Mountain Mystique

Mountain Mystique

by A. T. Hartley


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781450223164
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 05/13/2010
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.55(d)

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Mountain Mystique

By A.T. Hartley

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2010 A.T. Hartley
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4502-2316-4

Chapter One

Becky was eighteen years old, stood five foot zero, and was a hundred pounds of bubbling energy. She had chin-length, straight, dark chestnut hair cut in a bob. She rubbed her head softly on her husband's chest, snuggling closer to her Monster. Twenty-four year old Kyle was a veteran of the first Gulf War, an ex-Marine sniper with two hash marks on his sleeve. He was 240 pounds of ripped muscles, stood six foot three, and had Germanic white-blond hair. At Becky's urging, Kyle was moderating. He was letting his hair grow out to a regulation long style so Becky could run her fingers through it.

Kyle guided his restored sky-blue GTO with white racing stripes down the center, northward on I-95. Becky's ear rested against Kyle's chest. Their hearts now beat as one. She faced him, sitting comfortably on his lap. She was as content as a woman could be. His clean manly scent heightened her feminine senses. She was aglow although relaxed. In an instant she was asleep. She hadn't slept well the night before, as she'd been too excited. Her tribal wedding planned for that morning had gone off beautifully.

Since the weather was warm, she'd chosen a yellow tube top with white short-shorts for her traveling outfit. As they were in Florida, it only seemed sensible to be as cool as possible on their drive, but she had forgotten one thing.

She felt a massive hand snaking its way into the gap of her short-shorts that amazingly grasped a good portion of her tiny bottom. Her right eye opened as she felt a finger toying with the string of her white lace thong.

"Kyllle," she purred, "don't you be startin' something you're not gonna finish ..."

Becky felt her husband's hand stop, and then dispassionately withdrawal. Becky's other eye opened as she sat up to face her new husband. "Is something wrong, Kyle? I wasn't telling you to stop."

Kyle's face showed deep concern, "I just had a really bad feeling, hon. It's like when I was in combat and my instincts warned me of danger. I learned the hard way not to ignore my intuition. The last time I did, I rushed into an old farmhouse by myself to rescue a captured American pilot. I was nearly stabbed to death from behind."

Becky realized the seriousness of Kyle's mood. She surely didn't dismiss his feelings. She leaned back to look up at her husband's face, but the medallion around his neck captured her eye. It glowed with a smokey blue-white light. "Where are we going, Kyle?" she asked trying to read the inscription. The Aztec-looking lettering, that circled the pendants' edge attracted her attention.

"Well hon, you know we're going to Colorado, to Granite Bluff. Snowy's family has a ranch there. I want to return his medallion to them."

Kyle examined his premonition, "I have this urgent feeling that we need to get to the ranch as quick as we can. I sense trouble there."

Becky leaned toward her man, "Kyle, you know best about these things. I trust your instincts. That's why we're still alive."

Kyle gave her a hug and said, "We'll cross Florida through Orlando and pick up I-75, heading north until it reaches I-10. Then we'll head west until we reach Baton Rouge. There we'll go north through Dallas, west to Amarillo and onto Santa Fe and finally north into Colorado. In Pueblo we'll go northwest to Canon City. Just past there we should come to Granite Bluff." Kyle had the whole route mapped out in his head.

"This is a much nicer trip than the first one I took on the bus alone from Chicago," Becky said. "I love this seating arrangement," she smiled at him.

Little more than two days later, a dusty sky-blue GTO approached Granite Bluff that wasn't much more than a crossroad. There was a sign outside of the town that boasted a population of nine, with a line drawn through it. A hand-painted five stated an adjustment. The town had a gas station, a café, and a lawyer's office. Kyle drove into the filling station. He got gasoline and directions to the Walter's ranch. Kyle missed the frown on the man's face as he drove off.

The gas station attendant shook his head as he walked back into the office. "No use tellin' him," he muttered to himself, "he'll find out soon enough ..."

After leaving the filling station, Kyle turned the GTO onto the highway and looked around. "Wow, Snowy said he grew up in a fly-speck of a village, but from all this brown, over-grazed countryside, he was being optimistic."

Becky gaped at the vastness of the high valley, with the ever-present mountains looming in the distance. She recited the directions, "Five miles north on route 9, turn right onto state highway 724. A little farther on the right is where the Walter's place will be for now," was what the gas station attendant told them. The area looked like it'd been hit by a seven-year drought. Pictures of the 'Dust-Bowel' era of the Great Depression flashed before Becky's eyes. Even the few tumbleweeds blowing around lifelessly seemed lonely.

Becky pointed out to Kyle, "There's a mailbox with H. Walters stenciled on the side." A red-dirt road went from the highway to a weather-worn two story farmhouse. There was a porch that ran across the front of the house, sheltered by a decaying green asphalt shingled roof. Behind it was a rundown old barn. To the right of that was a small single-story structure that must've served as a bunkhouse decades ago, from the look of the peeling white paint.

