Loving a Warrior Series, Book 3
Carina Press (November 16, 2020 / Print: February 9, 2021)
Contemporary Romance, Military Romance, Romantic Suspense
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George Monteverdi always had one goal, to become a navy SEAL. Now both a SEAL and a K-9 handler, saving lives is his priority. When tragedy touches his own life, he handles it—with the help of his crew and his dog Bosch. Having those guys by his side means he’ll never be alone…though any sort of romance feels like a far away dream.
Heartbroken after her fiancé falls in love with another woman, Lani Abuel seeks comfort in the arms of a stranger, only to find herself pregnant and alone. She’ll do whatever it takes to be a good mother, which means finally facing the trauma in her past. The last thing she expected was a warrior with wounds all too similar to hers finding his way into her heart and loving her child as his own.
As their worlds entwine, Lani and Geo find the joy and redemption they’ve been seeking. But despite the sanctuary they’ve created, a forever love seems impossible. A K-9 handler who spends most of his time deployed with his SEAL team, staring danger in the eye, is far from what Lani—or her baby—needs, and Geo can’t imagine a future doing anything else.
Read an Excerpt
One year later
“Smile, honey. It can’t be that bad.”
Behind the bar, Lani Abuel grit her teeth. This dude was on her last nerve, and tip or no, she was about to go off on him. “Hey, you really don’t know what someone else might be going through, so—”
“You’re too beautiful to frown like that,” he persisted without missing a beat. “C’mon, baby, gimme a smile.”
She’d had enough. She planted her palms on the bar top and stared the guy right in the eye. “I don’t owe you a smile,” she said evenly. “In fact, I don’t owe you anything, unless you want to order another drink. What’ll it be?”
Spinning around on his stool, the guy stalked off, muttering “Bitch” under his breath. Lani grabbed his empty glass and threw it in the dishwashing basket, where it made a most satisfying clatter.
With a few vicious swipes of her towel, she got rid of the condensation rings he’d left behind. Then she tossed the damp towel away and dusted her hands together, the guy effectively erased from existence. Her existence, anyway.
“Is it safe to sit down?”
She glanced to the side, where a different man now stood with his hands stuffed in his pockets, eyebrows raised in inquiry. Shrugging, she waved at the empty barstool. “Be my guest. Smiles not included in the service tonight, gotta warn you.”
“Good thing all I want is a Jack and Coke, then. Actually, make it two.”
She mixed both drinks with brisk, efficient motions and placed the glasses in front of him. “Sorry. Not up for small talk right now.”
“Works for me. Just came to drink and people watch.”
“Great. You wanna run a tab?”
With a nod, the dude fished his wallet out of his back pocket and passed her his credit card. “Please. Just keep ’em coming.”
“You got it.” Lani turned to her register and set up the tab, swiping his card and taking a peek at the name before handing it back to him. “Thanks, George.”
“I go by Geo.” The man put his wallet away. “But I guess it doesn’t matter since we won’t be talking, though, right?”
True to his word, the man—Geo—didn’t try to speak to her, and luckily, the rest of the upstairs bar was relatively quiet on this Wednesday night. Lani kept busy filling the cocktail servers’ drink orders and making sure Geo’s Jack and Coke was periodically refreshed.
She noticed he only drank from one glass, though, leaving the second one untouched. Curiosity pricked her. What could that be about? Was he waiting for someone who didn’t show?
Grateful for the distraction, she indulged in spinning a few different scenarios. A Tinder meetup? An illicit affair? An undercover cop leaving a signal for his contact that it’s safe to approach?
Think you’ve watched one too many episodes of Law & Order, my girl.
At last she leaned her hip against the counter to take a breather, the pesky nausea rearing its ugly head once again. Fishing a sleeve of saltines from a shelf underneath the register, she took a few discreet nibbles before washing the cracker down with a gulp of ginger ale.
She saw Geo watching her and sighed. “Morning sickness—it’s not just for mornings anymore.”
