Letters from Home

By: Rhonda Nelson


March. Baghdad, Iraq

ANOTHER letter. From her.

Levi McPherson felt a current of heat snake through his weary limbs and settle hotly in his loins. A slow smile sliding over his lips, he sank onto the edge of his bed and ignored the various sounds echoing through the concrete barracks. The catcalls, the buzz of laughter, the odd guitar and video-game noises faded into insignificance as he carefully opened the envelope.

Quite frankly, aside from the rare telephone call and e-mail, there was nothing more wonderful to a deployed soldier than a letter from home. Since arriving in Iraq some ten months ago he’d gotten letters from his former unit mates—Lucas “Huck” Finn and Mick Chivers—his parents, his sister, his nieces and nephews, his high-school algebra teacher and, hell, even his boat mechanic.

And he’d appreciated each and every one of them.

But the letters he’d started getting from the Mysterious Ms. X, as Levi had begun to call her, were admittedly the ones he found himself anticipating the most during mail call. Though she never signed her name to any of the letters, but instead ended each steamy missive with a simple “Yours,” Levi knew she was a hometown girl because the return address was a post-office box in Bethel Bay, a sleepy little backwater town nestled just north of Hilton Head, South Carolina. Home, he thought with a pang of nostalgia, missing the scent of magnolia blossoms and salty sea air. Missing his mother’s meat loaf, tag football and sailing.

The last most of all.

Though he wasn’t home often enough to justify keeping his boat—a sweet little thirty-three-foot Columbia Boomerang—Levi couldn’t quite bring himself to sell it. Being out on the water, hearing the snap of the wind in the sails… Other than being on the front line of a battlefield, it was the only place he’d ever felt grounded. He loved the sea, the expanse and depth, the sheer vastness of it. It was easy to make sense of his own place in the world when he was on the water.

And whoever Ms. X was knew it, too, because she’d mentioned seeing his father taking the Sabrina out for a turn around the bay. Levi winced. Damn, he really needed to do something about that name, he thought. Despite the fact that he’d painted over the moniker—that of his ex-fiancée, who’d literally left him at the altar two years ago—the bright-blue letters still bled through. He should have painted them over in black, he thought darkly.

The color would have matched Sabrina’s miserable, faithless heart.

Water under the bridge, Levi reminded himself, fishing the letter out of the envelope. It was done. Finished. Over. Better that he find out now that she didn’t have the emotional strength to be a military wife. Hell, the first time he’d counted on her to keep the home fires burning, she’d gotten lonely and kept the sheets hot with an old flame. His lips twisted bitterly.

Unfaithfulness was sort of a deal-breaker in his book.

It was all for the best really. He’d been trying to find the kind of love his parents shared and had known deep in his heart that the connection wasn’t right with Sabrina. She’d been an ill-planned substitute. Since her, though he’d been left feeling a bit hollow on the inside, Levi had given up on the idea of marriage and family. He’d decided it simply wasn’t in his cards.

He heaved a silent sigh and made a mental note to check in with Adam, his little brother, who was also currently serving in Iraq. Not that he necessarily needed to check in on him. Only two years younger than him, Adam was a crackerjack soldier, and Levi knew he would always have his back. But old habits died hard and, though it was unreasonable, he couldn’t seem to shake the pervading feeling that he needed to protect Adam, that even after all these years, it was still his job.

Shrugging off a bit of unease, Levi unfolded the letter and felt a smile roll over his lips as the familiar feminine writing—neat and a bit loopy—filled the page.

Dear Levi,

I dreamed about you again last night. I dreamed you were home and, more importantly, mine. I dreamed you wanted me, really wanted me, that you walked through my front door, our eyes locked and a second later you were on me, taking me hard and fast against the door.

Sweet mercy, was she trying to kill him? Did this woman have any idea how these letters affected him? How therapeutic the ones he wrote back to her were?

You kissed me as though you needed my breath to breathe, you took my breasts into your mouth and suckled the peaks until I almost came. You slipped your wickedly talented fingers into my panties and I rubbed myself against you, satisfied…but not, wanting more. Needing more. I’m hot and muddled now, remembering.

Welcome to the club, sweetheart, he thought, chuckling darkly. At the moment his balls felt like they’d been hit with a blow torch.

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