Sway grabs my shoulders and tries to get me to talk through my hysteria. “Child! Good heavens. What has gotten into you?”
I go slack, and I feel him adjusting his grip to keep my body from falling to the floor.
“Stella? Talk to me, ella-bella!”
I focus on Stella over Sway’s shoulder, and the look of terror on her face does nothing to help my panic. I start to gasp and struggle against Sway. I have to get out of here.
“Someone go next door to CS and get some help.”
I don’t hear anything else after that. My body decides that it’s had enough and just shuts down. My cries silence, my tears dry up, and I just go slack.
My focus stays straight ahead, but I don’t see anything. My mind is too busy focusing on what I saw inside that bag.
The baby doll snapped apart with red letters against the torso.
Their words forever branded in my head.
An image I will never, as long as I live, forget.
GOD, IT FEELS GOOD TO be home. I’ve been back stateside for the last week, having to debrief up north before I was able to get my ass back to Georgia. It was an impossibly hard week because I knew I was within a few hundred miles of holding my girl. I didn’t have time to call and check in with Dani. I knew that, the second I heard her voice, it would be game over, so I stayed the course and checked in with my dad and Axel as much as I could. So far, nothing’s changed.
My first stop home should have been Dani’s, but I figure she is at work, and that gives me some time to get a shower, change out of the clothes I’ve been traveling all day in, and get to her for what I hope will be a welcome surprise.
I pull my truck up to the apartment and lean back with a deep sigh. Fuck if my body doesn’t relax within seconds of parking my truck. Especially now that I know there will be no more of this leaving shit. I officially have been let go from the program. No more gone for months, going dark with no chance of talking to the ones I love back home. And most important—no more leaving Dani.
We can finally focus on growing our relationship. Making her mine. And I’m never going to fucking let her go. In the back of my mind, I’ve worried that she’s had enough waiting, given up on us before we could even get off the ground running, but I’ve pushed it aside and kept hope.
There is no way that, after all of this time, when we finally have our shot and it will be over before we even get started.
Reaching over the back seat, I grab my bag and climb down from my truck. Then I pause to stretch before I bound up the stairs two at a time. I drop my bag, dig for my keys, and open the door.
The smile on my face dies instantly when I walk into the living room. Every single fear I’ve had since I left comes back but with a soul-crushing force.
My fucking Dani-girl is wrapped up tight in the arms of the man I’ve considered one of my closest friends for years. Her back is to me, her head is tucked into his chest, and his arms are wrapped around her tight. He looks up when the door opens, and I can’t even look him in the eyes because of the red haze clouding my vision.
I didn’t think it could get worse. Nope. Never in my wildest nightmares did I think it could be worse than seeing her in the arms of another man. But when she turns at the noise and I get a good look at her, my world stops spinning. Right here, it just stops with an intensity that rocks my foundation.
“The fuck?” I bellow, the sound booming through the room, bouncing off the walls, and making Dani flinch.
I look from her stomach—her slightly rounded and very obviously pregnant tiny bump of a stomach—and I feel my lip curl in disgust.
“And here I figured you would be waiting with your arms wide open.” I throw my bag down and turn my back on them both.
I hear her gasp just as the door slams behind me. I don’t even pause. The lump in my throat is burning and my eyes are watering. I blink, willing the show of emotion to stop, and thunder my way back down the steps and into my truck with a swiftness that shouldn’t be possible given the way I’m feeling right now.
I just left my heart on the floor up there while my future fell around me.
After hours of driving around, the sun setting in my rearview mirror, I find myself pulling up to the one place I know will give me some peace.
My parents’ house.
Cam’s and Colt’s trucks are gone, so at least I know I won’t have to deal with them. As much as I would love to see my brothers, right now, with my mind as volatile as it is, it would be a reunion they don’t deserve.
Dad’s truck is parked right next to Mom’s minivan. The lights are shining brightly out the windows and onto the front lawn. I sit in my truck for the longest time, still trying to calm my mind.