Authors: Aliyah Burke
Rhodi waited for her, his face full of worry.
“How are they?” she asked not really sure she wanted to know.
“Almost on their way to the hospital. Thank you,” he said holding her close.
She stood stiff unsure how to respond. “Doing my job. Go, be with your brother.”
He drew back and stared at her. “Are you sure?”
Rhodi kissed her cheek and vanished. Her legs shook and she took her time descending into the warm hangar. Two men in flight suits strode in, helmets under their arms.
“Scar and Future. I can’t thank you two enough.”
They held out their hands to shake hers. “It was an honor.”
“Yes,” she said. “Yes it was. Do you have to leave immediately or can I buy the two men who saved my six some coffee and perhaps some food?”
They shared a glance. “Food sounds amazing.”
“Awesome, my vehicle is over there.”
They fist bumped. “We’re starving.”
She smiled and led the way, her gaze drifting to where the ambulances raced away through the falling snow with lights flashing.
She just had to hold on until she got some news.
He drifted in and out of consciousness. Wild wanted out of this—whatever it was—and lay eyes on Alyse. It didn’t matter how much he struggled, he couldn’t mobilize his limbs enough to escape. His thoughts were muddled and confused, he hated he couldn’t make sense of anything. Darkness overtook him again. It happened a few more times until he gained more control.
Fighting to not only open his eyes, but also to keep them that way, he finally saw the room come into focus. It wasn’t his place. Nope, it looked like…a hospital.
His vision was filled with three dark heads as his brothers stared over at him. The expression on each of their faces could only be described as relief.
“You know,” he said in a rasped voice. “The three of you standing there looking down at me is almost enough to send me back to where I was.” He coughed and sipped from the straw Rhodi offered him. “Where am I?”
“I got that much, Adam. Why am I in here?”
Derek sat by his side. His brother had cuts and healing lacerations all over what he could see. The man had a short sleeve shirt on and his arms were tore up. Marks on his face as well.
“You don’t remember what happened?”
Exasperation filled him. “No, I don’t, Navy. So why don’t you tell me.”
Derek drank some water himself. “I called you from Guatemala needing some backup in the rescue mission.”
“Alyse!” He tried to bolt up but Adam and Derek both put their hands on him, keeping him down in the bed.
“She’s fine,” Adam informed him. “Got both of you home safely.”
The brothers shared a look and he fumbled for the button to raise the bed. “What aren’t you telling me?”
They didn’t answer him nearly fast enough. He stared at them all. Adam the Army man. Air Force’s own, Rhodi. One of the Navy’s finest, Derek. Before he snapped at them again, he noticed something common in each of their expressions. Respect. For Alyse? What had she gone through to get them home?
“Where is she?”
“Staying with Mom,” Rhodi replied.
The nurse appeared and they suspended talk until she left. The moment they were alone again, he tried again. “Why is she with Mom?”
“She wouldn’t have it any other way and Alyse had no chance in arguing with her.”
He rubbed his chest and noticed the new injury he had that was healing. Wild didn’t ask, he had gotten them enough to know what it was. He’d been shot. From the feel of his body, it had been multiple times.
“Mom doesn’t usually interfere in the lives of those who work with us. What gives?”
“You damn well claimed her in front of all of us, Wild. You think Mom didn’t know? Plus, Alyse brought you and Derek back through the situation she did.” Rhodi crossed his arms and stared at him.
“Get me home,” he said.
All three shook their heads. “Doc says it best you stay in here for a while yet.”
“I don’t give a damn. I want out. Sign me out and get me home.” He pushed fully upright and swung his legs over the side. “Get me some fucking clothes and I want Alyse at my house when I get there. Or take me to Mom’s first, I’ll take her home with me.”
Shoving the pain to where it belonged, in the back of his mind, Wild stood on shaky legs and waited for them to readjust. “Clothes or I walk out of here like this.” He gestured down his body and saw he wore a pair of scrub bottoms. “This is fine. Boots. Now.”
His brothers got to it and he knew they caved because they would have done the same thing. Especially Rhodi.
