Chapter 17: A Thousand Stolen Moments by Connie Ann Michael

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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 / Chapter 15 / Chapter 16


Raven did just what Tahk said he would. He sent the ANA to search a nearby compound for insurgents. They didn’t find the enemy, but they did find a large bag of marijuana, which got a cheer from some of the men.

“Go to the next one,” Raven ordered.

The ANA scurried off.

“Chief, we got a locked door over here,” Ryan called from a doorway behind them.

“Get in there and see what’s so important it needs to be locked,” Raven ordered.

Ryan took a step back and gave the door a kick. It didn’t budge. A few calls of his lack of manliness came from the crowd.

“Who’s next?” Ryan yelled out the challenge.

After five men unsuccessfully kicked at the door, Raven swore and shot the lock off. “Check it out.”

The men piled into the small room, guns ready.

Doogie walked to the door and peeked in. There was plastic everywhere. A clear sheet of plastic covered the floor and whatever sat on the plastic was covered in plastic.

“Get Smith over here,” Ryan yelled.

“We need the EOD! Explosives!” Doogie yelled over her shoulder.

Smith jogged over. He excused himself to slide past Doogie into the building. She stepped back, not that the distance would protect her from an explosion.

“Explosives?” Tahk found his way back to her.

“I guess.”

Doogie tilted her head to where Raven stood. He was busy yelling at their hagi narc. “He doesn’t look like he’s too happy with him.”

“Chief thinks he’s working both sides.” Tahk spit on the ground.

“I hear they found some drugs.” Doogie smiled at Tahk.

“Yes, siree.” Tahk’s white teeth shined down at her. “Some primo stuff.”

Smith emerged from the building, looking for Raven. Raven shook off their hagi and headed over for the report. Doogie stood her ground, not only to hear what they found, but to see if Raven would finally acknowledge her.

“What ya got?” Raven asked.

“Ammonium nitrate fertilizer. Some plastic jugs, metal shards, pressure plates. Almost everything you need for a bomb making business,” Smith informed. “There aren’t any wires or batteries. Nothing to get it working. Just leave it. Unless someone brings some materials in, it’s useless.”

Doogie didn’t like the idea of leaving it. Didn’t seem too difficult to bring in a few additional items and start up the business of bomb making again. However, she wasn’t too hip on the EOD blowing stuff up again either. That hadn’t really worked in their favor.

“We aren’t leaving it, and we definitely aren’t blowing it again.” He pointed to three guys standing around. “Grab it and throw it over the wall and into the canal.”

Doogie found a corner and slumped down. Her throat burned, the yelling she’d done irritated the damage her attacker had done when he choked her. Some of the butterfly bandages Tahk applied earlier worked their way loose and were dangling. She carefully pulled them off then stretched, trying to loosen stiff muscles. Her arms were covered in bruises, and her muscles complained when she reached out toward her toes. The neck of her vest pushed against the laceration on her throat where the hagi had held the knife. She didn’t have a mirror, but her medical knowledge told her either her eyes were bloodshot or her cheeks were dotted with broken, red blood vessels due to strangulation. No one said anything, but she was sure she looked bad.

Doogie struggled to pull the vest down. The room shook from another explosion. Pieces of the wall rained down on her head. She caught a glimpse of a man jumping from around the corner with an AK-47. Rounds burst through the narrow corridor as he fired haphazardly.

Doogie struggled to get her gun up. But he was gone before she could get a shot off.

“Taking fire.” She forced the words out, but they broke into unintelligible pieces. “Crap.”

Ryan slid to the door of the building. He poked his head in and out in quick movements. Doogie rolled to the side and lay as flat as she could. She raised her rifle and placed it across her ruck. The shooter didn’t return; instead, a barrage of grenades flew over the wall, exploding outside the structure.

Tahk slid in next to Doogie, knocking her off her shot. “This is ridiculous!” he swore under his breath. “We’re pinned down. Again.”

“Where are they?” The din of the explosions erased her words.

“Hell if I know. Crap’s flying everywhere.”

“Take cover. Head to the bomb building,” Raven directed. “I want guards at the windows and doors. We can’t waste ammo. Don’t shoot if you can’t see them.

The mud walls were surprisingly strong in the face of grenades, but Doogie’s ears rang at the nearness of the explosions. When the explosions subsided, Doogie could still hear the pop of occasional gunfire. Things seemed to be settling down.

“I don’t want the ANA in here with us. Send them one or two structures down. Tell them we need to spread out for safety purposes,” Raven told Ryan.

“Roger that sir.” Ryan grabbed a buddy and headed over to kick the ANA out.

Doogie hoped their lack of enthusiasm to engage would discourage further assault. Especially since ammo seemed to be running low.


Raven stood in the shadows of the room, watching Doogie.

Tahk settled in next to her and from the sound of his snores, had fallen into deep sleep within seconds. When he saw her un-strap her flak jacket and peel it from her sweaty body, he knew he had to go talk to her.

“Geesh, I stink,” she muttered.

“We all do.” Raven hovered over her, and then squatted. “I wish you’d keep it on.”

“It hurts.” She pointed to the wounds from the attack.

Raven reached out, lifted her chin with a finger, trailing it down her throat. Raven felt her breathing get ragged at his touch. He wanted to cup her face in his hand and kiss her. Tahk would go ballistic if he knew what Raven was thinking.

“Marines don’t whine.” He dropped his hand, afraid of what he might do if he didn’t break the connection.

