The day was nearly over. The
setting sun made the golden sand turn dark caramel in its waning light, but
even now, the heat was incredible. There was no wind, only the gently
shifting sand, and the deceptive beauty of this place belying its deadly nature.
The stillness was broken by a figure, staggering in the heat, a woman
running, stumbling, alone. Her breath coming in dry gasping pants.
She ran on, just a few more steps, just a few more and she could stop.
Her breath burned her lungs in dry pants. She felt the sweat roll
down her back and between her breasts, the salt drying on her skin causing it
to itch unbearably. Her head pounded, her nostrils felt on fire with every
wisp of inhaled air, her muscles ached, but she ran on. With her hat removed,
the sun beat down on glossy black hair, burning her scalp and adding to her
discomfort. The once neat knot of ebony had become loose, allowing tendrils
to escape and stick to the sweat on her forehead and neck. She did not
stop to wipe them away, only to brush the constant rivers of sweat from her
brow, to keep the salty water from burning her eyes.
Captain Dylan Hawke ran beneath the hot October sun, away from the camp and out into the desert. Behind her, in the distance, she'd left the Army outpost, a sprinkling of tan colored tents, and olive drab vehicles, low, flat and nearly invisible in the Saudi Desert. Far ahead she could see a ridge sloping upward. Her First Sergeant, 1SG James Beckham, having already done recognizance for the area when they'd first arrived, had verified the location of a spring fed oasis and possibly some caves in the foothills, which she hadn't yet verified. The existence of the oasis bore examination and after a day like today, had been too tempting to delay.
"Damn! Finally," she swore as she stopped and fell to her knees, panting out her exertion. The oasis, at the foot of the dune in front of her, was the only fresh water for miles around. Dylan knew that the nomads of the area stopped and drank from the cool water occasionally, but today, she had the pool to herself. Dylan coughed the dry air from her throat.
"That was so stupid." She said aloud as she shook her head slowly. The soldier knew better than to run in the extreme heat, but she needed to get away, to feel her muscles move, to spend some time in solitude.
Dylan shifted from her knees, turned onto her rear and slid down the embankment a bit until she came to rest with her back against the side of the dune. Here, she could take advantage of the small amount of shade the tiny sand hill offered. She sat with her legs bent and her arms extended to rest on the tan knees of her BDU trousers. Bowing her head, she sucked in the sweltering air. Finally, she glanced up to watch as the sun glittered on the water, causing it to shimmer like a mirage. The oasis was a minor miracle in this part of the desert. A deep blue pool bordered on one side by steep cream colored rocky hills pitted with caves and dense brush and on the other by smooth hot sand dunes dotted with tall swaying desert palms, the center stirred by the bubbling of the underground spring. It was a dream to her tired, heated body. She was surprised at how exhausted she felt. The hot and humid summers spent in her home in North Carolina had prepared her for heat, but not for this dry, desolate waste of barren land. Every breath was like inhaling the hot sand; every blink reminded her of how fast her eyes dried and to keep her sunglasses handy. Luckily her naturally golden skin simply darkened a bit more under the unforgiving sun, turning a burnished bronze.
Turning her head and unable to see past the next hill, her searching eyes saw only the vast nothingness. Here I am thousands of miles from home, in some God forsaken land, training green troops. She shook her head, in disbelief. I can't believe I asked for this. Next time, I better be more careful what I wish for.' She grinned. Damn, the Chinese sure knew what they were doing with that proverb.
The Captain was sticky, hot, tired and figured she probably smelled strong enough to attract any interested male camels within 100 miles. Not to mention Ive got sand in places that God just didn't intend sand to go. That was another reason why she was here. She rested, catching her breath and waiting for the sun to dip behind the ridge to the west and for the water of the spring fed pool in front of her to cool enough for bathing. While she waited, Dylan tried to explain to her ever-active mind the sense of urgency she felt, her overwhelming need to leave the camp. Im not sure whats going on, but I know it wasnt a sudden desire for better hygiene. Her lips quirked into a half smile.
She had been jumpy all day, biting off the heads of any soldier stupid enough not to recognize the signs of a woman on the warpath. The hair at the nape of her neck tingled; all her instincts were on full alert, warning her. Something was wrong, she just didnt know what. All she did know was she needed to get away for a while to think. She couldn't breathe there, surrounded by millions of tons of sand. Everything seemed to be closing in on her in the camp. It really didnt make any sense; she had always been comfortable around this type of environment. The men, the activity, the smell of gun oil and gasoline; it was all normal, safe, home to her. That thought really surprised her. The Army is home, she smiled. Still, she thought, the smile fading, something was not quite right. She just couldnt put her finger on it. Yet.
Dylan pushed the worrisome feeling aside and with a sigh and a deep breath, she stood. Brushing the sand off her rear she made her way to the edge of the pool. Kneeling, she reached a hand out into the sun-heated water, it was still overly warm. It's either this or let the troops know when I'm coming from the smell, which would probably arrive a good five minutes before me. She chuckled.
Closing her eyes, Dylan concentrated, "seeing" with her other senses. This was a skill taught to her by her Grandfather, the tribal War Chief of the Cherokee Nation, back in the Piedmonts of North Carolina. Her Grandfather had taken the elected position quite seriously and made it a point to insure that all the young men of the tribe were taught the old ways. He had once explained to her that the young people of the community needed to learn something about their heritage and themselves. He had re-instituted the training of young men as warriors and often took groups of young men on summer-long camping trips into the hills. They dressed in traditional buckskin, carrying only bows, arrows and a small blanket. They learned to live off the land, just as their ancestors had hundreds of years before them. He instilled in them a sense of pride and self-reliance. Dylan had spent more than one long hard spring begging, persuading and bribing him into allowing her to attend the training sessions. He had finally, reluctantly, agreed and was both amused and proud to discover that his granddaughter out performed all the young bucks of the tribe, a feat he bragged about to this day. Focusing inward, on her senses, she cocked her head to the side. Don't hear anything out of the ordinary. She breathed deeply. No strange smells. She opened her eyes. No startled critters. Coast clear.
She reached down and removed her tan boots and socks, being careful to stuff a sock inside each boot to prevent any crawly visitors from setting up housekeeping in her footgear. She shrugged out of her LBE [load-bearing equipment] rolling the beige suspenders neatly and laying them across the toes of the boots. Next she unbuttoned the BDU [battle dress uniform] shirt, slipping it down bronzed arms and rolling it into a neat package as well. She stuffed the rolled outer shirt into a boot top to keep it out of the sand and free of sand fleas.
LBE, BDU, God, does the Army love acronyms? Everything gets a new name. I bet they would name bras something really weird. She mused to herself as she removed, first, her tan undershirt and then the beige bra. Hmm, FTBSG. Yep, that works. Female Tactical Boob Suspension Gear. She chuckled, placed the bra on top of her undershirt and removed her pistol and belt. She paused, checking the pistol to ensure the safety was on, re-holstered it, and laid it neatly across the LBE on the toes of the boots but well within lunging distance of the pools edge. Pulling off her trousers, she reached into one of the large cargo pockets on the side of one pant leg and removed a two-inch square cake of soap and a washcloth. She stripped out of her panties, rolled the last two items up with her bra and slipped them into the other boot.
The tall Military Police officer stood on long, tapered legs and stretched, flexing taut muscles beneath smooth skin. Arms raised, she reached for the sun, feeling her spine pop as the vertebrate re-aligned.
"Ugh," she groaned in relief. Unpinning her hair, she tossed the glossy length of it back over her shoulders. Letting her arms drop, she shook them as she stepped toward the gently rippling surface of the pool. She stopped to glance at the lightly shimmering reflection. Not bad for and old war horse.
The woman reflected back at her from the water was tall, almost six feet, sleek, and toned. Blue-black hair had been cut into efficient bangs over raven wing eyebrows now arching as she stared into her own reflection. Long hair, released from its pins, tumbled past her shoulders, sections falling forward to hide full firm breasts and tickling a lean muscular back before reaching the slim, tapering waist. The face shimmering up at her was striking: high cheekbones, chiseled features, and coral lips. She stared for another moment, and then shook her head, wishing again for the gentle brown eyes of her mother's people. Instead, what she saw were startling ice blue eyes, standing out sharply against bronze features, a constant reminder of her father. She shrugged sleek, powerful shoulders and stepped into the water.
Bathing in a pool of water in the middle of the desert, who would have thought it? She smiled and lowered herself until she lay in the shallows. Leaning back, she let the water bear her weight, enjoying the warmth of the sun on her breasts and the warm water on her back. She soaked up the heat, letting the clear water melt away the salty sweat. Stretching her arms out, with a smile of pure bliss on her lips, she thought she probably looked like some sort of ancient primal sun worshiper.
Resting the washcloth and soap on her stomach, Dylan floated, almost dozing off. God, this really feels great. I know there is a lot to get done today, but I really needed this. She thought about the things she wanted to accomplish: find a new field location with better strategic opportunity for the next field exercise, make her daily report to COL Gerry Fowler, Commander of the 159th MP Battalion, her immediate supervisor and call for more supplies. They were low on training ammo, barbed concertina wire and MREs. Damn those MREs, they should be called corks in a bag. Cant go to the field without those damn Meals Ready to Eat killing my stomach. Oh well, if theres any time left maybe Top and I can speak to some of the locals. Hopefully we can get some real food, before we go check out those caves.
Dylan made it a rule to learn as much about the native culture and language as possible whenever she was in a foreign country. It seemed to help relax the locals when you spoke the language, especially once they found out you were a cop - and a military cop on top of it all.
No matter where ya go in the world people just cant seem to get over the cop issue. Male, female, black, white, no real biggie, they eventually adjust, but be a cop man, then they freak for sure. She smiled. Chuckling, she closed her eyes against the suns nearly blinding glare.
Finally finished with her sun bathing she stood, wrapped the washcloth around the small bar of soap and began scrubbing the dirt from her now relaxed body. After bathing, Dylan rolled back into the waters warm embrace.
Oh well, better not stay too long or theyll send out a search party looking for me. Now there's a thought. She grinned, imagining Tops face if he ever caught her out of uniform. Literally. Hed probably die of apoplexy. She snickered, but realized that she shouldn't be so hard on her first Sergeant. He was a really competent soldier and she liked him. Lately she had relinquished more responsibility to him as the trust and mutual respect grew.
It took her some time to get over his reason for being assigned to her unit; after all, he hadn't asked to baby-sit her. The smile disappeared as she thought of her over-protective, self-serving father. Father? Hell, more like a sperm donor. A sneer came, unbidden, to her face. Her father had "requested" that First Sergeant Beckham be assigned to her unit and his primary mission was to keep a watchful eye on Captain Dylan Hawke. Beckham was a well educated, specially trained, and very highly qualified Military Police Officer, but his area of expertise had been Personal Security and she was, after all, the Senator's only child and a political asset to boot.
She sighed in resignation. Ever since the man had rediscovered his daughter, at the tender age of fifteen, Senator Cameron was determined to be a part of her life. It had been a while, since he decided that politics were more important than family and had distanced himself from his wife and daughter. Years ago, when he was in the early stages of his career, an interracial marriage was considered political suicide, so he had told everyone that his wife had disappeared following a tragic accident. Later, when it became fashionable to be associated with blacks, Native Americans and other minorities, the girl was suddenly "discovered", safe, with her mother and Grandfather on a small reservation in the Carolina Mountains. The "mystery" of her disappearance was swept under the rug and the lost family was reunited.
Initially, Dylan had been thrilled to discover that, like the other kids at her school, she had a father. That, however, only lasted until she became aware of his true feelings.
He forbid her to attend her Grandfathers classes, believing it was inappropriate for a young girl, insisting that she take more feminine instruction instead. He forced her into singing classes and ballet. Though she loved the singing classes, she hazed her ballet instructor to no end, often driving her to tears, showing up for class in full Indian Brave regalia. It really pissed her off that her father a dressed her up too, but in frilly ruffled dresses and patent leather shoes, parading her out for the cameras at every opportunity. All those years shed been without him, she had dreamed of meeting him, of being his girl and doing things together. Then he entered her life and destroyed her world. All of a sudden he wanted to be the perfect Daddy with the perfect family.
Dylan grinned remembering one final exhibition. He had been exhilarated. Dylan was turning into a beautiful young woman and he was looking forward to a family photo shoot. That was 'til he discovered his little darlin' liked girls. Guess he figured having a gay daughter wasn't good for his political career. Reflecting quietly, she thought back to the pivotal incident.
It was the day after her eighteenth birthday. She had failed to present the appropriate, sweet little mixed breed picture her "Daddy" wanted. Instead, she showed up in tight jeans and a traditional native beaded shirt, with a few modifications: it was missing half the front and all the back. She had planned to party with her school friends. Unfortunately she neglected to explain this to her plans to her father who had arranged for a publicity photographer to take pictures of the elaborate party he had planned. In his anger he had struck her, leaving a vivid red handprint on her cheek. He then restricted her to her room without benefit of friends, presents or even so much as a hug from her mother.
That evening Dylan sat in front of her computer screen reading a hot lesbian love story, one of her favorites, Mysti: Mistress of Dreams. She had just gotten to a steamy scene involving a sofa pit group when her phone rang. She jumped onto the bed, reaching for the bright red M&M shaped phone. Hoping that it was one of her friends offering to rescue her from the boredom of the four walls. Leaving the story in plain sight on the screen, she lay on her stomach to talk to her running buddy. She became so engrossed in the conversation she completely forgot she hadnt locked her door. Its amazing how fast your heart can beat and still stay in your chest. The bedroom door burst open. Her father stood there, fists balled up and firmly planted on his self-righteous hips.
"You young lady, are not allowed to have any entertainment when you are grounded, that means no phone calls and no... WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT!" He pointed to the monitor. Turning her head to look at what had caught his attention, immediately a rather graphic description of a hot love scene jumped out at her.
"Oops!" Well, she had thought of coming out with her parents but this was not exactly the way she had planned to do it.
Still angry over the slap and reacting instinctively to the attack, she responded, as usual, without thinking, "Well, father, what confuses you the most? The fact that its two women or the fact that theyre enjoying it?"
Her father hit the roof. Her mother, who had come into the room after hearing all the screaming, cried. Her Grandfather, the only one whose opinion really mattered, stood with his arm encircling her shoulder in silent support. He seemed unsurprised and was taking this all in stride.
Though Dylan loved her mother and her grandfather, she knew that in order to live she needed her freedom. She glanced up at her Grandfather through tear filled eyes and silently said good-bye. That was the last time she spoke to her father and the last day she was home. That evening she packed a small bag, and under the cover of darkness, slipped quietly out of the house. Dylan Elizabeth Cameron ran away from home.
She legally changed her name, abandoning her fathers name of Cameron in favor of her mother's name, Hawke. Dylan Hawke walked directly from the courthouse to the recruiting station. The rejection of her father to her lifestyle and his use of her heritage for political gain had affected her more than even she wanted to admit. She joined the Army to escape his always critical and oftentimes harshly judgmental eye, to escape a man she had once fervently prayed to meet.
Dylan moved up quickly in the ranks, senior Non-Commissioned Officers saw her potential and recommended her for OCS [Officer's Candidate School]. At the tender age of 21, she graduated at the top 5% of her class. When she pinned on the bars of a Second Lieutenant, virtually no one knew she was the daughter of Senator John Cameron: Senior Senator of North Carolina and closet Homophobe.
Her assignment to the Military Police Corp. had meant yet another hill to climb. Women were just not seen in the Corp., and successful minority women were rarer still. Simply put, Dylan Hawke was an anomaly. Her fathers position could have made it easier in many aspects. In those areas she felt mattered however, the fact that she was the daughter of a US Senator would have made her life a living Hell. The respect she now enjoyed was all hers. She knew she had earned it on her own. It was not the result of her fathers position. In addition, the militarys dont ask, dont tell policy made her lifestyle a moot point as long as she was discrete and she was.
Lying back in the warm water of the desert oasis, the beautiful woman contemplated her career and decided that she was happy with things just the way they were.
Returning to the moment at hand, she reluctantly but realistically considered her bath.
Well, if I stay in here any longer I'll get water logged and sink.
Dylan sighed and swam towards the shore. Reaching the bank she stood, the warm water sliding from her sleek form glittered on her skin. Turning a smiling face upwards to the sun she walked gracefully towards her clothes. Shaking her hands to rid them of the remaining drops of water, she realized she had forgotten one critical thing: No towel, drip dry. She reached for her clothes and dressed quickly. Dusting off her BDU's, she adjusted the pistol on her hip, and started back towards the camp, strolling through the deep sand.
Having finally crested the hill she paused remembering her first sighting of the camps location. She had arrived two days earlier, selecting the site, which was just Northwest of the town of Riyadh. Forty-five soldiers, including a Second Lieutenant, her First Sergeant, two NCOs and four Corporals accompanied the enlisted men, many of which were new to the Army. Four HUMMVs with six, half-ton trucks full of men, gear and equipment all took the bumpy ride out to the site. There were also two ancient jeeps, one for her and one for her First Sergeant, which led the way. Truth be told, she still preferred that old reliable Army workhorse to the HUMMER. The old jeep was lacking in suspension as well as all the modern bells and whistles and was very small but it was able to get into spaces that the wider Hummer just couldnt go. It rarely broke down and had no need for special adjustments to deal with the excessive sand, just put fuel in it and go. Plus she could drive the hell out of it and not worry about lost pay for damages. Gotta love the old yeep. She grinned, nearly skipping and she trotted down the hill and towards the camp.
The camp was well camouflaged, the netting and tan coloring made it nearly impossible to see from above and difficult at best from a distance. As she stood looking down on the busy sight she could make out the shape of one large tent, which they used for briefings, meals and general operations. Nearby sat a mid-sized tent, which served as a command post and commo center. Her spacious Commanders tent was on the other side and several smaller tents encircled that. Concertina wire, its sharp, razor-like blades glittering, surrounded the perimeter, completing and securing the site. All in all, it seemed to be a secure location.
As she approached the edge of the well organized camp she reached into her cargo pocket again, coming out with her sunglasses and headgear, each a necessity in the glaring desert sun. She entered the busy site by way of one of the two entry/egress breaks in the concertina wire, unaware of the relieved looks from her soldiers. They had seen the Captain leave the area and were concerned when she remained gone for so long. They knew that she was more than capable to taking care of herself but that did not stop them from worrying. She was the first female commander who had ever been assigned to this type of unit and the protective streak in the all-male NCO ranks came out in full force. Her NCO's had been briefed, prior to her assuming command earlier that year, on the qualifications of the beautiful Captain. Yet, they felt the inherent need to protect her. Even the new green troops felt protective of the dark haired MP. Many still remembered their first encounter with the tall, deadly beauty.
