-a Night Stalkers Wedding story #3-
After the Night Stalkers #3, What Until Dawn…
mechanic Connie Davis can fix anything—anything mechanical. On the brink of
her wedding day, she wishes that family and relationships could work as
logically as engines.
Big John Wallace
knows family like he knows his heart—which totally belongs to Connie. So why is
he the one scared spitless when
facing the altar for Connie’s Wedding.
Chapter 1Five Years Ago
“Who were you?”
“What are you talking about?”
Connie sat in the stopped car and waved helplessly out the windshield.
“Who was I?” Big John dominated the right seat of the rental car—he was broad-shouldered and tall enough to dominate any car, but this one was a squeeze. He squinted out the front windshield as if searching for a clue. Something Connie was lacking at the moment.
“No, I mean who was I?”
“Being even less clear than usual, Connie. And that’s saying something, girl. You’re Sergeant Connie Davis and I’m Sergeant John Wallace. We’re getting married in two days. Pleased to meet you.” He held out a hand as if to shake hers. Instead she grabbed onto it with both of hers and held on.
He was right, her thoughts were usually clarified and tested inside her head before she gave voice to them. Only around John did she ever let that barrier down. She’d try again.
“Six months ago, I was here at your farm for three days. It didn’t look anything like this.” The previously winter-barren Oklahoma fields now stretched out of view with wheat to the left and corn to the right. She’d never imagined that the four tall trees at the four corners of the cozy two-story farmhouse would be massively pink magnolias in mid-June. The wrap-around porch was embraced by roses in a thousand shades. “It all looks so…homey.”
“It is home. That’s why it looks that way. And we’d be there if you’d just drive that last couple hundred feet.”
“But who was I then? I…ran away.”
She’d left abruptly six months ago in the middle of a devastating loss for the family. Grandpa Wallace, Grumps, had died. And, not knowing what else to do, she had walked away.
No, she’d run.
Had she thought she was protecting the family by removing the obvious outsider? She certainly hadn’t recognized that there was any more than s*x between her and John. It wouldn’t be until she was barfing out her guts from pure terror against the sides of the Stockholm Cathedral that she’d come to understand that.
Had she thought she was protecting her heart by running away? Instead, she’d run from the only man who recognized she had one. Another thing she hadn’t understood at the time.
Instead she had wounded the man she’d been learning to love—the first ever in her life. Thankfully, John had forgiven her.
But would the rest of his family? Their texts said yes, but her heart—and nerves—were far less sure. They were now just a hundred feet down the gravel driveway and she didn’t recognize it at all. The tall corn blocked her view of the barn where she’d rebuilt Grumps’ tractor. The house and its massively blooming trees blocked the view of the orchard around back.
The only thing that made sense to her in the entire vista was John close beside her and looking worried.
She hadn’t seen a single one of the family since that day she’d run, except for Big John of course. Their team had been deployed in Eastern Europe—on the types of missions that no one in Eastern Europe could ever know about. They had been working to delay the Russian expansion, but it was clear that they were gearing up to roll westward once more. It looked as if Ukraine and Syria were in their sights and there was only so much the Night Stalkers could do to slow them down—warning Ukraine of the dangers to their Crimea region was still proving pointless. Some missions had delivered pinpoint “insurgency” at critically tactical moments. Dozens of other raids had gathered intel that the Russians had fought to hide.
The drastic setbacks they’d delivered to the Russian Navy’s plans to create a new fleet of aircraft carriers could also never be pinpointed to the Night Stalkers of the 160th SOAR.
Sergeant Connie Davis recognized herself as Connie the soldier. She was proud of the silent, fanatically driven, ace helicopter mechanic of the most successful company in the entire regiment. When Joint Special Operations Command, or occasionally even the President, needed to activate a company for a black ops mission, they tapped the 5th Battalion D Company.
“Too late to run,” John murmured in her ear.
“No. It’s not. We drove from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, we can drive back just as easily.”
“I’d be a goddamn pretzel by then.”
She considered her options. The driveway in mid-June was a tunnel of green that the setting sun was fast turning to gold. It was beautiful—and it was completely unnerving.
How could it be such a shocking contrast to the pure blue, winter sky she’d seen last December? She’d understood herself those three, cold winter days. Their bitter chill had fit her—an Army orphan. Those three days were the first she’d spent any time with a family since her slow-fading grandmother had died when Connie was sixteen. The first real family since her father had been shot down when Connie was twelve.
These lush fields and lovely farmhouse before her, so vibrant with life, were so foreign they could be alien. She didn’t understand any of this at all.
A small figure in a bright sundress stepped out onto the porch. After shading her eyes, the figure waved.
“Now it’s definitely too late,” John teased her.
Connie had finally learned how to judge when he was teasing her with greater than ninety-four percent accuracy.
“Who’s driving anyway?” She tried a riposte—which had less than a five percent success rate at stopping John, but she kept trying.
“Not you. We’re just sitting our asses here. C’mon, honey. This boy wants to go home. That’s Mama waiting.”
“You’re close enough to walk.”
“Nope. Not giving you a chance to run.”
“I won’t.” And she turned to look at him. How had she ever run from him the first time? He was such a good man and the way he looked at her, she could actually believe in herself. She had made the mistake of running away once—perhaps the greatest mistake in her life as it had almost lost her John. Never again.
“Maybe I’ll be the one to get out and walk.” And she’d take the keys with her if it would leave him stuck so close to home but unable to get there.
“Too late for that, too.”
“Why do say thaaa—” She finished the last on a startled cry as a truck horn blared out close behind her. Only her seatbelt kept her from banging her head on the ceiling.
John waved cheerily out the back window.
Connie checked the rear view just in time to see Paps climb down out of his big pickup. He strolled up to her window with the rolling gait of a big man—almost as big and powerful as John—before crouching down to face her. They might not be related by blood, but Big John certainly looked like Paps’ son.
“Getting pretty close to the altar to be getting cold feet.” Paps’ grin was as infectious as his step-son’s.
“It’s impossible to have cold feet during an Oklahoma summer,” she did her best to smile back.
“Summer?” He inspected the sky in surprise. “This ain’t but June. Even so, June brides got no excuses for cold feet. Do they, John?”
“Not as far as I can see, Paps.”
“I was worried about you being the one with cold feet.” The voice, and a smack on the back of John’s head, came in from the window on his side.