“Ah.” He nodded. “Congratulations.”
“Oh, Mama ain’t happy.” She had no idea why she’d said that, and her cheeks heated with embarrassment. “Sorry. Forgot we’re not talking.”
He shrugged. “I never said I wouldn’t talk. It’s up to you. If you want to talk, I’m all ears. If you don’t, I’ll just drink.”
They spent a moment appraising each other. He was olive-skinned, with dark hair and eyes. Italian, she suspected, with that last name—Monteverdi—but his husky voice held a faint hint of the South.
He wore his hair close-cropped, and his ears stuck out just a tad to frame a pleasant but unremarkable face. His eyes, though, were anything but ordinary. A deep brown surrounded by thick black lashes, they held a wealth of self-confidence tinged with an arrogance that sent an unwilling quiver down Lani’s spine. Pair that with muscular shoulders, bulging biceps, a torso without a hint of fat on it, and she just knew…
“You’re a team guy, aren’t you?”
To her enormous satisfaction, she could tell she’d surprised him.
“Good guess,” he said slowly. “You married to one?”
“Almost. My ex-fiancé is a PJ attached to Team Three.”
“Ex?” When his gaze dropped to her stomach, Lani could feel herself flush.
“Baby’s not his, and yeah, it’s quite the mess,” she said, then caught herself and snapped, “Why am I even talking to you? I thought we weren’t gonna do that.”
She spun away to draw the man at the other end of the bar a beer. Stomping back over to her register, she fully intended to ignore Geo, but he said, “You know, sometimes it’s easier to talk to a stranger than it is to friends. Just saying.”
Biting her lip, Lani finished ringing up Beer Guy, then busied herself wiping down the bar. Geo didn’t say anything more, but she was aware of his steady gaze. At last she grabbed a couple of lemons and a knife, plopped her cutting board down in front of him, and began slicing them into wedges.
“Most of my friends were other team wives, so my ex—Rhys—took them with him. I haven’t heard from any of those women in months.” Chop, chop, chop.
“What about the baby’s father?” Geo asked softly. “Is he in the picture?”
She barked out a bitter laugh. “I don’t even know his real name.”
Before she knew it, she was telling him about that stupid weekend hookup at a house in Malibu, a house she’d driven back up to one weekend to see if she could track the guy down, only to find out it was an Airbnb and the owner wouldn’t disclose her renters’ names or contact info.
“I asked her to pass along a message to call me, but so far nothing.”
She appreciated the lack of judgment, and pity, in Geo’s eyes. “That’s rough,” he said. “What’re you going to do?”
Thoughts of all she’d lost welled up again. Without answering, she walked over to greet the small, rowdy group of people who’d just arrived. As she worked filling their drink orders, she couldn’t help but glance at Geo.
He didn’t have his nose buried in his phone, like virtually everyone else did. Instead he sat loose and relaxed, glass in hand, watching the room. And her.
Those confident eyes. The quiet and sincere interest on his face. He raised an eyebrow as she approached him again.
Sometimes it’s easier to talk to a stranger…
“I want to keep the baby,” she said abruptly. “Maybe I’m crazy, but I want it.”
He’d just opened his mouth to reply when Lani’s morning sickness suddenly roared back with a vengeance, the intensity of it warning her that this time crackers and ginger ale wouldn’t be enough. Gagging, she bolted toward the employee lounge next to the bar and the restroom there.
She barely made it to the toilet, where her stomach emptied itself in heave after wrenching heave, her whole body shaking with the spasms. A warmth knelt behind her, then gentle hands gathered up her hair and held it high.
“Oh, God,” she choked out. “No!”
“Hey, it’s okay.” Geo’s voice was low and soothing. “I’m just a stranger you’re never going to see again, right? We can pretend this never happened.”
Lani wanted to argue, but the nausea refused to abate, even after everything was purged. Geo continued to hold her hair out of the way as she hunched over the toilet, trembling.
Unable to bear the awkwardness, she gasped, “So are you married? Kids?”
