Authors: Nic Saint
Newly graduated Erin Walters decides to have one last summer of fun before embarking on a career as an architect. Her friend convinces her that the beaches of Goa, India, are the perfect place to let their hair down and soak up some rays. But secretly Erin harbors a deeper wish, one in which she finally finds the man of her dreams—her soulmate.
Ex-soldier Raminar Bradley isn’t in Goa to have fun. He has one last mission to complete before permanently signing off, and his last hurrah doesn’t leave room for dreamers like Erin. Bumping into her at the airport, therefore, he’s more than a little surprised when he finds himself irresistibly drawn to the young woman. Soon some of that starry-eyed innocence of hers starts rubbing off on him, like balm to his wounded soul.
Before long, the two plunge into a passionate affair that leaves them both reeling, their lives permanently changed. But can the events that Raminar has set in motion still be turned back, or is it too late?
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NAVY SEAL’S VIRGIN LOVER
The soft pulsing sounds of pop music drifted from the downstairs exercise room, where Erin was working up a sweat on the family treadmill. She’d spent most of the weekend partying hard, which was not her habit, and felt she needed to give her body the requisite attention.
And sweat out some the booze she’d injudiciously imbibed.
There had been entirely too much alcohol involved in the revels. Too much idle talk as well and way too many guys hitting on her. The whole thing had left her both physically and mentally exhausted.
Not that she didn’t appreciate all the attention, but spending the weekend on the dance floor just wasn’t her scene.
At least this once, though, she’d needed to unwind and do something completely out of character. A grade A student, she’d spent most of her life buried in books and courses and now, at last, had finally graduated from architecture school. Definitely something worth celebrating.
When her hands had enveloped that coveted piece of paper called a diploma, the first thing that had come to mind was that she was in dire need of a leap year. Or month. Or at the very least a fortnight.
She just felt she needed to get away for a bit before setting about to carve out a career for herself in her chosen profession.
A different country, preferably located on a different continent, perhaps even—just to be sure she was really out of things for a little while—a different planet altogether. Though that might be a hard bargain to drive home, as her parents weren’t exactly loaded, and a ticket on Richard Branson’s spaceship might be a bit of a stretch, even as a graduation gift.
Mom and Dad had agreed to pay her ticket to India, though, a place she had selected solely based on the recommendation of her best friend Sophie, who shared a similar wish, and the fact that it was the only place her budget seemed to agree with.
“It’s a different world for sure,” Soph had marveled when they studied the websites depicting the mysterious beauty of that strange country far, far away. “Just look at all those funky rickshaws. And what about those temples?”
Erin didn’t so much ache for temples and rickshaws as she did for a decent guy who wouldn’t try to grope her on the pretext that on a Saturday night, when the booze is flowing and the beats are pounding, anything goes.
Her last boyfriend had been of the same opinion, and had figured one girlfriend wasn’t enough for him. He had to hit on a second and third as well. It hadn’t taken Erin long to discover this polygamous streak in Bart, and she’d quickly ended the affair before he could go and do a silly thing like break her heart.
She’d grown quite fond of Bart, and even though she’d instinctively known from the start he wasn’t really the one for her, he was not a bad sort, and quite easy on the eyes.
She pushed herself harder, adjusting the treadmill’s speed to her limit. Huffing and puffing, she pounded the rubber, sweat streaming down her brow.
She toweled off and replaced the towel, her eyes focused on a Discovery Channel documentary about India. It depicted the growing disparity between the abjectly poor majority of the gigantic country, and the extreme wealth of a small group of entrepreneurs. There followed an item about the environmental challenges of the booming economy, but her mind had already drifted off to the more practical arrangements still to be taken care of.
Suddenly the urge to pack her bags and head to the airport became overpowering. If all she could do in Belgium was get hammered on the weekends and sweat it all off during the week, her savings were much better spent in India. Even though her modest nest egg only allowed her to stay in India for one month, it was definitely worth it if she could attain her secret dream… finding her soulmate.
She balled her fist and raised it heavenward. “I’m going to India and I’m gonna find myself a super pooper boyfriend!” she solemnly declared to no one in particular. “Land of enlightenment, here comes… Erin!”
Unfortunately, by raising both her fists to the sky, she almost lost her balance, and it was only through the sheer power of her will that she managed to stay on her feet and not become a YouTube blooper reel.
She snorted at the silly picture she must look, and wondered briefly if she should announce her dedication to the search for a soulmate on Facebook.
She decided against it. Some decisions are too important to share with one’s friends. Until she’d actually planted her feet on Indian soil, she wouldn’t breathe a word about her most urgent desire to anyone.
She tossed back her sleek red hair, and wiped more sweat from her freckled brow and nose, her lively emerald eyes focused on the TV screen Dad had recently installed.
Judging from the people featured in the documentary, it wouldn’t be too hard to find a soulmate in India. The country had more than a billion inhabitants, after all. At least one amongst those must be her dream man, right?
The thought of finally finding a guy she could share her innermost thoughts with had been a dream of hers since she’d reached puberty. She desperately longed to find her love twin, something that had been sorely lacking from her life so far.
Sophie didn’t believe in soulmates, and recently she had felt doubts tear at the fabric of her dream as well. Bart had shaken her belief that for every girl there was the perfect boy waiting somewhere in the wings of life.
What if she never found ‘the one’? What if she remained single for the rest of her life? Or what if she found a decent fellow, but he didn’t really touch her heart in the way she’d always imagined? Would she settle for less? Or keep on looking for what might turn out to be simply a pipe dream?
