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"Willing Hearts"


Chapter 1
Willing Hearts Chapter 1

By barbara.wilkey

Chapter 1

Monday Day 1 May 29th

Sami Martinez scooted aside her Great Dane, Jasper, retrieved the ringing phone from her jeans' back pocket, and answered, "Hello?"

"Coach, it's Myra Rodriguez."

"Is everything all right?"

"I know it's late." Myra took a breath. "Julie and I came to the community center, but she left with Tommy and now..."

"You don't have a ride home," interrupted Sami. "Has your foster dad been drinking?"

"Probably. I called, but Leon didn't answer. He's probably passed out. Alice works until midnight."

Sami checked her watch. Nine-fifteen. She sighed. "I'll come and get you. Which community center and what time does it close?"

"Thank you. On Mondays during the summer, it closes at ten o'clock. It's on the corner of Baylor and Parkway."

"That neighborhood isn't safe after dark. Don't leave the building until I call. With traffic, I'm probably twenty minutes out. Bye."

"Thank you. Bye."

Sami left her second floor, gated community apartment, and drove toward the zoo on Montreal Boulevard. I'll turn on Baylor. The community center should be on the next corner. Sometimes I wonder when girls make these choices what they're thinking. Sometimes? All the time.

She checked the car's clock. "At least traffic's reasonable. I should be there with fifteen minutes to spare." A few blocks later, she saw a row of red taillights and yelled, "No! I'm almost there."

Stalled in traffic, she called Myra, "The traffic's at a standstill by Harper Park. I'll be there as soon as possible."

"Thanks for calling. The center closes in twenty-five minutes."

"Wait inside as long as you can."

Sami tapped her fingers on the steering wheel while she waited. "This isn't good. What's the problem?" She rolled down the window, leaned out, and tried to look past the cars ahead of her. All she saw was a line of red taillights. "I need to get to the center before it closes. I'm only about five blocks away."

As she inched ahead, her phone rang. "Coach, they're starting to close down."

Exhaling, Sami said, "Myra, stay inside until they literally force you out. If I'm not there, stand next to the door. This traffic isn't letting up. I haven't moved in over five minutes."

"Please hurry."

"I'm trying." Sami hit the steering wheel. She put the car into park, got out, and walked halfway up the car in front, and looked ahead but still couldn't see the problem. "This is ridiculous." She climbed back inside.

A few minutes later, Myra called again. When Sami answered, she heard screaming. "Myra, what's going on?"

"There's a bunch of men forcing girls into a black van. The girls are fighting back..."

"Don't move from the door," she interrupted. "I'm almost there. Take a photo of the vehicle. I'm calling the police."

The 911 operator picked up, and Sami said, "Men are forcing teenage girls into a black van by the community center on the corner of Baylor and Parkway. The girls need help."

"Ma'am, I'll send an officer as soon as possible."

"One's needed now!"

The operator dropped the call.

Repeatedly hitting the steering wheel, Sami yelled, "Defund the police! Defund the police! See what good that's done!"

Sami answered her phone and heard, "Help!"

"Shut up, Bitch!" ordered a man. There was the sound of a slap before the phone went dead.

"No!" Tears rolled down Sami's cheeks.

*****
Parking half on and half off the curb, Sami sprinted from her car to the community center's door. She attempted to open it. "No!" She leaned against the locked door as tears welled in her eyes.

Sami searched the area. Minutes later, a police cruiser parked, and she ran to it. When the middle-aged officer stepped out, she said, "You're too late. The van and the girls are gone."

"Ma'am, did you make the phone call?"

"Yes, I was picking up one of my students but got stalled in traffic. She called and said men were forcing girls into a black van. When I arrived, the vehicle and the girls were gone."

"What's the girl's name?"

"Myra Rodriguez?"

"You're her parent?"

"No, I'm Sami Martinez. She lives with foster parents, Leon and Alice Adams."

"She's in the system. How old is she?"

"Fourteen. She'll be fifteen in a few weeks."

The officer took notes as he glanced around. "I don't see any evidence of a struggle. She probably ran away and used you as an alibi."

"Myra wouldn't do that." Sami turned toward the community center, started walking, and pointed. "Look over here. There's scuff marks." Kneeling, she picked up a bracelet. "It's Myra's."

"I'm sure a lot of teenage girls have bracelets like that."

"Look closer. There's a sea stone. Read the inscription on the back. 'You can do amazing things.' It has a cross etched beside it. I gave it to Myra as a reminder of how wonderful she is. She'd never go anywhere without it."

"Ma'am, unless you have more, there's nothing we can do."

As the officer walked toward his cruiser, Sami sat on the curb by her car and studied the bracelet. He got inside his vehicle and then returned to her car. "Is this yours?" When she nodded, he said, "You're illegally parked. I'll give you a warning this time. Be more careful from now on."

"You've got to be kidding."

He ignored her and walked away.

Drying her eyes, Sami saw people walking by and prostitutes standing around. Somebody saw something. Why didn't he question them? She searched her phone for a photograph of Myra. Showing it, she asked everyone if they'd seen her.

Sami was ignored.

*****
Across the street Noah Taylor watched. I wonder who she is and what's going on. What'd we miss?

He brought his wrist communicator to his mouth. "Jose, in front of the community center on the corner of Baylor and Parkway is a young female, in her mid-twenties. She has long dark brown or maybe black hair, wearing blue jeans and a light purple T-shirt. She's showing people something on her phone. Find out what it's about. My gut says we've missed something important."

"On it, Boss."

Noah took a deep breath. "Bob, she drives an illegally parked white Ford Focus, license number Texas SM13579. Run the plates. I need to know everything about her."

"Roger that."

Jose stood on the corner, glanced toward Noah, and said into his wrist communicator, "You didn't say she's attractive."

"How would I know that from this distance? Get the information, not a date." He paused a moment. "Jose, leave your communicator on. I need to hear what she says."

"Sure, Boss. She's moving closer."

Sami stood beside Jose. "Excuse me, Sir." She showed him Myra's photo. "Have you seen this young girl?" She turned and pointed. "She was standing by the community center door around ten o'clock waiting for me to give her a ride home."

"Sorry, Ma'am, I haven't." Jose hesitated. "Are you sure she didn't go someplace else? Maybe to get something to eat?"

She snapped, "No. She didn't." She started turning away.

"How do you know?"

"Because we were on the phone together. She said men were forcing girls inside a black van. I heard her scream and then a man's voice ordered her to shut up. I think he hit her. I heard a slap."

"Did you call the police?"

"Yes. They didn't take me seriously except to tell me my car's illegally parked."

"Sorry, Ma'am. I hope you find her." Jose watched Sami walk away. "Ma'am, just a minute." He paused until she turned and then he moved closer. "Why are you carrying that bracelet?"

"It's Myra's. I guess it fell off in the struggle." She pointed to the clasp. "It's broken."

He nodded and watched her leave.

When she was out of hearing range, Jose said, "Boss, you're right. We missed something big. This lady has information."

"We work for the Human Trafficking section of Homeland Security. Why didn't our sources know about tonight's hit? Why weren't we in the loop?"

*****
Inside her apartment, Sami hugged her dog as tears streamed down her cheeks. "Jasper, I've got to find Myra. She's turning her life around. She trusted me. I let her down. She's kidnapped, and it's my fault." She took a deep breath and dried her eyes. "I'll find her." She studied Myra's bracelet and rubbed the multi-colored blue sea stone. "The police weren't even interested. This is a clue that might help find her."

Sami stood. "Come on, Jasper. I'll take you out." As she walked her dog, she paused and peeked behind her. "Jasper, I feel like I'm being watched." She exhaled. "This thing with Myra's playing with my mind. If there was someone there, you'd know, wouldn't you? Or at least if there was anyone dangerous."

*****
Noah addressed his team through his wrist communicator, "What can you tell me about this young lady? Bob, go first."

"Her name's Sami Martinez; she's single and twenty-five. She teaches P.E., health, and works with at-risk girls at Trimmer High School. She also coaches girls' varsity basketball and softball. She lives in Sunset Apartments, apartment number 256. It's a gated complex off..."

"Let me guess, Sunset Ave?" interrupted Noah. "Good job. Jose, you got anything?"

"I followed her home. No visitors and no activity except she has a dog the size of a small horse. He's black. Maybe a Great Dane. I'm not good with dog breeds. He's gigantic. Larger than she is."

Chuckling, Noah said, "Okay, good job. I'm wondering when she spoke, did she have an accent? Her last name's Hispanic."

"If one at all, slight."

"Bob, check her family."

"Roger that."

*****
Tuesday morning, Sami searched her phone for her best photograph of Myra. After she found the perfect one, she sent it to her email address and printed ten copies on cardstock. "Jasper, maybe today somebody will talk about what they saw."

Around mid-morning, Sami walked up and down Baylor Street, showing Myra's photo and listening for any news of last night's happenings. Nothing.

Once the community center opened, she went inside and spoke with a few staff members. They verified Myra being there, and that she was the last one out a few minutes after ten o'clock.

Sami asked, "Did you hear anything about girls being taken by men driving a black van?"

They said they hadn't.

Finally, Raul confessed, "Myra told me she didn't want to go outside because men were grabbing girls." He hung his head. "To be honest, I didn't believe her."

Glaring at him, Sami asked, "You need to talk to the police. How many other girls were here? They were probably kidnapped too."

Checking the sign-in sheet, Nancy said, "Maybe five or six." She glanced at Sami. "I think Myra came in with another girl."

"She did, but Julia left with a boy, so she called me for a ride home. I got stuck in traffic."

Not getting any further information from the community center staff, Sami went outside and showed the photo of Myra to everyone who took time to look. The people who'd looked said they hadn't seen her.

*****
Early afternoon, Noah stood on the corner by the community center and watched Sami. Head this way. That's it. Come a little closer.

Sami stood beside him and held up the photo. "Excuse me, Sir. Have you seen this girl?"

He studied it. "Sorry, I haven't. Why? Is she missing?"

"Yes, last night about ten o'clock in front of the community center she was kidnapped, along with five or six other girls, by a man in a black van."

"That's a lot of girls for one man to take."

"You're right. I was talking to Myra on the phone and only heard one man's voice. I heard males yelling in the background, but don't know how many. Myra said there were a bunch of men."

"Is Myra the girl's name? How old is she?"

"Yes, Myra Rodriguez. She's fourteen. Will be fifteen in a few weeks."

"Are you sure it was a black van?"

"I didn't see it, but that's how Myra described it. I told her to take a picture, but I don't have her phone, so don't know. I've looked for it in case she dropped it but haven't found it." Sami pointed. "It should be somewhere around the community center."

"I'll let you know if I hear or see anything."

"Are you here often?"

"I am. I work in this and the surrounding neighborhoods."

"Were you here last night?"

"I was but not during the time frame you've mentioned." Noah nodded toward the diner. "It's a good place to get something cold to drink. A lot of regulars hang around there. Someone might have seen something."

"Thank you, Sir."

*****
Sami glanced toward the diner, and then toward the area the prostitutes hung out. A cold drink would taste good. There'll be more girls hanging around later this afternoon.

Sami sat at a booth and studied the menu. Soon a waitress stood at her table. "I'm Sarah, what can I get you?"

"An iced tea and BLT."

"The BLT comes with chips. For an extra charge you can get fries."

"Thank you but chips will be fine."

After Sarah left, Sami walked around the dining area and showed the patrons the photo. About to give up, she went to the man sitting in the last booth and showed it to him. "Sir, have you seen this girl?"

Jose glanced up and grinned. "No, Ma'am, I haven't." He tilted his head. "Weren't you in the neighborhood last night showing a photo?"

"Sorry, Sir. I do remember you from last night. You work around here?"

"I do. If I hear anything, I promise to tell you."

Sami turned and rushed to the counter as a 'News' Special Report' aired on the TV. She shouted, "No! The girls aren't runaways. They were kidnapped. Why isn't Myra listed?" She ran from the diner.

*****
Jose followed and spoke into his wrist communicator, "Boss, Sami just ran out and is headed for her car. I'm guessing she's on her way to the police station. A special report upset her. Do you want me to...?"

"Follow her," interrupted Noah. "But don't go inside. She would recognize you. Bob, go to the local police department. Find out what she says and what they tell her."

"Roger that."

*****
Inside the police station, Sami walked to the front counter.

An officer asked, "Ma'am, can I help you?"

"I'm Sami Martinez. Last night I called in a report about men forcing teenage girls from the community center inside a black van."

He nodded. "I saw a memo about that. It was on the corner of Baylor and Parkway, correct?"

"Yes. I just saw a news report stating the girls are runaways. That's not true. They were kidnapped. Why isn't Myra Rodriguez listed as one of the girls? Have the police questioned anybody in that area to see if they saw anything? Have they talked to the community center staff? Why aren't the police working this as a kidnapping?"

A police detective stood in the doorway of his office. "Ma'am, we have no evidence, other than what you claim that there was a kidnapping. It's not unusual for teenage girls to get angry with their parents and run away."

"I was on the phone with Myra Rodriguez when it happened. I told you exactly what she told me. I guess that's not good enough. She's missing. Why isn't she listed as one of the missing girls?"

"Ma'am, her foster parents stated she isn't missing."

"That's ridiculous. She was waiting for me to pick her up." Sami turned and stormed out.

*****
Bob sighed as he spoke into his wrist communicator, "Boss, you heard?"

"Sure did. Jose, follow and see where she goes."

"On it, Boss."

*****
Sami parked in front of Leon and Alice Adams's house. Why wouldn't they report her as missing? It doesn't make sense.

After she knocked on the door, Alice answered, "Ms. Martinez, nice to see you. Come in out of the heat. Myra isn't home, right now. Can I do something for you?"

Sami nodded toward Leon sitting in a tattered recliner. "Myra called last night from the community center and asked me to pick her up, but I got stalled in traffic. We were on the phone, and I heard a man force her to go with him. Why haven't you reported her as missing?"

Leon glared at her. "Because she's notorious for running away. She'll get hungry and be home in a few days. We'd be out the money while she's off having fun."

"Sir, I've known Myra since January of her eighth-grade year; that's eighteen months. I happen to know during that time, she's never ran away. So, what you're telling me is because you'll lose a few dollars while she's missing you won't report her, is that correct?"

"Yep."

"Myra's in danger. You need to report her as missing."

"That's not going to happen." Leon stood. "Goodbye."

Sami left the house and sat in her car.

*****
Jose watched from across the street. "Boss, I don't know what happened in there, but it wasn't good. Sami's in her car yelling. What do you want me to do?"

"Watch her. Don't talk to her now. She'll know we're following." Noah paused. "Somehow we need to place a listening device on her."

Chuckling, Jose said, "We won't get inside her apartment with that giant of a dog. We'd better come up with a different plan."

Noah answered, "Think about it."

*****
Sami got herself together and went back to the community center area. I'm the only person searching for Myra and the rest of the girls.

She faced the prostitutes huddled together. They saw something but won't even acknowledge me. Why?

The waitress from the diner walked up to her. "Hello, I'm Sarah, remember me? You left in such a hurry; you forgot your order."

She reached into her jeans' back pocket. "I'm sorry. I'm Sami. I'll pay for what I ordered."

Sarah pressed her hand against Sami's Fitbit tracker as she refused the money. "That's not why I'm here. One of our customers saw how upset you were and wanted you to have lunch. He paid for it and told us to wait until you returned." She held out a sack and drink. "I made this fresh a few minutes ago. Please enjoy."

"Thank you. Does this man have a name? I'd like to thank him."

"Sorry. He didn't say." Sarah glanced toward the diner. "I need to get back."

Sami sipped the iced tea. This hits the spot. She scanned the area for a place to sit. She walked to her car and sat on the shady curb next to it. "This is probably the best spot."

"Coach! Coach!"

Hearing her name, Sami turned her head, jumped up, and hugged the teenager. "Julia, I'm glad you're safe."

Tears streamed down Julia's cheeks. "It's my fault. I shouldn't have left Myra alone. I'm sorry."

Sami joined in with tears. "If it's anybody's fault, it's mine. I didn't get here in time." She paused. "If you'd have stayed, you probably would've been kidnapped too."

Julia dried her tears. "I saw the news. Why isn't Myra listed?"

"The Adams didn't report her as missing."

"Why?"

Taking a deep breath, Sami said, "It's not my place to say."

"I'm guessing it's about money. Myra complained that the money they received for foster parenting went to beer."

"That explains a lot." Sami glanced at her sack on the curb. "I was about to eat. You look hungry. Want to share a BLT and some chips?"

"That's your lunch."

"Now, it's our lunch."

They sat in silence, each lost in thought as they shared the sandwich, chips, and drink.

After they finished, Sami stood. "I need to get back to asking if anybody saw anything."

"I'll help."

"No!" Sami hugged Julia. "The best way you can help is to stay away. I don't want you to go missing too. If your friends say anything, let me know. It might be important. Please promise you'll stay away from this area."

"I promise."

"Thank you. Now go home." Sami watched Julia leave and then attempted to show the working girls the photo, but they ignored her.

*****
That evening, Jose walked into Noah's office. Noah exhaled. "Jose, Sarah attached a listening device to Sami's Fitbit tracker. So far, she's had a one-way conversation with Jasper. Who's Jasper?"

"Must be that dog she owns."

"Makes sense. He never answers." He pointed to a chair. "Have a seat. Bob's parked outside her apartment. She told Jasper she was calling her mom. Maybe she'll discuss what she knows."

"Let's hope. If she puts it on speaker, we can hear both sides."

After the greeting and with encouragement from her mom, Sami explained the Adams didn't report Myra as missing so they wouldn't lose any foster parenting money.

Laura, her mom asked, "What are you going to do now?"

"I don't know. If I reported them, which I should, when Myra's found, she won't have any place to go and will live in the group home until new foster parents are found. She'd be starting over again."

"Did she really have a good life with them? You've mentioned Leon's drinking and Alice worked long hours."

"True."

"Sami, what are you thinking? I can hear the wheels turning in your head."

Jose chuckled. "Her mom's good."

Noah frowned. "Shh, we'll miss something."

"I'm thinking about becoming a foster parent. I could take Myra. I have two bedrooms. This place is big enough for us."

"You're single. Don't foster parents come in pairs?"

"Maybe I could get an exception."

Laura exhaled. "I know you don't want to hear this, but I've read these girls are hooked on drugs, prostituted out, and abused. They become sex slaves. Myra won't be the same person. You need to consider that."

"Mom, stop! I'm going to find her."

"Okay." Laura hesitated. "What's your plan?"

"I'm sure the prostitutes on that corner know something. They were standing around while these girls were kidnapped. They won't even give me the time of day."

"You're an outsider. They don't trust you."

Silence.

"Mom, you just gave me an idea. Tomorrow I'm going shopping and buy clothes, so I look like them."

Noah stood and paced. "Bad idea. Bad idea."

Jose inhaled. "As attractive as she is, I'm going to spend my day protecting her, aren't I?"

Noah nodded. "Yep. At least we know her plan and can prepare."

Laura gasped. "No, you're not, young lady. That's dangerous."

"Mom, it's the only way I'm going to get information."

"Promise you'll pray about that crazy idea and sleep on it."

"I promise. Goodnight, Mom."

"Goodnight."

Jose took a drink from a water bottle. "Maybe after she sleeps on it, she'll change her mind."

Shaking his head, Noah asked, "Do you honestly believe that?"


CHARACTERS:

Sami Martinez - Twenty-five-year-old high school teacher, who's working to find a kidnapped teenage girl.

Noah Taylor. - Homeland Security team leader, who works in the Human Trafficking department.

Jose, Bob, & Sarah - Agents who work under Noah.

Laura Martinez - Sami's mom.

Jasper - Sami's Great Dane, a large breed dog.

Myra Rodriguez - Kidnapped teenage girl who Sami was close to.

Julia - Teenage girl, who was friends with Myra and Sami works with.



Author Notes Most of you know I don't normally enter contests. A friend, hmm, encouraged me to try this one. So, against my better judgement, I am trying. Because this is a contest entry, it's 3847 words. I'm going to try to post a chapter every Wednesday. If I can't keep up with it. I will post a chapter every other Wednesday until Seth and Emma are finished and then I'll post it on Sunday's.

I had originally posted a photo for this, but it got lost. I will see if I can figure out where it went. If I do I want to thank Google images for the post of human trafficking.


Chapter 2
Willing Hearts Chapter 2

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"Mom, you just gave me an idea. Tomorrow I'm going shopping and buy clothes, so I look like them."

Noah stood and paced. "Bad idea. Bad idea."

Jose inhaled. "As attractive as she is, I'm going to spend my day protecting her, aren't I?"

Noah nodded. "Yep. At least we know her plan and can prepare."

Laura gasped. "No, you're not, young lady. That's dangerous."

"Mom, it's the only way I'm going to get information."

"Promise you'll pray about that crazy idea and sleep on it."

"I promise. Goodnight, Mom."

"Goodnight."

Jose took a drink from a water bottle. "Maybe after she sleeps on it, she'll change her mind."

Shaking his head, Noah asked, "Do you honestly believe that?"

TODAY'S POST:

Chapter 2

When Sami returned from clothes shopping Wednesday, she dressed for her return to Baylor Street early afternoon. She studied herself in the mirror. "Jasper, do you think this is raunchy enough?" Her hands slid down her thighs. "These jeans are tight and low on my hips." She checked her feet. "I hope I don't fall wearing these sandals. I'm not used to this height. Sneakers are more my style."

She yanked the top. "I guess it's supposed to show my gut." She patted it. "At least my abs look good." She held up a pair of large wire hoop earrings. "Think these will work?" She petted Jasper lying on her bed. "Boy, you're no help at all." After one last turn for the mirror, she said, "Maybe I'm ready." She hugged Jasper. "Wish me luck. Let's hope this will be enough to get the working girls talking. I don't think I can go raunchier." She left the apartment.

*****
Jose said, "Boss, did you hear? Sami's on the move. From the description, she's only partially decked out."

"Let's hope it's not so much the johns hit on her."

"As pretty as she is, I'm surprised they haven't already."

*****
Jose said through his wrist communicator, "Boss, I'm stuck in traffic. Sami should be almost at the community center."

"She just stepped from her car. You'd better hurry. She'll get hit on."

"I can't move traffic any faster. It's at a standstill. I can't even get off and take an alternate route."

"I'll take Sami duty until you arrive."

"Boss, turn down the volume on your communicator, so she won't hear the chatter. Remember she's not one of us, she's a civilian. Be nice."

Noah chuckled. "I'm always nice."

Bob chimed in, "Jose, I can see new material for boss jokes."

"Really funny, guys. I was doing this when you were in preschool. Watch and learn."

"Boss, we're not that much younger. I'll put on a fresh pot of coffee in case you need it," suggested Sarah.

"I'm lowering the volume. I can't hear you. Here comes the first john. Let's see how Sami handles him. Maybe I won't need to intervene."

*****
A tall slender man walked up to Sami. "Hey beautiful."

"Hi." Sami showed him the photo of Myra. "I was wondering if you've seen this girl. She was kidnapped Monday evening."

He touched her arm. "I haven't. Let's go to the hotel across the street. They do reservations by the hour."

Sami pulled away her arm. "Sir, I'm not going anywhere with you, especially to a hotel."

His hand tightened around her arm. "You like to play hard to get. That's even better." He started walking and pulling her along.

She struggled to free her arm. "Let go." She used her other hand to slap him. "I'm not going with you."

He held tighter. "This game you're playing's a real turn on."

*****
Noah held his communicator to his mouth. "I'm going in."

He walked up to Sami and slipped his arm around her waist. "Sir, my girlfriend and I are late for a meeting in the community center."

"Your girlfriend?"

"Yes."

Noah led Sami toward the community center. "I hope you don't mind my interfering. Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. Thank you. I guess this'll be harder than I imagined. I expected him to understand no."

Opening the community center door, he said, "That doesn't always work. Let's find a place to sit until we're sure he's left." He led her to a table off the side and held a chair for her. "I'll be right back."

Sami watched him walk over to the counter.

He brought back two bottles of water and handed her one. "Here."

She unscrewed the lid. "Thank you."

Noah took a long drink. "We haven't officially been introduced. I'm Noah Taylor."

"I'm Sami Martinez."

"Short for Samantha?"

"No. Sami." She smiled. "I'm the baby. I have four older sisters. My version, Dad wanted a son and ended up with another daughter, so Sami was a compromise. My sisters have normal girl names, Angela, Joanne, Rebecca, and Molly."

"I see your point." Noah took another drink. "You're dressed differently than when we first met."

