Logan Byrne, hands clasped in front of him, feet shoulder-width apart, stood next to Katie Smith inside a quiet church as they waited for the wedding rehearsal to begin. He was more aware of her than he’d ever been of another person in his life—and that included the times he’d held a loaded weapon.
She looked up at him. “So, you’re originally from Chicago? Do you miss the big city or is Camp Lejeune big enough to feel like home?”
Keeping his hands clasped and his torso facing forward, he looked down at her. “I like being on base. I like the military.”
Jesus H. You might as well grab a box of crayons and start to gnaw on them, you damned idiot. What the hell was wrong with him? He was a United States Marine and this hundred-pound girl was intimidating the shit out of him.
She was completely and utterly off-limits, which was probably why Logan was so drawn to her. He always seemed to want what he couldn’t have. His good friend, Parker, had given him marching orders before their plane had touched down in South Dakota: his little sister wasn’t on the menu. This wasn’t even a look-but-don’t-touch scenario. Parker would put a hurt on him if he crossed that line, and because he was also a grunt in the Marine Corps, that hurt would be immensely painful.
Besides, he was the closest thing to family Logan had. So, whether he was drawn to Katie or not, he couldn’t act on it. Which was a damn shame, because she was the prettiest girl he’d ever laid eyes on. She couldn’t be more than five foot one. The top of her head barely reached his shoulder. Her eyes were dark brown, as was her hair. She had a golden color to her skin, and she didn’t wear a ton of makeup, but what she did have on was classy.
Neither of them moved while waiting for the wedding rehearsal to begin, though Logan was sure his rigid, militant stance had more to do with nerves than hers did. There was just something about Katie that unnerved him. He’d never felt this way before, and though he’d seen plenty of pictures of her on Facebook and Instagram, and had even Snapped her a few times, he’d never met her in person until a few short minutes ago.
Funny how that made all the difference.
She nodded as though she hadn’t noticed he couldn’t speak any words longer than a syllable or two. “Parker likes it too. I told him I wanted to visit him, but he keeps telling me no.”
Smart man. A cute, single girl like her showing up on a Marine Corps base meant only one thing to a young Marine: fresh meat. And like any wild animal, Marines fought for their place in the pack. Sometimes that spot was next to a particular female. If Katie was his sister, he wouldn’t want her on base either.
Instead of answering her, he just nodded and looked back toward the front of the church. Parker and his parents were gathered near the pulpit, chatting with the preacher.
Logan didn’t know Parker’s cousin—the one getting married—but he knew why Parker had asked him to tag along. In the three years they’d known each other, Logan had never gone home to visit family, so Parker had invited him out of pity.
“Are you going to re-enlist?”
He looked down at Katie. Both he and Parker were up for re-enlistment in a few months. “Yep.” The military suited Logan. The Corps was an instant brotherhood, and if you were tough enough, you were accepted.
“I’m not sure Parker’s going to re-enlist. I think he’s ready to come back to the farm.”
Because he has something to come home to, he almost said. Family. Obligation. Logan didn’t have that. If he didn’t have the Marine Corps and those he’d met in the Corps, he’d have nothing. “I think you’re right. He says he misses it here all the time.”
They stood in silence. After a few minutes he cleared his throat. “So. You have one more year of school left?”
She smiled and looked up at him. The inside of his chest did some weird shit.
“Yes. Only one year to go.”
He caught sight of Parker looking their way. Parker, like Katie, was on the short side, but he wasn’t lacking in strength. That guy could bench press a truck. And he didn’t look very happy right now.
Logan might be a good friend and a brother-in-arms, but he knew why Parker didn’t want him hitting on his sister. Logan was like all the other corporals. He liked to have a good time. Liked to throw a few back and curse like he was on the set of a Scorsese movie. But unlike the other guys in his platoon, he wouldn’t mind settling down. He’d just never talked about it with anyone.
As far as Parker knew, Logan was married to one-night-stands and cold beer.
Fact was, he’d love to get hitched and have a few kids. Have a family to come home to. Not that he’d ever met a girl he wanted to settle down with. The girls on base were as crazy and wild as he was, which was fine with him. He’d never complained. But for the first time in his life, he realized he had a type.
And his type was standing next to him.
But she was so far out of his league it was ridiculous. He was a grunt. Trained in weaponry, hand-to-hand combat and not much else. She was a soon-to-be college graduate. Not to mention her brother would kill him—and he was trained too. Even if Logan managed to get through all those hurdles, where would that leave the two of them? He was in the Corps and moved every few years. She’d gone to college to study agriculture, so she could come home and work on the ranch with her family, not move from base to base. From what Parker had said, his family both farmed and owned cattle.
Logan had never touched a damn cow in his life, let alone milked it or whatever the hell they did with it.
It didn’t matter if they were compatible or not. Parker eyeballing him from across the church reminded him that, though they were good friends, Logan obviously didn’t pass muster when it came to his best friend’s sister.
If Logan had a sister, he sure as hell wouldn’t want Parker hitting on her.
So, in a gesture meant to placate his friend, Logan smiled and inched a little away from Katie, even though he wanted to do just the opposite.