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No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.

Cover Art:
Michelle Crocker

http://mlcdesigns4you.weebly.com/

Publisher’s Note:

This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and events are the work of the author’s imagination.

Any resemblance to real persons, places, or events is coincidental.



Solstice Publishing - www.solsticepublishing.com



Copyright 2015 K.C. Sprayberry























Love Anew

K.C. Sprayberry































Part I: The Beginning—15 Years Earlier

Chapter One



Treena Michaels glanced at the miniscule diamond engagement ring on the third finger of her left hand. Four months ago, Rick Wilson had put the ring there and promised to return to her. Everything she’d dreamed of had happened in the space of two short years. She no longer lived with her father—a man who preached blind obedience for women to their men and enforced his teachings with fists and hateful words in his home. For the first time in her life, she was free to pursue a career she’d always dreamed of having, becoming a social worker for children who lived as she had after her mother disappeared. Within the next year, she would be Rick Wilson’s wife. All she had to do was wait for him to come home from the War on Terrorism unscathed.

“He’ll come home,” she whispered. “Rick promised.”

He had never broken a promise to her, not since the morning her mother disappeared, and he’d found her sobbing her heart out at the park in the center of Landry. Since that day, they’d grown closer and closer until she couldn’t imagine living without him.

“I wish Rick were here,” Treena said.

She closed her eyes and brought an image of her love, of the man she couldn’t live without, the way she last saw him. His gray eyes had sparkled with humor and happiness when he slid the diamond ring on her finger, eyes the same shade as hers. But Rick was far different from Treena in every other way. She always felt safe beside his tall, lanky, well-muscled body, secure in the thought that he’d never hit her with his strong hands. His thick black hair had highlights that reminded her of a deep blue late summer sky. The gentleness of his touch gave her confidence when her world crashed around her.

He never yells or hurts me. Treena smiled. Rick is the perfect man.

She coasted along in her daydream, more than ready to stay there forever. The sound of footsteps approaching invaded her privacy and shattered the delightful moment. Her smile faded, and she opened her eyes.

“Hello, Treena,” a male voice said--a very familiar male voice.

She stared into the hazel eyes of someone she’d never expected to see again. Jameson Andrews, who had never deigned to speak to her even though they grew up in the same town and attended the same church made popular by all the local politicians and wealthy. Jameson Andrews, who had always had a popular, pretty girl hanging on his arm all through high school, and now he had spoken to her directly, something he had never done in the past.

“Hi, Jameson,” she said. “What are you doing here?”

He had often made fun of her in school, especially during the year she’d suffered from a schoolgirl crush on him. Rick and Jameson were polar opposites in every way—a very pale comparison from Jameson’s light blonde hair, to his washed out hazel eyes, to his soft, flabby muscles.

She left unsaid what sprang to mind. Jameson had gone off to Harvard after high school graduation. He’d vowed that he’d never return to Georgia, and that no one and nothing could drag him back to what he described as the most backward state in the country.

“Oh, you know.” His eyes flashed, darkening as a warning of an upcoming, cutting comment. “Checking out everyone from good, old Landry High. I wanted to see if everyone lived down to their standards, and they did from what I heard, just like I expected.”

Same old Jameson. He can’t ever believe anyone is better than he is.

“Only five of us came to UGA,” she said, although she really hated imparting the information. “Rick’s gone into the Marines now. The others usually hang out on the football field.”

She wished Rick were still here, to help her deal with Jameson’s intentions, whatever they were. Jameson always had some kind of plan, and he never hesitated to drag everyone he knew into his schemes.

What she dreaded most was Jameson reviving some of the teasing he’d done behind her back in high school. He’d never lost the chance to put her down, make her feel less than a human, especially during their freshman year when she’d suffered that crush.

“Don’t you have to get ready for your exams at Harvard?” Treena asked.

She hoped Jameson would answer in the affirmative and then rush on back to Massachusetts.

“Harvard and I agreed to part ways.” He shrugged as if dropping out of one of the most prestigious schools in the country was no big thing. “They thought that I should spend far too many hours a day studying and writing those papers my courses demanded when I could easily hire some nerd to do all the research and writing. So, here I am.” He spread his arms to take in the campus of University of Georgia at Athens. “Ready to finish college and take the world by storm.”

Treena had the definite idea that Jameson wanted something from her, probably her assistance in some boneheaded class he’d failed at Harvard. He might claim Harvard and he had agreed about the change in schools but rumors abounding in their hometown of Landry, Georgia spoke differently. Many of their old high school classmates had heard Harvard threw Jameson out after a hazing prank resulted in an injury to a freshman. Only his family connections kept him from a prison sentence.

“What are you majoring in?” she asked.

She hoped that he left soon. She had a term paper to research, several upcoming tests, and a letter to write to Rick.

A smirk from Jameson met her polite inquiry. He looked her up and down, his lips pursing, and then he released an appreciative whistle.

“You,” he said in all seriousness. “Why didn’t I notice you in high school, Treena Michaels? You set my heart a racing like we used to do up on Johns Lake Road.”

Not the most romantic comparison.

Treena shifted her books from her right arm to the left, and held the stack so the ring Rick had given her flashed in the sunlight. Jameson’s self-assured smile slipped but then reappeared brighter than ever.

“I see someone has beaten me to the best girl Landry has to offer,” Jameson commented. “I warn you, Treena. I won’t be dissuaded. You’re mine.”

“Whatever you want to think,” she said, eager to get away from this idiot. “See you around, Jameson.”

She took off at a fast walk and hoped he found an empty-headed female to pester. Treena didn’t want to have to complain, not that she really would. As soon as her father heard anything adverse she said about Jameson, her life at UGA would end before she had a chance to protest.

