Authors: Kennedy Layne
Tags: #Military, #Romance
Red Starr, Book Two
Copyright © 2015 by Kennedy Layne
E-Book ISBN: 978-0-9908860-7-5
Print ISBN: 978-0-9908860-8-2
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
Jeffrey – you’ve entangled my heart and I wouldn’t have it any other way…I love you.
aegan Murphy hated
saying goodbye to her. She faded from sight as the ship pulled away from the pier and he wrestled with mixed emotions. It would be months before he felt her smooth curves beneath him or hear her throaty purr in his ears. She had a seductive tone that no other possessed and it tamed the beast inside of him. He’d needed some time alone to adjust his frame of mind before embarking on a seven thousand, nine hundred and eighteen nautical mile journey to do the job he was paid to do. These next couple of months would be hell without her.
“Did you seriously store your Harley in the hangar back at headquarters?”
Daegan glanced over his shoulder to see that Aaron “Stick” Scott joining him on the weather deck wearing dark tinted sunglasses and MARPAT digital cammies. The Wyoming boy could diffuse an IED without a sweat, but he had an aversion to adrenaline rushes that came wrapped in any other package. He didn’t understand the sense of freedom that came from riding with the wind in your face. Stick had his usual can of Classic Coke in hand and another team member by his side. Neal “Doc” Bauer was nodding his head in agreement at Stick’s outlook and Daegan already knew what his friend was going to say. They both could take a flying leap off the fucking fantail.
“I’m leaving my wife for at least eight to ten weeks and you’re up here bemoaning the fact that you have to leave your blasted motorcycle?” Doc scoffed as he leaned back against the rail and faced away from the pier. “It pains me to see a man suffer so much over a hunk of York, Pennsylvania steel, Einstein—especially one with your IQ.”
Daegan flipped both of them the bird before taking one last look at Red Starr HRT Headquarters’ hangar lost in the mix of offshore traffic comprising of the commercial side of the Port of San Diego. The massive warehouse better be standing upon their return. There would be hell to pay if anything happened to his 1978 Harley Davidson Custom FLH Police 1200, which was currently stored in the hangar bay covered with a new official Harley Davidson orange and black all-weather cover he’d splurged on. He sure as hell hadn’t ridden her enough and if it had been at all possible, he would have brought his baby up the gangplank on board
The Promised Land
“There’s a hitch in the cosmic balance of the universe when a grown man doesn’t understand another man’s relationship between him and his bike,” Daegan said, resting his hands on a plastic-coated, gray steel stranded safety cable. It secured the perimeter of the weather deck as the one thousand, four hundred-fifty ton ship pulled slowly out of the harbor’s mouth. The sun had risen hours ago and he welcomed the cool breeze that wafted across the stern since the temperature was above seventy degrees. He could hear the seagulls squawking over the low hum of the steam turbine engines as the ship got farther away from the exit of the bay, but the sound wasn’t enough to drown out his teammates’ continued jabs regarding his beautiful baby. It was time to change the subject. “Speaking of Charlotte, what the hell is she going to do with you gone for that long?”
“She and Mandy are going to visit some local colleges in and around San Diego County. The closer, the better with all the traffic congestion.” Doc squinted as he looked out over the deck. Something must have caught his eye, but Daegan didn’t turn around to see what it was. Considering they would be at sea for weeks, he wanted to savor land a little longer. “I don’t think Mandy is ready to venture out too far and would rather spend her time in class and not on the road.”
Daegan could understand that. Doc’s sister-in-law, Mandy, had been the victim of a cult back in Hearths, Missouri. It had been the perfect mission for which Catori Starr, owner and manager of Red Starr HRT, had permitted the newly formed team to cut their teeth on. The formulation of the privately owned hostage rescue strategy had been quite successful and Daegan was proud to be a part of such a cherry picked professional crew. It was nice to finally fit in somewhere after having been pushed out of the Marines due to the fact that one of his superiors crapped all over a combat tour fitness report because he didn’t appreciate a sniper who gated his actions by his own set of moral imperatives before taking a shot. Daegan saw it as the divine voice speaking through the human spirit, as defined by Immanuel Kant. Apparently there was no room for a sniper using reason based on his own conscience. Shit happens and then you die. Daegan had always wanted a motto but that one didn’t quite fit. He’d keep looking.
