“You hurt me,” I tell him.
“I know, and it kills me.”
After hearing where he was coming from, my heart settles a little and I understand where he was coming from. Even if it still hurts, I know it’s more because the words are still fresh in my mind. He’s always been hot to the touch when he feels things deeply. That’s just how he’s wired. And honestly, if I had been thinking clearly, I probably would have anticipated a reaction like his. Doesn’t make it okay, but I can’t hold a grudge because he was blinded by the pain of his past.
“I love you, Daddy.”
“I love you too, little princess.”
“You have to let me fly now,” I whisper.
“I know I do. I know. I don’t want to let go, Dani, but at least if I have to I know you’ll be in good hands.”
“You’re really okay? With Cohen and me . . . and the baby?”
“Yeah, sweetheart. I really am. I’m scared, I won’t lie about that, but I’ll work on not projecting that on you. Just don’t expect me to change overnight. My little girl having a baby of her own? Jesus, Dani.” He pauses, stands, and pulls me up so he can give me a kiss on my forehead before wrapping me up in his strong arms for another hug. “I’m still going to kick his ass. You know that, right?” he says, his voice rumbling against my ear that’s pressed against his chest.
“No, you won’t.”
“Oh really? And why is that?” he asks and pulls back to look at me, his green eyes shining.
“Because you won’t hurt me like that.”
“I’m still going to yell at him. Maybe even throw shit,” he counters.
“Yeah, now that I can see.”
He doesn’t stay long after that. I know the girls are probably about to bust down the door to make sure I’m okay. I walk him to the door, my heart feeling so much more whole since he came by. With the promise to come over for dinner the following night, he leaves me with a hug.
With a smile on my face, I walk back down the hallway, feeling much lighter than I did earlier. Things aren’t just going to be magically easier from now on. There’s the small fact that Cohen doesn’t even know he’s about to be a father, but I have no doubt in my mind that he will be able to see this miracle for what it is.
At least, that’s the hope I will wrap myself in until he returns.
EVERY FUCKING DAY, I START to resent the life I always thought I wanted. Fighting a war I don’t see ever ending is starting to pay its price on my sanity, and my heart is starting to feel heavy with every passing second I am away from home.
I miss my family. My parents, sisters, and brothers. I hate knowing that they are at home worrying about me and my safety. I know every time I’m away in training or deployed that my mom doesn’t sleep well and my dad has nightmares. My sisters do better, their belief that I’m invincible helping that. And my brothers hide their worry in beer and sex.
But worst of all, I miss Dani.
It’s hard to believe that something I never knew I was missing would take root and make it impossible to imagine leaving her again. I know without a shadow of doubt that this will be my last deployment. When it comes time to reenlist, I won’t regret my decision to stay home and start my life with her.
It sounds fucking nuts, but after all of this time away, I know where my future is, and it damn sure isn’t in a big fucking sandbox, getting shot at daily.
The second I get home, I’m going to pull her father aside and beg for her hand in marriage. Then make my girl mine forever.
I smile when I think about the future we’re going to have. That right there has been the only thing that’s kept me sane. Years, so many damn years, I pushed these feelings away, and there’s no way I’m going to waste a second more before I make sure she knows how I feel.
“Yo! Cage, boss man told me to make sure you got this. Came over urgent a second ago.”
I look over when Ferguson hands me a folded piece of paper. I unfold it and realize it’s an envelope with just my name on it.
“The hell is it?” I snap, wanting nothing more than to get some sleep.
“No clue. He took a call, took some notes, then stuffed it in here and told me to find you ASAP. So I found you and did what I was told. Now, take the shit so I can get some grub.”
I snatch the envelope from him and walk away. I’ve never cared for Ferguson, but he’s a damn good soldier.
We were lucky tonight. Things were winding down here, and we finally made it to base camp after having been gone for three weeks on another mission from hell. I will be able to have a shower and actually eat food that doesn’t taste like hard shit.