For example, I spoke with one reservist who was flown to Japan to practice helicopter drops. The men in his group all learned how to safely and quickly drop out of a helicopter in both combat and emergency situations. Another example of training might sound a little odd - heat resistance training sessions. But if you are in a tank out in the desert - it can get pretty toasty, pretty fast. You need to know how to recognize the early symptoms of dehydration and the proper steps to take to battle it. Being prepared by taking salt tablets for one - but then you need to know how to safely take them. It's an amazing and difficult responsibility to be in the guard.
In Guarded Desires (Uniform Encounters 4), Joseph has been sent to the Arizona border town of Nogales. His troop has been brought in to support the DEA and Custom Border Patrol as they combat a vicious drug cartel. When he meets older DEA agent Stephen, he fights his instant attraction. Hunky bears like Stephen are dangerous - he was abused by one for two years. He quickly comes to realize that Stephen is more of a fun-loving teddy bear. But will his dark past end their relationship just as it begins?
In this excerpt, the men are out on a night mission in the desert when the cartel starts shooting at agents. Joseph and Stephen have only recently met, but have barely spoken more than a few sentences to one another. That doesn't mean sparks didn't fly, however.
Private Kim looked confused. Stephen leaned over the front seat and grabbed the young man’s pack. He brought it back over and set it between him and Rigo.
“What’s our move now, homey?”
“You hold things down here, and I’ll go scout out the territory with Joseph. The rest of the plan stays the same.”
“You think our guys are still out there?”
“I’m betting on it. The gunfire we’ve been hearing must be them battling it out. Call Sanchez and let him know what’s up. Hopefully the CO is there by now. Maybe he can pull in some more Guardsmen from the armoury and send them our way.”
“Be careful, man.”
“Oh you know it, Gonzalez. There’ve been too many close calls already.”
With the goggles in one hand and his revolver in the other, Stephen dropped to the ground from the truck, keeping low. He crept quickly to the rocks where Joseph had headed. The young man was flat on his belly, goggles on, peering through a small opening between two boulders. Stephen dropped down next to him, his khakis preventing the bigger rocks from digging too sharply into his skin.
Without turning, Joseph growled, “Finally, Kim. What the hell were you—?”
“Kim’s back at the Humvee.”
Joseph whipped his head around, the end of the long lenses of the heavy goggles whacking the side of the rock.
Stephen marvelled that Joseph had the presence of mind to keep his voice down even though he’d been surprised.
“What happened to Kim?”
“Not sure. He’s having a panic attack or something. Gonzalez is with him. We can worry about that later. How are things here?”
Joseph had pushed the goggles up onto his head. The scowl on his face said it all in terms of how he felt about Private Kim.
“There’s been no movement. Some stray gunfire, but it seems as though it’s moving away from us. We need to find the men in my unit as well as the other agents. I’m gonna move in farther and check it out.”
“You’re aware that your orders are to back up the DEA and CBP, right?”
Joseph cleared his throat and dropped his gaze. “Sorry, sir.” He lifted his eyes. “Of course. Whatever you think is the best course of action. We’ll… Well, I’ll back you up on whatever you decide.”
“I think we should find your men and the other agents by moving in farther and checking it out.”
Joseph’s mouth made a small ‘o’. Stephen allowed himself a smile in response. He was rewarded with one back.
They both took one more look at their surroundings with the goggles to verify they were clear. The military grade glasses were more involved than any Stephen had used before, so Joseph had to show him how to adjust the lenses. They were close enough to one another that Stephen could sense the heat from Joseph’s body in the cool night air. Joseph had the clean scent of soap mixed with the sweat from the past few hours of intensity. Stephen had never experienced that before with another man where he had noticed such small physical details.
Once they were able to clear the area, they headed back to the Humvee. Stephen noted that Joseph didn’t even acknowledge Private Kim when he got in the truck. It was the right call. In the heat of things they didn’t have time to get into it with the kid.
“Get a hold of Sanchez?”
“Yeah. They have us and the rest of the Humvees on GPS. Helicopters will be here in a few, and a caravan of more Humvees should arrive in about forty-five to an hour. They’re treating it as a full engagement. They’ve requested we hold our positions until reinforcements arrive.”
Joseph slapped the steering wheel of the truck with both hands. Stephen clasped Joseph’s shoulder. “I know. I wanted to move in too.” He let go and slumped back in his seat. “All right, men. I guess we sit tight then. Let’s stay alert just in case.”
Joseph opened the door, then stepped out of the vehicle. Stephen jerked up.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m not going to sit here in this truck and do nothing.”
“You can’t go against orders.”
“I won’t. I’m going back in position with the goggles to make sure no one gets the jump on us until help arrives.”
Stephen nodded. “Good call. Then I’ll go with you. Except you might need to show me how to use these things again.”
Joseph chuckled. “They teach you anything at Quantico?”
“That was ten years ago, kid. We were still using cans with string.”
Joseph gave him a big smile and shook his head. Stephen loved the dichotomy between the young man’s serious side and his playful side. Every small interaction with Joseph added to Stephen’s resolve to try and get to know him better. With any luck, a lot better.
Pick up your copy of Guarded Desires (Uniform Encounters 4) HERE