Wicked choice, p.17
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       Wicked Choice, p.17
 

         Part #4 of Wicked Horse Vegas series by Sawyer Bennett
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  "When you get back from this trip to Egypt, we'll have the ultrasound where we find out the baby's gender. I thought we could maybe decide how to decorate the nursery then. Maybe go out shopping for some things."

  I have to control myself.

  Because in this moment, I want to let out a whooping holler, pick Rachel up, and spin her around. She's grabbed onto this baby thing by the horns, and I couldn't be happier. All the things I thought I'd have to do on my own now can be done with a partner beside me.

  "Sure," I say casually. "That would be a lot of fun. And a name. We'd be able to start talking about a name."

  "I'm partial to Keegan," she says.

  "And I'm not," I say without any hesitation.

  "Asher?"

  "Nope."

  "Evan?"

  "Fuck no."

  "Logan?"

  "Just shoot me now," I groan in mock misery, and then I grin at her. "Okay, maybe Logan isn't so bad. But you know, it could be a girl."

  "It's a boy," she says, and her confidence in the prediction has not weakened in the slightest.

  "Come on." I put my arm around her and turn her toward the door. "Let's go figure out something for dinner, let me start some laundry so I can get packed, and then we can argue about it while we eat."

  "Deal," she says with a laugh. As we walk out of the doctor's office, I realize I'm not quite sure I've ever been this happy.

  Yes, a lot of it has to do with the fact I can stop worrying about Rachel and how a bad decision could have ruined her. I can also rejoice in the fact I can stay on at Jameson.

  But mostly, I'm happy that things will continue between Rachel and me. I sure as hell don't want to give her up, and I'm hopeful she's feeling the same.

  That's a discussion for another time.

  For now, I'll just be happy.

  CHAPTER 22

  Rachel

  I close the thin manila folder and slide it in my shoulder satchel. I've got the company credit card and thirty minutes to get to the airport to catch my flight.

  Kynan approached me yesterday about taking this trip on his behalf. He was slated to fly to Chicago to scope out a venue Jameson would be providing security for. It was a fundraising gala that would see Hollywood's biggest stars along with a good chunk of prominent politicians. Kynan hates shit like this, so I wasn't surprised he asked.

  Wasn't surprised I accepted, even though I hate shit like this, too.

  But Bodie's been gone for six days. He's not due back for at least another week, and I'm bored and lonely. This will keep my mind busy for a few days and help the time to pass.

  God, I can't believe how much I miss him. Never even considered I would, since we've not been apart much since I got pregnant. There's no doubt we're in a relationship now, but I'm just not sure what that means.

  If I'd been asked six days ago, I would have said it only meant that we were sort of living together, having amazing sex, and would soon be raising a kid together. Very simple.

  But Bodie left and within one day, I was battling an empty, haunted feeling inside of me. The house was too quiet. My meals were too bland. Books I read were too boring, and the orgasms I gave myself were lackluster.

  It's been incredibly frustrating, but enlightening at the same time.

  My feelings for Bodie clearly have more depth than I ever would have imagined. I even wonder if this could be the start of love for me.

  "Rachel..." Kynan's voice comes from the doorway of the spare office I'd been using today at Jameson's headquarters.

  I turn to face him. "What's up?"

  "Need you to come down to my office," he says, and my heart sinks over the tone of his voice. It's flat and bleak, causing chills of apprehension to race up my spine.

  I scramble after him, practically jogging to catch up, and follow him to his office. Jerico is sitting in one of the chairs, along with a man I don't recognize in a dark suit and tightly cropped hair.

  CIA, I'd guess.

  "What's going on?" My voice trembles with fear because I know there's only one reason they would call me into a meeting with a spook, and that's because Bodie is out on a mission right now in conjunction with them.

  "Renegade 1 came under fire night before last," Kynan says gravely. "They had to split up. Most of them made it back to the rendezvous point."

  "But not Bodie," I manage to conclude in a hoarse voice. My hand goes to my stomach, perhaps protecting Bodie's child from the worst possible news.

