Page 10

A Perfect Wreck Mila Crawford, Aria Cole 2022/8/3 13:46:49

Or that was the story I kept telling myself. But if I was brutally honest, they were not forgotten at all. On the contrary, they were cemented in my memory as two of the most meaningful moments of my life. That, however, was a truth I’d share with no one. Callie was her own person and needed a chance to grow up, figure out who she was. I wanted that for both of us.

Weston and I offered to walk Callie home. We’d drop West off first, and then it would be just the two of us. Watching Callie hug my parents goodbye was tough. I tried not to have fatalistic thoughts about what might happen if I never made it home.

The Hartford sky was full of stars as the three of us made our way down the sidewalk. Weston asked Callie questions about her internship, how long the nursing program was, and whether or not she’d stay in town for school.

“Where the heck do you get your drive from?” he asked her. “It seems like you and Crosby have life all figured out. When Asa and I were in high school, all we thought about were the next five minutes.”

“Maybe we learned from your mistakes. No, I don’t know. Helping people makes me feel like I’m affecting change. I figured if Crosby can fly halfway around the world to make her dreams happen, I can at least focus and make sure I get into the program I’ve got my heart set on.”

“Don’t blame your bullheaded determination on Crosby, Callie. You’ve been crazy driven since you were two,” I told her. It felt good to have her walking by my side. I fought the urge to intertwine my fingers with hers. One of the reasons I’d been so fiercely protective of the girls was because I didn’t want to ever see them throw away their bright futures for some idiot boyfriend. I’d seen it happen many times before, with significant others following each other to schools. I wouldn’t have the girls putting a relationship before their personal potential. Eventually, the choice would be up to them. But for now, I’d keep them under my wing while I still could.

“Asa, will you come home after training if you don’t get deployed immediately?”

“Maybe for a weekend.” It was impossible not to sink into her expressive green eyes, to yearn for a connection that might or might not be there. I wanted to tell her to wait for me, but that would be unfair.

Weston and I shook hands under the streetlight in front of his house. He was driving me to boot camp, so our goodbye wasn’t happening tonight. Callie and Weston exchanged a hug, and I couldn’t help but wonder if they were the smart two. Staying local seemed reasonable; perhaps Crosby and I were just doing too much. But the plan was that I’d eventually take over my parents’ business. Ever since Dad got sick, it’d been difficult for me to stay in school. I didn’t see why I needed to waste time and money on a degree when I could be helping out with finances instead. Dropping out and joining the military seemed like the only option that would satisfy my parents. They wouldn’t let me sacrifice my education for their sake, but they would let me do it for my country.

When it was just Callie and me walking in tandem in the shadows, the energy between us seemed to rise up out of the earth and bind us together. Even the path we were walking seemed lit up by some supernatural force.

I’d love to have the freedom to take her in my arms and kiss her. But I wouldn’t yield decency and respect to hormones—she was too young for me anyway.

“Thanks for walking me home, Asa. Please be careful on your journey. Having both you and Dean away at war feels like some kind of punishment.” Callie fell easily into my arms, and I couldn’t hide the satisfied smile that stole over my face.

“Be good while I’m gone,” I said into the hair at the top of her head. My arms crossed behind her back, and I pulled her close in a bear hug. “Don’t get distracted. You’re on a great path, so just keep doing more of the same.”

“Okay,” she said, pulling away. Her expression turned to mockery—Callie Langdon didn’t like being told what to do.

My chest felt empty with her absence. I wanted to hold her tightly to me for even just a few seconds more. I didn’t often think about the danger or my mortality, but Weston, Crosby, and Callie were my soft spots, my proverbial Achilles’ heel. I’d take a bullet for them all, but what I really wanted was to see all three of them again, have them in my life forever. Tiny explosions of emotion ran amok under my skin. I was not one to run my mouth, but I wanted to tell Callie how she made me feel—possessive, jealous, territorial, and close to the edge of stability.