Chapter Twenty Six
The drive back to the city is one of quiet contentment. We reach Damien and Lexi’s apartment block and a dark mood settles in the truck cab. Damien jumps out first announcing breakfast plans for tomorrow morning. We all agree and Lexi laughs.
“Well I have to be there.” She says laughing. Rowan jumps out to kiss Damien goodbye and Lexi leans over towards me from her seat. I take her face in my hands before I kiss her good bye. It takes everything I have not to follow her from the truck. I wave as Rowan jumps into the front passenger seat. Damien puts his arm around Lexi’s shoulder and leads her towards the stairs as I pull out of the driveway.
“Well I don’t know about you bro, but I now have some very fond memories of our childhood home.” Rowan declares with a laugh as we drive. Back at Rowan’s apartment he helps me bring up the trunk and the boxes. I tell him about the box of memories of him that I found and he nearly cries as he takes it and disappears into his room. I unpack a few things that I can, I smile as I find the bear.
I hang my dog tags on the bed post and I place my army photos and uniforms back in the trunk along with as much from the other boxes that will fit. I slide it under the bed and collapse on top of the bed suddenly exhausted. The setting sun makes my eyes feel heavy as I remember I didn’t actually get much sleep last night. I close my eyes and let my tiredness consume me.
The sound of my phone ringing in the dark wakes me and all my senses are alert. I grab the phone from my pants pocket bringing it to my ear.
“Hello?” I ask more sleepily than I intended. Sweet laughter flows down the line.
“Were you asleep?” Lexi’s sweet voice asks. I shake off all sleepiness immediately.
“No I’m awake.” I tell her certainly and she laughs again.
“I’m sorry I didn’t mean to wake you.” She says apologetically.
“That’s okay, you’re the only person I will accept waking me from a dream about you.” I tell her matter-of-factly.
“What were you dreaming?” She asks curiously. I laugh softly.
“Is that why you called, to pry into my private dreams?” I challenge playfully. She laughs.
“No I called because I’m under strict orders.” She tells me.
“Well you told me that I was to call you on this number if I was ever hurt.” She says trailing off. I’m on my feet with my keys in hand instantly.
“Tell me what happened, where are you?” I demand urgently. She laughs and I almost lose my mind.
“I’m at home.”
“Lexi what happened?” I ask a little more calmly.
“Well I was taking a bath and I was shaving my legs. Then I got distracted thinking about what you did to me this morning.” She pauses and I can feel the proud smile fall onto my face. “Then my hand slipped and I cut my leg with my razor.” She says sadly with a fake sniffle.
“My poor sweet darlin’.” I say with as sincere a tone as possible. “Do you want me to come over and kiss it better?” I ask a little more playfully. She sighs loudly.
“No I think it’ll be okay.” She says dramatically. “I just wanted to follow my orders, so here I am calling you to inform you that I got hurt. So when you see a band aid on my leg tomorrow you won’t freak out.” She says sarcastically.
“I’ll still probably freak out.” I inform her playfully. “But I like that you called.” I breathe out. She giggles.
“Really?” She asks.
“Mm hmm” I confirm as my body relaxes again and I fall back onto the bed. We talk for hours about everything and nothing before she finally yawns down the line.
“I have to get up in a few hours to go to work.” She says sleepily.
“Then I’ll talk to you then.” I confirm. “Sweet dreams.” I whisper down the phone.
“I think I’ll have the one about when we met in college.” She says dreamily.
“Sounds good I think I’ll join you.” I tell her. We finally hang up and I let my head fall back against my pillow and let sleep take me again.
Morning comes and I jump into the truck along with a very tired looking Rowan.
“Are you okay Ro?” I ask concerned as we drive.
“Yeah man, I was just a little you know.” He pauses. “Going through that box brought up a lot of stuff.” He says. I look at him concerned and he shoots me a reassuring smile. “I’m good, I promise.” He says certainly and I let it go. We pull into the diner car park and my heart skips when I see her bike. We walk into the diner and Rowan makes a beeline for the booth where Damien is sitting. Lexi is standing next to the booth talking to them and I let my eyes roam over her body.
She has on her short denim skirt underneath the black apron and her white t-shirt sporting the diner logo pulls in all the right places. She seems less self-conscious about her bruised leg and I’m grateful for that. My eyes trail down her legs to her boots then I catch the small bright pink strip across her leg just below her right knee.
“Oh my God, what happened?” I exclaim dramatically as I drop to my knees in front of her. Her face turns bright red with embarrassment as I lean and kiss the bandage strip over her knee. Rowan and Damien are both chuckling at my display.
“Link, stop it.” Lexi scolds but she can’t hide the affection in her voice.
“This is an outrage.” I exclaim kissing her knee again and getting to my feet. I take the coffee pot from her hand and lay it on the table. Her face is still the brightest shade of red that I’ve ever seen as her eyes scan the people watching the commotion. “You can’t be expected to work with that kind of injury.” I say in mock seriousness pointing to her knee. Her hands come up to hide her face and I scoop her up into my arms and she bursts out laughing.
Rowan and Damien’s chuckles get louder. “Stop laughing you’re only encouraging him.” She scolds them both over my shoulder. I watch her wave off another waitress who was headed over to assist her. Lexi fixes me with a glare. “Put me back down.” She tries to demand through her laughter. I shake my head.
