“It’ll be okay. It will.”
She gives me a weak smile, which tells me that even she doesn’t believe my lie to myself.
God, this is going to be a nightmare.
Lee came over later that night with my brother. We were supposed to go out to a local sports bar for dinner, but by the time they got there, I was so tired that all I wanted to do was crash. I feel like I’ve been running on empty for the last few weeks, grasping at any kind of sleep I can find.
We’re all camped out in the living room. Lee and I are sitting on the couch, my head in his lap while his fingers brush my hair, pulling me halfway to dreamland, when my phone rings for the second time in five minutes.
“It says ‘private,’ Dani,” Nate says from the recliner next to us. “Want me to answer it?”
“Yeah, whatever,” I mumble with a wave of my hand, not really caring. Anyone who needs me that bad could just call the house.
“’Ello?” Nate booms into my phone. “The fuck?”
Something in his tone draws my attention, and I look over at him. His eyes are locked on mine, but other than the sharp look he’s throwing my way, he appears to be relaxed.
“Yeah. Sure thing, bro. I think you might want this, Dani.” Nate extends his arm with my phone and waits for me to take it, looking at me like he can’t figure out what’s going on.
“Hello?” I question, trying to shake the lingering fatigue away.
“Dani-girl,” I hear, and my eyes shoot to Nate before closing tightly and letting his voice wash over me.
Oh my God!
“How . . . how are you calling me? Did you call your parents? Your sisters or brothers? Oh my God! Are you okay? You’re calling because something happened, aren’t you?”
“Slow down, baby,” he laughs. “I missed you. That’s all.”
Well, so much for holding my shit together. Those three words almost cause me to come undone. I give Nate another look, begging him not to freak out until I can talk to him. He gives me a hard one back but doesn’t say anything.
“I miss you, too,” I breathe while getting off the couch and walking out of the room.
Right when I’m about to shut the door into the front bathroom to get some privacy, I hear Nate boom at Lee, “Did you fucking know about that shit?”
“I’m guessing I have some explaining I need to do to your brother when I get home,” he laughs, completely unconcerned about Nate’s freak-out.
“That’s an understatement at the moment,” I laugh when I hear something thump on the other side of the door followed by Lee’s whine of pain. “Don’t worry. I’ll talk to Nate.”
“You shouldn’t have to deal with that alone, Dani. I hate that I’ve left you in that position.” He pauses, and I can hear his breathing pick up. “Fuck, I hate this. If you want to wait to say something, I won’t hold that against you. I meant it when I said it was you and me against the world.”
“I can handle it.” And I can. Plus I wasn’t joking when I told Lila earlier that it would be best for me to soften the blow a little when it comes to my father.
“To answer your earlier question, no. I haven’t and won’t be able to call anyone else. I’m going dark, baby, and I know this might be the last chance I get to call home—I needed that call to be to you. I couldn’t go without making sure I told you some things. Things I should have said before I left. God, I sound like a fucking sap. I can’t explain it better than me needing to get my head straight before our next mission and the only way I could accomplish that was to talk to you.”
“Oh . . .”
“Is that a good ‘oh’?” he laughs, the connection getting a little fuzzy.
“If your sisters find out, they’re going to kill me.”
“No, they won’t. If they do, you just tell them that their brother loves his girls, but he loves his woman more.”
Wait a minute.
He laughs again, the sound like a balm for my soul. “Dani, what do you think we’re doing here?”
“Yeah, baby. Talking. You going to tell me how much you love me?”
“You already know how much I love you,” I jest.
“I do. And now you know I love you.”
“Even if I didn’t, the weekly flowers are sure doing a good job at showing me.”
Silent for so long that I pull my phone away from my ear to make sure we didn’t have the connection drop.