Kyle looked at Becky as he saw a brand-new crew cab pickup truck in the front yard. Three huge men with side-arms stood facing the front porch. What caught Kyle's attention was that the armed men were dressed in civilian clothes! A man in a suit was shouting and pointing at an older man dressed like a typical rancher, wearing worn jeans with a long-sleeved white print shirt and cowboy boots. His wife wore an old, one-piece A-line dress, with black Mary-Jane shoes. She worriedly clutched her husband's right arm, standing slightly behind him for protection. Her face showed her fear.

Kyle looked at Becky, as he became KIS, his nickname from the military. "You stay here, but don't let them see you. If you've a need, my pistol is in the glove box. If someone comes to the car and it's not me, shoot first and let God sort out the innocent.

He parked the GTO on the other side of the driveway, stopping before he reached the pickup. Kyle could hear the suited man shouting at the older couple, "You better sign, Walters, or you'll get nothing at all. Nothing."

"Oh don't sign, Harold," the old woman moaned. "If only Snowy were here, but he's dead and buried"

"I feel the same, Laverne," the old man comforted his wife, then looked back at the suited man. "Mr. Stanley, I know the Sheriff will foreclose on our ranch by the end of the week, because we're behind in our taxes, but miracles can happen. I'm not gonna sign. Not like this! You're too pushy."

The suited man was going to keep yelling at the old couple, when KIS interrupted, "Mr. Walters? Harold Walters?" The old man answered KIS, "That's me, mister."

"Who are you?," the business man angrily demanded.

KIS noted that the man in the business suit wasn't wearing a shirt and tie. Rather, he wore a polyester, open-necked casual shirt under the jacket.

Ignoring him, KIS questioned, "Is there trouble, Mr. Walters?"

Harold was bolstered by the intrusion. "The Sheriff's gonna throw us off our land by the end of the week. We're two years behind in our taxes. Of late, I ain't made enough money to pay the store man for flour, let alone pay the tax bill. This here slick-willie and his henchmen, are tryin ta strong-arm us into signing our deed over to them now. He fronts for a business group who's been buyin up every ranch in the basin. He bought out my cousin Frank's ranch earlier this year. Now, he's after my land. "

The fancy dude's question had been ignored. He wasn't gonna ask twice. Mr. Stanley snapped a finger at the lead mercenary, for the merc to take care of Kyle.

KIS didn't appear too threatening, though he was fairly tall and all lean muscle. His white t-shirt and faded jeans over square-tipped boots with two-inch wooden riding heels with spur shelves made the head merc think he was some nosey rancher. KIS stood his ground and waited.

The huge mercenary, a head taller than KIS, saw that he wasn't armed, and thought he'd be easy ta whip bare-handed. Heck, the merc hadn't had a dog to kick all day. This no-account farmer would be good practice. 'This fight wouldn't last long,' the bully thought.

Trusting his intimidating size, the lead merc walked threateningly towards KIS. The large man swung his ham-sized fist in a brawler punch, swinging wide to gain momentum. His crude fighting technique was to use sheer force to beat his adversaries to death. He loved hearing his victims whine.

KIS hunched down and caught the merc's right fist in his two hands. He savagely twisted the mans arm and a piercing crunch of wrist bone was heard by all. Instantly the merc screamed in pain. The next mercenary started to run at him so he knew he needed to finish the first man quickly. From training, KIS instinctively kicked down hard with his wooden boot heal. He expertly popped the knee cap of the first merc's left leg.

KIS released him as he fell to the ground in agony. He prepared for the second merc to get within range. By this time the second merc knew he wasn't facing any farmer. The second merc dropped into a karate stance when he was within an arm's length of KIS. Immediately, he shot a lethal front punch straight from his right shoulder aimed directly at KIS's heart.

KIS blocked the thrusting arm with a sweeping right hand. He grasped the second merc's right wrist, twisting the arm behind his back as the sound of snapping cartilage filled the air. The attacker's right arm was torn savagely from its socket. KIS was getting mad now. He grabbed the thug's shirt, running his head into the side of the brand new pickup, denting the freshly polished metal. Reaching down, KIS pulled the automatic pistol from the man's holster and turned to face the third merc, who stood firmly in place.

KIS looked at him with fire in his eyes, but didn't say a word.

Mr. Stanley witnessed his two best men maimed and defeated. He seethed at his remaining henchman, "Kill him!" he ordered, his voice hinted with an accent.

KIS waited for the third merc's move. The merc stood stock still. His hands were close to his holstered gun, held in a tie-down tactical rig on his right side.

Cocking his head to one side, "Force-Recon?" he asked.

KIS relaxed a touch, "Close," was all KIS answered.

"Special Weapon's?" was the next question from the last merc.

From the twitch in KIS's jaw, the man had his answer, "What's your name?" the merc asked, cautiously.

"KIS," was all Kyle answered.

The remaining merc jerked, "As in the Special Weapon's - KIS of Death?"

