Main Heat of the Night

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Out of Uniform 5
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Heat of the Night

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Her Private Avenger

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Dedication

This one’s for Amanda Nicole White, the best friend a girl could have!





Chapter One

“So this is the new place,” Jane Harrison remarked, glancing around the courtyard of the low-rise apartment building. She admired the perfectly kept lawn and colorful flowerbeds around the edge, adding, “I like it.”

“Me too,” Ryan Evans admitted.

His gaze strayed to the large, rectangular pool, where his teammate, best friend and new roommate, Matt O’Connor, was swimming laps. He and Matt had moved in three weeks ago, and so far the arrangement was working out pretty nicely. They’d always gotten along famously, being the two youngest members of SEAL Team Fifteen, and now its two remaining bachelors. All the other men had settled down over the past few years, handing the lady-killer torch to Ryan and Matt, who used it to burn the sheets with the endless supply of willing women in San Diego.

Heck, he and Matt had only been in the building three weeks and already they’d wound up in bed with their upstairs neighbor, Christina, a sexy blonde looking for some fun after a break-up with her beau. Ryan’s teammates, Carson Scott in particular, constantly told him he should think about finding one woman to settle down with, how “rewarding” it was, but Ryan wasn’t interested. Not now anyway. The only woman he spent more than a week with was standing right beside him, and she happened to be engaged to his commanding officer.

“Beck and I are thinking of finding a house in this area,” Jane said, her long red ponytail bouncing as she continued looking around.

“Didn’t he just buy a house near the base?” Ryan asked.

“No, he’s renting. He didn’t want to buy until he knew whether I’d be leaving L.A. Now that I left the magazine, we’re ready to find a place.”

Ryan frowned. “You left the magazine? Since when?”

He couldn’t believe Jane would even consider leaving her job at Today’s World. Since the moment he’d met her, he could tell she loved her work. In fact, that was the main obstacle for her and Lieutenant Becker, the ; fact that Jane’s ambitions meant she wouldn’t be a housewife any time soon. Ryan still didn’t get why Beck had been so turned off by that. Jane Harrison was the most enchanting, intelligent woman Ryan had ever met. Hell, if he’d met her first, maybe he wouldn’t be having threesomes with Matt and their new neighbor. But Jane was head over heels in love with Beck, and Ryan respected that. He just hoped Becker hadn’t pressured her to quit her job or anything.

“It was my choice,” Jane added, reading his mind. “I’ll do some freelance work until the baby comes.”

Ryan’s gaze flew to hers. “The baby? Holy shit, you’re pregnant?”

A dry expression filled Jane’s big blue eyes. “Seriously, you’re telling me you didn’t notice that my boobs got enormous?”

“They were enormous to begin with.”

“Yeah, but now they’re extra enormous.” Her eyes sparkled. “It’s worth it, though.”

He softened his tone. “You sure about that? Six months ago you had no intention of being a wife and mom. Don’t tell me you planned this.”

“No, it wasn’t planned,” she admitted. “But the second I looked down at that pregnancy pee stick and saw the pink plus sign, something changed. Honestly, Ry, I’m so freaking excited about this baby. I never thought I’d be this happy, but I am. And before you ask, yes, Beck and I plan to get married. Maybe in a few months.”

Ryan studied her face, looking for any hint that she might not be completely honest, but Jane’s expression conveyed pure bliss. Shit. She was actually cool with all this. Which meant he had to be cool, too, no matter how apprehensive the news made him. Hit a little too close to home, that’s all. His mother never wanted a kid—she got rushed into it by Ryan’s father—and she’d been miserable and angry during Ryan’s entire childhood. He sincerely hoped Jane was certain this was what she wanted.

But again, he couldn’t question her. She was his best friend, after all, and Becker was his lieutenant. He wasn’t about to butt his nose into their business.

“So…” Jane eyed him expectantly. “Do I get a hug, or what?”

Ryan found himself experiencing a pang of longing as he pulled the petite redhead into his arms and held her close. Damn. Why hadn’t he met her first? It bothered him, this inappropriate yearning he felt for her.

“I’m happy for you,” Ryan murmured, planting a quick kiss on her forehead.

Jane was beaming as she pulled back. “Thanks, Ry. That means a lot.”

“Hey! Where’s my hug?” came Matt’s gruff voice. A moment later, he ascended the ladder at the edge of the water and hopped up on the warm pool deck. Water dripped down his bare chest and off his navy-blue swim trunks, and his shaved head glistened under the hot afternoon sun.

“Janie’s preggers,” Ryan called as Matt reached for the towel on the nearby chaise lounge.

“No shit!” Rubbing the towel over himself, Matt made his way over to them, shooting Jane a big, genuine smile. “Congrats, darlin’.”

Jane grinned back, pretending to fan herself. “I love it when you call me darlin’. Where you from again, Matty? Georgia?”

“Tennessee,” Matt drawled, thickening his accent, which barely made an appearance after all his years of living out west. “I’m flying out there in a couple hours, actually. It’s my mom’s birthday tomorrow so I’m heading there for a visit.”

“Nice, have fun. I should get going too,” Jane said, shifting her purse to her other shoulder. “Beck and I are going to look at a few places.”

She gave each of them a hug and kiss on the cheek, even Matt, who was still all wet. Then she offered her usual cheerful wave and flounced off, while Ryan watched after her, feeling slightly dismayed.

“Get that look off your face,” Matt sighed, slinging his towel around his neck. “She’s off-limits.”

“I know she’s off-limits.” Ryan’s lips tightened. “You don’t have to remind me of that every time she’s around.”

“Yeah, I do. Because I see the way you look at her, and it’s not healthy, man. She’s having a baby with Beck, for God’s sake.”

Ryan didn’t answer. Fuck, he should have never told Matt about his attraction to Jane, but the guy was his best friend. Besides, Matt had the uncanny ability of knowing things without Ryan even telling him. They’d gotten drunk a few months ago and when Ryan mentioned Jane’s name in some random, unimportant sentence, Matt had quietly set down his beer and said, “You have a thing for her, don’t you?” Just like that. Ryan ended up confessing his completely improper feelings, which he now regretted, seeing as Matt rode him about the issue whenever he could.

“You need to distract yourself,” Matt said as they drifted toward the back entrance of the building. “Go out tonight or something.”

Ryan shrugged. “Don’t feel like going out.”

“Then visit the lovely Christina.” Matt grinned. “I mean, I know she likes me better, but since I won’t be around, I’m sure she’d be willing to settle for second best.”

“Funny.”

They entered the stairwell landing and climbed the two floors to their apartment. Matt immediately made a beeline for his bedroom, calling out, “Gotta finish packing” while Ryan headed to the small kitchen and grabbed a beer from the fridge before flopping down on the living room couch. He untwisted the cap and took a long swig of alcohol, hoping it would soothe the lump of sadness and faint bitterness stuck in the back of his throat. Damn, he was pathetic. He had absolutely no business wanting Jane. She was his friend. She was Becker’s pregnant fiancée. And besides, what could he really offer her, even if she was available? He’d never been in a long-term relationship before, wasn’t sure he even wanted one.

Matt was right. He needed a distraction.

The red numerals on the DVD player’s clock read four thirty. Christina volunteered at the hospital every afternoon until five, then worked as a bartender at a local bar until midnight. She wouldn’t get home until close to one, which meant he had about, oh, eight hours to kill before he could pay her a visit.

Ryan leaned his head back on the sofa cushion and forced all thoughts of Jane, Becker and their new baby from his head. Fuck, it was going to be a long night.





Annabelle Holmes took another sip of her vanilla and lavender tea and glanced down at the lined sheet of paper in front of her. She’d torn the page from the legal pad sitting on the nightstand, and now she stared at her own loopy handwriting, wishing she hadn’t written anything down. It made the words feel a little too…real. And they weren’t real. They were fiction, fantasy, just a silly exercise meant to prove to Bryce that the speech he’d unleashed on her two days ago was pure and total bullshit.

I need to walk on the wild side, Annabelle.

Translation: the vanilla sex we’ve been indulging in is boring the shit out of me.

It wouldn’t hurt either one of us to experiment.

Translation: you’re a prude in bed and I’d like to screw around with someone a tad more adventurous.

The funny thing was, there was only one prude in the bed she and Bryce had shared for five years, and it sure as hell wasn’t her. She couldn’t remember how many times she’d suggested they spice things up, how many hints she’d dropped about straying from the missionary and exploring the raw, wild and indecent.

How quickly Bryce forgot. He’d implied that she was the one holding back, promptly following that zinger with the admission that he wanted to take a break, play the field and let loose before they made any serious decisions about their relationship. She’d been tempted to laugh, because, really, they’d pretty much been engaged since they were six years old—their relationship had never been anything but serious.

How could he be so freaking insulting? At first she’d been hurt and depressed, but after Bryce left the spacious San Francisco condo they’d shared for five years, leaving her alone and upset, she’d gotten pissed off. And now here she was, two days later, staying in a strange apartment in San Diego and jotting down a list of every naughty act she’d ever fantasized about. She still wasn’t sure what she was going to do with the list. Rip it up? Deliver it to her insensitive fiancé?

Annabelle looked at the list again, feeling her cheeks grow warm as she read the last item she’d written. Having sex with someone else—while you watch.

She took another sip of tea and added another item. Sex in public (preferably a place without security cameras).

Now that would be a lark, seeing the suddenly-uninhibited Bryce pull down his Armani trousers and risk a random passerby seeing his cock.

She snorted. Yeah, right.

The cell phone next to her glass began to ring. She didn’t need to look at the caller ID to know who was on the other end of the line. Her parents nearly had joint coronaries when she’d announced she was going to San Diego for a few weeks. They hated the fact that she was “slumming it”, though Christina’s apartment was hardly a hovel. The apartment building was small, but pretty and clean, and Annabelle was looking forward to taking a dip in the pool tomorrow morning. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d gone swimming anywhere other than her father’s country club.

“Hello,” she said as she put her cell to her ear.

“When are you coming home?” came her mother’s shrill voice.

“I already told you, Mom. I’ll be here for a few weeks.”

Sandra Holmes sounded crushed. “But what about the anniversary dinner?”

“I said I’d be home for that,” she reminded her mother. “I’ll be back for the weekend, and then fly back to San Diego, okay?”

Her mom let out a loud, over-exaggerated sigh. “I don’t like knowing you’re all alone out there, living in a hippie’s apartment, carousing around in an uncivilized city.”

Annabelle snorted. “First of all, Christina is not a hippie. She’s studying to be a doctor. Secondly, San Diego is a perfectly civilized place. Chill out, Mom. I won’t be here forever. Christina comes back in a month, so I’ll have to leave then anyway.”

Never satisfied, her mother went on for a few more minutes about all the hazards Annabelle would face in such a dangerous city, but Annabelle tuned it all out. Thank God for Christina. If she hadn’t run into Christina’s parents at the market two days ago, she wouldn’t have known their daughter would be out of town for the month, and then she would’ve had to move in with her parents. Eek.

“And why would she just leave you there in that apartment alone?” her mother was reprimanding.

She suppressed a sigh. “I told you, Christina eloped with her boyfriend. When I spoke to her on the phone, she said I could have the place until she gets back.”

“I never liked that girl,” Sandra said in a frosty tone.