Sami released a deep breath. "I haven't been able to get the working girls to acknowledge my presence. Many of them were on the street Monday night. I know they saw something. I dressed like this hoping to get their attention, and maybe they'll tell me what they saw."

"You did get the attention of that man."

"True. I didn't factor that into my plan." Her eyes met his. "Thank you, again."

"Now, you've had a chance to rethink this, what's your new plan?"

"I don't know. I need to convince those women to talk. I've got to find Myra and the other girls. The police aren't doing anything."

He glanced toward the front door. "I need to get back to work. I can't rescue you all afternoon."

"I've taken too much of your time as it is."

"I'm not leaving until I know you've got a better plan than to pretend to be a hooker."

"So far, that's my only plan."

He raised an eyebrow. "It hasn't worked too well. Let's think of another one."

"Probably a good idea."

Noah noticed a red flashing dot on his wrist communicator. He stood. "I'll be right back. I need to take a phone call. When I return, we'll discuss this."

When he left, Sami found a piece of paper and wrote. Noah, I can't take any more of your time. I'll be more careful. I appreciate your help. Thank you again. Sami. She placed it under his water bottle and left.

When Noah returned, he read the note, rushed out the door, and scanned the area. "Sami's left. Did anybody see where she went?"

Bob answered, "Her car's still here."

"Boss, she's in the diner," replied Sarah.

"Good. She's safe. Jose, are you close?"

"I am. I feel like a cup of coffee. I'm on it, Boss. Do you want me to engage or observe?"

"Observe for now. Maybe she'll come up with a better plan."

*****
After moments of silence, Noah said, "Sarah, try to engage her in conversation. Maybe female-to-female will get her talking."

"Roger that."

Sarah went to the booth where Sami sat. "Hi. What can I get you?"

"Not sure." She hesitated. "I shouldn't, but a large chocolate shake."

Laughing, Sarah said, "Any reason you're living dangerously?"

She smiled. "Not really. I need to do some thinking."

When Sarah brought the shake, she said, "I really like those sandals. Where'd you get them?"

"Thank you. I got them from a little shop off Sunset Ave. They aren't me. When I'm finished with them, I'll give them to you. Hopefully I won't need them much longer."

*****
Jose walked in. "Hey, Sarah." He grinned. "Just bring the pot to my table."

"Sure. Long night?"

"You might say that."

Sami stood. "Excuse me, Sir. You don't happen to be the gentleman who paid for my lunch yesterday, are you?"

He cocked his head and grinned. "Ma'am, I've only spoken to you a few times, why would I do that?"

"Maybe because you're a nice person."

Continuing to walk to a back booth, he said into his wrist communicator. "Boss, she's figuring things out."

"I don't think she's stupid. She knows it was you, but don't confirm it."

"Sure. I'm at a back table, just observing." He chuckled. "Just pointing out she's a looker. I won't lose her like you did."

"I had a phone call. Don't take your eyes off her. She's good at disappearing."

Bob added, "Maybe just from you, Boss."

"Okay, you two. I get I'm going to hear about this for a while. Bob, where you at?"

"I just finished checking in with the rest of the team and on my way to the office. I'm still working on Sami's family background check. So far, she's from a completely normal family. Absolutely no skeletons. I'm checking on her four brothers-in-laws, but they appear to be clean."

"Thanks Bob, keep me posted."

*****
Throughout the afternoon Sami walked around the community center area, but every time a man started in her direction, she hurried back to the diner and sat at the same booth.

This time Sarah sat across from her. "What's wrong?"

"I guess I'm scared. Earlier, a man attempted to force me to a hotel."

Sarah's eyes widened. "I bet that was scary. What happened?"

"A sweet man named Noah came to my rescue. Do you know him?"

"I know a Noah. He comes in often. If it's the same man, he's one of the good guys. Was this guy good looking?"

Pink highlighted Sami's cheeks.

"I can tell by your cheeks you think so," teased Sarah. "You don't need to be embarrassed."

"I sort of snuck away from him and came here."

"Why?"

"I was keeping him from his job. He mentioned he'd stay with me until I came up with a better plan than pretending to be a prostitute. I still haven't thought of anything better."

Giggling Sarah said, "I can think of a lot of worse ways to spend an afternoon than being with Noah."

"I guess I can too, but I didn't want to be a burden."

"I understand." Sarah stood. "I'd better get back to work."

*****
After Sarah left Sami's table, she said, "Boss, did you hear?"

"I heard."

Jose added, "You may be the first guy a woman thought was nice and handsome but left because she didn't want to be a burden."

"First I've ever heard of," teased Bob.

Noah ordered, "Enough. Get back to work."

*****
Early evening Sami left the diner and walked up to the prostitutes. When they turned their backs to her, she said, "I know you were here Monday night around ten o'clock and I know you saw something." She held up Myra's photo. "This girl is only fourteen. She was kidnapped by men in a black van. More young girls were also kidnapped. Why won't you help me? I don't get it."

One of the women faced her. "To survive out here, you keep your eyes, ears, and mouth shut."

Another female voice was heard but she didn't turn around. "If we talk to anybody about anything, there's consequences."

The woman who had first spoken turned from her. "There's Big T, leave now. Stay away from him. He's dangerous."

Sami hurried to her car.

*****
Jose shouted into his wrist communicator, "Boss, Big T just showed up. Sami's headed toward her car, but he noticed and liked what he saw. He's following her."

"Bob, are you close?"

"Affirmative, Boss."

"Do whatever's necessary, but don't let him have access to her."

Both men answered, "Roger that."

Moments later, Jose reported, "Sami drove away."

Noah released a deep breath. "That was too close."


CHARACTERS:

Sami Martinez - Twenty-five-year-old high school teacher, who's working to find a kidnapped teenage girl.

Noah Taylor. - Homeland Security team leader, who works in the Human Trafficking department.

Jose, Bob, & Sarah - Agents who work under Noah.

Laura Martinez - Sami's mom.

Jasper - Sami's Great Dane, a large breed dog.

Myra Rodriguez - Kidnapped teenage girl who Sami was close to.

Julia - Teenage girl, who was friends with Myra and Sami works with.


Author Notes I'm continuing with my First Chapter Contest Entry. This is chapter 2 and I posted it in its entirety. It's a little over 1800 words. I'm going to attempt to post this novel every Wednesday until Seth and Emma's story is completed. I'm not sure I can keep that pace, but we'll see. If I can't then I'll post every other week.

Thank you google images for a photo of possibly Sami.

I appreciate all of your support and the review. THANK YOU!!!


Chapter 3
Willing Hearts Chapter 3 A

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Jose shouted into his wrist communicator, "Boss, Big T just showed up. Sami's headed toward her car, but he noticed and liked what he saw. He's following her."

"Bob, are you close?"

"Affirmative, Boss."

"Do whatever's necessary, but don't let him have access to her."

Both men answered, "Roger that."

Moments later, Jose reported, "Sami drove away."

Noah released a deep breath. "That was too close."

TODAY'S POST:

Chapter 4 A

Thursday mid-morning Sami answered a knock on the door and hugged her sister. "Molly, come in. It's great to see you. What brings you here?"

******
Listening through the bug they'd put on Sami's Fitbit, Jose asked, "Who's Molly?"

Noah responded, "One of Sami's four sisters."

*****
"Mom and Dad are concerned. They, well, we all feel you need to let the police handle the situation with Myra." Molly stared at Sami's clothes.

"So, Mom sent you to talk to me?" After Molly nodded, Sami continued, "The problem with that logic is the police aren't doing anything. They believe the girls are runaways. I'm the only one trying to find out who kidnapped them."

"Mom said you were dressing provocative, like a hoochie-mamma." Molly's eyes widened. "You're not wearing that in public, are you?"

"Yes. I need to convince the working girls I can be trusted. Yesterday, one said there'd be consequences if they talked. If they feel I'm one of them, maybe someone will talk. It's the only chance I have of getting information."

"You're going to attract the wrong type of attention. That street corner's dangerous, and you're inviting trouble."

"I know the skirt's a little short and the blouse is a little low cut, but..."

"But nothing," interrupted Molly. "I wear more to bed with my husband than you're wearing."

"I'm planning on staying close to the pros. If I'm beside them, they'll take any men who come around."

"Are you sure? What if they won't let you hang out with them?"

"I made a little progress yesterday. They warned me about this guy, Big T."

"Who's he?"

"I'm guessing their pimp."

"Are you listening to yourself?" Molly glared into Sami's eyes and raised her voice, "You're risking your life. Baby sister, you've had some hairbrained ideas in your life, but this is your worst one, yet."

"Somebody's got to help those girls. It's come down to me."

Molly threw her hands in the air. "I'm done. I can't talk any sense into you." She slammed the door as she left.

Sami petted Jasper. "I wonder who Mom'll send next." She checked the time. "I won't leave until later this afternoon."

*****
Jose asked, "Boss, you heard?"

"I heard. It's not good."

"Boss, what's your plan?" asked Sarah. "If her sister described her outfit accurately, she'll get hurt."

"We've got a few hours to think about it. Bob, keep an eye on the rest of the team in the field. This case is taking way too many man-hours."

Jose added, "True, but she's onto something. The only people who can identify the perps are the pros and they won't talk."

Noah sighed. "That's why we continue working this case. None of our sources knew anything about Monday's hit."

"You sure it's not because you have a thing for Sami?" asked Jose.

"I'm positive. She doesn't think things through. She's impulsive. She won't listen and puts herself in dangerous situations."

*****
Late afternoon, Sami parked close to her usual spot. Once outside her car, she headed straight for the row of prostitutes.

Jose spoke into his wrist communicator. "Boss, did you see what I just saw?"

"I did. What's she thinking?"

"You know what she's thinking. She thinks those women have information and she wants it."

"Or die trying. We know what's going to happen." Noah exhaled. "Jose, stay alert. Sarah, as much as possible monitor from the diner's window. I'll make sure I'm available. Bob, continue to cover the rest of the team."

"Roger that, Boss."

Sarah said, "Boss, I have an extra sweater, do you want to borrow it?"

"That sweater won't cover all the areas it needs to cover." There was silence before Noah said, "So far, the girls have accepted her."

"Boss, three johns heading that direction," interrupted Jose.

"Let's hope they're taken care of, and not by Sami."

One of the johns took Sami's arm, and Noah said, "I'm going in."

Jose warned, "You have a plan?"

"No."

"What could possibly go wrong?" asked Jose as he chuckled.

*****
Noah walked up to the working girls and took Sami's arm, moving his head toward the right. "Come with me."

"I didn't mean for you to help again," whispered Sami.

"I'm sure you didn't." He hesitated. "We're going into that building. I have a room on the second floor."

Sami stopped. "I'm not..."

"I don't expect you to," interrupted Noah. "I'm trying to protect you. You need to play along."

*****
Noah unlocked the room's door and pointed. "Since you're trying to make them believe you're one of them, we're going to the window and putting on a show. We'll be watched so put on a good act."

"This isn't a good idea."

"Follow my instructions." His eyes met hers. "I promise nothing's going to happen. You trust me, don't you?"

She swallowed and whispered, "Yes."

"That didn't sound like a vote of confidence."

In front of the window, Noah took Sami in his arms and began kissing her. "Start unbuttoning my shirt. As you do, kiss my neck and chest. My hands are going to caress your back and butt."

"But..."

"Just do it." After this continued, Noah added, "Slide my shirt off and touch my belt buckle."

"No."

"I'm moving you from the window. The show's over. Their imagination will take over."

"Okay," whispered Sami.

Sami used both hands to touch his belt buckle, and then Noah carried her from the window. Setting her down, he said, "You're done. Good job. It wasn't that bad, was it?"

"I haven't decided." Noah chuckled, as Sami stared at his bare chest.

He pointed. "My shirt's over there."

Sami headed toward the shirt. "I'll get it."

He touched her arm. "Don't! They'll see you. We're supposed to be having sex."

"Oh." Sami studied the shirt on the floor. "I'll crawl below the window." She got on her hands and knees and headed toward it.

Frustrated, Noah said, "Sami, that skirt isn't made for bending over."

She reached her left hand behind and felt panties. "No!"

"I'll turn around. Continue your mission."

When Sami retrieved the shirt, Noah put it on. As he buttoned it, he asked, "Better?"

Nodding she answered, "Yes, thank you." After a pause, she asked, "What do we do now?"

"What I want to do is cuss you out for showing up on this street corner looking like that. Didn't you figure out from yesterday how dangerous it was? Look at you! You need at least six inches on your skirt. Half your breasts are hanging out."

"I thought the working girls would take any prospective men, and they'd trust me enough to answer my questions."

"How did that work for you?"

"It had a few flaws."

Noah yelled, "You think?" When Sami cringed, he continued, "Sorry. I'm more than a little angry with you."

"I figured that out." She gulped. "Thank you for coming to my aid, again.

"You're welcome. I'm sorry I had to get friendlier than I would've liked." His eyes met hers. "I don't want to make a habit of rescuing you."

"I hope I won't need your help again."

"What are your plans for tomorrow? I need to prepare my schedule to fit you in."

"You don't need to be sarcastic."

"Just being real."

Sami scanned the area. "How much longer do these things normally last?"

"Maybe another fifteen minutes. You have time to come up with a better plan for tomorrow." He glanced at the red flashing dot on his wrist communicator. "Sorry, I need to take this."

*****
Jose said, "Boss, back off. She feels bad enough. You don't need to rub it in."

Sarah joined in, "I agree with Jose. She got the message."

After a sigh, Noah said, "We won't know until we see what she has planned for tomorrow. I doubt she can wear less clothes and not be arrested."

"Me neither. Any ideas?" asked Jose.

"No. I'd better get back or she'll disappear."

"Aren't you standing by the door?"

"Yes, but she might try a window."

"You're on the second floor."

*****
When Noah returned to the room, he said, "Sorry. It was a work call."

"Not a problem." Sami scanned the area. "Is this where you bring women?"

Noah's right eyebrow shot up. "To be honest, you're the first woman I've brought here." He paused. "I keep this for emergency business meetings. I felt this was an emergency."

"I guess that's a compliment."

"It was."

"What happens next?"

"We'll leave together. I'll make sure the girls watch me give you money. Then we'll go our separate ways. I hope you'll go home and put on some clothes."

"I don't want any money."

"We have to make it look real."

"I guess. I'll give it back the next time I see you."

"Whatever." He stood. "Ready to leave?"

"Yes. I've taken enough of your time."

When they reached street level, they walked toward the corner. Noah grabbed her, his hands traveled down her back and slipped inside the waistband of her skirt. His kiss lingered. After the kiss, he exaggerated shoving money deep into her blouse. He patted her butt and left.

Sami stood there stunned for a few moments. Once she got herself together, she faced the pros. Should I risk going to them or home?

Before she made up her mind, Big T came to her. "Give me the money!"

"What money?"

"The money that john gave you."

"He gave it to me, not you. I earned it."

"I own this corner. Everything earned here belongs to me."

"I don't work for you."

"If you pick up johns on this corner, you work for me. Give it here!"

Sami turned and walked away.

Big T slugged her hard enough that the force knocked her down. He reached in her blouse, making sure he felt more than just the money, took the money, and counted it. "You must be real good to get this much. I wish I had time, but I need to be somewhere. Be here tomorrow. I'll try you myself."

Sami struggled getting up.

*****
Noah yelled into his wrist communicator. "Sarah, help Sami. Take her to her car. Jose, stay back. We can't risk playing our hand with Big T. I'm following her home."

Jose said, "Boss?"

"You heard me."

*****
Sami hobbled up the two flights of stairs to her apartment. After a few minutes inside, a knock sounded. She petted Jasper. "Who could that be?"

At the door she asked, "Who is it?"

"Sami, it's me, Noah. I need to know you're all right. Let me in."



CHARACTERS:

Sami Martinez - Twenty-five-year-old high school teacher, who's working to find a kidnapped teenage girl.

Noah Taylor. - Homeland Security team leader, who works in the Human Trafficking department.

Jose, Bob, & Sarah - Agents who work under Noah.

Laura Martinez - Sami's mom.

Jasper - Sami's Great Dane, a large breed dog.

Myra Rodriguez - Kidnapped teenage girl who Sami was close to.

Julia - Teenage girl, who was friends with Myra and Sami works with.

Big T - Neighborhood pimp; not a friendly person

Author Notes I post this under Fantasy. Maybe will enjoy it better. I still believe it's Romance.

I'm continuing with my First Chapter Contest Entry. This is the first part of chapter 3. The entire chapter is over 3000 words, so I broke it up into two parts. Chapter 3 A is a little under 1800 words. I'm going to attempt to post this novel every Wednesday until Seth and Emma's story is completed. I'm not sure I can keep that pace, but we'll see. If I can't then I'll post every other week.

Thank you google images for a photo of a young lady is a short skirt and low-cut blouse. I'm sure Sami's skirt is shorter. LOL

I appreciate all of your support and the review. THANK YOU!!!


Chapter 4
Willing Hearts Chapter 3 B

By barbara.wilkey

Noah and Sami met 4 days ago.

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Noah yelled into his wrist communicator. "Sarah, help Sami. Take her to her car. Jose, stay back. We can't risk playing our hand with Big T. I'm following her home."

Jose said, "Boss?"

"You heard me."

*****
Sami hobbled up the two flights of stairs to her apartment. After a few minutes inside, a knock sounded. She petted Jasper. "Who could that be?"

At the door she asked, "Who is it?"

"Sami, it's me, Noah. I need to know you're all right. Let me in."

TODAY'S POST:

Unlocking the door, Sami opened it and stared at him. "I guess you saw."

"I did but wasn't close enough to stop it." Noah's eyes widened as Jasper stood in front of him.

"Jasper, it's okay." Sami faced Noah. "He'll be fine once he checks you. Let him sniff your hand."

"Okay." He did for a few moments and then placed his hand on Sami's elbow. He led her to the couch. "Have a seat. I followed you home." He glanced around her apartment. "The kitchen's this way?" When she nodded, he continued, "I'll get some ice for your eye."

When he returned with a bag of mixed vegetables, wrapped in a dishtowel, he sat beside her and had her hold it in place.

"Thank you. You showed up before I had time to take care of it. You have a way of taking over, don't you?"

Noah grinned. "I guess that's true. It's an occupational hazard."

"What occupation?"

"I'm here to make sure you're all right," interrupted Noah. "Not discuss me."

"Who's Big T?"

"He's the pimp, who owns that corner and all the corners in about a three-mile radius. He's mean. Everyone around that area's afraid of him."

"He's the reason they won't talk." Sami took a moment. "Are you afraid of him?"

"I'm not afraid of him, but I do respect him." Noah studied her. "I'm sorry you had contact with him."

"He threatened me. He said he'd try me tomorrow."

"I forbid you to go back."

"You can't tell me what I can or can't do."

Noah ran his hand through his short hair. "You're right. I strongly advise you to stay away from that corner. Big T has you on his radar."

She cringed when she adjusted herself on the couch.

Noah noticed. "Where else do you hurt?"

When she avoided eye contact, Noah said, "I'm here to help. If you don't answer, I'll check myself."

"That's probably true." When his eyes widened, she rubbed her right ankle. "I twisted it when I fell."

He knelt, lifted it, and felt it. "It's bruised and scraped. It doesn't feel like it's broken and there's no swelling." He stood. "I'll be right back."

When he returned, he held a first aid kit. "I found this. I hope you don't mind."

"Would it make any difference if I did?"

"Probably not." He continued to clean the abrasions on her ankle and lower leg. He took a couch pillow, set it on the coffee table, and laid her foot on it. "This should help."

When some water from the frozen vegetables dripped down her chest, Noah took the towel they were wrapped in and started to dry the area.

Sami grabbed it from his hand. "I can do that."

"You're right." Noah exhaled. "I'm sorry Big T violated you."

She stared at Jasper and hugged his neck.

Breaking the extended silence, Sami said, "This hasn't been one of my better days. I really need to be alone."

"My intent is to make sure you're all right."

"As you can tell, I'm fine. You can leave."

"You're not fine." He covered his red flashing wrist communicator with his hand. "You're traumatized. I'm not ready to leave you alone."

"You're not spending the night."

"I have no intentions of spending the night, just a little longer."

"Do you always get your way? Don't you ever ask? Or maybe you ask and when you don't get the answer you want, you just do it anyway, so quit asking."

Noah's eyebrows rose. "That's probably the closest to the truth." He used his phone and ordered Chinese delivery. "Two Peking ducks, one with fried rice." He glanced toward Sami. "Fried or white rice?"

Shaking her head, she said, "Fried." After the order was placed and he hung up, she said, "You did it again. You ordered me dinner without asking."

"I asked about the rice."

"That you did."

"While we wait for dinner, can we talk more about your day?"

"Why?"

"You're upset. I don't want you to keep it bottled up. It helps to get it out."

"What do you want me to do? Start crying uncontrollably?"

"Please don't. I'm not good at handling tears."

"If I start crying, will you feel uncomfortable and leave?" Sami hesitated. "I can make that happen."

"Can you wait until after dinner?" He checked the mixed vegetables. "They're getting soft. I'll see what else you have in the freezer." He walked away.

*****
When Noah returned, he saw Sami hugging Jasper as tears welled in her eyes. He sat beside her, placed a bag of frozen blackberries against her eye, and then put his arm around her. "I'm not making a pass." He moved her head to his chest. "You don't need to be strong around me."

Tears slowly fell. "I don't want this to happen."

"It's understandable." When she backed away, he held her tighter. "You're safe."

After moments of silence, Sami exhaled. "I'm sorry. I'm all right."

Noah moved his arm. "You're sure?" After she nodded, he added, "I'm here if you need me."

"You said you weren't comfortable with tears."

"I'm not. To be honest I had no idea what to do. I acted instinctively."

"Your instinct worked. Thank you."

"You're welcome." His head turned at a knock on the door and glanced at his watch. "It's probably dinner."

Jasper stood at the door.

"Jasper, back." When the dog responded, Sami said, "Jasper, sit."

Noah's eyes widened. "He minds."

"As large as he is, he has to, or I couldn't have him inside."

"True."

"Bring the food to the table." Sami stood and went into the kitchen. "I'll get some dishes and silverware."

"You don't want to use chopsticks?"

Sami smiled. "I'm not very good with them. You are?"

"I eat Chinese a lot. Sometimes silverware isn't available, so I've learned."

"You seem to improvise a lot."

"I do." Noah set the food containers in front of Sami. "Sorry, I didn't think to ask. I hope you like Peking duck."

"I do."

He grinned. "Good. Next time I'll remember to ask."

Her eyes widened. "You think there'll be a next time?"

"I hope the circumstances will be different, but yes."

*****
As they finished eating, Sami set out the fortune cookies. "Choose one."

Noah shook his head. "Don't tell me you believe this nonsense." He took the one closest to him, opened it, and read, "Nothing is impossible to a willing heart." He handed her the one left. "Your turn."

Sami opened it, read silently, and closed it in her fist.

"I read mine. You need to read yours." When she shook her head, he reached over, took it from her, and read, "The love of your life will appear unexpectedly in front of you." Noah stood. "I'll help you clean up, and since you're doing all right, I'll leave."

"I can get this. You can leave."

They cleaned up in silence, and then stood at the door.

Noah studied the door, turned, and faced Sami. "I know you well enough if I tell you don't show up at the community center tomorrow, that's exactly what you'll do. So, I'm saying, Big T will honor his threat. I'll do everything in my power to protect you, but if something comes up, I may not be available when you need me." He leaned over and hugged her. "Goodnight." He walked out the door.

"Noah, wait." When he faced her, she asked, "You're a product of the system, aren't you?"

His eyes met hers, and he swallowed. "We'll talk later." He left.

*****
Noah sat in his car and said into his wrist communicator. "I don't want to talk about it or hear any comments today or any day."

Three voices said, "Roger that, Boss."


CHARACTERS:




Sami Martinez - Twenty-five-year-old high school teacher, who's working to find a kidnapped teenage girl.

Noah Taylor. - Homeland Security team leader, who works in the Human Trafficking department.

Jose, Bob, & Sarah - Agents who work under Noah.

Laura Martinez - Sami's mom.

Jasper - Sami's Great Dane, a large breed dog.

Myra Rodriguez - Kidnapped teenage girl who Sami was close to.

Julia - Teenage girl, who was friends with Myra and Sami works with.

Big T - Neighborhood pimp; not a friendly person

Author Notes This is the second part of chapter 3. The entire chapter is over 3000 words, so I broke it up into two parts. Chapter 3 B is a little over 1200 words. I deleted a section of it this week. I decided it didn't move the story along, so it ended up shorted than I thought. I'm going to attempt to post this novel every Wednesday until Seth and Emma's story is completed. I'm not sure I can keep that pace, but we'll see. If I can't then I'll post every other week.

