Status: Active.

Little Hand Grenade

Chapter 12

Bang. Bang. Bang. Chest, chest, head. I emptied the last five rounds within an inch of each other and I released the magazine, catching it before it hit the concrete floor. The police chief, Ronald, gave me full access to the indoor shooting range at the station while I remained in Phoenix with Alex and his band. A full month of no news, no shootings, no leads and hoards of press.

"You're deadly with that one," Ronald said when I returned the weapon and magazines to the armory. "If your body guard duties didn't get in the way, I would hire you on the spot, Vanessa." I'm only deadly when I want to be distracted. And shooting did little to distract me from thinking about Alex. He spent most of his time at the hotel room, so I spent most of my time elsewhere. After he agreed to try and win me over so I wouldn't leave and rejoin the Army, he's been absolutely intolerable.

"I miss the Army, Ronald," I confessed, and the police chief smiled fondly. "No man, rock star or not, can change that."

"The hotel you're staying at has a full gym," he said, and I flicked my eyes over to him. "My officers work out when they feel like you do." Somehow the man knew exactly what I was going through, and his advice was indispensible.

Anything. I would do anything to avoid Alex. None of it diminished his advances, though. All it took was a dark corner, an empty elevator or a few minutes of rare alone time and I would be pinned between him and a wall, knees wobbling and my hands roaming wherever they wanted while he kissed me like the world was ending.


Sweat dripped from my nose, onto my lips and down my chin as I pulled it up and over the bar over and over again. Alex proves nothing to me by kissing me whenever he feels like it. I wanted loyalty from him. He already challenged me to be a better person, but it was so exhausting to be human.

My heart thumped hard in my chest, and my feet sprinted with the rubber belt of the treadmill. Running was the best distraction so far. I could pretend I was really running away, or that I was running to Alex depending on my mood. Most of the time I ran away, though.

"You're going to kill yourself." If I had any breath left, it would have caught in my throat. Despite all of my obvious efforts to avoid him after I all but told him I would date him, he still persisted. It should be flattering, but I felt the familiar irritation returning.

"Don't waste your time on me," I panted, still running. I wouldn't feel better until I got to the bottom of this strange ring of girls trying to kill Alex. The lack of clues after I handed intel to the authorities only pissed me off more. "You will never be my top priority." He sighed and sat on the end of the bench press.

"You still wear Captain Adams's ring on your necklace," Alex noted, and I laughed to myself as I plucked the emergency stop magnet from its place on the treadmill's display. The rubber belt slowed to a stop and I looked at him with incredulity.

"He asked me to marry him and then he went missing in one of the most dangerous places in the world," I said wryly. "I think that's a good enough reason to keep it." Alex's face betrayed disappointment. "What?"

"It's nothing," he said, standing up. With Alex, it was never nothing.

"You're obviously disappointed," I pointed out, bringing my water bottle to my lips. "In me, most likely."

"Why would you encourage me to convince you to stay when you're clearly going back?" he asked, and I shrugged. "Incredible. You're trapped in your soldier mode. That explains everything."

"My what?"

"This has nothing to do with me, does it? You couldn't save Captain Adams and you think saving me will be your redemption." Anger flared in my chest, and I dropped my water bottle so I could grab two fist-fulls of his white shirt and yank him nose-to-nose with me. I searched his warm brown eyes and all I found was a boy--no, a young man--jilted by a woman who was too much for him to handle in the first place.

"I'm getting to the bottom of this, Alex fucking Gaskarth," I seethed, unsure of where the vast amounts of fury boiled from. "I'm going absolutely insane and you and your lips are not helping."

"I don't know, I think it makes you relax, and God knows you need to do that more often."

I growled in the back of my throat and tossed him away from me violently before stalking into the hotel lobby. Alex trailed behind at a safe distance, and a strange feeling sparked in my chest, causing me to stop by the chairs in the middle of the busy room. The general hustle and bustle of receptionists checking guests in and out, groups of travelers chatting and others hurrying in and out of the front doors. Approximately thirty feet away stood a man with aviator sunglasses, reading a map and marking it with a red pen. I think Alex called my name a few times but I didn't hear him. My feet acted alone and took me closer to the man. The closer I got the more confidence I felt. Soon enough, I was tearing the sunglasses from the man's face and stared with absolute indecency at his familiar face.

"Ty?" I asked, searching his expression of shock and recognition. "How the hell are you here?" I've been working out too much. I'm hallucinating. At first, I felt nothing, and then a thousand different feelings obliterated any and every form of resolve I worked years to build and fell to my knees in a sobbing heap.

