Her Touch(8)

By: Alexa Riley



“How old are you?”

I glance over and see a little blush on her cheeks. I’m not sure why she’s being shy. Maybe she feels like that’s too personal.

“Twenty-five.”

“Oh.” She sounds disappointed. “I’ll be seventeen soon.”

“We’ll have to celebrate,” I say, and that seems to pull another smile from her. She’s adorable when she grins like that.

When we get to the clinic, I show Maggie around and introduce her to some of the instructors. I was stationed in the adjoining hospital when I got back after my injuries, so I got to know almost everyone before I was discharged. Luckily Major gave me a place to stay that was close, and I could continue with my rehab without having to find a new place to go.

“You seem popular,” she says, nudging me.

“It’s my good looks and winning smile.” I flash her a toothy grin, and she blushes. I expected her to laugh. The jagged scar on the side of my face is still pretty jarring, even for me. When I catch my own reflection in the mirror sometimes, I have to do a double-take. “Come on. It was a joke. I’m more beast than beauty.”

She laughs. “I’m okay being the pretty one standing next to you.”

“I’m here to make you look good, boo.” I wink at her.

“Boo? What the heck?” she says playfully.

“Shawty?” I try, thinking maybe she’ll like that one better.

“Try again,” she retorts, crossing her arms and raising an eyebrow.

“If we’re gonna be hanging out, you’ve gotta have a nickname. I’m a Marine. Everyone has a nickname.”

“What’s yours?”

“Cupcake.”

She bursts out laughing, and I stand there and wait on it to pass. I’ve gotten used to getting shit about it, but mostly it’s from guys. I wait for her to catch her breath and then put my hands on my hips impatiently.

“You’re not serious,” she says.

I reach down to the hem of my T-shirt and pull it up to my chest. On my ribcage is a cupcake tattoo, complete with sprinkles.

The smile falls from her lips, and her eyes rake over the skin I’ve exposed. Suddenly I wonder if I’ve done something wrong. Being around guys my whole life, I have zero problems with nudity. I could walk around a crowded room in broad daylight and not give two fucks. But after a second I wonder if I went too far. I’ve never had a younger sister, so I don’t know what’s beyond appropriate. I guess as long as she seems cool with playing around, what’s the harm?

I lower my shirt, and she swallows. Then she shakes her head.

“Okay. I need the story,” she mutters after clearing her throat.

“All right,” I say as we walk to the common room of the clinic. There are beanbag chairs and places to hang out if anyone is looking for some down-time and someone to talk to. We take a seat near the windows, and the sun shines across Maggie’s blonde hair. For a second I simply look at her and appreciate how beautiful she is.

“Story. Spill it,” she orders, and nudges me with her foot.

“So I went to military school in high school. But I was really smart and skipped a grade, and I graduated early. Then I went to a military college, and I skipped another. So imagine being a senior in college at nineteen, with all these other hard-ass guys, twenty-one or older.”

“Okay,” she says, waiting for the explanation.

“They always gave me so much shit. I mean, they gave everyone shit, but I took the brunt of it. It was my birthday, and they decided to make a joke of it and ordered me a hundred pink sprinkle cupcakes and had them delivered to the front office. They thought I’d get in trouble for having them, or grab a demerit for making a scene.”

“Just for having someone deliver cupcakes to you?” she asks.

“It’s a military school. The best thing you can do is blend in. And a delivery like that is against the rules. Breaking the rules sucks, and nobody wanted that kind of punishment.” I laugh, thinking back to it. “But what they didn’t count on was my commanding officer calling me to his office.”

“I don’t understand.” Confusion is clear on her face.

“He was a hard, old man with a temper that would rival Yosemite Sam. But for some reason he took a shine to me. He said he knew I didn’t have any family who would have sent them and that the guys did this to get me in trouble. But he couldn’t prove who it was who did it. So he said I could keep them. That kind of dessert would normally be considered contraband. It was like giving a hundred cartons of cigarettes to an inmate. I was instantly in charge.”

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