Jack's arm fell from her shoulder, and he grabbed his head. He groaned. "God..."

Lola swiveled toward him, reaching out, her arms freezing in midair. He'd told her to let him ride out the next headache. The pain acted like a key to his past, a past that he needed to unlock to find Gabe...to find himself.


He moaned, a tortured sound that twisted her heart. His fingers curled into claws as they raked through his black hair. He rocked forward, his head touching his knees.

She scrambled to her feet, and then took a position on the cushion next to him. Her fingers tingled with the desire to stroke his back, to comfort him as he'd comforted her. She bit her lip and the salty tang of her own blood spiked her tongue as she pierced the flesh.

Jack emitted a low growl. Every muscle along his shoulders and back coiled into tight springs.

Tears flooded her eyes. The sight of this strong, fearless man incapacitated by pain plucked a chord deep in her soul.

She ached to soothe him, but he didn't want that from her. He didn't want to be nurtured. He wanted and needed a partner. He required a different kind of strength from her, the strength to allow him to tame his own demons. Regardless of the agony.

Jack was a soldier, a Green Beret. He'd been trained to endure pain.

His body shuddered, and she shuddered with him. His T-shirt, soaked with sweat, clung to the ridges and planes of his back.

His shoulders heaved. A gasp escaped from his lips,

Lola's hand hovered over his shoulder, the heat from his body scorching her palm.

And waited. Several minutes passed.

His head jerked, and his hands clasped the back of his neck. He groaned.

"Jack." Lola whispered his name, afraid to break the spell, afraid not to.

A bead of sweat ran down the side of his face. His eyes began to blink, and his tight jaw lost its rigidity. His breath, which had been blasting out in short spurts, slowed. His chest heaved once, twice.

He massaged his temples with the heels of his hands. Words rumbled from his throat. "That hurt like hell."

Lola held her breath, afraid any movement from her would set off another episode. Jack couldn't endure another headache. She couldn't endure another one of Jack's headaches.

He unfolded his body and reclined on the couch, his chest rising and falling with each steadying breath.

"D-does it still hurt? Do you want an ibuprofen?"

He opened one eye and dipped his head once.

She scrambled from the couch, sweeping up his water glass, and padded into the kitchen. She poured more water into the glass and grabbed a bottle of industrial-strength ibuprofen. She wanted to give him something stronger, but it would make him drowsy, and she'd bet the remaining cash in his black bag he wouldn't want to be drowsy. She tipped two gel caps into her palm.

As she walked back to the living room, Jack said, "I remembered something."

She tripped and the water sloshed over the rim of the glass, splashing her hand. Why should his news surprise her? It was what they both wanted and expected from his headaches.

Without meeting his dark gaze, she handed him the glass and dropped the ibuprofen into his palm.

He popped the pills into his mouth and drained the glass. "It's like bashing your thumb with a hammer-- intense agony and then a throbbing pain."

"Do you want me to massage your scalp like I did the other day? Does that help?"

"Yeah. Just not too much pressure." He sat forward, turned and presented his back to her.

Her fingers burrowed into his thick black locks until they met his scalp. She pressed her thumbs against the back of his neck as the rest of her fingers gently massaged his head. "Better?"

"Mmm." He tilted his head back, giving himself over to her ministrations. "Thanks for letting it go. It must've been hard for you not to jump in and make it all better."

"I helped more by not jumping in, right?" Her fingers danced at his temples, tapping a soothing beat.

"You did."

His hair slipped through her fingers and she rubbed the strands between the pads of her fingertips. "You said you remembered more. Can you talk about it?"

He encircled her wrist with his fingers and turned to face her. "The images were jumbled. At first I was talking to someone in the street of a big city, Kabul, I think. He showed me your brother's lab. It had been destroyed, your brother kidnapped. I met others in the city, a clandestine meeting, and they told me your brother had been taken to a town in the mountains. I don't know if it's the same town where I was attacked and left for dead."

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