No kidding. Sandra disliked all of Annabelle’s college friends, including Christina. She also disliked Annabelle’s co-workers, her boss, and pretty much anyone her daughter got close to. Except for Bryce, of course. Sandra loved Bryce. The Holmes and Worthington families had been close for years, and throughout Annabelle’s entire childhood and adolescence, all she’d heard from her mom was what a wonderful husband Bryce would make.

“Christina is a great girl,” Annabelle said in her friend’s defense.

Her mom ignored the remark. “Your father and I want you to come home. Oh, and Paulette Worthington and I wanted to sit down with you to talk about the details for the wedding.”

Annabelle held her tongue. She hadn’t told her mother about her and Bryce, so Sandra was still under the impression a wedding was in the foreseeable future. No point bursting that dream yet, not until she figured out for sure what she wanted to do about Bryce.

“I’ll call you when I know when I’ll be home,” she said instead. “Talk to you later, Mom.”

“Annab—”

She hung up, then quickly powered off the cell phone so her mother wouldn’t be able to call back. Jeez. Talk about overbearing. Although she knew her parents loved her, sometimes she wanted to strangle them. They were snobby, overprotective, presumptuous, and had total tunnel vision when it came to Annabelle’s future. Marry Bryce, move into a mansion on Nob Hill, spend the afternoons at the country club, the evenings entertaining San Francisco’s elite. If it weren’t for her job, Annabelle might have left San Francisco years ago, but she’d been lucky to land a position at one of the top event planning firms in the Bay Area, and as much as she hated her parents’ interference in her life, she loved her work.

Fortunately, her boss had given her the month off, which meant she could take a breather and really think about what she wanted out of a relationship. Yeah, Bryce had dumped her, but their lives had been intertwined since they were children, and she knew eventually he’d try to win his way back into her life.

Question was—did she want to let him back in?

Sighing, Annabelle folded up the silly list she’d been constructing and tossed it on the hardwood floor beside the bed. This was stupid. She wasn’t going to give the list to Bryce. A list of fantasies wouldn’t erase the hurtful words he’d spoken two days ago, and it sure as heck wouldn’t help her figure out what she truly wanted from a relationship.

Rising from the bed, she headed into Christina’s small bathroom and got ready for bed. Brushed her teeth, exfoliated, combed her unruly brown waves, and then she slid into bed and settled beneath the covers.

She planned on using this time off to really think about her life and the choices she’d made. Particularly her choice in men.

Did she really love Bryce? His break-up words had upset her, but was that because she was genuinely in love with him, or because the fairytale life her parents had outlined for her since she was a kid had now gone up in flames?

She rolled over, gritting her teeth. Don’t think about it now. Figure it out in the morning.

Her muscles instantly relaxed as she willed her mind to go blank. Ten minutes later, she drifted into a deep, relaxed sleep.





Christina’s apartment was dark when Ryan let himself in with the key tucked on top of the doorframe. Christina might very well be the coolest chick he’d ever hooked up with. She had just broken up with her boyfriend when Ryan and Matt met her, and she was so completely comfortable with her sexuality it almost scared him. She hadn’t had any qualms about engaging in a hot threesome with him and Matt the night after they’d met, and she never seemed to mind if one or both of them dropped by when she got home from work, no matter how early she had to get up in the morning.

He crept down the narrow hallway toward her bedroom, his groin hardening the closer he came to the door. Fuck, this was exactly what he needed. A night of hot, no-strings sex was guaranteed to make him forget all about Jane’s startling announcement. A baby. God. Not that he’d ever really thought there would be a chance for him and Jane—she was madly in love with Becker—but this pregnancy pretty much snuffed out even the faintest spark of hope.

Ryan pulled his T-shirt over his head as he entered Christina’s bedroom. His faded jeans were next, dropping to the weathered hardwood next to his discarded shirt. He could make out Christina’s form in the shadows, curled up on her side under a puffy blue comforter.

He grinned in the darkness. These were his favorite kind of wake-up calls.

He moved to the bed and lifted up the edge of the comforter, easing his way under the heavy cover and spooning against Christina from behind. Lowering his head to her neck, he breathed in the appealing scent of…orange blossoms? She usually smelled like plain old Ivory soap, but Ryan wasn’t complaining. He liked this new scent. A lot.

“You smell delicious,” he rasped into her ear, one arm reaching around her waist to pull her closer.

She whimpered in her sleep, wiggling her ass against his now-throbbing erection. Wow. He was wildly aroused. Not that Christina didn’t usually turn him on, but this was…different. Every muscle in his body was taut, coiled tight like a rattlesnake ready to strike, and his pulse drummed in his ears in sharp, rapid beats. She felt soft and warm against him, and that scent drove him crazy. He suddenly couldn’t wait to be inside her.

“Come on, baby, roll over,” he murmured.

She shifted, and he helped her along by cupping her ass cheeks and moving her onto her back. He frowned as he ran his hands over that ass, which was much rounder and sweeter than he remembered. And come to think of it, her hair was longer too. Five days ago, when he’d last seen her, she’d had a short blonde bob. Now her hair cascaded down her shoulders in soft waves. And the tits beneath that thin tank top seemed bigger too—

Clarity sliced through his mind at the same time the woman beneath him blinked open her eyes. A pair of brown—not blue—eyes stared up at him in shock.

Ryan shot up into a sitting position, a wave of surprise slamming into his chest. Fuck. Oh, fuck. This was not Christina.

“Oh my God,” came a high, terrified voice.

Nope, definitely not Christina.

He opened his mouth to apologize just as the curvy, curly-haired female bounded to the edge of the bed, shoved the comforter up to her neck, and said, “Please don’t rape me!”





Chapter Two

Ryan was off the bed so fast he nearly tripped over his own feet. He didn’t embarrass easily, but the sight of the terrified woman on the bed brought a wave of mortification to his gut. Shit. He’d accosted a complete stranger. Where the hell was Christina?

He opened his mouth to explain but the stranger he’d just felt up was suddenly on her feet too, and the next thing he knew, she hurled the little lamp on the bed table at his head.

Ryan caught it easily. “Hey, listen!” he shouted. “I’m not here to—”

But the woman wasn’t listening. Instead, she’d started babbling. “Seriously, you don’t want to do this. I have, like, eight different types of STDs, so your health is at risk and really, who wants to be at risk?” Her words kept popping out like coins from a slot machine. “I’m actually doing you a favor here, Mister. You should go find someone else to rape—wait, that’s not what I mean, because you shouldn’t be doing this to any woman, ever, I’m not encouraging this at all, I’m just saying…” Her voice trailed off, and that spark of fear returned to her face. She looked around wildly, as if scanning the room for another weapon.

Ryan stared at her for a moment, bewildered.

Then he burst out laughing.

A pair of chocolate-brown eyes glared at him. “Seriously? You’re laughing at me?” Her tone hardened with anger, while one slender arm stuck out and fumbled for something on the nightstand. “I’m giving you five seconds to get the hell out of here, you…you sexual predator!” She made a victorious sound as she found what she was looking for—a cell phone. “I’m calling the police, asshole!”

Ryan’s laughter died in his throat. No matter how entertaining he found this woman, he wasn’t in the mood to be dragged off to jail. “Hey, now, wait,” he said immediately, setting the lamp she’d thrown at him down on the floor then holding his hands up as if he were surrendering. “This is just a misunderstanding, babe.”

“Babe? I am not your babe.” Her finger jammed on a button on the phone. “Nor will I be your rape victim so—”

“I’m not here to rape you,” he cut in, running one hand through his hair in frustration. “Would you just shut up for a second so I can explain?”

Her eyes flashed, but her mouth promptly closed. Ryan drew in a calming breath, collecting himself, all the while noticing just how freaking hot the woman in front of him was. Along with those vibrant brown eyes and amazing dark hair, she had delicate features that included a cute upturned nose, high cheekbones and sexy pink lips, the bottom one fuller and poutier than the top. Was she a friend of Christina’s? And if so, why had Christina never introduced them?

“You’re not explaining,” she said, shooting him a dirty look.

Ryan sighed. “Look, I came here to see Christina, okay? I thought you were her when I got into bed with you.”

“Christina?” she echoed.

“Yes. Christina. You know, the woman who lives here.” He frowned. “So who the hell are you and why are you in her bed?”

She crossed her arms over her chest. “Who the hell are you and what are you doing in her bed?” she shot back.

More frustration crept up his spine. “Are you always this fucking difficult?”

“Are you?”

Ryan released another breath. He suddenly felt extremely awkward, standing there in his blue and white checkered boxers, but he made no move to pick up his clothes. He was scared to turn away from this woman. Who knew what she’d do if he took his eyes off of her.

“Okay. Let’s calm down here,” he said quietly. “I’m Ryan, all right? I live downstairs. What about you?”

“I’m Annabelle,” she answered, sounding reluctant. “Christina’s letting me stay here for a few weeks.”

Ryan rolled his eyes. “See how easy that was? So, where exactly did Christina go?”

“Vegas. She eloped with her boyfriend Joe.”

Surprise jolted through him. “She told me they broke up.”

“They did.” Annabelle shrugged. “But she said he sent her all these flowers and then this super sweet card begging her to take him back, so she did, and then he proposed, so she said yes, and now they’re in Vegas. Anything else you want to know?”

The disappointment he experienced at the news that Christina was back with her boyfriend wasn’t all that great. That was the nice thing about flings. You didn’t get attached, didn’t feel crushed when the other person left. If anything, he was happy for Christina. She’d admitted to him that she still loved her ex, but the guy had been too much of a selfish jerk to appreciate the good thing they had. Evidently the guy smartened up.

Still holding the phone in her hand, Annabelle took a couple of steps toward him, her bare feet slapping against the hardwood floor. Her pink tank top did nothing to contain the soft jiggling of her stupendous tits. And those little boxer shorts she wore hugged her firm thighs, revealing smooth, shapely legs and tiny feet with red painted toenails.

Despite himself, Ryan’s cock twitched inside his boxers. He was ridiculously turned on, and in his state of undress, he couldn’t really hide it either. His dick poked against the front of boxers, providing a tent that could accommodate an entire campsite. Annabelle’s brown eyes widened slightly as her gaze dropped south.

“Seriously?” she blurted out. “Can’t you keep that thing in control?”

Another laugh bubbled out of his throat. “You should take it as a compliment.”

Her cheeks turned bright red. “Look, as fun as this entire encounter is,” she said, sarcasm ringing in her voice, “could you please leave? I was trying to sleep before you burst in here like you own the place.” Her eyes narrowed. “Were you involved with Christina?”

“Kind of. Nothing serious, though.” He shot her a dry smile. “Actually, not serious at all, seeing as she eloped to Vegas with another man.”

“You don’t look too beat up about it.”

Ryan shrugged. “I’m not. Like I said, it wasn’t serious.”

“Good. Great. Now that we’ve cleared that up, could you please go?”

He knew she was making a very good point here. He should go. Now that his plans for a night of steamy wild sex had shot up in smoke, he had no reason to stick around and chat with Christina’s weird houseguest. Still, Annabelle was super hot, and he was super horny, so…

As if reading his mind, Annabelle held up the cell phone and said, “Don’t even think about it, pal. Touch me and I’ll call 911.”

He grinned. “Come on, you know you’re tempted.”

Her cheeks grew redder. “Tempted to do what?”

“To get back in bed. With me.” He cocked one brow. “And I can assure you, we’d have a really good time…”

She stared at him for a moment, then let out a high, melodic laugh. “Oh God. Do women actually fall for that stuff?”

