Sarah walked away from town but stayed on well-worn paths that would take her to her favorite spot. She was aware of how easy it was, and how dangerous, to get lost in this heavily wooded area. The mountains could be very unforgiving during the winter months, with their short days and plummeting temperatures. Even the most seasoned outdoorsman could freeze to death. She had discovered an outcropping of boulders just at the edge of the forest where she could nestle up against them, sheltered from the wind, and look out onto an unrestricted and breathtaking view of the mountainside.
Since the sun set earlier and earlier, Sarah didn’t have but a couple of hours before darkness would fall. When she got to the spot, she nestled in between two boulders and leaned back to admire the scenery. All but the pine and cedar trees were now completely bare of leaves, and while that might had been a depressing sight, last night’s snowfall had made the mountainside into a winter wonderland. There was something about snow that made everything so magical. It covered nature’s imperfections. A foggy mist was also beginning to settle over the treetops and with it brought total silence. It was as if the world had held its breath just so she could enjoy this special moment.
Sarah had the strangest feeling that the world was trying to tell her to cherish it, that one day she was going to need this memory and the feelings that came with it. So she did just that - let it all soak into her very pores, afraid to blink for missing a thing. The moisture-laden air nipped at her exposed skin as her gaze wandered over the beautifully snow-laden canopy. It was impossible to remember it all, that was clear, and so she pulled out her camera and snapped a few shots. They wouldn’t do it justice, she knew that, wouldn’t capture how it felt to be here; to really be here.
The sky soon began to darken and so she tucked the camera back into its bag and climbed off the rock, ready to head back into town. While she was sliding down the last large boulder, a movement caught her eye. She was standing on the forest floor, halfway through straightening her bright red coat, when she realized what she’d seen - a stunning white stallion and its rider.
She had never grown up around horses so wasn’t crazy about the idea of standing too close to the animal and so approached them warily, stopping a good few yards short of the terrifyingly tall creature.
Charlie slid out of the saddle.
Excerpt from Love in Times of War
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