SEAL EXtreme Team Short Story
By: Kimberley Troutte
SEAL Lieutenant Commander Nick Talley keeps promises, but taking care of a teammate’s sister is a vow he should’ve made. How can a man tortured by the past, help a woman fight her tough future?
Ironman qualifier, Jill Connors, is counting the days until her brother brings handsome Nick home with him. But a buried IED takes her brother’s life and a drunk driver steals her competition hopes. Will Nick want a woman with only one foot?
Love has a way of healing the wounded…one muddy step at a time.
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Nick ran into the room, passing the nurse and doctor who suddenly had better places to be.
“Damn you, Nick. You knew!” She reached for the pitcher, determined to throw it at his head, but she was too shaky and it tipped off the table instead. He moved quickly and caught it before it hit the floor. Water sloshed out all over his fancy uniform. Too bad. He deserved worse.
“Yes. I knew.” He put the pitcher back on the nightstand.
“You let me talk about the Ironman.” She heaved to catch a breath. “My, my dreams. I thought you’d run with me. That’s over now. My life is over.”
He crossed his arms over that impressive chest of his. “Aren’t you being a little melodramatic? Life isn’t over. It’s just different now.”
“My life will be more than different. I’m a runner. With one foot. How’s that going to work?”
He ran his hand over his short hair. “It’ll take a little effort, learning new skills and techniques, but it’s not impossible.”
“How would you know? You have two feet!” She fumed, wanting to lash out at the world, and Nick was the only one around.
But he wouldn’t stay for long. He was there out of duty or some misplaced heroism, but tomorrow he’d be gone. Maybe it was better if she scared him away right now and put an end to this relationship before it was too late. Before she couldn’t let him go.
“You should go, Nick.”
Instead of leaving, he sat on the edge of her bed and rubbed her shoulder. She hated herself for leaning into that hand, relishing his touch.
“Listen to me, sweetheart. I know guys who’ve screwed up their legs, feet, or even arms during battle. They get prosthetics and return to duty. Their lives aren’t over. Yours isn’t, either. Change your attitude and start dreaming for next year’s Ironman.”
Her lip quivered. “It’s impossible.”
“Anything’s possible if you believe it. I know you can do it, Jill. You Connors are tough. I’ll help any way I can.”
But he was wrong. She wasn’t tough enough, and she didn’t need him hanging around feeling sorry for the poor crippled girl. She shook her head. “You should leave now.”
He exhaled. “All right. I’ll come tomorrow to check in on you.”
She should’ve told him to stay away forever, but she was weak and alone. Nick was the only person who seemed to care about her, even if it was a pity call. How could he possibly be attracted to her now?
“Give me a couple of days to process. Figure things out. If you don’t come back, I’ll understand.”
“I’ll be back.” He put his hat on.
She blinked tears as she watched him walk out her door. He wasn’t coming back. Why should he? It wasn’t like they were a couple or anything. He wasn’t obligated to stick around. Sure, she’d had high hopes they would be the real thing once he finished his tour of duty. Super high hopes.
She’d never met anyone like Nick. So strong, capable, and funny. He seemed to be attracted to her too. Somehow he’d always found a way to show up when she’d Skyped with Billy.
It didn’t get past her brother that she was Skyping with him more often than usual. They’d gone from talking once a week to three and four times a week. “Come on, Jilly-girl. Skype him already. You two are perfect for each other. Both as stubborn as hell.”
“Who?” She had played coy, but her pulse thundered in her ears.
“Who?” He’d snorted. “The guy you make foreplay faces at right in front of me. It’s revolting. Do it so I don’t have to watch you two Skype-sexing.” He shivered in mock disgust.
She’d scraped up her courage and clicked Nick’s user name. When his handsome face popped up on her monitor, her heart did a happy dance.
“Jill!” He ran his hand over his hair as if he could comb out the short cut. “What a surprise. Should I get Billy?”
“No. I want you.” Oops, did she say that outloud?
He grinned. “Cool. I saw you took second in your age group in the Ironman Florida. Congratulations.”
He followed her races? “Thanks.” She took a deep breath. “Listen, Nick, um, I heard you’re going to have time off in a few months.”
He shifted his weight and came closer to the screen. “I can neither confirm nor deny my schedule, but it’s possible. Why?”
She swallowed hard. “It’s just, I mean, I’ve been thinking about you. A lot. Really, really a lot. What are you going to do with all that time off?”
He crossed his arms. Wow, he had big guns, even bigger than Billy’s enormous biceps. “You asking me out, sweetheart? As in a date?”
She lifted her chin. “What would you say if I was?”
“I’d say, hell, yes! I’ve been thinking about you a lot too.”
She couldn’t stop smiling. “So… You’ll call me when you get home?”
“I’ll call you before then.”
“How about in an hour?”
She leaned back in her desk chair and hitched an eyebrow. “That long?”
He laughed. If she lived to be a hundred, she’d never forget that deep, rolling sound. “Ten minutes?”
“Why do we have to hang up?”
“I like the way you think, sweetheart. But you have to train, and I have to do…stuff.”
“Navy SEAL stuff you can’t confirm or deny.”
They’d talked for two hours that night and nearly every night after that. Billy complained that he’d lost his sister to the ugliest guy on the SEAL team, but he said it with a smile. For months Jill longed for the moment when she’d wrap her arms around both of her favorite SEALs and maybe, just maybe, keep them home for good.
But that all ended the day a buried IED killed Billy. She’d never hold him again and soon Nick would be gone too.
Kimberley Troutte is a Southern California girl, born and raised. She lives with her amazing hubby, two awesome sons, one old dog, a wild cat, four very large snakes and various other creatures the man/kids/dog inevitably drag in.
Kimberley has been an accountant, substitute teacher, caterer, financial analyst for a major defense contractor, real-estate broker, aerobics instructor and a freelance writer. With a B.A in Business Economics and a M.S. in Systems Management, she was destined to write romance.
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