Hot Velocity

By: 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!”

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