Authors: Bella Juarez
“He still shouldn’t talk to me that way,” Anna said as she switched on the TV.
The Rock has a fighter on his hands. This would be interesting to watch, Alex considered with some amusement.
Brooke Army Medical Center, Texas
Trauma Intensive Care Unit
August 24, 2008/0045 Zulu
Jack took tentative steps as he walked toward Anna’s room. He could see she was sitting in bed, dozing. He’d been away for a few hours and needed the break. He’d treated himself to a really good dinner, a hot shower, and a short nap. He watched her for a moment from the doorway and walked into the room when she opened her.
“Hello, Dragon Lady. It’s obvious you’re feeling better,” Jack said as he pulled a portable tray next to her bed.
Anna smiled despite herself. Jack stood watching her, waiting.
“Jack…What would you have done? People right outside your door, discussing your situation. I wanted to know what was happening,” Anna said.
“Did you honestly think that we wouldn’t tell you?” Jack countered.
“You shouldn’t have yelled at me like that,” Anna said. As Jack placed the white bag on the tray and sat down, he tried to glare at her but knew there was no way he could stay angry so he waited her out. “What’s this? A makeup gift?” she asked with a smile.
“Anna, I’m not apologizing for what I did. You scared the hell out of the whole staff with that little stunt. People that are helping you. I think that was pretty inconsiderate.”
“You still shouldn’t have yelled at me that way,” Anna said stubbornly.
“You’re lucky I didn’t ring your neck.”
“Well that would certainly defeat your purpose in saving me. Huh,
?” Anna retorted.
“At the time, it would have made me feel better. The rest of us are just as stressed out as you are,” Jack shot back.
Anna looked up at the TV, clearly annoyed with him as she channel surfed. Jack watched her for a moment, amused at her little angry display. She was cute when she was angry. He couldn’t help thinking about other times when he’d raised the little monster in her. Hell, she wasn’t cute. Anna was downright sexy when she was angry. Despite her circumstances, it was turning him on watching her pout. After a moment she settled on a channel and turned to him.
“Why did you come back?” Anna demanded.
“Because Alex told me you could eat and drink a little something.”
Anna looked at him in relief. Jack knew exactly how she felt because he’d been in his share of sickbeds and sick bays.
“But if you’re still pissed at me, I’ll take this back,” Jack said as he stood, reaching for the white bag on the tray.
Jack could tell Anna was struggling with her pride. He was thoroughly enjoying this little
of his. He lifted the bag and held it over the trash can and started to drop it.
“Wait!” Anna called.
“Are you pulling another stunt like that again?”
“Go to hell!” Anna snapped.
Jack put the bag on the tray and opened it. He took out the fruit tray and some juice. He wanted to smile as he watched Anna turn away. He took the plastic wrap off the fork and knife and laid it neatly on the napkin, opened the bottle of juice, and poured some of it in the cup of ice that was sitting on the tray. He took the fork and stabbed a small piece of watermelon and offered it to her.
“Come on, Anna, I know you’re hungry. I’ve been where you are. Quit being so stubborn and eat something,” Jack said, coaxing her around.
“Why did you come back? To make my life miserable?”
“No. I don’t make promises I can’t keep. I told you last night I wouldn’t leave you. I meant it.”
Jack saw the flicker of recognition in her eyes because it had been a horrible night.
“Come on, baby, take a bite,” Jack said as he offered her the watermelon again.
“I can do it.”
One of Anna’s arms was tied to her and her free hand was taped to tubes.
Jack shook his head at her stubbornness. “No, you can’t. Now sit back and relax. Let me help you. Trust me.” He held the fruit to her lips.
Jack watched as she wrapped her lips around the fruit and closed her eyes in ecstasy. He offered her a drink and went slow with the food. Watching Anna eat, Jack had to push away the thought of those lips wrapping around something else he had for her. Finally, about halfway through, he stopped her.
“Anna, baby, you need to stop. Alex told me just to give you a little and then wait for a couple of hours to see how you tolerate it,” Jack said gently.
“I know. I’m getting full. Stop,” Anna said.
“Rest,” Jack said.
“Why are you always trying to tell me what to do?”
“Anna, please, I don’t want to fight with you, baby. Relax. Rest. What else do you need to do? A triathlon?”
Anna giggled as she relaxed against the pillows and handed Jack the remote and fell back asleep.
* * * *
The nurse sitting at the desk watched the monitors at the different beds. She smiled as she recalled the action in room four this afternoon. Mrs. O’Malley had been in intensive care for two days and already the whole floor was talking about her and her husband. At first it seemed like a dubious marriage, but what she’d witnessed over the last twenty-four hours left no doubt. They were married, all right, and it was Mrs. O’Malley, not the captain, who ran that house.
Randolph Air Force Base, Texas
US Naval Special Warfare Group Five
Office of the Commander
August 28, 2008/1417 Zulu
Steve printed the message and shook his head. Sometimes the Navy could really suck ass. The captain was in his office catching up on correspondence and paperwork. Even though he was gone a lot he still managed to keep up with the work. But that was the skipper. Captain O’Malley was a legend in the SEAL world. Steve loved working for this outfit, and he was fiercely loyal to his bosses, especially Captain O’Malley.
When he was shot up in Afghanistan, the Navy had wanted to put him out on medical or disability retirement. Steve fought it every step of the way. When he returned state side, he’d called a buddy of his who in turn had called Mac. But it was the captain who had Steve reassigned. It was the captain who put a hold on all the medical boards and bullshit. It was the captain who created the position he was now sitting in as a yeoman.
