill while I wait out the remaining three years in the reserves.” Luiz sat back, waiting for Pascal’s reaction.

“What?” Pascal turned white. “You’re going to join the military?”

“Yep. It’s the best way to get away from my dad, earn some money, and be able to afford college after all.” Luiz grinned.

“But—but they kill people! I want to become a doctor to save lives, and you want to become a soldier who takes them?” Pascal leaned forward. “Even worse, you’re going to get sent to Liberia or Kuwait or somewhere and might get killed yourself. That job is dangerous. And Desert Storm may have ended in February, but the situation with Iraq doesn’t look good. Are you totally crazy?”

“Look, I know the risks, okay?” In fact Luiz was terrified, but it wasn’t as if he had a lot of choices. There was no place other than the Army that he could think of where his dad couldn’t go after him and drag him back under his control. The man was too influential, but he had absolutely no control over the US military. Or so Luiz hoped.

“I’m not sure you do.” Pascal leaned back and shook his head. “There’s got to be another way. I don’t want you risking your life like that.”

“I can’t think of anywhere else my father won’t be able to get me. It’s only five years, and I might not even be called to serve. Not everyone is, you know?” Luiz hated the idea of being separated from Pascal for that long, but what choice did he have? It wasn’t as if they would have been able to stay together after college, what with him having to go to Brazil to join the foreign service there and Pascal needing many more years of specialization once he got his basic university degree. “And once I am self-sufficient, maybe we can find a way to be together, if, you know, you’re still interested.”

“You’re my best friend, of course I want to share my life with you.” Pascal narrowed his eyes. “But you running off to become a murderer and possibly end up dead isn’t really helping! The five years minimum of you being God-knows-where is bad enough, but the risk of it becoming much worse than a simple separation is what scares me. I don’t want you dead!”

“I’m not going to die.” Luiz shook his head.

“You don’t know that.” Pascal started packing up his books and papers, clearly ready to leave.

“What are you doing?” Luiz wanted to finish the conversation, make sure Pascal got what he was doing. He needed his friend’s support, now more than ever.

“I’m not going to get any studying done now.” Pascal closed his bag and rose. “And I can’t seem to talk any sense into you, so I’m going to take a break to cool down. Maybe we can try again to tomorrow, but I’m exhausted now.”

“Okay.” It was anything but okay, but Luiz didn’t know what to say to make it better.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.”

And with that final statement, Pascal walked out of the library, leaving Luiz with a sinking feeling in his stomach and more alone than he’d ever been in his life.



Tuesday, July 9, 1991, Hyattsville, Maryland

Luiz stood inside Prince George’s plaza, a huge complex that housed the military recruitment center closest to him, or rather the Rothfords’ residence. It was too early for most of the shops to be open, but his research had told him to be early, so he’d taken the metro and here he was. Processing could take quite a while, and he just wanted to get it done. The first week with the Rothfords and their undisguised efforts to do his father’s bidding and make him “socially presentable” had already come close to making him lose it. Luiz needed out from under their supervision and away from his father’s influence yesterday, if not sooner.

He only hoped he had all the paperwork with him, and that they’d let him enlist even without parental approval. The fact he was eighteen, had an excellent international baccalaureate diploma—more than the equivalent of any US high school degree—was in good health, and was ready to go into service right now would hopefully work to his advantage. The Rothfords believed he was on an overnight trip to Richmond, Virginia with a friend, so he wouldn’t be missed if this took longer than he anticipated. Until he was leaving for Basic Training, he was not ready to give the game away. His father was sneaky and might try to pull some strings to stop him from joining the military. You just never knew.

He sighed deeply as he started walking toward the suite where he’d meet his destiny. Since Pascal hadn’t changed his mind about supporting him, he was truly on his own now. They’d talked about it a few times, but his friend had not been swayed. He was against killing, didn’t believe the military was the solution to the world’s problems, and thought there must be another way for Luiz to build his own life. Not that he’d been able to come up with one Luiz trusted to be successful. It hurt to leave Pascal behind like that, mad at him, and without any chance to change his mind. All they had were letters, and Luiz wasn’t sure he’d get a reply even if he did manage to figure out what to write.

He sat down not too far from where he needed to be and watched the mall come to life around him. His destination was more than obvious with its big sign proclaiming it to be an “Armed Forces Recruiting Center”. Men and women in uniform occasionally appeared behind the glass doors as they walked back and forth, getting things ready, and he quietly studied them, trying not to be obvious about it. When one of them finally unlocked and opened the door at 8:00 a.m. sharp, Luiz almost jumped to attention.

Instead he shook his head at himself, slowly rose, and walked over to the large suite. Recruitment posters adorned the walls, and stacks of brochures lay lined up along a reception desk to his right, ready for him to browse. A few doors in the back wall were closed, probably leading to assessment and testing areas, some were ajar, and a few were open and revealing more uniformed men and women sitting in small groups talking or doing paperwork.

The middle and left of the large space was divided into four sections, a desk with a few chairs in each, and more recruitment posters adorning the walls. Each section represented a branch of the military, and he unerringly identified the one he wanted to join. Nothing said Army like a huge tank, not to mention the calls to action. More flashy marketing materials lay on each desk, but he’d made up his mind and walked toward the leftmost desk.

A man in his thirties sat behind the desk, back ramrod straight and gaze focused on Pascal. Black jump boots and blue trousers were just visible under the desk; the insignia on the man’s short-sleeved white shirt indicated his rank, but Luiz was too rattled to remember what it might represent. He’d studied the basics for a while now, but the reality of what he was about to do had him nervous all of a sudden. Shit, Pascal was right, these guys killed people. Luiz might get shot on his first mission. What the hell had he been thinking?

Then Military Guy grinned and rose, holding out his hand for Luiz to shake. It took everything Luiz had to keep advancing. All he wanted to do in that moment was run as fast and as far away as possible.

 

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