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Make me whole, p.5

Make Me Whole, page 5

 part  #1 of  Callaway Series


Make Me Whole

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  “Yeah, I saw that. Well, would you just look at that; maybe I do know what I’m doing.” Before he could say another word, she was in his arms, giving him the biggest, tightest hug Cole had ever received in his life.

  She pulled away, looked him in the eye, said, “Thank you,” and kissed him, but not long enough for Cole’s liking. He saw the light flash in her eyes when she realized what she’d done.

  “I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me. I’m going to see if your mom needs help with dinner.” He watched her as she walked back to the house like the ground was on fire.

  “Jamie, wait….” But she was already heading into the house and Cole stood there like an idiot, grinning from ear to ear. He didn’t quite understand what was happening, or how this woman was getting his emotions all hyped up so fast, but he had a feeling he would be thanking Becca for sending Jamie his way.

  He headed back to the house when Nick stopped him. “How did it go?” Nick asked, putting his gloves back on.

  His head was still spinning from the feel of her lips on his, so it took him a few seconds to gather enough wits to answer his brother. “Good. She loves the water, so I might have to add the activity more often. Becca did a good job with her, but what she went through fucked with her head.”

  “It’s only fair she fucks with yours now. Oh, come on, man, I see the way you look at her. I mean, hell, she’s beautiful, but I’ve never seen you look at a woman like that.” Was he that obvious when it came to the brunette who was turning his world upside down?

  Hell, could he even feel like this about someone he’d just met? “I’ve known her for a day, Nick. You’re pushing it.”

  “Maybe I am, maybe I’m not, but if Becca sent her here at this time of year, you better bet your ass she had an ulterior motive.” Before Cole could add anything, Nick walked back to the barn, leaving Cole to do some serious thinking about the woman who was slowly turning him inside out.

  Chapter Four

  The rest of the afternoon was a blur. Jamie did everything she could to keep busy and avoid being alone with Cole. She went up to her room to get ready for dinner. When she was by herself, she fell on her bed and sighed. She couldn’t believe she’d kissed Cole. Okay, it wasn’t an all-consuming passionate kiss, but she’d still kissed him. Being around him today had made it more difficult to deny her attraction to him and when she’d noticed she wasn’t limping anymore, she was so happy she just acted on impulse.

  She took a few minutes to collect herself, had a shower, and decided what to wear for dinner. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail and she’d opted for no makeup. She wore jeans and a fleece sweater, as the temperature dropped at night. When she was all set, she headed downstairs and straight to the kitchen to see if Kathy needed any extra help.

  The house was quiet. Jamie could hear Cole in his office, but he didn’t force the situation, staying there until his brothers came home for dinner. They hadn’t seen each other since the kiss and she knew eventually they would have to talk about it, but right then, she was just happy to avoid the conversation altogether.

  “Hey, Mom, Jamie. I don’t know what you two have been up to today, but whatever it is, it smells amazing,” John said as he gave his mother a kiss on the cheek, and then surprised Jamie by doing the same to her. “I’m going to go wash up for dinner.”

  Andrew came in with a bandage around his arm. Kathy dropped the wooden spoon on the counter and went to see how badly he was hurt. “What happened, honey?”

  “It’s nothing, just a scrape. I’ll have Cole take a look at it before dinner,” Andrew told his mom, giving her a kiss on the cheek. “Hi, Jamie, how was therapy today?”

  “It was good. Definitely different from anything I did with Becca, but I’m ready for something new. Cole took me to the hot tub for the afternoon session and I managed a few hours without limping afterwards.”

  Andrew leaned over the counter to give Jamie a kiss on the cheek before heading upstairs to clean up. “That’s awesome. You’re in good hands with Cole.” He leaned closer to whisper in her ear, “But judging by the blush on your face, you already knew that. Don’t overthink it, honey.”

  Nick came in like a tornado a few minutes later before heading upstairs to change for dinner. One strong woman had raised these boys. Not one of them came in without kissing their mother. These men had been raised to respect women.

