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“In a good way, though. Remember, the last place where I was out and about was Afghanistan. High desert and mountains. This is like a jungle.”

“It is lush; that’s for sure.” He took her hand. “I can’t believe how unsophisticated I am compared to you. The first time I flew on a plane was to meet you in Germany. Now I never want to go on one again.”

“Ha! I bet. Me neither.” She squeezed his hand, glad they were talking about the deeper things. “This is really helping me. You sharing your doubts and fears is making it easy for me to let go of mine. Almost all of this crap is in the past. Once I can get over it, I can work on mobility and adapting to my unfamiliar look and body. I was never that vain.

“The first time I met you, that first weekend at Bayou Cottage, Maggie Angel wanted me to cover up because I was wearing a thong bathing suit. I can’t imagine I’ll ever wear one again.”

Frowning, Luke glanced at her. “Why would you say that? Your body is wonderful.”

“You haven’t seen me naked yet, Luke. I have burn scars all over the left half of my body. They aren’t horrible, but they’re there.”

“The doctor said they’ll fade. You let me be the judge of whether you should wear a thong.”

His voice quivered a little, and she looked over at him, a tic in his jaw clearly there. She’d upset him unintentionally.

“I’m sorry. I made you mad.”

“No way. I’m trying to figure out what my role will be in helping to get your self-confidence back up to speed. Whatever led you to wear a thong before, we need to restore.”

She giggled, charmed. “I had to work out for basic training and I just kept it up. I hate it, but I’ll do it again. I had to strengthen my upper body and my good leg. God, I hate that, calling old faithful heremy good leg. It’s not Stubby’s fault he’s a stub.”

“Wait, Stubby’s a guy? You just called your leg a he.”

They roared with laughter, teasing each other.

“Let’s eat here,” he said, pointing at the diner on the outskirts of Saint John’s Parish, just before the village limits of Cypress Cove. “Chances are on a Monday we won’t run into too many people we know unless your cousin the sheriff is here.”

“They came to see me a few weeks ago. Dave and his girlfriend Katrina and their little boy who I nicknamed Wild Dave. Oh my God, that kid is a terror.”

Luke laughed. “They are teaching him to run track and he’s not two yet. He’s gentle around Emily, though.”

“Aw, that’s so nice. They’re second cousins.”

“Yes! Wow, I forgot the relationship.” He stopped the car in the restaurant parking lot. “You ready?”

“My first public foray with a fake leg.”

She sat for a while, looking at the building. “I forgot the eyepatch, too.”

“You look hot as hell, Bridget, I swear to you.”

“Oh well, to hell with detractors.”

“Ha! No one would dare to say a word. Look at the size of my arms.”

He leaned over so she had to acknowledge it when he curled his fist and made a muscle. She burst out laughing. “Okay, you made your point. I’m safe with you.”

“You are so safe with me.”

He pushed his door open and got out, bending down to look at her before he shut it. “You look great.”

“Right,” she said, pushing the door open.

He was right there, ready to help if she needed him. “I’m okay walking but I think we can hold hands. We do have a kid together.”

“I know what everything looks like,” he said, moving his eyebrows up and down. “Remember? I was there.”

“Oh God, not before we go into the diner, please,” she said, making him laugh. “I’m getting all bothered.”

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