He frowned. “Yes.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t.” She rested one hand on a curvy hip and nodded at the pile of clothes next to the bed. “Okay, time for you to go, Robert.”

“Ryan.”

“Whatever.”

He found himself grinning again. Damn, he liked her. It was rare to come across a woman that was immune to his charm, even rarer to find one that managed to keep his interest for more than five minutes. He had no idea where Annabelle had come from, or how long she planned on staying in the building, but he hoped she stuck around for a while. Or at least long enough for him to get his hands on those delectable curves again.

“Why are you still here?” she grumbled, jolting him from his thoughts. “I’d like to get some sleep sometime this century.”

His lips twitched. He wondered if she brought that sexy sarcasm of hers to bed with her. “I’ll get right out of your way,” Ryan said, rolling his eyes. He strode to the side of the bed, making sure his bare arm rubbed against her bare arm as he walked by. He heard a soft intake of breath, but when he glanced over, she just looked annoyed.

Bending down, he collected his jeans and T-shirt from the floor and tucked the pile of clothes under his arm. Somehow he doubted she would grant him the time to get dressed.

“Do you have a key or did you break in?” she asked sternly.

“Spare key. I left it in the living room.” Impulsively, he looked her way and cast a devilish grin. “What do you say I keep the key and come by tomorrow night?”

Annabelle laughed.

He pursed his lips. “Was that a yes?”

Another laugh, this time with the words, “Hell, no” mingled in there.

“Your loss,” he said with a sigh.

Those liquid brown eyes glimmered with amusement. “Yeah, I’m sure it is.”

He found it difficult to walk to the door, particularly since his cock was still rock-hard and refusing to go down. But monster erection aside, he found it difficult to walk away from her. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had this much fun with a woman. Unfortunately, the fun was one-sided. Annabelle was now tapping her foot all sexy-like, eager to see him go.

She trailed after him down the dark hallway toward the front door, then said, “G’night now, it was awesome meeting you.”

His eyes lit up. “Really?”

“Uh, no. I was being fake nice.” She huffed. “Honestly, Roger—”

“Ryan—”

“—I’m not trying to be rude, but I’m exhausted. I want to go to bed—” She raised a hand before he could open his mouth. “Alone. I want to go to bed alone, and fall asleep alone, and wake up in the morning, alone. Okay?”

“Like I said, your loss.”

The corners of her pouty mouth lifted, just a little. Oh yeah. She liked him. He could always tell when a girl liked him, and this one, no matter how prickly and off-putting she was trying to be, totally liked him.

“How long are you staying here?” he couldn’t help but ask, pausing in the doorway before she could boot him out.

She eyed him suspiciously. “Why do you want to know? Are you planning on sliding into bed with me tomorrow night?”

“Will you be here tomorrow night?” he countered.

Annabelle hesitated. “Yes. I’m here for a few weeks.”

Ryan gave himself a mental high-five. Oh yeah. Three weeks. He could definitely work his magic on her in three weeks. Hell, he’d probably only need three days, maybe less, to win over this woman. Why he wanted to win her over so badly eluded him, but who cared why? As long as it distracted him from the fact that Jane was having a baby with Becker, he was cool.

“Well, I look forward to seeing you again then,” Ryan said, letting his gaze sweep from her face down to her cleavage and then back up.

She rolled her eyes. “We’re not going to see each other again. I plan to diligently avoid you.”

“Good luck with that.”

“Good night, Rick.”

“Ryan.”

With a sweet smile, she gave his butt a little shove and pushed him out the door. “Good night,” she said again, and then the door closed in his face.

Ryan’s mouth stretched out in a grin as he stared at the door and listened to the sound of the lock clicking. “’Night, Annabelle,” he called sweetly before turning toward the stairwell.

Still holding onto his clothes, he climbed down the stairs to his own apartment, still smiling to himself when he strode inside. Matt had left hours ago, and the apartment was dark and quiet as he locked up and headed for his bedroom. He was too keyed up to sleep, meeting Annabelle had been way too much fun, and his erection refused to subside. Sighing, he dropped his clothes on the chair near the bed, and just as he was debating whether to jerk off or watch TV, a flash of yellow caught his eye. Furrowing his eyebrows, he stepped toward the chair and picked up his jeans. Shook them out a couple of times, then watched as a piece of paper fluttered to the hardwood floor.

He bent down to pick it up, noticing that the paper had been torn from one of those yellow legal pads. Feminine handwriting was scrawled across the page, and, unable to fight his curiosity, he smoothed out the sheet and read the first line.

His jaw twitched, then fell open as the words on the page assaulted his eyes. It wasn’t only the intriguing heading that caught his attention—I’m Up For This. Are You?—but the dirty little items that followed. He read each one. Twice.

Still staring at the list, Ryan broke out in a slow smile. Well…damn.

Hot fucking damn.





No matter how hard she tried, Annabelle couldn’t get her late-night visitor out of her mind. She spent the morning answering emails and trying to not think about Ryan, but every five seconds, the memory of his gorgeous face and drool-worthy body would float into her mind like a piece of driftwood. Hands down, he was the hottest guy she’d ever met. She still couldn’t believe he was even real. When she’d woken up to find those playful blue eyes on her and that lean, muscular body pressed against her, she’d thought she was dreaming.

During their entire exchange, she’d been fighting little sparks of desire. That spot between her legs had ached in the strangest way and her breasts had felt so heavy and tingly she’d had to cross her arms over her chest. If he’d stayed for even five more minutes, she probably would’ve jumped him.

So why did you throw him out?

Uh, Bryce? she reminded the voice in her head.

You mean the guy who dumped you?

She ignored the taunting reply and headed for the bathroom to get a towel. Fine, so maybe she didn’t owe anything to her as-of-two-days-ago ex, but she wasn’t the type of girl to hop into bed with a stranger. She was Annabelle Holmes, for Pete’s sake. Her parents had raised her to be a perfect lady, and ladies didn’t have sex with random men, no matter how appealing they might be.

She found the towel and slung it over her shoulder, then left Christina’s apartment and walked downstairs. The courtyard was empty when she stepped out into the hot afternoon air, and the pool looked so inviting she had her shorts and tank off before she even reached the deck. Tilting her head, she let the sun’s rays heat her face. Beads of sweat formed between her breasts, but she welcomed the heat, and she was happy to finally get a chance to wear this teeny yellow string bikini. It never got this hot in San Francisco, and the change of scenery was refreshing. Kicking off her flip-flops, she moved to the edge of the pool, took a breath, and dived cleanly into the deep end.

The cold water engulfed her, feeling like heaven as she swam underwater for a few moments. God, what a gorgeous day. Despite the fact that she missed her job, she was looking forward to a few weeks of downtime. Doing nothing but swimming and tanning and exploring San Diego. She closed her eyes and floated on her back for a while, relishing the solitude, but her me-time was cut short at the sound of footsteps.

Her eyes popped open just in time to see Ryan approaching the pool deck, his sexy blue eyes seeking her out and dancing playfully.

She was so surprised she sank in the water like a stone. Sputtering, she broke the surface, droplets dripping from her hair and into her eyes. “You,” she squeaked.

“Me,” Ryan confirmed.

She was suddenly grateful to be submerged in cold water, because the sight of Ryan made her extremely hot. He wore blue surf shorts and a sleeveless basketball jersey, and his chin was dotted with dark stubble. God, why did men look so good when they were all scruffy? Bryce never sported any scruff—the guy shaved like three times a day just to make sure his aristocratic face remained pretty-boy smooth. But Ryan…oh boy.

Putting on an indifferent voice, Annabelle raised a brow at him and said, “Didn’t we say everything we needed to say last night? You know, when I asked you to leave?”

He shot her a lazy smile. “You may have said what you needed to, but I have one more thing to say.”

“Oh, really? And what’s that?”

“Yes.”

Treading water, she shoved wet strands of hair off her forehead. “Yes what?”

Slowly, he reached into the back pocket of his shorts and removed a wrinkled piece of paper. Annabelle’s eyes widened at the familiar scrap of yellow. No. That couldn’t be the same sheet she’d been using when…shit. Shit, where had she put the list? She searched her brain, finally remembering she’d tossed the fantasy list on the floor before she went to bed. The floor…on which Ryan had dropped his clothes before he’d crawled into bed with her.

“Yes to this question,” he said pleasantly, holding up the paper. “I’m Up For This. Are You? Well, babe, yes. I am definitely up for it.”

Horror climbed up her spine, mingling with the humiliation scorching her cheeks. Scrambling up the metal ladder at the edge of the pool, she hauled herself to her feet and shot a wet arm in his direction, trying to grab the list. Grinning, he held it out of her reach. “Finders keepers,” he said mockingly.

“What are you, five? Give it back. That’s personal property,” she snapped.

Rolling his eyes, he obligingly handed her the list, which got soaked the second her wet hand clutched it. The ink began to smear, and for some asinine reason, she fanned the sheet to stop the smearing. What was the matter with her? A total stranger had just become privy to all her secret fantasies and she was trying to preserve the words? She ought to be burning the damn thing.

“Don’t worry,” Ryan said graciously. “I memorized it.”

She set her jaw. “You had no business reading that.”

“Maybe not, but I did, and now it’s branded into my memory.” He sighed. “It kept me up all night, you know. There I was, tossing and turning, wondering where we should go to take care of number four. A park? Out here in the pool? The back alley of a bar? Damn, the possibilities are endless, Annabelle.”

Number four? What was he—her cheeks burned. Sex in public (preferably a place without security cameras). Oh God. She couldn’t believe he’d actually memorized it. The last time she’d been this embarrassed was back in the third grade, when her frenemy Joan poured water on Annabelle’s crotch and proceeded to tell the entire class she’d peed her pants.

“We are not going anywhere,” she said stiffly. “I, on the other hand, am leaving now.” Her back was ramrod straight as she stomped toward the chair where she’d dropped her towel.

She felt Ryan’s eyes on her as she dried off, and she knew he was ogling her tiny bikini. A sick part of her was even a little flattered, but the embarrassed part overruled it, pushing her to dry off faster and wrap the towel around herself.

“So is that a no?” Ryan asked, cocking his head casually.

“Huh?”

“You won’t let me help you?” he clarified.

She frowned. “Help me do what?”

“Cross out all those dirty items on your dirty list.” He offered a charming smile. “Look, it’s obvious you can’t carry out some of those, uh, activities, alone. I’m just offering my services, babe.”

“Again with the babe?” She huffed out a breath. “I don’t want or need your help. That list was intended for someone else.”

He paused. “You’ve got a boyfriend?”

“Yes.” She hesitated. “No. Well, maybe.”

“Which is it, yes, no or maybe?”

She fought a wave of exasperation. “All of them, okay! I have a boyfriend, a sort of fiancé, but we’re on a break right now. Not that it’s any of your business.”

“A sort of fiancé?” he echoed.

“It’s a long story.” She grabbed her clothes from the chair, then slipped her wet feet into her flip-flops. “You are the pushiest guy I’ve ever met, you know that?”

A thoughtful expression flitted over his face. “I’ve never been called pushy before. Endearing, sure. Charismatic. Drop-dead gorgeous. A real-life Michelangelo’s David. But never pushy.”

A laugh slipped out of her throat before she could stop herself. “A real-life Michelangelo’s David? Wow. You are so full of yourself, I don’t even know what to do with that.”

“You could do me,” he said glibly.

Her thighs quivered. Just a little. Oh, for Pete’s sake. She needed to get away from this guy. He was too freaking tempting, and right now, she needed to avoid temptation. She’d left San Francisco to think about her relationship with Bryce, not jump into a fling with a guy who had major over-confidence issues.