Thank you google images for a photo of a Great Dane. This is probably what Jasper looks like. I'm sure he'll have a role in this novel. LOL

I appreciate all of your support and the review. THANK YOU!!!


Chapter 5
Willing Hearts Chapter 4

By barbara.wilkey

Noah and Sami met 5 days ago.

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Noah studied the door, turned, and faced Sami. "I know you well enough if I tell you don't show up at the community center tomorrow, that's exactly what you'll do. So, I'm saying, Big T will honor his threat. I'll do everything in my power to protect you, but if something comes up, I may not be available when you need me." He leaned over and hugged her. "Goodnight." He walked out the door.

"Noah, wait." When he faced her, she asked, "You're a product of the system, aren't you?"

His eyes met hers, and he swallowed. "We'll talk later." He left.

*****
Noah sat in his car and said into his wrist communicator. "I don't want to talk about it or hear any comments today or any day."

Three voices said, "Roger that, Boss."



TODAY'S POST:

Friday Jose tapped his wrist communicator. "Boss, is this thing broke? I'm not hearing anything from you or Sami. She hasn't even had a conversation with her monster dog. Any idea why?"

"How would I know? Maybe she slept in."

"It's almost one o'clock and nothing."

Sarah responded, "After yesterday, she's probably lying in bed working up the nerve to face another day. I doubt she slept much last night."

Noah released a deep breath. "Thank you for the insight into females." He hesitated. "Are you saying she's crying?"

"Possibly."

When I'm done here, maybe I should check on her. Noah continued with business, "Bob, any clue where and when today's hit's taking place. Is it still planned?"

"All indications are it's a go. Still no news about where or when. They're keeping it secret. Our men are on high alert ready to respond."

"Good. We're not losing any young girls. At least not on my watch."

*****
Around four o'clock Sami said, "Jasper, I'm going to the grocery store, but first I need to make a quick stop. I should be home in about two hours, depending on traffic." She hugged the dog. "See you then." As she closed the door, she rubbed Myra's bracelet and whispered, "Myra, I'm not giving up. I need time to regroup."

*****
Jose said, "Boss, did you hear. Sami's on the move. What do you want me to do?"

"It didn't sound like she's headed this direction." He paused. "My gut says something's wrong. Go ahead and follow. But stay back."

"On it, Boss."

"Bob, any news?"

"Not yet, but they're getting ready. It shouldn't be much longer." Moments later, Bob yelled, "Boss, they're moving! They're hitting the zoo!"

"Team, be smart, good luck, and stay safe."

*****
Twenty minutes later, Jose said, "Boss, you're not going to like this. Sami parked in front of the community center. She walked to the bushes in front of it."

"I don't have time for this. What's she wearing?"

"Normal stuff. Blue jeans and a T-shirt."

"Don't let her out of your sight. What is she doing?"

"She knelt where Big T knocked her down and is now searching the bushes." Jose paused. "She found something, picked it up, and slipped it into her pocket. I can't tell what it is. She's heading toward her car."

Bob reported, "Boss, the van with the girls left the zoo. We're following."

"Good. Stay with it." Noah studied his wrist communicator. "Jose, is she at her car?"

"Yes." A silence. "No! Gotta go!"

"Jose?"

Moments passed.

"Boss, I couldn't get there in time. Three men came up to Sami, one used some form of knockout drug, maybe chloroform. They had guns. They carried her to their car. I'm in pursuit."

"Don't lose them. Anybody free to help?"

Bob replied, "Sorry Boss, but no. They delivered the girls. We're arresting the kidnappers and they're fighting back. LeRoy should call anytime."

"I'm waiting for the call. Jose, don't lose them."

*****
A little later, Noah said into his wrist communicator. "LeRoy called. Bob, are the kidnapers in custody? Who's assisting me with the girls?"

"Boss, we're working on the arrest paperwork. Mack and Lynne are on standby to take the girls to the hospital and notify their parents. Hope nothing goes wrong with LeRoy."

*****
When Noah walked into LeRoy's office, LeRoy addressed him, "Trey Morgan, it's good to see you again. I think you'll be pleased with the merchandise."

Noah nodded. "I'll check before I pay. Which room?"

After LeRoy indicated the room, Noah motioned for the two agents accompanying him to wait.

Moments later, he returned. "The girls look healthy. Where'd you get them?"

"They're Girl Scouts on an outing at the zoo. They range in ages from ten through twelve. You should get top dollar for them." Noah paid. "What happened to the chaperones?" He watched the two agents as they entered the room.

LeRoy said, "Nobody has addressed that. They're probably okay."

As the agents left the building with the girls, Noah received a call. He listened before, he said, "I'm needed elsewhere. Let me know if you need anything else."

*****
Noah parked a few blocks away, walked toward the vacant warehouse where Jose waited outside. "Is she in there?" asked Noah.

"Yes. The best I can tell there's three men holding her. Boss, how do you want to play this?"

"Any back up?"

Jose nodded and checked the time. "One female and three male agents should arrive in less than five minutes."

"Good. I'm going in."

"Boss, I'm going too." Jose remained by Noah's side.

Inside Noah walked up to Sami but said to the men, "I'm Trey Morgan."

"Morgan, how'd you find us?"

"I have eyes and ears all over the city." As he said that, his backup entered with weapons visible. Noah nodded toward the kidnappers. "I'm positive this transaction will go off without any problem."

Noah studied Sami. "Is she high? How'd she get that bruise?"

"Rumor has it she met up with Big T. We used chloroform." One man glanced at his watch. "She's coming out of it. She should be fine in ten or fifteen minutes."

Noah studied her. "How much?"

"She's not for sale. Our boss, Chen wants her."

Facing the speaker, Noah said, "I don't know Chen. I'll pay 500 dollars cash."

Noah faced Sami, used both hands and did a complete body pat-down, leaving no area unchecked. He felt a phone in her jeans pocket, took it, and slipped it into his pocket. "She looks good."

Sami spit in his face as hate filled her eyes.

"She has spunk." Noah patted her rear end. "Firm, perfect." He grabbed the back of her head, forced her face toward him, and kissed her making sure the kidnappers noticed he forced his tongue into her mouth.

When he finished, he and Joe each pointed a Glock 19 at the men as Noah said, "Tell Chen Trey Morgan paid 500 dollars and took her off his hands. I'll enjoy breaking her." He dealt out the money before he grabbed Sami's arm. "You're coming with me."

Sami refused to move.

"Okay, we'll do it my way." Noah picked her up and tossed her over his shoulder. "It's been nice doing business with you."

Joe and the other agents continued aiming their weapons, as they backed out.

*****
Noah carried Sami until he reached his vehicle. Once he set her on the ground, she began vomiting. He commented, "A side effect of chloroform. You'll be fine in a few minutes."

When she stopped, Noah cut off her wrist ties. Sami faced the car.

Noah turned her back around. "You're not a prisoner. I'm taking you to the hospital and making sure you're unharmed."

She started walking away.

He grabbed her arm. "I'm not holding you as a prisoner, but you're not free either. You're under my protection."

Sami's hate filled eyes met his as she hissed, "Who's protecting me from you?"

Noah opened the backseat door. "Get in." He nodded for the backup agents to follow.

Inside the car, Jose studied Noah. "Boss, you sure about this?"

"I'm not sure about anything, but I couldn't let Chen have her."

*****
After they parked at the hospital, Jose and Noah led her inside, as Noah said, "This is the hospital we use to check victims. After you're cleared, we'll leave."

A nurse led Sami and Noah into an examination room. Jose followed.

As Noah started to say something, Bob called, "Boss, we need you. One of the parents' background checks came up hot, porn charges. He may be the link for the Girl Scouts."

"I'm on my way." Noah faced Sami. "We need to talk." In the hallway, he said, "Joe, stand guard. Don't let her leave."

*****
After Sami was medically cleared, and before Noah returned, Holly walked into the room and introduced herself. "I'll travel with you to a safe house. My partner, Matt, is waiting outside. Ready?"

Staring at her, Sami asked, "Do I have a choice?"

"Sorry, but no." She paused. "We're the good guys."

As they prepared to leave, Noah walked up. "Sami, something's come up. I'm needed. We will talk." He called Matt and Holly over. "There's a lot of chatter about what went down tonight. This guy, Chen's angry about losing Sami."

"We're taking her to Safe House C, right?" asked Matt.

Noah set his jaw. "No, I'm moving her to E. It's farther from the city."

"Boss?"

"You heard me." Noah started walking away but hesitated. "Make sure you're not followed. I don't care if you go to Philadelphia and back."

"Roger that."


CHARACTERS:

Sami Martinez - Twenty-five-year-old high school teacher, who's working to find a kidnapped teenage girl.

Noah Taylor. - Homeland Security team leader, who works in the Human Trafficking department. Alias - Trey Morgan

Jose, Bob, & Sarah - Agents who work under Noah.

Laura Martinez - Sami's mom.

Jasper - Sami's Great Dane, a large breed dog.

Myra Rodriguez - Kidnapped teenage girl who Sami was close to.

Julia - Teenage girl, who was friends with Myra and Sami works with.

Big T - Neighborhood pimp; not a friendly person

Numerous Team Members - They will show up periodically but really are important to the story, except they're there.

Author Notes Chapter 4 is posted in its entirety. It has a little over 1400 words. I'm attempting to post this novel every Wednesday until Seth and Emma's story is completed. I'm not sure I can keep that pace, but we'll see. If I can't then I'll post every other week.

Thank you google images for a photo of an Austin, Texas abandoned warehouse.

I appreciate all of your support and the review. THANK YOU!!!


Chapter 6
Willing Hearts Chapter 5 A

By barbara.wilkey

Noah and Sami met 6 days ago.

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

After Sami was medically cleared, and before Noah returned, Holly walked into the room and introduced herself. "I'll travel with you to a safe house. My partner, Matt, is waiting outside. Ready?"

Staring at her, Sami asked, "Do I have a choice?"

"Sorry, but no." She paused. "We're the good guys."

As they prepared to leave, Noah walked up. "Sami, something's come up. I'm needed. We will talk." He called Matt and Holly over. "There's a lot of chatter about what went down tonight. This guy, Chen's angry about losing Sami."

"We're taking her to Safe House C, right?" asked Matt.

Noah set his jaw. "No, I'm moving her to E. It's farther from the city."

"Boss?"

"You heard me." Noah started walking away but hesitated. "Make sure you're not followed. I don't care if you go to Philadelphia and back."

"Roger that."

TODAY'S POST:

It was after midnight Saturday morning when Matt parked at Safe House E. Holly opened the car's backdoor for Sami. "We're here. This will be your home for a while." She led Sami inside and toward the master bedroom. "This is your room. It has a private bath."

Sami nodded.

Almost an hour later a knock sounded on the front door. Holly opened it and welcomed Sarah and Jose.

Sami glared at Sarah. "You were part of this conspiracy?" She noticed Jose carrying suitcases. "You, too?"

Jose offered his hand. "We haven't officially met. I'm Jose..."

Before he could finish, Sami had refused his hand and turned her back.

"I have your dog in the van. I'll get him." Jose set down the suitcases and left.

Turning around Sami watched the door. When Jasper staggered in, she hugged him. "What's wrong with him?"

"Our vet gave him a sedative so we could get inside your apartment, get him, and your clothes."

"You broke into my apartment and drugged my dog? The nerve of you guys."

Sarah pointed. "Jose, put her suitcases in the bedroom. Later I'll help her unpack. Sami, I'll be staying with you. Noah felt you'd more comfortable with someone you've already met."

After the suitcases were in the room, Jose headed for the door. "Sami, if you need me, I'll be in the outside cabin, ensuring your safety." He left.

Sami went into the bedroom and lay on the bed. Jasper cuddled beside her.

*****
Saturday afternoon, Noah used his wrist communicator. "Sarah, how's Sami?"

"Like we expected. She despises all of us. She's not talking or eating. She took a long shower and she's now on the bed with her dog and muttering something about feeling dirty."

"Has she said anything else?"

"No."

"I'm on my way. I should arrive in about thirty minutes."

Jose added, "She might have that dog attack you. Be ready. She trusted you. I'm pretty sure she feels you took advantage."

Noah gulped. "I know."

*****
Close to an hour later, Noah knocked on the door.

Sarah welcomed him and then knocked on Sami's door. "Noah's here to explain the situation."

Sami walked to him, slapped his face as hard as she could. She slammed the door, and then crawled into bed.

Noah knuckle tapped on her door, before he opened it. "I deserved that." He exhaled. "We need to talk."

She rolled over and put her pillow over her head, so she wouldn't hear or see him.

"I know you can still hear. If you need to slap me a few more times before we talk, you can, but we're going to talk." He took a few steps into the bedroom. "I'd rather not talk in your room. Can you come to the living room?"

"What difference does it make? All you'll do is lie. You paid 500 dollars for me. You can do whatever you want." She hesitated. "I'd like to know who appointed you god."

He closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths. "I've never lied to you and never will. As for owning you, I don't. Buying you was the safest and quickest way to get you out of that situation. Chen planned on using you for a sex slave or kill you. That's what I want to discuss. I'll wait for you in the living room."

It wasn't long before alarms sounded. Noah sighed before he entered Sami's bedroom. "All the windows and doors have alarms. Matter-a-fact, down the lane about a half-a-mile, there's a strip that notifies Jose someone's approaching or leaving."

"I'm a prisoner."

"Noah, I'm going for a walk," interrupted Sarah.

"Probably a good idea. Jose, did you catch that?"

"Roger that, Boss."

Noah continued with Sami, "You're not a prisoner. We're trying to keep you safe."

She crept into the living room. "I don't have a choice, do I?"

Noah pointed. "Sit on the couch." When her eyebrows rose, he added, "Jasper can curl-up beside you." He sat in a chair across from her. "I'll sit over here."

After a long silence, Noah said, "Before we start, I had lunch with your parents."

Sami stood and glared at him. "How did my parents get involved? How did you know about them?" She tilted her head. "You did a background check. You have me bugged, don't you?"

He avoided eye contact but nodded.

"Why?"

"We felt you had information we needed."

"I'm a high school P.E. teacher. I don't know anything."

"We'll get to that. Can I finish with your parents?"

She returned to the couch.

"Good. I informed your parents you're safe and once Chen and his human trafficking ring are arrested your life will resume as normal. I'm working on you being able to occasionally contact them." Once Sami nodded, Noah continued, "Sarah put a bug on your Fitbit."

She took it off and handed it to him. "Remove it."

"I don't want to, yet. After we complete this discussion, I hope you'll agree. If not, I'll remove it."

Sami's glare continued.

"First, I have never lied to you and never will. If I can't answer your questions, I'll say that, but won't lie."

"You've lied to me numerous times. I don't even know your real name. Is it Noah Taylor or Trey Morgan, or maybe something completely different?"

"My name is Noah Joshua Taylor. My team and I work for Homeland Security. We investigate human trafficking of young girls."

"That's a lie. I heard you bought girls before you bought me."

"I did. I was undercover as Trey Morgan. Team members arrested the men who kidnapped those girls. I bought them and they went immediately to the hospital. The same one you went to. After we made sure they were unharmed, their parents were notified. All, except one, were returned to their parents."

"Why wasn't that one returned?"

"We do background checks on the parents before releasing the children. Her stepdad came up hot. We think he may have been the contact for the girls being kidnapped. She's safe with grandparents while everything's investigated."

"Why didn't you arrest the person holding them? Why didn't you arrest the men who kidnapped me?"

"We will. I couldn't arrest the men who kidnapped you, right now, because I couldn't blow my cover." He watched for a response but got none so continued, "Right now, LeRoy's needed. He's sort of the clearinghouse for dispersing the girls. He's my contact. I'm the handler for numerous undercover agents working inside the different human trafficking rings."

He paused. "That brings me to you. None of the trafficking rings knew about the hit on the community center. That one was random. LeRoy knew nothing about it. The girls didn't go through him. You had the only information."

"So, you used me."

"That's harsh, but true." Noah swallowed. "We were hoping you had information you didn't know you had. That's why we bugged your conversations." He hesitated. "Some of your plans put you in danger. We needed to know what you were doing next." He closed his eyes. "More accurately, I needed to know what you had planned."

"Why?"

"One of my jobs is to ensure everybody's safety." Noah studied the ceiling. "I told you I wouldn't lie. I've become fond of you and wanted to make sure you were safe." He gulped. "I knew you wanted to make an impression on the pros, so I purposely made sure they saw me give you money. I knew better than to flash money but did it anyway, and it caused you to be hurt. I'm sorry."

"That's what attracted Big T, right?" Noah nodded, so Sami continued, "I sort of understood your actions when you came to my aide with the john. I don't see how disgracing and humiliating me was protecting me. You were..."


"I had no choice," interrupted Noah. "I was undercover. I didn't have a plan. I knew I had to get you out of there and remain in character. I was a purchaser of young girls for the sole purpose of selling them as sex slaves. You weren't for sale. I had to convince those guys my need for you was strong."

Tears welled in her eyes. "But..."

"I'm sorry," interrupted Noah. "I've played that scene over and over in my head." He hesitated. "I understand I humiliated you. I doubt you'll ever forgive me. I saw hate in your eyes. It's still there."

After a long pause, Noah added, "The only other way I could think of to have gotten you to safety was allow Chen or his men to move you. We could've rescued you on the street. There might have been gun fire. Innocent people could have gotten hurt.

Sami stood. "If that's all you have to say, you can leave."


CHARACTERS:

Sami Martinez - Twenty-five-year-old high school teacher, who's working to find a kidnapped teenage girl.

Noah Taylor. - Homeland Security team leader, who works in the Human Trafficking department. Alias - Trey Morgan

Jose, Bob, & Sarah - Agents who work under Noah.

Laura Martinez - Sami's mom.

Jasper - Sami's Great Dane, a large breed dog.

Myra Rodriguez - Kidnapped teenage girl who Sami was close to.

Julia - Teenage girl, who was friends with Myra and Sami works with.

Big T - Neighborhood pimp; not a friendly person

Numerous Team Members - They will show up periodically but not really important to the story, except they're there.

Author Notes Chapter 5 originally was going to be posted its entirety, but as I was posting today, I decided it was too long, almost 2700 words. So, today's post is a little over 1400 words. I'm attempting to post this novel every Wednesday until Seth and Emma's story is completed. I'm not sure I can keep that pace, but we'll see. If I can't then I'll post every other week.

Thank you google images for a photo of a possible safe house.

I appreciate all of your support and the review. THANK YOU!!!


Chapter 7
Willing Hearts Chapter 5 B

By barbara.wilkey

Noah and Sami met 6 days ago.

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"So, you used me."

"That's harsh, but true." Noah swallowed. "We were hoping you had information you didn't know you had. That's why we bugged your conversations." He hesitated. "Some of your plans put you in danger. We needed to know what you were doing next." He closed his eyes. "More accurately, I needed to know what you had planned."

"Why?"

"One of my jobs is to ensure everybody's safety." Noah studied the ceiling. "I told you I wouldn't lie. I've become fond of you and wanted to make sure you were safe." He gulped. "I knew you wanted to make an impression on the pros, so I purposely made sure they saw me give you money. I knew better than to flash money but did it anyway, and it caused you to be hurt. I'm sorry."

"That's what attracted Big T, right?" Noah nodded, so Sami continued, "I sort of understand your actions when you came to my aide with the john. I don't see how disgracing and humiliating me was protecting me. You were..."


"I had no choice," interrupted Noah. "I was undercover. I didn't have a plan. I knew I had to get you out of there and remain in character. I was a purchaser of young girls for the sole purpose of selling them as sex slaves. You weren't for sale. I had to convince those guys my need for you was strong."

Tears welled in her eyes. "But..."

"I'm sorry," interrupted Noah. "I've played that scene over and over in my head." He hesitated. "I understand I humiliated you. I doubt you'll ever forgive me. I saw hate in your eyes. It's still there."

After a long pause, Noah added, "The only other way I can think of to have gotten you to safety was allow Chen or his men to move you. We could've rescued you on the street. There might have been gun fire. Innocent people could have gotten hurt we did that.

Sami stood. "If that's all you have to say, you can leave."

TODAY'S POST

Chapter 5 B

"There are a few odds-and-ends that need to be addressed," Noah quickly added.

Her glare met his eyes as she sat.

"Sarah went into your apartment and got the things you'll need while you're here. I thought a female should do it thinking she'd do a better job making sure nothing was forgotten. As for Jasper being sedated, it was safer for him and for us. I had our K-9 veterinarian administer the sedative so there wouldn't be any problems."

"I appreciate that."

Noah nodded. "I've put your car in our impound lot. It'll be safe there. Your mail has been directed to my office. Any personal mail you receive I'll, or if you prefer, somebody else will bring it to you. My office is covering your bills, so you won't be delinquent. Tomorrow, I want you and Sarah to make a list so I'm sure we don't miss any."

"Will I be your private property forever or will I be able to continue my life?"

Shaking his head, Noah said, "Sami, you don't belong to me or anybody else. As soon as we arrest Chen and the rest of his ring, you're free. Just be sure to stay away from Big T. If I were you, I wouldn't go anywhere near his territory."

"I don't plan on it. What about Myra and the others?"

"We believe Chen kidnapped them. Once we're able to arrest him, we should be able to rescue the girls. We believe the reason he kidnapped you was he felt you were asking too many questions and getting too close to his operation."

Noah held out the phone he'd taken from her. "This is Myra's, isn't it?" When she nodded, he asked, "I thought you didn't know where it was?"

"When Big T knocked me down, I got a glimpse of it under a shrub."

"Why didn't you tell me you found it? Thursday night would've been the perfect opportunity."

"Can I have it back?"

"No. It's evidence."

"That's why."

"Touche." Noah exhaled. "You said there might be a photograph of the black van on it. Its password protected. Can or will you help me with the code?"

"I won't help you, but I'll give it to you because it might help Myra."

"Understood."

She took Myra's bracelet from her pocket. "It's the date I gave her this. The date she realized she had a future: 10-13-22."

Noah handed her the phone. "Put it in."

Once Sami input the numbers, her eyes lit up. "I'm in."

"Is there a photo?"

"Yes, and some of the men kidnapping the girls."

He held out his hand. "Can I see?" When she handed him the phone, he said, "Thank you. I'll get this to my tech. We'll search for the van and run facial recognition on the men."

Holding Sami's Fitbit, Noah said, "Now, for this."

Sami stood, walked to her room, and closed the door.

*****
Noah's head turned as Jose and Sarah rushed through the door. Jose said, "Boss, I'm glad you have LeRoy's office bugged. Turn up your wrist communicator. Chen's pressing LeRoy for information."

They listened as Chen spoke, "I want my bitch. She wasn't for sale."

LeRoy responded, "I didn't sell her. Rumor has it your men sold her to Trey Morgan. You need to talk to them, not me. I can't do anything."

"What's Morgan's number?"

"He's not somebody to mess with. He expects privacy."

Noah spoke into his wrist communicator. "This could go south fast. Who's in LeRoy's neighborhood? I need an agent there ASAP!"

"Boss, I can be there in less than five," responded Matt.

"Good," interrupted Noah. "Make sure you're armed."

"Roger. Going in." Matt loudly closed the door. "LeRoy, Trey Morgan sent me."

Chen's voice was heard, "Who are you?"

"None of your business."

"Tell Morgan I demand my bitch."

"Step back. I don't like my space being invaded." There was silence before Matt said, "If you were aware of Morgan's reputation, you'd know he doesn't take orders from anybody."

"Does he still have the bitch?"

"Boss, doesn't confide in me."

"Where's he live?"

"I'm not telling you anything."

"If you don't, it's a death wish."

"I trump your knife with this." Again silence, before Matt's voice was heard, "I advise you to leave. I'll give Morgan the message. I doubt he'll comply."

"I want my bitch returned." The next sound heard was a door slamming.

Noah whispered, "Matt, make an excuse and get out of there." When he heard Matt leave LeRoy's office, he spoke into his wrist communicator. "Good job, Matt. Who's backing him up?"

Bob said, "Boss, Keith and I are outside. We just watched Chen get in his car and leave. He's visibly angry."

"Good to know. Matt, don't go home. Use one of our places in the city. Bob, you and Keith stay with him. George and Aaron, keep an eye on LeRoy. We'll get this guy. He's making mistakes." Noah paused. "Matt, if you're still using that sawed-off shotgun, we'll need to have a discussion."

"Roger that, Boss."

