By Geri Krotow
Copyright © 2013 by Harlequin Books S.A.
“To bring a soldier back from the brink of insanity, like we do with the newly returning vets, is one thing,” he began. “It’s rare that I get to see what kind of success I’ve had—the soldiers go through treatment with the goal of being released to a local program, in their hometown or wherever their unit’s stationed, if they’re going back to active duty.” He turned to face her, Val and put both arms around her. She laid her head on his chest and listened to his heartbeat underneath her cheek while he spoke, his chin on her head.
“Here, these folks don’t have the burden of wondering if they’re going to make it. They have made it, through tremendous grief and loss. The choice they have at BTS is whether they’re going to simply keep surviving, or try to go beyond that. To thrive.”
His hands were massaging her back, exactly where the strain of the day had pooled.
“To see such courage, Val, and to know they let me in, let me be part of their decisions, is the most moving therapy I’ve participated in.” He leaned back and raised her chin so she could see his unshed tears. “What you’re doing here is vital. You understand that, don’t you?”
“Yes.” She swallowed. “It means the world to me that you think so, too.”
He stared at her and she couldn’t break the connection between them.
“Why didn’t you ever try to find me after college?” she asked. She didn’t want to sound needy but at this moment she couldn’t grasp how they’d lived apart from each other for so long.
“You already know, Val. The same reason you didn’t look for me. We moved on.” He stroked the side of her cheek. “And I didn’t think I deserved you after leaving the way I did.”
“It wasn’t your fault.” God, he’d been helping his family.
“No, but it wasn’t yours, either.”
“That was then.” She smiled and turned her lips into his palm.
“Can you let go of our past, Val?” he whispered.
She lifted her head. “I already have. You must know that.”
He touched her lips with his tongue, a warm caress, and then he moved his hand to her nape and kissed her.
Val met him with no restrictions. No hurt, no questions, no resentment from the break-up of long ago.
Lucas pulled back. “I’m staying, Val. We’re going to make this work.”
“What do you mean by this?“
“I mean BTS, if you’ll let me sign on as a full-time team member.” He traced her lips with his fingers.
“And I mean— us. You’ve become my best friend, Val. But I’d like to make it more—a lot more.”
He kissed her again and she accepted everything he had to give.
“Do you think you can live on an island forever, Lucas?”
He laughed. “With you, my dear Valentina, I could even live on a ferry.”