Read Enemy Within (Unseen Enemy Book 1) Online
Authors: Marysol James
Tags: #romance, #military, #sex, #contemporary, #fiction
“How you doing, man?” Dallas asked.
Dean shrugged. “OK.”
“Hey, now,” Dallas said. “This is
you’re talking to… no macho denial bullshit from you. So, how you doing? For real?”
Dean looked over at his friend. “I’m – I’m not doing so well.”
Dean exhaled. “She’s just so… so
. I know how stupid that sounds, but it’s all I got. She’s weak and exhausted and she tries so hard to hide it from me, like she ever could.”
“She’s still losing weight?”
“Yeah. I can barely get her to choke down some soup once a day. Not that it stays down a lot of the time. She’s so nauseous even without the chemo, some days she can’t even hold on to water.”
“I don’t know, man.” Dean leaned back on the counter and stared at the floor in despair. “I guess I just wasn’t ready to feel so… fucking
. Like, I’m standing outside all of her pain and hurt and I just can’t break through. I can’t
to her, you know? I feel like she’s all alone in this and I’m letting her down.”
“Hey, you are
. You’re doing every single thing humanly possible.”
Dean glanced up now and Dallas was horrified to see tears in his eyes.
“I am. I am doing everything I can, and it’s
nowhere near enough what she needs.” He wiped the tears away angrily. “I’m failing her so bad, sometimes I can’t fucking
for the guilt.”
“The hell you’re failing Emma.” Dallas got to his feet and crossed the room. He stopped next to Dean, stood right next to him. “You’re doing great.”
Dean shook his head. “No. I’m not.”
Something broke inside of him then, and the tears came. Dallas touched his heaving shoulders, just standing there quietly as Dean sobbed. It was less than a minute before Dean pulled himself together, but he was still embarrassed at his weakness in front of the other man.
“Shit,” he said. “I feel like an asshole.”
Dallas grinned. “That would be because you
an asshole in many ways. But not when it comes to her, alright? If we’re talking about Emma, you’re a guy who needs some more help. I’ll be coming around more, and I’ll make sure the guys do, too.”
“No, it’s OK. You don’t need to…”
need to, Dean. I even want to.” Dallas’ blue eyes were uncompromising. “We’re all here for Emma, right? Let us start to be here for you, too. You’re reaching the point where you really need us. OK?”
Dean looked at his friend. “Yeah. Yeah, OK. Thanks, man.”
“That’s alright. Now, go to bed. You look like shit.”
Dean laughed. “Always so nice when you drop by.”
After Dallas had gone, Dean went back to check on Emma, then he got in to the shower. He stood under the hot water for a long time, letting the exhaustion just wash over him. When he climbed in to bed, he wanted nothing more than to sleep for a week.
Emma felt the mattress dip and she opened her eyes.
“Sorry, baby. I didn’t mean to wake you up.”
She moved closer to him and he put his arms around her, stroked her back. They lay together, not talking, and he watched as her eyelids fluttered shut again. Her breathing slowed, her body relaxed. He kissed her and he felt her smile against his mouth.
“I will,” she said. “Now that you’re here.”
“I wish I could be here for you all the time.” He said this quietly; it was a confession, maybe he was even asking for her forgiveness, just a little bit.
Her eyes opened again. “But you
. I feel you even when you’re not here.”
“Mmmm-hmmmm.” She touched his face. “You’re with me all the time. You have no idea what you pull me through, babe, just by existing.”
That night, Dean slept deeply and well, for the first time in weeks. It was the sleep of a man who had let something go; who had put down something heavy and taken a deep breath. He could breathe.
The next morning, Dean woke up with a start, feeling like something was wrong. He stared at the empty bed next to him, then at the bright sun on the bedroom wall. When he glanced at the clock and saw that it was well past ten o’clock, he flung himself out of the bed.
“Emma!” he said. “Where are you?”
“In the kitchen,” her voice floated back. “What’s wrong?”
He almost ran down the hall to her and she turned, coffee pot held aloft, a puzzled look on her face. He skidded to a halt and peered at her. He was stunned to see that she looked absolutely gorgeous: well-rested and fresh, with pink in her cheeks. Her beautiful eyes were wide with alarm.