“I won’t even dignify that with an answer,” she said, taking a step toward the lawn. “I’m leaving now.”

He shrugged. “Suit yourself.”

She was halfway across the grass when he called, “Annabelle!”

Reluctantly, she turned. “Yeah?”

“If you change your mind, I’m in 2B.” His handsome features were the epitome of cocky.

Without answering, she kept walking, not allowing herself to breathe until she was inside the building. Her breath came out in a shaky puff. Jeez, why did he have to be so damn attractive? If she were here under different circumstances, then maybe…maybe she’d act out all of her wildest fantasies with this guy. But her heart still belonged to Bryce. Kind of. God, she wasn’t the least bit sure how she felt about Bryce. They’d been in a serious relationship since she was eighteen years old, living together when she turned twenty, officially engaged when she was twenty-three. And yet he’d broken things off, as if their entire relationship didn’t mean a thing to him.

Not a break-up, time off, a condescending voice reminded her.

Right, time off was how he’d phrased it. Well, she hadn’t wanted time off. He’d gone and made that decision for the both of them.

With an unhappy sigh, she went back to Christina’s apartment, suddenly cursing Ryan for ruining her day. All she’d wanted to do was lounge around in the pool, and now she was back in the apartment, sulking again. A tiny beeping caught her attention before she could head into the bedroom to change. Her cell phone sat on the kitchen counter, making annoying sounds that informed her she had a new voicemail. She figured it was her parents, as usual, but when she glanced at the caller ID, she noticed the call had come from Melinda, one of the assistants at the event company where she worked.

“Shit,” she muttered, draping her towel on the back of one of the tall stools by the counter and picking up the phone. She hoped there wasn’t some big emergency at work. Her boss had assured her she wouldn’t be missed, since October was a slow month for them.

She dialed into her inbox and waited for the message to come on. When it did, her entire body turned to ice.

“Hey, Annabelle,” came Melinda’s somewhat hesitant voice. “I know you’re on vacation, and I hate to bother you, especially with something like this.” A pause. “I was hoping you’d pick up, I hate to mention this in a voicemail, but…um, did you and Bryce break up? I only ask because I saw him last night at the Sheppard event and he was, um, with someone. They looked pretty close, too. I wasn’t sure if you knew about it and I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, you know, but I just thought you should know. Anyway…uh, I’ll see you when you get back.”

Click.

“To delete this message,” a mechanical voice chirped, “press one. To save, press two. To—”

Annabelle hit the end button, then stared down at the phone for several long moments. Anger clawed up her spine, settling in the back of her throat in a thick, bitter lump. He’d already started seeing other people? What the hell? They were engaged to be married! Sure, he hadn’t bought her the ring yet, but he’d proposed, and their respective parents were already planning the damn wedding. How could Bryce do this?

Gulping down the fury coating her throat, Annabelle drew in a deep calming breath, willing her muscles to relax. She couldn’t believe it. Obviously he’d been dead serious when he said he wanted to see other people. He was already gallivanting all over San Francisco, getting close to some woman at a nightclub event her company had planned. What. An. Asshole.

And here she was, fighting off the advances of a ridiculously cute and appealing guy, out of respect for Bryce.

Well, screw him. He didn’t deserve her respect.

If anything, he deserved a healthy dose of payback.

Dropping the cell phone back on the counter, Annabelle straightened her shoulders and headed back to the front door. She didn’t bother getting her towel. Instead, she walked out the door wearing her teeny-weeny bikini, her bare feet slapping against the tiled floor out in the hall. She hurried down the stairs and when she reached the second floor, she glanced up and down the hall until she saw it. 2B. She made a beeline for the apartment, then stood in front of the door for a second, steadying her breathing and collecting some courage.

She could totally do this. In fact, she wanted to do it. She wanted it very, very badly.

Lifting her hand in determination, she knocked on the door.





Chapter Three

Ryan was not at all surprised to find Annabelle standing on his doorstep. If anything, he was wondering what took her so long. He had enough experience with women to know when someone was into him, and no matter how many times Annabelle tried to brush him off, he had no doubt that she wanted to jump his bones. Still, he wasn’t going to let her off the hook so easily.

“Finished playing hard to get?” he asked pleasantly.

Annabelle’s mouth tightened. “You’re going to make this hard for me, aren’t you?”

“Yep.”

He opened the door wider and gestured for her to come in. She did, but looked very reluctant doing so. Wary, she glanced around the apartment, taking in the leather couch, the state-of-the-art entertainment system and the two beer bottles on the glass coffee table. Above the couch was an Angelina Jolie calendar, flipped open to the October snapshot showing Angie stretched across a recliner. It was the typical bachelor pad, but Ryan didn’t care. He was, after all, a bachelor.

“Do you have a stripper pole in the bedroom?” Annabelle asked dryly.

“If I did, would you do a sexy dance for me?”

“Nope.”

“Figured I’d ask.”

Looking awkward, she leaned against the arm of the sofa, her abundant curves practically pouring out of her indecent yellow bikini. She looked good enough to eat, but Ryan kept his distance. Women always needed to set some ground rules, and this particular woman probably had a whole slew of them. He already knew she liked to make lists.

“Three weeks,” she began. “I’m here for three weeks, so that’s all you’re going to get from me.”

He couldn’t help but laugh. “You make it sound like you’re doing me a favor. I think it’s the other way around, Annie.”

She bristled. “Don’t call me Annie.”

“Whatever you want, babe.”

“Don’t call me babe either.” She rested her hand on the couch and tapped her fingers nervously. “So, um, about the list…”

He patiently waited for her to continue.

“It wasn’t serious or anything.” Her brown eyes avoided his. “I was just joking around.”

“Liar. You’re dying to do each and every thing on that list,” Ryan said, laughing again.

He could see her biting the inside of her cheek. “Maybe some things.”

Ryan took a step closer, noticing that her breath hitched as he did so. He could see her pulse throbbing in her throat, and a faint flush had spread just above her breasts. Oh yeah. She was totally turned on. Good. “How about we start with good old number one then?”

He stopped when they were only inches away. Her breasts were practically touching his T-shirt, and he couldn’t wait to feel her nipples poking against his bare chest. “What’s number one again?” she asked, sounding breathless.

“Sex somewhere other than a bed,” he recited.

She sighed. “Jeez, you really did memorize it.”

“Couldn’t help it. I have a photographic memory.”

“Or you’re just a pervert.”

“That too.” He flashed her a grin. “You like me, though.”

“Maybe.”

He eliminated the last inch between them, pressing his body against hers. A shaky breath flew out of her mouth. “Maybe?” he teased.

“Fine, I like you,” she blurted out. She paused for a second, then tilted her head to meet his eyes. “So, um, how do we do this?”

He froze. “Don’t tell me you’re a virgin.”

“I’m not a virgin,” she huffed. “I just haven’t had sex with many strangers, okay?” She hesitated again. “Do you want me to take my bikini off?”

Ryan let out a low laugh. “That’s a good start.”

His pulse sped up as he watched her raise her arms and reach for the tie behind her neck. Anticipation coiled in his gut. Annabelle, however—and why wasn’t he surprised?—prolonged that anticipation. Rather than untying her bikini top, she narrowed her eyes and said, “I think you should do it first.”

“Do what?”

“Get naked. Because really, why should the girl always undress first? You’re so sexist, Roger.”

He sighed. “Do you always have to overanalyze every last detail?”

“Yes.”

“Fine. Then overanalyze this.”

Before she could respond, he dipped his head and captured her mouth with his. The kiss shut her up completely, and soon she was rubbing her breasts against his chest like a contented cat. Fuck, she tasted sweet. Ryan slipped his tongue in her mouth, licking and exploring, while his hands drifted south to rest on her firm ass. She made a little whimper sound, then deepened the kiss. When her tongue entered his mouth, he groaned, as blood pooled in his groin and his cock thickened against her belly.

She reached down between them and rubbed him over his shorts, eliciting another groan from deep in his throat. The who-undresses-first debate went up in flames and soon they were both tugging at their own clothes. Her bathing suit was flung across the room, his shorts ended up under the couch, and who knew what happened to his T-shirt. Ryan didn’t care. His entire body was on fire. So was Annabelle’s, judging by the rosy flush rising on her smooth, golden skin.

“Fuck, you’re sexy,” he rasped, his gaze taking in every inch of her naked body.

She had an hourglass figure, with a curvy little ass he couldn’t help but dig his fingers into. He squeezed her buttocks, then feasted his eyes on her smooth mound. Her pussy was completely bare, which made his mouth go dry and his tongue tingle. Damn, he couldn’t wait to taste her. His cock bobbed against her stomach as he drew her close again, kissing her hard and deep, and then he slid down to his knees and pressed a soft kiss right between her legs.

Annabelle gasped, teetering on her feet. “Oh, God. That’s…so good.”

Steadying her with his hands, he brought her to his mouth again, dragging his tongue up and down her slit in featherlight strokes. Her soft moans egged him on. He loved hearing a woman moan for him.

He hated taking his mouth away, but Annabelle kept swaying like she might keel over, so, with a laugh, he gripped her hips with his hands and said, “Get down here.”

The living room floor probably wasn’t the most comfortable site in the world, but Annabelle didn’t even blink as she stretched out on her back, her curvy body spread out beneath him like a juicy holiday dinner.

“I feel like such a slut,” she breathed, looking half-amused and half-worried. “We don’t even know each other.”

“Yeah, but I’m dying to get to know you,” he replied, settling himself between her thighs.

His cock ached to slide inside her, but he wasn’t finished with her yet. Straddling her, he bent down to kiss one of her distended nipples, sucking it deep in his mouth. She made a sexy little sound and then tangled her fingers in his hair and pulled him even closer. He suckled and licked, cupping her breasts with both hands and kissing all that smooth, silky flesh.

“You are such a tease,” Annabelle said, sounding breathless and excited and of course, slightly irritated. “Will you just get inside me already?”

“Sure.” He slipped one hand between her legs and pushed two fingers deep in her pussy.

They both groaned.

She was soaking wet, and he quickly slid down her body again, his mouth desperate to lap up all those sweet juices. He swirled his tongue over her clit, then dragged it down her wet folds and thrust it deep inside her.

Annabelle moaned, her hips moving restlessly as he went down on her. “God, you’re good at that,” she mumbled. She made a wheezing sound. “And if you say it’s because you’ve had a lot of practice, I’ll slap you.”

He laughed against her pussy. Yep, sarcastic even during sex. He’d known she would be, and damn, but he loved it. He also loved driving her wild, which he continued to do, flicking his tongue over her clit, licking every inch of her until she was moaning uncontrollably. He sucked her clit deep in his mouth. Her sweet taste made him dizzy with lust, and his cock throbbed, hard and full and dying for release.

Annabelle moved her hips faster, her breathing heavy, but just as he felt her clit pulse against his lips, he drew back. He had a crazy urge to see her eyes when she came. Abruptly, he shot to his feet, his cock poking out like an angry sword.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Annabelle grumbled.

“Condom,” he said hoarsely.

He went from the living room to the bathroom and back to the living room in less than a minute. Ten seconds after that, he had a rubber on and was entering Annabelle with one swift thrust.

“Oh Jesus,” he hissed out. She was so tight he nearly exploded from the feel of her inner muscles clamped around his dick like a vise. “Are you always this tight?”

