Hot SEAL, Confirmed Bachelor
© 2020 Cynthia D’Alba and Riante, Inc
“Hurry up, C-Note. Ensign Davis will kill us if we’re late to the wedding.”
“Relax, Cowboy. I’ve got this. Besides,” Benjamin Blackwell checked the clock on the dash of his truck, “we’ve got eight minutes before it starts.”
“You just had to help that clerk at the gas station?” Jacob Fowler, aka Rooster, said.
Benjamin chucked. “Hey, don’t blame me. That gas station clerk was hungry. What was I supposed to do? Let her starve?”
Evan Lancaster, aka Cowboy, groaned. “Your cock gives us more trouble than the Taliban.”
“And yet, it’s so much more popular,” Benjamin quipped.
“Turn here,” Rooster demanded, slapping the back of Benjamin’s headrest.
Benjamin slammed on the brakes and whipped the two-ton truck onto an unpaved drive. The heavy truck’s suspension took a beating as the truck shot down the rough road, the rear tires spitting dirt and rocks behind them.
“Christ, Blackwell. I swear, if we’re late, Davis will suggest that every INFIL is a HALO.” Cowboy had the palm of his hand pressed to the truck’s roof to keep from falling over.
Benjamin snorted and start to call him a pussy, but he caught Rooster’s glare in his rearview mirror.
“The threat’s no good if we’re dead,” Rooster said through gritted teeth.
“I’ve got this,” Benjamin said as he wheeled the truck between two fence posts and into a pasture that’d been converted to event parking.
“I can’t believe Davis is having some frilly, white wedding,” Rooster murmured as the guys climbed from the truck. “She’s more guns and camo than sterling silver and lace.”
“You’re just pissed because she nailed your ass at paintball,” Cowboy said.
Rooster socked Cowboy’s shoulder. “She got you, too, asshole.”
“I hate to interrupt this stimulating conversation, but….” Benjamin looked around the area. “Anyone know where we’re going?”
“There.” Cowboy pointed toward a white tent.
The three men set off at a jog toward the distance tent.
“Time?” Rooster asked.
“Four minutes,” Benjamin said. “We’ve got this.”
“Where’s the wedding?” Rooster asked as they walked under the tent.
The kid setting the table pointed down a hill. “Down there. It’s in the rose garden.”
“Shit,” Benjamin said. “Double time, men.”
They took off down the hill, skidding on lose rocks and dirt. As they turned a bend in the road, white streamers and flower-filled vases came into view. They were still a good minute from the wedding venue.
“Kick it,” Cowboy demanded. “I hate HALOs.”
“Who doesn’t?” Rooster replied as they upped their speed to an all-out run.
“Back row,” Benjamin said. “I see three chairs.”
The men skirted around the side of open pavilion to the rear. On the last row, three chairs sat vacant with signs tapped to the backs.
Chair one’s sign read, “Bravo One.”
Chairs two and three had signs that read, “Short straw losers.”
The guys exchanged grins and dropped into chairs that had been saved for them. Benjamin’s chair, i.e. Bravo One, was on the aisle. Rooster took the second chair and Cowboy, the third.
Their butts had barely touched the seats when the music started and the wedding officiant, groom, and groomsmen took their places in front.
“See?” Benjamin whispered. “I told you we had plenty of time.”
His men laughed quietly.
The bridesmaids started down the aisle. After the first woman began walking, the second bridesmaid stopped beside Benjamin and waited to begin her walk. When the third bridesmaid stopped, she handed Benjamin a slip of paper, and then walked on.
He unfolded the paper and read.
Tiffany Nobles. Room 110. See you at the reception. I’m saving you a ‘dance.’
“What the hell, man?” Rooster asked, leaning over and reading it. He snorted and shook his head. He grabbed the note and passed it to Cowboy, who rolled his eyes.
“I like women who know what they want,” Benjamin said.