“Oh, God.” He leaned against the wall. “You scared me.”
“Dean, you OK?”
He looked over to see Chris on his feet, a cup of coffee in his hand.
“What are you doing here?” he said.
“I called Emma earlier to see if you guys needed anything from the grocery store. I was there anyway, and so I thought I’d do some shopping for her if she wanted. I picked up some stuff and dropped it off and stayed for a coffee.”
Dean turned to Emma. “I woke up and you weren’t there. It scared the life out of me. I thought maybe you’d fallen down or something.”
“I’m OK,” she said. “I’m fine.”
“I can see that,” he said. “But I can’t think the last time that happened – that you woke up before I did.”
“I can.” She poured him a coffee and handed it to him.
“Yeah.” She smiled at him. “It was the morning after the night we met. I snuck out at five a.m.”
He stared at her. “Are you making a joke?”
He blinked. “So… you’re feeling good today?”
“I’m feeling great today. I was just about to make Chris some breakfast. What do you want to eat?”
“You – what? No way. Go sit down, right now.” He spun and glared at Chris who looked taken aback. “And just what the fuck are
doing, asking her to make you breakfast? You should be in here cooking for
“Dean.” Emma lay a hand on his forearm. “It’s fine. I offered.”
“He should have said no!”
“Babe.” She spoke so quietly, he paused and looked at her. “When I have good days, you have to let me do stuff. Normal stuff, like cooking and making coffee and doing laundry. I
to do it. I don’t know when I’m going to feel good again, right? I
know that I start another cycle of chemo tomorrow and so by tomorrow night, I’m going to be back in bed puking my guts up, too weak to move, too sick to even talk.” She smiled. “So, let me be normal, just for one day. OK?”
He stared at her some more then stepped forward and held her to him. “Oh, honey. You’re right. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry,” she said. “Just sit down with Chris while I make us all breakfast. Let me do something for you guys, for a change.”
He kissed her gently and pulled her closer, then turned to Chris and spoke over the top of her head. “Sorry, man. I shouldn’t have hollered at you.”
“It’s OK,” Chris said. “I don’t blame you at all. If Emma were
girlfriend? I’d kick all your asses if you made her so much as lift a
for any of you.”
She smiled at Chris. “Oh, you enlightened men. Secret feminists, all of you.”
Dean reeled back in mock horror. “I will not be called that word in my own home.”
“Go sit,” she said. “Let the little woman tend to the big, strong men for once.”
So Dean and Chris sat on the sofa, watching Emma in the kitchen. Neither one of them said anything, but they didn’t have to: they liked having her back. Even if it was just for a little while, even for just one day.
After Chris left, Emma looked at Dean sitting on the sofa. He was relaxed and looked better than he had in ages.
He caught her eye. “What’s up, honey?”
“Oh, nothing much. Just thinking about seducing you.”
He blinked. “What?”
“You heard me.”
Dean stared at her. “Really?”
“Um-hmmm.” She walked over to him, sat on his lap. She ran her fingers over his chest slowly. “I want to make love with you, babe.”
“I don’t know… I’m scared that I’ll hurt you.”
She leaned in and kissed him. Despite his reluctance, he responded helplessly, starved for her. She gasped as his tongue probed her mouth, and he held her face in both of his hands, plunging more deeply. He pulled back, placed his large hand on the back of her neck. His forehead touched hers.
“You sure, Emma? Absolutely sure?”
“Yes,” she whispered. “I want to be normal, to forget about it all. To be with you. Just for one day.”
He stood up, cradling her gently. “Then that’s what we’ll do, baby.”
Later, she lay shaking in his arms, sobbing and trying to catch her breath. Dean held her close and tight, glad that he had been able to give her pleasure one more time.
“I love you, angel.” The words tumbled out of him, almost against his will, but he wasn’t sorry that they did. He wouldn’t take them back, not for anything.
Emma raised her head, surprised. “You do?”
She smiled, and it was that beautiful smile that had ensnared him the first night that they had met. “I love you, too.”
