Stupid sandstorm. Savas grimaced as he blew more grit out of his sniper scope. The storm had popped up and disappeared in less than two hours, but it had been unexpected and caught him unawares. I hate cleaning sand. It gets absolutely everywhere.
He dropped a tiny cleaning brush and glanced around the cramped abandoned bunker he and his team were calling home for the night. Kenan had taken over guard duty after Savas stumbled in, bringing half the desert with him. Bener lay curled up in one corner, finally sleeping for once.
And Eser—Savas frowned.
Eser was outside, checking on something or other, muttering about camera feeds and interference and who knew what else as he stalked out to check on their security perimeter. His computer was still up and running, though. May not be an expert, but that doesn’t look anything like a security program.
Savas glanced at the door, then scooted closer to the glowing laptop screen. He grinned. I knew Eser was distracted. He’d known for a while Eser and Stef had been in contact somehow. No wonder Eser was so ticked when he left. The conversation on the screen had left off in the middle of a hilarious round of name calling.
The time stamp also showed the last comment had been posted by Stef over an hour ago. Savas glanced back at the door before reaching for the keyboard. I probably shouldn’t do this. But Eser would be outside for at least another hour, if his angry rant earlier had been at all accurate. Might as well let Stef know the chat is over for the night.
It was just the nice thing to do.
And has nothing to do with the fact that maybe I miss those crazy girls a little. Yeah, he’d never been a very good liar. Even to himself.
Hello. You still there?
Savas grimaced as he hit Enter. Not very original. But an hour is a long time to wait. Especially with Stef’s attention span.
Savas stared at the screen for a few long moments, listening to the wind throw sand against the bunker door. Bener grunted and turned over.
Hello? A slight pause. Savas scowled at the blinking cursor as words crawled across the screen. I’m not sure if I should apologize for Stef or applaud her creativity.
Savas smirked as he typed his reply. Probably both. Though the “scruffy nerf-herder” comment is hardly original. Who is this?
Two guesses. I gather this isn’t Eser? Not coolly sarcastic enough.
Savas stifled a laugh. There are a few people who would disagree with the sarcastic bit. This is Savas. And I’m guessing–He glowered at the screen. Well, 50-50 shot, at any rate. Jena?
Good guess. A yellow circle resembling a face popped up on the screen. Savas blinked. What on earth is that? Second question. Do you have any idea what time it is here?
Savas paused. Um. No. Sorry? I’m not too sure I even know where I am at the moment, let alone the time difference. Somewhere with far too much sand.
The little yellow circle popped up again. Maybe it sort of resembled a smile. In a really creepy sort of way.
Playing desert nomad, are you? I’m sure you look convincing in a dish-dash. And it’s very late. Or rather, very early. Again with the yellow circle.
Savas shook his head, typing again. What on earth is that weird yellow thing?
You mean this? The creepy circle made another appearance. You really aren’t good with tech, are you?
You’d be horrified at how “non-techy” I can be. Savas shrugged and typed his reply. Just ask Eser about the time he tried to teach me to code. And the four hours he spent trying to restore the computer when I was done.
LOL. Savas cocked an eyebrow. Speaking of code…
Just make him lie motionless in the rain on a roof for six hours.
Savas grinned. Been there, done that, though without the rain. Heard about Eser’s bad sunburn for weeks after, too.
So, desert, obviously. A long pause. Savas tapped his fingers against his knee as he stared at the blinking line, waiting for the rest of Jena’s message to come through. You all holding up okay?
Savas grimaced at the screen. How much should I tell her? How much could he tell her? Sure, the incident last week with the scorpions was funny—but the fact it happened in the middle of an enemy base tended to kill a lot of the humor. So did the fact that Eser nearly got himself shot three minutes later.
His hesitation probably told its own story. Jena was nothing if not perceptive.
We’re holding up. Savas paused, searching for words. Kenan has a new respect for scorpions. And vipers actually make pretty good weapons when flung at an enemy’s face. Never seen anyone duck that fast.
