My reflection looks back at me from the window in a mocking answer. Of course she wanted to get away from me. I look like a monster and act like one too. I wasn’t always like this. When I went into the FBI, I was living my best life, traveling the world, doing what I loved, and spending time with my family.
One night changed everything, and now I live in the aftermath. It’s not just the scar on my face, it’s that I lost out on the possibility of my biggest dream. Having a wife and family of my own is all I’ve ever wanted. To have the love my parents do, to spend holidays with them and my brother. To grow old with the love of my life while we bounce grandchildren on our laps. That was all taken away with one blast, and I’ve been trying to pick up the pieces ever since.
A reflection catches my eye, and I see Gracie walking up to my front porch. In all my wallowing I didn’t even see her truck come down the driveway. She’s turning to go back to her truck when I yank open the door.
“Hey!” I bark, and she snaps around like I scared her. “Sorry.”
“I’m late, I gotta go.” She turns to walk back to her truck, and without thinking it through, I go after her.
“Wait.” As soon as the sunlight hits my face, I realize I’ve forgotten my hat. Just as I have the thought, she turns around, and there’s nothing I can do to stop her from seeing the full extent of my injuries.
“What?” She waits for me to say something, but I’m standing here wondering why she isn’t running away screaming.
Even after my injuries healed, some of the nurses couldn’t hide their reaction to my scars. I’ve had two plastic surgeries to repair the damage, and it’s not as bad as it once was, but the scars are deep and down one side of my face.
“Um.” I can’t meet her eyes, so I look at her mouth. “Your lips aren’t shiny.” What the fuck is wrong with me? With Gracie I have zero control. I just blurt out whatever is on my mind.
“I forgot my lip gloss in the other truck.”
“Oh.” I tuck my hands in my jeans and try not to fidget. If she was scared, she’d be running out of here, wouldn’t she? “You didn’t bring me any pie.” I didn’t really expect her to, but I was hoping for it.
“You didn’t like my dress,” she says back just as accusingly, and I feel my eyebrows bunch together.
“You were showing a lot of skin.” I thought about her thick legs in that short dress and stroked myself off twice last night. Thinking about it again would be a mistake. At least in the daytime when she can see me get hard.
“So what?” She crosses her arms over her chest in challenge, and with the light behind her, she’s glowing.
“You always bring the sun with you,” I say without thinking.
“What?” Now it’s her turn to look confused.
Shrugging, I look at my feet before I glance up and to her eyes. “Whenever you’re here the sun comes out.” It sounds even dumber the second time I say it, but I’m so nervous.
“Oh.” She reaches up and touches the end of her hair to play with the ribbon. It’s yellow today.
“I liked your dress,” I say softly. “You looked beautiful.”
The flush on her cheeks is the color of pink roses, and I want to touch her and see if it’s just as soft.
“Can I show you something?” Glancing up at her truck, I don’t know if she still has work to do, but I want her to stay as long as she can.
“Sure. You’re the last delivery on my route today, so I’ve got some time.”
Keeping my hands in my jeans, I nod over my shoulder. “It’s around back.” She follows beside me, and I do my best to walk slowly so she can keep up.
“I’ve never been to this side of the property. It was always fenced off and overgrown when we were kids.”
I nod and then remember that I need to talk to her and not be so silent. “It took a lot of work to get our houses built.”
“It’s beautiful.” She looks up at the house as we pass it, and I feel a sense of pride since I did a lot of the work.
When we get to the back of the house, the barn is to the left with a stable out front. “I had a foal last night. You want to see it?”
“A baby horse?” Gracie lights up like fireworks on the Fourth of July. “Are you serious? Of course I want to see a baby horse!” She bounces on her toes as she moves closer to me.