  "Nor Cage," Kynan adds, and my stomach flips at the thought of Bodie and his best friend being on the run from monsters in the dark.

  "The Navy has a SEAL team on the ground now searching," the CIA dude says. At least I think he's CIA, but I really don't give a fuck. Just as long as he gets Bodie and Cage out of there.

  "I'm sending Sal in your place to Chicago," Kynan says, and I can do nothing but nod my agreement. I'm not leaving Jameson's offices until Bodie's home safe and sound.

  "Rachel... they're in deep," he says, and I can tell by the hint of pessimism in his voice that he's setting me up for the possibility of failure. "In a mountainous region just north of Adana. Really deep. Their locator signals are on and transmitting, but it could be tricky getting them out."

  I knew this trip was going to be risky. Gathering intelligence on our enemies always is. More and more, the U.S. government has been contracting out its need for resources in the form of private companies like ours to provide the intelligence they need.

  "When will we know something?" I ask, refusing to even consider Kynan's implied suggestion that they may not be recoverable.

  "Hopefully soon," the spook says evasively, and I want to strangle him.

  "You should go home," Kynan suggests softly. "I'll keep you updated."

  "I'm not leaving until I know Bodie is safe," I growl, and he just inclines his head in understanding. Jerico watches me thoughtfully, but doesn't say a word.

  "She's not cleared--" the CIA douche starts to say, but Kynan glares at him.

  "She's staying. Get her clearance if you need to, but she's not going anywhere."

  The man steps out of Kynan's office, putting his phone up to his ear to make a call. Kynan walks back around his desk, and sits down with a heavy sigh. Jerico stands up from his chair and pats the back. "Come sit down, Rachel. It's going to be a long day."

  I don't think to argue with Jerico. Besides, my legs are so rubbery from fear I'm afraid I might just pitch over onto the carpet. I take the chair, and Jerico moves to the window to stare out of it.

  I'm not surprised he's here. He's got no stake in the company, but he's Kynan's best friend. I know the safety of all the people here are still of great importance to him. Of course he'd be here.

  I also suspect Jerico is here because he has important contacts in the government. If he suspects that not every available resource is being used to get our guys back, he's going to start making calls to the top brass.

  Pulling my phone out, I flip to my photos. I have pathetically few, and hardly any of people. I might take a photo of a pretty sunset or an interesting flower, but for the most part, I don't preserve memories except within my head.

  But the very last photo on my camera roll, taken the night Bodie was packing for this trip, is perhaps my favorite in the world.

  It's of Bodie and me together. We were laying naked in bed, having just had utterly amazing sex, and he started teasing me.

  "You're going to miss me when I'm gone, aren't you, Hart?" he'd asked as he rolled on his side to look at me.

  "Not in the slightest," I said airily. "I'm tired of you hogging all the covers at night anyway."

  "You're so going to miss me," he said tauntingly. "Probably will sit by the window, shedding some tears, waiting anxiously for my truck to pull back in the driveway. Fuck, you'll probably have a million yellow ribbons tied around every tree in the neighborhood."

  I'd scoffed and rolled my eyes. "Totally delusional, Wright."

  He winked and lau
ghed.

  I rolled away from him, snagged my phone off the bedside table, and turned on the camera app. Holding it up, I snapped a quick picture of his face. "There. I got your face right here so I won't be missing you at all."

  Bodie was the one who rolled his eyes. He reached a long arm out, grabbed his own phone, and proclaimed, "That's not a proper picture."

  Before I knew what he was doing, he had me dragged over onto his body, my face resting next to his. He held the camera out and said, "Smile."

  I'd had to tilt my head and crane my neck a little to look, but there we were. Bodie and me with our faces right beside each other on his camera, which was in selfie mode. He'd been grinning like a lunatic.

  I'd been mesmerized by the sight.

  Me and Bodie together.

  He looked so happy.

  I looked dazzled.

  He snapped the photo and then immediately texted it to me. I pretended it didn't mean anything, and it was soon forgotten because Bodie put his hands and mouth on me and well, who could think at that point?

  But after he left the next day... when I first realized that I did miss him, I'd pulled that photo up. Not the one of just Bodie I'd taken, but the one Bodie had texted to me.

