I consider myself a typical guy
— even though I’ve experienced atypical things —
and have to admit that when Terri asked me for my
views on men and romance, I wasn’t sure what to say.
It’s not something I’ve thought about in detail before.
But here’s the thing. After I got off the phone with her and started thinking about her question, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. That’s probably the single-minded side of me. Lottie, the love of my life, would tell you it is. But even after mulling it around for fifteen minutes, I still didn’t know what to say. So I gave up. That’s how I’m hard-wired.
I’m David Bellotti, ex-Marine turned professional soldier, and I live my life making rights out of wrongs. And now, I’m getting ready to ship out again, probably for two months, to command men who live on testosterone and think nothing about air-dropping at twenty thousand feet. But time away puts stress on my relationship with Lottie and yet it’s something she accepts. I guess that’s the price of loving me. So when it comes to romance? You’d have to ask her. She’s the better barometer.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I know Lottie inside and out. Which comes more easily when you’ve known someone for over twelve thousand years. Yep. Twelve thousand of them. So I wasn’t surprised when she came home from work, stared at my packed duffel bag in the kitchen, and went silent. We’d gone through this hundreds of times before, and the sadness in her eyes always said it all.
Lottie came over and gave me a kiss that said she’d missed me that day and was going to miss me a hell of a lot more once I left. For a moment, I toyed with the idea of ditching dinner and taking her upstairs instead. I had my priorities, you know.
She pulled away and peeked inside a pot of homemade vodka sauce that had been simmering for hours. Seemed she had priorities, too. Pity they didn’t match mine.
“How was your day?” she asked, inhaling long and deep and jabbing a finger into the sauce and licking it off. Some of it dribbled onto her lower lip and her tongue swept that up, too. I stifled a sigh. Tamped down on all kinds of immoral thoughts. I was going to miss that mouth. I was going to miss her.
“Terri called,” I said.
Her head came up. “Oh?”
A little bit of sauce remained on her lower lip and I smudged it away with my thumb. “Yeah. She wanted to know what I thought about romance.”
Lottie considered me for a moment and then burst out laughing. See? The better barometer.
“David,” she said, still laughing, “there couldn’t be a worse authority on romance if I ever saw one.”
Not what I was expecting. Seriously. If you’re going to knock a guy down a few pegs, you could at least do it with a little less enthusiasm.
Her laughing stopped when she noticed I wasn’t, and her dark eyes softened. She pressed in, like she intended to apologize. My mind raced through dozens of ways she could do it. And in those few seconds where it was just her and me, nothing else mattered. The world could have stopped spinning for all I cared. But then her gaze flicked past my shoulder and held, and the moment disappeared. I turned to see what caught her attention.
“Wow,” she said with a smile that made my heart skip a beat. “It’s beautiful, David.”
She walked into the dining room and to the set table, fingering the pale yellow linen tablecloth. “Such a beautiful color.”
Because it had always been her favorite.
She sniffed the blue lilies in the vase and pulled one out, twirling it at her nose. “And these smell wonderful.”
She said the same thing after our first time together, when I’d returned from a long hunt to find food for the Clan. We’d spent the night in my hut, on spotted lion and brown bear furs, while a fire burned in the center. I found the lilies on a hilly field while we searched for fruit and berries to eat. I brought lilies to her every day after.
Lottie’s face brightened when she saw the lit, scented candles off to the side. She closed her eyes, breathed in the myrrh, and said, “I can’t believe you remembered how much I love these.”
I couldn’t forget. She used to wear myrrh as a perfume, when her brother was Pharaoh and I served as his General. She had the oil shipped in from a merchant in Thebes, and only wore the perfume for me.
Lottie sighed when she saw the open bottle of Amarone and the two glasses beside it. We’d shared that vintage the first night we moved into our home two years ago. She’d made that christening very memorable.
Twelve thousand years of memories together, all packed into this one night. Now.
Lottie picked up the glasses and returned to me. We clinked to each other and drank.
“David,” she said, taking the wine from my hand and setting it back on the table. “I wasn’t kidding when I said there couldn’t be a worse authority on romance than you.”
I pulled back, confused.
She blew out the candles and kissed me again, and as she led me upstairs to the bedroom she added, “It’s because you underestimate just how romantic you can be.”
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