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 29
The day turned from hot to unbearable, and against Raven’s request, she removed her vest and continued to work on the patients in her T-shirt. When Raven returned from his rounds, he shot her a look, making it clear he was not happy and they were going to discuss the issue again later. She wondered how many patients were left and how long she could avoid the conversation.
Raven walked up to her. “Sawyer, can I speak to you?”
“I’m kind of . . .”
Mary cut her off. “I can do this.”
She couldn’t exactly refuse her help. Not when her Sgt. was standing next to her, asking to speak with her. She couldn’t ignore a direct order. “Okay. Thank you, Mary.”
Doogie followed Raven into the back of the clinic where their rooms were. Raven walked past his and into hers, turning on her the minute she entered.
“Dammit, Sawyer. Why isn’t your vest on?”
“It’s extremely hot, and I don’t have a full range of motion when . . .”
“Bull! You crawl around the ditches out there without a problem. I would think you could manage a clinic,” he interrupted.
She stomped around Raven and retrieved the vest sitting on her bed. She knew the clinic didn’t provide her with a safe haven, but it was hot.
Raven stood and watched, his arms rested lightly on his rifle. She pulled the vest over her head, readjusted the Velcro straps, and tightened the side panels of her vest.
Raising his hand, he gently placed it on her cheek. Using his thumb, he traced the scab that had formed, and then trailed his fingers along the wound left on her throat.
“I’m trying to protect you,” he said softly.
“Sometimes bad things happen, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
She sighed and touched his cheek. “I’ll keep the vest on.”
“I’d appreciate it.”
Doogie hopped onto the edge of her bed. “So, what’s up in town? The locals any happier we’re here?” She sat back on her bed, taking this opportunity to have a break. Her room seemed to be a degree or two cooler than the clinic.
“Nope. They want us out of here. Army’s come in, so hopefully we can get out of here shortly. Trying to shift our guys’ focus. Two of them are making a garden and a bench near the market.”
“How are they making a garden without water?” She picked at a lint ball on her blanket.
“More like an artistic take on a garden. Their using trash to make plant looking things.”
She let out a loud sigh. “Raven, what are we doing? Seriously? Where is this going to go? Us sitting here, having a conversation about gardening? Somehow, I can’t imagine us at home with the kids. And it isn’t like we can casually date in the middle of a war,” she said.
“You aren’t the only one who gets to decide how this plays out.” Raven leaned against the wall, his hands loosely lying over his gun. Usually partially covered in gloves, his hands were hypnotizing. But it was his arms that made her insides go soft. The sleeves of his jacket were always perfectly folded up, exposing his flexed muscles. The café color of his skin enhanced their allure. She’d watched him and Tahk clean their guns while they laughed and talked, entranced by their casual conversation and the ability to clean even the smallest mechanisms of the gun. She wasn’t worth the cost this relationship might take. She wasn’t worth Tahk losing his life. She couldn’t let herself be a distraction to Raven.
“Neither are you. I’m not worth all this effort,” Doogie tried to argue.
“You’re worth it to me.”
“What about the rule of no fraternizing with people in your command?”
“Sawyer, we’ve already discussed this. Besides, no one actually follows the rule because there are too many other things to worry about over here than whose hooking up with whom. And we aren’t hooking up like that.”
“I don’t want you to put yourself in danger worrying about me. I’m a distraction. Tahk was watching me and not paying attention.”
Raven sighed. “Tahk did not put himself in danger because of you. Would he have? Yes. But his intent was not to sacrifice himself. He tripped a wire. It could have been anyone. How do you think I feel when we’re all retreating, and you’re running into the gunfire to get someone? It works both ways.” He lowered his gaze to Doogie’s lips but didn’t move to kiss her. “I got our next mission. It’s smaller than the last. I’m putting together the men I have left. It’s a recon mission. Not sure what we’ll get into. Have you thought about going back to Dietz?”
“I don’t want to,” she whispered.
Raven closed his eyes. He looked like he was thinking hard before he said anything more. Finally, he opened his eyes again and looked pointedly at Doogie. “I need you safe. I can’t let you out there again. I told Tahk I would keep you safe, and I can’t do that unless you’re at the hospital.”
“You also told him you’d leave me alone, and you don’t seem to be having a problem with that,” she shot back.
“He knew I couldn’t keep that promise. He was just torturing me. This is different. I can’t do my job if you’re out there running around.”
“I’m not asking you to give up your job. It isn’t fair you’re asking it of me,” Doogie countered.
“Your job is supposed to be at the hospital. I’m not even sure how we ended up with you.” Raven wrapped his arms around her. “I can’t lose you, too. Please, either stay here or go back to Dietz. Don’t go out again.”
“I don’t want to lose you either.” Doogie put her arms around his waist, resting her head against the cool metal of his rifle. “Whenever we have the opportunity we should do good to everyone. Use every chance you have for doing good, whenever you possibly can do good to those who need it. Never tell someone to wait until tomorrow if you can help them now. It isn’t time for me to leave. I’m supposed to be here. I want to be there if you need me. What if something happens and I’m not there?”
“You aren’t playing fair. How am I supposed to ask you to leave when you’re being told your job isn’t done?” He ran his finger down her cheek. “Babe, I’ll be fine. I’d be better if I know you’re back at Dietz.” He smiled his sly half grin at her. “Even better if you went back home. But I understand. Sort of.”
