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Chapter 10

Layla

"Why do you think you're undeserving of me? I was curious. Surely this man must know how handsome and good-looking he is...even how sweet he can be when he lets his guard down.

"I have no idea what I am doing, I have a bad temper and I can get in my head and not be the best person. I have issues and I tend to just keep it all to myself.

I don't share my feelings, I don't do the boyfriend thing cause it scares the hell out me and I feel you deserve someone who will always be there. I won't always be here and I'm not ready to give up what I love." He speaks from his heart I can see that clearly.

"Well for someone that doesn't share their feelings I think you did very well.

I'm not asking you to be there 24/7 and I'll do my best to not be that clingy girl; let's just not put pressure on any of this. Do what feels right." I say with hopefulness and understanding. This man is worth taking a leap of faith with.

Knock knock

We both turn and see Brigg's dad enter.

"Hey. So I brought a change of clothes for you." He pushed a wheelchair in with a bag of clothes hanging from his wrist.

"Thanks, dad."

"Do you need help getting dressed? His dad offered.

"Nah, I got this," Briggs asked me to get his crutches. I helped him get up getting him positioned and steady he made his way over to his dad.

I could see tears in his dad's eyes watching his son moving around. Like a father seeing his son doing something so phenomenal as just walking. You can see the unconditional love of a father.

"How are you feeling Briggs? He asked him.

"Sore, but I'm moving more." He shrugged his shoulders trying to sound like the strong soldier he is. But you can tell he's not feeling that strong.

"You look good." His dad brushed his hand up Briggs back.

"Guess I have no complaints when most of the men were taken out."

Briggs's voice wavered sounding still distraught and emotional about hearing they had been wiped out.

Both men just teared up and gave a look of understanding.

I moved in and slide my arm around Briggs back. "Thank you, two for fighting for us. I can see the heartache and pain of what you've seen and been through, but I can see the strong fighters in both of you that make you the heroes of this world." I say generously, so thankful for men like these two. We take for granted what men like these are doing.

"Thank you, Layla." His dad said.

"Briggs you got a good one. I'll wait outside." His dad says.

"I know dad, she's definitely one of the good ones." Briggs looked down at me and winked, his smile sending a chill up my back.

His dad nodded at me and smiled. He walked out.

I walked beside Briggs in case he needed me. He was doing really good but you could tell it was taking a lot out of him and he was in pain but trying to cover it up by looking fine.

"Do you want help?" I asked offering my help. I don't want him to feel babied or like he can't do anything but I want him to know I am here if he needs me.

"I got it." He smoothed his hand over my hip cause my body to hum with tingles.

He goes inside the washroom I waited outside. He left the door open. I watched as he struggled to get his pants on. It took everything in me not to help. I have to let him figure it out on his own. He needs this. To feel strong and capable of even the hardest task right now that we find easy or not even something to overthink.

He was grunting through the pain. Tears filled my eyes as I saw him bite his lip to hold in the voice of pain. The whimpers he was keeping at bay. This strong temple of a man trying to look strong and unbreakable.

I moved in feeling I couldn't stand by.

I ran my hands up his muscular back. He flinched at first. I backed off.

"No, it's okay." In the reflection of the mirror, he nods his head allowing me to keep going.

I ran my hands down his back then I pulled up his pants that he had down at this ankles. I get them up and over his ass and set in place. He turned around.

"Thank you." He reached out and touched my face.

"You're welcome." I leaned in and kissed him, his hands moved down my body to my smooth round rump. His hands caressed my ass as our mouths hungrily took over in a frenzy of lips and devouring tongues. We got lost in the kiss I can feel him trembling against my body. I back off and glance at him through my lashes.

"Are you okay?" I ask him as I brush my hands over his chest.

"Yes, I am more than okay." He brushed his thumb across my jaw as his fingers an along my neck sending tingles down to my toes.

"We should get going, your dad is waiting," I said but I would have been happy to just stay here with Briggs.

He nods and I help him with his shirt. He washed his face and fix his hair. Then we headed out.

His dad drove us to an Italian restaurant. Briggs was leaning against me in the back seat. His hand was resting on my thigh tickling his fingers along my skin.

