Authors: Makenna Jameison
In the Arms of a Soldier
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
© 2013 by Makenna Jameison.
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
ALSO BY MAKENNA JAMEISON
Christmas with a Soldier
Valentine from a Soldier
I heard the click of the front door locking as I walked out of the bathroom, wrapped only in a fluffy white towel. The steam from the shower poured out into the hallway of my apartment, along with the apple scent of the shampoo I’d just used. I turned toward the sound of the noise, my wet brown hair swinging behind me, as I stopped in surprise. My roommate Josh was deployed to Afghanistan, and although I’d been planning to meet him at the airport when he returned this afternoon, he’d somehow managed to sneak home early. His bags landed on the floor with a thud, and for a moment I wondered if I should rush in to see him or quickly throw some clothes on first. Thankfully, I’d grabbed a towel and not just wandered out of the bathroom wearing nothing at all. I’d gotten so used to living alone that I’d have to remember I had a roommate once again.
Before I could make a decision
to dress first or not, the steam from the bathroom reached the oversensitive smoke detector that was installed right outside the bathroom door, and a shrill piercing sound filled the air. I jumped at the sudden noise, cringing, even though this exact same thing happened every time I forgot to turn the bathroom fan on.
“Jess?” Josh called out from the living room in his deep voice. “Jessica?”
“In here!” I shouted back as I stood up on my tiptoes, waving one arm back and forth as I attempted to fan the smoke detector. “Everything’s fine!”
Josh rounded the corner and paused for a moment, his
blue eyes on me. I glanced over to see him standing there, still wearing the fatigues and black combat boots he’d likely worn on his entire trip home. His dark blond hair was cropped short, and he had a trace of golden stubble across his face and strong jaw. He was tan from all of his months spent outdoors and more muscular than I remembered. His six foot frame looked bulkier, built up with solid muscle, and he had a hardened look about him. But his mouth quirked up with a trace of a smile as he watched me, and I realized how ridiculous of a situation he had just walked into. “Geez, they still haven’t moved that thing?” he shouted above the noise, walking over to give me a hand. “There’s never a dull moment with you, Jess.”
is exciting,” I shouted back, gesturing to the smoke alarm as Josh removed it from the wall. The piercing stopped as Josh hit the reset button, and he stood there holding it, his tall frame towering over mine, as he grinned back at me. “Much more interesting than, say, flying home from the other side of the world or living in the desert for six months….”
Josh laughed as I smiled up at him.
“Anyway, what are you doing here so early?” I asked excitedly. “I was going to meet you at the airport, not in the hallway in my bath towel.”
He laughed easily, and his eyes lingered just a moment too long as he glanced down at my towel, which was showing off my cleavage to its full advantage. “I
caught an earlier flight. Surprise!”
“God, I can’t believe you’re really back,” I said, embracing Josh in a hug. My arms slid around him, and I rested my head on his chest as I felt his strong arms wrap around me, pulling me close.
Despite the fact that I was wrapped in Josh’s arms, half-naked, this moment wasn’t nearly as romantic as anyone observing us might have imagined. Josh and I had been friends since we were kids. We’d gone from playmates to best friends throughout high school and college to roommates. He’d been there for me when I broke up with boyfriends or pined away for various guys all wrong for me over the years, and I’d been his shoulder to cry on when his high school girlfriend had broken his heart after they’d gone off to college. I’d eventually ended up at the same university as him, but since Josh was two years older than me, he’d left me to fend for myself during my junior and senior year while he’d enlisted in the military. After I graduated, I’d gone on to medical school, where I’d met my ex-boyfriend, Mike, during my third year. Mike and I were together for two years before finally calling it quits a few months ago, while Josh was deployed.
Josh and I kept in touch via email and online chats
during his time in Afghanistan, and although I’d told him Mike and I had been having problems, I’d never actually gotten around to telling Josh that we’d broken up. Our chances to talk were always so few and far between that I didn’t want to ruin any of the precious time we had by dredging up the subject of my now ex-boyfriend. Being vague just seemed better given the situation, and the fact that Josh was part of the reason Mike and I had broken up was all the more reason to keep it to myself. Although I always would see Josh as just a close friend, Mike didn’t like the fact that we kept in such close contact while he was away or the fact that we were roommates. The truth was, however, that my relationship with Mike had run its course; we’d each gone off in different directions after medical school, and try as we might to make it work, I knew this was the best thing for us.
“I can’t believe it either,” Josh said
, pulling away from our embrace and bringing my mind back to the present.
“You should have told me you’d be back early! I was going to meet you at the airport.”
“I texted you from Paris. I figured you were stuck on a shift or something when I didn’t hear back from you.” His blue eyes searched mine questioningly.
“Yeah, I just finished
a twelve-hour shift. It’s weird the message didn’t come through. I’ll have to check my phone.”
