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Feeling Hot

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Year:
2012
Publisher:
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
Language:
english
Series:
Out of Uniform 7
File:
EPUB, 309 KB
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Siv
The minute threesomes n man on man action was introduced i stopped reading..not my cuppa tea
31 August 2019 (13:34) 

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Tarzan & Jannine

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Dedication

This one’s for all the amazing people I met in Coronado this winter—Katie, Aaron, John, James and Bouts. Your knowledge was invaluable and your company an absolute delight. Thanks for putting up with all my questions, guys!





Chapter One

“Yes…yes… God, Matt! Oh, that’s good… Aidan, yes!”

Cash McCoy rearranged the monstrous bulge in his pants and tried to focus on the Chargers game blaring out of the flat screen. He’d cranked the volume full blast, but it still couldn’t drown out the sounds of sex drifting from Matt O’Connor’s bedroom. O’Connor and Rhodes had crazy stamina, and from the moans that kept slicing the air, it sounded like Matt’s girlfriend Savannah was getting worked over real nice.

Sighing, Cash shifted on the couch again. He didn’t feel an ounce of guilt over being out here in the living room, hard as a rock. Maybe if Savannah didn’t broadcast her orgasms at top volume, he could actually concentrate on the damn football game. As it was, he was distracted as hell, and kinda wondering if he ought to knock on the door and ask to join in.

Naah. Probably inappropriate.

Despite his two deployments with the team, Cash was still considered the rookie. The other SEALs had known each other for years before he’d come on board, and even though he’d technically been living with Matt for a year now, they’d been out of the country for half that time and hadn’t moved beyond the let’s-have-a-beer-and-talk-sports stage. It’d probably take a while before his new roomie felt comfortable asking Cash to participate in any three-ways, though how Matt could possibly share the luscious Savannah with anyone else boggled the mind. But apparently the sexy blonde was into it, and God knew O’Connor was up for anything when it came to sex.

“Yes!”

Cash stifled a groan—there was already too much groaning going on in this apartment.

Damn it. He was so fucking horny after listening to his roommate’s sex show for the past two hours. He supposed he could retreat to his bedroom and jack off, but he’d rather ; have someone else’s hand jacking his cock tonight.

Last time he’d gotten laid was…jeez, had it really been before the deployment to Afghanistan? While some guys managed to score a quick hookup overseas, Cash had a strict rule about not fucking around on the job, even if given a rare night off. His head was always on the mission, the objective, and sex didn’t make a blip on his radar when he was out in the field.

But damn, six months was too long to go without sex. He’d been hoping to remedy that bleak statistic when he got home, but his parents had decided to spring a spontaneous visit on him the moment he was stateside, so he’d spent the past fourteen days doing the tourist bullshit with the folks. Which upped his celibacy statistic to six months and two weeks.

Fortunately, his parents had flown back to Phoenix last night. Cash had decided to indulge in a day of rest before satisfying his sexual appetite, but now, as Savannah let out another throaty moan, he was ready to gorge himself.

Shutting off the TV, he stood up, crossed the open-concept room and headed for the kitchen where he’d left his cell phone. He scrolled through his contact list, shot a quick text to a few of his teammates, then leaned against the granite counter as he awaited a reply.

Just as an answering message buzzed in, Matt’s bedroom door swung open and Aidan Rhodes stumbled out, his brown hair tousled, cheeks flushed, and dark eyes hazy with lingering post-orgasmic bliss.

“What’s up, McCoy?” Aidan called when he caught sight of him.

Cash grinned. “Nothing much. You look tired, Rhodes. The dynamic duo wear you out?”

Groaning, Aidan buttoned the blue shirt he wore over his black wife beater. “Yep. Those two are sex maniacs.”

Cash’s phone beeped again, drawing his gaze down to the screen.

“Can’t tonight.” Well, Dylan was out.

So was Seth, who texted back, “Too hung-over to move.”

When Jackson chimed in with “Next time”, Cash tucked the phone in the back pocket of his camo pants. Looked like he was flying solo tonight.

Unless… He glanced at Aidan. “Want to check out that new bar on 5th and Market with me?”

The dark-haired man shook his head. “Maybe another time. I’ve gotta be at the base early tomorrow morning. No downtime for me, remember?”

Right. He tended to forget that Aidan wasn’t an active-duty soldier, probably because the guy was built like one. But Aidan worked on the base, doing some hush-hush intelligence stuff Cash wasn’t privy to.

“Catch you later,” Aidan said, giving a brisk nod as he let himself out of the apartment.

A moment later, Matt’s door opened once more and Savannah Harte strolled out, wearing a silky red robe that molded to her tall, centerfold figure like plastic wrap. The woman was a damn knockout with all that pale blonde hair cascading down her back and laughing gray eyes that always held a hint of seduction.

