Barnes & Noble
Available in Print:
Barnes & Noble
Marine for You/SEALed for You Crossover Novella
Married life hadn’t been everything that Wyoming Dorset dreamed of. She thought she knew what she was getting into when she fell in love with a Marine. Training and deployments were the least of their problems. What she couldn’t deal with was the distance that Jeffrey put between them. Only a shell of the man she fell in love with stood before her.
Five years—that’s how long they’d been married. As Jeffrey prepared for another deployment, he thought of Wyoming and wondered how much of their marriage he’d been there for. How much had he been gone for? The divide between them seemed to appear overnight and now he wasn’t sure how to fix it.
When unexpected news arrived hours before his deployment, somehow he convinced her to give him a second chance. She doesn’t know why, but he believes that even with miles separating them, he can convince her that they haven’t lost their chance. She’s not sure if she believes him, but he’ll be back in six months. That isn’t too long to wait for her husband.
Wyoming pushed back from the table. “I’m pregnant.”
“Oh, Wyoming.” Tears leaked from Judy’s eyes as she pulled back from the table. “Jeffrey…does he know?”
With a nod, she let out the breath she had been holding. For a brief moment, she almost thought Judy was going to ask if it was his child, and just the thought that her mother-in-law would ask that tightened her chest. “The doctor called confirming what I thought the morning he left and I told him before he left. He thinks it’s going to be a girl.”
“Our family wives’ tale.” Peter shook his head. “It’s true, but Jeffrey has always done things his own way. I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if you end up giving him a son instead.”
“This is wonderful news.” Judy rose from her chair and came over to her. “We’re going to be grandparents. Something I wasn’t sure would ever happen.”
“Why?” she asked as Judy embraced her.
“I didn’t even know you two were thinking about starting a family,” Judy said quickly without looking at her.
“Don’t lie to her. She deserves the truth.” Peter shook his head. “Jeffrey always resented my military career because it took me away from him. He saw every missed football or baseball game as a direct hit against him. He asked me once if he was a better son, would I be there for his games like all of the other fathers.”
“It wasn’t only that, but Jeffrey has been so distant since the last deployment.” Judy stepped back toward her husband, placed her hand on his shoulder, and he reached up to lay his hand over hers. “Even though neither of you said anything, I could see the distance between you. Over the years, every military spouse goes through it. We did. A marriage with one of the spouses in the military has challenges that others don’t, but if they love each other enough to fight for their marriage like they’ll fight for their country, they’ll get through it. I had hope you and Jeffrey would get through it.”
She didn’t know what to say. Things were still rocky between them, but for the first time she could feel Jeffrey trying. Would it continue? She wasn’t sure. But not just for the sake of their child, but for the sake of their marriage, she was willing to fight for him. She loved him and she knew he loved her. The distance he put between them wasn’t because of her or a lack of love between them. He would see the walls he built, keeping her out, as a way of protecting her. She didn’t want to be protected or sheltered from him.
“I shouldn’t have said anything.” Judy took a step closer to her, but paused as if she didn’t know what to do.
“It’s fine. Like every marriage, we’ve had our problems but we’re getting through them. Things are working out and he’s ecstatic about the pregnancy. We both are.” She looked up at her in-laws and smiled. “He’s going to make a great dad.”
Pregnant? Wyoming Dorset sat there staring at her husband, waiting for him to say something. Saying anything would be better than silence. This would have been happy news if it was earlier in their marriage, but now…now she didn’t know. Their marriage was on shaky ground, and the wall he threw up between them became thicker with every deployment. How did this happen? They had taken precautions. She was on the pill, never missing a day even when he was gone, because she never knew when he’d return.
“Damn it, Jeffrey, say something.” She couldn’t take the silence any longer. If he was angry, then she wanted him to rage. If he was happy about the pregnancy, she needed to hear it. Whatever was going through his mind, she needed to know because the silence was torture.
“I…” He dropped his bag on the bed. “How far along are you?”
“Don’t you dare, Jeffrey! You might not give a shit about me or this child, but don’t you dare ask me to have—”
“Is that what you think? That I don’t care about you?” In a quick stride he came around the bed and touched the side of her face, caressing her cheek. “Damn it, Wyoming, that couldn’t be further from the truth.”
“You have a funny way of showing it.” She fought against the instinct to press against his hand and enjoy the sweet caress. How long had it been since he’d touched her like that? How long had it been since the romance left their relationship? She could pinpoint the date and time she noticed the first change in him, but how had she let it get so bad?
This time, she cut him off. She couldn’t take one more excuse, or another one of his halfhearted apologies. “It doesn’t matter. Things changed and we’re just too different now. It’s too late, but please don’t ask me to have an abortion. Let me hold on to some respect for you.” She took a deep breath because the moment she feared was there in front of her, and nothing could stop the outcome. “You don’t have to worry about it. We’ll be gone when you get back.”
