A Tutelarius Love (Prologue, page 1 of 2)

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The airplane trip to Arkansas seemed like an opportunity to catch up on reading, but his mind kept drifting away from the book. Ahead of him lay four weeks of uncharted business. He'd never done anything like this and felt uncomfortable about it. He felt most comfortable in the outdoors, but who could earn a living tromping through the mountains? He had invested so much already. It was probably safe to say the rest of his life depended heavily on how he handled things from this point on. Everything he did and said during this endeavor would be under scrutiny.

He felt inside his jacket again. The information on the cabin was in his inside pocket. Ordinarily he'd feel guilty about deception, but in this case the ends did justify the means. She'd eventually find out but right now she needed the help...even if she didn't see it that way. Those who loved her did. Regardless, he had given his word and no matter how it came out, there was no turning back at this point.

He glanced up and met the verde gaze of the redhead again. Something about the way she impulsively returned his smile and then diffidently looked away tugged at his heart. She wasn't beautiful, but she was very attractive. The freckles sprinkled over that upturned nose gave her a youthful look, though he guessed her to be nearer his age.

He tried to focus on the book again, but after a few minutes something compelled him to look at her. She was watching him again. The intensity in her gaze faltered and she looked away again. One word crossed his mind - lonely. Was she, and would she be willing to spend a little time with a stranger? He would have more spare time in the next few weeks than he had ever had on a job.

What was he thinking? To her, he was a complete stranger.

He closed the book and gazed out the window. There was nothing to see at this altitude, but he wasn't seeing anything in the book anyway. Maybe the loneliness he saw in her eyes was merely a reflection. He hadn't realized how important a mother could be in a grown man's life until she died last year. It seemed that recently all his father talked about was his days in the service. Maybe that was his way of coping with the loss of his wife. He hated to leave his father, but it was time to move on. It was time for him to make his own mark on the world...settle down with some nice girl and raise a family like his father had. That was a tall order for a man who didn't even have a steady girlfriend. The truth was; he hadn't been all that interested in any he'd met so far. His father was right. He was too selective. What he wanted was a woman with yesterday's morals and today's savvy; someone both passionate and honorable.

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