“You like all women, regardless,” Cowboy said.
“We know you,” Rooster said. “The more, the merrier for you.”
Benjamin looked at his two best friends. “And that’s why I’m a confirmed bachelor, unlike you losers.” He shook his head with a sad expression. “Same woman for the rest of your lives. Mistake, guys.”
Rooster and Cowboy exchanged glances and grinned at each other.
“You’ll find out,” Rooster said with an elbow nudge to Benjamin’s side. “Your day will come.”
“Nope. Never,” Benjamin said with confidence as the bride stopped at their aisle.
“Damn,” she said. “I had all my arguments ready to present for HALOs as punishment for missing my wedding.” She winked and walked to the front.
The wedding went off without a problem. The happy bride and groom danced down the aisle, followed by their seven groomsmen and bridesmaids. The wedding officiant invited the audience to join the bridal party at the top of the hill under the white tent to continue with the celebration.
“Well, that was fun,” Benjamin said. “Aren’t you glad you got the short straws to come?”
“I’m pretty sure that whole ‘pick a straw for who has to go with you to the wedding’ was rigged,” Rooster said.
“Wait. You drew straws? I got blackmailed. How is that fair?” Cowboy said with a glare.
Benjamin slapped Cowboy’s back. “Don’t look at it as blackmail. Think of it as I wash your back, you wash mine.”
Cowboy shoved him. “Consider this mutual bathing experience at its end, then. We’re even.”
They started the walk back up the hill toward the reception tent. They hadn’t made much progress before coming across an older woman standing with a college-age couple. Her face was red and her breathing labored.
“Ma’am, are you okay?” Benjamin asked.
“Oh, I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not,” the girl exclaimed. She looked toward the men. “She’s having trouble walking back up. I told her to wait here, and we’d get someone to drive a car down, but she’s a stubborn as a mule and insists she can do this.”
“I can,” the older woman said. “I just need to catch my breath.”
Benjamin exchanged glances with his guys. If she was breathless at this point in the walk, she’d never make it up. The big climb up the hill was still ahead and, in Benjamin’s option, was more than this sweet woman could do.
He leaned toward her. “Put your arms around my neck, beautiful.”
She frowned, but did so. He lifted her up into his arms and started walking.
“Put me down,” she ordered.
“I can walk,” she protested even as she settled against his chest. “I’m too heavy for you to carry.”
He chuckled. “My gear bag weighs more than you. Hang on and enjoy the ride.”
The woman’s eyes twinkled, and she laughed. “Why do I think you’ve said that once or twice to women before?”
He threw back his head in a hearty laugh. “Yes, ma’am.”
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Benjamin. Benjamin Blackwell.”
“You must work with my great-niece, Alisha.”
“You mean, Ensign Davis? The bride?”
“That’s right. Wasn’t she lovely?” Her voice was wistful and her smile bright.
“Very much so, ma’am.”
“Are you part of ‘her boys’, as she calls them?”
“Thank you for coming, Mr. Blackwell. I know it meant a lot to Alisha to have someone from the teams here to support her. My husband was in the Navy, you know.”
“I did not.”
“Yes, he was an admiral when he died.”
“I’m sorry for your loss, ma’am.”
“Thank you. Now, put me down and let me walk in.”
Heads turned toward the door as he walked through the entrance and set Ensign Davis’s great-aunt on her feet.
“Have a nice evening,” he said.
“I suspect you will also, Mr. Blackwell. I believe one of the bridesmaids is eyeing you even as we speak.”
Benjamin looked in the direct the woman had indicated. The bridesmaid who’d slipped him her name and room number smiled and lifted a champagne flute in a salute.
“Maybe so.” He gave the older woman a nod. “Good evening.”
He met Rooster and Cowboy at the door and passed off his keys. “Here ya go, guys. I’ll find a way home.” He glanced toward the waiting woman and back to his guys. “One way or the other.”
