Authors: Annabel Wolfe
The bed was soft at her back, and his eyes, a remarkable light color that looked gray-blue in some light and pure molten silver in others, were unreadable. With the back of his fingers, he brushed her wet cheek. “Please don’t.”
“If you didn’t want me to cry,” she said in a voice that was infuriatingly uneven and thin, “then maybe you shouldn’t have just walked away.”
do anything. Jesus, you have no idea.”
That was only too accurate.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t,” he told her before he kissed her again. “Trust me, Nikki, I didn’t leave you voluntarily.”
Not to put too fine a point on it, the first time he’d fucked her instead of making love to her.
It wasn’t exactly a surprise—he’d even warned her—but still, Jack looked deep into the eyes of the woman beneath him and took in a steadying breath. Nicole deserved more. She deserved everything he could give and probably a hell of a lot more than that, and while he might be in a state of disbelief over finally being with her again—really being
her again in the carnal sense of the word—the explanation part of the reunion was still beyond him.
Her scent was sweet, floral, like roses blooming on a summer afternoon, mingled with the earthier smell of sex, and he took in a lungful of air before he spoke again, threading his fingers through her soft hair. “I swear we’ll talk about this, but for now, I just want to make up for some of the time we lost.”
As mind-blowing as his orgasm had just been, he was still hard. Jack kissed her throat, her chin, skimmed her lips, and licked the salty trail of tears at her temple as he began to move again. This time slowly, retreating inch by inch, sinking back in with deliberate care, relishing the pleasure, her tightness, the clench of her inner muscles in rhythm with his penetration and withdrawal. Her hands smoothed his back and her eyes drifted shut, the lift of her bare breasts brushing his chest.
It was…paradise; sandy beaches and turquoise water and warm flowing tropical breezes. It was pure unadulterated joy, like the winning touchdown in a high school football game, or the first time that special girl smiles at you…
. God knew he could recognize it, because he’d walked straight through hell.
“I love you,” he murmured against her lips. “Love you, Nikki. I was never good at saying it, but I always felt it.”
“I love you too,” she whispered back, her body quivering. “Oh…Jack, yes.”
What seemed like a lifetime ago, they had played at sex, enjoying each other’s bodies, laughing sometimes, serious as hell at others, not just physically compatible but intellectually on the same wavelength, and he knew how to really turn her on. For such a girl-next-door type, with her smooth blond hair and wide blue eyes, Nicole liked her sex hot, and that turned
on. He leaned close, his mouth on her ear. “I dreamed about you, about how you look when you come. Show me.”
The inarticulate sound she made was accompanied by her hands pressing the small of his back as if she wanted him deeper.
Absolutely his pleasure. “Faster?” he suggested with a wicked smile, the frantic lift of her hips letting him know she was already close again. “Tell me.”
“Yes, faster. Harder, oh…”
“No problem.” Jack slid his hands under her ass and lifted her into the next few hard thrusts and was rewarded with a keening cry as she shuddered against him.
He followed a moment later, rapture exploding in his brain like heat lightning, shimmering on the edge of his vision as he ejaculated so forcefully he could swear he stopped breathing.
When he was finally able to lift his head, a weak laugh escaped his throat. “Okay, I’d say we missed each
It wasn’t until he pulled free and rolled to his back, the air cool on his damp, bare skin, that he even thought about a condom. He hadn’t given her much time to suggest one either, which wasn’t quite fair.
Though he wanted it to happen someday, this wouldn’t be the best time to get her pregnant.
He stared at the ceiling for a minute, the room quiet except for their still-accelerated breathing. “My plane only touched down a few hours ago. I came straight here. Sorry for scaring the hell out of you but I had to make sure you were alone. Knocking on the door wasn’t an option.”
She lifted on one elbow, her shining hair framing her oval face, her eyes huge and dark in the muted light. “Why?”
“Because I’m still officially dead.”
Nicole reached over and touched his face, sliding her fingers along his jaw, no doubt feeling the stubble of a two-day beard. The last time he shaved he’d been in Pakistan in a military barracks, using someone’s borrowed razor and cold water. At least he’d been able to grab a quick shower after the debriefing, thanks to Colonel Hanes, who’d rented a hotel room near the airport so they could all clean up before the team went their different directions. His flight had been first out, so Jack had the least amount of time, checking in and boarding immediately, but still appreciated the gesture. He and the colonel were maybe only a decade apart in age, but life experience tended to cement friendships fairly quickly.
don’t believe you’re real,” Nicole whispered, her fingertips brushing his mouth, following the line of his lower lip.
“I feel like a damned ghost.” He blew out a long breath. “I’m so tired I could sleep for a month.” He grinned at her. “Especially now. I’m…sorry. No condom. I got carried away.”
“I take birth control.” For the first time she saw it, or maybe as the gentle exploration of her fingers slid downward, she felt the unnatural rubbery texture of the scar tissue just under his collarbone for she went utterly still, her lips parting.
“Two rounds from an automatic weapon almost in the exact same spot,” he said matter-of-factly. “Didn’t see the bastard until it was too late. I broke my leg too, jumping off the wall where he nailed me. Not my finest hour, trust me.”
He shrugged. It had happened. Over and done with. Not the most pleasant experience of his life, but part of the game.
The leg had actually been the worst of it. Compound fracture with a piece of bone sticking out…what a bloody mess. They’d stuck a pin in it and four months later, it still ached like hell at times. He wasn’t going to be a contender for the Olympic track team in this lifetime, but at least the limp was not as pronounced as it used to be. Maybe someday it would be gone altogether, but for now, he’d settle for being able to walk and breathe. Both had been pretty dicey at one time.
killed.” Her voice shook.