“Probably. You want me to poll my other lovers?”

A laugh lodged in his throat. “No, please don’t.”

“Okay.” She pressed her palm on his chest and stroked his pecs. “Can we stop talking now?”

Her touch seared his skin, causing beads of sweat to pop out on his forehead. Damn, he liked her touch. He liked everything about her—her dark-brown hair fanned out on the floor, her rigid dark-pink nipples, the leg she’d hooked around his waist, the kung-fu grip of her pussy. She looked so fucking hot lying there beneath him, and he had no problem shutting up. In fact, he lost all capacity for speech as he started to move inside her.

Annabelle moved with him, lifting her ass and meeting him thrust for thrust, while her fingernails dug into his back, eliciting little sparks of pain mingled with pleasure.

“I need…fuck,” he swore. “I need to be deeper.”

With a husky growl, he grabbed hold of one of her legs and lifted it up to his shoulder, pushing his cock into her as deep as it would go. Annabelle cried out, a wild throaty sound ringing with pleasure. He nearly came right there and then as he watched her slide her own hand down her body so she could rub her clit.

Biting her full bottom lip, she met his gaze, then parted her lips, moaned and orgasmed.

It was the sexiest sight he’d ever seen, and he wasn’t far behind her, especially when she lifted her head to his shoulder and bit into his flesh, still whimpering and rocking beneath him. Ryan let go, shuddering as a burst of sheer pleasure rocketed through his body, sizzling through his blood and nearly stopping his heart. His climax made the world spin, and by the time his shoulders sagged and his chest collapsed onto Annabelle, he felt ravaged and exhausted and so fucking sated.

Under him, Annabelle was breathing as heavily as he was, and he suddenly realized he was probably crushing her. He gingerly rolled onto his side and, wincing, peeled the condom off his still-hard dick, then raised himself up on one elbow so he could peer down at her. He grinned at the dazed cloud of arousal still glimmering in her eyes.

“I guess we can cross number one off the list,” he said roughly.

“Oh yeah,” she agreed, still sounding breathless. “That was surprisingly good.”

“Surprisingly?” he echoed in mock anger.

“There was always the chance you were all talk and no action,” she replied sweetly. “Overconfident men usually suck in bed.”

“I do not suck in bed.”

“I know. Like I said, you’re surprisingly good.”

“More like incredibly awesome.”

She shot him a sugary smile. “It’s nice to have a healthy ego.”

He bent down and planted a quick kiss on her lips, then pulled back and admired her perfect features. “You really are beautiful, you know that, Annabelle?”

Her cheeks turned pink. “You already got me in bed—well, on floor—so you don’t need to sweet talk me.”

“I’m not sweet talking. It’s true. You’re beautiful.”

He figured she’d object again—all she ever seemed to do was object—but instead she smiled shyly and said, “Thank you.”

Those two words were laced with so much wonder that he had to ask, “Hasn’t anyone ever told you that before?”

A tiny frown marred her forehead. “No. My parents, sure, but you’re the first man who’s ever said that.”

“Then the men you’ve dated before are complete morons.” He dragged his fingers down her bare arm, then rested his palm on her stomach and rubbed the soft skin there. “You’re gorgeous, Annie.”

“So are you, Rick.”

He chuckled. Man, he really liked this chick. Her well of sarcasm never seemed to run dry, and he found himself laughing constantly when she was around. And who could forget the mind-blowing sex they’d just had. When was the last time he’d felt this sated?

Next to him, Annabelle shifted, arching her back to form a little bridge with her naked body. “God, my back kills.”

“Isn’t it worth it, though?”

She mulled it over. “Yeah, I guess it is.” She raised herself up on her elbows, her breasts jutting out enticingly. “I should probably take off.”

“What’s the rush?” he asked, wrinkling his forehead.

Discomfort flitted through her brown eyes. “I figured you had, I don’t know, things to do or something.” She paused. “And it just occurred to me I don’t know a thing about you, except that you live in the building and were sort of involved with Christina.”

“I’ll tell you what, if you stay, I’ll tell you every last thing about myself.”

He sensed her reluctance, and an odd spark of panic lit in his gut. He didn’t want her to go. Weird, since they’d only met yesterday, but for some reason, he wanted her to stick around.

“Come on,” he urged. “It’ll be fun. We’ll order some pizza or Chinese food, spend the afternoon and night naked, and get to know each other.”

The corner of her lush mouth lifted. “That does sound pretty appealing.”

“It’ll be fun,” he reiterated.

Her smile widened. “How much fun?”

Grinning, Ryan placed his palm on her thigh and stroked gently. “A lot of fun.”





The shrill ringing of the phone woke Annabelle up at five in the morning. And it wouldn’t stop. It kept ringing and ringing and ringing, and next to her, Ryan made no move to pick it up. Groaning, she buried her head under the pillow, as Ryan shifted beside her, letting out a groan of his own.

“Who the fuck is that?” he mumbled.

“This isn’t fun,” Annabelle mumbled back. “You promised me a fun sleepover and then stuck me with a five o’clock wake-up call. I’m very unhappy at the moment.”

The phone mercilessly stopped ringing. For half a second.

Then it started right back up again.

Annabelle shot up into a sitting position. “If you don’t answer it, I will kill you.”

Groaning again, Ryan stuck out his arm and began rummaging around for the cordless phone. He finally got it off its cradle, jammed on the talk button and lifted it to his ear. “What?” he barked into the receiver.

Annabelle heard a male voice talking excitedly, but couldn’t make out any of the words. Ryan, however, was instantly awake. He sat up abruptly, a wide sleepy grin filling his face. “Seriously? Now?” He paused. “Okay. Yeah, definitely. We’re on our way.”

“We?” Annabelle burst out, wiping the sleep from her eyes.

Ryan ignored her. “Huh? No, that’s Annabelle…yeah, long story…she’s kind of strange but—”

“Kind of strange?” she yelled.

“—pretty cool,” Ryan finished. “Yeah…okay, see you in twenty. Tell her to hold it in until I get there because I totally want to see the head when it—hello?” He glanced at Annabelle. “Bastard hung up.”

Shoving the sheets off the bed, Ryan got up, suddenly as alert as a watchful guard dog. He moved around the bedroom, grabbing pieces of clothing, as Annabelle sat on the bed, shaking her head in confusion. “What on earth is happening?” she demanded.

“Shelby’s having her baby,” he said without breaking his stride.

“Who?” She went pale. “Don’t you dare tell me you got some girl pregnant.”

“She’s Garrett’s wife,” Ryan replied, sinking down on the edge of the bed so he could roll on a pair of socks. “Garrett’s on my SEAL team, I mentioned him yesterday, remember?”

She only sort of remembered. She was still having a tough time reconciling the fact that Ryan was a Navy SEAL. In between having super awesome sex, they’d spent all of yesterday talking about their lives, and when she asked him what he did for a living, she figured he’d say something like “pro surfer” or “personal trainer” or maybe “gigolo”. The Navy, she did not expect. Sure, he had the most extraordinary body ever, all toned and muscled and hard just about everywhere, but she couldn’t imagine him holding a gun, or creeping through the jungle, blowing things up, taking down terrorists…it was actually kind of hot when she thought about it. She’d never slept with GI Joe before.

“His wife is having their baby and Carson says it’ll be any minute now,” Ryan said, jarring her from her thoughts. “I’m gonna be an uncle, babe!”

Although she didn’t know Shelby or Garrett or Carson, Ryan’s enthusiasm was contagious. “God help that baby,” she said with a laugh.

He stood at the foot of the bed, shooting her an expectant look. “Well, come on, get up. We have to go to the hospital.”

Her enthusiasm faded. “Why? I don’t even know these people, Ryan. I don’t want to intrude.”

“You won’t be intruding.” He waved a dismissive hand. “They’ll all be happy to see you, especially Holly.”

“Who’s Holly?”

“I’ll tell you in the car. Now get up already.”

Annabelle slid out of bed, then paused, realizing she was totally naked. Almost immediately, Ryan’s eyes darkened to a midnight blue, and she could see the flicker of arousal in his gaze. Funny enough, she didn’t feel self-conscious. She never walked around naked in the condo she shared with Bryce. Neither did Bryce, for that matter. As their moving-in present, he’d bought them matching robes. To preserve her modesty, she’d thought, but that was before she’d discovered he was a prude.

“I need to go upstairs to Christina’s to get some clothes. I only have my bikini here,” she reminded him.

Ryan offered a wolfish grin. “Wear it to the hospital.”

“You wish,” she said with a snort.

“I do wish. All my friends would be jealous.”

Laughing, she went over to the chair near the bed and picked up one of the T-shirts lying there. “Can I wear this?” Without waiting for him to agree—he’d be an asshole not to—she slipped the shirt over her head. It hung down to her knees, and as she walked toward Ryan, he had a devilish look in his eyes.

“You look seriously cute in that shirt,” he said, then elicited a startled squeak from her mouth by planting his hands on her waist, pulling her close and kissing her.

His lips were so soft, so warm. Annabelle’s toes curled as his mouth moved over hers in a teasing caress. God, he knew how to kiss. He knew how to do everything, in fact. They’d had sex three times already, and each time he pushed that thick cock into her, it took her breath away. Not that she was surprised. Just looking at him, you knew he’d be good in bed. What would Bryce think if he could see her now?

The notion brought a pang of guilt to her belly, followed by a jolt of anger. Screw Bryce. Who cared what he thought. He hadn’t thought twice before hooking up with someone else, so why should she?

“Okay,” Ryan groaned, breaking the kiss. “If we keep doing that, we’ll never get to the hospital.” He reached his arm around her and gave her butt a little slap. “Let’s get a move on.”

“Do we have to?”

“Yep. Don’t worry, Annie, it’ll be fun.”

She didn’t bother to correct him this time. He’d simply pick another annoying nickname if she said anything, and truth be told, she was beginning to like it. Nobody had ever called her Annie before. Her mother maintained that the nickname sounded too “common”. Annabelle, on the other hand, now that was a name that screamed wealth, according to Sandra Holmes.

Ryan waited somewhat impatiently as Annabelle got dressed upstairs, but she refused to rush. She still wasn’t sure why he insisted she come with him. She didn’t know any of his friends, and the birth of a child seemed like a rather inappropriate place to bring a girl you’d only known for two days. Yet for some reason, she wanted to go. She liked Ryan. She was drawn to him. And she couldn’t help but be curious about his life, about him.

They left the building fifteen minutes later, and Ryan led her to an olive-green Jeep parked at the back of the lot. He didn’t open the passenger door for her, and she resisted making a sarcastic remark about chivalry. Bryce always opened her door, and it drove her crazy. She was perfectly capable of opening her own door, and when Bryce did it, there was nothing chivalrous about it. It felt more patronizing if anything.

“So what’s the deal with this Bryce guy?” Ryan asked as he started the engine. “Am I helping you cheat on him? ’Cuz I’m not sure how I feel about that. I do have a moral code, you know.”

She grinned. “Yeah, I’m sure you do.” The smile faded as she pondered his question. She’d told him about Bryce earlier, but mostly skimmed over the details. “I guess Bryce and I are broken up.”

He shot her a sideways look before turning his attention back to the road ahead. “Were you really engaged?”

“Pretty much since we were six years old,” she said wryly. “He officially asked me two years ago. Our parents were thrilled.”

“Your parents aren’t the ones getting married. How did you feel about it?” Ryan asked quietly.

