The Merc Series

     Twenty-nine-year-old Megan Cruise wiped the sweat from her forehead as she watched her tablet.

     She had eight separate hidden camera feeds from the woods and was watching the ensuing paintball war between the teams.

     She was surprised by what happened between the girls and Ino, though, less so by Carol and more so that the rest of the girls had gone along with it for so long.

     Megan wasn’t surprised when Bobbi, Clarissa, and Julie came out of the woods once eliminated. The three of them had already washed off their face paint and changed into their bathing suits.

     Well, more like their bikinis.

     Once she saw the winning team claim victory, she sounded the siren to let the others know it was over.

     She went back to watching the cameras. Rewinding the footage. Several times.

     Megan wasn’t surprised that Nick’s team won. Nick always won. She was just surprised how Nick won, though.

     But not as surprised as Mark.

     Actually pissed would be a better word, which was unusual to see Mark show much emotion, let alone being angry or annoyed.

     He came out of the woods, still grumbling. He had lost and if there was one thing that Mark hated, it was losing.

     Especially after he had made a plan and carried it out exactly as he planned.

     Megan had watched it from her tablet. It was a good plan. The girls had done their job and kept Ino out of the fight. But it hadn’t mattered in the end.

     Nick still beat Mark.

     But it was how he beat him that was the problem.

     Mark had been counting on Nick to act like Nick. But he hadn’t.

     Nick acted like someone else.

     It was a side Megan knew all too well. A side she used when she needed to.

     Sometimes it was hard to shut off muscle memory.

     Not that it made it any better for what Nick did, assuming that was the case.

     It certainly caught Mark off guard. Which was all the opening someone like Nick would need.

     Mark’s plan had been good.

     The guys had gotten Nick and Kat to move to where they wanted to be. They had controlled the flow of battle and used their positions and greater numbers to their advantages.

     Just like Mark had planned.

     They then used their one and only smoke grenade to blind Nick and Kat, then tossed their only grenade down by Nick just as the smoke was clearing.

     By then, there wasn’t time to avoid the paint grenade.

     Mark had won.

     He got Nick.

     Or so he had planned.

     Nick saw the grenade and grabbed Kat, who was behind him.

     He tossed her in front of it.

     No hesitation.


     Just grabbed her and tossed her.

     It went off, and Kat took the brunt of it. She was out.

     Mark stood there dumbfounded, unable to comprehend what he had just witnessed. How had he not planned for that?

     Nick then raised his gun and took out Mark and Sean with a single shot each.

     Shane and Mendoza went next but it took several shots for them.

     There was a lot of swearing soon after.

     Megan had laughed.

     “Something funny over there, Cutie Pootie!” Wade had hollered from the grill.

     How he heard her she didn’t know, but whatever he was grilling smelled amazing.

     Nick had spared no expense for the BBQ. They had everything from regular burgers, one pound burgers, hot dogs, chicken, ribs, steaks, steak tips, cabobs. There was so much grilled meat on plates, it wasn’t even funny. And that was nothing compared to all the snacks and junk food.

     And beer.

     So much beer.

     The last three guests to arrive at The Walker Compound had brought more.

     Jamie, Brenda, and Haley.

     They weren’t part of Red Diamond officially, at least not yet, but all three of them played important roles behind the scenes. They had busted their asses for the team, even if most of the others didn’t know it.

     Nick knew it though, which was why he wanted them invited. They deserved to partake in all this, too.

     Nick had been pushing for Jamie to be on the team for months now. It made no sense that they didn’t have a team medic to begin with. An obvious oversight on their part.

     Megan had disagreed, as she was want to do when Nick thought she had overlooked something.

     She needed Jamie to stay off the team, at least for now.

     If Nick would stop letting himself get injured so much, no one else would have even known about Jamie yet.

     Haley was a different story, as she was best friends with Clarissa and Megan. She was also a genius and her skill as a combat drone operator was unmatched as she was one of the first to use drones within a team role position.

     Just not on Red Diamond.

     Again, Megan had her reasons.

     Brenda’s role on the team was similar to Julie’s. While not critical on missions, it was vital to the team’s overall well-being and lifestyle they were faking.

     Brenda specifically helped Nick Walker keep up the façade of Nick Summers. Taking care of all the little things in his life in Boston.

     Like an assistant.

     But so much more.

     No one batted an eye when the three women joined the party. Some of the guys probably got hard once they saw them get down to their bikinis. Haley’s amble cleavage getting an eye roll from Carol once she saw her.

     She saw Nick and Mark have words again once everyone was cleaned up and in bathing suits and digging into the mounds of food Wade had prepared. Nick gave Mark a big grin and laughed, slapping him on the back, which seemed to settle Mark down.

     Megan watched Kat do a flip into the pool but landed without making a splash. Ino and Carol met her on the other side of the pool, sliding into the refreshing water. They were both wearing long sleeve rash guards and skort style bottoms and choosing to swim before eating as well.

     Probably the smarter choice, Megan thought.