  Jamie was peeling some carrots when she looked over at Kathy, who seemed lost in thought. “Kathy, is everything okay?”

  “I’m fine, honey. I’m just thinking about my boys. You know, I never thought I would get through raising four boys when their dad died, but they all grew up so fast. Sometimes I wonder if this place is where they really want to be.” Jamie didn’t believe for a minute that they wanted to be anywhere else. This place was where they belonged. It was written all over their faces.

  She walked over to the table, sat down beside Kathy, and reached for her hands. “Kathy, you have raised four incredible, strong, committed, and respectful men. You have nothing to worry about. It’s obvious this is their home and they love it here.”

  “Thank you, honey,” Kathy said, squeezing her hand. “Sometimes, life throws you a curveball you think you can’t handle, but you have to give yourself the chance to see what might happen if you just go with it. Maybe coming here and meeting Cole is your curveball, and maybe you just have to give yourself a chance to see if things work out.”

  This was not the conversation she was hoping to have, especially not with the mother of the man who was making her head spin, yet the words spilled from her mouth regardless. “Oh, Kathy, I just met Cole. Sure, I feel this connection to him. But then I question myself, because can you feel this attached to someone you just met, or am I feeling it because he’s sympathetic to what I’ve been through? Is it right to feel this… this… need to get closer to someone you barely know? Plus, the fact that I’m his patient, well, it complicates things a little.”

  Kathy laughed. “These Callaway men, they’re an intense bunch, but when they find the woman they know is the one, there’s no stopping them. When I met my husband, I was nineteen. I was young and free, convinced David would get over me and move on, but three weeks after we met, he proposed and we were together for thirty-one years. What I’m trying to say, honey, is that Cole, in many ways, is just like his dad. He’s intense, and he’s not going to let you fight whatever this is between the two of you. Now, I know it’s crazy to think about it all, especially since you’ve just met, but honey, sometimes love just happens. There’s no hope in fighting destiny.”

  “My recovery is so important to me. I never thought I would feel an emotional connection like the one I feel with Cole. It’s so wrong, because if anything were to happen, it could jeopardize my recovery.” Spending energy denying she was attracted to Cole physically and emotionally wouldn’t do her any good, but Jamie wasn’t one to throw caution out the window because she wanted a man. The big question remained—would he feel the same way?

  “Honey, have faith in Cole to take you exactly where you need to go, even if in the end, that’s not where you thought you would be. Cole has always had the ability to bring out the best in people, even when people think they’re lost. If he feels like lines are being crossed, he’ll step up and do something about it.” Kathy rose from the chair and headed toward the kitchen counter. “Now, let’s finish this meal before these ogres come back down.”

  They all ate dinner, talked about the ranch, and the brothers questioned her about her travel experiences. “How did you get started doing this, anyway?” John asked her between bites of pie. She laughed at his question because in all the years she’d been doing this type of work, she couldn’t ever remember someone asking her how she got started, apart from her coworkers.

  “I guess I worked hard. I went to college, then I went to Harvard and got involved with their Humanitarian Initiative and the rest just kind of happened.” She was downplaying the work she had put into her
career, and with one look at Cole, she knew he wasn’t buying any of what she was selling.

  “That’s awesome! Did you deal with military guys, like Cole, a lot?”

  She laughed at John’s question because the truth was she had never met someone like Cole in her life. “Not like Cole, that’s for sure, but yeah, we had military units as protection most of the time.” She let her mind wander back to the unit of men who had given their lives trying to protect her, and she felt the twinge of guilt she tried to keep buried deep down.

  She knew Kathy could sense her uneasiness of the direction the conversation was headed, so she took over. “Well, honey, we’re just happy we get to have you here with us.”

  Tears filled Jamie’s eyes following Kathy’s comment, but she managed not to break down and cry. She squeezed her hand softly and said, “Thank you.”