***

Rick Wilson slogged through basic training in the Marine Corps and was now in his first week of advanced training. He had no problems with the class work. Even the required daily physical training didn’t give him any trouble. An outstanding athlete in football, baseball, and track, he often doubled the minimum requirements to keep his body in the same shape it had been in back in high school.

Today, he had a free afternoon—no classes, PT already complete, and four hours of absolute freedom, a first since entering the Marines. He could go on over to the library and read up some more on the drone technology he’d be using in the field soon.

Not unless there are some new articles since yesterday. I’ve already gone through everything the library has.

He almost convinced himself that he knew all there was to know about drone technology, but he refused to accept the lie. And he had to prepare against the worst. Any other way of thinking might injure him or worse.

Rick didn’t kid himself. He was a Marine, the best of the best in the military. Sooner or later, he would find himself in Afghanistan or Iraq as the War on Terror ground on and on.

“Or I can call Treena.” He smiled at the thought of coming home to her as a well-decorated war hero. “Nah. She’s probably over her head with end of term projects and finals.”

Treena—the woman Rick loved with all his heart and soul. She fit nicely by his side. Her head rested easily where his arm met his shoulder, which gave him a chance to inhale the fruity mango scent of the shampoo she preferred. No other women for Rick, not after Treena. He admired her mink brown hair with red highlights in it when the sun hit it. Her heart-shaped face and pert nose were more than enough for him, rather than the artifice he discovered in other women.

Any thought of Treena kept a smile on his face no matter what was going on around him. He’d admired her from afar since meeting her in kindergarten. She was a quiet girl who became even quieter when her mother disappeared. The sheriff and her father, The Great and Good, The Righteous Reverend Melton Martin Michaels, had claimed that Katie Michaels ran off with a drifter she’d become involved with, but Rick knew better. Katie never would have abandoned Treena. Yet, just about everyone else in Landry had accepted the explanation, and they condemned the wife and mother for her actions.

“Poor Treena,” he whispered, again feeling anger rising, as it had the day he found the girl he loved sobbing her heart out on a park bench during a freezing rain. “She’s never recovered from losing her mother like she did.”

Treena had come to trust Rick, to confide the abuse she suffered and share her suspicions of what her mother had endured at the hands of her pious father. Hearing that a man who preached the Good Word abused his family as Reverend Michaels did brought out a fury Rick knew he had to contain. Never before in his life had he felt so much anger toward any one person, and it remained that way until Jameson Andrews ruined any chances that Rick’s high school senior year would have given him back-to-back state championships for Landry’s football team. Old Slowbro, the nickname hung on Jameson for his deliberate slowness whenever anyone depended on him, had fumbled a pass in the end zone, and allowed the opposing team to get the ball and run for the winning touchdown. Later that night, Rick had discovered Jameson had bet against the Landry Wildcats. Jameson had scored big on that bet, which had driven Rick to hate his former classmate even more.

One other thing made Rick see red about Jameson. Rick had heard from an old buddy how Jameson had shown up at UGA and was now pursuing Treena. There were no worries about Treena for Rick; she was loyal to a fault. But Jameson had a slimy way about him and always seemed to get what he wanted.

“Jameson doesn’t stand a chance with Treena.” Rick pushed aside the wiggling worm of worry and concentrated on the here and now. “She loves me.”

His smile locked in place, Rick began a slow jog around the base. He had plenty of time to call Treena. It was only noon. She would be in class until two and then would take a break for a couple of hours before diving into her long term projects and studying for tests. He could wait until she was free to spend at least an hour talking to him, but not much later than two this afternoon. The ability to see her, to hold her in his arms, tugged at him, but he wouldn’t abandon his duty to the Marine Corps.

“Hold up there, Marine.”

The sound of a voice barking out a command startled Rick out of his daydream of kissing Treena as soon as he got leave.

“Yes, sir.” Rick stopped and snapped out a salute when he saw the person confronting him was a colonel.

“Private Andrews, right?” the colonel asked.

“Yes, sir,” Rick said and held his body at rigid attention.

He wondered what he’d done to attract the attention of this particular officer. Colonel Adam Weston had a reputation of taking only the best Marines into his platoon. All the men in Alpha Company made rank quickly, but they did so at a high cost. Alpha Company had the unenviable job of going into places known as trouble spots, and only coming out after they’d cleaned up the mess.

“I hear good things about you, Andrews, from your drill instructors,” Colonel Weston said. “Good enough to join my team, in fact. Are you game?”

Joining Colonel Weston’s team exposed Rick to great danger. He wouldn’t be able to be with Treena for a couple of years. She might not like it, but she would tell him to go where his heart led him. Problem was his heart was torn between an assignment he’d coveted since joining the Marines and ensuring that nothing happened to him so she wouldn’t grieve.

Duty or love?

The choice gnawed at Rick but as always, as he’d done all his life, duty won out.

“Yes, sir, Colonel Weston,” Rick said. “I’m game to join your team.”





Chapter Two



Six months had passed since Jameson had shown up on UGA’s campus. Treena had spent last summer taking courses every day of the week, and working her apprenticeship with the local Department of Children and Family Services in order to graduate early. All she had on her mind as winter settled around Athens was finishing school. Then she could wait for Rick to come home from wherever he was. Their planned meeting last summer had never happened. She wasn’t sure why. Driven by loneliness and a desire to connect with someone who had also known him, she had begun seeing Jameson on a regular basis.

“I just wish Jameson wouldn’t keep saying that Rick won’t come back.” She finished editing a paper and sent the document to the printer. “Rick will always choose duty first.” She sighed. “The way Jameson puts that makes it sound as if Rick doesn’t care about me.”


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