"Vanessa, it's okay, I'm here," Ty cooed, clutching me to his chest and stroking my hair.

"You're dead," I stammered. "You were as good as dead, I looked for you with every military tool at my disposal and you were dead!" The lump in my throat threatened to suffocate me and it hurt so badly it only made me cry harder. "What happened? The bodies were burned--"

"Vanessa, who is that?" Alex's voice was like a stable rock in the middle of a hurricane. A few deep breaths later, I let Ty help me to my feet and tried to gather up my shredded composure.

"Captain Tyler Adams," I answered, and found myself in a very strange and unfamiliar position. "Answer me, please, Ty. What happened? Where did I go wrong?"

"Still worried that you didn't find me the good, old-fashioned way?" he said with a knowing smile. "Intelligence ruined you, didn't they? God, you're so beautiful; I still love you like it was yesterday. We burned the insurgents and planted our own tags to throw the Army off our trail."

"I don't understand," I said immediately, confused. "You knew I would look for you, why did you want to hide?"

"You're smarter than that, think Vanessa."

"All of you. AWOL? Why? Wait," I said, and all of the pieces fell together in an ugly puzzle. "Please don't tell me you're in one of those mercenary bands killing all of my soldiers."

"Other countries are interested in the Middle East, and they pay more than the United States does."

A cast iron skillet to the face would have hurt less than this. Burning slowly over a spit would have felt better. My Captain Adams, a traitor and a mercenary. I don't know how it happened; every part of me went cold, and I took my well-worn necklace from its home around my neck, dropped it on the immaculate floor and spat on it before I ground it beneath my heel.

"The next time I see your face, you'll be begging for your life as paint your blood on the wall," I spat hotly under my breath. "Run. I'll give you a head start." It took every fiber of my willpower to keep my gun out of my hand. Like a coward, my fiancé ran for all he was worth.

I don't remember going back to Alex's hotel room, but my fury only built upon itself and I paced relentlessly. No thoughts, only fury. Alex said nothing and simply watched me, and even his innocence began to frustrate me. He had no idea what just happened.

"That treasonous bastard!" I finally bellowed, tangling my hands in my hair and pulling it. "Years of my precious military career wasted!

"Look at you, sitting there and witnessing the crumbling of the once-great Vanessa O'Connor. Are you happy now? I've killed people, I've let my soldiers die, innocent civilians have died and for what? Love? Oh, that's rich. Absolutely novel!" I laughed madly and sat in the middle of the room on the soft carpet.

"Vanessa..." Alex began, and faltered when I glared at him, but he cleared his throat and continued. "You're going to be okay."

"Okay? OKAY?! I knew you were thick, but I am far from okay." When he approached me, I thought he was going to be predictable and hold me and try to calm me down. Instead, he walked right past me and into the bathroom. I heard the sink run for a short while and he appeared with the empty ice bucket. Well, I thought it was empty. He tipped it upside down over my head and water drenched my smelly workout clothes. I gasped and judging from his expression, he thought these would be his last moments on this planet.

"I don't want to watch you feel like this," he said loudly, his voice cracking. "I wanted to know you were human, but not like this."

"Why does it matter? I can have a breakdown if I want to!" I argued, and Alex knelt down next to me and cupped my face with his hands. I tried to jerk my face away, but he kept bringing it back. "Stop it. I'm your body guard and this is hardly appropriate."

"Maybe I do want to know what this looks like," he murmured quietly, blinking very slowly and drinking in every pore and feature on my face. "Is this what you'll look like when you finally leave me and go back to Afghanistan?"

"Don't flatter yourself."

"Shut up, Vanessa. I don't want your snarky attitude ruining my moment."

I pursed my lips with reluctance. Heat rose in my cheeks at his closeness, and I could feel his shallow breathing on my face. Slowly, I let the anger go like a sheet in the wind. The betrayal and utter sadness I felt rose to the brim of my self-control. I felt like a wasted husk of my former self. At the time, I thought I searched for those missing men because I cared about my troops. No, I cared about Captain Adams and only Captain Adams. My hair began to dry, and water dripped from the ends and onto the nice carpet. Finally, I gave in and hid my sniffling, pathetic self in Alex's shoulder and clutched onto him like the end of a fraying rope hanging above a bottomless pit.
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I am back after a ridiculous hiatus! I need to finish this story, so please let me know what you think.