Chapter 23: A Thousand Stolen Moments by Connie Ann Michael

We continue to bring A Thousand Stolen Moments by Connie Ann Michael book installment throughout the summer. Read the next chapter below!

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 / Chapter 17 / Chapter 18 / Chapter 19 / Chapter 20 / Chapter 21 / Chapter 22


Raven didn’t know what to do with himself. He shouldn’t have kissed Sawyer, but after she was so close to him last night, it was all he could think about. Even though he’d promised Tahk he’d try to stay away, now all he could think about was doing it again.

Raven needed to get his head on straight. This was not the place for being distracted by a girl. The mission made it clear how quickly someone you cared about could be taken out. Tahk was right when he said Raven needed to leave her alone. There were no guarantees here, and if anything happened to her, he didn’t know if he could handle it. However, no matter how hard he tried to convince himself of what was best . . . he knew leaving her alone wasn’t going to happen. Raven covered his face and drew in a shaky breath.

“Tahk,” he whispered. The word got stuck in his throat. Tahk was a brother to him. He wished he could have let his emotions out as easily as Sawyer. His mind immediately went back to the feeling of her body pressed against his as she cried. He couldn’t help but wonder if Doogie would have shown as much grief if he’d been killed. A quick feeling of guilt grabbed at him as he wished she held the same feelings for him.

Dropping his hands, he gritted his teeth. Tahk was gone, and Raven needed to call his family. The Marines would officially go to their home and notify them, but Tahk’s family had become his as soon as his mom found out Raven had no one waiting for him back home. Raven’s grandma had raised him . . . put up with his crap and taught him the traditions of his tribe, but she passed away when he was in high school. It was what he’d needed to leave the reservation and find out who he really was. According to Tahk’s mom, he was really a member of their family. He owed it to them to tell them first. Maybe it would lighten the blow if someone who loved him equally broke the news. Slowly, he made his way to the communication center.

Raven located a phone away from the lines of computers and the few men seated, typing quietly. This phone call was going to tear his heart out, and he really didn’t want an audience while he endured it. Slowly, he picked up the phone and connected with Tahk’s number. He lowered his head and closed his eyes, silently praying no one would answer. If he didn’t tell them Tahk was gone, maybe he could pretend he was still alive. Tears began to fall as soon as the line connected, and Tahk’s sister answered the phone.

“Hello.” Her slight southern accent with the word hello told him it was Fiona, Tahk’s older sister.

He cleared his throat. “Fi?”

“Yes.” Her voice was tentative.

He cleared his throat again and roughly wiped the tears from his cheeks, even though she couldn’t see them. “Fi. It’s Mose.”

“Mose! Hey Ma,” she yelled away from the receiver, “Mo’s on the phone. Get the other line.”

“Fi,” he tried to interrupt.

“Mose, how are you? It’s so good to hear your voice. We haven’t heard from Tahk in so long. What’s up . . . Oh God,” her voice trailed off as she realized what was happening.

“Mose?” Tahk’s mom broke in. “Fiona?”

“Ma.” Fiona’s voice broke. That’s all she needed, and Tahk’s mom and Fiona knew. The simple fact Raven was calling was all they needed to know Tahk was gone.

“Is he okay?” Tahk’s mom had to ask. It’s the question every mother has to ask instead of just accepting the fact their child is never coming home.

Tears covered Raven’s cheeks again. The lump in his throat was so big it felt like not even a tiny stream of water would go down. With a sob, Raven choked out the word he did not want to say. “No.”

Tahk’s mom let out a noise similar to what a wounded animal would make. Raven made a fist and rubbed the middle of his chest. He wanted to hang up, but he needed to finish this. Clearing his throat, he pulled himself together enough to give them the information they needed before he totally lost it. “He hit a trip line. There was an explosion. He didn’t make it. I wanted to let you know before the Marines came to your door. I wanted you to hear it from me.”

“Are you okay?” Fiona’s voice was quiet.

Raven tried to swallow a sob, but it escaped when he said, “No.” Never could he admit that to his men. Never show weakness was their mantra, but this was his family, and he couldn’t lie to her. “He’s gone. Completely gone.” His voice was so quite; he doubted she even heard him.

“Oh, baby.” Tahk’s mom returned to the line. “I’m so sorry. He loved you so much. We love you, baby. It’s going to be okay.”

Raven couldn’t help but smile through his grief. She always thought of others. He could almost see her starting to prepare food for family members who would begin to arrive at the news of Tahk’s death.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t bring him home to you,” Raven whispered.

“Then bring yourself home. Come home to us, Raven,” she cried.

“I got to go.” Raven wiped his face with the back of his hand. He couldn’t promise her that.

“We love you, Mose. Be safe,” their voices said in unison.

Raven hung up and dropped his forehead to the table. He breathed in through his nose and out through his mouth, trying to calm himself. With one last swipe, he wiped his face dry, stood up, and headed to the area designated for weights. Stripping to his T-shirt, he headed to the hanging punching bag. Quickly wrapping his knuckles in tape, he fisted his hand and hit the bag. Each hit grew in intensity until his grunts had the men around him stop what they were doing to watch. When he felt the last of his grief leave through his bruised hands, he leaned in, hugging the bag.

He stood, swaying back and forth, waiting for the pain in his chest to subside. When he heard Mikey yell Doogie’s name, he felt his stomach clench. Stepping back from the bag, he knew what they needed to do. They couldn’t move forward if they didn’t pay their respects to Tahk. And he needed to move forward.

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More books by Connie Ann Michael:

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