Noah smelled peony scented perfume and turned. His eyes widened. "Sami? I thought you were in your room. You shouldn't have heard that."

"I'm the girl Chen wants back, aren't I?"

"Yes. That's the reason I did what I had to so he wouldn't have access to you."

Sami swallowed. "I should say thank you, but I can't."

"Understood."

Jose said, "Boss, I'm going to my post."

"I'm going with Jose," added Sarah.

Noah held out her Fitbit. "I still need to know what to do with this." When Sami didn't answer, he said, "I want to keep the bug on it until you leave here. While here you should be safe, but if something goes wrong all you need to do is yell 'help' and somebody will be available. It also has a GPS tracker."

Avoiding eye contact, Sami said, "You feel it's necessary?"

"If I didn't, I would've already removed it."

Sami reached out her hand. "Okay."

"Thank you." After a few moments of silence, Noah said, "Sarah said you haven't eaten. I'll fix dinner."

"You cook?"

"Nope. How hard can it be? I'm sure I can find something in the kitchen." He headed toward the kitchen and opened the refrigerator.

Following, Sami said, "Move aside. I cook. I'm not doing this for you, but for Sarah and Jose. You can tag along."

"Thank you."

*****
During dinner there was very little conversation. What was said centered around everyday subjects, such as the weather.

Noah left after dinner, but dropped by the cabin and gave Jose a note. "Make sure Sami gets this."

"Boss, why don't you give it to her?"

"She hates me. She wouldn't read it."

~~~~~
In Texas, possession of a sawed-off shotgun is legal under certain conditions. Texas Penal Code 46.05 prohibits the possession of "prohibited weapons" which includes sawed-off shotguns. However, the statute allows certain individuals to possess a sawed-off shotgun for specific purposes, such as for use in a movie or theatrical production, for use in a sporting event, or for use by a peace officer. Individuals who obtain a federal tax stamp under the National Firearms Act are also permitted to possess a sawed-off shotgun in Texas.

~~~~~
CHARACTERS:

Sami Martinez - Twenty-five-year-old high school teacher, who's working to find a kidnapped teenage girl.

Noah Taylor. - Homeland Security team leader, who works in the Human Trafficking department. Alias - Trey Morgan

Jose, Bob, & Sarah - Agents who work under Noah.

Laura Martinez - Sami's mom.

Jasper - Sami's Great Dane, a large breed dog.

Myra Rodriguez - Kidnapped teenage girl who Sami was close to.

Julia - Teenage girl, who was friends with Myra and Sami works with.

Big T - Neighborhood pimp; not a friendly person

Numerous Team Members - They will show up periodically but not really important to the story, except they're there.


Author Notes Today's post is the second part of Chapter 5 and is a little over 1100 words. I'm attempting to post this novel every Wednesday until Seth and Emma's story is completed. I'm not sure I can keep that pace, but we'll see. If I can't then I'll post every other week.

Thank you google images for a photo of an example of a sawed-off shotgun.

I appreciate all of your support and the review. THANK YOU!!!


Chapter 8
Willing Hearts Chapter 6 A

By barbara.wilkey

Noah and Sami met 10 days ago.

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

During dinner there was very little conversation. What was said centered around everyday subjects, such as the weather.

Noah left after dinner, but dropped by the cabin and gave Jose a note. "Make sure Sami gets this."

"Boss, why don't you give it to her?"

"She hates me. She wouldn't read it."

TODAY'S POST:

Chapter 6 A

Wednesday morning, Sami sat on the edge of her bed and studied the folded note Jose had given to her Sunday morning. She hadn't read it, only stared at it. Noah's a liar. I should've thrown it away. Why haven't I?

Sarah stood at Sami's bedroom door. "You look deep in thought. Anything you want to discuss?"

"Not really."

"Is that the note Jose gave you?"

Sami nodded.

"What's it say?"

"It's from Noah. I haven't read it." Sami stood and headed toward the trash can but paused.

"Let's talk." Sarah turned off her wrist communicator. "Put your Fitbit under your mattress." She winked. "You don't want the guys listening to girl-talk, do you?"

"No." Sami slipped it under the mattress.

"Come with me and shut your door. We should be free."

*****
"Did Sarah turn me off?" asked Noah.

Jose answered, "She did and told Sami to bury her Fitbit."

"Why?"

"Boss, it's called girl-talk. We're not welcome." Jose heard Noah swear. "Boss, they're safe. I haven't seen or heard any movement. That's what you're worried about, right?"

"Of course, what else would there be?"

Jose chuckled.

*****
Sarah set two glasses of iced tea on the coffee table in front of the couch. "Have a seat." After Sami sat, Sarah continued, "Noah was my first partner, six; close to seven years ago. I probably know him better than anybody, and that's not saying much. He won't allow anyone to get close. Not sure why."

Sami sighed. Because he's a textbook product of the system. He doesn't trust people. He's afraid to have or show any emotions.

Continuing, Sarah said, "About five years ago, he became our team leader. He talked the higher ups into allowing me to stay on the team. Almost four years ago, Bob and I were married. Noah fought for us to remain on his team but won't allow us to be partners."

"That makes sense."

"It does." Sarah got quiet and exhaled before she continued, "Right at three years ago, Bob was shot and almost died."

Sami sipped her tea, as Sarah continued, "Noah stayed by my side the entire time. He didn't say much, but never left. He was there for me in his own way."

"What are you saying?"

"I'm not finished." Sarah got quiet and then continued, "Eighteen months ago, Bob and I had a baby. Lila died of SIDS."

"I'm sorry."

"Noah was by our side through the entire process. He allowed us time off until we were ready to return. I'm telling you this because Noah's one of the good guys."

"But..."

"Noah's far from perfect. He comes across as gruff. He's frustrating and demanding. Thursday evening Noah forgot to turn down his wrist communicator. We heard everything you two discussed. That's the first time Noah opened up even a little. He cares about you."

Sami stared at the note crumpled in her hand. "You're saying I should read this."

"Yes."

Silently Sami read the note, "Yes, I grew-up in the system." After reading, her eyes met Sarah's. I was right. He was raised in the system.

"Did it answer any of your questions?" asked Sarah.

"It does. Thank you for encouraging me to read it."

"I'm glad I could help." Sarah scanned the room. "I'd better turn on my wrist communicator, and you'd better put on your Fitbit, or we'll have a SWAT team swarming the place."

Laughing, Sami said, "You're probably right." She retrieved her Fitbit and said into it, "Jose, is there any way I can take Jasper for a walk? I'm going stir crazy." She waited for a response. I need time to think about what Sarah said.

She received her answer through Sarah's wrist communicator. "Give me a few minutes, and I'll go with you."

"Thank you."

*****
While Sami was on her walk, Noah used his wrist communicator, "Sarah, how's everything? Are there any problems with security?"

Sarah laughed. "Noah, this is so unlike you. If you were wondering about security, you'd ask Jose, not me. Not only that, you waited until Sami was walking Jasper so you're sure she couldn't hear. Just say what you want."

Jose chuckled. "Sami's playing Frisbee with Jasper. Boss, Sarah's right. Say what you mean."

"Has Sami softened any about her situation?"

"If you're asking does she hate you less, the answer is she's probably down to a strong dislike. There's been some improvement. Why don't you drop by and bring a watermelon?"

"What?"

"We were discussing earlier how good a watermelon would taste."

"I can't just drop by. It's about forty-five miles out of the way of anything."

Jose added, "You're the one who put her out here." He paused. "I'm off. Sami's coming closer."

"True. I wanted to make sure she was safe."

Sarah asked, "We can expect you for dinner with a watermelon, right?"

"I guess." Noah exhaled. "I'll be there late afternoon. Maybe around five o'clock."

*****
Late that afternoon, Sami came from her room, stopped, and stared at Jose and Sarah. "What's wrong?"

They faced her. Sarah walked up and took Sami's hands. "Noah's been shot. We don't have any information." She led Sami to the couch, where they sat.

"How? Where?" asked Sami.

Jose answered, "Outside a farmer's market. He was getting a watermelon. From what I can gather it was a targeted drive-by. We really don't know anything. We heard it on our wrist communicators. No other information. We have men at the scene. We should hear something soon."

He stood. "I'm going to the cabin until we get more information."

After he left, Sarah sighed. "Noah was getting the watermelon to bring here. I told him we were discussing how good one would taste."

"He was shot because of me, wasn't he? If he didn't buy me, then Chen wouldn't be after him. Maybe, I should..."

"Don't even go there," interrupted Sarah. "Yes, Chen's angry. Noah knew the risk when he took this job. He also knew the risk when he bought you. Knowing him, he weighed it and did what he had to do." She paused. "We need to come up with a different way to say it other than 'he bought you'."

"That's what he did."

"True, but he did it to protect you. He literally saved your life." Sarah's eyes met Sami's. "Can we agree to say, 'rescued you'?"

"I guess."

Both ladies' eyes stared at Sarah's wrist communicator as Bob said, "Noah's at the hospital. He had on his Kevlar vest. He's angry but all right. It looks like he'll have a bad bruise, maybe a cracked rib or two."

The ladies sighed, and then Sarah said, "Thank you, Bob. Send him our best wishes."

Jose said, "Both of you?"

Sarah glanced at Sami, who nodded, before she said, "Yes, Jose, both of us."

"Good."

*****
Almost seven o'clock, Bob and Noah knocked on the safe house's door. Sarah answered, "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be resting?"

Bob kissed his wife. "I thought you'd enjoy seeing me."

Sarah returned the kiss. "I am." She pointed at Noah. "What's he doing here?"

Pointing to the watermelon Bob held, Noah said, "I was told there were two ladies who just had to have watermelon at all costs." His eyes met Sami's who stood off to the side and watched.

Neither commented nor acknowledged the eye contact.

Bob grinned. "Sarah, I heard a rumor about dinner. You're not cooking, are you?"

She glanced at Sami. "I'm hoping Sami is. She's a good cook."

Sami nodded. "I will."

Jose entered. "Hey, Boss, how are you? I've heard you have a decent bruise. You know you've got to show it so we can compare it to ones we've had and decide who had the best bruise."

"You know he's right. It's all about bragging rights," agreed Bob.

As Noah raised his shirt and showed the left side of his stomach, he said, "A little higher and it probably would've cracked a rib or two. I was lucky."

Sami continued to stand off to the side as the other three examined the bruise.

"I can see why the doc didn't want you to drive." Bob slipped his arm around Sarah. "At least I get to see my wife."

Sarah noticed Sami do a sideways glance at the bruise. "Sami, you okay?"

He still has those six-pack abs. She nodded. "Of course. I'll start dinner." She went into the kitchen.

*****
Almost a half an hour later Sami came into the living room, and asked Noah, "Where is everybody?"

"Bob and Sarah are on the porch, getting some alone time. Jose's in the cabin checking security."

"Dinner will be ready in about fifteen minutes."

Noah nodded. "I'll relay the message." He watched her return to the kitchen before he went outside to tell the others about dinner.


~~~~~
CHARACTERS:

Sami Martinez - Twenty-five-year-old high school teacher, who's working to find a kidnapped teenage girl.

Noah Taylor. - Homeland Security team leader, who works in the Human Trafficking department. Alias - Trey Morgan

Jose, Bob, & Sarah - Agents who work under Noah. Bob and Sarah are married.

Laura Martinez - Sami's mom.

Jasper - Sami's Great Dane, a large breed dog.

Myra Rodriguez - Kidnapped teenage girl who Sami was close to.

Julia - Teenage girl, who was friends with Myra and Sami works with.

Big T - Neighborhood pimp; not a friendly person

Numerous Team Members - They will show up periodically but not really important to the story, except they're there.

Chen - Human trafficker and into some really bad stuff.

Author Notes Thank you, Google Images, for a photograph of a bruised caused by a bullet hitting a Kevlar Vest. 

Today's post is the first part of Chapter 6. Chapter 6 is a long chapter, so I broke it into two sections. This section is a little over 1400 words. Next week maybe the final time I'll post on Wednesday.

Thank you google images for a photo of an example of a sawed-off shotgun.

I appreciate all of your support and the review. THANK YOU!!!


Chapter 9
Willing Hearts Chapter 6 B

By barbara.wilkey

Noah and Sami met 10 days ago.

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Almost a half an hour later Sami came into the living room, and asked Noah, "Where is everybody?"

"Bob and Sarah are on the porch, getting some alone time. Jose's in the cabin checking security."

"Dinner will be ready in about fifteen minutes."

Noah nodded. "I'll relay the message." He watched her return to the kitchen before he went outside to tell the others about dinner.

TODAY'S POST:

Chapter 6 B

When Noah returned, he went into the kitchen. "What can I help with?"

Sami had plates in her hand. "Nothing. I have everything under control."

He took them from her. "I know how to set a table. Let me."

She nodded and studied him as he carried them to the dining room. Can I trust him?

*****
As they ate, Bob said, "Sami, this is good. Is there any way you can teach Sarah to cook?"

She smiled. "I can, but only if she wants to."

Jose asked, "Where did you learn to cook?"

"Mom owns The Pear Tree off North 21st Boulevard. Mom taught us all to cook. My four older sisters and one brother-in-law work there."

"What does your dad do?" asked Noah.

"He owns a construction company. The other three brothers-in-law work with him.

Sarah smiled. "You chose teaching instead of the restaurant business."

"I did. My interest centers on coaching and helping teenage girls. I still work there summers and holidays. All of us help." Sami hesitated. "I'm curious why you're asking. You've already done a background check, right Noah?"

"We did, but it's always nice to hear it firsthand. There's always the possibility the facts are misleading."

*****
After dinner, everybody helped clear the table. As Noah brought the last dish into the kitchen, Sami said, "I'm sorry my actions caused you to get shot."

Turning, he walked away and said over his shoulder, "I knew the risks when I took this job."

Sami walked by him, went to her room, and closed the door.

Sarah walked up to Noah and hit his shoulder. "You have the social graces of a gorilla." She sighed. "Sami was attempting to make up. You shut her down." She glanced at the closed door. "Talk with her. Turn down your wrist communicator, unless you want us to hear. I'm going outside."

Bob studied Sarah. "I'm going with her."

"I'm checking security." Jose followed Bob.

I'm attempting to talk with Sami. Noah stood at her door a few moments with hand raised before he knocked. "Sami, can I come in?"

When she opened the door, he said, "I was just told I have the social graces of a gorilla. I don't normally apologize, so I'm not very good at it. It seems around you I apologize often. Can we talk?" She nodded, and he added, "You're under my protection. Technically I'm not supposed to talk with you in your room. Can you come out?" He pointed to her Fitbit. "Please remove that."

She did and shoved it under her mattress.

Noah waited until Sami sat on the couch with Jasper beside her before he sat in the chair across from her. "I knew Chen was angry. I got careless. I knew he'd react. I didn't expect it so soon." He pointed to his left side. "I made an error in judgement. This was my fault."

"If I didn't make him angry, he wouldn't strike out at you."

"The way I see it, there are only two things that could've happened that would've kept Chen from being angry. One, you never tried to figure out what happened to Myra and the rest of the girls."

"I had to try to help them."

"I understand. Number two, if I would've let Chen have you. I couldn't allow that. We've already discussed the ramifications if he took you. Those are the only options." He hesitated. "I'd take getting shot over either of those."

Sami hung her head. "I appreciate that, but..."

"There's not a but," interrupted Noah. "I'm sorry I didn't make that clear before."

Jose rushed inside. "Boss, sorry, but Trey Morgan's, well, your office has been hit. Police are investigating."

"No!" shouted Sami.

Noah's eyes met Sami's. I need to comfort her, but how? He paused and addressed Jose. "It's my undercover office, they won't find anything." He walked around the room, glanced toward Sami. I'll do what I always do, go straight into work mode. Then he stared out a window for a few moments before he spoke to all his agents through his wrist communicator, "I'm sure you've heard my undercover office has been hit. Here's what we're going to do. Nothing. At least not right now. All agents in the field will remain where they are and work as usual.

"The rest of us are going silent. I don't want any agent alone. I want at least two agents together. You decide who you pair with. Once you're set, I don't want any movement. I don't want you outside. No shopping, not anything. I don't want your cars parked in front of your residences. Park them in our impound lot. This should confuse them and cause them to make mistakes."

A few silent moments passed before Noah said, "We'll re-evaluate this Tuesday morning. This is Wednesday, so it's almost a week. Turn off all wrist communicators. If anybody has problems, use the emergency function to contact me. Any questions?"

Nobody said anything, so Noah continued, "Everyone get in position. I'll contact you Tuesday morning. Stay safe."

Jose faced him. "Boss, what about us?"

"We're already secure. Sarah and Bob, I guess you get a vacation with each other. Just be respectful of the rest of us. Jose, keep doing what you're doing." Noah released a deep breath and faced Sami. "I can stay in the cabin with Jose, in the attic, or in the spare bedroom. It's completely up to you. Just let me know where I should stay that'll make you the most comfortable."

"The spare bedroom makes the most sense, since you're injured."

"It doesn't make sense if you're not comfortable. I know I'm not one of your favorite people."

"The spare bedroom is available." She turned and went into her room.

Noah nodded for Sarah to follow.

*****
Sarah knocked and entered. "Sami, Noah's serious. He'll stay wherever you're most relaxed." Sarah studied Sami. "What are you thinking?"

"I've caused so much trouble."

"No, you haven't caused any problems. Chen caused the problems by kidnapping those innocent girls. Your involvement was only to help. You're not to blame for any of this. Noah has devised a plan to keep everybody safe."

A little while later, Bob knocked on the door. "Ladies, us guys think some watermelon would taste pretty good right about now."

Both ladies went into the living room, but Sami avoided eye contact with anyone. "I'll get plates." She headed toward the kitchen.

Noah followed Sami, walked up behind her, and touched her arm. When she stiffened, turned, and glared into his eyes, he said, "I'm sorry. I should've known better. Especially with everything you've been through."

"I'm sorry. I wasn't expecting anybody behind me and touching me."

"More accurately, you weren't expecting me to come up behind you, right?"

She swallowed. "Maybe."

"I wanted to tell you that none of this is your fault. In case that's what you're thinking."

"Thank you." She held out the plates. "I have these. Should we cut the melon in here or on the table?"

Noah studied the melon. "Let's hope it's juicy so I'd say in here for easier clean up."

"Good idea." She set the plates down. "I'll let them know." She left.

*****
Everybody sat around the table after eating and talked for quite a while. Finally, Jose said, "I need to check security videos. I've been inside way too long."

Bob stood. "I'll go with you." He kissed Sarah's cheek. "I won't be long."

"No problem. I'll help with clean up."

Noah stood. "I'm with the guys."

~~~~~
CHARACTERS:

Sami Martinez - Twenty-five-year-old high school teacher, who's working to find a kidnapped teenage girl.

Noah Taylor. - Homeland Security team leader, who works in the Human Trafficking department. Alias - Trey Morgan

Jose, Bob, & Sarah - Agents who work under Noah. Bob and Sarah are married.

Laura Martinez - Sami's mom.

Jasper - Sami's Great Dane, a large breed dog.

Myra Rodriguez - Kidnapped teenage girl who Sami was close to.

Julia - Teenage girl, who was friends with Myra and Sami works with.

Big T - Neighborhood pimp; not a friendly person

Numerous Team Members - They will show up periodically but not really important to the story, except they're there.

Chen - Human trafficker and into some really bad stuff.





Author Notes Thank you, Google Images, for a photograph of a watermelon. I couldn't find what I wanted so settled.

Today's post is the second part of Chapter 6. Chapter 6 is a long chapter, so I broke it into two sections. This section is a little over 1200 words. I made some major changes as I posted today. I hope I didn't make it worse. Starting Sunday, I'll post this novel on Sunday's.

I appreciate all of your support and the review. THANK YOU!!!


Chapter 10
Willing Hearts Chapter 7 A

By barbara.wilkey

Noah and Sami met 11 days ago.

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Everybody sat around the table after eating watermelon and talked for quite a while. Finally, Jose said, "I need to check security videos. I've been inside way too long."

Bob stood. "I'll go with you." He kissed Sarah's cheek. "I won't be long."

"No problem. I'll help with clean up."

Noah stood. "I'm with the guys."






TODAY'S POST"

It was almost three Thursday morning when Sami woke up with a start. She screamed as noises sounded from outside.

Bob, Sarah, and Noah rushed to her room. Bob and Noah stood in the doorway as Sarah sat on the edge of Sami's bed to comfort her. Sami almost whispered, "I heard noises." The noise sounded again. "Hear that?"

Everybody acknowledged they'd heard it too, but nobody knew what it was.

Jose joined the group. "I saw the lights. In case you're wondering about the noise, a raccoon family is enjoying the watermelon as much as we did." He studied Jasper. "What I don't understand is why you didn't bark. You're a dog, not a horse, right?"

Sami noticed Noah's eyes on her as everybody waited for an answer. She pulled the blanket up closer to her chin before she said, "He's standing on the bed to protect me if needed. I've trained him not to bark." She exhaled. "Jasper, down." The large dog lay. "I hope you're ready. Jasper, speak."

Jasper acted on command.

Sarah's eyes widened. "Thank you for teaching him not to bark."

Nodding, Sami added, "I live in an apartment complex. I can't have him barking."

Bob faced his and Sarah's bedroom. "Since it's only raccoons, can we go back to bed?"

Glancing at Sami, Sarah asked, "You good?"

"Yes. I'm sorry I woke everybody."

Noah said, "Don't worry about it. We all heard it. Later in the morning, we'll figure out what to do with those critters."

*****
A few hours later, Sami crept from her room with Jasper beside her. She stopped when she saw Noah lying on the couch. She put her finger to her lips to indicate for Jasper to be quite as they headed toward the door.

At the door, she heard, "If you open the door, an alarm will sound and wake everyone. What are you trying to do?"

" Jasper needs out. I wanted to take him for a walk. I didn't mean to wake you. Why are you on the couch?"

"If you don't mind and will give me a minute, I'll walk with you. As for why I'm on the couch, I'd rather not answer, if it's okay?"

She nodded.

"Thank you. I'll take that as a yes for both." Noah walked to the spare bedroom.

Within minutes he returned and used his thumb to unlock the door. "The door has a fingerprint security lock on it."

"Is there any way I can be added? Jasper will need to be taken out."

"Let me think on that for a few hours. I'll get back to you." Noah studied the dog. "Where's his leash?"

"In the city he was required to be on one. He doesn't need it, so I see no reason for it. He'll follow my command."

As they stood on the porch, Noah held out his hand. "Is it okay if we leave the Fitbit here? Everyone will be up within a half an hour, and nobody needs to hear our conversation." He cocked his head. "I hope we have one." Sami removed it and handed it to him. After setting it on an outside table, he said, "Thank you." He pointed to his wrist communicator. "We turned them off last night." He scanned the area. "Which direction?"

"Jasper likes ponds. He chases frogs and fish."

Nodding Noah said, "Let's go."

After walking in silence, they reached the pond and walked around it. Sami slipped on a moss-covered rock.

Noah's arm wrapped round her waist and caught her before she fell. "I couldn't let you fall."

"Thank you. I appreciate it." A few more moments of silence, before Sami said, "I didn't mean to cause so many problems with Chen. It wasn't my intent."

"I know. I would've had to deal with him eventually. All you've done is hurry it up and probably saved a few girls' lives in the process."

Noah released a breath. "Chen and his ring were not on our radar. That's why Myra and the girls were taken, and nobody knew about it or believed you. Eventually we would've discovered his ring, and I would've had men undercover in his organization. Until then who knows how many girls would've been kidnapped. I need to thank you for that."

Sami's eyes widened. "Really?"

He grinned. "Yes, really. I'm not too happy with the way some things happened. I wish they never did, but they did. For that I'm sorry."

"Me too."

"Will you ever forgive me?"

"Maybe a little."

He nodded. "Good."

More silence as they walked farther around the pond.

"Did you ever read my note?" asked Noah.

Sami avoided eye contact. "At first no. I was going to throw it away. Sarah and I talked, and she convinced me to read it."

"Was that when you two shut us guys out?"

"It was." Sami hesitated. "Just so you know. I read it but never shared the contents with Sarah."

"Thank you. I appreciate it. Nobody knows about it other than you."

She nodded as silence continued.

After walking a little farther, Sami sighed. "Jasper, get out of the water."

The dog ran up to them and shook, spraying water everywhere.

"No, Jasper." Sami's eyes met Noah's. "He shouldn't have done that."

He chuckled. "No problem. I needed a shower anyway."

"Thank you for taking it so well. Were you raised with dogs?"

"No. Dogs weren't allowed."

"Sorry."

"Not your problem."

