A SEAL's Resolve

By: Cora Seton

Chapter One







“Curtis, are you sure about this?” Anders Olsen asked.

Curtis looked in the mirror one last time, adjusted the collar of his blue Revolutionary Era uniform and nodded. At his feet, Daisy, the yellow dog who’d become his constant companion these past few months, whined. “It’s too late to change my mind. The guests are here. The officiant’s ready. It’s time to do this thing. You got the wedding band?”

“I’ve got it.” Anders patted his pocket. He was wearing an old-fashioned uniform, too; it had become tradition for the men of Base Camp to wear the historical outfits when one of them got married. His face was grave, his hair sticking up wildly where he kept running his hand through it. “But Michele doesn’t even like you.”

“Keep your voice down.” Curtis looked over his shoulder to make sure the door to the room where they were preparing for his wedding was still closed. For once, a cameraman wasn’t hovering nearby, a miracle since he’d been filmed just about every waking hour since he’d gotten here. He and nine other men who’d served with the Navy SEALs were participating in a reality television show named for the model sustainable community they were helping to build. Having no privacy had seemed a small price to pay for the opportunity, but Curtis had learned in the last six months or so the cost was steeper than he’d expected.

For one thing, Base Camp’s producer, Renata Ludlow, had managed to lay bare all his secrets. This wasn’t the first time he was attempting to make it to the altar. Martin Fulsom, the eccentric billionaire funding this project, wanted the show to garner a lot of attention, so he’d tasked the participants with a number of challenges to meet within a year’s time frame. They needed to build ten tiny houses that consumed one-tenth of the energy a normal dwelling consumed. They needed to grow or raise all their own food. They needed to create a green energy supply to power their homes and machinery.

That wasn’t all, however. In order to prove that their community was truly sustainable—that it would continue on into the future, after the show was over—all ten men at Base Camp needed to marry before the year was up. Three of the couples needed children on the way.

So far five men had married, and two of their wives were pregnant. Each time they held a wedding, the remaining single men drew straws to see who was next. Today it was Curtis’s turn.

Curtis swallowed, adjusting the collar of his uniform again. He’d drawn the short straw once before, but he’d blown that big time. Boone Rudman, the leader of Base Camp, had found him a bride—a pretty damn good one. Too bad he’d panicked, drunk too much the night before he was supposed to pick her up at the airport, and Harris Wentworth had gone instead—and married her that very morning.

Embarrassing.

Not nearly as embarrassing as being left at the altar, though. Renata had made sure everyone learned about that debacle, too, forcing him to recount on camera the whole sorry story about trying to marry his high school sweetheart at nineteen. Angela Minetta had been all for it—right up until the day of the wedding. She was the one who’d spooked that time, driving off in her parents’ SUV and ending up in California before anyone heard from her again. That day he’d stood at the altar for a full half hour before Angela’s father walked down the aisle and broke the news she wasn’t coming.

Curtis had thought he’d die of the humiliation. Then he’d joined the Navy thinking he might as well do something for his country while letting someone else pick him off and put him out of his misery.

And then he’d learned that he loved the Navy, loved the adventure of it all, and was a damn good SEAL. He’d grown up enough to realize Angela had done them both a favor. Neither of them had been ready to marry and settle down.

Still.

“I can’t back out now,” he told Anders. “Besides, it’s only for a year and a half or so. I’ll get through it.”

“You realize that makes no sense.” Anders joined him in front of the mirror. “If Michele thinks she needs a husband to win the election, why won’t she need a husband to keep hold of the seat?”

“I don’t know, but our agreement says eighteen months.”

“This isn’t going to end well.”

Daisy barked, as if in agreement. Curtis bent to scratch her behind her ears.

“What do you want me to do? Walk out on the wedding? Ruin this for everyone?” He wasn’t entering into a sham marriage for kicks. When he’d pulled the short straw—on purpose—thirty-five days ago, he’d wanted to take charge of his life and stop letting Fate jerk him around. He’d spurned Boone’s offer to find him another bride and had gone out to the local bars every night and spent hours on online dating sites every day.