We are thrilled to bring you a new book installment this May. We bring to you A Thousand Stolen Moments by Connie Ann Michael.
Chapter 1 / Chapter 2
oogie was sweaty, bloody, and exhausted when she finally dragged herself to the staff offices. She hoped to take advantage of a few minutes of silence.
She walked in the office to find Tahk, her personal guard from her unit. “Not now, I need sleep.”
Doogie watched Tahk’s gaze assess her, starting from her blonde hair, grazing over her lean torso and down her long, thin legs, checking for any damage. When he seemed satisfied she was uninjured, he pushed off the desk he was leaning against and walked toward her. “Bull. You never sleep. Doogs, I need help.”
Doogie rolled her eyes; he was right, she didn’t sleep, but still. “It’s been a hard day.” The large man stood in front of her unzipping his pants, letting them fall to the floor. “Holy crap Tahk!”
“Doogie, I got trouble.” Tahk’s thick southern drawl could be endearing, but not with his ebony butt staring her way.
“You’re going to have trouble if you don’t pull your pants back up. I can’t do this now. I don’t want to see it. Go away.” She raised her hand to shield her green eyes.
Tahk cupped his hands around his essential parts. “Something’s wrong.”
“You bet something’s wrong. You’re standing in front of me without pants on. There are doctors here. Male doctors. “She found a spot on the ceiling, suddenly becoming interested in the pattern of the tiles.
“I don’t want anyone to know. This is so bad. I got a girl back home.” His voice sounded desperate.
“I don’t want to know!” Doogie leveled her stare at Tahk, realizing what he was implying. “What exactly do you think your problem is?”
“Doogs.” Despite his dark complexion, a touch of red had crept into his cheeks.
“What do you think?” she insisted.
“It was one time. All the officers hook up. It’s like it’s part of their job.” Tahk emphasized the word job as if it would erase his infidelity.
“Seriously, Tahk. You caught something from one of the nurses?”
“Man, Doogs. When you say it like that, it sounds really bad.”
“It is really bad, you idiot. What do you think your girl’s going to say when you get home? What if I meet her someday? I’m aiding and abetting. Tahk! We’re in the middle of nowhere frickin’ Afghanistan. There isn’t a Rite Aid on the corner. I’m not wasting my penicillin on your sorry butt. Seriously, Tahk. How many times have you been deployed? Been on a Special Op? And now? Now is the time to be unfaithful? With a woman every Marine on this COP has slept with. Aren’t you supposed to live by a higher creed?”
“It was weak moment. Please, Doogs, just look.”
“I don’t want to look. I don’t want to see your man parts,” she continued to argue. “Make someone you don’t know look at it.”
Tahk shuffled toward her, his pants hindered his forward movement.
“No. Tahk. Get away.” She waved her hands, shooing him away. “You’re crossing a line in our work relationship.”
“You’re a doctor; you’ve seen it before. As soon as the guys hit the litter, you cut their pants off. You’ve seen more man parts than the girls at a bunny ranch.”
“I’m a triage corpsman. Unless it gets shot, stabbed, or blown off, I don’t look at it. Besides they’re usually unconscious or delirious with pain. Neither of which you are.”
“Sawyer,” his voice was a whisper as he said her actual last name. Since joining the Marines, she’d been given the nickname Doogie. She knew things were bad when he dropped her nickname. “Please. I’m always there for you. Do this for me.” He’d gotten very serious. It was definitely bad when the unit clown had stopped joking. “Please.”
“That’s not fair,” she said.
But he was right.
The CO of their unit assigned him to protect the corpsman of his unit.
“I know I’ll regret this.” She retrieved some gloves and wheeled a chair from behind the desk. “Come here.”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you.” He slid toward her.
“What the . . .” Platoon leader Sgt. Ravenscar burst through the door, rattling the temporary walls of the hospital.
Doogie yanked her hand away from Tahk.
“Doog!” Tahk bent over in pain.
“Raven.” She fell back against the desk, getting tangled in the chair when she tried to stand. Inadvertently, the sergeant and Doogie avoided the units’ nicknames. She referred to him by Raven, and he called her Sawyer.
