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It’s been two weeks, and I haven’t seen nor talked with Shy. I felt it best to keep my distance for a while, allow things to calm down a bit. It’s unexpected, but I find myself missing her.

Everyone is gathered in Tactical for our newest mission briefing. I’m the last of my team to arrive. Everyone’s already seated in their usual spots with Beck in the far-left chair. Next to him is Delaney with a vacant chair on the other side of him. Laci occupies the seat next to the vacant one, which put me in the middle of the two of them. Beck and Delaney put me next to Laci on purpose, thinking it would bother me. It doesn’t. If it makes Laci happy then more power to her, but because they’re being sneaky bastards, they’ll pay for it later. Having no choice, I take my seat right before the General and Vivian walk up. The General hits the button on the remote he’s holding and a photo of a man pops up on the screen.

“This is Anton Bonovich, a Russian soldier for the ‘People’s Republic’ in Moscow. He’s in possession of a biological weapon that he plans on releasing in Berlin if General Brandt isn’t released from Hammerstein prison,” Vivian explains.

“Berlin is a heavily populated area with tourists from all over. I don’t have to tell you the gravity of the situation, or the numbers of fatalities if this weapon were to get released. Anton is giving the German government forty-eight hours to comply. Michael,” the General focuses on me. “I want you to call Shyira in on this mission. It’s time for your whole team to go out.”

The General turns the monitor off. “The details will be uploaded to your phones. Wheels up in thirty minutes.”

The team stands and heads to get ready for the mission. Now’s the time to see if Shy’s really ready. I hang back in Tactical to make the call. Laci stops briefly, looking over her shoulder, but when she sees I’m not coming, she thankfully, continues on. Shy picks up the phone on the first ring.


“Nadia,” I say clearly on the other end.

“I’m here.”

“Come in,” I instruct before clearing the line.

I put the phone back in my jacket pocket, heading over to Comm to review the profile, while waiting for Shy to arrive. Looking at the profile, I notice she’s been put in third position. Vivian does mock runs on positioning for all missions. Usually, I leave the positioning alone because she knows my team. With Shy being new, this time changes need to be made. I switch people to where I can best utilize them. I don’t like Shy in the third position. I can’t keep an eye on her from there. I decide to switch Laci and Shy’s position, putting Laci at third and Shy in second. Shy will now be my backup. This way we can have each other’s back. This is the best way for me to know how ready she really is. Looking up, I see the team is back from suiting up, and heading over to Godfrey to get their weapons. Of course, Laci veers from Weapons to where I’m standing in Comm.

“Shouldn’t you be getting dressed, Michael?” She asks, brushing against me purposefully as she walks by.

“When I’m done here,” I say, still adjusting the profile. “Don’t worry about me, I’ll be ready. I made changes to the profile. Make sure you check it.”

Glancing up from the computer, I spot Shy walking in. Her form fitting black dress fits like a second skin. I can see every curve, and I feel like she’s wearing it just to fuck with me. The back is cut low, allowing most of her back to show. My eyes follow it down, even though I can’t see her ass, I can imagine what it looks like just from the smooth, flawless contours of her back. She’s wearing black boots that stop mid-calf, with three-inch spiked heels. Damn, if only that were all she was wearing. Her hair, she has pulled back away from her face, exposing her beautifully smooth neck. I can’t take my eyes off her. I can see her wounds have pretty much healed. If Laci is still talking to me, I haven’t heard a thing she’s said. Shy walks over to Godfrey, who’s always her first stop when she comes into the Collective. I stand here, spellbound, watching her when finally, Laci turns around to see what I’m staring at so intently. She instantly frowns at seeing Shy standing there.

“Michael, are you sure she’s ready? Can we trust her to have our backs?” Laci asks, trying to sound rational.

Her question does what she wants. It gives her my full and complete attention. I don’t think she’s cognizant of the magnitude of her question.

“At this point, if she wasn’t ready, she would’ve been expired,” I say walking by her, making sure I don’t touch her as I pass. She knows by now not to question my decisions. She only does so out of emotion. Showing emotions can make you do, and say stupid things, which is why I know Laci is allowing them to get the better of her.

“Oh, and if I didn’t trust her to have the back of any member of my team, I would kill her myself.”

Even though I don’t turn around to look at her as I make my threat, she gets the inference. She’s a smart girl. I trust Shy with all our lives, and that’s all that matters. I make that loud and clear. If Laci does anything to put Shy’s life in danger, I’ll kill her without a second thought. I hope she remembers McDaniel in this moment. It might just save her life.

“Hey, Godfrey,” Shy addresses him as she reaches his work station.

“Oh, hey, chocolate chip,” he replies.

She smirks. “You do know I’m half white, right? I think that part of me is getting jealous,” she laughs, giving him a coy smile. I watch for a while as she has her dialogue with Godfrey. I’m envious of their relationship. She’s very comfortable around him, playful even.

“Well, tell it not to,” he says as he leans in, lowering his voice. “Because the powdered sugar is my favorite part of French toast,” he moves back, winking at her.

She breaks out in laughter. I decide to make my presence known, and I’m disappointed when her laughter is cut short at my appearance.

“What’s going on, Michael?” She asks, turning her attention to me.

“We have a mission. We leave in twenty, and I still need to brief you. Go to the Ready Room and change. Meet me at Vehicle Access when you’re through,” I instruct.

It’s really starting to get to me--always having to be professional with her. Godfrey hands her the bag of weapons she’ll need for the mission in a black tote. She nods her thanks to him before walking away.

Standing at the entrance of Vehicle Access, I hand my team their phones as they enter. I hand Shy her phone, but grab her arm before she can enter the tunnel.

“Is something wrong?”

“I need to give you the basics around the mission before we leave. You will be at second position, putting you as my backup. We are to capture a man named Anton Bonovich. He is part of a terrorist organization called People’s Republic. He is currently in possession of a biological weapon, which he plans on detonating in Berlin.”

“Oh my God.”

New recruits’ first missions always sound so horrible to them. Little does she know this will be one of the easier missions she will face. I turn to walk into the tunnel, but don’t get far before she grabs my arm this time. She doesn’t hold on long, but the feel of her hand on me has my balls tightening. It’s an innocent thing, the touch. She only wanted my attention; too bad there’s no conveying that message to my body.

“Are you sure you want me to back you up?” She whispers.

Inhaling deeply to shake off her touch and refocus on the mission, her words tell me one thing: she doesn’t have confidence in her abilities, yet. That disappoints me. Her feelings aren’t unusual for a new recruit, and only validates my reasoning for changing the profile. I look her in her eyes.

“I trust you, Shy. You have great instincts. Isn’t that what got you to Special Agent with the Bureau? Trust and listen to them, and you’ll be fine. Take a deep breath. Calm yourself, and remember, out here we play for keeps. The details are on your phone. Study them on the ride over,” I say as we enter the van.

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