We are thrilled to bring you a new book installment this summer. Read more from A Thousand Stolen Moments by Connie Ann Michael.
imon headed out shortly after Doogie threatened his life, and he got her to divulge her single status. Exhaustion overcame her, and her eyelids finally gave out. She was dozing against the wall when she was kicked in the foot. She grabbed for her gun.
“Doogs.” Tahk loomed over her, illuminated by the light of the campfire behind him.
She rubbed her eyes and felt the grit behind her lids. “You want me to shoot you?”
“You were kind of talking . . .”
“Talking?” She squinted up at him.
“Okay, you were yelling about something. Nightmare?”
“I’m fine,” she said. Sleep was usually elusive; her thoughts could never rest, always coming back to the men. But after the day at the school, her nightmares reached a new level.
He squatted down next to her. “You don’t have to break off with us.”
“Yeah, I do,” she said. “I’m a corpsman. I go where you go. I’m good at what I do.”
“You don’t have to convince me. I got a bad feeling about this one.” He rubbed his face.
“Then that’s all the more reason you need me. I have to be there for my men.” She tried to sound convincing, but knew there was a good chance things weren’t going to be okay. Missions like this didn’t end without someone getting killed. “How you feeling?” She tried to change the conversation back to Tahk.
“Itchy but better.” He sat beside her.
“Poppies,” she said matter-of-factly.
He laughed. “I guess. Or bugs. I was in the mud for two days. So, you going on a date with the British reporter?” He scuffed his boots against the dirt.
“What?” The men near her stirred in their sleeping bags. “What?” she said quieter.
“You seemed pretty cozy.”
“You’re such a jerk. You should be asking me to marry you after you got me in trouble with Raven for sticking
your . . . your you know what in my face, not passing me off on the help.” She laughed.
Tahk snorted. “First of all, it was Chief who sent him your way. And more importantly, I did not stick my . . . as you so eloquently put it . . . my you know what . . . in your face. You were examining me.”
“He thought I was giving you a . . .” Her cheeks heated, and she started digging at the sand beside her.
Tahk’s shoulders started to shake at the memory.
Doogie punched him in the arm. “It’s not funny. He thought I was . . . never mind.” Doogie gave up the argument.
“I don’t know why you’re complaining, I’m a marvel of the human form.” Tahk put his hands behind his head and gloated.
“I’m gonna be sick.” Although, she had to admit he was something to marvel at.
“You know it’s Valentine’s Day?” Tahk said seriously.
“I don’t think they celebrate. I haven’t seen many Hallmarks around here.”
“It could be our last one,” he said.
“That’s a positive attitude.”
“Simply pointing out the danger we face every day, and how we should appreciate that it’s Valentine’s Day.” He brought his hand to his chest as if wounded. “Besides. I can’t go away. I can’t leave you alone. It’s my duty to know where and what you are doing at all times. You started a wet T-shirt contest last time I let you go off on your own. Not to mention swooning over some media guy. So are you going on a date? Cause if you are we need to make sure I’m available.”
She stared in disbelief. “What are you talking about?”
“Your date. I’ll need to be there. Keep you safe and all. Just need to check my planner. Make sure I don’t have anything going on.” Tahk kept his expression neutral while he continued to tease her.
“Stop it.” She punched him.
“Just saying.” He lowered his head trying to hide the smile he could no longer suppress.
“Yeah, you do that.”
“Seriously, Doog. Watch him. He wants in your pants.”
“You’re so vulgar.” She smacked him again.
“Well, sometimes you are extremely naïve to the ways of the world.”
“I’m a genius.” She smiled.
“Only at medicine my friend, only at medicine.”
He had a point. She hadn’t had the smoothest conversation with Simon. She’d skipped over dating opportunities when she tested out of high school and entered college early.
“Anyway, it’s still Valentine’s Day. I got you something.” He smiled, his white teeth showing brightly against his dark skin.
Tahk held up a tiny red paper heart. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Doogs.”
She took the tiny token, carefully turning it over in her hand. “It’s very cute. Make it yourself?”
“Got it in one of those care packages from the school kids. I saved it.”
“Thank you. What’d you get your girl back home?
“Yeah. I don’t have a girl back home.”
“You said . . .” she trailed off.
“I know what I said. Chief doesn’t have a lot of faith in the intel we get from the brass. So he sent me out to check the information coming in. I was trying to be covert. I didn’t expect you to go all high-and-mighty on me.” He drew circles in the dust with his finger.
“You weren’t with a nurse then?” she asked.
He shook his head no.
“Good. It sort of ruined my image of you.”
“Wouldn’t want to do that.” Tahk reached into his pocket to pull out a small bag of M&M’s. “Here you go.”
“Do you have magic pockets?” She grabbed the candy.
“Nope, another package. I save ‘em for when I go out on missions. I give them to the kids.” He smiled.
“Well, thank you for the gifts.” She carefully put the heart in her breast pocket and the M&M’s in her pants pocket.
“So, you don’t have anyone at home?” she asked.
“Nah. Just family.”
“Really?” She wasn’t sure she should trust him.
“It was hard when I was with The Thirty. Takes a special woman to wait. To understand I may not come back.”
“Well, you’re worth it. Someday, someone will appreciate you. “She tried to sound encouraging.
“Hope so.” He unrolled his sleeping bag and stretched out.
“Do you miss Special Ops?” she asked.
“I’m still in it. You’re my Special Op.” He yawned.
“Seriously. Isn’t it boring just watching me?”
“Never a dull moment trying to keep an eye out for you. You’re constantly running into the mess. I’ve had to hone my tracking skills.”
“Yes’m?” Tahk closed his eyes
“Do I distract the men? Would I be a better corpsman if I wasn’t . . . if I wasn’t . . . ?” She hesitated to ask.
“What?” Tahk interrupted.
“A girl. Would I be better if I was a man?”
“Is that an option? You becoming a man?”
“Knock it off. Seriously. Do you think men have a natural instinct to protect me? Do I interfere with the safety of the unit?”
“Well.” He stretched his arms above his head. “With me and you? It’s my job to look out for you. Raven put me on you to give the men piece of mind. They know I got your back. They leave it to me. But whether you’re a man or a woman, when the battle hits, you’re our Doc. We expect you to be there for us, and we’ll be there for you.”
“So you don’t think I’m distracting?” she asked again.
“I think when bullets start to fly, no one thinks about anything but saving their own skin and the brother beside them. Unless you stood in the middle of the fight in a bikini or naked . . . you’re not distracting. Maybe not even then. You’re the Doc. You’re not a man or a woman. But on the down times . . . stay away from the well.”
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