A Journey of Passion Ch. 05by_Lynn_©
The cold and wet cement penetrated his camouflaged uniform as if it was paper-thin. Seth already had given some thought to retiring from the business. He was just getting too old to go running all over the world anymore. Forty-five and divorced, Seth found himself missing something in life. His friends envied the way he could travel, do as he chose, and answer to no one. It wasn't that great, he reminded himself again.
Of course, no one knew about Gabriela yet. It still surprised him that he'd replied to her dating service ad and that she'd answered him. Fate put them together, he decided. He needed to get this job done and get back to her, he told himself.
Men lay hidden all around him, part of the team here to rescue the kidnapped senator and his wife. Bugs swarmed in front of him and tried to penetrate the protective netting that covered his face and neck. Nothing else moved in the sweltering jungle. Seconds later, it all changed. Seth heard the explosions and gunfire and knew they were in trouble. An agonized scream near him was the last thing he remembered.
He wasn't sure where he was or even what day it was. Searing pain shot through his shoulder when he tried to sit up. The effort to think caused his head to pound. Seth closed his eyes and fell into a fitful sleep.
A nurse stood next to his bed when he next woke up. Small bits of the attack came to him in the following days. Several of his team received injuries but not as severe as Seth's. They all went to other hospitals. They didn't feel he was stable enough to travel with them. It took well over two weeks before he could get a laptop in his room.
She cried herself to sleep for the third night in a row. Gabriela felt empty and alone once more. So far, there'd been no word from Seth and he'd been gone two weeks already. He'd warned her it could be a while but she still had hopes. She drifted off only to dream.
Rapid-fire gunshots and bombs exploded all around. Men in camouflage snaked their way through the brush as they attacked the enemy. Everywhere she looked, there was death and destruction. Screams of agony reverberated in the air as the battle ensued. Buildings burned and collapsed until only one remained.
The leader nodded and the team moved forward. Seconds became minutes as they inched their way to the shack. Voices called out behind the men but ran the other direction. Gabriela watched as first one then another surrounded the small building. Clouds covered most of the light from the moon to cast eerie shadows over the woods. Several men kicked in the door and scrambled through it some unspoken command.
An almost deadly silence followed as she waited. Then a woman emerged in the arms of one of the men. Behind them, two soldiers led a thin man into the brush. The entire team retreated at the signal of their leader. Only something wasn't right. Gabriela sensed it.
His body jerked and spun around before he fell to the ground. More gunfire shattered the air as the team fought back the enemy. Bright red blood stained the back of his jacket and dripped into the dry earth under him. Terror gripped Gabriela as she tried to get to him only to find herself held back by the thick underbrush. Tears streaked down her face as she screamed out his name.
The horrific dream brought Gabriela awake in a tangle of the sheets. Her heart thudded at the violence she'd seen. She worked her way out of bed and went into the kitchen for some water. The cool liquid eased the tightness in her throat enough that she could take a deep breath.
Reason told her it was only a dream. Yet, she hadn't heard from Seth for so long. Gabriela watched the first rays of sun streak across the sky and hoped for word soon.
Gabriela knew he might not be able to contact her for days at a time. Now, though, he needed her. It only took a few minutes to turn the computer on and log in. His heart raced when he saw her name.
"Seth, ohh," she typed back.
"I miss you. Not sure how long I have to talk today."
"That's all right. I miss you, too. Are you okay?"
He grimaced at her innocent question. Of course, she didn't know about his injuries yet. How to tell her without having her panic was the issue, he knew.
"I had a little problem."
"Can you tell me about it?" Gabriela wanted to ask more but didn't.
"I'll be okay. I got hurt a little bit. The doctor's make sure I have pain meds and they help. I should be home soon."
"I'm glad the drugs help then. That's important. Are they good to you there?"
Seth read each word and knew why she was becoming more important to him all along. Her compassion for others astounded him.
"Yes, it's okay here."
He asked her how things were before a nurse came in with his meds again.
"Hold on a minute."
"I'll be right here," she wrote.
