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He waited for her to end the call first before he did. It was okay, they didn’t say I love you, but she’d called him for comfort and he would accept that. They were growing a friendship along with their baby. It was better than animosity.

The plan was set in motion. He’d work like a maniac seven days a week, finish up everything before her maternity leave, and do small jobs he could complete in a day or two until the baby was born. Then he’d take time off. It would be the first time in years.

He’d paid his house off and had the income from the rentals. Luke was always frugal because there was no one to spend money on, so he’d bank every cent he made in the coming months. It wasn’t a fortune, but they would be comfortable.

He popped the tab on a can of beer and took it out on the balcony off his bedroom. It was a large space with comfortable seating, and he and Bridget had spent evenings out there when it was too buggy to sit down on the terrace.

Tonight, he thought of her, how her pale-blond hair reflected the moonlight. Bridget had the most even temperament, more so than his. They were probably a little bland together. He wondered if that had been a problem for her. A sense of humor was important to her; she’d said that several times. Was it a hint that he needed to work on his? Stop taking things so literally?

The things he needed to work on added up, beginning with throwing away expired condoms. A wave of shame hit him and he quickly went back into the bedroom and emptied the box into the trash. He hoped that piece of trivia wouldn’t make it into the baby’s history.

Yawning, he decided it was time to call it a night. Leaving the doors to the balcony open, the sounds of the night flooded his room. With the echo of the mini waves hitting the beach, the owl calling for his mate, a wild peacock sounding his last cry for the night, in a minute Luke was sound asleep.

While Luke prepared for bed, Bridget got up from the futon and took a shower. She’d never been so conflicted, vacillating between the disappointment that being back in a familiar place hadn’t provided the joy she’d expected, to dread that the return to the grind was just hours away, and finally, longing for the comfort of Luke’s home, and Luke.

Brushing her hair back from her face, the adage ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ came to her. She hoped it would remain that way and not morph to ‘out of sight, out of mind’ which had happened when she was in theMiddle East.

“Grow up, Benoit,” she mumbled, securing her hair with a rubber band.

She went out into the living room. The other nurses were home, seeing her for the first time since she’d returned, and there was a tearful welcome. It shocked them she’d been demoted to nights, but chalked it up to exactly what she’d just thought: out of sight, out of mind.

“Oh well, I’m only back for a few months. I better head over to the hospital. Yippee! My first night working. I hope to God it’s not with some gung-ho maniac.”

Laughing along with Bridget, they wished her a good night as she left the safety of the apartment for the danger of the streets. Every sense on high alert, she wasn’t just protecting herself now; Luke’s baby was her responsibility.

Walking alone after dark wasn’t her norm. People she recognized were waiting for the hospital shuttle, which made the experience less surreal. She laughed at herself; she’d just spent four months in a war zone. Why would walking in a residential neighborhood at night be so intimidating?

The bus felt safe; the driver left the lights on so if someone caused trouble, the dark wouldn’t aid them. The vehicle pulled under the portico, the automatic doors of the ER to the right and a bank of dumpsters to the left.

Bridget held her breath walking into the ER, the smells of garbage, blood, human waste, and death overpowering. She saw a familiar face: Alex Elgrim.Um, General Elgrim to you.

“Bridget!” She heard his familiar voice and picked up her pace, but it was hopeless. “Bridget, wait up, will you? Why are you running away? Why are you back, I should ask?”

Relenting, she stopped and turned around.

“Alex, how’s your son?”

“He’s great.”

He grabbed her arm, pulling her over to a shadowy alcove and got down in her face, his breath a rich amalgam of mints and coffee and man. She got a little weak in the knees.

“Bridget, what happened? Mary Hail told me you left and now, here you are. What the hell happened?”

“I found out I was pregnant and had to come back.”

“Pregnant! Is it mine?”

“Oh God, you are impossible. No, Alex, oh great one, it’s not yours. You don’t have to worry.”

“I wasn’t worried. I’d welcome it. Susan and I separated. I’d give anything if you’d give me another chance.”

“Alex, get over yourself. You were fine. There are noother chancesneeded. We had a fling. I knew you were married and I’m not proud of that. Now I’m in a situation that you do not want to get in the middle of, trust me. After I have this baby, I’m going back to Kandahar. I’ll go back if I have to get there on my own.”


“I just have to. I can’t explain it.” She shook him off. “I’ll be late for work.”

“Wait, she put you on nights?”

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