They had arrived early that morning and were in the process of settling in when they were called out of the barracks to stand in formation in the hot August sun. Everyone knew that the unit had a woman commander and they had been told that, though she was definitely female, due to her position, she was also definitely off limits and quite out of their league. After the initial shock wore off, the junior NCOs began to grumble. Many voiced their opinions of females in the Army and a few made crude suggestions about positions they felt were much more appropriate for females in general, all to the chuckles and jibes of their comrades. The laughter quickly died down when they noticed the approaching duo.
The First Sergeant was trailing a tall, dark woman in tan BDUs. The first thing they all noticed was her walk. She moved with a graceful, powerful stride that gave the immediate impression she knew exactly where she was going and what she would do when she got there. The next and far more obvious thing they noticed was her height: she was very tall and very well built. The smiles and chuckles began again but were quickly squelched when she removed her sunglasses and stared at the laughing offenders with one raised dark eyebrow over startling crystal blue eyes.
They all felt the chill as she stared into each and every soldiers eye, or at least thats the way it felt. She gave them all a quirky half smile and, placing her balled up fists on her hips, stated in a clear, calm voice: All right, I know you were expecting something a little different but you got me, so lets try to get along, shall we?
The Motor Sergeant, who was the main offender in leading the crude remarks, grunted and sneered. I ain't working in the field with no got damn woman. He mumbled just loud enough to be heard by the tall Commander.
You got a problem with me Sarge? The Captain asked, turning icy daggers towards the hulking figure of her new Motor Sergeant. Let's get it out in the open, shall we? Let's meet in the Fitness Center at 1800 and you can explain it to me.
The First Sergeant tried to change her mind and forewarn her that the Motor Sergeant was know and a bar room brawler, who never ever fought fair.
The beautiful woman simply said, Good, I need the work out, and gave the Motor Sergeant a toothy smile that did not reach her sparkling blue eyes.
The word got out that the beautiful new MP Captain was going to talk' to the Motor Sergeant at 1800 and the betting was on. Dylan arrived in the gym in her green BDU's with a green and gold MP gym bag slung over her shoulder. The Motor Sergeant was there dressed in his gray ARMY sweats. Captain Hawke slipped into the women's locker room and changed into her favorite shirt. Pembroke State University was emblazoned in bright gold over the black cotton across her chest, and a pair of soft gray Army shorts hugged her slim thighs.
She stepped out of the locker room unaware that her long tanned legs were drawing admiring glances from both the male and female inhabitants. She stepped barefoot onto the blue mat in the center of the gym floor and began to stretch. The Motor Sergeant snickered and nudged his cronies but Dylan dutifully ignored them and continued her stretching. As she stood and turned toward the NCO the smile that played on her lips was anything but pleasant.
Well, Sarge, you had something you wanted to talk to me about didn't you? She asked.
The Sergeant flexed his shoulders and rolled the head around on his stump of a neck. Grinning at the tall lean woman before him, he reached for her with one meaty hand and suddenly realized that he was no longer standing. As a matter of fact, his view of the world had completely shifted. He was laying, flat on his back, staring at the iron girders lining the gym ceiling while a slim foot rested on his throat and a pair of ice blue eyes looked down at him.
You want to try that again? The deep contralto voice asked.
He rose to his feet and turned his back on her, faking confusion. It was a move he had used successfully in the past. Spinning quickly, he swung, anticipating the feel of his powerful fist striking flesh. The problem was there was no one there. Dylan dropped quickly to a squat, allowing the arm to pass over her harmlessly, and rose as the sergeant's momentum threw him off balance. Bringing up one powerful leg, she spun and caught him on the right side of the head, staggering him. Dylan followed through with a leaping front kick taking the stunned NCO to the mat. Straddling his chest with her knees, she pinned his shoulders to the mat and a pressed a forearm into his throat.
The Sergeant looked up at the grinning MP and smiled in chagrin and defeat. Dylan folded her arms over her chest and sat back, still resting on the soldier's chest. Truce? She asked.
Beer Ma'am, he offered with a grudging smile.
Yes, they all knew how deadly she could be but were still amazed. "How could anything that looked that good be soooo bad?"
The soldiers were confident in the ability of the Captain to protect them and they all agreed it didn't hurt one bit that the officer was easy on the eyes.
She approached the First Sergeant noticing that he was observing a block of instruction on the use of Night Vision Devices [NVDs]. He was a competent soldier and she smiled realizing that she really enjoyed working with him. She made it a point to know those soldiers she had close or constant contact with and in learning about her "Top" she had discovered some amusing things. The man was a Porsche fanatic. If you ever wanted to get on his good side or to distract him just bring up, say a 1967 Carrera and off he went. Between that and his habit of constantly chewing gum - he swore it kept him from smoking - he reminded her of an over-sized teenager. His chestnut hair was now liberally sprinkled with gray but his care-worn face still showed signs of the telltale freckles he had sported in abundance as a youth. Noticing her silent arrival, he turned and nodded in deference to her rank.
"Evenin Capn". He drawled in his mid-Western accent.
"Evening Top, how are things going?" She inquired.
"Bout as well as can be expected." He sighed in resignation.
They looked at each other and grinned, knowing that this group was far more advanced than the last one they had trained and they were silently pleased with the progress so far. It was a hidden pride they shared as they were unwilling to let the troops in on it just yet, for fear that they would get cocky and let up on their training.
"All right then, keep at it Top." She turned her back to the troops, giving her First Sergeant a grin and a wink as she strolled off towards her tent.
She passed First Lieutenant, Milner along the way. Stopping to speak to the young officer, she was pleased to note that he was checking his copy of the small map they all carried and marking off the location of the caves she was interested in. The Lieutenant was an earnest young man anxious to make an impression on the stalwart Captain. He followed her around like a puppy looking for a home and emulated her every move, decision and action. Milner was a fresh faced "California boy. He reminded Dylan of a poster child for clean living. His brown hair streaked with red from the sun intensified the sparkling green eyes. It seemed that no matter where he was or what type of situation he was in, he always managed to appear freshly pressed.
That is just too freaky for words. Dylan thought, shaking her head and continuing on to her quarters. Since he already has the location marked on the grid map maybe Ill take the LT with me instead of the Top, she considered, ducking to enter her tent. Still thinking of the caves mentioned by her First Sergeant earlier, she grabbed her duffel bag and began searching it for the flashlight and Bowie knife given to her by her Grandfather. The eerie sense of: something is wrong returned, suddenly and with a vengeance. The hackles rose on her neck and her head jerked up as her focus immediately centered on her hearing.
"What the Hell ? A tank, here? We didn't plan for any tanks."
Dylan ran from her tent, eyes frantically searching. "Milner, report! Where the devil are you? Milner!" Who the Hell is driving a tank through my camp? The rapid popping of automatic rifle fire caused a dark brow to rise. Were under attack! Who the fuck are these guys? She watched as the red streak of traces illuminated the camp in twilight and helped locate the soldiers direction of fire. The sight was terrifyingly beautiful.
Turning, she ducked back into her tent and snapped up her M16, the extra clip for her 9mm and any other ammo she could find, stuffing it all into a cargo pocket. As she stepped back out she heard it, the rattling cough of machine gun fire nearby and realized her men were engaging the attackers and holding their own. She needed to locate Top. Remembering the location of the NVD class she ducked and headed in that direction. Her feet pounded the ground and her heart raced as she searched the area for her senior NCO. Hearing the growling voice of the 1SGT, she turned on the speed and angled toward the sound. She knew she had to pass the communications tent to get there so she made a mad dash towards it. She entered and saw the LT on the mike calling for support,
"Good man, LT. We need some back up, were out gunned."
Glancing outside she saw something that made her skin crawl. More enemy soldiers were coming over the rise. The attackers were Arabs, some wore Eastern block BDUs but the majority were dressed in desert robes, blacks, tans, and brown. Most wore boots with cloth leggings, their heads covered in old BDU caps or turbans. They crested the hill in ragged formation, some with sabers, others carrying vintage carbine rifles. Still others were armed with modern Tech 5 sub-machine guns. The strange hodge-podge of men and weapons seemed endless. Dylan turned back to the Lieutenant,
"Correction LT, were out-gunned and out-manned, at least three to one. Tell them to get their Asses here pronto or there wont be a here to salvage."
She exited the tent, running low towards the HUMMVs. Thats where she had heard Top. She glanced over her shoulder, back at the commo tent and watched in utter disbelief as the enemys tank turned its big gun and let loose. The tent exploded in a flashing ball of fire, flaming canvas drifting to earth like scarlet dancing butterflies. Caught in the horrid beauty of destruction, Dylan was momentarily distracted by the shivering earth and charred smell of burning flesh but was quickly returned to reality by a chilling sound: the grinding of the turret as the tank turned its smaller gun turned towards her.
RUN! her mind screamed, as she turned and raced towards the Motor pool.
The First Sergeant looked up, startled by the explosion of the communication tent. He had taken up a secure location behind a HUMMER and was holding his own with his M16 when he saw her. Jumping quickly to his feet he sprinted towards her. The instant he reached her, she felt him throw her to the ground and roll, almost immediately putting her completely beneath him. His body jerked and shuddered as rounds penetrated his back. Feeling the jarring of the body suddenly on top of her, Dylan grabbed the mans arms and looked upward into his surprised brown eyes. The courageous NCO stared down at his Captain, a look of intense shock and unimaginable pain was frozen on his face, then his eyes stilled and glazed over.
Dylan grimaced as she wriggled and crawled out from beneath the dead man on her chest, realizing he had just saved her life.
Climbing to her feet, she grabbed the fallen mans rifle and looked up, her eyes widened at the sight that greeted her: chaos. She swallowed her shock and fear, gathering her strength and wits, heading at a dead run towards the NCO's tents. Dylan knew she could allow the fear to have full rein and run for her life or gather her courage and take action. She looked around as she ran and allowed anger to be her guide. A red heat built in her heart and mind. She knew that if she gave in to it her actions would be irrational and fatal. Her other option was to use the anger and hate. She would destroy them with it.
The tank, followed by several rough-looking soldiers in ragged uniforms, was rolling through the center of camp, cutting down everything in its path. She ran, weaving and dodging around fallen men, stopping only long enough to drag a mobile radio from a dead soldier. She looked around for the remainder of her men.
"Come this way. We have to move out. Now!" Got to regroup, she thought. Then set up for a counter attack, if there are enough of us left to counter attack. "DAMN, these guys just keep coming!" She exclaimed to no one in particular, staring as even more dirty enemy soldiers rushed from the sand.
She gathered the men she could find around her and headed towards the low-lying hills in search of the caves the First Sergeant had mentioned earlier. Seeing the Lieutenants map in her minds eye and remembering the location he had marked for the caves, she headed towards the center of the hills, fairly sure of where she was going.
Her eyes seemed to see everything in red and she was almost too angry to realize what she was doing. The men following her rushed through low-lying bushes and finally into the mouth of a small cave, happy to be out of the line of fire. Dylan used the last of her strength to guard the entrance. Going in last, she staggered to a stop. Falling to her knees, her rifle was clutched tightly in one hand while the other, trembling, still locked itself around the radio. Glancing down at the gear she noticed that the radio had taken a direct hit. Now it was just an expensive doorstop. Tossing the useless equipment aside she straightened, pulled herself to her feet and turned towards the cave mouth.
She stood, staring in shock as the ragged enemy herded the soldiers they had captured into a group and turned the heavy turret-mounted 50 caliber towards the unarmed and utterly defenseless prisoners. That was when she heard it, the distinct bark of the big 50-caliber machine gun and the horrifying screams of dying men. Her dying men.
"NO!" Dylan yelled as she lunged towards the mouth of the cave.
Her surviving soldiers tackled and held her to the ground, despite her valiant struggle.
A Corporal, placing his hands on either side of her face, shouted: "NO Maam, no, you can't go out there. You can't help them. You can't help them now. You have to help us. Do you hear me? We need you. We need you, Captain."
Dylan stopped struggling. She stared at the young NCO and realized he was right. Getting captured or killed would do no good.
"Let me up," she said. "Now!"
Struggling to her feet again, she staggered to the caves mouth. Her insides rolled with tension as her eyes took in the sight. She stepped farther outside, holding onto the rock face as she leaned forward to empty her stomach into the small bushes near the caves entrance. Even with her eyes closed, she could still see the ragged bleeding bodies everywhere. Tan BDUs splattered with blood, the torn cloth shifting gently in the light breeze of early evening. She heard the rough sounds of the victors, her shaken mind unable or unwilling to translate.
Her throat burned from throwing up, her mouth was parched from gasping the dry air and her eyes hurt from holding back tears. Her head pounded from the fear, anxiety and hatred she was feeling - all at the same time. The smell of burning flesh and gunpowder singed her nostrils as she inhaled great lungs full of foul air. Fists balled in tension and rage at her sides as she stared at her camp, her men, and her home: all violated.
The sound of footsteps caught her attention; there was movement in the bushes below. She watched as three figures emerged, two were dragging a blackened third between them. As they approached Dylan recognized the red sun streaked hair of the Lieutenant.
We need some help here. She bellowed, rushing forward to help bring the horribly burned junior officer to the safety of the cave.
The Corporal bent over the young man examining his wounds, then lifted sad eyes. Sorry Maam, hes gone.
Dylan glanced back down, then out again at the camp. Terrorists laughed as they kicked and prodded the bodies of the dead soldiers, unaware of the piercing blue eyes that watched and planned.
The sun finally set and Dylan sat staring silently into the small fire in the back of the cave. The men sat nearby cleaning the virtually useless weapons. What good were guns without bullets and the escape had used up nearly all of theirs. Still they continued, gaining some small measure of comfort in the routine as they silently watched the Captain.
Dylan had not moved, had not so much as blinked, in what seemed like hours. Slowly she stood, her head bowed, still staring down at the fire. Finally, she turned and moved to squat near a pile of equipment. Methodically she searched the gear, pulling out two grenades; she attached them to the suspenders of her LBE. Standing, she adjusted her holster and pistol then jumped up and down, settling the additional equipment and checking for rattles. Looking up, she motioned for the Corporal. Squatting again, she picked up a canteen and poured some of its water onto the dark dirt at her feet. Waiting a few minutes she stirred the mixture with two long fingers. Flattening the ground with the edge of her hand, she began to form a terrain map.
"Corporal, Im going down there to try to find out whats going on. Im gonna see if I can contact Headquarters and get us some help." Pointing at the hill on the rough map, she continued. "This is our present location. There is a small oasis here," she stated, pointing to a small indention on the map. "Im going down and recon the enemy. If I can, Ill call for fire on the camp. You keep the men here - out of the possible impact zone. If, for some reason Im not back by 22 hundred take the men and head for the oasis. When you get there, stock up on water and head east. There is a small village about 30 clicks from here. Travel steady and slow. You should make it by early evening. Make sure to brief the Colonel on what happened and send back help. Any questions?" She asked.
The Corporal looked into the piercing blue eyes, then down at the map. Shaking his head in resignation, he muttered. "No Maam damn stubborn woman."
An eyebrow arched in well-practiced intimidation. "What did you say Corporal?" Dylan had heard the statement but asked anyway.
"Uh, Good luck Maam." He stuttered, embarrassed at having been caught.
Dylan poured more water on the temporary map. Reaching over, she scooped a handful of ash from the edge of the fire and added it to the gooey mud, stirring it again until it formed a soft paste. She watched her hand as if it were attached to anothers body. She remembered the lessons taught by her grandfather and unconsciously began to hum an ancient Indian chant, swaying back and forth as she streaked the high planes on her face with the thick, black mud.
As the soldiers watched their commanding officer, a vacant looked glazed Dylan's face. Slowly she stood and turned to face them, her blue eyes startling in the now nearly black face. The chill that radiated from her eyes sent shivers up more than one spine. Making eye contact with each individual, Dylan watched as every soldier nodded his head in silent acknowledgement and understanding. They knew that the men who remained in the camp were not prepared for what was about to happen and they each fully understood that she was going to do whatever it took to accomplish the mission. The eerily synchronized nod was their acceptance as well as a silent tribute to her unimaginable courage. The atmosphere inside the small refuge shifted dramatically. Once filled with a sense of desperation and terror, it now pulsed with hope and the burning desire for vengeance.
Dylan moved wordlessly to the mouth of the cave. Turning briefly, she stared back into the faces of her young troops and smiled. Then, Captain Dylan Hawke disappeared into the darkness.
"Focus" Dylan thought as she moved, like a shadow, through the small bushes at the mouth of the cave. Pausing, she allowed her eyes to adjust to the darkness before continuing. She entered the small scrub area covering the base of the hills. Stealthily, she moved to the outer edge of the camp. The demolished concertina wire had been pushed aside by the enemy for better access into the camp. Cautiously she stopped again to mentally count and place the location of each of the enemy. She grinned and bent at the waist as she ran towards her tent.
Entering through the rear opening, she quickly searched her now scattered gear. In their haste to find valuables the enemy had overlooked a small pile of clothing and blankets shoved under her cot. In the tent corner, under the blanket, was her spare duffel bag that carried additional equipment, ammo and a small two-way Land Sat-radio with a solar battery. Reaching under her cot, she pulled out a tan backpack and located her Grandfathers bowie knife and the spare clip for her 9 mm.
Clipping the knife in its sheath to her LBE, she stuffed the remaining equipment, ammo and radio into the pack and, shouldering it, took a final look around. With a sigh of regret she pulled the pin from the first grenade. She was about to roll it under her cot when she heard the rustle of canvas. Her head jerked up and she stared at the front entrance as the canvas flap was drawn back. Standing there was a handsome dark-eyed Arab, his sharp features back-lit by the burning fires behind him.
Glancing up and down her body, his eyes stopped at her nametag. "Well, the hawk has returned to her roost. Welcome little hawk."
Dylan drew herself to her full height and glared at the stranger with narrowed, angry eyes. "Are you the bastard who is leading these animals?"
The man bowed at the waist, arrogantly touching his hand to his forehead then flicking it outward in a taunting salute. "May I introduce myself? I am Sharif Kadine. And you, beautiful woman, are my prisoner." He smiled and reached for her.
"I think not, asshole." Dylan replied. Tipping her head slightly to one side and lifting a single dark eyebrow, the officer quietly held up the grenade. She relaxed her hand and allowed the spoon to fly off with a chiming: ping. "See you in Hell, dick head." She smiled broadly and tossed the now live grenade to him.
Kadine caught it purely out of reflex and stood, gaping at her. Dylan turned, still smiling, and ran from the tent, glancing back in time to see the man throw himself out the entrance just as the tent exploded into a fiery ball of flames and canvas.
"Damn, missed him!" She exclaimed.
Now on borrowed time, she ran straight to the tank, the steel behemoth that rested near her quarters. She stopped by the tread and, pulling the pin, placed her last grenade - shoving it into the rubber matting of the left tread. She heard the sound of rifle fire and dirt jumped at her feet. She scrambled, dodging bullets; the shouts of the enemy in her ears. Turning, she headed towards the oasis, knowing that she would be followed and hoping to lead them off her trail.
