Recon - 3 | iii

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Daniel, Helick and Ichiro geared up for their recon mission while Shea gave them an overview of the prison again. They all suspected it could be a trap but Shea was confident that it was not.

"And remember, the primary objective is recon," Marx said to the three. "If you can't get in without making a stir, don't go in, surveil the property. We need to find out if Sven is alive and the extent of his operations in Penthart."

"What do we do if things go sideways?" Helick asked putting on his gloves.

"Make it out alive."

Helick nodded.

"While you guys do that I'll be taking a trip back to Pentorium, speak to Vescovi and the others in person."

Marx walked off, and Shea made a move to follow. She stopped debating over whether or not she should speak to Ichiro. He was her mate, but Ichiro was also a stranger. They were both strangers to each other. With no boundaries yet established, she did not want to make him uncomfortable. Or cause him feel obligated in any way. She closed her eyes bracing to give him a casual goodbye. She turned thinking she had her words down and collided into his chest. He caught her around the waist to steady her.

"I—"

He raised an eyebrow looking down at her waiting for her to find the one line she had rehearsed to say to him.

"Umm..."

He kissed her on the forehead. "I'll keep safe," he said. "You do the same."

She nodded harder than she needed. "I-I will. I will be here. Not waiting or anything," she rushed to add in. "Not that I won't be waiting. It's just not waiting, waiting, you know what I mean."

"Haven't the faintest."

Shea was about to give him a lengthy explanation while hoping to salvage her dignity in the process when she noted the faint note of amusement in his voice.

Slanting her eyes at him, she said, "I don't like you."

Ichiro pulled her closer. "Apparently that isn't a requirement in our arrangement."

"Ok, you two, break it up. We have a job to do," Helick called out.

Shea released a shaky breath when Ichiro walked off. She rubbed the palms of her hand along the front of her pants. She needed to find a way to keep her cool.

"This is new for you."

She wrapped her fingers into fists, setting aside her bungled emotions when she heard Martha's voice. She faced the other woman who, as usual, had a book in her hand. Shea reminded herself to be cordial. Polite. Not snappish and rude.

"Something like that," she said.

Martha gave her an understanding smile. "It gets easier." Martha walked off with that her nose down in her book again.

"Martha," Shea called out to her. The other woman was almost at the top of the stairs before Shea concluded her internal debate. Apologizing was not an everyday thing for her. Martha gave her, her full attention. "I'm sorry, about being nasty to you. I was a jerk. You're not weak—"

"I know," Martha said directly. "It takes a strong person to love with all their heart without seeking anything in return and a stronger person still to forgive. I forgive you. I did a long time ago."

Shea could say nothing else as Martha walked away.

***

Penthart Supermax. Home to some of the most hardened criminals in the country. Around the prison's exterior, was a vast expanse of open space. To get inside the central area, you needed to go over two different rings of fences. Electrified they encircled the prison compound. At thirty feet tall, serrated barbed wires topped them right around. In between the circles and inside the compound were guard towers.

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