“Hey, Cash, heading out?” she asked as she waltzed past him. She buried her nose in the fridge and emerged with a can of Sprite in her hand.

“Yeah, I’m tired of being cooped up inside.”

“We weren’t being too loud, were we?”

“Couldn’t hear a thing.”

She smirked. “I know you’re lying. You’re doing that weird eyebrow twitch.”

“I do not have a weird eyebrow twitch.”

“Sure you do. Why do you think I always beat you at poker? You can’t bluff for shit.”

Matt’s southern drawl wafted out of the bedroom. “Hey, darlin’, grab me a beer while you’re out there.”

Cash lifted his brows. “You know, I’d never order you around like that.” He shot her a wolfish grin. “I think it’s time you dumped O’Connor and hooked up with me instead.”

“I can hear you, you know,” Matt yelled from the bedroom. “Stop hitting on my girlfriend, McCoy.”

Laughing, Savannah ducked behind the fridge door and grabbed a bottle of Bud. “I appreciate the offer,” she said in a mock whisper. “I’ll let you know when I tire of him, okay?”

“Deal.”

With another laugh, Savannah rounded the counter. She paused only to ruffle his hair before sauntering out of the room.

As he watched her go, he couldn’t fight the little burst of envy that rippled through him. O’Connor had really lucked out with that one.

But just because he appreciated what the other man had didn’t mean he was looking for that special someone just yet. At the moment, he was content with no-strings sex and the occasional—fine, frequent—three-way with Dylan.

Hell, he’d only turned twenty-seven last month. He still had a shitload of sexual energy to release before he settled down. Besides, he sucked ass when it came to talking to women. He knew exactly what to say to entice them out of their panties, possessed all the right words during sex, but his out-of-the-bedroom conversational skills were lacking big-time.

Good thing tonight was all about the bedroom. Or the backseat of his car. Or wherever his chosen lady wanted to get naked. At this point, he wasn’t gonna be picky.

Grinning to himself, he grabbed his car keys and headed to the front hall, where he shoved his feet into a pair of scuffed black Timberlands. He snatched a brown leather jacket from the hook by the door and shrugged it on over his T-shirt. Soft moans floated through the apartment as he reached for the doorknob. Jesus. Matt and Savannah were starting up again?

Cash’s cock started right up in response, his balls aching so badly he wondered if there was such a thing as a testicle migraine.

Christ.

He really needed to get laid tonight.





Thirty minutes later, Cash was ready to admit defeat. The Gaslamp Tavern was a total bust. He should’ve expected that from a Monday night, but he’d hoped luck would be on his side. Unfortunately, almost everyone in the bar was coupled off, and the only girl who’d looked promising turned out to be a navy groupie he had no interest in taking to bed. The brunette had been interrogating him for the past five minutes, and he was ready to tear his fucking hair out.

“Do you have any tattoos?” she demanded as she sucked on the pink straw poking out of her even pinker daiquiri.

Cash scanned his brain for an exit strategy, but he couldn’t come up with anything decent. Especially since he’d been the one to approach her in the first place. When he strode into the dimly lit bar and spotted her standing by the pool table, he’d definitely liked what he’d seen. A nice rack beneath a tight white tee, long legs encased in dark-blue denim. Great ass. Cute face. When their gazes had met across the crowded room and he’d glimpsed the unmistakable interest in her brown eyes, he’d figured he had the conquest in the bag.

Which he did. Yup, this leggy brunette would go home with him in a nanosecond.

Problem was, he didn’t want to take her home. Navy groupies were the worst of the worst. Starry-eyed and drooly, hoping to meet a real-life hero who’d sweep them off their feet—and straight to the altar. Girls like that doled out the sex freely, but once they got you in bed, they refused to go away. And that was when they thought he was just a sailor—when they found out he was a SEAL? Damned if they didn’t go full stalker on him.

“Cash?”

Polly—or was it Patty?—stared at him expectantly. Gulping down the rest of his beer, he tried to remember what she’d asked him. Right, tattoos. “Got an eagle on my back,” he said absently.

“That’s so hot. I’d love to see it.”

Not gonna happen, babe.

Cash swept his gaze around the room, searching for a way out. He and Polly were standing by the two pool tables at the far edge of the room, but he had a good view of the main floor, which featured a handful of tables, booths lining the wall, and several high counters surrounded by tall-backed stools. Unfortunately, the two chicks Patty had been hanging out with earlier had disappeared, so he couldn’t use the old your-friends-are-calling-you escape.

“I love how all you military boys have tattoos,” Polly gushed. “I’ve always wanted one but I’m scared of needles.”

