The premise for the new challenge is to have someone make a wish upon a star. It can be a child or adult, hero, heroine or anyone else.
I enjoyed creating Ellie and Sebastian and hope to someday complete their story and give them their happily ever after. I think their story will be more of a romantic adventure than a true romantic suspense. I guess I was channeling Bruce Willis in Tears of the Sun when I wrote this even though the Sebastian in my head doesn't resemble Willis.
Word Count: 1000
Sebastian stepped through the doorway into the small chapel. Ellie stood in front of the altar, her back to him, the flickering light from the payer candles highlighted her flyaway blond curls. He drank in the sight of her as he approached, then dug deep into the well of anger he carried. He needed it to combat emotions he refused to identify. “I thought I made it clear you were to be on that flight.”
She squared her shoulders then turned to face him. She hitched up her chin, but her gaze didn’t meet his, instead it landed on his chest. For a second he wondered if she could see his roiling emotions. They had been lodged like a stone in his chest since yesterday, making breathing difficult. He shook his head to clear it of such foolish notions. She did this to him, made him feel things he’d thought long dead. Last night he caught himself watching a falling star as it streaked across the inky darkness. At least he came to his senses before making a childish wish. Idiota.
“I don’t take orders from you, Captain, and the State Department’s advisory was just that. An advisement not an order.” She hugged her arms across her chest, raised her head to meet his gaze, her blue eyes brimming with defiance.
He put his hands on his hips to keep himself from reaching for her, torn between wanting to hold her close and itching to throttle her. “And what do Father Joseph and the good Sisters think about this foolishness?”
“They don’t know,” he finished for her and swore under his breath. He wanted to shake some sense into her. Wanted to shout at her, tell her that like that falling star, she’d been a brief light in his dark world and the thought of her light being snuffed shredded his gut. Instead he clung to his anger. “Once the fighting starts the church can’t protect you. You’re not a nun so there’s no superstition or taboo surrounding you. You could be killed…or worse.”
“What’s worse than being killed?”
He stepped closer, invading her personal space. “I’m not sure what magical world you live in, but here in the real world there’s a lot of things worse than death. Do you want me to spell it out for you? Paint you a picture?”
He watched her throat muscles work as she swallowed. “That won’t be necessary.”
Pinching the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, he sighed. “Maybe I can get a helicopter... get you to….”
“But what about the children?”
Was he not speaking English? “What about the children?”
“How can you be so cruel?” She curled her hands into fists.
He towered over her wishing she’d use those fists, give him a reason to touch her. Bad idea. Searching for calm, he inhaled deeply. But that was a really bad idea. Dios, even in the sweltering heat of the jungle, she smelled like citrus and sunshine. Damn he needed to get his head out of the clouds. “I’m a realist, Miss Whitney. Did you really think you could come down here like some starry-eyed do-gooder and save this country from itself? Or maybe you thought you could waive your magic wand and make everything all better? Are you naive or just plain stupid?”
“I can’t abandon the children. I won’t. Maybe you could—”
“I won’t waste my men on a fool’s errand.” But he was already calculating how many men he could spare to defend the Sisters of Mercy Orphanage. Would he even be considering it if Ellie Whitney had left on that flight, if he had succeeded in getting her out of harm’s way? He shoved that thought aside. There’d be time enough later for self-recrimination. If he lived that long.
# # #
Ellie blinked back tears. Whitneys didn’t cry. Weeping never solved anything, Missy. Her grandfather’s voice rang in her ear, when, as a child, she had cried for her parents. She had thought Grandfather Whitney was a hard man, but he could take lessons from Sebastian Navarro.
“Sir?” A young man dressed in combat fatigues poked his head into the doorway. “The transport is ready.”
Sebastian nodded and waved the boy away. “God help you, Miss Whitney, because I certainly can’t.”
“Can’t or won’t?”
“Does it matter?”
“But…if the freedom fighters win then—”
“Then we’ll be trading one despot for another. Neither one is going to change the lives of these orphans. Surely you’ve been here long enough to realize that.”
She flinched as if he had physically struck her. She had realized that but was wanting to make a difference so terrible? She had wanted to change the lives of these children. Her need to matter to someone, or to something had brought her to this place. And it brought her to Sebastian Navarro. She didn’t regret that.
He muttered something in Spanish about irrational women, turned on his heel and strode toward the arched doorway.
Ellie watched him retreat, his broad shoulders stiff and straight. He had mastered the art of pushing people away, playing the consummate hard-ass. But she remembered how he had made sure the orphanage received food and medical supplies even when there was no money left to pay the bribes to get those supplies here safely. And she recalled the day he brought a soccer ball to the boys and helped them set up makeshift goals. Watching him play soccer with the boys, she saw not the hardened soldier but a man who smiled and laughed. And her heart ached for him, wondering what he would have been like under different circumstances.
Her chest tightened when she thought about a world—her world—without Sebastian Navarro. Recalling the wish she’d made on last night’s falling star, she blinked hard and cleared her throat. “Captain?”
He stopped at the sound of her voice but didn’t turn around.“Sebastian… please…take care…the world needs realists, too.”