What the hell is it with you two

“What the hell is it with you two?” Mace griped, taking her bag, and tossing it in the backseat. “Every time you and the Captain have a fight, he takes it out on us. I ended up being volunteered to the MTS Master Training Specialist on the Grinder today working with a Phase One class, sweating bullets out my ass.”

Mace always picked her up, no matter what shift she worked, and drove her back to his place, which was ridiculous. He lived on the base, and within steps of Base Command, but those were his orders.

“If you’re talking about the overbearing egomaniac we all call Captain Austen, ask him.” She jumped in next to Mace, her mood morphing into a healthy case of cranky, knowing she had to face her small cell for the evening, aka Mace’s apartment. “Take me home, my home.”

“Nuuu, Kayla,” he said, knowing he’d be swimming to the Mexican border and back if he didn’t follow the Captain’s orders.

“Then let’s go out for dinner.”

“You sayin’ something’s wrong with my cooking?”

“No. It’s my turn to cook tonight.” Cooking was the last thing on her mind, but she was starving. She’d been too darn angry to eat after seeing Miss Sweater-too-tight sidling her perfect cosmopolitan figure against Thane. Carrie Watson, their new admin assistant, was turning up the heat. She could almost smell the sexual vapors coming off the woman. After Karen had been fired, Kayla hoped for a sixty-plus, tight-bunned, grandmotherly type. No such luck. Carrie had a silkworm smoothness that made her feel like an old frayed carpet. The woman wore her sweaters tight to show off her voluptuous “D” cups, and she constantly draped them in front of Thane.

“Afternoon, sir.” Mace waved at someone sitting in one of the parked cars, and she leaned forward, adding her own wave. Driving slowly past the gatehouse at the entrance to the base, and giving the guard a nod, Mace turned onto the Strand headed for town. “I’ve only got so much finesse in the kitchen, and you’ve had my spaghetti five times already.”

“Then let’s go to Old Town. I need something hot.”

Mace curled a brow, reaching for his phone. “Since when?”

“Don’t you dare call him, just drive.”

“Kayla, he’s gonna wig out.”

“I don’t care what he does—drive.”

Of course, Mace called him anyway. The traffic was heavy on the Coronado Bridge, and they followed a school bus filled with youngsters bouncing in their seats. Since time immemorial, kids waved at passing cars out the back of big yellow buses, and she waved back.

“He wants to talk to you,” Mace said, holding out his phone.

“I don’t want to talk to him.” She crossed her arms, and stared out the side window looking out over the bay.

“Sir, why am I stuck in the middle of this?” Mace asked, changing lanes trying to get away from the fumes of the bus. “So, let me get this right. I’m going on a date with your girlfriend.” Mace quickly pulled the phone from his ear.

“Give me that.” She brought it to her ear once the hollering stopped. “Are you finished yelling at Mace?”

“Kayla, just give me thirty minutes, and I’ll take you for dinner. I’m just giving…somebody a hand.”

“Giving who a hand?”

“Baby, thirty minutes.”

“Giving who a hand?” she pressed, her senses beginning to torque. Thane wasn’t the only one with ESP. He sounded…wrong.

The wind from the ocean whistled through the phone. “I’m helping someone with a flat. I’ll be done in a few minutes.”

“Who?” She knew the damn answer already.

“Miss Watson has a flat. I’ll be done here—”

The burn of jealousy in her belly flared to ignition like the hot flash on a fighter jet. She slammed the disconnect button, and smashed the phone on the dashboard.

“Hey, stand down girlfriend, that’s government property, ya know.” Mace snatched it away from her. “What the hell is the matter with you these days? You’re like a harpy from hell.”

Her gaze whipped to the window. Tears welled, and her guts squeezed so tight she felt like throwing up. The woman probably let the air out of her own tire. “I want to go home, Mace. Now!”

Mace’s phone rang. “Commander…sorry, Captain, Kayla wants to go home.” He paused. “Don’t think that’s going to happen, sir.” Mace paused again, chancing a careful look at her. “Because she’s crying.”

She didn’t even think before giving Mace a hard whack. Not that it would hurt him with muscles rolling off his broad shoulders like Popeye. Swiping a tear away, she grilled him with a look for squealing.

“She’s causing me bodily harm,” he added. “Yes, sir. We’re going to Old Town,” which earned him another glare. “Yes, sir. Yes, sir.”

Mace said it four more times, and she knew he was getting a mouthful of instructions about how to situate. How to make safe. How to strategize. Mace had been a SEAL for ten years, with a million dollars of training invested in him, along with specializing as a Sniper. He didn’t need a preschooler’s version of taking care of a prisoner, which is what she was these days. Mace rolled his eyes and said, “Yes, sir,” a final time then hung up. “Kayla, come on, he just wants you to be safe.” Mace squeezed her shoulder, then swiped a finger against her cheek.

“I am safe. You’ve all been treating me like some precious artifact. I hate it.”

Mace caught a break coming off the bridge, and changed lanes, overtaking several cars trudging their way home. “The Shark still has you in his line of sight. If he finds a breach in the fence, he’s going to go for it. Until we find him, you’re under lockdown, Snow White. So give the Captain a break—Shit!”

Mace’s hand shot out, grabbed the back of her neck, and yanked her toward him. The horrific sound of glass, metal and good luck, shattered, as a truck smashed into the passenger side of his car. She heard herself scream, a ripping pain tore down her side, and darkness enveloped her as fate stepped in to make a decision.




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