In my attempt to open up my story and make people cry...
Don't be disappointed if you don't cry. This excerpt is Chapter Ten. There is ALOT of story building and character development before this ever happens, which you need in order to expect tears.
I don't usually post such a long bit, but it felt right...
And I'm all about doing what feels right. ;-) JK.
Hope you enjoy it.
"Do you get a rush going out like this?"
Mark pulled on his slacks and sat at the edge of the bed. Reaching under the bed for his boots, he turned his head and looked over his shoulder. "Maybe."
Maggie couldn’t take her eyes from him. The hair starting to curl at his nape, his strong back that tapered down to his slim waist. He was all hers. She hoped. Biting her lip she wondered if it was just the war that made him so uncertain. She wasn’t the prettiest girl he’d probably ever met. Knowing him these past months and the short six months before they were married, she hadn’t thought looks were more important to him than, well, her brain.
Still, maybe she was the lucky one.
"Stop looking at me like that." Lifting his foot and pressing it into the boot, he leaned back, grabbed her shirt and pulled her down for a kiss.
She grinned when he cupped her cheek. "I love to fly."
Her smile softened. "I know."
He’d chosen a dangerous career but it was one of the reasons she loved him. His sense of honor and duty, responsibility to the next generation.
With a quick peck, he sat back up and finished lacing his boots.
"When are you leaving?" She startled him out of his thoughts.
"Fourteen hundred hours."
"Will I see you again before then?" She rose from the bed and pulled on her robe.
"I doubt it." He stood the distance of the room from her.
She didn’t move to go to him. She lifted her chin, shoulders back. "I’m not going to cry you know." Her chin trembled.
"I know. You’re strong." He picked up his leather jacket, turned to her with his flashing, charm-filled grin, but a look crossed his face, poignant. She’d never seen it before and tension flared under her breastbone when he crossed the room, took her face in his hands. "I’m so sorry about last night."
She glanced to the shirt in the corner. The one she’d taken from his back smelling of some other woman’s perfume. She’d never doubted his fidelity…
He placed a finger on her chin and pulled her gaze back to him. "Don’t."
She shrugged. She’d never felt any doubt before now. She raised her hands in question and lifted her shoulders. "What do you want from me?"
"I want you safe and waiting when I come back." His hands slid to the back of her neck and squeezed gently. "Please."
"If I’d been waiting last night, you never would have met this other woman."
"There’s nothing to tell, Maggie." His look was fierce as he continued. "One of the barmaids at Frank’s came on a little too strong. I hadn’t eaten in almost 8 hours and after a few beers, I failed to stop her advances."
"Yes, damn it! I didn’t even see it coming. I didn’t even realize she was a prostitute—"
Maggie squeaked and lifted her hand to cover her mouth. Her jaw was slack. She knew she must look like an idiot but she hadn’t thought it was that bad.
"I didn’t do anything with her." He scowled. "We danced, had a drink. It was horrible."
Pressing her lips together, she hid the smile that threatened. "You danced."
"Yes!" He blushed.
"Had a drink…"
"I didn’t know how bad off I was. I should have eaten something." He was miserable and twisting in his boots.
Maybe she shouldn’t, but she couldn’t help softening to him. It didn’t matter how often he didn’t say it, she would. "I love you."
"I swear it will—" He tilted his head, studied her face. "What did you say?"
He perked up and shifted his gaze an instant before someone pounded on the front door. "I wonder who that is?"
Ignoring his question, she slipped round him and entered the hallway. She wasn’t expecting anyone, but had a few friends left who might visit unannounced.
She turned back to him with a smile.
"Are you really going to answer the door in your robe?"
"Oh." Looking down, she gave a startled laugh. "No. Would you mind getting the door?"
He stopped before passing her in the hallway and ran his finger into the V of her neckline. "Come out when you’re dressed?"
She nodded, her brain a bit muddled from his touch. He strode toward the door. The pounding had picked up in frequency and decibels.
"I’m coming." His muffled voice reached her and forced her into action.
She hurried through the routine, choosing a skirt instead of pants and a blouse instead of one of his t-shirts. They were comfortable but she didn’t know where her schedule would take her today. Better to be prepared. Her two-inch heels sat at the bottom of the armoire. The stockings she wanted were hanging in the bathroom from three days before.
Peeking into the hallway and finding it clear, she ran to the bathroom. She ran water and splashed her face. Mark’s comb sat on the sink and she used it on her hair. After a quick dash of powder, she stopped in the bedroom for her shoes and slowly, gracefully—she hoped—entered the living room. She was only a little out of breath, but still, she smiled at Mark’s commander. "Cameron, how good—"
Mark had turned from the fireplace when she entered. His face was pale, stricken. It was another expression she’d never seen before and she rushed to him. "What is it, Mark?"
