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“Just let me know. I guess I’d better get to work,” Luke said, reaching for his empty coffee cup.

“Before you leave, we were talking about Bridget,” Dave reminded him. “I wonder why she kept the pregnancy a secret?”

“I have the feeling she didn’t know she was pregnant until she told me. They’re so busy and it’s been nonstop, twelve-hour days with no time off. She finally had other symptoms that made her stop and think.”

“I can’t even imagine being in a war zone.” Dave cleaned up the coffee mess. “I guess I’d better get to work,” he said. “You have the key code for the garage, right? And please let me know when Bridget is due to arrive.”

“I will. Thanks for the coffee.”

Luke left, feeling better for having shared his news. He didn’t reveal everything, but it was enough for now.

The garage was an old cypress structure, built for horse-drawn wagons. Sheriff Chastain’s big pickup truck just fit. But it was on a granite foundation and had survived hurricanes and tornados and was still standing.

A door at the side of the building led to a staircase which went up to an attic space with enough headroom for Luke, who was well over six feet tall, to stand up comfortably. But for someone with the sheriff’s height to be able to stand up straight, Luke added a dormer across the side facing the house. He’d install a powder room under the eaves, along with storage and a small kitchenette, just for coffee making and snacks.

A wave of loneliness swept over him, so weird because he’d always worked alone, lived alone, and Bridget, with her timely phone call, had ostensibly destroyed that for him.

He got out earbuds and switched to music, and the first thing lined up to play was, of course, Lenny Welsh’s “Since I Fell for You.”

“Ugh,” Luke mumbled, leaving it to play.

If there were any tears to get out, he might as well let them come now. The first lines were so depressing,when you give love but never get love, but he laughed out loud and let it play, hoping he’d purge.

In the middle of the song, his phone beeped. He looked at the time; it was after midnight in Kandahar.

It was a text from Bridget.Orders came though. I’m leaving here at eight in the morning and arriving in New York at four thirty a.m. Three thirty a.m. your time. I’ll get the next flight out to New Orleans and will call you when I get to my parents’ house. I’ve thought long and hard about this for the past couple of hours and think you need to face the music with me. It will look better if you’re by my side when I tell them you’re taking the baby when I return to the Middle East.

Luke reread it, chuckling. She had it all planned out. But she was a leader and he was ready to take orders. If she said he was going to be a daddy, then he’d be a daddy.

I’ll pick you up from the airport, he wrote.We’ll walk in together. And then I want you to come back to Cypress Cove with me.

Are you sure?she asked.

I’m sure. We have to set up the nursery. How long do you have?

One week. Ugh, she answered.

How in the hell were they going to get anything accomplished in a week? The only thing he could think of was he’d have to go back to Southern California with her. But he’d bring it up later.

Okay, let me know when you land in NOLA and I’ll be there.

Luke, thank you. Thank you for standing by me and being there for me,she wrote.

He let her have the last word for a minute. Then, he wrote,You’re welcome. Get some sleep. See you in about thirty hours.

As requested, he sent Sheriff Chastain a text.Picking up Bridget from the airport tomorrow. She’s coming here with me first to set up the nursery and I’ll leave it up to her to determine if she’ll have time to see the family.

He worked until six that evening with one break when Bridget let him know she was boarding a plane and would get in touch when they had a layover in Dubai. Everything was so foreign to him, beginning with the airplane. He’d never even been on a plane.

The unknowns cascaded down, each item he’d never experienced before, and the things that were happening to him which didn’t live up to his fantasy.

The big dilemma in his life had been not being able to find a serious girlfriend, to get married, have a family, build a life together. When he finally had almost all those things, an officer in the Navy for a sort-of-girlfriend, about to leave their baby to be raised by Luke when she would return to a war zone, well, it made no sense.

By an act of his will, Luke would try make sense of the chaos. He wished he had a female confidant, someone with whom he could share his deepest fears about this, his inadequacies of impending fatherhood.

She’ll have maternity leave.A thought which dropped into his brain from an unknown source brought him so much relief. She’d have weeks where they hopefully could get to know each other and acclimate with a new baby. Their last goodbyes, taking her to the airport to fly back to hell, that wasn’t something he wanted to think much about.

As he loaded his truck, he admonished himself. “You’re getting ahead of yourself. Take a day at a time.”