The First of Many

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Chapter 61

That morning, Hannah sat silently with her team at breakfast, shoveling down way more food than she usually did – when was the last time she’d eaten cocoa puffs, anyway, and why did she never know they were this damn good?

“Hey, Hannah, you feeling okay?” Aedan asked with a raised eyebrow as he sat down next to her, helping himself to some coffee.

Hannah stopped, putting her spoon down. “Yeah,” she said, looking surprised. “I feel better than okay. Actually, I feel really gr-” She stopped, looking for a moment as though she were choking, before her face turned pasty white and made an alarming transition to a furious red.

“Hannah, what’s going on?” Shadow asked.

Hannah paid no attention, pulling out her phone and dialing a number from memory.

Two seconds after the call collected, she was already growling into the speaker.

“Red, you son of a bitch, what have I fucking told you about operating on me without my permission?”

"What the hell just happened? The first moment she's okay then she goes beserk," Shadow asked.

Well, it needed to be done, Coppelia. It was slowing you down, Red answered.

“Red, that was sensitive information that you do not have the goddamn clearance for!”

You’re one to talk about clearance, I’m the one that made that file. I already know what’s in it. You needed it kept safe.

“It was perfectly safe!”

I don’t think that embedded in your stomach lining is really a safe place for a highly valuable data chip, Sweetling.

"Stop calling me that," she spat into her phone.

"Okay. What the hell is going on, Rosie?" Shadow asked.

Might want to put your brother at ease, Skylark.

Red, my name is Rose. Rose, not Coppelia or Sweetling or Skylark or whatever the fuck you come up with next. Shadow, I’m talking to the jackass who thought it was okay to drug me and cut me open when I came to him for help because I was severely injured.”

"He did WHAT?" Aedan asked, eyes wide.

“Boss, some dude drugged Hannah up and cut her up," Blade said, looking like he wasn’t sure if she was joking or not.

Aedan stood straight up, red-faced with rage. “Boys, we’re going hunting,” he growled.

“Aedan, sit your ass down, or I will superglue it to this bench. He’s the one who told me where you were and gave me the resources to get you out. You owe him your life, that means you don’t get to kill him. Red, you still there?”

I like your team. Glad they didn’t get killed, they’re entertaining.

“I think so too. I suppose you’ll collect on your favors later?”

I always do.

Aedan sat down slowly. “Okay, so he knew exactly where our team was, what was happening to us, he cut you up, and somehow this means we owe him?”

“I’ll explain later. Red, where did you put it?”

It’s safe.

“You’ll remember that’s what I told Aleski when I thought it was somewhere against my small intestine.”

Wraith let out a choked sound when she said small intestine.

"What does he mean, small intestine?" Shadow asked.

“Look, Red, if there’s still any way to access it, destroy it. I don’t want to know what’s in it, and I’ll be damned if anybody else gets their hands on it. It’s more than my life’s worth to get that in the wrong hands right now.”

“For fuck’s sake, Rosie, what are you talking about?”

"None of your business," Hannah said.

Well, Coppelia my lovely, I must be going now. Do be careful with your stitches, won’t you? I know you never are.

“Yes, sir,” she muttered. “I promise I will.”

Don’t lie to me, stupid girl.

“I’m sorry, sir.”

You’d better be. So long, Cara. I love you.

Hannah rolled her eyes. “I love you too, you sadistic bastard.”

Show some respect for your elders, pet.

“Respect? You’re my father, if I have no respect, it’s your fault.”

“Rosie, I am blaming you for my massive concerned headache right now,” Blade groaned.

"So what the hell was that?" Aedan asked as she hung up with a fond sigh.

Hannah sighed, rubbing her stomach. “So, apparently, when I went to Red to ask him to take care of me when I got injured, he did more than just stitch me back together, he cut me open and dug out a data chip that I’d stitched in for safekeeping. I didn’t notice until just now when I realized I no longer feel like someone’s perpetually stabbing me in the stomach.”

"You are a demented chick," Blade said.

“Hey, it kept other people from getting at it, didn’t it?”

“What else happened?”

“Nothing. I woke up a few weeks later, he told me where you were and who was keeping you. He gave me some weapons, I went to find you. That’s what took me so long, I got in a bit of a tangle with some old… friends is too strong a term, seeing as they tried to kill me, but we’ll go with it.”

“And you said he was your father?”

“Closest thing I have. He was my trainer, back when I was in the program. He raised me, taught me everything I know. I owe him for that.”

“You don’t owe him shit!” Aedan answered sharply.

"He showed me the weapon I truly am," she said.

Aedan groaned, burying his head in his hands. “Hannah, you are not a weapon, you are a person. Jesus, and you say you owe this guy?”

“He had every opportunity in the world to kill me. If not for him, I would be dead more times than I can count. He’s kept me hidden from the department ever since I left. So yeah. I owe him. When they sent me to Russia, I was nothing. Just a kid. They made me something great. For that alone, I would die for him. But for standing by me when I made the choice to leave the department and come here? I owe him more than I can ever pay.”

"But Hannah, all of the things you hate about yourself, he made you that way. Don't you understand?”

“I don’t hate those things. I wish I’d had a choice. But this is what I am, and I don’t have the time to regret that. He kept me alive. Because of him, I got to join the Army. I met my team. I met you, Aedan. He gave me your location. He saved your life.”

"I just don't like how he controls you. You're not his trained monkey who does his every bidding. You a strong, beautiful operator who is the best thing in my life and the only thing I love more than being a SEAL. What happens if he tells you that I'm a distraction that you need to leave?" Aedan asked.

She glared. “He already did that, idiot,” she answered. “He did that the second he realized I was compromised. I told him where to shove it, and he backed off. You don’t even know him.”

“Look,” Shadow said placatingly, “as much as this is an insight into your relationship that I never needed, can we get back to the point here? What file?”

“It was an SD card containing my medical file. Everything the department has done to me since they first started surveillance. I stole it when I left.”

“And where did you hide it? Swallowed it?”

“Of course not,” she answered, grimacing. “I sewed it into the lining of some organ or other. It kind of moves around, the stitches dissolved. That way, nobody could find it.”

“Then how did he know where it was?”

She shrugged. “He trained me. We think the same. I guess he just figured it out. I trust him. He’ll destroy it.”

“You sure about that?” Wraith asked.

“I’m sure,” she answered, nodding. “Red is a good man, and he’s on my side. I trust him with my life.”

“Then that’s all we need to know,” Blade said firmly. “We’re okay?”

“We’re okay,” Hannah answered firmly.

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