Authors: Kimberly Fox
“I’ll help you,” Ethan says, not letting it go. Chase slaps Ethan’s hand away again.
“No,” he says fiercely. “I don’t need help from a civilian.”
Ethan steps back beside me as his brother limps back into the resort.
“What was that about?” Tanya asks.
“Did he say anything to you?” Ethan asks me.
I step back and glance down at the full knuckle print etched into the sand where Chase punched the ground. “Say anything about what?”
Ethan sighs. “About how he can stay on active duty with a bad knee.”
He bites his lip as he turns back to me. “Do you know how much gear those guys have to carry?”
“All of that hiking with all of that gear,” Tanya says. “He can’t.”
I lower my head as their words hit me.
Wait a minute.
Is he home for good?
I rip open my bag and yank out the fucking syringe.
My knee is killing me. I stab the bottle with the needle and draw out the yellow liquid.
My jaw clenches so hard when I jab it deep into my knee that it feels like my teeth are going to shatter.
This fucking knee. It was never the same after Davis drove over the land mine and our Humvee blew up. The blast plate underneath protected us from most of the explosion but it also sent our vehicle soaring into the air. At least I came out of that mess alive. Davis wasn’t so lucky.
It wasn’t the blast that got him. It was the sniper waiting for us to get out.
The pain doesn’t subside this time as the liquid flows through my damaged knee. I lie down on the bed and stare up at the ugly light fixture on the ceiling with blank eyes. I might as well be dead if I’m not a SEAL. I’m not cut out for civilian life.
I don’t like to think of these things so I think of Cynthia and the way she looked in that tight bikini. I think of the way her curly brown hair looked blowing in the breeze, the way her soft skin felt with the roughness of the sand stuck to it and the way her eyes light up when I make her smile. For the first time ever I think that civilian life may not be so bad. Would it be so bad to settle down and have a girlfriend? Maybe a wife someday and some kids? I’ve never seen that for myself but Cynthia has got me thinking. There’s just something about her.
If Ethan can do it maybe I can too. I never thought that he was the type to settle down. He always had a new girl on his arm every week growing up. After a while I didn’t even bother to learn their names. Now he’s in love and he looks happier and more relaxed than I’ve ever seen him. Maybe domestic life wouldn’t be so bad.
I rub my eyes and push that thought out of my head. I’m a fucking Navy SEAL. There is nothing else. I’m going to get this piece of shit knee fixed up and then I’m going back to making Swiss cheese out of the terrorists’ heads.
Jack, Malone and the other guys are all still over there going through the grind. I’ll be back soon to help them out. I have to. I’m not done with that place yet.
I push myself up into a sitting position on the bed as my knee throbs relentlessly. I grab my bag and pull out a stack of papers looking for one in particular. It has the phone number of the Navy SEAL’s medical office.
I take a deep breath as I dial the number.
,” a woman says on the other end of the line.
“489021,” I say and then wait.
Hello, Mr. Taylor
,” she says after asking a few more questions to identify me. “
What can I do for you?
“I’m calling about a medical examination,” I say. “I want to see if I’ve passed the health requirements for reinstation.”
,” she says before the line clicks and the cheesy music comes on. I lower the phone and watch my reflection in the black TV screen. My knee is up on a pillow with the syringe and bottle of pills beside me on the bed.
What the fuck do you think she’s going to tell you? You can’t spend the day on the beach without crying like a little bitch and you think they’re going to send you into the desert?
My hands are shaking and my stomach rolling as she clicks back on.
What if she says I didn’t pass?
My voice gets trapped in my throat.
“Yes,” I say, my voice coming out dry and shaky. “Sorry about that.”
,” she says as if my whole life doesn’t depend on this call. “
Unfortunately the results aren’t in yet.
I take a breath of relief and drop my head back onto the pillow. “Okay. Thanks.”
You can call back in a few days for an update. Anything else I can do for you?
I say no and we both hang up. I stare at the ceiling fixture until a knock at the door breaks me out of my negative thoughts.
I immediately think of Cynthia.
I owe her an apology for snapping at her.
