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Hot Velocity

By:Elle James

Hot Velocity - Elle James

Chapter One

“Whatcha got?” Captain Rex “T-Rex” Trainor leaned toward the man sitting beside him in the helicopter, preparing to deploy into the small Afghan village on the edge of nowhere.

Gunnery Sergeant Lance Gallagher, Gunny to the unit, grinned, splitting his scarred, rugged face in two, and held up a small, shiny piece of paper with a black-and-white picture on it. “Number four is a boy!” he shouted over the roar of the rotors spinning overhead.

T-Rex nodded. “Congratulations!”

“Three girls and a boy.” Gunny shook his head, his lips curling into a happy smile. “Poor kid will be outnumbered by women.” He looked up, catching T-Rex’s gaze, his smile fading. “That’s why I’m giving up the good life of a career soldier to retire. I plan on being there to make sure Junior gets a shot at playing football, baseball and whatever the hell sport he wants.”

T-Rex didn’t blame the man. “Someone needs to be there to make sure he has that chance.”

“Darn right.” Gunny waved the thin piece of paper at T-Rex. “I want to teach him to throw his first ball, build a fort, take him hunting and, most of all...teach him how to treat a woman right.” He winked.

What every boy needed—a father who cared enough to show him the ropes. T-Rex’s dad had taught him everything he knew about horses, ranching and riding broncos in the rodeo. He’d taught him how to suck it up when he was thrown and to get back up on that horse, even when he was injured. Too many kids nowadays didn’t have that parental influence, whether it be a mother or father, to push them to be all they could be and more.

“LZ coming up!” the pilot shouted. He lowered the craft onto the rocky ground and held steady while the team exited from both sides of the Black Hawk.

Although it was night, nothing stood in the way of the stars and the moon shining down on the rugged landscape.

They were deposited on the other side of a hill from their target village. In less than thirty minutes they climbed to the top of the ridge and half ran, half slid down the other side into the back wall of the hamlet.

This was supposed to be a routine sweep to ensure the small group of Taliban thugs they’d chased off hadn’t returned. The intelligence guys had some concerns since the location was so close to the hills and caves the terrorists fled to when driven out of their strongholds.

T-Rex motioned for his team to spread out along the wall. When he gave the signal, they were to scale the wall and drop to the other side. When everyone was in position, he spoke softly into his mic. “Let’s do this.”

In two-man teams, they helped each other over the wall, landing softly on the other side. T-Rex led the way through the buildings, checking inside each one. The locals knew the drill, they’d been invaded so many times. They remained silent and gathered their sleeping children close.

What a life. These people never knew who was coming through the door next, or if the intruders would kill them all or let them live to see another day.

As T-Rex neared the other end of the village, doors stood open to huts that were empty of people and belongings.

The hairs on the back of his neck stood at attention. “Something’s not right here,” he said softly into his mic. He knelt in the shadow of a building and strained to see any movement in the street ahead or from the rooftops. Nothing moved. No shadows stirred or separated from the buildings, and no one loomed overhead from the tops of the homes.

In his gut, T-Rex knew they were walking into a trap. “Back out the way we came,” he whispered.

“I’ve got your back,” Gunny said.

“Get the others out of here. I smell a trap.”

“Not going without you, sir,” Gunny insisted.

“That’s an order,” T-Rex said, his tone firm, despite the whisper. “Move out.” He glanced over his shoulder to the gunnery sergeant’s position a building behind him, and on the opposite side of the road, the other members waited for the signal, hugging the shadows. At that moment, a shadow appeared on the roof directly over Gunny’s head.

“Heads up! Tango over you, G,” T-Rex warned, setting his sights on the man, waiting for the telltale shape of a weapon to appear. His finger on the trigger, T-Rex counted his breaths.

One...two...

The man yanked something in his hand.

“Not good!” T-Rex pulled the trigger, hitting the man in the chest. He collapsed forward, the object in his hand slipping from his grip, falling to the ground. “Grenade!” T-Rex shouted.

Gunny threw himself away from the small oval object rolling across the dirt. But not soon enough.

T-Rex lurched to his feet, too far away from his gunnery sergeant to be of any use. “No!”

The world erupted.

