The following day, Hannah was walking the halls of the compound, wearing only a bra and camo pants in an attempt to beat the sweltering heat, when the door opened and five men camo-clad men entered.
She smiled coyly at Aedan, who was among the crowd, and continued on her way, rounding a corner and ignoring their gasps at the sight of her back. She'd started to really loathe those scars: they were like mosquito bites. She could forget them for a while, and then, quite suddenly, something would draw her attention to them and they'd never leave her alone.
One of the SEALs let out a long, low-pitched whistle and she rolled her eyes. Leave it to a man to always assume the worst.
“Are they even allowed to let people like that into bases?” one muttered.
“I don't know,” the man who had whistled answered quietly, “but I wouldn't mind a piece of that.”
Aedan's eyes widened as he saw his teammate's apparent intentions, and he leaned towards him, whispering quietly enough that Hannah wouldn't hear, “Tex, man, don't even try. She's not what you think.”
“Walking around a compound like that?” he asked. “What else could she be?”
“Tex, she's Delta,” Aedan answered.
“Stop lying, new guy,” Tex said. “Don't worry, you can have a turn with her once I'm done.”
Aedan raised an eyebrow and looked to Snake, who shrugged.
“Hey,” Tex called out to the stunning woman. “Whatever they're paying you here, I'll double it.”
Hannah stopped short as a slow, predatory smirk came over her face. She plastered a coy, seductive smile on her face and let her eyes close slightly to half-lidded slits, dark and gleaming with apparent lust, and turned around, making her way to him with a swing of her hips that had most of the men staring.
She continued until she stood toe-to-toe before him, and hooked her fingers in his belt loops, pulling him forward. She pressed herself to him, making sure he could feel everything, and smiled wantonly up at him. “Are you sure?” she purred. “I may be a bit more than you can handle.”
“Trust me,” he said, grinning. “I'm worth the ride.”
She leaned up and kissed him full on the lips, slow and sinuous, nearly dancing with him.
Aedan stared in shock. He'd expected her to slit his throat, not shove her tongue down it!
“Rosie, what are you doing?” asked a man's voice from the doorway, midway between shock and exasperation.
Hannah stopped making out with Tex (although she looked rather reluctant about it) and turned her head to Hunter, arching her back to accentuate her curves as she leaned into her partner, gently tracing Tex's jawline with her fingertips. “Hey, Hunt,” she said, grinning.
“What, is she yours?” Tex asked, feeling slightly drunk. “We can share her, if you'd like.”
Hunter blinked a few times in surprise, looking genuinely shocked, before making his way to Hannah with measured steps, wrapping an arm around her shoulder and pulling her away from Tex and into his side. “Rosie, sweetheart,” he said in a calm, deep voice, “I thought I'd already told you: no seducing the fresh meat.”
"Fresh what?" Tex asked.
"Meat," Hunter answered.
"I told you she was Delta,” Aedan said smugly. “You didn't believe me.”
Hunter sighed and approached Tex again, still holding Rosie firmly by the shoulder. "I understand your confusion,” he said in a smooth, soothing tone. “You see this pretty young woman walking around a base shirtless-” He blinked, as though noticing it for the first time, and turned to Hannah. “Rosie, for the hundredth time in this deployment alone, will you please put a shirt on?”
“What?” she asked. “Just because I have breasts, I have to die of heatstroke while all you guys walk around half-naked? No thanks. You've seen more than this before, control yourself.”
Hunter sighed, sounding resigned. It was clear that the conversation had occurred several times before. “Now, as I was saying: You see this pretty lady walking around a base shirtless, and you automatically assume the worst of her. She is, however, an operator, and a damn good one at that. Probably seen more action than you ever have. So, since you're new, I'll let you off, but I'm only telling you this once.” He let go of Hannah and reached Tex in two strides, towering over him impressively. “This woman is our sister,” he said in a low, threatening voice. “If I or anybody else here hears about you laying an unwanted hand on her, we'll stick you like the swine you are and laugh as the life leaves your eyes. Got it?”
"Yeah," Tex answered.
"Good, now that we have that settled, let's all get some chow," Hunter said.
Tex glared at Hunter's retreating back. “Well, how was I supposed to know they were dating?” he grumbled to his neighbor.
Hannah whirled around to face him. “God, no,” she said, looking disgusted. “Don't ever suggest that again. Just... No. Eww. Me and... Hunter? I mean, sorry, Hunt, but... no.”
“My thoughts exactly,” he said, glaring at Tex. “Keep your opinions to yourself. I don't make a habit of dating my sisters.”
"Well, that's why I didn't join the Army. First, I didn't want to be a mud man, second, I didn't want to be a prude," Tex said.
Hannah sighed. “Come on, Hunt,” she said, grabbing a red-faced Hunter. “Let's just go. He's not worth it.”
Hunter tore away from her. “You're right, he isn't worth it,” he snarled. “Which is why I should just teach him a lesson now and save Mike and the twins the trouble.”
