Another bullet whizzed past his face. He could feel the brush of air as it passed.“Don’t have three Smoke. He’s serious and a damn good shot.” Ricochet turned toward the cage. “Hey, get down flat on the floor. Don’t lift your head,” he shouted at the woman. He wasn’t sure she could hear him and if she could hear, whether she would be able to understand what he was saying.
Without hesitation she threw herself forward on the floor of the cage.
“Don’t move until I tell ya to,” he yelled.
He aimed his rifle at the padlock and fired. Sparks flew, the hunk of metal jumped and smoke drifted from the entry hole. He took the butt of his rifle and hammered at the lock until it released. Another bullet skimmed by his leg slicing the material of his pants.
“Whoa he’s getting closer. Smoke you got a bead on him yet?”
“Working on it.”
He knelt down, inspected the rope used to tie the woman’s hands and then pulled his knife from the holder around his calf. “Hold still I don’t want to cut you,” he shouted to the woman.
She was so still he worried if one of the stray bullets had found its way to her. As soon as the rope was severed she bolted up shoving Ricochet off to the side. When she turned and looked at him he knew exactly what she was doing. Unfortunately he didn’t react in time. She reached out jerked his backup gun from his waistline and pointed it straight at his face.
“That’s some way to thank a person,” he said holding his hands up. So much for the tough exterior crumbling.
She raised the gun a hair and fired.
“What the…” A loud thud sounded behind him, he turned his head and found one of the militia men slumped against the bars, blood trickling from his forehead.
“Damn woman. Good shot. Now if ya don’t mind let’s get the hell outta here.”
He picked up his rifle and tried to retrieve his hand gun from her. When she stuck it behind her back and smiled he figured what the hell. If she was that good a shot she might as well keep it. A bullet passed between them pinging off the metal bars.
“I don’t know about you but I’ve had enough of this shit,” she said turning and leaving the cage.
Hot on her heels he exited the small prison and followed her into the fray.
“Hey, I need to get you outta here.”
“I’m not going anywhere until every one of these bastards is down,” she shouted at him. “And what the hell is that sound?”
One of the few standing men ran straight for them. From the corner of his eye he could see her raise her gun and point it at him. He brought his arm down across hers lowering the gun.
“No. He isn’t armed.”
The man barreled into him. Ricochet gave him a head butt, a quick jab to the stomach and brought his knee up into his face when he bent forward. He dropped to the ground in a heap.
“No need to shoot an unarmed man,” he said winking at her.
“Yeah well that one’s armed.” She used her body to shove him away, took aim and fired.
When he turned and looked, the large man who had dragged her from the SUV was lying on the ground, a rifle lie across his chest.
“Okay, next one just wing.”
As far as he could see there were only a handful of men left standing.
“Hostage secure Ricochet?” Kong asked over the radio.
He looked her up and down. “Secure as she’s gonna get.”
“Then help us wrap this up.”
“Look I need to finish up here. Go back to that cinder block building and wait.” He told her.
“Like hell I will.”
With that she headed to the closest target. He followed. Without any hesitation she charged the dazed man, popped him in the mouth then in the stomach and brought her knee up into his groin. The poor sap dropped like a fly. Ricochet knelt down and bound his hands and feet. When he looked up she was on to number two.
“Hey leave one for me,” he shouted. Then he noticed the high-pitched sound wave was affecting her.
When she swung at the man she missed, stumbling and falling into him. The man slurred a hateful comment and then fell backward with her on top. Ricochet ran toward them, pushed her off and secured him.
“Don’t feel so good,” she said then flopped on her back.
"You don't need to thank me. Sam called this morning and said she was leaving. I wasn't sure how long your brother was staying so I figured I could pitch in and help out. It's the least I can do for you after what you did for Raya."
His quick temper flared. Her crossed signals were beginning to frustrate him. "Don't put yourself out," he snapped. "Especially out of some twisted sense of payback. I'll check into a hotel or go home."
When he turned to walk away from her she reached out and touched his bare muscular back. "I'm sorry, Ben, I didn't mean it like that."