Their chuckles rang in his ears as he made his way across the room toward Tiffany, who was staying in room 110.
Benjamin’s internal alarm woke him at five a.m. Sunday or not, he refused to let himself sleep in. He’d survived on less than two hours sleep before. and he’d survive today, too. His back popped as he rose from his bed and twisted side-to-side.
Last night’s bridesmaid, Tiffany, had been insatiable to the point he’d wondered if she’d been trying to fuck him to death. If he had to die, fucked to death would definitely beat being shot to death. But he’d drawn the line at bringing in another bridesmaid or two to spice things up. He’d been there, done that, and frankly, after a couple of rounds with her, he’d been ready to call it a night.
He shook his head at the memory. Damn. Had he really turned down a three-way? Was he getting old?
Hell, no. He was only thirty-five. There were decades and lots of women ahead of him. Tiffany simply hadn’t held his attention after the second round.
He stretched his arms over his head, then down to the floor. Beach runs were best in the mornings before the rest of the world woke up and got moving. Sometimes, the looky-loos trying to spot a real, live Navy SEAL near Camp Pendleton could impede his speed and distance. His job required peak conditioning and peak performance. Lack of either could mean death…to him or his team.
A couple of years ago, he’d lucked into a small house in a community where the POAs covered the yardwork, which gave him one less thing to worry about when he was out of country for longer than a month. The community was less than an hour away from base. A short drive, and he was in Coronado. A ten-minute jog from his house and he was on the beach. Perfect location.
And a million miles from where he’d grown up. Thank goodness.
The sun was still an hour from rising when he hit the sandy beach, exactly as he liked it. Empty and deserted. Soundless, except for the pound of his boots on the hard sand and the waves rolling onto shore. No headphones. No music, but what nature supplied. BUD/s had taught him to always stay alert to his surroundings, although, other than a few seagulls, he had no company.
As he ran, he kept his mouth closed and focused on drawing his breaths solely through his nose. Mouth breathing could be noisy, so this was quieter, and in some deployment situations, safer.
This morning would be a short seven-mile jog down to his favorite breakfast haunt. One of the positives about his lifestyle was he could indulge in his favorite foods when the mood hit him. After last night’s workout, he was in the mood for a heavy, calorie-laden food feast. His favorite breakfast place opened at six, and he had every intention of being there right after the doors were unlocked.
At a little after six, he jogged into the parking lot of the Breakfast Club Diner. There were three cars in the lot. He’d been beaten to the diner, but he bet no one else had jogged seven miles to eat there.
After wiping his sweaty face on his shirt, he pulled open the door and entered. His gaze swept the room. It was a habit he suspected he’d have the rest of his life.
An older man sat in booth one, sipping coffee and flipping through the morning paper.
The second booth had a couple crammed in on one side, snuggled tightly, their attentions focused more on each other than the pancakes in front of them. His money was on a date that had started last night and hadn’t yet ended.
There was an empty booth between the loving couple and the last patrons. A woman and a girl sat in booth four. He couldn’t see the woman other than her long, shiny brown hair pulled back into a ponytail. The girl was cute and somewhere between nine and sixteen. He wasn’t good with ages of girls. He had limited—no, make that no experience with young girls.
“Morning, Master Chief.”
Benjamin turned toward the counter and smiled at Marcy, the owner/sometimes cook/ sometimes waitress.
In her mid-fifties, Marcy was a bleach-blonde, thin as a rail, and smoked like a chimney on fire. He adored her. She slid a glass of tap water over the counter toward him. “No ice, straight from the tap, just like you like it.”
“Good morning, Marcy. Thank you very much.” He downed the water and passed the glass back to her for a refill. “I’d ask what’s good this morning, but we both know exactly what I’ll order no matter your answer.”
She handed him the second glass. “Three OJs, a pancake stack, two orders of bacon, hash browns covered and smothered, and four eggs sunny-side up.”
