Home > Fading Shadows (Shadows Landing #8)

Fading Shadows (Shadows Landing #8)
Author: Kathleen Brooks


PROLOGUE

 

 

Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia . . .

 

Three years, six visits, and it never got easier.

Edie took a deep breath as she walked among the headstones belonging to brave soldiers, including her husband. It had been three years since a traitor killed her husband during a mission. She’d prepared herself for losing him in action, but to be murdered by one of his own teammates had made it harder to accept and even harder to move on.

However, that’s what she was determined to do—move on in her own way. Edie’s brother, Walker Greene, had been the sole survivor of that mission and he’d made sure the traitor got what he deserved. While that brought closure, it couldn’t bring her husband back. Nothing would, but there had to be balance. She’d been living in the shadows of life for three years now and it was time to step out of them and start participating among the living again.

 

SHANE JOHN WECKER

SOC

US NAVY SEAL

 

 

There he was. Her husband. Edie read his name and forced her eyes past the date of death down to the bottom of the marker.

 

OPERATION NIGERIAN WATERS

PURPLE HEART

BELOVED HUSBAND

 

 

“Hello, Shane. I’ve missed you,” Edie said, taking a seat in front of the marker. It was April and Washington, D.C., was in full bloom. Cherry trees with their fluffy blossoms, tulips and daffodils in full bloom, green grass, new leaves pushing toward the sunlight, birds chirping all around her and her husband’s white headstone.

Edie placed her hand on Shane’s headstone and used her fingers to trace his name as the tears fell. They always fell. She visited him twice a year to talk to him, to promise she’d never forget him, and to tell him she still loved him. Even as time went by, her feelings for him never faded.

“I’ve been managing a treasure museum belonging to my friends, Wade and Darcy Faulkner. Do you remember me telling you about the sunken treasure hunt I helped with? Well, I took over managing the museum. It’s nice to walk to work every day, talk to the tourists, and to be honest, keep all the personal questions at bay. It appears to everyone that I’m okay, but I can still feel isolated even when I’m in the middle of town.”

Edie took a deep breath as she scooted closer as if Shane were still there holding her. Instead of his warm body, she leaned against the cold, hard headstone. She scrolled through her phone to a picture of her and Shane at Virginia Beach. His arm was around her, her face was buried in his chest, and they were both laughing.

“Walker and Layne had the cutest baby girl last year. She’s not quite one now. Carolina Miles Walker Greene. Miles after Layne’s father and Walker after my brother. Layne said it was to give Carolina the strength of the two most important men in her life who will always look out for her and protect her. Speaking of Walker and Layne, you’ll be proud of me. I’m taking a big step forward. They invited me to go to Europe with them and I’m going. I’m actually here on a layover on our way to Paris. Walker wanted to come with me to visit, but I asked him to come see you on the way home. I wanted to talk to you alone first.”

Edie felt the tears start again as her hand shook where it lay against Shane’s name. Her other hand gripped his wedding band that she wore on a long necklace. “I’m so scared, Shane. I’m scared to start living again. I know you’d be mad at me for acting like this, but I just couldn’t seem to make myself want to live. I love my brother, I love my friends, and I love my family, but you’re not here and I felt like an empty shell just hiding in the shadows instead of living. I finally decided I was tired. Tired of pretending to be okay. Tired of pretending I’m actually living instead of just making it through the days. I joined a support group for veteran spouses and it’s helped me see I’m not the only one who feels like this and that I’m not alone. It’s as if the sun is beginning to shine through the fog I’ve been in since you died. I’m thirty-three, Shane. We’d wanted a family of two children by now. I grieve for the kids we didn’t get to have even though they never existed. I’m so lonely and I feel the loss of all we dreamed about. But I’m determined to be brave, Shane. I’ve decided to do all the things we talked about. We talked about taking a romantic trip to Europe. We talked about getting matching tattoos and living life to the fullest. All the things we wanted to do and see. I’m going to do them all and more. I’ll just do them with you in my heart instead of by my side.”

Edie let the tears roll down her cheeks as she took a shaky breath.

“I don’t have much time. The flight leaves soon, but I had to talk to you. I had to, I don’t know, I guess ask your blessing to begin moving on. To laugh again. To live again. It doesn’t feel right to do it without you, Shane, but I also know you’d want me to live, have a real life again. It’s going to be hard. Please give me a sign that you want me to do this. We believed in signs. We believed in gut feelings we couldn’t explain. You said they kept you alive. Well, now I need them to live again. I need your strength and I need your courage.”

Edie closed her eyes as she held on to Shane’s wedding ring and remembered his face, the way he’d touch her, the way he’d kiss her, and the way he laughed with his whole body.

The screech of a hawk brought her up straight with a start. Her breath caught in her throat as a red-tailed hawk suddenly dove from the sky. The hawk raced toward the ground only to pull up and float by her with its wings outstretched. Fresh tears flowed from Edie’s eyes as she turned back to the phone leaning against the grave. “Thank you, Shane,” she choked out between sobs as she looked at the tattoo on Shane’s chest, a beautifully detailed red-tailed hawk.

Edie lay there with her head resting against his headstone until her tears slowed. She tucked the ring back under her shirt, placed her phone back in her purse, and turned back to Shane’s name. Edie leaned forward and kissed the headstone. “I’ll be back with Walker and we’ll tell you all about our trip. I love you forever.”

Edie stood on wobbly legs and made the long walk back to the area where taxis waited, bringing tourists and families to and from the cemetery. She felt wrung-out and weary, her heart heavy with memories, as she took a taxi to the airport, but she also felt lighter. It was time to have an adventure. It was time to live again.

 

 

1

 

 

Millevia, Europe . . .

 

Tristan Durand was a damn good government asset, and as such he knew when to keep his mouth shut. This was one of those times.

Tristan stood at attention with his hands behind his back as the “president” of Millevia gave him a new assignment. Annette Pastor hadn’t been elected. Instead, she’d filled the power vacuum when the beloved president, Christian Gastaud, had been killed in a horseback riding accident one year earlier. Annette Pastor had been President Gastaud’s Head of Armed Services. She’d served her adult life in Millevia’s military before Gastaud appointed her as the head of the military many years ago. When Gastaud died, Pastor had immediately stepped forward declaring herself president and prevented legitimate elections. She leveraged the power of the military to take the presidency before firing all other cabinet leaders and putting in all her own people in key government jobs.

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