Thats when she heard it, the sound of cheering. Glancing over her left shoulder, she looked up. Through the shadows of night she saw her men, standing in the bushes at the mouth of the cave. She noticed the frantic Corporal, trying to get the men back inside. Behind her, mixed with the sounds of rifle fire she heard him. Kadine was laughing, loudly, insanely, laughing.
"Aw shit," she thought. "They think this is some kind of game. They just gave away our position."
Hearing the explosion of the second grenade, she desperately hoped it had drowned out the sounds of her men. Turning, she headed towards the cave, frantic to reach it, knowing that the young soldiers were in terrible danger. Their youthful exuberance had targeted their location. Arms pumping and feet flying, she dodged bushes as she scrambled to reach the cave, diving in just as she heard the explosion of the big gun on the tank. Cursing silently she knew she had stopped its capability to move but not to fire.
The rocks resting above the mouth of the cave exploded violently, throwing sand and rock into the cave. A second round hit the ground directly in the front of the cave.
"Theyre bracketing our location," she thought.
"Get back, get to the rear of the cave. Get down NOW!" She screamed and felt the air rush by her as a third round whipped past her head and into the rear wall of the sanctuary. Another round slammed into the roof of the cave entrance. The ground trembled and the air filled with dust. Dylan felt herself being lifted and thrown backward into a wall of stone. She was vaguely aware of her head and shoulder slamming into the rock, a bright white light flashed behind her eyelids. Then, there was nothing.
The almost blessed nothingness was temporary; soon it was followed by the sound of a buzzing like a thousand bees.
"By God, I hurt. Where what happened?"
Her head throbbed, her ears rang and her side was on fire. Dylan drew her legs up and tucked them close to her bruised body. The movement caused her side to ache. Slowly she brought her feet beneath her and stood on shaking legs. The ringing in her ears grew louder and the ground swayed beneath her as she reached out blindly for the wall. Her vision cleared gradually, as she looked around. Her men broken, bloody, dead all of them were dead. Silently she fell to her knees, pitching forward, as the world again, went mercifully black.
As she surfaced again, Dylan began to remember the events of the past few...what was it? Had it been hours, minutes, or days? Holding a shaking hand to her head in a vain attempt to stop the world around her from spinning, she stood. Staggering from body to body, feeling for a pulse, she was to be disappointed again and again. She gathered the dog tags from the bodies, one from each, leaving one to identify the remains. As she wandered through the destruction she gathered body parts, arms, legs, even boots with feet still in them, placing some near the appropriate remains and stacking others that she couldnt ID into a pile at the rear of the cave.
Dylan stopped often to empty what little remained in her stomach, finally ending with dry heaves when there was nothing else left in her empty stomach. She continued, her mind not yet fully grasping that her efforts were in vain. The parts would not reattach. The men would not stand if she shoved their feet back onto the mangled legs. But still she continued. Finally the last body, the Corporal, his eyes locked open in shocked amazement, stared at her. The expression on his face reached deep into her subconscious. He was DEAD! Her brain finally kicked in, and the numbing shock became gripping, indescribable terror.
She had to get out! Still clutching the bloodied dog tags, she scrambled towards the entrance. The explosion had virtually sealed the cave. The terrorists had not bothered to break through the barrier that sealed the entrance. Noticing a small opening at the top of the mouth, she began to climb. The smell of burnt stone and charred flesh, the sickeningly sweet metallic smell of fresh blood and the putrid smell of urine and feces were heavy in the air. Dylan was frantic to escape.
By the time she reached the tiny opening she was babbling and incoherent. Forcing her bruised, bloodied and battered body through the jagged hole, she felt the cool air of the night finally strike her face. Lacking even the strength to stop herself, she rolled down the other side of the mound of stone and landed in a heap at the bottom. Dazed, but alive, she staggered to her feet and began walking.
Night had fallen and the shifting sands stilled as if resting for the next day. A light breeze filled the air but no sounds were heard except the faint whisper of cloth lifting and shifting in the still heated air. A tiny oasis sparkled in the night, the water reflecting the twinkling stars on its black surface.
A figure sat on the crest of the dune looking past the water, out into the desert, quietly staring across the darkness of the sand. If not for the gentle breeze moving the cloud of black hair she may have been mistaken for a long forgotten statue, half buried in the sand, abandoned by some ancient desert tribe.
Icy blue eyes focused on an unseen target somewhere in the distance, imagining her objective. It was three years now. Three years since the rabid animal had visited insanity upon her life, laughing maniacally as her world blew apart around her. Now she guarded this portion of the desert and sought out the man responsible for the destruction. For these past three years the people of the area had lived in peace and security, protected by a being they considered almost mythical. Here, in the hot desert sand, the myth sat alone - watching, remembering, planning and waiting for the moment when justice would at last be served and rest would come for the memories.
Dylan thought back to the day theyd found her. Even now, the memories were sketchy. They had found her near the oasis, torn, bloody and unconscious. For three days shed remained that way. With no thought of reward and little thought of the possible dangers involved, they, the people of the desert, had cared for her, dressing her injuries and seeing to her needs, but she did not wake. The tall stranger screamed and mumbled in her sleep but her eyes did not open. On the fourth day, she woke.
They knew instantly that she was different. She had the evil eye, blue eyes, glazed with hate. They feared her but were more afraid to abandon her in the greater fear that she would curse them. Now they knew that she had been sent, not to curse them but to curse Kadine - the man who raped their daughters, stole their food and beat down any resistance. She was their answer from Allah. She killed the men of Kadine. In return, they provided her with food, clothes and, when needed, medical attention. They ran messages to the nearby villages for her and dutifully turned over the men she captured alive to the NATO authorities, those few she let live. They knew her only as Hawk for that was the name she gave them.
Whenever the raiders attacked, a silent killer appeared like a dark apparition, bearing down upon their enemy. She fought with dead eyes, feeling nothing and remembering only the smell of scorched stones and the faces of soldiers dead now for three years.
For three years, Dylan had hunted for Kadine. Now only a handful of his most loyal soldiers stood between her and the mad man. She knew it would be over soon, he was desperate.
Dylan stood. Brushing off her trouser bottoms, she turned and retraced her steps to her camp in the foothills near the oasis. She always returned here after battle to recover, to bathe her wounds in the cool waters of the small spring fed pool. She thought of the time before, when the desert people found her. Though she remembered very little clearly, she did recall the hands that had cared for her, healing her body but not her mind. Now, whenever she needed a retreat, a quiet place to fight the demons in her soul, she returned to this place.
"My birth place." She thought with a grim smile. "Now I can finish it."
Dylan squatted near her small campfire and stirred a pot of shepherds stew, the aroma of cooking mutton filled her senses. She smiled grimly thinking back to the MREs that had been a mainstay during those early days.
"I still hate those damn things." She muttered to herself, reaching into her small bag for a pinch of salt. She hummed to herself as she slowly sprinkled the salt into the stew, staring as it dissolved.
Some days her memories were vivid, memories of the events before Kadine. Other days, like today, were more difficult. She had started the morning early, a headache waking her to the predawn light. Her sleep had been even more disturbing than usual. She relived the explosion in the cave again and again, but last night had been different. Last night she had heard screams, a womans screams. At first she thought they were her own but in the dream she was searching for someone, the screaming woman. In the dream, the womans voice was as familiar to her as her own and she knew that the woman was in danger and she, Dylan, would do whatever was necessary to protect her. The woman had screamed Dylans name and, in the dream, reached out to her. In desperation to reach her, the soldier woke sitting straight up with her hand outstretched, the womans name still on her lips. But now, in the light of day, she could not remember it. Dylan closed her eyes and tried desperately to recall the details of the dream, but all she could see was a face surrounded by a veil of blond hair and the impression of green eyes.
Frustrated, she sat with her head in her hands and cursing under her breath at the fates that had put her there, so far from everything she knew. Taking a deep breath she stood and slipped silently to the edge of the camp. Her appetite gone, she paced in the fading light.
Finally, stopping on the crest of the dune, she stared out at the distant hills, unmoving, the light breeze catching her black flowing robes. She had adopted for the dress favored by the natives and used them to blend in whenever she needed to go into the nearby village. Though her height and eye color was impossible to hide, she did make a more convincing native in the robes.
She returned to the camp and squatted near her small fire, drawing a large Bowie knife from a sheath hidden in folds of her leggings. With a glazed look on her face she mindlessly began sharpening the knife in long even strokes, staring into the flames. She knew better than to dwell on the memories. Instead, she used the anger to drive her on. Remembering that terrible time again had saved her sanity.
Kadine had given the orders for the attack on her unit. He had initiated the entire mission. Her hatred of the madman had fueled the methodical destruction of his empire. It had also made him desperate, he needed men and money to rebuild. Now his greed had brought him back here, back to her.
Lura stared out the window of the decrepit 747, watching the ground creep closer. Everything in sight was one monotonous color: tan. The ground was tan, the runway was tan, and the people were tan. She smiled at that thought.
Hell if I stare long enough I bet the sky will turn tan, she chuckled to herself.
She shifted uncomfortably in the seat, tightening the ancient seat belt and brushing the wrinkles from her travel worn trousers. She really hated flying but she would do anything for this story, even fly to god knows where in an overcrowded excuse for an airplane with nearly nonexistent air conditioning. To make matters worse, she was seated next to an older man who seemed to think that she was a lounge pillow and took every opportunity to lay his head on her shoulder and attempt to wrap his arm around her waist. Rolling her eyes towards the ceiling, Lura sighed and, faking a stretch, politely elbowed the offender in the nose, gasping in mock surprise at the grunt of pain from the man. She smiled and stared at him until he turned away, only to lean on the shoulder of the passenger on his other side.
Turning back to the window Lura stared again out at the barren landscape that flowed below her. It had taken every bit of her charisma to talk her boss into allowing her to take this trip, but she knew a story when she heard one and this was definitely a story.
God, it had better be a story. I sure have a lot riding on this. Only eight months left to prove myself. Why did I make that stupid deal with Mother? Maybe I should have just worked my way through school like I threatened to do. Sometimes tradition and money can bite donkeys butt. Mother and her Southern ideas will be the death of me yet. Well, more likely the death of my career if I dont make this work. Only eight measly months between the career Ive always dreamed of and being a frigging Romance Writer in the nauseatingly grand tradition of Knights on white horses and wussy females waiting to be rescued. Not! I cant think about that right now. I have to think about the Hawk. He exists. I know he exists. Why else would I be so damned obsessed?
For years the people of this region had spoken of a mythical being they called Hawk. Now, thousands of miles from home, she actually had the chance to investigate the stories.
She remembered how the guys back in the newsroom had laughed at her, offering to pay the travel expenses for her next story, a trip to Loch Ness to find the Monster. Shed laughed along in good humor. Grinning, shed waived her ticket at them as she strolled out the door toward the waiting cab. That had been two long days ago. Now, just beneath her laid the deserts of Saudi Arabia, a country fought over for as long as humans could remember. She was about to touch down in a land bathed in mystery, steeped in history and, she hoped, holding the key to her future.
Could I have come up with a place more different than home? This dry, hot unending tan is such a sharp contrast to the cool soothing greens of Virginia. Here theres sand as far as the eye can see, where at home thered be rolling hills and ivy covered walls. The genteel southern charm of Virginia verses the harsh, brutal reality of this barren wasteland. So why do I feel so torn? Virginias always been home for me. My head tells me it still is but my heart is telling me something else.
She opened her journal and reviewed her notes. The Hawk was believed to be the spirit of an ancient warrior, returned to once again protect the people from marauding killers. He was said to protect the innocent from the horrors of the roaming armies of terrorists who called themselves holy soldiers. The people described him as incredibly tall, with cold blue eyes that could penetrate the bodies of the wicked and steal their very souls. If one believed all the locals said, this being was amazingly strong, never felt pain and was never injured. He could walk through the sand and never leave tracks, he would simply appear in the heat of battle, silent, deadly and unstoppable.
Yep, and he leaps tall buildings in a single bound. Lura chuckled. Why am I here? Is this guy for real or am I on some kinda wild goose chase? Here I sit, trying to psyche myself up to do what? Not be frightened that I won't find him or be terrified that I will?
She turned her head again, staring at her own reflection in the scratched Plexiglas window. Her soft green eyes, large and haunted from lack of sleep, her short blonde hair, a tossed cap of gold on her head. She studied her eyes, trying to see the truth there. She had no idea what had drawn her here or why, she simply knew she had to come.
If I were being honest with myself I would realize I didn't come here only for a story, but I would also have no other clue as to why I am here. I just know I had to come.
Ever since she had begun hearing stories of the Hawk, while in her journalism classes at the University of Virginia, she had been drawn to this point, this place in time. For the last two years she had seen him almost every night when she closed her eyes.
She saw the tall dark figure standing alone in the sand. The wind whipping his robes, he always stood alone facing a small quiet pool. She tried every night to see the features she knew would be reflected in the still water. She never did. It didnt matter, she had known who he was. He was Hawk. But, lately, the dreams had changed. The image that had always appeared distant, powerful and very masculine had begun to soften. The image of the flowing robes had changed. Now Lura could tell that it wasnt just long black robes lifted by the desert wind but also long jet-black hair. The profile had begun to clarify, to sharpen into the profile of a beautiful woman with crystal blue eyes. Eyes that held unimaginable sorrow in their icy depths. Lura felt drawn to the strange apparition. She felt the need to protect not her body, but her soul. Every night now she dreamed of the beautiful woman. Every night she felt the pull of a battered soul calling to her own.
"I dont know who you are or where youve gone, but I know that we will meet. Ill be there for you. I will find you."
Lura was startled from her thoughts by the sudden jarring of the plane as it touched down, the huge body shuddering as the alerons lifted to slow the ancient craft.
'I'm here, finally I'm here.'
Finding herself short of supplies, Dylan decided to venture into town. Dressed again in the dark desert robes, she wandered through the local market looking for material to replace her worn sleeping blankets and stock up her food supplies. As always, Dylan kept her ears opened for leads on the monster she hunted. Thats how she heard about the visiting television crew.
Gossip in the markets were godsends to her. Better than CNN, she smirked.
Dylan had been hunting the animal now for three years. She had tried to keep abreast of the changes in the US but some things were almost impossible to monitor. This new anchorman LG Evans was one of them. She had never heard of Evans, but the idea of camera crews in the area had excited the locals. She heard that this crew was here searching for the mysterious Hawk.
Having learned enough Dylan hurried to complete her shopping and head back to the oasis. She intended to have enough supplies to stay hidden until they left. The last thing on her agenda was to blow her cover with a news story.
I need to pick up some meat and fruit, then Ill head back to camp.
Having purchased a cured leg of mutton, she wandered toward the fresh fruit stands intent on some citrus to supplement her diet. As she walked closer she overheard the discussion of the vendor.
Apparently, Kadine, was intent on kidnapping the anchorman and his crew. The equipment alone was worth a fortune, not to mention the value the news company would place on the crew and anchorman.
Dylan smiled grimly. Finally, the opportunity to be in the same place as Kadine.
The time was near. Soon, she would have the chance to bring an animal to justice. Dylan knew Kadines intentions, he would ransom the men and then turn around and sell them to the highest bidder. He would try to use them to restore his ravaged army. She intended to throw a wrench into the works. Stopping Kadine from kidnapping the news group would not work. She knew she needed to allow the kidnapping to occur, then she could follow the men back to their camp and finally destroy the viper in his pit.
Gathering her supplies Dylan headed back to the oasis to plan.
The hotel room was stifling and miserably dark. The yellowed walls showed signs of age in every crack. The once gold curtains had faded to a sickly yellow and the formerly deep green carpet was what Lura like to refer to a baby upchuck green. An ancient desk crouched in a corner by the rooms only window, a wobbly wooden chair provided the only seat with the exception of the bed.
Lura sat gingerly on the edge of the chair, trying to avoid getting splinters in some very uncomfortable places and stared into the colorful screen of her laptop, reviewing the notes she had compiled for her story. A disgusted expression appeared on her face as she read her interview comments from earlier in the week.
She had met with a horrible little man named El Kadine, who claimed that he was the savior of the people. The impression Lura had gotten was that he was, in fact, exactly what all earlier reports had called him: a greedy disgusting glorified terrorist who fed on the misfortunes of the poor and ignorant. Thoughts of him conjured up pictures of slimy eels and the feeling of needing a steaming hot shower, preferably with lye soap.
They had been in Riyadh for three days now. Lura had visited every restaurant, bar and dive in the town. No one was talking. No one would tell them anything useful about the Hawk. After all their efforts they had no more information now than they had when they arrived. Lura knew the Hawk had a habit of appearing when most needed, that he was tall and incredibly strong, but that was all.
Most of the inhabitants of the town were either in fear of the Hawk or loved him to distraction and would rather turn in their fathers than betray this supposed hero. Whenever she asked for a description of the man, they would smile, shake their heads and look at her as if she had lost her mind.
My god, you would think we were asking them to give up information on National security, Lura thought. Well, one more chance. Bob said something about a small village in the desert where the Hawk was supposed to hang out. If we stay there long enough he may show up. I just hope the paper lets us extend our visit.
Shutting down her laptop, Lura closed the lid and slipped the slender computer into its padded carrying case. Zipping it shut she set it on the floor next to her small suitcase. Still mentally preoccupied, she walked into the bathroom and began packing her toiletries.
What if we do meet him? God I hope I dont make a complete idiot of myself. I had better review my interview questions again. I doubt he will be in the mood for any long conversations, so I have to narrow them down to really pertinent things. That means asking about his girlfriend is a definite No No. God, why am I so interested in his love life? What is it about this Hawk?
Stuffing her toiletry bag into the top of her suitcase completed her packing. Lura shouldered her laptop bag, picked up her suitcase and headed out the door, down the stairs to the desk and her waiting camera crew.
Bob waited in the hot sun by the van for the reporter. He smiled when he saw the young anchorwoman. She was dressed in khaki walking shorts, a short sleeved white top, and a tan sleeveless vest with lots of pockets finished her outfit. Her arms and legs had still not tanned in the hot desert sun her skin was a soft pearl tone. The sunlight had brought out the burnished red highlights in her golden hair, making the light green in her eyes sparkle. Feeling more like an over protective father than the senior member of the crew, Bob grabbed Luras bag and tossed it into the back of the rented van. He then held the sliding rear door open and helped the petite woman inside. Making sure that she had fastened her seat belt and that the door was secure, he slid into the front passenger seat and gave Richard, the camera man, a nod to head out.
The village was about two hours away and Lura had decided to nap on the way there. She had been asleep for about 45 minutes when the sharp swerving of the van jarred her awake.
"HEY! Richard, whats goin on?
"Hang on Lura!" Richard yelled, struggling with the steering wheel to keep the vehicle on the road. "Some asshole is trying to run us off the road."