Not long and we were at the restaurant. His dad and I hooked are arms in with his. People watched but you could tell they wondered what happen to him, just curious. But you could tell he was very uncomfortable with the stares.

I rubbed my hand over his side. Offering him the strength to keep going and not let these people make him feel less than a hero.

The hostess guides us to our table. Briggs was losing momentum and his strength was fading. He sounded winded and exhausted. His dad slid his arm around Briggs back and gave him extra help, he got him into the booth seat.

Briggs was sweating and shaking. I felt bad for him. I teared up seeing him hurting but still trying to push and be the man he was, you can tell he felt foreign, not well or like he was lost and not in the right body.

Briggs looked up at me. "Don't do that, don't cry, I am fine." He was getting agitated I can hear it in his uneasy voice.

I stand up and excuse myself. He looked at me with hollowness, he was retrieving back into his dark place. I hurried off as I felt myself about to lose it.

I stand in front of the mirror in the washroom. I wash my face then pat it dry with a paper towel. I felt the aching pain of feeling bad for this man. How can I not? All I want to do is be there for him. But I can see this is hard on him.

I can't help as more tears run out of me, I think I was overly emotional cause this was the last night we could be close and then we will have to pretend we are just patient and Physical Therapist. But also seeing the effects of what was can do.

I pull myself together and attempt to keep my emotions in check. I can see Briggs sitting looking lost like he was looking spaced out.

I take a seat beside him. "Briggs?"

I speak softly. But he didn't hear me.

I touch his arm gently and he suddenly turned and grabbed me by the throat and pinned me to the booth seat.

I pat his arm so he would loosen his tight grip. The look in his eyes was not the same Briggs I know. This is the soldier thinking I am an enemy. He was fighting some bad guy or enemy he was seeing. His eyes weren't that of the sweet Briggs. These were bullets of fear staring back at me, blank with sheer terror as someone is trying to get in and hurt Briggs. He's in survival mode.

His dad rushed over calling his name out loud, he got him to let go. He patted Briggs's face and it's like he was in a dream and was finally pulled out.

I cough as I gasp for air. Briggs snapped out of his dream state. "Shit, Layla I'm so sorry."

I moved away from giving him space.

"It's okay." My voice cracked showing I was scared I didn't mean to but seeing that side of him scared me.

He ran his shaking hands through his hair.

"I should go. I'm sorry." He stood up and he collapsed to the floor. I rushed to his side and offered to hell.

"Leave me alone, " he yelled at me.

His dad looked at me with remorse.

"I'm going to go, I'm sorry," I said softly I stood up and walked away. Once I exit the restaurant I let all of my tears run free. My body crumbled to the ground.

What do I do? He doesn't want my help, he's obviously having a bad episode from some flashback.

....

Briggs

I feel like the biggest ass. I just let her walk away. I yelled at her and I fucking had my hand around her neck. Shit!

Thank goodness my dad was able to get me to release my grip. I was lost in a vivid flashback and I couldn't get out.

I knew this would blow up in my face. First night out with my girl and I just lost her. There's no coming back from this. But she was never mine to have. She's too good, too sweet just not someone I can make happy.

My dad helped me up and got me to the booth. The pain was ripping through every part of my body.

Tears ran down my face realizing what I just lost.

"Briggs, fix this, " he said loudly so I could hear him.

"I-- did you see what I just did?" I wept, my chest was quickly moving up-down. My heart was ramped up and my adrenaline was through the roof as I try to regain control of my emotions and my anxiety.

"Yes but if you run away from her you're going to lose the best thing that has ever happened to you." My dad asserts his commanding voice, trying to get through to me.

"Dad I had my hand wrapped around her neck like she was the enemy." I run my hand over my face then run my hands up and down my thighs. My hands were still shaking as I try and forget the horrible flashback.

No one understands this part. The flashed we get, the terrifying nightmares of the horrific screams as people get hit or blown up. When you're stuck in memory it can feel so real that you think you're there. In my flashback there was a little kid that was walking around I went up to him but he suddenly screamed, this gave away our position and we were ambushed and things happened so fast.

