Chapter Thirty Eight
Now if I thought the mood was somber when I arrived it was downright mournful now. Every one’s eyes turn to look at me as I stand there in my uniform. Rowan has seen it before but Damien is trying to stay composed. Lexi loses her composure at the sight of me and buries her face in her hands as her tears begin to fall again and painful sobs escape her throat. Damien pulls her off her chair into his arms and she buries her face in his shoulder and cries.
I take deep breaths trying to shake off my own tears and I manage to restrain them. Rowan makes his way over to me and I place my hand over the pocket with the photo and mouth the words thank you. He just smiles and nods at me. He takes my bags from me as we step closer to Damien and Lexi. Damien turns her around gently letting her fall against my chest as I wrap my arms around her securely.
“We’ll meet you two in the truck.” Damien says helping Rowan with my bags and wrapping his arm around Rowan’s shoulders as they walk out the door. I stand there holding Lexi as she cries against my chest. I smooth my hands gently over her back.
“I can’t stand to see you hurting like this, knowing I’m the cause.” I whisper desperately into her ear. She shakes her head and leans back from me wiping her face.
“You’re not hurting me Link.” She says trying to smile as she wipes away the last of her tears. I exhale in frustration as I look at her face.
“Lexi look at you. How can you say that I’m not hurting you? You just started crying at the sight of me.” I explain softly. She smiles a little brighter.
“It was just confronting that’s all.” She whispers her words back into my chest as her forehead drops against it.
“Lexi, I want nothing more than to know you’re safe and happy.” I whisper my prayer. She nods again keeping her head against me. “We haven’t really talked about it, but I want you to know that it’s okay for you to find happiness somewhere else. You don’t have to wait for me out of some sense of duty.” I say the words that break my heart as they pass my lips. She leans back suddenly and looks me dead in the eye with a serious glare.
“What are you talking about?’ She demands harshly. I look at her sincerely trying to make myself believe the words too.
“I’m saying that you’re happiness is everything to me. So if you have a chance to be happy even if it’s not with me.” I pause my words as a look of burning anger flames in her eyes. Thwack! Her hand connects with my face in a hard slap, she held nothing back from that. I turn my head back towards her too proud of that hit to even be upset about it. Her eyes are still flaming with anger. “I guess I deserved that.” I say solemnly. Her eyes narrow darkly and I nearly cringe under their force.
“Don’t. You. Ever. Speak to me like that again.” She spits angrily. I look at her still a little taken aback by her reaction. “Do you understand me Link?” She adds seething with anger.
“Yes mam.” I confirm without any trace of a tease. She narrows her eyes again to see the truth in mine.
“Good, then let’s go.” She instructs turning towards the door. I can’t help the small smile that plays on my lips as I follow her down to the truck. God how I love this woman. Lexi jumps in the back seat still radiating anger. I slide in beside her apparently Rowan has decided that he’s driving. Damien turns to look at us as we get in the truck, I rub my jaw tentatively where a raw spot has now emerged. Damien laughs as looks between Lexi’s angry face and my red jaw. “I told you not to try that self-sacrificing stunt with her.” Damien’s words are playful. Lexi shoots him a dark glare and he abruptly turns back around in his seat as Rowan backs out of the driveway.
As we drive in silence I let my hand wander across the seat between Lexi and me. I let my finger caress her leg lightly, even through her jeans she feels the touch and I see her eyes close. She turns her head towards me and opens her eyes. All anger gone and just love radiating from them now. She slides across the seat and I let my arms snake around her as she tucks herself against my side. I kiss the top of her head and smile as I breathe in her peach scent from her shampoo.
The drive is surprisingly quick and we’re in the airport check in before I know it. I head to the counter and drop off my bag and show my boarding pass. I leave my knapsack hanging from one shoulder as I thank the attendant and walk away. Lexi wraps her arms around my free arm as we walk threading her fingers into mine.
Just outside the security gate I turn to face everyone. This is it. I reach out my hand towards Damien and pull him into a hug. “Take care of them.” I whisper in his ear before I let go. He holds onto one of my shoulders and replies with a nod as his eyes moisten slightly. Then his eyes sparkle as a wicked smile plays on his lips.
“I feel like I need to call and check on a mutual friend of ours, I’ll send him your regards.” Damien says playfully and I smile at him knowing he means the man who led the attack against Lexi in college.
“You do that.” I inform him cordially and he laughs. I step in front of Rowan who is putting on a brave face. I grab the back of his head and kiss his cheek roughly before pulling him into a fierce bear hug, trying to be mindful of his busted ribs. I know it must hurt him but he doesn’t back down first, he never does from a hug. I release the hug but grab the back of his head again. I press my forehead to his trying to project all the words I want to say to him with my eyes.
“No regrets brother. I’ll see you soon.” I say the words through gritted teeth as my jaw has locked up determined not to cry. I release my hold on him and I turn towards Lexi who is staring at the floor.
“Here.” Rowan says handing Lexi a thin piece of paper. “We bought her a boarding pass so she can go to the gate with you. I smile gratefully at my brother.
“Thank you man, always got my back.” I tell him. He shrugs.
“Don’t be too quick to thank me I bought it with your credit card.” Rowan informs me flashing his signature shit eating grin. I laugh out loud at him.
“Well thank you anyway.” He nods as Damien puts his arm around his shoulders.
