Authors: Dyanne Davis
Copyright © 201
by Frances Dyanne Davis
All rights reserved. This book is protected under the copyright laws of the
United States of America
. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of the publisher.
This book is a work of fiction. Characters, names, locations, events and incidents (in either a contemporary and/or historical setting) are products of the author’s imagination and are being used in an imaginative manner as a part of this work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, settings, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Manufactured in the
United States of America
Cover Design by
Another Man’s Baby
Many Shades of Gray
Two Sides to Every Story
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The Color of Trouble
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Lest Ye Be Judged
Blood covered her as screams filled the air and explosions reverberated around her. Gabrielle Jackson was trembling, drenched in sweat. She shrieked and tears poured from her eyes. “No, no, no,” she shouted, “please, God, no. Eric, watch out!”
She woke but the dream didn’t stop. The pictures sped by in her mind’s eye as though she were watching a movie.
Eric was going to die. Gabi saw the truck loaded with explosives barreling toward the soldiers and screamed out to God to send an angel to protect her husband. “Please, God,” she prayed, “don’t let him die, I’ll do anything, just ask. Please, Father, put out Your hand, touch Eric, save him.” Then she saw the truck hit the barricade, heard the explosion and she fell back on her bed.
Trembling fear claimed her. “Eric,” she called, “it’s okay, baby.” She visualized him there with her, in her arms, and wrapped her arms around her own body, imagining the feel of him. She drew in a breath and felt the quake down to her soul. She wouldn’t allow him to die, not without knowing how very much she loved him. She pressed her lips to the nothingness and could swear she felt Eric’s lips against her own.
Startled, Gabi turned. She looked around but no one was there. She wasn’t going crazy, that much she knew. She’d heard a voice. Have faith in what? she thought. It wasn’t like she’d ever had much. She’d never had a reason to have faith. Life had dealt her a bad hand. Orphaned at three, raised in several foster homes, why would there be miracles waiting for her?
“Why wouldn’t there be?” the voice asked loud and clear, making her remember. This wasn’t the first time Gabi had heard the voice in her mind. It had just been so many years since she’d last heard it that it’d taken her by surprise.
She had to admit there was a time when, despite her circumstances, she’d had faith. One of her foster mothers had taken her to church, had convinced Gabi that she had a guardian angel, that she would never be alone no matter what the situation. For years Gabi had believed that. When she married Eric she’d sort of let the belief in her guardian angel fall by the wayside.
Now once again she found herself in need of an angel, an angel that she desperately wanted to watch over her husband.
A feeling of calm settled around her. “Eric.” She said his name aloud. “Have faith, my guardian angel will protect you.” She looked across the room at the framed wedding picture and went for it. “Have faith, baby,” she said to Eric’s image. “You’re coming home to me, we’re going to have everything we’ve always wanted, our family. Baby, we’re going to have our family, just hold on. Be careful, Eric, be careful.”
He was buried to the hilt inside Gabi’s wet warmth. As she moaned her pleasure Eric allowed his hands to slowly trail over his wife’s body. “Gabi, I love you,” he whispered into her ear.
Blinking, Eric shook away the image of his wife. Their lovemaking had been yet another daydream. He wasn’t home, he was in
fighting a war. His gun raised, Eric hesitated for a tenth of a second. He looked to his left, then his right, and saw his men waiting for his orders. The truck was barreling toward them, loaded with explosives. Eric’s skin crawled with the knowing. And just like that the world slowed down and everything happened in slow motion. “Eric, baby, be careful, look out.” He thought for a moment he was dreaming. It was Gabi’s voice in his head. Then he heard another voice. “Have faith.”
“Gabi,” he whispered, hesitating again, “Gabi, baby, I love you.” Then he fired his rifle and kept firing, ordering his men to move, take cover.
“There are explosives in that truck,” Eric yelled. “We’ve got to stop it, but be careful.”
His weapon was still firing when he felt a hand on the base of his spine. He didn’t have time to look behind him, he had to stop the truck. The hand on the base of his spine shoved him with what seemed to Eric to be superhuman strength and his last shot went wild. It was as though he’d been propelled by the explosives.
Eric could see the truck still coming. Then there was the flash of an explosion and he heard the screams. He tried to move under the sudden weight on top of him. He dared a quick glance and was repulsed by the blood and mangled bodies.
Panic welling in him, he pushed the bodies off him. Then he realized he felt a comforting touch. He felt Gabi’s hand wrap around him, heard her whisper again in his ear to be careful, that she loved him. He shivered. He must be dying. He couldn’t die, not now. What would happen to his wife, to the babies he’d promised to give her?
“Have faith,” he heard the other voice whisper to him for the second time. Then the scent of sugar cookies filled his nostrils, Gabi’s scent. That was impossible. He was dying, he thought, he had to be, and Gabrielle was the last thought on his mind.
It was okay, he could die with that. “I love you, Gabi,” he kept repeating. Then it occurred to him that he felt no pain. He’d never known how death would feel, but this wasn’t so bad, nothing hurt. That surprised him, especially that with so much blood that there was no pain.
All at once he was aware of the pandemonium around him. Screams, soldiers running, shots.
“Lieutenant, Lieutenant Jackson, you okay?”
Eric blinked. “I don’t know,” he answered. He glanced at his blood-soaked uniform as two soldiers pulled him away from the debris. They began ripping at his clothes.
“I think you’re okay, sir. The blast must have thrown you clear.”
“But the blood…” Suddenly Eric knew. It was the blood of his men, his friends, saturating him. He could even taste the blood in the back of his throat. Whose hand had pushed him away?
