Status: Complete.

I Want You to Live

Chapter 4

Peyton pushed her horse, Thunder, until he was in a full blown run. She gave him his lead, letting him roam wherever he desired. Settling back in the saddle, she let her thoughts run freely. It was going on six and she still hadn’t heard from Rusty. He had promised to call, but hadn’t so far.

The day wasn’t over yet, but as the minutes slipped into hours, she was starting to lose hope. What did it matter anyways? She already knew their relationship was going nowhere. Last night was a lot of fun. More fun than she’d had in a while, but that’s all it was. Just fun. Nothing serious.

Obviously, he didn’t want anything serious either, because he hadn’t even kissed her. She had been surprised at how disappointed she had felt. Brodie had kissed her after their first date. Blowing out a frustrated breath, she chastised herself for comparing the two men, again. Rusty was nothing like Brodie, and that was a fact.

Oh well, it was good to get out for a night. Peyton grabbed the reins and turned Thunder back towards the house. The conversation they'd had in the truck popped into her mind as she trotted along. He was extremely intuitive to pick up on her feelings like that. He had seemed serious when he said it wasn't a one time thing. Except, he hadn't kissed her or called today. Feeling even more confused than before, she kicked her horse into a gallop.

Her heart skipped a couple beats when they entered the yard. Rusty was sitting on the porch steps, looking amazing and at complete ease. He stood and approached her as she drew closer. A grin split his face as he pushed his sunglasses to the top of his head. She smiled back, feeling more excited than a woman not looking for anything serious should.

“I’m sorry I didn’t call. We had a surprise training day and I came here as soon as we got finished,” he said, gesturing down to his attire. He was still wearing his camouflage pants and combat boots. His shirt was black with a tiny logo reading Ranger in the top left corner.

“It’s alright. You didn’t have to stop by.” Her voice sounded cooler than she meant.

“I know, but I wanted to. I don’t want you mad at me...” His voice trailed off. He scratched the back of his neck, puzzled by her demeanor.

Peyton busied herself with removing Thunder’s bridle. She turned and started leading the horse to the barn. Rusty’s boots crunched on the gravel as he followed her. Once inside, she led him to his stall and began removing his saddle and saddle blanket. After placing the saddle in its designated spot, she turned and stared in surprise. Rusty was already brushing the horse’s coat. She watched as he quietly whispered to the horse. Thunder nickered softly in reply, making Rusty laugh. The picture they created was adorable. It was apparent that he had been around horses before.

“They should just call you horse whisperer,” she said, walking up behind him. He glanced at her over his shoulder and grinned.

“Close, Cowboy.” She stared at the back of his head, puzzled. What was he talking about? “It’s my handle,” he stated, as if reading her mind.

Now she was even more confused. What the hell was a handle?

“You lost me,” she admitted.

He moved to brush the horses back flanks. “A handle is like a nickname, except it’s what we use when we’re in the field.” It dawned on her then. He was talking about being a Ranger.

Suddenly, she was curious about what he did. She was interested in learning more about the life.

“What’s it like?” she asked, moving to pet Thunder's velvety nose. "What you do," she elaborated.

“Didn’t you read my shirt?” She laughed after looking at it. It read ‘When it absolutely, positively has to be destroyed overnight.’ “I'm joking. We do do some demolition occasionally, but there’s more to it than that. We do whatever we have to. We jump out of planes, we rescue hostages, contain enemies, recon work. We save lives.”

“You actually love it, don’t you?” She hopped up on the stall door, watching him finish with Thunder.

“No amount of money could make me leave it behind,” he replied. The passion in his voice was evident.

She tried to grasp how someone could love putting themselves in danger that much. Her passion was horses and riding them, but that was different. Yea, a horse could throw her or kick her, but those were pretty minor hazards compared to his job description. She wasn’t sneaking behind enemy lines or dodging bullets. Plus, it gave her so much joy, to heal and to love these wounded creatures.

