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Marine Gunnery Sergeant John “Crash” O’Malley has two goals for the immediate future. One, enjoy his liberty in New York City, and two, survive his deployment to Afghanistan. What he didn’t plan on is Trish. A guy can’t have a one-night stand with his best friend’s sister and then abandon her at midnight when his liberty ends, but starting a new relationship days before shipping out would be crazy. Then again, Crash never did do things the easy way.
What he doesn’t realize is that his friend’s displeasure over Crash breaking the “no sisters rule” is nothing compared to what the insurgents have in store for them in the Helmand Province. Now it’s a matter of survival because Crash’s new objective is to get home and make Trish his.
As he closed the door against the heat, Crash saw Zippy was already inside. “Hey. What’s going on?”
Tearing into a cardboard box, Zippy glanced up. “Care package from home.”
“Cool.” Crash smothered the envy.
It was ridiculous. He wasn’t lacking for anything. Most things he needed he could get at the exchange. If they didn’t sell it on base, he could go online and order from a place that would ship to him here.
His mom asked he if needed anything and Crash always told her no. She was getting up there in years and she was on a fixed income. He couldn’t expect her to haul packages to the post office when he could order whatever he needed on his own. But there was something about getting a little piece of home at mail call that made a guy feel good.
He sat on his rack and glanced over. “What’d you get?”
“All sorts of shit. It’s like Trish bought out the store.” Zippy pawed through the sizable box.
Trish. That piqued Crash’s interest in the box further. “Yeah? Anything good?” Christ, that had sounded a little too interested.
Zippy starting unloading the contents onto the desk. “Peanut butter. Crackers. A couple of DVDs. Box of cookies.”
“Oh, that’s nice.” The cloud of disappointment darkened over Crash.
“Here.” Zippy turned and tossed a smaller box toward Crash.
As it came sailing across the room, Crash reached out and caught it between his fingertips. “What’s this?”
“I don’t know. Open it. It’s got your name on it.”
His eyes widened when he turned the box in his hands and saw it did indeed have his name written on it in bold black marker. CRASH. Nothing else, but he knew who it had to be from.
“Trish sent me something?”
“I guess so.” Zippy didn’t look surprised or suspicious. He was too busy tearing through the rest of the box.
If Zippy wasn’t concerned that Trish was sending Crash things, then Crash figured he needn’t worry. He couldn’t beat down the excitement as he tore the packing tape off and opened the flaps of the cardboard box. He smiled at what he saw on top. A note, in handwriting he didn’t recognize because they’d never written to each other before. Strange that he knew the feel, the taste, the scent of this girl, but had never seen her writing until now.
I remembered you said you liked these so I thought I’d send some along. FYI, don’t know how you can eat that stuff!
He peered into the box and found half a dozen cans of sardines, a box of crackers and a bag of beef jerky. His favorite snacks on earth. They’d talked about food that weekend they were together. He remembered she’d made the funniest face when he mentioned the sardines. He’d teased her because she’d never even tried one, but had already decided she hated them.
His heart clenched as he tried not to make more of it than there was. She’d been sending stuff to her brother. She’d probably just thrown this in as an afterthought.
The falseness of his rationalization echoed through him. Trish had remembered their conversation. She’d taken the time to search out and find exactly the things she knew he liked. This was no afterthought.
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