Her Perfect Mate(5)

By: Paige Tyler


He turned back to Bennett. “Sir, be straight with me. Did I screw up somehow?”

Bennett shrugged. “I don’t know. If you did, no one in the battalion knew about it. All I can tell you is that the order to pull you out came from somewhere mighty fucking high. Above SOCOM. There isn’t even a report date on your orders. They just say immediately.”

He must be joking. Special Operations Command, known as SOCOM, owned all the Special Forces troops in the Department of Defense, regardless of service. Who’d be telling them where to send their own troops, especially in the middle of a deployment?

“At least tell me where I’m going,” Landon said.

Bennett hesitated, and Landon thought he saw what looked like sympathy in the man’s eyes. “The MDW.”

The Military District of Washington? No fucking way. He must have heard wrong. He was about to ask Bennett to repeat that, but Angelo abandoned his place on the perimeter and ran up before he could.

“Landon, what the fuck’s going on?”

Angelo was the only troop on his team who got away with calling him by his first name. That was because he and the NCO went way back, to a time before Landon was an officer, a time when just making it to the end of their first enlistment without getting their asses shot off was the only goal they had. Back then, Angelo had earned the right to call him anything he damn well wanted. They weren’t just teammates, or even best friends. They were brothers.

Major Bennett looked like he was about to shit a brick over the delay, but Landon didn’t give a crap.

“I’m getting shipped off to DC,” he told Angelo.

“DC? Shit.” He blew out a breath. “Is this about what happened to LT?”

Landon hoped not. He sure as hell didn’t want to go there again. But some kind of shit had hit the fan somewhere for him to be yanked during a deployment. “I don’t know.”

“Captain,” Bennett insisted.

Landon ignored him. Behind him, the Black Hawk’s rotors echoed off the surrounding mountains, filling the silence. It was dangerous for the chopper to be on the ground this long. The sound of the rotors was going to attract the wrong kind of attention soon enough, and he didn’t want his team here when that happened.

He swallowed hard. He’d been with his guys a long time. It felt as if he was deserting them by leaving. But he couldn’t disobey a direct order.

“Tell the guys to take care of themselves,” he said to Angelo. “You, too.”

Landon didn’t wait for a reply. Instead, he turned and climbed into the Black Hawk. Bennett slammed the door, then motioned for the pilot to take off.

As he rode back to base camp, Landon tried to convince himself he’d heard wrong, that Bennett hadn’t said MDW. But Landon knew he’d heard right. He was heading to the Military District of Washington. As in Washington, DC. As in pushing pencils and making coffee for generals who didn’t seem to have any work to do. There were some officers who might consider a transfer to the Pentagon—if that’s where he was going—to be a peach assignment. But for a dirty-boots Special Forces warrior like him, it was the equivalent of a demotion.

What the hell had he done to earn it?

He could only think of one thing, the same thing Angelo had been referring to—the ambush that had happened eight weeks earlier. The one where his assistant commander had gotten injured badly enough for the guy to end up getting his ass shipped back to the States where he wasn’t likely to ever see combat again.

Landon didn’t want to believe he was getting reassigned because of that shitty episode, but it was the only thing that made sense. He snorted. It was almost ironic. He was going to be reassigned to the DC area where he’d get to come face to face with the biggest screwup of his life on a daily basis. Looked like karma was coming back to bite him in the ass.

***

Landon’s duffel bags were packed and waiting for him when he got back to his forward operating base. He’d figured he would at least have time to clean up before he left, but they immediately shuffled him onto another fueled-up Black Hawk and flew him directly to the main airbase in Bagram. Then he’d been the lone passenger on a C-17 cargo plane full of mail and broken equipment bound for Qatar. A Department of Defense–contracted commercial carrier had taken him from there to the Ramstein Air Base in Germany with an immediate transfer to Washington National. In all, he’d been traveling for almost twenty-four hours. Add that to the fact that he and his team had only caught an occasional catnap during the week it had taken to reach Qari’s hideout, and he was flat-out exhausted. He was pretty sure he smelled, too. On top of that, he was pissed off.

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