T-Rex was flung backward, landing hard on his back, the breath knocked from his lungs. Stunned, he lay for a second, staring up at the stars overhead, shining like so many diamonds in the sky until the dust and debris from the blast obliterated the night. Then he remembered how to breathe and sucked in a huge lungful of dust. The popping sound of gunfire came from above and all around.

T-Rex rolled toward the shadows of a building and bunched his legs beneath him. Bullets rained down around him, kicking up puffs of dirt near his feet.

Raising his weapon to his shoulder, T-Rex scanned the rooftops through the cloud of dust.

A man stood above him, aiming an AK47 in his direction.

His ears still ringing, T-Rex pinned the man in his sights and fired. One shot. The man fell to the ground, his weapon clattering on the rocky street.

T-Rex quickly scanned neighboring rooftops and the road ahead. Nothing moved there, but the world was pure chaos behind him.

He spun and ran toward the others, his heart hammering in his chest, his head still spinning from the detonation of the concussion grenade.

His men were pinned to the sides of the building, by a single fighter wielding a machine gun from his position near to where his comrade had been standing when T-Rex had taken him out.

T-Rex knelt, aimed, but his vision blurred. He blinked, gaining a clearer shot. His finger tightened on the trigger. He fired one round, and the fighter fell, dropping the machine gun to the street below.

Farther ahead, three of his men were exchanging gunfire with two fighters hiding out between the buildings. How the hell had they missed them?

Their training kicked in and they leap-frogged, providing each other cover as they worked their way to the fighters and knocked them out, one by one.

T-Rex hurried to where Gunny lay in the rubble of the building damaged by the grenade.

The man lay so still, T-Rex’s gut knotted. He bent to feel for a pulse. At first, he could feel nothing. He held his breath and shifted his finger. That was when he felt the reassuring vibration of a heartbeat. Quickly scanning the man’s arms and legs, he noted the tears in his clothing where shrapnel had penetrated. None of the wounds was bleeding profusely. If Gunny had sustained an arterial wound, T-Rex was prepared to apply a tourniquet. But he hadn’t.

Chief Petty Officer Miles Kieslowski ran up to him. “Sir, we got incoming enemy reinforcements. We have to get out of here while we can.” He stared down at the man covered in dust. “Damn.” He glanced up into T-Rex’s gaze. “Is he...”

“Alive. But I don’t know the extent of his injuries.”

“Let’s get him out of here.” Kieslowski started to lift Gunny. “Kenner is on the radio, calling in for pickup.”

“No. I’ve got him,” T-Rex said. “You cover me.” He handed his rifle to Kieslowski. With his hands free, he pulled Gunny to a sitting position and then draped the man’s body over his shoulder. Straightening, he felt the strain on his back and legs. But nothing would stop him from bringing his man out. Never, in all of his skirmishes, had he left a man behind. He wouldn’t start now.

With his burden, T-Rex hurried toward the designated extraction site. As he emerged from the village into the open, he spotted several trucks in the distance, stirring up dust as they barreled toward them. In the light from the moon, T-Rex could tell the men loaded in the backs of those trucks all carried weapons.

The thundering roar of helicopter rotors sounded nearby as the aircraft rose up over the hill behind the village and landed a couple of hundred yards from where T-Rex had stopped to catch his breath. The other marines from his team knelt behind him, firing at the village, as more enemy fighters came out of hiding.

T-Rex had one goal: to get his men to the waiting chopper and out of there before they were outnumbered. As he reached the helicopter, he gave over Gunny’s care to the medic on board and turned toward his team.

Several of them ran toward him, while the others returned fire, backing up as they did. When they were out of range of rifle fire, they ran toward the aircraft and leaped in.

T-Rex stood beside the vehicle, helping his men board. When the last man was in, T-Rex climbed in, yelling, “Go! Go! Go!”

As he settled into his seat, he noted the trucks had stopped short of the village. Several men climbed out carrying long narrow tubes. “They’ve got RPGs!” he yelled.

The helicopter couldn’t move fast enough for T-Rex. It lifted off the ground with its heavy load of souls on board and swung back toward the hill.

They had just made it to the ridge when an explosion went off so close, it made the chopper shudder.

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