We are thrilled to bring you a new book installment this summer. Read more from A Thousand Stolen Moments by Connie Ann Michael.
Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 / Chapter 5 / Chapter 6 / Chapter 7 / Chapter 8 / Chapter 9 / Chapter 10 / Chapter 11 / Chapter 12 / Chapter 13 / Chapter 14
Tahk needed to talk to Raven. Doogie had finally fallen asleep. He hoped she’d stay out of trouble sleeping, but for good measure, he asked Ryan to sit near her to make sure everyone left her alone.
“Hey, Chief.” Tahk entered the central building Raven designated as the command post.
A map filled the table. Raven was poised at one end. At Tahk’s greeting, Raven looked up, frowned, and then excused himself from the other men.
“I thought I told you to stay with her.” Raven walked past Tahk, leading him to a corner of the room.
“I thought I told you to stay away from her.”
Raven gave him a warning look.
Tahk snorted, not intimidated by Raven’s attempt at being a bad ass.” Thommy’s watching her. She’s sleeping.” Tahk followed his commander. “Look, Chief, we need to have a little convo here.”
Raven crossed his arms over his chest and waited.
“I asked you to stay away from her.”
“I have. I haven’t seen her any more than I would under normal circumstances,” Raven argued.
“We’ve done this long enough. I think I know what you’re doing before you do.” Tahk leaned against the wall, crossing his boots one over the other.
“So, what am I doing?” Raven pulled up a chair, turned it around, and straddled it.
“I’m thinking you’re walking a thin line with Doogie,” Tahk stated bluntly.
A laugh escaped Raven. He dropped his head, shaking it from side to side. “I can’t completely ignore her.”
“I see how you look at her. I know you. I figured your overall crappy attitude would keep her away, but then today you told her you cared about her. Dude, what are you doing?”
Raven stared at the floor.
Tahk and Raven had a history. A history of battles. A history of life in the real world. Tahk knew Raven couldn’t argue. No matter how much he’d pushed his feelings down, he couldn’t hide them from Tahk.
“Man! Come on! We’re in Afghanistan. This is not a romantic island. Leave her alone,” Tahk scolded.
“What do you think I’m trying to do?” Raven stood up fast, sending the chair screeching across the floor.
“Try harder.” Tahk ran a hand over his head. He knew firsthand how difficult it was to keep emotions strapped down. He’d had a fling with a nurse at Camp Dietz, and as soon as it turned into more, things got complicated. It was bad enough putting family back home out of mind, but it was near impossible to put someone in the mix out. At least state side, there wasn’t the worry they would step on a hidden IED or encounter a suicide bomber. Raven had a lot of men relying on him, and with Doogie as part of the unit, the distraction was even greater. She’d asked him if she was a distraction to the men, if her being there was dangerous to the team as a whole. He had told her no, but that was before he noticed Raven’s puppy dog eyes.
Raven laced his fingers, putting them on his head. “She was hurt. I lost focus for a minute. Nothing’s going to happen. Nothing can happen.”
“It better not. Unless you’re in need of medical assistance, all communication with her is through me. You cannot be thinking of her when we’re out here.”
“Last time I checked, I was the Sergeant of this unit. I don’t appreciate you giving me orders,” Raven snapped.
“Sir.” Tahk cleared his throat, leaned in close, and lowered his voice. “Not only is she off limits due to the safety of the unit—she is in your unit. Fraternizing is highly frowned upon and holds loads of trouble if it gets out.”
“I know. I know,” Raven agreed. “Tahk?”
“Is she okay?”
Tahk stared him down before answering. “Yeah, she’s okay.”
Raven rubbed his chin. “I didn’t mean to tell her anything. I know this can’t happen but . . . Tahk I haven’t felt like this before.”
“Do you really need to share this with me?” Tahk tipped his head back and closed his eyes.
“I need to tell someone.” Raven smiled. “I know this can’t happen. I know I’d be risking my career but . . . I can’t get her off my mind.”
Tahk stepped forward and grabbed Raven’s shoulders. “Dude.” He laughed. “She’s like my little sister. Keep your hands off. Don’t mess with your career or hers.”
“I can’t make promises, but I will try.” Raven left Tahk and headed back to plan out their mission.
Tahk followed, making sure Raven kept himself occupied while he organized two large groups, one in the south end of town while sending the other to guard a road leading into the market. Tahk chose a smaller group to head into the market to take out any snipers. Charlie and Second Bravo companies were moving along the sides of the town. Their job was to clear out the Taliban while moving forward to converge with Raven and Tahk’s group at the station.
Raven looked over at Tahk. “The team will move through the outdoor bazaar and into a mosque at the far end of town. Intel hinted that the headquarters for the Taliban drug trafficking is located in the mosque. Choose a few men to break off with us to move in and take out the mosque. I want Doogie with us.”
Tahk leveled his stare at Raven. “You’re joking, right?”
Raven glared at him. “We need a medic. We’re going into the mosque. I’m not going in without a corpsman, and she is our corpsman.”
“Hey, Sergeant. I got a guy who says he can lead us through the village, and he knows where the IED’s are.” Ryan came up behind Raven.
“Can we trust him?” Raven didn’t shift his stare from Tahk’s. “When did he come to this revelation that he could be helpful?” Raven kneaded his forehead with his fingertips.
“He wants money.” Ryan pulled a piece of gum out of his pocket and shoved it into mouth. “Knows we’re looking to get the Taliban out. Not sure we can trust him, but at this point we’re looking at a maze to get through town.”
“How much did he ask for?”
“I told him I’d have to talk to you about it.” Ryan popped his gum.
“Depends on how reliable he is. Did you tell him we would need to cuff him?”
“He wants to know your parameters for payment so he knows if it’s worth his while to jeopardize his place in the village. And he says no cuffs.”
“Tell him I’ll make it worth his while if he can do what he says. If he can’t, he should step back now. Won’t end well if he’s yanking our chain.”
“Gotcha boss. What about the cuffs?” Ryan blew a bubble. “He says no. Said the Taliban will know he’s working with us.”
“Did you explain we can’t let him just wander around with us?” Raven asked.
“So you have another plan?” Raven asked.
Tahk felt the hair on his neck go up. He didn’t like the feel of this.
“I thought it could be medical. We could bring Doogie in.”
“I want two guards with him before she does any exam.” Raven rubbed his head again.
Tahk swore under his breath. Raven’s plans weren’t exactly leaving her alone.
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