Lura screamed as the van was rammed in the side by an ancient SUV. The driver was dressed in dark brown robes and seemed determined to cause an accident. Beside him, the passenger waived a semi automatic rifle and gestured wildly, screaming at the driver.
"Get down Lura!" Bob yelled, spotting the weapon. He reached back to force the young reporter to the seat when Richard lost control of the vehicle. It all seemed to happen in slow motion. The truck slammed into the side of the van. The left front wheel of the van caught on a bolder on the edge of the road. A loud grinding followed by a harsh metallic snap and the wheel went flying off. The front of their van dropped. Digging instantly into the dirt, it stopped suddenly. Lura felt herself thrown forward; she saw the headrest of the seat in front of her coming towards her at an alarming speed, then nothing.
It was the throbbing that woke her. She had no idea where she was. It was dark and she couldnt breathe. She heard voices, angry voices; some in English some in Arabic. Raising her hand to her head, she realized that there was a blanket covering her face.
" Well, that explains the breathing problem and the darkness." She thought. "What the hell is all the screaming about? For the love of Zeus, dont they know I have a splitting headache?"
Lifting the blanket, she saw Bob. Some strange man was yelling at him. She watched in stunned amazement as the man in dark robes raised the rifle he held, swinging it down towards Bobs head. The older man turned at the last minute, taking the blow on his shoulder, then fell to his knees, his arm going instantly numb from the impact.
What are they doing? I have got to stop them! Lura threw back the covers and sprang onto the back of the armed man. "Run Bob!" she screamed, beating the man with her small fists.
The strange man twisted his body throwing the frantic woman to the ground. Laughing, he drew back his foot and kicked her in the side. Glancing over his shoulder he looked at his friends and commented in Arabic. They laughed. He turned again and looked down at the small blonde. The smile disappeared from his face as he knelt beside her. Gathering her shirtfront in his fist, he drew his hand back and slapped her sharply across the cheek. The men behind him laughed and gestured, encouraging him.
Lura was thrown to the ground where she curled tightly into a ball, struggling to control the scream of pain and trying to present as small a target as possible.
Bob watched in horror as the man in dark brown slapped the young woman. As the attacker drew his hand back again Richard and he both sprang to their feet and charged the armed guards.
Dylan stared into the fire, her hands methodically sharpening her bowie knife. The sound of the whetstone sliding against the blades edge seemed to calm her. She smiled, thinking of the night ahead. She knew that Kadine would have to make camp soon so that he could film his demands. He couldnt move fast, his hostages needed to be in good condition if he expected any return on his investment. The anchorman, LG Evans, and the two-man camera crew were worth their weight in gold to any despot who was willing to pay the price. Most wanna-be dictators would love to set up their own propaganda television show and be capable of televising it worldwide. The technology and equipment the crew possessed would allow anyone access to satellite bans around the world. No, endangering the crew would be foolish. The key to screwing Kadines mission was to rescue Evans and that crew, then to destroy the remainder of Kadines army.
I think I will pay little Kadine a quiet social call tonight and stir up the pot a bit. Dylan smiled and returned the knife to its sheath. Standing, she melted into the darkness.
Kadine was furious; he stormed into his tent screaming at the top of his lungs. His men would ruin everything. They were endangering his entire plan just because they could not their limit their needs to the camp whores. The men had been dealt with as an example to others but the damage had been done, one of the camera crew was dead, one was badly injured and the woman had been abused. How was he going to make any money now?
"Idiots! Rashiem!" he screamed. A swathe giant lumbered into the tent and knelt on one knee before Kadine.
"El Kadine." He said with his head bowed. Rashiem had been with Kadine since the early days and though he was older and much larger that the other man, he looked upon him as a savior of the people. His devotion was almost fanatical.
"Find the families of those idiots and kill them all." he stated, flicking his wrist dismissing the giant to carry out his bidding. Kadine stalked to the large mirror in his tent staring angrily at his own image. He thought himself a rather handsome man. His slick black hair was cut in a fashionable style, which could not hide the receding hairline. His nose was fine boned and not at all the prominent beak of his father. His skin was a golden brown, which had darkened to a rich mahogany as he was exposed too long to the desert heat. He was, at first glance, almost irresistibly handsome, until one looked into his cold dead eyes. After admiring his image in the tall glass he turned, speaking aloud as he paced the length of the tent, deep in thought.
"I must ensure the girl lives. I will need her to train another camera crew. Then, perhaps I will enjoy her myself before I sell her."
With a plan now in mind, he began to remember the face of the woman. Blondes were quite rare here and this one had hair of yellow fire, her eyes were the cool soothing green of the desert palms. He understood the fascination of his men, she was indeed a rare treat, and she would sell quickly on the white slave market.
Lura lay on her back in the dark corner of the hot tent. Bob Carter propped himself into a position closer to her and wrung out the cloth of lukewarm water. Wiping the girls bruised and battered face he grimaced as he remembered the beating she had taken.
Dumb kid, should have just let them slap us around. We would have never told.
The cameramen had hidden the girl in a depression in the back of the tent and covered her with the torn blankets and pillows they had been given to sleep on. They had seen the looks the guards had given the small woman and knew that it would only be a matter of time before one of them acted on their evil thoughts. The guards had come in that night and, not seeing the girl, had guessed that the cameramen had somehow helped her escape. They were taking out their anger on the crew when the girl had thrown off the covers and attacked the larger guards.
"She's got guts. Not real smart," he smirked with a proud grin, "but, she does have guts."
Bob smiled sadly at the memory of the fiery young woman attacking. Then he remembered the guards first driving off the cameraman. Then they began to beat the girl into submission, tearing at her clothes and kicking her once she fell. Finally, as they began ripping at her underwear, the crew, unable to sit and watch her get raped, attacked again, driving back the guards. Richard had fallen under the blades and fists of two of the guards, while Bob had struggled with two others, getting stabbed repeatedly in the process. The noise had alerted Kadine who rushed into the chaos screaming obscenities, all the while beating the guards with a riding whip. Bob had fallen to his knees by the small huddled form and shielded her with his own body, but the damage had been done. Lura lay half naked and still, her eyes clamped shut in pain and her arms wrapped around her midsection.
That had been hours ago and she still had not awakened. Now, partially dressed, she was stretched out on a torn blanket. Bob looked at the battered face again. Her lips were split and bloody, the right side of her face from hairline to jaw was swollen and bruised from the kick she had taken to the side of her head. He had been glad at first that she had lost consciousness, knowing that she would be in a great deal of pain once she woke. He thought she may have some bruised or broken ribs and possibly some internal damage. He was worried.
Shes been out for too long, I need her to wake up. Im not sure how much longer Ill be here for her and shes got to protect herself.
The older man inhaled sharply, aware of the slowly bleeding gash that ran the length of his side and across his midsection. He again rinsed out the tattered rag and gently wiped the battered face, saying a silent prayer for help.
Dylan crept along the edge of the camp, noting the location of the guards, surprised at the bodies she had passed earlier on the edge of the large camp. Four men, who appeared to have been soldiers, three fairly young women, an elderly couple and two young boys, all dead and left for the desert beast to feed on. At least the boys and the women had been killed quickly, Dylan thought, remembering the strange angles of each neck. Kadine needed to set an example. Wonder why? A feeling of dread began to creep up her spine with that thought. I have to hurry. Dylan paused shaking her head in confusion. Where did that come from? I gotta get it together, gotta focus. Im too close to fuck this up now.
Moving silently through the shadows she slipped up behind a small tent placed close to the center of the camp. Pulling her scarf across her face to further darken her features, she drew her knife and neatly slit a seam in the back. Slowly dragging herself inside she lay motionless, allowing her senses to adjust to the interior, trying to pick out a target. Movement drew her eyes to a still, dark corner where she made out the form of a man sitting, hunched over. Slowly she rose to her feet and silently stepped towards the figure. As she approached she noticed the mans dress. He was a Westerner, Probably one of the kidnap victims. I wonder where the others are? She paused to see what the man was working on and startled him with her gasp.
Lying wrapped in torn blankets was a beautiful woman with a hauntingly familiar face. I know you. Dylan thought, as she stared down at the face of the young woman.
Bob felt a presence in the tent, and then a shadow fell over him. He glanced quickly behind and was startled to see a figure there, seemingly having materialized from thin air. He gasped in surprise, then gathered his strength to rise and face this new threat.
The man tried to stand to confront her. Dylans eyes left the prone figure on the blanket for a second to watch him, dismissing him instantly as no threat.
"Who are you? Im warning you, come any closer and Ill kill you." Bob stared at the tall silent figure before him: at least six feet tall, his face covered with a black cloth leaving only the eyes visible. Icy blue pools that reached deep into his soul and sent shivers down his spine. He watched the eyes, first staring at the girl with anger, then they lifting to meet his. Bob was no coward but what he saw there made him swallow as a cold sweat broke out on his forehead.
It was apparent to Dylan that this man was in no shape to take on anyone but she admired his tenacity in trying.
A low voice whispered, "Are you LG Evans?"
"Youre the Hawk. You're a woman!" he exclaimed.
Dylan paused, confused; staring at him, surprised at his comment. "Yes, and yes." Dylan answered, frustration evident in her voice. "Are you LG Evans?"
"No," Bob responded. "She's hurt."
"I don't have time for this. Where is LG Evans?" Dylan demanded.
"I told you." Bob said, pointing at the small prone figure wrapped in the tattered blanket. "She's hurt."
"She is LG. Evans? LG Evans is a woman?"
"Yes, Lura Grant Evans." Bob stated, smiling at the role reversal. The smile left his face with the next comment. "She was hurt pretty badly by the guards earlier this evening. You gotta get her out of here. She needs medical attention."
Dylan pulled the cloth from her face and knelt down next to the small prone figure. She did not hear the gasp of the man still standing.
"My God, she's beautiful!" Bob thought. "Who is she and what is she doing out here in the middle of this Hell hole?" He completely forgot that train of thought however, when the strange woman reached towards Lura. "What are you doing?" He asked, instinct causing him to reach out to stay her hand. His wrist was grasped in a steel vice and bent backwards. He found himself on his knees.
"Don't touch her and don't touch me ever."
The dark woman spoke in a harsh, bitter voice. She released his arm, throwing it back towards him and forcing him to fall backwards onto his butt with a painful grunt.
"God shes strong." Bob thought.
She reached again for the blonde woman, laying a surprisingly gentle hand on the pale, unbruised cheek.
Lura was in pain. She did not want to open her eyes. Then she felt it, a warmth her body remembered.
"Finally," she whispered, slowly raising a single eyelid, revealing one soft, moss green eye. "Youre here. I knew you would come for me."
She closed the eye and sank deeper into the darkness, into a place without pain, knowing she would be kept safe now. 'She was here now. Everything would be OK.
Dylan froze. "What had she said?" She stared down at the small woman and felt herself drifting. Memories flashed through her mind; memories of this woman, dressed in what looked to be some kind of ancient battle gear, smiling at her.
Bob watched the tall stranger, confusion written on his face. She sat there in a daze, not moving, not speaking; just staring.
"Hey, you have to get her out of here. Please." He reached out to touch her but remembered the last time he had done that. "Please!" He pleaded, louder this time.
The dark head turned towards him. He was struck again by the icy stare. "Who did this to her?" The voice was harsh, deep and quivering with anger. When no reply was forthcoming she spoke again. "I asked you a question. Who did this to her?" This time Dylan's hand shot out, gripping the man's throat.
"Please, I can't breathe. Ill tell you if you just let go." Bob gasped for air, clutching at the powerful hand, trying to ease the vise-like grip on his throat.
Dylan loosened her hold and lowered her hand, her voice barely more than a growl. "I will not ask you again. Who is responsible for this?"
"The guards, they came looking for her. We tried to hide her but they got rough. She tried to protect us. They beat her, they were trying to, to "
Dylan closed her eyes, lowering her head. "Where are they?" She asked.
"Dead, I think. I heard screaming then nothing. I think he killed them."
Nodding his head, Bob replied. "Yeah, he came in here and drove them off. He was screaming and yelling about how he couldn't sell the dead. Then he had them taken away by more guards. I think he had them killed."
Dylan remembered the bodies she had seen earlier.
"Listen," Bob said, "you gotta get her out of here. He'll be back and she may not survive another mix with him or his men."
"Yeah, were getting out of here."
"No," Bob said. "You go. Take her with you. I prayed someone would come and you did, but Im hurt. Id slow you enough to get caught. Please? Just take her and get her out."
Dylan looked closer at the older man, for the first time she really looked. The man was so pale he was almost gray, his lips had a blue tint to them and his eyes were dulling. She had seen that look before. This man was dying.
"Where are you wounded?" She asked.
Bob moved his shirt to the side and raised a rough bandage, revealing the gaping wound. The blood had not stopped and was still slowly oozing from his side. Dylan knew the wound was fatal, he had lost too much blood and there were no medical facilities close enough, or with the proper equipment, to save him. Dylan raised her eyes to his and saw that he knew the truth.
"Ill get her out of here. You have my word." She knew she could never leave the small blonde behind but had no clue why.
Bob glanced up at the tall woman with a tired look of gratitude. "What's your name?" he asked.
"I was Captain Dylan Hawke." She stated, glancing down again at the smaller woman and missing the stunned expression on the face of the dying man.
Captain Hawke? But shes dead. The Army had turned out in force to search for her body when her camp was discovered destroyed three years ago. He thought.
"But youre dead!" Bob blurted out, then realized how that sounded. "I mean well, you know what I mean."
Dylan found herself smiling at his confusion.
"Damn, woman! Some hot shot Senator from your home state showed up here raising Holy Hell. Called out every unit in Saudi looking for you. Never seen anything like it." Bob exclaimed excitedly before being stopped by a fit of coughing ended in a dry rasp. "Hell, that hurts." He whispered, falling forward into Dylan's arms.
She gently lowered the man to the sand.
"Hey, take it easy. Breathe slowly." Dylan admonished, rolling the man onto his back, easing his breathing.
Bob smiled up at the beautiful woman above him.
"Shit!" He moaned in pain. "Lady, you almost caused Desert Storm Part 2. The Saudi's did some fast-talking to get out of that one. They never found the rest of your unit. The Government here said it was terrorists, but that Senator didn't give a shit. Hell, he's still lookin' for you!"
Dylan stared at the wounded man in confusion. He's still looking. Why?'
Bob lay gasping. "What a way to go." He said, smiling sadly. "One beautiful woman lying beside me and another one leaning over me. Only one regret: I got the biggest damn story this side of the Mason Dixon and I don't even get to film it." He sighed and breathed one last time.
Dylan stared silently down at the brave man, then gently closed the eyes still staring at her and bowed her head in silent prayer.
Dylan gazed again at the still, blonde figure lying on the rough, well-worn blankets. It hadn't been easy getting the woman out of the camp. The hardest part was getting her out of the tent unseen. Then there had been the trek back to the camp, carrying her precious burden fireman style.
"God, I must be out of shape," Dylan grinned. She had had to stop several times to rest during the arduous trip. After finally reaching her camp, near dawn that morning, she had gone out again to backtrack and hide their trail.
She had stolen back into the terrorist camp and laid a false trail leading into the shrouded foothill, breaking branches and turning stones to give the impression of an injured woman fleeing in terror, with little regard for stealth.
"This should keep them busy for a while." Dylan thought. As she moved silently through the low lying bushes her mind returned to the beautiful woman back at her tiny camp.
Lura was dreaming there was a handsome woman bending over her and speaking in a soft low voice. She was safe. Then, as she watched, the woman became a giant bird that reached down and picked her up.
"Im being carried off by a giant hawk. This is too weird."
She felt it as the great bird set her down. She even felt the sun shining on her face. It felt so
"Painful! Ow, that really hurts." She tried to raise her hand to soothe the sore area, realizing only now that her eyes were closed and she couldn't move her arms. "What the devil ?" Slowly opening her eyes she gazed around. Things seemed flat and distorted. Gradually, she realized only one eye was opened and the 'sun' was really a small campfire. "Whats going on? What's wrong with my eye!?" The voice sounded horrible, a croaking noise. She realized it was hers. Her throat hurt terribly and her tongue felt swollen and dry. "Ugh, I hurt all over." She moaned, finally able to press one hand to her forehead.
"Hey, easy there." A voice, soft, low and soothing spoke from the right. She turned her head, trying to focus her one good eye in the direction of the voice. It was her again. The beautiful apparition glided out of the darkness, silent as a shadow, and knelt at Luras side.
"It's you. Youre here. Youre real. Aren't you?"
Dylan looked at the confused swollen face, startled by the soft questions. "Yes, I am real. How do you feel?"
"I'm not sure but I hope you got the tag number of the eighteen wheeler that ran over me. Ow."
Dylan chuckled at the sarcastic humor of the smaller woman. Well, she has a sense of humor. I guess shell survive. She thought with a smirk.
Still dazed, Lura squinted her one good eye in an effort to get a better look at the face behind the voice. But the other woman had her back to the fire, effectively putting her face in shadow.
Trying to sit up, the smaller woman glanced around with her one functioning eye.
"Where are the guys? Wheres Bob?" The blonde asked in a soft voice. When she received no response she felt her heart jump in her chest. "Hey, where are the guys?" She asked again. "Where are we?" She asked, struggling again to look around.
Dylan reached for the canteen and knelt closer to her charge. "Hey easy there. Easy, now. Lie still. You have some badly bruised ribs". She said, lifting the canteen to gently touch the cut lips. "Here swallow slowly. Youre in my camp. I brought you here from Kadines camp."
Dylan paused in her explanation, unsure of how to continue. Lowering her head in thought she finally raised icy cold eyes to the face of the smaller woman.
"The men didn't make it." Dylan did not know how to put it gently. She watched her words sink slowly in, watched the blonde woman close her eye as a single tear crept from beneath the swollen lid.
"What do you mean? Dead? They're dead?" She whispered.
"I'm sorry." Dylan stated, quietly. "I couldn't save them. I I was too late. Please, you have to drink some of this." She said, once again lifting the canteen to the bruised lips. "Youve lost a lot of fluids and youre dehydrated."
Lura took a small swallow, forcing the tepid water past the tight lump in her throat. Once it had settled she took another swallow, then another, allowing herself time to accept the truth behind the words.
Finally, she spoke in a halting voice. "It's not your fault you couldn't save them. It wasn't your fault it's just that they were my friends, my, my family. I wish "
Dylan watched helplessly as the small blonde broke - first into soft weeping, and then ragged sobs. She shifted closer to the sleeping bag unsure of how to comfort the battered woman. Gently, she gathered the other woman onto her lap. Rocking slowly, she hummed an old Indian lullaby her mother used to sing to her into the smaller womans ear.
After Lura had finally cried herself out she drifted into a fitful sleep. Dylan carefully eased her back down onto the sleeping bag. She stared down at the small blonde, noticing once again the torn clothes and dark purple bruises standing out on the pale face. Her belly knotted when she thought of how those marks had gotten there. She inhaled, flaring her nostrils and curling her lips as if she could catch the scent of the dead men. The bitter taste of acid burned in her mouth.
