Read Back in the Soldier's Arms Online

Authors: Soraya Lane,Karina Bliss

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary

Back in the Soldier's Arms (5 page)

BOOK: Back in the Soldier's Arms
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She knew, because she felt the same look, the same emotions, in her own eyes.

He crossed the room with the stealth of a leopard, feet making the softest of sounds on the carpet.

Daniel stopped a breath away from her, pressed one of his palms to her own as it hung by her side and whispered a kiss across her cheek.

She should have moved, but she didn’t.

Couldn’t.

“I love you.” His words were so soft it was as if they were a part of his slow exhale.

She stood stunned. Watched him walk backward, his eyes never leaving hers, until he reached the hall and had to turn.

Penny stood there, waited for him to collect his already packed overnight bag and let her gaze follow him to the door. Daniel turned, hand raised in a half wave, before opening the door and disappearing into the night.

She waited, frozen, until she heard the car’s engine rumble, listened to him pull out of the driveway.

No.

She was alone.

Penny thrust her hand up, fisted it into her mouth as a choking sob, a wail, threatened to bubble up from her throat.

Then she fell to her knees, her body weaker than a floppy rubber band.

Tears poured down her cheeks, wet her T-shirt. Choked her.

But she couldn’t deny them, not any longer.

As silent sobs raked her chest, she forced her mouth shut to close out any noise.

Gabby was asleep down the hall, the house wasn’t empty.

There had been nights when she’d stood in the dark, with only her breath in the cold to remind her that she was still alive, when she’d been serving overseas.

But she’d never, ever been so alone in all her life as she was right now.

Back in the Soldier’s Arms/Here Comes the Groom

CR!93BHZ3MAHS4NVAVVWQG1QCZMZ0ZB

CHAPTER FOUR

“IDIOT, moron, loser … do I need to keep going?”

Daniel scowled as his brother. Yeah, he’d mucked up, but he didn’t need to be constantly reminded. He was doing a fine job of that all on his own.

“That’s enough, Tom.” He grimaced at the growl in his tone.

Tom raised an eyebrow. “Enough? Yet here you are, sleeping on my couch, while your amazing wife lies in your bed.

Alone.”

He shut his eyes. Hell, he’d shut Tom out, too, if he could. But he wasn’t going to knock on his mom’s door in the middle of the night, and he didn’t exactly like his chances of convincing any of his married friends to let him in after dark. Not when they’d no doubt be happily asleep beside their own wives.

“Seriously, Daniel. I just don’t get it.” Daniel sat up, pushing the blanket off, anger bubbling like a mini-volcano within him.

“It is enough, Tom, because there’s nothing I can do about it. Okay?”

Tom put his hands on his knees, as if he was bracing himself, or maybe trying to stop himself from punching Daniel in the nose.

“There’s always something you can do.”

“Like what?” Daniel was open to suggestions. All he seemed to do these days was try to figure out how he could make things right.

“All I know is that you’ve got this amazing wife, the kind of girl I’d do anything for, and somehow you managed to stuff it up. Big-time.”

Daniel fought not to pummel his fist into something. “Don’t you think I know that?” he almost yelled. “If I could take it back I would.”

They sat in silence. Daniel’s head was pounding.

“You’ve been different, Daniel,” his brother said, voice soft now. The accusations gone.

Daniel clamped his jaw tight, so hard he almost ground his teeth together. But he couldn’t stay quiet any longer. It was time to talk. If he couldn’t open up to his own brother, how would he ever get it off his chest?

“I miss it, Tom. I miss it so bad.”

His brother got up, pulled out two beers from the fridge and passed him one.

“You mean Penny?”

He sighed. A big, deep exhale of air that whooshed from his lungs.

“Of course Penny, but the navy, too. I know I should be grateful to be back here for good, but without Penny, it was so hard adjusting. I miss the guys, I miss the adrenaline rush of being up in the Seahawk, of being on a mission. I miss it so damn bad.”

Tom stayed silent, swigging quietly on his beer.

“And then I got so damn lonely, felt so sorry for myself, that I ruined everything.” He stared at the ceiling, forcing emotion back down his throat, fighting the feeling of his heart burning to death. “I was so alone, it was like I’d lost everything, and I was so utterly selfish that I ruined my life and hers. I just wish she’d let me try to explain what happened, what I was going through.”