She bit her bottom lip. “I…was happy, I guess. I’ve wanted to marry Bryce since we were kids. I thought he was a wonderful guy.”

“Thought?” Ryan echoed, picking up on the past tense.

To her dismay, they reached a red light, which allowed him to turn his head and study her. His blue eyes flickered with curiosity, and discomfort rose up her spine. The last thing she wanted to do was tell Ryan about Bryce’s parting words, about what a priss she supposedly was.

“He said some mean things before he left,” she finally admitted.

Ryan’s jaw hardened. “What kind of mean things?”

She shrugged and casually glanced out the window. “You know, about me, and our sex life, and…” She suddenly gritted her teeth. To hell with it. “He pretty much called me a prude, okay?”

Ryan was silent for a few seconds. Then he burst out laughing.

“It’s not funny,” she said, her cheeks burning up.

“Sure it is.” He chuckled again. “It’s also not true. Don’t tell me you believed him, babe.”

Annabelle didn’t answer.

“You did, didn’t you?” Ryan said, sounding amazed. “Is that why you wrote that list? Come on, Annabelle, you should know better than to listen to some asshole. I just spent the entire day and night with you, and I can assure you, you’re no prude.”

“Um, thanks?”

They reached the hospital and Ryan parked the Jeep. Shutting off the engine, he looked at her and shook his head. “Don’t even think about that ass anymore, okay? Because I know for a fact that you’re the sexiest, hottest, wildest fuck a guy could ever have.”

Despite the lewd description, she found herself laughing. Her heart may have skipped a couple of beats too. She liked knowing that she’d provided this gorgeous military man with a sexy, hot and wild time.

Ryan hopped out of the Jeep to grab a parking ticket from the machine in the lot. When he came back, he shoved the ticket on the dashboard, as Annabelle got out of the vehicle, slinging her purse over her shoulder. “Are you sure they won’t mind that I’m here?” she asked once more.

“Trust me, they’ll be ecstatic.”





Chapter Four

Strangely enough, he was right. When the two of them entered the large waiting room in the fifth-floor maternity ward, a brunette with bright green eyes and a blue-eyed redhead jumped up and swarmed Ryan and Annabelle like two excited bees. Ryan made the introductions, but the two women kept babbling about how exciting this was and how happy they were for Shelby that Annabelle had a tough time keeping up. The brunette was Holly, and the blond man with the killer smile who rose from one of the plastic chairs was Carson, her fiancé. Jane was the redhead, and she introduced Annabelle to her fiancé, Thomas Becker, a man with short brown hair and a body that belonged in an action movie.

“Don’t worry, you’ll get used to them,” Becker said dryly as Holly and Jane continued to talk Ryan’s ear off.

“She’s only three centimeters dilated,” Holly was explaining. “Garrett came out an hour ago and said the doctor thinks it might be a while.”

“Are Will and Mac coming?” Ryan asked.

“They’ll be here in a few hours,” Carson supplied. “Mac wasn’t feeling well last night, so Will wants to let her sleep a while longer.”

“She’s pregnant,” Holly told Annabelle. “And Will is totally overprotective. He thinks she’ll lose the baby if she sneezes, but we keep telling him to quit worrying. Unless she has a vision of it or something, then he should worry.”

Annabelle was lost again. She figured Will was another SEAL, but all this talk of pregnancy and visions made her head spin. It spun even more when Ryan suddenly shook hands with Becker and congratulated him for apparently getting Jane pregnant, though something in that exchange felt…stiff. Ryan was smiling, his voice ringing with sincerity, but for a moment, Annabelle could swear she’d heard a twinge of sadness. She discreetly glanced from Ryan to Jane, but the redhead was staring up at her soon-to-be husband adoringly and Ryan looked perfectly unruffled.

Huh. Maybe she’d just imagined it.

“Shit, I’m starving,” Carson mumbled. “Anyone want to make a trip down to the cafeteria?”

Ryan and Becker chimed in. Annabelle didn’t have a chance. Her stomach had grumbled the second Carson said cafeteria, but Holly was suddenly gripping her hand. “Bring us some sandwiches or something,” Holly chirped to the men, then tugged on Annabelle’s hand and practically forced her butt into a chair. “Sit with us, Annabelle.”

Annabelle found herself sandwiched between Holly and Jane, who stared at her in curiosity. “How did you and Ryan meet?” Jane asked.

“Is it serious?” Holly demanded.

“Uh…it’s only been two days,” she said awkwardly.

“But you like him?” Holly pressed.

“Yeah, definitely.” Before they could grill her again, she swiftly changed the subject. “How did you and Carson meet?” she asked Holly.

With a grin, Holly launched into the whole sordid story, revealing that she and Carson had indulged in a one-night stand at a nightclub only to run into each other weeks later at Shelby and Garrett’s wedding. Then Jane chimed in, confessing that she’d met Becker in an elevator, in which the two of them passed the time having hot sex.

Annabelle laughed, thinking of her first meeting with Ryan. Unable to stop herself, she told the two women the story of how she’d woken up to find a total stranger in bed with her. Both of them hooted with delight when she finished. “Oh, that’s priceless,” Jane said, pushing a loose strand of red hair from her ponytail. “I can’t believe you threw a lamp at him.”

“He deserves it,” Holly said, rolling her eyes. “I’ve wanted to throw a lamp at Evans since the day I met him.” Annabelle knew Holly was just teasing; the affection in her voice when she spoke of Ryan was easy to pick up on.

“Yeah,” Jane agreed with a grin. “He’s incorrigible. I’ve been tempted to do some lamp-throwing myself.”

“So, have you and Carson set a date?” Annabelle asked Holly.

“Not yet.” Holly made a face. “We’re too busy arguing about who’ll cater the wedding.”

“Having trouble picking a catering company?”

“No, he won’t let me do it,” Holly complained.

“The bride can’t cater her own damn wedding,” came Carson’s annoyed voice. He stepped into the waiting room, with Ryan and Becker in tow, and glared at his soon-to-be wife. “You’re just going to have to pay someone else to do it.”

“I’ll prepare everything the night before,” Holly insisted.

Annabelle smothered a laugh as she listened to them argue. She could tell they were madly in love, which brought a tiny pang of envy to her chest. Had she and Bryce ever acted that way with each other, loving and teasing and so obviously infatuated with each other?

“I got turkey and ham,” Ryan said, holding up two sandwiches covered in plastic wrap. “Pick one.”

She reached for the ham and unwrapped the sandwich, as Jane got up to sit with Becker, digging into the potato chips he’d brought her, and Holly and Carson split a tuna sandwich.

John Garrett walked into the waiting room while the women were eating, looking completely frazzled. Annabelle noted he was an extremely good-looking man, with dark hair, intense eyes and a long sexy bod. Even the lines of exhaustion creasing his face didn’t take away from his handsomeness. Jeez, did the Navy only allow sex gods to enlist or something?

“Six centimeters,” Garrett announced, raking both hands through his hair. “Shit, I’m dying in there.”

“Is she okay?” Holly asked, her green eyes wide with concern.

“She’s fine, considering.” Garrett looked like he was going to keel over any second. “But she keeps yelling at me, and I’m pretty sure she broke one of my fingers during the last contraction.” He held up his hand and sure enough, his pinkie was red, swollen and bent at a slight angle. And yet he didn’t seem the least bit concerned about it, and a few minutes later, he said he’d keep them posted and went to be with his wife again, broken finger and all.

Annabelle was impressed. Maybe it was a military thing, but she’d never seen a man look so calm. She shot a sidelong glance at Ryan, wondering how he’d react in this type of situation. His wife yelling and in pain, clinging to his hand so tightly she broke one of his fingers. She got the feeling he’d be calm too.

“So,” Ryan said after Garrett left the room. “How long do you think this’ll take?”

“Not long,” Carson said at the same time Holly replied, “Probably hours.”

Ryan groaned, evidently smart enough to know that the woman was always right. And right Holly was. Two hours passed before they knew it. Then three and four. By the time hour number five ticked by, the waiting room became substantially quiet. Annabelle yawned and stretched her legs out, leaning closer to Ryan. In the corner of the room, Jane had fallen asleep on Becker’s shoulder and he was absently running his fingers through her hair. Carson was asleep too, head lolled to the side, while his fiancée buried her nose in a paperback novel.

Annabelle jumped when she felt Ryan’s lips brush across her earlobe. “This is so boring,” he whispered in her ear.

She smiled. “It’s hard work pushing out a baby. I doubt Shelby is finding it boring at all.”

“Yeah, well, Will and his wife have the right idea. They’re going to show up in a few hours, all bright-eyed and ready to hold the baby, and they’ll laugh at us for our six-hour wait.”

“It could be worse,” Annabelle pointed out. “My mother was in labor with me for thirty-two hours.”

“That does not surprise me,” Ryan said solemnly. “You went from a difficult infant to a difficult adult.”

“Ha ha.”

He shifted close again, his tongue darting out to lick her ear. “I have an idea,” he rasped.

“Oh really?”

Planting a little kiss on her neck, he met her gaze and said, “Number four.”

She coughed in surprise, instantly catching his drift. “At the hospital? No way.”

“Come on, it’ll be fun.”

“You really need to stop promising me fun.” She gestured around the quiet waiting room. “So far, I’m not having fun.”

“But you will.” Before she could blink, he was on his feet and pulling her up. “Let’s go make some memories, babe.”

At the sound of movement, Holly looked up from her book. “Going to stretch your legs?” she asked, the amusement in her green eyes revealing that she knew precisely what they were about to do.

“Sure are,” Ryan said easily. “Want anything from the vending machine?”

“No, thanks.” Holly winked at Annabelle as Ryan linked his arm loosely through hers as if they were going on a leisurely stroll.

It was past ten, and the hospital corridor was bustling. Nurses in bright pink scrubs hurried by, doctors stood in the hallway studying patient charts, and they passed several family members with either pink or blue balloons going into rooms to visit the new moms. They walked past the nursery, and at the sound of a newborn wailing, Annabelle glared at Ryan. “I refuse to have sex near babies.”

He seemed to mull that over, then sighed. “Me too. Let’s go downstairs.”

This was crazy. Annabelle wanted to object as she followed Ryan to the stairwell, where they climbed the stairs up to the next floor. When she’d written that list, she hadn’t planned on actually doing any of the things on it. Fantasized about them, sure, but doing them? Again, crazy.

Yet her heart was pounding wildly as Ryan dragged her down the fluorescent-lit corridor of the respiratory ward, and her knees shook when he discovered an empty closet and ushered her inside. Darkness instantly engulfed them, but she could make out a metal rack stacked with boxes of…she squinted…latex gloves. Ryan followed her gaze and laughed. “Can I please, please fuck you while wearing latex gloves?”

“You are a sick man.”

He encircled her waist with hands and bent down to nip at her neck. “Think about how cold and slimy it would feel.”

“I am a firm believer that sex should not be cold and slimy.”

Ryan’s mouth moved from her neck to her jaw. He kissed his way to her mouth, his morning stubble tickling her chin. They both froze at the sound of muffled footsteps, but whoever it was walked right past the closet. “Are we really going to do this?” she whispered.

He took one of her hands and placed it directly over his crotch, which sported a thick ridge of arousal. “Hell yeah.”

Annabelle sighed. “Fine, do your worst.”

“My best, you mean,” he murmured as he slid his hand between her legs.

He stroked her gently, as if he had all the time in the world, but Annabelle was very much aware of their surroundings. “If we do this, we do it fast,” she murmured back.