Why was she reacting like this, as if she had taken the beating herself? She didnt understand it at all. She knew only that she felt each and every bruise marring the small body in front of her. It was in that instant Captain Dylan Hawke realized that she would not allow it to happen again.
"Ill make sure no one ever hurts you like this again Lura", she vowed. A sudden and fierce possessiveness descended upon her. "I found you and you belong to me. Yyou just don't know it yet."
Here in the desert if you possessed and protected, you owned. The small blonde now belonged to the Hawk.
Dylan was startled by this thought but knew it for the truth. She looked at Lura Grant Evans. She was a beautiful woman that much was certain, but it was more than that, it was deeper. She reached down and gently wiped a tear trail from a dirty cheek, then tenderly pulled the blanket across the still form. Leaning forward Dylan started to stand when a small hand reached out and wrapped itself around hers. Glancing down she saw that the young woman remained asleep. She smiled and stretched out next to her, pulling some of the blanket over her own body and closing her tired eyes. Still holding the small hand in hers, she drifted into sleep.
Back at his camp, Kadine was sleeping too. The smile on his face also caused by the small blonde. He dreamed of her, helpless beneath him; fighting, struggling to get away. He dreamt of her small fists and frightened screams. He loved it when they fought; it made breaking them that much more pleasurable. In the morning he would have her treated and moved to his tent. Once he had gained her confidence, the fun could begin.
Yes. Tomorrow, he thought, would be an interesting day.
Dylan woke slowly, feeling constricted and warm. Struggling to awaken fully, she felt a weight across her mid-section and, looking down at her body, she saw a pale arm encircling her waist. The little blonde had moved in her sleep, drawing closer to the lean warm body next to her. As she watched, Dylan saw the gentle face drawn into a frown. The blonde brows lowered and a painful whimper eased from the other woman's throat.
In her sleep, Lura was fighting the guards again, trying to protect herself from their vicious attack. The vile men were grabbing at her again and again as Lura struck out in self-defense.
Dylan felt the first blow and quickly sat up. Turning to face the disturbed, nearly hysterical woman, she reached for the blindly flailing arms.
"Lura, Lura wake up. Youre having a bad dream. Wake up."
Lura felt the guards grab her arms, holding her down. "NO!" she screamed, struggling even harder.
"LURA!" Dylan called out, frightened that the young woman would injure herself further.
"Please, help me. Make them stop. It hurts, it hurts."
Dylan listened to the painful pleas. They tore at her heart. If those bastards weren't already dead, Id hunt them down and kill them myself.'
"Please Lura, wake up. I'm here, they won't hurt you. No one will ever hurt you again, I promise." She soothed.
Lura opened her eye, drawn awake by the gentle voice. She wiped the tears from her face with a trembling hand. "Where are they? Please, keep them away from me. I can't take anymore." She whispered.
"It's all right, they're gone. Youre safe now. They're gone." Dylan repeated the soft assurances, pulling back slightly and hoping the young woman would realize the truth of the statement.
"I hurt." Lura moaned, looking at the older woman.
It was full daylight and Lura finally got a chance to see the woman who had saved her life. Her breath caught in her throat. Shes beautiful. I know her. Ive seen her in my dreams.
"I know you." She mumbled softly as Dylan stood and turned away, unaware of the comment, her mind preoccupied with the need to help Lura.
Dylan was searching through her limited medical supplies. She grimaced, wishing she had something other that aspirin for her young charge.
"Here, take these," she said. Turning, she knelt next to Lura. Holding out two white tablets, she reached down and shook the nearly empty canteen. She gently held it while Lura sipped. There was just enough to wash down the aspirin. "Now lay still. Youve got to give your body a chance to heal."
"Whats your name?" Lura asked.
"My name is Dylan, Dylan Hawke." She stated, as she repacked the supplies.
"Dylan Hawke, the missing Military Police Captain? Ive heard of you. But everyone said you were killed in a terrorist attack." Lura half blurted, half gasped, as excitedly as possible under the circumstances.
"Yeah, I know. Pretty lively for a dead person don't ya think?" Dylan remarked, holding her arms out wide and smiling down at the battered face, wanting desperately to make the little blonde smile.
Lura smiled back feeling an instant bond with this tall dark woman.
"Yeah, I guess so. Do you have any more of that water? Im awfully thirsty."
"Sure." Dylan replied, thinking it was a good sign that the younger woman was willing to drink. That means there is little chance of internal injury,' she thought in relief.
"I'm sorry about being so much trouble, it seems like I'm real good at finding that." Lura stated, shyly.
"Humph," Dylan snorted. "I think this time it found you and, between you and me, I think you handled it pretty well. Not too many people are willing to endanger themselves for others."
Lura remembered the men. "Yeah for what little good it did, theyre gone. They killed my friends because of me. Its my fault ya know. My fault. If I hadnt insisted on doing this story " She said.
Getting more and more upset as she remembered the events of the previous days, Lura struggled to sit up. She wrapped her arms around her tender ribs and rocked back and forth, crying silent tears.
Dylan picked up the canteen that lay on the sand between them and moved it aside.
Lura, noticing the movement, panicked, reaching out to Dylan, her arms outstretched. "Please, don't leave. Don't leave me. I'm sorry, Im such a baby but I'm so frightened."
Dylan quickly slid closer to Lura taking her into her arms. "It's all right, I'm not going anywhere. You're safe, shh. I've got you, I got you." Dylan drew the smaller woman closer, trying to pull Lura into her heart, tears pooling in her own eyes. "No, it's not your fault. They were big boys and they knew what they were getting into. Bob told me what happened. It didn't matter what you did; it would have ended the same way. It isn't my fault, and it isn't your fault."
It is Kadines fault, and now I owe him big. Dylan thought. Wrapping her arms more securely around the smaller woman, she began to hum again.
Kadine couldn't wait; he wanted the woman moved to his tent now. It was early morning and he had been up since dawn thinking about her. He quickly left his personal quarters, moving towards the small dark tent near the center of his camp, a wicked gleam in his eyes. He reached out, pulled the flap open and stepped into the darkened interior.
"Lura Grant, where are you? Come out! You can't hide, I know you are here." As the monster taunted his prey he lit the candles on the table in the center of the tent and turned full circle.
In one corner he saw a shrouded figure too large to be the girl. He stomped over to the figure and jerked the blanket away. There lay the last member of the American crew, dead. Where was the girl?' He began throwing blankets and pillows.
"Where are you? Where are you?" He screamed. His guards rushed in, expecting to find him under attack. "Find her! Find the girl. NOW!"
The guards scattered, some inside the tent, some outside. They quickly found the cut in the rear of the tent and the footprints leaving.
"Find her, find the girl!" He screamed again. The men hurriedly followed the prints into the foothills. Kadine was close behind them. The men dutifully ran through the undergrowth, hot on the young girl's trail. Suddenly they stopped.
"Why have you stopped? He bellowed. "Keep going. I want that girl!"
"We can't my Lord." Rashiem replied, "The tracks have vanished. It's like she flew away."
"WHAT? She is human! A simple girl! She cannot fly! Keep searching! Find her!" The madman commanded.
Dawn came to the small camp near the oasis and Dylan had risen with the sun. Having relieved herself, she now contemplated a bath. Bet Lura would enjoy getting clean.
Pulling an old but clean blanket from her gear she used her Bowie knife to cut out large towels. Reaching into her gear, she retrieved a small bar of soap. Taking these items down to the waters edge she returned to roust her sleeping charge.
The smaller woman had not moved. Dylan stopped for a moment and simply looked at the little blonde. She was small - maybe 54". Her hair, Dylan thought at first was blonde, but in the sunlight she picked out red highlights. Her skin was pale, possibly from the beating she had taken, but Dylan suspected that most of it was her natural skin tone. She is as bright as I am dark. She thought. Complete opposites. I wonder if its true what they say about opposites attracting? As she watched she saw the gentle sweet expression change. The girl began to mumble and toss in her sleep.
Reaching out a sun bronzed hand she gently shook the small blondes shoulder. "Hey, time to wake up, daylights burning."
The smaller womans response was immediate. A startled gasp followed by an arm flung up over her head in a futile attempt to protect herself. Her body quickly curled itself into a fetal position as she cringed with a strangled cry.
"Hey, easy, its only me. Youre safe. No one will hurt you now I promise." Dylan whispered. She stroked the soft skin on Luras arm gently, as she would a spooked colt.
"Easy, take it easy, youre safe, youre safe."
Slowly Lura took in the words. Its her. Im safe with her. Haltingly, she raised her head, looking around and dispelling the remains of the memory.
Dylan watched the fear slowly leave the frightened face. Anger building as she thought of the cause of the womans fear. I hate him so much. She could almost taste the bitter flavor of her hatred and rage. Knowing that her feelings would reflect in her eyes, Dylan made the effort to calm herself and think of more pleasant thoughts.
"Hey. Your bath awaits, my lady." She said, holding out her hand and smiling.
Lura smiled back and placed her small hand into the larger, rougher hand of her tall friend. Yes, she is my friend. She thought. Feeling the strength and warmth in the long fingers, she let the other woman help her to her feet.
"A bath? A real bath? God, you are my hero." Lura said, trying to relieve some of the tension and embarrassment she felt.
Dylan led her charge slowly to the warm pool. "We have soap, and towels for drying. You arent shy are you cause I could really use a bath too." Dylan smiled. Hoping that the young woman would not object. She was really using the excuse to be able to assist Lura if she stumbled while in the pool.
"No, Im not too shy. I went to an all girls school and you get over shy real quick." Lura commented with a grin.
"Do you need some help with your clothes?" Dylan offered.
"Im not sure. I think I can handle it."
"Well, sing out if you need any help."
Lura pulled her shirt out of the waist of her pants and reached for the hem. As she lifted the tail up she felt the pain of her bruised ribs and sucked in a hiss through her teeth.
"Hey, easy there. Let me get that." Dylan said.
Coming closer, she took Luras arms and slowly lifted them above her head. "Keep your arms here, okay? Now, dont, move. Let me do all the work."
Slowly and gently she slid the torn shirt up over the smaller womans torso. Seeing fully for the first time, the full canvas of livid bruises that now marred the smooth skin.
My God, thats a boot print. How could anyone abuse something so small? she thought, bitterly. As she raised the shirt over Luras head she took in all the injuries and vowed to visit every one ten fold on the monster responsible for them.
"Okay, all done. Wait, let me get the hooks on your FTBSG." She said, smiling.
"My what?" Lura asked.
"FTBSG, its a military term." Dylan replied, remembering for the first time in three years the period before the massacre and smiling.
"What the heck does it stand for?" Lura asked, turning to face her nurse.
"I would tell ya but then Id have ta kill ya." Dylan deadpanned staring into one, now wide open, green eye.
She turned the blonde around facing the pool and unhooked the lacy tan undergarment.
Her throat suddenly dry, she stepped back and turned to remove her own clothing. "All done." she said in a dull tone.
"Thanks." Lura responded feeling goose bumps appearing suddenly on her arms. Slowly she sat in the sand removing her shoes and socks.
"Better tuck your socks in your shoes if you dont want any visitors." The dark woman commented. She had been watching the smaller woman and found herself drawn to the smooth flesh of her shoulders and the gentle curve of her breasts. "She is so beautiful." She thought, "All pink and white porcelain."
"What was that?" Lura asked.
"I said you better hurry and get in. You dont want to burn." Dylan responded, feeling the blush creep up her neck. I cant believe I said that out loud. She groaned mentally slapping herself in the forehead. Get a grip here Hawke. She has been through enough without your gawking at her like some idiotic teenager.
Quickly undressing, Dylan stood and walked to the pool unaware of the startled, admiring gaze of the smaller woman.
Oh, my God. I am so in trouble here. Lura thought, catching a glimpse of long golden legs. Oh boy, and no cold shower in sight. She smirked to herself. Control Lura, breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out,
"Are you okay?" Dylan asked, watching the small woman struggling to breathe. "Maybe this bath thing wasnt such a good idea. We can go back to camp if you arent feeling well."
"No, no." Lura squeaked quickly. "Im just getting use to the cool water."
"Oh, okay. Well, heres the soap, let me know if you need help with your back or anything." Dylan offered, wading away to allow Lura some privacy. She couldnt help thinking that Lura must be in a very fragile condition indeed for the water here to feel cool to her.
"Yeah, or anything, yep, sure." Lura commented turning her eye away as Dylan lay back in the water to float.
God help me. She looks this good and I can only see her out of one eye. Lura sighed.
Finishing her soak, Dylan glanced over just in time to catch the blonde trying to reach the center of her back with a soapy hand and grimacing in pain at the effort. Standing, she waded towards the other woman.
"Here let me help." Taking the bar of soap she worked up a lather and handed the slippery bar back to the blonde. Gently, she rubbed the soap into the bruised skin enjoying the feel of the warm flesh under her palms.
Lura closed her eyes, leaning into the touch and groaning in pleasure at the strength of the hands working their magic on her back.
Dylan watched the blonde womans eyes shut and smiled at the satisfied grin on the smaller womans face. She looks like a small golden falcon enjoying a good scratch. Dylan chuckled.
The one functioning green eye opened and turned towards her. "Whats so funny?" Lura asked.
"Nothing little falcon. All done here. You go sit on one of those towels and let me finish my bath." Dylan said.
"Who you calling little?" Lura replied, smiling to let Dylan know she wasnt truly offended.
"Just go over there and sit. Youve had enough excitement for the morning . I dont want you overdoing it." Dylan commented.
Dylan turned and walked back into the pool, missing the crooked grin of the other womans face.
"Yeah right, she tells me no excitement and trots around in the buff with a body like that. Help." Lura mumbled.
"Did you say something Lura?" Dylan asked.
"Umm, I just wondered if you needed some help."
"Oh. No thanks, I think I can handle it." Just stay over there, so I wont drown because my mouth wont close for gawking.
After dressing, Lura lay back on the large torn blanket to relax and admire the view.
Dylan had her back to Lura but could feel the small blondes eyes on her. Well, she must be feeling better. She smiled at the thought that the beautiful woman seemed to find her attractive.
Maybe it isnt me, maybe its my imagination or wishful thinking, the warrior mused. There has got to be a way to figure out if shes looking. Deep in thought Dylan was unaware of the sweating blonde behind her.
My god, please just kill me now before I dehydrate from drooling. Lura thought, rolling her eyes skyward before quickly returning them to the beautiful naked bronze body in the pool. She shook her head to clear her suddenly blurry vision as she watched Dylan bathe.
Maybe if I just kinda stretch real casual like and peek over my shoulder. Yep, thatll work, then I can tell if she is staring. Dylan stood up tall in the water, raising her arms towards the sun and stretched, adding a purring yawn to it to add to the impression of casualness she was trying to fake.
As Lura watched, the tall wet beauty raised her arms skyward a moaned, throwing back her head and allowing the glorious black mane of hair to cascade down her back and caress the powerful muscles of her rear.
"Oh My God." Lura exclaimed just before her world went black.
Dylan heard a soft THUD and quickly glanced over her shoulder to see the blonde woman sprawled out, unconscious on the blanket. Oh no, too much sun Dylan thought, rushing out of the pool and kneeling, naked, at the other womans side.
"Lura, Lura, come on little falcon, open your eyes. Are you all right? Look at me. Look at me, please." Dylan patted the pale cheek softly, hoping to revive the strangely smiling woman.
Lura opened her eyes to see a vision bending over her. This has got to be a dream. And since its a dream I might as well take full advantage of it. She reached up and wove her hands into the black hair, drawing the beautiful but startled face towards her. She smiled and whispered, "So beautiful." Just before she pressed her lips to the soft mouth above her.
Dylan felt her breath catch in her throat at the comment and was still too surprised to stop the kiss. She felt a small tingle travel from her lips straight to her groin as the blonde pressed harder into the kiss. Whoa, she thought. If it feels this good when shes unconscious, a conscious kiss is gonna kill me. She pulled her head away and stared at the dazed woman.
"Lura? Hey, wake up. You fell asleep. Wake up." She stated, hoping to avoid the possibility of facing an awkward moment.
Lura blinked and focused her still blurry vision on the soldier. "You are beautiful." She stated.
"Uh huh," Dylan replied, "and you have had too much sun. Let me take care of your wounds then its time to go back to camp."
Dylan helped Lura into a sitting position on the blanket, propping her up against a large bolder and placing a canteen close at hand. Turning, she rose to her feet and strolled over to her clothes to dress, unaware of the overheated blonde, guzzling from the canteen. As Dylan bent to pick up her underwear she heard the sound of falling water. Turning quickly, she caught the smaller woman emptying the canteen over her head.
"Lura. Are you okay?"
"Umm, sure Dylan, just a bit warm. Trying to cool off, you know? gotta watch that heat stroke."
"Yeah, right." Dylan mumbled, turning back to complete her dressing and wondering if the heat really had become to much for the injured woman. Glancing over her shoulder once more she noticed the strange smile appearing once again on the blondes face.
Later that evening, Dylan sat near the fire sharpening the bowie knife, watching the girl sleep. She was drawn to this woman, so powerful was the need to protect her. She remembered the Medicine man on the reservation speaking of the eternal spirits; of souls that were destined to be together. He spoke of how somewhere there was a soul mated to your own. This soul was forever searching for its mate, throughout time and once found, the two would bond forever. He had told her, smiling, that the souls would find each other no matter where they were or what body they were in.
Her hand stilled and her eyes widened with a shocking realization. The dreams that reoccurred night after night the feelings she had when she had first seen the small woman the thrill that rushed through her body when she washed the girls smooth back. But it was more than that. It wasnt sexual. Well, not all sexual. She wasnt just drawn to the beautiful body, Luras soul called out for her. How had this happened? How had she found her soulmate, here, in the middle of the desert? The Spirits have a sick sense of humor. It did not matter. She was here and firmly entrenched in Dylan's heart where she would stay as long as that heart beat.
As she watched, the girl slowly opened one eye, the other still swollen shut, and stared up at the stars, smiling softly.
"What is it? Why are you smiling?" Dylan asked in a curious voice.
"It's a bear," she said.
"What?" asked Dylan, turning her blue gaze upward.
"A bear. See the tail and the little ears?" She said, pointing up at the sky.
Dylan turned her gaze skyward, "Hmmm, looks like a pitcher to me." She said, grinning.
Lura turned her smiling face towards the other woman. "Hello." She said.
"Hello," the gentle low voice responded. "How are you feeling? Would you like a drink of water?"
"Yes, please. Water would be wonderful thank you."
Lura struggled to a sitting position, still smiling at her benefactor.
