Surviving Love Excerpt


The morning mist rose slowly over the Blue Ridge Mountains, casting the sunrise in a smoky haze.  The woods in late winter were stark, bare trees mixed in with the evergreens.  The quiet was broken only by the sounds of birds chirping and the rustling of leaves on the ground by whatever woodland creatures had woken and began their foraging.

Marc stretched his large, muscular frame as sleep slowly let go of his body and he worked the kinks out.  Hearing a slight noise from the side he turned his head, smiling at the rumpled hair of his tent companion.  Well, at least, companion for the night. 

Hiking the previous day, he had run across another hiker as he turned up the path behind her.  The view had been spectacular.  Long, tan legs.  Long, blonde hair.  Great ass.  As he walked alongside of her, he noticed her dark brown eyes and luscious rack.  By the time he was ready to set up his campsite, she was ready to share his tent for the night.

And one night was just fine with him.  One night was all he ever wanted.  Still, he did not consider himself a player—his hookups were not very frequent.  Sitting up, he rested his forearms on his bent knees and viewed the morning from the slit in the tent flap.  Pulling the cool air into his lungs, he twisted his head to the side a couple of times, cracking his neck.  Stifling a groan, he realized his thirty-year-old body was no longer as resilient as a teen’s and sleeping on the ground now added a few joint aches. 

His companion rolled over, her face still slack with sleep.  He sat observing her for a moment, wondering why he felt nothing more than just physical satisfaction.  Bar hookups were sometimes necessary, but the heavily made up, high maintenance women he occasionally found never appealed for more than a night.  But then, so far, the women he met while camping, who seemed to understand his way of life, had not stirred any interest either.  I just haven’t found the right one yet.  That thought never used to bother him, but glancing back to the sleeping woman, he now wished he had kept this trip solo. 

Rubbing his hand over his face, he sighed louder than he intended and watched as her eyes blinked before closing again.  Slipping quietly out of the tent, he walked through the trees to take care of business before moving back to the embers of the campfire.

Stirring them to life and adding some wood, he built the fire up before setting a pot of water on the metal grate he had placed on the fire last night.  A few split bagels and pre-cooked sausage patties were added to the thick aluminum foil to heat.  After a few minutes, he stirred the hot water into mugs with instant coffee.

Sitting on a large, flat rock near the fire, he settled back with his coffee, watching the ever-changing vista in front of him.  The sun slowly rose over the top of the trees, painting the winter mountainside in various shades of brown, bare trees and green pines and cedars.  He could see his breath in the cold air before closing his eyes for a moment in peaceful reverie.  His grandfather had taught him to appreciate each new day as a fresh start on life.

He knew miles below was his boss’ acreage and smiled thinking about the Saints’ compound.  Jack Bryant, while still in the Army Special Forces, had worked with a team of highly trained members, making up a multi-task force consisting of SEALs, SF, CIA, explosive experts, and others.  Finding the team worked well together Jack re-created the idea of an exclusive multi-task force once he was a civilian.  He recruited from SEALs, FBI, SF, ATF, DEA, and CIA for his new team.  Top of the line equipment, weapons, security systems, vehicles, and computers—everything the Saints Protection & Investigations could need was at their disposal.  For Marc, that meant his own equipped plane, ready and waiting at the local airfield. 

The nine other Saints used to fill the local bar with him, looking for the night’s entertainment, but now they were all in committed relationships.  Somehow, they had each found their perfect mate…their place to land.  Looking back toward the tent, he grimaced.  Not me…not yet. Maybe not ever.

Soon the tent flap opened and the woman crawled out, sniffing the air.  “Oh, my God, you’ve got coffee!”

“Instant, but yeah, it’s coffee,” he replied, handing her a steaming cup.  “It’s black,” he added, then grinned as she wrinkled her nose. 

Taking a sip, she nodded toward his backpack.  “No sugar or sweetener in there?”

“Do I look like a sweetener kind of guy?”

“Hmmm, no I guess not,” she admitted, taking small sips.  Taking the sausage bagel from him, she ate heartily.  Standing, she stretched her arms over her head exposing a band of tanned skin above her jeans.  She bent down to tie her boots before moving back to the tent to grab her backpack.  Throwing it over her shoulder, she grinned as he stood and walked over. 

“Are you breaking camp today?” she asked, barely waiting for him to answer before standing on her toes to offer a quick kiss before stepping back toward the trail.

Observing her distracted body language, Marc was aware her mind was already on her day, no more interested in spending extra time with him than he was with her.  Shouldn’t this make me happy?  This is easy, so why do I feel…unfulfilled?  In theory, she should be perfect—loves to hike and camp, is able to cook outdoors, and has no compunction with getting naked out in the wilderness.

As he watched her walk away with a wave and a wink, he turned and stared out over the valley laid out before him, the sun rising a little higher in the sky.  He broke camp earlier than he normally would, the sense of dissatisfaction taking precedence over the beautiful vista.

Remembering the words of his papaw, he wondered when he would find a good place to land.  But what does that mean?  Maybe I need a woman who needs me also…but would be able to take care of herself as well.  Does that woman exist?  And if so…where the hell would I meet her?