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 26 / Chapter 27 / Chapter 28
CHAPTER TWENTY- NINE
The sun shone into the room, the room bringing with it an automatic alarm clock of immense heat. Sleeping would soon become impossible. Sometime during the night or early morning, Raven had left her side. She sat up trying to stretch out the soreness her body held on to. She felt more refreshed than she had in weeks. Finally getting a few hours of dream free sleep felt like a shot of caffeine.
Mary arrived sometime earlier and already arranged the examination trays for the day.
“Morning. Sorry about the mess. A man was brought in late and needed stitches.”
“It’s fine. I got in early and just tidied up a bit. Not a problem, Ma’am.”
“I’d really appreciate it if you would stop calling me ma’am and just call me Doogie.”
Mary stared at her. “You’re the Doogie?”
Seriously? “Yeah?” She hesitated.
“It’s not a bad thing. Don’t worry. The Special Forces guys were talking about you at breakfast. I didn’t realize you were you,” she said embarrassed.
“Well, I’m me.” Did she want to know what they were talking about?
“Just how you helped their guy.”
“Yeah, I’ve helped two of their men. Head injury. Some stiches.” She busied herself with supplies. “Anyway. You can call me Doogie.”
“Roger that, Ma . . . I mean, Doogie.”
Mary and Doogie finished straightening up by the time Raven finally appeared.
“Good morning, Sir.” Mary saluted.
“Good morning.” Raven copied her movement.
“Hey.” She gave a wave.
Raven let out a laugh and rolled his eyes. Mary shot her a quizzical look. Ignoring her, Raven came over to where Doogie stood arranging supplies. “Did you eat yet?”
“Come on. It will be a long day if you don’t eat,” he encouraged.
Raven and Doogie locked gazes. He cocked an eyebrow at her and waited. She lowered her head, shaking it. Raven was up to something. “Mary, I’ll be right back.”
They left the clinic and headed toward the mess hall. Raven grabbed her arm, redirecting her around the back of the clinic into the courtyard by the well.
“What are you up to?” she asked.
Just inside the gate sat a small picnic. An olive green blanket had been set over the edge of a wall and a mess hall breakfast with a small paper flower awaited her.
“Wow,” she breathed out. “This is great.” She couldn’t suppress a wide smile.
“You deserve more than this, but as of now, it’s the best I could do.” Raven’s sincere voice always left her unsettled. She needed to get use to this version of him.
“Thank you.” Doogie touched his arm. “I don’t have much time. The clinic opens soon.”
“You have to eat.” With a little shove, Raven moved her forward. Reluctantly, she sat on the blanket, picking up the tray Raven arranged for her.
Raven positioned himself above her.
“You’re not sitting?” She shaded her eyes from the sun.
“Tahk watched me and ate.” Doogie took a bite.
“Yeah.” Raven slid his glasses on.
“You guys made a good team.”
“Yeah.” Raven seemed preoccupied. So much for idle chatter.
“I like the flower. You gave one to me when I was sick. Do you make them?”
Raven nodded. “You weren’t sick. You were poisoned remember.” He chuckled. “My grandma taught me.”
“I threw up.” She held up a yellow blob she assumed was eggs. “That in and of itself classifies as sick.”
Raven let out a snort. “Self-induced puking doesn’t mean you were sick.”
“I didn’t go into the evening trying to vomit. Besides I got myself back on track, and I’m good with God so how about you move on now, too?” Doogie smiled without much emotion, and then carried on with their conversation. “So, your grandma taught you paper folding?”
“Is that so hard to believe?”
“I believe you. I just don’t see you with a grandma. I assumed you were brought here in a spaceship, fleeing from the evil rulers trying to destroy your planet and have graciously shared your super powers with us lowly humans until the day your family beams you back to your home planet,” she said sarcastically.
“You think I just dropped out of the sky and landed here?” She couldn’t see his eyes through the sunglasses, which made it difficult to tell if he was joking along with her.
“You aren’t denying it.” She shrugged.
“Well, a long time ago in a far-away land, I had a grandma.” He smiled.
“What far away land?”
“Parents?” she asked.
Raven shook his head. “Mom but she died so I was raised by my grandma.”
“I’m sorry.” Doogie wasn’t sure what to say, so she fell back on her standard response.
“You’re sorry a lot.”
“Yeah, I guess I am.” She shaded her eyes from the sun already beating down on them. “The heat doesn’t seem to affect you like the rest of us. You’re used to it?”
