“You’re so sick.” I laugh and look up at Liam’s smiling, handsome face. “What would I do without you, Lee?”
“Probably get lost in life, Dani. It would be tragic. Just confused and walking in circles around reality all of the time.”
I throw my head back and laugh. How absurd the thought is. He knows I’m as independent as it gets. But he’s halfway right. Just like without the twins, I would be lost without Lee in my life. My skin tingles, and I stop laughing to look around the room. Cohen’s stopped talking to his brothers and is scowling over at Lee and me. His hand grasping his beer is turning white around his fingertips.
“Uh oh. Could the bear just come out of hibernation? Looking at his prey for the first time since a long, cold, lonely winter?” Liam snickers.
“Shut up,” I hush, punching him hard in the stomach, only to pull my hand back when his rock-hard abs cause millions of little tingles to shoot up my arm. “Did your body just break my hand!?” I screech when the pain won’t stop.
“The hell?” I hear growled, and before I can react, Daddy wraps me in his arms and looks at my hand. I let the familiar scent of leather and cinnamon calm me down, and I fight back the stinging tears and burn in my throat. “Liam Beckett, did you break my daughter?!”
“Oh come on. She hit me! I didn’t break her. Well, my perfectly chiseled body might have hurt her slightly. But it wouldn’t be an issue if she would learn how to keep her hands off of me.”
“You little shit,” I laugh over my father’s shoulders.
Liam laughs loudly, “I’ll go get some ice for the big baby.”
“Don’t call my little princess a baby!” Daddy yells after Liam.
“I’m fine, just hit him weird,” I say to soothe his worry.
“How many times do I have to tell you not to hit like that? I could see your form was off all the way across the room. Should have gone for the crotch. Always go for the crotch, Dani.”
Oh lord, here we go. He’s been teaching me how to kick a man’s ass since I was five and Zac stole my doll. Of course, his first lesson was for me to always go for the crotch.
“Daddy, I wasn’t trying to hurt him. We were just joking around.”
“Joking around? You aren’t supposed to joke around with boys. I need to look into that island. Ship your ass off,” he grumbles under his breath.
It’s going to be a long night.
Four long-as-hell hours later, the parents have all left. Which was a relief. Not that it isn’t fun to have everyone around, but I know we’re all ready to let loose and enjoy the night. They wanted to keep the beginning of the evening just the close families. More intimate so that way we could all spend some time with Cohen. Through the hours, more of our friends came—some of Cohen’s from school and some from Basic Training. Everyone is ready to make sure he enjoys his last night home for the next year. This is his second deployment, and I don’t think it will ever get easy.
Cohen joined the Marines after he finished his football career at University of Georgia. He probably could have gone pro, but he’s always wanted to follow his father’s footsteps and join the Marines. Then again, for a boy who wore a cape for the majority of his childhood, it makes sense that the hero inside him would win.
The first time he went overseas, I was depressed for months. Worried, sad, and heartbroken. It was hard to watch his parents struggle with their worry and his siblings deal with the fear, and everyone in general just had a hard time knowing he was fighting in the middle of a war zone.
Like his father, mine, and the rest of the father figures in our close-knit family, Cohen was special ops, and when he was deployed, it was lights out for communication. It was months until we finally heard an update from him. In the thirteen months that he was gone, he was able to call home twice.
This time, he already warned his family that this would most likely be a longer tour. A longer tour and even less of a chance that he would be able to get in contact with us often.
I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t terrified for him. Not because I have doubts in his abilities, but because of the very real fear that, no matter how trained he is, something terrible could happen to him over there.
“What’s got that frown on your face, Dani-girl?”
God, that voice.
I suck in a deep breath when I feel Cohen sit down next to me. His smell instantly surrounds the dark haven I’ve escaped to. I thought I was doing a good job hiding back here. The party had gotten pretty rowdy when the parents left. Usually, I would be right there with them, but with Liam’s words still floating around in my head, I just needed a moment to myself. To collect my thoughts and figure out a way to get him alone so I could force another talk.