UPDATE: The winner is…Armenia!
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What’s sexier than a cowboy? How about SEAL who’s also a cowboy? How about a SEAL/Cowboy who also doesn’t give up on love? I had fun writing this story about a woman wooed by her high school sweetheart relentlessly over the years of their separation—due to her stubbornness and his many tours of duty. In the end, what woman could resist such a heady combination?
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Rules of Engagement
Callie Murphy had never been one to moon over a man. Fairytale romances were best left to novels. After all, she’d seen first-hand how transitory love could be after watching her mother drift in and out of three marriages, only to be left disappointed when “true love” faded. However, the video Callie watched for the thousandth time stirred a wistfulness inside that left her feeling restless and thinking about what might have been.
Just the sight of that warm, steady gaze enveloped her in warmth. The deep timbre of his voice as he sang raised the fine hairs on her arms and caused her nipples to prickle, because she remembered that same voice murmuring in her ear in the darkness.
Knowing she’d never get his approval for security’s sake, she’d snuck this recording of their Skype session using a plug-in installed on her computer because she’d wanted something of him to linger after they’d said their goodbyes. This recording been made before their final breakup. Now, watching and listening to him was a form of self-torture. Wearing desert camouflage pants and a brown tee stretching across a well-muscled chest, his dark hair a little shaggy and his beard scruffy, he was all man. All complication. Those piercing blue eyes stared into the camera at her, steady and determined, and Callie couldn’t help the tears welling in her eyes.
Prickles of dismay swept over her as she imagined some other woman, someone not her, on the receiving end of one of his calls, being serenaded with that husky, smooth-as-silk voice. The last time he’d proposed, she’d been firm, making it clear she had no interest in leaving behind the life she’d built in Two Mule, Texas while he was set on a career in the Navy. Rightfully, he should have moved on. No one here in Two Mule would ever fault him. No one really understood why she kept refusing him, but then they hadn’t walked in her shoes through her childhood.
Her mother had followed that “broken road,” uprooting Callie three times, from the friends she’d made, from the roots she’d tried so desperately to sink deep into every place she’d lived. She’d never make that same mistake. Love faded, turned bitter and dark. When love ended, good people drifted apart, or worse, struck out at each other. She’d lived it, first-hand.
So when Derek had stood on her doorstep that last day before heading back to Little Creek, where no doubt his team would be deployed on more dangerous secret missions in the Middle East, Africa, or whatever foreign hellhole the powers that be scrambled a SEAL team for, she’d shut the door on everything he’d offered, despite the fact he’d been sincere—and despite the fact her own heart had twisted inside her chest at the disappointment darkening his eyes.
Watching the video now, him seated on a narrow cot strumming a guitar while he sang about roads leading him straight to some other woman, Callie couldn’t help sniffling. He’d known even before that last proposal that she’d say no. And yet, here he’d been, reaching out to her, letting her see inside his heart as he strummed out his pain.
Watching him as he’d given her a smile, and then sat back to pull his guitar across his legs, she remembered everything she’d felt—nostalgia for their long-shared past, irritation he’d never give up, and joy, deep inside, that his love had never waned, because she was selfish like that. Although she’d been unwilling to hitch her star along with his, she’d depended on his love. Read the rest of this entry »