She nodded toward the last booth. “Saved your favorite booth fer ya.”
He nodded his thanks and made his way to the last booth. He slid in, his booth back sharing a common back with the mother-daughter duo. Or maybe they were aunt and niece. He had no idea.
Polly, the second waitress, dropped off three glasses of orange juice, a cup of black coffee, and a pitcher of tap water. “Here ya go, Master Chief. Marcy said food will be up in a few minutes.”
He took a long drink of orange juice. “Thanks, Polly. No hurry.”
He unzipped a pocket on his shorts and laid his cell on the table. Officially, the team had the day off, but a SEAL was never really off, just away from the base. And even then, he had to be able to get back if called.
As he lifted his coffee mug, the back of his booth jostled as the girl in the adjacent booth fell heavily against their shared booth back. The wooden separator between the booths was thin, so conversations could be easily overheard. In fact, it was almost impossible not to hear the conversation from booth four.
“It’s not fair,” the girl said. “And don’t say ‘life’s not fair.’ That’s stupid.”
“It’s not, and you’re not meeting a boy at the movies.”
“If dad were still here, he’d let me go.”
“If your dad were still alive, he’d shoot the first boy who showed up at our house for a date with you at your age.”
The girl huffed. “Everybody will be there—everybody but me.” Her voice took on a whiny tone. “I’m not a baby, Mom.”
“You’re twelve, Katie.”
“I’m almost thirteen. I’m ready to start dating.”
The mother chuckled. “Not hardly. Besides, are you telling me that Ashley, Hanna, Dawn, and Brittney are going?”
“I think so.”
“Hmm. Tell you what. I’ll call their moms and talk to them about it.”
“No,” the girl said quickly.
“Because everyone will know that you think I’m still a baby.”
“Uh-huh. Well, how about you invite the girls over for a sleepover next Friday instead?”
“Can the boys come over?”
“Nice try, but no.”
The girl blew out a frustrated breath and slammed her back against their shared booth wall. “You don’t understand anything.”
His food was delivered, and he missed some of the conversation, not that he minded. He wasn’t usually an eavesdropper, but it’d been entertaining and so far out of his realm of reality to be surreal.
He dug into his food, inhaling every bite. Mentally, he made a to-do list for the rest of day and found that it was mostly empty. Laundry and dishes were the extent of what he had to do. Maintenance kept the outside of his condo up and his cleaning service came by monthly, and they’d been there this week, so his day was fairly open.
He smiled as a huge bite of pancake hit his mouth and a thought hit his brain. He hadn’t been surfing in like forever. With the waves he’d observed while running, surfing was just the thing he needed after last night’s workout.
Damn it. He had to run by the base and sign some reports he’d sworn he’d complete on Friday. The task had totally slipped his mind as he’d been trying to get away for the weekend.
On the other hand, he could take his surfboard with him to the base, do the required paperwork and then catch some waves on Coronado beach.
Now that he had a plan, he finished up quickly and slid from his booth at the same time the mother-daughter combo stood. He glanced toward the mean mother and his breath whooshed out.
The woman was tall, not as tall as his six-feet-three-inches, but not a lot under six-feet was his guess. Her body was trim and muscular, as though she worked out, not as though she didn’t eat.
Her jade-green eyes met his gaze. She smiled, and then dismissed him with a jerky nod, her ponytail shaking with her head movement. Then she moved her gaze to her daughter. “Come on, Katie. I’ve got to get you to Grams and Pop’s so I can go to work.”
“I’m old enough to stay by myself,” the girl protested as she followed her mother.
Instead of arguing, the woman said, “I’ll pick you up at four, so be ready to go. You’ve got school tomorrow.”
He didn’t move. He didn’t follow her to the register and outside like he would have loved to. Generally, he didn’t have to follow women out of restaurants. They followed him.