She shrugged off the niggling doubts. Whatever else happened in India, only one thing mattered: she
find HIM, or else her name wasn’t Erin Walters.
Raminar Bradley stared across the Arabian Sea, his steely blue eyes scanning the horizon for a glimpse of hope. He didn’t know whether expecting the universe to send him a sign was smart or just plain dumb, but he was too far gone to care.
Now was the time for God or the Universe or whoever was up there to reveal him his future, all his recent prayers focused on this one request for clarity and guidance.
His bare feet were firmly planted in the white sand of one of Goa’s nicest beaches, his athletic torso gleaming with sweat from his recent run and the muscles of his long legs still rippling from the exertion.
He’d made it a habit to run along this beach every morning, preferably before the tourist crowd showed up to stake their claim on this piece of paradise and promptly plop down like a school of beached whales.
In all fairness, he was probably a tourist too, though his connection to this place ran a lot deeper than it did for most.
Renting the small cabin he now called home had been the first time in ages he’d laid down roots somewhere. For years, he’d been roaming the planet, spending time in some of the most dangerous places on earth as a part of the US military. The day that had ended, so had his life as he knew it.
All he cared about now was to receive some clue as to what he was supposed to do with his life from here on out. He couldn’t return home, that was for sure, not until he’d completed his mission. Though lately he’d started questioning whether that was the right thing to do…
Or… he could simply start walking. Put one foot in front of the other until he was dissolved by the warm water, the waves mercifully closing over his head.
As he gazed into the distance now, he willed the universe to answer his eternal question: why was he still here? Why was he still alive? And why, for the love of God, was he all alone?
The sun was rising quickly now, and cast its golden light across the waves. He stood, his fists working, transpiration running down his back and rippled torso. He panted, not from the run but the mental strain. Finally, he gave up. Except the soft rush of the ocean, and an occasional cawing bird behind him in the thicket lining the beach, nothing stirred.
As had happened all the days before, God was not available to answer his prayers. Not today. Not ever.
He slumped to the sand and let it sift through his fingers, the golden hue reflected by the dark tone of his skin. Lying back, he closed his eyes and as his breathing slowed, a sense of much-coveted peace finally washed over him.
A strange sound had him open his eyes and look up. It seemed to come from directly behind him. When he saw that the snuffling sound belonged to a stray dog, he smiled, relieved.
“Hey, mutt,” he grunted, reaching out a tentative hand in the direction of the emaciated canine. “Are you lost, buddy?”
The dog eyed him warily, his tongue drooping. His fur was matted to its frame, spots of skin shining through where it had been ripped out, either by rival dogs or disease.
“What you need are a meal and a bath,” murmured Raminar, “and as luck would have it, I can supply you with both.”
He didn’t know whether this mangy mutt was God’s answer to his prayers, but he wasn’t taking any chances.
“Let’s first get acquainted.” He held up his hand. “My name is Raminar, and yours is…” He eyed the dog expectantly. The scrawny creature barked once, as if enjoying this little game. Then he abruptly sat down on his haunches and started scratching a lopsided ear. “I’m assuming that’s dog for… Sam, right?”
A single bark was his reply, and Raminar grinned. “Okay, Sam. What do you say if I took you to my place? All the food you need.”
Sam merely panted, his eyes fixed on his benefactor, then opened his maw for an extended yawn.
Raminar laughed. “I can see straight down your stomach, boy, and I can tell it’s been days since you had anything other than a dry old bone.”
With a groan, he rose to his feet, and dusted the sand off his running shorts. “Come along, Sam. You and I are gonna be best buds, I can tell.”
The dog let rip an enthusiastic yelp, and trotted along with Raminar as he made his way down the beach.
“Don’t thank me yet. All I’ve got right now is a loaf of bread and a bag with assorted veggies. But I’m pretty sure I could wrangle us up some fish. That sound all right to you?”
Judging from the way Sam wagged his tail, it was more than all right.
Raminar shook his head, his mood magically lifted by the sudden arrival of this canine friend in his life. He raised his eyes. “I don’t know if this is a joke or the answer to my prayers, Lord,” he softly intoned, “but I’ll take what I can get. Thanks.”
As he made his way along the beach, he took a detour by one of the small restaurants dotting the seaside. The owner knew Raminar and welcomed him as an honored guest.
“I’ll drop in later for some real food, Rinjah,” he told the diminutive man who’d grasped his hand. “But for now, could you give my friend here a little something to take the edge off? He’s starving.”
, that’s fine, Raminar.” Rinjah eyed the dog wearily. To him, he was merely one of dozens of stray dogs roaming the streets of the coastal strip. Nevertheless, he soon came back with a bowl of fish guts that had Sam’s name written on them.
The dog practically swallowed the treat in one go, and Rinjah had to laugh in spite of himself.
“I think he’s hungry, Raminar.”
“I guess he is.”
Then, looking closer, he did a surprising discovery. He scratched his scalp. “What do you know?” He laughed, ignoring Rinjah’s expression of befuddlement.
“Come along, Sam,” he said. “There’s more where that came from, but let’s first get you cleaned up, huh?”
Setting foot for his cabin, he grinned. “Is this your idea of a joke, God? I ask you to send me a woman to ease my lonely nights and you send me a bitch?”
Sam howled shortly, as if offended by the comment.
Raminar crouched down to look into the dog’s tawny eyes. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Sam, but you
a bitch. Sorry for not noticing before.” The dog gave him a gentle lick with her tongue.