Tom leaned toward him, the anger gone, replaced by a look Daniel hoped wasn’t pity.

“You stuffed up, bro, but you need to do everything you can to make this right. For you. For Penny. For Gabby.”

Daniel twirled the cold bottle in his hands. He didn’t know what to do, how to go about it.

“Even if you do get her to listen, you made the choice and this is the consequence. You can’t lump any of the blame on Penny.” Tom’s voice was stern but his gaze was kind. “I can’t imagine ever leaving the#x2‘leaving t navy behind, it’s my life, but she’s your wife, Dan. It doesn’t matter how hard it is for you, she’s more important. It’s Penny we’re talking about.”

He was right, he usually was. Only this time, Daniel had no idea what to do to make things right.

A phone rang.

He looked up, expecting it to be Tom’s, before realizing it was his.

Daniel reached for it, almost dropping it when he saw the caller identification.

“Who is it?” Tom asked.

Daniel gulped, pausing before he answered. “Home,” he replied, his voice hoarse.

Tom raised an eyebrow again.

It was too late for Gabby to be calling him.

And that left only one option.

Penny.

He put his beer down and pressed the phone to his ear.

“Daniel?”

Her voice was shaky, fragile. Like she’d been crying. “Penny, what’s wrong? Is Gabby okay?” He listened to a muffled noise, hoped she wasn’t crying, then a sigh.

“I think you need to come home.”

Daniel eyed his beer, thankful he hadn’t consumed it. He’d have been no help to anyone if he’d drowned his sorrows and hadn’t been able to drive.

“I’ll be there as quick as I can.”

“Thank you,” she whispered down the line, before hanging up.

Daniel looked at the makeshift bed on the couch, then over at Tom.

“Go,” his brother told him. Daniel didn’t need to be told.

He ran a hand down his jeans, pushing out the crumples, did the same to his hair and grabbed his keys.

“I’ll call you tomorrow,” he called over his shoulder.

“Don’t bother, I’ll be at the party.”

The party. He’d almost forgotten. The reason Penny was home.

He threw a hand up in a quick wave and slammed the door behind him.

It didn’t matter why Penny needed him. Why she’d called. Because he’d always be there for her. She’d never have to ask him twice.

He’d been an idiot. Once.

In all their years together, all the times they’d spent apart, with her in the army and him in the navy, he’d always been faithful. Never even thought of straying.

He’d been a jerk once, and he’d regret that for the rest of his life.

But Tom was right. This was his chance to make things right, to make it up to Penny. No matter what it took, no matter what the consequences.

Because the consequences of not saving his marriage weren’t even worth contemplating. Everything else could be overcome, dealt with, but letting Penny slip from his life would be something he’d regret forever.

He loved Penny, and he’d do his darndest to prove it to her.

Starting now.

Back in the Soldier’s Arms/Here Comes the Groom

CR!93BHZ3MAHS4NVAVVWQG1QCZMZ0ZB

CHAPTER FIVE

PENNY slumped against the wall in the hallway. She’d never felt so hopeless, so useless before.

And even though she knew it was rude to eavesdrop, would have told her daughter off for doing the same thing, she couldn’t help but listen.

“Why did you leave me, Daddy? I was scared.”

Penny shut her eyes.

“I didn’t leave you, Gabby. Mommy was here and I was only visiting Uncle Tom.”

“But it’s the middle of the night.”

Penny smiled. She might only be five, but it seemed Gabby was too smart to be fooled.

“Sweetheart, I thought you’d enjoy spending some time just with Mommy.”

Silence stretched out. Penny wanted to walk away, she did, but her feet were stuck to the spot as if glue had fixed them.

“She didn’t tuck me back in the way you do when I woke up.”

Penny listened to Daniel chuckle, while her own heart shattered. Was pierced by shards of glass.

“There’s no right way to tuck a little girl into bed, miss,” he said sternly. “So long as it’s followed by a kiss and lots of love.”

Silence again.

“Did Mommy kiss you?”

Penny held her breath. She hoped Gabby was nodding. She had kissed her. Had kissed her so many times she had hardly been able to stop herself.

“Then Mommy did tuck you in the right way after all, didn’t she?”

