Home > Merciless Survival (SEAL Team Blackout #2)

Merciless Survival (SEAL Team Blackout #2)
Author: Em Petrova

 

ONE

 

 

Farah would rather be anyplace else but sitting at her desk, staring at a spreadsheet of numbers until her eyes crossed.

She could be on a trip to one of the internment camps, helping the aid workers to get food and clothes to displaced Nigerian villagers. She could even be stuck in a meeting with all of her superiors and feel less stressed than she was right now.

Heck, digging latrines would be preferable.

A rivulet of perspiration zigzagged down Farah’s spine.

And of course, she just had to be one of those women who sweat under stress; neck-deep in accounting, she didn’t have a prayer of staying dry. Especially with temperatures in Abuja, Nigeria topping the nineties on a regular spring day.

The numbers on her screen just weren’t adding up. She was two cents off and she would not stop until she found her error—or someone else’s.

Since the financial aid was going to one of the causes Farah worked closely with, she was determined to pinpoint where the mistake was made. Two pennies might not seem like a lot to most people, but the program fed, clothed and housed unfortunate people. Every cent counted to them.

Besides, the government frowned on lazy accounting, especially when they were doling out millions of dollars in humanitarian aid.

Forcing herself to move slowly through the list of figures, she picked up her bottled water and sipped. The cool liquid slipping down her throat helped, and the tense muscles in her shoulders relaxed a bit.

Farah directed her desk fan to blow on her neck, hoping it would help with the perspiration dampening the loose tunic top she wore over linen trousers. Pleased with a little more airflow, she began again at the top of her spreadsheet and worked her way down, checking figures she’d already checked twice before.

“Why can’t I find this error?” she muttered.

When she pulled in a deep, frustrated breath, she caught the scent of coconut perfume. She glanced up, a smile already fixed on her face for her best friend and coworker, Cassie.

The pretty blonde tucked a strand of straight hair behind one ear and leaned against Farah’s desk. “Uh-oh. I see I’ve interrupted a mad figure-checking spree.”

“I’m off by two cents.” She glanced over her friend’s red and white polka-dotted outfit. “And I see somebody is patriotic today.”

Cassie chuckled and waved a hand in dismissal. “You know red’s my favorite color. It has nothing to do with being Canadian.”

Farah scanned from the flowy red dotted dress to Cassie’s red sandals. “Whatever you say. Remember I’ve seen your apartment and it’s covered in hockey posters.”

“That’s because all my family plays back home. Plus hockey players are hot. Speaking of hot, you look like you could use a break. Are the numbers getting to you that bad? You never stress.” Cassie leaned over the desk to peer at the screen.

“Few things stress me out as much as numbers that don’t add up. Why I decided to take this job is beyond me. I could be doing pretty much anything else for a living.” Farah pulled her thick hair off her sticky neck.

Cassie snorted. “True, you could be in Boise working in your mother’s midwife practice.”

Farah inwardly shuddered at the thought. She’d spent enough lonely years of her life waiting for her mom to come home. She was always out helping other people grow their families instead of at home with Farah and her two brothers. As a result, Farah never wanted that life for herself, even if she knew a lot about midwifery from countless occasions when her mom needed an extra set of helping hands.

Bringing babies into the world was a noble profession, but one that came with too many emotions for Farah to choose it for herself.

Cassie poked a manicured finger into Farah’s shoulder. “And I would be working in some dull office. Instead, we looked at a brochure for the Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance and thought it was a good way to travel and see the world.”

Farah turned to her friend, brow raised. “And make a change in the world.”

“That too.” Cassie straightened and looked over the top of the computer toward the window overlooking the parking lot. A single palm tree was visible from this angle. Farah had the pattern of the bark memorized, since she stared at that tree whenever she was frustrated, puzzling out a problem or just plain bored. She much preferred times she got out of the office to work at the camps.

Cassie nudged her and then pointed out the window. “What do you think those vans are doing out there?”

She’d barely gotten the words out of her mouth before shouts echoed down the hallway. Cassie’s eyes flared wide. Farah turned her attention from her friend back to the window.

A man dressed all in black and toting a machine gun sprinted past the palm tree.

She shot to her feet, and Cassie gripped her arm, fingers biting into the flesh. “Did you see that?”

Farah met her eyes. “We have to get out of here.”

They made a break for the door. Farah peeked into the hallway. Another man ran by. Then another, and another.

Cassie gave a little cry, and Farah shoved her against the wall, a hand over her mouth. She stared into Cassie’s green eyes. “We have to stay calm. I think it’s an attack.”

Pops of machine gun fire blasted through the building, confirming it was true.

She’d heard about attacks like this across the world. Nigeria wasn’t exactly the most peaceful country, but Farah and the other people who worked for the Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance—or BHA—were a bit more sheltered. The worst Farah had seen was a common mugging on the streets of Abuja.

Cassie sagged at the knees, and Farah propped her up so she didn’t fall. “Why now? Why us? We help Nigerians!”

“Listen to me, Cass. We are leaving this building together. But I don’t want to drag you.”

Shrieks hammered their ears as the men in black wearing face coverings rampaged through the building.

Farah shot a look at the window. It was fixed glass. She could throw her computer through it, but the noise would only alert the men to their location sooner. Who knew how many were circling the building too.

“To think I was going to bring up how quiet the office is today.” Cassie’s whisper wobbled.

“You should’ve knocked on wood.” Farah stole another look around the doorframe. Her heart gave a hard jolt at the sight of a man holding two of their coworkers at gunpoint. They walked ahead of the attacker, hands up in surrender.

More men ran down the corridor, stopping at every doorway to yell at the people inside to come quietly and don’t make any trouble.

Farah settled her hands on Cassie’s shoulders and looked into her eyes. “They’re coming in here next. Whatever happens, we stick together.”

Cassie’s eyes sparked with alarm. “How are you so calm?”

More shouting, closer this time.

Farah whipped her head back to Cassie. “Mom taught me that when facing a crisis, do so with a cool head.”

“How does the advice of a midwife help us now?” Cassie plastered herself to the wall as footsteps and shouts approached their door.

“It doesn’t, but I usually handle stress well…except when I’m off by two cents.”

The steel barrel of an automatic weapon poked through the open door, and the gunman swung it from Cassie to Farah.

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