  Jamie shared with them what she was comfortable with, leaving out the gruesome stuff that wasn’t made for dinner table conversation. She felt Cole’s eyes on her throughout dinner, but avoided eye contact. The conversation she’d had with Kathy still played in her head and she was trying to make sense of it all. Once they finished eating, the men offered to do the dishes so Jamie took her cup of tea and a fleece blanket, which was on the bench, and went outside on the porch.

  In the kitchen, John punched Cole on the shoulder. “You’re an idiot. What the hell are you still doing in here when she’s out there?”

  “I was just giving her some space. She had a rough day today,” Cole told his brother while drying the plates. He wanted to go out there and see if she was okay. He’d noticed how the conversation at dinner made her emotional, and although he felt an urge to protect her from whatever she was feeling, he didn’t want to press. Jamie wasn’t the kind of woman you pushed until she was ready.

  “All the more reason for you to be out there with her, instead of in here with us. Go!” His brothers were right. This was the perfect time to show Jamie how good they could be together if she gave them a chance.

  Jamie was sitting on the front porch, tea in hand, staring at the stars and the moon when he walked outside. God, she was so beautiful. She turned around when she heard the door open and smiled at him like he was a gift she’d been waiting for her whole life. Hell if he didn’t feel the exact same way. The woman was making him crazy with need. Not just the sexual need he knew she would satisfy, either. There was an emotional connection there that destabilized him.

  “Do you mind if I sit with you for a while?” he asked, knowing he had just interrupted her thoughts.

  The minute he’d seen her sitting there, looking like she belonged in his life, he was hit again by how stunning this woman was. She was simple, yet elegant. She had jeans on with a fleece sweater, her hair in a ponytail, and no trace of makeup, yet she made his vision blur. As he stood there, seeing her face so peaceful while she stared at the sky made his heart ache, because he wanted to see that look on her face every day. The knowledge that she was haunted by demons and by experiences, which would have broken the strongest man in his unit, was painfully difficult to handle. Once more, he found himself wishing he could go back in time and take her place.

  He sat down beside her on the swing and heard her sigh when their thighs touched. Maybe his brother had been right; maybe she needed him more than she cared to ask. “You don’t get a sky like this in the city. It’s so beautiful and clear,” she said, avoiding eye contact with him. He was pretty sure she had no idea she was making his insides heat just by sitting beside her.

  “After my dad died, I used to come out here to think about whatever was going on in my head. When I came back from Afghanistan, I didn’t want to talk to anyone, so I hid in the cabin in the mountains and would go outside at night to look up at the sky. It was the only thing that brought me peace.”

  Cole asked himself where that had come from. He never talked about Afghanistan and he sure as hell didn’t talk about how hard it had been for him to come back to the ranch. But talking to Jamie, it just felt right.

  “That must have been hard. I know a lot of ex-military guys who didn’t adjust that well to being back home.” Her voice was soft and kind, and unlike others who had tried to get him to talk, she didn’t pity him or try to mother him. She just cared.

  He took a deep breath and a sip of whiskey before he continued. “You know, it’s funny. It wasn’t so much returning home that was hard, it was seeing everyone look at me differently, as if I were broken or something. I was injured. I lost friends over there, and then I came back here and people looked at me with pity. I just couldn’t deal with that very well, so I devoted a lot of my time to building the clinic.”

  He was opening up to her, not because he wanted her to talk about what had happened, but simply because he wanted to share things with her, and that was a first for him. She turned around on the swing to face him, putting her hand on his forearm, and he felt the electricity of her touch down to his toes. Before she could take her hand away, he covered hers with his. He didn’t say anything, just waited for her to share what she wanted him to know.

  “When they captured me, I thought I was going to die. I thought, ‘Well, this is it, they’re going to kill me,’ and when they didn’t, I thought, ‘Well, I must have a lucky star.’” She took a deep breath and he squeezed her hand, reassuring her that he was right there with her, telling her she was safe with him.