Hannah rolled her eyes. “Don't bother,” she sneered, pulling him away. “Stupid little tadpole isn't worth your time.”
Tex snarled, stepping forwards. “What did you just call me, you little bitch?”
“What?” she simpered, “Did the ickle bitty tadpole get upset? Poor widdle baby.” Her face turned cold, her edges sharpening like tempered steel. “Come back when you've grown your land legs, Toad.”
"Hey, Tex, Leave the woman alone," Aedan said.
"What, new guy, you gonna make me?" Tex taunted.
"Yeah, I will, so how about you just leave her alone before I break your arm."
Tex glared and marched up to Aedan, standing so that he was nose-to-nose with him. “Watch your mouth, new guy. I can make your life a living hell.”
Aedan snarled and struck out, grasping Tex by the throat, squeezing hard enough to make him see stars, and shoving him away. Tex landed sprawled out on the floor. “Watch your mouth, old guy,” he answered. “You have enough trouble coming to you right now without having to watch your back, too.”
Tex stood, slowly, his face red with rage and embarrassment. “You're dead, new guy,” he hissed. “Watch your back.” With that, he stormed off, but was caught by the collar by Snake, who was wearing a glare that made Tex's blood freeze.
“Where do you think you're going?” he snarled. “Apologize to the lady, or I'll break that pretty-boy face of yours myself.”
Hannah sighed. “Calm down, Dragon,” she said. “Cut the man some slack: it was a mistake.”
“Shut it, girl,” he retorted, never looking away from Tex, “do as you're told for once, brat.”
Hannah rolled her eyes. “Drop him, Dragon,” she said. “Take it from me: blood is murder to wash out of the concrete.”
Snake glared at Tex. “Apologize,” he ordered, letting him go. Tex growled under his breath and made his way to Rosie.
"Sorry I thought you were a whore," Tex spat. “Even though I was right, filthy little slut.”
Aedan pulled Tex back and punched him in the face. There was a sickening crack as his nose broke, and deep crimson blood stained his face. "If you touch her, I will personally snap your neck. Got it?" Aedan spat.
"You're dog meat, new guy," Tex spat, holding his bloody nose.
“ENOUGH!” Rosie shouted. “Princess, stop defending my honor before I start calling you Lancelot. Dragon, control your recruits, please. Hunter, go to lunch. Explain this to everybody and make it clear that they aren't to maim any of these men. Tex-” She stopped short and glared at him. “Come within three feet of me again and I'll kick you in the balls so hard your ancestors will feel it.”
The men left for lunch and as Aedan passed her, he could have sworn he heard her whisper a quick 'Thank you', but it was too quiet to tell for sure.
That evening, Hannah went for an evening walk when she saw Aedan sitting on top of the hood of one of the hummers.
“Hey,” she said, approaching him. “What's up?”
“I told you he was unstable,” he growled. “I told you to watch yourself, Rosie. What the hell were you thinking, walking around like that when you knew he'd be here? I warned you!”
"What the hell are you snapping at me for?" she asked defensively.
"Sorry, I just-"
“-Look, Aedan. I told you, I can handle myself.”
“Not against him, Rosie. You don't know what he's capable of.”
“Neither do you! You said you didn't have any proof!”
"I think he just gave you proof. Look, I don't want anything to happen to you."
“Just gave me proof? Aedan, he thought I was a prostitute. It was an honest mistake. That proves nothing. What the Hell do you think he's actually capable of? Give me one example of a case where you think something actually happened.”
"We had his intel analyst with us on my first deployment. Nice girl. One night, I see her go back to her room and Tex follows her. I hear the first half of a scream, some struggling, and then she leaves the room, her clothes torn, tears streaming down her cheeks.”
“And that's not proof?”
“She wouldn't tell anybody what happened,” he answered. “She killed herself a month later; there wasn't any proof, and Tex denied everything. My word against Tex's, it was no contest. Look, I don't want that to happen to you, Rosie. He looks at you the same way he looked at her.”
Hannah nodded slowly. “I'll be careful,” she lied. “But...” she frowned and broke off.
“Earlier,” she said. “Tex... he challenged me to a fight. Tomorrow. I accepted.”
"Don't do it. He's trying to get an excuse to kiss you.”
"What, and you weren't?"
"That was different."
“It was exactly the same,” she answered. “It's in public, Aedan. I won't let him take me anywhere. Relax.”
"He'll follow you and do to you what he did to her."
“He won't,” she answered. “Aedan, I'm a big girl. I know what I'm doing.”
"Not with Tex."
“I have lived with people like him since I was seven years old, Aedan.”
"Look, He's dangerous. Just watch your six. I'm here if you need anything."
"I know," she said, smiling faintly. “I'll make sure there are plenty of people,” she promised. “And I'll make sure I kick his ass. Good night, Aedan.”