Also by Nicholas Sparks
The Notebook Message in a Bottle A Walk to Remember The Rescue A Bend in the Road Nights in Rodanthe The Guardian The Wedding Three Weeks with My Brother (with Micah Sparks) True Believer At First Sight
This book is a work of ﬁction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used ﬁctitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental. Copyright © 2006 by Nicholas Sparks All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a data base or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Warner Books Hachette Book Group USA 1271 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020 Visit our Web site at www.HachetteBookGroupUSA.com. First eBook Edition: October 2006 Warner Books and the “W” logo are trademarks of Time Warner Inc. or an afﬁliated company. Used under license by Hachette Book Group USA, which is not afﬁliated with Time Warner Inc. ISBN: 0-7595-6896-0 1. Soldiers—Fiction. 2. Long-distance relationships—Fiction. I. Title.
Special Scholastic Hardcover Edition ISBN-13: 978-0-446-58094-6 ISBN-10: 0 446 58094 5 ISBN 10 0-446-58094-5
For Micah and Christine
Acknowledgments Ak ld
his novel was both a joy and a challenge to write; a joy because it’s my hope that the characters reﬂect the honor and integrity of those who serve in the military, and a challenge because . . . well, to be completely honest, I ﬁnd that every novel I write is challenging. There are those people, however, who make the challenge that much easier, and without further ado, I’d like to thank them. To Cat, my wife and the woman I love with all my heart. Thanks for your patience, babe. To Miles, Ryan, Landon, Lexie, and Savannah, my children. Thanks for your endless enthusiasm, kids. To Theresa Park, my agent. Thanks for everything. To Jamie Raab, my editor. Thanks for your kindness and wisdom. To David Young, the new CEO of Hachette Book Group USA, Maureen Egen, Jennifer Romanello, Harvey-Jane Kowal, Shannon O’Keefe, Sharon Krassney, Abby Koons, Denise DiNovi, Edna Farley, Howie Sanders, David Park, Flag, Scott Schwimer, Lynn Harris, Mark Johnson . . . I’m thankful for your friendship. To my fellow coaches and athletes on the New Bern High track team (which won both the indoor and outdoor North Carolina
State Championships): Dave Simpson, Philemon Gray, Karjuan Williams, Darryl Reynolds, Anthony Hendrix, Eddie Armstrong, Andrew Hendrix, Mike Weir, Dan Castelow, Marques Moore, Raishad Dobie, Darryl Barnes, Jayr Whitﬁeld, Kelvin Hardesty, Julian Carter, and Brett Whitney . . . what a season, guys!
Lenoir, 2006 6
hat does it mean to truly love another? There was a time in my life when I thought I knew the answer: It meant that I’d care for Savannah more deeply than I cared for myself and that we’d spend the rest of our lives together. It wouldn’t have taken much. She once told me that the key to happiness was achievable dreams, and hers were nothing out of the ordinary. Marriage, family . . . the basics. It meant I’d have a steady job, the house with the white picket fence, and a minivan or SUV big enough to haul our kids to school or to the dentist or off to soccer practice or piano recitals. Two or three kids, she was never clear on that, but my hunch is that when the time came, she would have suggested that we let nature take its course and allow God to make the decision. She was like that—religious, I mean—and I suppose that was part of the reason I fell for her. But no matter what was going on in our lives, I could imagine lying beside her in bed at the end of the day, holding her while we talked and laughed, lost in each other’s arms. It...
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