“I’m not a Marine, and I’m not whining.” Doogie looked disappointed when his hand dropped.

“You’re a Marine when you’re with us. Stop trying to convince everyone you’re so tough.”

“I don’t—” Doogie stopped mid-sentence when Raven raised an eyebrow.” Okay so maybe I do.”

“It’s okay to be soft. No one expects you to be tough.”

“I don’t want anyone to worry about me. They need to focus on staying alive, not keeping me alive.” Her eyes were so big against her dirt stained face. But it was her mouth that had him entranced. Even with the bloody cut at the corner, he couldn’t keep his mind off wondering how her mouth would taste.

“I’m sorry.” His words caught in his throat, barely making a sound as they came out.

“Sir. Wasn’t your fault. I should have stayed closer to Tahk.”

Her use of Sir made him cringe. Hadn’t she listened when he told her he cared about her? Of course, he had followed it with, ‘I shouldn’t,’ but still, couldn’t she see he was dying here?

“Probably would have happened sooner or later.” Raven stopped, and then corrected himself, “I mean everyone gets surprised sometimes.” He closed his eyes and willed himself not to be a complete jerk. Doogie set her mouth in a firm line and didn’t answer. Too late, she already thought he was a jerk. Raven rubbed a hand over his chin. “How are you feeling?”

She didn’t answer at first, and Raven thought for sure he’d screwed up this conversation. Finally she said, “Sore.”

Raven held his hand out. A small peppermint candy sat in his palm. A peace offering.

“Thanks.” Doogie took the candy. “Do you and Tahk steal all the candy from the care packages?”

“What? No.” Raven rubbed his chin again, wondering how giving her a peppermint made him a candy stealer.

Doogie let out a noise that sounded like a laugh. He looked up to see a smile on her face. “I was joking. Tahk always has candy in his pockets.”

Raven nodded, and then said, “Tahk felt it was best I stay away from you.”

“Shouldn’t be hard. You don’t particularly like me,” Doogie said loudly, her smile disappearing instantly.

Raven raised his hand, placing a finger to his lips . . . Quieting her. “What?” The light from the window cast shadows on the walls, illuminating half of Doogie’s face. “Why do you think I don’t like you?” He feared he sounded more like a confused teenager than a commanding officer. But he’d told her he cared, and now she thought he didn’t like her. He needed to man up and spill his guts. It was killing him not to grab her and press his mouth to hers.

“You’re mean to me.” She popped the candy in her mouth.

“I.” He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. “I’m sorry I gave you the impression I didn’t like you.”

“It’s okay.” She shrugged. “You aren’t supposed to be my friend.”

“Yeah, I wasn’t looking to be your friend.” He met her gaze and held it, hoping she would see the feelings he was trying so hard to suppress.

Doogie dropped her gaze first.

Raven let out a sigh, and then touched her cheek. “I like you, Sawyer. I really do.”

Her mouth opened slightly, and he heard her breath catch again. She looked confused, but before he could say anything more Tahk started to wake up.

“Get some rest.” He got up and moved back into the shadows across the room. He could feel Tahk’s eyes boring a hole in his back.

“What’d you talk to Doogie about?” Tahk asked when Raven returned.

Raven stood beside a window watching for any movement. “Why are you so interested with what I said?” Raven’s voice was tight.

“I asked you to stay away from her not twenty-four hours prior, and I see you sneaking around to talk to her. I think I should know what you said.”

Raven turned and leaned back against the wall, giving Tahk a hard stare. “You’re seriously making me rethink your personal guard assignment.”

“Dude.” Tahk’s continued use of the word dude made Raven cringe.

“I don’t know why you’re all up in my business about her. I like her. So what? It isn’t like I’m trying to get her off into a dark corner. This isn’t a frat party.”

“What exactly are you trying to do?” Tahk folded his arms across his chest and scowled at Raven.

“Is this because you like her?” Raven stifled a laugh. “You like her, and you don’t want me interfering.”

Tahk directed a slew of profanity Raven’s way. “I don’t want her to get hurt, and this situation can only end in her getting hurt.”

“You don’t have much faith in me do you?” Raven turned to walk away.

“Then tell me, lover boy, how is it going to end? Are you going to marry the girl or just take her virtue and leave me to pick up the pieces when you leave her high and dry?”

Tahk’s words stopped Raven in his tracks. “Dude,” Raven mimicked Tahk’s verbiage. “I barely talk to her. I don’t think marriage is in our near future. And what do you know about her virtue?”

Tahk leaned his head back and blew out a loud breath. “You are so dense. Don’t you get it? She’s a virgin, and I don’t want some shmuck like you making empty promises and taking that away from her in a hellhole like Afghanistan. She’s like a sister to me, and I would never let my sister be used and tossed aside. And that, dude, is what you do. She isn’t like the girls at Dietz. She’s special, and she deserves special.”

Raven wasn’t sure what to say to Tahk’s lecture. He knew she was special, but he hadn’t known she was a virgin. How could he know that? But he was beginning to understand why Tahk was so protective of her.

“T. I know she’s special. Don’t worry. I checked on her. She made it clear she thinks I despise her, so there’s nothing to worry about.” It killed him to say those words, but Tahk was right. She deserved more than some pathetic attempt at romance in the desert.

“Keep it that way. This isn’t Match dot com.” Tahk walked away.


More books by Connie Ann Michael:

Young Adult:

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