Bitten Under Fire(3)

By: Heather Long

“I get it. Let’s see what we can do about making it taste little bit better.” Bianca tried to extract her hand from his grip, but he refused to release her. When his eyes widened, she gave his fingers a squeeze then nodded toward the bed.

“If we can find some wood or debris over there, we can use it for burning.”

Maybe there would be loose boards or something she could chip away. Not that she had any tools, but one problem at a time.

“Start a fire?”

Holding up two fingers, she winked. “Better than a Boy Scout.” Volunteers with Doctors Beyond Borders, her parents raised her to be prepared.

“You couldn’t be a Scout,” he said, a hint of uncertainty in his tone. “You’re a girl.”

“I know, but I know how to make a fire. Want to help?”

“Yes.” A single, sharp nod. The kid’s courage impressed her. Whoever he was, he’d been important enough the guerillas raiding the resort seemed to make a beeline for him. If he was important enough to take, then he would be worth a rescue effort. All she had to do was keep them alive long enough for the cavalry to come and get them.

“I have another job for you first. Think you can handle it?” Even if she got the fire going, they needed something to boil the water in.

His expression brightened at the challenge, and he nodded with more enthusiasm.

“Search through here and see if you can find us something like a cup or a bowl—hopefully metal—that we can put the water in.”

“Okay.” Though he hesitated briefly, he let her go. Collin headed to the other side of their tiny one-room house.

Getting wood off the bed was going to suck, but she gripped the mattress and pulled it out. Something skittered from under the bed and disappeared into the dirt in the corner. Putting the creepy crawlies out of her mind, she forged onward. Wood slats stretched from one side of the bed’s box frame to the other. Bracing her weight on the side with one hand for balance, she slammed her foot down, snapping a slat free.

That was one.

Maybe her boss had been right; maybe she did have a martyr complex. If she got out of here, she’d send him a cookie. But the only thing that mattered was the kid.

She would save Collin or die trying.

Twenty-four hours later…

His wolf stretched within him. His other half was ready, and radiating patience. Today was the day Sergeant Carlos “Cage” Castillo proved his mettle. Funnily enough, his wolf held no concerns or illusions. It was the man who had to concentrate, because today he had his first field command as senior on a four-man field op. He tapped two fingers against his M4 as he sat at relaxed ready in the helicopter hurtling them across the countryside toward La Amistad International Park. They’d deployed from a carrier group currently participating in peacetime exercises in the Caribbean Sea.

“Thirty minutes to insertion point,” the pilot called back. The helicopter dropped lower, hugging the trees and running well below radar. The Central American country they were about to “invade” didn’t have much in the way of military resources. The rich, verdant economy depended on a lot of factors—including tourism.

Time to go to work.

“Review the op,” Cage ordered. Once they hit the ground, they had to move. A full day had elapsed since Collin Valenzuela had been kidnapped from the Amanacer Hermoso resort. Beautiful sunrise…irony.

“Strictly a search and rescue,” Silver acknowledged. The corporal served as his second for the team, as well as sniper. The wolf’s easygoing attitude and sense of honor made him probably the most well-liked member of the whole of Bravo Team WOLF, even if he was also the one most likely to tease the others. “Our target is eight-year-old Collin Valenzuela. His mother is the US Ambassador to Costa Rica. She and her family were at the resort for a function celebrating American investments in the region. It is undetermined at this time if he was the direct target of the assault or taken because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

A hint of a growl underscored Silver’s words. Taking kids rubbed them all the wrong way. Children were to be cherished, protected, and above all else, never used as tools.

“According to Kat’s report, no one has taken responsibility for the kidnapping, no contact has been made with the embassy—also currently on lockdown with the ambassador secured,” Butler said in an even tone, picking up the thread as he leaned forward in his seat. Though his pack lived in Canada, his alpha agreed that protection of pack secrecy overrode nationalism or borders. “Based on satellite surveillance and interviews with the staff, Kat believes we’re dealing with a splinter group hidden in La Amistad International Park.”