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He wanted so badly to hold her, kiss her, smell her hair

Our worlds didn’t match, Brayden longed to say. Those Skype calls were harder and harder to take when he wanted so badly to hold her, kiss her, smell her hair, taste her skin, feel her arms around him. 
“It was work, Brayden, but I loved you. We made it work. Then something changed, and you wouldn’t tell me what.”
Brayden stilled, disquiet buzzing madly in his mind as his body remained immobile. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He would never tell her. What happened was too ugly. He would protect her, shield her, from the worst of himself. In a way, this visit was a test to see if he could handle being a civilian.
“You are lying.” She dropped her hands to her sides. “Secrets kill relationships. There has to be trust, Brayden. Even if you were to tell me that you can’t talk about it, or that it’s something you’re working through, I could accept that. You don’t have to tell me everything, but don’t lie.”
His gut knotted.  He started to apologize. He exhaled and let her see the truth in his eyes. “It’s something I’m working through.”
Her shoulders drooped forward. “Okay.”
“I,” he quickly reburied the memories. “I don’t want to be a problem, Zoe. Despite what it looks like,” he touched his hand to his hip, “I’m in decent shape.”
“You look great to me.” She tugged at the collar of her pink polo. “You have no idea what I imagined. I had to stop watching the CNN videos of injured men.  Each one became you.”

Excerpt from Returning Home by the Sea by Traci Hall

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