“I guess I just don’t understand,” she finally confided.

He glanced up at her, a small smile turning the corners of his mouth up. His black eye was starting to fade to a greenish purple. He hung the wire brush back in its place. He leaned on the work table for a minute, deep in thought. The sun was beginning to set and it played shadows across his face. Finally, he slowly walked back to where Peyton was perched and stopped in front of her.

“Most people don’t understand it. It’s hard to explain what drives people to become part of a Special Forces team, or to even join the military. You’re saving lives, every single day,” he spoke animatedly with his hands.

“Doctors and nurses save lives every day," she pointed out.

“That’s true, but it’s more than that. We’re putting our own lives on the line for other people.” Rusty stared intently into her eyes. He was searching, trying to see if she understood. And she was trying. She really was. It just wasn’t happening. “You still don’t get it.”

“I’m sorry. I’m trying, but these are people you don’t even know. Complete strangers.”

“It’s like- Ah- I don’t know. I don’t know how I can tell you. You’ll understand one day.” She smiled down into his handsome face. Just a few feet separated them. She could reach out and touch him if she wanted. And she did want to. More than anything. “Have I told you how beautiful you look today?”

“Rusty. I’m in old clothes and my hair is a mess. The last thing I am is beautiful.” She flushed from the compliment and looked away. She ran a hand through her tangled ponytail.

Despite her argument, she loved hearing him say it. She cringed though, when she looked down at herself. Dust clung to her ripped jeans and she knew she smelled like a sweaty horse. Probably not the best perfume she had ever worn.

“I’m being serious. You look amazing,” he said, pushing a loose strand of hair behind her ear. His fingers trailed down her cheek and chills went down her spine.

Why did one simple touch do that to her? He took a few steps closer, his eyes focused on her lips. She licked them, nervously. Her heart pounded so loud she was sure he could hear it. His face was inches away. It felt like he was moving in slow motion. She wanted to scream for him to just kiss her already!

“Man, do you have any idea how hard it is to find this damn place?" The voice barely registered in Peyton's stupor, but Rusty groaned and stepped away.

Peyton turned to see the guy from the bar fight standing in the open doorway. He was dressed the same as Rusty, but his longer hair was matted to his face.

“Seriously, Ty? What the hell are you doing here?” Rusty didn’t even try to hide the frustration in his voice.

Okay, so obviously she wasn’t the only one aggravated that their kiss was ruined. Peyton was starting to think she wouldn’t ever get to kiss him.

“Calm down. There’s no need to be rude, Rust.” Ty came sauntering into the barn, looking around at all the horses. He acted as if he didn’t have a care in the world, with his hands shoved deep into his pockets. She sighed inwardly as Rusty moved further away from her. “If you hadn’t have left in such a hurry then I wouldn’t be here right now. Do you realize it took me 30 minutes just to find this place?”

“My apologies for your troubles, now what do you want?” Rusty bit out through gritted teeth.

“Hi, you must be Peyton. Sorry my friend is a dick and doesn’t know how to introduce people. I’m Ty Kincaid," he introduced himself with a crooked grin. He extended a hand and gave hers a firm shake. She felt like she was being sized up.

He had fared far worse in the fight than Rusty. Around both of his eyes was black as his hair and slight swelling was still apparent around his split lip.

“Ty, Peyton. Peyton, Ty. There, now can you tell me why you’re here?” Rusty seemed to be struggling to keep his cool.

Ty was tall and lanky with blue eyes that held a world of trouble. Despite his battered appearance, he was a very good-looking man. There was no denying that, but standing next to Rusty, he seemed ordinary. Nothing special.

“Um, h-hi,” she stammered out. His scrutiny was making her uncomfortable. She squirmed under his stare.

“Ty!” Both her and Ty turned to gape at Rusty. He looked downright pissed off now.

“Sorry. Anyways, Sarge said we leave in the morning. 0500. Training week.”

