A silent sigh relaxed her shoulders as she watched orange, purple and red colors danced over the water of the Musselshell.
Beauty mixed with a peaceful calm.
One corner of her lips rose in a crookedly secret smile. Coal black eyes twinkled at what could be, had been and will be—someday. If only he’d stop being an asshole.
She didn’t want to look up at the mountains. For doing so would, her gut told, bring back memories best forgotten.
A day six months ago when on a search and destroy training mission which, for her, came to an abrupt halt. At least she’d walked out under her own power, not carried like her sergeant had all but insisted. The fall down the ice and snow covered cliff, she later admitted at his Article 32 hearing, was her fault. She’d been mentally sidetracked finding footprints in the snow where there shouldn’t have been any.
A week later, having been cleared of the charge of dereliction of duty, the sergeant went to Billings for supplies. The humvee was found. Abandoned. He never was.
The fifth soldier in two years to go AWOL. Statistically not bad for a 20,000 soldier Army base.
The sound of footsteps forced her mind back to the here, now and what lay ahead. She closed her eyes, praying against hope who would be walking up behind her. Against her better judgment she forced her body into motion, turning to the sound. Her face set to hide disappointment. Three soldiers walked up all kitted out as she was.
The older, no longer issued, BDU uniforms. Not the newer, multipurpose style. For this particular mission, skulking around the mountains and forest of northern Montana their choice had been a no brainer. Two had their sleeves rolled regulations while she and the remaining soldier only had the sleeves folded halfway up their forearms. Draped around their necks-OD/black shemagh. Definitely not issue but considering the mission and what they were training for the perfect accessory.
This time, she was boss something, Sergeant Gilbert Bailey, fulltime fiancé, part time male chauvinistic pig, like now, didn’t like. Matter of fact, up until three hours ago, he’d fought against her leading the mission.
Sergeant Lillie Randall gave her men a quick inspection. Seeing everything was as they’d discussed she flicked her head toward the waiting Blackhawk. “Let’s load up.”
With one last longing glance over the shoulder Lillie climbed in.