Military K-9 Unit Christmas

By: Valerie Hansen
Military K-9 Unit Christmas_ Christmas Escape ; Yuletide Target



ONE


“I love my job,” Rachel Fielding murmured, smiling. “Who wouldn’t? I help brave members of the military and get all the free kisses from them I want.” She chuckled and blushed, checking her surroundings to make sure no one had overheard her silly musings.

Her patients might have four paws and wagging tails, but they were the dearest part of her job as a veterinary assistant. Sure, some could be hard to handle, but very few had proved impossible in the years she’d worked at Canyon Air Force Base in Texas. Since a blissful marriage and raising her own children didn’t seem to be in her future, she’d fill that void via her job. Thankfully, any time she got in a bind trying to tend to a sick or injured dog she could always count on fellow techs or Captain Kyle Roark, DVM, her boss for two of the past four years.

Rachel knelt to hug Stryker, a three-legged German shepherd who had had his front leg amputated after being wounded overseas. For a tough K-9 soldier who had taken down the worst of the worst in battle, he sure was a sweetie—once you gained his trust as she had.

The abrupt opening of a nearby door made them both jump. “Easy, boy,” Rachel said to soothe the dog. She smiled up at her boss. “I’ll be in soon. I was just socializing Stryker a little on my break.”

Captain Kyle Roark shook his head. “It’s not that, Fielding. There’s a personal call for you. They say it’s important.”

“Sorry.” Rachel got to her feet. Since her K-9 buddy immediately started leaning against her, looking up and pleading with his beautiful brown eyes, she asked, “Can I bring Stryker with me? You said he needs more casual exposure.”

“Fine.” Roark held the door open for them. “Take your call on the phone in my office.”

“Thanks.” Barking echoed in waves along the corridors when Rachel and the big shepherd passed by. Now that winter had brought a cooldown, the dogs housed at the training facility and animal hospital were more active as well as vocal. “Did the caller say what this was about?”

The captain paused at the entrance to his small office and gestured instead of replying. To Rachel’s surprise he followed her and the dog in, pulled out a chair and said, “Sit,” as he handed her the portable telephone from his desk. “Please.”

Both she and the obedient K-9 complied. Rachel was getting uneasy. Captain Roark had always been a perfect gentleman with all the enlisted personnel but he had never, in her memory, acted so solicitous. Her hands were trembling and she used them both to grip the phone.

“This is Airman Fielding speaking.”

A woman’s voice captured and held her attention. “I’m with Patient Services at Municipal Hospital in San Antonio. I have had a terrible time locating you, Ms. Fielding. Is your first name Rachel and do you have a sister, Angela?”

“Yes. But I haven’t seen...”

“Angela is here with us. She’s asking for you, Ms. Fielding.”

The unspoken meaning behind that statement weighed on Rachel’s heart as if a boulder lay atop her chest, making it hard to breathe. Stryker sensed her tension and pressed his good shoulder to her knee. “My sister? Are you sure?”

“Yes, ma’am. If it’s at all possible, I urge you to get here immediately.”

“Angela’s sick?”

“She’s been injured. I’m not authorized to go into detail. Everything will be clear once you’ve visited and spoken with her. You are coming?”

“Of course.” Rachel’s stomach knotted, and she tasted bile on her tongue. If her sister had been hurt in an accident there would be no reason to keep that information private. Therefore, there was a very good chance Angie’s live-in boyfriend was to blame. The mere thought of having to face that horrible man again gave Rachel discernible tremors. She had to ask, “Is her, I mean, is a guy named Peter VanHoven with her?”

“I’m sorry, I have no idea. I was told to contact you and relay your sister’s message, that’s all.”

“All right. Where do I need to go?”

The patient services spokesperson was in the middle of giving directions when Rachel realized she hadn’t taken in anything. “Wait. Please. I need...” With that she passed the phone to her captain.

Kyle Roark rose from his perch on the edge of his desk and circled it, picked up a pen and made notes. “Yes, I have it. Thank you. When are visiting hours?”

Although Rachel couldn’t hear the other end of the conversation, she read empathy and concern in the veterinarian’s expression. His dark eyes were resting on her as he nodded and said, “Yes. I see. All right. Tell her sister that Rachel is on her way.” He glanced at his wristwatch. “We should be there before fifteen hundred hours. Thank you.”

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