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Ravaged Hero

Ravaged Hero

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He shouldn’t want her...She knows he’s the one.
She’s off limits. Besides the fact that she’s my deceased best friends sister,
she’s also way too young for me.

Main Tropes

  • Protective Ex-Military Man
  • Curvy Woman
  • Age Gap
  • Off Limits
  • OTT
  • All the Feels

Synopsis

He shouldn’t want her...

She knows he’s the one.

She’s off limits.

Besides the fact that she’s my deceased best friends sister,
she’s also way too young for me.

There’s too much between us, including the guilt that I feel every day

that I couldn’t save her brother.

But no matter what, I’m going to do as I promised.

I’m going to look out for Cora.

But soon I find that I can’t just stand by when she puts herself in danger...

or when another man asks her out.

I have a choice to make:

Let her go... or make her mine.

Intro to Chapter 1

Chapter 1

CORA

No matter how many times I hear it, the smooth timbre
of Patton’s voice sends goosebumps down my arms as I listen to his voicemail
greeting again. I’ve called—over and over—and he never picks up or returns my
calls. In his defense, I do always say that everything is okay so he doesn’t
really have to call me. But with my whole being, I hope he will.

I haven’t seen Patton
since my brother’s funeral a little over a year ago. It may have been a while,
but I can still remember everything about that day. I was grief-stricken about
my brother, but I can still recall the calm, protected feeling that I felt in
Patton’s arms and how much comfort it gave me to see him at the service.

He only spoke to me
to offer me his condolences and make sure I had his phone number in case I
needed anything, but it was enough to make me feel like I wasn’t alone in my
grief.

What
good was giving me your phone number if you don’t answer it and avoid my calls?
I ask my phone as if I’m talking to him. I have
already left a message and hung up. I’m always asking how he is doing, and I
know how hard that question is for veterans to answer. So I figured that’s why
he wasn’t answering. But I can’t help but sort of take it personally now. I
mean it’s been a year... maybe I should give up.

“Cora.” The
professionally dressed woman says my name from the opened door, interrupting my
thoughts.

I take a deep breath
and stand up, smoothing my hands down the front of my pants. It’s time for my
weekly therapy appointment with Dr. Stevens. It’s required as part of my job,
and most of the time I’m thankful for it. As a case worker for veterans, I’ve
seen and heard a lot of awful things, things that I lose sleep over, but
talking about it helps for sure. I always try to come in here each week ready
to talk about what’s bothering me, knowing I’ll feel better afterwards, but
today I’m a little iffy about it. Talking about the veterans and issues I’m
helping them with is so much easier than talking about myself and my issues.

“Hey, Dr. Stevens!”

She waves her hand at
the open door, beckoning me in. “Hey, Cora. You ready to get started?”

Instead of my usual
chipper self, I take a deep breath and nod as I walk past her. I take a seat on
the couch as she sits in the chair next to me.

“Okay, what’s going
on?” she asks as she picks up her notepad off the table.

“Nothing. Everything
is really good. My patients are doing well. I was able to find housing for one,
set up numerous interviews for a few. I convinced one of my patients to finally
agree to therapy which he’s needed for a while now. The ‘Bridge’ project is
really going well, and I truly feel like I’m making a difference there. Really,
everything is going well.”

I say it all with a
big smile, but as I go on and on about my patients’ success, even I can hear
the worry in my voice. There’s no hiding the pain I’m feeling from Patton not
answering my phone calls or returning them. I don’t understand it, and I wish I
could say that if I talked to him, I’d be fine, but I know that’s not the case.
One phone call isn’t going to make me miraculously feel better. It’s not like
I’ll stop thinking about him after that. I haven’t stopped thinking about him
since the day I met him four years ago at my high school graduation.

Dr. Stevens leans
forward with a gentle smile on her face. “Okay, work is good. So what’s
bothering you?”

I shrug my shoulders,
debating with myself on whether I should bring it up or not, but knowing I
should. Talking about it does help. “I’m still trying to get a hold of Patton.”