“Shit. Seriously?” Rusty ran his hand through what hair he had and groaned.

“You’re leaving.” Her voice came out a whisper. She was horrified when tears choked up in her throat. It had only been two days since they met and it wasn’t like he was going to be in any danger. She shouldn’t be this attached to him already. No, she wasn’t going to fall for him. She had to end it as soon as possible.

Ty continued to chatter on, not paying any attention. Peyton could feel Rusty’s gaze on her. She looked up to meet his eyes. His expression was unreadable. He was a great guy. He really was. He had a great sense of humor, he was romantic, and he looked pretty damn good if she did say so herself, but she wasn’t interested. No guy was ever going to hurt her again.

Ty's eyes darted between the couple. “Alright, so I guess I’ll be leaving now," he finally said, seeming to catch on to the tension invading the barn. "It was really nice to meet you, mon cher. Rust, I’ll see you at the apartment.”

Ty gave her one last smile and a wink before walking out, leaving the barn silent. Rusty faced her with a sheepish smile. She halfheartedly returned it. This was going to be harder than she thought.

“I’m sorry about him. He always picks the worst times," he apologized with a pitiful shrug. He must have picked up on the lost moment, because he didn't make a move to pick up where they had left off.

“It’s fine. I guess it was for the best," she answered as nonchalantly as possible.

“What do you mean?” He gave her a puzzled look before taking a few steps towards her.

She jumped off the stall and backed towards the barn door. “Well, you’re leaving.”

“Didn’t you hear him? Just for a week. I’ll be back soon and then we can have our second date. Mexican, remember?” He followed her on out the door, his forehead creasing in a frown.

“Um, yea. Well, I was thinking and maybe we shouldn’t see each other anymore,” she mumbled before she could change her mind.

At first she didn’t hear him following so she turned back to see him standing in the doorway, watching her. He looked gorgeous, standing there in the fading light of the disappearing sun. His t-shirt clung to his muscular frame and for a second she wondered what he looked like without it.

“What did I do?” he asked quietly.

Peyton snapped out of her daydreams. His gaze wouldn’t meet hers now, but the look in his eyes hurt her. He looked heartbroken.

“Nothing. Rusty, you’re a great guy.”

“But? There has to be something. I thought everything was going great. We had fun last night, right?” His eyes lifted and searched her face.

She bit her lip. “Yes, I had a wonderful time," she rushed to try to soften the blow, "but I just don’t want anything serious right now. This way it ends before it ever really gets started.”

Rusty rubbed his chin and started walking towards her. She held her breath, silently begging him to take her in his arms, but praying he wouldn't. There was no way she would be able to resist him if he did. Her heart was already begging her to take back her words.

He moved on past, towards his truck and she sighed. “Just so you know, I’m already falling for you.” Peyton turned to see him facing her again. He covered the distance between them in two long strides. Her heart felt as if it was going to leap out of her chest. “I’ve never been in love, but I think it could happen with you. I don’t know why you make me feel like this way, but you do. It scares me. God knows it does, but I’m willing to try. You’ve obviously had your heart broken and I’m sorry. The guy that did it is an idiot and doesn’t realize what an amazing and beautiful person you are. Inside and out. I’m nothing like that guy, though. I would never hurt you.”

Peyton stared at him, shocked at his speech. She stared up into his beautiful smokey eyes and before she knew it, his arms were encircling her waist and his lips were brushing against hers. His touch was feather soft, but it lit a fire in her nonetheless. No kiss had ever made her feel the way this one did. Before she could react or even attempt to kiss him back, though, it was over and he was stalking to his truck.

“I hope you find someone that can make you give love one more try!” he hollered out the window as he turned the truck around. “I knew it was too good to be true,” she heard him mutter as he drove past.

He gave her one last sad smile and a wave. With that, he was gone. His truck stirred up dust as he flew down her driveway. Peyton stood staring after him until he disappeared among the trees, feeling worse than she had in a long, long time. What had she just done?