Status: Complete.

I Want You to Live

Chapter 1

Sgt. Rusty Balkins stood with his back against the bar, eyes scanning the crowd. Same story, different bar. Everyone there either wanted to meet someone or forget about them. Unless, of course, they were just making sure their best friends didn't get into any trouble.

Speak of the devil.

“Isn't this great!” Rusty's best friend, Ty, shouted above the noise of the two drunken girls singing karaoke on stage. Actually, singing was being too generous. Squawking like a pair of seagulls was more accurate. They vaguely resembled the birds, too, now that he thought about it.

“Yea, it’s a blast.” He rolled his eyes and finished his drink, a tall glass of iced water. Tomorrow would be their first day at their new base, and he definitely didn't want to be hungover.

For as far back as he could remember, he had been the walking epitome of a soldier. He was making his bed up to par with Army regulations by the time he was six and running five miles every morning and evening by the time he was ten. When he started driving he spent his nights at the gym, missing out on numerous parties and special occasions, including prom. Most boys outgrew the excitement and wonder of being a man in uniform, but not him. While his classmates were picking out ivy league schools to become doctors and lawyers, he had been filling out paperwork and taking numerous tests so he could enlist the day he turned 18. He left for basic a week after graduating and never looked back.

“That’s all you’re drinking?” Ty was eying Rusty’s water as if a rodent had just perched on the edge of his glass and defecated in it. His Louisiana accent was always thicker when he'd been drinking.

“I’m not really in the mood to get wasted tonight.”

“You never are, but whatever. Better you than me!” Ty laughed before turning up his bottle of Jack.
Rusty chuckled to himself while watching his buddy stagger off. The tall Cajun ended up at a table full of girls, of course. The man couldn't stay away from women if he tried. But that was Ty for you, always the ladies man. The table erupted in a fit of giggles at whatever he had said.

“You new here, soldier?” Rusty looked over to see a slim woman with black hair standing next to him. She was pretty with eyes the color of the sky, but her skimpy clothes and caked on make up screamed desperation and little self respect.

“Yea, just got stationed here a couple of days ago.” He turned back to see Ty leading one of the women out onto the dance floor.

Oh, this was going to be good. He could barely stand up as it was. Sure enough he fell down first thing. Rusty busted out laughing, along with everyone else in the bar. The girl power walked off the floor and back to her table of friends. Her hand covering her face did little to hide her embarrassment.

“It’s been nice talking to you, but at the moment I need to rescue my friend,” Rusty lied, setting his empty glass down with a nod in her direction.

“I get the feeling this kind of thing happens a lot," she pressed, trying to prolong the conversation.

“You have no idea. Maybe I’ll see you around sometime,” Rusty offered before walking off without waiting for the woman’s reply.

Ty was sitting in the middle of the dance floor with his head between his knees. He looked up and grinned when Rusty grabbed his arm to help him up. Ty’s arm came around Rusty’s shoulders and he hauled him off the floor.

“I really wish you would stop doing this,” Rusty grunted. Ty only stumbled twice as they made their way to an empty table.

“Aw, you wouldn't know what to do if I did.” Ty collapsed in a chair and looked up at him. Rusty could tell from his darting eyes that he was trying to focus. His black hair was stuck to his forehead. Rusty shook his head and looked away, grinning.

And that’s when he saw her. A stunning blonde standing just off the dance floor. His heart stopped when she looked his way. She gave him a small smile before disappearing into the middle of the dancing crowd. Rusty tip toed to get a better view, his eyes searching for the woman.

“What are you looking at?” Ty questioned, craning his neck to try to find Rusty's sudden interest.

“I’ll be right back,” he muttered, slapping Ty on the shoulder before walking towards where she had disappeared.

He pushed his way through the dancing mob, frantically searching for her. He turned in circles, needing to find her. His desperation grew the longer he looked. The bodies pressed in on him and it felt like a lost cause. A couple women tried seducing him into a dance with the sway of their hips, but he politely declined and moved on. Only one woman could get his attention tonight.

Helplessly, he rubbed his head in frustration. She was gone. There was a tap on his shoulder. He turned and there she was. His breath caught. She was even more beautiful up close. The same smile from before appeared on her face and he grinned back. Realizing he looked like an idiot, he cleared his throat and opened his mouth. But nothing would come out. What could he say? Hi, I’m Rusty and I think I’m in love with you?

In love with her?!

The thought caught him off guard, but yes, that’s exactly what it was. He was in love! His weak knees and sweaty palms proved it. No other woman had ever made him nervous enough to not know what to say.

“Dance with me," she spoke softly, her voice running over him like silk.

