Bursting With Love(3)

By: Melissa Foster

He turned and surveyed this weekend’s group of yuppies-turned-survivalists with their nervous smiles and eyes that danced with possibilities. He’d been running survival training retreats as a means of remaining at least a little connected to civilization, and though Jack had plenty of money, the extra income made him feel like he was a productive member of society. He looked over his new students, silently mustering the energy to be civil and patient.

Lou and Elizabeth Merriman stood behind their young son, Aiden, each with one hand on his shoulder. A granola family. He knew from their registration form that they lived a green lifestyle, Elizabeth homeschooled little towheaded Aiden, and they were vegans. They were there to make an impression on their young son. He’d had enough granola families attend his survival camps to know that they all thought they had the answers to life and health, when the reality was that they had no damn answers at all. It wasn’t the answers about life he was concerned with. Jack had yet to meet anyone who could give him the answers that really mattered—the answers about death and how to deal with it.

He shifted his gaze to their left. Pratt Smith, a brooding, brown-haired artist, and Josie Bales, a dark-haired beauty who taught second grade for a living. Josie played with the ends of her hair. The two twentysomethings who were traveling separately—he, for the hell of it, and she, to find herself—were trying to pretend they weren’t sizing each other up as potential hookups. Great. Jack didn’t have anything against young couples getting together, but he sure as hell wished they’d do it on their own time. His job was to bring them out into the woods, show them basic survival skills, and send them home feeling like they were Bear Grylls. The last thing he wanted to deal with was a couple sneaking into the woods seeking privacy and doing something stupid like getting lost or being eaten by a bear. And he sure as hell didn’t need the goddamn reminder of how good it felt to be in love shoved in his face every time he looked at them. Love had been off his plate since Linda died, and he wasn’t looking for a second helping.

Now, where in the hell was the goddamn woman who’d called and signed up three days ago? The pushy one who wouldn’t take no for an answer when he’d said registration had already closed. He saw boots land on the ground on the other side of the plane. She was taking her own sweet time, and they had work to do. She’d better not be a Manhattan prima donna. He’d had enough of those whiny women to last a lifetime, and he never understood why they enrolled in the weekend courses anyway. He forced the thought away. The students paid for a guide, not a critic.

He planted his boot-clad feet in the dirt and opened his arms. “Welcome to survivor camp. You’ll notice that there is no formal name for my program, and that’s because emergencies don’t come packaged neat and tidy with cute little names. We’re preparing for survival. I’ve spoken to each of—”

“I’m sorry. The landing was a little nerve-rack—”

The woman from the airport made her way around the plane, cutting him off midsentence. As she flashed a broad smile at the others, he remembered her name. Savannah. Savannah Braden.

She glanced at Jack, and their eyes caught. Her smile faded; her green eyes narrowed. She was taller, curvier, and even more beautiful than he’d realized when he’d run into her at the airport.

Jack clenched his jaw. He cleared his throat and looked away, then continued.

“I’m Jack Remington, and I live on this land.” His eyes drifted toward Savannah and he paused, then looked away and began again. “I served eight years as a Special Forces officer with the United States Army. I can get you in and out of here alive if you listen and work together. Let’s keep the land clean and the attitudes friendly.”

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