"Hell you didn't." His low vibrating voice shook the room. "I'm not interested in your gratitude." He turned back. "I'm interested in you and your daughter. If that bothers you then walk away now. I don't play games with people."
Her emotions washed across her face. He silently named them, guilt, embarrassment, anger, confusion and finally acceptance.
"Okay I want to help you because I'm interested too," she whispered.
"Make sure you meant it, Hannah. No gratuitous niceties. I'm a very perceptive person and I'll see right through it. Don't play with me."
"I won't," she said with a smile. "I guess I'm just out of practice and not sure how to handle a genuinely nice guy."
"Just be yourself that's all I ask."
"I'll do my best. You might have to cut me some slack every once in a while."
Boomer smiled. "I can do that."
"Good. Now you better get dressed. I'll go to the nurse's station and see if they have a bag we can put your stuff in."
Hannah stepped out into the hallway and pressed her back against the wall.
"What the hell have I done?" He was right about one thing, he was perceptive and it probably wouldn't take long for him to see through her charade.
To make matters worse she liked the man, truly liked him. Dear God when he stood in front of her with his muscular bare chest just inches away it was all she could do to keep herself from reaching out and running her hands all over that flesh-covered hardness. Oh and the way those flannel pants hung off his hips revealing light brown hair that disappeared under the waistband was intoxicating.
She banged her head back against the wall. It wasn't just his sexy body that had her intrigued. His personality was just as fascinating. This was man who knew what he wanted and wasn't afraid to go after it. She respected that, yet there didn't seem to be a cruel bone in his body - not tha she'd seen anyway. Of course time would tell.
God this was a dangerous game she was playing but for Raya's sake it needed to be done. She almost lost her daughter yesterday she wouldn't allow it to happen again. Ben would understand that in the end. He'd have to.
Jessica focused on Reed. He made quite a sight as he stood over the stove stirring his pot and wearing faded, worn blue jeans and green button down shirt. The clothes looked fresh and clean. He must have changed while she was in the spare room, she thought. His hair was black as night and cut short around his ears and neck. Compared to her he was tall—at least eight inches taller. She knew his face was rugged, his jaw squared, his nose straight and narrow. The rest of his facial features were a blur to her.
Broad shoulders anchored two thick, muscular arms. Not bodybuilder big, but arms that were accustomed to lifting heavy weights. His torso narrowed down to his hips. Her gaze lingered there, where his lower back curved slightly before forming his tight ass.
Jessica felt her face flush. She wasn’t innocent in any way, shape or form, but she couldn’t remember ever noticing a man’s ass this way before. She had a peculiar need to walk up, grab it with her hands and squeeze. Now she knew she had a head injury. Here she was running for her life and she was thinking about molesting her rescuer.
This was all too surreal. She was being chased by a serial killer, crashed her car in God-knows-where and now she was standing in a home that looked like it belonged at a ski resort. The apparent owner, a magnificent specimen of a man, had just given her a bath. What was next?
Sam decided she had allowed the sparring to go on long enough. With a swift jab of her fist into his stomach, then a high kick to his jaw, she laid Kong on his back. Just like before she sat on his chest, pinning his arms with her knees. Kong looked up at her and saw the smoldering hate in her eyes. Somewhere deep inside himself he regretted that, but to him it was necessary.
“Did you learn what you needed to learn Lieutenant?” Sam asked. “Or do we need to go another round? I’ll warn you first, if we do this again I won’t just spar with you I’ll take you out completely.”
Kong drew in a deep breath then looked down at her crotch sitting right in front of him. His body hardened with fierce speed. “We’re cool,” he grumbled, then began to sit up. If he didn’t get her off of him now he would embarrass himself in front of the others.
Sam jumped to her feet and moved away from him. Kong pulled himself up and adjusted his shirt. Boomer and Ricochet just looked at him with blank faces. Walt scrubbed his face with his hands.
