Kate hesitated in the doorway when she saw Kyle leaning on the island counter gnawing on his nail. There was a full cup of tea cooling off right in front of him, and he didn’t seem to notice it at all.

Kate cleared her throat, turned and closed the door, then hung her coat and firearm holster near the door. “The perimeter is secured. There are motion detectors all around the property. If anyone comes here, I’ll know.”

His exhausted eyes met hers.

She exhaled and made her way over to his side of the counter. She leaned on the counter and crossed her arms. Her attention was on the plaid shirt he was wearing from her brother’s stash. 

Damn it looked good on him. He was slimmer than she remembered from high school. Kyle was a football player, running back and had the body to prove it. Time and his circumstances took away some of the bulk, but not the shape of his broad shoulders, tapered waste, and sturdy legs.

“I know you’re worried about the kids.”

He exhaled and rubbed his hand down his face. “I-I don’t know how to be without them. I’m constantly running everything through my head as if I could do it different.”

“Hey,” Her voice was softer than she’d ever heard it, not in a while anyway. “I know it won’t be easy, but worrying will do them no good. Will do you no good either. In less than two weeks, you will have your family back, and you will truly be free.”

“How are you so sure? How can you be?”

The corner of her mouth pulled up. “Because I will see to it.” They held each other’s eyes for a moment while the concern melted off his face. “Any hot water left?” She wanted to know.

“Yeah, I made a whole pot.”

She wandered to the stove and poured herself a mug of hot water then added a tea bag. “I hope that’s herbal tea you’re drinking.”

His light laughter made her smile.

“Lavender and chamomile.”

She turned toward him. “Good. That should help to ease your duress. Let’s sit by the fire. It’s a little cold in here.”

He nodded and followed her. “I don’t know how you enjoy living out here.”

It was her turn to laugh. “Well, after six years in the dessert, beating sun, thin mountainous air and people shooting at me, I find this a nice change. It’s peaceful.”

He nodded. “I guess I could see that. I suppose I just always thought of you as a hell fire. Like a lawyer or something, not a recluse.”

She set on the couch angling to get a better look at him. “A lawyer? I was terrible at social studies.”

“I doubt that. You were never terrible at anything you put your mind to. Especially not school stuff. Remember, you tutored me in math and chemistry?”

She smiled to the side, thankful for the dim lighting to hide her warm face. 

“Yes, I remember.” The question was, did he remember that he kissed her during one of such tutoring sessions?”

He leaned back into the couch and rested the bottom of the mug in the palm of the opposite hand. He took a sip and looked at her over the edge of the mug.

“Jade,” Their eyes met across the artificially long expanse of space. They were both leaning on either arm rest, but angled almost facing each other. Their legs, and feet were so close.

“Yes?” She responded, grateful for the break from her thoughts about his scruffy face, handsome eyes, and tempting lips.

“You two close?”

Kate snickered before sipping her tea. “Nobody gets close to Jade, and that’s a good thing for your children.”

“Well, something had to make you trust her.”

Kate took a deep breath. “Yeah,”

“You said she saved your life. What happened?”

“Suppose it makes sense to start from the beginning.” She sipped the tea. “We hated each other when we first met. I was an arrogant newbie that didn’t much like authority, and she’d been there for a few years. Competent, strong, natural born leader. We were under the same captain who took a shine to me.” She cleared her throat. “In an inappropriate manner. I was too stupid to see that, but she did. We got into a huge fight. As punishment, we were buried in sand together overnight.”

“What!? They could actually do that?”

“Rather them than the enemy. It was a lesson that we didn’t have to like each other to work together.”

He tucked a pillow behind his head and tossed his legs up on the couch. She looked down at his toes. “Does that bother you?”

She shook her head. He was so close. “Uh, we went on after that with a chilly indifference but still did what we had to do if we had to do it together. When the shit really hit the fan, was when I was promoted over her.” She took it in her silent, angry, strong way. I enjoyed ordering her around.” Kate paused and took a sip of her tea. Her thoughts running deep. Running quickly and easily back to the turning point.

“So, you were a bully?”

She shrugged. “I didn’t think of it like that at the time. It was putting Jade in her place.”

“Hmm,” He said, a smirk marring his handsome face.

“What was that ‘hmm’ about?”

He shook his head. “Just a ‘hmmm’ is all. Continue your story.”

“We went out on a mission. My first mission that I was in command. Our tank got attacked. There was an explosion. I can still remember the whistling sound in my ear, the muffled noises, the sound of bullets. I was crawling around trying to gain my mind, trying to figure out what was going on. I hadn’t read about this in the handbook. Scoring top of the class put me in a position of leadership, but I didn’t really know what I was doing.” She paused and her eyes widened as memory took her back. “Jade grabbed me and dragged me behind what was left of our tank. I saw her mouth moving, but I couldn’t make out any words beyond the muffled shouts. Her thick dark eyebrows were pulled together. She had me by my collar and was shaking me and shouting. I reached out and touched her bleeding ear then met her serious dark eyes. Her voice somehow waded through the chaos. ‘Stay here.’ she ordered. I didn’t want her to go, but I lost speech I didn’t know how to tell her that. I knew I should have been assessing the situation and checking on my team members, but I was lost in that limbo.” Kate swallowed and took a cleansing breath. “It was Jade who got the remaining team members out of there. She called in the air assault and a ground team was sent in after us. The three that died were killed during the initial explosion.”

“What happened--”

The alarm beeped signaling movement somewhere outside. Without thought Kate put her mug on the coffee bar and retrieved a gun holstered under the table. 

She signaled for a wide-eyed Kyle to get down. He slipped off the couch and onto the wooden floor terror in his eyes. She made her way to her surveillance cameras. There was something in the brush just inside the forest a few feet from her backyard.



 Click To Read Part 4



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****This is an unedited draft which means there will be mistakes in grammar, punctuation, spelling, word usage ETC. I post these drafts for feed back and to gauge interest in the story line and characters. ****Ye've been warned!****


Copyright © 2020 by Alexandria Ashcroft

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the email below.


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