  “Five days later, I was praying they would kill me. They tortured me endlessly because they were convinced I was military. I kept telling them I was just an aid worker, but they didn’t believe me. They used knives, guns and machetes, trying to scare me into talking. They wouldn’t let me sleep or eat. And then one day, the tribe leader came into the room where I was being held, and ordered his men to strip me naked, then he left me like that for days. They didn’t rape me, but humiliating me like that broke something inside of me.”

  Anger boiled through Cole’s veins, threatening to sear his hear and break free. He wanted to find these assholes and kill them one by one for what they had done to her. He liked this woman even more for how strong she was. He didn’t talk, just listened as she went on.

  “It took the special ops team ten days to find me and get me out of that hellhole. Sergeant Craig Cassidy… that’s the man who found me. I was beyond scared when he came into the room, but as strong as he was, he was so attentive. He made sure he kept his distance at first, then took my hands in his as he introduced himself. I remember his words like it was yesterday. ‘Ma’am, I’m Sergeant Cassidy, and I’m here to take you home.’”

  The minute she said Craig’s name, his whole body relaxed. “Craig Cassidy is the one who found you?” he asked, locking his eyes with hers. He couldn’t believe what she’d just told him. It couldn’t be—the world wasn’t small enough for something like that to happen, was it?

  “Yeah, why?” He could tell she was confused by his question, and God, he couldn’t blame her.

  Cole took a deep breath before answering her. “Craig was part of my old unit in Afghanistan.”

  “You mean, you know Craig?” She sounded shocked, so he just kept talking.

  “I was the best man at his wedding. His daughter is my goddaughter. Craig is one of the best; you couldn’t have asked for better.”

  He felt her move and thought she was going to get up and walk away, but she slid closer to him and nestled between his arm and his chest. Her head was in the crook of his arm, her body fit perfectly with his. She slid one hand over his chest and held him tight. He didn’t talk, didn’t move; he just focused on her.

  He didn’t know what had possessed Jamie to slide over closer to him, but he didn’t care. He wanted her close to him after what they had both just shared.

  They didn’t talk, or move; they just stayed like that for a while, enjoying the feel of each other. Soon after, Cole slipped his hand to the back of her neck and lifted her head so they were looking directly at each other. He leaned in to kiss her but someone coughing besid
e them interrupted. Jamie pulled away from him, and when he looked over, he saw Andrew standing there with a smirk on his face. “Sorry to interrupt, kids, but Cole, we need you to go over some financial stuff for the ranch,” his brother told him, smiling from ear to ear.

  “I’ll be there in a minute,” Cole told Andrew in a tone that left no question about his unhappiness at the interruption. He could kill his brother for disturbing them and pulling him away from Jamie.

  Andrew went back inside the house. Turning back toward her, Cole rested his forehead against Jamie’s and sighed. “I feel like a teenager who just got busted.”

  She laughed at his words, and the sound of her laughter went straight to his dick. She gave him a look that would have made him fall to his knees if he hadn’t been sitting down. “I guess you should go in, before they come back out to grab you.”

  He got up, gave her a quick kiss, and whispered against her lips, “This isn’t over.”

  When Jamie got to her room, she was still high from Cole’s touch and his kiss. As brief as it had been, it had shifted something inside of her. She had never felt something this intense before. She crashed on top of her bed, checking her phone for any missed calls, and saw one from Becca. She opened a water bottle from the nightstand before dialing Becca’s phone.

  “Well, she’s alive.” Jamie laughed at the irritation in Becca’s voice because she knew that deep down, her friend was more than happy she had missed her call because it meant she was actually interacting with people.

  “Sorry, but your brother has been keeping me pretty busy. It’s really different, Bec.” Different was the understatement of the century. Where Becca was soft and pliant, Cole was demanding and firm. It was a nice contrast, one she welcomed.

  “I know, honey, but you have to trust Cole with everything you have. I would have never suggested you go if I didn’t think it was the best thing for you.”

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