A SEAL's PledgeBy: Cora Seton
The eleventh of July dawned warm and still, and Harris Wentworth, only two months out of a sixteen-year stint with the Navy SEALs, knew a storm was brewing. He woke early, like he always did, but for once he was the only one up in Base Camp. All the men in the small tent community were ex-SEALs. All of them had served until recently. They were a vigilant, early rising bunch.
Today would be an exception, Harris knew. Last night they’d celebrated the marriage of Clay Pickett and Nora Ridgeway—a wedding that could have as easily been a funeral. A stalker had followed Nora from Baltimore, where she used to teach high school, here to Chance Creek, Montana. He’d gotten Nora alone and nearly killed her before Clay managed to track her down. He’d nearly killed Clay’s father in his attempt to shoot Clay, too. It had been touch and go there for a while with Nora, so her recovery—and marriage—had given everyone a lot of reasons to make toasts and drink to the newlyweds last night.
Champagne, wine, beer and mixed drinks had flowed, and as Harris got up and dressed he could hear snoring from several of the tents around his. So far they’d only managed to build two permanent homes in the community—the tiny house Boone Rudman and his wife, Riley, had moved into last month, and the one that Clay and Nora had moved into last night.
There’d be more, though. One of them would be his—just as soon as he was married, too. The wedded couples got first dibs, and it wasn’t his turn yet.
He’d have to be patient.
Luckily, Harris was good at that.
He knew most of the men who’d joined the small community had come because of their dedication to sustainability. Because they wanted to get the word out to the wider world there was a different way to live—one that saw humans acting as stewards of the planet’s finite resources. Harris believed that, too, and he was proud of the work he was doing here, helping to build the tiny houses.
But that wasn’t the reason he’d decided to join up.
He could still remember the ad he’d answered back in April. Boone had posted it on a private online forum for Navy SEALs. It had been succinct:
Six men needed to join planned eco-community. Must be knowledgeable about sustainability, committed to the goals of our organization, comfortable with being filmed for a reality television show documenting our progress—and willing to marry within the year. Wives provided for those lacking them.
Harris would never admit that while he was all for sustainability, it was that last line that had jolted him into action.
Harris wanted a wife—badly. But while he’d received medals for bravery, commitment and his sharpshooting skills, he would never be commended for his ability to talk to women. He tried—now and then. Truth was, he was a doer, not a talker, and his dates had a depressing tendency to start off okay, but soon slide into a silence that neither side could pierce. Harris had almost given up on the idea of having a family of his own before he saw the ad.
Now he had hope.
The other men who’d joined Base Camp seemed resigned to the idea of marrying. Martin Fulsom, the eccentric billionaire who was funding the whole venture, and whose idea it was to create the reality TV show documenting it, had made it very clear marriage was required. The hooking up aspect was what drew crowds to watch the show, and Fulsom was nothing if not dedicated to creating publicity for the venture. None of the other men seemed to look forward to marriage the way Harris did, though. Maybe they were keeping their feelings to themselves, but Curtis Lloyd, a burly man with a normally cheerful temperament, had been the latest one to draw the short straw that meant he was required to marry next—and he hadn’t been cheerful about that at all.
Harris supposed he couldn’t blame the man given the circumstances; it was strange enough being on a television program that required you to marry, but it was even stranger to find out you had to marry someone you’d never met. Clay was the one who’d originally drawn that short straw—on the day after Boone and Riley’s wedding just over a month ago—but while Clay wanted to marry Nora right from the start, she’d been reluctant before her stalker attacked her. Back then, when it wasn’t at all clear to Clay that he could convince Nora to say yes before the deadline was up, he had agreed to let Boone find him a backup bride to marry, but he’d made Boone agree not to bring her to Base Camp or tell anyone anything about her until his time was up.