“Married to the teams?”
“Nah.” He waved one hand behind her neck, and the cool air fanning against her sweaty skin made her want to sob, it felt so good. “Just never been the type to settle down, I guess.”
When the queasiness finally eased its grip, she collapsed on her butt to lean against the wall. Geo let her hair go and wet a paper towel at the sink, which he handed to her before crouching back down to her level.
She pressed the cold towel against her hot cheeks. “Sorry. This is getting dangerously close to small talk territory, isn’t it?”
His sudden laughter was rich, and the grin that spread across his face punched the last remaining breath from her lungs.
Ordinary? No way.
Because his cheeks crinkled and his eyes danced with genuine amusement, and Lord, in that moment he was absolutely beautiful.
“Thanks, Geo,” she mumbled.
“You’re welcome…?” His voice trailed off inquiringly.
“You’re welcome, Lani.” Knees cracking, Geo stood, then extended his hand down to her. After he’d pulled her to her feet, she shakily made her way into the employee’s lounge, where she drew herself a small paper cup of water from a nearby dispenser.
After a moment Geo said, “I guess I’ll go back to the bar. My drink is melting,” and the door closed gently behind him as he left her blessedly alone.
Sinking to the edge of the battered leather couch, she buried her face in her hands. Jesus, a strange man had just held her hair back while she puked. How mortifying. How ridiculous. And it could only happen to Lani, the Human Disaster.
Grimly, she tamped down another wave of self-pity. “Get over yourself, bish. This is your shit to deal with. It’s not anyone else’s fault.”
Struggling to her feet, she brushed her hair and refreshed her makeup, then changed out of her sweaty logo tank to replace it with a clean one. Making a mental note to stash some mouthwash in her locker for next time, she fished a mint from her purse.
Not much, but it’d have to do. It wasn’t like she’d be kissing anyone anytime soon.
Back out at the bar, she patted her co-worker’s shoulder. “Thanks for covering, Josh. I’m okay.”
“Good.” Josh was busy wiping down the counter. “Oh, the club manager just called,” he said. “They’re closing us down, so if you wanted to go serve…”
Lani shuddered. “God, no. I can’t handle that tonight.”
“I didn’t think so, and she said don’t worry about it, just go on home.” Josh paused. “Why don’t you close out your tabs, hon, and I’ll reconcile the tip jar.”
After dealing with her other open tabs, she approached Geo, who was idly twirling his coaster with one finger. He lifted his chin toward Josh. “That dude said you’re shutting down up here?”
“Yeah, they do that on slow nights.” She moved to her register. “I’ll have to close your tab, but the main bar will be happy to open another one for you.”
“Nah, I was going to take off anyway. Let’s settle up.”
She rang him out, and he signed the credit slip before stuffing a twenty in the tip jar. Lani gave him a rueful smile. “Probably should be tipping you for the hair-holding service, right?”
“Why don’t we just consider it my good deed for the day?” Geo pushed back from the bar with a quiet, “Take care.”
As she watched, he picked up his glass and lightly touched it to the other one in a silent toast, then turned and disappeared down the stairs toward the dance floor.
Sudden tears pricked her eyes. Ah. He’s mourning someone. I’m sorry, Geo.
“You okay to walk to your car?” Josh asked. “I’m happy to—”
“I’m fine,” she reassured him as she pulled on an oversized hoodie and grabbed her purse. “Gonna walk on the beach for a little while, let the fresh air clear my head. Then home to a hot bath and some tea.”
“See you Friday, then, doll.”
After saying goodbye to the other bartenders and servers, Lani headed out the employee entrance, which opened up mere steps from the Mission Beach boardwalk. It was busy, even on a weeknight, with runners and skateboarders, and people hanging out on their decks, along with the sound of laughter, music and screams coming from nearby Belmont Park and its rollercoaster.
