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House for Sale Navy SEAL Included
Author: Cora Seton

 

 

Chapter 1

 



Last Year

“You can’t sell Elliott Ridge,” Carter Elliott sputtered into his phone. “Dad—that’s our home.” He stood in the middle of his quarters at Naval Base Coronado, where his SEAL team was stationed. During the past twelve years, his missions had pushed him to his mental and physical limits, but the pain that lanced through him now was unlike anything he’d known before. His family had owned Elliott Ridge in Montana for generations. Carter still had nightmares about the day he’d left it. He’d sworn he’d get back there somehow. Planned to make things right so his whole family could return.

“Couldn’t have been much of a home considering how fast you ran from it,” his father countered gruffly. Carter’s parents lived in South Carolina now, driven there by his father’s ailments. His dad would be pacing their condo’s small, modern living room, a caged tiger fretting against his constraints. “I seem to remember you cast the final vote to leave, but all five of you boys couldn’t wait to get out of there. Now you’re spread around the world playing superheroes. What do you care if I sell the Ridge?”

Guilt surged through Carter, and his fingers gripped his phone hard. “You know I cast that vote to save your life. I couldn’t stay there and watch you kill yourself.”

“You boys made a mountain out of a molehill.”

“No, Dad. It was the other way around. You were trying to make a molehill out of a mountain. Trying to pretend the six of us could run a mill and logging business it took dozens of men to operate. I did what I had to do, just like my brothers. You’re still alive, so it was worth it.”

“Meanwhile you’ve spent the past twelve years trying to get yourself killed,” his father said. “Doesn’t matter what happens to the Ridge anyway. None of you are ever coming back.”

“Like hell I’m not.” Carter surprised himself with his vehemence, given that until this moment he’d had no immediate plans to leave the SEALs. He’d never figured out how to fix what he’d done. Didn’t even know where to start when it came to reclaiming the little town where he’d grown up. Now it seemed like he’d run out of time.

He refused to believe that, though. Carter thought fast. This couldn’t be the way things ended. The Ridge gone, his family scattered to the four winds. “Look, my current term of service expires next year. I haven’t extended it yet. I can be back at the Ridge next April. You can wait that long, can’t you?” He didn’t give himself time to think over the implications of his words. He’d be turning his back on a career he’d invested his entire adult life in. Walking away—again.

“Why would you do something like that?”

“So I can bring the place back to what it should be.” Wasn’t that what his father wanted? It was what he wanted, career or no career. Elliotts belonged in Montana. They belonged at the Ridge.

“Can’t be done,” his father said. “The Ridge emptied out for a reason.”

“Because the price of lumber crashed along with everything else. No one was building houses. Things are different now.” This defeatist attitude wasn’t like his dad at all. Had something happened he didn’t know about? “Are you having heart problems again?”

“I’m fit as a fiddle.”

Thank god. “Except that hip of yours,” he pointed out to cover his relief.

“After the surgery it’ll be good as new.”

So why was he set on selling the Ridge now?

“Thing is.” His father hesitated. “I got a good offer.”

“For the property?” Carter’s stomach knotted, and he sat down on the edge of his bed. He hadn’t expected things had progressed that far. Who could afford to buy an entire town?

“That’s right.”

“You really want to sell, Dad?” He couldn’t fathom it. Carter hadn’t been back there since he left, but the Ridge still anchored his world. He knew every inch of the place.

Loved it.

There was a long silence. “No one said anything about wanting to sell.”

Relief flooded Carter all over again. His father wasn’t committed to selling yet, which meant this phone call was more of a fishing expedition than an announcement of his intentions. Well, Carter supposed he’d been hooked. Hell, now that he’d considered going home, he couldn’t wait to be reeled in.

“Then let me give it a go.”

“You won’t get your brothers back to Montana.”

“Yes, I will. Lincoln and Hudson miss the Ridge. Nate, too.” They talked about it from time to time, swapping reminiscences when their mother roped them into family video chats.

“What about Gage?”

“Haven’t talked to him lately.” He neglected to say he rarely did. There were things between them that hadn’t been right since they left Montana.

“He’s a stubborn one.”

“And you aren’t?” Carter asked.

“Maybe I am. Maybe you are, too,” his father said. “But stubborn won’t pay our debts.”

“How bad are they?” He turned and paced the other way. His father had upgraded the mill equipment right before the crash. If he hadn’t, they might have been able to ride out the years where it was almost impossible to sell lumber.

“There’s the monthly payment and then there’s the balloon payment to close out the loan we got to buy all that equipment. The balloon payment is due two years from now.” His father named the sums, and Carter whistled. He did some calculating in his head. It was June now, and it took time to separate from the Navy, but if he could get home to the Ridge by next April, that would give him just over a year to get the mill up and running and earn enough to make that large final payment. “If you can’t pay off that loan, I’ll have to sell,” his father continued. “I just liquidated the last property we own in town. That’ll cover the payments and taxes and so on until you get there next spring, but that’s it. The rest is on you.”

Carter swallowed. There it was: the bottom line. The real reason for this phone call. Without more town properties to sell, his dad couldn’t hold on to the Ridge by himself. He needed Carter and his brothers to get the mill running again in order to keep up with the payments.

That meant Carter would have to scare up buyers for their lumber. He’d need sources for logs once they ran out of the surplus they’d left behind. He’d need to get their own logging operation up and running again. He’d need to find dozens of men to sign on and do the work. His mind ticked through the steps. This wasn’t going to be easy.

“If I’m going to take this on, I want more than just your promise not to sell,” he said, realizing he was giving up a secure career for a very risky proposition.

“Oh yeah? What else do you want?” his father challenged him.

“The day we pay off those debts, I want you to sign over the Ridge to the five of us. If I’m going to throw heart and soul into the place, I need to know I can stay there—for the rest of my life. There’ll always be a place there for you and Mom, of course.”

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