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white lie coverWil is on a much needed vacation with unexpected companions. He didn’t particularly like Ben Drexel and Ray Schmidt when he first met them. But it’s hard to walk through hell and not come out the other side a changed man.

Making noise to alert Ben and Ray, Wil loped into the camp. His long legs ate up the miles with an almost mechanical gait. Dropping his pack loudly on the ground, he groaned, stretched and looked around. The other two were not in evidence.

“Ben! Ray! You two sorry excuses for Marines, where are you? What’s for supper? He got no response except the sighing of the wind in the tall trees around the camp.

A comunit in the tent beeped, startling Wil. He spun around, dropping to a low crouch, weapon drawn, before he realized what it was. The noise continued persistently, until he answered it.

“VanLipsig, go ahead.” He added with annoyance, “It better be damn important!”

“Define important,” a cheerful female voice quipped in reply.

“I dunno, Admiral Greyling. Death or severe dismemberment?”

He heard her chuckle softly and pictured the curve of her full, red lips, sparkling gray eyes and short, dark salt and pepper hair curling around her face.

“None of the above. Just checking up on my favorite Colonel.”

“I’m alright, just got back from a hike. Looking for my camping buddies, they aren’t here.”

“I know,” her tone changed abruptly.

“What haven’t you told me, Elise?”

There was a brief pause. Wil could picture her pacing the deck much as he paced the tent, trying to put the situation into the best light so he wouldn’t yell.

“I have orders, a special assignment.”

“Elise!” His tone was dangerous, his anger growing.

“I’m aware this is a much needed vacation, Wil,” she said calmly.

“But?”

“We need you on this… I need you. You three are the only ones I can trust.”

“Ray’s unfit for active…”

“I know. He’ll be on the support end. It’s you and Ben I most need. They’ve already been picked up. I have an escort standing by for you. When they got back without you, I was worried.”

“Didn’t Ray and Ben explain where I was?”

“No. I don’t think they trusted my people. They told me personally, or I couldn’t have contacted you.”

“So talk.”

“No, not like this. The team will be there soon, ETA seven minutes, fifty-two seconds. They’ll help you break camp. Greyling out.”

Wil hurled the comunit across the tent, watching it smash to pieces on a rock under the tent floor.

Exasperated, he began to break camp, starting with the sleeping bags and camp stoves. He had the tent half down by the time the team showed. A corporal he recognized came forward, snapped a saucy salute and stood at attention. She was a short, petite and full-chested redhead nicknamed Penny because of her hair. She was Greyling’s confidential aid. He’d taken her into the Zero-G room once or twice, but that applied to most women he had served with.

“At ease, Corporal.”

She relaxed into her stance, waiting for him to speak. Instead, he touched the nape of her neck, sending a shiver down her spine. “What’s got Greyling all twisted up in knots, eh?”

“I don’t know, sir. I was told to get you, Colonel.”

“What if I refuse to go? This is my vacation.”

“Yes, sir, the Admiral said to use any and all resources at my disposal, sir.”

“I see.” He stepped closer, pulling her to him.

The men with her pretended not to notice, but one lanky fellow with swarthy good looks and fiery eyes smoldered silently. Competition—just the way Wil liked it. He kissed Penny, holding her in an unyielding embrace. Everyone knew VanLipsig lived by his own rules. No one pointed out that enlisted and officers did not fraternize. Regulations didn’t apply to the Lone Wolf.

©2015 Dellani Oakes

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