Tess stiffened her frame. “I have to.” Her words were barely a whisper. Gia burst into tears and sank to the floor. She buried her head in Goofy’s ample belly. All the air squeezed out of Antonio’s lungs as he watched Tess pull her close. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. Mommy doesn’t want to leave you.” “Then don’t, Mommy. Don’t go. Don’t leave me.” “Someday you’ll understand why I have to. When you’re older, you’ll see that I’m doing a good thing even if it seems bad right now.” Gia leapt up and yanked her bear away from Tess. “I don’t care someday. I’m older now, and I said don’t go. You don’t love me!” She again ran from the room, the bear thumping after her. Tess rested her face in her hands. “I can’t do this.” Buck up, big guy. Be the man. He pulled her up. “You have to. We both know it. I knew you were an Army brat when I married you. This isn’t our first rodeo. You’ve been deployed before.” “It’s been so long since the last one and so different now that we have Gia.” “We’ll survive it. There is no option on that. She’s angry right now, but you’re right. She’ll understand someday.” “Someday is so hard for a little girl.” She wiped a tear as it ran down her cheek. “But for right this moment, I need to go figure out a way to comfort my daughter.” He heard Gia cries along with the low murmur of Tess’ voice. Protests, whimpers, and more sobs followed. He didn’t bother wiping away the tears that streamed down his own face.