Crawford took the news about Jackson pretty much like I expected. Pain and sadness passed across his face before he locked down his emotions. He accepted the dog tag, put it in his pocket, asked a few questions and thanked me for making sure Jackson’s body was buried.
In the conference room, the man I’d met in the latrine sat on the far side of the table from Rachel. Dog, who usually crashed out as soon as you sat down, was sitting close to her side and not taking his eyes off the new guy. I ruffled his ears and took the chair next to Rachel. As soon as I sat down, Dog wormed his way under the table and lay down with his chin on my boot and tail on Rachel’s. We weren’t going anywhere without him knowing.
The man’s name was Brent Cummings. As the Colonel had said, he was the Chief of Staff for the new President. I was still trying to wrap my head around that. Sure, the US has had Presidents assassinated before, but there has always been a relatively well known Vice President to take over. For what I was pretty sure was the first time in the 250 year history of the nation, we had gone deep into the line of succession. In fact, according to Captain Blanchard, we had gone nearly all the way to the end of the list. If Kathleen Clark hadn’t been salmon fishing in Alaska…
The meeting was mercifully short. Crawford and Blanchard brought me up to speed on events that had transpired while I was out playing with the wildlife. I did, I thought, an admirable job of keeping my mouth shut when they told me about the shoot down of the Antonov. I didn’t do a good job of keeping my mouth shut when I learned that Cummings was coming with me to deliver the SADMs to Irina.
My objections were overruled. It seemed the President wanted him to meet Captain Vostov so he could report back on his impressions of the woman. What a crock of bullshit. Something didn’t smell right, but I didn’t know what it was. Yet. I smiled to myself when I thought what Irina, or Igor, would do to him if he talked about her the way he had about Rachel. The meeting broke up with a reminder that Irina would be calling us back at 1020 the next morning. We were all told to gather in the same conference room at 1000.
Captain Blanchard had secured a small, vacant house for me. The house was part of Tinker’s on base housing and had been occupied by a young Lieutenant and his wife, but they had been away on leave at the time of the attacks and had never returned. As a Ranger drove us to the house, it was obvious there were a lot of empty homes on Tinker.
Pulling to a stop in front of the structure, he shut the Humvee’s engine off and jumped out to hold the rear door open for Rachel. Dog jumped out and headed for the closest tree.
“I’ll be right outside, if you need anything, sir.” The Ranger said.
“Crawford tell you to keep an eye on me?” I asked him with a smile.
“Actually, sir, he said the lady has a tendency to get misplaced, and when that happens you’re a pain in his ass. Sir.” He grinned back. “I’m here to make sure she doesn’t get misplaced again.”
Rachel looked like she didn’t know whether to be mad or not. I, on the other hand, found it immensely funny and couldn’t help but laugh.
“Thank you, Sergeant.” I said, leading Rachel up the narrow walk to the front door and calling Dog off his investigation of a thick hedge at the side of the small yard.
The house smelled musty from being closed up for at least a month, but it was spotlessly clean with nothing out of place. None of the previous occupants’ personal belongings had been removed and it felt a little creepy. Like we were invading their privacy. Rachel walked over to the narrow mantle above a small fireplace and looked at several photos of a young couple, smiling in various poses.
Besides the small living room, there was a cramped kitchen, a tiny dining room, a shoebox bedroom with a full sized bed crammed in, and a bathroom no larger than what you’d find in a cheap motel. But it was clean; there were crisp linens on the bed and fluffy towels hanging in the bath.
Dog jumped onto the bed, but Rachel was having none of it when he immediately smeared mud on the white comforter. She told him to get down, which he did, but not without giving her a hurt look and snorting his displeasure. He settled for curling up on a small rug in front of the closet, his back to us.
“We got interrupted before,” Rachel smiled and started undressing.
I smiled back, tossed my rifle on the bed and started to step forward to take her in my arms, stopping when she held a hand out like a traffic cop.
“Shower’s that way, big boy.” She said, pointing at the bathroom. “You smell like… well, you need a shower. Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere.”
Smiling, I stripped off my vest and clothes, the stink from several days in the field reaching my nose. She was right. I smelled. Bad.
The shower was small, but I was able to get clean and shave my head and face. It seemed like it had taken forever by the time I stepped back into the bedroom, and I guess it had. Rachel was sprawled out across the entire bed, sheet and comforter pulled up to her waist. And she was sound asleep. Walking to the side of the bed I gently rolled her over and slipped under the covers with her. Moments later I was out, too, falling immediately into a deep sleep.
I woke up to sunlight at the window, long hair spilling across a pillow into my face and a warm, naked female body pressed tightly against me. I was spooned against her back, and felt myself responding to the firm ass that pressed tightly against my groin. Mind wandering, I thought about how many mornings I’d had like this with Katie and my erection disappeared as quickly as it had started.
Before Rachel woke up and expected me to consummate our relationship, I carefully slipped out of the bed. Grabbing a clean pair of underwear out of my pack I went into the bathroom and silently closed the door behind me. Leaning on the sink I looked at myself in the mirror.
More years of marriage than I cared to think about, and I’d never cheated on Katie. Not because there hadn’t been opportunities, or in a couple of cases outright offers, but because I’d just not wanted to. I had loved Katie from the first moment I’d laid eyes on her, and while I might look at an attractive woman, I’d never really wanted to touch another one. Until now.
I wanted to be with Rachel. Not because she was beautiful, which she was, but because I had genuine feelings for her. Of course being beautiful didn’t hurt, but there are a lot of beautiful women that I don’t want to sleep with. Right now this felt like I was betraying Katie. Odds were that my wife was dead, but… Hell, I didn’t know what the ‘but’ was.
A loud knock saved me from having to think about it any more and I stepped out of the bathroom. Rachel was sitting up in bed, eyes puffy from sleep and covers held to her breasts. Dog was already at alert in the front room. The knock came again and I headed for the front door after grabbing my pistol. No, the infected don’t knock, but I no longer lived in a world where I was willing to answer the door without a weapon in my hand.
“Good morning, sir.” It was the same Ranger that had driven us the previous evening. “Thought you might want to know the volume of infected at the fence has increased overnight. I’m being pulled back to man the defensive perimeter. I’ll leave the Hummer here for you.”
“Thank you, Sergeant.” I answered. “Head or heart shots.”
“Sir?” He had started to leave, but turned back when I spoke.
“Head or heart is all that will bring them down quickly. Don’t waste your ammo on body shots.”
He looked at me a long moment. “Thank you, sir.” He finally said and turned to trot off down the tree lined street.
I closed the door and was surprised to see Rachel standing in the small living room. She had pulled the comforter off the bed and had it wrapped around her, holding it closed in front.
“Sorry I fell asleep last night.” She said, letting the comforter fall to the floor and stepping forward. “Do we have time before the call from the Russian?” She asked, taking my hand.
I looked into her eyes, then lowered my gaze to her nude body. I couldn’t speak, wrought with desire for her, yet still unable to stop thinking that I was betraying my wife. Finally I shook my head. Thankfully we really didn’t have time.