She didn’t know the half of it, and he wasn’t ever going to tell her either. There was no need to spread the nightmare around, and it was all pretty much classified anyway, especially why he’d been on that wall in the first place.
“Hey.” He caught her wrist and brought her hand up to his mouth, kissing her palm. “I wasn’t. That’s all that matters. I’m here in your bed, we just made love and it was every bit of what I’ve been fantasizing about for the past thirteen months, and I get to sleep with you in my arms. Life is good, babe.”
“Your parents. Jack, you need to call them right now, they won’t mind what time it is—”
“I can’t,” he interrupted and it cost him to say it. “Not for a couple more days. And you can’t say anything to anyone either. I shouldn’t be here. I was supposed to wait, but I just…couldn’t. I’m here against orders, believe me.”
“I’m glad you didn’t wait.”
He was glad too. The bed was soft, the sheets clean, her nude body close… Jack slipped an arm around her waist to draw her up against him, rested his cheek on the fan of her fragrant hair, and relaxed for the first time in over a year, his eyes drifting shut.
His last coherent thought was that heaven was sure better than hell.
Stepping out of the shower, Nicole reached for a towel, slowly drying off, seeing the slight redness on her breasts and remembering the erotic feel of Jack’s beard on her skin as he made love to her.
He’d come home.
It was still difficult to process, to accept that he’d stepped back into her life, to remember all those lonely, miserable evenings when she thought he was gone forever. But he was there in her bed, so sound asleep he hadn’t moved so much as a muscle when she woke and eased out from beneath his encircling arm. In the morning light, his face and body in repose, she had stood there and just looked at him, absorbing the changes. His face, all-too handsome, was more angular, his ebony hair unruly against the white sheets, his torso tanned a dark bronze, the vivid scars on his leg and chest indicative of the injuries were healed but fairly recent.
Her exact state of mind was difficult to define. Happy…God yes, ecstatic, overjoyed, but it felt surreal, and she had no illusions. This wasn’t going to be easy. She looked into the bathroom mirror, staring at her reflection, wondering who that woman was, so different from the one who had looked back at her just yesterday morning.
At least it was Saturday, which meant she didn’t have to go to work. She wrapped the towel around her hair, brushed her teeth and went back into the bedroom for some clean clothes. Picking out a pair of white linen shorts and a light blue sleeveless blouse because the forecast said it was going to be in the mid eighties, she dressed in the bathroom, dried her hair and put on a minimum of make-up—kiss of light foundation, gloss on her lips and a touch of mascara.
She went into the kitchen and made a cup of coffee, leaning a hip on the counter and idly stirring in a dash of milk and a spoonful of sugar, her distracted thoughts whirling and gaining momentum.
He wasn’t going to tell her where he’d been. She already knew that; she’d known it when they’d first become involved. Falling madly in love with a man who loosely defined his occupation as military was a leap of faith, she’d discovered. It didn’t take more than a few dates before she realized he was evasive about just exactly what he did for the government.
Yet she’d fallen anyway.
“Damn you, Jack,” she muttered out loud, taking her coffee to the sliding doors that opened to the back deck. It was already hot, the sun warming the boards under her bare feet, the neighborhood quiet with green lawns and mature trees and neat, straight sidewalks. She sat in a chair by the wrought-iron table her parents had given her as a housewarming gift and set down her cup of coffee. “Damn your job,” she added for good measure.
Her life was up-ended.
In a good/bad way.
As if to illustrate it, her phone beeped, indicating a text. She pulled it from the pocket of her shorts and read the message.
Good morning, beautiful
She swiftly pushed a few buttons.
Hot here too.
What a coincidence.
“I’d love to join you but I shouldn’t. Care to come back inside?”
Nicole jumped a mile and set down her phone, seeing Jack lounging with one hand braced against the doorjamb but behind the screen where he couldn’t be seen, his hair wet and gorgeously curly from the shower, still shirtless but wearing a pair of jeans that hugged his long legs. He still hadn’t shaved but the dark stubble suited his model-boy look.
Only, of course, if you took away the bullet-hole scars that were like twin dark red spots on his upper chest.
“I didn’t want to wake you,” she said with an embarrassing wobble in her voice. “You were sleeping like the…”
“Dead,” he supplied ironically. “Probably. I think I’d been awake for over forty hours when I stepped off the plane last night.” He pointed at her coffee. “Give me a cup of that and I’ll be your love slave for life. Of course, that was part of the plan anyway.”
His crooked smile, slightly devilish and all male, would bring any woman to her knees. “Sounds like quite a bargain. A cup of coffee for sexual servitude?” Nicole kept her tone light and rose. He slid back the screen, but when she went to walk past, he put an arm around her waist while deftly removing the cup of coffee from her hand. His mouth nuzzled her neck. “Good morning, beautiful.”
His hair was like damp ebony silk under her fingers. She said softly, “Don’t you want coffee?”
“Hmm.” He kissed the hollow of her throat. “Among other things.”
Her laugh was breathless, because, quite frankly, he had that effect on her at just about any time. “Even after last night?”
“Especially after last night.” He let go of her and handed back her cup. “But, yeah, I’d love a decent cup of coffee first.”
“French roast or Italian?”
“If it isn’t made from a muddy puddle in a road in the middle of no-man’s land, it doesn’t matter.” He grinned and leaned back against the sink, crossing his arms over his muscular chest. “You choose.”
“Still drink it black?” She fished a cup out of the cupboard, self-conscious over how he was looking at her, his gaze both predatory and maybe holding a hint of curiosity.
Of course. Jack’s instincts were spot-on, and whatever he did do for the armed forces of the United States, that was probably why he was good at it.