Ryder:SEALs of Honor, Book 14(4)

By: Dale Mayer


Watching for enemy traffic coming in behind them, they raced toward the helicopter as arranged. Mac’s breathing was labored; his color was gray, and the blood, although sluggish, still pumped slowly from the wound by the time they reached the bird.

“Go. Go.”

Ryder picked Mac up and raced him to the helicopter. They strapped him down on a stretcher and watched as the chopper took off, heading in the opposite direction where the fighting had been.

“Ryder, let’s go.”

He raced back to the truck, and they continued on to the camp. There, the prisoners were transferred from their care to be transported to one of the main bases. This was just a temporary headquarters.

Four hours later Ryder stood in front of his commander with the others of his alpha team.

“What happened to Macklin?” the commander asked in a hard voice.

Ryder gave a brief account of what he knew, followed by each team member adding his details.

The commander nodded, listened to each person, writing a few notes at the same time.

As the others turned to leave when dismissed, the commander called out, “Ryder, a moment.”

Ryder turned back. “Yes, sir.”

“Is there a problem between you and Mac?” The commander leaned against his chair. “Normally I wouldn’t bring it up, but there were murmurs a while ago. One of his men brought it up as well.”

Ryder let one eyebrow rise slightly. That was the only reaction he’d let himself show. Inside though was a different story. “No, sir.”

“As rumor has it, a woman is involved.”

“No, sir. Caitlyn and I are longtime friends. We never were together,” he lied glibly. Other than that one magical weekend where we made love for three days straight after two decades of being just friends—the best of friends. Then I said I love you, and she bolted. Refused to speak with me afterward—for the last two years.

The commander studied him intently.

“Caitlyn is dating Mac.”

“Are you okay with that?”

Ryder nodded. “I am.”

“Good. Make sure you are. I don’t want anything to come between our team members.”

Inside Ryder was angry at the inference he’d be less than professional over a female. Sure it was the woman he loved, but she wasn’t his. Whether he liked it or not, he had no choice in the matter. “That won’t happen, sir.”

The commander nodded. “Dismissed.”

Ryder spun on his heels and headed out.

Corey waited for him. “Did I hear that right?” Corey asked in a low voice.

Ryder gave a clipped nod. Corey shouldn’t have heard anything, but, on a base like this, sounds carried.

“Jesus, I’m sorry, man.”

Ryder gave a shrug. “Nothing I can do about it.” The trouble was, he loved Caitlyn, but he’d lost her. Of course she’d found somebody else. He headed to the medical tent, hoping an update on Mac had been shared with the base. Macklin was a good man. If Caitlyn was happy with him, it didn’t matter one bit how Ryder felt about it. She’d made her decision two years earlier, and Ryder had to live with it.

He stopped at the tent, cleared his throat. The medics turned and looked at him. A small blonde stood with her back to him. He frowned at the familiar profile, his heart slamming against his ribs. Why wasn’t she at the main base hospital outside Baghdad with Mac? “Caitlyn?”

She turned.

He stared in confusion at her and then backed up one step toward where the helicopters sat. “What are you doing here?”

She shrugged. “I’m a military nurse, remember? I have another few weeks in my tour.”

“And Mac?” he asked hazily.

She frowned. “Mac’s a good man.”

He felt the shock of surprise go through him. “Of course he is. I just helped save his sorry ass. I came for an update.”

A businesslike look came over her expression. “He’ll make it. But he’s got a tough few days ahead. Depending on the damage he could be off for months of physical therapy.”

“Why aren’t you with him?”

“Because I’m working.”

“He’s your partner. You would get leave to be at his side.”

She gave Ryder a long hard look. “He’s my friend. He’d expect me to do nothing less than stay here and look after the rest of you.”

Unfortunately that was all too possible. Still Ryder felt bad. Macklin shouldn’t be alone.

Everyone needed someone.

Even Ryder.

*

Caitlyn watched as the only man she’d ever loved exited the tent—obviously frustrated, with anger and concern on his face. She’d barely seen him since their infamous weekend—which had about torn her apart. She regretted only one thing in her life, and that was not setting things straight with Ryder earlier. And in all this time she hadn’t found a way to put it right. “Ryder, Mac will be okay.”

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