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Absolution by Leaona Luxx


Overview: Looking back over the past few months, I never imagined I’d be standing here asking for forgiveness. Wanting her was never in the plans, but when your heart knows, you find yourself needing everything that is her.
I made my way back home broken and lost, refusing to connect to my old life, to who I am. Afraid of what I might find, hating myself for hiding untold truths.
In her arms, I find sanctuary. Her love not only encompasses me, it drives the darkness away and serves as a beacon of hope, my salvation.
When our pasts lives come to light, we’re thrust into the hell we knowingly created. Will Scarlet forgive me for the blood on my hands? Can I show her the mercy she so well deserves?
Only absolution will see us through.


Absolution by Leaona Luxx Book Chapter One

"Are you with us, Hatchling?" My eyes snap to my buddy, Connor "Cupcake" Phillips, when he bumps my leg.

"I'm good, Cupcake."

"You better be," Dave Riggins, Big Rigg as we call him, growls. "no room for error."

"I got your six." I grind my jaw, hating to bite my tongue again. Riggins struts around like the biggest bad ass, he's more like a pain in the ass. Unlike Connor, who has been my best friend since buds.

"Heads up! Let's get ready to fly." Commander "Pretty Boy" Floyd Driver does as he says, standing and checking his gear. "In and out."

"Damn straight, Pretty Boy." Connor winks at Floyd. No matter how cocky you are when someone is built like a Greek God, you have to admit he is and makes Floyd's call sign perfect for him.

I elbow Floyd to get his attention. "So, Daisy? Like the gunslinger movie, I'm your daisy or because you prefer them on the first date? Asking for a friend."

"Hatch, ya little shit. Get the hell back there and get ready to go." Floyd shakes his head, chuckling. I'll never understand why missions need to be named after flowers.

I enlisted after getting my bachelor's in political science at North Carolina State, but only after my dad insisted, I graduate first. He served first and then went to work, so I understand his point of view.

Although I'm educated, my dad wanted me in law school, but it wasn't for me. He had big dreams of my cousin Boone and I forming a law firm. But I want to follow in my Dad’s footsteps. Well, at least these particular ones.

My dad is now our state senator, and I wouldn't do that job for all the money in the world. He says he's there to help his veteran brothers and sisters. He's always been my hero, more so now than ever before.

We have a killer team for this one. Well, Riggins is on this with us. He's been sour since being turned down for another job, but all the others are badasses. We work well together, just as a team should.

I slap Connor on the back, holding up my hand for a high five from another. "Don't you worry, Baby. Nobody is gonna put you in a corner."

"How's that for returning fire?" Patrick "Baby" Russell shakes his head as he sets my hand ablaze.

I cut my eyes at Riggins. "I can handle all you got."

"The Mighty Oak!" I fist bump Levi "The Mighty Oak" Underwood. "You ready to leave outta here?"

He grimaces. "You gonna keep stinking the place up with your shit jokes?"


"Then, yes. Let's haul ass." He shakes his head, bumping my fist.

I'm pushed forward with a jolt, only to find Dave Riggins behind me. "Let's move, Hatch. Or are you too busy pissing your pants?"

"Naw, old man. I borrowed your diapers." I slap him on the back, smirking. He knows damn well this is my third deployment, but with every mission, his smartass attitude sours. His disregard for the finer points makes me anxious. I purse my lips, banishing every other thought from my head.

"Earmuffs, Cupcake. Screw you, Hatcher." He flips me off before turning to ready for our jump.

Cupcake grins mischievously. "You're doing it wrong, Riggs; muffs don't sit on your ears."

"You can both fuck off!" Riggs grumbles, leaving us all laughing.

Connor holds his fist up for the manly bumps and shakes to ensue. I know, cliché, but we've done this since buds, and now, it's tradition. We bump fists, slap, and slide, hook thumbs, raise our hands before dropping them as they implode.

I know we're cool.

The crackle in our ears signals us before Floyd does. "Head in the game, and ready to roll."

We have just enough time for one last check of our gear before we hit the air. Once on the ground, there is no margin for error. They said in and out, no looking back. Execution isn't only critical, it's everything.

"You little boys watch and learn," Riggs smirks at us as he readies at the hatch.