“Yeah.” She touched his eyes and felt the tears in them. Her face softened and she kissed him gently.
“I love you so much, Emma. We’re going to get through this, OK? Together.”
She nodded, almost believing it this time. “Together.”
Dean wrapped another blanket around Emma, feeling helpless. Even though her face was burning up, she was freezing; her body was shaking so hard, the whole bed was rattling. She moaned and clutched the edges of the blanket, trying to pull it closer and tighter. She closed her eyes.
He sat next to her and took her hand. He couldn’t do anything about the poison being pumped through her veins and flooding her small body, but he could let her know that she wasn’t all alone.
“Baby? Can you hear me?”
She opened her eyes a bit and nodded.
“You want some water?”
“N – n – no,” she managed to get out between her chattering teeth. “Thanks.”
They stayed like that for a while, not talking. Suddenly Emma sat straight up and gasped. “Dean…”
He grabbed the bucket from the bedside table and held it for her as she vomited. He put his hand on her back, holding her steady as she heaved and retched, over and over. She caught her breath, vomited again. With trembling fingers he stroked her hair off her hot forehead and murmured to her that she was OK. Her whole body was tense under his hands and he rubbed her back and shoulders, trying to calm her down.
I’d do fucking anything for it to be me instead… anything to spare her this.
She crumpled, going limp under his hands. Carefully, he eased her back down to the bed and she opened her eyes. They were glazed with confusion and hurt and his heart damn near broke in half.
He rinsed her face gently, pulled her up and in to his arms and gave her a few ice chips. She leaned on his chest, no strength in her body at all. He rocked her back and forth, felt her breath slow. Then she started to throw up again.
When she finally fell in to a restless sleep, Dean went to the kitchen and poured a cup of coffee. He got the feeling it was going to be a long night. As he stood and drank it, he thought about Liv, Kat and Jenny, and shook his head as he realized that they had been through this over and over again with Emma. His admiration and affection for them went up another few notches: they were great women, great friends.
He heard a knock at the door and went to answer. Dallas stood there, looking worried.
“Thought I’d check in. How’s the post-chemo going?”
Dean waved him in. “Fucking terrible, man. She’s been puking for four hours straight. Sleeping now, but I can’t say for how long.”
“Goddammit,” Dallas said softly. “This disease is a motherfucker.”
“Yeah.” Dean rubbed his eyes. “She just keeps getting her ass kicked, you know? Yesterday she felt almost like herself and she was cooking and laughing, today she can’t even sit up without my help. It’s just unbelievable that the medicine that’s actually
her is what’s doing this to her.”
“I know. You want to take a break? I can stay for a while.”
“No, it’s OK, thanks anyway. I want to do this for her… I want to
know what she’s been through these past few months while we were together. I just – I still can’t believe she was dealing with all of this and never said a word.”
“She’s tough, man.”
“Yeah, she is. I just hope she’s tough enough.” He looked down the hallway. “There’s still worse to come.”
A few days later, Jim walked up the steps to Dean’s porch. The door was open and he knocked on the frame.
“Emma? Hey, Emma? It’s Jim.”
There was no answer. Alarmed, he stepped in to the house.
“Emma? You here?”
Fuck. Is she passed out cold somewhere?
Relieved, he barrelled down the hallway towards her voice. He passed the bathroom, something caught his eye, he backed up.
Oh, shit. Oh, no.
She was standing and staring in the mirror. Massive clumps of her beautiful hair were in the sink; Jim saw bald patches on her head. She looked devastated.
“Oh, Emma,” he said. “You OK?”
She looked at him. “Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s just hair, right?”
He was silent, knowing full well there was a hell of a lot more to it than just that.
Emma looked at herself again. She lifted her fingers to her hair, tugged. Another huge chunk came away in her hand and she burst in to tears.
Without even one second of thought, Jim stepped in to the bathroom and took her in his arms. “OK, sweetheart, it’s OK. Come here.”
She clutched his back, shaking all over. He closed his eyes and swore under his breath.
This fucking disease. It just never stops breaking her heart. Dean’s, too. All of ours.
