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 / Chapter 23 / Chapter 24 / Chapter 25 / Chapter 26 / Chapter 27 / Chapter 28 / Chapter 29 / Chapter 30 / Chapter 31
Raven led Doogie through the rubble the rubble and back to her room.
“Only the front of the building was compromised. All the explosives didn’t go off. You were lucky, Sawyer.” He held her hand so tight she thought she was losing the circulation in her fingers, but she didn’t want him to let her go.
“The Air Force guys took her out. She’ll be at Dietz.” Raven began to unbutton her jacket. “I’m sorry about her. She must have been closer to the man than you.”
Doogie hesitated as Raven drew the jacket down over her arms. “I moved to the other side of a table when I saw him. She went toward him. I guess she thought she could convince him not to do it.”
Raven ran a finger along the top of the Kevlar vest. “Thank God you had your vest on.”
“Thank you for being so obnoxious about it.” Doogie was having a hard time getting her words out when he touched her so gently.
Raven met her gaze and gave her a sad smile. “I thought I lost you.” A tear slid down his cheek. Quickly, he wiped it away and stepped away from her. “I’m going to get some water so you can clean up.”
Doogie grabbed for his hand, but he moved too quickly and was out the door before she could stop him. She felt horrible. She couldn’t imagine what he must have felt knowing she was buried in the rubble of the clinic. She’d loved Tahk—but as a brother. How much worse would it have been if she had loved him like she did Raven? Careful of her bruised and battered body, she slid up on her bed. Resting her elbows on her knees, she let the emotions of the day flow through her and cried.
Raven stepped into the room, set the bucket of water down, and had her in his arms in two steps. “Baby, are you okay? What’s wrong? Are you hurt?”
“I’m sorry I scared you. I’ll leave. I’ll go to Dietz and put in the papers to go home,” she sobbed.
“What?” He pushed her back to look at her face.
Doogie shook her head. “I’ll go home, and I’ll wait for you. But dammit, Raven. You better come home for me.”
Raven had a huge smile when he squeezed her into him. “I’ll be there, I promise.” He let her go again and went to retrieve the bucket and a small towel. “Let’s get you cleaned up.”
Raven placed the bucket on the small table next to her bed and dipped the towel into the water. “It’ll be a little cold. Came from the well,” he said almost to himself.
Gently, he used the rag to wash the dust and tears from her face. Doogie watched him, trying to remember every crinkle and crease in his face. She’d asked him to promise something he had no control over. He couldn’t really promise to come home. Life in Afghanistan didn’t allow for promises like that. She wanted to burn his face into her mind. “Will you email me?”
He grinned, and then leaned in, trailing kisses across her freckled nose. “When I can.”
He drew in a deep breath before picking up the rag and beginning to wipe the dust from her arms. When he found a bruise, he would press his lips lightly against it.
“We can Skype, too.” Her breathing was labored at the feelings his light kisses were stirring deep in her core.
“Hmm,” he said. He ran a hand down her leg until he got to her boot. Lifting it, he placed the sole of the shoe against his stomach and unlaced it. He pulled it off and dropped it to the floor. He repeated the action with the other boot, and then removed each sock.
Doogie looked up at him and crinkled her nose as puffs of dust floated off her feet. She slid off the bed to stand in front of him. Slowly, she reached up and unbuckled the straps of his harness. Raven lazily closed his eyes and dropped his chin to his chest. “This is more complicated than it looks.” Doogie laughed.
Raven reached up and with one snap, he unfastened the harness, letting it fall from his shoulders.
“You have more practice than I.” She tried to laugh.
Dropping his head, he lightly touched his lips to hers. “Unfortunately I do.”
“I love you,” she whispered.
Raven lifted her onto the bed. Following, he settled beside her pulling her head down into the crook of his shoulder. “I love you, too.”
“I’m going back to Dietz,” Doogie repeated.
“I know.” Raven kissed her head.
“Then I’ll go home.”
“Hmm.” His hand traced circles over her back.
“I don’t want you seeing that nurse again.”
His head popped up. “That’s not gonna happened.”
“Just getting it out there. You weren’t specific about not seeing her earlier.” Doogie’s breath caught when he pulled her closer.
“You’ll be waiting for me?” he asked.
“Every second until you touch home soil.”
Raven found his way back to her mouth, kissing her in a way that made the world around them disappear.
“Make love to me, Raven.” Doogie shuddered. She didn’t want to lose him. She didn’t want to die or him to die and miss the chance to be close to him. God would understand. God would forgive her. Her brain began an internal argument with God. Lord you understand the situation we are in. You put us here. He told me he is going to marry me when he gets state side. I don’t want to lose him. I want to show him how much I love him. It’s like we are already married . . . what more can a ring and a wedding do to prove our love. She continued to make excuses for why she was offering herself to him, but none of them gave her the feeling of certainty she was looking for. Thankfully, Raven put a stop to the prayer he wasn’t even aware of.
“I can’t. I won’t take that from you. Not here.”
Doogie sighed, thankful God had stepped in on her behalf.
“I want it to be perfect.”
“It will be, if it’s with you.”
“No pressure or anything.” He chuckled into her neck, making her shiver.