Gabriela felt the air rush out of her lungs. She wanted to get on a plane and go to ...
"I'm back. They said I have to rest again. I'm not sure how often I can get the computer but I'll try every day."
His words told her that the injuries he suffered must be serious. She also realized that she had no idea where he was.
"Don't worry about anything, Seth. Just get better and come home."
"Gabriela, thank you. Bye for now."
He signed off but stared at the words she'd typed at the end after he'd gone offline.
"I'll be here whenever you need me, Seth. Know that I'm strong and you can always lean on me. I think you're very special and want to help you however I can. Smile when you think of me. Look above you and see me watching over you. I'm right there with you, baby, and never forget it."
Seth closed his eyes and heard her voice. He swore he felt her next to him as he drifted off to sleep.
She wasn't going to cry. Forty-two was too old to cry, Gabriela told herself even as the tears rolled down her cheeks. An almost physical pain took over her heart as she looked at the empty screen. This was day six without any more word from Seth and she was afraid.
A restless sleep left her weary the following morning. Thankful it was Saturday, she went to the computer in hopes of seeing a message. Gabriela didn't leave the house all day waiting but one never came.
Sunday morning she sat at her desk and read back over the last time she'd talked to Seth. Everything was going fine between them and he seemed to be doing better. So why hadn't he been back, she kept asking. Mid-afternoon she was still there, looking at a blank screen, and trying not to panic. She didn't even have a way to check on him because of what he did.
She sat in her pajamas and forced herself to stay awake. The will to be there for him was so strong she swore she saw the screen pop up with his name on it. Gabriela rubbed her eyes to erase the vision only to see a message appearing as well.
"Hi honey. Are you okay?"
"I was so worried when you were gone so long."
"You don't have to worry," he typed as a vague answer.
"It's been a week."
"Damn, I'm sorry."
Gabriela waited for some kind of reason or answer but nothing came. "Okay."
She pushed down the fear and the irritation that went with it. Seth was a good person but at times, he could be aggravating. He had to realize she'd wonder why he was gone for so many days. Couldn't he at least give her some small answer, she thought to herself.
"How was your week?"
She took as few seconds to think how to reply. "It was horrible."
Again, she watched for something from him. Gabriela decided to go on when nothing came through.
"I know you don't want me to worry, Seth. Could you go a week if you were me and be happy about it?"
"No, I'd be upset."
She read the short answer and sighed. Then he began typing again.
"I had a reaction to some medications. They changed drugs now and I'm doing better," he told her.
"I'm glad you're doing okay now. Seth, I missed you so much."
"Baby, I dreamt about you so many times."
"Tell me," she said.
"I felt your hands on me. You were taking care of me almost like a nurse."
She read his words and felt his need. Yes, he'd been gone a week. Now she knew the reason why and that he was doing better. He'd promised he would always come back and he did. Gabriela wiped away her tears and imagined being in his dream with him.
There's a time in everyone's life they can look back to as a turning point for them. Seth knew what that was for him. He saw the day he'd replied to Gabriela Bartolome on the dating service as the beginning of his life.
He was forty-five and never realized how alone he felt. Work, family and friends all kept him busy. It was only after finding her did he discover there'd been a hole in his life all along.
Now he knew the real meaning of love. She'd taught him that in so many ways. Gabriela gave but didn't demand anything in return. Seth felt a tear in his eye at the thought of never seeing her.
He looked down at his injured body and tried to forget that awful day of the ambush. The team he worked with knew their jobs well. Shit happened, as he said before to one of the nurses.
The doctors only told him that his shoulder took a bullet. They'd removed what they could during the operation and hoped for the best. Seth remained optimistic even though there were times the pain almost made him pass out. An MRI showed they missed bone chips and he went back in for more surgery.
That only led to an infection and more drugs. Seth's body became resistant to the medications and he had to fight hard to gain ground. At times, he slept around the clock. Gabriela only knew a small portion of this, of course. He didn't want her to worry.
His shoulder throbbed despite the medications dripping into his veins. Seth tried to use his training to take himself to another place but it didn't work anymore. The fever seemed to take all the fight from his body and he fell into a fitful sleep.