He shoved his feet into a pair of black boots Adam put by him, not bothering to tie them. Rhodi removed his own jacket and handed it to him. “We don’t have a shirt for you that will work. All your clothes were destroyed.”
He dearly wanted to know all that happened but the urge…no, need, to see and hold Alyse had overridden all else. He could ask on the way to her side. Wild shoved his arms into Rhodi’s jacket wincing slightly at the soreness. It was tolerable and he had been in this place long enough. He didn’t need to be babied.
Surrounded by his siblings, he made his way to the desk to sign himself out. The doctor arrived but nothing he could say would make Wild reconsider his decision to leave this place. One of his brothers said they would come back for meds later then they waited for Adam to bring the vehicle up to the door.
Over a foot of snow on the ground and the cold air was both painful and refreshing to him as he stepped out into the elements. He sat in the seat and soon they were on the way.
“Tell me what happened, Derek,” he said as Adam drove. “And how is the woman?” He knew they’d been successful but he wasn’t sure about how it all went down.
“You showed up and told me that Alyse waited at the airfield. All we had to do was get there with Avery. Wasn’t as easy as it should have been. The men who had taken her from her father were determined to get her back.”
“Who had her?” He could only get a small visual memory of her. She hadn’t registered to him other than their mission. He recalled she was a small black woman who looked like she’d seen much better days.
“Some group that used the country as their hideout. They were German, that’s all we really know.”
“Continue,” he said. Wild watched the landscape roll by. He loved winter and the beauty it brought to the land.
“When you reached us, I was already injured and Avery…well, she was in shit shape.” Derek’s voice dropped and grew diamond hard. “As we made our escape, you covered me and her and took the bullets meant for us.” Wild looked over his shoulder at his brother. There were tears hanging in the corners of his eyes. “I didn’t expect you to take ‘bullet catcher’ to heart like that, being a Marine and all.”
Wild faced the front again, not going to raze his brother. Had their positions been reversed he would have been the same way. “You want it done right, one sometimes has to do it themselves.”
I couldn’t resist.
For a few moments the interior of the car erupted into the usual argument about which branch of the military was the best. The familiar ribbing made him feel all that much better. He may not always get along with his siblings but they were his brothers and he would do anything for them, including die if that was asked of him. They were a formidable team.
“Then what, Derek?”
“I put you in the back with Avery, who was unconscious, and drove like hell to get to the airstrip as you bled. We weren’t that far ahead of those after us. Alyse, bless her, was watching and had the plane idling for us. She carried Avery up after I took you, shut the door and took off like they did Air Force One in
, rough and bumpy ride but with the goal to be getting off the ground, that was the focus, not a smooth ride. Plus we had a tank firing at us.”
More awe slicked its way into his brother’s tone. Wild turned again and watched him. Derek looked rough. Dark circles under his eyes and worry lines present on his features.
“She put us into a thunderstorm to hide us a bit more from those jets after us. There were some fancy flying moves she did to avoid any direct hits. We took damage but she continued flying and dodging the best she could. She kept them at bay enough that we didn’t have to do any emergency landing before getting home. Adam sent two fighters to escort us.”
“How is she?” he asked.
“Fine last time I saw.” The other two agreed with his statement.
“Continue,” he ordered.
“I wasn’t up front with her, bro. I was in the back with you trying to stop your bleeding and that of Avery. She landed there in the snowstorm and two ambulances waited, one for you and one for Avery.”
There was a hitch in his brother’s voice every time he said that woman’s name. He would have pressed him on that, but they were pulling into his mom’s driveway at the moment. Wild unhooked his belt, ignored the beeping from the car, and waited for Adam to stop him in front of the walk leading to the house.
He left the vehicle as soon as it stopped. His legs weren’t as strong as he’d like them to be, but they worked, would get stronger the more he used them, and he made his way up to the door. Despite the cold, he could feel the sweat on his brow as he typed in his code.
Wild stepped inside and froze, his mom was in the living room and she looked up at him, eyes rimmed red.
