* * *
“NO, ELENA, fuck…no.” I dropped to my knees in shocked horror at the gruesome scene playing out before my eyes. My legs refused to move and the rest of my body felt like it was weighed down with lead.
Air got trapped in my lungs as I tried to breathe and no other sound came except the animal like grunts that were all I could get past my lips. Suddenly darkness fell like a blanket, enshrouding me in its grasp.
There was a deafening silence as heavy as the dark, and in my head were the screams that were trapped in my soul, fighting to be released.
I shook my head vigorously and my vision gradually cleared as time practically stood still. All around me life carried on as if in slow motion.
My limbs felt weak and heavy as I made my way to the middle of the street on my hands and knees to reach my wife’s side. Still not believing that my eyes were seeing what they were. But as my brain finally caught up, I knew what hell felt like.
This was not supposed to happen, not to her. She was the most innocent one here, her only crime loving me, being mine. My heart died the second I reached her side and saw what they’d done to her.
Tears streamed down my face blinding me as I cradled what was left of her head on my thigh. One beautiful eye looked unseeingly up at the dark night sky while the other laid on the asphalt a few feet away.
My mouth opened in a silent scream that became a tortured roar as I felt everything that was good in me fall away. Ice-cold rage is all I felt, and a loss so strong it would be hard to put into words.
The man I was left my body and something feral took his place. I went cold and numb inside as I felt the change come over me. I didn’t try to fight it, but accepted.
It wasn’t the first time I’d been sucked under. But I knew this time was going to be worse than any that had come before. Still, I let it take me, it’s where I needed to be right now. Nothing else will do.
I knew it was dangerous to let myself go to that place, to stay there for too long, but there was no turning back. I’m going to need it to do what needs to be done to make this right.
Later I’ll fight my way back, maybe. Because the one who was good at bringing me back was no longer here. She was the only one who knew how to tug on my leash when I needed it. That was too bad for them!
They’d just destroyed the one thing that stood between me putting a bullet in their heads, or the evisceration they will suffer when I find them; and I will find them. The ones responsible, if it’s the last thing I do.
I didn’t hear the rush of pounding feet that hurried towards me. Or the screams of rage from my men as they fell to their knees beside me. I couldn’t hear or see through the fury that descended like a covering veil.
I only came out of my fugue state when I felt arms lifting her away from me. “Don’t… get the fuck away from her.” The EMTs backed away at my roar and the insistence of my men who came to their rescue. Saving them from certain harm.
I held on until I heard my best friend’s voice in my ear telling me it was okay to let go. I don’t know how I controlled the shaking in my limbs, or how I was able to contain the roar of rage that was now lodged in my lungs.
She was gone, and my arms felt so empty, as empty as the place where my heart had been only a few minutes ago. Now as the darkness receded I could hear the sirens and see the flashing lights and everyone seemed to be moving at warp speed.
I refused to move when someone, I don’t know who, tried lifting me by the arms. Words of fiery anger got trapped on my tongue while inside I screamed and raged at the injustice.
Something dark and ugly took root inside me and I let it. I let it feed on me as I sat there feeling like my very soul had been destroyed. And well it might have been. She was the best part of me!
I needed to throw up but there was no strength left in me for even that. For the first time in my life my training abandoned me and I was left swinging in the wind. “Come on Cap, we gotta get you outta here.”
My team tried to get me to move but their words fell on deaf ears. Yes, they would try to save my life now, not knowing that it had ended with the bullet in my wife’s head.
I wanted to follow her in death. There’s no way I can go on living in a world where she didn’t exist. I can’t exist with the memory of what they’d done to her always there.
My men kept insisting that I had to move, to get out of the line of fire. I was putting them in danger by leaving them out in the open like this. I knew they wouldn’t leave my side no matter what. I was also sure that the shooter was long gone by now.
Still, I eventually allowed myself to be helped up from the ground. It took all five of them to do it. I noticed then that the other women had already been whisked away and for one selfish moment I asked why it couldn’t have been one of them.
I immediately felt like a monster for the thought. No, if anyone should’ve had their brains splattered all over the parking lot outside Remi’s bar and grill it should’ve been me.
That was my thought as I let myself be placed in the back of somebody’s truck. It should’ve been me. For the rest of my life I’m always gonna know it should’ve been me.
* * *
I sat up in bed, heart racing, drenched in sweat with a scream trapped in my lungs. It didn’t take as long as it used to-to realize that it was just a dream, a nightmare.
I threw my legs over the side of the bed and sat with my head in my hands until the nausea in my stomach went away. My head was fuzzy but I knew there would be no more sleep for me tonight.
It had been a while since the dream had chased me from my bed. Not since I took care of the ones responsible in fact. Once I sought vengeance and hunted down the assholes that thought it was a good idea to fuck with me, my dreams had been at peace.
Though there were days when I felt her with me, when her memory haunted my every move, I’d made peace with the fact that she was gone. I’ll never forgive myself for my part in her death though. For being the man she loved.