The doctor nods,
obviously remembering me talking about Patton before. I never meant to bring
him up, but there’s no way I can talk about my past without bringing up Patton.
I almost laugh just thinking about it. I’m probably not even on his radar, and
he doesn’t have a clue how much I think about him, but that’s all I can think
about. From the moment I met him, I knew there was something special about him.
Back then, I had no idea what that pull was in my lower belly, but I knew I
wanted to be around him. For the next four years, I saw him mostly through
video calls with my older brother when Patton would jump on just to say hi or
whatever. He has no idea how much that meant to me that he would take time like
that to just talk to me and check in.

When I saw him again
at my college graduation, I flirted with him endlessly during his stay until he
finally put me straight, telling me that I was a child playing an adult’s game.
He wasn’t wrong either. But that was after he had given in and kissed me. It
was my first and only kiss, and I remember it just as if it had happened
yesterday instead of a little over a year ago. I should have listened to him
tell me he wasn’t interested in me but damn, that kiss. I still dream about his
lips on mine and the way he held me so close. His arms had held me so
possessively and so close. I remember the way his body had reacted to our
closeness, feeling his hardness against my softness. That kiss told me exactly
how he felt, and I knew he was fighting his feelings for me. I wasn’t going to
give up, I wanted him more than I wanted anything in my whole life. He and
Jason went back to base shortly after that, and it wasn’t long before we got
the call about Jason. When he died, it seemed like everything fell apart. My parents
divorced and moved to opposite ends of the country. And it seemed my connection
to Patton died with my brother.

“Tell me about him.
Tell me about Patton.” Dr. Steven interrupts my thoughts.

I lean my head back
on the couch and stare up at the ceiling. I clench my eyes shut when I remember
him pushing me away after that hot kiss. I should have been embarrassed, but I
wasn’t. “He’s beautiful, inside and out. He has no family. Technically, my family
was probably the closest thing he ever had to a family. He was raised in foster
care and joined the army right after high school. That’s when he met my brother
Jason. He went the medical route, while Jason was more infantry, but they still
were very close. Jason brought him home the first time at my eighteenth
birthday. I sent him care packages every time I sent one to Jason because I
hated to think he wouldn’t get one.” I laugh and shake my head. “I remember
thinking my brother would get mad about it, because he was always so protective
of me, but with Patton, he wasn’t. My brother liked me sending Patton packages,
and every time I talked to him, he would always mention that Patton would ask
about me.” I cross my arms on my chest. “Patton came home again for my college
graduation.” I pull my necklace out from under my shirt and show her the heart
pendant necklace he had given me as a present. “He gave me this. He said it was
because I had the biggest heart of anyone he knew.” I smile at the memory and
then lean forward to rest my arms on my legs. “And then I kissed him. I
couldn’t stop myself, and it was the best kiss ever, but he broke it off and
basically told me he wasn’t interested. I was embarrassed, but I wasn’t going
to give up. It’s hard to give up on someone that you think about every day.”

“Have you seen him
since your brother’s death?”

I nod. “Yeah, at the
funeral a year ago. He gave me his number, and I’ve tried calling him, but he
doesn’t respond.... I should probably give up,” I say, realizing how desperate
I must sound.

Dr. Stevens leans
forward. “So I guess it’s safe to say that your brother was like a brother to Patton?”

I nod instantly. “Absolutely.”

She asks, “So was he
stationed with Jason when Jason passed?”

I take a deep breath.
I’ve come to terms with my brother passing. It’s still hard, and I think about
him every day, but there’s comfort knowing that Jason was doing what he loved
when he was killed. He loved serving his country more than anything. Plus, he
wouldn’t want me to be sad. “Patton was there. He didn’t tell me, but a few of
the other guys did. I guess Patton even saved Cole and Jeremy, who were also
friends of Jason’s.”

“But he didn’t save
your brother...”

My eyes snap to Dr.
Stevens, and I’m instantly on the defensive. “I have no doubt he would have if
he could. There was no saving him; he was already too far gone by then.”

Dr. Stevens’ hands go
up in front of her, and her eyes soften. “I know that just by the way you talk about Patton I’m sure he would have done everything for him... and obviously you know that. But what about Patton? Does he have any guilt about Jason’s death?”

“No!” I say instantly, but then my mind starts to whirl. Images flash back to me at the
funeral, and the way that Patton apologized to me over and over and the way he
couldn’t look me in the eye. Did he feel guilty? “At least I don’t think so... He shouldn’t.”

