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It had been the longest damned day of my entire career.
Wait... let me think on that a moment. Thirteen years of military service under my belt; yes, still the longest day.
But I hadn't known just how much longer it would really be.
I’d spent two weeks planning today’s events: the execution of the preparedness trials for General Hashan Zatokitan, the leading military general of the United Alliance. It was an honor to host such a guest but also a tiring burden. I was ready for a nice, hearty supper with my husband and my wonderfully soft bed (husband optional since our bed seemed smaller these days).
On the way to my closet, I happened by my full-length mirror and couldn't help but take pause. I was only thirty-three weeks pregnant but felt, and dare I say looked, as huge as a house. It was weird, though. I thought at the beginning of this journey that I'd mind the changes in my body but, honestly, they didn't really bother me. I felt my sons move and grow and it filled my heart with awe and love. Austin still found me attractive and my twins and I were healthy. Nothing else mattered.
I heard the front door to our apartment open. I left the bedroom to find Austin hunkered over the control panel.
"What are you doing?" I asked. I took a few more steps forward and was surprised to see his shoulders heaving with labored breathing. He was creating a new override code for the front door lock. "Austin?"
A gasp escaped my throat when he suddenly jumped up and ran toward me. He took one of my hands and lightly ran the fingers of his other hand over my protruding belly. Sweat glistened over his forehead and his eyes were laced with worry. "Sky, I love you."
"What is going on?"
"I want you to know that I'm sorry. I never meant for it to happen like this."
I swallowed a ball of fear and felt tears welling in my eyes. "You're scaring me."
"I love you and my sons more than anything. Please know that."
I jumped when something from the outside hit our front door so hard that a vase on a table nearby fell over. A series of heavy knocks followed.
"Chief Legend! Come out now with your hands up! We'll take you by force if necessary!"
I tried to ask again but the words refused to come; the horrified expression on his face was enough to stall my words. I breathed heavy with him and tried to keep the bile down.
"Whatever you do, please don't believe I had anything to do with it."
"I don't understand..."
"Jackson will explain..."
The code on the door didn't hold long. As soon as the door came open, a security detail rushed inside. I didn't know what I expected to see given that my husband was the head of security for Special Services Division 32, but I didn't expect a security team from General Zatokitan's personal staff.
One of them grabbed Austin and threw him to the floor, not an easy task given his muscular frame. When I screamed, another one grabbed my arms and pulled me away. I struggled but the security detail begged me to calm down for my babies’ sakes. Austin didn't seem to want to struggle at all, as if he knew he was defeated.
"Get your hands off of her!"
Jackson Montgomery, Austin's assistant and our long-time friend, came around the corner. At the mention of me, Austin tried to wiggle around as they cuffed him, yelling something I couldn't decipher.
"I don't take orders from you," growled the officer still digging his fingers into my bicep. I wanted to punch him, or, at the least, kick him in the balls, but I was afraid he'd hurt me in turn.
Jackson marched up to us, anger spreading across his face in one red swipe. He removed the officer's hand from my arm and proceeded to stand between us. "You just made me the acting chief of security by arresting my superior and this is my base, so yes, you will listen to me."
They pulled Austin up from the floor and began leading him out without so much as a word of explanation. This was ludicrous. Maybe this was my preparedness trial. Maybe this was a fake scenario designed to see how I would react. I grasped at this little lie and anything else that would help me make sense of what had just happened.
"Wait!" I yelled and started after them.
One of the general's officers stepped between me and the door.
I whirled around to Jackson and the officer who'd left his finger imprints in my arm. "What the hell is going on!?"
The officer barely glanced at me. Instead, he smirked at Jackson. "I'll let you have the pleasure of telling her about her traitor husband."
"Wh… what?" I stammered.
He finally addressed me. "In the meantime, you are to clear out of your apartment right now. We're commencing a search."
"On whose authority?"
"General Hashan Zatokitan."
Jackson put his arm around my shoulders. "Sorry, Sky, but we need to go."
"Are you fucking kidding me?" I wasn't one to curse, but there it was. That's how ridiculous this entire scenario was. "Where am I supposed to go?"
"It will only be a few hours. We'll figure it out, okay? Please, just come with me and I'll explain."
I stood there a moment longer. Maybe to glare down the offending man? I didn't know. He'd already busied himself with something else, my shattered world apparently of no interest to him.