The banging on my hotel door takes a moment to penetrate. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m four shots of bourbon past the pleasantly buzzed state, or because I’m sick with exhaustion and guilt.
After stepping out of the shower, I ignore my dripping hair and wrap a fluffy white towel around my body. I attempt to ignore the shallow wound on my upper right arm, but it’s throbbing mercilessly and the bourbon’s not helping.
The banging continues, and I yell grumpily as I make my way across the spacious luxury hotel room, “Hold your fucking horses, Wright.”
Immediately, the pounding stops, but I knew it would. Bodie Wright is the only person who knows this is my room, and I left strict instructions with the front desk I wasn’t to be disturbed for anything.
I unlock the door and swing it open so fast I take a stumbling step back. I normally hold my liquor much better, but I’m going on twenty-four hours without food and more than that without sleep.
“What?” I snarl as he steps into my room, towering over my five-eight frame by a good half a foot or so. I can tell he’s had a shower because he smells good and his short, dark hair is wet.
Bodie’s eyes immediately drop to my arm and they harden as he takes in the barely two-inch groove caused by a bullet that grazed me.
“It’s fine,” I mumble.
“Figures,” he replies dryly as he walks over to my patrol pack I’d thrown to the floor a few hours ago when we checked in. With casual ease, he retrieves the IFAK—individual first aid kit—and pulls out some gauze and tape. This is the second time Bodie has treated my wound—the first time was while we sped away on a Syrian boat down the coast to Tripoli. The IFAK can treat anything from a shallow bullet trench to a sucking chest wound. He’d used most of our QuikClot combat gauze to stop the hemorrhaging in our teammate Joram’s bullet hole just below his collarbone, but there was enough left that he could slap a quick covering on my arm to curb the bleeding.
It wasn’t the first time I’d been shot at, but it was the first time that a bullet had hit me and I didn’t even feel any pain. I was so amped on adrenaline and fear because of Joram’s wound that I hadn’t even known I’d been hit, until Bodie started working on me in the boat after he got Joram as stabilized as he could be given the circumstances.
We made landing just north of Tripoli at a prearranged extraction point. From there, Stan, our pilot, flew us to Cypress on an MV22 Osprey that Kynan somehow managed to procure through CIA contacts and favors owed.
“Sit down and let me wrap that,” Bodie orders.
Despite the fact he’s younger than I am by almost nine years—and he’s only been with Jameson Group a few years—his tone says he’s not to be trifled with right now.
I’m too inebriated to argue. Plus… I’ve got to give the dude props. When we got ambushed, he handled our extraction like a seasoned pro, carrying Joram to the boat while bullets flew.
I walk toward the bed, but take a side trip to the wet bar where I grab the bottle of bourbon and ignore the glass I’d been using. In Cypress, most would think I’d be taking advantage of their ouzo, but I hate the taste of licorice. Instead, I went with a tried and true favorite of mine.
When my butt hits the edge of the bed, I twist the cap off and take a healthy slug. I hand it toward Bodie as he lays out the medical supplies, but he shakes his head.
It doesn’t bother me that I’m half naked in front of Bodie. When we’re on a mission, my teammates don’t look at me like a woman. They don’t care what I look like or that I have periods.
I’ve spent weeks with my male teammates, and we’ve all seen each other naked at one time or another. There’s no time for sensibilities while on a mission. Not to mention, we’ve all spent time at The Wicked Horse. While it’s sort of an unwritten rule, or at least an understanding, that we don’t mix in that way, many of us do hang out at the sex club quite regularly. I’m sure Bodie has watched me in action.
But all he cares about is that I can do my job, and therein lies the guilt that’s consuming me.
I got Joram shot.
“The wound looks clean, and it’s not seeping anymore,” Bodie says as he gently takes my arm to peer at it. I look down, fascinated by the groove in my flesh and the whitish-pink wet skin underneath.
I take another swig of the bourbon and Bodie goes to work, dabbing on some antibiotic-laced ointment and wrapping a dry gauze around my upper arm. He efficiently secures the ends with tape and pronounces me cured.
I can’t even muster up a grateful smile. Instead, I tip the bottle back to my mouth. To my surprise, Bodie takes the bottle from me and mutters, “You need to slow down.”
“Fuck you,” I snarl as I push up from the bed, swaying only slightly, and hold my hand out for the bottle.
Bodie’s dark eyes scrutinize me and I feel like a bug under a magnifying glass. He hasn’t shaved for days, and that scruff makes him look older and wiser than his twenty-six years.
I snap my fingers, indicating to pass the booze, and he finally gives a sigh. Turning to the wet bar, he pours two glasses halfway to the rim with the amber liquid. Setting the bottle down, he picks the glasses up and hands me one.
I take it from him, trying to ignore the way my head swims from the bourbon, lack of food, and sleep. I still have enough sense within me to slow it down a bit, and I take a delicate sip.
Bodie moves a few steps back and plops down in one of the cushy armchairs. The hotel Kynan arranged for us is five-star with no amenity lacking. It’s not a reward for a job well done, but rather he thinks it looks less suspicious for us to pretend to be vacationers. So, we’re going to spend two nights here in Paphos, Cypress before we head back to the States, and I intend to use the time catching up on my sleep.
