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Copyright  Charity Parkerson  © 2011
The whole thing was a setup, a fuck up from the very beginning. They were the ones being targeted and their cover was already blown. The two women stepped into the alley changing the entire game plan. The first woman’s long, dark hair fell in waves down her back, and she bore a pixie like form. The second woman’s shoulder length red hair stood out in a riot of curls around her head. They looked as surprised to see Jacob as he was to see them, and they immediately stopped at the sight of his team members. Even the air seemed to hold its breath as they stared at one another. Then the world exploded into a hail of gunfire. The once quiet back alley now resembled a warzone—even the air smelled the same as it did when he fought in Burundi.
The dark-haired woman proved to be the smarter of the two, as she quickly dropped to the ground, recognizing there was no place to run. Her friend wasn’t as smart or as quick. She jerked in surprise as the first bullets entered her body, and time seemed to freeze as she slowly melted to the ground, landing solidly on top of the other woman, her body protecting her friend from further harm.
“Everybody fall back and regroup. We’re heading underground. Hit the tunnels. I repeat hit the tunnels.”
The broken words echoed through Jacob’s earpiece and he fired off a few more rounds before running at a crouch to the women’s side. A burning sensation tore through his arm and he knew immediately that he was hit. He had never allowed such a thing to slow him down before tonight, and he wasn’t about to start now. He rolled the dead woman’s body away and snatched up the one that was still breathing. She was covered in so much blood it was impossible to tell if she was injured in any way. He cradled her to his chest just in case she was wounded. He didn’t want to jar her or make any injuries worse. However, nothing was worse than dead, and that’s exactly what she’d be if he didn’t move his ass now.
Their dark clothing served its purpose well, helping them to disappear into the night. Caleb covered their rear, making sure they weren’t followed. Once he was sure there was no one on their tail, he opened the hatch, accessing a series of underground tunnels that led to the team’s many safe rooms. They also came out at different areas around town, making for an easy escape. It had taken years for Safe Haven to develop this complex system: a building was easy to find and not without weaknesses. While a person could locate the tunnel system, they could also just as easily be stuck wandering them for years without finding a thing. Each member of the team knew what to do should things fall apart the way they did tonight. When they reached the halfway point, they’d split up, making it harder for them to be tracked, and they would meet back at a later time once it was deemed safe. At the first check-point, Caleb slid away a section of wall before disappearing behind it. The wall slid back into place seamlessly, hiding his escape. Jacob was the next to file out, leaving him alone with the woman. He kept up a steady pace, barely registering the wound across his arm or the extra weight he toted. At his touch, another section of the wall slid away revealing a safe room. Each safe room came fully equipped and well stocked for a long stay. Jacob needed to check in and find out what the fuck was happening out there, but first he needed to make sure the woman wasn’t bleeding to death in his arms.
Wire covered lights that hung from a concrete ceiling were the only part of the tunnels that registered in Gracie’s fog-filled brain. She tried to count them as they flew past, in attempt to cling to reality, but no matter how hard she blinked her eyes they refused to focus. The man who carried her in his arms was wearing black SWAT gear, and not an inch of his skin was showing. Finally, he stopped. She tried even harder to bring the world into focus but one section of her brain recognized that something horrible lurked on the other side of her shock. She continued to shy away from acknowledging it.
“Sorry about this, but I need to check you for injuries.”
His voice sounded soothing as he laid her gently on the floor and started stripping her out of her clothes. She barely registered the cold air as it hit her skin. She recognized she should be feeling embarrassed, or even outraged, but not a single feeling could penetrate her mind. He reached up, pulling his ski mask over his head. Then the sound of ripping Velcro rent the air as he tugged off a bulletproof vest. His eyes appeared wonderfully sweet, and she focused on their amber color, as if she were dangling from a lifeline.
“I’m Jacob Cook. Do you know your name?”
 “It’s Gracie St. John,” she forced out the whispered words, and he nodded.
“Gracie, you didn’t take any direct hits but you’ve been grazed twice. It doesn’t appear to need stitches—it’s more of a severe burn mark. I realize you’re in shock and probably won’t be able to stand, but I need to get this blood off of you, okay?”
He left the room and she started to scream for him not to leave her, but he was back as quickly as he left. He lifted her nude body into his arms and carried her into the bathroom where he had turned on the shower earlier. Then, in a move she wasn’t expecting, he stepped into the shower with her in his arms—fully dressed in combat boots and all.