I had a guy in my grasp and I had him pinned down choking the life out of him. In the distance, I could hear my dad's voice. Then a smack to my face which pulled me out of my trance, my daze, my nightmare of being stuck in my flashback. And then like that, I heard my name in the distance freeing me from my paralyzed state.

I felt instantly guilty for what I just did as my jaded brain tried to regroup.

All I hear in my head is I am not the one for her and I need to let her go. It's not fair to her to right to cause her this kind of pain.

She has just been through something scary with her ex and now I am the next guy to hurt her.

"Briggs, don't punish yourself for who you are. The war can change us but don't let it steal your life. We only have one chance at this life. Don't mess it up by being scared to try. Yes, we are built differently but there are still the genuine girls out there that will take us for everything that we are." He pats my shoulder.

"How do I fix this?" How do I make her see I want her more than anything but I'm scared as hell to let her in and I hurt her worse then she's ever been hurt before." I let out an exacerbated breath.

"You have to be the bigger person and say when you've messed up and let her know there is nowhere else you want to be then be with her. Ask for forgiveness, for not being perfect, but say you are here to stay. If she accepts you after that then it's up to you how you move forward." He speaks from his heart and I can tell he means every word.

I pull out my phone and call her. But she didn't pick up. I didn't expect her to not after how I acted.

My dad and I enjoyed a nice meal we talked about anything other than that war but it's what we know it's what we've been around for so long we don't have much else to talk about.

I asked him about his wife and he said they were happy and everything was good. I was happy for him. He also surprised me with the news he and his wife are expecting a baby and he will be finishing his last mission and then he will be done with serving.

I was surprised that he would walk away but I see he wants to be there for his wife and not miss out on their little one.

My dad paid for the meal then we walked out. He helped me to the car. I was hurting pretty bad I definitely needed something or the pain.

Not only for my body but for my heart for how badly I messed up with Layla.

All I can do is wait for her to come in tomorrow so I can apologize.

....

Layla

After crying my eyes out I called my sister to come and get me. Luckily she wasn't working tonight. I take a seat in the car and get all worked up again when she asks me what's wrong.

I told her what happened she felt bad she then told me she has talked to this guy named Axl. She figured out he was Briggs's friend. She said they were going to go out on a date. I was happy for her.

I did warn her that he might be a player but she seemed okay with that.

We dropped by the liquor store on the way home and got some stuff for making margaritas. I also grabbed some ice cream I needed something to soothe the pain.

Once we were at Sadie's place we got right into making the Margaritas. She had tunes playing. I heard my phone ringing but I ignored it. Tonight was about having fun and trying to move on from Briggs.

About four drinks in I was lying on the floor in her living room looking up at the ceiling. Sadie was lying beside me.

"Layla, call him." She says.

"I can't I am not what he needs. He needs to figure his shit out. He's hurting and I don't think I can help him." I say sadly as my bottom lip quivers. I sucked in a trembled breath and that's when I fall apart. The tears were none stop. I turned onto my sister who cradled me in her arms.

"Shhh, it's going be ok. Just talk to him tomorrow." She hugged me.

I shook my head. "I think I am going to switch patients. I can't be there and not feel what I am feeling. And we are obviously in two different places." It hurts to think of not seeing him.

Sadie brushed her hands through my hair. "Just wait and see, my bet is he's feeling terrible for what he did and he's feeling if he pushes you away he's saving you from him possibly hurting you." She said sensibly.

I can understand him thinking that but I want him to know I will be there through everything if only he lets me in and doesn't push me away.

I got up and made a few more drinks. We took them outside and turned on the string lights that hung over the patio area. I attempted to lay down in the hammock but I flipped out like three times. Sadie couldn't stop laughing.

She helped me in and I am finally laying down and not falling out on my ass.

My phone rings again. I answered it this time. I hear heavy breathing. "Hello?"

...? The line goes dead.

Weird.

Moments later there's a knock at the door. Sadie walked through her house. I looked up at the stars. I enjoyed the quiet moment of solitude.

I hear guys voices coming from inside. And one is clearly Briggs.

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