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Wil’s vacation plans have been interrupted, but there is white lie covercompensation in the form of a pretty, sometimes lover, Penny. She is the confidential aide to Admiral Greyling, Wil’s immediate superior. He intends to see if he can get information from Penny about the mission Greyling has for him.

Wil made love to Penny tenderly, treating her like a precious, breakable crystal. She wanted it to last forever, but as all magical moments must, it ended. Not even Barry made her feel this way, as if she were delicate, ephemeral, genuinely female.

“Now,” Wil drew his finger tenderly along the curve of her jaw. “What has Greyling got planned for me?”

“I don’t know, Wil. I told you.”

“Oh, come on, you are privy to her most intimate secrets.” His fingers strayed to her body once more, but had lost some of their gentleness.

“Honestly, Wil, I don’t. She’s playing this very close to the chest.” The look in his dark eye frightened her, but after examining her a few minutes more, he relaxed.

“If you knew, would you tell me?”

Her smile reminded him of a pixie; quick and teasing. “Probably not. I didn’t get my job by having loose lips, Colonel.”

“No, but sweet nevertheless. Can’t fault me for trying.”

“Is that all that brought me here?” She tried to keep the wounded tone from her voice, but very nearly failed.

“No.” He sat up, long legs dangled over the side of the bed. Head in his hands, he sighed deeply, as sorrowful a sound as she had ever heard. The expression on his face was like a wounded animal; eye wistful, cheeks hollow.

“A man like me,” he began tentatively, “hell there aren’t any men like me.” His laugh held pain and self-loathing. “I don’t have a lot of friends, Penny. I can have any woman I want—and have—but,” his voice drifted off to nothing.

She waited, knowing he struggled with his emotions. The Lone Wolf wasn’t called that for nothing, he was the best solo agent the Marines had. He had completed more missions than any twenty other men in the service. No one knew how old he was, but everyone knew there was more to Colonel VanLipsig than met the eye. Being an aid to Greyling, she probably knew more about him than anyone save the Admiral herself.

“I hate my life,” Wil whispered so softly she hardly heard him. “I hate what I’ve become, Penny. Do you know how many people I’ve killed? I can’t even remember anymore. How many good men have died because of me? I can’t remember that either. I’m an asshole of the first order; ruthless, hard nosed, stubborn….”

“Some would say tenacious, willful and strong.”

His laugh held irony. “Yeah, some would say that. Is that the PC version of my description, Penny?”

She giggled, trying to lighten his mood. “Yeah, some would say that.” Her smile faded. “Seriously though, Wil, a man can change.”

“You know the expression ‘can’t teach an old dog?’” She nodded. “That would apply.”

“Wil, you aren’t that old…!”

His expression quelled her protest. “Baby, do you realize how old I am?”

She shook her tousled head slowly.

“Old enough to know I can’t change. So old, I knew Greyling when she was younger than you.”

Her face froze. Admiral Greyling was nearly sixty, though she hardly looked her age. Wil looked young enough to be Greyling’s son.

“I’m twenty-two.”

“I know. She and I went through basic together. After a few years, we kinda lost touch.” He shrugged resignedly. “Story of my life in a nutshell. On my tombstone it will read, ‘Colonel Wilhelm VanLipsig, he kinda lost touch.’”

“Our line of work isn’t conducive to relationships.”

“I keep telling myself that. But you, you’re with Thompson now?”

She nodded, half ashamed to admit it since she had been in the bed of another man. Wil dropped his head dejectedly.

“Guess I kinda screwed that up for you. I’m sorry.”

His apology caught her completely off guard. Wil rarely apologized for anything.

“He doesn’t have to know about this… about us…”

“He’ll know. A man knows when he’s being compared to someone else.” He held up a hand to quiet her halfhearted protest. “Trust me, he’ll know and he’ll wonder who the better man was. No matter what you do or say, he’ll doubt and eventually—he’ll kinda lose touch.”

©2015 Dellani Oakes

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