  I'd saved it in my favorites.

  It was the only photo in my favorites.

  I become vaguely aware of Jerico, Kynan, and the CIA guy talking as they stand around Kynan's desk, looking at some maps that had been rolled out.

  I catch words like "eventuality," "extraction point," and "any force necessary".

  Kynan's voice lowers, but I can still hear them talking about the possibility of body retrieval.

  My eyes focus in on the photo of Bodie and me. I stare at it so hard my eyes burn and his face starts to blur around the edges.

  Pain pierces me right in the center of my chest, so exquisite that my breath is knocked out of me and bile rises in my throat. I lurch up from the chair, and all of their heads snap my way.

  "Rachel?" Jerico asks with concern in his voice.

  "Need to use the restroom," I rasp, it actually hurting to get the words out. I turn away from them and hurry from the room, grasping my phone so hard in my hand that my bones ache.

  I scurry into the women's restroom and press my back against the door when it closes. My breaths are coming out in sharp pants, and the pain in my chest intensifies to the point I worry I might be having a heart attack.

  But I know that's not true.

  I'm feeling the searing pain of grief, believing I've already lost Bodie before I could even tell him that I was so glad I found him. It hurts worse than anything I could have ever imagined. A million times more intense than when I miscarried all those years ago. The pain of a thousand bullets ripping through me.

  "Oh, God," I groan as I slide down the door until my ass hits the floor. I bring my knees up and press my forehead to them, acutely aware that I'm in so much pain I can't even cry.

  A racking, dry sob bursts out of me. An image of me walking our son to Bodie's grave flits through my mind. How can I tell him all about his daddy when I didn't get enough time with him myself to know all there was to know? I've only got a few months of memories to share, and now a lifetime to regret everything.

  Tears finally sting at my eyes, hot and burning. Another stab of pain in my chest... a gurgling sob. I wrap my arms around my stomach--around our baby--and I just let myself grieve.

  I open up and take the pain.

  Breathe through it the way I might when I go into labor.

  I'm startled when the bathroom door nudges at my back, but it immediately stops when it meets resistance.

  "Rachel?" It's Kynan on the other side.

  I scramble to my feet, wiping my face with my hands to dry the tears. After I open the door, I look at him expectantly.

  "Just got an update. They've been located in a small temporary camp. It's not well defended."

  "Are they okay?" I ask as I walk out of the bathroom.

  "They haven't made visual contact. It's some abandoned buildings with only four men who patrol around the area. We're guessing that's where they're holding Cage and Bodie."

  "Or where they're holding their clothing, which have the trackers sewn into the lining?" I point out fearfully.

  "Infrared confirms there are two people inside the building the signal is coming from," he returns in a low voice. "It's them."

  "Okay," I say as I breathe out, feeling the pain in my chest lessen minutely. Infrared means there's body heat, which means they're alive.

  "We'll know soon," Kynan says. He turns back toward his office. "It's only about 11:30 PM there now. The SEALs are going to hit just before dawn."

  Just a handful of hours that I have left to hope Bodie is alive and safe in that building, and this rescue goes off without any bloodshed on our part. In a handful of hours, I'll know if that torturous grief I'd been experiencing just moments ago in the bathroom was just a preview of what's to come if Bodie doesn't make it out of there.

  CHAPTER 23

  Bodie

  My eyes flutter open, and I can't help the groan of pain that slices through the center of my brain as the light filters in. I snap them shut again, the blessed dark providing some relief.

  "Bodie?" a voice calls. It sounds hollow, like it's at the end of a long tunnel. For a moment, I think maybe it's God calling me to join him in the light or something, but fuck that... I'm not ready.

  Plus, that light hurts like hell.

  "I think he's waking up," the voice says.

  Another one says, "I'll get Kynan."

  Kynan?

  Kynan's here?

  I struggle out of the black, open my eyes to barely slits so it turns gray. Two figures are hovering over me.

  Pain throbs in my head, causing me to groan. It feels heavy, and I can't lift it. I try to lift my hand to rub against the ache, but it won't move.

