“Are you trying to give me a heart attack?”

Watching the The Ghost Hunters, scary doll in the attic, episode during a huge thunderstorm when Zoo is away on business is probably not the smartest idea I’ve ever had. And I certainly I didn’t expect Jake tonight, but here he is, on the couch next to me, the familiar sand scattered everywhere.

He’s still in full desert cammies, boots on the table, and he shrugs. “No one told you to watch that show.”

“Did you see the freaky doll? Tell me that wouldn’t freak you out.

He just stares at me, his eyes a smoky gray, the familiar green bandanna wrapped around his head. “The doll didn’t do anything.”

“I saw its eyes move.”

“Uh-huh.” He kicks off his boots and proceeds to make himself even more comfortable. “So, you spoke to my editor today.”

I frown at him. “She’s my editor, not yours.”

He snorts, like I’m the one who’s completely wrong. “What did she say about me?”

“She says you’re a pain in the ass.”

“She said I’m a man of honor.”

“If you listened to the whole conversation, why do I need to repeat it?”

“You’re not going to make me do anything stupid, are you?” Nick asks from the seat next to me, and again I jump.

“That depends on your definition of stupid,” I tell him as I try to calm myself down. Between the Ghost Hunters, the thunder and the reappearing out of nowhere SEALs, my threshold for surprises is very low right now.

“Told you she wouldn’t give you an answer,” Chris drawled. He’s sprawled out on the kitchen table, smoking his familiar cigarette, content with the knowledge that he’s got a few more months before I torture him.

“She’s already got a few scenes written for your book,” Jake informs him, and Chris’s different colored eyes fix on me like I’m his newest target. “You’re going to go through hell.”

“He can go before me,” Nick says, as though he’s being magnanimous.

Chris ignores him. “There’s some guy named Wyatt upstairs looking for you. He says he’s ready.”

“He’s going to have to wait. Or tell him he can go bother Larissa for now.”

“But who’s that?” Jake demands. I look up and see Hex standing quietly in the doorway, camera around his neck, whiskey-brown eyes quiet with patience.

“That’s who I’m working on right now.”

“In between watching scary doll stories?”

“That’s research.”

“I’ve got some ground rules,” Nick says, as though I’m paying him any attention. “First, I’m not falling love. At all. I’d be happy to sleep around though. For the cause.”

“The cause?”

“Yeah, your career. The good of the book. The cause.” He looks at Jake and shakes his head as if to say, she’s a little slow on the uptake, isn’t she?

“I’ll take that under advisement,” I say, wondering if their CO is in the immediate area and willing to take them all off my hands for a while.

“You’re screwed,” Jake tells him. “And I don’t just mean that literally.”

“I’m still not done with you, you know,” I inform him. He just shakes his head and sighs and mutters something about IEDs and me not knowing what I’m doing and good thing he’s here to advise me on the technical side of things.

I hand him the pile of manuscript papers. “Then you should get to work.”

“My editor and I need to have a talk,” he says.

“She’s really my editor,” Nick says.

“She likes me best,” Chris calls out.

I look over at Hex who shakes his head sympathetically and I secretly begin to wonder how he’d look in jungle greens.

Steph T.

For more on Jake, feel free to go here and read the archives.