“But you weren’t there, in your bed, when I climbed in.”

This time it was Daniel who sighed.

“Mom is very tired, and I wanted her to have the bed to herself. So she could, ah, spread out and relax.”

They hadn’t thought this through at all.

Penny made herself move then, propelled herself down the hall rather than torturing herself over listening any longer.

“Penny?”

She stirred the chocolate in the pot, wooden spoon tracing circles around and around.

“In here,” she called softly.

Daniel appeared a moment later.

“Hot chocolate?” he asked.

Penny raised her eyes. “Yeah. Want one?”

He gave her a gentle smile that raised one side of his mouth into the kindest of curves. “I’d love one.”

Penny reached for another mug, finished stirring and poured even amounts into each one. She clecing passed Daniel his, then cupped her hands around her own. It was hot, but she didn’t mind the light burning sensation.

It took some of the pain away from her mind. Where she kept replaying Gabby’s words over and over.

“This isn’t going to work, is it?” she asked.

Confusion crossed Daniel’s face.

“I mean this whole not-telling-her thing,” she corrected. “She’s going to figure it out soon, and I think we need to figure out what to tell her.”

Daniel sipped his chocolate slowly. “What do you want to tell her?”

Penny raised her shoulders before letting them fall again. “Honestly? I don’t know, Daniel, but it doesn’t feel right pretending.”

“So let’s not pretend,” he said, eyes shining. What? “You want to tell her?”

He shook his head, eyes burning the deepest of browns, as dark as the rich chocolate she’d stirred in the pot. “No,” he said firmly. “I want to prove myself to you so we don’t have to pretend to her. I want another chance, Penny. I want it so bad, but I don’t know what to say or do to convince you to say yes. I know we said we’d wait until tomorrow night, but we’re here now and I think we need to talk.”

She shook her head. No.

This was not a conversation she wanted to be having right now. She didn’t feel strong enough to go there. “Penny?”

“Daniel, I …”

He held up a hand, as if he didn’t want to hear what she was going to say. Didn’t want to give her the chance to say no.

“I know you’re angry with me, Pen, and I know I deserve it. Hell, do I know I deserve it,” he told her. “But you’re only here for a week, right?”

She nodded, scared of where this was going. “Six days as of right now.”

He put his mug down and reached for her, then folded his hands back against his own body, as if he wasn’t sure what her reaction would be to his touch.

She was glad he hadn’t made contact.

Touching him right now would be too soon. She was still too raw.

“We can pretend for Gabby’s sake. And I mean really pretend. But at the same time, I want to give us a go for real.”

Penny’s head started shaking all on its own.

She was not just going to pretend like everything was normal. Not to that extent.

But then, hadn’t they been doing exactly that already for Gabby’s sake?

“Please, Pen. Let me prove myself to you,” he said, his voice quiet yet powerful. Deep and strong. “If you want to walk away from us, from our marriage, by the time you get back on that plane, then I’ll file for separation. You can move on and start over.”

She gulped. “What’s the other option?”

This time Daniel smiled so genuinely that his eyes crinkled in the corners. “We fall in love again and give our marriage a second chance.”

Penny stood still, unmoving, in shock.

She couldn’t answer him.

Instead she turned sharply and walked down the hall.

Daniel didn’t say anything, but her mind was racing. Ideas, realities, possibilities powering through her mind.

She reached the end of the hallway, not sure what she was doing, or what she should do.

But one niggling thought in particular wouldn’t leave her alone.

What if she did have the ability to forgive? To forget?

What if, by some miracle, Daniel was right? That their marriage did deserve a second shot?

What if she did owe it to him to try to understand?

Right now, she didn’t believe it. Couldn’t believe that they could ever get past this.

But he was right about fooling Gabby. If they weren’t going to tell her the truth, they needed to make a better effort at pretending.

She took a deep, shuddering breath and marched back down the hall.

Daniel hadn’t moved.

“If we’re going to do this for real you may as well come to bed,” she said, voice shaking, trying so hard to be brave.

Daniel looked up when she turned. His eyes smiled at her. But he didn’t say a word.

Instead he followed her silently down the hall.

Goose bumps rippled up and down Penny’s shoulders, across her back.

BOOK: Back in the Soldier's Arms
2.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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