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Bad For Me(3)

By:Codi Gary



Even though Callie loved Caroline for trying to bring her “out of the army tank you’ve climbed into”—Caroline’s words—Callie had no desire to go to Caroline’s sister’s bachelorette party.

“You already agreed to DJ the damn wedding. Just because you have no desire to go out with a group of obnoxious women and watch some greasy dudes gyrate to ‘It’s Raining Men’ does not make you weird. It just means you have taste.”

Caroline had continued her rant, finally ending with, “Fine, but I’m not through with you! If you think I’m going to this thing with just my sisters and their crazy friends, you’re dreaming!”

Callie deleted the voicemail. Dave held up his finger, and Callie picked up line one again. “You’re on the Kat. What can I play for ya?”

“I was thinking a little Blake Shelton, actually,” a deep voice said. The caller’s smile was evident, even over the phone.

Rhett.

Turning off the “record” button, Callie tried to ignore the giddy butterflies fluttering through her stomach. “You’re late.”

“You noticed.”

“Well, you’ve been almost OCD about the time you call, so it’s a little hard not to notice.”

“Well, as a matter of fact, I overslept this morning. Can I just say I’m actually flattered? Were you counting down the minutes?”

Callie’s face burned, and even though he couldn’t see her, she rubbed her cheeks with one hand. “Actually, it’s just because you’re the only person with any taste who calls in.”

“Coming from you, I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“You should,” she said, turning around in her chair so she couldn’t see Dave and her tech, Sam, making kissy-faces at her. “Now, what Blake song do you want to hear?”

“Uh-oh, did I get you in trouble with the boss?”

“No, I just . . . there are just a lot of calls coming in, so I can’t talk as long.”

“I understand,” he said, and there was a pause on the line before he cleared his throat. “Maybe we could talk more later? Off air?”

Callie’s heart pounded. Was he asking for her number? Giving him her number made their interactions more than just a flirtation. What if he was dangerous? The scars on her body tingled with apprehension, a silent warning.

“I’m going to take it from your silence that I’ve freaked you out,” he said, breaking into her panicked thoughts. “I’ll let you get back to work.”

He hung up before she could say anything. Without his trademark farewell.

Way to go, you paranoid freak.

Though really, Callie didn’t think she was paranoid; she was cautious. Having your fiancé turn into a complete stranger—a violent stranger—six months before your wedding could do that to a person. Thinking of Tristan was painful, and she tried to push him from her mind. Tried to forget their past together. If she didn’t, the nightmares might start up again—and the urge to drink herself into a stupor along with it.

Just then, Dalton came walking in with Ratchet. The minute he let him off leash, the large dog lumbered over and laid his head in Callie’s lap, as if sensing her dark thoughts. Stroking his dense fur, she murmured softly to him until he sat and eventually flopped to the ground.

“Callie, you’ve got callers holding,” Dave said over the intercom.

Pressing the button, she took the next call, but her thoughts were still on Rhett. Was she ready to let someone in and trust again?

She really wasn’t sure.

EVERETT SILVERTON TOOK off the headset just after two and stretched his arms above his head, cracking his neck in the process. He had been sitting in the same position for five hours, counseling traumatized and frustrated veterans, and added to the two hours of farm work this morning, he was damn sore.

It was worth it, though, to have a safe place to come home to. Veterans coming back after long tours who realized that the world hadn’t stopped while they were gone had it much worse. Despite the fact that he’d spent several months in a hospital overseas and had come home to a wife who couldn’t handle his scars or his “issues”—as she’d kindly referred to his PTSD—he’d always had his father and brother. Some vets didn’t have anyone—no stability, no job, and the adjustment often took its toll on their psyches. It was hard to come back from a world of violence—one where any minute a roadside bomb could go off or a sniper’s bullet could take you out—unscathed.

Everett ran a hand over the scarred side of his face, every ridge and rough patch a badge of dishonor, of his failure to Robbie, his best friend. A constant reminder that Robbie’s wife, Cara, and son, RJ, now had to live without him. In the end, the scars on Everett’s body couldn’t hold a candle to the abrasions on his soul.

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