Nothing was ever easy… The biggest understatement of the millennia. There was nothing worse than being imperfectly human.
Troy Spade’s mission was supposed to be relatively simple, just a protective security detail to take their medium-risk VIP to the border checkpoint, hand them their strap hanger off to the next team, and then they were to head back to the tactical operations center. Intense, but normal. If they didn’t screw things up, they would be done within a couple hours, debriefed, and back to playing Halo on the Xbox.
Tiff looked glanced over at him, sending him a smile as she drove. He both loved and hated her for the sexy look. This wasn’t the time or the place to bring up all the things they meant to one another. And yet, with that sex-laced smile, all he could think about was running his fingers down her soft, perfect skin as they layid in her bed. This morning, when they had woken up, she had given him a similar smile except thoroughly sated, well -loved, and blissful. He was hers and she was his. In that single action, she and their love was everything he needed.
She was his happy place and he could think of nothing better than spending his days in the constant conflicts that came with war-torn nations and private contracting, and his nights in the peace of her embrace. He had it all.
He took in a breath. Underneath the scent of sand, sweat, and gun oil he could still make out the scent of her on him. He loved the way she naturally smelled of woman and when she wore perfume, it only intensified his need to hold her in his arms once again.
Damn it, Troy. Come back to reality, he thought, checking himself. This. This right here is why being with her isn’t a good idea.
He couldn’t have love. Love was a weakness. Love would compromise their objectivity. Love could only lead to only one thing—failure. And failure wasn’t an option. In their line of work, failure was death.
A stray piece of hair had slipped out from under her helmet and was threatening to fall into her eyes aAs she drove. He was tempted to reach over and fix it for her, but that was the last damned thing he could do. He peered into the back seat where their gunners were seated, watching out the windows and looking for any possible threats.
If they even guessed that there was something between hime and Tiff, Troy’s butt would be on the line and one, if not both hime and Tiff, would be on the next plane back to the Sstates. Then the honeymoon would really be over and he would have to go back to some dead-end job where he struggled to make ends meet.
Not an option.
As the detail team leader, they followed behind the VIP, driving off-set as they cruised to the objective. He glanced down at his watch. Ten more minutes, if the roads remained clear, and they would be at the Albanian border, ten more and they would be headed back. Within the hour they would be safe…she would be safe. And maybe, for at least a few hours, he could finally relax. Well, at least relax as much as any person could who was hunkered down in enemy territory, where they stuck out and were about as welcome as a saddle sore.
Oh, the things he would do for money.
The car in front of them weaved to the right as they moved to the left in their trademark zig-zag pattern. Ahead of them, on the opposite side of the road, a small white car pulled over and stopped. The gunner behind and to his left steadied a bead on the sedancar’s driver though the driver had done exactly what they were supposed to do in getting out ofcar had gotten out of the convoy’s path. If they random vehicles didn’t get out of the way, their convoy would have no qualms in chewing them up and spitting them out.
Just as they were about to pass by the white car, the driver flipped a U-turn and, tires squealing on the hot blacktop, the cary charged in the other direction.
TroyHe turned to Tiffany and opened his mouth, about to issue a warning about the odd behavior when the up-armored vehicle they were riding in quaked. In slow motion, the black hood of tthe heir Suburban launched upward as the violent boom rattled him to his core.
He’d never heard a sound quite like it, the tearing of metal, his friends’ screams swirled with his own, and it all mixed with the thrashing of his heart. It meant only one thing…
The world twisted around him as he tried to get his bearings. Their SUV careened through the air, flipping hood over bumper as they took the full impact of the explosively formed ppenetratorrojectile[WT1] p… It had to be an EFP, it was the only thing that could have blew blown them up like this. Or it could have been and IED., Bbut they that wouldn’t have hit this hard, or done this much damage. Maybe it was an RPG, but again it wouldn’t have screwed them up like this. Definitely an EFP.
The irony didn’t escape him that even though they had yet to land, he was arguing with himself about what they had just experienced. Dissociation at its best. Maybe dying wouldn’t be so bad after all, at least he wasn’t swirling that cognitive drain. An odd sense of peace drifted through him.
Tiffany’s cry pulled him back to reality…to the terror that filled him, the smell of burning rubber and the acrid smoke that filled the air, and to the pain radiating up from his legs. He started to move to see if he even had legs; as he did, he spotted the blood. The crimson liquid was spattered across the inside of the snowflake-patterned broken glass of the front windshield.
It was supposed to be bulletproof.
Definitely an EFP.
A droplet of blood slipped over the glass, toward the ground flashing by them.
There was a strangled cry, the sound a soft mew, like that of the breathless.
He looked over. She stared at him with a wide-eyed, terrified look upon her face. Her mouth was open, the strangled sound still twisting from her lips. The steering wheel she had been holding was gone, as was everything to below her shoulder. At the center of her chest, impaled in her core, was a long, jagged piece of metal that looked like it had once belonged to the engine block.
Following his gaze, she looked down at the shrapnel in her chest and then back up at him. Her wail stopped as the last bits of breath rattled from her body.
The car slammed down, hitting the asphalt with the screech and shudder of metal meeting stone. There was a shatter of glass as it broke away and exploded through the air and hitting his face. It felt like the cold, icy graupelpple that came on a cold winter day, except each impact was followed by the hot ooze of rising blood.
Tiff’s gaze met his and she smiled through her pain. The light in her eyes, the spark that drew him like a moth, dimmed and he watched as her life slipped away.
This was it. He was in hell. Everything he had ever done had caught up to him. Here. Now.
It had to be hell… Only in hell would he be forced to watch the woman he loved die…and not be able to do a damned thing to save her.
[WT1]Spelling change per online sources, fine to stet—if stetted, the instruction pdf should be updated.