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Chapter Twenty-Four

The drive to the airport was chaotic. The raccoon, Missile, was true to his name as he scrambled around, jumping from our laps and climbing up our shoulders, small hands grabbing at faces and pulling at clothing. Magnolia finally managed to calm him down when the private airport came into view, the bugger curling up in her lap and turning his head so it looked like he was staring out the window.

“Please tell me you gave him the tranquillizers?” Murphy groaned, hand rubbing his face. “He’ll be like a kid on steroids if not and Carlos won’t be happy.”

“Carlos?” I asked, my voice hoarse from not being used. Magnolia side-glanced me as she smoothed down Missile’s head fur.

“Carlos is the pilot. He doesn’t know the real reason for Everest base’s existence just the fake one that it’s a vacation spot for soldiers,” She answered.

“He also flies the active-duty soldiers around the world and the supplies,” Kingston added.

Nodding, I leaned against Echo as the line of Humvees passed through the gate, the hangar coming into focus. My stomach clenched painfully as our situation dawned on me, fingers unconsciously twitching. We were leaving behind the only place we called home to a remote base, to unknown people.

The Humvees stopped, Kingston switching off the engines and taking the key out of the ignition. We sat in silence before Kingston turned in his seat to look at us, Murphy doing the same.

“You guys ready for something new?” Kingston asked, a nervous tick in his jaw.

“I’m getting tired of new, I want old,” I muttered, staring down into my lap. Echo placed his hand on my knee.

“I know what you mean,” Echo agreed, squeezing my knee. “Let’s just get this over and done with.”

Echo opened the door, both of us getting out as the other three watched us, glancing at each other. The slight wind cooled down our flushed skin, allowing me to take a deep breath, clenching and unclenching my hands. A cargo plane was parked in front of the runway, its ramp down and exposing the inner metal skeleton. It looked like a death trap in the moon’s light.

“You two, come get your bags,” Murphy ordered, opening the back of the Humvee. We grabbed our bags, not caring to take out shoes as our feet slapped against the tarmac, heading to the plane. Magnolia’s suitcase wheels scrapped along as she pulled it behind her.

“You warm enough?” Echo asked, bumping my shoulder as a chillier breeze blew.

“Yes, for now.” Grabbing his hand, I squeezed it, trying to keep myself calm as we joined the others.

“Everyone into the plane, I will be there shortly!” Tango called, running off to the hangar where a man in military pilot overalls stood, shaking his hand as they spoke.

“You heard the man, hurry your asses up,” Kingston ordered, his pace increasing to pass us.

The closer we got the more my stomach clenched as the ball of nerves tightened. When we were inside, sitting on the seats on either side with our backs to the rope-spiderwebbed walls and having cargo crates separating us from Alpha team, I felt nauseous. Echo had to buckle my safety belt as my hands trembled too much to do so on my own.

“Attention soldiers, we are a go for lift-off, stay seated and buckled,” Came the pilot’s voice through the intercom before I could sense the wheels lifting off the ground, the mechanical parts under our feet complaining as they worked to pull in the wheel. The plane shuddered as it climbed into the air, breathing life into its engines.

Alpha team and Magnolia were laughing as they caught up with each other, Missile curling up in Murphy’s lap. The sight made me jealous. How could they be so calm and collected when the gears under us screamed in protest, the metal walls tremoring against the turbulence, even Fox was having a hard time not flinching.

“Calm down, babe.” Echo’s lips brushed against my ear, hand coming to grab mine.

“B-babe?” Stuttering, I saw in the corner of my eye Echo smirking, his thumb rubbing over my knuckles.

“You already stopped shaking,” He whispered. Staring at him, I allowed a small smile on my lips, trying to relax my body for the long flight. Echo leaned toward me, pressing his lips to my temple as he continued to run his thumb over my knuckles.

When I opened my eyes, something felt off. We were still in the plane, everyone in their seats asleep as the sunlight pierced through the windows.

The pilot, Carlos, spoke into the intercom, voice coming out distant as he warned that we were close to landing. A figure sitting on the floor, leg pulled up to their chest as the other was stretched out, swayed gently with the rocking of the plane. Their form seemed to be unfocused but as their face turned to me, he came into focus as my body burned from his gaze.

“How long do you plan on running, Hunter?” Damian tilted his head, an unimpressed scowl on his face.

“Why won’t you leave me alone?” Countering, I stood up on jelly legs and stumbled my way to stand at his side. His appearance flickered, allowing me to feel at ease as I sat down next to him, my knee phasing through his. Damian’s scowl changed to surprise at my actions.

“Because I love and care for you,” He stated, sighing as he pursed his lips. “I want you back home, in my arms and if that means I have to go to the ends of the Earth, then so be it.”

“But I don’t love you.” Pulling my knees to my chest, I gripped my calves. “I already answered your question about how I feel, so why do you continue to chase me when you can’t have me?”

“You are mine, I bought you.”
“Maybe, but you don’t have all of me, Damian.”

We were silent as the others began to stir. Damian’s form flickered haphazardly, his expression never changing until he turned to me, silver eyes glimmering.

“This is not goodbye, Hunter. Our paths will cross again, but I will tell you this before the connection is lost.” Damian set his jaw before opening his mouth. The words he spoke made my gut clench, my eyes widen and my body shiver with revulsion. When the last word was spoken, he leaned forward and pressed his lips against my forehead, the touch feather-light.

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