“Coming,” I yell as I stuff the syringe and pills back into my bag. “Mmmph,” I grunt as I get up and limp to the door, keeping my weight on my good knee. The doctor tried to give me a cane to walk with. I almost shoved it up his ass instead. There’s no way I’m showing any weakness by limping around with a cane.
I open the door expecting to see a hot brunette in a bikini but I get my brother instead.
“You okay, bro?” he asks, looking at me like I hate to be looked at; like a victim.
“Yeah, it’s nothing,” I say, blowing it off. “So, Stephanie is here. That bitch is crazier now than when we were in high school.”
Ethan laughs. “You have no idea. You missed her performance at Lucas’ wedding.”
“Want me to keep an eye on her?” I ask.
He breathes a sigh of relief. “Would you? I wouldn’t put anything past her. Tanya is worried that she’s going to sabotage the whole wedding.”
I stand up straight and slap my chest. “Well, she’ll have to get past me to do it.”
“Thanks, Chase,” he says softly.
He glances down at my knees and sees that I’m resting all of my weight on my good leg.
“Are you sure your knee is okay?” he asks. “Want me to take you to the clinic?”
“This?” I ask with a laugh. “I’ve been shot three times, stabbed once and have more shrapnel in me than Stephanie has had dicks in her mouth.”
Ethan laughs. “I know you’re tough and I wasn’t saying otherwise. But there’s no harm in taking it easy to recover from an injury.”
I’m happy for this new Ethan but it still doesn’t give him the right to become a big brother all of a sudden. I don’t need or want his advice.
“I’m fine,” I say coldly. “Anything else?” The look I give him makes it clear that this discussion is over.
Ethan rubs that back of his neck and shifts his weight from foot to foot. “Yeah,” he says. I can count the number of times that I’ve seen Ethan nervous on one hand. “There’s something that I wanted to ask you.”
“Say it already.”
“I didn’t think you were coming to the wedding so I didn’t ask you,” he says, trailing off.
“What is it?”
“Would you be my best man at the wedding?”
“Fuck yeah!” I say, giving him a hug. We catch ourselves and step away awkwardly, looking at the walls, the ceiling, the floors, anywhere but at each other.
“I know we’ve had our share of fights and broken noses but we are brothers and I do love you,” he says. Wow, this really is a new Ethan.
“Me too,” I answer back. It’s hard to say the words. There weren’t a lot of I love you’s flying around the house when we were kids and I’m not used to it.
A genius thought pops into my head. “I’m throwing you a bachelor party before the wedding.”
“Nah,” Ethan says, shaking his head. “Tanya and I decided not to do that.”
“Fuck that,” I say. “It’s not your decision. It’s the best man’s. And we’re doing it. And there’s going to be lots of tits and ass.”
And I can finally get laid.
Ethan breaks into a smile. “We’ll see.”
“It’s happening,” I say. “Tomorrow night.”
“Nothing crazy,” Ethan says, cracking. “Just a couple of drinks at the bar.”
I grin. He didn’t say which bar.
Ethan points down the hall. “Want to come down to the pool and get a beer?”
My knee is still burning and the few minutes that I spent standing here is making it act up again. I don’t think I can make it over there and I’m not about to show any weakness in public, or in front of Cynthia especially, by holding onto his arm like an old man. I just need to rest it a bit first.
“I’ll be down in a few minutes,” I say.
“Okay cool. Thanks again bro.”
I close the door as he leaves and limp back to the bed, cursing with every step that I take.
I hate doing it but I have to get back down there while Cynthia is still in a bikini. I snatch the pills out of my bag, take two and wash it down with the warm can of beer on my night table.
They hit me like a truck and the drowsiness has my eyelids too heavy to keep open. I’m already dreaming of her wearing her bikini before my head hits the pillow and I fall hard into a deep sleep.
“Can you please watch her?” Tanya whispers to me at the dinner table.
“Stephanie?” I ask.
Tanya glances over her shoulder to the table in the back where Stephanie and Aaron are eating alone. “I think she’s going to try something to ruin my wedding.”