“Which of you wants to explain what’s going on here?” Sgt. Ravenscar looked from Tahk to Doogie.
A blush crept up her neck. Then she got irritated. What did he think she was doing?
Raven turned on Tahk, who had straightened, but had yet to retrieve his pants from around his ankles.
“Tahk, put your pants on,” he snapped.
“Sorry, Chief.” Tahk pulled his pants back up, and then readjusted his belt.
“Someone better start talking—fast. Tahk’s your personal guard, your P.G. Not your play thing.” Raven got up in her face.
Tahk stepped into the small space between Raven’s extended finger and Doogie’s face. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, Chief. You got it all wrong.” Tahk was a big man with a large, muscular chest. He’d served with Raven for most of his military career, but he was her personal guard. Apparently, the title included defending her virtue to their commanding officer.
“Stop.” Doogie placed a hand on Tahk’s upper arm. He dwarfed her, and her hand appeared childlike against his bulging muscle. “Wait outside. We’ll finish up in a minute.”
Tahk gave her a sideways glance, but did what she asked. She followed him to the door, calmly closing it before pulling off her gloves and tossing them into the trash. “Permission to speak.”
“Cut the crap, Sawyer.” Raven crossed his arms.
“I would like to know why you think it’s appropriate for you to bust into my exam room.” She crossed her arms, mimicking his stance.
His eyes got big. “What? You’re questioning me?”
“Uh, no. Well maybe.” Her courage wavered.
“This isn’t an exam room. It’s the staff room. You were not giving him an exam,” he stated flatly.
“Then what was I doing?”
Raven puffed up his chest. Leaning down, he brought his face close to hers. Raven was Native American, a Navajo Warrior the men liked to say. Hence the nickname “Chief.” Although he wasn’t as big as Tahk, his lean muscles got the job of intimidation done. His skin was a smooth, caramel brown. His eyes were black, making it difficult to read his mood. However, at this moment, it was clear his mood was pissed off. Doogie held her ground.
“You know what you were doing.” His words were harsh.
“I was giving an exam to an officer in my unit who needed a diagnosis so he could return to the field without discomfort or distraction. The doctors from the hospital were detained. Tahk came to me for help.” She tried to keep her voice from betraying her nerves.
“Bull. You had your face in his crotch.”
“I don’t have to explain myself to you.” She grabbed the doorknob, planning her dramatic exit.
“I’m your C. O. You have to explain whatever I say you do. He’s your mentor. I assigned him to be your guard!” Raven put his foot in front of the door, stopping her from leaving. “Not to be your personal play thing.”
“I was examining him.” Doogie started to sweat. If Raven didn’t believe her, she could be written up. Fraternizing was frowned upon.
“You were . . . you know what you were doing.”
Raven’s words made her cringe. Pulling a breath of courage, Doogie didn’t back down. “He was my patient. I’m a Hospital Corpsman with the STP. I just help you out. I am not officially part of your unit. Not to mention, you don’t out rank me. We’re on an even playing field here, Sergeant. Now please get out of my way.”
Raven’s eyes narrowed at her rant. He let her words settle. “Is he okay?”
The beeper at her waist went off, interrupting them. She glanced down to see the code. “I got to go. You should probably talk to him.”
“We move out tonight. Maybe you should skip this one. You just got back from Eagle’s mess.”
“I can’t skip one,” she said exasperated. “Seriously, Raven, I was examining him.” She shoved past him to meet the team before the chopper came in.
Tahk was waiting outside the door when she hurried by.
“Am I okay?” Tahk ran after her.
“You’re fine.” She pulled fresh scrubs from a stack on the wall, putting them on while she jogged down the hall.
“So what is it?”
“You have a rash. An allergic reaction to something. Since you haven’t changed your laundry detergent, my guess is they have you out doing recon in some sort of foliage or dirt. You’re allergic to it. I can get some cream for you, but it won’t go away if you keep crawling through it.”
Tahk clenched his fists, lifting them into the air. Quietly he yelled, OORAH. “Sorry Doogs. I owe you one.”
She lifted her arm in a wave and pushed open the doors to the trauma center.
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