Home > Softly at Sunrise (KGI #5.5)(15)

Softly at Sunrise (KGI #5.5)(15)
Author: Maya Banks

Sean had been there more than once for Rachel when she was still finding her way in the aftermath of her return home. The sheriff’s deputy was younger than all the Kelly brothers, but he was as solid and dependable as someone well above his age.

“I heard Sam talking to him the other day on the phone,” Sophie piped up. “Sean’s been working a case in cooperation with Henry County and the state police. Sounded like a big drug ring. They’ve pulled in city and county guys for this. He’s been working a lot of long hours. Sam sounded worried about him.”

Rachel sighed. “There are times when I wish he’d go to work for KGI, but he doesn’t have the experience yet, and then I think how silly it is to think he’d be any safer going off on the kinds of missions our husbands do.”

Sarah nodded. “I understand what you mean though. It’s reassuring to think of him having that kind of back-up system, you know? We know nothing about the kind of men Sean works with currently, but we certainly know our guys would look out for him.”

“That’s exactly what I mean,” Rachel said in agreement. “I was happy when Swanny joined them.”

“Oh me too,” Shea said in a rush. “My heart just aches for him. He’s so…alone. If you only knew what he and Nathan endured…”

Her voice trailed off and her features went bleak. Rachel reached over to squeeze her hand. Shea had gone through a lot to help Nathan and Swanny escape after months of them being tortured by the enemy. She more than anyone knew precisely what the two men had suffered. She knew because she’d suffered along with them and for them.

“Mama Kelly will work him over,” Sophie said with a chuckle. “Do you see how he is around her? It’s so cute. He’s completely bemused by her. She pats him and calls him her baby, and I swear the big man just melts in a puddle at her feet.”

Everyone laughed and warmth filled Rachel’s heart. Life was good. The very best. She was surrounded by people who loved her and whom she loved with all her heart.

There wasn’t a single Kelly by birth or marriage who wouldn’t do anything he or she could to help another family member. She thought briefly of Jennifer from her class and how broken up the little girl was over her family deteriorating.

She swallowed the knot in her throat. But by the grace of God go I.

It had been her. Only she’d gotten a second chance. Redemption.

“Do you think P.J. will come back?” Sarah asked in a quiet voice. “I’m so worried about her.”

The others fell silent.

P.J. had been instrumental in each of their lives. She’d gone on the mission to rescue Rachel from Colombia. She’d been there when Sophie had traded herself for Marlene Kelly and gone back to her madman of a father. She had been there when Sarah’s brother had died taking a bullet meant for Sarah. And she’d been instrumental in reuniting Shea with Nathan when Shea had been abducted by the people pursuing Shea and her sister, Grace. For that matter, she’d been there covering the women’s husbands when Grace had surrendered herself in order to prevent members of KGI from dying.

P.J. was a fixture of KGI. She was always there, protecting their husbands when they put their lives on the line. Rachel would never fully be able to express her gratitude to the other woman. There simply weren’t adequate words.

She just hoped she had the opportunity to try one day. P.J. had fell off the map months earlier and her team was mourning their loss. They weren’t the same without her.

“I worry about her too,” Sophie said softly.

“She’ll be back,” Shea said confidently, though her voice lacked conviction. “She’s tough and she’s a fighter. I don’t see her wimping out. She just needs time.”

Everyone nodded at that. It was a concept they were all familiar with. Time healed all wounds. Time and…love.

Sarah checked her watch and winced regretfully. “We better wrap this up soon. I know the guys have to be up early in the morning for training drills.”

“I have to be up early for work,” Rachel said in a rueful tone. She sighed. “That sounds so nice to say again.”

“Are you loving it?” Sarah asked.

“I really am,” Rachel replied. “I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I went back that first day. I love teaching. It’s a part of who I am, and I’m tired of being a different person.”

“Good for you,” Sophie said, reaching across to squeeze her hand. “We’re all so proud of you, Rachel. You’re such an example. I’m so glad my daughter has you to look up to.”

Rachel’s mouth dropped open in astonishment, and she looked at the other women like they’d lost their minds. Then she laughed because she simply couldn’t help it.

“Don’t laugh,” Sarah said in her quiet voice. “We’re all aware of your story. What you endured. How you never gave up. And how resilient you’ve been. It takes a very strong woman to endure what you did and to not only survive but to triumph over such adversity.”

“Oh God, you guys, don’t make me cry,” Rachel choked out.

She dabbed furiously at her eyes to prevent the flow of any tears.

Laughter rounded the table, breaking the serious tone that had settled over the group. They paid their checks and then headed out to the truck.

As they drove back, Rachel’s hand went unconsciously to her belly, and she marveled that she was shielding two tiny lives deep in her womb.

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