“If you say so.”

Before she could blink, he spun her around so that she was facing the wall, as he ground his lower body against her ass. She moaned, the delicious friction causing a ribbon of pleasure to uncurl through her body and settle in her aching core.

Ryan reached around to cup her breasts, his breath warm against her neck. “Hey, I just thought of something,” he said, sounding delighted.

“Yeah, what’s that?”

“We can cross off numbers two, four and eight, all at once. It’s the trifecta…the perfect storm, if you will.”

It was hard to concentrate on his words when his hands were fondling her breasts. He meant the list, obviously. She strained to remember the items. Sex in public, sex standing up, and…her face heated up. Oh right. From behind.

“I’ve gotta tell you, babe, I’m loving this list of yours,” he rasped, sliding his hands down her belly to unbutton her jeans.

He didn’t take them off, just let them fall down to her ankles, and then his hand was between her legs, stroking the crotch of her panties. Annabelle’s entire body was on fire. The dark closet, the sound of footsteps out in the hall, Ryan’s talented fingers poking underneath her panties to rub her clit…it all aroused the hell out of her.

“Close your eyes,” Ryan whispered.

She obliged, listening to the sound of plastic tearing—he’d remembered to bring a condom—and then a zipper hissing open. A moment later, she felt his cock pressing between her ass cheeks, teasing her puckered hole. Her heart did a somersault. For a second she thought he would venture into the forbidden, but to her relief—and odd disappointment—he moved aside the crotch of her panties and pushed into her wet core with one smooth thrust.

God, it felt good. She tried to think about the last time she’d made love to Bryce, tried to remember if it had felt as good as this, but her brain promptly stopped functioning as Ryan began to move.

It didn’t last long at all. Four, maybe five strokes, and then she was coming, a fast, pounding orgasm that seem to come out of nowhere. Annabelle gasped as pleasure rocketed through her. Her breasts tingled, her clit throbbing as waves of ecstasy pulsated in her core. She ground her ass against Ryan, milking him, taking everything she could get, and his husky groans heightened her pleasure.

His fingers dug into her waist as he pistoned his hips, fucking her hard, his balls slapping against her ass with each deep thrust.

“Fuck,” he wheezed, and then he released a harsh cry and shuddered inside her.

She loved feeling him come, loved the guttural sounds he made, the way he nuzzled her neck, heating her skin with his ragged breaths. She wanted to cry out in disappointment when he finally withdrew, leaving her empty and sated and wanting more. So much more.

It had never been this way with Bryce. Never.

Her legs were still shaking as she bent down to pull up her jeans. She buttoned them up, turning to face Ryan. His blue eyes glimmered in the darkness, satisfaction etched into his handsome features. He removed the condom, tossed it in the metal garbage can near the door, then zipped up his pants and stepped toward her.

“So…was that fun?” he teased.

A breathy laugh exited her mouth. “Oh yeah.”





Chapter Five

“So what do you want to watch tonight?” Ryan asked, holding up two DVD cases.

From her spot on the couch, Annabelle snorted. “Rambo one or Rambo two? Seriously, those are my options?”

“It’s my pick, remember?” he said defensively. “Last night I sat through P.S. I Love You. I think my sperm count dropped in half.”

“Don’t worry, you looked very manly when you teared up.”

“I did not tear up—”

“You did!” she chortled. “Right after Gerard Butler died. It was like ten minutes into the movie.”

“You were imagining it.” He waved the DVDs. “So which Rambo do you want?”

“Neither. You choose, and I’ll just go into the bathroom and slit my wrists.”

As usual, her sarcasm never failed to make him burst into laughter. They’d spent an entire week together, and each time she unleashed one of her biting remarks, he liked her even more. He was used to women treating him like he was some sort of god, especially when they found out he was in the Navy, but Annabelle remained completely indifferent to what he did. She didn’t take any crap, from him, or anyone, he suspected, and he loved that. His friends loved her too, even Shelby, who’d given birth to an eight-pound girl bound to be the apple of her daddy’s eye. Annabelle and Ryan had gone in to see the baby, and when they were leaving, Shelby, looking sleepy and relaxed, had pulled him aside and said, “She’s a keeper.”

Shelby might be right. Ryan had never felt this way about anyone, except maybe Jane, but he was trying very hard to banish those inappropriate thoughts. He and Jane would never be together. He knew that. But his heart simply needed to get the memo.

Annabelle was helping, though. He loved being with her, and Jane was never on his mind when Annabelle was around.

He smiled as he watched her stretch her legs out. She looked so cute sprawled there on the couch, wearing a pair of tiny black shorts and a yellow halter top. Her long brown hair was tied up in a high ponytail, which made her look like a little girl. Except there was nothing girlish about her body. All curves, all sex appeal.

His cock stirred in his loose shorts, and just as he was about to toss the movies aside and suggest they have hot sex instead, the door to the apartment swung open and Matt walked in.

“Thank the Lord that’s over,” Matt said with a groan. He dropped the blue duffel bag he was holding and it landed on the floor with a thud. “I swear, I love my sweet mother to death but sometimes I could just strangle—oh, hello there,” Matt drawled, noticing Annabelle on the couch.

She sat up awkwardly. “Um. Hi.”

Ryan wasn’t surprised to see her eyes widen at the sight of his roommate. O’Connor usually evoked that wide-eyed response from females. Probably the shaved head. It made him look all tough and lethal. Most chicks totally dug it, and it looked like Annabelle wasn’t the exception. Ryan noticed her checking Matt out, her brown eyes moving up and down Matt’s tall, muscular body. He didn’t mind, though. He’d never been the jealous type, and he and Matt had indulged in enough threesomes that he was used to sharing the attention.

“Annabelle, Matt, Matt, Annabelle,” Ryan introduced.

Matt flashed Annabelle a grin. “It’s nice to meet you, darlin’.”

Ryan rolled his eyes. “Oh no, he darlin’ed you. That means he likes you.”

“Where are you from?” Annabelle asked curiously. “The South, I assume.”

“Nashville,” Matt confirmed. He looked from her to Ryan. “Mind if I hang out with you guys for a while? I need to be around people my own age.”

Ryan laughed. “I take it Nana O’Connor drove you nuts.”

“As usual.” Matt drifted toward the kitchen, calling over his shoulder, “Anyone want a beer?”

“Me,” Ryan called back. He glanced at Annabelle. “You?”

She sighed. “What the hell.”

Matt came back with three bottles, gave two away, and flopped down on one of the comfortable leather recliners flanking the couch. Ryan took the other chair, while Annabelle stayed sprawled on the couch, leaning forward a little to take a sip of the beer Matt handed her.

It didn’t take long for Matt and Annabelle to hit it off, though Ryan wasn’t surprised. Matt was the most laidback guy Ryan had ever met, and Annabelle, well, she was thoroughly entertaining. By the time the next round of beers was polished off, the three of them were laughing like old friends. Matt regaled them with stories about his trip home, and Annabelle told them about one of the worst weddings her company had ever planned, something involving feathers and swans and a very drunk uncle.

Annabelle’s cheeks were flushed from the alcohol, but Ryan knew she wasn’t drunk. Tipsy, maybe, but not drunk. Neither was he, and he’d noticed Annabelle admiring Matt several times in the past hour. Again, he wasn’t concerned. He was, however, curious to see how far she was willing to go. He’d meant what he said in the hospital—he was having fun acting out all the fantasies on her list. And he knew she was having fun too. Except that she kept insisting the list didn’t mean anything.

Which he knew was a total lie.

When Matt left the room to take a quick shower, claiming he was grimy from his trip and now sweaty from the three beers he’d consumed, Ryan joined Annabelle on the sofa and said, “Do you think he’s attractive?”

She set down her beer bottle, furrowing her eyebrows. “Matt? Well, sure. Why are you asking?”

Ryan slid closer and placed his hand on her thigh. “I thought maybe he’d be a good candidate for number three.”

His remark got him a pair of wide brown eyes. “Are you crazy? That’s…just wrong.”

He offered a wry look. “And why is that wrong?”

Annabelle squirmed a little, and he wondered if she was squirming from discomfort or arousal. Probably the latter, though she probably wouldn’t admit it. “Threesomes are…sleazy. No?”

“Technically, what you wrote isn’t a threesome.” He bent close to her ear and said, “You said you wanted to get fucked by another man while I watch.”

Her throat bobbed as she swallowed. “I didn’t say I wanted that… I just…” She looked away.

Ryan grasped her chin with one hand and made her look at him. “Why did you write the list, Annabelle?”

“I told you already.” Her cheeks turned pink again. “I wanted to show Bryce all the things I’d be willing to do.”

“Willing to do, or dying to do?”

Her blush deepened.

“There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do wicked things,” he teased.

“Okay, yeah, maybe some wicked things, like sex in the hospital, or on the floor, but having sex with another guy…that’s so slutty.” Embarrassment flickered in her eyes.

“Says who? Who decides what’s slutty, what’s right or wrong when it comes to sex?” Ryan shook his head. “As long as all the parties involved are consenting adults, why should it matter?”

Annabelle gulped. “Have you…and Matt…done stuff together before, with a woman?”

“Yes,” he said honestly. “Does that bother you?”



Annabelle’s heart was pounding hard in her chest. How did Ryan always manage to catch her off-guard? She hadn’t doubted he was a ladies man, or that he’d probably slept with dozens of women, but somehow she hadn’t imagined him in any threeways.

“No. I mean, I don’t think so.” She froze for a moment. “Wait—did you and Matt and Christina…?”

“Yeah.”

She bit the inside of her cheek. Wow. She couldn’t picture Christina with Ryan and Matt. Christina didn’t seem like the type. But along with surprise, Annabelle experienced a wave of envy. Jeez, was she actually jealous that her friend had been fucked by two guys at once?

Annabelle glanced at Ryan, then Matt, who had just strolled back into the living room wearing a pair of faded jeans and no shirt. No, it wasn’t just two guys that appealed to her. It was these two in particular.

“It turns you on, doesn’t it?” Ryan said in a low voice.

But not low enough. “What turns you on?” Matt asked instantly, swiveling his head toward Annabelle as he sank back into his chair.

To her horror, Ryan answered for her. “Doing you while I watch,” he said to his roommate.

Matt’s jaw fell open. Then a sexy little smile lifted the corners of his mouth. “For real?”

Annabelle met his deep green eyes. She found herself nodding.

Matt looked intrigued. “Huh. Okay then. Let’s do it.”

Her breath jammed in her throat like a wad of chewing gum. Oh God. She couldn’t believe he’d just said that. And she couldn’t believe how quickly her body responded. Her nipples hardened into two tight buds, straining against her halter top. Both men immediately zeroed in on the sight, which only made the tingling worse. She wished she’d worn a bra. She wished Ryan had never seen that list.

“Well?” Ryan said, meeting her eyes. “What do you think?”

Think? Her head wasn’t capable of producing thoughts right now. She’d turned into a pile of mush on the couch, her pussy aching so badly she squeezed her legs together. What was happening to her? Ever since she’d met Ryan, she’d become a total sex addict. And Matt wasn’t helping her condition. He was as gorgeous as Ryan, and…yep, just as well-endowed, she noted as she saw an impressive hard-on pushing against his jeans.

“I…this is crazy,” she finally blurted out.

“What’s wrong with crazy?” Matt said in that charming Southern accent.

“Um…nothing, I guess?”

