My Kind of Love (Finding Love #1) - Nikki Ash


“So, that’s it? You’re just going to pack up and leave without saying a word?”

I stuff the last of my toiletries into my duffel bag and pull the strings to close it. After taking a calming breath, I set the bag on the ground and give my wife my full attention. “I don’t know what you want me to say.”

Her brown eyes are filled with tears and her eyes are puffy from crying. I hate that my leaving is hurting her, but it’s out of my hands. Being in the military means leaving. She knew this when we married six years ago. When I left on my first deployment fresh out of high school. She knew it the following four times I was deployed after that.

“I guess I don’t want you to say anything.” Laura sighs, her eyes closing in hurt and frustration. “I want you to stay… I want you to want to stay.” She’s standing in the middle of my bedroom in her aqua-colored work scrubs, her hair pulled back in a ponytail. She’s a beautiful, smart, educated woman, and I wish I could feel something more for her than friendship, but I don’t. I wish I could give her what she wants, say what she needs me to say, but I’ve never lied to her, and I’m not about to start now.

When I don’t say anything, she opens her eyes and several tears fall. “I can’t do this anymore,” she whispers. “I love you so much, Ryan, but you’ll never love me back.”

“You know I love you,” I argue, but the conviction in my voice isn’t there because she isn’t referring to that kind of love. The love I felt for her in high school when I asked her to marry me. We were eighteen and about to graduate. Foster care fucked her over and she was on her own, on the streets. She was getting mixed up with the wrong crowd, and I couldn’t let it happen. She was my best friend—still is my best friend—and I refused to let circumstance destroy her. So, I asked her to marry me. Being my wife meant she would be taken care of. She would have a roof over her head, food in her belly, health insurance. She would be able to go to school and be safe.

She said yes, and after signing a prenup—something my dad insisted on—we said our I do’s. Three months later, I shipped out on my first deployment.

“I’ll always be grateful for what you did for me,” she says, taking my hands in hers. “I don’t even want to imagine where I would be if you hadn’t saved me.” She presses a soft kiss to the corner of my mouth, and I will myself to feel something, anything for my wife that amounts to more than friendship. But there’s nothing more.

“It’s because of you I was able to get my degree, be able to provide for myself,” she says, her lips upturning into a sad smile.

“You got more than a degree,” I joke. “You’re a fucking doctor.” I’m so damn proud of this woman. She came from a home similar to the one I was born into—drug addicts and neglect—but unlike me, who had Bentley and Kayla there to adopt me, before I was even old enough to understand how shitty life could be, she had no one—except me.

Laura laughs, a single tear sliding down her cheek. “A nurse practitioner,” she corrects with an eye roll.

“Same shit.” I shrug, wiping the tear from her face. I hate to see her cry. All I want is for her to be happy.

“I thought over time you would love me the way I love you,” she says, steering the conversation back on track. “I thought you would come home from being away and miss me and want me.” She swallows thickly. “But you never did. You’re away more than you’re home.”

“Tell me how to fix it,” I offer. I never set out to be a shitty husband. My intentions were honorable, but I was young and didn’t know what I was getting myself into. My dad warned me not to marry her. He said he would allow me to use some of the money from my trust fund to set her up. But throwing money at her felt ungenuine. Marrying her meant giving her a family, only in the end, I guess I never really gave her that either.

“That’s just it,” she says. “You can’t fix it. You