Authors: Kaylea Cross
Tags: #Bagram Special Ops
Copyright © 2014
by Kaylea Cross
Cover Art by
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the author.
To the men and women out there in harm’s way safeguarding us all, doing the unseen and unrecognized work most of us will never know about: Thank you.
This is the fourth book of my
Bagram Special Ops
series, and I’m so excited to finally bring you Erin and Sandberg’s story. I really love the villain in this one, he’s so complex, and I thoroughly enjoyed showing Wade’s transition into life back home. Hope you enjoy the book.
One day. Just one more day and she was out of here.
Erin stood up straight to stretch the stiff muscles in her spine. She was ten hours into a twelve hour shift and she was looking forward to finishing up so she could crash until it was time to get up and pack. Then she’d be on her way home for some much needed R&R. Two weeks of peace and quiet on her parents’ ranch outside of Billings. She couldn’t freaking wait to get out of this warzone and recharge for a while.
She checked her watch and bent to add more notes to the chart she’d been working on at the nurse’s station.
07:10 hours. Heart rate: 74. BP: 110/70. Patient alert and oriented, resting comfortably, has declined further pain meds
“Lieutenant, the doctor wants to see you after he’s finished with Sergeant Thatcher.”
Erin glanced up and nodded at the other nurse. “All right. Be there in a minute.” She put down her pen, repositioned her stethoscope hanging around the back of her neck and headed down the hallway to the room she’d put Sgt. Thatcher—Jackson, he’d told her to call him—into half an hour earlier. Staff members bustled past her. Bagram’s Craig Joint Theater Hospital was a flurry of activity this morning, even busier than usual because of the new load of patients she’d accompanied on the flight up from Kandahar less than an hour ago. She pushed open the door, expecting to find the doctor in there as well, but he wasn’t.
Jackson turned his dark head on the pillow and smiled when he saw her. “Hey.”
She smiled back. “Did the doctor come to check on you yet?”
“Yeah, he just left a minute ago.”
She’d track him down later then. “How are you feeling now that you’ve had a chance to settle in? Change your mind about those pain meds yet?”
“Nah, I’m good.” He shifted slightly, his slow, restricted movements telling her just how sore his abdominal incisions were. He’d refused meds before and during the flight here, too.
“Well if you change your mind, let one of us know. Promise we won’t judge you for taking them. And it won’t jeopardize your superhero status.”
He grinned at her, a slash of white against his bronzed skin. “Will do.” He paused a second, a slight frown tugging his eyebrows closer together. “Any update on Maya at all?”
Erin’s heart went out to the guy. He, Maya and the Secretary of Defense had all gone through hell out there during their captivity and escape back to friendly forces. And though Maya had previously been annoyed by Jackson’s obvious interest, Erin knew they’d bonded deeply during their ordeal. Apparently Maya had refused treatment for all her injuries until she’d been able to see Jackson for herself and verify that he would be okay. “No, sorry. I already asked my CO to see if he could find out anything, but everything’s blocked by security clearances.”
“Yeah.” He placed one hand gingerly on the blanket covering his abdomen and didn’t elaborate on what had happened out there. Erin was dying to know, but wouldn’t ask because she already knew he wouldn’t—couldn’t—tell her. “So I hear they’re transferring me to Landstuhl in the morning?”
“That’s the plan I was told, unless something changes before then.”
“You’ll let me know if you hear anything about her?”
Oh yeah, he was definitely head over heels. And from what she’d observed on her own, the feeling was reciprocated. “Of course. I’ll come check on you at lunch, but call if you need anything.”
She returned to the station to finish up her paperwork. At movement in her peripheral vision a few minutes later, she glanced over and saw one of her remaining roommates, Ace, striding toward her. The tall, blonde gunship pilot had her hair pulled back in a bun and she was still wearing her flight suit. Fresh from a night of hunting, Erin guessed. At the concerned look on Ace’s face, she set down her clipboard. “Hey, what are you doing here?”
“Heard you’d brought in some patients from Kandahar,” Ace replied, stopping at the other side of the desk. “How’s Maya? Is she okay? I can’t get details from anyone.”
While Erin couldn’t divulge the extent of Maya’s injuries or treatment for privacy reasons, she could certainly tell Ace the basics. She and Maya were tight, which was saying something, because Maya didn’t let anyone get close to her. “She had some minor surgery yesterday, but she’ll be fine. They’ve flown her to Qatar for a few days before they send her stateside.”
Ace’s brown eyes searched Erin’s. “Yeah, but how
Erin hesitated before answering, and when she did, she answered Ace as a friend, not a medical professional. “Physically she’ll be okay. But whatever happened out there, it was tough.” In fact, after she’d read the injury report on Maya while waiting for her to be taken to recovery, Erin’s throat had tightened at the thought of what her roomie must have endured.
Ace nodded, pain flashing through her eyes. “And Jackson?”