“Fuck!” Dropping his hand away from her cheek, he took a step back.
The absence of his touch made her heart ache. Even after everything, she still loved him. Tears pricked behind her eyelids, and she blinked them away. There was plenty of time for tears later, but she refused to cry in front of him. She didn’t want him to stay out of pity, or because of the pregnancy. Love and romance, that’s what she wanted.
He stepped back farther until the back of his legs brushed along the edge of the bed and he sat down, letting out a deep sigh. “That’s not what I want. Abortion never crossed my mind.”
“Then why ask how far along I am?” Maybe she jumped to a conclusion without giving him a chance, but it was the first thing that popped into her thoughts.
“It’s September. If you conceived six weeks ago, that would be July.” He glanced up at her, the corners of his lips pulling into a smile. “Everyone in my family who got pregnant in July had a girl. But if you’re further along…”
“Nine weeks, but it will be a few weeks before we know the sex.”
“Stay.” He shot off the bed and came to stand in front of her. “Don’t leave. This mission shouldn’t take long, and I’ll be back soon.”
“I don’t know.” She wanted him to wrap his arms around her and tell her that everything would be fine. It wasn’t that simple, especially not between them. She had a stable career, and she could provide for her and the child if he wasn’t in the picture. Would she have considered leaving him if a child wasn’t involved? She wasn’t sure. Their relationship had been shaky for more than a year but she hadn’t thought of divorce until she found out she was pregnant. There was no way she wanted to raise a child in a house filled with the tension that surrounded them. I’m doing this for you, little one. But was it the right thing?
“Even if you don’t anymore, at one time you loved me,” he said. “We owe it to our child to find that love again.” He took her hand in his and dragged his thumb across her wedding band. “My feelings for you haven’t changed. They’re still the same as the day I put this on your finger. I know I haven’t been the best husband, but let me prove to you that I want you in my life. I can be the man you need me to be. I can be the father to our daughter that she deserves. Don’t give up on me.”
“We’ve got to go, you need to be at—”
“Screw it,” he snapped. “Damn it, Wyoming. I love you. I’m an asshole and I don’t deserve you, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want you.”
Tears filled her eyes and this time she couldn’t blink them away. She wanted things to be different, but wasn’t it too late for them? Did they have a chance to fix whatever was broken between them? Could they do it before the baby was born? She wanted her child to grow up surrounded by love.
“Don’t cry, baby.” He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her tight against his chest. “I never wanted to be the reason you cry. If you don’t love me, I’ll support your decision but—”
“Damn it, Jeffrey.” Tears came faster and her chest tightened. “Loving you was never the problem. I’ve always loved you.”
“Then stay.” He loosened his embrace and leaned back so that she could look at him. “Give me time to prove to you that I can be the man you need, and a good father to our child. We’ll make this right. Give me a chance.”
“It’s not always that easy.” She took him in and tried to decide if he was willing to listen to her, or if he’d shut her out again and close off communication like he always did when she tried to talk to him about something like this. “There’s a wall between us now, and every time I try to breach it, you reinforce it. We never even talk anymore. You always made me laugh but now…” There’s only tears. She couldn’t bring herself to say the last part. It wasn’t only his fault. Maybe she could have done something different, something to get him to open up to her.
“Give me another chance.” He cupped the side of her face, brushing his thumb along her cheek, wiping away the tears. “The man who made you laugh is still there, just buried, but I can find him again. This deployment is short. I’ll be back before you know it and I’ll prove it to you. Stay, baby.”
She wanted to believe him. She wanted the man she fell in love with back again. Was it possible? She didn’t know, but she was willing to give it a chance. Maybe she was clinging to her dream of the perfect family, but she believed their son or daughter deserved to have both parents. She wanted the happy family home she’d envied as a child. A mother and father who actually got along, the two and a half kids, and the white picket fence. “I’ll be here when you get back.” She could give him that long and see how things went.
“Yes.” She met his gaze and nodded. After five years of marriage, they deserved this chance. She wasn’t willing to throw away all their time together, their memories, and the love she had for him if he was willing to try. “Now, we should get on the road.”
“I promise you’re not going to regret this decision.” He pulled her back against him. “I love you, Wyoming. Things are going to be different, I promise.”
She wrapped her arms around him, returning his embrace. How long had it been since they shared an embrace like that? In her gut, she knew the answer—just before he’d deployed a year ago. Just before the change in him. Since then, any time they held each other, it was short and his body felt stiff. He closed her out. Maybe he’d do it again, but she had to give him the benefit of the doubt that this time would be different. “I love you, too.”