She sucked in a deep breath of the salty sea air and, hanging her purse across her body, shoved her hands in the kangaroo pocket of her hoodie and scuffed along the boardwalk, head down. Well, she couldn’t avoid thinking about it any longer. Tonight’s bout of morning sickness and its aftermath meant reality—that old bitch—was trying her damndest to get Lani’s attention.
How was she gonna do this, work and raise a baby on her own in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S.?
She was barely hanging on as it was. Her job paid well, and on a good night the tips were amazing. Still, the cost of living ate into most of what she made, leaving little left over for things like diapers and everything else a baby required. Childcare? Forget it.
She’d need to move home.
That thought sent a giant shudder through her, along with nausea of a different kind. No. Home wasn’t home anymore. Home was a place where awful memories lurked. Her parents still lived in that house…
Pressing her palm against her abdomen, Lani choked back a sob. She wanted to raise her child in this place, a place she associated with love, laughter and friendship. No matter that everything was changing, San Diego would always be the city where she’d been the happiest.
It was home now, and she didn’t want to leave.
Suddenly, a delicious smell cut into her anguished thoughts. The pretzel stand. Unexpected hunger made her empty tummy give a giant rumble, and before she knew it, she was headed that way. Maybe a big, soft unsalted pretzel and a cup of Sprite would lift her spirits.
They did. The pretzel was hot, and buttery, the soda crisp and cold.
“Let me keep it down, baby, please,” she whispered, patting her stomach.
With a start, Lani glanced to the side where a low wall ran along the edge of the boardwalk. Geo perched there, lips quirked, cup of coffee in hand. After a moment’s hesitation, she ambled in his direction.
“For now.” She tossed the greasy parchment paper into a nearby trash can. “It smelled so good, I couldn’t resist.”
“I’m glad.” Standing, he threw his coffee cup away, too, and by unspoken agreement, they started meandering down the path side by side, hands crammed in their pockets.
“Hey, thanks for listening earlier,” she said at last. “It did feel good to talk about it.”
“You’re very welcome.” Geo leapt to the side to avoid a skateboarder barreling at them, and when they came back together, he said, “We can talk some more if you want. I don’t have anywhere to be.”
“What? A SEAL with time on his hands? How’d you manage that?”
He chuckled. “I do have to check on my dog at some point, but other than that—”
“You have a dog?”
“Well, sort of. I’m a K9 handler, so he’s not my pet, he’s technically my teammate.”
“Really?” Lani knew next to nothing about the military working dog community, just that they existed, even on SEAL teams.
“Yep, his name is Bosch.”
“Bosch? As in Hieronymus Bosch, the artist?”
Geo’s glance held a tinge of surprise. “Yeah. You know Bosch?”
Unable to keep from bristling, Lani snapped, “Why is that so astonishing? Despite outward appearances, I’m not some uneducated hick—”
“Whoa, now, did I say anything like that?” Geo stopped walking and turned to her. “I can count on one hand the people who’ve gotten that reference immediately, okay? It’s always surprising to me when someone does, no matter who it is.”
Pinching the bridge of her nose, she blew out a calming breath before mumbling, “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I’m so defensive. It’s just—”
After a moment, he gestured toward the ocean. “C’mon, let’s walk on the beach.”
The water was dark, and frothy with waves. She kicked off her shoes, and the cool sand squelched between her toes, easing some of her tension. “You must think I’m an absolute mess, don’t you?”
“‘An uneducated hick.’ ‘An absolute mess.’ Hmm.” Geo shook his head. “Is that how I see you, or how you see yourself?”
Her throat tightening, Lani stopped walking. He swung around to face her. “Because what I see is a woman who stood up for herself against some dude harassing her. A woman who works hard, who’s smart, funny, easy to talk to. Definitely not a ‘hick,’” he said, complete with air quotes, “or a ‘mess.’”
Blinking rapidly, determined not to cry, she whispered, “You don’t even know me. Don’t blow sunshine up my ass—”
“I’m not. I would never do that, ever. Ask anyone.” His grin lit up the night. “I don’t like bullshit, have never had time for it, especially as a K9 handler.”