"How could she be so serene after the beating shes taken? She sits there as if she were in a formal living room being served tea from expensive china. Instead, shes lying here, bruised and battered almost beyond recognition, in the middle of the Saudi desert. Shes sitting on a dirty camel hair blanket, drinking warm water from an old canteen." Dylan held the canteen out to the girl and waited patiently for her to finish drinking.
After recapping the canteen Dylan spoke softly to the young woman. "Lura, I have to check your injuries. I may have to bandage some of them. This may hurt, but I will be as gentle as I can."
Dylan reached over to help the younger woman to lean forward. Reaching out to gently lift the stained shirt she exposed the bruised ribs. The bruises were a deep purple and yellow now. Her side still showed the print of the boot that had caused the injury. Dylan felt her hands trembling in anger.
Never again,' she silently promised Lura.
Dylan quickly finished and snugly wrapped the damaged area. Looking up she saw that Lura had her eyes tightly closed but tears rolled slowly and silently down her pale cheeks.
Cupping the soft cheek, Dylan looked into the soft green eyes. "Lura, it's OK to cry out, really. Your ribs have got to be extremely painful. If you don't make any noise I won't know if Im wrapping them too tightly."
"I just don't want you to think Im a wimp." She said, "You seem so tough all the time. I just want " She looked down at her bruised hands gripping them as tightly as she could, considering their swollen condition.
"What?" Dylan asked, "What do you want Lura?" she asked, her voice low and sultry.
Lura looked up into the celestial blue of Dylan's eyes, losing herself in their depths.
"What do you want Lura?" she asked again, leaning in closer.
God, those eyes are dangerous, Lura thought. Unable to look away and unable to voice her true feelings, Lura stammered, "I I want I want I want you to ." Lura shook her head as if to clear her thoughts. "I want you to know how grateful I am for all you have done. I know you risked everything to save me and I dont want you to think I dont realize or appreciate it." Before Dylan could say anything else, Lura continued. "No. I mean it. You dont even know me and I know it probably wont make a lot of sense but what you think matters to me. I would hate for you to think me a coward. I guess in a strange way I want to make you proud of me, help you somehow. I hope that doesnt sound too stupid." Lura watched Dylans face for some hint of understanding. Did the tall beauty know what she really wanted? Did she want her to know?
'Come on Lura,' she thought to herself, 'what you really want is for her to kiss you. I never had this kind of feeling for any of the men I dated. Face it girl, you never had this kind of feeling for anyone, male or female. What is going on with you?'
"I am proud of you, Lura. You are the bravest woman I know." Dylan whispered. Lowering her eyes she leaned back away from the woman. 'What am I doing? She is hurt, in pain. I am as much of an animal as those men who beat her.' Standing quickly, Dylan distanced herself from Lura. "Im going to the pool."
Turning her back on the blonde she reached for the canteen and walked to the pool to refill it. And jump in. Damn I need to cool off.
Lura watched as the older woman glided silently away. What just happened? What did I do?' She lay back, exhausted, thinking about the mysterious woman kneeling at the pool. Shes incredible, what would someone like her see in me?' She closed her eyes to shut out the thoughts.
I have got to get her healthy and then I have to get her to safety.' Dylan thought. That means away from Kadine. I have some planning to do.
Kadine paced back and forth in his tent. Rashiem knelt near the opening waiting for his boss's orders.
"I must find her. Where could she have gone? Who is helping her? She could never have made it in the desert alone." He mumbled aloud.
Rashiem watched the angry man pace, thanking Allah that he was not the cause of his anger.
"When I find her I will punish her for running. Maybe I will give her to my men to enjoy. Then she will be grateful to return to me. I will break her!" He stopped, a sadistic smile on his handsome face. "Rashiem, send out four groups, three men in each. I want them to ride out in all directions. When they find the blonde whore they are to send one of the men back to get me. The other two will keep the little whore company until I get there. They are not to touch her. GO NOW!"
Rashiem stood smoothly and bowed out of the tent, hurrying to do Kadines bidding.
Having returned to camp, Dylan set about gathering their equipment and as Lura rested, began moving her gear. She knew that Kadine would not give up the little blonde easily and she had to find a place that would be easy to secure as well as defend. She knew the only place that fit the bill and it tore at her heart to return there: the caves.
Lura woke to the gentle shaking of her shoulder, "Lura, come on, wakey wakey," the voice said.
"No." She grumbled, "Don't wanna, sleeping." She rolled over to pull the edge of the sleeping bag over her head and promptly jarred her tender ribs. "Ugh". She groaned, then simply rolled onto the other side and continued to snore.
Smiling, Dylan decided to try another approach, "Come on Little Falcon, open those pretty green eyes for me."
"Hey, who are you callin' "Little?" The indignant blonde said, now opening both eyes.
Both eyes, Hmm, well, this is an improvement.' She thought, 'Now I can see her in 3-D.'
She turned her head to stare at the beautiful dark-haired woman leaning over her. "Wow, you are beautiful." She said. "Oops, did I say that out loud? Well, judging from that blush, I guess I did." She thought with a smile.
"Uh, yeah." Dylan replied scratching her cheek. "Um, can you stand?" she asked, quickly changing the subject.
"Yep, got the standing bit down. What I really need now is a convenient tree, cactus, bolder, small pile of rocks?" Lura said with a blush.
Dylan chuckled and led the small blonde to the bushes at the foot of the hills. As she waited for Lura to finish she went over the basics of her plan.
"Were going to move into some caves near the foot of those hills. I can protect you better there. Then, Im going to see about your little friend, Kadine."
"Hes no friend of mine." Lura replied, surprising Dylan with the bitterness and venom in her voice.
"If you are going back to his camp could you look for my laptop and cameras? Its all I have left to tell this story. I owe it to the guys." She said, sadly looking down at her tightly balled fists.
Dylan realized how important the equipment was to Lura. "I can't make any promises, but I will try. You have to understand, if it comes to endangering you or getting that equipment, we can buy more film."
Lura looked up at that final comment and noted the determined look in Dylan's eyes. 'When did she become my bodyguard? Not that Im complaining,' she thought with a smile.
Dylan turned and picked up a large backpack, securing the shoulder straps over her shoulders and clipping the nylon belt around her narrow waist. Leaning forward she secured the sleeping bag that Lura had been using. Wrapping the last canteen in it, she neatly rolled it up and tucked it under one arm offering the other to the smaller woman.
"Lets go we have a ways to travel and we are going to go slowly. Let me know if you get tired and well rest."
At first Lura found herself using the strong arm for support to steady herself but after a few minutes she found that she needed it much more to simply walk without falling.
Dylan finally simply wrapped her arm around the small waist and pulled Lura closer to her, supporting hthe weight with her stronger arms. This is nice. She is so small.' Dylan felt the heat rising in her blood once again at the thought of the beating that Lura had taken.
Lura felt the arm tighten protectively around her waist. Hmmm, I like this. I feel safe here.'
The two women struggled up the hills stopping occasionally to rest. Dylan insisted that Lura drink whenever they stopped, whether she wanted to or not. She realized that the heat could be deceiving and though you may not feel thirsty you should drink frequently to prevent heat stroke.
They traveled steadily, stopping only to allow Lura the chance to catch her breath and regain a tiny bit of energy. Dylan wanted to be settled in the cave quickly. That would allow her time to put some semblance of security in place before she left to visit Kadine. She pushed the younger woman harder than she really wanted to, but she was driven by the image she still held in her head of the small beaten blonde, lying bloodied on the ragged blanket. 'Never again Lura, never again', she pushed them both on.
Rashiem had ordered his lieutenant, Hammett and his two compatriots to search for the escaped American woman. Hammett had located a small oasis and a rough camp. He remembered the oasis from childhood and the recent events had brought it to mind. Finding the trail, which led to the small pond, they had begun to follow it. If he could find Kadine's whore he would be well rewarded.
Dylan settled the exhausted blonde on a quickly laid pallet, and after wrapping Lura in a warm blanket to ward off the evening chill, she searched her pack for food. The dry meat, goats cheese and water she had would have to do until she was able to build a small fire.
Leaving Lura contentedly eating on the pallet, she left to secure the area. Stepping outside the mouth of the cave she quickly brushed away their tracks and began concealing the entrance. Carrying a branch of scrub with her she backtracked towards the oasis, brushing away their trail.
"That should do until I get back. Then I can set up a better perimeter security and some welcoming surprises."
Stepping into the cave she saw the exhausted blonde had fallen asleep. I had better make my little visit to Kadine and get back here before Lura wakes up. Dylan thought. Picking up a rolled blanket, she headed out towards the oasis to further hide their trail before continuing on to the terrorist camp.
Lura dreamt of a stunning woman on horseback, black hair streaming behind her as she galloped along a black sand beach. The woman was as familiar to her as her own shadow but she couldnt place the name of the dark beauty. Still, she knew they were supposed to be together. Deep in sleep she reached for her, feeling a sense of dread deep inside but knowing that the dark warrior would help her. Something was coming and she was terrified.
"Help me, please help me." She mumbled in her sleep.
Having climbed to the edge of the hills, Hammett saw the tall figure in black leave the oasis and head towards the East. He had watched as the darkly robed image concealed the tracks and dragged bushes away. 'She knows where the whore is hiding. I must get Kadine.'
Hammett made his way back to the other men. "Stay here, I think I know where the girl is. If you see her, do not let her leave the area. I will get Kadine. We will be richly rewarded for this nights work." He smiled at the other men and turned, heading back towards the camp at a trot.
Left on their own, the men sat watching the oasis for any movement. Then one had a foolish idea. If they were rewarded for finding the oasis, imagine their reward for finding the girl.' He thought. Or even better, my reward alone, for finding the girl.'
"Stay here, I am going to take a piss." He lied to his companion. Standing, he moved deeper into the hills.
Dylan had started towards Kadines camp, still in a daze over her feelings towards the younger woman. Something was nagging her, something she had missed. As she reached the camp and began scouting the area near the prisoner's tent she heard voices. Silently she approached the large tent in the center of the camp, Kadine's tent.
"El Kadine, the men are out searching as you ordered. I have sent out groups in all directions, we should have the girl back by nightfall."
"Good Rashiem, when I get her back the training will start. I can still ransom the men. After all, no one knows they are dead. Then I can sell the woman ... someday." He laughed and patted the other man on the back.
Yes, Lura Grant will be quite enjoyable; that is, until I break her.' He thought, smiling to himself.
Dylan felt her heart jump when she heard about the search parties. Thats it! the footprints, there were too many to have just been us. Kadines men are near Lura! I have to hurry and get back to Lura, they may find her. Damn, I still have to at least try to find that gear. I did tell her I would look for it.'
Crouching low, Dylan ran back towards the prisoner tent. She slipped inside and quickly searched for the missing gear. Locating the camera and laptop she wrapped the equipment in a blanket and tied it securely to her back. Moving to the rear of the tent she again passed through the cut in the back and out into the darkness.
The man moved quietly through he scrub towards the caves. He knew his companion had missed him by now, but also knew that he would have no idea where to search for him. Smiling, he thought of the woman he was searching for. He remembered her hair. Hed never had a blonde before and, rubbing his groin, wondered if sex was the same as with the dark-haired women he had bedded. Reaching the caves he began to search them one by one, listening for any sound that might give away the presence of his hiding quarry.
Dylan raced back towards the hills, her mind picturing Lura alone and facing the armed search party. Fear and anger gave wings to her feet, making them fly as she covered the distance between herself and the hills. Passing the oasis she failed to notice the sole observer as she rushed on towards the caves. The man, however, saw her and followed.
Lura woke, moaning from the stiffness that had settled in from her earlier excursion. God, I feel like I have been beaten. Wait. ' She smirked, thinking: I have. Ow, does this hurt or what?' Sucking air between her teeth she slowly sat up, wrapping her arms around her middle.
"Ugh, I need some water", she rasped from a dry throat. "Where did Dylan put that canteen?"
Standing, she carefully stepped towards the backpack and blanket roll, near the back of the cave. She had slowly kneeled to unwrap the canteen when she heard a noise outside the cave. Thinking that Dylan had returned, she stood holding the canteen to her chest and turned towards the mouth of the cave. Her eyes widened as she saw a strange man step into the cave, his head turning to search the interior.
Dylan felt as if her lungs would burst as she finally saw the caves.
The stranger turned and faced Lura. Seeing her, he smiled at the fear in her eyes. He walked towards the frightened woman his arms out stretched to prevent her escape.
"Let us play nice little girl. Then I will take you back to Kadine. I want a little of what you have been giving him." 'I think I like her fear.' He thought, 'I will enjoy this.'
He sprang towards the frightened blonde, grabbing for her arms. Lura swung the canteen at the man's head hoping to off balance him long enough to run out of the cave and hide. The canteen bounced off the man's shoulder surprising him for a moment. Lura dodged past him and towards the mouth of the cave. The man turned and grabbed for the girl's shirt, jerking her back and into his arms.
Lura struggled as she felt the arms close around her tender ribs. The pain was immediate but she still fought. The man finally simply picked up the smaller woman and slammed her to floor of the cave knocking the wind from her as he followed her to the ground falling on top of her. Grabbing the struggling woman's arms he pinned them above her head with one large hand as he used his free hand to tear open her shirt.
"This can't be happening." Lura thought as she bucked, trying to dislodge the man. Tears sprang to her eyes as she felt a calloused hand squeeze her breast and a hot mouth on her neck. "NO!" She screamed struggling even harder as tears streamed from her eyes. "DYLAN! Please, God! Dylan, Dylan!" 'I have to fight, Dylan will get here, I know it. She will get here.'
Dylan heard the scream and, dropping the blanket wrapped gear, she crashed through the brush at the caves mouth. Her eyes frantically searched for Lura. She saw her; a large figure was on top of the small blonde. One hand had the girl's arms pinned while the other was trying to open his pants. Dylan heard a sound like rushing water, her vision tunneled to only the sight before her. She watched as if it were a stranger as her hand reached forward and grabbed the back of the man's neck squeezed and pulled. She held the struggling man by his neck as her other hand closed around his throat, crushing his windpipe. She threw the dying man from her, watching as he clawed at his throat in a vain attempt to breathe. As she turned towards the still figure on the ground, she felt a second attacker leap onto her back trying to take her down. Dylan instinctively widened her stance to accommodate the additional weight. She reached up and, cupping her hands, slapped them over the man's ears, rupturing his eardrums. The man fell to the ground at Dylan's feet, holding his bleeding ears. Dylan turned and, quickly grabbing the man's head, twisted sharply, snapping his neck. She let the thrashing body fall to the ground and turned again towards the silent huddled figure on the ground.
Kneeling close to the young woman she softly called out, "Lura. Lura, please. Are you OK?" Dylan reached towards the small body curled into a tight ball. The blonde was on her side, her legs curled up, her arms wrapped around her middle, her head tucked deeply into her chest. She did not move. Dylan couldnt tell if she was even breathing. Slowly she reached out to turn the small blonde over. 'She is so still. Please let her be alive, please don't let me have been too late. Please.' As she touched the huddled form she felt the other woman tremble then begin to shake violently. "Lura, please look at me. It's me, Dylan. Lura, look at me."
Slowly the disheveled blonde head raised and terrified green eyes searched out tear filled blue.
"Dylan? Tell me it's you. Please tell me theyre gone." The ragged voice whispered.
Dylan felt the knots in her stomach loosen, and her lungs begin to work again at the sound of that voice. "Lura." She sighed as she drew the battered woman into her arms. Small arms circled her neck and the blonde buried her face in the dark woman's chest. Dylan felt the other woman's body tremble as the blonde released all her fear and terror in a flood of sobs and tears. "Shh, it's okay now. I'm here; I won't let them hurt you. It's okay, it's okay." Dylan wasn't sure which of them she was saying that for, herself or the distraught woman in her arms.
Slowly she rose, helping Lura to her feet. She wanted to move them to another location before Lura realized that they were sharing a cave with two dead men. Minutes later, Dylan settled down next to her trembling charge. She had moved them from the first cave further up into the hills into another, deeper cave. Since arriving, the small blonde had not uttered a word but had just cried silent tears and watched the movements of the tall dark soldier. I need to stock up a bit on the wood if we are going to have enough to last the night.' Dylan thought. She pulled her black scarf over her face and headed towards the mouth of the cave.
"NO! Don't leave me here." Lura screamed.
Dylan turned and saw that the distraught woman was trying to stand. She rushed back to her side and helped lower her weakened body back onto the sleeping bag.
"Lura you must stay still, your body needs time to recover. I am just going for some wood. I will be close by, if you need me just call out. I will come to you I promise."
Lura looked up into the blue eyes of the tall woman and believed. She won't let anything happen to me. She will be here.
Dylan stared at the younger woman's face watching the thoughts travel across them like wind on the sand. She realized what she had asked the smaller woman for. "God, please don't let me disappoint her again."
Lura reached up and placed the back of a bruised hand on the beautiful soft cheek of her protector and nodded her head. "Alright Dylan. Youre right, we need wood for later." She spoke, lowering her eyes but not removing her hand. Instead she turned it palm up to cup the chiseled jaw. She glanced back up and Dylan watched as tears slowly ran down the pale cheeks.
Dylan felt herself lean forward, watching the green eyes for any sign of rejection. Lura closed her eyes and leaned towards the dark woman. Gently, Dylan touched her lips to Luras, pressing into the softness of the blondes mouth. Feeling Lura press into the kiss, Dylan pulled back drawing Luras lower lip into her mouth, tasting the salt of her tears. As she looked into the face she had begun to cherish she waited for a reaction.
Lura felt her heart race and her breath shorten. She opened her eyes and gazed into pools of apprehensive blue. Realizing that Dylan expected rejection she poured all her love into the gaze she fixed on the woman she now considered her dark warrior. Slowly she raised her bruised hands placing them in the dark hair of the older woman. She stared into the confused blue eyes and, tugging gently, she pulled the other women to her. Putting everything she felt into the kiss, she melted into the embrace. I hope she understands what I am trying to tell her. As she pulled back she smiled into the gentle blue gaze.
Dylan felt elation as she gazed into the eyes of her love. The smile that pulled at her lips came straight from her heart. "We will continue this later." She whispered. "Now, you have got to rest and I have got to get some firewood."
Still frightened but heated by the love she saw reflected in the blue eyes of the older woman, Lura agreed. "Please don't be long." She whispered.
Nodding her dark head, Dylan rose and glided out of the cave. Pausing to get her bearings, she thought of the beautiful woman sitting alone in the tiny, dimly lit cave. She felt a knot in her throat at the courage of the smaller woman. She lowered her head gazing at the ground before her feet. My God, she is the bravest person I have ever met.' She thought, I will not let him hurt her again, I have to find a way out. For both of us.'
Dylan needed to leave the cave, if for no other reason than to cool off and calm her jangled nerves. She paced outside the cave entrance for several minutes before starting the hunt for firewood. I had better not wander too far, it is getting dark and I really don't want to leave Lura alone.' Dylan gathered some dry branches and scrub to start a small fire and keep it going for a few hours, long enough to allow the younger woman to fall asleep. She was careful to gather dry tinder so that the fire would produce little smoke but intense heat. Bundling the branches under her arm she slowly made her way back to the cave hideaway. As she approached the entrance she heard it, the quiet crying of the small blonde.