“That’s too bad,” he mumbled.

His gaze strayed to the long counter against the opposite wall. He could always pretend he needed a fresh beer, then duck out of the bar before reaching the counter…but he feared his groupie would tag along and wait with him while he ordered.

“I know you probably hear this all the time, but you’re, like, a real-life hero,” Patty babbled on.

Ditto on the men’s room—she totally seemed like the kind of girl who’d offer to keep him company while he waited out that monster line.

“Wanna know a secret? When I was a little girl, I always dreamed of marrying a navy man.” Giggling, she sucked down the rest of her daiquiri.

Shit. Running out of options here. Time to resort to default mode—the phone fakeout.

Cash jerked a little, pretending to feel his phone going off. Fortunately, the loud Katy Perry song blaring out of the Tavern’s sound system masked the nonexistent vibrating of his phone.

He slid the cell out of his pocket and brought it to his ear, lifting one finger to signal Polly that he needed a minute. The one-sided conversation that ensued was one he’d perfected over the years.

“Mom? Hey, what’s up? What? Well, that’s not good. Hold on, I can’t really hear you. Let me find someplace quiet to talk…what? No, don’t do that. I’m on my way.”

He punched the end button and pasted a regretful look on his face. “My mom’s car broke down,” he told Patty.

Disappointment filled those big brown eyes. “Oh no. That’s awful.” An edge crept into her voice. “Can’t she call roadside assistance?”

Wow. Had she really just said that?

Okay, fine. So maybe he’d flat-out lied right now. But what if his mom’s car really had broken down? Would Polly seriously still expect him to get jiggy? While his poor sweet mother waited on the side of the road, a sitting duck for roadside predators?

He shook his head in mock remorse. “Sorry, babe, this real-life hero needs to come to his mother’s rescue. I’ll see you around.”

“Wait, don’t you want my phone num—”

Cash was already heading far, far away from the pool table.

But he felt Patty’s eyes burning a hole into his back like a laser, and every instinct in his body told him the chick would follow him, if only to slip her number into his hand. He picked up the pace, his gaze honing in on the door. Ten more steps and he’d be outta here.

The door swung open just as he reached it. He halted, politely waiting for two middle-aged women to stroll inside. They wore matching lemon-yellow tank tops with the words Rita’s Getting Married! sewed on with blue sequins, and they were clearly sloshed, swaying and giggling as they burst into the bar. Two more women followed the duo. Then a third. A fourth.

Sweet baby Jesus. It was like a damn clown car. Female bodies kept popping through the door, all clad in those cheesy yellow shirts that had him inwardly cursing that wretched Rita.

He snuck a peek at the pool table and saw Polly eyeing him with the kind of determination you saw on the faces of suicide bombers—set on accomplishing the task at all costs. She took a step forward.

Crap.

He tapped his foot in impatience as more women streamed into the bar. Shifting his gaze, he noticed a doorway to his right. Another glance across the room revealed that his single-minded brunette had turned to retrieve the purse she’d left on the pool table.

Without hesitation, Cash ducked into the opening he’d spotted.

He found himself in a narrow passage that boasted yet another doorway. Making a beeline for it, he burst into a small room bathed in darkness and let out a breath heavy with relief.

Thank the Lord. Now all he had to do was wait a few minutes, peek out to make sure the groupie wasn’t looking, and get the hell out of—

“I know I’m not supposed to be in here!”

Cash’s heart stopped, then took off like a runaway train. As adrenaline surged through his veins, he spun around, searching for the owner of the panicked female voice that had just knocked ten years off his life.

“I need a few more minutes and then I’ll be gone, okay?”

Squinting, he discerned a shadowy figure sitting on a cushioned loveseat on the other side of the room. “Jesus, you scared the hell out of me,” he grumbled.

As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he was better able to make out his surroundings. Small room, maybe twelve by twelve feet. A stack of dusty boxes against one wall. Metal racks.

He walked over to the little couch sandwiched between more boxes and an aluminum ladder. “What are you doing sitting alone in the dark?” he demanded, peering down at the woman.

“I’m sorry,” she said sheepishly. “I know I shouldn’t be lurking in here like a serial killer, but like I said, I’ll be gone in a minute. There’s no need to tell your manager or—”

“Relax, I don’t work here.” He expelled a sigh. “I’m hiding out too.”

“Oh. Okay then.” She awkwardly patted the cushion next to her. “You might as well sit down. Can’t promise I’ll be good company, but you’re making me nervous looming over me like that.”

After a beat of reluctance, he lowered his body onto the loveseat. Then he squinted to get a better look at his fellow hider—and realized she was beautiful. Like absolutely fucking beautiful.

