Ryan's mind raced. In Rose he saw everything he wanted but couldn't possibly have, and that knowledge crippled him. A simple soldier, he had basic needs and wants, but her brow had the clear stamp of wisdom. Everything about her was alien to his world and he desired her all the more for bringing freshness to his stale existence.
They came to as the furious dancing slowed and voices began chanting down from thirty. The New Year was upon them. Ryan looked down into the bright, shining eyes of the only woman who had ever touched his heart and was lost. He brought his hands up and cupped her sweat damp face and caressed the fine bones of her cheeks with his thumbs before lowering his mouth and losing himself to the blinding light her lithe form brought into his lonely life. He wanted to sink into her beauty, surround her body and swim in her mind, bathe his drowning form in the luminance of her soul.
Rose stood before him, swaying slightly in bemusement as Ryan stepped back, saying, "I can't," in pain-choked tones. He made to move away, his soul bleeding, but she wouldn't let him withdraw. Rose pulled him close, forced him still as the crowd roared, horns blew and confetti rained a parti-colored storm around their heads. All Ryan could do was stare dumbly into her beautiful face. Seeming to understand, Rose slid her hands up his forearms and over his biceps. He shivered in reaction as her thumbs brushed over his cloth-covered collarbones, her fingers kneading the taut muscles of his neck. Rising unsteadily to tiptoe, Rose pressed her lips against his, softly, sweetly promising a welcome he never hoped to find.
Suddenly he clasped her waist and lifted, moving to her abandoned chair he sat and slung her softly into his arms, cradling her head under his own. "I want so much more. Will you wait for me? Will you pray to speed the days, weeks and months ahead of us to pass?" Gulping he nibbled desperately at her chin, jaw and mouth before pleading , "Will you wait for me?"
Rose stilled and Ryan looked at her in painful misery, everything he hoped for showing in his rough-hewn face. With every second she remained silent, a part of him fell dead inside. "You are all I want," he gasped out, striving for equilibrium as the room canted crazily. He had been a fool to hope for so much so fast, wearing his heart on his sleeve.
Quickly she grabbed him when he would have let her go, grasping his face and made him look at her again. "Where are you going Ryan Moran?"
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't--"
"Hush," she said placing a soft finger against his lips. "Never tell me you are sorry for what you made me feel tonight. Where are you going?"
He shook all over as his lungs worked like a bellows. He hadn't felt so scared since he stepped onto the plane to come home a handful of weeks ago. "I've been recalled, back to Iraq." His lips twisted in pain. He'd served two tours in Europe, one in Afghanistan, and the last months in Iraq. While his time in the service had concluded, he was still bound for another two years at the discretion of the Army. His explanation tumbled out in a jumble. It made no sense to his ears but she seemed to understand.
He groped at the medals on his chest and hurriedly unpinned one, then with shaking hands, fastened it to her sweater. "Please," he asked in a shaking voice, "please wait for me."
Rose couldn't seem to find her voice. He watched her mouth move convulsively; her eyes fill with tears as she looked in askance from him to the medal glinting on her chest. He had picked his Silver Star to represent hope. She was his evening star and he was wishing with desperation, that she'd take a chance, not reject him. Words didn't seem to come to her trembling pink lips, only stuttering attempts. Almost afraid to breathe, Ryan waited as Rose closed her eyes, swallowed and tried again.
"Your family," she started hesitantly. Ryan swore lightly. His family was a bunch of dark Irish heathens known for brawling and drinking. He should have known that his sacrifices and Brad's softness wouldn't be enough.
"Yeah, my family has a reputation." His voice was dulled with pain.
"No," she smiled and pulled his head back, kissing his chin. "You aren't letting me finish." She reached around her neck and unclasped a necklace, then shyly secured it around his neck. "Your family is Catholic, I'm Jewish…that's all I worried about." Ryan looked intently into her eyes and a spark blazed deep inside. She wasn't shrinking from his service or from his family. He looked down and saw the small gold star of her faith shining against the olive drab jacket and never thought anything had looked so beautiful. Recklessly, he kissed her one last time, pouring his heart and soul into every touch of his lip and tongue, urging her to open one last time. Her hands cupped his face holding him still as she pulled back.
"I will wait for you."