Author: Robyn Carr

“I did my part,” Muriel said. “By now Buff has exploded in his kennel and although Luce is an angel, it’s possible she had a few accidents and ate my house out of boredom. She’s a Lab. These things are inbred.”

“Preacher left keys. What do you say we lock up and give up.”

“Let’s,” she said. “I’m wrecked.”

“I bet you’re tired.”

“Wrecked,” she repeated. “That goes beyond tired.”

Walt put a hand to the small of her back and escorted her out, locking the door behind them. He stood on the porch for a moment, looking at the sky. “I don’t know how to thank you for coming to town, helping like you did.”

“It’s my town, too, Walt. Now. And it was worth it. These are my guys, too, now. Not just yours.”

He laughed. “True. If you feed ’em, they’re yours.” He dropped his chin. “You know, I’ve been in some real hot spots over the years. I came here for peace and quiet, but today wasn’t either one.”

“I grew up in these mountains,” she informed him. “It gets dicey sometimes. It’s not an easy life all the time. Beautiful, but there are issues. In the end, it’s usually worth it. But, Walt, you shouldn’t get the idea it’s simple. It’s not. It can get rugged.”

“You saying beautiful isn’t always easy?” he asked her.

She grinned. “I’m not sure that’s exactly the message, but I guess so.”

“I’ll be sure to remember that.”

“See that you do,” she said. “I’ve been away a while. I had almost forgotten,” she added. “This can be rough country. Fire’s the worst, I think. We live in the middle of a lot of wood.”

“Did you wonder, just for a second, whether it was worth it?”


“When Jack came back, all scraped up, scorched, and picked up his little wife like he did, almost as if he’d been late from the store or something, it reminded me about what I love about this—that these people face this stuff like it’s just part of the package. They just man up, even the women. Everyone dives in, gets it done. It reminds me, if I’m going to belong to a group of people, I want to belong to people like these. They’re tough and resilient. They don’t quit early. They can count on each other. They hang in. That’s why I loved the Army.”

“Walt,” she said, putting a hand on his chest. “We’re just mountain people. We take what comes. The fact that it doesn’t come easy? There’s really not so much more to it than we don’t give up. We fight. There’s a lot to fight for here.”

He looked down into his movie-star girlfriend’s eyes. He smiled. “I’m going to sleep tonight. Then tomorrow night, why don’t I bring groceries to your place and fix you a decent dinner.”

She smiled at him. “Afraid you’ll get celery sticks and hummus for food if you just come over?”

“I just think we deserve a good dinner, alone. And I might stay late.” Then he grinned.

“I might let you. I’ll do the wine. Will you tell your daughter where you’ll be?”

“I don’t know. I’m having an awful lot of fun saying nothing about us.”

She lifted an eyebrow. “What is there to say about us?”

He leaned down and kissed her brow. “Let’s revisit that question after dinner tomorrow night.”

“Why, Walt,” she teased with a smile.

He gave her fanny a pat. “Rest up,” he said. “Because now that I think about it, I’m damn sure I’m going to stay late.”