Didn’t happen often, but he was stunned speechless as he let his gaze drink her in. Long waves of tousled, honey-colored hair. Big blue eyes. Delicate features and a lush mouth, pink and perfect.

Sweet Jesus.

This woman belonged on the cover of a magazine. Or maybe in a porno—one that starred the two of them and involved that sexy mouth of hers on every inch of his naked body.

His cock promptly turned to granite, voicing its approval of the dirty images that filled Cash’s head. He clenched his teeth and breathed through his nose, trying to quell the rush of hunger that flooded his groin.

“Are you done staring at me?” she asked wryly.

Done? Christ, he hadn’t even gotten started. His gaze traveled south, snagging on the full perky breasts outlined by a tight scoop-necked top, her shapely denim-covered legs, the red toenails peeking out of a pair of open-toed heels. His mental porno took a different direction, one that now featured his mouth and her naked body. Holy fuck. He’d been with his fair share of hot females, but this girl surpassed hot. She was a scorching inferno.

“You know what, Mr. Pervy Eyes? You’re not making a good first impression,” she announced.

Yup, she was right. He absolutely had a case of the Pervy Eyes. Snapping out of his lust-filled stupor, Cash wrenched his gaze off the beautiful stranger and distracted himself by glancing around the room.

“What is this place?” he asked when he noticed a pile of wooden clothes hangers cluttering the linoleum floor.

“It used to be a coatroom.”

“How do you know that?”

“I used to work here, back when this bar was a French restaurant,” she explained. “This was the coatroom.”

“Those still exist?”

“Sure. But not here obviously, since this is no longer a coatroom.”

“Stop saying coatroom.”

“Stop asking questions that require the word coatroom in their answers.”

Cash stared at her. Then he burst out laughing. Okay, he liked this chick.

“So who are you hiding from?” she asked, crossing her ankles together in a nonchalant pose.

He stifled a groan. “A potential stalker.”

“Oh, I know all about those.”

He didn’t doubt it. With those looks, she probably fended off the advances of hundreds of dudes on a daily basis.

“So you’re also dodging someone who wants to get in your pants?” he prompted.

“Other than you, you mean?”

“Funny.”

“I thought so.” She paused, as if debating whether to confide in him. “I needed to get away from my friends for a few minutes. My best friend Tessa just landed a huge promotion at the advertising agency where she works, so a group of us went out to celebrate.”

Cash raised a brow. “And you’re hiding out. Wow. You’re a really shitty friend.”

“Me? How about Tessa? She’s the one holding this let’s-gush-about-my-new-job get-together on the same day her best friend was fired.”

“You got fired?”

“Yep, but that’s the least of my problems. I also have a crazy ex to contend with.” She exhaled loudly. “Let’s just say I’ve been having a really bad month, okay?”

Cash could commiserate—his six-month sexual dry spell wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows either. “Did you like your job?” he asked, deciding not to touch the crazy ex comment.

“No. I hated it, actually. I worked as a salesgirl at a jewelry store and my boss was a total creep. He kept offering to take me to Victoria’s Secret to help me pick out lingerie. You know, in case I need a second opinion.” She blew out another frustrated breath. “But that’s not the point. The point is, I got fired. Again.”

Cash couldn’t help but laugh. “It happens to you a lot?”

“Sure does.” She slanted her head. “What line of work are you in?”

He hesitated for a beat, then said, “Security.”

Fine, he was lying again, but he’d already escaped one navy groupie tonight and he wasn’t looking for a repeat performance. Then again, this woman was so beautiful he might be willing to make an exception.

“Huh. I figured you’d say military. You give off a military vibe. I mean, look at that big, buff body of yours—it ought to be illegal.”

He didn’t miss the slight note of derision when she said the word military. “Got something against military men?” he asked lightly.

“Nope. I respect the hell out of them,” she answered. “I just don’t want to date them.”

He frowned, a part of him wanting to admit he’d lied about his job, just to see how she’d react. But she kept talking before he could get a word in. “I bet you’re good at security. Me, on the other hand? I suck at everything.”

Cash smiled. “I don’t believe that.”

“It’s true. That’s why I always get fired. School was never my thing, so I didn’t go to college. I have no interest in medicine like my mom, no distinguishable talents, no great passions. I like messing around with my camera and taking pictures, but that’s just a hobby.” Vulnerability flashed in her big blue eyes. “Do you think there’s a certain age when you should have everything figured out? Because I just turned twenty-six, and I still have no idea what I want to do with my life.”

He shrugged. “I think everyone figures stuff out at their own pace. Eventually you’ll find yourself on the right path.”

“I guess.” Her shoulders sagged. “Maybe I should get into porn. According to some creepy producer who approached me on the street, I have the ‘look’ for it.”