“Oh, this ought to be good,” Stick said in merriment, settling back against the wire to enjoy the show. The underlying glee in the man’s voice finally had Daegan turning around to see John “Trigger” Dixon showing Diesel his new bathroom facilities. The German Shepherd sniffed at the artificial grass before he settled in to show his appreciation. Daegan would have turned away, not wanting to watch a dog take a shit, but the irate raven haired woman standing just beyond the turf held everyone’s rapt attention and happened to be who Stick was talking about. “Right on cue.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Catori Starr whipped her sunglasses off and then placed her hands on her hips in annoyance. Her Apache and English heritage mixed in such a way that she was quite striking, although not one of the men aboard the ship would ever state that fact if he valued his place on the team. Her position spoke for itself and she made it clear that there would be no fraternizing with any of the crew under any circumstances. Daegan might have broken that little rule a couple of months ago while the team was still in port training, but it shouldn’t be a problem now that they were at sea. Starr’s next words brought his attention back around and he knew that Trigger was in for some rough weeks ahead. “If I find any piles of shit anywhere other than on that square piece of Astroturf you’ll find it in your rack, Jarhead. Am I clear?”
The three men didn’t bother to hide their enjoyment of the show, causing Starr to shoot them a look of irritation from underneath her khaki USMC medium profile baseball style cover. Her long black hair must have been tucked tight underneath it for not one strand was flying in the breeze. It was enough to cause their smiles to fade, but that didn’t make the situation any less humorous. They all knew there was some type of backstory concerning how Diesel had become a part of the team, but Starr and Trigger had kept it between themselves. He imagined it wouldn’t be long before one of the gang took a pair of gloves and planted some “evidence” right outside the hatch to Starr’s stateroom.
Red Starr HRT’s main unit consisted of five operator positions under Starr’s direct supervision—Daegan as their sniper, Stick was the demolitions and EOD expert, Doc handled the comms as well as their immediate medical needs in the field, and there was no one better at hand-to-hand combat than Trigger. Kane “Gunny” Taylor was their lead operator and he also happened to be walking up behind Starr with his typical frown in place. Grab-ass time was over and it was time to get to work.
“Yes ma’am,” Trigger replied, having to turn his head away so that she didn’t catch his smile. He allowed Diesel to finish his business and then he joined the other men. He lowered his voice so that it didn’t carry over the stern. “It’s going to be a long trip to Nigeria and if any of you douchebags even think of messing with me on this, just remember—paybacks are a bitch.”
“Enough with the circle jerk,” Gunny ordered loudly before conversing with Starr in low tones that the team couldn’t make out from this distance. Whatever it was concerning didn’t make Starr any happier than she already was. “Ten minutes in the team ready room.”
“Are you as worried about this mission as I am?” Stick asked before taking a swig of his Coke and being the first to head in the direction they needed to take. They’d all memorized the layout of the ship, so being in the team ready room at the stated time wouldn’t be a problem. “I’ve got a bad feeling.”
Daegan listened to his friends and understood their concerns, but he kept his thoughts to himself. If Stick’s instinct felt that they were walking into something with their heads up their asses, chances are they were. They entered the watertight hatch and continued down the ladderwell to the first platform below the main deck, all the while discussing the potential outcome.
The team had roughly seven months of training and a couple of assignments to get them ready for a mission that hit a little too close to home. From the intel they’d been given, Gunny’s sister had been killed in an attack on the secure multi-national compound supporting family billeting for the U.S. embassy and several other friendly nations with consulates in Nigeria well over a year ago. Shit like that happened around the diplomatic world on rare occasions, but the attack had focused on the softer target…not the embassy itself. Many of the facts surrounding the supposed reason for the attacks and who was responsible didn’t add up and Gunny had gone looking for some answers. Starr had made some inquiries on his behalf and found out that Sidney Taylor’s death had come at the hands of a regional warlord that was currently holding a large group of school aged girls hostage before he sold them into the sex slave trade in several nearby countries. That was the public statement. It was what was left out that was the problem. Daegan didn’t doubt that their current mission was to rescue the hostages before the transaction was made, but he did question what kind of swath Gunny would cut through the warlord’s fighters once he discovered the truth about his sister’s death. Anything personal tended to get wet and deep rather quickly.