He held her until her small body went still against his chest, then he pulled back and looked at her. He’d never seen her look so broken and it killed him that she was at that point. It was like her dignity was being stripped from her, one small thing at a time, and she was dangerously close to losing the will to fight. What Jim wanted more than anything was to help her find that fire again, to give her that fierce want to just
“What can I do, Emma? Tell me.”
She gazed up at him, thinking. “There
“Can you take me to the hair salon where Kat works?”
He paused. “Yeah.”
“OK.” She gave a shuddering sigh. “Let’s go.”
“What are we going to do there?” He knew the answer, of course, but he still asked.
“We’re going to cut it.” She smiled and he felt relief when he saw that she looked like herself again. “We’re cutting it all off.”
Kat had been expecting it for the past few weeks, but when Emma showed up at the salon, she was still upset at what surely had to come. Jim was with her, and he looked equally shaken. Kat met his eyes and they both shook their heads, almost imperceptible movements that spoke volumes of pain and anger.
“OK, Kat.” Emma sat in the chair calmly. “You know what needs to be done.”
“I know, sweetie.”
Emma extended her hand to Jim, and he sat next to her, her cold fingers curled in his huge hand. Kat stood behind her, scissors held up. Jim noticed for the first time that Kat’s hair was now a vibrant red and he blinked. Every time he saw her, she looked completely different and he wondered if this was required for her job.
Kat’s hand didn’t shake much when she made the first cut, held a long piece of Emma’s hair in her hand, dropped it to the floor. They all looked at each other in the mirror. Emma pressed her lips together and nodded. Kat raised the scissors again. Again.
Jim watched, silent, as Emma’s hair fell in dark clouds at his feet. Her fucking gorgeous hair, so thick and warm, was every man’s fantasy. Every time he had looked at it, all he could think about was grabbing handfuls of it. And it was all gone in just a matter of a few minutes.
Kat stepped back. “All done.”
Emma sat and looked at her reflection. With a hesitant hand she touched her head, ran her fingers over the cropped hair remaining. She looked at Jim.
“You look beautiful, sweetheart,” he said. “And Dean is going to think so, too.”
She looked uncertain.
“Really. I promise.” He squeezed her hand. “You’re beautiful.”
“You are,” Kat said. “You have no idea just how much.”
Emma’s eyes filled with tears. “OK.” She took a deep breath and stood up. “OK.”
Her cell phone rang and she dug in her bag, hoping that it was Dean. She started when she saw the number. “It’s Doctor Fife.”
Jim sent up a fervent hope that it wasn’t anything bad. Kat shot him a look of panic and he felt the sudden and inexplicable urge to hug her, to offer her comfort and take some of his own. They stood there watching Emma answer the call, their hearts in their throats.
Jesus Christ, no more bad news, please. Come on, come on. Just give her a fucking break, OK?
“Doctor Fife?” Emma sounded calm enough, though she was gripping Jim’s hand hard enough to cut off the circulation.
She listened for a few seconds, and they watched as her face lit up.
“Really?” she said. “A match?”
Kat gasped. Jim broke in to a grin. At the exact same time, they reached out to each other and clasped hands, needing to be physically close to someone when they heard this first piece of good news.
Emma was nodding. “Is it from the national program list?” She looked at Jim, gratitude passing across her face in a beautiful flash of light. “It’s from one of the private donors…”
Kat turned to look at him, too, and on impulse, she hugged him. His muscular arms wrapped around her, returning the embrace, liking how it felt to hold her even for a few seconds. Kat closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
Without him and the other guys, this would never have happened. They got her the matching stem cells. We all owe them – we’ll never stop owing them
“OK,” Emma said. “I’ll be there for the final testing. Thank you… see you tomorrow.” She disconnected and looked at them. “I just – I don’t believe it. A bit of hope, for the first time in months. It’s just… it’s amazing.”
They stood together, arms around each other, laughing and crying. Everyone in the salon stared at them as they made a total spectacle of themselves, but they truly didn’t care. Not in the slightest.