“You really got asked to do porn?” Well. Apparently he wasn’t the only one who could totally picture this blue-eyed beauty in his own personal naked film.

“Yes, I really did,” she said in a glum voice.

“Porn’s an admirable profession,” he said solemnly.

She pursed her lips in thought. “But my porn-star name sucks. You know how you’re supposed to take the name of your first pet and pair it with the street you grew up on? Well, our dog’s name was Boris and I grew up on Denton Street. Boris Denton. That sounds like a dictator.”

“I’m not even going to ask why you’d name your dog Boris.”

“That’s my brother’s doing.” She fired him a curious look. “What would your porn name be?”

“I don’t know. I never had any pets growing up.” He shrugged again. “Besides, I’ve been told my real name sounds like a porn name anyway, so I guess I’ve already got one.” He supplied his name before she could ask. “Cash McCoy.”

She promptly shook her head. “That’s not a porn name. That’s cowboy all the way.”

“Cowboy,” he echoed dubiously.

“Hell yeah. Or maybe an actor.” She clapped her hands together. “An actor who plays a cowboy. Can’t you see it?” Her voice deepened to mimic the movie-man voice from the previews. “One duel, one chance to avenge his pa’s murder…Cash McCoy in…High Noon Outlaw.” She grinned at him. “Maybe that’s what I should do—write the copy for movie trailers.”

“I think you should stick to porn. High Noon Outlaw sounds like the worst movie on the planet.”

As another peal of laughter left that Cupid’s bow mouth of hers, lust slammed into his groin again. Damn, her lips were so damn sexy. Pink, ripe and utterly kissable. His mouth tingled, and he had to fight the urge to lean in and press his lips to hers. He was dying to know if she tasted as sweet as she looked. The kind of noises she’d make when their tongues touched.

“Why do you keep staring at my lips?”

Sheepish, he met her eyes, which were narrowed with distrust. “I can’t help it. You have really nice lips.”

“And let me guess, they’d look even nicer wrapped around your dick.”

He choked out a laugh. “You said it, not me.”

“But you were thinking it.”

Yup, he sure was. And his cock seemed to enjoy the wicked thoughts running through Cash’s mind—the big boy was harder than a baseball bat, pushing against his zipper and begging for some attention.

“So it’s true, huh? Men really do think about sex like every other minute,” she said in a wry voice.

“Afraid so,” he confirmed.

Rolling her eyes, the blonde bombshell ran a hand through her hair, causing the scent of her shampoo to drift into his nose and wreak havoc on his senses. She smelled like cherries—man oh man, he loved cherries.

Make a move, McCoy.

His brain’s order—or had that come from his cock?—called attention to the opportunity staring him square in the eye. Here he was, sitting in the dark with a beautiful woman and an erection—why the hell was he dilly-dallying?

“You know, I just had a thought,” he drawled.

“Is that a new occurrence for you? Is your brain tingling?”

One of them is…

Cash fought a grin and slid across the couch, stopping when only a mere foot separated them. “See, you just got fired, which means you’re upset. And I’m not the kind of man who walks away when he encounters a damsel in distress.”

“Uh-huh. Go on.”

“It’s in my nature to want to ease that distress. Lucky for you, I know exactly how I can make you feel better.”

“I’m sure you do.” Her lips twitched as if she were holding back laughter. “So, pray tell, what will make me feel better?”

“A kiss.”

“Ah.” She paused. “I think I’ll pass.”

“You sure about that?”

He slid even closer, so that his thigh pressed into hers. The moment contact was made, a jolt of heat seared through his camo pants and scorched his skin. The blonde’s eyes widened at his nearness, but she didn’t scoot away. In fact, he was certain he glimpsed a flicker of desire in those baby-blues. And he’d definitely heard the hitch in her breath.

Oh, and look at that, the tip of her tongue was sweeping over her bottom lip.

Cash chuckled. “You totally want to kiss me.”

Even in the darkness, he saw the blush staining her cheeks. “I do not.”

“Yes you do. You licked your lips.”

“So?”

“So that’s a clear sign of anticipation.” His voice took on a note of pure male arrogance. “You’re dying for me to put my mouth on you. And don’t think I forgot about your big, buff body comment. You’re into me—don’t bother denying it.”

He expected her to deny it. He expected her to hop off the couch in indignation and tell him where to shove it.

What he didn’t expect?

Getting mauled.

Before he could blink, two warm hands cupped his chin and yanked his head down, and then that sexy mouth collided with his in a hard, reckless kiss.

Oh yeah. That’s what he was talkin’ about.

