Phoebe's POV

I hear gunshots. Many gunshots. Then there is a loud explosion. It is like there’s war outside. I bend my head down, praying to God no bullets fancy piercing my poor and tired body. Then I start to murmur a prayer.

‘Oh, God! I’m so sorry for all the sins I committed in my twenty-six years on Earth. Please, let me enter Your Heaven’s gate. I don’t want to go to hell and face Satan. I can’t take it for all eternity! Please, forgive me, Father God! I beseech You!

I yelp when I feel someone’s hand pat my shoulder. Gently.

I am afraid to look up.

“Hey, it’s okay. You’re safe now,” a gentle baritone voice says those cliché words that I often hear in the movies.

I slowly look up and find a tanned Caucasian man with battle paint deliberately smudged on his face. He wears a U.S. Air Force battle uniform. It has somewhat tiger-shaped pattern with dominant blue overtones. The trousers have huge pockets, and underneath his long-sleeved blouse, he wears an undershirt, paired with a cap and black combat boots.

Happy to see a fellow countryman, I struggle to get up. He helps me up and puts his arm around my shoulder.

“W-what happened?” I ask as he frees my bound hands and legs using his knife.

He stands straight to look at me after doing it. He is way taller than I am. Perhaps he is six-foot and one-inch tall. He has a well-built athletic body. In this light, I can still see that his eyes are quite blue and kind. His nose is straight and long, in fact, looking perfect. His lips have a hard line. Perhaps it is because he is used to battles.

“I took out all of them,” he says in a matter-of-factly. Smoothly.

I blink in disbelief. “All eight of them?

“Yes. We received an intel that it is all there is out here. Zamir is busy with his business in Kadhimiya.” He shrugs. “So, most of his men are there. But… unfortunately, he is coming his way over here with his army. I’m sure of it. One of his men radioed him before I managed to take him down. He was the last one.” He looks around the house.

“He has some fucking warehouse stashed in this area, thanks to you we found it.

I don’t feel like it’s a compliment, though.

“And you’re alone?” I am surprised. I can hear nothing but only the two of us here.

“Yes. I’m Major Finn Davis, by the way.

Now I’m impressed somehow, hearing his rank. He could be one of the best black ops or something.

“I figured I can handle them all by myself,” he adds with confidence. Clearly. But no bragging tone there. “I got here a few hours ago before I swooped in. I don’t want to lose my men, you see? Besides, they have to go some place where they are called away. Another mission, that is.

I nod. “So, can we go now?” I feel like I really need a shower right now. Although there is a huge barrel filled with water in the latrine outside, I haven’t been encouraged to use more than I need.

“No, we can’t go. That’s the bad news. I was told that my air support is not going to be here in twenty-eight hours. And Zamir, together with his army in their trucks, is going to arrive here in twenty-six hours. That’s their estimated ETA.

“There’s a truck outside. We can just use it,” I inform him.

“Oh, right! You’re right. But then, that’s before it went ka-boom!” he sarcastically answers.

My jaw drops. “What? You blew up our only possible getaway vehicle?

I can’t believe this is happening! I am happy that I am rescued, but what else can go wrong? Yeah, I know now. It is the fucking truck that is blown apart!

Oh, God! Are You really serious? Is it really time for me to die?

Major Davis laughs at me mockingly. “How stupid do you think I am? Why would I blow our chance at getting away from this remote place in northern Iraq when I already know that my air support doesn’t get here in more than a day’s time?

I rack my brain for a moment. Our eyes hold like, for an eternity. Then I blink. “Y-you mean, Sami or his people deliberately blew it up and you knew that the air support is going to get here later than Zamir and his men from the start?

He sighs and looks away.

Something inside my chest nudges my heart. I realize that he puts his life on the line for me. To rescue me. To save me from being executed in a few hours.

I swallow as I look at him with renewed interest and awe. He looks so handsome even though I only see the side view of his face.

“In the meantime, we need to do something before we get some sleep. That is, if you don’t know how to use a gun, I shall give you a quick lesson, as well as hand-to-hand combat. We have to hold our ground until the air support gets here. Do you understand?

I have no choice but to nod in agreement. I have never held a gun before. Although theoretically, I know how to use it, it is just right that I have to learn right now and fast. My survival instincts prevail. I can’t just die here, in the middle of nowhere in Iraq! And also, I don’t want Major Davis to die, wasting his life to save mine when obviously, he can do it for other people as well.

No, I refuse to be the reason that we’re going to die here together.

“But first, I want to refresh myself.

He looks at his tactical military watch. “I’ll give you ten minutes, and then we start.

Oh, crap! I dash outside to the latrine. Though time-pressured, I feel so free since I have been kidnapped by those terrorists.

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