The darkest hour, p.43
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       The Darkest Hour, p.43
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         Part #1 of KGI series by Maya Banks
Page 43


  “I love you, Rachel. More now than ever. I want another chance. God, I want it so bad. I’d do anything for it, but I won’t force you into a bad decision. I want us to be together. I want us to laugh and love for the next fifty years. I want a marriage like my mom and dad’s. I want to wake up every single morning with you in my arms. I don’t want us to go away. ”

  “What about the SEALs? You weren’t happy leaving. ”

  “No,” he admitted. “I wasn’t. I quit because I thought it was what I needed to do. ”

  “Can you go back?”

  He smiled and traced a line around her mouth. “Sam wants me to work for KGI. He’s wanted me to ever since I resigned my commission, but I was too damn stubborn and I was too busy being pissed off at the world. You and I need to talk about what that means, but I like the idea. My brothers are pains in the ass, but there’s no one I’d trust more with my back. Or yours. ”

  She lay there for a moment, imagining what their future might be like. Their issues wouldn’t be solved overnight. It would take a lot of hard work and patience. She wasn’t 100 percent yet. Maybe she’d never be.

  “I could go see that therapist again,” she blurted. “She wasn’t too bad. ”

  “We have all the time in the world to make things right with you and with us,” Ethan said gently.

  Hearing it put that way, some of her anxiety melted away. The tension so embedded in her shoulders lessened, and she relaxed into the pillows.

  They did have time. No one said everything had to be perfect tomorrow or even the next day. They could take it one day at a time. Together.


  Never had she imagined her life without Ethan. She didn’t want to. They’d both made mistakes, and they deserved a second chance. He was right. God had given them—their marriage—a second chance. It was a wonderful gift and one she intended to cherish.

  Feeling at peace with her decision, she snuggled farther into Ethan’s embrace. She turned her face into his neck and whispered, “I love you. ”

  He stiffened, every muscle in his body so tight she could feel the tension emanating from him. Then a great shudder rolled through him, and he pressed his lips to her hair.

  “I love you too, baby. God, I love you. I thought I’d lost you. I thought this time I wouldn’t get you back. ”

  He shook against her, and she closed her eyes against the tears stinging her lids.

  “We can work it out, Rachel. Just give me a chance. I’ll make you happy this time. ”

  She pulled away and stared up into a face that was harsh with emotion, his eyes red, his cheeks tear-ravaged. She touched his damp skin, and her heart squeezed with love.

  “I want both of us to be happy this time,” she whispered.

  He leaned down. His lips met hers in a warm, sweet rush. It was a seeking kiss. That of two lovers finding their way back to each other after a long, winding road apart.

  She could see the two separate paths converging into one. Though she couldn’t foresee the many inevitable bumps and curves that lay ahead, she was sure of one thing. They’d make the journey together.


  “I can’t wait to get this cast off,” Rachel complained. “It’s about to drive me crazy. ”

  Ethan smiled as he poured them each a cup of coffee. He glanced over to see his wife sitting at the table that overlooked their backyard, newspaper spread out in front of her. But it wasn’t the paper that held her attention. She’d unbent a metal clothes hanger and was trying to insert the end up her cast to ease her itch.

  His wife.

  He’d never get tired of using the word. Of hearing it. Of thinking it.

  “You’re going to stab a hole in your arm with that,” he said mildly as he set her coffee in front of her. “You’ll probably get lead poisoning too. Or maybe lockjaw. Is it rusty?”

  She glared at him for a moment and then laughed as she tossed the hanger aside.

  “It itches and I can’t make it stop. ”

  He leaned forward and kissed her, savoring the brief, casual contact. It felt so normal and so old fogie, the kind of kiss couples share after being together for so long. He loved that sensation of comfort with her even if they hadn’t hurdled all their obstacles yet. They were getting there, and that was the important part.

  “You only have a few more hours until your appointment, and if all goes well and the X-rays are good, the cast comes off. ”

  She sipped at her coffee and sank back in her chair with a sigh. “I can’t wait. ”

  She set her coffee down and pushed the paper toward him. “Did you see the headlines? Looks like our pal Castle is going away for a very long time. ”

  Ethan scowled and crumpled the edge of the newspaper in his fist as he scanned over the article. He wanted the bastard to die for what he did, but in typical fashion the former senator had cut a deal. Not that it was going to do him much good. He’d still be in prison a very long time.

  Ethan harbored some pretty vicious fantasies in which Castle got stuck with a bunch of inmates who rated politicians on the same scale as child molesters and acted accordingly.

  Rachel continued to drink her coffee, her gaze focused on the landscape she’d supervised over the last several weeks. Ethan had worked tirelessly to turn the yard around. Between Rachel and his mother, he swore he’d worked less in the military.

  Amusement twinkled in Rachel’s eyes, and he wondered what she was thinking. Her memory still wasn’t 100 percent. Far from it, but she seemed to regain more of it with each passing day. The more she regained her health and ridded herself of the residual effects of the drugs she’d been dependent on for so long, the more she seemed to remember.

  “So who was Santa last year at Christmas?” she asked.

  He blinked at the off-the-wall question. “What?”

  “Christmas. You know, Santa?”

  He frowned and tried to shake off the shadow that fell over his heart. “Last Christmas wasn’t that great, baby. I doubt anyone was. I spent it alone. Here. ”

  Her features fell, and she reached over with her good hand to squeeze his. “I’m sorry. That was thoughtless of me. ”

  He smiled. “No, you had forgotten what happened, and that’s a good thing. We thought we’d lost you, but we haven’t, so we never have to go back to that place again. Why do you ask about Santa?”

  She regained her smile, and her eyes sparkled like twin diamonds. “Well, if no one was Santa last year, that means it’s Garrett’s turn. ”

  Ethan threw back his head and laughed. “We’ve already reminded him, actually. I don’t think he was too thrilled, but for you and Ma, he’ll do it. ”

  “We could make Rusty his helper. Between the two of them, they’d do a great rendition of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. ”

  Ethan winced. “Ouch. It’s probably not a good idea to put those two together and expect merriment. Besides, you’re assuming that Rusty will still be around at Christmas. ”

  A thoughtful look entered Rachel’s eyes. “Oh, I think she’ll be here. She loves Marlene and Frank. It’s the rest of you she isn’t so sold on yet. ”

  “Yeah, well, the feeling is mutual,” Ethan said. “The girl is a pain. ”

  “Just like little sisters should be,” Rachel said softly.

  Ethan groaned. “You’re worse than Ma. ”

  “Give her a chance, Ethan. She’s young and mixed up and she’s had a hard life. We all deserve second chances. ”

  She had him there. Boy, did she have him there. He of all people should know the value of second chances. Gripped by emotion—gratitude for just such a second chance—he pulled her across the chair to sit in his lap.

  She snuggled into his chest and laid her clunky cast on the table out of the way.

  “I love you,” she said as she kissed his neck.

  “I love you too, baby. We’re a study in second chances, you know?”

  She tur
ned her head up to stare into his eyes. Her bottom lip pouted invitingly, and he couldn’t resist the temptation to nibble on it.

  “Sometimes second chances are the very best chances,” she whispered. “Because this time we’ll get it right. ”

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