“You can’t be expected to work through such pain.” I declare loudly. She shakes her head and hides her laughing embarrassed face in her hands again. I sit on the edge of the booth seat resting her in my lap. People in the diner are watching and most look amused at the display. I start to loudly declare all the injustice being forced upon her when she cuts me of slamming a hand over my mouth.
“Stop it.” She begs through her laughter. “You’re so embarrassing, I can’t believe you just came in here and did that.” She says incredulous. I smile a wicked smile beneath her hand and she starts to take it away. I continue my tirade and her hand clamps over my mouth again as I hold her in my lap. “Shhh. Stop, please.” She smiles brightly at me. Rowan and Damien are still chuckling but more quietly. “How do I make you stop embarrassing me like this?” She asks urgently.
I let my wicked smile grow as my hand grabs her ass and pinches it. She squeals and starts laughing again. “Okay, I have an idea.” She says boldly bringing her face close to mine. “If I kiss you, proving that I am perfectly fine. Will you stop this rant of yours?” She asks seriously keeping her smile on her face. I nod against her hand. Then she whips her hand away and crushes her lips to mine.
I smile victoriously against her lips as I kiss her completely unashamed of our audience. She breaks away and moves to stand next to the booth. The other patrons in the diner start clapping and cheering and her face flushes bright pink. She shoots me an I-can’t-believe-you –just-did-that look before shaking her head and walking away laughing. I turn to face Rowan and Damien who both looked thoroughly amused. I smile proudly at them as I drink my coffee.
Lexi comes back to take our orders and she won’t even make eye contact with me. An older couple approach our booth on their way out.
“Don’t be too hard on him dear.” The older lady says to Lexi. “My Robert was the same way when we were younger. Men are such fools when they’re in love.” She says smiling affectionately at her husband. He smiles back at her just as affectionately. Lexi smiles at both of them before they continue leaving and I nod and smile at them as well. Her eyes finally meet mine and they soften towards me and her smile betrays her as it hits her lips.
“Don’t think the cute old couple got you off the hook for that display.” She scolds playfully before walking away again.
“Help?” I ask Rowan and Damien at the same time. They shrug in unison.
“It was hell funny.” Rowan says with a smile. I chuckle before my eyes catch Evan the bus boy leering at Lexi from a far corner.
“I’m going to end up physically hurting that kid.” I seethe and Damien’s eyes follow my path.
“I can distract Lexi if you want to go have a little chat with him.” Damien offers. I smile gratefully at him.
“I’ll take you up on that in the near future.” I inform him seriously. Rowan shakes his head at both of us.
“You two are like two peas in a pod.” Rowan interjects. I smile at him affectionately.
“Shouldn’t you be happy I get along with your, ah.” I trail off realizing I may have stepped in it.
Rowan is looking at me like I just handed him a live grenade. Whoops.
“With his boyfriend.” Damien states certainly. Rowan looks at him in shock. “You really should be happy that your brother and your boyfriend get along.” Damien says directly to Rowan. Rowan drops his coffee and slams his face into Damien’s. I avert my eyes at their very passionate display. I’m happy for Rowan, and Damien I could always use another brother.
After our breakfast arrives the boys manage to tear their faces away from each other to eat. Damien practically scoffs his down. “Well ladies.” Damien says downing the last of his coffee. “I’ve got to run. I’m late.” Rowan jumps up and lets him out. He calls a goodbye to Lexi before he shoots a seductive wink at Rowan. I turn to watch him leave and when I turn back Rowan clips me upside the head.
“Ow! What the hell was that for?” I demand. He glares at me.
“You know damn well what.” He snaps before finishing his breakfast. Lexi comes back over.
“What did you do to him?” She scolds me with her hands on her hips looking sympathetically at Rowan then glaring back at me.
“What?” I ask indignantly. “He hit me.” I point out.
“And what did you do to deserve being hit?” She asks me. Rowan’s face breaks out into his shit eating grin as he stands dropping his money on the table.
“I’ll be okay Lexi.” He says sadly pulling her into a hug so he can see my face over her shoulder. I glare at him evilly. “Your boyfriend just brought up a touchy subject.” He tells her dropping the boyfriend casually into it. Fuck you. I mouth the words at him and that signature grin flashes before he pulls back and says goodbye to Lexi. She watches him go then turns her glare on me.
“What the hell happened?” She asks incredulously. I shrug innocently. She narrows her gaze then slides into the booth next to me. “What?” She repeats her question.
“I may have accidently stepped in it and forced Rowan and Damien to define their relationship.” I say ruefully. She looks confused.
“When I looked over here before they seemed really.” She pauses. “Happy.” She bites her lip shyly. I look at her regretfully and her face breaks out into a knowing smile. “And he just called you my boyfriend to drop you in it.” She adds nodding her head at me. I suddenly feel like I’m fourteen and a girl just passed me a note in class asking if I like her. I try to smile at her reassuringly. She smiles brightly at me and leans to give me a kiss on my cheek. She stands back up and turns to leave, before she stops.
“Are you going to the bar tonight?” She asks hopefully. I smile wickedly.
“I want to, there’s this beautiful girl I’m hoping to run into there.” I tell her wickedly. She smiles.
“Well maybe I can meet you there and help you look for her.” She challenges. I smile and shake my head. Challenging goddess. I leave the diner and try to hold myself from going back in there and begging her on my hands knees to be my girlfriend. At home I fall into a deep troubled mind. I haven’t known her that long, but I know Lexi is the woman for me. The reason my heart could no longer be in a warzone. It was missing her, even though it hadn’t met her yet.