     “Is this seat taken?”

     Megan looked up to see Nick with two plates of food. One was for her with sliced cucumbers, a glob of ranch dip, and a burger with just cheese, bacon, and ketchup on it.

     “Only you could be at a party with this much food and still not have gotten anything to eat.”

     “I have this,” Megan said, holding up her Corona Extra.

     “Beer is not food.”

     “Actually, beer contains everything one would need to survive-”

     “Stop,” Nick said, interrupting her as he sat down and pushed her plate towards her. “Eat.”

     Megan took a cucumber and dabbed it into the pile of dip on the plate.

     “And put that thing away,” Nick added, motioning at her tablet.


     “Because we’re supposed to be relaxing outside having fun.”

     “I am having fun. I was watching replays of your guy’s match.”

     Nick shook his head and said, “I’ve never seen Mark so upset.”

     Megan tried not to grin, but Nick noticed.

     He always noticed.

     “Why is that amusing to you?”

     Megan looked around to see if anyone was looking at them. But they weren’t.

     Wade was still at the grill pounding back Budwizers. Morgan and Sean were off standing and talking while getting food. Shane and Mendoza had cornered the three ‘new’ girls and were trying to impress them.

     Good luck with that, Megan thought.

     Mark had since gotten into a disagreement with Carol and Ino about how neither of them liked mayo, when they got out of the pool to get their food.

     Bobbi and Julie were basically drooling as they watched Kat get out of the pool, water dripping down her gorgeous body. And Clarissa was alone at another table with an umbrella to shade her as she ate her second full plate of ribs. Girl was going to need some wet wipes soon.

     “I don’t know. I guess because it’s so unusual for him and it’s just a game.”

     “I thought it was a training exercise?” Nick said deadface.


     “You said it was a training exercise.”

     “No, I didn’t. That was Morgan when people were grumbling about the face paint and stuff.”

     “Oh, well, now I feel bad.”


     “Because I told Kat and Ino for the three of us to only go at 40%.”

     Megan stared at him.

     That was less than half. They didn’t even go at half and won…

     Nick busted out laughing.

     “I’m joking.”

     Megan let out a sigh.

     “Stop, that was funny.”

     “Hmm,” she replied, and took a bite out of her burger.

     Nick watched for her reaction. As good as a cook as he was, Wade was even better.

     And his grilling. That was Tier-1 caliber.

     Megan said nothing. She didn’t have to. It was all over her face. And her eyes. She agreed.

     Nick looked down at his fully loaded burger and took a bite. Despite the humidity creeping into the day the longer it went on, they couldn’t have asked for a better day. The weather was gorgeous.

     Welcome to Maine. The way life should be.

     Indeed, Nick thought and took a long drink of his iced cold Mountain Dew.

     “So, what’s next on today’s agenda?” Nick asked after he finished chewing.

     The burger was delicious.

     “Why are you asking me?”

     “Cause, usually, you have the entire day planned down to the minute.”

     “I do not.”

     Nick laughed and said, “Next, you’ll try to tell me with a straight face that you can be spontaneous.”

     “I can be,” Megan said with a not straight face.

     Nick kept laughing.

     “You won’t even go out to a restaurant unless you’ve looked at their menu beforehand.”

     “How’s that a bad thing? It saves everyone time, and it’s more efficient.”

     “Whose time?”


     “Whose time is it saving because you’re having to read the menu online beforehand?”

     “The waitress. If you know what you want beforehand it saves her from having to keep coming back to see if you’ve figured out what you want instead of you staring at the menu wondering what you’re going to like.”

     “You just don’t want to look like a deer in the headlights.”

     “Again, how is that a bad thing? Those deer get run over.”

     Nick laughed again and shrugged, then went back to eating his burger. Megan ate another cucumber and looked around the backyard of The Walker Compound again.

     Everyone was in good spirits and having fun.

     Even Carol.

     Megan watched as Carol laughed at something Ino said. Judging from the look on Ino’s face, it wasn’t meant to be funny. Which in a way made it even funnier since it was Carol who was laughing.

     Mark had since joined Morgan and Sean at a table with a plate full of food.

     Shane and Mendoza had left the girls alone to go get their food. The two huge guys sat together at their own table. They would need the space to hold all the food and beer they were planning to eat and drink.

     Haley and Brenda had joined Clarissa’s table while Bobbi, Julie, and Jamie had all jumped back into the pool with Kat, who was already back in the water.

     Interestingly, none of the girls had come up to see Nick yet. Probably because he was sitting with her instead of somewhere else.

     Wade was still at the grill.

     What else could he possibly be grilling? She had no clue.

     Without meaning to, Megan smiled.

     “What?” Nick asked, looking up from his plate.

     “I know what’s next on today’s agenda.”

     “Ha! I knew it. So, tell me.”

     “More of this,” Megan said, waving her arm around while shutting off her tablet.

     Nick smiled and said, “Perfect.”




​A Merc Series Short Story