Authors: Bella Juarez
“Then why do you do this job?” Jack countered softly.
“Because it’s important and it keeps my family safe in ways they will never know.”
“And Liz understands?”
“There are times when she doesn’t. But like I said, she loves me and I love her. She knows this is important to me, and you learn how to compromise when someone is that important to you.”
Mac’s blue eyes twinkled for a moment. Jack knew the mischievous look. “And she also knows if she ever does try to find someone else, I’ll kill the bastard. In front of her,” Mac added.
Jack chuckled because the last statement from Mac spoke volumes.
“I’ll bet you would,” Jack said.
Despite Mac’s playful nature, he was deadly. Mac could be ruthless and cold. His mirth and merriment could be turned off in an instant and a cold-blooded killing machine could take its place. He was a sniper, making him patient and calculating. Mac and his spotter had often been the first SEALs deployed on a mission. He could take days to reach his target, all the while gathering intelligence for the rest of the team. Most of Mac’s victims never knew what hit them. In all the years that Jack had known him, Mac had only lost his temper once. No one who really knew Mac dared to raise his ire.
“Hell, let’s not drink here! Let’s adjourn this meeting to the O Club bar,” Rafe said from the doorway.
“Whiskey, it ain’t even noon yet. Don’t you have any manners?” Mac asked.
“Bullshit! It’s noon somewhere!” Rafe countered. Jack laughed at the familiar comment. “Laptop’s in your chair, boss.”
The trio made their way back to Jack’s office where they finished up for the rest of the day. Mac went back to his office, and Rafe decided he would take the afternoon off and see about this River Walk that meandered through downtown San Antonio. Jack finished up some messages for his yeoman to get out on Monday. He set the laptop on his desk and powered it up because there were files he wanted to transfer for his trip to Coronado.
Jack turned to his desktop computer and started to work as his laptop was booting. He connected a jump drive to his desktop and started copying files. While that was going on he returned to his laptop and launched the e-mail application on his laptop to synchronize his e-mail. He sat reading the subjects of each of the e-mails being downloaded to his inbox. One caught his attention.
“What…Meeting? Base commander’s conference room? Going Green? What kind of crap is this?”
What the hell?
Jack was getting more annoyed by the minute. He’d nothing to do with this base. This must’ve come from the new base e-mail they had just put on the laptop. His mission was clearly defined, and it had nothing to do with the day-to-day operations of
. Jack’s world was pretty self-contained.
“Delete.” Jack clicked the delete button. As he started to delete the message, a window popped up on the screen.
The base commander has asked for an acknowledgment of this message. Please open the message and respond
. Will you be attending this meeting?
Jack rolled his eyes. He got enough e-mail in a day and didn’t need to waste his time with this local base crap. He would have his comm guys get this damn base e-mail off this computer. He closed the pop-up window and opened the e-mail.
Son of a bitch
!” Jack roared.
It seemed as if his computer had gone crazy. Jack tried everything he knew to do to shut down his laptop and was getting angrier by the minute. He pressed the power button on the computer and tried to reboot it. He tried to open his e-mail application to delete that damn e-mail that had started this mess but the e-mail application kept closing down. He shoved his chair away from his desk and stalked over to Mac’s office. Mac was busy with reviews for the enlisted personnel when Jack stomped in and paced back and forth like a caged animal.
“What’s wrong?” Mac asked, looking up from his work.
Jack couldn’t speak for a moment because he was so angry.
“I’ll kill that bastard!” Jack snarled.
“Who?” Mac asked, returning to his papers.
This wasn’t the first time he’d seen Jack like this. Mac knew better than to react.
“Spivey!” Jack said.
“Oh? What did he do now?” Mac asked in a conversational tone.
“Son of a bitch sent me a computer virus!”
Mac burst out laughing. Jack turned in disbelief. He wanted to reach out and ring Mac’s neck.
“What the hell is so funny, Master Chief?” Jack screamed at Mac, attempting to pull rank unsuccessfully.
Mac was enjoying himself way too much at Jack’s expense.
“Now why would he do that to you?” Mac asked.
Jack was about to completely lose control when Mac held up his hands.
“Why would he sign his name to an e-mail, that was a virus no less, and send it to you? I don’t think he’s
stupid,” Mac said.
Clearly agitated, Jack started to pace again. He was so frustrated he wanted to punch something.
“I don’t have time for this, Mac. I need my laptop and I’m leaving Monday night to be in Coronado on Tuesday morning.”
“A while ago it was no big deal. Now you need it?” Mac teased.
“Okay, I’ll get one of the guys to clean it up and get you ready to go on Monday.”
“Mac, I want it now. I need to put files on there for my TAD to Coronado. I don’t want to be doing this at the last minute.”
“All right, Rock, I’ll get the on-call IT people. We can use the base’s support staff,” Mac said, reaching for the phone.
“We can’t call one of our comm guys?”
“They’re all on liberty, Captain. They’ve been working like slaves since we got here. Leave me the laptop and I’ll call base IT.”
“Okay, Mac,” Jack said with a frustrated sigh.
“Maybe we can get that cute computer lady to fix you right up. What was her name again? Oh yeah, Anna,” Mac said mischievously.
Jack turned stunned and started to protest.
“Don’t think I haven’t seen that. You’ve been watching her since we got here. I’m glad you finally know her name.”
“She’s not my type, Mac,” Jack said dismissively as he left.
“Yeah, keep telling yourself that.”
1498 Arnold Palmer Drive
Golf Villa Town Homes
San Antonio, Texas
July 26, 2008/1316 Zulu
Anna reclined on her couch reading one of the many books she’d stacked up beside her. She’d decided today was definitely a lazy day. Normally on Saturdays, she was out the door by 8:00 a.m. After yesterday, she decided she needed a day off. She hadn’t slept much last night.
