The Grunt

By: Latrivia S. Nelson

A Novel from the LONELY HEART SERIES





Chapter One


Jacksonville, NC



The sun had already begun to set by the time Staff Sergeant Brett Black left the field. Throwing his gear in the back of his black Ford F-150, he pulled off his uniform cover and wiped his sweaty brow as he looked over the waterfront across from the company office.



Beautiful hues of gold splashed against the blue waters, and a tranquil breeze swept off the shore creating a picture-perfect evening. The view was something that should have calmed him, especially after a hectic day. Still, he had a bad feeling in his gut, like something eerie was on the horizon. And after three tours to Iraq and two tours to Afghanistan, he had learned that his gut was hardly ever wrong.



Running his large hand over his symmetrical, dirty-blonde, high and tight haircut, he slipped on his Oakley shades and jumped in his truck. The smell of clean, hot leather greeted him, even burned him to the touch from being in the sun for over twelve hours.



Scanning the truck to make sure it was clean, a dirty little habit he had picked up in the Marine Corps, he closed the door and slipped in his favorite Kong-Foo Fighters CD. It would be a long drive from the back of the base to the highway - plenty of time to clear his head before he got home. The music would help relax him, put him into a state of mind that would make him more pliable for home life, if you could call it that.



With the air blasting and the radio down, he headed out of Camp Lejeune, exhausted and starving, ready to get a shower and good night’s sleep after seven long days of sleeping in tents and training on the rough terrain near highways and out in the bush. It would also be good to see his kid, and it might even be nice to see Amy, if she was in a good mood.



They had been on the outs since before Easter, and with Mother’s Day approaching he wanted to get on his wife’s good side for the holiday. She had been complaining more and more lately about him being away from home. In fact, it had been the conversation of their household for the last few months.



Brett rolled his eyes at the thought. Like he could help what the Marine Corps decided to do with him. It was almost laughable. If they said jump, the only reasonable question he could ask was how high. Still, Amy ragged him every chance she got about his absence in her life.



Their marriage was going south and his retirement with it, if he wasn’t careful. They had been to two family counselors in the last year. Both were his idea, and neither had worked. Their last session had been cut short by Amy after she got extremely agitated. That day, she had taken the keys and left him in Jacksonville at the therapist’s office, forcing him to call a ride to take him twenty-miles home to Swansboro.



Joe, his best friend and a fellow Marine, had picked him up that day and lectured him all the way home about getting his wife’s growing antics under control. But such a thing was easier said than done.



Of course Amy had blamed it all on him, saying that he never seemed to realize how much damage him being gone all the time had done to their marriage.



Maybe she was right.



Still, he had to try.



Cameron was getting older, about to celebrate his fourth birthday in a few months, and he deserved to be raised in a two-parent household. The love for his son and the love he had for his wife had been the only two reasons that kept him from asking for a divorce himself. He still remembered the good times that they had back before she turned on him.



In fact, she had been the one who had suggested the Marine Corps when he was eighteen. It had been the only thing that he could recall that she had ever been so adamant about. Only after he was sworn in, everything went downhill. Amy was expecting some fairytale life but what she got was the reality of a military family – long days away, training, waiting and little pay.



Looking at his watch, he decided to pull into the grocery store and grab a little gift. Hopefully, roses could warm a spot in Amy’s heart tonight and prevent another fight.



Pulling into a parking spot on the end of the first aisle, he jumped out and then looked down at his clothes. Shit. He couldn’t go into a public establishment in his uniform. It was against the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and with his promotion pending, he was not going to get in trouble over something so trivial.

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