Authors: Lynn Raye Harris
Lucky calmly ate another fry as Lisa walked away. “You just crushed all her hopes.”
The knife twisted a little deeper in his gut. “I’m a married man now, darlin’. No time for one-night stands with cute waitresses.”
Not that he felt like taking Lisa home, but hell, it would probably be better for him. It would take Lucky off his mind for a little while at least. Jesus, he still couldn’t believe he had to play her husband. That he had to spend every waking minute with her for the foreseeable future. And every sleeping minute too, because she would just be in the next room.
Billy had come up to him earlier and asked how he was feeling about it. He’d lied and said he was fine. But he wasn’t fine, and Billy knew it. They’d worked a lot of hours together in the aftermath of Marco’s death, and Billy knew how frustrated he’d been when Lucky wouldn’t answer his calls. How worried he’d been for her.
“I argued against it,” Billy had said. “But the others think it’s a good idea for you to be the one who goes in with her.”
“It’s fine,” he’d replied. “Marco wanted me to take care of her. So I will.”
Billy had looked at him with that grave look he had. And then he clapped Kev on the shoulder and left him standing there alone.
Lucky sighed and Kev glanced at her. “I hope this isn’t a bar you frequent. Otherwise, she’ll know it’s a lie.”
“Unless I ran off to Vegas recently.”
She snorted. “Right. Can’t imagine the woman who could get you to do that.”
Annoyance pricked him. “Nope, me neither.”
He ate a couple of fries, and they lapsed into silence. The sooner they got out of here, the better. He’d get her home, show her to her room, and then he’d go for a run. A long, ball-busting run that drained him of any energy and made him so exhausted he’d fall into bed and sleep for six hours straight.
“So how did we meet then?” She broke off an edge of bun and popped it in her mouth.
“That will depend on our story. You’re a teacher, but we don’t know what I am yet.”
HOT was still working on the details of the plan before they went into Qu’rim, so it was no surprise they didn’t have that piece of information. It would come soon.
“Doesn’t mean we can’t come up with a plausible explanation of how we met. If it doesn’t fit the official story, we’ll change it.”
“Why don’t we just wait until Mendez gives us the rest of the story?” Because he didn’t feel like sitting here and hashing over the details of some imagined story they shared. A fucking love story, for God’s sake.
Her gaze fixed on him. “Humor me, Kev. I need something to think about other than what this job means I have to do. I don’t relish the idea of being in the same time zone with…” She swallowed. “With him again.”
. It was an indication of how twisted up she had him that he’d managed not to think about what this mission meant for her. About how she had to be feeling at the idea of facing Al Ahmad again. He knew what was on her skin, what that bastard had done to her. He’d spent a lot of time wondering in the aftermath if it had broken her. It hadn’t, but she had definitely changed.
“Yeah, all right.” Because how could he say no?
Lisa returned with Lucky’s beer and plopped it down in front of her. Kev smiled and winked out of habit and the waitress’s expression softened. “Anything else I can get you two?”
“Naw. Thanks again, Lisa.”
“Sure thing, hon,” she said, her voice low and smooth once more.
Lucky blinked as the waitress walked away. “She tried to pick you up again. Right in front of me.
you said I was the missus. Unbelievable.”
“Curse of the MacDonalds,” he said, shrugging.
She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, some curse.” She went back to her hamburger and took a bite. He’d noticed that she was picking at her food, but at least she was eating it.
“We met at a picnic,” Kev said, and her head snapped up.
“Yep. A fundraiser for the local school in our beloved hometown.”
Lucky laughed. “You’re so clearly from down South. I’m not.”
“Do you honestly think anyone in Baq will know what the hell that means? Besides, no one says we grew up together. Just that we met in the same town and started dating. It’s plausible.”
“All right. So we met at a picnic. How long did we date before marrying?”
“Not long. Three months. And yeah, we went to Vegas.”
“It sounds a bit far-fetched.”
She’d wanted to talk about this, and now she was criticizing him? Unbelievable. “You got a better idea?”
She looked thoughtful for a moment. “We met in Hawaii. You went there on vacation, we had a whirlwind romance, and then we kept in touch on the Internet. But it wasn’t enough, so we planned to get married. I made all the arrangements, and then you came to Hawaii and we got married. But since your job is here, I came back with you.”
He couldn’t help but imagine it. He pictured her naked and lying on a bed, waiting for him. His cock began to throb to attention.
He shifted in his seat and forced his mind elsewhere.
Way to fucking go, asshole.
When Marco had asked him to take care of Lucky, Kev was pretty sure he hadn’t meant
imagine how it feels to bury yourself inside her.
“If it fits what Mendez comes up with for me, it will work.”
She sighed and dropped her gaze, her long lashes sweeping down over her brown eyes. “Marco always said the best lies were the ones that were closest to the truth.”
Kev closed his eyes and then shifted his gaze to the football game playing on the television over the bar. He gritted his teeth so hard his jaw hurt. God, he missed Marco. And he had no right to sit here and think about his friend’s widow in any capacity other than as a teammate and fellow soldier.
He heard her chair scrape back, and he whipped his gaze back to her. She stood there looking pale and upset. “I have to pee,” she blurted. “Too much beer.”
He watched her hurry toward the restrooms. He sank his head into his hands and sat there with his elbows on the table, breathing hard and staring at the plate below him. He had no idea what had happened just now. Part of him wanted to get up, follow her into the bathroom, and make her tell him what was wrong. The rest of him wanted to sit right here and pretend this wasn’t happening.