"I should've been more understanding."

"You don't need to walk on eggshells around me."

She nodded and silence continued.

They were almost three fourths around the pond before Noah said, "After the raccoon incident, I slept on the couch in case you needed anything. I wanted to be available."

Swallowing, Sami said, "Thank you. I appreciate it."

As they got close to the house, Noah said, "Just a minute. I want to tell Jose we'll have a meeting in about fifteen minutes."

Noah opened the door to the cabin and held it open. "Sami, you're welcome inside."

As soon as they entered, Jose said, "I've some news on Chen."

"Great." Noah moved closer and studied the computer screen over Jose's shoulder.

Pointing Jose said, "It seems he's from New Orleans and his name is Charles Henry Edward Nichols." He chuckled. "I'd go by Chen too." He switched screens. "Here's his driver's license photo."

Sami stretched her neck to see. "I've seen that man."

Noah's eyes met hers. "Where?"

"Outside the community center. He tried to, hmmm..."

"Which time?" interrupted Noah.

Jose kicked him from under the table and whispered, "Social graces?"

Reaching her hand out to touch Noah's, she studied her feet. "The second." She moved her hand away.

"The time I took you to the room?"

"Yes." After a hesitation, she said, "I think I saw him a few other times too but can't be sure. I think a few times he was in the diner."

"Jose, hack into the diner security tapes."

"Boss, that's not my specialty. You'll need Bob."

Noah went outside the cabin and yelled, "Bob, get out here!"

He stood on the porch. "What's up?"

"I need your hacking skills."

After Noah updated Bob on what was needed, he sat at the computer and started typing.

Noah glanced at Sami standing off to the side. She's about ready to lose it. He walked up to her. "Come outside with me."

She nodded and followed him outside.

Facing her, Noah asked, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing." Noah used his finger to raise her chin as his eyes met hers. She sighed. "I just realized Chen was watching me, and if you hadn't stepped in, he would've kidnapped me Thursday and nobody would've known."

"That's right." As tears welled in her eyes, Noah held out his arms. "I'm not good at this, but I'll try. Come here." She went into his arms. As his arms tightened around her, he whispered, "It's all right."

After a few moments, Sami stepped back. "Thank you. I'm all right."

"Sure?" She nodded, and he pointed to the house. "Why don't you go inside? We'll be there in a couple minutes."

Sami took a few steps toward the house. "Security. I can't get in."

"True." He followed. "I'll see about getting that corrected."

*****
Later that morning, the men came inside. Noah glanced at the ladies. "I'm glad everybody's here. There are a few things we need to discuss. First, I think we all agree that Sami's a good cook, but she shouldn't have any jobs while she's in our protection. The rest of us need to share the responsibilities. Any thoughts how we do that?"

Jose was the first to speak, "If Sami doesn't mind, I think she should still do our cooking. None of us, that includes you, Boss, can cook. That would be her only responsibility. We'll divide up the rest of the chores and then rotate kitchen detail, so she doesn't have to clean it." He studied Sami. "Is that okay?"

"That's fine with me."

Sarah offered, "I'll work up a rotating schedule. Everyone's responsible for their own rooms. We'll take turns vacuuming the entire house, to include the bedrooms. Any objections?"

With no objections, Noah said, "It's come to my attention Jasper needs to be walked off-and-on throughout the day. Sami doesn't have access to leave or enter, should we give her fingerprint access? I think that needs to be voted on. The other option would be to take turns walking Jasper with her. Just be aware he likes to go out early in the morning."

Jose and Bob studied each other.

Noticing, Noah said, "Okay, who's going to talk?"

Bob exhaled. "I will. Sami, I trust you with my life. I doubt you have a mean bone in your body, but it's been our experience you have a habit of getting yourself into interesting situations. While on your walk, even with that enormous dog, something could happen." He avoided eye contact with her. "I have to vote against it. She needs somebody with her."

Jose stood. "Sorry, Sami. I agree with Bob.

Noah said, "Two against. Sarah, how do you vote?"

"The reason Sami's here is for her protection. If we allow her to go outside without protection, there's no reason for her to be here. I vote against it."

After a gulp, Noah said, "Okay, that settles it. How do we divide up helping her walk Jasper?"

"When Sarah makes the house cleaning schedule, she can schedule us taking him out too," offered Bob. "Maybe a different person each day."

Noah nodded. "Forget it. I'm here at least until Tuesday. I'll go with her."

Sami's eyes widened as she stared at him.

"Do you object?" asked Noah.

"No. That's fine, but you have important jobs."

"Right now, my only job is to make sure you're safe." After a short pause, Noah continued, "Next subject any ideas about the garbage can?"

Sarah smiled. "That's simple, shut it up in the garage."

"Perfect." Noah glanced at Bob. "Will you give Sarah the update on Chen?" After he nodded, Noah added, "It seems Chen followed Sami around a few days hoping to take her before Friday. He probably knows who I am and may possibly know who Jose and Sarah are. We can't make any mistakes. Understood?" After everybody indicated they did, Noah walked outside.

Sami watched him leave, and then went after him. The door shut before she could get to it. She tried opening it. When the alarm went off, she kicked the door, went to her room, and closed that door.

*****
Since next week is Easter, I may not post on Sunday. Maybe Monday.
*****



~~~~~
CHARACTERS:

Sami Martinez - Twenty-five-year-old high school teacher, who's working to find a kidnapped teenage girl.

Noah Taylor. - Homeland Security team leader, who works in the Human Trafficking department. Alias - Trey Morgan

Jose, Bob, & Sarah - Agents who work under Noah. Bob and Sarah are married.

Laura Martinez - Sami's mom.

Jasper - Sami's Great Dane, a large breed dog.

Myra Rodriguez - Kidnapped teenage girl who Sami was close to.

Julia - Teenage girl, who was friends with Myra and Sami works with.

Big T - Neighborhood pimp; not a friendly person

Numerous Team Members - They will show up periodically but not really important to the story, except they're there.

Chen - Charles Henry Edward Nichols - Human trafficker and into some really bad stuff.

Author Notes Thank you, Google Images, for a photograph of a racoon in a watermelon. I thought the little guy was cute.

Today's post is the first part of Chapter7. Chapter 7 is a long chapter, so I broke it into two sections. This section is a little over 1900 words. Willing Hearts will be posted on Sunday's from now on.

Again, I made numerous changes as I posted. Not sure why I didn't see the errors when I edited yesterday or any of the previous days. I appreciate all of your support and the review. THANK YOU!!!


Chapter 11
Willing Hearts Chapter 7 B

By barbara.wilkey

Noah and Sami met 11 days ago.

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"Perfect." Noah glanced at Bob. "Will you give Sarah the update on Chen?" After he nodded, Noah added, "It seems Chen followed Sami around a few days hoping to take her before Friday. He probably knows who I am and may possibly know who Jose and Sarah are. We can't make any mistakes. Understood?" After everybody indicated they did, Noah walked outside.

Sami watched him leave, and then went after him. The door shut before she could get to it.


Chapter 7 B

Hearing the kick on the door, Noah returned inside. "What just happened?"

Jose pointed to Sami's closed door. "She went after you, but the door shut before she got out. When the alarm sounded, she kicked the door. She's a feisty one."

After releasing a deep breath, Noah headed toward her door. "Her feistiness gets her into trouble." He knocked. "Sami, you wanted to talk to me?"

She opened the door but avoided eye contact. "Yes."

"After kicking the door, how's your foot?"

"Fine." She continued to avoid eye contact.

"Good." Noah glanced around the room. "We'll take Jasper for a walk."

The large dog pushed his way through and stood at the door.

"He doesn't need out but likes to go for walks. If you have time, okay."

"Right now, time is all I have."

After they walked for a few silent moments, Noah said, "Jose said you had something to say. What?"

"Us taking Jasper out. Jasper goes out between five-thirty and six in the morning. Then again somewhere around four or five in the afternoon, and his final time around nine o'clock. Occasionally something won't sit well on his stomach, and he'll add extra times. Sometimes he just gets bored and wants to play." Sami pointed. "Like now."

"I don't see the problem."

"You're an important person and will be too busy to be available at all these times."

"While I'm here, I'm not busy. I'm waiting like everybody else. Occasionally something will come up like the information on Chen, but that could wait until after a walk. We can't act on it right now." He paused. "Unless you don't want me to? If that's the case, I won't."

She studied Jasper. "I enjoyed our walk this morning."

"Me too." Noah exhaled. "So, it's okay if I walk with you and Jasper?"

She whispered, "Yes."

"Good."

Watching a soaking wet Jasper run towards them, Sami said, "I hope you don't mind another shower."

"I'll get used to it."

"Thank you."

After walking in silence for a while, Sami said, "I have another question." When his eyes met hers, she asked, "How do I get groceries?"

Noah cocked his head. "Good question. When we get back, we'll discuss it." He paused. "One thing's for sure, you're not doing it."

"But..." Noah's stare stopped her from continuing. "Yes, Sir."

Releasing a deep breath, Noah said, "Social graces again, right?"

Sami nodded.

"I'm working on that. What I should've said is it's not safe for you to go into town and buy the groceries."

"I hoped that's what you meant and not that I wasn't capable..."

Noah ran his hand through his short hair. "Sami, my only intent is to keep you safe." Facing the pond, he added, "I haven't forgotten the hate I saw in your eyes last Friday. I hope someday we can get past that."

"So do I," whispered Sami. "I'm starting to understand, but it still hurts."

"Understood."

"If Jasper wants out at five-thirty, how do I notify you?"

He grinned. "What would you do if it were Sarah?"

"Knock on her door."

"Then knock on my door."

"But..."

"I'm a normal person, I don't expect or require special treatment," interrupted Noah. "Really, I don't."

"I know I've frustrated or upset you at times."

"You have, but that's past. My actions trump anything you've done."

"Your actions were to protect me. My actions were to find Myra and the girls. I didn't understand the risk."

"I feel we're making progress. How about you?"

"I agree."

She paused. "Off the subject, but how do we get the garbage picked up?"

"Another good question." Noah paused. "Bob's the only person Chen may not recognize. Everyone else he could've made a connection to you. Bob may be busy." His eyes met hers. "Any other questions?"

"In the evenings are we just going to sit around and stare at each other? Maybe we could plan a game or something."

Noah chuckled. "We'll see. That's priceless. We're Homeland Security Agents, Federal Agents. Not your normal next-door neighbors. How about we'll work on it?"

"Thank you."

*****
During dinner Noah said, "Sarah, I'm sure you've already worked on the daily chore schedule, but can you reduce some of Bob's chores? He's the only person Chen may not associate with Sami. I don't want the garbage truck coming down the lane, so he'll have to take it to the road once a week and he'll have to buy groceries. I don't want him going into the city. I think there's a small town a few miles south."

He glanced at Sami. "Is it possible to buy groceries every other week?"

"I doubt it because the freezer's small. I don't think there'll be enough room for two weeks' worth of meat." Sami paused. "Also, how will we get groceries when you and Bob leave?"

Noah studied her for a few moments. "You keep coming up with more and more questions, don't you?"

She hung her head and moved food around her plate with her fork.

Sarah glared at Noah.

Swallowing Noah said, "Sorry. The social graces problem again. I didn't mean it as it sounded." After a prolonged silence, he continued, "You're right. We'll need to figure out how to get groceries."

After taking a few bites and chewing slowly, Noah said, "This is very good, by the way. The only thing that comes to mind is switching Bob and Jose. Bob, can you do your computer stuff from here?"

"I'm not sure. If we get hacked into, there'll be a trail to the computer which will lead straight to Sami."

"Can you force it to lead elsewhere?"

"Yes, but I'll have to see if the Internet connection out here is strong enough to allow me to do it."

"Let's table that for now. Bob, check and see what's available." Noah studied Sami still moving her dinner around her plate. "Sami came up with some after dinner ideas. Sami, care to share?"

"Are you sure you want me to? I thought you already killed that idea."

"Not really, I just mentioned agents weren't normal neighbors."

Jose chuckled. "I feel I'm normal. How about you, Bob?"

"I agree. Sami, tell us your plan and we'll vote on it."

She glanced at Noah. After he nodded for her to continue, she said, "I thought after dinner we could do activities. Maybe play dominos, or Yahtzee, a trivia game, or cards. Maybe when Bob gets groceries, he could get some games. Sitting around staring at each other didn't seem right."

Sarah nodded. "I think it's a great idea. I'm in favor of it."

Both Jose and Bob gave thumbs up.

Staring at Noah, Sarah said, "Boss, are you going to bless off on it?"

His eyes met Sami's, and he grinned. "Yes. You've successfully turned my fine-tuned team into normal civilians. It took you all of two days. I'm impressed."

"Is that good or bad?" asked Sami.

Bob chuckled. "Sami, it's great." He hesitated. "What should we do after the kitchen's cleaned?"

"I don't have anything planned for tonight."

Jose pointed at the door. "I'll be right back. I saw a kickball in the cabin. If it has air, we can play kickball." He chuckled. "I don't think hide-and-go-seek is a good choice. I can see Boss trying to fill out an after-action report. 'Even though Sami Martinez was under our protection we lost her during a hide-and-go-seek game. She went to hide, and we never found her. I guess she hid very well.' Boss, what do you think?"

Shaking his head, Noah said, "I agree. Decide on the teams. We're playing kickball."

*****
After dinner, they went outside and the teams were decided, Sami, Sarah, and Bob on one team. Jose and Noah were on the other.

Darkness started to close in on the game. Sami was on second base and Noah was the infielder closest to her. All heads turned at a sound. She jumped, grabbed Noah's arm, and slid her hand down to interlock their fingers. "What's that?"

Jasper stood alert beside her.

Noah studied her arm around his. "Probably a coyote."

"A real one?"

"I doubt fake ones howl." Noah paused. "I think it's getting too dark to continue. Let's head inside."

Sami didn't move. Her arm remained around Noah's arm with fingers still interlocked with his.

After another howl, she squeezed tighter.

"Sami, maybe we should go inside."

She nodded but didn't move.

Noah said, "You have four highly trained Homeland Security agents guarding you. A coyote is no match."

"What if he has friends and family?"

Revealing his Sig Sauer P229, he said, "Even his extended family."

"You're being sarcastic, aren't you?"

"Maybe a little." Noah grinned as Sami stiffened at an owl hooting. "We'll take care of that owl too."

Sami untangled her arms and fingers from Noah's and headed toward the house.

Noah followed, watched her go into her room, closed the door, and said, "I think I upset her."

Sarah shook her head. "The social graces issue again?"

Putting his weapon away, he said, "Probably. She wasn't impressed when I explained we could handle all the coyotes' extended family."

Jose chuckled. "Good one, Boss."

"Jose, don't encourage him." Sarah headed for the kitchen. "Anybody want something to drink? I think Sami made brownies."

*****
A little later, Sarah knocked on Sami's door. "The brownies are good. Would you like some?"

"No, thank you. I'm in for the night."


*****
I hope everyone had a very blessed Easter!!!!
*****

~~~~~
CHARACTERS:

Sami Martinez - Twenty-five-year-old high school teacher, who's working to find a kidnapped teenage girl.

Noah Taylor. - Homeland Security team leader, who works in the Human Trafficking department. Alias - Trey Morgan

Jose, Bob, & Sarah - Agents who work under Noah. Bob and Sarah are married.

Laura Martinez - Sami's mom.

Jasper - Sami's Great Dane, a large breed dog.

Myra Rodriguez - Kidnapped teenage girl who Sami was close to.

Julia - Teenage girl, who was friends with Myra and Sami works with.

Big T - Neighborhood pimp; not a friendly person

Numerous Team Members - They will show up periodically but not really important to the story, except they're there.

Chen - Charles Henry Edward Nichols - Human trafficker and into some really bad stuff.

Author Notes Thank you, Google Images, for a photograph of coyotes in the late evening.

Today's post is the second part of Chapter7. Chapter 7 is a long chapter, so I broke it into two sections. This section is a little under 1600 words.

Again, I made numerous changes as I posted. Not sure why I didn't see the errors when I edited yesterday or any of the previous days. I appreciate all of your support and the review. THANK YOU!!!


Chapter 12
Willing Hearts Chapter 8

By barbara.wilkey

Noah and Sami met 12 days ago.

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Sami untangled her arms and fingers from Noah's and headed toward the house.

Noah followed, watched her go into her room, closed the door, and said, "I think I upset her."

Sarah shook her head. "The social graces issue again?"

Putting his weapon away, he said, "Probably. She wasn't impressed when I explained we could handle all the coyotes' extended family."

Jose chuckled. "Good one, Boss."

"Jose, don't encourage him." Sarah headed for the kitchen. "Anybody want something to drink? I think Sami made brownies."


TODAY'S POST:

Chapter 8

Early Friday morning, Noah waited in the living room. He heard movement in Sami's room and her attempting to convince Jasper that he needed to wait to go out. It appeared Jasper wasn't buying it.

Finally, Sami crept from her room and stood in front of Sarah's door with her hand poised to knock.

Noah came up behind her. "I thought it was my job to help take out Jasper." When his eyes met hers, he asked, "What's going on?" He touched her arm, then pulled his hand back. "We'll discuss it on our walk. I don't think Jasper can wait much longer."

They walked in silence for a while, before Noah asked, "Are we going to discuss what's bothering you?"

"I seem to get myself into embarrassing situations around you."

"You're a city girl. I'm pretty sure that was the first coyote you've ever heard."

"It was."

"It scaring you seems reasonable." Noah exhaled. "Part of the problem is when things like this happen my response isn't the best. I seem to make the situation worse. I could've handled it better."

He ran his hand through his short hair and studied the pond. "To be honest, I was glad you grabbed my arm. It showed you're starting to trust me, a little. Instead of saying or showing that, I upset you." He faced her. "I have a feeling it's more me than you."

"I wouldn't say that. I could've given you the benefit of the doubt."

"Can we agree to get past it?"

"I think so."

"Good."

Silence continued as they walked further around the pond, before Sami asked, "Did you enjoy the kickball game?"

"I did. I hate to admit but I had a good time." Noah hesitated. "I can't remember the last time I did something just for fun." His eyes met hers. "Thank you."

Sami nodded. After walking a little more, she said, "Noah?" When he faced her, she reached up and hugged him.

"What was that for?"

"Just because."

"Thank you." He grinned and shook his head.

Almost around the pond, Sami asked, "What other critters can I expect around here?"

"You already know about raccoons, coyotes, and owls. There are numerous kinds of snakes, cougars, bobcats, armadillos, opossums, a few black bears, badgers, and all kinds of lizards. I'm sure I've forgotten a few." After a few moments, he added, "All kinds of deer, probably a beaver or two. Plenty of foxes."

"So, I need to be prepared for about anything?"

"Probably, but rest assured you won't be alone."

"Thank you."

Noah nodded. He sighed when he studied the cabin lit up. "I wonder what's going on."

They headed toward the cabin, where Noah opened the door and held it for Sami. After he noticed the Zoom meeting, he motioned for Sami to stand off to the side so she couldn't be seen.

"Tony, what's going on?" asked Noah.

"Boss, glad you're here. A few of us were playing pool at a local bar last night, well early this morning. At a table next to us a couple men were bragging about a hit at a church over by Trimmer High School planned for tomorrow night."

Noah glanced at Sami, she mouthed, "I know it."

He nodded. "Why the interest in that church?"

"They're sponsoring a teen dance."

After his fist hit the table, Noah said, "Why haven't we gotten prior notice of this?"

"These guys aren't on our radar."

"Chen!" yelled Noah. "Do you have more information? Why older teens? Most traffickers want younger girls."

"Word in the street is he's running a high-priced escort service. They train them. If they don't make the grade, they're used for BDSM."

"Figures! Chen's the worst of the worst. We need to stop him and fast." Noah hesitated. "Only you hear this? I don't want it coming back and blowing your cover."

"It won't, Boss. He was drunk and careless. Maybe seven or eight others in my group heard it. We were letting off some steam. There were a few other gangs there too."

"Thank you. We'll see what we can do. Stay safe."

"Thanks, Boss."

After the Zoom meeting finished, Sami asked, "What's BDSM?"

Noah's eyes met hers. "You don't want to know." He sighed. "It's bondage, discipline (or domination), sadism, and masochism as a type of sexual practice."

"You're right. I didn't want to know." She exhaled. "I have an idea that might help."

Both Noah and Jose stared at her. Jose said, "Don't get any ideas about being there."

"I won't. But I do have an in with teenage girls. They're experts with social networking. If it's okay, I could contact one of them, and she could pass on the information that it's dangerous and they shouldn't attend. Mom could contact the pastor. It's short notice, but maybe he could change it from a teen dance to senior bingo or Pinochle game."

Noah released a deep breath. "I don't know."

Jose grinned. "Boss, Sami has a good idea. We can supervise her call and make sure she's only on a few minutes, so it won't be traced."

Still frowning, Noah said, "I'll think about it. Let's go to the house. I need coffee and breakfast."

*****
Jose filled Bob and Sarah in on the situation and Sami's suggestion. Noah remained silent.

Halfway through breakfast, Noah pushed his plate away. "I'm going outside." He faced Sami. "I need to be alone. Don't follow me."

"Yes, Sir."

He set his jaw at her response.

Before he got to the door, Sami said, "Noah, if I'm going to contact anyone, I need to do it soon, so they have time to respond."

The door slammed on his way out.

"I've succeeded with upsetting him again."

Sarah reached over and touched Sami's hand. "It's not you. It's the circumstances. Noah knows it's the only sensible choice he has. He cares for you and doesn't understand those feelings. He does know it could put you in danger. He hates that part. Give him time to work through it."

Bob added, "Noah hasn't had a lot of experience with relationships. He's a workaholic. You confuse him."

"Remember the social graces issue?" asked Jose.

Sami nodded.

*****
Almost thirty minutes later, Noah returned. "Sami's suggestion is our only option to ensure these girls are protected. We could send a team in, but then we're leaving people vulnerable. That's probably why Chen has this set up and bragged about it in a busy bar. He's setting a trap hoping to call us out. Unfortunately, innocent girls could be hurt. How do we go about having Sami make those calls?"

Bob set down his coffee cup. "She can't use her phone. Do we have any burner phones?"

"I'll call Julie, but if she doesn't recognize the number she may not answer. Same with Mom."

Sarah went toward her room. "I have a burner I've never used. Sami text Julie and tell her it's you and you're going to call her. Keep the text short."

'This is Coach Martinez. I'll call you from this number. It's important.' Once Julie responded to the text, Sami called, "Julie, my call's timed. I need you to contact as many girls as possible and tell them to pass it around. Do not, I repeat do not; go to the church dance tomorrow night. It's a trap. More girls will be kidnapped." She listened. "Thank you. Please reach out to as many as possible. Goodbye."

Her eyes met Noah's. "It's done. Now for Mom."

He nodded and sighed.

Sami sent a similar text to her mom, and then called, "Mom, the call's timed. I need you to talk with Pastor Hudson and have him cancel the teen dance tomorrow night. Have him schedule some senior citizen activity." She listened. "I love you too, Mom, thank you. Bye." She dried a tear spilling from her eye. "It's done."

Noah studied Sami. "You okay?"

"I'm fine." She stood. "I'm going to my room for a few minutes. Come on, Jasper."

He reached for her hand, but then stopped. "Why don't we go for a walk. Jasper looks like he needs a dip in the pond."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive. Let's go."

After walking in silence, Noah said, "I know you're close to your family. I'm sorry you're not with them."

"Thank you for saying it. I do understand why it's not possible. I'd hate to put my family in danger. Angela has two young kids, Greg's almost three and Austin is six months."

Noah chuckled. "After all those sisters, you have two nephews. Do any of your other sisters have children?"

"Only Angela."

They walked in silence.

On the opposite side of the pond, Sami pointed to the grass. "Can we sit for a while? It's beautiful here and there's a nice breeze." After Noah nodded.

They both sat, before Sami asked, "How long has it been since you just sat and enjoyed the sunshine?"

"I can't remember." Noah observed Sami for a few moments. "You have something to say but are afraid to say it. Out with it. If it's not something, we can talk about, I'll tell you."

"I feel something in your past keeps getting in the way. Is there anything you need to talk about?"

He swallowed. "You're right. I probably need to talk, but I'm not willing to."

"Okay. I won't bring it up again."

"Thank you." After sitting in silence, Noah threw a twig into the pond. "Maybe someday I'll be able to share it with you."

"It's completely up to you."

Noah stared at the house and then pointed. "Stay quiet." As he watched, he whispered, "It looks like a sheriff's cruiser. I wonder what he wants."

"Bob and Sarah are talking with him. Where's Jose?"

