The startled recognition in his voice made Briar lift her head to peer up at him. He pushed back his goggles and put a hand on her shoulder. She stiffened and squinted up at him, then stared in shock. Supervisory Special Agent Matteo DeLuca, commander of the HRT.
Shit. Briar internally groaned as humiliation and anger churned in her gut, mixing with the pain, burning away the awful shakiness. She resisted the urge to look away.
He scowled down at her. “What the hell are you— You took out Ramadi?”
Clenching her jaw, Briar lowered her gaze and rested her cheek against the snow, uncaring of the freezing cold against her skin. If word of her capture got out, her career— hell, life as she knew it—would be over.
The hand on her shoulder tightened. “Who shot you?” he demanded, clearly out of patience with her silent routine.
She didn’t know, so she didn’t answer. She was acutely aware of the seven other men standing around watching and listening while she tried to come up with a way out of this mess. Being caught burned a hell of a lot worse than the bullet wound, and it hurt plenty.
DeLuca hunkered down more, shielding her from the worst of the wind with his body. “I don’t know who sent you but we’re on the same side and I want to help you. So talk to me.”
There was nothing to say. She didn’t answer to him or anyone else waiting down this mountain. Ramadi was dead, and that was all he needed to know until she cleared things with Janaia.
DeLuca pushed out a frustrated sigh and waved one of his men forward. “Schroder, come take a look at her. The rest of you maintain the perimeter. Other shooter’s likely still in the area.” He stood and pulled out what she assumed was a satellite phone. The screen gave off a faint illumination in the darkness.
Good luck getting a call out in these conditions, she thought with a mental snort.
Another man, she assumed Schroder, the team’s medic, came over and squatted beside her. “Your name’s B?”
She flashed him a cold look that only made him grin, his teeth a startling white against the camouflage paint on his skin.
“I’ll take that as a yes.” He started pulling things out of his ruck and she heard the snap of latex gloves going on.
Briar closed her eyes against the wind for a moment and braced herself for more pain. She could hear DeLuca moving around close by as the medic began searching her for injuries. She involuntarily hissed through her teeth when Schroder’s hand swept over the wound.
“Anywhere else besides this?” he asked, continuing his assessment.
Gritting her teeth, she gave a terse shake of her head. She’d been lucky. The wound hurt like a bitch but it wasn’t life-threatening or anything. Just enough to slow her down, piss her off and make her miserable. It felt like someone had taken a blowtorch to her skin as Schroder cut through her clothing and exposed the wound.
The low beam of a pen light lit up the darkness as he took a closer look. “That’s a pretty good gash.” He turned to DeLuca, who’d put his phone away. Likely because he couldn’t get reception in this storm, let alone with all the trees around to block the signal. “She’ll need stitches.”
“Put a dressing on it for now. You can do the honors when we get her down to the command center.”
And there it was. They were taking her in.
“Let me go,” she said, surprised at how rough her voice was.
DeLuca looked down at her sharply and shook his head. “Not a chance.”