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By Karen Kingsbury
ZondervanCopyright © 2006 Karen Kingsbury
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTwo blue and gray fighter jets raced low over the neighborhood and looped toward the barren mountains in the west. Lauren Gibbs heard the vibration in the subtle rattle of picture frames on the mantel, sensed it in the wood floor of the old house, felt it all the way to her soul. Training drills, same as most days. She froze long enough to watch them, long enough to catch her fiancé's attention.
"They still bug you."
It wasn't a question. Shane Galanter doled out the stack of plates in his hand one at a time onto the white linen tablecloth.
"Not really." Lauren grabbed the napkins and followed behind him, setting one at each place. She caught his eye and hesitated. No fooling him, not when he knew all the back roads of her heart. She released a slow breath. "Okay, yes." She set a napkin down on the next plate. "They bother me."
Shane didn't ask if her frustration was with the noise of the jets, or with the fact that they flew training maneuvers over the neighborhood where he lived, a few blocks from the navy's Top Gun facility in Fallon, Nevada. Or if it was something bigger. Like the fact that these were the very jets and pilots that would be used in battle if necessary.
He didn't have to ask. He already knew.
Because long ago he'd learned to know her mind, back when they first fell in love as kids. Yes, time and circumstances had separated them for nearly twodecades, and now that they were in their midthirties, they'd both changed. But even so, ever since they'd found each other again, Shane could still look into her eyes and know what she was thinking.
"Sometimes, Lauren." He crooked his finger and placed it gently beneath her chin. His eyes looked more tired than usual. "Sometimes I wonder about us."
Panic stirred and she felt her world tilt. She shouldn't have hesitated at the noise, shouldn't have looked out the window. "It's no big deal." An anxious laugh sounded in her throat. "This is your life. I can handle it."
He didn't look away. "It's about to be your life too." His tone was kind, careful. "Remember?"
"I know." She put her hand alongside his cheek and kissed him. "By then I'll be used to it."
He searched her eyes. "It's been six months, Lauren."
She refused to give fear a foothold. Instead she kissed him again, slower this time. "I'm trying." She breathed the words against his lips. "Give me that, at least."
The wedding was set for Christmas Eve-not by her choosing. She would've had them married by now. Every conflict resolved and nothing but a bright future ahead of them. Their nineteen-year-old daughter Emily felt the same, especially since her fall figured to be crazy-busy. She had accepted a soccer scholarship to Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, and she was about to start work in the public information office of the army base at nearby Fort Lewis. Following in her father's footsteps. "Make it a summer wedding," Emily had pleaded with them. "Before school starts."
But Lauren figured Emily wasn't worried about her schedule as much as she was worried about her parents working things out. Even so, Shane wouldn't budge. He wanted to wait and work through some of the issues that stood in their way. Faith, his career choice, their politics, and nearly twenty years between the first time they fell in love and this second chance ...
That was fine. Lauren would wait. She'd do whatever it took to prove to Shane that she could deal with all this. The smallness of Fallon, Nevada; the hour's drive west to the Fallon Airport every time her editors at Time magazine sent her on an assignment. And the incessant sound of fighter jets overhead. She could learn to deal with all of it, right? Even if there were days when being so close to a military base threatened her sanity.
Shane set the plates down and turned into her arms. "So you're saying-" he wove his fingers through her straight blonde hair-"I have nothing to wonder about."
At his touch, the warm tone in his voice, Lauren's world righted itself. She relaxed in his embrace. "Nothing."
"Alright, then." He kissed the tip of her nose. "I'll get the lasagna."
As long as Shane responded to her this way, as long as it took only her kiss to send him into her arms, then she could find a way to live here. She had to find a way. Yes, she was still writing military features for the magazine and flying around the country for interviews several times each month. Most of the time that was enough. So what if some days she wanted to jump on a plane and head back to Afghanistan, to her work as a Time magazine war correspondent. Never mind that she still mistrusted the government and the military and their roles in the Iraqi war. Never mind that her fiancé's political views were on the other end of the hemisphere from hers ...
As long as she had Shane, she could look past all of it.
The doorbell rang, and Lauren took a step back from the table. Their company had arrived. Three couples, none of whom she knew. Not really. Two of the guys worked with Shane in the training department, and the third was a pilot they were considering as an addition to the instruction staff. Each was bringing his wife.
Excerpted from Ever After by Karen Kingsbury Copyright © 2006 by Karen Kingsbury. Excerpted by permission.
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