Monday became Tuesday and soon it was Friday. Seth picked at the bland diet they brought him and wished he had real food. Yet he knew his stomach couldn't handle anything heavier than the few things he had in front of him. He pushed the bedside table away and attempted to find a comfortable position.
A short nap restored a bit of his energy and he flipped the computer on. Too many days had gone by since he last talked to Gabriela and he needed her. Seth didn't think about the pain when he was with her. She took it away and gave him hope. He didn't question his need for her or the way he longed to let her take control. His strength just wasn't there. However, she had enough for both of them, she reminded him. His spirits lifted when he saw she was online.
He signed in and typed in his hello.
"Seth, how are you?"
"Sore, but I'm all right. How about you?"
"Missing you but otherwise I'm okay."
"Yeah, me too, you have no idea how much, baby."
They talked for a while longer about general things as they always did. Seth pulled on her energy to sustain him until the next time. He needed what only she could bring to him. Soon the medications made him drowsy though. Gabriela recognized the signs and mentioned it.
"Seth honey, are you getting sleepy?"
"A little," he wrote after a minute.
"It's okay if you need to sleep. I'll be here later too."
"Gabriela, thank you."
"Baby, get some rest and we'll talk again," she told him.
Further surgeries took care of problems that developed. A blood infection weakened him more than he wanted to admit. Seth had always been that tough guy and this weaker side was new to him.
Gabriela didn't have any problem with it. She didn't see him as a sissy or a wimp that couldn't take it. To her, he was still just Seth, the same man she knew before. The only difference was that she saw the inner man too. Most of the world never bothered to look. She loved every part that she uncovered of him.
Her calm and accepting manner soothed his soul. Days and nights of pain faded away in just moments with her. Seth often mentioned it to her.
"Baby, I don't know myself anymore. All my life I was tough and in control. Now with you, I'm neither," he wrote.
"You've been through so much over the last several weeks. The medications and surgeries took your strength. There's nothing there that you can control right now and that's unusual for you," she typed back.
"Yeah, it's strange. At first, I couldn't even wash myself. That gave me time to think about how my body worked and felt."
"There's nothing wrong with depending on others when you're hurt, Seth. It doesn't make you weak at all. I admire you for how you're looking at all of this."
He thought about her words long after he signed off. Seth couldn't wait to get home to meet her in person. However, the second month turned into the third and Seth wasn't improving. It was time he made a decision. He brought it up the next time they connected online.
"Sometimes I think it would be better for you if we separated for a while," Seth said.
"Is that what you want?"
"That isn't the point. You've given up so much already and I don't know when I'll get back."
Tears poured down her cheeks at the thought of a life without him. "I'll wait, Seth."
"I know things are hard for you right now."
"Don't worry about me. Just get better and come home."
"Why are you doing this, Seth? Have I done anything to make you think I'm unhappy?"
His instant reply confused her. "No, you didn't."
"Then I don't understand, baby. What's wrong?"
"All the frustration that goes with our situation isn't fair for you."
"I want a chance with you." Gabriela never hesitated with her answer.
"Think about it, okay?"
"No, baby, I won't. If you break things off now it will kill me. I need you so much. Please, baby," she whispered.
"I have to go. The doctor is here."
Gabriela heard the click when he hung up the telephone and felt sick to her stomach.
Now she struggled to make sense of it all. She wanted to hold him close to her and prove how much she needed him. Her body ached for him just as she knew his did for her.
Minutes turned into hours as she cried over his words. Numbness took over her brain until she thought she'd make herself crazy.
Seth sat in his hospital bed and felt his heart breaking. He'd known all along that it wasn't fair to let Gabriela wait as she did for him. Selfishness kept him from ending things. She made him feel alive and strong even when his body was weak and badly injured. Dreams and fantasies of a future together helped him make it through the days and nights of pain.
Today he'd told her maybe they needed to separate until he made it home. The words echoed in his brain even now several hours later. Pain sliced through him at the thought of not having her in his life. Yet he believed it would be better for her. Frustration and anxiety added to the uncertainty of when they'd release him.
