Saved by the SEAL

By: Diana Gardin

To all the veterans who risked their lives for our freedom, and the women and men who love them. Thank you so much for your service.





1





Grisham




The cool, blue Atlantic sprays my face as I sit in the sand. My eyes are fixated on the breaking waves. My good buddies—my brothers—are taking advantage of the larger-than-normal swells while they cut in and out of the waves on their boards. I lay back on my elbows and watch…the same way I’ve been watching for the past month and a half—the time it took for me to muster up the balls and the strength to get back to the beach.

I glance at the board lying beside me. If I can do it, today will be my first time back in the ocean. It’s supposed to be my first day back. I just haven’t been able to get off my ass and into the water just yet.

It’s early; the sun just broke over the horizon about half an hour ago, and the morning is flawless. I take a deep breath and close my eyes, letting the morning’s rays touch my face.

I’m utterly relaxed on the beach, but I’m also at home when I’m working, when I’m strategizing, planning, or embarking on a mission with my team. Working in the mission field is about as far from the dream my father laid out for me as possible, and this is one of the reasons I love it so damn much. He pulled all the strings he could so that, as an officer graduating from the Naval Academy a couple of years ago, I’d be placed behind a desk and rise quickly through the ranks without ever touching a battlefield.

He didn’t anticipate that I had my own plans for my life, my own goals and ambitions. I wasn’t going to be just a douche in a uniform telling other guys what to do, never having lived it myself. If I was going to order other men around, it was going to be while I was risking my life right there beside them.

And my father, Admiral Michael Abbot, would just have to deal with it.

Lawson Snyder disturbs the sand beside me as he dives into place and sprawls out. He places his hands behind his head and closes his eyes. His wet suit is hanging out down around his waist, and his tattoo-covered torso is on display.

“Dude.” I slap him on the chest. “That was awesome out there. You’ve been practicing.”

He chuckles. “Thanks, man. That’s high praise coming from a beachcomber like you. Us corn-fed Nebraskan boys don’t grow up riding the waves. Took me a while to learn.”

True. But now that Lawson has found surfing, he’ll never quit. There’s something about getting lost in the sea and letting the waves guide you back to shore that’s addictive.

We sit, the quiet stretching around us, while Lawson catches his breath, and before long our other surfing buddy and team member, Ben McBride, joins us. We don’t call him Ben, though.

“Get your ass up, Abbot!” yells Ben as he runs out of the waves. “You said today was the day!”

I watch him approach. “Did I say that? I meant today was the day I’m keeping my ass planted in the sand. Tomorrow’s the day I get back on the board.”

“Bullshit!” Ben runs at me, feinting like he’s going to land right on top of me. I dodge left, laughing as he ends up on his face.

“Still too fast for your ass.” I gloat. Grinning at Lawson, we high-five.

“Too slow, Cowboy.” Lawson sounds ashamed of Ben as he shakes his head. “Even missing a limb, Abbot’s got you beat every single time.”

“That’s why he’s team leader. That, and the fact that he’s an officer and I’m not. I don’t give a shit. Can we go grab some waffles now if you ain’t surfing today?”

I nod, dusting off my hands. “I’ll be there in a minute.”

They grab their boards and take off toward the steps that lead to the parking lot. I have my own car; I’ll meet them at the Waffle King in a few minutes. They’ll probably be scarfing down their piles of food by then. I just need another minute with the ocean.

Just months ago, I was still stuck in a place with no ocean. I was in that faraway desert for four months before I was flown to a naval hospital in Germany, only two weeks shy of my assigned homecoming. I let my mind temporarily drift back to that last fateful day in Syria. The things I remember with vivid recall are the smells.

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