It was stupid I know, I’ve heard it time and again, from professionals no less. But no matter how much they told me that it wasn’t my fault, that I wasn’t the one wielding the gun. I still know in my heart that had she not married a man who was part of an Elite military force she would still be alive today.
The fact that my division was sold out by someone we trusted was neither here nor there. That beautiful, feisty woman who’d loved me with everything she had, had gone too soon because of me.
So, even though I’d wiped her murderers off the face of the earth, and had walked away from the only other thing I loved, it was still not enough to erase the guilt I still felt.
It had been months since one like this crept in under my guard and it wasn’t any more welcome than the others that came before it. I waited for the last dregs of the horror to release me from its grip before rubbing the lingering sleep from my eyes.
I got up, pulled on some sweats over my naked ass and scratched my chest and stomach as I walked from the bedroom. I didn’t need to see the clock to know that I’d only had a few measly hours of sleep, but I knew from experience that there was no way I was getting any more rest tonight.
It was still dark out when I walked into the kitchen and grabbed a glass of water, downing it in one go. I gave some thought to going hunting since I was up and grabbed my phone with the thought of calling my brother to see if he was off duty and wanted to come with.
When I remembered that the pain in the ass had mentioned on one of his unnecessary calls that he was on shift, I decided to sit out on my front porch instead. It’s been a while since I watched the sun come up. I’d lost interest in so many things these past few years, life mostly.
I grabbed my gun for some unknown reason, since I wasn’t expecting trouble. But some itch under my skin made me grab it from the nightstand where I keep it. I called for my shiftless dog but he was nowhere to be found. No need to guess where he was; pussy hound.
I put some coffee on and stood there impatiently until I had a full cup. Out on the porch I put my feet up on the rail and took my first sip. Shit, I forgot the sugar.
I was about to get up to rectify that little mistake when something stopped me in my tracks. I wasn’t sure what it was at first but I automatically went into fight mode as all my senses went on high alert. I know that feeling all too well. It’s even sharper now after I’d left the service. Now, that I no longer need it.
Then I heard the scream and from some inborn instinct started running in that direction before my brain could fully process. All my training kicked in as my mind put shit into perspective. Middle of the night to early morning, edge of the woods, a woman’s wild screams. None of that shit is good.
Usually I mind my own with the solemn hope that everyone else would do the same, not this time. I never could bear to leave a damsel in distress. So I ran flat out through the woods in the direction of her screams that were growing louder, more desperate.
I knew it was a she. If it wasn’t that was one weak fuck male. Better not be or I’ll cap his ass myself. I almost faltered when my heart started beating out of rhythm. I knew it wasn’t because I was running. I can do this shit all day everyday with strength left over.
No, my every instinct, the thing that has led me my whole life and never let me down, except that one time, was telling me that there was something waiting for me beyond those woods.
I almost stopped in my tracks again because the feeling was so strong, the strongest I’ve ever felt it. But I kept moving, compelled by some inner drive. I have to get to her. I can’t let this happen again. Not again…the fuck!
I shook my head not quite understanding the wayward thought. It’s been a while since I felt anything that can be perceived as remotely human and now wasn’t the time for that shit to change. I shoved that fuckery aside and sped up when another scream rang out in the night air.
That shit went through me and touched something inside that I’d thought long dead. I felt a chill run down my spine on the heels of it and everything in me told me to move; so I did, picking up speed.
I made it to the edge of the woods onto the little dirt road that runs between the back of my place in the mountains and the nearest town. The wild beating of my heart blocked out everything else until my vision cleared and I was able to see.
The sight before me took some time to process but I was already in motion, gun drawn and ice cold facemask in place. “Get…the fuck…away from her.” I’d taken in the scene at a glance before my prey even knew I was there.
It took everything in me not to pull the trigger before I knew the whole story. But I was pretty sure I’d gauged the shit right. In front of me was what appeared to be a very young girl being tackled to the ground by two husky guys in their early twenties.
They looked up to see my six-four two hundred pounds of solid muscle with a nine pointed at their heads. One moved away and scuttled back on his palms and heels while proclaiming his innocence.
The other one looked like he wanted to prove a point so I shot off a round to let him know I didn’t have all night. The fact that it took a chunk out of his ear might’ve had something to do with the way he jumped up like his ass was on fire and moved the fuck away from her.
The thing on the ground rolled over and crawled on its hands and knees towards me. I kept my eyes trained on the two would be rapists or whatever the fuck they were attempting to be. “Give me the quick version.”
She’d made it to her feet and was cowering next to me in sheer terror. She looked up at me like I was speaking a foreign language. My worst fucking nightmare!
A spoilt little rich girl with a daddy complex! I picked all of that up from the expensive necklace and the skin that looked like she visited the spa at least once a week. Like I need this shit.
“What the fuck were they after princess?”
“I don’t know, I’ve never seen them before. They….” She started to shake along with her voice but I already had my phone to my ear.