Soldier Mine (Chapter Three: Petr, page 2 of 6)

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A glance at her reveals her troubled eyes are focused on her brother.

It shouldn't matter, I guess. I tend to go a bit overboard trying to help others when I'm hurting, which I am right now. The talk with Brianna was a disaster. I don't even want to think about it let alone acknowledge the barrier between us wasn't as thick as I had thought it to be.

What if no other woman will want someone broken like me?

I hate these kinds of thoughts. I was blissfully confident my whole life. I had no idea such crippling emotions existed before the incident overseas, and I'm constantly fighting them off. It's getting better - easier to dismiss them - the more time passes.

But my injury forced me to re-evaluate everything I took for granted in my life. I had never thought twice about the future I had assumed was mine. I assumed I'd eventually meet a woman I couldn't live without, get married and continue going on missions until the day I either retired alongside Mikael or was killed alongside Mikael in battle.

Everything about my life is different. The clear path is gone. I'm left questioning everything from why Mikael is gone and I'm not, to what I really want to do with my life now that I can't go into battle anymore, to why I shoot down my own impulse to ask out a woman as pretty as Claudia because I can't get Brianna's reaction to my leg out of my mind.

I have the urge to call Mikael and meet him at the running trail that winds through the forests on my family's property or the paintball center. Whenever one of us had girl problems, it's what we did. Everything seems better after some quality time working out with a best friend.

"Henry vouched for you."

I look up as Claudia pauses beside my table once more. She motions to the old man seated at the counter. He waves a gnarly hand at me. I don't know him, but I'm guessing he's a long-time resident of Glory Glade. Everyone in town knows my family and most of the town turned out for Mikael's wake.

"But I have questions." Claudia slides into the booth across from me.

"Shoot," I tell her, unconcerned.

"Who are you and why do you want to take my brother to Karate class?"

I chuckle. She's dead serious, and I sense she'll make her decision based on how satisfied she is with my response.

"I'm Petr Khavalov. I'm in the Army, currently assigned to the local recruitment division. I visit schools, show the kids my leg, tell them my story, and hope they make smart choices about their futures," I begin. "I was a special operations soldier - Green Beret - up until an ambush took off my leg and killed my twin a little over a year and a half ago. When I'm not on duty, I do charity work and try not to let my mercurial sister find my stash of chocolate or my father's Russian cook beat me with a wooden spoon when I sneak in and grab dinner early. My favorite color is green, and I tend to ignore my doctor's advice about my leg."

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