When he didn’t respond, she turned to Cameron. "Tell me what happened. Is it Flannery?" God, please not Flannery. "Someone talk to me right this minute!"
Mark looked to Cameron.
"The village in Switzerland where the escaped prisoners and refugees lived. We just heard." With a look of anguish, Cameron turned away from her.
She looked to Mark.
"They’re dead. All of them." Mark’s gaze slowly came back to her.
She stumbled back at his dull, flat stare. "I don’t understand."
A spark flashed in his now gray irises giving her hope. Until he spoke.
"Someone knew about our mission. They came in after we left and dropped a bomb on the entire community of people." He hissed, pain filled and anguished.
She couldn’t blame him but her own heart broke at the news. He would feel responsible. He would take this to heart. The families he’d spoken of—Emma—and the trials they’d already faced, only to be beaten in the end.
Cameron laid a hand on her shoulder.
"How do they know there weren’t any survivors?" She just couldn’t except defeat so quickly. It couldn’t have been that long. She gripped his forearm. "They’re still finding people, right? Isn’t that how it works?"
"You don’t. Know. Anything." Mark bit the words off and turned away from her. She blinked back the hurt, the tears. He didn’t mean it.
"It would be a miracle, Maggie." Cameron glanced over as Mark disappeared into the hallway. "The damage was extensive. Almost complete annhilation."
"He met a little girl there." She wiped at her eyes with the back of her hands.
"He mentioned it to me too. I’m sorry." Cameron ran a hand through his white hair. "He wasn’t happy when he returned. The trip took a lot out of him, I think. Well, I’m sure you know. The incident in Belguim was the last straw for him. He’s ticked. When he wanted to be out fighting with his comrades, we sent him on to escort a state head. He understands politics, but he didn’t like it."
Maggie moved toward the hallway listening intently to the story Cameron wasn’t telling.
"Something happened at the village. When he spoke of the visit—" He’d conveyed such longing. She turned back and saw the pity on his face. "What was it?"
"I don’t know. Sometimes a soldier, a man has a harder time explaining what’s inside of him." Cameron checked his watch. "I’m due at a meeting. I’m sorry I can’t stay. Tell Mark I expect him on base at twelve hundred hours."
"Thank you for coming."
"I wish it could be under different circumstances." Worry creased his brow. "Take care of him, Maggie. I hate to see him so broken over this."
"This is war, isn’t it? That’s what he’s been trying to tell me."
Cameron gave her a small smile before slipping through the door.
She pushed it closed behind him and rested her head on the warmth of the wood. Choking back a sob, she straightened and turned.
He stood across the room, a bag in his hand, his jacket slung over his shoulder. "I’ve got work to do."
"You’re just leaving?" Maggie held her ground between him and the door. He wouldn't...
"Maggie. There’s work to be done—"
"Cameron said noon!" Her outburst surprised him.
His eyes widened but filled with regret and he didn’t waver. "I can’t afford to sit around playing house at a time like this. You think this war is going to be won sitting around here? My job is to fly. I fight the real enemy."
He may as well have slapped her. Her anger burned strong, then. She raised her fist shook it in his face. "You do what you have to do and I’ll do what I have to do, but don’t you ever imply that my work isn’t important. It’s important to me. It’s important to someone…" The temper fizzled. He was hurt and her anger wouldn’t help things right now.
He peered at her through angry eyes. "I led some sicko into that village and onto that farm. All those families are dead because of me."
"You were ordered!" Her voice reached a desperate pitch, but she couldn’t stop it. He blamed himself. It was ridiculous.
"I should have refused. I felt it inside, a bad feeling." He pounded his chest. "But, I did nothing."
"You almost died!"
He grabbed her shoulders, hard. "Maybe I should have died. Better me than Em—" His voice broke off. His eyes glistened. He would finally break.
"Mark." She spoke quietly and he met her eyes.
"I—I can’t. I’m sorry." He left a circle of warmth with his lips on her forehead and walked to the door.
"Don’t leave like this, please." She begged him, but he wouldn’t let her help. Wouldn’t let himself need her, need anyone. "Damn you!"
His shoulders tensed and he stopped in the doorway. "Remember what I said. Stay safe, wife." He did turn back for one last look. Then he was gone.
Her legs gave out beneath her. He’d ripped her heart out.
I didn’t matter. He’d proved one thing.
He didn’t need her.