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“Good. When you’re ready for me,” he whispered in her ear, “I’m going to fuck you well, trust me.”

She stopped, pulling him back. “Let’s go home now,” she said, giggling.

“No, you need to eat. We’ll let the feelings build.”

“If you say so, Luke. Good God, I hope I don’t swoon.”

“Ha, I’ll hold you up,” he said, putting his arm around her shoulders.

The flirtation distracted her, and she wondered why she’d been resisting him. Inside, of course, the place was crowded because it was nearly lunch so she’d curtail the flirtation.

“The parking lot didn’t look that crowded,” Bridget said, grimacing.

“I’ll ask how long a wait,” he said. “Are you up for it?”

“I’ll wait.”

It would only be fifteen minutes, and they stood off to the side, his arm draped around her shoulders, whispering to her, making her laugh, preoccupied, so once again they didn’t notice when Dave and Katrina approached them.

“You’re home!”

“Oh my God!” Bridget cried, hugging Dave and then Katrina, and then so out of character, she wept. They huddled around her, Luke’s arms around her body, reassuring her.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m okay. If we had to run into anyone today, I’m glad it was you two. Where are my other cousins?”

“It’s a weekday, babe; they’re working. I snuck away for lunch,” Dave said.

“And I’m making my own hours these days. You look amazing. When we visited at rehab, you looked so fragile. Now you’re just a beautiful woman having lunch.”

“You like my new look? It’s sort of war weary modern.”

“I’d call it Wounded Warrior Hero,” Katrina said teary-eyed, grabbing her to hug. “Wow, I’m never emotional. My friends call me cold fish Katrina.”

“They do not,” Bridget replied, laughing, swatting a tear away with her fingertips.

“Eat with us,” Luke said.

“Are you sure?” Dave asked. “Your first date?”

“We have a kid together,” Bridget said, laughing. “It’ll help us to have the company.”

“She’s nervous about what happens next.”

“I would be, too,” Dave said.

The hostess grabbed menus and led them to a booth. Luke and Dave followed her and Katrina offered Bridget her arm, which she gladly took.

“People are looking at me,” she said. “But it’s not as uncomfortable as I thought it would be. I sort of feel their interest and their compassion.”

“It might be because you were in the paper when it happened. Dave saved the news clippings.”

“God, they still have newspapers?”

“They do, in the deep south. You haven’t been gone that long, have you?”

“I guess long enough,” she said, laughing. “So did they go into details about my wounds?”

“I think they used the term badly wounded. Bad journalism.”

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