Jena’s response came slower this time. She’d most likely guessed what he wasn’t saying. Glad there’s a screen and several thousand miles between us. She would have that look on her face, the one that made you feel those blue eyes could see right through you.
Any day you walk away, right?
Savas smiled, shaking his head. Glad she didn’t push this time.
I’ll pass the scorpion tidbit on to Kris. So far, she’s too busy pretending she doesn’t miss Kenan to join the techy chat.
Yeah, well. That makes two of them. Savas grimaced. Sounds like there’s some mutual pining going on.
What form does it take with Kenan? So far, symptoms on this end include irritability, mood swings, and compulsive staring at the computer.
Huh. Sounds like fun. Savas winced. Good thing Kris’s friends are patient people.
Over here it looks more like bigger explosions, forced joking around and moments of silent staring off into space. Savas hesitated, clenching his jaw. Also swinging between talking about her a lot some days, then avoiding mentioning her at all.
Hmm. Familiar. The cursor blinked at him, and Savas glared at it until Jena’s message came through. Look on the bright side. He hasn’t started leaving silverware in the fridge.
Well, there is that. Not that they had much silverware to misplace. Aside from Kris’s pining, how are all of you doing? If nothing else, life has to be a lot less stressful.
Life is eerily normal and routine. Not too many gun fights or high-speed chases. The creepy yellow smiley face reappeared. Stef is learning to drive stick properly. So far the only casualties have been next-door Norma’s petunias and white picket fence.
Don’t tell me you miss the fugitive lifestyle. And sounds like Stef is driving the way she did in Europe. So it’s actually normal for her, and not a by-product of panic? Savas snorted at the memory of Stef’s indignant squeal.
She always sounds half-panicked. She can’t help it. She’s Italian.
Savas raised an eyebrow. If Italian = panic, are there others out there like Stef? The world might not survive.
Well, I’d better get back to bed. I’m facing off with a classroom of bored, hormonal teenagers at 08:00. At that hour, I could speak English and they’d consider it foreign.
Savas grinned. Any of them give you trouble, give them a pop quiz. Better yet, throw in some Arabic and stare at them like they’re crazy when they don’t understand.
I might try it. That’d probably discourage a few over-ambitious senior boys, too.
Savas glared at the screen. If they don’t take a hint, tell them you’re friends with a military sniper who could—and would—shoot them from 500 yards and they’d never see it coming. They don’t need to know I’m overseas.
Yeah, I’ll conveniently leave that bit out. Cue creepy smiley face. Savas crossed his arms, a sudden desire to see her real smile squeezing his chest.
I miss you.
Savas blinked. Did I really just send that? Bok. Is there any way to un-send something?
The message box stayed empty far too long. Savas let out a raw breath.
I miss you, too. Another pause. Everyone here is too polite to me.
Savas stifled a laugh, doing his absolute best to ignore the slight sting in his eyes at those first four words. Just kick Stef off the computer once in a while, and I’ll wrestle Eser for his. I bet we could get a few conversations in before they regained control.
Heaven forbid we interrupt their insult-slinging.
They’d get over it.
It’d be good for them. They get their own way too much already.
Savas grinned. Somehow, I think they would beg to differ.
Gotta go. The cursor paused and Savas sighed, starting to close the laptop. A new line stopped him. Take care of yourself, okay? You guys watch each other’s backs.
He smiled. Always. You too–stay safe.
I’ll keep an eye out for axe-wielding petunias.
Savas smothered a chuckle as he finally shut down the laptop. That short, ten-minute conversation made him feel more at ease then he’d been in a long time.
At least I know those girls are still alive and well. And they still remembered him and his brothers, still missed them. Even after all the hardships we put them through.
It was–nice. To be remembered.
Read more of Savas’s story in book 1 of the Katiller series, Kenan, by Karis Waters and Carrie Lemke. You can enjoy more character shorts on our blog under “Katiller.”
Special thanks to our model, Luis Alicea. Photography by Katie Morford.