“Lexi we’ll wait for you over in the lounge.” Damien says to Lexi pointing to a row of seats near a window. She nods at him before giving him a weak smile. As they start to walk away I call out.
“Rowan.” My voice carries. He turns to look at me and wipes the tears I wasn’t supposed to see. “Remember, one scratch on my truck and I’ll kick your ass.” I threaten loudly and playfully. He bursts out laughing and shakes his head at me before smiling and turning around again to continue his walk with Damien. We make our way through security fairly quickly and we arrive at my gate with a little while to spare.
I pull Lexi’s hand towards an open row of seat. I drop my bag on the ground and I take a seat. Lexi doesn’t take the seat next to me, instead she sits across my lap bringing her feet up on the seat next to me. Her hands are grasping my shirt and her head leans against my shoulder as I wrap my arms securely around her pulling her body against me. She’s just trying to breathe and so am I. My eyes leave hers for a moment and I see the furtive looks from other passengers in the terminal.
A soldier in uniform is always going to draw people’s attention but a soldier holding on to his lover who is heart broken in his arms gets even more looks I’ve discovered. There is the usual blend of proud glances from my fellow countrymen, there are some sadder glances from older women whose eye graze over Lexi. There are some guilty looks from men who see me prepared to go off to fight for them.
The airport is a subtle display of emotions everywhere. Mostly people are pretending to ignore each other though. There is a distinct look of judgement and disapproval coming from a hippy dressed couple as they pass me by. Lexi sees that look. “What the hell is wrong with people?” She whispers into my shoulder. I laugh at her feistiness.
“It’s okay darlin’ soldiers have a tendency to bring out the best and worst of people.” I explain softly. She breathes deeply as my plane calls for passengers to begin boarding. I don’t move a muscle, I already know that I’m going to be the last person on that plane.
“Link.” She exclaims desperately as she sits up straight to look in my eyes.
“Shh it’s okay darlin’ we’ve got a few more minutes.” I tell her sweetly as I let my lips claim hers. Her arms wind around my neck as I pull her tighter against me. Our kiss is urgent and passionate and deep promise of clear devotion. I feel the warm trails of water from her silent tears as they fall onto my face from hers.
There’s the final boarding call. I stand up carrying her with me never breaking our kiss. I lower her body down gently to put her feet on the ground. She pulls away from my lips and her heart stopping smile fills my body with a warm rush.
“When you get back we’re taking a road trip.” She tells me through her smile and tears.
“Really? Where might we be going?” I ask locking my hands around her lower back as I smile at her. She beams at me.
“Alaska.” She informs me seriously. I nod as I smile brighter at her. “I want to take you to meet my parents. And my brother’s and the nieces and nephews I’ve only seen photos of. I want to show them that I’m happy, that everything that happened to me was meant to happen to lead me to you. They’re going to love you just as much as I do.” Her tears flow but her words are strong and her voice is pure conviction. For my goddess to believe that everything that happened to her was worth it just to find me.
My heart is swelling in my chest as I stay my tears. “That sounds like a great plan baby.” I tell her honestly. “I know you were sent to me. I don’t know what I did right in my life to deserve you but I’m glad I did it.” I tell her seriously.
“Last and final boarding call for remaining passengers.” The voice calls over the intercom. I glance at the stewardess who gives me a sympathetic look.
“Jesus I can’t do it.” I whisper and her loving eyes lock onto mine. I take her face in my hands. “I can’t make myself move from this spot. I can’t leave you.” My strength and resolve fall apart right there. Her smile brightens as she lends me her strength. Her hands take my face as my hands go to her hips and lift her up to wrap her legs around me.
“You can do this Link.” She says confidently through her falling tears. “Just remember.” She pauses to let one of her hands rest on my heart. “This belongs to me, so you better look after it.” She adds with her beautiful smile.
“It is yours, always and I’ll take care of it for you.” I swear as a tear falls from my eye. The stewardess announces the last call using my name. As I walk towards the gate entrance holding tightly to Lexi as she stays wrapped around me. Her grip is tight and her eyes and smile convey all the love in the world in that one look. I crush my lips to hers again, then I ease back letting our kiss become softer and more tender as she releases her legs and I lower her to the floor. I hand my boarding pass to the stewardess behind me without breaking my lips from Lexi’s.
I hear the beep of the scanner. “Sir I’m sorry but we really need you to board.” A sympathy laced female voice says from behind me. I break away from Lexi and release my hold letting our fingers be the last parts of our body to let go of each other. Her arms wrap tightly around her torso trying to hold herself together. I walk backwards to face her as I make my way down the tunnel.
“I’ll be back before you know it darlin’.” I call out to her as I smile. She hits me with her heart stopping smile and I put my hand over my heart she laughs at the action still holding on to herself tightly. She mouths the words I love you and I close my eyes for a second letting the feeling of pure happiness wash over me. Just before I disappear from her sight I return the sentiment mouthing the words to her. Her smile beams and her eyes sparkle as I lose sight of her and board the plane.
There are some frustrated looks from passengers that were waiting for a final passenger to board. Those looks stop dead as everyone takes in the tear run face of a soldier in uniform boarding the plane and taking his seat with his head held high. I buckle my seat belt and let my head fall back against the seat as I close my eyes determined to dream of only her for the entire trip and for the rest of my life after that.