Love Under Fire – Chapter 6

Chris was left wondering what in the hell had happened when he heard a knock on the door. He gave an acknowledgment for the person to enter; it was not who he had anticipated. The General was a tall man, almost 6’7” tall and he cut quite a pose even if he wasn’t in uniform. Unlike his daughter, General Gray had a sharp jawline that looked like it could cut through glass. His eyes were dark and brooding where Carter’s are a beautiful green, and they dance in the light, and they are full of passion when she gets worked up. He tried to sit up as straight as he could and saluted, “Good afternoon General Gray, it is a pleasure to meet you.” The General walked towards the bed and returned the salute.

“Captain Evans, it is a pleasure to meet you as well. I wanted to come by and check on your recovery personally. I know that Carter has been quite worried about you.” He glanced around the room, “I thought she might still be here since she has not returned to the office or the hotel.”

“Actually, she just left, sir. She left rather abruptly so I am not sure what direction she was headed in.”

“Well, I am glad to know that she was, at least, able to speak with you and see that you are recovering. Have they indicated a timeline for your recovery?”

Chris quietly answered, “I won’t be able to go back to my command post; I will have quite a bit of rehab ahead of me. I will be released to go back to the States for that in the next day or so. I am going to the Naval Hospital in Camp Lejeune.”

General Gray shook his head, “I am sorry that returning to command will be delayed but the staff at Camp Lejeune will take good care of you. Best of luck to you in your recovery, son.”

The General began to leave the room when Chris decided to stop him, “Sir, I am sorry but can I ask you a question? I know I am going to be out of line, but I can’t let this opportunity pass.” The General turned and walked back toward him, “Sir, are you proud of your daughter?”

The look of shock registered on Gray’s face immediately, “Is that really any of your concern Captain?”

“Sir, I think Carter has been trying her entire life to make you proud. She lets on that she is tough and can handle herself – I don’t question her toughness at all, but she is going to get herself killed, and I can’t let the opportunity go by without saying something.” Chris looked away, he knew it was a possibility that he had angered the General and didn’t really want to see it displayed in front of him.

“Carter is a tough girl; not having a mother was hard enough but having me as her father was even worse. She is smart and has more potential than I think she even realizes, and I am not just referencing her time in the Corps. I take it that you see that as well? Tell me Captain; are you in love with her? Is that what this is all about?”

“I think I am, sir. It was not my intention in any way but the fact that she is strong and vulnerable at the same time is what draws me to her. She isn’t worried about her appearance or if anyone likes her – she wants her work to stand for something. To me, that is attractive and is someone worth falling in love with.”

“She would be lucky to have you. Carter is a lot of things and damaged is one of them. Make sure you keep your eyes wide open.” General Gray began to exit the room and before crossing the threshold, stopped, “To answer your question, yes I am proud of my daughter; I would be an idiot not to be.”

Chris took a deep breath; he knew that he was risking everything by even questioning the man. As he was settling back into the bed, his phone rang on the bedside table.

“I heard about the ambush; how are you doing?”

“I’m okay Frank; battered and bruised with a hole in my leg but doing great! Give me the details, they aren’t telling me shit around here. How many men did I lose?”

“You lost 3, but all of the insurgents were taken down. They have brought in a new commanding officer, and they are cleaning up the base and getting it operational. I heard she saved you.”

“She did shot the guy who was going to torture me a little more in the hopes of me handing her over. She told me they recalled her Frank – said she was being fired.”

“She isn’t being fired, but she is being recalled. There is a concern now that she could be taken hostage if she was out in the field again. Her dad has not made any friends on the rebel side since he has been so outspoken against their tactics. It makes her the perfect target to attempt to inflict pain on him.”

“Oh if they only knew that Carter is estranged from the General; she wouldn’t be a target any longer. Hey, Frank, I am being sent to Camp Lejeune, and I will probably be there for a few months. Can you get my stuff from the base sent stateside?”

“Absolutely, I will make calls as soon as we hang up. So tell me, did you fall for her?”

He sighed heavily before answering, “Yeah, I did Frank.”

~ * ~
Carter darted down the stairs from Chris’s room and began a sprint back to the hotel. She weaved through the people on the street and paid no attention to the traffic. She was almost hit three times as dodging the people on the sidewalk took her into the street. Once at the hotel, she walked to her room and threw herself onto the bed. Within a matter of moments, sleep overtook her.

She was awakened by a forceful knock on her door. At first, she wondered if she was actually just dreaming. The knocking started again, “Carter, please open the door.”

She jumped from the bed and made her way to the door and flung it open. She stepped to the side and let the General walk in. Closing the door after him, she turned and walked back to the bed and sat down. “I guess I am not surprised that you would come looking for me. How did you know where I would be? Did you put a tracking device on me earlier?”