He tried to sleep but images of her filled his head. Over the months, they'd shared their hopes and dreams as he learned more about the amazing person she was. Why then did she want to wait indefinitely for him when she could find someone near her? Yet it killed him to think of another man with her.
A restless night didn't bring any answers. Physical therapy was hell but he pushed himself harder trying to erase Gabriela from his mind. It accomplished nothing more than sore muscles in his messed up body. He slid into the wheelchair and rolled to his room for privacy before he bawled like a baby in front of anyone. Only there did he admit he couldn't make it without Gabriela. Scrambling for the laptop, he worked at getting a secure connection to reach her.
What if she wouldn't listen to him now, he asked himself. It scared him to think she might not be online. Gabriela was always there. She'd told him she rearranged her days to be available to him as much as she could. Time zones, doctors, nurses, and even his superiors all sided against them too often.
Now he stared at her name on his messenger list.
"Hello," she replied.
Seth knew she was upset from her simple greeting. "How are you?"
"I'm fine, thank you."
"You're mad," he said even as he knew she has every right to be.
He waited for her answer but nothing came. Seth searched for the right words before going on.
"It's my fault. You just seem to get frustrated at times and I don't want that."
"Yes, Seth, I do at the situation itself."
"I'm trying to get out of here, Gabriela."
"Tell me something, Seth. If I walked away right now, how would you feel?"
Seth never hesitated. "Devastated."
"Do you see me as the type of person that would do that?"
"No, I don't, Gabriela."
"I don't understand why then you'd even suggest it. Have I indicated at all that I want out?"
"Baby, no you never did that."
"It's been three months now Seth that I've waited for you to get home."
"We don't know how much longer and that's what I'm worried about."
"Make me believe you truly want me to go. Tell me how you don't need me or want me anymore, baby. Look at your body and see how it reacts when we're together. Then tell me you still want us to separate."
Seth already knew the affect she had on him. The instant erection told him enough.
"You ache to feel my fingers on you. I know that you see my hungry mouth taking you."
"Yes, oh god, baby, I need you. Don't leave me." Seth ignored the tears pouring down his face as he went on. "I love you, Gabriela and I want you in my life forever."
"I'm not going anywhere, love. You're mine and I'm yours."
"Yes, I am. I'm yours, Gabriela."
He longed to share more with her but knew the risks involved because of his job. Someday he knew he'd tell her everything that he couldn't here.
"I love you, Seth. It's still as simple as that."
His heart lurched as he read her words. They'd shared so much and he needed her in his life. An image of her whispering the sentiment to him stuck in his head.
"I love you, Gabriela." He hit the enter key a second before he lost connection again. It was three days later before he got it back. But they'd admitted their love for each other and he had that to help him through it.
She had no life away from the computer anymore. There'd been a change of responsibilities at the office where she worked and Gabriela lost her job. The news wasn't unexpected to her, really. New management came through and made several changes that cued her in to the possibility. Her severance package allowed her time to look for something comparable.
It also let her have more time for Seth. He hadn't realized she was home more now. At least he hadn't asked her about it. If he did, she would tell him but otherwise she didn't plan to worry him about it. He'd want to do something to help and he couldn't from there.
Her apartment didn't require much to keep it clean since she was a neat freak. Nicole often teased her about it but Gabriela just found it soothing to have things in order. Chaos and disorder didn't make sense to her. That left her almost the entire day now to watch for Seth. She loved that fact and knew she could get used to being there for him every day.
That made her wonder what it said about the kind of person she was. She'd never taken the time to describe herself but found it hard now. Did she like the idea of Seth needing her? Did it make her superior if he leaned on her? What did it say if he relied on her for answers?
Each question sounded wrong and ignorant to her. She knew better. Her only reason for wanting to be there for Seth was that she loved him. Her desire to be there for him was all that drove her and she knew it. Gabriela wasn't the kind of person to look for glory and accolades. She was always the first one to offer help and the last to expect thanks for it.