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Boy in Luv
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Distance sure as hell made his heart grow fonder… But it shattered hers into a million pieces.
Langley Vaughn knows she’s never going to make the same mistake again.
Who falls head over heels in love in a week? Langley did, and she’s regretted it every day since she handed her heart to a boy with too many secrets and too much baggage. Iker doesn’t fit into Langley’s world, and he made it clear he doesn’t want to. He left before she even got a chance to try and change his mind or to prove to him how good they could be together. Langley’s spent the last nine months healing her heart and making big plans for the future. Plans that absolutely don’t include Iker… even though he’s back, looking better than ever, and saying all the right things.
Iker Alvarez knows he made the biggest mistake of his life.
At first, the pretty blonde in the red dress was nothing more than a means to an end. But, she quickly became so much more. As soon as Iker walked away from Langley, claiming it was for her own good, he knew he screwed up. He left her so she wouldn’t worry about him when he deployed, so she wouldn’t waste her time waiting around for a guy who was never going to be good enough for her. Only, nine months and a deployment later, Iker still can’t get Langley out of his head… and he totally underestimated the hold she has on his hardened heart. He’s a guy who’s not sure how love should work, or how to go about winning his girl back…he’s about to get a crash course in both.
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9 Months Later (Post-Deployment)
“I’m glad you didn’t die.”
The words were spoken softly and without a hint of humor. They were followed by a loud sniff and my little brother trying to subtly wipe at his eyes so I wouldn’t notice the fact he was fighting back tears. He was serious. He said the same words to me every single time I came back from a deployment, no matter what condition I returned in. And he always cried, which meant I always had to fight back tears of my own.
I hooked an arm around Gael’s neck and rubbed the knuckles of my free hand against the top of his head, clearing my throat so I could speak through the emotion caught there.
“Me too, kid. I told you I would be back in one piece. You know I always keep my word.” I wasn’t a guy who made promises I couldn’t keep, and I refused to let my baby brother down. Everything I did, every choice I made—both good and bad—were so that Gael could have a better life. So he could do more, be more, and live beyond the means I’d always felt held me back when I was his age.
Promising him over and over again nothing would happen to me while I was deployed to some of the most dangerous places in the world was the only time I made a vow, knowing I might not be able to come through in the end. But the words made us feel better, even if we both recognized how empty and useless they were at the end of the day.
I was lucky homecoming coincided with Gael’s first summer break from college. I’d spent nine months living in an emotional kaleidoscope of fear, anger, boredom, and regret. Seeing my baby brother struggling to look tough and keep his tears in check instantly launched me back into protective big brother mode and sent me crashing back to reality. I was no longer just a soldier, a cog in the machine of war. Now, seeing Gael instantly forced all the feelings I’d purposely locked down and hid away when I had a job to do, back to the surface. Far earlier than I was ready for.
I left my truck with him when I left for the desert and he’d surprised me by driving halfway across the country and meeting me as soon as my boots were back on Colorado soil. This wasn’t my first or last deployment. But, it was the first time I’d ever come back and had someone I loved waiting for me. I purposely kept my ties to others minimal and loose. I didn’t want anyone waiting around, living half a life, while I was in some God-forsaken place, dodging bullets and doing things I couldn’t talk about. I usually even encouraged my brother and my grandmother—the only family I had—to give me a few weeks to decompress and shift out of survival mode before coming to visit me, or before I would make the trip home after a deployment. Gael showing up unannounced was one more reminder my little brother wasn’t exactly so little anymore. In fact, he seemed to have grown a couple of inches while I was away. He almost met me eye to eye now, and since we were on the same level, there was no missing the exhaustion and worry coloring his watery gaze.
I used my hold on his neck to drag him toward my…his…truck. I knew he was going to try and leave the truck with me whenever he decided to leave, but I wasn’t going to take it. He needed it more than I did, and it was important to me Gael never wanted for anything.
“Thanks for coming, but let’s get out of here. I’m starving.” I also wanted to sleep for a solid week so I could reset. “I can’t believe you came for the homecoming ceremony.”
The shock of seeing my baby brother in the crowd of excited wives and girlfriends and crying kids had finally worn off. If Gael and I didn’t look so much alike, I might’ve missed him altogether because I was conditioned to ignore the pang of remorse that I never let anyone in, never let anyone get close enough to wait for me. If one of my fellow soldiers hadn’t elbowed me and muttered, “Alvarez, is that your brother? He looks just like you,” I would’ve totally overlooked Gael.
“I’ve wanted to come for a long time.” Gael pushed out of my headlock and lifted a hand to brush his hair back from his forehead. “You’re always so secretive and private when it comes to what you’re doing and where you’re going. I grew up with you knowing every single move I made. It never seemed very fair that I’ve always been on the outside looking in when it comes to you.”