The slot Steve was holding had originally been designated as a civilian position. Captain O’Malley had it changed to a military slot and caught serious hell from personnel and the admiral for doing so. The captain had stuck his neck out, even when he didn’t have to. That was his captain’s reputation. Captain O’Malley had no problem making serious waves when he saw something wrong.
Now the same suck-ass Navy was putting his captain in an impossible situation. Steve shook his head and got up. He limped to Captain O’Malley’s office and saw the skipper sitting at his desk. He recalled his major fuckup a couple of days ago. He still hadn’t been able to recover that message and was stressing over how in the hell it had gone missing. The ring-knocker academy-grad son of a bitch XO would’ve court-marshaled Steve for that kind of a mistake. Captain O’Malley used it as a teaching moment. Steve smiled inwardly with pride because his captain was a rarity in the military. The mountain of correspondence and reading he’d left for Captain O’Malley was already whittled down to less than half. The captain must’ve come in after Steve had left for the night and taken some of it with him.
“What is it, Friday?” Captain O’Malley asked without looking up.
“Sir, a message from the admiral arrived just now. It’s urgent and classified, sir,” Steve said, handing him the message.
Captain O’Malley took the message and as he read shook his head slightly. When he finished he threw the paper on his desk in disgust.
“Fuck!” Captain O’Malley whispered.
Captain O’Malley sat back in his chair and looked away. Steve knew his boss. The captain was thinking and that was dangerous because he was a master tactician. That was the captain’s legend. He could get out of more scrapes and figure more ways in and out of impossible places than anyone else. This time the Navy may have found a situation in which there was no loophole. To do anything other than what the message had instructed would be the kiss of death because it would defy a direct order and betray the admiral’s trust.
“Sometimes the Navy really sucks ass, sir,” Steve said quietly.
Captain O’Malley looked at the young petty officer. The message the captain was holding in his hands was a direct order to cut Anna Santiago lose and terminate all contact with her as soon as she returned to work.
“Yes, it does, Friday,” Captain O’Malley confirmed.
“I can’t believe they’re asking you to do that, sir.”
“It’s not the first time they’ve told me to do something like this.”
The young man was taken by surprise. “What did you do, sir? If I may?” Friday asked.
“I was a lieutenant at the time, and I did what they told me. I lost three good men and I’ve had nightmares about that ever since. I almost left the Navy after that little trick,” Captain O’Malley said.
“What will you do, sir? About this, I mean.”
“I don’t know yet. But when I figure it out, it’s best
probably don’t know. That way you can’t testify to anything at a possible court-marshal,” he said with a smile.
Understanding his meaning, Steve nodded his head.
“If anybody can figure a way around this, it’s you, sir,” Steve said confidently.
“This one might be a little tricky. The man who sent that message knows me pretty damn good.”
Brooke Army Medical Center, Texas
Trauma Recovery Unit
September 2, 2008/1643 Zulu
Anna sat at the edge of the bed as Dr. Walker looked at her shoulder and lifted her arm. The wound was healing remarkably well, especially after such a nasty infection. A final surgery wouldn’t be necessary. Dr. Walker finished his charting and left her to her book. As he walked to the elevators, he met Captain O’Malley.
“Captain, sir. I’ve just come from visiting your wife,” Dr. Walker said.
“Oh? How’s she doing?” Jack asked.
“Great! She’s doing surprisingly well even in spite of all the complications. She can go home tomorrow,” Dr. Walker said as he heard his name being paged.
“Really? Does she know?”
“Yes, sir. I told her. Excuse me, Captain,” Dr. Walker said as he heard his name being paged again.
* * * *
Jack briefly watched as Dr. Walker departed. This was something he wasn’t expecting. Alex had estimated Anna would be in the hospital another week due to all her complications. He hesitated before walking to Anna’s room. There was no way he would let her go back to her house because she was still in danger. When he walked into the room she was sitting in a chair, reading a book. He smiled slightly at her when she looked up. She returned the smile.
“You just missed, Dr. Walker,” Anna said.
“I saw him in the hallway. Where’d you get the book?” Jack sat down on the edge of the bed.
“The library. It’s down the hall from PT. Look what I can do.” Anna laid her book aside. She lifted her hand slightly above her shoulder and inched it above her head.
“Good job,” Jack said.
“Dr. Walker said I could go home tomorrow.” Anna picked her book up.
“He told me. Anna, what are you doing roaming the halls alone? We talked about this.”
“I wasn’t alone. I was with my PT nurse. They make me ride that stupid wheelchair to and from PT. The nurse was with me and she perused the shelves with me for a while.”
“Anna, about going home…” Jack started.
“Oh no, Jack. Please don’t tell me I can’t go home. This place is driving me nuts!”
“No, no. You’ll go home. You can’t be alone.”
“Why?” Anna asked flatly.
“It’s not safe for you to go back to your house alone.”
“What exactly does that mean?” Anna demanded.
Jack sighed. He fully expected Anna to be irritated with this news. He looked at her, trying to think of what to say because he didn’t want to tell her the truth. The truth was hurting him more than it would hurt her. He chose his words carefully but truthfully.
“Anna, once you leave the base, any base, BAMC or Randolph, there’s nothing I can do to protect you. If anything happens to you off base, it becomes a matter for the civilian authorities and there’s
I can do for you,” Jack said.
Anna looked away and rolled her eyes in disgust. Jack could tell as her condition improved she was getting stir crazy and moody. He was staying away a little because he wanted to give her some much-needed privacy. He remembered the contents of the message that he’d received from Dixie. The message had informed him that Anna had become a liability and SOCOM had directed Dixie to cut her loose. Jack’s orders had been clear. Dump Anna Santiago and return her back to her duty station with the 1427
Communications Squadron the minute she reported for duty.