“Because I’m ‘comfortable.’”
“You’re like a brother to me, Ian. Though I hardly need another one.”
“Maybe you need one here.” He chuckled as she yawned again. Taking her hands, he pulled her to her feet, faced her toward the bedroom door, and gave her a little push. “Good-night, Sis.”
She went through the door then peeked back out. “I thank God for you every night, Captain Ian Devlin.”
“I appreciate that, Secret Agent Marie Wyatt. Thank you.”
“I’m not sure it’s a very nice thing for me to do.”
“I hate what you’ve gone through. But I’m glad you’re here with me.” She concentrated on her nails, rubbing her fingers across the rose pink surfaces. What she left unspoken hung between them—that he wouldn’t be if not for his loss.
The silence grew too long. Too heavy.
“It’s selfish of me,” she blurted. “But I couldn’t do this with anyone else.”
His eyes blinked, and he turned away. She followed his gaze to the painting above the fireplace. After a moment, he barely smiled and walked toward her. The gold flecks in his hazel eyes appeared amber in the dim light as he cradled her face between his hands.
“I’m glad you don’t have to,” he said, his voice on the edge of cracking. He kissed the top of her head and backed away. “Sweet dreams.”
Not trusting her voice, she slipped into the room and closed the door. Her throat ached with unshed tears, but she wasn’t even sure why she wanted to cry. Taking a couple of deep breaths, she changed into her nightgown and pulled on thick woolen socks.
After turning off the light, she raised the blackout curtain from the window. Being separated from the night sky suffocated her, as if she were trapped in soulless cavern. Her spirit seemed to breathe a sigh of relief as she sought out the familiar North Star and then the Dippers.
Prayers didn’t come easy despite being part of her nightly routine. Prayers of protection for her brothers. For Frost. Prayers of gratitude for Ian.
But no prayers for herself. She had to face the future alone, no matter what it held. That was the price she paid for leaving the safety of her home.
Nestling between the cotton sheets, she tucked the eider comforter against her cheek. Though she admired Ian’s faith, she didn’t understand it. Her family went to church every Sunday—her father insisted—and she could recite all the familiar stories of Noah and Moses, King David the shepherd boy, and the feeding of the five thousand.
But all those distant Sundays seemed far away, both in time and distance from the here-and-now of a wartime London flat.
A rare wave of homesickness washed over her, and a longing to see a familiar face pressed against her chest. She’d do just about anything to know her brothers were safe.
Except go home.
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