Curiosity pricked her, made her ask, “What does that have to do with anything?”
“Because reading Bosch’s body language, his cues, is how I keep him, myself and my crew alive. Is there a buried explosive under that pile of trash? A bad guy in the ditch over there? I have to make split-second decisions, instant judgments, about situations and people, almost on a daily basis.”
His solemn gaze met hers.
“So no, I’m not blowing sunshine up your ass, not for one second, when I say that I see strength, not weakness, when I look at you.” He paused. “You just have to see it in yourself, too.”
The hot tears spilled over at last, and Lani wiped them away on her sleeve. Before the roaring in her ears could get too loud, Geo said, “Let’s walk.”
They were quiet as they made their way closer to the water, and the hard-packed sand there. The ocean roared around them, the waves surging to within inches of their feet.
“Fear isn’t your enemy,” he said at last. “If there’s anything being a SEAL has taught me, it’s that success in life has very little to do with the situation you’re in and everything to do with how you react to it. It’s what you do in spite of that fear.”
When he touched her shoulder, Lani glanced up at him. “Fear isn’t the polar opposite of courage. Just because you’re scared doesn’t mean you’re not also strong, okay?”
All she could do was nod.
“Assess, prioritize, eliminate what you can’t control and fix what you can. That’s your SEAL life lesson for today,” he said, smiling. “You’re practically one of us now.”
“But I don’t want to be a SEAL. I hate exercise.”
A pause, and then Geo threw his head back and laughed, the low, husky sound stroking along her nipples like a rough, warm tongue, hardening them painfully.
“God, you didn’t miss a single beat. I haven’t laughed like that in forever.” His incredible eyes were admiring as he gazed down at her. “You don’t have to be a SEAL if you don’t want to. We do exercise a lot.”
They continued on down the beach, and as they strolled, she thought about her friends—well, her former friends, the wives of the guys on Rhys’s team. From the beginning she’d felt out of step with them, with their Barry’s Bootcamps and CrossFit classes. Of course men who lived and breathed physical fitness would gravitate toward women who did the same, but for Lani, a night in with a cheese plate and a good book was infinitely more appealing than hours of lifting weights, yoga or Pilates.
Luckily, she’d found a kindred spirit in Sarah, the wife of one of her and Rhys’s oldest friends. While the guys were gone, the two of them delighted in spending their days searching out local eateries, gourmet grocery stores and funky little tea shops. They’d cook together, glasses of wine in hand, while they tried out different recipes and experimented with foods from all over the world.
I’ve lost her. Just like I’ve lost Rhys, and Tyler…
Tears sprang to her eyes again, and as unobtrusively as possible, she wiped them away. Still, Geo noticed.
“What’s wrong?” he asked softly. “Not feeling well?”
“Feeling alone.” The admission came easily, too easily, but Lani didn’t care. After tonight she doubted he’d spare her another thought. Right now she had his full attention, and damn if it wasn’t exactly what she needed. “My friends were all team wives, remember? So now that I’m not with a team guy anymore…”
“Ah.” He nodded. “Guess that means time to expand your horizons. Find friends outside the community. We’re all pretty much assholes anyway.”
She snorted. “Pretty much.”
“You’re better off without us. You really are.”
They snickered together, and she said, “I wish moving on was that simple, though. I was with Rhys for ten years.”
He glanced at her. “Wow. High school sweethearts?”
“Sort of.” She bit her lip. How could she explain to a stranger everything Rhys was—and wasn’t—to her?
Finally she settled on, “My brother died suddenly when I was fourteen. Rhys and I were friends, and afterward, we clung to each other. As time went on, it was easy to convince ourselves it was love.”
“But it wasn’t?”
“Well, let me put it this way. I’ve had a more meaningful conversation with you this past hour than I’ve had with Rhys in years.” She shrugged. “Looking back, we were going through the motions, that’s all.”