"Lura, Lura are you okay?" Her voice was filled with worry as she approached the crying woman. Lura looked up through tear filled eyes and held her arms out to Dylan. Dropping her bundle, Dylan lowered herself next to the small body, she slowly gathered the beautiful woman in her arms. "Please don't cry Lura. I can't stand to see you cry."
Lura heard the words but was still too distraught to stay the tears.
"You can't cry, you are my brave little hunter, the falcon to my hawk."
Lura stopped crying and looked up into distressed blue eyes. "I'm a falcon?" she asked with a hiccup.
Dylan looked down and smiled. "Yes, there is a legend in my tribe of a falcon and a hawk. One day I will tell you about it."
"Can I be your falcon, Hawke?" Lura asked in a deep throaty voice.
Dylan looked deeply into the soft green eyes. She felt herself drawn to the sweet lips and the gentle breath. As she gazed at Lura through hooded eyes she slowly lowered her mouth to the beckoning lips. Lura reached up and felt her hands tangle in the silky black mane as she pulled the hawk tighter into her embrace. Dylan gently touched the soft lips with her tongue, begging entrance and was thrilled to feel the lips part immediately. She dipped into the honeyed sweetness of the mouth, pressing all the love she felt into this kiss. As she drew back, she gazed again into the eyes of her love.
"Lura, I can't stand to see you cry, tell me what can I do."
"Make me forget, Dylan. Make me forget the sounds, the smells the feeling of strange hands on my body." Gently taking the large calloused hand in hers she timidly placed it on her breast. "Make me forget, Dylan."
Dylan slowly lowered the trembling woman to the blanket, lovingly and eternally claiming the falcon as her mate.
Later, as she lay naked on the blanket, Dylan reveled in the feel of the soft flesh pressed against her. Pulling a bit of blanket up over their exposed bodies, she smiled as she listened to Lura's soft snoring, her breath warming Dylan's neck as she snuggled deeper into the soldier's firm body.
"WOW" was the single thought dancing through the Dylan's mind. She was sure it went well with the really goofy smile plastered on her face. I think she likes me. Okay, she likes me a lot.' Dylan felt her heart soar and tightened her arms around the compact body next to her, pressing it closer into her side. She heard a deep sigh and drew back to glance down into Lura's gently smiling but still bruised face.
Slowly the joy drained from the soldier's features and the soft blue eyes turn icy cold.
"Kadine. You son of a bitch", she murmured through clenched teeth. She closed her eyes and remembered the conversation she had overheard back at the terrorist camp. She knew that she would have to act soon if she was going to save Lura. Her brow furrowed as she thought of her options. I do have one ace I haven't played yet. The question is: does he still care?'
Finally slipping out of the warm embrace of her lover and dressing, Dylan sat at the edge of the oasis, her head bowed in contemplation, arms resting on her knees. She stared out at the lightening morning sky and remembered.
There were things she knew she needed to do and the thought of it made her anxious, nauseous and excited all at once. She had been sitting outside the cave for several hours now. The sun had begun to rise and she knew that she needed to get started if she was going to have any success at all with her plan. She also knew that she was stalling. She hated what she had to do next but delaying it was not going to make it go away. Dylan stood and, as was her habit, brushed off the seat of her pants. She closed her eyes, brought her hands up to her face and took a deep breath. Blowing out slowly and powerfully, she steeled herself for what she had to do. I am really not going to like this but if Lura and I are to survive, I gotta do it.
With this thought in mind, Dylan ran back down hill towards the first cave and on past it. She had to go back. Her heart ached, her head hurt and her stomach turned, but she had to go back. She had not been there in three years and dreaded the prospect of what she might find, but she would go. For the falcon, she would go back.
Kadine was ecstatic. Finally, he would have the blonde woman. Rashiem had assured him the one of his men had located the woman and could lead them to her.
"Rashiem!" he shouted. "Rashiem, bring my jeep around, we are going hunting."
As they traveled across the sand, Kadine smiled darkly to himself; he would have her soon. Maybe the chase had increased the pleasure of the hunt, but he wanted this woman more than he had ever wanted any woman. "Drive faster you idiot," he told the jeep driver." He glanced behind him to make sure he did not lose the truckload of soldiers following them.
Yes, soon she would be with him and he had plans for breaking her, he envisioned her begging him to stop. Offering herself to him if he would only stop punishing her for running away. He had found his riding whip. He carried it with him now, slapping it against his thigh, feeling the sting of it. He saw the whip falling on the soft white shoulders of the blonde, heard her screams in his mind. "Faster, faster." He screamed.
Since the attack three years ago she had not returned to the cave. Dylan had stayed in the area but had not been able to bring herself to go anywhere near the cave. She hated taking Lura anywhere near that place of death, but she knew that these caves there were the best for her needs. Climbing higher into the hills she headed towards the smaller, deeper caves, and one sealed cave in particular. Her heart raced and her head pounded as she climbed nearer. She smelled again the rancid odor of charred flesh, felt the shifting of the ground and stifling heat of the air. She stopped for a moment and drew in a deep breath shaking her head holding on to the rocky side of the hill as she waited for the world to stop spinning. Tears streamed from her eyes as she continued to climb towards the cave mouths. Angrily, she brushed them aside in frustration. Thinking of Lura blocked the screams of the dead men from her mind, keeping the horrifying flashbacks at bay.
As she crested the last rocky outcrop she saw the series of caves, four in all, one blocked by rock fall, its mouth burned and singed. As she stared at the crumpled façade of rock her mind took her back three long years to that day. Her ears again ached with the sound of the blast. Dylan fell to her knees, her head in her hands as she screamed out her anger and frustration, raging at the memories.
Suddenly an old dream flashed through her mind, wrenching her from the flashback. It was the memory of a small blonde woman lying among the dead men.
"NO! That is not going to happen. I will not let it happen. I will not lose her too."
Dylan staggered to her feet and moved slowly towards the sealed cave. Reaching out a hand, she touched again, the fallen rocks. She bowed her head, almost in prayer, then raised determined blue eyes to search for the tiny opening at the top of the mouth. Pulling herself up, hand over hand, she reached it and pulled through the opening to pause at the top. She waited as the smell of mold and dust filled her nostrils and lungs and her eyesight adjusted to the darkness of the tomb. Searching the ground for her old duffle bag, her eyes skimmed over the remains of her troops, now only mummified bones wrapped in Army BDUs. There, near the far wall, thrown there by the explosion, was her duffle.
Pushing herself through the tiny hole she rolled down the inside landslide of rock and onto the floor of the cave. Quickly making her way to the bag, she carefully avoided stepping on the remains. The smell of musk and rot mixed with the smell of heated stone. Dylan exhaled sharply through her nose forcing out the dust and clearing her nasal passages of the stench. Quickly, she reached down and located the battered duffel. Slinging it onto her shoulder she carried it back to the entrance and began to climb. Once she reached the top, she pushed the duffel through the opening and out to the ground below. With a final, sad glance back, she pushed her own body through and rolled down the rocky incline and away from the silent soldiers inside the dark tomb.
Picking up the bag, Dylan settled outside the grave entrance and began digging into the bag. Finally finding the land sat radio she checked the power level. Discovering that the solar cells still worked, she climbed to the top of the rocky hill and began searching the channels for an open NATO line.
Let's see how sincere he really is.' She thought. Hearing a NATO call sign she depressed the call button and spoke into mouthpiece.
"Sorry to intrude guys. This is the Hawk."
The Radio went silent, then crackled to life.
"Hawk, this is Sergeant John Childress, US ARMY Forces, NATO. You are transmitting on a NATO secure line. We are tracking this call. Friend or Foe?"
"Definitely friend. I am Captain Dylan Hawke, US Army Military Police Corp., Social Security Number 238-09-6454, NATO Security Clearance ALPHA 1. I think we can help each other out, but first, I need you to do me a favor "
Kadine was furious. They had arrived at the oasis but not only was the woman not there, the two men left on guard had disappeared as well.
"Call in the men, I want them all here. I want that little blonde bitch found and I want whoever is responsible for helping her. Get the men here now, I want this area searched, when you find her do not touch her. Keep her there and come find me."
Sergeant John Childress had been in the army for 6 years. He enjoyed his job. The hours sucked sometimes but, all in all, he really enjoyed it. He had been stationed in Saudi now for a little over a year and felt he had seen and heard just about everything, but this took the cake.
Staring at the headset of the radio, he shook his head in utter disbelief. Then, realizing exactly what had just transpired, he jumped to his feet, his hand slapping his forehead as if to knock some reality into his addled brain.
"Holy shit. HOLY SHIT!!! I dont believe this."
Picking up the NATO secure landline, he placed the call. It was picked up on the first ring.
"This is Sergeant Childress, NATO Headquarters, Saudi. I need to speak with Senator John Cameron," he stated. Then, still shaking his head, he began to mumble. "Hoollleee shit, he just aint gonna believe this." The sergeant whispered while sitting back down, his knees weak in shock, waiting on the senator.
Dylan sat outside the entrance of their camp listening to the soft snoring of her soulmate. She had selected another smaller cave to hide in and wait and had just spent the last hour and a half moving their gear and setting up little surprises for anyone stupid enough to get too close.
Finally getting to her feet Dylan closed her eyes and concentrated, visibly collecting herself. The trip to the tomb and seeing, once again, the battered, torn remains of her men had taken a heavy emotional toll on the soldier.
"It wouldnt do to have Lura frightened with my stupid tears." Dylan thought. She scrubbed her face with her sleeve and went in to wake Lura.
Squatting next to the softly snoring blondee she reached out and, gently shaking a shoulder, softly called: "Lura, come on, wakey wakey."
"No." She grumbled, half opening one very sleepy green eye. "Dont wanna, sleeping."
Sometimes having normal things happen sure settles the nerves. Dylan thought, smiling. Deciding on another approach, she called to the sleeping woman: "Come on Little falcon, open those pretty green eyes for me. We have to move again."
Lura was exhausted and her head hurt, throbbing with each heartbeat; her insides ached and so did her ribs. She was grumpy, sleepy and achy, and thought again: I am definitely not a morning person, or an afternoon person. Maybe Im just a do not disturb cause Im sleeping person. But she knew that Dylan would only be waking her if she had a good reason.
"Okay, okay Dylan, Im ready." Her eyes still closed, she reached a hand out towards the dark soldier.
"Um Lura, youd be a lot more convincing if you opened your eyes." Dylan chuckled." Yep, normal and grouchy are good. Dylan helped Lura to her feet and led her out of the small cave. "Okay Lura. Ive moved all our things to another cave. Were going to have to stay there a while until things settle down here. Its a kinda good climb. Do you think you can handle it?"
"Hey, youre talking to the woman who tracked down the famous Desert Hawk. Of course I can handle it, silly. Lead on McDuff." Came the sleepy reply.
"McDuff huh? How did I get demoted from "Famous Desert thingy" to McDuff? Dylan mumbled under her breath to the delight of a chuckling small blonde.
The climb was difficult and Dylan had to stop often to allow the injured younger woman a chance to rest. Lura did not complain but simply struggled on, her concentration evident in the frown on her face. When they finally reached the summit Lura noticed that the cave Dylan selected was at the top of a steep incline, next to a larger cave that was obviously blocked by some kind of a cave-in. She looked at Dylan questioningly, but the older woman simply frowned and stared straight ahead, almost painfully.
"I picked this cave because it should be easy to protect. I want you to settle in the back and wait for me. Im going to be gone for a while. I have to check the surprises I set for any unwanted visitors."
Rising, she turned towards her gear reaching for her knife and a small entrenching tool. She was stopped by a soft noise. Glancing back Dylan stared at the younger woman's face, watching the thoughts travel across them like wind on the sand. Dylan realized that Lura was frightened. The comment she had made reminded her of the earlier attack and here she was leaving her again, in a dark lonely place. God, please don't let me disappoint her again.
Sliding her knife into the leg sheath, she reached out and grasped Luras hand. "Lura, I promise, I will be back. I wont be gone long."
All alright Dylan. Ill set up camp. Hey, if you see a Hardees down there pick me up a burger and fries, and some firewood to keep it warm.
Dylan smiled at the comment. "Naw, Im looking for a McDonalds, they have better fries." She spoke in a parting shot as she ducked out of the cave.
Having settled their gear, Lura sat on a sleeping bag near a small stone circle. She had set up their camp, even building a small fire with some branches she found at the cave mouth and laying out their sleeping bags, side by side. Now if Dylan would just get back here with some dinner, things will be perfect.
Lura tried to distract herself with thoughts of burgers and fries cooked over an open fire, but realized that only made her hunger worse. Finally she simply settled down to wait, her mind going over the story she would write and trying not to drift off.
Lura had just begun to feel her head drop in sleep when she heard the sound of footsteps outside the cave mouth. "Theyre back!' Turning onto her knees she crawled to the back of the cave, pulling a tattered blanket with her. Finding an indention deep in the rear cave wall she curled into a tight ball and pulled the battle-worn blanket over her body and head. She knew it wasnt much but she hoped that whoever was out there would simply think the cave empty and leave. She tried to slow her heartbeat, certain that anyone entering the cave was sure to hear it pounding. Trembling, she waited listening to the footsteps drawing nearer.
"Lura, Lura?" Dylan whispered as she entered the cave. Seeing the fire and the empty sleeping bag a cold sweat broke out on her forehead and she began a frantic search for the other woman. "Please Lura, where are you?"
Lura heard the frantic voice. Peeking out from under the blanket, she called out. "Here, Dylan. I'm here."
Dylan rushed to her side, pulling Lura into her arms and holding the woman tightly to her chest.
Lura felt the soldier's heart beat through her clothes, sorry that she was the cause of the erratic pounding. "I'm OK, Dylan. I heard a noise and thought...well, I'm just glad youre back. Are you OK? Did you go for more firewood? Did you find a Hardees?" she asked, trying to change the subject and calm the clearly upset woman.
Dylan stood helping the smaller woman up; she walked back to the sleeping bag and helped Lura to sit. "Yes, I am okay and no, I did not find a Hardees. I was looking for a McDonalds but will this do?" She asked, holding up a small, dressed desert fowl.
"Oh, I think I can handle that." Lura replied, taking the bird and smiling up at Dylan. "So how about more wood? We only have enough to make it through the night. Do we need to get more?"
"No, hopefully we won't have to stay through another night so we won't need any more." Dylan said, settling next to other woman on the bag and wrapping her again in the blanket. 'My God, when I didn't see her my heart actually stopped in my chest,' she thought. How did this happen so quickly? When this is over we are gonna have a long talk my Falcon. That's a promise.'
Dylan watched as Lura spitted the bird and positioned it over the fire. She had forgotten how hungry she was but soon the tempting smell of the roasting bird had her mouth watering. She reached for a leg and quickly drew her had back when the little blonde slapped it.
"No. it isnt ready yet. Give it a couple of more minutes." Lura chided.
Dylan grinned and stood up, too restless to remain seated for long. Stepping outside, she walked a few paces away then turned back to look at the cave entrance. She knew that she was in a good strategic location, the only way to the cave was uphill and the mouth would only admit one at a time. Dylan had positioned several large rocks across the cave mouth and bushes to disguise as much of the entrance as possible. She knew that Kadines men probably had an idea of her location but were not positive of her exact position. She could use that to her advantage. Everything was set. Turning, she looked down the hill and then off in the direction of Kadines camp. She knew she still had some time before he arrived. Now, she could put the last bit of her plan into action. Going back inside, she waited a second to allow her vision to once again adjust to the darkness.
"Lura, how is that desert chicken coming?" Dylan asked, trying to distract her own active mind.
"Its ready now. Have a seat and Ill get you some." Lura watched the tall soldier gracefully fold her long frame and settle on one of the sleeping bags. The strong golden face turned to her, the crystal blue eyes standing out against the dark complexion. Lura sighed and smiled at the beautiful woman. When we get out of her my Hawk, you and I are gonna have a long talk. Yep, a real long talk. Lura smiled at the thought, causing the soldier to frown in concern at the strange look on the other womans face.
"Um Lura, is there something wrong?" Dylan asked.
"What? Oh, no, nothings wrong. I was just thinking." Lura stammered, blushing slightly at having been caught.
"About what?" Dylan asked.
Oh boy, better think quick girl, Lura thought. She stood and carried several pieces of skewered meat to Dylan. Trying desperately to find a safe subject to talk about. "Well, I was wondering about what your favorite food might be. I was trying to figure out what you would have as a first meal when you get home?"
Home? That was a concept that truly had not occurred to Dylan in quite a while. Since she did not have a ready response she said the first thing that popped into her head. "A McDonalds cheeseburger, extra large fries and a giant Dr Pepper." Dylan smiled and sighed as she bit into the now under appreciated fowl.
"Yeah". Lura agreed, "but make mine a strawberry shake and Im there."
"Hey, its a date then. My treat." Dylan laughed, then blushed realizing what she had just said.
"Youre on, and Im gonna hold you to that one Hawke." Lura smiled. "Oh, and Dylan, it is a date right?" Lura asked, staring straight into a pair of startling blue eyes.
"Do you want it to be, Lura?" Dylan asked, hoping not to sound desperate and dropping her eyes to look intently at the suddenly very interesting roasted meat.
"I think Id like that Dylan." Lura smiled, dropping her chin and glancing up shyly at Dylan through an attractive pink blush.
Dylan grinned and took another hearty bite out of the leg she had been worrying, totally pleased with herself.
Lura grinned and started in on her dinner, feeling much lighter of heart.
After finishing her meal and throwing the bones into the fire Dylan stood and gathered her gear.
"Lura, I have a small errand to run. I wont be long."
"Where are you going Dylan?"
"I have to go back to Kadines camp."
"No No, please Dylan, you cant." Lura reached out toward Dylan. "Hell kill you. I know he will. Please cant we just stay here. He wont find us here. Please."
Dylan took Luras hands in her own. "Lura, I have to go. I have to." Dylan stared into the panicked green eyes, willing Lura to understand. "If were gonna get out of here in one piece, we have to slow this guy down. And if I have to slow him down, I might as well do it right and stop him altogether. Dont worry. I have a plan." Dylan said with a wicked grin.
Seeing the determination in the soldiers eyes Lura resigned herself the inevitable. "Okay, Dylan. Listen, I know you know what you are doing and I know you think this is kinda fun but, I just Im just be careful, please."
Dylan stroked Luras cheek with a bronzed hand. "I love you little falcon." She kissed the blonde gently on the lips.
Then she was gone.
"I love you too, Hawke" Lura whispered at the retreating shadow.
Kadine arrived at the oasis. Stepping from his jeep, he walked towards the water. "Where are your men Rashiem? Where is the woman?"
