Military Romance is the featured genre in this new writers' blog. The work of Lee-Ann Graff Vinson is highlighted with Love's Trust. This excerpt certainly engages one in the drama of this genre; it's no surprise Lee-Ann is a firm believer in 'what doesn't kill us, makes us stronger.' Enjoy.
'Love's Trust' - Military/Romance
Daphne threw the car into reverse and backed out of the driveway. She could see her now ex-boyfriend, Mike, yelling at her, but the driving rain drowned out the possibility of hearing his scathing comments as it thundered down on the canvas roof of her Mercedes.
Daphne would have laughed at the comical nature of Mike’s actions if it hadn’t been for the last six months of crap she had taken from this man. Another relationship bites the dust, and along with it another chance at happily-ever-after ground out like a spent cigarette. The possibility of finding a man who would treat her with the respect, hell even the common courtesy she deserved; seemed non-existent. As the car reached the edge of the driveway, Daphne turned the wheel and took one last look at Mike, standing there in his boxer shorts, giving her the finger. She felt dead inside. She focused on the road ahead and drove away from the promise of love.
Daphne wondered how she had ended up here again, how she always ended up here. She’d worked hard and won scholarships to put herself through university, graduating from Harvard with a degree in journalism. Daphne was smart and successful, so why could she not seem to find a man who appreciated her instead of always belittling her efforts? She shook her head as she drove along Pine Street, very thankful now that she hadn’t given up her apartment downtown when Mike had told her to. That had caused yet another argument but Daphne was not about to let go of her rent controlled, fully furnished apartment a mere two blocks away from her job as a reporter for The Boston Globe. No man was going to dictate where she lived or what she did again. Ever.
Daphne pulled into her designated parking spot at the newspaper. She turned off the engine and dropped her head back against the leather seat. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught the glitter of the parking lot lamplight reflecting off her stall nameplate in the downpour. Her boss had tacked a metal replica of a purple heart to it to remind her how close she had come to losing it all on her last assignment.
Daphne had been a slave to reporting the military political injustices of the world for the past eight years. She loved her job, which included travel to many war-torn areas. She’d seen the devastation caused by years of bullets and brutality. Her most recent trip to Iraq was one she’d steeled herself for. This time, instead of simply observing, Daphne got the chance to become part of the troops, and live the life of the American soldier. The assignment was one of the most difficult she’d ever taken, and she’d found that studying up on a topic and actually living it were two different things. She’d seen the terror on the faces of small children when the MRAP vehicle she was in rumbled along the dirt roadway through their village. Daphne had witnessed the missing limbs and scarred flesh of the civilian Iraqi men, women and children as she walked the dirt roads looking for (Improvised Explosive Devices or IED’s) with her assigned platoon. She was shown pictures of the enlisted friends of her troop members who no longer walked alongside them, but would never be forgotten. She saw first-hand the pain and suffering caused by militant war-mongers and it sickened her.
In her three months in Iraq, Daphne had gotten to know the soldiers very well. She’d watched as four young, vibrant, enthusiastic recruits became despondent shells of their former selves dealing with their injuries and the pain of being knocked down so early in their military career. In their eyes, the stigma of failing their country was worse than the injuries. The minds of soldiers were directed to giving their all for their country, and being sent home alive but crippled left them with a feeling of inadequacy almost unbearable to behold.
Daphne also remembered Sergeant John Romero, a well-respected leader amongst the men and women in his platoon, and the man who saved her when their patrol had triggered an IED. John lost his leg getting Daphne to the safety of the following MRAP vehicle. Two soldiers lost their lives on a day that was supposed to be a routine sweep. It continued to haunt Daphne that the IED wasn’t found when Sergeant Romero walked over it with his bomb detector. She wanted to do a follow-up story delving into the equipment failure rates of the military, but decided against it. She didn’t want to cause John any further angst over an incident he blamed himself for. John was thorough in his job. He never made errors. The day the explosion took the lives of his platoon members, his friends, he shut down. Daphne had tried to get him help, tried to make him keep the appointment with the psychologist the Army set up for him, but he refused.
John and Daphne were close, as close as the Army allowed without a reprimand. They drank many bottles of water together and shared a lifetime of memories in those months. Daphne was impressed by this quiet leader of men, who gave his all for his country and his platoon. He was the type of man you never forgot. Honorable. Courageous. Worthy.
Shortly after her return, Daphne wrote an award-winning article about her time in Iraq. It was an in-depth piece compiled from hours of interviews Daphne had conducted with the soldiers while they were in the field. It was her way of trying to help them heal. Once the piece was done, Daphne lost touch with the four wounded soldiers she flew back with after the accident, as well as with John. He’d told her that he needed to get away, needed to make sense of things. Daphne let him go, but her heart broke the day they said goodbye.
Still sitting in the car, Daphne closed her eyes and thought about one of the first nights she and John were on duty together. It was shortly after she had been trained to use the M9 9mm pistol. There was no way Daphne was going to be the weak link in this platoon. If she was going to live the life of a soldier, she needed to be trained as a soldier. Given the time constraints, she worked harder than she ever had at anything in her life. She was not going to let her platoon down. It paid off, she was a damn good shot with her weapon, even Lieutenant Jekholf was impressed.
John led Daphne around the perimeter of the camp, on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary. John had stopped to speak with one of his platoon members who had a few questions about the next days mission. Daphne thought she spotted movement behind one of the buildings. She did not want to interrupt them if it was nothing so, armed with her M9 and ready to shoot, Daphne walked in the direction of the possible intruder. She knew she was a decent shot and she momentarily got a little excited about the possibility of showing off her newfound talent. Daphne was close to rounding the corner of the building when common sense kicked in. The hair on the back of her neck stood up. The thought of coming face to face with the enemy scared the hell out of her. Sweat trickled down her back. She needed to pull it together and fast.
There was no way she was going to allow herself to lose it here. If mere kids could handle the stress of this type of situation, so could she. Daphne rounded the corner and could hear some rustling coming from a small shack that held sandbags. Before she could take aim, she was pressed roughly against the wall of the building and told to be quiet. Daphne’s heart was racing before, now it damn near exploded in fear. Her mouth was scared shut. She recognized the voice to be John’s and prayed that her stupid decision to go off alone wasn’t going to get them killed. John’s movements were quick and efficient. His gun was drawn and pointed as he silently made his way across open ground, and stood to the side of the doorway.
John nudged the door open further, using the tip of one boot to keep his hands free and on his weapon. Lighting was minimal in this area. Daphne felt her pupils dilating to compensate, almost willing herself to see something before it was too late. The shape was fast as it shot out past John’s boot. Daphne held a scream in her throat as she pulled her weapon to cover him. John took aim and shot. In less than a second, the form lay limp on the ground. Men and women came running from all directions with their weapons drawn.
Daphne was shaking and unable to move. Her hands trembled from the tight grasp on her weapon still aimed in the direction of the lifeless body. She stared at her platoon members now gathered around it, hearing a few of them laugh. She watched as someone patted John on the back before turning away and walking back to the camp. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. They were laughing. Someone was dead, and they were laughing. Daphne felt the heat as it rose within her. Her anger forced her shaking limbs to close the distance between her and the rest of her team.
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