I"m a bad girl.
I was sent away.
New house. New rules. New school.
Change was supposed to be"good.
Until I met him.
No one warned me Principal Renner would be so hot.
I"d expected some old, graying man in a brown suit.
Not well over six feet of lean muscle and piercing green eyes.
Not a rugged-faced, ax-wielding lumberjack of a man.
He"s grouchy and rude and likes to boss me around.
I find myself getting in trouble just so he"ll punish me.
Especially with his favorite metal ruler.
Being bad never felt so good.Books by Author:K. Webster Books
Summer of 2002
Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!
I roar and sling my M14 around, my finger pulling the trigger to hit the bastards who"ve snuck up on me.
"Bonilla!" I yell, as I spray 5.56 bullets at several Taliban motherfuckers.
He responds by firing from somewhere ahead of me and mows down some more men who are chasing after me like goddamn flesh-eating zombies. I haul ass toward my best friend and the rest of our unit when fire explodes in the back of my thigh.
I"ve been hit.
Another burning punch to the back of my right shoulder and I go down hard, face first. The flesh rips from my cheek as I slide across the hard dirt.
I"m going to die.
At nineteen fucking years old.
The popping of the gunfire all around me becomes muted and fades. I"m dying. It"s happening. Fuck. I"m not ready, dammit.
Sounds of war have disappeared altogether and the only thing that can be heard is the hum and beeping of the machines beside my hospital bed. The pain medicine has long since worn off and I shudder at the realization, my hand blindly reaching for the button to call for a nurse to bring more.
It takes me a moment to fully blink away my daze and when I do, I discover my best friend Mateo Bonilla staring down at me. His black brows are pulled together in concern.
"Hey," I grunt, my voice a choked hiss. Scanning the table beside me, I seek out the ice water that will help my parched throat. I remember where I"m at. Same place I"ve been for the past two weeks.
Not really, but it sure feels like it when the nurses wheel me down to physical therapy each day. A bullet completely shattered my left kneecap, entering in from behind. It ricocheted, destroying ligaments and bone, but what nearly ended my life was when it nicked my posterior tibial artery. And had I not had a medic just feet from me when I went down, I would"ve bled out before anyone realized what had happened.
Luckily, I had Mateo.
He dragged me to safety and applied a tourniquet.
My best friend saved my life.
"How are you feeling"" he asks, his gaze raking over my face.
I know I look like shit. Road rash ripped away part of my left cheek, forehead, and chin"it"s a miracle my eyelids remained unscathed. The nurses have done a great job of distracting me every time I mention it. I haven"t had the balls to look in the mirror yet.
"Been better," I grunt, then grit my teeth when a throbbing wave of pain ripples up my leg. "Can you get a fucking nurse in here""
Mateo finds a nurse and twenty minutes later, I"m flying high, happy as hell. Usually, he leaves once I get pulled under, but today he lingers. I hang on to clarity enough to finally get the words out without breaking down. The last thing a man wants to do is bawl like a fucking baby to his friend.
"Te," I murmur his nickname. "Thank you."
He chuckles and shakes his head. "It was nothing."
I pin him with a hard glare. "It was everything. You"re the reason I"m still here, man. I owe you big time."
"Yeah, yeah," he says, a smile tugging at his lips. "When you get better, I"ll call in a babysitting favor. I get no booty from the old lady when we have a two-year-old squatting in our bed."
I smile, but I don"t have the energy to laugh. He talks nonstop about his kid. One day I"ll meet her and let him and his Puerto Rican goddess of a wife go make more babies.
"I can babysit the kid for a night," I tell him, "but you only need what" Three minutes""
"Fuck off, gimp," he jokes.
I flip him off and we both grow quiet. Despite our jokes, we were both shaken up pretty badly after that day over in Afghanistan. Half our unit didn"t make it. Mateo puts on a brave face, but I know he"s mentally dealing with the same shit I am. It"s going to be a long road ahead of us.
"I leave for Tampa next week." His eyes flicker my way, pain reflected in them.
"For how long" Taking the wife and kid on a vacation""
He scrubs at his jaw. "I got stationed there."
My gut hollows out. Mateo and I"ve known each other for a year, ever since I joined the Marines at eighteen. Not seeing and working with him every day comes as a shock.
Not that I can work anymore anyway.
"Don"t do that," he grumbles. "I"ve seen too many of our guys dig themselves into a hole of self-pity and despair. They never climb back out. You need to get better and get the fuck out of here, man. Go home. Back to Momma."
I shoot him the bird again. "As soon as I get out of here, I"ll be right there with you."