Home to Stay (The Long Road Home #2) - Maryann Jordan Page 0,2

to meet you. Where are you stationed?”

“I’m out now. Medical discharge.”

Jaxson’s eyes widened slightly before his gaze landed on the puckered skin near his eye. “Sorry, man. Me, too.”

A bit more of the tension he’d held in his shoulders lifted, but he hated it’d taken another soldier’s condition for that to happen.

Blessing stepped over to the next man, who was now standing nearby. “And this is Sebastian Durand. Navy. He’s on vacation, heading to his home in Louisiana.”

They clasped hands as well, and Sebastian smiled in greeting. “Vacation… leave… hell, probably cleaning up from this storm.”

John nodded, the soft Cajun accent reminding him of a few of his Louisiana buddies. “Hope you can find some time to relax.”

“And over here is Kyle Jones, also Navy. Heading home to the Appalachians.” Blessing clasped her hands in front of her and sighed, a smile curving her lips. “The mountains are so lovely. So peaceful.”

Kyle had his foot resting on the coffee table, a cumbersome medical walking boot extended. He slid forward to stand, halting when John reached over and offered his hand.

“Don’t get up, man. Keep the load off that leg.”

Kyle nodded, relief flooding his features, although John was sure the other man would have rather no one noticed his discomfort. “Thanks. I couldn’t believe what a clusterfuck—” He blushed, glancing over at Blessing. “Sorry, ma’am.”

She waved away his apology, her ever-present smile firmly in place. “My goodness, I think that’s exactly the right description for a crowded airport that gets shut down.” She cast her gaze around the room. “Well, I’ll leave you gentlemen to rest.” With that, she turned and started to walk out the door, stopping at John, her hand gently on his arm. “You know, I have a feeling that you’re not looking forward to your return to Maine. Perhaps it’s not so much what Maine can do for you but what you can repay.”

Blinking, he stared down at her, his brows raised to his forehead. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”

“Find some way to repay the kindness that someone has shown to you. Gratitude goes a long way to helping us find our own happiness.” With that, she patted his arm again and left the room.

He stared at the empty doorway, her words swirling inside, adding to the confusion and fatigue pulling at him.

“She’s an odd one. Real nice, but a bit odd.” Sebastian’s words rang true, and John walked over to the sofas, settling into a space next to him with Jaxson and Kyle across from them.

Kyle shook his head. “She’s got a weird vibe about her, almost like she knows what’s going on before being told.”

“She took one look at my face and knew why I was getting out.” John lifted his hand, his fingers grazing over the scar by his left eye. Seeing the others’ gazes following his hand, he shrugged. “Shrapnel. Lucky I’m not blind, but I lost my peripheral vision on this side.” He snorted. “Not bad and yet bad enough.”

“What did you do?” Jaxson asked, the leather squeaking as he shifted in his seat.

“Special Forces. Engineer Sergeant.”

Kyle grinned. “You can build it and demolish it.”

He chuckled, the first true sound of mirth that had left his lips in days. “Yeah, that’s about the long and short of it.” His gaze dropped to the boot again. “You going back in?”

Kyle’s short-lived grin was replaced with another scowl. “Don’t know. We’ll see how the recuperation goes. No room for a gimp with my SEAL team. I may have to decide between paper-pusher and getting out.”

“Fuck, man.” John understood Kyle’s frustration, seeing it mirrored on his own face every day.

“No paper-pushing for a has-been heavy equipment mechanic.”

John shifted his gaze to Jaxson, nodding slowly. He opened his mouth, then snapped it shut again. Who the hell am I to offer words of… what? Condolences? Like that’d be appreciated. Instead, he simply nodded his understanding.

“What about you?” Sebastian asked.

Shaking his head, he sighed. “Don’t know. Got out and heading back home, for whatever that’s worth.” He rarely talked about himself to strangers, but sitting on the deep cushions in the comfort of the library, the sounds of the storm raging outside far away and only the three other men as company, he relaxed. “I was an Army brat. Mom took off when I was a kid. When Dad deployed, I stayed with my grandparents in their little house on the coast of Maine. One day, men in uniform came and that was that. Dad had been