"I'm sure he's staying back."

After the sheriff left, Noah said, "We'd better find out what's going on."

"You mean you'd better find out what's going on."

Chuckling, Noah said, "True."

*****
When they returned to the house, Bob and Sarah stood outside and spoke with Jose.

"Anything we need to be concerned about?" asked Noah.

Bob's eyes met Noah's. "Yes and no. It seems there's been an epidemic of convenience store armed robberies on this side of the city. Three men are at large. The authorities feel they're lying low someplace in this area. We pretended to be a married couple vacationing for a few weeks. He wanted us to be aware and on the lookout. They're armed."

Sami's eyes met Noah's, and he said, "We can handle this too."

She swallowed then headed toward the door. "I need to start lunch." She turned. "When's Bob going to the grocery store?"

Bob nodded. "I asked the sheriff about that small town. He said it's a quiet little town. If you can give me a grocery list, I'll go after lunch." He glanced toward Noah. "Is that okay?"

"Yes."

Sami stood at the door with Jasper by her side. "Will somebody let me in?"

Jose jogged up. "You may enter."

"Thank you."

When he returned beside his companions, Noah said, "These guys are probably amateurs but just in case we need to be vigilant."

Bob nodded. "I agree." He faced the front door. "I'll leave as soon as Sami gives me the list. Any advice?"

"Just be careful." After a pause, Noah added, "Be sure to get a bunch of burner phones. I have a feeling we're going to need them. I don't like sending you by yourself, but don't have a choice."


~~~~~
CHARACTERS:

Sami Martinez - Twenty-five-year-old high school teacher, who's working to find a kidnapped teenage girl.

Noah Taylor. - Homeland Security team leader, who works in the Human Trafficking department. Alias - Trey Morgan

Jose, Bob, & Sarah - Agents who work under Noah. Bob and Sarah are married.

Laura Martinez - Sami's mom.

Jasper - Sami's Great Dane, a large breed dog.

Myra Rodriguez - Kidnapped teenage girl who Sami was close to.

Julia - Teenage girl, who was friends with Myra and Sami works with.

Big T - Neighborhood pimp; not a friendly person

Numerous Team Members - They will show up periodically but not really important to the story, except they're there.

Chen - Charles Henry Edward Nichols - Human trafficker and into some really bad stuff.

Author Notes Thank you, Google Images, for a photograph of a west Texas pond.

Today's post is Chapter8 in its entirety. It's a short chapter. It only has has a little over 1900 words.

Again, I made numerous changes as I posted. Not sure why I didn't see the errors when I edited yesterday or any of the previous days. I appreciate all of your support and the review. THANK YOU!!!


Chapter 13
Willing Hearts Chapter 9

By barbara.wilkey

Noah and Sami met 13 days ago.

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Sami stood at the door with Jasper by her side. "Will somebody let me in?"

Jose jogged up. "You may enter."

"Thank you."

When he returned beside his companions, Noah said, "These guys are probably amateurs but just in case we need to be vigilant."

Bob nodded. "I agree." He faced the front door. "I'll leave as soon as Sami gives me the list. Any advice?"

"Just be careful." After a pause, Noah added, "Be sure to get a bunch of burner phones. I have a feeling we're going to need them. I don't like sending you by yourself, but don't have a choice."

TODAY'S POST:

Chapter 9

Sami left her room early Saturday morning and saw Noah staring out the front window. She asked, "You look deep in thought. Anything I can help with?"

He grinned. "I wish you could." He glanced at Jasper. "Ready?"

They walked outside walked. Sami asked, "Any news about the church dance? Did our plan work?"

"All indications are that it did. We won't know for sure until tonight."

"Because of me you can't have anybody there to guarantee the teens are safe."

Noah, with a wide stance, faced her. "Don't go there. It's not your fault. You didn't kidnap those girls."

"I did try to find them."

"I understand why you did. Nobody was searching for them."

"I appreciate you saying that."

"Tonight's a trap. If the teens don't show up, Chen's going to be angry." He grinned. "I wonder what he'll try next."

"You and your team will be in more danger, won't you?"

"Maybe. It's not your worry." He knelt, picked up a small branch, and threw it. He watched the gigantic dog chase it. "Jasper likes fetching."

"He does."

"Did Bob get everything you needed at the store?"

"Yes. Did you like the domino game last night?"

"It was interesting. Let's put it that way."

"You're just sore because you didn't win," teased Sami.

"Are you implying my ego can't handle being the first one out every game?"

Sami smiled. "It might be a fair assumption."

"You could be right. Think I can get a rematch?"

"I'm sure that's possible."

"Are you okay with doing all the cooking? Normally, people in protective custody don't do any chores."

"Yes." Sami exhaled. "Noah, what are you avoiding? It's not like you to have conversation for the sake of conversation."

"You've partly figured me out, haven't you?" Noah released a deep breath. "I'm thinking about going back to the city."

"Why? Chen's not out to get your team, but just you. He's already shot you." Sami stopped and studied him. "What's here that's got you so worried that you're willing to risk your life?" She stared into his eyes. "It's me, isn't it?"

Noah nodded.

Sami jogged toward the house, with Jasper by her side.

He followed. "Sami, let's talk." He caught up to her but stopped as Jasper stood between them. "Call off your dog."

"Jasper, sit." When the dog returned to her side, Sami said, "I won't be the cause of you dying. I won't ask any questions and I'll stay out of your way. The others can help walk Jasper. I'll cook and eat my meals in my room. You won't see me." She swallowed. Don't cry. Whispering, she said, "I'm sorry you hate me so much."

"I don't hate you. You're not the reason." Noah hesitated. "I said I'd never lie to you. You are the reason but not because of what you've stated."

Sami knocked on the cabin door. Jose answered, and then she said, "Please let me in the house."

Jose glanced at Noah, standing right there, but said, "Sure." After Sami went inside, he asked, "Boss, what's that about?"

"She's angry."

"I figured that out. I'm guessing at you."

"You're right." Noah went inside to his room, and slammed the door.

*****
A little after the normal lunch time, Sarah said, "I guess lunch isn't happening. Anybody know what's going on?"

Jose's glance shifted between the two closed bedroom doors. "I'm guessing they had a disagreement. They're both stubborn enough neither of them is going to make the first move."

Bob shook his head and walked toward the kitchen. "One thing's for sure, we know Boss won't budge. He never does." He took a deep breath. "Sami had French Dips on the menu. Anybody know how to make them?" Everyone shook their head, so he continued, "I guess we'll have roast beef sandwiches for lunch."

*****
Around four o'clock. Sami came from her room. When Bob and Sarah faced her, she said, "I'll fix dinner. I'm sure you found something for lunch. Once dinner's started, will somebody help me walk Jasper?"

Noah's muscular frame moved to his doorway. "That's my job. We don't have to talk, just walk. Let me know when you're ready." He went back into his room.

Almost forty-five minutes later, Sami stood in front of Noah's door. Bob glanced up from his computer and called, "Boss, Sami and Jasper are ready."

When Sami said, "Thank you," Bob grinned.

Noah came out and walked straight to the front door. "If this is going to happen, let's get going." He held it open as Sami and Jasper walked through.

Partway around the pond, Sami stopped and faced Noah. "You don't need to do this. I know you hate it and me. Somebody else could go with us."

"I don't hate you or walking Jasper. I enjoy it."

"You're lying again." She started walking.

"No!" He lowered his voice, "I'm not." He sighed. "Would you stop and listen?" She stood still, but kept her back to him, he added, "You're the most frustrating person I know. You need to hear this. I like Jose, Bob, and Sarah." Eventually she turned and faced him, and he continued, "I like you, but it's different."

"Then why you are leaving?" Sami studied his eyes. "It confuses you." When he swallowed, she added, "It's new to you, isn't it?"

"I'd rather not discuss it."

"I understand." Sami continued walking. "I'll stay out of your way."

"You don't need to."

"If it'll keep you here and make it easier for you, I'd be happy to."

Inside the house, Sami went to the kitchen. "Dinner will be ready in about thirty minutes."

*****
As everybody sat for dinner, they noticed Sami took a fixed plate to her room.

Bob, Sarah, and Jose glared at Noah.

Noah closed his eyes, went to Sami's door, and knocked. "Sami, this isn't right. You need to come to the table with us."

"I told you..."

"I don't care what you said. I want you to eat with us." She opened her door, and then he added, "I'm walking with you for Jasper's last time out too."

"Okay, I'll eat with you, but I won't talk or ask any questions."

Jose raised his eyebrows. "I'm sure that'll be difficult."

As the dinner conversation continued, Sami started to participate, but stopped. "Sorry." She studied her plate.

*****
Dinner was over and it was Jose's turn to clean the kitchen. As he glanced toward the two closed bedroom doors, he picked up some dishes and said, "It'll be interesting to see who's the most stubborn. Sami just might give Boss a run for his money."

Noah came from his room. "This isn't up for discussion. Understood?" Then returned inside.

Three voices were heard, "Roger that, Boss."

*****
At the time for Jasper's final time out, both Sami and Noah came from their rooms at the same time. Noah pointed toward the door. "Ready?"

She nodded and walked through it.

Silence remained as they completed halfway around the pond. Noah stopped and pointed to the dog. "Wait. I hear something, and so does Jasper." He removed his weapon and whispered, "Don't move." He walked up a slight hill, and then returned. "We need to get back to the house." He held out his hand for her and began jogging. "Hurry."

Sami didn't take his hand but jogged beside him.

Before they went inside, Noah stopped at the cabin. "Jose, get armed and meet me at the house."

Inside, Noah said, "There's a campfire about a half mile on the north side of the pond. Sarah, stay with Sami. Jose and Bob, follow me."

Sami released the breath she was holding. "Chen?"

Noah's eyes met hers. "I doubt it. I think it's the men who hit the convenience stores. We can't take any chances."

"Be safe."

Bob kissed Sarah's cheek. "We'll be back shortly." He glanced at Sami. "What's dessert tonight?"

"How about chocolate chip cookies?"

Bob followed the others, but said, "Perfect. I like them warm from the oven."

Sami went to the kitchen and began making cookies. Sarah watched and said,
"I'm pretty sure there's something bothering you. It'd help if you discussed it. What's going on? I won't tell anyone. Not even Bob."

Taking two eggs from the refrigerator, Sami said, "Noah said because of me he's going back to the city."

"And you understood him to say, he was leaving because..."

"He hates me!" interrupted Sami.

"You're way off." Sarah watched Sami mix the cookie dough. "Noah's falling in love with you. Probably for the first time in his life and it scares him. I don't understand everything about him. For some reason he refuses to form relationships."

"You think that's it?"

"I do. He wants to leave so he doesn't risk having feelings."

"What do you suggest?"

Sarah shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. Like I said, I don't understand why he won't allow himself to get close."

Sami dropped cookie dough on the baking sheet. Being raised in the system, he's been hurt. If you don't allow people close, you can't get hurt. Putting them in the oven, she said, "I hope the men are safe."

"Don't worry. They are. They're good at what they do." Sarah laughed. "Noah may not be good at expressing himself, but he's excellent at things like this. It doesn't require communication."

"I guess that's right."

*****
A little over an hour passed, before Sarah and Sami watched through a window a vehicle leave the garage. Sami asked, "What's going on?"

"I don't know. I'm sure they'll tell us when they return. Our job is to stay safe and wait."

"I don't think I'm good at either of them."

Sarah smiled. "It'll take practice, but you'll learn."

*****
A few hours later, Bob entered the house and kissed Sarah's cheek. Jose and Noah followed.

Noah and Sami stared into each other's eyes, but neither said anything as the stare lingered.

Sarah asked, "What happened?"

Noah grabbed a few cookies from the plate on the table. "We successfully arrested all three suspected robbers but had a new problem. What to do with them, so our cover isn't blown?"

Everybody sat around the table, and Noah continued, "To solve our problem, I called the Homeland Security Office of Immigration and Customs. I have a buddy, who owes me a favor. One of the men, probably two, was an immigrant. I explained our predicament, and he agreed to take care of them without mentioning us. We met them halfway to the city."

Sami asked, "Is that legal?" She covered her mouth. "Sorry. I shouldn't have asked." She stood. "I'll go to my room."

Jose ordered, "Sit." She sat, so he continued, "No, it's not exactly legal, but sometimes, we do what we have to do. It doesn't really matter who arrested these guys, does it?"

"I guess not."

"This way Chen won't find out where we're at."

"Understand?" asked Noah.

"I guess."

Bob took a bite of cookie. "These are good, but some cold milk would go great with them."

Sami walked to the kitchen. "I'll get some glasses and milk."

Noah followed. "I'll help." In the kitchen, he watched Sami until she turned around holding the milk. "It felt good knowing somebody cared about my safety. Thank you for not showing it." When her eyes averted to the floor, he asked, "Did I read the signals wrong?"

She shook her head. "You read them right."

He took the gallon of milk and set it on the counter.

Sami put her arms around Noah and squeezed tight.

Noah returned the hug. "Thank you."

Jose called, "Are you done milking the cow?"

Noah came from the kitchen carrying glasses. "Sami's putting the cow back in the stall."

Sami returned and handed Bob the gallon of milk. Jasper stood beside her, and she roughed up his ears.

Standing, Noah said, "His walk got cut short. Does he need out again?"

Sami watched the dog. "I don't think so. I think he's all right. He's ready for bed."

~~~~~
CHARACTERS:

Sami Martinez - Twenty-five-year-old high school teacher, who's working to find a kidnapped teenage girl.

Noah Taylor. - Homeland Security team leader, who works in the Human Trafficking department. Alias - Trey Morgan

Jose, Bob, & Sarah - Agents who work under Noah. Bob and Sarah are married.

Laura Martinez - Sami's mom.

Jasper - Sami's Great Dane, a large breed dog.

Myra Rodriguez - Kidnapped teenage girl who Sami was close to.

Julia - Teenage girl, who was friends with Myra and Sami works with.

Big T - Neighborhood pimp; not a friendly person

Numerous Team Members - They will show up periodically but not really important to the story, except they're there.

Chen - Charles Henry Edward Nichols - Human trafficker and into some really bad stuff.

Author Notes Thank you, Google Images, for a photograph of a heart puzzle.

Today's post is Chapter 9 in its entirety. It's a short chapter. It only has a little over 2000 words.

Yesterday as I read this chapter, I moved many sentences around along with a few paragraphs for smoother flow. I hope it works. I appreciate all of your support and the review. THANK YOU!!!


Chapter 14
Willing Hearts Chapter 10 A

By barbara.wilkey

Noah and Sami met 14 days ago.

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Noah followed. "I'll help." In the kitchen, he watched Sami until she turned around holding the milk. "It felt good knowing somebody cared about my safety. Thank you for not showing it." When her eyes averted to the floor, he asked, "Did I read the signals wrong?"

She shook her head. "You read them right."

He took the gallon of milk and set it on the counter.

Sami put her arms around Noah and squeezed tight.

Noah returned the hug. "Thank you."

Jose called, "Are you done milking the cow?"

Noah came from the kitchen carrying glasses. "Sami's putting the cow back in the stall."

Sami returned and handed Bob the gallon of milk. Jasper stood beside her, and she roughed up his ears.

Standing, Noah said, "His walk got cut short. Does he need out again?"

Sami watched the dog. "I don't think so. I think he's all right. He's ready for bed."

TODAY'S POST:

Chapter 10 A

Sami headed toward the kitchen after Jasper had his early morning walk. Before she reached it, Jose rushed inside. "Sami, wait."

Noah's eyes widened. "What's the problem?"

"Galvin Baldwin."

"What does he have to do with breakfast?" asked Noah.

Sami's eyed darted between to the two men. "Breakfast or no breakfast?"

Bob glanced up from his computer. "I'm hungry."

Jose continued, "He'll be here between ten-thirty and eleven."

"On a Sunday? Why?" asked Noah.

"Not sure but it has something to do with last night," answered Joe. "He's expecting brunch. Sami, can you do brunch?"

"I can, but I'm not prepared for that." She hesitated, before she continued, "I'll figure it out."

Sarah walked to her. "Anything I can help with?"

"No. I know everyone's hungry. I'll fix something small for you guys. Then I'll start brunch." She continued to the kitchen.

Noah called after her, "Don't go to a lot of trouble."

It wasn't long before Sami had breakfast burritos on the table. Everybody started eating, before Sami's eyes met Noah's. "I know I said I wouldn't ask any questions, but I have two."

Noah nodded. "Ask away."

"First, I hadn't planned on groceries for an extra brunch. Would it be possible for somebody to get groceries. Maybe tomorrow?"

Bob finished the bite he'd just taken. "This is good. Thank you. If it's okay with Boss, I'll go first thing in the morning."

Noah nodded approval, before Sami asked, "Who's Galvin Baldwin?"

Sarah set down her burrito. "I'll compare it to something you know about, Noah's like a high school principal on steroids. Baldwin's the school district superintendent."

"Thank you. I got it." She stood. "I'd better get busy."

Jose tapped the table. "Sami, sit and enjoy breakfast."

"But..." Noah's eyes met hers along with a frown, as she said, "I'll sit a little longer, but I do need to get busy."

*****
A few minutes before eleven o'clock, Jose left the cabin to greet Chief Baldwin as he stepped from the car. Jose stared down the lane.

Galvin said, "Don't worry. I took the longest possible route. Nobody followed."

"Welcome. Let's go inside."

As the two men entered the house, the others stood. Sami set the final dish on the table.

Greetings were made, before Noah said, "Galvin, I'd like to introduce Sami Martinez." Galvin offered his hand, and Sami accepted it. Noah continued, "Sami, please welcome Galvin Baldwin."

"Sir, it's a pleasure to meet you." Sami motioned to the table. "Please have a seat. I've finished setting out the food. It'll be best eaten warm."

"Everything looks good. I can't wait." Galvin sat and then helped himself to a blueberry muffin before asking, "Ms. Martinez, am I to understand you're doing the cooking?"

"Yes, Sir, I am. I volunteered. I enjoy cooking."

Everyone sat as Sami went into the kitchen to get the coffee pot. When she returned, she filled each cup.

Noah said, "Sami, have a seat. You need to join us."

They began eating before Galvin said, "Ms. Martinez, I've read Noah's after-action-report. I'd like your version of why you're here."

"Sir, I'm sure Noah's report is very thorough. I doubt I can add anything."

"I'd still like you to describe it to me."

Sami exhaled, as her eyes met Noah's. He nodded, so she began, "Monday evening, May 29th, one of my student athletes called around nine-thirty."

"Myra Rodriquez, right?"

"Yes, Sir." Sami continued with the story until she arrived at Safe House E.

Galvin asked, "How have you been treated since arriving?"

"I have no complaints. I'm not sure what you're asking."

"There are five adults and three bedrooms. I'm curious how it's divided."

"That's easy. Bob and Sarah are married and share a room. Jose stays in the cabin. I have the master bedroom. It has a private bathroom. Because of the final incident, Noah offered to stay in the cabin, hoping I'd be more comfortable. I told him since he was shot the spare room's the only choice that made sense."

"You're okay with that?"

She shrugged her shoulders. "Yes. I'm not sure where you're going with this. Noah and everybody have gone out of their way to make me comfortable."

"Just checking."

Noah said, "I don't understand your questions myself. I filled out the after-action-report in detail. I've played that scene repeatedly in my mind. I don't see any other way to have gotten Sami out of there without risking the possibility of her or innocent people getting hurt. If you know of a better way, please share it. I'd be grateful to learn from this experience."

"I don't either. I'm just making sure I didn't miss anything. It seems I didn't." Galvin sipped coffee. "We need to discuss what happened last night."

Sami stood. "I'll refresh everyone's coffee before I start on the kitchen."

Bob used his napkin to wipe his mouth. "Sami, it's my turn to clean the kitchen. I'll do it when we finish."

"It's fine, Bob. I don't need to be in this meeting. I don't mind helping."

When Sami took a load of dishes to the kitchen, Noah nodded for Sarah to follow.

Inside the kitchen, Sarah asked, "You all right?"

"Yes. I have a feeling Noah and Mr. Baldwin don't get along."

Laughing Sarah said, "They respect each other. Let's leave it at that." She hesitated. "Galvin knows Noah's next in line for his job. I'd be surprised if Noah wants it. He's an in the field type of guy. He wouldn't want to be behind a desk all day."

"I agree. He wouldn't." Sami lifted the coffee pot. "I'd better get this in there."

Sarah took it from her. "I'll do it."

*****
The kitchen was cleaned, but the meeting continued. Sami crept into the room, grabbed a deck of playing cards, and continued to her room.

Noah followed. "Sami?"

"Do you need more coffee?" When Noah frowned, she said, "I'd prefer to be in here with Jasper. I'll play a few hands of Solitaire. I'm fine."

"It won't last much longer. Then we'll take a walk."

When Noah rejoined the group, Galvin asked, "Is everything all right with Ms. Martinez?"

"Yes."

Thirty minutes later, Sarah went to get Sami. "You can come out of hiding. He's left." When Sami opened the door, Sarah said, "I wish I could've hidden with you."

Sami laughed. "I would've let you."

"I know."

Noah moved from the table. "Thank you for brunch. Everything was very good. I'm sorry we can't order delivery for dinner. You deserve a break."

Bob cocked his head. "I have an idea. Are you finished with the grocery list?" When Sami nodded, he continued, "Why don't I get groceries now? I can bring back a few pizzas. Boss, is it all right?"

"Good idea." Noah released a deep breath. "After dinner we'll discuss what Baldwin said. Think about pros and cons. Everything's open for discussion." He grinned at Sami's frown. "You'll be part of the conversation. It affects you too." He glanced at Jasper. "Let's walk the dog."

The walk continued in silence before Noah asked, "How many Solitaire games did you win?"

"I lost maybe five or six before I quit keeping track. Do you think anybody ever wins at that game?"

"Not really. I've wondered if cards are capable of cheating." Noah paused. "There's a nice breeze."

Sami stopped walking. "You're doing it again."

"Doing what?"

"Conversation for the sake of conversation. What's on your mind?"

"I need to be careful around you." Noah glanced up at the sky. "I didn't like Baldwin questioning you. He knew better."

"I was surprised, but it's okay. I hope I didn't say anything to get you in trouble."

"I told the truth and so did you. There weren't any discrepancies. You did a great job."

"Thank you."

Noah watched Sami. "I have a feeling you have something to say or maybe ask."

"I'm not asking any questions, remember?"

"Just ask."

Her eyes widened. "Are you sure?" As he stared at her, she continued, "Since I'm going to be here a while, I'm wondering if there's any way I can work out? I'm used to working out."

"That's a conversation we'll need to have tonight. If I forget, bring it up."

His eyes started at her feet and ended when his met hers.

"Noah!"

"Sorry." The tips of his ears turned slightly pink. "I was trying to figure out what exercises you do."

"I'd like to hear your guess."

"You jog."

"How far?"

"At least two miles. Probably some sit ups, pullups, and some type of weights. How'd I do?"

"You did a good job. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, while I walk Jasper, I jog three miles around my apartment complex playground. Then I do overhand and then underhand pullups on the swing set. After that I put my toes on the bottom of the slide for incline pushups. Jasper and I jog back to the apartment. Inside I do sit ups and up-downs."

"I'm impressed."

"On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I jog four miles. Every day, alternating days for upper and lower body, I lift weights at school."

He gulped. "I'm sorry about the once over. It was unprofessional. I really was wondering about your workout procedure."

She studied him for a few moments. "You are a man, but for some reason, I believe you."