“Same deal. I just checked on him and—” She trailed off when she spotted a man dressed in civvies heading down the hall toward where Jackson was. “Gotta go. See you later,” she blurted to Ace, and rounded the edge of the counter to follow the man. How the hell had he gotten in here? He didn’t look back at her, but headed straight for Jackson’s door and put out a hand as though he was just going to walk right on in.
“Hey,” she called out.
He paused to look over his shoulder at her, his hand resting on the door. His dark eyes locked on her, and in the midst of the thick, nearly black beard he wore—even longer than most of the SOF guys she’d seen around base—his mouth tightened in annoyance.
Erin did a visual sweep and kept coming. He looked like a local. His hair was way longer than regulation allowed, but he had a muscular build and confident bearing that spoke of time in the military. Given his very relaxed grooming standard, the cargo pants and black T-shirt seemed out of place. He was tall, a little over six feet if she had to guess, and maybe in his mid-to-late thirties. Not a bad looking guy. Except he had no business being in this area. “What are you doing?”
His dark brown gaze flicked over her with a mixture of surprise and wariness, his expression cool and remote. “Going to see a friend of mine. He was just brought in.” His deep voice was pure American, which surprised her. Not a local, then, and not military either. A contractor of some sort?
She walked right up to him, stopping only a few feet from him to stare up into his face. A hard, weathered face. His skin was darkly tanned, with deep crow’s feet fanning out from his eyes. Whoever he was, he hadn’t lived a soft life. “Who are you?”
“A friend of his.”
I don’t think so.
“This is a restricted area. How did you get in here?”
He gestured behind her with a slight frown. “The front door.”
She folded her arms over her chest, letting him know that his height and size didn’t intimidate her one bit. He wasn’t getting into Jackson’s room until she was certain he wasn’t a threat. “You’re not supposed to be back here.”
He sighed, dropped his hand from the door and faced her fully, even though she knew from his pained expression that this was the last thing he wanted to be bothered with. “Look, I already spoke to one of the docs here. I was in Kandahar with Sergeant Thatcher. I saw you at the hospital down there.”
Well she didn’t remember
. “You got any ID with you?”
He gave her an are-you-for-real look. “No, but—”
“You’re standing in a restricted area of a military medical facility, dressed in civilian clothes, you don’t have ID and you’re trying to get into see one of my patients who needs to sleep. See the problem?”
He shut his mouth, that frown reappearing, this time edged with annoyance. “I just need to…” He trailed off as he looked at something over her shoulder. Erin glanced behind her to see the doctor she needed to talk to about Jackson striding toward them.
The middle-aged surgeon raised his eyebrows at her. “Problem?”
“He wants to talk to the patient, but he doesn’t have authorization or ID,” Erin explained.
“I gave him authorization. Let him in, Lieutenant.”
Surprised, Erin turned her attention back to the stranger. She half expected to find a gloating smirk on his face or a triumphant gleam in his eyes. Instead, he swept her with a lingering, curious gaze before nodding at her once in acknowledgement, then pushed the door open and stepped inside.
Expelling a breath, Erin turned back to the surgeon. “Who
He smiled and adjusted his surgical cap as he turned away and motioned for her to follow. Erin trailed after him. “Today you’re on a need-to-know basis, Lieutenant. And that, you don’t need to know.”
Shutting the hospital room door behind him, Wade met Jackson’s stare and grinned. “You’re looking a helluva lot better than the last time I saw you.”
“Amazing what some rest, fluids and having a few chunks of metal taken out of your gut will do,” the PJ responded in his Texas drawl, a twinkle in his dark eyes. “Won’t be doing any core exercises for a while though.”
“No, guess not.” Wade stuck his hands into his pockets. It felt weird to be able to do that again, having lived in native garb for so long. The cargo pants he wore felt oddly restrictive, foreign. Felt weird to still be speaking English out in the open like this too.
“So Erin gave you a hard time, huh?”
“The nurse.” Jackson nodded toward the door. “I heard her arguing with you.”
Wade waved a hand. She’d only been doing her job. “Just a misunderstanding. Who is she?” She’d certainly caught his attention with her directness and looks. It felt really weird to notice a woman that way and feel that shot of attraction after all this time being forbidden to do so.
“Roommate of Maya’s.”
“Ah.” That explained a lot, actually. He’d first seen her leaving the recovery room in Kandahar after Maya had been brought out of surgery to repair her fractured wrist. “Speaking of Maya, I wanted to check out something with you.” When Jackson’s gaze sharpened, he continued. “Word is, she saw Rahim on the battlefield as the Chinook lifted off.”
“Yeah, she told me just before we took all that incoming fire.”
Wade’s heart started to beat faster. This could be the break they were looking for. “Did you see him too?”
“Did Maya say anything else? About where he was exactly, or what direction he was headed?”
Wade nodded even as his heart sank, disappointed by the response even though he’d known walking in here that finding out anything more of use would be a long shot.