Needing something to do with her hands, she fished a hair tie out of her pocket and pulled her hair into a ponytail, aware of Geo’s sympathetic gaze.
“The end of a ten-year relationship is no joke. I’m sorry.”
His quiet sincerity was a balm to her ragged emotions. “Thanks.”
They strolled on in a companionable silence, their shoulders so close together, they almost touched. Lani glanced at his moonlit profile. “So. Who were you drinking with tonight?”
His lips tightened into a thin line, and for a moment, she didn’t think he’d answer. Then he grunted, “A teammate. Died one year ago today.”
She winced at the pain threading through the terse words. “Aww, shit, Geo. I’m—”
“Yeah,” he interrupted. “Me, too.”
He didn’t want the pity. Well, she could relate. Painful memories surged, of morbid curiosity, intrusive questions, or worse, judgmental silences followed by disgust. After a while, she’d stopped mentioning Tyler’s death to anyone, leaving Rhys to carry that particular burden alone…
“One-year anniversaries are hard,” was all she said. “I know.”
After a long pause, Geo exhaled slowly. “Yeah, I imagine you do.”
“How long did you and your teammate serve together?”
“Oh, God, off and on for ten years. I actually met Cade before I went to BUD/S, before I was even a SEAL.”
“Yeah?” Instinctively, she kept her tone light, encouraging, remembering her own clawing need to talk to someone, anyone, about who Tyler was, and her desperation not to define him by his death. “How’d that happen?”
Geo shrugged, although a tiny smile played about his lips. “You really wanna know? It’s kind of a cool story.”
In answer, she dropped to sitting in the sand and looked up at him expectantly.
Grinning now, Geo sank down next to her and lifted one knee to drape his wrist over it. The pose drew his jeans tight across his lap and powerful thighs, the sight of both drying Lani’s mouth up. She gulped, then thought, Fuck it. There was no law against appreciating a beautiful man, and it’d sure give her a nice memory to hang on to during the long, lonely nights ahead.
When he didn’t immediately say anything, she prompted, “So ten years ago, you were—”
“Twenty years old, and convinced I knew everything.”
“You weren’t a SEAL yet?”
“No, but I was in the Navy, had been for going on two years. In those days, you enlisted the regular way and then applied for Naval Special Warfare. Now you’re sent to a bootcamp that feeds directly into BUD/S, but when I first went in, you had to apply and then wait to hear.”
“That must’ve been hard, the waiting.”
“Shit, you have no idea,” Geo said fervently. “After two years with no word, I’d pretty much convinced myself it was never gonna happen. Then one day I was called into my department head’s office. He had some news for me.”
“You’d made it!”
“Yeah.” He shook his head. “I couldn’t believe it. A couple other dudes were in the office, too. They were part of a SEAL platoon we’d seen around the ship, and when they heard the news, they decided to come check me out.”
“And bust your balls, of course.”
He fell back on his elbows in the sand, his T-shirt riding up a bit with the motion. Tearing her gaze away from the hint of hair-roughened skin below his navel, Lani shivered as Geo’s husky chuckle washed over her again.
“Of course,” he said. “They laughed at me, told me there was no way I’d make it, that I should just decline the SEAL contract right now instead of embarrassing myself at BUD/S. This one guy, I think he could see I was getting pissed, so he told me to speak freely.”
When he didn’t go on, she prompted, “Did you?”
The wicked curl to his lips sent another quiver through her. “Oh, yeah. I got up in his face and said, ‘Fuck you and the horse you rode in on. I’ll see you in the teams.’”
“Oh, God.” She clapped her hand over her mouth to suppress her giggle. “Did they give you a beat-down?”
“Nah. I think they were more amused by my arrogant punk-ass routine than anything else. My Chief dismissed me, and as I was heading back to my duties, I heard my name being called. It was one of the SEALs, and yeah, I figured it was time to get my ass kicked. Before I could say anything, he goes, ‘Me and my buddy made a bet. Wanna hear it?’”
Lani groaned. “Let me guess. Something about how long it’d take you to wash out.”