They were all sitting in the hospital, waiting to hear that Emma was out of surgery. The mood in the room was tense; they had all been taken aback when Emma had fully explained the risks of the transplant. All this time, they had thought that once the donor was found, Emma would be in the clear. They had had no idea about the possible post-transplant complications, and they hadn’t known that her body may well reject the donor marrow. They hadn’t known that the transplant may kill her, kill her faster than the cancer itself. But without the transplant, she had no chance at all – so here they were, waiting.
Jim got to his feet and they all looked at him.
“I’m going to get some coffee,” he said quietly. “You all want some?”
They nodded and then Kat got up too.
“I’ll come with you,” she said. “I feel like I need some air.”
“Sure,” he said. “Let’s go.”
Dean barely heard the conversation. He was sitting in his chair, staring at his hands and trying to remember to breathe. The thought that Emma may not ever be in his arms again was firmly in his mind, and he was fighting a rising sense of panic.
Chris leaned over and touched his shoulder. Dean started and looked at his friend.
“We’ll know soon,” Chris said. “It won’t be much longer, man. Just hang in there, OK?”
“Yeah,” Dean said.
Chris shifted his gaze to Jenny. She was sitting next to him and she looked scared to death.
“Hey, you OK?” he said.
Her light blue eyes were teary. “Not really.”
He longed to touch her too, but he just had the feeling that it would be a bad idea. Something about Jenny reminded Chris of a wounded animal, and he was sure that if he reached out to her, she’d turn and run. He settled for smiling at her and was relieved when she tried to smile back.
Liv’s cell phone beeped and she took it out of her purse. She read something and her face turned white. Across the room, Dallas sat very still, studying her. It was clear to him that something had upset her.
Liv stood up. “I have to answer this, guys. Be right back, OK?”
They all nodded again, not even looking up at her. Dallas watched Olivia leave the room and walk in to the small kitchen down the hall. Without a word, he followed her. He stood in the doorway, observing her quietly.
She was staring at her phone again, her eyes wide. She glanced up at him and he blinked when he saw her beautiful face: the look on it was terror mingled with disgust.
“Olivia?” Dallas stepped in to the room with her. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” she said.
“Bullshit,” he said. “What is it?”
She hesitated, then she handed him the phone. Dallas glanced down at it and was shocked to see a close-up picture of a penis ejaculating. Under it, someone had written ‘I’LL CUM IN YOUR FACE FUCKING SLUT. SUCK AND SWALLOW CUNT ’.
“What the fuck, Olivia?”
She looked shaken, but was trying to stay calm. “It happens all the time, Dallas. I get obscene texts and e-mails. It just – it comes with the job.”
“The hell it does.” He was furious, and he fought to keep his tone pitched low. “You’re going to report this, right? You have a security detail?’
“Yeah, of course. They know all about this guy already.”
He paused. “What? How many other texts has he sent?”
“I don’t know… maybe forty over the past two months.”
Dallas stared at her. “Forty? And they’ve all been like this?”
“Oh, no. At first they were just texts, and not even very filthy ones. Just more – I don’t know. Insulting, I suppose.”
“OK. Then they got more aggressive?”
“Yeah. And sexual. Then he started attaching pictures.”
“And all this time, nobody has figured out a way to stop him?”
“Well, I had my PA Nigel change my cell number when it first started, but whoever it is has managed to get a hold of my new number somehow.” She twisted her fingers. “I keep meaning to get another phone, but Emma has been my priority and Greg says it’s nothing to worry about, anyway. It’s just some asshole annoying me.”
“Who the fuck is this Greg? Because he sounds like a moron to me.”
Her eyes flashed. “Greg Wallace.”
Dallas groaned. “Shit, Olivia. From Blue Star Security?”
She bristled. “Yeah. So what?’
“So they’re a bunch of fucking hacks over there is what. They’re just a group of yahoos playing bodyguards… they have
idea what they’re doing.” He didn’t add that most of them had little or no real training at all and that Blue Star was where you went when you flunked out of the police academy, or got dishonorably discharged from military service. He knew of two guys for sure at Blue Star who had raped female soldiers, and one guy who had beaten a black teenager almost to death in a bar fight. It was a mess over there, and Dallas knew plenty about the dangerous situations that Greg and his team had put their clients in through sheer stupidity, inexperience, and laziness.