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One Shot

By:Laurie Roma

ecurities she had jumped at the chance, never once regretting her decision. Tara was one of them now and she was one of the best. Finally she had found the place where she belonged.

Now if only she could be as lucky in her personal life…

Bella and Jason lived in the top floor of the luxury apartment complex that housed most of the members of IAD and Mac Securities. Tara lived on the third floor in the building. She was happy that she lived so close to her friends, not that she was home much. Tara kept herself out on assignment, keeping busy because that’s the way she liked it. But now that she was back in Chicago where she made her home, she still couldn’t find a sense of peace. One of her greatest strengths she’d always depended on was how she could finish the job then leave it behind, but lately, lately it wasn’t working.

The restless feeling she sought to keep at bay just wouldn’t go away. She had been on several back-to-back missions, volunteering for the most dangerous assignments.

But inside she still felt numb, disassociated from everything.

Tara knew she was worrying people, but she simply couldn’t make herself care. No, it wasn’t that she didn’t care, she just didn’t know what to do about it. When she was out on a mission it was the only time she felt anything anymore, but doing what she did and seeing the things she’d seen had a price…

Shaking off her disgustingly pitiful mood, Tara looked around and saw all four of her friends staring at her expectantly.

“What?”

“Well, what do you think?” Bella asked, trying to hide a smile.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Bella, it’s your wedding. Pick whatever you want.” Damn. Tara immediately felt sorry for her outburst.

What the hell is wrong with me?

Not insulted in the least, Bella shook her head and laughed out loud. “The wedding is pretty much planned. Less than three weeks to go. You don’t even know what we were talking about, do you?”

Tara’s blank face made all the women laugh.

“We were talking about bachelorette parties,” Liz explained. “Obviously you weren’t listening to us.”

Okay, now that she could get into.

Feeling slightly guilty, Tara tried to relax. “Look, Bella, I’m just not good at this planning stuff. Your bachelorette party I can do, I can plan that for you no problem. All this other stuff…I’m sorry, I’ll try to pay attention. I know this is important to you.”

She pressed her fingertips to her temple to try to relieve the pressure lurking there. Her recent excursion to Cape Town had been a tough one. Although the debriefing was finished, memories of the mission stayed with her like a bad hangover. Christ, she needed a vacation. Only, people like her didn’t take vacations. Perhaps she just needed to stay busy and go on another assignment, pronto.

“Sorry, I’m just tired,” Tara murmured absently.

A look of concern crossed Bella’s face as she reached a hand out to touch Tara’s arm. “Are you okay? I’m sorry, sweetie. You just got back from god knows where, and here I am forcing you to deal with my wedding crap. You should be in bed getting some sleep or relaxing.”

That was one of the perks of having your best friends know your darkest secret. Tara didn’t have to hide from them, or lie about what she did. On the other hand, having people care was a bitch.

Tara didn’t want anyone’s freaking sympathy.

She was a counterterrorist agent for Christ’s sake, she could damn well handle some wedding plans. Son of a bitch, she needed to be alone when she was in this kind of mood. Not fit for human consumption on any level, she needed something to keep her busy. Something hard, something dangerous. She needed to get away from her friends who were looking at her with all that compassion in their eyes before she screamed.

Tara waved a hand dismissively. “I’m fine, Bell. Don’t worry about me.” She managed a smile for her friends. “You know, just had a little too much fun in the sun and all that. Gotta love South Africa. I must be depressed being back here with all this snow.”

“Is that where you were?” Liz asked, truly intrigued. “I always wanted to go cage diving with the great white sharks down there, but I don’t think I have enough courage to do it in reality.” Although Bella knew about IAD, Liz still thought they were all agents of Mac Securities, still a dangerous job, but nothing compared to the truth. They tried to keep any information as vague as possible, but Tara wondered how much Liz actually knew.

Tara held her easygoing expression by force of sheer will and determination. Deep down she was screaming inside. At the very mention of sharks her blood froze. She had been part of a task force working in conjunction with CIA operatives to retrieve three canisters of stolen biological agents in Cape Town. During the joint operation, the team had been forced to find cover in the water before the charges they had placed up on a bluff blew them all to high hell.

Local authorities had screwed with their case big-time and the situation had gone FUBAR pretty damn quick. They had been able to recover two of the canisters, but the surviving Tango had been able to get away with one. Needing immediate extraction and unable to wait for airtranspo, Tara’s team had been forced to swim miles to safety amidst the hazardous rocks falling from above. With a few of the agents wounded, that was never a good situation and Tara had watched in horror as sharks drawn to the scent of blood in the water had ripped two members of their team to pieces.

No words could describe what that had been like.

Tara tried to be flippant and winked at Liz. “Yeah, it’s been snowing here for weeks now and I thought a little sun might cheer me up.”

Bella and Liz had quickly learned that the trips that all of them took were never just for fun but they smiled just as Tara had intended. They didn’t know what happened and, by god, she would keep it that way. No one should have to deal with that shit, but Mikayl

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