Ryder:SEALs of Honor, Book 14(10)

By: Dale Mayer

And then there was Mac. He had been her shoulder to cry on. He’d been a stalwart friend at her side whenever there was an event she wanted to go to but didn’t dare go alone. Mac was dealing with his own problems, his own heartbreak and hadn’t wanted to get involved either. They’d been safe together. No pressure. No expectations. And she’d needed that then.

As she considered Ryder’s quick retreat, she realized it didn’t look like Ryder would let her back into his life any time soon. And that was heartbreaking.

She felt so damn weak; it was hard to focus on what else she could’ve said to him. Could say to him next time. She’d been looking for a way to delicately open up the subject of their passionate weekend. That weekend was when everything had changed. That’s when everything had broken down between them. She knew it was her fault, and it wouldn’t be easy to fix.

Today they’d spoken without animosity. Last night he’d looked after her. It was a start. She lay here regretting not having said so much more. How would she get that opening again?

But for now she had to go to the bathroom. She threw back the blanket and slowly propped herself up. The room swam, and she moaned. “Damn it.” She should’ve asked for his help to get there. But the last thing she wanted was to show any more weakness. The military was bred on strength, and she had to tell the injured to ask for help when they needed it. Yet, she’d been the one to refuse help any chance she could get. She started to realize, when the chips were down, she was just like the others. Then, as everyone said, medical professionals made the worst patients.

She gained her footing and walked very slowly toward the entrance. Once there, she held onto the doorway and took several deep breaths before walking in the direction of the bathrooms. Halfway there she realized she still wasn’t as strong as she should be. She faltered. Instantly an arm came around her waist, and Ryder hooked her arm over his shoulder.

“Let’s get you there and back again,” he said quietly.

She let out her breath. “Sorry. I thought I was strong enough.”

“I know the feeling. But sometimes our body doesn’t let us get away with that stubborn stance.” He helped her to the entrance to the latrine.

Afterward she washed her hands and face and went back out. The shakes were still there. She took a deep breath, saw him waiting for her and smiled. “This sucks,” she said. “I was hoping to work today.”

“Not happening. If you pass out on me, I’ll take you to the clinic. I talked to the doctor last night about your condition as it is.”

Outraged, she glared at him. “I told you that I just needed sleep.”

“And you puked your guts out several times, collapsed and then couldn’t get warm. Pardon me if I was worried.”

She had to give it to him. As reasons went, they were pretty damn solid.

Back in her tent, he helped her to the bed where she sat down. “My stomach might be empty now, but it sure wishes it wasn’t. Is there any chance I could make it to the mess tent and get something to eat?”

“You’re not getting a chance to try. Tell me what you want, and I will get it for you.”

She thought about it a moment. “How about a yogurt, some fruit and a sandwich? Something that might stick, yet something not too heavy.” As he walked through the door, she said, “And coffee.”

He continued outside without acknowledging the last bit, so she could only hope he heard. She did love her coffee. She drifted off a couple times, waking just enough to see if he had returned. Soon Ryder walked in holding a tray. She slowly sat up, propped the pillows against the end of the bed, shifted until she sat cross-legged. He set the tray on the bed beside her.

“Glad you slept,” he said. “I also went to the doctor and reported in on your condition again.”

“I’m fine. I feel better but tired, and, then again, maybe that’s hunger.” Her stomach growled. She smiled and looked at the feast in front of her. “What’s in the bags?”

“Sandwiches for later and a couple muffins. I don’t want you heading to the mess tent on your own until tomorrow.”

“I said I was better,” she protested.

“That’s what you said the last time and lulled me into believing it. That won’t work again.”

She gave him a look of outrage, but the smell of the food in front of her was more than she could resist. She picked up a small yogurt, pulled off the top and devoured it in a few bites. With that gone, she started in on the fruit salad. When she was halfway finished, she realized she needed to slow down. She settled back, picked up her coffee and took several sips. She glanced at the food and over at him. “Have you eaten? You want to share this with me?”

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