Sergeant Mike is back…

While Sergeant Mike’s Miracle Tour is one of my traditional romance/literary fiction books that is published under the Tara Neale nom de plume, it has been one of my most awarding and highly rated on Literotica. The second books in that series, which is not yet available on Lit, is Labor’s End. In honor of this Labor Day weekend, it is FREE on Amazon. So, I thought I’d share a sneak peek of this one with you…

It was after one in the morning when former Master Sergeant Michael Thomas O’Malley, United States Marine Corps, pulled his new Harley Davidson Road King into the dusty driveway. Over fifteen hundred miles in two days, with only a brief stop to pitch a tent when he was too tired to continue. Sergeant Mike, as he was beginning to get used to the civilians calling him, was a man on a mission. After over twenty years as a Marine that new nickname still rankled at moments, but what did they know of proper ways to address a non-commissioned officer.

Lowering the kickstand on his motorcycle that he had named Esther, he took off his red, white, and blue helmet. This far out of the city, the night sky was alight with stars and an almost full moon. They cast an eerie glow on the large, two-story white wood frame farmhouse in front of him. Mike smiled as he remembered the first time that he saw this place.

He had barely been eighteen when he met Billy Hall in basic training at Parris Island. The red-headed farm boy from Oklahoma and the smart-mouthed orphan from Boston had been an unlikely pair. But over those thirteen weeks of hell that was basic training, the two of them had become best of friends. The fresh-faced kid was a far cry from the tough types that had usually been Mike’s friends, but his natural smile and down-home friendliness had knocked the chip right off Mike’s shoulder.

Of course, when graduation day came, Billy’s parents had traveled from Oklahoma to South Carolina. The large, gruff man with the ruddy complexion and grey hair and the small red-headed woman had beamed proudly at their son, alongside his baby sister as well as an aunt and uncle from Georgia that Billy had stayed with after graduation. The uncle had been a Marine and encouraged the young man to enlist during that summer visit.

What surprised Mike though was that on Family Day, they had all insisted he joined them in the tour of the Parris Island Museum. It touched something deep inside him that he had thought buried since that night when he was seven and had lost the only person that had ever or would ever love him.

After the ceremony, he had hung back, uncomfortable with the hundreds of family and friends that celebrated this accomplishment with their sons and daughters, boyfriends, wives, and brothers. For Mike there was no one, there had not been since that night and he no longer cared. People and emotions were just messy complications that he did not need.

Billy dragged his parents, Mister Clyde and Missus Lula, over to where he stood alone and apart from the others. Mike smiled and made polite conversation. His friend was heading home for the ten-day leave before they were both off to infantry training at Camp Geiger. When they discovered that Mike had nowhere to go, Missus Lula insisted that he come with them. It had been the beginning.

Nearly a quarter of a century and this place looked almost the same as it had that day. Except that now the windows were boarded up and this once lively family farm was as barren as Mike’s soul.

He shook his head and fought back the lump that rose in his throat at the memories of that day and the ones that followed. Staying in the spare room just down the hall from his friend, rising at dawn not to the shouts of their drill instructor but the sweet call of Missus Lulu, “Breakfast is ready, boys.”

Mike sighed as he dismounted the motorcycle and began to climb the few steps up to the wrap around porch. The old swing still hung from the roof that covered the porch. It creaked solemnly as it rocked gently in the breeze. Its song another eerie reminder of those few brief blessed days when Mike had glimpsed what others took for granted…family.

He dug deep into the pockets of his dusty jeans to retrieve the key they had given him back then. He could still see Missus Lulu’s tears as she hugged both of them at the bus station. Mister Clyde had gripped his hand firmly as he passed the keyring to him. “Consider this place your home now, son,” the man said before gripping him about the shoulders in a bear hug that made Mike as uncomfortable as it had comforted.

He slid the key into the lock and turned it slowly. It stuck just a bit, a sign of disuse. How long had it been since anyone opened this door? Since they had placed Mister Clyde in the nursing home two years ago? He knew that Billy’s little sister was busy with her own family in Chicago and he tried very hard not to judge the woman that had been only a little girl of eight or nine that first time he had visited.

It had been Labor Day weekend then too. He wondered if Honour, Oklahoma still had its annual county fair next weekend. Would there be fireworks? Then again, Mike had had enough of loud explosions and the smell of fresh gunpowder to last him a lifetime. Maybe the outsider would give it all a pass even if they did.

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