“We don’t know what we’re dealing with. We should both take the perimeter and then work our way inside together.”
I shook my head at him. “No way, brother. There is more unknown happening inside the house. Brite’s a big fucking dude. It woulda taken more than one guy to get him down. You’ve got those people you need to be around for, so there is no need for you stick your neck out any more than it already is. I’ll go inside—you make sure the outside is clear.”
He scowled at me and I could see the argument in his eyes before he said anything. “I don’t like this plan … at all.”
I chuckled drily and clasped a hand on his beefy shoulder. “Well, you aren’t my CO anymore and I’ve got more tactical strike experience than you, so this is how it’s going down.”
He blew out a breath of resignation. “Let’s hope we don’t need your tactical experience.”
If I was able to hope for anything anymore it sure as hell wouldn’t be that. “Let’s do what we do so we can focus on figuring out where Avett went because we both know that wasn’t any kind of hired car she jumped into. This situation is a full-on shit show and we’re in the stink neck-deep.”
He grunted his response as we split up and maneuvered our way around the block from opposite directions. Rome had changed since leaving the service but one thing that was ingrained in the man regardless of his situation in life was his need to protect those that needed it. Brite wasn’t only Rome’s mentor and savior; he was the man’s friend and there were no lengths the former soldier wouldn’t go to in order to make sure his friend was safe. I considered it my job to make sure that no one that mattered, no one that had someone to lose, got hurt. I would storm the castle and I would take the shot of adrenaline, the surge of fire and focus, that the first action I had seen in over six months brought with it.
I cut through the backyard of the house behind Darcy’s and dodged a barking German shepherd as I scaled over the privacy fence that separated the two yards. Luckily, Darcy’s yard had plenty of big elms scattered throughout the landscaping so I ducked behind one as quickly as I could in case whoever was in the house with the captive Brite and Darcy went in search of what had the dog going nuts.
I waited a beat to see if anyone was going to come out of the house guns blazing, but when nothing happened, I moved my way closer to the house using the trees and then the deck at the back of the house as coverage. I made sure to keep my head below the window lines since I was tall and would be easily spotted by anyone looking out. I crept along the side of the house and found my way to the back door. I didn’t think I would be lucky enough to find it unlocked, but fate apparently wanted Brite out of harm’s way as much as I did because the knob turned easily under my palm. The interior of the garage was dark and I could clearly make out the outline of Brite’s Harley and the bulk of Darcy’s Chrysler 300 parked next to it.
My heart was thudding in my ears, but outwardly every single part of my body was focused on the possible threat that was waiting for me behind the door that separated me from whatever was happening inside the house. I didn’t hear any noise coming from outside but Rome was good like that. If there were bad guys protecting the perimeter he would take them out without making a sound, even if it had been years since he’d had to put those particular skills to use.
I didn’t get as lucky with the interior door. It was locked up tight and I knew all my stealth and covertness was about to be blown to hell. I wasn’t going to waste time picking the lock when a shoulder and some muscle could get me in so much faster. I pulled out the gun that I had tucked in the back of my waistband and made sure the safety was off. I took a deep breath and reared back so that I could shove my way into the house, knowing I was only getting one shot to get through the door and take whoever was on the other side unawares. It felt like the good ole days and there was no denying that I could feel my blood rushing through my veins and the way the thrill of the action had me feeling alive in a way I seriously missed now that my life wasn’t about war and carnage anymore.
The flimsy wood gave way easily enough; it was the body on the other side that proved difficult to get through. I took a man to the floor as soon as I broke through and wasted no time in cold-cocking him on the side of the head with the butt of the weapon in my hand. I jerked my head back as blood spattered up at me and rolled to the side as gunfire erupted over my head. A bullet tore into the floor right next to where my face had been only moments before, and I swore as I aimed from my back and fired off a return shot that it hit its target dead-on, if the sound of the man shooting at me screaming was any indication.
I scrambled to my feet with my weapon clutched in both my hands and made a quick sweep of the room. The guy I hit was out cold and the guy I shot was lying on the floor clutching his leg as blood pumped steadily out of the hole I put there. I made my way over to him and kicked his gun to the side. I cocked my head as I looked at him and asked, “How many more?”
He looked up at me with glazed eyes as his pallor turned from white to gray. I may have hit his femoral artery with my shot, but I didn’t have time to feel bad about that. I nudged him with the toe of my boot and asked again, “How many more of you are in the house?”
His head lolled to the side as his eyes drifted closed and I knew I wasn’t going to get an answer from him any time soon. I swore under my breath and pressed my back to the wall so I could make my way down the hallway towards the front of the house while being as small of a target as possible. I couldn’t believe I missed this … but I did. I was operating on instinct and years of training. It felt good to be doing something, anything, that felt useful and purposeful again. I needed the charge. I needed the threat, and like Rome said, that was seriously no way to live the life I was lucky to still have. I so easily could have been one of my fallen brothers that didn’t even get a chance at anything more.
When I got to the end of the hallway, I caught sight of a reflection in the glass of one of the pictures Darcy had hung on the wall. Brite was on the floor on his side and his hands were tied behind his back. He wasn’t moving but that could be because there was a man in a dark suit, also reflected in the distorted image, who had a nasty-looking revolver pointed at Darcy where she sat crying on the couch.
“Fuck me.” The situation took on a whole other level of seriousness when it wasn’t insurgents taking hostages, but thugs threatening an innocent family. I wasn’t sure which was worse but I knew I couldn’t stand by and let Darcy and Brite get hurt any more than they already were.