"Thank you." He glanced toward the house. "We'd better get back."


~~~~~
CHARACTERS:

Sami Martinez - Twenty-five-year-old high school teacher, who's working to find a kidnapped teenage girl.

Noah Taylor. - Homeland Security team leader, who works in the Human Trafficking department. Alias - Trey Morgan

Jose, Bob, & Sarah - Agents who work under Noah. Bob and Sarah are married.

Laura Martinez - Sami's mom.

Jasper - Sami's Great Dane, a large breed dog.

Myra Rodriguez - Kidnapped teenage girl who Sami was close to.

Julia - Teenage girl, who was friends with Myra and Sami works with.

Big T - Neighborhood pimp; not a friendly person

Numerous Team Members - They will show up periodically but not really important to the story, except they're there.

Chen - Charles Henry Edward Nichols - Human trafficker and into some really bad stuff.

Chief Galvin Baldwin - Noah's supervisor.

Author Notes Thank you, Google Images, for a photograph of a blueberry muffin. I couldn't find what I wanted for this post, so I settled. Sorry.

Today's post is Chapter 10. It's a longer chapter so I broke it in to two sections. This is the first section. Next week, I'll post part two. It's a short chapter. It only has a little under 1600 words.

As I posted, I changed some sentences order. I hope it works. I appreciate all of your support and the review. THANK YOU!!!


Chapter 15
Chapter 10 B

By barbara.wilkey

Noah and Sami met 14 days ago.

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

His eyes started at her feet and ended when his met hers.

"Noah!"

"Sorry." The tips of his ears turned slightly pink. "I was trying to figure out what exercises you do."

"I'd like to hear your guess."

"You jog."

"How far?"

"At least two miles. Probably some sit ups, pullups, and some type of weights. How'd I do?"

"You did a good job. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, while I walk Jasper, I jog three miles around my apartment complex playground. Then I do overhand and then underhand pullups on the swing set. After that I put my toes on the bottom of the slide for incline pushups. Jasper and I jog back to the apartment. Inside I do sit ups and up-downs."

"I'm impressed."

"On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I jog four miles. Every day, alternating days for upper and lower body, I lift weights at school."

He gulped. "I'm sorry about the once over. It was unprofessional. I really was wondering about your workout procedure."

She studied him for a few moments. "You are a man, but for some reason, I believe you."

"Thank you." He glanced toward the house. "We'd better get back."

TODAY'S POST:

Chapter 10 B

With groceries put away and the pizzas eaten, Noah said, "Let's get this cleaned up. We need to talk." He scanned the area. "Where should we have this brainstorming session?"

Sarah said, "Probably the dining room table, but it's so formal."

"There's the living room," offered Sami.

Bob counted. "We need another seat."

"I have a comfortable chair." Sami walked toward her room. "I'll get it."

Noah rushed to her side. "I'll carry it."

Tilting her head, she continued, "I'm capable."

He grinned. "With your workout regiment, I'm sure you can, but it's not going to happen."

Jose glanced at Bob. "We've missed something."

Bob agreed, "You're right."

Noah carried the chair. "I'll tell you later."

After everyone found seats, Noah said, "I guess we need to catch Sami up." There was a short pause, before he continued, "Sami, your girls came through. Thank you. The church dance ended up being a senior citizen travelogue. Chen was not happy."

Bob shared his laptop screen. "Chen's offered a ten-thousand-dollar reward for the capture and or murder of Trey Morgan."

Sami's hands covered her face. "No!"

Noah stood. "Sami, let's go outside and talk." He glanced at his team. "We'll be right back." He held the door for her.

They walked a short distance from the porch, Noah said, "I don't want them to hear." He studied the stars.

Before he said anything, Sami said, "I'm sorry you're forced to remain here."

"It's not like that. True, I can't leave now." Noah swallowed. "I don't want to. When we returned Saturday night, our eyes met, and then I followed you into the kitchen. We shared a hug. At that moment, I knew I couldn't leave. It felt good knowing somebody cared." He took both her hands in his and leaned in for a kiss but stepped back. "I'm sorry. I need to remain professional. We'd better go inside."

"Noah?"

"Sami, it needs to be this way." He pointed to the house. "Inside."

*****
In the living room, Bob explained the changes to the computer system. "Tomorrow when the techs come, where are we setting up?"

Blowing out air, Noah said, "Good question. Maybe we could section off part of the living room."

Shaking her head, Sarah said, "It's already too small for all of us."

Jose offered, "There's always my cabin."

"Not enough security." Noah walked around the living area. "Sarah, I know the bedroom's small, but would you mind sharing it with a computer?" He chuckled. "I know being a computer geek, Bob wouldn't mind."

Sami slightly raised her hand.

Noah noticed. "Sami, speak your mind. We're brainstorming ideas. There's no right or wrong."

"My room's the largest. I'll move into theirs, and they'll have more room for the computer."

Jose tilted his head. "It's a thought. Thank you, Sami."

Sarah reached over and touched Sami's hand. "Thank you for the offer." She glanced at Noah. "Isn't there some regulation about a person in protective custody needing a certain amount of privacy? Galvin's already questioned the sleeping arrangements."

Nodding Noah said, "There is."

"What if I sign something that says I'm volunteering to do it?" asked Sami.

Squeezing her hand, Sarah said, "We can't. One of the guys might accidently walk in on you or you on them in the bathroom."

Sami replied, "I doubt anybody would be shocked or damaged for life."

Chuckling, Jose said, "I see your point. We've all seen it, but it's a regulation."

"What are we going to do with Sami while the techs are here?" asked Bob. "I doubt we want to risk them knowing she's here."

Noah released a deep breath. "We don't. Sami, I hate to say this but you're going to spend a good portion of the day in your room. Don't worry about lunch. We'll find something to eat."

"What about Jasper?"

"We'll sneak them both out the back door through the kitchen." suggested Sarah. "We'll make sure the techs are in the bedroom."

The movement of agents was discussed, and agreed they'd discuss the changes on Tuesday as previously decided upon.

"That'll work. Anything else?" Nobody had anything else to discuss, so Noah glanced toward the kitchen. "Any snacks in there?"

"I have blueberry muffins and fruit salad left over from the brunch."

Jose stood. "Sounds perfect." He left the area.

*****
When Sami went to her bedroom, Sarah followed and then shut the door. "What happened outside? You've been reserved."

"Nothing."

Sarah studied her. "You know I don't believe that."

"Noah told me that he'd made the decision not to leave Saturday evening, before Chen put the reward out for him."

"Did he say why?"

"He said it felt good knowing somebody cared."

Smiling, Sarah said, "I knew he's falling for you." She studied Sami. "What else?"

"He started to kiss me but stopped and said he needed to remain professional."

"He does. If he kissed you, he'd relieve himself from duty. He shouldn't be in a relationship with a person in protective custody."

"That doesn't make sense. It's okay for him to grope my entire body, slip money deep inside my blouse, ogle my breasts, and force his tongue down my throat all against my will, but it's not okay to give me a sincere kiss. That doesn't make sense."

"That about sums it up. As Trey Morgan, undercover, he can do anything he needs to do to make sure his cover isn't blown, and people are safe. As Noah Taylor, he needs to remain unapproachable."

"There's something wrong with that."

"I agree it doesn't sound right. Once you're released from our protection. You and Noah are free to see where your relationship goes, but not until then."

Sami watched Jasper paw the door and checked the time. "He wants out. Thank you for explaining things. I thought there was something wrong with me."

Laughing Sarah added, "There's nothing wrong with you. It's the system." She studied Jasper. "I think you'd better hurry."

*****
As the women left Sami's bedroom, Noah stepped from his room and pointed at Jasper. "Ready for his walk?"

Outside they walked around the pond, as Noah released a deep breath.

Sami faced him. "Something on your mind?"

He avoided eye contact. "I accidently overheard you and Sarah."

"What?" interrupted Sami before he could continue. "You were listening?"

"Not on purpose."

"Why didn't you tell us?"

"I was embarrassed. I should've explained the almost kiss myself, but I didn't know what to say. Sarah did a good job."

"Were you outside my door?"

"Sound travels through the air vents. We need to watch that. When we go inside, I'll share that information." He stared at the stars. "As long as we're in this situation, I can't have feelings for you."

"I didn't know people have control over their feelings."

"I'm finding that to be true." Noah exhaled. "They do have control over their actions."

"Noah?" When he faced her, she put her hands on his shoulders and kissed him.

"What are you doing? You know I can't return it."

"I know this conversation was difficult for you. I wanted you to know I appreciate it." Sami hesitated. "I didn't expect anything in return."

"Don't make it a habit."

"I'm not planning to."

Noah grinned. "Good." He touched his lips. "I'll admit I enjoyed it and the previous hug."

"Good to know."

They continued walking, before Noah said, "I forgot to address the working out."

*****
Back inside, Noah gathered the team. "I need to mention two things." He pointed at a ceiling air vent. "Earlier I realized voices carry through these vents. If you happen to overhear a conversation, please inform the people talking. I know it's close quarters, but everyone has the right to privacy."

Sarah sighed. "Noah, did you...?"

He nodded. "I did. I've already taken care of what needed to be taken care of." He touched his lips and grinned. "Now for what I forgot to mention. We still have physical fitness tests so we'll need to remain in shape. Workouts need to happen. Jose, make sure a weight set is delivered, free weights will be fine." He glanced at Sami. "And a chin up bar. I think one that fits between door jambs will work."

Jose headed toward the door. "I'm on it, Boss."


~~~~~
CHARACTERS:

Sami Martinez - Twenty-five-year-old high school teacher, who's working to find a kidnapped teenage girl.

Noah Taylor. - Homeland Security team leader, who works in the Human Trafficking department. Alias - Trey Morgan

Jose, Bob, & Sarah - Agents who work under Noah. Bob and Sarah are married.

Laura Martinez - Sami's mom.

Jasper - Sami's Great Dane, a large breed dog.

Myra Rodriguez - Kidnapped teenage girl who Sami was close to.

Julia - Teenage girl, who was friends with Myra and Sami works with.

Big T - Neighborhood pimp; not a friendly person

Numerous Team Members - They will show up periodically but not really important to the story, except they're there.

Chen - Charles Henry Edward Nichols - Human trafficker and into some really bad stuff.

Chief Galvin Baldwin - Noah's supervisor.

Author Notes Thank you, Google Images, for a photograph of a ceiling vent.

Again, today's post is Chapter 10. It's a longer chapter so I broke it in to two sections. This is the second section. It's a short chapter. It only has a little under 1400 words.

I wish just once; I'd be completely happy with what I've written and didn't change something. Do any of you? Or am I strange? As I posted, I made corrections. I hope it works. I appreciate all of your support and the review. THANK YOU!!!


Chapter 16
Chapter 11 A

By barbara.wilkey

Noah and Sami met 15 days ago.

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Back inside, Noah gathered the team. "I need to mention two things." He pointed at a ceiling air vent. "Earlier I realized voices carry through these vents. If you happen to overhear a conversation, please inform the people talking. I know it's close quarters, but everyone has the right to privacy."

Sarah sighed. "Noah, did you...?"

He nodded. "I did. I've already taken care of what needed to be taken care of." He touched his lips and grinned. "Now for what I forgot to mention. We still have physical fitness tests so we'll need to remain in shape. Workouts need to happen. Jose, make sure a weight set is delivered, free weights will be fine." He glanced at Sami. "And a chin up bar. I think one that fits between door jambs will work."


TODAY'S POST:

Chapter 11 A

Around two-thirty Monday morning, Bob, Sarah, and Noah gathered outside Sami's door. Noah whispered, "What's going on?"

Sarah shook her head. "Sounds like Jasper's sick."

Noah motioned for Sarah to knock. He and Bob stood back.

"Sami, is everything all right?" asked Sarah.

Sami opened the door, surprised to see everyone. "I'm sorry."

Thunder crashed. Jasper wailed.

"Storms petrify him."

Bob studied the gigantic dog. "As large as he is, he's scared of storms?"

"Yes. I'm sorry he's disturbing you. Any idea where I can take him?"

Noah hesitated. "No."

Jose joined the team. "I saw the light. What's the problem?" Thunder sounded and Jasper howled. "Got it."

Sami addressed Jose, "You didn't hear him in your cabin?" He shook his head, and she asked, "Can we go out there? Jose can use my room."

"No." Noah set his jaw. "The cabin's not secure."

"It's storming. Who would cause trouble now? I'll be safe." Sami glanced at Jasper. "Besides I'll have this chicken with me. Even during a storm, he'd protect me." She paused. "Noah, please. I can't keep you guys from sleeping. It's not fair."

A long hesitation continued before Noah said, "I don't like it, but okay."

"Thank you."

Sami worked to encourage Jasper to follow her outside. Every time it thundered, he lay down, trembled, and wailed. Eventually, he made it inside the cabin.

*****
A little later, Noah knocked on the cabin door. When Sami answered, she asked, "Why are you here?"

"Couldn't sleep imagining every possible thing that could go wrong with you by yourself."

Sami tilted her head. "Isn't there some regulation about us being alone? You could've sent Sarah."

"True, but I'm the one who authorized the dog." Noah studied the mattress on the floor. "Why aren't you using the bed?"

"I needed to be close to Jasper. He needs hugs and reassurance." Sami pointed to the box springs. "You can sleep there."

"I'll move it over here. There'll be a distance between us."

Sami watched him move the box springs to the floor on the opposite side of Jasper. When he finished, she said, "Thank you for everything."

"You're welcome." Noah swallowed. "Just don't kiss me for it."

She smiled. "I wouldn't think of it."

"Good." He chuckled and lay down. "Goodnight. Try to get some sleep."

"You too." After a few moments, she asked, "Why'd you okay it for Jasper to come with me?"

"When we listened in on your conversations, I overheard numerous talks you had with him and couldn't imagine you without him."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome."

*****
Eventually the storm passed. It was after seven o'clock when Jose opened the cabin door. Sami's arm surrounded Jasper, and Noah slept on the other side of the dog with his hand on Jasper's head.

Bob scooted Jose aside and whispered, "Should we wake them?"

Sarah smiled. "I suspect they didn't get a lot of sleep, but the techs will be here before long. Any idea how?"

Jasper moved and stood, waking them.

Jose nodded. "That's how."

Noah stood as he studied his team, before he could say anything, Bob said, "We already know this will never be discussed."

"Roger that." Noah leaned over and offered Sami a hand. "Ready to start the day?"

She stretched. "I don't have a choice. I'm sure Jasper needs a walk."

As soon as Jasper finished his walk, Sami went to the kitchen and started breakfast. I'll shower and change later. With breakfast over, she quickly prepared lunch.

Sarah came into the kitchen. "It's my day to clean the kitchen. You don't need to."

"I made chicken salad. There are sandwiches for lunch." She opened the refrigerator and pointed. "It's here." She started walking. "I need a shower."

With her eyes meeting Sami's, Sarah asked, "You and Noah okay?"

She smiled. "We're good."

Hearing a vehicle engine, Sarah said, "You'd better get in your room. I think that's the techs."

*****
Over an hour later, Sarah knocked on Sami's door. When she answered, she asked, "I'm glad to see you, but I figured you'd be busy all day."

Sarah pointed toward Noah. "Boss told me to check on you often. He said something like 'A bored Sami, equals a Sami causing trouble.' So here I am."

"He didn't say that, did he?" When Sarah nodded, Sami said, "I'll talk with him about it."

Through the air vent came Noah's voice, "I said it and believe it to be true. I think I have plenty of evidence."

"You may have evidence of me in trouble, but it had nothing to do with being bored. It had to do with me wanting to help teenage girls." Sami paused a moment. "On the back side of the pond I've noticed some wild blackberries. Some are ripe. Can Sarah and I pick them? If there's enough, I'll make a blackberry cobbler for dessert."

"Ugh!!!" Silence. "Okay, Sarah..."

"On it, Boss," interrupted Sarah as she left Sami's room. "I'll be right back."

When Sarah opened Sami's door, Noah's wide stance stood in the living room and ensured nobody saw Sami leave her room. The women and Jasper left through the backdoor.

*****
As they picked blackberries, Sami asked, "Why's all this computer stuff being put in?"

"Bob monitors the city's human traffic rings. The Internet here isn't secure enough for him to safely do it. They'd be able to track the computer to us. We needed an upgrade so he can ping off different satellites and cell towers. Our mission is to arrest the people in charge. It takes time to work up to that level. We bug many of their conversations, so we know what's going on, hopefully to arrest them and rescue as many girls as possible. All while working up their chain of command."

"That's why Noah was buying those girls the day I was kidnapped."

Sarah nodded. "Yes, he bought them before somebody else had a chance. That's what happened with your friend. We didn't know that hit was going down. If we knew, we could've arrested them and returned the girls."

As tears welled in Sami's eyes, Sarah said, "We'll get her back."

"I'm confident you will. Today's her fifteenth birthday. Saturday I was having her Quinceanera."

"What's that?" asked Sarah.

Drying her tears, Sami said, "It's a celebration of a girl's fifteenth birthday. It marks her passage from girlhood to womanhood. Myra's mother was Hispanic. The Tuesday after she was taken, we were going shopping. I was buying her a pretty dress. She wanted a lavender one."

"How'd she get in the system?"

"Her mom was sixteen when she had her. Her dad was in a gang and was killed in prison by a rival gang member. To support her, her mom became a prostitute. She died of an overdose when Myra was three."

"Myra's lucky she has you."

"Not lucky enough for me to arrive in time to save her."

Sarah touched Sami's arm. "We'll find her." She glanced toward the house. "We'd better finish and get back. Noah's probably ready to send out a swat team."

Sami laughed. "You're probably right."

Finished filling the bowl with blackberries, the women headed toward the house. Once inside, Noah met them in the kitchen. "You okay?"

Sarah nodded. "Yes Boss, we're fine. Nothing happened."

His eyes met hers. "I'm pretty sure girl talk happened."

Sami put the blackberries in the refrigerator. "It did. In case you're wondering, you weren't discussed. We talked about Myra. Today's her birthday."

His eyes met hers and he nodded. "We'd better get you back to your room."

"I think I'll wash up and rest for a little while. I didn't get a lot of sleep last night."

Sarah said, "I'm sure you didn't. I'll check with you later."

Noah scanned the living room before he motioned for Sami to go into her room.

*****
After washing up, Sami came from her bathroom. Her door opened.

Jasper snarled.

Sami screamed.

Jasper's fur bristled as he bared his teeth.

With weapons ready, Noah rushed in followed by Sarah and Bob. Noah yelled, "You're not allowed in here."

The intruder's stare glued on Jasper. "Call off the dog."

"You're not in a position to make demands." Noah's gun aimed at the man. "I explained which rooms you had access to. This isn't one of them."

The man's hands remained above his head. "I'm Ryan Brown. I overheard a female voice. I had a break and thought I'd introduce myself."

Noah shoved him into the living room and closed Sami's door. "Wrong answer." He opened the front door and yelled, "Jose, get over here."

Jose jogged to the main house. He held his weapon. "Your tone said I'd need this. What's going on?"

Pointing, Noah answered, "Brown thought he could search the house."

"Wrong."

Holding out his hand, Noah asked, "Who has a disposable phone?" After Sarah handed him one, he said, "Watch him. I'm making some calls."

Sami cracked open her door. "Noah?" He glanced in her direction, and then she motioned for him to come closer. He stood beside her, and she whispered, "The day you took me into that room, he was one of the men who wanted a prostitute. He asked for Star."

"Are you sure?"

She nodded. "Positive."

He touched her hand. "Thank you. I forgot to ask. Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. Jasper made sure he didn't get closer."

"I'm sure he did. I'll take care of this." Noah faced Brown. "These two fine gentlemen will watch you while I make some calls."

"You can't hold me. I only opened a door. That's not a crime." Ryan glanced at his ringing phone.

Jose took it. "It's a crime here."



~~~~~
CHARACTERS:

Sami Martinez - Twenty-five-year-old high school teacher, who's working to find a kidnapped teenage girl.

Noah Taylor. - Homeland Security team leader, who works in the Human Trafficking department. Alias - Trey Morgan

Jose, Bob, & Sarah - Agents who work under Noah. Bob and Sarah are married.

Laura Martinez - Sami's mom.

Jasper - Sami's Great Dane, a large breed dog.

Myra Rodriguez - Kidnapped teenage girl who Sami was close to.

Julia - Teenage girl, who was friends with Myra and Sami works with.

Big T - Neighborhood pimp; not a friendly person

Numerous Team Members - They will show up periodically but not really important to the story, except they're there.

Chen - Charles Henry Edward Nichols - Human trafficker and into some really bad stuff.

Chief Galvin Baldwin - Noah's supervisor.

Ryan Brown - All around jerk. He thinks highly of himself.

Author Notes Thank you, Google Images, for a photograph of a scared Great Dane. They really are big chickens. I grew up with one but are extremely protective of their humans.

Today's post is the beginning of Chapter 11. It's a longer chapter so I broke it in to two sections. This is the first section. It's a short chapter. It only has a little over 1600 words.

Yesterday I made huge changes. I've edited this post daily for two weeks and made major changes yesterday. DARN!!!! I wish just once; I'd be completely happy with what I've written. As I posted, I made corrections. I hope it works. I appreciate all of your support and the review. THANK YOU!!!


Chapter 17
Chapter 11 B

By barbara.wilkey

Noah and Sami met 15 days ago.

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Sami cracked open her door. "Noah?" He glanced in her direction, and then she motioned for him to come closer. He stood beside her, and she whispered, "The day you took me into that room, he was one of the men who wanted a prostitute. He asked for Star."

"Are you sure?"

She nodded. "Positive."

He touched her hand. "Thank you. I forgot to ask. Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. Jasper made sure he didn't get closer."

"I'm sure he did. I'll take care of this." Noah faced Brown. "These two fine gentlemen will watch you while I make some calls."

"You can't hold me. I only opened a door. That's not a crime." Ryan glanced at his ringing phone.

Jose took it. "It's a crime here."

TODAY'S POST:

"You can't take my phone. It's personal property. My wife just called. I need to call her back, she'll worry."

Noah cocked his head. "You're married? Is your wife aware you frequent working women while you're at work?" He slammed the door on the way out.

Ryan faced Jose and Bob. "He can't do that."

Bob studied the door. "Wanna bet? Boss is a point A to point B type of person. He doesn't have patience for people who go to C and D. You really messed up when you tried E and F."

Jose chuckled. "You don't have a chance."

"I opened a freaking door!" Ryan glanced at Sami's room. "Why's she so important? Who is she, anyway?"

"That's a question you'll never get answered." Bob's gun remained aimed on the man. "You'd better forget you ever saw her."

*****
A little over an hour later, Noah walked in while removing the sim card from the cell phone. "How do I dispose of this?"

Sarah held out her hand. "I'll take it."

Ryan stood. "I'll leave now."

Noah posed a wide stance. "You don't get it. Sit." After Ryan sat, Noah continued, "Two agents are coming to get you. You'll be questioned and placed in a safe house until our assignment's finished. Then you're free to go and you'll need to look for another job."

"I need my phone. I have to notify my wife."

"One of our agents will visit your wife, after she questions Star. Remember her?"

"Why do you want to destroy my life?"

"We don't want to destroy your life, your desire for women did. I'm guessing you heard a female's voice in that room and thought you'd try to get some on the side." Noah faced Bob. "I need a safe house in the middle of nowhere. Maybe has a TV but nothing else." He paused. "A moat around it filled with alligators or piranhas would be nice."

Bob nodded. "Roger that, Boss."

Ryan's eyes widened. "You can't do this."

Noah grinned. "Watch me."

*****
Just before the end of the workday, the head tech came to Noah. "We have a few more hours of work. We'll come back tomorrow morning and finish."

Noah's eyes met his. "You'll finish today. You're not coming back tomorrow. I already have one of your men in custody. I'm not taking any risks. I've cleared the overtime." He paused then said, "I explained we have sensitive material here. You do the job you're paid to do and then leave. Nothing else."

"Sir, we were. I've turned in Brown before. I don't understand why he's still working. Sorry."

Noah nodded. "He doesn't have a job any longer."

When the lead tech returned to work, Noah told Sarah, "Let Sami know dinner will be late."

Sarah came back to Noah a few minutes later and said, "Sami wants to know if she can get in the kitchen to cut up the vegetables and meat for a stir fry. It'll make dinner prep go faster."

"She likes to push the limit." He closed his eyes and ran his hand through his short hair. "Yes." He watched Sarah knock on Sami's door and then motioned it was clear for Sami to go to the kitchen.

The process was repeated when Sami returned to her room.

*****
Jasper needed out for his early evening walk, so Sami cracked open her door and tried to get somebody's attention.

Finally, Jose walked to her. "What's the problem?"

"I'm sorry to be difficult but Jasper needs out."

He nodded. "I'll tell Boss."

"Can you take me? Noah's not in the best of moods."

"I'll see."

"Thank you." Sami shut her door.

Moments later, Noah knocked on Sami's door. "Ready?"

She nodded. "I'm sorry."

He motioned for her to walk through the kitchen.

They walked in silence, before Noah said, "I'm sorry if I've scared you."

"I'm not used to seeing you in work mode."

"I met you while working. I've always been on the clock around you."

"True." Sami hesitated. "I guess I don't know what I mean."

Noah stopped walking and faced her. "Sami?"

"Maybe now's not the right time to talk."

"We'll talk later."

The rest of the walk continued in silence.

Inside the house, Sarah walked up to Noah. "What's wrong?"

"I think the incident with Brown scared Sami. She's afraid of me."

"Want me to talk with her?"

He shook his head. "No. I can't have you running interference all the time. I need to figure out how to handle things."

"True." Sarah started to walk away.

"Do you have any suggestions?" asked Noah.

Sarah laughed. "You need to assure her that she has nothing to fear around you."

"How do I do that?"

"Talk from the heart."

"Right." Noah walked away shaking his head. How do I do that?

*****
After a late dinner, Noah checked his watch. "Sami, want to take Jasper for a long walk? He hasn't been out much today?"

Her eyebrows rose. "Okay, but it's not like you to be concerned about Jasper. Is there a problem? Should I be worried?"

He held open the door. "No."

They walked in silence, before Noah said, "I understand today's Myra's birthday."

"It is."

"I heard you had plans for a party."

"I did."

"We'll find her."

"I have faith you will." A longer silence ensued until Sami said, "Noah, you're doing it again." When he faced her, she said, "Conversation for the sake of conversation. What's on your mind?"

He pointed to some large rocks. "Let's sit and talk." Once they sat, he continued, "I didn't mean to scare you. I don't want you afraid of me."

"I'm not." Sami paused before she asked, "Were you tougher on this man because of me? Or maybe because Jasper kept you up most of the night?"

"Both are valid questions. My immediate answer to both is no, but I'll admit both probably played a small role in my reaction. I'm used to not getting a full night's sleep. I've gotten more sleep here than usual. As for you..."

Noah released a deep breath. "My job is to keep you safe. Initially, I would've reacted the same no matter who was in that room, but when I discovered his purpose for going in there was to see if you were worth pursuing, I struggled with that."

"Thank you for looking after my honor." Sami reached over and touched his hand. "Although, I'm sure you have evidence to counter this, but I'm capable of handling my own honor."

He glanced at her hand touching his and then stared at the pond. "Just so you know none of our safe houses have moats." After a deep breath, he continued, "I'm sure under normal circumstances you'd have handled him. For some reason he thinks he's God's gift to women."

"I've met a few of them before." Sami removed her hand.

"I guess I should've already asked." Noah studied the pond. "I contacted your parents and let them know you were safe. Is there a significant other who's worried about you I should've notified?"

"No. I've dated a couple men the past few years, but nothing serious. My lifestyle isn't conducive to serious relationships. I'm busy almost every night from January through June and then if we make play-offs longer than that."

"I guess that's true. First basketball season and then softball." Noah's eyes met hers. "Was there ever anybody serious?"

Sami nodded. "Yes. When I was a junior in college I met this guy, Marc. He was a senior. We dated exclusively for almost a year-and-a-half."

"Even after he graduated?" asked Noah.

"Yes. Marc majored in architecture and got a job in the suburbs. We were only twenty miles apart. In college, I played softball. When I could, I'd spend weekends with him."

Noah swallowed. "I see." He hesitated. "Where's Marc now?"

"I don't know. A month before I graduated, Marc planned a fancy dinner at a romantic restaurant. I expected him to propose."

"He didn't?"

"No. The celebration was because he got a promotion and was moving to another city. He couldn't see me fitting into the country club lifestyle. He mentioned something about those wives didn't play softball. He broke up with me."

"I'm sorry. I bet it hurt."

"It did until we made it to the third bracket of the playoffs. That felt good."

"What position did you play? How far did your team go?"

"First base, and we lost in the sixth bracket." She put her hands on her knees and stood. "We'd better get back. Sorry, I rambled."

Noah studied her as he stood. "I'm glad you did." He exhaled. "I've never seen you dressed up, but I'm betting you clean up nice. Those wives wouldn't hold a candle to you."

"Thank you. That's sweet."

"You're not going to kiss me, are you?"

Sami giggled. "No. I've learned a person in protective custody can't kiss the head agent in charge of her safety."

"Or any of the agents assigned to her protection."

"Good to know. I'll do my best not to kiss Jose or Bob."

He chuckled. "I'm glad."

As they headed toward the house, Sami leaned her head briefly against Noah's arm. His eyes met hers. "What was that?"

"Half-a-hug. I've learned I can't do a full hug. I wanted you to know I'm glad we had this conversation."

"I'm glad we did, too."

Before they stepped onto the porch, Sami said, "I have another question." After Noah nodded, she continued, "About last night. I know you're responsible for my safety, but I was wondering if there was any other reason you showed up."

Noah avoided eye contact. "Part of it was security, but I also care. Can we leave it at that?"

"Yes."

As they stepped onto the porch, Sami leaned her head against his arm again. Noah pecked the top of her head. "The other half of the hug?"

She smiled. "Yes."

Noah shook his head and grinned.

*****
HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY TO ALL THE FEMALES OUT THERE!!!! Even if you have not given birth to a child, I'm sure in some way you've touched a child's heart. All of that counts.
*****