He shrugged. “There’s an entire Afghanistan replica village in the Mojave desert. It’s hot and rugged there, so I guess it’s pretty similar to what we have going on here. But it’s not like I feel at home here.”
“You and Tahk were together for a long time?” She changed the subject. She couldn’t help wanting to avoid getting too personal. Raven didn’t seem overly anxious to find out about her life. Besides, nothing ever lasted in the military, and the more you knew about someone, the more likely they were going to get blown away in the next fight.
“We met up when they pulled the elite for Special Forces team. Marines felt like they were being left out of initial action. Over shadowed by the SEALs, so they pulled together their own Special Forces.” He sounded bored.
“You’re very unemotional when you talk about what you do.”
“Can’t have emotions out there when you’re in the mix. Lock them away for another day,” Raven repeated the mantra of the Special Forces. Locking away their emotions in a box, they liked to say.
His words didn’t sit well with her. “If you can’t have emotions here, then what are we doing?” She missed the man who held her in his arms last night. This morning he seemed to retreat back to the hard Raven she knew.
“Come here.” His voice rumbled low.
She placed her hands on her hips. “I am here.”
Raven jerked his head and repeated, “Come here.”
When she continued to stand her ground, Raven stepped toward her, hooking his finger into her jacket, and pulling her to him. He raised his hand to cup her jaw, drawing her mouth to his. She hesitated as his lips pressed against hers.
“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine. Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth.” He whispered the verse from Song of Songs, lowering his mouth to trail kisses along her jaw.
Doogie smiled. “Are you trying to woo me?”
“Is wooing a good thing,” he said against her neck.
“Then I’m wooing.” He leaned back. “You give so much to the men. You give their life a finality . . . a respect . . . in their final moments. You deserve the same.”
She dropped her gaze. “Thank you.”
“I’m trying. Please don’t shut me out.”
“My emotions aren’t so easy to lock away.” Her words caught in her throat.
Raven took his glasses off and looked into her eyes. “Neither are mine when it comes to you. I told you. My heart is yours.”
“It’s just . . . Tahk . . .” She dropped her head. “I told you. I can’t lose anyone else.”
Raven placed his finger under her chin, lightly pulling her face back up to his. “I’m not going anywhere.” He brushed his lips lightly against hers.
“You can’t promise that. Tahk would have said the same thing.”
When his mouth lowered to hers again, his kiss was soft and slow . . . sweet. Slowly, she leaned into him, raising her arms to wrap around his neck. The rifle hooked to the front of his jacket jabbed her in the chest.
She attempted to maneuver around it. “This is so not romantic.”
Raven ran his hands up her back. “Sawyer, you’re not wearing your vest.”
“I’m in the clinic all day.”
“You need your vest. You don’t know who will come in. You can’t promise you will be safe,” he repeated the words she used.
Defeated, she pulled at the bottom of her jacket. “Okay.”
Raven planted a hard kiss on her mouth. “Thanks.” He shifted like he was going to say something else.
“What?” She ran a hand up his arm.
“I’d like to ask you to think about something and not get mad.”
“Sure.” She crossed her arms.
“I’d like you to think about going back to Dietz and staying there.”
“I’m going out with the unit.”
“I know you are supposed to, but I’d like you not to. There’s another corpsman here. I asked him to come with us.”
“You replaced me!” Doogie threw her hands in the air and turned her back on him.” I can’t believe you. If I knew kissing you would get my assignment changed, I never would have . . .” A rare cuss word flew out of her mouth directed straight at Raven. “Raven. That’s . . . that’s . . .” She didn’t know what more to say.
Raven came up behind her, placing a hand on her shoulder, but she shrugged him off. “Leave me alone.”
“Sawyer. Let me explain. I haven’t replaced you.” He ran his hand over his head. “I would like you to go back to Dietz. Where it’s safer. Just like you, I’m still shook up with losing Tahk. I don’t want to lose you. I don’t think I could bear it. I need you to be safe.” Raven’s voice was a mere whisper at his last words.
“Is this an order?”
“No. I wouldn’t do that.” He smiled sadly. “I could. But I won’t.”
Sawyer turned around to face him. “If I asked you to stay, would you? If I said I didn’t want to lose you?”
“But you expect me to?” She raised an eyebrow.
“It’s different for you. I have orders. I can’t just ask to stay. You know it’s different.”
“I’ll think about it.” She could at least give him that much.
“That’s all I can ask.”
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