I was an ER doctor at
a nearby hospital. I’d just completed three shifts during the past several days so that I could have the weekend off to spend time with Josh. It was worth the hassle of rearranging my work schedule though, because it wasn’t everyday that my roommate and best friend returned home. I was looking forward to catching up with him over the next few days and had already made plans for us to meet up with some of our friends tonight.
“Anyway, let me get dressed
,” I continued. “Then we can sit down and chat. I made us plans for tonight,” I called out over my shoulder as I walked down the hall to my room. I left the door slightly ajar so that I could talk to Josh while I threw on some clothes.
“Is Mike gonna be there?” he asked as he fiddled around with the smoke detector in the hallway.
It sounded like he was trying to reattach it to the wall.
“Long story. I’ll tell you in a minute.”
I slipped on a bra and panties and then quickly pulled on my dark bootcut jeans, white camisole, and a lightweight lavender top. It clung to my curves, and I glanced down at it questioningly for a moment, wondering if I should change. I chided myself for being so silly though. Josh and I had been friends for years and roommates for the past eighteen months. He’d seen me in everything, and I’d just greeted him in a towel for God’s sake. Sure he’d been gone for the last six months, but it’s not like we’d just moved in together or something. Glancing in the mirror above my dresser, I ran a comb through my brown hair. My blue eyes gazed back at me as I studied my reflection, and I noticed that my cheeks were slightly flushed. It must have been from all the commotion earlier, with Josh arriving early and the smoke detector going off.
I walked out into the hallway barefoot, noticing the
slate gray nail polish on my toenails stood out in contrast against the cream carpet. The smoke detector was hanging neatly back on the wall, with no signs of my earlier struggle with it. I flipped off the light in the bathroom, which I’d neglected to do with all the fuss moments ago, and joined Josh in the kitchen. He was grabbing a soda from the fridge as I walked up beside him.
“I picked up some beer for you,” I said, grabbing a diet coke
“I saw that; thanks. I’ll
have one later on. I need the caffeine now.”
“It’s just starting to hit me. All that adrenaline kept me going before,” he said with a grin. “Man, it’s good to be home.”
hink you’ll be up for drinks with everyone later on? I can reschedule it.”
“No, no, it’s fine.” His deep voice sounded a little gruff, and I wondered if he really would make it until dinner time. “
I’ll probably crash for a couple of hours before we head out. What time are we meeting everyone?”
-thirty. We’re going to check out that new Mexican place. It’s supposed to have awesome burritos, and I could go for a margarita.”
“Mexican sounds great. I’m so sick of eating the same
mess hall grub over and over again—I’m sure anything would taste amazing right about now. The airplane food didn’t really cut it either. So Mike’s not coming tonight? Does he have a shift?”
“I don’t know,” I said with a shrug. “We broke up.”
“What?” Josh choked on his drink.
“Yeah, a few months ago,” I said nonchalantly. I don’t know exactly why I hadn’t told Josh about the break-up. I mean certainly some of it was because we didn’t have much time to talk
while he was deployed. But I’d always gone running to him in the past with all my boy troubles. He knew that Mike and I were having problems, but something inside me just couldn’t give him the satisfaction of knowing he’d been right about this. Josh had sensed something was wrong before he left—it wasn’t hard to since we lived together and Mike had been staying over less and less. We’d both said it was due to work shifts, our crazy schedules, etc., but a part of me knew it was because we’d been drifting apart. Whenever I’d try to tell Josh everything was okay, he’d make some noncommittal comment. He didn’t want to stir up any trouble in my relationship, but it was obvious the way he felt about the matter.
“A few months ago?” he asked in disbelief. “Were you ever going to tell me?” he asked with a small laugh.
“I knew you’d figure it out sooner or later,” I replied with a grin. “Plus, I didn’t want to listen to you saying ‘I told you so,’ one more time.”
“Oh, okay,” Josh said, rolling his eyes jokingly.
“That makes perfect sense.”
“Look, it just seemed like you were hoping we’d break up or something.
I mean, you weren’t exactly upset that we were having problems when you left.”
His eyes met mine, and for a moment I detected some flash of emotion behind them. “I just want you to be happy, Jess,” he said, his voice deep. He finished his soda, before crumpling the can and tossing it into the recycling bin that we kept under the sink.
I watched him carefully for a moment and wondered why things felt slightly off between us. Josh had always watched out for me, in a brotherly type of way, but he didn’t really bash any of my ex-boyfriends. I’d just been teasing him about Mike, but it seemed like he was taking it the wrong way. Maybe it was just the jet lag on his part and my being caught off guard by his early arrival home that made our reunion seem slightly different than I’d imaged. I certainly hadn’t planned to announce first thing that I’d broken up with my boyfriend. I wanted to talk about how Josh was doing, not an old relationship that had ended months ago.
Josh turned around and saw me staring thoughtfully at him. “We’re okay, right?” he asked.
“I didn’t mean for this to turn into an awkward conversation.”