Interestingly, the way she carried herself, the way she’d looked at, and then dismissed him, made him more curious about her, not less. If she hadn’t had a child with her, he might have followed her out, tried to get her name and phone number, tried to…Hell, he didn’t know what he’d have tried.
Stepping up to the register, he handed his money to Marcy. “You know who that woman was?”
“The one who just left?”
“She’s been here maybe once or twice. Not a regular. Why? Do you know her?”
He shook his head. “Just wondered.”
She handed him his change. “See you next Sunday?”
With a laugh, she said, “That’s what you always say.”
As he jogged home, he couldn’t help but see that the ocean waves were off the hook and calling his name. Serious surf time climbed to the number one spot on his list eliminating everything else.
After grabbing his gear, he headed to the base to get the paperwork finished and then down to Coronado Beach to surf there while he could. Come Memorial Day, there would be no surfing allowed at the main beach until after Labor Day.
Within an hour, he was stomach down on his board and paddling through waves. He was stoked.
Far enough from the shore to catch a ride, he sat upright and waited for the perfect wave. The first wave wasn’t just perfect, it was a bomb, and he lived for those. Backpaddling like crazy, he caught that bad boy and was up, shredding it for all he was worth, thanking his lucky stars this wasn’t a party wave. All to himself. A dream come true.
As he cross-stepped, and carved his way through this massive wave, every real-world problem evaporated. He was in the moment and loving it.
Down a short way, another guy—a total grommet—was trying to surf. His technique—if one could call it a technique—was choppy, a little spastic, and hesitant. More than once, the grom wiped out more than he rode. A newbie who could use some serious lessons before he hurt himself or another surfer.
Benjamin thought momentarily about offering advice but decided against it. Some guys didn’t take suggestions well and, frankly, he wasn’t out here to teach surfing. He was here to do surfing.
After a few incredible rides, he carried his board onto the sand, and for the first time that day, looked around. To his surprise, the sandy strip had filled with beachgoers, not that he should be surprised. A beautiful Sunday with sun and waves…Who could ask for more?
Behind him, the Coronado Beach lifeguard ATV made its way slowly along the top of the beach, the rider watching the ocean and sand activities. Benjamin had gotten to the beach a little after the lifeguards had come on duty, but he rarely paid them much attention. He figured he was one fewer person they had to watch.
At that thought, he looked toward the ocean to see how the newbie was doing. Looked like he was getting the paddling into the wave down. Now, to stand. He got upright momentarily, then Benjamin rolled his eyes as the guy flipped off his board, his ass handed to him by a beginner wave.
Benjamin watched for the guy’s head to reappear. It didn’t. He dropped his board to the sand as he began making his way back to the ocean, his gaze scanning the surf. Probably nothing. Lifeguards surely had their collective eyes on this guy, too. Anyone could see he didn’t have the board down yet.
Then, the surfer’s head broke the surface. His arms floundered in the air. His head disappeared.
“Man down,” Benjamin shouted as he took off in a run, launching himself into the waves and moving toward the last place he’d seen the guy. His powerful swimming strokes moved him through rough water that would have slowed most men, but he wasn’t most men. He was a Navy SEAL.
The guy was nowhere to be seen when Benjamin arrived at his targeted destination. He whipped his head and body around looking for the guy. Nothing.
With a deep breath, Benjamin dove below the waves and began his search. The sand on the bottom churned in the relentless waves. He swam down and around. He’d been down for a good two minutes, and Benjamin knew he only had a short time before he would have to go back to the top for a breath. As he prepared to surface, he caught a glimpse of something red. The guy’s swim trunks.
His lungs burned and demanded fresh oxygen. But if he went up for a breath, the guy might not be here when he got back. Gritting his teeth, he reached out and snagged the elastic waistband of the trucks and began his climb to the surface. He’d expected to find lifeguards waiting on top to assist, but he only saw a couple further down the beach talking to some teens.