“I did not use a tracking device; honestly, Carter that is not my style. No, I went to the hospital to check on Captain Evans, and he told me you just left. I didn’t think you would try sightseeing in Kandahar given everything that has happened.”

“You went to see Chris? I have to admit that I didn’t expect that.”

“I figured I should meet the man that my daughter is in love with. It seems like the proper thing to do.”

“You think I am in love with him? What in the world would make you think that?”

William Gray was staring out the window with his back to his daughter. He did not turn to answer her, “Carter you hate guns and shooting them; have to admit I find that ironic since you are in the military. But anyway, you don’t take up a weapon and point it at anyone unless you are protecting someone you love. The last time you raised a gun and were willing to fire it was the night your mother left. I’ve often wondered if you had wished she had shot me that night.” Carter didn’t respond – she also did not raise her head or look at her father as he spoke to her. “I determined that you must have feelings for him, you went to go find him in the middle of an ambush, and you shot and killed a man to save him. All of that together sounds like love to me.”

She took a deep breath and stood up and faced the man in the window. “Are you serious right now? Why exactly are you here?”

“I told you; you are my daughter, and I came over here when I found out that you were involved in the ambush. Despite what you think about me, I do love you.”

“Yeah, you have a funny way of showing it.”

“Well, that is fair. Tell me, though; are you in love with this Captain Evans?”

“I am not going to have this conversation with you. I haven’t seen you in over a year, and I think you have called me twice in the last six months. Now all of a sudden you want to come over here and play the concerned parent and try to get all sorts of details about my personal life. That is rich General; really really rich.”

“Look, Carter, I admit that I have not made your life easy. But maybe, just maybe, the idea that my daughter, the one who has been an analyst and never out on the front lines, could have been killed in an insurgent ambush is enough to make a man think.” He began pacing back and forth in front of the window. “Yes, you are a badass and saved the Captain and oh what a hero you are; but you are my daughter first, and I was scared. Or does that not matter?”

Carter didn’t know how to respond to that. She had never thought of the General as the sentimental type, and he had never shown very much emotion where she was concerned. This was new to her. She decided to go ahead and talk to him. What was the worst that could happen? “I don’t know if I love him – I think I am just confused and believe me that never actually happens to me. Maybe I am scared to think that I am in love with him. He is obstinate and insufferable and duty bound to the Corps. He has a fragile ego, hates being pushed outside of his core thoughts and drives me crazy with his belief that there is no other way. And he is handsome and dashing and can be sweet and gentle.” Carter stopped and took a deep breath and let out a heavy sigh, “He is an awful lot like you, and that is why I am scared to think I might be in love with him. More than that, I am afraid that he might feel the same way.”

William Gray began to laugh softly, turned and walked over to his daughter and wrapped her in his arms. “They say little girls always grow up looking for a man just like their dads. I think you are proving that my dear Carter.” He hugged her a bit harder before releasing her and looking down into her face, “I believe you need to go back to the hospital and let Captain Evans know that you have feelings for him.”

“Oh no, I am not going to do that. It is bad enough that I left without saying anything to him. I can’t walk back in there; I will look like an idiot. You know I left without saying anything to him; just walked out after he told me that he has feelings for me. How cold and hateful is that? I am sure he is mad enough at me that he won’t ever speak to me again.”

“Oh, I think you underestimate how he feels about you. He was bold enough to confront me about you. He wanted to know if I was proud of you and that if I was, I should tell you so that you will quit trying to earn my approval. He is scared that you will get yourself killed.”

“He did what? Is he nuts?” She began pacing back and forth while the General stood by and watching her, amused at the scene.

“Well, he said that if I just told you that I was proud of you, then you would stop all of the nonsense to try and get my approval.” He continued watching her, “I told him you have it.”

“Told him I have what?”

“My approval Carter; I am proud of you, and I guess I didn’t realize you needed me to say it to you. But I am proud of the Marine and the woman that you are. If you are putting yourself at risk because you think it will make me love you more or make me prouder; well stop it. I could not be prouder of you.”

Carter walked over and picked up her hotel room key and walked towards the door. As she opened the door, she looked over her shoulder, “You can let yourself out right? Sorry to run out on you, I just need to talk to Chris.”

~ * * * ~
Carter stormed into the hospital room ready to unload on Chris; instead, she found an empty room. The bed was empty, and the door to the bathroom was open so she knew he wasn’t there. He didn’t have any personal effects with him during the evacuation so she couldn’t look to see if his stuff was still around. She could feel herself beginning to panic and was about to ring for a nurse when she saw him being wheeled back into the room.