Doogie took his face between her hands. “What if something happens to you? What if we miss this chance?”
He wrapped an arm around her waist and drew her body closer to his.
She curled her fingers around his muscular arms. “I don’t want to lose you.”
He nudged her nose with his nose and smiled sadly. “That isn’t a reason.”
“It is a reason . . . just not a very good one. You’ve done it for less.”
He frowned. “For all the wrong reasons. It won’t be for the wrong reasons with you. I can’t.”
“What if I don’t mind?”
“I mind. Wait for me, Sawyer.”
“Forever,” she breathed out, smiling at the strength God had given to Raven and he probably hadn’t even realized it. He works in mysterious ways.
Raven reached up and smoothed her hair. “Don’t forget how I feel about you. I’d do anything to keep you safe.” His voice was rough.
“Don’t forget how I feel about you. I’m leaving for you.” Doogie ran her fingers down his cheek.
Raven sighed and shook his head.
Doogie ran her hands down his back, enjoying the feeling of security he gave her. In one last ditch effort, she asked again. “Give me back my humanity.”
Raven didn’t look amused with her tossing his word back at him. “You’re asking me to take your virginity, not give you humanity.
“I won’t touch you here. There isn’t any humanity here, and as much as I want to . . . I won’t have our first time be in this place with the stink of death everywhere. You deserve more, and I want to give it you.” He rolled to the side, wrapped his arms around her waist, and pulled her into him. “Not like this. Don’t ask me to do this, baby. You’ll regret it and hate me. It needs to be perfect, and for you that means we’re committed . . . married.”
Doogie propped herself up on an elbow and ran a finger down Raven’s back. After his speech of high moral standards, they had fallen asleep in each other’s arms. He shivered at her touch and sleepily opened his eyes to look at her. A small grin tugged at his lips. Doogie leaned in and kissed the corner of his mouth.
“What was that for?” His voice was groggy.
“Reminding me of what was important. Not taking advantage of my weakness. Reminding me of my faith.” A tear trailed down her cheek. “I’m going to miss you.”
Raven shifted; the blanket moved so his abs stared at her. “Don’t cry.”
“I don’t want you to go back out.” More tears fell.
“Babe,” Raven cooed and pulled her onto his chest, wrapping his arms around her.
“And when you get home, don’t do anything stupid to surprise me. I don’t want to show up at church, and you’re the pastor, or go to a baseball game and I’m throwing out the first pitch, and you run out as the catcher. I just want you to be you.” Doogie talked into his chest, running a hand over his warm skin.
When Raven laughed, her head bumped against him. “What are you talking about?”
She raised herself up to look at him. “You know those coming home shows. The guy doesn’t tell his family he’s coming home, and then they surprise them and everyone cries. And who doesn’t tell the family they’re coming home?” She paused to kiss his chest. “I saw one once where the guy, in full digis and scuba gear, swam up to his family while they were swimming at the beach. Don’t do that.”
Raven rubbed her back. “I don’t know how to scuba dive.”
“That wasn’t really the point I was making.”
Doggie’s head bounced on his chest again as he laughed. “If you were in a bikini, I would totally learn to scuba so I could surprise you.”
She braced herself on his chest with her elbows. “That’s just the thing I don’t want. I don’t want it to be a big show. I want you to come home, wrap your arms around me and . . .” A big smile spread across her face. “Promise me you won’t do anything stupid. Just come home.”
“I promise not to be a catcher at a baseball field or disguise myself as a pastor.” He pulled her up and brought her mouth to his in a long and slow kiss.
Reluctantly, Doogie pushed him away. “We better get moving. I have to head back to Dietz, and you need to get your team together.”
Raven wrapped his arms around her to kiss her again. “Even though I won’t make love to you, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”
“I know.” Her voice cracked. “It actually tells me how much you do love me. I’m sorry I pushed you last night. I was really upset.”
“It’s better this way.” He moved her to the side and climbed off the bed. “You’ll see.”
“I’m going to hold you to that.”
“Ahh, the pressure again.”
“And I’ll have months to anticipate so . . .”
Raven tilted his head back and covered his face with his hands. “Maybe I should practice then.”
Doogie threw her pillow at him. “Don’t you dare.”
Raven chuckled and left Doogie to collect whatever supplies she could from the bombed out clinic. Doogie sat each of her bags along the wall and settled in to wait for Raven to return. He was supposed to call in a Black Hawk to pick her up.
She heard the Black Hawk before she saw it. Her heart dropped. Raven wasn’t coming with her. It may be the last time she saw him, and she couldn’t even kiss him again. Not in front of the helicopter crew.
Raven came up behind her and nudged her. “They’ll take you back.”
“I’m going to kiss you when I put you on the helo, just so you know.”
Doogie’s heart clenched.
When the Black hawk landed, Raven and Doogie each grabbed a bag and ran toward the helicopter. After stowing the supplies, Raven grabbed Doogie by the front of her jacket and pressed his lips against hers. Then took her hand and pressed something into her palm before saluting the pilot and running back to the building. Doogie didn’t look at what he’d given her until Marjah disappeared in the distance. Slowly, she unfolded her fingers. A folded flower sat in her palm, a little bent, each petal held the words I love you.
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