Home > Hard Beat (Driven #8)

Hard Beat (Driven #8)
Author: K. Bromberg


“Are you on a suicide mission, now?”

“What the hell are you talking about?” I shift in my seat to face Rafe, catching a glimpse of the world outside the windows of the Manhattan headquarters of Worldwide News. But what I really see in my mind’s eye are the memories I wish I could wipe away.

Flashes of light against the stark black night. Piercing sirens drowning out my pleas for her to breathe. Her lifeless body, pale and clammy. Unresponsive.

Her eyes. Those blue eyes of hers, always so goddamn vibrant and mischievous, blank and fixed.

The smell of gunpowder mixed with the metallic scent of unexpected death lingering around us like a fog.

The ache. In my heart from what I knew to be true, and in my shoulders and arms from the force of the compressions on her chest as I tried to force life back into her.

Her lips. So cold. So blue.

The sound of my own voice pleading and begging for her to be strong. To stay with me.

Chaos. The feel of hands pulling me back because the medics needed space to do their job. The one I knew was useless.

The chill that settled in as they loaded her in the transport, and I shivered uncontrollably from the trauma. But I held on to the cold, wrapped it around me like a blanket, because it was so much easier to focus on that than the guilt already weaving itself around my psyche and soul.

I couldn’t save her. I tried. But I failed.

“Tanner!” Rafe’s voice pulls me from the nightmare on a constant repeat in my mind. It takes me a moment to pull myself from the painful recollections.

“Yeah. Sorry.” I run my hand over my upper lip and wipe away the beads of sweat forming there. “I —”

“Got distracted? Like I said, you want a suicide mission.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it. It’s always about the story. Always.” I’m pissed at having to explain myself when usually the only question I get asked is if my bag is packed.

“I’m afraid you’re going to become the story, given your mind-set.” The sarcasm in his voice pisses me off further, and I know he’s purposefully pushing my buttons. “You want the danger, the hard beat, somewhere where you can risk your safety as punishment for not being able to save Stella?” He squares his shoulders and braces his hands on his desk, staring down at me from the other side of it. A silent reprimand in a sense. I hold his glare because as right as he is, he’s also so very wrong.

“Am I not your best reporter?” It’s an arrogant question but one I know is damn well true. I glance out the window for a moment before scooting forward in my seat and bracing my hands on my knees. When I look back up to him, I make sure he sees the temerity in my eyes.

“That’s not the issue. The —”

“Bullshit!” I shove my chair back as I stand up, letting the sound emphasize my point. “Shit’s about to go down over there. You don’t need some fresh-faced kid getting killed because he doesn’t know the lay of the land. I can do the job better than any of them.”

“You’re gonna burn out, man. You’ve been going hard for years… and now with this, I mean it’s only been two and a half months…”

“And I’m going out of my fucking mind with boredom,” I shout, throwing my hands up before I get hold of myself and rein it in. I have to show him I can do this. That I can go out in the field and be an asset instead of the loose cannon he thinks I am. And fuck yes, mentally I’m just that, but he doesn’t need to know. “Put me in, coach. I’m begging you, Rafe. I need this, need to get the fuck out of Dodge and back to where I’m comfortable and feel at home…” My begging is pathetic, but at this point I’m a desperate man.

“If home to you is a hotel full of journalists in bum-fuck Egypt, then I feel sorry for you, man…” His voice fades off as his eyes search mine. His gaze holds compassion, understanding, and pity, and I hate fucking pity.

“It’s not my home, but it’s what I need right now. It’ll help me process everything… make me focus on the job and not on her.” Or her funeral and meeting her parents at the service instead of in Ibiza where we had all planned to vacation a week later.

“I get it, Tanner. All of it… shit.” He steps away from the desk and shoves his hands in his pockets as he looks out the window, a sigh falling from his lips. He turns back around to face me. “Let me see what I can do. I don’t even have a new…” His voice trails off, although both of us know what he’s going to say next.

One of her cameras sits on my dresser at home where the memory card is still loaded with pictures from the last night we spent together. I can’t stand the thought of looking at them. I wish I could. Then maybe the horrible images in my mind would be erased.

“Rafe, it is what it is. You can say it because I need to get used to it. A new photographer.”

I know he’s upset too. The three of us started out in this business as fresh-faced kids thrown into the fire together. Now one of us is a suit, one of us needs to escape back into those flames to forget, and one of us is dead. “I still think you should stay stateside for a bit. Go spend time with your sister and her family for a while. Get some perspective.”

“I’ve got all the perspective I need. Thanks.” I’m being a sarcastic asshole, but if anyone can understand my need to get back into the field, it should be him. “Look, I’m not taking no for an answer. Do what you gotta do, man, but get me the fuck back there or I’ll head over to CNN. I hear they’re looking for someone.”

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