Laughing, Matt got off his chair and moved to the couch. He flopped down right beside her, his hard thigh touching her bare one. “I just spent the entire week in Nashville, listening to my mother nag me about why I’m not married yet and following my grandmother to every fabric store in the city so she could pick out wool to crochet me a sweater I will never wear.” He placed his hand on her knee. “I could use some crazy right now, Annabelle.”

“You’re as bad as he is,” she grumbled, hooking a thumb at Ryan.

“Yeah, but I think you want to be bad with us,” Matt said with grin.

He was right. She did want to be bad. She was twenty-five years old and she’d only had sex with one other man, Bryce, who she’d lost her virginity to. Now that she’d been with Ryan, her eyes had opened to all the sexual possibilities out there. Sex didn’t have to be planned, it didn’t have to be a three-times-a-week routine and last for ten minutes before Bryce rolled himself off her. This kind of sex was way more exciting.

Taking a breath, she looked over at Ryan, who had moved back to sit in one of the chairs and was watching them with amused blue eyes. “Come on, Annie, kiss him. Be bad for a while.”

She stared at Matt’s mouth. She wanted to. God, she wanted to kiss him and touch him and sleep with him. As if a magnet was pulling her toward him, she leaned into that waiting mouth, gasping when his lips closed over hers. His mouth was firmer than Ryan’s, his tongue more insistent, and she was breathless by the time the kiss ended. Little sparks of heat danced along her skin, growing hotter when she noticed the desire glimmering in Matt’s green eyes.

“Undo my pants,” Matt said gruffly, locking his gaze with hers.

She found it hard to breathe as she followed his instructions. Her fingers trembled over the button at his jeans. She undid it, then pulled the zipper down, and her entire body burned up when his long, thick cock sprang up into her waiting hand. No boxers. God, that was hot.

Annabelle felt Ryan’s eyes on her as she stroked his roommate’s erection. She turned her head, meeting his gaze, and the fire she saw in his eyes stole her breath. It was good fire, aroused not angry, and when she glanced south, she noticed he was hard too. Licking his bottom lip, he undid his jeans and pulled out his own cock, stroking himself while she stroked his friend. She looked down at the thick erection in her hand, her heart pounding so fast she feared it would explode.

“What are you waiting for?” Ryan said in a low, slightly mocking voice. “Take him in your mouth.”

As her pulse shrieked in her ears, she slid off the couch onto her knees and did as Ryan asked. Matt groaned softly as she wrapped her lips around his tip, dragging her tongue over the velvety flesh. He fisted her hair, guiding her along his shaft, thrusting impossibly deep. She relaxed her throat and took him in, all the while feeling Ryan’s gaze burning into the back of her head.

“God, darlin’, that’s so good.” Matt’s husky voice made her shiver. She loved that faint accent of his, loved the way he moved his hips as she sucked him.

She was just getting into the blowjob, enjoying the rough sounds he made, when he withdrew from her mouth and hauled her up into his lap. His warm hands snaked underneath her shirt, tugging it up and over her head. Matt’s green eyes glittered with appreciation at the sight of her bare breasts.

“You are beautiful,” he said softly.

He dipped his head and covered one nipple with his hot mouth, kissing it gently. Annabelle tilted her head to the side, watching Ryan as he watched them. She saw his pulse throbbing in his throat, his lips parted slightly as he moved his fist up and down his cock.

Matt flicked his tongue over her aching nipple, then looked up at her from under unbelievably long eyelashes. “Do you like having him watch?”

She swallowed. “Yes.”

Smiling, Matt turned his attention to her other breast, while moving one hand between her legs to cup her mound. She moaned, rubbed herself against him, cradled his head with her hands and brought him closer to her breast. Her skin was scorching hot, her mouth desert-dry. Matt gently pushed her onto her back, his big hands sliding her shorts down her legs. He tossed them aside, spread her thighs and then his tongue was on her clit. He licked her, eagerly, relentlessly, until her mind fragmented and she climaxed with a loud cry. Her eyes were wide open, locked with Ryan’s as she came from Matt’s talented machinations.

“Is he good?” Ryan murmured, still working his own erection.

She offered a breathless yes, which turned into a deep moan as Matt pushed two fingers into her and started working on her clit again.

“Do you want him to fuck you?” Ryan asked.

Another breathy yes.

“Did you hear that, O’Connor?” Ryan said. “She wants you to fuck her.”

Matt raised his head from her pussy, his eyes gleaming with amusement. “Five more minutes. I’m having far too much fun down here.”

Annabelle choked out a laugh as he continued to tease her into oblivion. He sucked on her clit, his fingers plunging in and out of her, and she came again, less than two minutes into the allocated five. Groaning, Matt lapped at her pussy, then gave her one last kiss before climbing up her body. He was bigger than Ryan, his chest massive, his thighs rock-hard as he straddled her, and there wasn’t an ounce of fat anywhere on that body of his. He was incredible.

So was Ryan, who, from the corner of her eye, she saw rise from the easy chair. A pang of disappointment, along with a spark of panic, filled her stomach. Was he leaving? He’d made such a big deal about this stupid list and—nope, he was only gone for a few seconds. He strode back into the living room, his jeans undone, his dick at full-salute, and tossed a small foil packet in Matt’s direction.

Matt caught the condom skillfully, unwrapped it, and had the thing on before Annabelle knew it. Ryan settled in his chair again, staring at her as she spread her legs for Matt, as she let his friend enter her. Annabelle gasped as Matt filled her to the hilt. This entire experience was surreal. Surreal but unbelievably hot. Made hotter by the fact that Ryan sat a few feet away, watching her with another guy on top of her, listening to her moans and the sound of Matt’s flesh slapping against hers.

“How do you like it?” Matt asked, brushing his lips over hers in a fleeting kiss. “Slow, fast, rough…I’m yours to please, Annie.”

She swallowed, aimlessly pushing up him with her lower body. “Anything. Do anything,” she squeezed out.

He grinned, then latched his mouth on hers, kissing her senseless as he pounded into her with his cock. She wrapped her arms around his strong, corded neck, holding on to him while he drove into her, again and again, but she kept her eyes open. Kept her eyes on Ryan. Pleasure began to rise in her belly, ripples of climax gathering and coiling tight, waiting to be released.

“More,” she begged, lifting her ass to take him in deeper.

“Like this,” Matt rasped, slamming into her harder.

“God…yes…like that…”

Each word was a struggle. Every muscle in her body was taut, burning with anticipation. Matt reached for one of her legs, lifting it up to his shoulder, and suddenly he was hitting a spot deep inside her that made her cry out in delight. And through it all, Ryan just watched. His blue eyes glimmering with heat, his fist tight around his cock.

Annabelle couldn’t take it anymore. It felt too good, too…good…the tension in her body snapped, a powerful orgasm exploding inside her and sizzling through each and every nerve ending. “That’s it, darlin’, come for me,” Matt said hoarsely, moving even faster. His features tightened, his green eyes a bottomless pool of pleasure, and then he let go too, his groans matching Annabelle’s as they came together.

When she finally crashed down to Earth, she found both Matt and Ryan grinning at her. And Ryan had climaxed too, wiping his stomach up with a tissue, she noticed with an odd burst of giddiness. He saw her watching, and laughed softly. “Couldn’t help myself,” he confessed.

She returned the laugh, though hers was kind of shaky. She was still stunned by what just happened. Matt gently climbed off her, his impressive chest glossy with perspiration, his mouth sporting a crooked grin. “That was…unexpected,” he finally said, starting to laugh too.

Annabelle felt strangely modest as she found her shorts and top and hurriedly got dressed. “Um, yeah…so…” her voice trailed off. What did one say in these situations anyway? Thanks for doing me, Matt? It was nice to meet you?

Fortunately, Ryan knew exactly what to say. “So, Rambo one or Rambo two?”





“I can’t believe I did that,” Annabelle murmured several hours later, as the two of them settled under the covers of Christina’s bed.

Ryan hid a smile. He was still surprised too, though from the moment he’d met her, he’d known Annabelle possessed a wild side. What did surprise him was the way he’d felt while watching his best friend screw her brains out. It hadn’t been jealousy, per se. More like…protectiveness. Matt had the tendency to be rough, and Annabelle had looked so small and vulnerable lying there. For a moment Ryan had been tempted to whisk her in his arms and tell Matt to back off, but in the end he let it happen. Annabelle needed to have fun, to let loose and realize that sex didn’t have to be so boring. He wanted to show her how good it could be when you let go. He suspected her ex didn’t let go much. The guy sounded like a total douchebag, in fact.

“You had fun, no?” he teased.

She snuggled closer, making a contented sound. “Yeah, but this is more fun. I like sleeping with you.”

“Me too,” he said, surprised by how much he meant those words. He did like it, though, holding her in his arms, listening to her soft breathing, feeling her warm breath against his bare chest.

“Ryan, can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“Why did you join the Navy?” She nestled her head against his shoulder. “I mean, you’re obviously in awesome physical shape, but it’s weird, I can’t see you taking orders. You’re so impulsive and kind of wild, and the military is so strict. I can’t picture you following the rules.”

“Why did I join the Navy…” he echoed, letting his voice trail. “Honestly? I just wanted to get the fuck away from my parents.”

“Bad childhood?” she said, sounding sympathetic.

“You could say that.” He let out a heavy breath. “Neither of them wanted me, I was a total accident, and the two of them hated each other. I don’t even know why they’re still married.”

“I’m sure they love you,” she said softly.

“Sometimes I wonder.” He swallowed. “My mother never said a nice word to me, my entire life. She’s stuck in her own miserable world, constantly whining about how terrible her life ended up. My dad just yells a lot. He never beat either of us, but I swear, sometimes I could see him thinking about it, just kicking the shit out of her so she’d stop complaining.”

Annabelle sounded horrified. “That’s awful, Ryan.”

He shrugged, and the movement sent a strand of her brown hair onto his chin. He grasped the lock of hair between his fingers, twining it gently. “It wasn’t that bad. I was your typical troublemaker as a kid, and I tried to be out of the house whenever I could. And when I was there, I learned to ignore all the yelling and bitching and drinking. We were dirt-poor, too, and kids at school constantly made fun of me for showing up in clothes with holes in them or not bringing a lunch. Don’t worry, I used to beat them up whenever they started up, and eventually they knew better.”

A sigh slipped out of his throat. “My grades weren’t that great, so college wasn’t an option—not that we had the money for it anyway—so when I turned eighteen, I enlisted.” He grinned in the darkness. “I’d always loved the water, so I figured the Navy would be the most fun of all the military branches.”

“And you became a SEAL,” she finished. “And now you go all over the world on dangerous assignments and risk getting killed.”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

She lifted her head and met his eyes. “So how does it work? You get a call telling you to pack up and then you leave the country?”

“Pretty much,” he said again. “I’m on leave for three weeks, though, all of us are, so don’t worry, I won’t be getting any late night calls.”

“Unless another one of your friends is having a baby,” she said dryly.

“Jane and Mackenzie are only in their first trimester, so I think we’re safe.”

“I like Jane. She was really cool.”

A wave of discomfort swelled in his gut. Shit. Why had he brought up Jane’s name? Just the sound of it made him cringe a little, mostly because he hated himself for these ridiculous feelings he had for the woman.

“Is something going on with you two?” Annabelle asked, her voice wary.

“Me and Jane? Of course not,” he replied. “She’s marrying my Lieutenant.”

Annabelle was quiet for a moment, and then, sounding very perceptive, she said, “You have a litt