Authors: Delilah Devlin
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Military
An Uncharted SEALs story
Copyright © 2015 Delilah Devlin
Cover by Elle James
Edited by Lustre Editing
After losing her partner and lover in a shootout, New Orleans police officer Aislin Dupree is tormented by memories of the past and the day she lost Marc LeBrun. At her darkest hour, she discovers that Marc had planned a romantic getaway on a Caribbean island before his death. All expenses paid. She decides to take the trip, hoping the island getaway will help her come to terms with her sorrow. Instead, she meets a man, a friend of Marc’s from his past when he served as a Navy SEAL.
Sam Blalock is like Marc in so many ways that he makes her ache for what she once had. Strong, rugged Sam is her rock, holding her when she breaks, encouraging her to move on, because he knows about the pain of loss and the horror of violence all too well. She soon finds her waking hours consumed by Sam while she roams her dreams in search of Marc. As the time approaches for her to go home, she’s afraid to let go of the connection she’s found, and she fears she might be holding onto Sam for all the wrong reasons while she imagines another reality where dreams do come true.
As a retired member of the armed forces (Army Signal Corp and a veteran of the Gulf War), whose sister, brother, and father also served, I’m well aware of the sacrifices our military members and their families make in defense of our country. To the men and women of the United States military, formerly and currently serving—thank you for your service. This book is dedicated to you.
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read weighed her
down, making her feel sluggish and stupid. I have to find the right door. She stumbled into a long corridor, wood paneling below wainscoting, and tattered, dark teal wallpaper with faded pink roses above. Like she’d seen in her grandmother’s house when she was a child. Only this corridor was endless and lined with teakwood doors—all identical, all closed.
How could she possibly find the right one? The panic in her body made her want to run and try them all, but she knew she didn’t have much time—a lesson she’d already learned. And turning the wrong knob led to horrors best left unknown.
She wanted to run but couldn’t, because her feet were as heavy as lead, mired in invisible muck, slowing her steps, making her tired. Her stride shortened. She dragged her feet on the floral carpet, staticky sounds following her, sparks biting her naked ankles. At last, she came to a halt, her body swaying. Too tired to care what she might find, she opened the door…
Aislin Dupree tugged at the collar of her dark uniform. She’d have a rash—a rosy red ring around her neck—because she’d sweated so much the collar was stiff.
“Stop messin’ with it, Ash,” her partner drawled from the driver’s seat. “You’ll only make it worse.”
“This stickiness is making me crazy. Heat’s so bad I wonder why I bother taking a shower before shift. I’m drenched again before I’m dressed. And why aren’t you sweating?”
She watched as Marc LeBrun’s smile in profile stretched in that lazy way that never failed to make her tingle from head to toe and exciting all the sexy parts in between.
He made a turn before glancing her way, flashing a smile. “I don’t fidget. Chillax, baby. It’s just another mornin’ in easy town. Good times…”
Good times… His sly code for sex whenever they were in company. “Stop,” she said, holding up her hand. “That’s not helping.”
He chuckled, but kept his gaze on the road ahead. “You think about Grand Isle?”
“Fishing on Grand Isle is not my definition of a sexy getaway.”
“Won’t be no fishin’, sugar. Just you ’n’ me. Bed and breakfast on the beach.”
“The sight of oil rigs kinda spoils the view,” she grumbled, but only half-heartedly. The thought of getting away from the city, which smelled foul this time of year, due to the rain and humidity and the sewage floating just beneath the street grates, did sound good. “Should just head to Thibodeaux. Nice hotels there. Might find one with room service. We can take an airboat ride into the swamps if we get bored…” she said, giving him a teasing, sideways glance.
“And that’s sexier than a B&B on the beach?” His chuckles grew and grew.
And she grinned, happy she was there beside him. Just another day on their beat. Most cops rode single, but this part of town was more dangerous. Extra manpower had been added to the shifts in this ward. They’d been paired now for six months. Lovers for the last three.
However they spent their time together didn’t really matter. It was always…good times.
Dispatch broke the silence with the code for robbery. “Be advised, female at location says pedestrian forced her to empty her register.”
The location was only five blocks away. Marc gave her a short nod and flipped on the lights.
Ash pressed the button on the mic. “51-12 responding. Five minutes to location.”
“51-12. 10-4. All units in the vicinity be on the lookout for a male, medium height, wearin’ a gray hoodie…”
The next few minutes passed in a blur. They arrived at the shop with its barred windows and shabby, white-washed exterior.
Marc entered first with his weapon drawn. “This is NOPD,” he called out.
No response came from inside.
Ash edged closer to his body, turning to watch their six. The hair on the back of her neck rose. She knew Marc felt it too because, for once, he was quiet and moving slowly.
The shop was small, just a twenty by twenty square filled with rows of racks stocked with snack foods and drinks. Glancing over the top of the racks, Ash spotted a door toward the back, partially open. Dark.
Both officers crouched down behind the racks as they made their way steadily toward the darkened doorway.
Marc pointed down an aisle, indicating she should come at the door from another angle.
