Ravaged River(10)

By: Lindsey Cross



After a month, Hoyt had told his newest intern psychologist to go suck a pistol.

He'd deal with shit in his own way. And there was no damn way it would involve a life spent popping one antidepressant after another. He was done with that.

"None of your business. Why are you back? Did you find Al Seriq?" Hoyt skimmed a hand over his freshly shaved head. He still wasn’t used to the loss of his long blond hair. Blond hair that Hayden used to run her fingers through and exclaim over its silkiness. Every time he’d done the same he’d thought about her, so he’d taken a razor to his hair to amputate the memory. Then he’d made Jared take him to the tattoo parlor to get the two large scorpions inked on his arms. He needed the daily reminder of his reason for living. As sniper, he was crucial to his team.

"Listen man, if you ever need to talk, I'm here, okay?"

Hoyt was across the room in an instant, standing toe to toe with Ethan. "You want me to talk about how my cousins cut me up? Or should we go all the way back to childhood and discuss how my aunt and uncle tried to starve Jared and me to death? No, wait a minute, I’ve got it—you've been through the same thing right? Yeah, let's talk about it. Someone in your family try to kill you too? I'm all ears."

Ethan took a giant step back, hands up, palms facing out. "Just offering to help."

Hoyt closed the gap between them again in one menacing step, thinking long and hard about planting his combat boot in his teammate's face.

"Back off, Hoyt. The man hasn't seen you yet. You can't expect him not to react."

Hoyt glanced over his shoulder to see Jared walking toward him, his expression as locked down as a steel box. Hoyt was sick of that look, sick of his brother trying to hide his concern and failing.

Hoyt jerked his attention back to Ethan, but Jared grabbed his arm and pulled him back. The contact made his skin crawl and he jerked away. He knew what people felt when they touched him. He felt every single scar that crisscrossed his flesh, and even though Jared had been the one to rescue him, Hoyt could barely tolerate close proximity to him. Let alone touching.

He jerked away and turned to face Ethan, his feet planted shoulder width apart, hands down at his sides. "So, are you the reason for the meeting?"

Ethan gave a hesitant nod, wisely choosing not to repeat his offer of help. "Yeah, all those hours of laying on my stomach in the sand finally paid off."

"About time. We've been tracking this asshole one year too many. You get a location? When do we leave?" Hoyt rubbed his hands together. Yes, he’d decided his best hope for rehab resided in the KA-BAR knife in his boot and his new Remington Modular Sniper Rifle. And if Ethan had located Al Seriq, Hoyt was about to do some intensive immersion therapy.

He'd just broken in the sniper rifle on the range. The scope had a range of over two thousand yards. He'd be able to blow Al Seriq’s head off his shoulders from a good 1.2 miles away.

His chest went tight with satisfaction. A buzz crawled through his veins, and he had to resist the urge to tilt his head back and sigh. Killing the terrorist would be better than relieving a never-ending hard-on. It would give him purpose again. A real reason to live.

If he capped off that chapter, maybe he’d actually find it in himself to move on. He could finally stop thinking about Hayden and how her hair felt like cool satin shifting through his fingers. How her skin felt like the softest silk sliding beneath his palms. How her lips were just the right size for his, molding for his kisses...

"I'm afraid we're not going anywhere," Ethan said.

"You might not be, but I'm on the next plane to the suck."

But Ethan shook his head, and just like that, Hoyt got that tight feeling in his chest again, only this time it had nothing to do with the high of death and everything to do with the heat of rage. He would go back overseas even if he had to buy his own ticket and fly with the civilians. He needed this. Needed to get back in the game and get rid of whatever this itch was crawling around inside his body. What better way than to regain control, than to become a warrior again?

And he would bulldoze anybody who dared to stand between him and the endgame.

Hoyt started to take a menacing step forward, ready to prove just how serious he was, but Jared slammed a hand on his bicep and yanked him back. "Let him speak. I'm sure he wants to end this as much as you do."

Hoyt stumbled back, cursing the fact that his brother now had a solid thirty pounds on him. Another hangover from his incarceration at the VA unit. The food there was shit. Hell, it was the maggots that grew on shit. The result was that he'd lost a good twenty pounds of muscle. Something he was doing his damnedest to rebuild, but his stomach had shrunk and the protein shakes could only go so far. If he could get back in the war zone, in his element, he could rejoin his comrades and be fucking normal.

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