His pulse accelerated as she devoured his mouth. Devoured it. Everything about the kiss drove him mad with arousal. The softness of her lips, the hungry swirl of her tongue, the nip of her teeth on his bottom lip. Every inch of his body throbbed, every muscle tight with sexual tension. Those long, desperate kisses summoned a low groan from his chest, making him want to flip her onto her back and grind his aching cock into the juncture of her thighs.

Shit, it had been way too long since he’d kissed a woman, and damn it, as satisfying as it was feeling that hot mouth pressed to his, it wasn’t nearly enough.

Fingers shaking from lust overload, he stroked the graceful curve of her neck, then dropped his hands to her breasts. When he squeezed those perfect tits, she moaned into his lips and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. Spurred on by her moans, he continued to explore her petite body over her clothing, skimming his fingertips over her slender hips, her flat belly, firm thighs that clenched beneath his touch. His hands drifted back to her breasts, and he began to toy with her nipples through her shirt, his mouth flooding with saliva as he imagined sucking on those rigid buds.

“You know what, cowboy?” she murmured as she wrenched her mouth free. “I do feel better.”

She sounded surprised, embarrassed even, but he didn’t give her time to second-guess her decision to maul him. Instead, he dipped his head to kiss her again, slowly leaning into her until she lay flat on her back and his body covered hers. Groaning, he deepened the kiss, then parted her legs with his knee and ground himself into her thigh, his hips matching the frantic thrusting of his tongue.

“Oh,” she squeaked. “You’re…hard.”

“That’s what usually happens when I’m making out with a beautiful woman.” He nuzzled her neck, then licked his way up to her ear, tracing the delicate lobe with his tongue. “What about you, sweetheart? Are you wet for me?”

She moaned.

He bit on her earlobe. “Is that a yes?”

“Yes. God, yes.” Making an agitated sound, she shifted beneath him, wrapped her legs around his hips and arched her back so that he was grinding into her warm mound.

Lust fogged Cash’s brain. His erection ached, craving release. His balls drew up tight, tingling as he pumped faster, needing the contact, the relief. When she glided her hands down his back and squeezed his ass, he nearly lost it.

“Fuck,” he choked out. “I need more.”

She responded with a breathy moan that made his groin tighten with need. As his pulse shrieked like a banshee in his ears, he brought his hand to her waist and undid the button of her jeans. Screw it. So what if they were in a coatroom? So what if someone could walk in at any moment? So what if he didn’t even know her name? He was no drama queen, but he feared he might actually die if he didn’t fuck this woman. Like. Right. Now.

She made the sexiest whimpering noise he’d ever heard when his fingers dipped underneath the elastic of her lacy panties. He slid his hand inside, groaning at the first feel of her pussy. Holy hell. She was completely bare. And so very wet.

Cash rubbed her damp sex with his palm, using the heel of his hand to apply pressure to her clit.

“Oh God,” she whimpered. “Don’t stop.”

Stop? He doubted that was even possible, not when the words go, go, go pounded in his head like some kind of tribal rhythm.

He pushed one finger into her wet heat, growling when her inner muscles clenched around it. Jesus, she was tight.

“I’ve never done this before,” she said breathlessly.

Cash froze.

Holy hell. Was she a virgin?

Guilt slammed into him, along with a tug of disgust—directed at himself. He’d been so blinded by her angelic face and smoking-hot body that he’d completely ignored all the signs: her shyness, the nervous babbling, the sweet blush on her cheeks. She clearly wasn’t some vixen seductress, and he was a real asshole for not picking up on that.

Soft laughter jarred him from his self-reproach. She must have sensed where his thoughts had drifted because her eyes twinkled knowingly. “Relax. I’m not a virgin. I just meant that I’ve never fooled around with a stranger before.”

He relaxed. “Oh. Thank God. I was feeling like a total ass, thinking I was taking advantage of you.”

She rocked her hips, reminding him of the fact that his finger was still lodged deep inside her. “Nobody’s taking advantage of anyone. You promised to make me feel better, remember?”

Chuckling, he brushed his lips over hers. “Right. I’ll just get back to work then.” To punctuate that, he slipped a second finger into her, drawing a delighted cry from those sexy lips.

Their tongues tangled in a hungry kiss as he pumped his fingers in and out of that tight pussy. His heart hammered out a frantic beat, each wild thud vibrating in his groin and bringing him to a new level of sexual desperation. Excitement built inside him, hot and hungry, making his skin burn. Damn it, he needed more.

With a growl, he lowered his other hand and fumbled with his zipper. The second his jeans came undone, the blonde shoved her hand inside his boxer-briefs and encircled his cock.

A groan lodged in his chest. He thrust into her hand, literally seeing stars as she jerked his aching cock. “Yeah, that’s good,” he hissed out. “A bit faster, sweetheart.”