If I can sleep, that is.
Thus, the reason for the bourbon.
“It’s not your fault,” Bodie says quietly, and I come to a dead stop. It’s then I realize I’d been pacing, and my agitation was loud and clear.
As is my guilt, apparently.
“My perimeter was bad,” I say in a pissy voice.
His eyes go hot with anger. “Your perimeter was fine given what we were working with,” he practically snarls as he comes out of his chair, bourbon swishing over the edge of his glass. “The munitions dump was thirty clicks west of where the intel said it was. We did the best we could with what we had.”
Bodie comes at me like a cat, and I know without a doubt I’d never want him stalking me as a potential kill. He’s one of our explosives’ guys, so his job was to rig and detonate a known ISIS munitions dump, but he’s still got wicked skills when it comes to hand-to-hand combat. Four years in the Navy SEALs hones all the broad-based skills needed as a mercenary.
Coming to a stop before me, Bodie bends down so his face hovers over mine. “We had limited intel, and we gambled to go forward with what we had.”
“I made the decision to go forward,” I say bitterly. I turn away from him and walk toward the bed. I’m the team leader, and it was my call to finish the mission without complete knowledge of what we were facing.
I bring the glass to my mouth and take a long swallow, hissing through my teeth.
“Put the booze down, Hart,” Bodie says tauntingly, calling me by my last name, which is how we usually address each other on assignment. “It’s making you morose.”
I know deep down he’s doing what any team member would do, and that’s to get me to suck it up. It’s not the first mission that didn’t go perfectly, and it won’t be the last. But I think of Joram, our guide and interpreter, who is in surgery right now because he took a bullet high in his chest, and I flush with self-directed anger.
Hot, irrational fury rages through me, and I decide to take it out on my teammate.
“Fuck you, Bodie,” I yell as I turn on him, cocking my good arm back. I let the glass fly at his head, but his reflexes are too good. He just ducks slightly to the side and it sails past, smashing against the far wall. Good bourbon goes spraying everywhere.
And it pisses me off even more that he’s right and I’m wrong. That he easily ducked my glass when I would have probably felt better if it hit him in the face. And mostly because he’s standing there looking at me with sympathy when that’s not what I want or need.
“Fuck you,” I yell again as I take long, angry strides at him. He watches me warily, body fully tense as if he’s playing chicken with a freight train that’s barreling at him.
All of my anger and guilt goes on a nuclear boil, and I wonder at this moment if Joram’s family hates me for the role I placed him in and the danger that got him shot.
“Fuck you,” I yell again as my hands slam into his chest.
Bodie has about seventy pounds on me, but he doesn’t budge an inch. It causes me to see red, since it’s a subtle reminder that I am, after all, just a girl playing at a man’s game. I lean back, pull my arms in to launch another strike, but before I can try to push him again, his large hands come down on my shoulders.
“You need to dial it down, Rachel,” he tells me in a deceptively calm voice.
I want to scratch his eyes out and knee him in the nuts for being so fucking right, but I forcibly try to release my anger instead.
But it’s bottled tight when I remember the sound of the bullet as it hit Joram—a whizzing, thudding combo with a wet smack—and his grunt of pain before he sagged to the ground beside me. Bodie didn’t see it because he was busy detonating his charges, and I didn’t make a sound when the bullet destined for me tore through the flesh of my upper arm.
Rage and guilt and booze swim through my blood. For a split second, I feel like I’m in another world. But then my eyes focus and I see Bodie staring down at me, his eyes soft and almost nurturing, and I hate that even more.
“Fuck you,” I curse under my breath right before I choose to get my release another way.
I jump on him.
That gets the big lug to move since he’s so surprised by my attack. But it’s not to hit him or strike out in my anger. It’s a way to release my emotions in a way that feels good.
My legs spread and go around his hips, locking tight. Hands to his neck, I stare at him for what seems like an eternity but is only a second or two, and then my mouth is on his.
Bodie makes an unholy sound from deep within his chest. For a moment, I think it’s disgust, but then his hands go from my shoulders down to my naked ass, bare since the towel fell away from my body.
We kiss so hard my lips feel bruised and my blood now rages with something other than anger.
Pure white-hot lust.
Digging his fingers into my flesh, Bodie mutters something foul, or perhaps it’s beautiful, into my mouth, but I really don’t care. He spins us around and takes me to the mattress, knocking the breath out of me as his big body pins me down.
My hands slither in between us, working at the belt to his pants. When my knuckles graze against an impressively big erection, I know I’m embarrassingly wet for him right now.
Bodie pulls his mouth from mine and looks down at me, his eyes almost black as pitch. “What are we doing, Hart?”
If I thought his use of my professional team name would quell my raging lust, I’d be totally wrong. It means nothing to me that he’s even questioning this.
“We’re getting ready to fuck,” I pant desperately before leaning up to nip at his lower lip with my teeth. He curses again, and then his hands are on me.
All over me.
And I forget about Joram for just a little bit.