Keeping her breathing even, she nodded and sped silently to the end of the row.
Another nod, and she moved with her back to the wall, easing toward the doorway. From this angle, she could see the bottom of a dirty sneaker, unmoving on the floor.
She lifted her finger and pointed to the door, indicating she saw one person. When they stood flanking the door, she reached out an arm to open it wider, a loud creak sounding in the silence. It thudded softly against the wall of the small office.
Marc edged around the corner, stepped over the young woman on the floor and went to the door at the far side of the room, which stood wide open, sunlight streaming inside from the alley.
Ash bent over the young woman and placed a hand on her chest, felt movement, and then pressed her mic to call for an ambulance. But behind her, she heard another creak and stiffened.
Marc swung around, his weapon raised. “Get down!” he shouted.
Ash ducked toward the woman, not wanting to get in Marc’s line of fire. Above her, a loud blast boomed—a shotgun round. Her body stiffened, and she glanced toward Mark. Blood burst from multiple places on his face and neck, spraying outward. His arms flung wide.
She screamed and came up, swinging back with her elbow and connected with hard muscle. No time to think. No time to pray. Marc had to be okay. She had to get to him. But first, she had to live.
As she turned, something struck her cheek. She went down, watching as though in slow motion as a man in a hoodie raised a gun and pointed it at her. Her own weapon entered her line of sight. A loud explosion sounded, the recoil jolting her arm. He jerked, his arms going limp, dropping the shotgun, and then he lurched past her, stepping on Marc as he exited through the door.
She got back to her knees and crawled toward Marc who lay so still, too quiet. His face was a mess, blood dripping down both sides into his thick black hair, pockets of flesh gone. What worried her most was the sluggish pulsing river flowing from his neck wound. She pressed her hands over it and leaned toward him. “Marc, hang on, baby. I’m here. I’m here.”
He didn’t blink. Didn’t move.
She pressed harder with one hand and lifted the other to her radio. “108. Officer down. Officer down. Shots fired.” She knew her voice sounded ragged, strained. They’d know the situation was bad.
Please come fast.
She fought to control her panic. Do her job. Again, she pressed the button to let them know the suspect was fleeing the scene. “Six-feet-four male, gray hoodie, jeans, sunglasses. On foot.” She released the button and let the mic hang from her shoulder as she bent over Marc, all her concentration going now to her partner who was dying. She knew he was. Her chest pinched, and she could barely breathe. No miracle would save him.
And then…a hand touched her shoulder. “Ma’am, let me help. I’m a doctor.”
She glanced to the side, shock making her quiver. “Save him, please.”
A kind face beneath a shock of thick gray hair entered her vision. “I’ll do what I can.”
As she side-stepped on her knees down Marc’s prone body to make room, she shook her head, feeling like she was falling, like she was about to faint. Black spots danced before her eyes. “No, no. This isn’t what happened. That didn’t happen,” she said, her voice sounding from far away.
The doctor glanced at her with cold blue eyes. “Isn’t this what you wanted to happen?”
Ash took a
deep breath then shot a glance at Melanie Oats, the psychologist she’d been required to see since the shooting.
“The dream was different this time?” Melanie asked, fingers steepled beneath her chin.
Why had she confided the fact she’d been having nightmares? She was getting tired of reliving Marc’s death. “It’s always different. In little ways,” Ash muttered. “But this time, I felt hope. That doctor appearing. That didn’t happen in actuality.” She took a deep breath and pressed her lips together. “Didn’t really matter. He didn’t change a damn thing.”
The woman’s expression remained a professional mask. “Did you expect that his arrival would…change something…?”
Ash couldn’t meet her gaze. If Ash told her that some folks she knew believed dreams weren’t just something brains concocted to help work people through problems, that dreams could be doorways into other worlds, the therapist might wonder if Ash believed that, too. And Ash couldn’t have Melanie doubting her mental state. She needed Melanie Oats’s seal of approval, her report that gave her a clean bill of health so she could go back to work. A score needed to be settled.
That last thought made her go still. Her burning desire wasn’t just for revenge against the skinny motherfucker who’d killed Marc; she wanted revenge against the whole dirty city. Better hide her anger, or Melanie Oats would never give her blessing.
The psychologist let out a breath and cupped her crossed knee. “You’ve never spoken about your family.”
has nothing to do with this. With me.”
“Do you understand why that would concern me?”
Ash grunted. Melanie Oats had never met her family.
“I can’t approve you returning to work. To wearing a gun. Not yet.” She pressed her lips together for a moment. “I think you should take my previous suggestions to heart. Take some time. Visit with family. Deal with the grief, instead of bottling it up. You won’t talk to me. Maybe there’s someone else you trust you can unburden yourself to.”
The woman thought she should unburden herself? Did she even have the right to let go of her guilt? She’d been the one who’d opened that door, who hadn’t looked behind it. Never mind the guy had to have been as skinny as a rail to fit in the narrow space. She shook her head to rid herself of the vision of that dark area behind the door. Every time she imagined it, the space was deeper and darker. Maybe the therapist was right. “All right. I’ll take some time.”