We continue to bring A Thousand Stolen Moments by Connie Ann Michael book installment throughout the summer. Read the next chapter below!
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 / Chapter 23 / Chapter 24 / Chapter 25
CHAPTER TWENTY- SIX
When the osprey were loaded with their supplies, they strapped in and waited on the landing pad for the go ahead. Marjah had been secured, and the rebuilding process was to begin. They were heading back. Back to where she’d left Tahk. Doogie’s chest tightened when the blades began to move. She gasped for breath, grabbed the armrests, and dug her fingernails in as she started to hyperventilate. She tried to calm herself, but panic took over. A hand lay softly over hers, quieting the frantic beat of her heart. Her gaze traveled from the hand to the arm, and into Raven’s soft expression. She’d known even before she met his stare the hand belonged to him. Even with most of it hidden by his fingerless gloves, she was able to see the darkened skin of his fingers and arms. Their last conversation had not gone at all how she would have liked. Somehow, she’d convinced him she wasn’t interested while the reality was, she couldn’t get the feeling of his kiss off her mind. She turned her hand over and linked her fingers through his. The roar of the engines silenced the noise from the men. She met his gaze and smiled, mouthing the words, “I’m sorry.”
He tightened his grip until her breathing calmed.
It took less than an hour to return to Marjah. This time they weren’t coming in under darkness. They were flying in the middle of the day. Mere days ago they had been there, under fire from the Taliban, and now they were on a humanitarian mission. How quick the tides could turn.
A tornado of dirt swirled around while the blades slowed and the helicopter touched down. The heat of the day filled the cargo area. Thankful her job wasn’t to unload the supplies, she left the men and walked off the plane.
A Captain from another company waited at the bottom of the ramp for her to disembark. “Doc?” He came toward her, hand extended. A quick expression of shock registered as he assessed her facial injuries. Green and black bruises still marred her face.
“Yes, sir.” Doogie shook his hand.
“We’ve cleared an area to the north of the market. A large building’s been gutted out where you can set up your clinic.” He led her away from the helicopters. She knew her unit was unloading, and Raven would stay with them. She felt exposed moving around without Tahk. She tripped over her feet and into the captain when a group of locals walked by. Memories of the hagi were still close to the surface.
“Captain.” Raven jogged up behind them and introduced himself. “Sergeant Ravenscar. I’ll be accompanying Private Sawyer. I’m her acting personal guard until a new one can be assigned.” Raven’s words were clipped as he ticked off his purpose for following them.
“All right. I was . . .” The Captain turned, trying to find where Doogie had gone.
“I’m sorry sir,” she apologized. “Just a little uptight.”
The Captain and Raven stood assessing her. Then Raven’s expression softened. “We lost a few men here.” An understatement for Doogie’s erratic behavior.
The Captain cleared his throat. “As I was saying. We cleared a section of buildings to the north of the market for the clinic.”
Raven gave Doogie a sympathetic look, and then waved her to follow the Captain toward the market.
“You don’t have to come. You have things to do.”
“Yes, I do. It’s what Tahk wanted.”
“What he wanted?” she questioned.
He rolled his eyes. “We discussed a situation like this. He asked me to watch your back. I’m fulfilling a promise. Now, do you want to see your new clinic or stand here discussing this further?”
“I’m good.” It frustrated her that she couldn’t explain her confusion over her emotions.
“Let’s move out then.”
“I’m assuming you brought the furniture and supplies to fill it.” The Captain led them through the door of what would soon be a clinic for the locals.
“Are there any medical personal in the village already?” Doogie asked.
“There is a man who claims he is a doctor. Speaks some English. Do you have a terp? If not, we have a nurse available from another company who can come in. She knows a few of the local languages.”
“I’ll need an interpreter.” She turned in a circle, assessing the blown out building. It was dark and cool inside the mud walls. The roof was missing in a few areas, but the structure was sturdy. Someone had come in before them and swept the dirt floor smooth. A few broken tables were shoved to a far corner; the sturdy ones were lined up for exam tables.
“I’m not sure what I expected, but this looks pretty good. We can set up our supplies on the tables.” Doogie pointed at some shelves. “We can put more up there.” She turned to the Captain. “This isn’t a hospital. Just a clinic, right?”
“Clinic. If anyone comes in needing a hospital, it would be your call to forward them to Dietz.”
Raven walked further into the building, gun up, checking in every corner. Absently, Doogie touched her cheek where the laceration remained from the day she’d been ambushed in the building she’d thought was clear.
“I’ll get the men to start pulling the supplies off. Be sure to inform them where you want them placed. There is a room off the back. I’d suggest you use that for your quarters. It will be secure and close to your patients. I wasn’t aware you were traveling with a guard. There’s a closet sized room we had marked for storage. I guess you could use it.” He nodded to Raven.
Doogie tried to suppress a smile when the Captain left. She turned away from Raven when she couldn’t hold it in any longer. “A closet.”
“Yeah, real cute.” He tried to suppress his grin.
“I’m sure it will be snug and comfortable.” She laughed, hoping to break the ice between them.
“I’m gonna check on the supplies.” He winked.
By the time the sun set, the crew had finished setting up the clinic. A generator was placed outside the structure, so a dim glow of light filled the room while Doogie stood in front of a pile of medical supplies. The men secured the make shift shelves for her to stack bandages. They hadn’t taken her height into consideration, and she had to stand on a box to reach.
“Be careful up there.” Raven came in carrying his bag.
“I’m fine. I think we’ll be able to open tomorrow.” She continued stacking supplies.
She felt Raven’s presence behind her. “Stop looking at my butt.”
Doogie ducked her head. “I’m sorry. Tahk and I joked around a lot.”
“I shouldn’t have said it. I’m sorry. Your space is in the back. On the left.”
“So, the day I walked in on the two of you? He was joking around with you?” He sounded confused.
Her hands froze. “Walked in on us?” She thought she’d play stupid.
“You know, his pants down, your hand, his . . . well, you know.” Raven raised his hands to make air quotes. “You know when you were . . .”
“Examining.” Doogie turned around on her make shift stool. Raven stood a foot behind her with his pack at his feet. His expression pained.
“I miss him,” she whispered.
“I miss him, too.”
Doogie wasn’t sure how all this was supposed to go. Accelerating her education left her social life behind. Which made her perfect for Tahk’s constant teasing. She guessed Raven didn’t know what to say either because he grabbed his bag and headed to his new room.
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