Fighting for Everything:A Warrior Fight Club Novel(9)

By: Laura Kaye

Second, his overall mental health. After a lifetime of living with someone who suffered from mental illness, she knew that panic attacks could be just one part of a larger picture. So she’d spent last night ignoring end-of-term papers that needed grading and researching veterans and fireworks online. Her reading led her beyond panic attacks to PTSD, blast-injury symptoms, depression, and the terrifying statistics of how many veterans with untreated conditions like these committed suicide every day.

Twenty-two. Twenty-two veterans every day. How was that even possible?

Not that she had any reason to believe Noah was struggling that badly, but that didn’t stop her chest from aching every time she thought about all she’d read.

Third, their make-out session. Was he avoiding her now because they’d kissed? Or was that her projecting her own confusion onto him? Because Kristina was confused. By what had happened. By her reaction to it. And by the series of dreams she’d been having all week that played out every filthy-hot scenario of what might’ve happened if those fireworks hadn’t gone off.

She’d masturbated to those memories and imaginings. Twice. She’d had orgasms thinking about Noah. Noah.

That wasn’t weird at all. Nope.

Oh, God, it’s so weird! Kristina dropped her forehead against the steering wheel.

At some point, she was going to have to spill about her make-out session to her best friend from college, Kate Arnold. But for today, there was only one way to know the answers to any of the questions swirling around her brain. Talking to Noah. Since he wasn’t answering his phone or her texts, that left Kristina only one solution.

She threw the silver Honda Civic into reverse, backed out of her parking space, and made her way to the Cortez house.

Twenty minutes later, she pulled off the George Washington Memorial Parkway that led out to historic Mount Vernon and onto the narrow roads of her old neighborhood. Neither she nor her parents lived here anymore, her parents having moved to Philadelphia while she was in college so her mom could take a new job, but Noah’s family still lived in the same house that she’d half grown up in. As she pulled into the big gravel circular drive in front of the two-story brick house, Kristina once again felt like she was coming home.

Noah’s dark green Ford Explorer sat in the driveway. Perfect.

When knocking failed to bring an answer, Kristina found the spare key under the middle flowerpot where it had lived for at least fifteen years. She unlocked the door, returned the key, and stepped inside. She almost called out, “Honey, I’m home,” but after what had happened between them the other night, maybe that wouldn’t be funny?

That she had to even give it a second thought represented all the issues their kissing raised in a nutshell.

“Noah? It’s me,” she said instead.

She poked through the first floor but found everything quiet and empty, so she headed downstairs. Running water told her the shower was on.

No problem. She’d just wait for him to be done and then she’d let him know that she was there. She sat on the big leather couch and flipped through social media on her phone. And tried like hell to ignore all thoughts of Noah in the shower. Naked. Wet. Muscles glistening.

Stop it, Kristina! Right.

She flicked through her Facebook newsfeed. Read the new comments about her summer workshop position. Liked a video about cats jumping in and out of boxes. Congratulated a friend announcing a promotion.

The water turned off.

Noah is wet and naked and getting out of the shower now.

Ack! Stop it!

She could be normal. Just like she’d been for the previous nineteen years that she’d known him. Determined, she pushed off the couch and crossed to his bedroom door. It sat a few inches ajar, so into the opening she called, “Noah, it’s Kristina. Just didn’t want to scare you by being out here.”

The click of a door opening. “Kristina?”

She chuckled at the surprised tone of his voice. “Yup. Get decent and get your butt out here,” she said.

The bedroom door whipped open, and there stood Noah dripping wet holding a white towel around his hips. So close she could’ve reached out and tugged it off. “Everything okay?” he asked, his brows set into a deep frown.

“Uh…what?” she asked, her gaze stuck on his abdomen. He had the hint of a six pack. Since when did Noah have a six pack? Her gaze raked upward. And he had a tattoo on his left arm where his biceps reached his shoulder. The Marine Corps eagle-globe-anchor symbol in stark black.

“I asked if you were okay,” he said, a weird tone in his voice. Maybe because she was standing there slack-jawed and drooling? Crap.

She tore her eyes away from his body and finally looked at his face. Water droplets ran from his hair. They continued down his neck to the warm, olive skin of his chest. She wanted to lick him dry. When had Noah Cortez become so freaking hot? Her friend Noah Cortez.

Kristina cleared her throat. “Yeah. Yes. Definitely. More than okay.”

“Then why are you here?” He raked a hand through his hair, making his muscles move in all sorts of fascinating ways. “Not, of course, that I’m not glad to see you.”

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