Chapter Three: Homecoming
You don’t know what real love is until you’ve waited out those long sleepless nights for months, an entire year of worrying about his safety. When all you’ve waited and dreamed about is that first kiss, replayed every voicemail over and fucking over because you miss his voice.
Waited by the window for the mailman to see if he finally wrote you a letter, and when you receive that letter that knee buckling relief consumes your whole soul because you know a week ago he was alive. Alive.
With baited breath I wait for him, hair freshly cut and styled, nails painted, legs shaved, a new dress hugging my soft curves, I stood in the terminal heart in my hand as I scanned the crowd for him.
Looking for his buzzed brown hair and military uniform among the sea of people I search eyes darting around crazily. With each minute that passes my fear spikes, and soon its lodged in my throat.
Celine stood behind me, holding my hand as she whispered to Ace. “Do you see him? I can’t see anything!”
“Be patient baby girl he’s coming.” His quiet voice reassured her, and me.
Where the fuck is he?
A large lump grew in my throat as the minutes ticked by with no sign of him. “Maybe I have the days mixed up?” I whispered, looking at Celine tears brimming in my eyes.
She shook her head, “He’s coming home today, he will be here, just wait for him.”
Rain pounded the roof of the big airport, lightning and thunder striking the air. Looking up at the glass ceiling I see the rain hitting the glass, a shiver crawls down my spine.
Oh god please don’t let this be a message.
I am not ready to say goodbye to him. Don’t take him from me.
“There!” Ace’s loud voice booms near my ear, my head snaps to where his finger is pointing and I see him.
My handsome Ryan, with the weight of the world on his shoulders. His gaze is focused on the crowd ahead of him, eyes scanning.
“Ryan! Here! Ryan over here!” Celine is jumping up and down waving her hands in the air to catch his attention.
His head turns, and then his steady unwavering gaze is locked on me.
On shaky legs, feet sore from the heels I strapped on this morning I take a step in his direction, my whole body trembling in anticipation. I’ve waited a year for this moment, a whole 12 months and it’s finally here.
Celine’s small hand on my back steadies me. “He’s here Ames, he’s home.”
He’s pushing past people now, tan combat boots hitting the ground in a sprint, big backpack jostling, the duffle in his arm bouncing with each step.
With adrenaline I didn’t know I had, I rushed forwards, my heels hitting the tile with loud clicks as I raced towards him.
With a whoosh I collided into his arms, his duffle forgotten on the ground, big strong arms wrapped tightly around my smaller frame. His smell wrapping around me and I sigh in a sense of relief.
My knees buckle and we crumple to the ground completely tangled around each other in the middle of Miami International Airport. With a sob I cry into his neck, feeling his hands roaming my body finally still with one in my hair and the other crushing me into his solid body.
“I’m home baby.” His lips move against my forehead, and he pulls back. My blurry eyes settle on his face looking for the boy I fell in love with, the day old stubble on his jaw, a new scar above his right eyebrow, the lines of stress on his forehead and under his eyes, but the love shining in his blue eyes hasn’t changed and it makes my world collapse.
“Are you gonna kiss me or not?”
His eyes sweep over my face, memorizing every detail before they zone in on my lips and he leans in slowly, soft lips brushing against mine in a whisper.
A moan of relief escapes my lips in a whisper and his tongue slides along my bottom lip asking permission,, andI’m ready his for the taking.
His lips slant against mine and his tongue meets mine softly and then with the vengeance of a starved man he kisses me until I’m breathless, soft pants escaping my swollen lips. My hands grip his short, soft buzzed hair, holding him close.
He grins against my lips, and I open my eyes to see him already staring. “We’ve got an audience baby.” Pulling away from him my senses finally return to me and I hear people cheering. Looking around I see a circle of strangers watching, women with tears in their eyes, men clapping and I blush, burrowing my face in his neck, feeling his laughter vibrate through my whole body pressed tightly against his.
“I don’t want this moment to end.” I whisper against his neck, placing a soft kiss on the exposed skin, enjoying his sigh of relief.
“Come on let’s go home, so I kiss you all night in privacy.” He wiggles his eyebrows, I throw my head back in laughter. I love this man.