I'm still the last in the pecking order. The thing is, I'm the youngest here, and no one will ever let me forget. Everyone else has a wife and children waiting on them, well almost, Connor's will soon be here.

I would love to have a go at this prick, but we have no time to tell the old fucker what he can do; we're prepped and ready to fly. This is one of the things I love most about being here, the free-falling until you have to maneuver yourself to hit your targeted landing.

When the hull light glows green, we haul ass out and set sail in an entirely different way. Although exhilarating, the flight is short, and we all hit our intended mark on the ground.

Now, the real work gets started. We're a mile and a half from the site, so we'll literally hit the ground running. This is supposed to be a simple mission, in and out, SR or Special Reconnaissance operation.

Floyd gives the hand commands, and we split into two teams. The intel focuses on two individuals being held hostage. No one has been in direct contact, but there’s a report of three missing.

The four minutes it takes to get to our target helps get the blood pumping, but the second Floyd's voice breaks through the silence, my racing heart is ready to roll.

"Second-floor window on the right." My eyes dart to the material, moving ever so slightly in the soft breeze. "Locked in."

The signal to move ahead. I turn my head from side to side, releasing my pent-up tension. According to the sign, they're here, and nothing is harder than finding your own but needing to wait to bring them out.

"Building three." Floyd's commands are specific and precise.

Simultaneously, we advance toward our objective’s last known vicinity. The cover of the night helps us to move quickly and virtually unseen. We observe radio silence as we make headway and are poised at the building next to our target.

We enter the structure, searching every nook and cranny. Connor glances at me just as the hair on the nape of my neck stands. I move my head from side to side, minutely.

I know he's thinking the same thing, we've been in tune like this from the first day of training. We need to get the hell out of here, and with every passing minute, the tension refuses to wane.

A heaviness settles in the pit of my belly, everything in me is screaming this isn't right. I continue to scan the area, my senses heightened. My training taught me to fight because there is no flight.

Floyd turns to us, three fingers up, and then points straight ahead. A nod of understanding and we advance on our goal. At some point, Floyd has to call this, we're in more profound than we ever should've been.

Two fingers up... one.

Boom! Boom! Boom!

My ears ring as Riggins and Floyd take the brunt of three blasts aimed to take us all out. The hall fills with debris as we fall victim to an ambush. A quick gaze over my shoulder, apparent to us, we're blocked off from the rest.

With our backs to the wall, I'm jolted into action as the crackle in my ear from Connor shouts through the headpiece. "Move!"

The sound of rapid-fire echoes around us, we fire back, giving as good as we get. We need a visual of our surroundings, but it's near impossible as dirt and dust fly around the hallway as thick as gunfire.

Connor and I stand back to back, moving simultaneously, trying to get the fuck out of this death trap. A rapid-fire of pops rains down, pinning us to the wall. Finally, he targets an opening. Connor signals, and then he rolls out.

He enters the room, blind, and I follow. This is the way we've always run our mission, and until today, it worked damn well. I'm pelted with cement and debris from the walls as I hurry through the opening. Soon, I'm met with darkness.

I trip, falling to the floor with a thud. For a split-second, I'm paralyzed with fear until my instincts kick in. I hit the floor, crawling my way through the hail of bullets to search for Connor.

A sharp pain rips through my thigh, followed by one to my ribs. I wince, forcing myself forward before I'm hit again. I roll to my back, pressing my shoulder injury into the floor.

My surroundings become blurry, a garbled mess of words and movement. I scramble to my knees and ready for my defense. A dense, vast sound at my back stuns me briefly and then a thud.

"Connor?" My best friend's name is the last words I utter as I fall face-first into the concrete floor. My head throbs with every pulse of my heart, there's a sharp sting in my leg and shoulder. I blink, and it fills my sight with darkness. Pain shoots through me, and I squeeze them shut. Again, I force my eyes open. The smallest amount of light is blinding. As both sound and light fade into the distance, the will to fight for consciousness follows.

"Look what I caught!" I scream, excited to show everyone my prize catch. I turn to the people behind me, holding up my fish but something’s off. I stumble back, trying to focus on their faces.

They have none. Nothing but a void of where their nose and mouth should be, nothing. Just a blurry palette of colors. I squeeze my eyes closed, shaking the image from my head.

