We are thrilled to bring you a new book installment this May. We bring to you A Thousand Stolen Moments by Connie Ann Michael.
aven was sitting around a map with a few other unit leaders when Tahk found him. “Hey, Boss.”
Raven looked up with a nod, and then returned to what he was doing. A grating feeling nagged at him. Tahk was supposed to be with Doogie. She wasn’t supposed to be alone with the men. It was unheard of in his unit to harass Doogie, he’d made his stand on that pretty clear, and no one wanted to mess with Tahk. But there were new units moving in, and he didn’t want to take any chances.
Tahk cleared his throat. “Could I have a word, please?”
Raven flashed him a look of irritation. Tahk’s infectious smile spread across his face.
“What’s up?” Raven gave him another irritated look, which pushed Tahk over the edge into laughter.
Raven grabbed Tahk’s arm and led him away from the group. “What the hell, Tahk.” Raven shoved Tahk around a corner.
“Sorry . . . I just . . .” Tahk tried to control his laughter.
“I’m kind of busy planning a mission, so if all you wanted was to stand in the desert and have a chuckle, I’ll be going.” Raven turned to walk away, and then turned back. “Don’t you have a job looking after someone? Someone who was provoking the men at a well earlier?”
Tahk’s expression fell at Raven’s comment. “Hey, Chief, I was watching her.”
“Watching her remind the men of what she can offer if they get her in a dark corner.” Raven moved into Tahk, keeping his voice low. “Stay with her.”
“Our unit would never touch her. They know better.”
Raven raised an eyebrow. “We got units from all over and the ANA . . . keep an eye on her.”
“I got it.”
“Just so we’re understood.” Raven flashed him an angry look, and then turned and headed back to the group looking over the map.
Tahk’s smile cracked his attempt at trying for seriousness. “Wait, I wanted to talk to you. I need to talk to you. Hold up.” Tahk did what looked like a yoga move to calm himself, his smile fading off his face before Raven could say anything.
“I’m waiting.” Raven crossed his arms over his chest.
“I need some intel.”
“On what?” Raven was getting irritated again, and his irritation was causing the smile to sneak back on Tahk’s face. “I don’t have time for this.”
Tahk waved his hands in front of him. “I’m sorry. Seriously, it’s just that Doogie told me she didn’t think you liked her because she was constantly pissing you off, and I told her it was just your face.” He smiled. “And this entire time you’ve had that look. It just hit me as funny.” Tahk got serious. “Sorry. So not an appropriate reaction.”
Raven rolled his eyes. “Why did you need to tell me this?”
“So, how do you feel about Doogie?” Tahk leaned against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest.
“Is this the intel?”
“Yeah. I want to know what’s going on between the two of you. You seem to get a more irritated look than usual whenever the men are paying attention to her.”
“I thought it was just the way my face was.” Raven threw Tahk’s words back at him, avoiding the question.
“I’m not letting you off that easy. What’s going on?”
Raven ran a hand over his head.
“Oh, no. No. No. No, dude.” Tahk started to pace.
“Did you just call me dude? Because I put up with the whole Chief thing, but dude is crossing a line.” Raven’s head followed Tahk’s movement back and forth along the wall.
“You cannot like her.” Tahk stopped in front of Raven. “You cannot like her,” he repeated.
Raven tried to hold Tahk’s gaze, but couldn’t and became interested in the sand on the floor.
Tahk’s hands flew to his head. “Dammit, Raven. We are in the middle of a mission.”
Raven stood his ground as Tahk’s expression had him going through an emotional roller coaster. “I can’t help it. It isn’t like I said, hey we’re going into this really dangerous mission. I think I’ll start having feelings for my corpsman.”
“Don’t say that,” Tahk complained. “It’s worse hearing it out loud.”
“I’m trying to stop it, but apparently my look of irritation isn’t working.”
“How long? How long has this been going on?”
Raven turned his back to Tahk. He didn’t want to have this conversation. Talking about it made denying it harder. “Since she joined us.” He rubbed his face. “But it got worse after she came back from the mission with the kids. Then when I thought she was giving you a . . . well you know . . . in the staff room, things kind of snapped.”
Tahk pushed the heels of his hands into his eyes and tipped his head back. “Dude! Unsnap it. Put it away. Nothing happened, so there is no reason to be jealous.”
“Stop calling me dude. I’m your Sergeant. And I’m not jealous. I’m just concerned about her being here. This mission is going to be a mess, and with the other units coming in, you need to keep a closer eye on her.”
Tahk took a step toward Raven. “Moses Ravenscar, we have been friends far too long for you to pull rank on me. I watch your back; you watch mine. And right now, I’m watching yours. You’re not thinking with your head. Don’t get distracted. And don’t distract her. Things are bad enough without being in the middle of a junior high crush. Get over it and focus. You cannot have a relationship in this unit.”
“Did she say she liked me?” Raven regretted the words as soon as they left his mouth.
Tahk let out a loud moan. “Stop. Please.”
Raven put his hands on Tahk’s chest but didn’t push him away. “I am very aware of the situation. I have it under control. Get off my back.”
Tahk took a step back. “Just make sure you keep it that way. My job is to protect her, and that’s what I’m doing.”
“Then why are you here nagging at me instead of watching her?” Raven accused.
“She doesn’t need me on her every second. She’s out with the men. Our unit watches out for her, too. But they do it without wanting to get in her pants.”
Raven glared. “I am not trying to get in her pants.”
Tahk stared him down. Finally, Raven diverted his eyes.
“We can’t afford to lose our corpsman,” Raven said.
“Look man, I watch her. Don’t worry. But she’s not just Navy. She’s a frickin Marine. I think she can be without me holding her hand every second, and you need to trust her and me to do our jobs without micromanaging because you have a fluttery heart every time she comes around.”
Raven didn’t appreciate Tahk’s references to insignificant crushes. He didn’t know what he felt for Doogie, but it certainly wasn’t fleeting thoughts of stolen kisses. He wanted her in his arms. He wanted to kiss her with enough passion to make her head spin. He definitely wanted more than a few stolen kisses. And he was totally going where Tahk told him not to. “I trust you,” he said quietly.
“Dude,” Tahk moaned, tipping his head back and covering his face with his hands. His words were muffled as he spoke though his fingers. “I totally saw that look on your face. You so want to do her. Dammit. You tell me to watch her, and you’re the one I have to watch. Stay away from her. I will kick your ass if I have to. Do not drag her into an inappropriate scenario. That isn’t who she is. She deserves so much more than you’re willing to give her.”
“You know I won’t do anything to jeopardize a mission.”
“I thought I did, but the Raven I know wouldn’t put his unit at risk due to a girl.” Tahk stood with his feet apart and arms crossed. He would intimidate anyone else, but Raven knew him too well, and he knew he was a papa bear protecting his cub.
“She isn’t just a girl.” Raven looked up at him with a small grin.
Tahk reached out and poked Raven in the chest. “Stay away from her.” Raven saw the humor in eyes.
“Understood.” Raven just hoped he could.
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