“Wild?” She rose and hurried to his side. “Oh, my baby.” She held him tightly as tremors shook her body.
Holding her, he sent a confused look to his brothers who passed him and closed the door. Adam shook his head and the three of them left him alone with his mother.
“I thought I lost you,” she bemoaned into his chest. “I couldn’t bear it if I lost you, too.” Her fingers clenched at his side and he dismissed the pain her grip caused him. This was his mom. He lowered his head and kissed her temple as he wrapped his arms around her and hugged her back. “I’m okay, Mom. Promise. I’m fine.”
She stood back and stared at him, assessing for herself. Sarah Wilder laid a hand along his face. “You and I have been growing apart, Wild. I’ll not stand for it anymore. I know what I said and how it was taken. I was wrong for how I handled that. I love you and nothing will ever change that. You are your father’s son all the way through.” Wild flinched at that but she shook her head. “That’s not a bad thing. It makes me so happy to see him in you. He’s never that far away this way. I know he’s so proud of you and so am I. Going after your brother and bringing him home as you did.”
“I love you, too, Mom.” He looked around the room before turning his head and kissing her palm.
“She’s not here, Wild.” He put his gaze on hers. “Alyse. She took Avery home. She’s due back later today.”
“She’s coming here?” he asked.
“Yes. I made her stay here with me after she got back. Come sit. You’ve lost weight, I’ll fix us something to eat.”
She walked away and Wild followed her to the kitchen where his brothers were. Karen was there as well and he was surrounded by the love of his family, he knew that one more was coming soon and then his life would be complete.
Alyse disembarked from the jet, bag over her shoulder. The temperature here in Montana was a great deal different than it had been in Florida. But there weren’t many days down there where over a foot of snow covered the ground.
She’d had enough time after taking Avery back to stop by and see her family. It had been good to hold her nephew and brush kisses over his head. She’d not been to see Wild since they brought him back. Updates she got, they told her he was doing well and all of that but she wouldn’t go see him.
It was hard enough to see her nephew in the hospital, she didn’t need to see Wild that way.
Even her heart ached for him. This wasn’t smart, she had to reevaluate this job. With a wave to the men who would clean the jet and refuel her, she climbed in her SUV. After a good stretch she left the place.
“How the hell did I get roped into staying at Mrs. Wilder’s place?” she bemoaned that as she drove over plowed roads.
The woman was a veritable firestorm when she wanted something. And apparently her word was law. Much more staying at her place and she would just get out of her lease. No point in paying for a spot she wasn’t staying in.
The jazz on her radio helped relaxed her a bit more. Blinker on, she turned into the drive and smiled as she saw vehicles from the other children. These men loved their mother and she them. It was great, dinners were always loud and boisterous.
She parked next to Derek’s truck and the large blade on the front where she shut off the engine. Alyse took a moment and relished the silence. No music. No road noise. Just silence and the picture perfect imagery surrounding her.
The snow-covered landscape, fat flakes falling from the overcast sky, large ranch house with smoke churning from the stone inlaid chimney, all of it stirred up longings and desires she hadn’t known she wanted before. She blew out a breath, grabbed her keys from the ignition, and stepped out to the snowy late afternoon. It would be dark soon and quite honestly she was glad she didn’t have to drive for a bit. She was tired. Emotionally and physically.
Swiping her bag from the backseat, she shouldered it while she banged the door with her hip, closing it. She blinked away the flakes that took up residence on her lashes.
Stop delaying and get inside, Alyse,
she admonished herself.
Some days the noise was almost too much for her. Her childhood, and adult life, wasn’t as loud as the Wilder household could be. At the door, she typed in her code and opened it.
Warmth poured out and she smiled over the food scents which mingled in. Fully inside, she double-checked her footwear, making sure they were clean, then walked down the hall to the room she’d been given to use.
The clamor from the kitchen faded a bit as she closed the door behind her. She lowered her shoulder and allowed her bag to slip to the floor. Her jacket followed and she rubbed the back of her neck as she moved to the bed.