"I-I'm looking for someone else. Where are they?" I thrash against something, hitting my shoulder hard and putting my body in agony.

"AHH! Fuck!" Bile rises in the back of my throat, making me aware I'm finally awake, as the pain from my arm sickens me. I roll to my side, and pain shoots through me like a sharp knife. My body contorts, throwing me into the wall behind me, as the hand of darkness drags me back to the hell of being shackled to my subconsciousness.

"Wake up!" I crumple over, face planting into the floor. The pain hardly registers at this point, I'm lightheaded and can't stay upright without leaning against the wall.

I hold my hand out, hoping they'll give me a minute to catch my breath, but I'm not afforded such luck. I sustain another kick to my ribs before they apply pressure to my thigh.

"Who are you?" A deep, rough voice cuts through the fog before I can answer, I'm being flipped over to my back. I lose my breath as my back smacks the floor.

My eyes are dry and swollen to the point, they're mere slits. I stiffen when I can barely make out the figures standing over me. "The place on his head is still seeping, I don't think he's with us enough to know who he is or anyone else."

Anyone else? Am I not alone? Is someone here with me? I swallow, hoping to wet my mouth enough that I can force my questions out. I need to know; I have to find out if Connor is alive. I'm not sure I can survive this alone.

The slightest move sends me spiraling into excruciating pain. My throat closes as I struggle for words, wrestling for nothing to come out. I push the tip of my tongue from my parched mouth, raking it over my rough and torn lips. Still, nothing sounds remotely like words come out.

I can hear a noise mimicking shuffling feet in the distance. Suddenly, something cold and wet drops on my forehead. By the time I figure out what they're doing, I'm drenched with water being poured over my face, and I gasp for air.

My body buckles, twisting into a pretzel from the pain of my injuries, and I gasp for air. I'm jerked up and dragged across the room as they push my head into more water. Held there, I can't move. I'm drowning. This time, my mind shuts itself down, sparing my body from the torture.

"Wait..." I narrow my eyes, hoping to get a better look at her. "come back." I reach for her as she fades into the darkness. "Please, don't leave again. Stay and talk to me."

I hold my hand out, playing with the vision in front of me. My sight runs together, mixing the picture like watercolors. Again, her face blurs beyond recognition. The image develops quickly and fades as fast. The internal tug deep within coaxes me to go with her.

I struggle to sit, yanking on the chain I'm tethered to for leniency. The clinking reminds me I'm not alone, and I'm not free. My ears ring from the deafening silence around me, dragging me down, but I refuse to go under.

Evoking the dream, I focus on the woman's voice, calling to me, but even now, I can't recall her words—light filters in from a small window about ten feet up a wall. I squint as I try to figure out the time of day. My concept of time is gone, and try as I might, I can't remember anything.

"I can’t concentrate with these constant migraines." I rub my temples softly. I'm pretty sure they're the only thing on me that doesn't hurt. I finally have the chance to do my daily body check, running my hands over myself.

My face isn't as puffy as before, but I'll be damned if I can take a deep breath or stretch. I shift, hoping to ease the ache in my side by switching positions.

With each passing minute, consciousness fails me as I fade away. Every fleeting moment slips through my fingers, and I'm thrust back into darkness. At least when I'm out cold, my current situation isn't the only thing I can think about.

“You’re here.” I reach for her, yearning for her touch. “Please, I only want to hold you.” Her fingers graze mine, sending a tingle through the tips. “I’m so happy you came.” She shimmers in the moonlight as it beams through the cracks in the ceiling. “I need you to save me.” She fades into the distance, her colors running, and the glimmer dulls. “Don’t leave me, please stay with me.” And then she’s gone.

"He's of no use to us!" The muffled voices wrestle me from my wavering state of mind. The words are no more than a flicker of light in the vast black hole I'm in.

"He's special forces, he has value. Less if he's dead, so keep him alive."

"He's been out for weeks."

"I don't care if he can talk, just make sure he doesn't die."

Some might think their words would give me solace, but they don't. All they tell me is although I have value, my time is limited. The only thing keeping me safe right now is the fact they're not afraid. And because I am, they’re keeping me alive.

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