  "Don't move that arm, buddy," the first voice says, and I recognize it now.

  Jerico Jameson.

  I push against the pain and open my eyes. The two figures go from blurry to just fuzzy. Jerico is to my left and Kynan is to my right.

  "About time you fucking woke up, slacker," Kynan says with a grin. I have no clue what's going on, but I can hear the relief in his voice. I try to smile, but fuck... even that hurts, so I don't make it past a grimace.

  "What happened to me?" I say, but my words are slurred as they try to make their way past a thick tongue that feels like it's glued to the top of my mouth.

  "Get him some of that water," Jerico says. The next thing I know, there's a straw pushing in my mouth. "Just a few sips."

  I try to pull hard because I'm so damn thirsty, but I get no more than a few drops down my throat before the straw is pulled away.

  "Where am I?" I ask as my eyes sluggishly move around what is clearly a hospital room.

  "You're at University Medical Center," Kynan says. "They had to put some pins in your elbow. You smashed it good on a rock or something."

  I lift my head to look at my arm, but the resulting pain makes me squeeze my eyes shut for the sweet dark again.

  "Yeah, don't try to do that either. You had a pretty bad head wound. I'm guessing another rock--"

  "Rifle butt," I mutter when it starts to come back to me. I let my eyes open again. "Cage and I slid down a really long rocky embankment trying to take cover. I took a bad tumble; hit my elbow on a rock. Later... when they found us, I took a hit to the back of the head when I tried resist. Cage was--"

  I stop a moment, horror filling me. My entire body lurches upward despite the pain and immobility. "Cage... what happened to him?"

  "Easy," Jerico says with a hand to my shoulder to ease me back down. "Cage is fine."

  "He was shot--"

  "And he was rescued right along with you. He's recovering on the next floor up. He got out of surgery about the same time you did. He's going to be completely fine."

  I sag in relief. He'd taken a bullet to his calf.
While I'd managed to dress it sufficiently to stop the bleeding, I knew that every hour that went by without some real medical help might mean he could lose it.

  "And everyone else?" I ask. All I remember is being ambushed in the middle of the night while we were set up on a short perimeter to gather photos and take notes of our observations to report back. It was on a small town at the base of the Tahtali mountains where a small suspected ISIS cell was developing. We were getting details on the number of people in general broken down by men, women, and children, as well as an estimate on the weaponry.

  "Everyone is fine. The rest of the team made it out, and we sent in a SEAL team to get you and Cage."

  I give a slight nod and learn very quickly it's better to keep still. "How long do I have to stay in here?"

  "I'm not sure," Jerico answers. "Your head is apparently hard as hell; that's all checked out. Your elbow was pretty bad, so they had to put some hardware in to piece it back together."

  I glance down. My arm is bent at the elbow in a natural forty-five-degree angle, and splinted and wrapped from wrist to shoulder. It's absolutely immobile.

  That's going to make it a little difficult to fuck Rachel properly, but I'm sure--

  I lurch off the bed again. "Where's Rachel?"

  "Jesus, you're a mess," Jerico mutters as he gently pushes me back down. When my head settles onto the pillow, which feels about as hard as the rifle butt, Jerico steps to the side. Rachel is sitting across the room in a chair.

  She sits straight, her hands held together in her lap, legs pressed together. She just stares at me, and I can't read a thing on her face.

  She finally stands from the chair, wiping her hands on the denim covering her thighs, and it seems her movements are hesitant. Her face is impassively blank.

  "Let's go get some coffee," Jerico suggests to Kynan, but I don't bother looking at either of them.

  I only have eyes for Rachel. I'd imagined her face... her body... our baby... practically every minute of every hour we were held prisoner. I'd like to be the hero and have some glamorous story about how Cage and I were tortured for information, but they actually dumped us in an abandoned house and left us there. I was confident we were being held for some higher-ups within ISIS to question us, but thankfully we were rescued before then.

  So, I thought of her incessantly. Sadly, I had no chance to dream about her because sleep was impossible with a crushed elbow and what felt like my brains leaking out of the back of my head.

 
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