Duke's Redemption

Page 80

“Well, my answer heavily depends on your answer.”
That gets me an eye roll. “Fine, we will come back to that one. Do you want kids?”
“Avery, I’m going to stop you right there. To be perfectly honest with you, I’ve never thought about marriage or kids before. Not ever having much of a relationship, I didn’t think it was necessary to dwell on those things. And until you came along, I didn’t think that I even wanted a commitment. But then, you stepped into my life and made me second guess all of that. You came in and made it so that I want that more than anything else. As long as I have you, I don’t care about the rest.”
She looks at me. “You don’t care if you have kids or get married?”
“I want to make you happy. If those things make you happy, I’m on board.”
“And that’s it?”
“That’s it, Angel. As long as I have you, I’m a happy man. We can have a big, flashy wedding if you want. Or we can go down to the courthouse. Or we don’t have to do anything at all. You want to have ten kids? Okay. You don’t want any kids? That’s fine, too.”
“There’s no way you can be thatgo with the flow.”
“Oh, but Angel, I am. Listen, I never even dreamed that kids or marriage would be a possibility for me. I wrote those two things off a hell of a long time ago. If they happen now, I’ll love it. If they don’t, I’ll be okay. My new main goal in life is keeping you happy, and I’ll do that in whatever means are necessary.”
She still looks unsure of my words, so putting down my fork, I ask, “Avery, what’s this all about? This all came out of the blue. Why don’t you tell me what’s going on?”
She picks at the macaroni and cheese on her plate. “I don’t want you to resent me.”
“Why on Earth would you think I would resent you?”
“Because I’m not exactly a spring chicken. I mean, I’m past the 35-year-old mark. After that, it gets a whole heck of a lot harder to have kids. I don’t want you waking up one day and thinking that you should have gotten with someone whose ovaries aren’t all crusty and dried up.”
I can’t help but laugh at the way she described that. “Angel, I don’t care about any of that. Like I said, as long as I have you, I don’t care. I’m not going to resent you for something that I’m not even sure I ever wanted in the first place. But you still haven’t told me where this whole thing is coming from.”
She looks down, avoiding my eyes. “After reading that letter from my mom to my dad, it’s clear that she resented him for something. I’m still not quite sure what, but I just wonder if that whole thing is what caused her to start drinking—what caused her to have so much animosity toward me? Before he left, it looked like we were one happy family. Afterwards, she turned into a monster. I just don’t want us to ever get to that point where we resent each other for anything.”
“Not going to happen.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because I know for a fact that every day for the rest of my life, I’m going to count my lucky stars that I’m with you. And I’m going to work so hard to make you happy that you will never have to resent me.”
That gets a bigger smile out of her, and she eats a little more of her food. “While we are getting all open and honest, I’m going to press my luck here. Will you tell me about when you were shot?”
Her eyes travel down to my chest where my scar lies.
“It’s not a bullet wound,” I tell her.
Not wanting her to feel like I have secrets, I decide to open up. “Avery, this is really hard for me to talk about, so I’m sorry if it comes out cold or distant. I don’t mean it to.”
“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. I shouldn’t have pushed.”
“It’s alright. I want to.” Taking a deep breath, I try to prepare myself. I spend the next few minutes telling her about the explosion that took out one of my men and ended my military career. “A piece of shrapnel hit some of the tissue around my heart. A millimeter or two over, and I would have been dead. It didn’t kill me, but it was bad enough to where they told me I couldn’t serve anymore.”
By the end of it, she has tears in her big eyes. She gets up from the table and comes to sit in my lap. With her arms wrapped around my neck, I hold her close, feeling her lightly cry against me.
“I’m so sorry that happened to you,” she whispers. “Is that why you go see your therapist?”
I nod. “Avery, I’ve killed a lot of people in my time. More than I ever care to admit to you. Although I hated it every single time, I never regretted them because I told myself in some strange way, I was making the world a better place. But then, I felt immense guilt for a death that I didn’t even cause. I’m sure in some strange, twisted way, that bomber thought that they were doing the right thing too. It just made me see things differently and fell into a pretty deep depression, not knowing how to handle all of it. Dr. Tucker has helped me a lot. But you helped more.”
She pulls back to look at me with her tear-stained cheeks and red eyes. Without a word, she presses her soft lips against mine. We sit there making out like a couple of teenagers for a few minutes until she breaks the kiss and looks at me.