Keeping the guy’s head out of the water, he pulled him through the waves and onto the beach. By now, Benjamin’s call and activity had alerted the beach lifeguards. Three lifeguards splashed into the water and surrounded Benjamin and the victim, hauling the surfer to the beach and positioning him on his back in the sand.
A female with a familiar-looking, shiny, brown ponytail tilted the victim’s head. “Not breathing,” she said. “Starting CPR.”
“Calling for ambulance, Holly,” one of the male lifeguards said.
Benjamin dropped to his knees. “What can I do to help?”
A set of deep green eyes flashed at him. “Moving out of the way would help.” She began compressions while shouting, “Tom. Get over here and do the breaths.”
Benjamin remained on his knees. He was SEAL. He was prepared to handle these types of emergencies.
“Move it, sailor,” the female lifeguard said. “You’re in the way.”
He stood and a male lifeguard took his place. He couldn’t take his eyes off the woman. She ran the life-saving code like he ran his ops…total control.
The victim coughed and she rolled him to the side. He vomited ocean water all over the male lifeguard. Maybe stepping back had been a good idea.
“Ben,” a female voice called. “Ben. Over here.”
He looked toward two bikini-clad women who were waving him over. One of them, Georgina, was a woman he’d dated four or five times. The other was a stranger.
“Ben,” Georgina called again.
He took one last look at the guy—who was now breathing on his own—and the green-eyed beauty who paid him no attention, then he lifted a hand toward the women. “On my way.”
When he was close, Georgina wrapped her arms around his neck. “It’s so good to see you, Ben.”
He rested his hands at her tiny waist. “You, too. How are you?”
“Sooo good,” she said. “This is Margo.”
“Nice to meet you,” he said, nodding toward the blonde
“I am so glad I ran into you,” Georgina said. “I’ve been thinking about our last conversation and I’ve made a decision.”
“Oh?” he said, raising his eyebrows. “Good for you.”
He had no idea what she was talking about. Of course, most of their dates were spent in her bed, with her not necessarily on her back. She was quite flexible.
She slipped her arm around his waist. “I’ve decided I want to get married.”
Benjamin’s back straightened. His breath might have hitched a time or two. There was no way this woman was pregnant, not that she wouldn’t be the first woman to try to get him to the altar with that lie.
“I see,” were the only words he could get his brain could form. “And this involves me how?”
She and her friend laughed. “Not married to you,” Georgina said with a thrust of her hip against his. “Not that I wouldn’t have if you’d asked, but…” She sighed. “You were quite clear that you weren’t looking for that.”
Breathing a sigh of relief, he grinned at her. “True. How did I help you come to a marriage decision?”
“You said you weren’t getting married and that if I wanted to get married, I shouldn’t be dating you. I should be dating guys who wanted the same thing. I thought about that for a long time and I realized I want the husband, the house, the kids, the dog, the whole ball of wax.”
“Well, good for you knowing what you want. Do you have a groom in mind or will any guy do?”
She laughed again. “Do you remember that I told you I had broken up with my boyfriend right before we began dating? Well, he couldn’t stand seeing me with you. The jealousy ate him up. So…” She waved a diamond ring in his face. “He begged and I accepted.”
“I’m thrilled for you…and him, of course. He’s getting a special woman.”
She turned toward him and looked up into his face. “Are you sure there’s no way you’d consider marriage? I mean—”
“Nope,” he cut her off. “No chance I’ll change my mind.”
She sighed. “I had to know.” Georgina looked at her friend. “We’d better get moving.” She looked back at Ben with a sad smile. “We’re meeting the guys for lunch.” Laying her hand on his cheek, she said, “You are something special. I’ll miss you.” With that, she rose to her toes and kissed him.
He watched her walk away, her heart-shaped ass twisting and shifting in the tiny bikini bottom. Relief zinged through his veins, exactly how he always felt when he came home from a mission—like he’d dodged a sniper’s bullet.
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