He stands first, and salutes the crowd, eyes never leaving mine as pulls me up, holding my body tightly to his. “Kiss me again please.” I whisper tracing the edge of his jaw with my nose. He groans low in his throat, and I feel the shift in his body before his lips crash down on mine with urgency.
He kissed me without warning, simply because he couldn’t deny me. He nees my lips just as I much as I need his. I belong to him and he was claiming me.
His lips and tongue invaded my senses as he dominated my mouth, fingers curling into my red hair pulling me impossibly closer. “I need you.” His breathless voice washes over me, sending a wave of goosebumps over my body.
His nose brushes against mine as we take a breath of fresh air, eyes closed, savoring the moment. His one hand trails down my back, finger tracing the curve of my spine as though he’s reminding me just how much he’s wanted me all these months.
“Don’t tease a desperate man, spitfire.” Opening my eyes I look into his dilated pupils, blue eyes darkening in color with lust.
“I love you Ryan.”
“I love you my sweet girl.”
Our bubble of intimacy pops when Celine crashes into Ryan jumping on his back almost toppling all of us over. “Ryan!” She shrieks arms wrapped around his neck. “I missed you.”
Ace and Ryan fist bump while I can only stare at him, speechless because my man has come home. Ryan and Ace share a soft conversation, a weird handshake and Ryan pockets whatever Ace gave him.
“What is that?” I point at the bulge in Ryan’s pocket. His eyes go wide, along with Ace’s.
“I’ll show you at home it’s a surprise.”
“Come on tell me?”
“At home, promise you’ll enjoy it more in the privacy of our home than here.” He winks, his eyes scanning my body.
Ryan bends to pick up his forgotten duffle and shoulders his green backpack before reaching out to me, grabbing my hand when I hesitate. “I promise you are going to love it.” His fingers curl around my hand, and I feel safe.
On the drive home in Ace’s new truck Celine convinces me to go with her to pick up food for lunch insisting that Ryan needs a chance to shower and unwind from the long flight. The thought of being separated so soon makes me constrict and my heart beat a little fast, but Ryan’s tight squeeze from our linked hands reassures me.
At the apartment building we switch vehicles, taking my small beat up sedan that I bought when I first moved to Florida seven years ago. The leather is worn but soft, the heated seats no longer work or the bluetooth so we sit in silence for the first few minutes.
“I was thinking we grab burgers from the corner place?” She nods, too busy typing away on her phone to listen. “Who are you so busy texting?”
“Ace, who else?” She laughs putting the phone in her bag.
“Do you know what he gave Ryan?”
“Yes, but I’m not telling you.”
“Should I be concerned, is it drugs for PTSD?”
“Oh god no! You are going to love it Ames! Now let’s hurry so we can get home to our men!”
The morning rain showers had made the roads slick and air muggy, when we stepped out the cool car we both groaned at the wall of humidity surrounding us.
“It’s so fucking humid I think winter skipped us this year.” Celine mumbled opening the door of the small burger joint.
“It’s almost April, it’s all those spring showers. When have we ever had a nice winter here?” I laughed joining the short line, glancing at the hanging menu even though I already knew what I would order.
“I always forget you aren’t a Florida native.” She sighs looking down at her phone.
The line moves quickly, we embrace the humid air once more, before sliding into the car and rush back home, the heavenly scent of burgers filling the small car.
The radio fills the silence as Celine texts the whole way back, not even singing along to the popular songs. “Cece, what’s going?” I ask, pulling into the garage.
“You’ll see, oh I am so excited!” She squeals reaching in the back for the food.
Something’s about to happen I can feel it, with her unusual excitement and the secret exchange between Ace and Ryan. Nerves bubble in the pit of my stomach.
Expecting the worst I open the interleading door into the lobby of the apartment building, fighting the urge to text Ryan we take the elevator up Celine bouncing on the heels of her feet the whole way, a huge fucking grin breaking out on her face the higher we go.
“Stop looking so nervous, smile your man is home and he’s waiting for you just behind that door.” Celine points at my red front door, juggling the food in one hand and her phone in the other. “Open the door already, I’m starving!”
Pulling out my keys with shaking hands I unlock the door, and it swings open.
And there in the middle of our small apartment is my man, kneeling surrounded by rose petals, holding a bouquet of my favorite pink roses and a little black box.
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