Today was the fifth anniversary of her descent into a nightmare. It was the day her daughter Alyssa and husband Marc had been killed in a head-on collision. She would never forget that night in the hospital when they had informed her that Marc was dead. That had been awful enough. Three hours later when the surgeon came out and informed her Alyssa had died in surgery, Anna knew hell really existed. She could still recall falling to her knees and screaming. She recalled the paramedics picking her up and taking her to another room where a dead calm came over her and lasted for almost a year afterward.
The depression that hit her a year later had been crippling. She honestly couldn’t recall what had happened for five months. All she knew was one day she was processing in as a civil service employee with her best friend at her side. Now here she was an empty shell, left behind, existing from day to day. Today was better than previous years.
she’d gotten out of bed. Her peace was shattered by the phone.
“Hello?” she answered.
“Hey, girl! What ya doing today? You busy?” a familiar voice on the other end asked.
“Not too—” Anna said leafing through her book.
“I’ll be there in twenty minutes!”
“No, wait!” Anna said quickly.
The caller was gone. Anna groaned. She reclined back onto the couch and sighed. She knew what was coming and was resolute not to give in.
One damn day is all I ask!
She contemplated not answering the door. She leafed through her book and idly read. She wasn’t in the mood to be bullied today. She winced when she heard the doorbell.
Has it been twenty minutes?
She sat ignoring it.
“Open up, or I’ll use my key!” the voice threatened on the other side.
Anna sighed and tossed the book in her hand on top of the pile next to her. She got off the couch and stood in front of the door. She put her forehead on the door.
“Go away,” Anna called.
“Quit being a baby and open the door. I’m serious, Anna, I’ll use my key and drag you out of there!”
Anna’s shoulders sagged as she opened the door. She was a sight to behold. It was clear she hadn’t slept very much and hadn’t combed her hair this morning. She was a mess and her wrinkled shorts and loose long T-shirt were obviously the ones she wore last night. Her socks didn’t even match.
“Anna what the hell are you doing?” Tammy asked.
“Go away. I want to be
today.” Anna turned from the door.
Tammy grabbed Anna’s arm and spun her around
“You need to get dressed,” Tammy demanded.
“I don’t want to!” Anna snapped.
Anna threw herself on the couch facedown. Now she really had a reason to pout. She had an audience. She jumped from the couch with the sudden sting to her backside. Tammy had landed a harsh blow to her butt.
“What did you do that for?” Anna cried as she jumped up.
“If you feel the need to act like a baby, I’ll treat you like one. Now get up and get dressed. We’re going shopping. You’re not feeling sorry for yourself today.” Tammy pulled Anna off the couch.
Anna stuck out her bottom lip and turned toward her bedroom. Tammy’s heart could be so black sometimes. She started the water and slowly got into the shower and started to cry silently. Ending her bath, she got dressed quickly. She didn’t bother drying her wet hair as she pulled on the grungiest clothes she could find, a pair of old jeans with some fraying in different spots, and an old T-shirt. She pulled on flip-flops and returned to the living room. Anna stared at Tammy in mute anger as her friend appraised her.
“Are you going like that?” Tammy asked incredulously.
“This is all you get. I don’t feel good today.” Anna looked at the floor.
“No, you’re feeling sorry for yourself. I’m not having that today—especially today.”
Anna felt tears welling up in her eyes and turned away from Tammy and walked to the kitchen. She got herself a glass of water and ordered herself not to cry. If she started, she wouldn’t stop. Tammy walked into the kitchen behind her.
“How could you forget her so easily?” Anna asked quietly.
“I’ve never forgotten Alyssa or Marc and I never will. I’ve chosen to let them rest in peace for the last five years. It’s time you did, too. It’s time to let go,” Tammy said, walking over to Anna and holding her hands
“I can’t,” Anna whispered.
“That’s why we’re going out. You’re going into the land of the living. I’m not letting you hang out with ghosts, not today.”
Anna allowed herself to be led away and out of the house. She unconsciously got into the passenger’s seat and before she realized where they were, she was seated in a chair in a beauty salon. Tammy was conspiring with the stylist. She came out of her lull as they shut the book they were looking at and turned back to her. Tammy looked at her friend.
“I’ll be back in an hour. Ramon is one of the best stylists in town. Please listen to him,” Tammy advised.
“Whatever.” Anna dismissively waved her hand to Tammy.
“Good!” Ramon said as he took Anna’s glasses and handed them to Tammy.
The two exchanged knowing smiles. Ramon spun Anna around. “We’ll color first and then cut,” he said gaily.
“Say what! Color what?” Anna exclaimed.
“Your hair of course!” Ramon said cheerfully.
Anna sat back in resignation.
What the hell?
Maybe the change would make her feel better. Ramon returned and quickly got to work setting her up for her color treatment.
“So tell me, how long have you known Tammy?” Ramon asked while getting busy.
“Since high school.”
“She says you’re a picky little diva. Is it true? She didn’t use the word
. I did to be nice.” Anna frowned in annoyance. “If you aren’t you will be when I’m done, honey!”
It seemed to Anna that time passed quickly as Ramon teased her hair with his magical fingers while finishing the final cuts. He turned her around to look in the mirror and she saw Tammy smiling in front of her.
“I’m finished! And you look beautiful!” Ramon announced.
Anna blinked at her reflection. He’d enriched her dark brown hair and had added subtle bronze highlights. The shorter razor cut made her look young and sleek, instead of old like the longer hair she’d worn tied back. The hair color brought back richness that she’d known when she was younger.