She jacked faster, squeezing the engorged head on each upstroke, until he felt the telltale tingling sensation in his balls. Oh shit, he was close. Too close. He distracted himself by focusing on her pleasure, feathering his thumb over her clit as his fingers worked that hot channel. Her juices coated his fingers and drenched his palm, making him groan as he imagined his cock being bathed by all that sweet honey.

“Condom,” he croaked. “We need a—”

“What the hell are you two doing?”

An outraged voice reverberated in the room, and then light flooded the small space.

Like a pair of teenagers who’d been busted by their parents, Cash and the blonde broke apart so fast he almost fell on his ass. Hands fumbled with buttons and zippers. Clothing was rearranged. After they made themselves presentable, they both shot to their feet, their guilty gazes darting in the direction of the door.

A stocky man with a bushy mustache and furious eyes stood in the doorway, shaking his head in disgust. “You two aren’t supposed to be in here.” He jabbed his finger in the air. “Both of you, out. Now. Don’t make me call the cops.”

As the man spun on his heel and stormed off, Cash stifled a wry grin. “Well. That didn’t go as planned.” His gaze dropped to his crotch, which sported a big, unhappy bulge.

Discomfort flickered in the blonde’s eyes, which were a brighter blue than he’d realized. In the light, they were the color of a clear sky, with flecks of silver around the pupils, framed by thick dark-blonde lashes.

Biting her bottom lip, she bent down to retrieve the black leather purse sitting on the floor by the couch. “I think the mustache man did us a favor, though. Sex in public is never a good idea.”

“How about sex in private?” he suggested hopefully. “My car’s parked down the street. We could—”

She cut him off. “I’m here with friends, remember? And I already feel like a jerk for disappearing this long. I should probably go back out there and put on my celebration face before Tessa un-friends me.”

He swallowed his disappointment. Wow. The universe really didn’t like him tonight.

“Trust me, you’re dodging a bullet, cowboy,” she added with a sigh. “You don’t want to get involved with me. My life is a total mess right now, and I’m not usually this fun and spontaneous. I’m a total space cadet—seriously, I spend way too much time daydreaming. And let’s face it, I’m weird. Nobody gets my sense of humor. I’m super forgetful—I have to leave notes all over my apartment just so I remember to do things, like eat, or breathe. Oh, and I babble a lot, in case you haven’t noticed.” She gave a firm nod. “So yeah, you’re totally dodging a bullet.”

Cash smiled. Damned if that speech didn’t make him like her even more.

“Maybe I’m not a dodging kind of guy,” he said, raising his brows in challenge. “Maybe I’m the man who jumps in front of bullets.”

“Well, then you’re even weirder than I am.” She took a step toward the door.

“Can I at least get your number?” he called after her.

She stopped. “Are you actually going to call? Because with those looks, I bet you collect a lot of numbers.”

“I’ll call,” he promised. A grin lifted his lips. “I think we’d be doing each other a disservice if we didn’t finish what we started.”

She pursed her lips for a moment, indecision creasing her beautiful features. After a beat, she reached into her purse and rummaged around, pulling out a scrap of paper and a pen. He watched the dainty movements of her hand as she scribbled something, and resisted doing a little victory dance.

Clicking her pen, she walked over and handed him the paper. “Here.”

Cash glanced at the phone number, wincing when he saw that she’d also scrawled her name on the paper. Jeez, he really was a manwhore, huh? Getting the woman’s name after he nearly slept with her.

“Jen,” he said sheepishly. “Nice to meet you, Jen.”

“Pleasure was all mine, cowboy.” That cute blush returned to her flawless cheeks. “So, um, yeah, call me.”

With that, she strolled out of the room, leaving him grinning like a goofy idiot. Damn, he couldn’t wait to see her again.

Cash waited a few seconds before exiting the coatroom. Thankfully, the navy groupie didn’t pop out of nowhere and ambush him.

He found himself whistling softly as he left the bar. He clutched Jen’s phone number in his hand like it was a trophy, wishing they’d finished what they’d started but at the same time happy they hadn’t settled for a hurried lay in a public bar. He wanted more than a fully clothed quickie. He wanted her naked in his bed, while his mouth and hands and cock explored every inch of her X-rated body.

So yeah, he’d left the house with a hard-on and would be going home with one, but surely he could survive one more day. First thing tomorrow, he’d call Jen and arrange for a repeat performance of tonight—one that wouldn’t get interrupted.

Feeling rejuvenated, Cash strode down the sidewalk with a spring to his step. It was raining, but the cool droplets sliding down his face didn’t dampen his mood. Neither did the sudden downpour that soaked him to the bone by the time he reached his Ford Escape. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had so much fun with a woman.

