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Dust clouded my vision. It was everywhere, hanging in the air like smoke. I squinted, struggling to see. I spat and my saliva was practically solid.

I fucking hated the dust.

Everyone complained about the heat, the flies, the fucking insurgents who looked like they could be anyone, and often were. Little kids, women, it was impossible to tell. They complained about missing their families, their girls, the food.

But we had a job to do. Protect the local civilians from the terrorists. Protect the U.S. of A.

That was a pretty fucking important job.

Personally, I didn't mind any of that. I didn't bitch about shit. I just hated the dust.

I really, really fucking hated it.

"Thick, what are you going to do when you get home?"

Kenneth sounded wistful. I got that. I was out soon. He wasn't. It was going to suck leaving my guys behind, but that was part of the deal. I'd been in longer. I'd served my time. I was out.

I grinned, ignoring the feeling of the caked on dust that cracked when I smiled.

"The first thing I'm going to get is a burger and a beer."

"Hmmm... beer. Sounds good."

"Ice cold beer. Then I'm going to find me a sweet, clean American girl and give her the business."

"Fucking A, Sergeant Thick."

"Fucking A, Private."

Shots fired, interrupting the silence and we crouched a little lower. We couldn't hit the ground completely and still observe the situation. But we could try and avoid getting our heads blown off.

"Sergeant Thick?"

"Uh huh."

I turned my head. Kenneth was batting his eyes at me with his hands clasped together. He looked like a cartoon Southern belle. All he needed was a Goddamn bow in his hair.

"Take me with you."

I laughed and stared into my scope, scanning the area.

"If only I could, Kenny. You come and see me as soon as you get out though, alright?"

"Fucking A."



Chapter One




The student center was huge. It was circular which made every damn sound in the place echo. After being in the service you would think nothing would unnerve me. I'd seen plenty of action for God's sake.

But things had been orderly in the Marines. Well, not in combat, but there was always a procedure to follow. A best course of action.

This was something entirely different.

People milled around everywhere. Students sat on benches, hunched over laptops. Some even sat on the floor. There were tables with information, security guards, kiosks selling University themed t-shirts and tote bags.

It was chaos. And the semester hadn't even started yet.

Yeah, college was going to take some getting used to.

I had no choice but to get used to it though. This was the whole damn point of the last four years. I'd gone into the military to pay for school, at least at first. I'd grown to love it though. Way more than I'd ever expected. The guys I'd served with were the family I'd never had, the dirty bastards.

I fucking missed them already.

But I had worked hard and now I was here, fulfilling the promise I'd made when I was twelve years-old. Not to mention the promise I'd made to myself. My secret ambition. I wanted something more than just a degree out of this place.

After all, it was the top ranked football school in all of California.

This was the kind of place I'd only dreamed about back home in Virginia. Home. Where the men had coal or grease under their fingernails and the women's hands were raw from housework. The only ambition you had there was to toe the line, make your day's wages, and lose yourself in oblivion at the Rusty Nail at night.

Now, this place was a far cry from the local community college. Shiny new buildings, beautiful trees, clean cut and good-looking students everywhere. I'd been headed to community college before I signed up, which was a series of small buildings outside of town that had a parking lot full of potholes.

If I hadn't gotten money from the GI bill I'd be there, or working. My plan was to get the bare minimum and set up my own shop. I would have gone into carpentry. I was good with my hands.

But now everything was different. Now, I had a chance at a better life. Just like my mama wanted for me. She knew the path that was ahead. She knew it was much easier just to fall in line with the rest of the local boys and stay put. She wanted more for me, though, and her ambition had been contagious.

Without that promise, I would have probably just skipped school, gotten a job at the mine and drank beer and bourbon like my daddy. Gotten some girl knocked up and then just worked myself into the ground. Just sit every night and drink, until you died.

But I'd promised my mama on her deathbed that I'd get a college degree, so here I was.

I was a 21 year-old freshman. Not that much older than the average student. But to me, these kids looked so young. Even the upperclassmen. Hell, even the grad students looked like kids to me.

They were civilians. They were green.

To be honest, I felt like a hawk in a room full of canaries.

I looked up in time to see a sweet ass redhead walk into the room. Hell, everybody stopped what they were doing to stare at her. She had long legs, wrapped in tight, worn in jeans. Her platform sandals were sexy without being over the top. Her soft pink camisole hugged her curves, skimming over her delicate collarbone, caressing her outrageous tatas and down to a tiny waist I could grip with my hands.

Oh yeah, the body was tight.

The face was something else all together.

The girl was heart-stompingly beautiful. The best I'd ever seen. Her creamy skin was faintly flushed, as though she'd been running. Juicy, plump pink lips and a pert nose competed with the biggest green eyes I'd seen in my life.

Just when I thought things couldn't get any better, they did. Her hair was red. Flaming, silky, long and glorious red.

I heard Kenneth's voice in my head. I would have grinned but I felt frozen to the spot. My entire body focused on getting a good look at her. Memorizing her. You know, for later. My alone time.

Fucking A.

The American Teen Dream was heading right for me. She seemed to float through the place. Like a Goddess among mortals.

She was coming straight for me. She smiled tentatively and I felt all the blood in my body travel right for my sac. Maybe I was going to like college even more than I'd thought. Maybe Grade A tail like this was just going to fall into my lap...

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