Courage (Blackstone, #4) by J.L. Drake

Prologue





Location: Southern México

Coordinates: Classified



John



Thirteen Hours Ago



“Raven One!” Chamness from Team North Rock screamed over the radio. “What’s your ETA?”

“Drop me down in the middle,” I commanded and signaled for the chopper to dive to the right and pull a quick turn. Flashes of fire lit up the gray sky as we roared toward the battle. The blades whipped the water around, which made our visual blurry. Cole’s mouth was moving, but he was on a different channel, so I moved my attention to Mark and Keith and saw they were ready to rappel when I was. Mike slapped my shoulder and signaled he was good to go. I glanced at Cole, who stood and gave a quick nod to move out.

I threaded the rope through one hand, while the other held another section behind my back. I leaned out into the air facing the chopper with the rope secured around my waist and pushed off with my feet, then let gravity take control.

We plummeted toward the unknown.

The zip of the rope heightened my senses, and I was psyched as my feet hit the ground. I quickly unclipped my gun and held it to my eye to line up the scope.

One.

Two.

Three.

Four.

I counted as each of my teammates landed next to me. Once the fourth hit, we spread out like ants to our next posts. Our orders were to shoot first and ask later. Our hunt was to locate the missing rookie who had gotten separated from North Rock eight days ago. We didn’t mess around when one of our own was in trouble.

“Fox Two to North Rock One,” I whispered into my comms. “Landed and are in position.”

Mosquitos and raindrops filled in the dead space of time while we held tight, crouched down below the thick terrain. We scanned the tree trunks to see if they’d morph into a human shape and listened carefully to try to catch even a whisper through the rainfall.

Mark held my stare as we both wondered where the other team was and how many were even left standing. Thirty more painful seconds passed, and we heard Chamness’s voice.

“Follow the route as planned but come up the west side.” The radio clicked off, but we froze when he clicked it again. “I’ve lost visual on three. Something isn’t right here, boys. I feel it.” Three pops in the background had us racing across the ground. The wind was wild, and the rain matched its intensity. Thankfully, we were dressed all in black, which allowed us to jet across the open field and not be seen. Most of our survival gear was stitched into the fabric of our suits. In case of captivity, it was hard to spot, often overlooked as it was in our pants, and those were normally left on.

We had no time or warning. We had gotten the call and left.

It had been called in as a level five extraction. The worst kind.

As Shadows faded into the back of my mind, thoughts of my family weighed heavily on me. Something strange passed through me as I scanned the forest, a shiver that burrowed deep down in my bones. It left an aftershock I knew would still be there days later. I had a bad feeling that this mission would be lifechanging.

This was a very different mission for us. We weren’t looking for a kidnapped victim. No, somehow the tables were flipped, and we now seemed to be the prey.

Cole signaled for me to move to the right as we slowed our pace and muted our steps. Once we were back under the protection of the shrubs and trees, we started to hunt our target.

“Twenty-nine red fires,” Chamness commanded for us to move into formation. It was one of our many code words we used just between Blackstone and North Rock.

We formed a U shape, weapons raised as we closed in on the enemy.

Pop! Pop! I blinked back the moisture and took out two men who darted in front of me. Cole shot three, and Mike choked out another.

Six down.

Suddenly, the wind changed direction, which set the hair on my neck on end. It was almost as if Mother Nature had given us a warning that more was coming. Just like out of a nightmare, a wall of men stood up, and a rocket launcher, pointed in our direction, came into focus.

“Run!” I shouted, and we ran like hell. The blast hit hard, and I was thrown at least fifteen feet. Heat and debris smothered my body like a blanket, then…Whack! I hit a tree trunk and fell with a thud. Something hot licked my side, and I fought to keep my vision clear.

I rolled onto my back and began to go through my mental checklist. I slid my hand down my body, thankful that it didn’t seem too bad. It hurt like a bitch, but it was just a deep graze.