Home > Still Waters(8)

Still Waters(8)
Author: Anne Malcom

I reasoned my ovaries might explode or something from anything more than a kiss right now.

I’d been around the block—not like something crazy, but I’d kissed a lot of guys. Good, bad and everything in between. And then the really bad. But that didn’t exist except in the closet in the back of my mind that so wasn’t getting opened right now.

When I saw the crazy intense kisses on the movie screen—and I’d seen a lot, as I was a classic movie buff—I’d roll my eyes and curse Hollywood for perpetuating unrealistic stereotypes of what it should be like.

Because in real life, it wasn’t time-stopping magic with one kiss ruining or making your life while dramatic music played in the background.

At least that was what I’d thought.

I touched my lips with a single finger. They were swollen, hot, bruised with the tattoo of his own.

Keltan took a breath and stepped forward, so once more my nerve endings stood up. He reached his arm up, and I inhaled his scent, closing my eyes for a split second as his body pressed against mine once more.

Then he was gone and something warm was pressed against my hand.

I glanced down at my coffee cup, then back to him.

It was the only time in recorded existence that I was actually unhappy to have a cup of coffee in my hand.

“I can’t fuck you against your car,” he murmured. “No matter how much I want to. Because I’d most likely get us arrested, scar some children and make too many men fall in love with you,” he continued with a rough voice. “Plus, I want a chance. And if I let that kiss go further, then leave, I don’t get that chance. Because you’d think me an asshole, and I just couldn’t do that. I want a chance. When I get back from my last tour, I want to know that chance is waitin’ for me.”

I blinked up at him. “Your last tour?” I parroted. “Gwen told me that you’d already done that,” I said, then caught myself sounding like I’d been asking Gwen about him. “You know, she mentioned it. In passing. And she was excited about it. You not going back to wars. Where you have the possibility of getting shot.”

His eyes flickered with something, something that betrayed what was beyond those chocolate orbs rippling with desire. Something that I recognized as the chaos I also cloaked behind a still surface.

“Yeah. She was. Considering it’s the same place her brother never came back from after he visited her here.” His voice was flat, but not empty. I recognized it. What lay beneath.

Pain.

A lot of it.

“So, you lied to her,” I deduced. There was no accusation in my tone. Nothing actually. It was flat like his.

His eyes didn’t leave mine. “I didn’t tell the woman I promised my brother I’d look after before he died that I’d be going back to battle. Because I know her. She’d worry. I don’t need to be responsible for putting any more of that heaviness in her eyes when she’s finally got a reason to let most of it go.”

I couldn’t take my eyes off him. The words, though easily spoken, were not something I guessed he shared with many people. But he was sharing it with me. For whatever reason.

“I get that,” I said finally. “You’re protecting her.”

He nodded. “Best way I know how.” There was a pause as he rubbed the back of his neck.

“I won’t say anything,” I reassured him. There was code about lying to your girlfriends, but I was agreeing with Keltan on this one. Gwen had been through enough for a lifetime. If this little untruth would make it easier for her to get through the day, I’d keep it to myself.

“I know,” Keltan said simply, confidently. Like he trusted me. Like he knew me. Not like I was a stranger he’d met the previous night at a biker party and then made out with against a car at an ungodly hour of the morning.

“So, you’re leaving to go back? To the war?” I clarified.

He nodded once, glancing to his watch. “A war,” he corrected. “This world doesn’t just have one. Shit, it doesn’t even have a hundred. One of many, babe.” His words were littered with double meaning and too much poignancy for that point in the morning. Or my life.

I didn’t answer.

Silence was usually the best option.

But not with him, it seemed. Stillness with him was dangerous because it gave whatever this was more chance to grow, evolve. And even though I was aware of how incredibly insane it was, it didn’t make it any different.

“Need to do that. Leave. About now,” he said, breaking the silence with his deep voice and rough accent. His eyes didn’t leave mine. “Not that I want to. You make a man forget about duty to his country. About anything but the way you taste.” His dark eyes traveled to my lips. “But I’ve got to. They don’t shoot deserters anymore. Which is a shame, because I’d risk a bullet for you in this instance, without hesitation. If there’s anything I fear more than not tasting more of those lips, it’s a cage. Which is what I’d get. They court-martial deserters.”

Maybe it was the talk of leaving, far too familiar and hitting an exposed bone that I thought I’d buried, but it jerked me out of my stupor so I could paint a mask of ice on my face.

“Yeah. You should go,” I agreed sharply. “Because accosting some woman on the street and talking to her like you know some sort of secret isn’t behavior set for this country. And I’m certainly not the person to be doing that. I’m not right for you.”

His eyes hardened. “I disagree.”

“Well then, you’re not right for me,” I argued, pushing past him to open my car door.

“Snow, the way you kissed me back tells me I’m exactly the right man for you. Even if you don’t admit it. We’ve got time.” He gave me one lingering look before he turned on his heel and walked the short distance to his pickup. I hated that I watched every second of his retreat.

That I wished for it not to be happening.

But I did.

And then he was gone.

And I was fucked.

 

 

Two Months Later

 

I thought of him every single day for the months after he was gone.

Which was insane. I had a handful of words with him, eighty percent of which were sarcastic (me) or teasing (him). And I’d stared at him all night, stoking whatever strange fire was burning between us.

Then there was the morning. The kiss. The kiss that was now a ghost, haunting my lips. Sometimes they actually tingled with the memory of his lips on mine.

A handful of moments. Actually, not even a handful.

Not enough to warrant obsession. Which was what I had.

I wondered about him. Worried when I found out he was finishing his tour in the army when that same tour had killed Gwen’s brother. Worried about the fact that Gwen was still oblivious to where he was. Actually thought he was in L.A. Luckily she had a child and a husband to keep her too busy to travel the few hours it would take to discover he was not, in fact, in L.A.

Who knew where he was.

Apart from running amuck in my mind.

In some far-off battlefield, one of the many raging on this earth right now.

It was unexplainable, really, the aching sort of despair the thought of him dead gave me.

The same aching sort of desperation to have those arms around me in my fantasies while I had a reliable climax from a battery-operated device.

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