“If you two are finished with the playground antics I need to fill you in on the last of the details.” When they all turned back to him he continued, “You’ll fly out at twenty-hundred tonight. What you do until then is your own business. Your pickup after you retrieve the hostage is at eighteen-hundred three days from now. Any questions?”
When they all chorused “No Sir”, Walt continued. “Sam, meet me in my office at the barracks. I want to talk to these guys a moment.”
“Please,” Walt interrupted.
Sam gave him a quick glare, then turned and left the tent. She couldn’t believe he was going to lecture them about her. He’d never done that before. She could defend herself. Sam ran with lightning speed back to the barracks, her anger pumping her legs faster. This whole situation was crazy. Hadn’t she proven herself over and over again? Why was she letting this particular man get under her skin? Sam stopped in front of her uncle’s office and bent over to catch her breath. A hot shower, she thought to herself, that’s what she needed. She could use the time to calm herself and think this situation through.
Back at the tent Kong felt Walt’s eyes bore through him. “Sir, I’d like to explain.”
“No need,” Walt replied.
“Yes Sir there is. She’s young, in her twenties as far as I can figure. Surely she hasn’t had the years of training we’ve had and you’re asking us to trust her. I’m sorry Sir, but my trust doesn’t come that easily,” he said, looking at Boomer and Ricochet.
“Is that so? Tell me Lieutenant just what do you know about her?” Walt asked.
“That’s the point. I don’t know anything.” Kong was working hard at keeping his tone low-key.
“Okay, let me enlighten you. She’s twenty-six years old and started her training eighteen years ago.” Walt let that tidbit of information sink in.
“You tellin’ us she started training when she was eight?” Ricochet asked.
“Exactly. By the time she was twelve she’d gone through four martial arts masters, each one teaching her everything he knew. When she was thirteen, she started coming here and training with my men. She watched, listened and learned everything she could. One day I put her out there with some of the guys on an exercise. Twenty minutes into the session she took out four men.
“And if you’re worried about how she’ll handle herself if she’s captured by the Taliban, don’t be. Yesterday she went to Jersey to retrieve a woman who had been kidnapped. Our intelligence told her there were only two men. Imagine her surprise when a third walked in. At this very moment he’s undergoing surgery to repair major damage to his penis and scrotum. Now, she didn’t tell me, but I’m assuming the man thought he’d use her for his entertainment since she had let his intended victim go.”
The men cringed at the thought of what she could have done to him. Kong smiled to himself, these were the answers he needed. She could fight, no doubt about that, his ribs and face would attest to her fighting skills. But now that he knew how she handled herself when she was outnumbered, some of the tension started to ease from his body.
“What are you?” Denise asked peeking through the crack of the opened door.
“What do you mean what am I? I’m Markey Neville, your friend.”
“No. I saw you in that alley. You aren’t human. You were glowing, your eyes were like fire. My God you threw those men around like they were rag dolls. No human can do what you did. “
“Denise please, you’re confused.” If she could just convince Denise that she’d imagined the whole thing, that the trauma of the night had caused her to embellish what had really happened, then everything would fine.
“Don’t you try that psychology crap with me, I know what I saw. Now leave me and Sandy alone. We don’t ever want to see you again.” Denise kicked at Markey’s foot removing it from between the door and wall. “Freak,” she mumbled before slamming the door.
Tears streamed down Markey’s face as she left Denise’s apartment building. Freak, it always came down to that one word. It had to be the most hurtful word in the English dictionary. Nonetheless, it wasn’t the first time she heard it and it wouldn’t be the last.
Markey returned home to find her small house that she rented covered in smashed eggs with the word “freak” spray-painted in huge black letters across the front. The sound of hushed whispers came from behind her as the neighborhood gathered across the street to stare. Lying on the ground in front of her door was a newspaper with a large black and white picture of her. Over it read, “Is this woman a phenomenon?”
She stepped over it and unlocked her sticky, slimy door and proceeded inside. She knew what she had to do and without any hesitation she began packing. By the end of the day she had called her boss and quit, packed all important items and loaded her car. When nightfall came she slipped behind the wheel and began her search for her new home.