Home > Softly at Sunrise (KGI #5.5)(2)

Softly at Sunrise (KGI #5.5)(2)
Author: Maya Banks

He lowered his mouth to hers in a heated rush of lips and tongue. “I love you too,” he said in that low, growly voice that always sent shivers down her spine. “Be careful and text me when you get there so I know you made it safe.”

She rolled her eyes and withdrew, checking her appearance in the mirror one last time. “I’ll be fine. And don’t forget. Your mom and Rusty are coming over tonight to help box up some stuff. Rusty’s home for the weekend, and she’s volunteered her services.”

“I won’t be late,” Ethan promised. “Light training day today. Working with the new recruits for Nathan and Joe’s team.”

Rachel’s lips turned down into an unhappy frown. “Have you heard anything from P.J. yet?”

Ethan went quiet and then shook his head. “Not a damn thing since she bugged out. It’s killing Cole. Steele’s not taking it very well either. The team isn’t the same without her, and Steele refuses to replace her.”

“Good,” Rachel said fiercely. “She just needs time. She’ll be back. I know she will.”

“I hope you’re right,” he said, his tone somber. “I said the team’s not the same without her, but the fact is, KGI isn’t the same without her either.”

Rachel sighed and slid past Ethan into the bedroom so she could get her shoes. P.J. Rutherford was the only female KGI member. Well, no, that wasn’t right anymore. Skylar Watkins was a new recruit, but Rachel didn’t know her well. She’d only met her once.

Things had gone terribly wrong for P.J. on a mission, and she’d walked away in the emotional aftermath. Rachel’s heart ached for the other woman because she knew how it was to feel like you’d lost a huge part of yourself. To be at loose ends.

“Okay, wish me luck,” she announced after she’d slipped on the low heels and picked up her briefcase.

“You’ll be awesome,” Ethan said, pride evident in his voice. “You were a damn good teacher before. Mom was so proud of you. She was over the moon when you followed in her footsteps. All you did was take a little time off. It’ll come back to you in a flash. The kids will love you, just like they all did before.”

She went into his arms for another hug. “Thank you. I needed that this morning.”

He squeezed her hard and then reluctantly let her go.

“I’m going to jump in the shower again and then head over to the compound. I’ll talk to you soon.”

Rachel watched as he disappeared into the bathroom, and then she squared her shoulders and walked out of the bedroom and through the kitchen to the garage where her car was parked.

She was terrified. Her palms were sweaty around the steering wheel, and it irritated her that such a small thing as substitute teaching for middle school kids would frighten her after all she’d been through.

Her therapist would tell her all things in time. It was a mantra she’d repeated a lot over the last year. And it was true enough. Everything in good time. She just had to be patient and cut herself some slack.

Moving was a good step. A positive step in the right direction. Ethan hadn’t understood why she’d gone in such a different direction with the new house they were building. He’d thought they’d have the same house built inside the compound. The house they lived in now was one they’d chosen together and had incorporated all their favorite things.

As she backed out of the garage and stared at the house that had once been her dream, she took a deep breath. The truth was, she couldn’t wait to move away from the house that now represented some of the unhappiest moments in her life.

Her husband had once stood in the living room that she’d painstakingly designed and handed her divorce papers.

She’d never be able to settle back in and just forget that it happened.

She had a new dream now. To stop living in the past. To move forward. New house. New life. New chance to make things right and to leave the past precisely where it belonged.

Chapter 2

When Rachel pulled into her driveway a few minutes after four, she was surprised that Ethan’s truck was already there. She got out, eager to see him and to tell him about her day.

She hauled her briefcase from the passenger seat and started up the walkway. Halfway there, the door opened and Ethan stood against the frame, watching her approach. One hand was behind his back, and as she mounted the steps, he pulled it around so she could see the gorgeous bouquet of flowers he was holding.

They were her favorite. Roses that were a beautiful shade of peach. Not quite orange and not quite pink. For the longest time, Ethan had been unable to buy them for her because he’d taken them to her grave during the year she’d been believed dead.

“To celebrate your first day,” he said.

“They’re beautiful, Ethan!”

She gathered them and buried her nose in the fragrant blossoms.

“How did it go?” Ethan asked as he ushered her inside.

She went in search of a vase and, after stuffing the stems inside and filling it with water, she turned an excited smile on Ethan.

“It went great!

He smiled indulgently at her enthusiasm and then pulled her into his arms.

“I missed you.”

She laughed. “No you didn’t. You were at the compound. You wouldn’t have seen me whether I’d gone to work or not.”

He kissed her nose and squeezed his arms around her. God, but she loved the security of being in his arms. There were still nights she woke in a cold sweat and there he was, always right beside her to hold and comfort her. He always knew too. He’d gather her into his embrace and whisper in her ear that she was safe and that he was here and that nothing would ever hurt her again. Then he’d tell her over and over again how much he loved her and how sorry he was for ever making her doubt it.

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