~~~~~
CHARACTERS:

Sami Martinez - Twenty-five-year-old high school teacher, who's working to find a kidnapped teenage girl.

Noah Taylor. - Homeland Security team leader, who works in the Human Trafficking department. Alias - Trey Morgan

Jose, Bob, & Sarah - Agents who work under Noah. Bob and Sarah are married.

Laura Martinez - Sami's mom.

Jasper - Sami's Great Dane, a large breed dog.

Myra Rodriguez - Kidnapped teenage girl who Sami was close to.

Julia - Teenage girl, who was friends with Myra and Sami works with.

Big T - Neighborhood pimp; not a friendly person

Numerous Team Members - They will show up periodically but not really important to the story, except they're there.

Chen - Charles Henry Edward Nichols - Human trafficker and into some really bad stuff.

Chief Galvin Baldwin - Noah's supervisor.

Ryan Brown - All around jerk. He thinks highly of himself.

Marc - Sami's old boyfriend.

Author Notes Thank you, Google Images, for artwork of a house with a moat. Noah was wishful thinking.

Today's post is the second part of Chapter 11. It's a short chapter. It only has a little under 1700 words.

Yesterday I made huge changes. I wish just once; wish I could get a post even close to perfect.


Chapter 18
Chapter 12 A

By barbara.wilkey

Noah and Sami met 16 days ago.

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

As they headed toward the house, Sami leaned her head briefly against Noah's arm. His eyes met hers. "What was that?"

"Half-a-hug. I've learned I can't do a full hug. I wanted you to know I'm glad we had this conversation."

"I'm glad we did, too."

Before they stepped onto the porch, Sami said, "I have another question." After Noah nodded, she continued, "About last night. I know you're responsible for my safety, but I was wondering if there was any other reason you showed up."

Noah avoided eye contact. "Part of it was security, but I also care. Can we leave it at that?"

"Yes."

As they stepped onto the porch, Sami leaned her head against his arm again. Noah pecked the top of her head. "The other half of the hug?"

She smiled. "Yes."

Noah shook his head and grinned.

TODAY'S POST:

Chapter 12 A

Just before noon Tuesday, Sami started lunch, and Bob called Noah to the computer. "Boss, Wyatt Earp didn't report in."

Noah studied the computer screen over Bob's shoulder. "Did Doc Holiday?" After Bob nodded, he continued, "Ask if he's heard from his partner in twenty-four, no twelve hours."

After Bob typed the question, they waited for a response. The response was 'no'.

A long silence continued, before Noah said, "Contact Doc and see if he knows where Wyatt went last night."

The answer came back to a bar on Fortieth Street, but said he'd already checked, and it was empty.

Noah pointed. "Check his GPS and find his location. I don't have a good feeling about this." He called Sarah. "Get a hold of the extraction team. We're pulling him out. I want them on the spot in less than twenty minutes." He turned back to Bob. "Depending on what we find let Doc know we may be pulling him out, too."

Noah paced as Bob repeatedly checked the computer.

Sarah reported. "The extraction team's going in."

The silence was stifling as they waited. Finally, Noah asked, "Sarah, is EMT ready?"

"Boss, they're on site."

He nodded.

The report came. There had been a hit. Five men had been playing cards and two were watching. Five of the seven died from gunshots. The other two were barely alive.

Colorful words flowed from Noah's and Bob's mouth. Noah turned and saw Sami standing in the doorway. "Sami, you shouldn't be here."

"I wanted to let you know lunch is ready." She swallowed and glanced toward the table. "I'll hold it."

"Good idea," Jose said as he walked through the front door. "Boss, we need to talk."

They watched Sami enter her room and close the door, before Jose said, "Chen's bragging about the hit."

"Why?" Noah answered his own question, "He's angry with me."

"That's the trafficking ring who took the young girls you were buying the same night you bought Sami."

"It's all about me."

Nodding Jose said, "Do we know the status of Wyatt?"

"Not yet." Noah's eyes met Sarah's. "I don't care how you do it but get Doc out of there."

"On it, Boss."

*****
After time passed, Sarah knocked on Sami's door. "We're ready for lunch." When Sami came from her room, Sarah said, "Sorry, it took so long."

"Not a problem. I understand you have work that needs your attention." Sami swallowed. "Were the men all right?"

Sarah shook her head. "No."

No one spoke during lunch.

Bob's computer notified him of some information. He checked it and returned to the table. "Boss, Wyatt survived surgery."

Noah nodded and then stood. "I'm going to the hospital."

Jose faced Noah. "Boss, is that wise?" He hesitated. "Which one of us do you want to come along?"

"Is it wise, no? It's something I need to do. I'm going by myself. I should only be gone a couple of hours. Sarah, give me one of those burner phones. I'll stay in touch."

After Sarah handed him the phone and reported that Doc safely got out, Noah studied Sami and then left.

She went to her room.

Jose started after her, but Sarah said, "I think she needs to be alone. She'll let me know when she's ready to talk."

*****
Noah took the longest possible route to the city. Inside the hospital, he showed his credentials and asked to see Sean McGrady. Once given the information, he followed the instructions to the correct floor and room. He, once again, showed his credentials to the security guards outside Sean's room.

Sean was asleep, so Noah pulled a chair next to his bed and waited.

It wasn't long before Galvin Baldwin walked in. "Noah, I expected to find you here, but hoped you weren't."

"You should know if one of my team members is injured, I'd be here. He's on a secure floor and has round the clock security. As far as being undercover, they think he's one of the guys who died. Nobody knows but us he survived. Two others survived."

"Sounds like you have it covered." Galvin scanned the room. "I know you need to talk with him, but you're at risk. After today, I'm ordering you to stay away. We'll see he gets the support he needs."

"He's my responsibility."

"I'm relieving you of that. Your safety's important too. I hear you pulled out Doc Holiday."

"He's safe." Noah sighed. "Chen's hitting that ring because of me."

"I know."

"We had a teleconference meeting this morning. I've got people in the field trying to find out where and when he's going to hit next. We'll get him."

Galvin grinned. "I'm confident you will."

Both men faced Sean as he started to move.

Sean described the scene, "We were drinking beer and playing cards. Four armed men came in shooting. They used AK-47's. We weren't ready."

Noah asked, "Can you describe the men?"

"Wore masks."

"I wonder how they knew where you were," said Galvin.

Running his hand through his short hair, Noah said, "I have a feeling they followed them from a bar. I'll have Bob notify everybody to be careful around bars. That's how we got Intel on last Friday's teen dance."

Galvin tapped Noah's back. "Sean, I'm sorry, but I'm sending Noah away. The longer he's here the more danger he's in. I've ordered him not to return until we've arrested Chen."

Sean attempted to raise his hand.

Noah reached over, patted his arm, and said, "I can promise I'll still check on you."

"I'm sure you will, Boss. Stay safe." Sean grinned. "Boss, does this qualify me for a vacation?"

Chuckling Noah said, "Of course. Think about where you want to go. I'll see it happens."

Galvin's eyes met Noah's. "Noah, goodbye."

He faced the door. "I'm gone."

*****
When Noah walked in the safe house's front door, Bob, Sarah, and Jose greeted him with questions about Wyatt Earp's status.

Before Noah could answer, Sami rushed from her room. "Noah!" She started to throw her arms around his neck but stopped. She turned, went straight to her room, and slammed the door. "Sorry."

Noah sighed. "She's an emotional female." He held up a sack. "I brought dinner. It's hard deciding what to bring for a group of people. I settled on a Mexican buffet."

Sarah smiled and studied Sami's door. "Are you going to talk with her?"

He nodded. "Yes. I'll answer your questions first, and then we'll eat. After that, Sami and I'll walk Jasper."

Noah answered all the questions, before Jose said, "Boss, it's none of my business but I need to say something. I'm speaking for myself. Bob and Sarah may feel differently."

"Go ahead." Noah headed toward the table. "Let's sit and talk. Speak freely. Bob, Sarah, do the same. What's it about?"

"Sami." When Noah's eyes widened, Jose sat and continued, "You and Sami got off to a rocky start. It appears you've worked things out. I know regulation prohibits you two from having a relationship. I'm not talking about a full-fledged relationship, but I doubt an occasional hug would hurt. It breaks my heart seeing her hurt. I know you've explained the regulation to her. She was scared for your safety and was happy you returned unharmed."

Sarah sighed. "I agree with Jose. A hug for something like today wouldn't hurt."

"I agree with you both, but we need to discuss the other side." Bob hesitated. "If we allow an occasional hug, would it gradually increase? Where do we stop it?"

Noah stood, went into the kitchen, and returned with a glass of water. After he sat and took a sip, he said, "I understand what you're saying. I know Sami was genuinely happy I returned safely. I'm the type of person who follows rules. Rules are made for a reason. What if we let a few hugs or kisses pass. Maybe down the road I do something to make her angry. I could have a sexual harassment charge thrown against me."

Shaking his head, Jose said, "Do you think Sami would do that?"

Blowing out air, Noah said, "No. But she could. I don't have the answer. I didn't stop her. The look on her face hurt when she realized she shouldn't hug me. I'll agree to think about it."

Nodding Jose said, "If you decide to allow a hug here and there, I'm not turning you in."

Both Bob and Sarah agreed they wouldn't either.

"Thank you for the support."

Sami came from her room and saw everyone sitting at the table. "I didn't know you were having a meeting. I'll start dinner when you're finished." She turned toward her room.

"Sami," called Noah. "We weren't really having a meeting. You don't need to start dinner. I brought dinner home. It might need reheating. It's been sitting here awhile." He pointed to a sack.

"Thank you. I'll check it and have dinner on the table in a few minutes."



~~~~~
CHARACTERS:

Sami Martinez - Twenty-five-year-old high school teacher, who's working to find a kidnapped teenage girl.

Noah Taylor. - Homeland Security team leader, who works in the Human Trafficking department. Alias - Trey Morgan

Jose, Bob, & Sarah - Agents who work under Noah. Bob and Sarah are married.

Laura Martinez - Sami's mom.

Jasper - Sami's Great Dane, a large breed dog.

Myra Rodriguez - Kidnapped teenage girl whom Sami was close to.

Julia - Teenage girl, who was friends with Myra and Sami works with.

Big T - Neighborhood pimp; not a friendly person

Numerous Team Members - They will show up periodically but not really important to the story, except they're there.

Chen - Charles Henry Edward Nichols - Human trafficker and into some really bad stuff.

Chief Galvin Baldwin - Noah's supervisor.

Ryan Brown - All around jerk. He thinks highly of himself.

Marc - Sami's old boyfriend.

Author Notes Thank you, Google Images, for a photo of an extraction team.

Today's post is the first part of Chapter 1. It's a short chapter. It only has a little over 1500 words.

Today I'm able to post. Everybody is worn out from all things graduation and off doing things by themselves to relax. I'm at my mom's and she'd napping. I thought I could sneak in a post before everyone gets together for dinner. LOL I made huge changes as I posted. I wish just once; wish I could get a post even close to perfect. Not sure about next Sunday. I'll be at my sons who has the two little girls.


Chapter 19
Chapter 12 B

By barbara.wilkey

Noah and Sami met 16 days ago.

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Noah stood, went into the kitchen, and returned with a glass of water. After he sat and took a sip, he said, "I understand what you're saying. I know Sami was genuinely happy I returned safely. I'm the type of person who follows rules. Rules are made for a reason. What if we let a few hugs or kisses pass. Maybe down the road I do something to make her angry. I could have a sexual harassment charge thrown against me."

Shaking his head, Jose said, "Do you think Sami would do that?"

Blowing out air, Noah said, "No. But she could. I don't have the answer. I didn't stop her. The look on her face hurt when she realized she shouldn't hug me. I'll agree to think about it."

Nodding Jose said, "If you decide to allow a hug here and there, I'm not turning you in."

Both Bob and Sarah agreed they wouldn't either.

"Thank you for the support."

Sami came from her room and saw everyone sitting at the table. "I didn't know you were having a meeting. I'll start dinner when you're finished." She turned toward her room.

"Sami," called Noah. "We weren't really having a meeting. You don't need to start dinner. I brought dinner home. It might need reheating. It's been sitting here awhile." He pointed to a sack.

"Thank you. I'll check it and have dinner on the table in a few minutes."

TODAY'S POST:

Chapter 12 B

During dinner Jose asked, "Boss, after Wyatt heals are you letting him have his choice of vacation spots?"

Chuckling, Noah answered, "He's already asked about it. I told him I'd make sure it happened."

Sarah put her hand over Bob's. "We had fun at the Rocky Mountain resort while Bob finished healing."

Bob leaned over and pecked her cheek. "We sure did. It was perfect. It was quiet and peaceful."

"Wyatt's young, I bet he chooses a tropical beach with bikini clad babes." Jose faced Sami. "If you could take a prepaid vacation to anywhere in the world, where would you go?"

"That's a tough one." After a lengthy pause, Sami said, "I don't know. I've always wanted to see the Northern Lights."

Noah asked, "Did your family take vacations while you were growing up?"

She shook her head. "No. With Mom owning the restaurant and Dad the construction company, along with five children, family vacations didn't happen. This is probably the farthest I've been from the city." She smiled. "I take that back. I did go to away ball games. Anyway, if I got a chance like that, I'd have to really think about it."

Heads turned when Bob's computer dinged. He stood. "Excuse me. I need to check that."

Quiet remained until he returned.

When he did, he said, "Just Doc checking in. Everything's good."

"Are Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday really their names?" asked Sami.

Jose chuckled. "No. It's their undercover name. We don't want anybody knowing their real names. Boss is the only person who knows our uncover agents' real identities."

Tilting her head, Sami asked, "Do they chose their names or are they chosen for them?"

Noah sipped his water and then answered, "They chose it."

Sami stood. "There's blackberry cobbler and vanilla ice cream for either dessert now or later."

They indicated they wanted to wait until later to have the cobbler.

"Sounds good." Sami turned toward her room, but stopped and faced them. "I understand how busy Noah is. I feel somebody else should go out with Jasper and me." She went into her room and closed the door.

Jose motioned for Noah to go after her.

Noah mouthed back. "I'll talk with her later."

"What are you waiting for?" asked Sarah.

"Christmas!" Noah stood and went into his room.

*****
Tomorrow's my laundry day. I'm betting whoever's day it is has already finished. I can get an early start. Noah checked the list and saw it was Sami's. "I'm sure she's done." He went into the laundry room. As he loaded the washer, he glanced at the dryer and a bra lay on top. I bet she either forgot it or misplaced it. He picked it up and headed toward Sami's room.

When Sami answered the door, Noah held up the bra. "I noticed you were the last person to do laundry. Is this yours?"

"It is. I set it aside because it doesn't go in the dryer. I forgot it. I'm sorry."

"Not a problem. No need to apologize."

"But you're a..."

"I've seen bras before," interrupted Noah. "They're on TV, in movies, and in magazines." He hesitated. "You're hiding in your room. I think Jasper needs out, and we need to talk."

She tossed the bra onto the bed. "Maybe."

"There's not a maybe to it." Noah walked to the front door.

Holding the door for Sami and Jasper to walk through, Noah glanced back at his team. "We may be a while."

They headed toward the pond, as Noah asked, "Where do you want to start?"

"How about not starting? We can walk in silence."

"Not going to happen. We'll start simple. The bra. I'm not so stringent that I don't understand how something like that happens."

"Yes, Sir."

"What's this 'sir' bull...?" Noah exhaled. "When did I become 'sir'?"

"When I realized..." She turned her back to him.

Noah put his hand on her shoulder. "When you realized what?"

Sami almost whispered, "I've become too comfortable around you."

"Is that why you don't want us walking Jasper together?" When she nodded, he continued, "What if I want to walk with Jasper and you?"

"But I could make a mistake and get you relieved from duty. I don't want to risk that happening."

"Like today when you almost hugged me in front of the team?"

She nodded. "I'm sorry."

"I'm not giving you permission to hug me, but if it accidently happens, it's okay." Noah swallowed. "But understand no matter how much I want to I can't return the hug." When her eyes met his, he continued, "I don't want you to think if I don't return it, I don't want to. I can't."

"Are you saying you...?"

"I've said too much already," interrupted Noah.

"I understand."

They walked in silence farther around the pond.

Sami said, "Thank you for bringing dinner tonight." When Noah nodded, she asked, "Besides being Trey Morgan, have you ever been undercover?"

"My first assignment was undercover. I rode with a motorcycle gang and investigated drugs and weapons."

"That sounds dangerous. How long did you do it?"

"They try to keep agents undercover for less than a year. Occasionally there's an exception but it's rare. I did it for almost sixteen months."

"What was your name?"

"Iceman."

"That sounds mean."

"It seemed appropriate. I was in a bad place and was basically void of feelings."

"You must've been hurting."

"I'm not willing to discuss it."

"I'm not asking." After they walked a little further, Sami asked, "If you had a prepaid vacation, where would you go?"

Chuckling Noah said, "I guess I'm like you. I'd have to think about it for a while. It would have to be quiet and beautiful. I don't want to be around a bunch of tourists. Just someplace to relax."

Giggling, Sami asked, "Do you know how to relax?"

"What?" Noah stepped back and studied Sami. "You don't think I know how to relax. I'm relaxed here."

"This is you relaxed?"

"Yes. I think I'm nailing it."

Laughing, she continued, "I guess."

Noah suddenly got serious. "I know this isn't ideal, but are you at least partially comfortable here?"

Sami's eyes met his. "I'm okay, really, I am. Everybody's going out of their way to make me comfortable. I appreciate that. Thank you."

"I don't think anybody's going out of their way for you. You're making this easy. I've had some people in protective custody that were difficult to put up with."

"Thank you."

They started heading toward the house, and Sami stopped walking. "Noah?" When he faced her, she swallowed, hesitated, and then threw her arms around him and squeezed tight.

Noah stood there, before he said, "Ah hell," and returned the hug.

When the hug ended, Noah said, "I needed it too." He exhaled. "I doubt anybody will ask, but if they do, I'll admit it. I won't lie. I don't want you lying either."

Sami nodded and then asked, "Since this needs to last me a lifetime, can I have another one."

He chuckled. "Sure." As this hug ended, he kissed the side of her head and said, "We need to get inside."

"Noah?" When he faced her, she said, "Neither of those happened."

He nodded. "Sure."

*****
When they walked into the house, Jose followed. "I think it's blackberry cobbler time. Anybody agree?"

Sami walked toward the kitchen. "I'll get right on it."

Jose called, "I didn't mean for you to get it."

"I don't mind."

Noah followed. "Sami, I need to ask. Are we all right?"

Her eyes met his. "I think so."

"Good."

She studied Noah as he left the kitchen. I wonder what that was about.

As they ate the cobbler and ice cream, light conversation continued.


~~~~~
CHARACTERS:

Sami Martinez - Twenty-five-year-old high school teacher, who's working to find a kidnapped teenage girl.

Noah Taylor. - Homeland Security team leader, who works in the Human Trafficking department. Alias - Trey Morgan

Jose, Bob, & Sarah - Agents who work under Noah. Bob and Sarah are married.

Laura Martinez - Sami's mom.

Jasper - Sami's Great Dane, a large breed dog.

Myra Rodriguez - Kidnapped teenage girl whom Sami was close to.

Julia - Teenage girl, who was friends with Myra and Sami works with.

Big T - Neighborhood pimp; not a friendly person

Numerous Team Members - They will show up periodically but not really important to the story, except they're there.

Chen - Charles Henry Edward Nichols - Human trafficker and into some really bad stuff.

Chief Galvin Baldwin - Noah's supervisor.

Ryan Brown - All around jerk. He thinks highly of himself.

Marc - Sami's old boyfriend.

Author Notes Thank you, Google Images, for a photo of a couple hugging.

Today's post is the second part of Chapter 12. It's a short chapter. It only has a little over 1300 words.

Today I'm able to post. My two young granddaughters are napping, my son is working out, and my daughter in law is making blueberry scones. I'm trying to sneak in a post before they wake up. LOL I made huge changes as I posted. I wish just once; wish I could get a post even close to perfect. I'll be home Thursday so life might get back to normal, whatever that is.


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