Maelin ate the rest of her omelet in silence and completely lost in her thoughts. Hank must have figured out that she was no longer in a talking mood. He put all of his attention into eating his cereal.
Other people came in. Some rushed in to grab a banana and left even faster than they’d arrived. Others came in together, chit-chatting the whole way into the room and throughout their whole breakfast. They loitered for a while after their meal to finish up their conversation before leaving the kitchen.
Maelin was so lost in her thoughts. She didn’t catch a single word of any of those conversations.
Then, the kitchen door opened again, whisping in the scent of anise and cloves.
She perked up and turned in her seat.
Jay entered the room.
One look at him was enough to make Maelin want to stay.
His fitted deep green Henley shirt exposed his neck, his throat, and a couple of inches of his collarbone. It emphasized his shoulder line, his pecs, and his long, lean torso. He was wearing some sort of dark blue jeans, but Maelin didn’t pay too much attention to that part of the ensemble.
She set her fork down on her plate.
He smiled at her, but it was a tired and sad smile. “Mae.”
She walked over to Jay and embraced him.
He put his arms around her, settling his hands on her lower back. “Mae.”
She laid her head against his chest. “Tell me, Jay. Give me the word. Command me. Tell me that you need me to stay. Order me to stay and I will stay with you.”
“You know I never will do that to you.”
She closed her eyes and loved the solidness of him, the absolute realness of him. The movement of his chest. The smell of his clothes, his cologne, his skin, his scent. “I love you, Jay. I love you so much.”
It was on the tip of her tongue to tell him the bad news, but he beat her to that punch. “You’ll be leaving soon.”
It wasn’t even a question.
It was knowledge.
It was certainty.
She couldn’t deny it, no matter how much she wanted to spare him that hurt. “Yes.”
“Not yet, but it will be soon.”
Jay didn’t respond to that. He just continued to hold her.
And she held onto him.
Watching Jay and Maelin together made Hank miss Dave all the more. He drank down the last bit of milk in his cereal bowl.
If only I could call him…But I know better than to call him while he’s on duty. But I wish I could. Just to hear his voice again. That cute, sparkling voice I love.
He carried the bowl to the kitchen sink.
Hank was half-way to the sink when Dave’s ring tone went off. He startled so hard his cereal bowl defied logic and physics. It sailed out of his hand and wound up in the sink. Somehow.
He quickly answered his phone. “Dave?”
“Babe. I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too, Hank. It was such a long and BORING night without you.”
Hank blushed and laughed bashfully. “Same. Ohhh, same. Where are you right now? Are you coming home soon?”
“Oh, Caten is doing legal stuff with his client. It’s all top-secret hush-hush blah-blah. So, I wasn’t invited into the room. I have to stay out here until they’re all done. It kind of nullifies me coming with him, but whatever.” Dave huffed a breath into the phone, giving Hank a wonderful case of goosebumps. “I don’t know when we’re coming home, but I am soooo hoping that it will be soon. I don’t want to spend another night without you.”
“And I don’t want to sleep without you in my arms. I miss the feel of you…the taste of you.”
“Eeeeeeeeeeeeee! Why do you have to say such romantic things when we’re on the phone?”
Hank laughed again. “Because I love hearing your reaction.”
“Ohhhhhhh, if only I could just—Oh. Looks like he’s waving me into the inner sanctum. I’m gonna have to let you go. I love you, Hank.”
“I love you too, babe. Be safe, okay?”
“Okay! I will. I promise.”