With a click, Raven unhooked his gun and leaned it carefully against the wall. “You can spend all day thinking of reasons why we shouldn’t do this.” Raven grasped her hands, pulling her off the bed, and into his chest. “If you tell me you want me to leave you alone, I will. I don’t think you do, and it would be extremely hard, but I’d do it. And I’m not an idiot. I understand this isn’t the place for romance. But whether we are together or not, my feelings are still there. I want to be clear. I’m not just trying to get into your pants.”
A snort came out of her. “Well, that’s good to know.”
“Seriously. Like you said. We don’t know if this is our last day or last minute. If someone walks in with a bomb, we could be blown to bits. I’m laying it all out there. Telling you how it is. We don’t have time to play games. I need you safe.”
He stopped, lifted her chin, and kissed her softly. “Yes, someday I will make you mine and then I will make love to you. I know your feelings on this topic, and I won’t ask any more of you than for you to go back to Dietz and be safe. You know I’m seriously rethinking this vest. “Doogie’s upper body was secure behind the Kevlar.
She felt his lips press against the deep cut along her throat. “I wanted to kill the man who did this.”
“Tahk took care of him.” She leaned into his body, their vests resting hard against each other. Letting him change the topic to one not so hurtful.
He trailed kisses back to her cheek.
“He jacked you pretty good. Tahk said you fought back like a pro.”
“Hmm.” She wanted him to kiss her. “Kiss me,” she whispered.
As if he had been waiting for those words, Raven took her mouth in the sweetest kiss she had ever received. Her resolve to keep Raven at a distance melted away. She was hopelessly in love with this man in the middle of a war thousands of miles from home.
He ran a finger over her lips; her entire body felt like an electrical current ran through it. “I guess it’s a good thing you were so insistent about the vest, things could have gotten interesting.”
Raven ran a hand over his face. “No. They wouldn’t have. I respect you. I won’t take away what you have saved for so long.”
Doogie locked eyes with Raven. “So when you need your release. Your humanity. Will you go back to Allana?”
He closed his eyes and rested his forehead against hers. “My goal is not to take your virginity, not until you have promised yourself to me in front of your family and mine, but Sawyer know this . . . you undo me.” Raven rolled to sit along the edge of the bed. He ran his hand over his short hair.
“That doesn’t answer my question.” Doogie sat up behind him.
Raven pushed her back to the bed and moved to lie beside her. She ran her hand along the tight strands of muscles, stopping to trace the scars along the way to his hand. Raven blew out a loud breath. His arms had held her in a trance for so long.
“You’re arms are beautiful.” She linked her fingers through his, and then turned into him, placing her lips softly on his. “If you are going back to Allana, you’ll have to let me go.” She prayed she had the strength to actually let him go, but she knew from her earlier experience letting go of God to forage on her own didn’t work out very well.
“I don’t want to go back to Allana.”
“Don’t want to or won’t. I can’t give you what you need over here and you can’t have us both.”
“All I need is you.”
“I can’t share you.” She shook her head.
“I’m not asking you to. I want you. And I want you safe.” He kissed her nose.
Conceding, she kissed him. “I’ll stay here or Dietz, but I won’t go home.”
Raven smiled into their kiss. “You’re so beautiful.”
A man never said those words to her before. Her heart was so full of emotion she felt like she was drowning. Every touch of Raven’s calloused fingers made her question her decision to wait. But if he stopped touching her, she felt like she might shrivel up and die. Doogie closed her eyes, enjoying his soft touches and prayed. Lord guide me in this relationship. Keep me strong to deny the feelings and urges that will tempt me. Remind me these special experiences I will only share with my husband. Keep me strong and help me to trust Raven when he promises me he will be faithful. Okay he hadn’t exactly promised faithfulness but she took it as implied. At least she hoped it was.
“Doogie!” Mary yelled from the clinic. Doogie laughed to herself. God was good. Whenever her conviction waivered, something intervened.
Raven froze, his mouth hovering over hers. Slowly, he smiled his evil grin.
“Doogie, I need your help out here!” Mary yelled down the hall again.
“She needs your help,” Raven repeated.
“A saving grace.” She laughed, running her fingers over his short hair.
“Doogie!” Mary yelled again.
Raven met her gaze. “Apparently, she really needs you.” He moved to rest his forehead against her. “I’m sorry. You weaken my restraint. Please, baby, go home.”
“Raven.” Doogie closed her eyes. It had been so much easier dealing with him when he’d hid his emotions from her.
Raven slid off the bed, grabbed his rifle, and reattached it to his harness.
“That’s it. You’re leaving? You tell me I weaken your restraint and call me baby and you get up and leave like nothing is happening here?” Doogie threw her pillow at him.
“Mary needs your help.” His expression was smug. “It’s what you’re here for. You’re a corpsman.”
“You’re a jerk.”
“I’m a jerk that’s trying to keep your virtue intact? If I don’t leave now I’m afraid I’m going to do something we may both regret.” He ran his hands over his head quickly. “Best we were interrupted. I told you this isn’t the place for us. Go home, and I’ll be there in three months.” Raven sounded like he was joking, but as he continued, his tone became serious. “Please, Doogie. Go home. You’re over your deployment. You should be home already. You could be state side in a few weeks. I’ll be there in three months.” He moved in and kissed her tenderly. The kiss held so much emotion Doogie felt tears trail down her cheeks. “I will come home and make you an honest woman. Then I will make love to you every day for the rest of our lives. The best you’ll ever have. Please get out of this hellhole. Wait for me.”
“I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to leave you,” she whispered.
He stepped back and looked at her, a sad expression on his face. “I know. I don’t want you to leave either. But if it will keep you safe . . . please think about it. It’s the only thing I’ll ever ask of you.”
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