Fighting Redemption
Author:Kate McCarthy

Fin laughed and did a bootie dance in Rachael’s face after yanking on her sweatpants.

 

Rachael groaned and tossed a cushion at her. “That was so not attractive.”

 

Fin puckered her lips at her friend. “You love me.”

 

“You’re lucky I do,” Rachael replied with a raise of her perfectly arched brows. “You know,” she added, “I reckon Ian would have stuck around if you’d tried hard enough.”

 

Fin, stuffing textbooks into her bag, paused and looked at Rachael. “Tried hard enough? Are you serious?”

 

Rachael flopped backwards onto her bed. “Yes. You never gave him a real chance, Fin. Honestly, the only time I’ve seen your eyes light up around a guy was when…”

 

Fin slung her bag onto her back. “When what?”

 

“When Ryan was around,” Rachael mumbled.

 

Three years and she hadn’t heard a word from Ryan. Anything she did know was all second hand information from Jake. They were finishing up SAS selection or would be soon. She wasn’t sure.

 

Fin frowned at Rachael. “Don’t mention his name.”

 

“Fine. Are you going out with that guy tonight? What’s his name—Marlin?”

 

“Marlin?” Fin laughed. “Martin. And maybe,” she replied, hoisting her bag over her shoulder.

 

“Good. I’ll pick you out something to wear,” Rachael yelled as Fin strode out the door, shutting it loudly behind her.

 

Later that afternoon Jake rang to tell her they made it through. Ryan had done exactly what he’d set out to do and soon they would be fighting in Afghanistan. That night she let Rachael dress her. In a slinky black dress, smoky eyes, and slick red lips, she didn’t recognise herself in the mirror.

 

Good.

 

Blowing off her date with Martin, she went out with Rachael and a group of friends and drank well into the night.

 

Hands grabbed her hips as she leaned over the bar to order another round of drinks.

 

“Baby,” came the voice in her ear.

 

“Ian!” She spun around. “You’re back.”

 

He stood there, bigger, older, and still as hot as she remembered. Paying for the drinks, she turned back to face him again. “You look good.”

 

Heavy lidded eyes roamed over her. “You look hot. I almost didn’t recognise you.”

 

Fin flushed, looking down at her dress. “I don’t usually dress like this.”

 

“I like it.” Sliding an arm around her waist, he leaned in, his eyes on her lips. “I missed you.”

 

Her eyes searched his face. “Me too. I missed you too, Ian.”

 

Ian’s eyes crinkled in a grin, and her heart lifted a little. “Wanna get out of here?”

 

Fin looked over at her friends. Rachael was giving her an obvious thumbs up. Her other friends were laughing and whooping, catching male attention and appearing to love every minute of it.

 

Taking a deep breath, she looked at him. “Okay.”

 

And just like that, they picked up where they left off.

 

 

 

That was two years ago. Fin graduated and Ian worked with the Perth City Police. He was pushing for them to move in together, yet Fin resisted. She valued her independence. She had a great job with the Department of Environment and Conservation. She also owned a restored cottage in Fremantle. She’d bought it with Jake when he came to visit before being sent on his first tour to Afghanistan.

 

Now they were back on their second deployment and Fin was thankful she was busy with work to take her mind off the worry. She’d completed an Antarctic research expedition last year and would be off for another one in two weeks. Ian wasn’t happy about it and she was waiting for the ultimatum. The sad part was she knew what she’d choose.

 

The phone rang, pulling her from her memories.

 

“Hello.”

 

“Hi, baby.”

 

“Ian,” she breathed softly and rolled out of bed, planting her feet on the solid timber floors. The same floors Jake had spent weeks sanding and refinishing during his return. The cottage was in the perfect spot, close to the beach and family. Single-story, painted beige with white trim, lush green lawns, and a back yard with a big timber deck covered with a large shade sail. A vegetable patch traversed the left side of the lawn, which gave her fits with the painstaking maintenance it required. Yet Fin persevered, hating to fail at anything.

 

A mammoth, smushed face Himalayan cat came trotting in as Fin stood up and shrugged on a short cotton robe. She tripped over him as she left the bedroom and slammed into the hallway wall face first.

 

“Dammit, Crookshanks,” she muttered irritably and rubbed at what felt like a painful, burgeoning lump on her forehead. “Why can’t you sleep in like normal cats?”

 

“Meow, meow,” he replied impatiently, looking more cranky than normal this morning. Fin had had Crookshanks since moving into the cottage, naming him after Hermione’s cat from her beloved Harry Potter books. What was not to love about a magical world where one could fly about on a broom without pillaging the world of resources in order to do so? Solving wars between worlds with just a flick of the wand.