Stunned, I look back
at the therapist wide-eyed because she’s definitely stumped me. It never
entered my mind that Patton would feel responsible, but just the little I know
of him—and the fact he was there when it all happened—well, it’s definitely
possible. That could explain so much.

Dr. Stevens looks at
me sympathetically. “Cora, you more than anyone know how soldiers react. Even
though we may know they’re not responsible, sometimes it’s hard for them to
disconnect and realize the truth of the situation. All we can do is be there for
them and listen to them.”

I nod, agreeing with
everything she’s saying. At least until she continues. “And it’s been a year,
Cora. If he’s still avoiding your calls... well, it may be time to move on. It
might just be too painful of a reminder talking to you... with your brother gone.”

I feel her words
straight to the heart. Could that be it? Could it be too painful for him to
even talk to me? And if so, can I really just forget about him?

PATTON

“It’s
Cora, again. Just wanted
to make sure you’re doing okay. I haven’t heard from you for a long time even
though I keep leaving messages. I hope I have the right number. Call me and
catch me up on what’s new with you, okay? Bye.” I hit the button to delete the
message. The same feeling I get every time she calls surges through me. I have
so much remorse and guilt for everything that happened with Jason that
sometimes it’s all I can think about. But when I hear Cora’s voice, it brings a
whole new level of guilt. The thoughts I have for Cora I shouldn’t be having.
Besides being innocent and happy, she’s my deceased best friend’s little
sister. She doesn’t need me or my shit.

I must have pushed
the wrong number because the message starts to play again, and hearing her
voice again picks me up and takes me back to that moment when I allowed my
attraction to Jason’s little sister to take over and I’d kissed her. Fuck, just
thinking about it brings back all the memories from the first time I saw her
when she was eighteen, to all the video calls where I’d jump in when she was
talking to her brother and then of course, the kiss. It was her college
graduation, and I remember all the strings I had to pull to get leave to go
with Jason. He knew how hard I had to try to get the time off, but he never
said a word to me about it. I’m sure he had no clue how attracted I was to his
little sister. I figured he just thought I wanted the time off, but the truth
was, I wanted to see her again. I knew nothing could ever come of it, but it
was getting harder and harder to stay away. When she kissed me, it was a kiss
that charged through me, making my whole body tremble in need. It startled me
back to my senses, and I’d told her that it was a mistake. That she was just a
kid, and I was too old for her. Regret hits me hard, but now after everything
with Jason, there’s no changing it. There’s absolutely no chance for Cora and
me now.

I hit the end button
as I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand trying to erase the feeling the
memory stirred in my body. Will I ever forget how the touch
of her lips felt against mine?

I hadn’t allowed
myself to think of that kiss since Jason’s death. I’m ashamed that it surfaced
from just hearing Cora’s voice. Her soft, hesitant tone on the recording sucks
me in and makes me want things I shouldn’t. I’ve kept my distance from Cora. I’ve
had to because there was no telling what kinds of lines I might have crossed if
I hadn’t.

Jason deserves better
than a best friend who let him down and then goes after his younger sister.

Don’t worry, Jason. I’m
looking out for her and keeping my distance at the same time.

Of course, I’ve made
it harder for myself. With my promise to Jason in mind, when I left the Army I
moved to Tennessee knowing I wanted to stay close to Cora... just in case she
ever needed me. When I was presented with the chance to work exclusively with
veterans, I knew I couldn’t pass it up, but now that I’ve agreed to take the
position at the veterans’ hospital that works with the therapy facility where
Cora works, it’s going to make keeping that distance more challenging. But I
must keep my promise to Jason. I can still remember it like it was yesterday
when he begged me to take care of his sister. I fought him on it and tried to
tell him that he was going to live to do it himself, but he knew he was dying.
He grabbed my hand with way more strength than he should have had and made me
promise to look out for her. I swore to him I would, and even now I haven’t
taken it lightly. I left the Army six months after Jason died and moved to
Tennessee to be closer to Cora. I may not talk to her, but I’ve kept my eye on
her from afar. There have been so many close calls of her seeing me that I know
I need to pull back, but I can’t. I’m drawn to her, and it’s a constant battle
because I know I need to keep everything professional.

And that is a lot
easier said than done since I haven’t looked at another woman since I first
laid eyes on Cora when she was eighteen.

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