She’s been nervous throughout the whole dinner and keeps glancing back as if Stephanie is going to cut her hair off with a knife or something.
“Sure, Tanya,” I whisper back. “I’ll keep an eye on her.”
She squeezes my hand under the table. “Thank you.”
The whole group is here except the one person that I most want to see. I haven’t seen Chase since the volleyball game this afternoon. He never came back down to the beach.
Ethan is sitting in front of me wearing a tie. He’s trying to impress Mr. and Mrs. Prentis and it’s not working out too well.
“Where’s Chase?” I ask Tanya, looking around as if I’ve just noticed it now in the middle of dinner and not the second that I walked into the steakhouse restaurant.
“He was supposed to come down for dinner but he never did,” she says, glancing at Stephanie’s table behind her. “I wonder if he’s okay. He looked like he was in a lot of pain this afternoon.”
That’s an understatement. He looked like his knee was on fire.
Tanya leans over and grins. “Maybe you should go check on him,” she whispers.
“No, I’m not interested,” I say, looking at the napkin over the lap of my favorite dress.
. I wasted my best dress, the black one that shows off my cleavage and makes my breasts look a full cup size bigger on a night that Chase is not even going to see it.
“How are they going to look when you’re ninety?” Mr. Prentis asks Ethan, looking at his tattoos.
“I won’t care how they look,” Ethan says with a grin. “I’ll just be happy to be alive.”
His joke falls flat and Mr. Prentis frowns. The poor guy is drowning. I’ll try to help him out.
“Mr. Prentis, did you know that Ethan owned two businesses?” I ask. “I find that so impressive for such a young man.”
Ethan raises his eyebrows and looks over.
“A tattoo shop,” Mr. Prentis says with a frown on his stern face. “That’s not very Christian.”
“Actually,” Ethan says, sitting up straight, “I do a lot of Christian tattoos. Mostly crosses and bible verses. They’re very popular.”
“What about the devil?” Mr. Prentis asks. “How many satanic tattoos do you do?”
“Daddy!” Tanya snaps. “Will you stop?” She reaches across the table and squeezes Ethan’s hand. He pulls it away from her awkwardly as Mr. Prentis glares at him.
Stephanie lets out a loud laugh that has half of the restaurant turning towards her. Aaron is looking at her in confusion as she throws her head back and wails with the world’s fakest laugh.
Tanya is probably right. That attention whore is up to something and I’m going to find out what it is.
Matt is pushing his food around his plate like a little, sulking kid.
“Why aren’t you eating it?” Julia asks, rolling her eyes.
“I don’t like it when the different things touch,” he says, scrunching up his nose in disgust.
Julia scrunches up her nose in disgust too but for a different reason.
The waiter starts to pick up our plates as we finish. “We’re going dancing at the bar tonight if you all want to come,” Tanya announces to the table.
“Yes!” Megan says, pumping her fist.
“Don’t get any ideas,” Julia says, pointing a fork at her.
“Yeah,” I say, joining in. “We played nice last night but no more tonight.”
Megan crosses her arms and frowns.
“You coming dancing?” Tanya whispers to me. What is she a mind reader?
“Yeah,” I say, trying to sound casual. “I just have to check on something first.”
“Something or someone?” she asks with a knowing smile.
I sigh. “Someone.”
Tanya grins. “I won’t wait up.”
“You won’t have to,” I say. “I’ll be there soon.”
“Sure,” she says, glancing back at Stephanie’s table.
We eat dessert and everyone gets up to continue the party on the dance floor at the bar. Everyone except me.
I head to the buffet and grab a burger and fries to go. Wait, I want him to keep those delicious abs of his. I put the fries back and fill the Styrofoam container with cut up veggies instead.
I slip away from the group and head to Chase’s room. The moon is out and it’s another beautiful night. I run my hands through my hair, trying to fix it in the warped reflection of the stainless steel elevator.
Damn Caribbean weather always makes my hair all frizzy.
The door pings open on the third floor and a tiny lizard runs up the wall in the hallway. “Hi little guy,” I say to him. He’s not interested in chatting and runs out through the open window.