Again the jaw twitched, "I've been called that, yes," KIS answered, this time, there was death glowing in his eyes.

The merc's right hand flew up and away from his pistol, as if he had just been burned, "Semper Fi" was all he said.

The death in KIS's eye dimmed, "Right on Brotha," KIS answered. "You fell in with the wrong crowd, I think. You best look to your hold card and pick another game." KIS looked at Stanley and then back to the third merc, "Let the rest of your bunch know that if anyone comes out here like this again, I won't be friendly. Understood?"

The merc nodded his head. To him, KIS looked like death on two legs and he wasn't interested in seeing him when he was really mad.

KIS asked, "Do you need bus fare somewhere?"

The merc cautiously reached into his pocket for a cigarette and lit up, "I'm thinkin about reenlisting. This mercenary stuff isn't as glamorous as it appeared. Oh, it started out ok, but I'm not into forcing old people into signing away their ranches for pennies on the dollar. There's no honor in that."

Mr. Stanley was crazy with rage, "I told you to kill him!" he seethed.

The remaining merc looked at KIS and unbuckled his holster. He tossed it to his boss, "Well Mr. Stanley, if you want to try to kill this ugly gyreen, be my guest. I know I can't. Take this as my notice. I quit."

Mr. Stanley caught the pistol belt and blustered, "You better get out of here!" KIS turned to face him silently with the automatic pistol now in his hand. This was a face-to-face fight. KIS knew this wasn't Stanley's style. He had others do his dirty-work for him. If he had to do it himself, he'd be a back-shooter. KIS pegged him for a coward.

After a minute, KIS gave a warning look to Mr. Stanley and turned with the pistol still in his left hand and hoisted the first merc over his right shoulder. He carried him to the bed of the pickup, and none too gently, threw him in. The third merc did the same with the second thug. Fuming, Mr. Stanley stamped over to his truck, got in, and started the engine, dying to say something threatening but held his tongue. He sent a stream of dirt and stones flying from behind the churning truck tires as he angrily drove off toward Granite Bluff.

KIS looked at the third merc, who said, "I could use some money for the bus if you don't mind, KIS. Don't know if I can repay it. I'm going to make my way back to twenty-nine palms and see if I can find a home again."

KIS reached into his pocket and peeled off a handful of cash. He handed it to the surprised ex-merc, "Do you need a ride to where you can catch a bus? Take this pistol too. Maybe you can hock it to cover the back wages you're not going to get."

Shaking hands, the ex-gyreen answered, "No, it's a nice day to be alive. I can walk."

Harold called out, "If you turn right at the highway and go two miles down the road, a bus ta Denver or Santa Fe comes by twice a day."

The ex-mercenary starting walking, 'Yep, it is a good day to be alive.'

"Oh-my-God," Cathy gasped at Becky, "Can ya believe this?"

Becky, watching from inside the GTO, was startled to hear from her imaginary friend. "I'm glad you're still with me, Cathy. I was so scared. Kyle is very capable and I know he can handle just about anything, but it happened so fast and there was four of them to my one!" Becky exclaimed.

"He certainly is exciting to watch in action," Cathy commented.

"I thought you were gone. I hadn't heard from you since the wedding," Becky said.

Cathy chuckled, "I wanted to give you two love-birds some time to yourselves, but I'm around when you need me. Is that ok?"

"Cathy, you're my best friend, besides Kyle of course. You're welcome with me anywhere I go - except - in the bedroom that is," Becky answered.

Cathy chuckled, "Spoil sport. I still want details."

As KIS walked slowly back to the car, he mentally returned to being Kyle. When he reached the front of the car, he was careful to call out, "It's me hon. Come out and let's meet Snowy's parents."

Becky got out of the car, "Are you alright, Kyle?" she asked worriedly.

"Of course your Stud is fine, Becky," Cathy assured her friend. "KIS went through those toughs like a fox through a henhouse."

Kyle saw Becky's confused look and asked, "Is Cathy back? I was starting to wonder. She's been so quiet lately."

Becky walked up beside her husband, "Oh, she's around. I guess she's getting used to the new arrangement, is all."

Kyle rolled his eyes, but leaned down to kiss his angel. Even though it was a quickie, Laverne noticed that KIS got a raised leg effect from his female companion. "What a man" she thought.

Kyle walked with Becky up to the older couple standing on the porch. "Mr. and Mrs. Walters? I'm Kyle Swoboda. You'd know me as KIS from Snowy's old outfit back in the Corp. I prefer to be called Kyle now, if you don't mind. I'm trying to leave the violence behind me."

Becky moved to Kyle's right side and held his arm. She had a big smile on her face. This is how she dreamed her life would be. She and her man.

Laverne moved to her husband's right side, "Oh yes! I remember Snowy saying how proud he was to be in your squad. That you were a Real Operator."


Excerpted from Mountain Mystique by A.T. Hartley Copyright © 2010 by A.T. Hartley. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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