He argued with himself for five minutes, and then he started to stand and go after her. But she emerged from the rear of the restaurant, and he sat down again.
“Everything okay?” he asked as she stopped beside the table.
“Of course. Why wouldn’t it be?”
“You seemed a little upset.”
She pushed a hand through her hair. “I’m tired. And yes, I’m upset too. I thought this part of my life was over, and now here I am, back with HOT and trying not to sink before I can learn to swim.”
Kev stood and tossed some bills on the table. “Let’s get out of here. You’ll feel better after some sleep.”
They went outside and he opened his truck door for her, frowning when she shivered noticeably. She wasn’t used to this weather after so long in Hawaii.
“We need to get you some warmer clothes.”
She looked up at him, her eyes shining in the lights from the parking lot. “Agreed. But no stops at the mall tonight, okay?”
They drove the few miles to his townhouse. He parked and went around to open the door for her, but she was standing on the pavement when he got there. Hugging herself.
“Come on,” he said when she went to reach for a suitcase. “I’ll get the bags after you’re inside.”
“Don’t be silly. I can carry at least two.”
“You’re cold.” His breath frosted in the air and she shivered.
“Yeah, but lugging suitcases will take care of that.”
“Not arguing with you, Lucky. Get inside, and I’ll get everything.” He handed her a key and pointed at his door. He thought she might argue, but she clamped her mouth shut and went toward the house.
When he got everything inside, she was standing in his living room. “I see you’ve hired the same decorator as always,” she said.
Kev’s gaze flickered around the room. There was a couch and chair, a giant-ass television, and a weight bench and punching bag in what was supposed to be the dining room area. Naturally, the walls were bare. And Lucky was looking at him with one eyebrow arched. It made him snort.
“Cute.” He picked up her luggage. “Come on, I’ll show you to your room.”
Lucky grabbed her carry-on and followed him up the narrow stairs. The house wasn’t big, but at least it had two bedrooms. He led her to the guest room, which he did have set up with a bed, considering that one or another of the guys sometimes crashed here after a night spent watching movies and drinking beer.
There was a table with a lamp beside the narrow bed. No pictures in here either, but he hoped she wouldn’t care. She stood against the wall while he set her things down. He straightened and met her gaze.
“Thanks,” she said softly.
“No problem.” He wanted to pull her into his arms and hold her close, tell her it would all be okay. But he didn’t know that. And he didn’t have the right. He went to the door, then stopped and turned back to her. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry about this. If I’d known what Mendez’s plan was, I wouldn’t have agreed to it.”
He felt like it was important to say. She looked at him sadly. “I know you think so, but the truth is you do what you’re told. It’s the way you’re wired. Every last one of you.”
He felt her words like a blow. It wasn’t a bad thing in his line of work to obey orders. It’s what made the team work so well. They trusted each other—and they trusted Mendez. Yet he was pissed, just a little bit, about the way this had all gone down.
“Maybe so, but I didn’t know he intended to stick us together on this mission. I’d have fought against it if I had.”
She waved a hand. “Just go, Kev. It’s fine.”
He wrapped a hand around the edge of the door, trying to think of something to say. In the end, he said nothing.
Lucky woke at four in the morning, groggy and disoriented. It took her a few minutes to remember where she was and why. As soon as it dawned on her that she was in Kev’s house and that he was in the next room, her heart flipped. How was she going to do this? How was she going to spend every waking moment with Kevin MacDonald and not go mad?
God, last night in the restaurant when she’d mentioned Marco, the look on Kev’s face had gutted her. She hadn’t meant to do it, but then his name popped out, and she’d found herself wondering how she could be so stupid.
She sat up and shoved a shaking hand through her hair. What would Kev think of her if he knew the truth?
She shouldn’t have married Marco. She shouldn’t have married anyone after her ordeal. But he’d been so gentle and kind, and she’d fallen for him. Eventually, she’d realized there’d been more friendship between them than raw passion. And they’d both realized it wasn’t ever going to change.
They’d been two damaged people trying to forge a life together, and it hadn’t been working out. They’d been heading for divorce for months. She hadn’t been surprised when Marco had said he wanted one.
She’d been relieved. And that bothered her to this day because he’d deserved better than that. He’d deserved better than her.
She heard Kev’s door open and shut, and she pulled her knees up to her chest. He didn’t want her here. Why would he? He’d called her for months, but she’d never answered. Surely he’d gotten pissed off enough to stop caring how she was doing.
He’d even told her last night that he would have fought against them being paired up for this mission if he’d known ahead of time it was going to happen. She believed he would have, too. Hell, he still might. And maybe it would be best—except she couldn’t imagine going after Al Ahmad with anyone but Kev at her side.
Lucky got up and dressed in a pair of jeans and one of the few sweatshirts she had. She went into the bathroom and brushed her long hair before pulling it back in a ponytail. Lucky frowned at her reflection. She’d gotten pretty tanned in Hawaii, and she’d stopped wearing makeup because it always ran in the heat anyway, but she’d kill for some mascara, concealer, and a little bit of lip gloss right now. It would help hide the dark circles and make her look more alive.
Since she needed to shop for winter clothes, she’d add in a trip to the drugstore and pick up some cheap beauty supplies. Her frown deepened. She didn’t have a car or any way to get around other than to rely on Kev. She knew he’d take her wherever she needed to go, but dammit, she’d rather be on her own for the training part of this mission.
Mendez wasn’t going to allow it though. Maybe he thought she’d run, or maybe he just wanted her within reach at all times. Whatever the case, he’d made sure she had little choice but to do as he asked.