Huge thanks to Alex Kade for betaing this for me, and generally being a great inspiration to keep writing!
There are five people in front of me.
Three are my teammates, all looking panicked and helpless. Two are the associates of the man who is currently holding the gun to my head.
I'm on my knees in front of him, doing my best to look unfazed by the fact that he has me at gunpoint, and is shouting so loudly it's making my ears ring and my head throb.
Ethan looks shocked, which is kind of ironic. We're put into life or death situations every day of the week when we're on a mission together, and he's perfectly cool about it. But a gang of guys burst into the hotel we're staying at and demand information in exchange for my life, and he's genuinely taken by surprise.
I've already gone over the scenario several times in my mind. No matter what, though, I'm on my own over here. I could probably disarm the guy holding the gun to my head, but then there's the small fact that one of his buddies has a gun pointed at Benji.
They're Americans, which isn't that unusual. It sounds like the info they want is purely technological. They want access to mask machines, bugging devices, and contact lens cameras. As far as I'm concerned, if they take the damn gun away from my head we can negotiate the lenses.
As if on cue, the gun is pressed harder into my temple and I jerk sideways, wincing.
"Will you stop that," I snap, which is a ridiculous request given the circumstances, but one born of frustration and annoyance. Also, strangely, it works.
He pulls the gun back an inch from my head, but his aim doesn't falter. I look across the room to Benji and meet his eyes; he looks petrified and is making no attempt to hide it. The gun being pressed into his back could be easily snatched and turned on its owner, but I'm assuming Benji is thinking the same way I am.
The third guy doesn't seem to be armed, but he stands behind Carter and Hunt with a cigarette held between two fingers. He blows the smoke periodically in between the pair, but neither agent flinches. All eyes are on me. It only increases my embarrassment at being the damsel in distress in this little game of heroes we seem to be playing.
"I'm gonna ask you one more time," my captor says slowly. "Give us access to your tech, or we blow your guy's brains out."
Carter is poker-faced and beautiful, as she always is no matter the situation. Hunt is just as expressionless, though their tense bodies give them away.
"For every minute that goes by without intel, I'm gonna shoot," the man announces, walking to stand beside me. He makes to point the gun at one of my knees, and I take a chance.
I stand and hit out for the gun, knocking the barrel downward and throwing his aim. A bullet hits the floor, and a domino effect takes place as Hunt elbows the smoker in the face, and Benji twists to turn the gun on the man behind him.
The guy is bigger than me, but not by much. He lacks the experience to be a real threat, but I still falter when he throws a punch that I have to arch back to avoid.
I'm not much of a sparrer, but my energy beats this guy on every level. I duck and dodge until he seems tired, acting on anger over coherent thought. He leans forward, throwing the force of his body behind a headbutt that misses its target.
I duck a faulty throw, twist, and I'm behind him. Two hits to the back of the knees and he hits the ground heavily, head first. Before he can attempt to get back up, there is the echo of a gun being loaded.
I look up and see Benji, standing with legs spaced apart and gun held out before him, aiming straight for the man's head.
A quick glance around shows the smoking guy is now unconscious, slumped back against the wall with an unlit cigarette sticking out of his pocket, while the man who had been threatening Benji is now held in a vice grip by agent Carter.
She holds his hands behind his back and twists his wrist when he makes an attempt to struggle. A startled squeak emits, and he falls silent.
Ethan is the first to move, rubbing an arm across his face before pointing to me. "Brandt, call up IMF. Tell them we've had an attack, to come by and collect the perpetrators."
I nod and head out of the room for the phone. The call is made and I don't bother to explain beyond what I have to. I'm not in the mood for being official right now when all I want to do is get these idiots out of my hotel room and crawl into bed for a week.
Benji gestures me over when I re-enter the room to tell Ethan the call's been made, and I walk over to him. He smiles at me, a little awkward, and mumbles something that he covers with a cough and a glance in the opposite direction.
Confused, I lean down a little. "What?"
"I, I said. . .I'm just so, um, well, I'm very glad that, um, you – you're okay."
My lips quirk as I try not to smile, but it's a losing battle. I reach a hand out and pat his shoulder, more touched by his words than I'm ready to admit.
"You too, Benj."
Without warning, he moves forward and wraps his arms around me, an awkward attempt at a manly hug. I stifle a laugh over his shoulder, tentatively pat his back, and after a moment he pulls away and steps back, sniffing and looking around as he plants a hand on his hip. His eyes hit the floor and he lets out a deep breath.
"It's a good thing you, um, hit that guy when you did," he says. "I was actually moments away from disarming his friend. I had it all planned out."
He tells me his plan and I pretend to listen, even though it's Benji, and he's so full of shit that it takes every effort not to laugh when he goes on to explain how he'd been going to threaten to blow the place up using the guy's cigarette and a wad of imaginary gunpowder.