Coherent words still hadn't formed, so he settled for a nod. A jolt went through him when she grabbed his hand. The feeling must have been mutual, because she dropped it like a hot iron. They looked at each other for a long moment. Her blue eyes were wide in wonder. She tentatively reached for his hand again. This time she didn’t drop it, instead she stared into his eyes before pulling him to a less crowded spot.

Slowly, she started dancing. Rusty watched her, entranced by the way her hips moved to the beat. A giggle sounded and he looked up to see her watching him, a coy smile playing on her lips. He grinned for the umpteenth time and took a few steps towards her. Turning her back to him, she pressed her butt into his crotch. He struggled to suppress a groan.

They danced through a couple of songs, until they were breathless and covered in sweat. Their bodies moved in perfect rhythm and he knew that this would be what making love to her felt like. Never had he felt so in tuned to a woman's body with clothes still on. He was drunk on her and he didn't even know her name.

Before he did anything crazy, like trying to take her right there on the dance floor or proposing marriage, he snatched her hand and drug her towards the door. There was no way he could survive anymore grinding without one of the aforementioned things happening. As enticing as both options sounded, he knew they were unreasonable.

Once outside he dropped her hand and leaned against the porch railing. He was relieved he had made it out with his dignity still intact. She stood next to him, her hair reflecting the moonlight. Shadows played across her face and he looked to her lips, wondering what they would feel like. Rusty looked away before he actually gave in to the impulse. He was impressed by his own self control.

“What's your name?" he asked, turning to lean his back on the railing. He crossed his arms, trying to appear at ease. He felt anything but.

She studied him, then glanced down at her feet and out into the parking before returning her eyes on him. "Peyton," she finally answered.

“Peyton.” He smiled, liking the way it sounded. He extended a hand, mostly just so he could touch her soft skin again. "Sergeant Rusty Balkins."

“Sergeant. So the grapevine was right, huh?” Peyton quirked a brow after dropping her hand. He looked at her, confused. “All the girls in the bar were talking about a couple of hunky soldiers. I’m afraid I must’ve missed the other one.”

“You’re not missing out on much.” Her laughter broke the silent night. Like the rest of her, it was perfect.

She turned to him then, her eyes twinkling mischievously. “I’m thinking I’ll just have to find out for myself,” she said, acting as if she was going back inside.

He reached out and grabbed her waist, pulling her back. He dropped his hands once she was facing him again. The last thing he wanted to do was invade her space. Although, their dancing a few minutes ago was beyond invasion of space.

“I’m thinking you’ll be sorely disappointed. Plus, you will miss out on my very charming company,” he argued, trying to plead his case.

More laughter came from her and her eyes shone brightly. Before Peyton could reply, shouts came from inside. Rusty mentally groaned when he heard his friend’s roaring accent. Not again. “I’m sorry, I’ll be right back.”

The area by the bar was a chaotic mess. Chairs were turned over and broken bottles laid around the floor. Why did he always have to do this? Oh, he was going to pay for messing up his time with Peyton. Rusty looked just in time to see Ty land a hard left on the face of a huge man. Of course he had to pick the biggest guys in the whole fucking bar!

Not wasting anymore time and praying they didn't end up in jail again, Rusty tackled the first man he came to. They made a loud thud as they hit the floor. Rusty rolled on top and hit the man square in his nose. It made a loud pop as the bone split. Someone grabbed his shoulder and he landed a solid elbow into the person’s gut. He got up and stood next to Ty. They were outnumbered, six to two.

“You know, sometimes I really hate you,” Rusty grumbled before dodging a left hook. He came back with a blow to the jaw.

“No you don’t. I keep life exciting.” Ty said, connecting a solid hit.

They were doing good until some more decided to join in. They swung and dodged until there were too many to fight off. Rusty knew when he was whipped. A swift, hard blow to his left eye proved him right. A couple of bouncers intervened right after and the dynamic duo were promptly shoved out the door. Rusty landed hard, the breath being knocked out of him.

“Impressive.” He recognized Peyton’s voice immediately. He glanced over to see her kneeling next to him. She dabbed at his eyebrow with a wet napkin.

A groan sounded from his left and he turned his head to see Ty lying on his stomach. Blood was running out of a cut on his cheek and both eyes were already swelling. Rusty mentally laughed at his buddy. That’s what he gets for starting trouble.

"I think you'll live." Peyton's soft voice brought his attention back to her.

She stood and dusted the dirt off her knees, smiling down at him. He thought she was going to walk away, but to his surprise she bent down and tucked a folded up piece of paper in his pocket."Maybe I'll see you later, Sergeant."

Rusty watched her hips sway as she walked off into the night. After she disappeared between the vehicles, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the folded paper. The note simply read her number. At a second glance, he saw a tiny heart floating at the end of it. He laid his head back down and smiled