“That’s what I thought, too, but nope. The bet was whether I’d make it or not.” Geo shook his head wonderingly. “Believe it or not, this guy bet I’d make it. You could’ve knocked me down with a fuckin’ feather when he said that. Then he punched me on the shoulder, said his name was Cade Barlow and that I should look him up when I got to the teams. Not if, but when.”
Knowing what she did about the eat-your-own culture of special operations, she couldn’t help her fervent, “Wow. That’s truly amazing.”
“Yeah.” A few beats of silence, and then Geo said softly, “Some of the worst people I’ve ever met are in the SEAL teams, but Cade, he was one of the best.”
His ragged sigh made her heart ache. “Someone worth toasting, then. I’m honored to have been a part of that.”
His jaw rippled, and a haunted look flitted across his face. “You have no idea how much you saying that means to me.” His voice was barely audible. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” Drawing her knees up, Lani wrapped her arms around them, unable to keep from wondering what’d happened to Cade. A firefight in a distant country, the full details of which might never be known? An IED? A training accident?
Something about Geo’s body language kept her from asking. Besides, in this moment it didn’t matter. They were celebrating Cade’s life, not his death, and the impact his simple gesture of encouragement had made on a young man on the verge of an enormous mental and physical challenge.
She sifted the cool, damp sand through her fingers. Next to her, Geo had his eyes squeezed tightly shut as he wrestled with his memories, until at last he exhaled slowly and sat up again. They both stared out over the dark, roiling ocean, the silence not uncomfortable.
Suddenly he grimaced, and he fished his buzzing phone from his pocket. He glanced at it briefly, then silenced it.
“You need to go?”
When he nodded, the regret that shot through Lani startled her. Surprisingly, his eyes mirrored that regret back at her as he stood and dusted off the seat of his pants before reaching down to help her to her feet.
Squeezing her fingers, he said, “Thanks again for listening. I, uh, had been wondering how I was going to get through tonight.”
She gazed up at him. “Well, thanks for holding my hair, and listening to my tale of woe. I’d been wondering how I was going to get through tonight, too.”
They smiled at each other.
“Guess it was fate, then, huh?” he said lightly. “Does that mean we should keep in touch?”
A tiny bolt of happiness sizzled through her. “I wouldn’t mind.”
Of course it’d never go anywhere. He’d soon disappear back into the depths of the spec ops world, while she’d be busy trying to work out her own very uncertain future. Still, it’d be nice while it lasted, and she couldn’t deny it felt really good to know she’d been what he needed tonight, puking, hair-holding and all.
They’d reached the boardwalk by then, and Geo waved his hand at a sleek motorcycle parked at the curb. “That’s mine.” Pulling his wallet from his back pocket, he extracted a card and handed it to her.
She glanced at the simple black lettering, which read GeoFrog Tactical K9, followed by a phone number. “You have your own K9 business?”
He shrugged. “I own a bite suit, and sometimes I’ll go work with law enforcement, things like that. It keeps Bosch and me sharp.” Tapping the edge of the card, he said, “Call me anytime, okay? You’ll probably talk to my voice mail a lot, but I promise to call back when I can.”
With that, Geo straddled the bike and unlocked his helmet. “Take care of yourself, Lani. You got this.”
Lifting his hand in a final wave, he roared off, and she stood there long after his taillights had disappeared into the distance.
“I got this? Glad you think so.”
But there’s no one else, is there? It really is up to me.
Assess the situation.
She wanted to keep the baby.
Prioritize the tasks.
Talk to the manager and find out her work options. Evaluate her insurance coverage. Start saving money.
Eliminate the things you can’t control.
How she’d feel when she first held her child in her arms.
Impatiently, she dashed yet more tears from her eyes. “God, stop with the waterworks and grow the fuck up already. All you can do is your best.”
With a sigh, and one last glance after Geo, Lani took the first halting step into her new normal.
Time to go home and find herself a good OB.
* * *
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