“Well, I must say I didn’t expect you to come back. Don’t worry the doctors were able to remove the knife from my heart – shouldn’t leave any permanent damage.” He watched her expression and realized it had not changed. The look of fear from when he came in had not disappeared. “It was a bad joke Carter – I was referring…”

“I know what you were referring to,” she interrupted. “I am sorry about that, and I can explain but first, did you seriously confront the General in regards to me?”

The nurse moved the wheelchair next to the bed and helped get Chris situated. She hooked his I-V back up and took his vitals one last time before leaving the two of the alone.

“Yes, I did, and I will not apologize to you for it.”

“Who do you think you are meddling in my life like that? I don’t need you talking to the General about me and what you think you understand after knowing me for two weeks.”

“I think I am someone who is concerned about you and who owes you gratitude for saving my life. The General came here looking for you, I didn’t seek him out, but I wasn’t letting the moment pass either. What is this really about Carter?”

She scoffed and began walking toward the door and then turned and marched back to him, “I don’t need a hero, Chris. I don’t need someone swooping in to save the damsel in distress. Newsflash, I am not a damsel, and I am certainly not in distress.”

“Well by definition you are a damsel; so maybe you aren’t at this moment, but you can’t say that within the last week you have not been in distress.”

“Damn you are infuriating.”

“And you are really sexy when you are pissed off. I told you, I don’t regret saying something to him. You are evidently not willing to talk to him so a dialogue needed to be started somehow.” Chris watched her, she was starting to shake, and he knew it was because she was angry. He motioned for her to sit in the chair across from the bed; he hoped if she sat down she would not run because there was no way he was going to catch her. He softly began to speak, “Carter, I think you have this inherent need to get daddy’s love and approval, and you are hell bent on throwing caution to the wind to do it. You want everyone to know you are a badass, and you can do anything but you don’t realize it will get you killed if you aren’t careful.” He watched to see if she was going to respond but she just watched him intently. “I felt he needed to know that you keep putting yourself out there to get him to notice. And he should do what he should have done a long time ago – tell you he is proud, and he loves you. That way you can go back to being a beautiful and intelligent woman who takes more precautions and lives a little longer. Because I want an opportunity to be with you, and I can’t do that if you go off and get yourself killed.”

He had poured out his soul to her, and he watched for a reaction, but she didn’t seem to have one. She just stared at him; he wasn’t sure if she was going to start yelling at him or if she was going to take off running. All he wanted was a reaction. “Carter, for God’s sake say something.”

She stood up and walked over to the bed with determination and passion in her eyes. He was afraid she was going to slap him. Instead, she bent down over the bed and kissed him. She was soft and gentle at first but quickly moved to deepen the kiss, and he did not resist. She broke away and her heart was beating so hard that she was afraid it would pound out of her chest. “I’m sorry did you want me to say something?” He shook his head no and blinked his eyes as if he could not believe that she had just kissed him. She sat on the side of the bed and kissed him again. “So I guess I should say that I am sorry for yelling at you?”

“Well…yeah…that would be nice. Maybe you could explain why you ran out of here like your ass was on fire earlier.”

“I was scared; actually, I still am. I haven’t had someone tell me they had feelings for me, and it scared me. But I think I have the same feelings, and that terrifies me the most.”

“Well, I find it hard to believe that someone has never told you that they have feelings for you. Carter, you are a beautiful woman who is wicked smart and while you portray this tough outer shell it is evident to me that you have a softer side.”

“Well when you are a Marine and the child of a decorated Brigadier General, men are not clamoring to take you out on a date. I think more men were worried I would kick their ass if they made a move.”

“So I scared you? I am sorry for that,” Chris grabbed her hand, squeezing to let give comfort. “You know I do need to properly thank you for saving my life and giving me the opportunity to tell you that I have feelings. I am serious, I would like a chance to see where this goes; I won’t push you Carter, but I just don’t think we can admit feelings and then ignore them.”

She turned to look at him and smiled. She leaned over to kiss him, and he then made room for her to lie down next to him. He wrapped his arms around her and nuzzled at her neck. They were still in silence for a few moments when he finally decided to speak up, “So, can we talk for a minute about that shot? I mean for someone who hates guns; girl you were quite amazing.”

She began to chuckle, “Did I never tell you that I was a crack shot? I told you I didn’t like them, but I never told you I didn’t know how to fire one.”

“Obviously, you know how to shoot one. That was a fantastic shot; neither of us knew you were there. So tell me, what happened that has made you not like guns? There has to be more to the story you told me in the mess tent.”

“I was trying to be quiet; when I saw you on the ground and knew what he might do to you,” She began to get choked up. “I had to do something because I could not just stand by and watch you die. And yes, there is more to the story; I am just not ready to talk about it. Maybe one day I will tell you everything.”

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