Let's check in with the Campions on Santorini — and get another glimpse into Ryder's time in the military...


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Scene 4: The Blur of War

A.D. 2015


The day after tomorrow, they would be flying halfway across the world, back to the States again. The honeymoon was almost at its end. Ryder wasn't sure yet whether that was good or bad; these days, he was rarely ever sure of anything. Other than the sad fact that this marriage was the death of him, and the sadder fact that if he'd not gone through with it, that would've meant the death of Lacey. Literally.

"So, honey, I was thinking," his bride, very much alive, chimed in from her side of the bed, where the couple sat pretending to watch mindless television before sleeping. "What if we... stay here awhile."

Ryder blinked at the meaningless scene on the screen. "Stay?"

"Mm-hmm. In Greece, I mean," she clarified. "Extend the trip a bit. It's just so lovely here, and I feel like we should take more time to thoroughly enjoy it. Life has just been... better while we've been here, don't you think? One of my favorite things is that it's been much easier to ignore texts and calls from my mother, since I can blame bad international service. And your job lets you work remotely, at least for some time, right?"

He blinked again. It was true that his occupation — as a strategy manager at a successful security company, a job well-suited to skills that he had developed in the military — allowed for ample flexibility in terms of time spent in the office versus elsewhere, as long as he fulfilled his obligations and was regularly reachable by email. And it was true that Katherine's overbearing voice was much more easily ignored from overseas.

And given that their married life was doomed to be pure misery, it couldn't hurt to have it set against the backdrop of the Greek isles' gorgeous scenery. For some time, at least. Besides, the picture-perfect setting of Santorini, with its panoramic sunsets over seaside cliffs, seemed to be good for Lacey's delusions of sanity.

"So why leave paradise? I figure we might as well linger as long as we can," she suggested, with the carefree air of an heiress who never needed to worry over money; the Weavers had plenty, so it was not at all a problem to spontaneously pay for extra nights at nice hotels or similar last-minute luxuries. "If we stay awhile longer, maybe we'll get to meet up with Eldor. It was a shame that we had just left Mykonos when he contacted us, you know? And while we're on Santorini, maybe you could even have a nice little reunion with him and Simon."

As soon as Lacey uttered the name, she visibly realized that it hadn't been the wisest way to further persuade Ryder to stay. In his periphery, he saw her lashes flutter as she lowered her gaze, and he felt his own gaze darkening, jaw tensing just as it always did at the memory of the dark events evoked by the name of that one veteran.

"I'm sorry, honey—" she apologized after a momentary silence broken only by the background noise of some violent war movie, which just so happened to be playing on the present channel, in a tragic twist of irony, "—I shouldn't have mentioned him..."

Ryder turned to face his wife and forced a fraction of a smile, reassuring her with the merciful lie that it was all right. It wasn't Lacey's fault for thinking that it might have been all right to mention Simon. She knew some of the story behind Simon's trauma, the gist of the drama, but few of the details. The sorrows and the screams that haunted Ryder in his dreams.

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