"Meier?" Rashiem called. "Where are your men?"
"I am not sure Rashiem. I left them here to guard the oasis and make sure the woman did not escape. "
"How do you know she is here?"
"The tracks, Rashiem. The tracks lead into the mountains, and they are not sandal tracks." Meier replied.
Kadine looked at the tracks in the sand, watching them head into the hills.
"Rashiem, we need more men. We will have to search every cave. Call the camp, bring the rest of the men." Kadine ordered as he slapped his leg impatiently with the riding crop.
Reaching the marauders camp, Dylan reached into her robes and pulled out the map. Clicking the transmit button on the hand held Land Sat radio, she identified herself. "This is Captain Dylan Hawke calling the 54th Battery."
The response was immediate.
"LTC Carter here. Welcome back to the living, Captain Hawke. LT Carr is prepared to take the coordinates."
"Thank you Colonel. Lets see if we can eliminate a big headache for you."
"Are you locked in on my coordinates?"
"Yes, Maam. I am."
"Well, remember not to shoot me." Dylan stated with a broad smile. "Lets see if we can walk a little present into Kadine's camp. Longitude 30 degrees North, Latitude 47 degrees West".
Moments later, Dylan heard a long shrill whistle and watched as a round impacted just above the campsite, causing men to scatter.
"Longitude 25 degrees North, Latitude 45 degrees West."
Another round landed directly in the center of the madmans camp.
"DAMN. You are good LT. Fire for effect!"
"Thanks Maam, no problem. FIRE FORE EFFECT!" The young officer yelled, not bothering to release the call button on the radio.
The rounds rained down like vengeful bolts from heaven. Dylan watched as the camp disappeared in smoke, flames and debris. Smiling, she called a halt to the attack and packed the map away.
"Thanks boys. You got em. What are the chances of getting some man power support out here?"
"Already on its way, Captain." The Colonel responded.
"Thank you, sir. Well be waiting. You know our coordinates?"
"We have them Captain. Hang in there, help is on the way."
Thirty minutes had passed. Kadine glanced up, expecting to see the desert come alive with dust clouds as his soldiers arrived in force. He would have the woman and after he finished with her he would sell her to the highest bidder. As soon as NATO discovered he had the television crew he would have enough money to fund a larger army and control more territory. Those idiots in NATO did not need to know that the crew was already dead. Plus, they would probably pay just to get the bodies back, sentimental fools. Who wants dead bodies?
"I am tired of waiting. Rashiem, send the men we have into the hills. I want each and every cave searched. Find the woman!" He yelled.
Just then, they heard the explosions. Kadine turned towards the sound, towards the location of his camp. "NO!" he screamed, "My men.. Who has done this? The Hawk! Damn you Hawk, I will have the woman and I will kill you!" he screamed. Angry now, he turned towards his Lieutenant. "Rashiem, find the woman. Find her, NOW!"
Dylan ran until her lungs felt as if they would burst, she knew that time was limited now. Lura was alone and Kadine had not been in the camp. There was only one place he could be. She circled around the oasis and slipped into the hills making her way to the cave.
"Lura, Lura, are you here? Are you okay?"
"Dylan, Im here." The beautiful blonde called out, staggering to her feet. "How did everything go? Are you okay?"
"Im fine, but Kadine has a serious nose bleed." She smiled, gently wrapping her arms around Lura, hugging her close.
"Dylan, I heard this horrible noise and then "
"Its okay, Lura. I called for a little help. They destroyed the camp." She spoke gently into Luras hair. Feeling her tremble, she rubbed the smaller womans back in a gentle circular motion. She continued the softly soothing motion until the trembling stopped.
"Is he dead? Is Kadine dead." Lura asked, her voice muffled in the long dark folds of the Hawks robes.
"No, I dont think so. I think we can expect some company soon."
Lura looked up at Dylan startled. "Hes here isnt he, Kadines here?"
Dylan felt the body in her arms shake again. "Shhh. Yes, I believe he is." She spoke tenderly, drawing her arms more tightly around the fragile warm body. "Please dont worry. I wont let him have you. I have a few surprises in store for him. Well be all right, I promise."
Lura wrapped her arms around the tall woman and leaned into the comforting, safe embrace. I wont let him have you either, my Hawk. She thought.
Finally releasing Lura, she turned towards the cave mouth. Glancing outside Dylan watched as the hills literally crawled with enemy soldiers.
"Lura, go to the back of the cave and stay there."
"Dylan, I am not going to sit here and let you fight alone." Lura announced. Then, seeing the stern look on her soulmates face, she added. "Hey, I cant let you have all the fun, can I?"
The only reply was the smile that graced Dylans lips. It was cold and grim and did not reach her eyes.
With a short nod Dylan agreed. Again she turned and watched as the men drew nearer to their hide out. "Just a bit closer and to the right." She watched two soldiers fall away, into a pit she had hidden with shrub. "Yes!" She hissed. "Two down, a bunch to go."
The screams of the men drew the attention of others and they began to turn towards the hiding place.
Crouching low, Dylan placed herself in the mouth of the cave and silently waited. She knew that in order to get to the small blonde they would have to get through her and that just wasnt happening.
Finally, someone spotted her dark head hidden behind the rocks and let out a shout of success. It was the last sound he made in this lifetime. Dylan drew her pistol and dropped him with one shot. "Damn!" she hissed. "Let the games begin."
Kadines men were now advancing in a swarm. Dylan continued to fire her pistol, the sound loud and barking in the hollowness of the cave. When it emptied she reached for her spare clip. She emptied the second clip and fully expected to have to fight hand to hand when a sharp tug on her sleeve drew her attention.
Lura wordlessly handed her the first clip, reloaded. She glanced down at the small blonde who was now concentrating on loading the other clip with her bruised, battered hands. She had dragged herself to lie beside the warrior and was determined to see this action through no matter what the outcome. Dylan was amazed at the strength and determination of the smaller woman.
"If we get out of this thing alive we are gonna have a long talk, you and I, little falcon." She commented, smiling as she continued to fire on the soldiers.
"Little Falcon? Hmmm. Who are you callin little, woman?" Lura questioned.
"Hee-hee. Okay, how about vertically challenged?" Came the smart reply from the soldier, happy to hear the determination in the other womans voice.
Lura smiled back and handed her the loaded 9mm clip. Dylan had emptied another clip and was reaching for the spare when she stopped.
"What's wrong?" Lura asked.
"They've stopped. They're pulling back." Dylan replied. She turned with a frown. "That doesnt make any sense. They outnumber us at least three to one. Why arent they pushing the advantage. Unless "
Her words died on her lips as she saw the frozen expression of terror on the small blondes' face. Something was behind her. She turned and blocked a blow from a rifle butt. The soldiers had found a back entrance into the cave from an adjacent cave and the women were now effectively surrounded. Men poured into the cave attacking the taller woman, just as they had been instructed. Dylan fought as if crazed, but was finally overpowered and pulled roughly to the ground. She watched as her enemy approached Lura, who was being held by a tall rebel soldier. The madman known as El Kadine stared at the struggling blonde, raised his hand and slapped her sharply across the face.
"You belong to me whore. Do not forget that. This bitch you are with will die and you will watch."
"NO!' Lura screamed, leaping towards Kadine, hands stretched out like angry talons.
Lura clawed out with all the strength remaining in her. Perhaps, she prayed, this would give her soldier time to recover.
Kadine threw up his arm, blocking Luras blow. Calmly, he drew back a fist and beat the small, still wounded body to the ground. He smiled, enjoying the fight, knowing that he would win. He stared down at the fallen woman not realizing that he had made two fatal errors. One, he touched the woman Dylan considered hers and two, he had turned his back on the Hawk.
Dylan woke to the sound of flesh meeting flesh and, through dazed eyes, saw Kadine pummeling the fragile body of the woman she loved. Lura did not move, did not cry out, and did not fight back.
Shes dead. Hes killed her.
This was the one thought that raced through Dylans mind.
Suddenly, the world stood stark still and her vision blurred bloody red and tunneled. One minute she was on the ground held by two men, the next she was standing, stepping over the bodies of two now fallen men and approaching Kadine.
Kadine heard a scream not unlike a wounded animal. He turned his head and faced an apparition of death with ice blue eyes. He drew his pistol from his waist and fired point blank at the thing advancing towards him. He saw the shoulder jerk, still it advanced. Unchecked and unimpressed, it kept coming. The face of the being, for he was certain it could not be human, smiled at him. He looked around for assistance from his men but they were to be of no help, sprawled on the ground moaning or silent in death. He fired again but the figure kept coming, hands out stretched.
Dylan did not feel the rounds hit, just the jerk of her clothes as the bullets ripped through the material and into her flesh. All she saw, all she felt or wanted to feel was the cracking of this mans throat as she crushed it in her powerful hands. He had been the bane of her existence for the past three years. He had murdered her men and now he had beaten the small treasure that lay crumpled at his feet. He would die and he would die at her hands.
"No." Dylan said calmly." You will not touch her again. She was no whore, and she belonged to me." As she felt her hands close on his murderous throat, she tightened her grip and smiled. It was a cold, ice blue and feral smile.
Kadine pounded at the arms holding him, but this only tightened their grip. They now held him high off the ground, his feet dancing in the air. He had never felt such raw power or been so frightened.
Dylan felt cold hate and an emptiness that had been filled by the warmth of the small blonde. She did not hear the sound of the choppers as they landed near the oasis, the sound of the booted feet and they climbed towards the cave. She only wanted to hear the gurgle and the dying breath of the monster in her hands. She heard the sound of the water leaving his body as he wet himself in fear. Finally, another sound reached her ears; she heard the weeping of the small blonde.
She's alive! "Lura!" she gasped. Dylan released her hold on the neck of the terrorist leader, allowing him to drop at her feet. Carefully, she stepped over the body and knelt beside the battered woman. Tenderly she reached out and brushed the dirt from the other woman's badly bruised cheek. She looked deeply into the pain filled green eyes and found the unconditional love of her soulmate. Slowly the women stood and moved towards the mouth of the cave. Dylan heard shouting and glanced down, waving.
"Who are they" Lura asked as she watched men in tan uniforms fighting the terrorists.
"That," Dylan whispered, "is the cavalry."
Lura wrapped one arm around her warrior and looked up, smiling. That is when she felt it, moisture seeping through the black shirt, and looked up in horror as the arm she had wrapped around the older woman, turned red with blood.
"Dylan you're bleeding!" She said, jerking her head up again, noticing the pallor of the soldiers face and watching as the now pale lips moved into a grimace.
"Yes shot." Dylan said as the ground rushed towards her and she dimly heard her soulmate scream, then nothing.
Lura watched, feeling her world crumble as the tall woman collapsed first to her knees, then backwards into the cave mouth. Her initial shock was quickly replaced by a fierce protectiveness as men rushed towards them. Reaching down, Lura picked up the discarded pistol that Dylan had dropped in the earlier struggle. Drawing back the slide, she loaded one round in the chamber then, placing herself squarely between the threat and the now helpless woman, she clasped the warm grip and pointed the pistol at the first male head to crest the edge of the hill.
"One step closer and I swear I will kill you." She said.
The man climbed the rest of the way up and slowly rose to his full height. He stood with the sun to his back, silhouetted in the bright daylight. Unable to see his face Lura squinted, but her grip on the pistol did not falter.
The man cautiously removed his sunglasses and stared at the small blonde with the flashing green eyes and the large pistol pointed at his head.
"Hold on, don't shoot. I only want her." He stated, gesturing towards the prone figure at Lura's feet.
Lura quickly moved to place her feet on either side of the body of the unconscious woman, straddling her; the pistol still never wavering from the forehead of the man in front of her.
"You can't have her, shes mine. Youll have to kill me before Ill let you hurt her anymore."
"Whoa there young lady. I would never hurt Dylan. Ive been looking for her for three years. I'm her father."
Lura squinted, staring up into the man's face. "Step over there into the light." She gestured with the pistol towards her right. The man complied, turning his face into the sun. Lura saw the same startling blue eyes that graced the face of the woman she loved. She knew that they were safe. She felt the weight of the pistol pulling at her arms as relief suddenly made them weak. She lowered her hands and dropped the weapon. Turning her back on the man, she slowly knelt at the side of the fallen soldier. Gathering Dylan in her arms she gently held the other woman, rocking them both and crying into the soft black hair.
Senator Cameron looked on, a deep scowl on his face.
"Dylan we're safe. You did it, we're safe." Lura whispered into the unconscious woman's ear, gently placing a kiss on a dirty forehead.
"I want the medics here. Now!" The Senator bellowed, turning away from the scene at the cave mouth.
Four men scrambled up the hill bearing a stretcher and medical packs. They reached out to remove the small woman from the side of the unconscious soldier, but were stopped by the deep growling threat above them.
"No, they stay together. Do what you have to do to treat my daughter, but they stay together. Is that clear?"
Lura looked up at the older man through tear filled eyes, startled to see the anguish reflected on his face.
Dragging his eyes away from the pale, still face of the daughter he had thought dead, he answered the girls' silent question. "Dylan, ran away from me once because I was too stupid and pig headed to listen to her. She risked her life for you and clearly you would risk yours for her. You were here for her when I should have been. I will not separate you now."
"No," said Lura, "believe me, there is no way in Hell you can separate us, not now, not ever. Where she goes, I go." Lura promised, pulling Dylan closer.
The tall man nodded in understanding and perhaps acceptance.
"Sir?" The medic called. "We have to Medivac her. Shes bleeding heavily and we can't be certain of any internal injuries here. I have to dress her injuries before we move her. To tell you the truth, if we don't do something soon I will not be responsible for her survival."
"Alright then, let's move NOW!" The silver haired senator bellowed, unaware of how very much he sounded like his daughter.
The medics rushed forward, quickly and efficiently moving the unconscious woman onto the stretcher. They promptly cut away her shirt, exposing firm stomach muscles and the brutalized torn flesh of the bullet wound.
Lura gasped, her eyes tearing up as she watched the medics at work.
After inserting and IV drip and placing pressure bandages on the open wounds the medics lifted the stretcher and carefully began their descent down the mountainside.
Lura followed the stretcher down, holding Dylan's hand as often as possible. The trip down took all she had left. She limped in a gray haze toward the helicopter, and each step jarred her battered body. As she walked she thought of Dylan, and squeezed the too still hand in her own. Looking up at the copter she thought it strange that the blades should produce a whistle instead of the expected thump, thump. She also found it strange that the night had settled so quickly.
Senator Cameron watched in amazement as the small blonde struggled to stay with his daughter and was, in a sense, relieved when she finally collapsed, as they neared the helicopter. He caught her as she fell, swinging her up in his arms, surprised at the lightweight and obvious fragile condition of the little spitfire. Grinning, he thought of the fight Dylan would have on her hands once they both recovered. "If they recover," he amended mentally.
The medics air evacuated the group back to the NATO base and the hospital.
Lura tossed and turned, fighting the hands that held her in place. She had been laying here for hours, she thought and she needed to be somewhere but where?
"Please Miss, you have to lay still. The Doctor said you needed rest. You were dehydrated. Your injuries will heal faster if you do what they tell you."
Lura stilled for a moment then began mumbling again. "I have to go. Where is she? I have to get to her."
The nurse tried desperately to keep the confused semi-conscious woman still, but this was a hopeless task. In desperation, the small blonde was strapped down to prevent her from hurting herself further. Though quite heavily sedated, she continued to fight.
Finally, the nurse approached the doctor. "We have to do something, I'm afraid she's gonna hurt herself."
Dylan lay in a separate room following emergency surgery and was also strapped to her bed and struggling, though not so strenuously.
"Let's see what happens if we put them in the same room. What could it hurt?" The doctor suggested.
Ten minutes later the two women were lying almost side-by-side and, although they were both unconscious, each seemed to sense the other's presence.
"Amazing!' the doctor exclaimed. "Ya know, I heard somewhere that some souls bond like this; but Ive never seen anything like it. This is incredible."
The young reporter had finally settled down and they were able to release her from the restraints. The soldier still struggled violently, though weakened, and they were afraid she would tear out her IV. Her wrists remained strapped to the sides of the bed. They wheeled the blonde's bed closer and as they watched in pure amazement, a gentle smile graced the dark woman's face and she stopped struggling.
"Untie her arms. Let's see how she does now that her friend is here."
They released Dylan's arms from the restraints and watched when she turned her head slightly as if to glance at the woman in the adjacent bed.
"I swear. I have never seen anything like that. Ive heard about it too. Ya know? Two people bonding so closely that one would die without the other. But I never believed it 'til now." The nurse exclaimed as the two left the room.
Slowly Lura awakened. She felt as if she were swimming to the surface after a dive to the bottom of the ocean. Her senses were dull and her head felt full of cotton.
Dylan, Dylan she's hurt. I have to find her. I have to protect Dylan. Protect Dylan. Protect Dylan This thought rang through her head like a mantra as she struggled to consciousness. "God, where am I?"
Lura glanced around at the beige walls and the silver racks with their large plastic bags of fluids, long thin tubs leading from them to her arm.
Hospital, I'm in a hospital. I remember now, they flew us here from the cave after Dylan was
"DYLAN!" she glanced around frantically, her blood shot eyes quickly settling on the still figure in the bed next to her. The beautiful face was so pale against the white sheets. The electrifying eyes closed in sleep.
My poor warrior. Lura thought. As if in a dream, she rose from the bed, careful not to tear the IV from her arm and slowly staggered, pushing the tower with the IV bag to the next bed. Lifting the sheets, with her eyes still half closed, she slipped under the covers. Snuggling close to the warm body of her soulmate she wrapped her arm around the bandaged waist, pillowed her head on a strong shoulder and quickly fell into a deep restful sleep.
Dylan felt the small body snuggle under her chin and raised a bandaged arm to wrap around the soft shoulder as she too drifted deeper into the arms of Morpheus.
The next morning Dylan woke feeling a warm, heavy weight pressing on her shoulder. Glancing down, her chin brushed soft blonde hair.
Wow, she thought. She's really here. She stayed with me. Unconsciously, she tightened her grip around the small waist and buried he nose in the blonde hair.
Lura, sensing the gentle cuddle of her soulmate, mumbled and pulled herself closer, causing a shift in her still healing ribs.
"Ow, ow, ow." She cried, pulling away only far enough to raise her head and stare into concerned blue eyes. Seeing the tender look she was receiving she smiled gently: "How are you my love?"
The term of endearment brought a grin to the chiseled features. She called me her love. Dylan realized with start.
"I'm great, now." She replied.
"Riiiight." The blonde responded, gently patting the bandaged stomach. You look ready to take on an army."
Dylan graced her with a crooked smile. "Been there, done that." She stated.
"Oh, and how did it turn out?" the blonde asked.
"Well, the good guys won." Came the cocky reply as Dylan leaned down to draw the willing mouth to hers in a sweet, gentle kiss.
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