“Sorry. I just really wanted to kiss you.”
Running my fingers through her hair, I reply, “Angel, you better never stop.”
Thefollowingday,Dukeand I are on the way to meet my long-lost grandpa. I’m not sure exactly how this is going to go. My mind hopes for the best, but the pit in my stomach is clearly prepared for the worst.
I reach over and grab Duke’s hand. This man has been there for me in such an immense way throughout this whole thing. He’s been patient, loving, and so kind. And our conversation last night put any worry or doubt about him and me to rest.
Squeezing his hand, I say, “Hey, I love you.”
He glances over at me and smiles. “I love you too, Angel.”
“Thank you for helping me deal with all of this. I know you didn’t ask for it.”
He raises my hand and kisses the back of it. “You don’t have to thank me. I would do anything for you.”
When I fall silent, he asks, “You doing okay?”
“Yeah. Just worried that this isn’t going to go well.”
“No matter what happens, we will get through it.”
Deciding to try to lighten the mood a little, I opt to change the subject. I look in the backseat and see a giant metal toolbox with a lock on it under the seat.
“What’s in the box?” I ask. “Your ex-girlfriend?”
He laughs. “Nothing quite so creepy.”
“What is it?”
“Honestly?” He looks at me. “Guns.”
“You have guns?” I ask. I don’t know why I seem shocked. He was in the military. What did I expect?
“Angel, this is Texas. Everybody has guns.”
“Have you had to use them?” I ask, not sure if I truly want to know the answer.
“Not in the way that you’re asking, I’m sure. I take them to the range and shoot them every so often and then clean them just to make sure I keep them well maintained.”
“Do you just have them for protection or….” I let my thought trail off.
“Yes. When I was in the SEALS, I pissed off a hell of a lot of people. In the service, I never quit looking over my shoulder, wondering if someone would come around looking for some kind of revenge. It’s hard to get out of that mindset even when I got out of the military.”
“Makes sense,” I mumble. “Will you teach me how to shoot?”
“Why do you want to learn?” He asks.
“What if I need to protect myself? Like, what if someone broke in?”
“Angel, if anyone breaks in, you wouldn’t need a gun. I would protect you from anyone and anything.”
Geez, I tried to lighten the mood, but somehow, I’ve made the air in this truck feel even thicker.
Thankfully, we pull into the assisted living facility a few minutes later. Time to go from one awkward situation to another. Duke opens my door for me and holds my hand as we walk inside. My stomach is so upset I feel like I could throw up at any moment.