Today we are celebrating the re-launch of a contemporary romance title by Jennifer Millikin by participating in the blog tour. THE DAY HE WENT AWAY is a standalone novel, and you can read it for FREE in Kindle Unlimited. Follow Jennifer for exclusive updates and news about her titles.
The Day He Went Away by Jennifer Millikin
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Life was roses.
I was happy. I had my dream job. I’d finally fallen in love with the man who’d been waiting for me since he was a boy. Soon his four years in the Army would be over, and we’d be together forever. My perfect life was squarely in my palm.
And then it was snatched from me.
The harshest, cruelest truth became my reality.
And I turned into a shell of my former self.
Then a stranger arrived, wearing Army fatigues and closely cropped dark hair.
Fulfilling a promise to his comrade-in-arms brought him to my front door.
And the focus of his promise, it turned out, was me.
His mission was simple:
Care for me.
Bring me back to life.
But what started out as an uncomplicated mission is quickly turning personal.
He came here to take care of me.
But neither of us expected how much he’d need me, too.
And we definitely didn’t expect these feelings.
My broken heart knows how wrong it is.
We’ll fight it, harder than we’ve ever fought anything.
But I’m afraid to win, and I’m even more terrified to lose.
Of all his missions, I may be his most dangerous.
The airport comes into view, and suddenly, it looks like the enemy. Its goal is to take me away from Kate and send me to a desolate land filled with people who want to do me harm.
“I liked this place a whole lot more when I was here ten days ago.” My dislike grows as Kate takes the ramp up to the Terminal Four parking garage.
Kate’s voice is soft. “Me too.”
She finds a spot on the fifth level and parks. Neither of us make a move.
“I don’t want to get out.” I stare out past the half wall of concrete at the mountain range in front of us. It looks too much like the place I’m headed.
“So don’t.” There’s challenge in her voice.
We both ignore her statement. Being AWOL is the last thing we need.
Just ten months. If anybody can do it, Kate can. She’s strong and loyal. Kate can Master it.
I turn my gaze from the mountains to her beautiful face. “This has been the best trip. Way better than all my other trips home, combined.” I tug gently on the ponytail hanging over her shoulder.
“That’s only because I let you kiss me this time.” She tries to smile, but it doesn’t develop into a real grin.
“That certainly had something to do with it.” I hope my joke disguises how bleak I feel.
I listen to her laugh, work it into my memory, even though I already know all her laughs by heart. I’m adding this exact moment to my memory bank, cataloguing the view of the brown mountains, coupled with the smell of Kate’s sweet scented lotion and the feel of the cool air as it flows from the air conditioning.
How am I supposed to say goodbye to her? She’s taken me to the airport plenty of other times, and our goodbyes were always sad then, too, but this one is different.
“How do we do this, Ethan?” Kate’s on my wave-length, as usual.
I think for a minute, then say, “I have a plan.”
Kate loves plans. She likes parameters she can exist within.
“I’m going to get my bag out of your trunk, and leave it next to your car. After that I’m going to get back in my seat, kiss you, whisper a few sweet nothings in your ear, and say goodbye. Then I’ll pick up my bag and walk inside.” I raise my eyebrows at her, silently asking if she agrees.
She nods and looks relieved.
I do exactly what I said I would do. She pops open the trunk and watches in the rearview mirror as I remove my duffel and set it up against the side of the car. Then I get back in and sink into the seat with an audible thud.
“So.” I turn to her, but I stop talking when I see her face. Her features are taut as she tries to hold herself together.
“Please don’t cry, Katie.”
“I’m not crying.”
I don’t argue. Instead, I reach for her face, gently cupping her cheeks in my hands.
“I’ll be back before you know it. Ten months, that’s it. Then it’s game on. Me and you.” My voice rings with conviction.
Tears slip down her face, and I have to fight my own urge to cry. Kate needs another plan.
“Let’s take a vacation when I get back. We can spend some time alone together. No distractions. We could go to Mexico? Or maybe Park City? It’ll be winter when I get back.”
Kate looks at me, a little pout pulling on her lower lip. “I know what you’re doing. It’s working.”
I kiss her with a passion that consumes me. The fire in me fills her, the car, the whole damn airport. Every part of me is aflame as I kiss her. All the while, I silently pray it won’t be the last time. And if it is… I’ve taken measures to make sure she’s cared for.
She’s breathless when I pull away. My mouth drifts over her cheek and to her ear. “Wait for me. I’ll come for you.” Tears sting my eyes.
“Stay,” she murmurs.
If only I could.
“We’ll get through this, and then it’s me and you, forever. I love you.” I’m trying to be strong, but a tear sneaks out and rolls down my cheek.
“I love you, Ethan.”
“The time will fly by, and I’ll be home soon. I love you,” I say it again, because oh my God, I finally can.
“I love you, too.” Her trickle of tears is now a gush.
I kiss her one more time and get out of the car. I swing the duffel over my shoulder and walk. Each step moves me farther away from her, and closer to the danger awaiting me.
I don’t look back. My situation has been decided, chosen by me three years ago. I knew what I was signing up for. I have a duty to uphold. I’m nothing if not loyal.
Jennifer Millikin is a contemporary fiction author of five full-length novels and a contributor for Scottsdale Moms Blog. When she isn’t writing she can be found cooking, hiking, or in downward dog.