For a second Eric stared at the soldier. “It wasn’t the blast. I felt someone’s hand. A soldier must have shoved me from behind.”
“Sir, I was behind you, no one was there. You were firing at the truck. You got the driver but his foot had been tied to the gas pedal to make sure he couldn’t stop, even if dead, but you got him, sir.”
“How many of our men?”
“I’m not sure right now. Several men were injured. I think three or four died but you stopped it from being more.”
Eric looked up into the face of the soldier talking to him, knowing he had to get himself together. He was a marine; he had to behave like an officer. “Thanks,” he said, accepting the hand offered and standing. He glanced at his bloodied shirt lying on the ground, bent and picked it up and balled it in his hand.
Even now he could feel Gabrielle’s arms around him. He could smell her. The touch of her lips pressed against him so strongly that he couldn’t stop the shudder that claimed his body. Gabi, you’re going to get me and my men killed, he thought. Stop it.
He took in a couple of deep breaths, his head bent over, his hands on his knees. When he could no longer feel his wife’s arms around him, he moved. But the hand on the base of his spine remained where it was, only now the pressure was gentle, as though guiding him.
“Have faith,” the voice whispered again as Eric went to survey the damage. Order existed amidst the chaos. They were marines and had been trained to take care of things like this.
He looked at each body laid out and dropped down beside his friend Bo. Eric angrily wiped the tears that filled his eyes. Damn it, he was a marine, he wouldn’t cry. But more tears fell.
It was then that he wondered if any of them would make it home alive. What the hell were they doing so far away from home, dying. Were they doing any good? he wondered. Then he took a deep breath and barked orders. That was his job. Lieutenant Eric Jackson was a marine, an officer. Eric would not break down; that wasn’t what his men needed. In order to keep them alive he had to do his job.
Someone handed him a clean shirt and he put it on, wondering if his moment’s hesitation had caused this. He shuddered hard. His mind had been on his wife, on his making love to her. The world had slowed down as it always did when he thought of her. Thoughts of Gabi never failed to take him from the harsh reality of the war they were fighting. He only permitted himself that luxury when things were quiet, when it was safe to do so. Things had been quiet when he’d allowed his mind free rein to think of his wife. A couple of minutes were all he’d intended to take. He’d thought it safe to do so.
Another hard shudder ripped through him. Was he responsible for all of this? He looked down at his bloodied shirt on the ground, blinking. The blood of his men saturated that shirt. He wouldn’t dishonor them by tossing the shirt aside. He picked the shirt up. “Take this to my quarters.” He handed the shirt over to the private, still wondering if his thinking of Gabrielle had caused this. If his mind hadn’t been on his wife, would things have been different?
Eric loaded his gear into the truck for the ride to the airstrip. He could hardly believe he was leaving, finally. He took a final look around the American base in the green zone. He’d never forget this place or this time in his life.
A little ways off he saw one of Saddam’s palaces. There were more than enough riches in
to share, but only the leaders lived in luxury. Most existed in abject poverty. Eric saw no need for such a division. But that was the way it was, even in
. The rich got richer and the poor, poorer.
He took another look around, his gaze staying for a moment on the soldiers dressed in PT gear instead of body armor. They were still heavily strapped, each man loaded to the nines, but this base was thought to be relatively secure. The green zone was one of the few places the men got to shed some of the gear. Between the arid heat and the heavy gear it was a wonder more men weren’t falling from dehydration.
He sighed and pulled his gaze away. The soldiers manner of dress didn’t matter. They were still in a war. Their weapons gave testimony to that. Sliding his hand upward Eric ran his hand over his own gear. In a war zone a soldier was never without his weapons. It could mean the difference between life and death. In a war zone a soldier always remained alert. A wave of guilt washed over him and settled heavily on his shoulders.
Eric glanced at the huge pool that had been built in front of the palace and almost wished he had time to take a swim. The oppressive heat made his clothes stick to him, and a fine sheen of dust coated his skin, never seeming to go away, no matter what. When he got home he would kiss his wife a thousand times for her never ending supply of wet wipes.
Home, he thought, Gabi. He’d missed her so much this past year, had yearned for her touch. Her voice was always bittersweet when he managed a call to her. Her emails were filled with news, things that didn’t matter, that were passed on in order for him not to feel removed from her life. She’d done a good job with that. If only she’d found a way to package her scent, her touch. Eric smiled. He was going home.
Without warning another pang of guilt hit him. Eric did his best to push it away. He’d done the job he’d been ordered to do. He’d done his best. In the four months since the truck had crashed through their defenses, Eric had replayed and replayed the scene in his mind, second-guessing his actions. But no matter how much he replayed it, he couldn’t change the outcome. The higher-ups had praised him for his quick thinking, and pinned another medal on him. Yet Eric wondered. There were times he could still feel the hand on his back which had propelled him away from the danger.
A tremor began and Eric shook his head, ordering it to go away. As much as he’d dreamed of this moment, he didn’t want to leave any of his men behind. He hated looking into the eyes of those left behind. There was always a look of longing, of regret, of fear. He was sure he’d had that same look many times when others said goodbye to him and left for the safety of home, but now on this end of it, it was hard.
This was Eric’s third tour of duty, the longest yet, an entire year. Now he would be stateside. Some of his men had been in
for weeks, some for months. Still others were on their second tour. The duration of their time there hadn’t mattered. The moment they landed on Iraqi soil an instant bonding took place, friendships that would last a lifetime, if the soldiers survived the war.
With a sigh Eric pasted a smile on his face. It was time to leave. He shook hands, joked, said the usual things and inside he thought, ‘Take care of yourself, be safe, come home.’