He clicked the key remote to unlock the SUV, slid into the driver’s seat and started the engine. As he flicked on the windshield wipers, he tossed the crumpled paper with Jen’s number in the cup holder, still grinning to himself.

His good mood followed him all the way to the apartment complex.

But it didn’t last.

Nope, because after he’d parked the car and reached for the paper to smooth it out, he realized that the rain had done more than drench his clothes—it had smeared all the ink on that important scrap of paper. Transformed it from a phone number to a streaky smudge of black that resembled a damn Rorschach test.

Jen’s number was gone.

And so was any chance of seeing her again.





Chapter Two

“Not one word,” Jennifer Scott announced as she and her brother entered her apartment.

Carson followed her to the living room, then stood in front of her secondhand plaid-patterned couch and opened his mouth.

“Not. One. Word,” she growled.

He must have sensed she meant business, because after a moment, he lowered his six-foot frame on the sofa and sighed. But he didn’t speak. Nope, he just sat there and watched her pace like a madwoman.

“Look, I know you think I’m a screw-up, but this isn’t my fault,” she muttered as she made tracks in the frayed light-blue carpet. “Do you think I enjoy being stalked? I had no idea Brendan was a maniac, okay? He didn’t exactly advertise that on our first date—‘Hey, guess what, Jen, I’m actually a clingy nut job.’” She huffed out a miserable breath. “He seemed like a good guy, Carson. A normal investment banker who bought his mother a locket for her birthday—a heart-shaped locket. And he put both their pictures in it! It was the sweetest thing ever.”

Carson opened his mouth again but she whipped up her hand to silence him.

“Yeah, I know. He probably goes around the city to various jewelry stores and buys hundreds of lockets to lure unsuspecting salesgirls into going out with him. I guess I’m just a gullible idiot, right?”

“Jenny—”

“And please don’t lecture me about losing my job at Arnold’s. I know I can’t claim to be the poster child for holding a job, but this time it wasn’t my fault. Brendan showed up and caused a scene. I’m not sure I even blame Mr. Arnold for firing me. I wouldn’t want a crazy person frequenting my place of business either.”

“Jenny—”

“So fine, Carson, you’re right. I’m a screw-up. I got involved with a lunatic and I’m unsuccessful in life. Just get it over with and have me committed or something.”

Her rant died off, leaving her feeling not only exhausted but humiliated. She was so tired of being the family fuck-up. The one member of the Scott clan who couldn’t hold it together.

Swallowing a lump of bitterness, she flopped down next to her brother and fought the sting of tears.

After a second, Carson’s arm wrapped around her shoulders. “I don’t think any of this is your fault,” he said softly. “All I was going to say, before you rudely told me to shut up, was are you okay?”

She blinked. “Really?”

“Really. Look, I know I rag on you a lot, but that’s because I’m your big brother. That’s the kind of shit we do.” He firmly grasped her chin with one callused hand and forced eye contact. “I don’t think you’re an idiot for getting involved with Brendan. Hell, I hung out with the guy for an entire afternoon when he came over to Mom and Dad’s for brunch, and I didn’t get a psycho vibe from him either. Does that make me an idiot?”

“Yes,” she said glumly. “You’re a SEAL. Your instincts are supposed to be spot-on.”

“You’ve got great instincts too, sis. Brendan was just a good actor. He had us all fooled.” Carson shrugged. “As for the job thing, you wouldn’t have to worry about getting fired all the time if you took Mom up on her offer. She’ll pay your way through nursing school. All you’ve gotta do is say yes.”

Jen’s jaw tensed. “I don’t want to be a nurse.”

“Why not? It’s a great gig. Solid pay, benefits, job security.”

“Bedpans, blood, ornery patients…”

She trailed off, knowing that no matter what she said, Carson wouldn’t get it. No one in her family understood why she hadn’t gone into nursing like her mother, or enlisted in the navy like her dad and brother. Well, blood made her squeamish and violence made her nervous. End of story.

Unfortunately, her parents were incapable of accepting that she might not be good at—or passionate about—the same things they were.

Unlike Carson, who was good at frickin’ everything. A decorated soldier, a husband, her parents’ Golden Boy. Even his man-slut past didn’t reduce him in their parents’ eyes. Their dad laughed it off as “boys will be boys”, while their mom simply chuckled in that “oh, you” manner whenever anyone—well, Jen—reminded her that Carson’s life used to be a revolving door of women.

Now that Carson was married to Holly, his star shone even brighter. Jen loved her sister-in-law to death, but come on, would it kill Holly to be a little less perfect? The chick wasn’t only a talented chef, but she was smart as hell, cute as a button, and probably the funniest person on the planet.

And then there was Jen. Little Jenny, who had no ambition, no serious boyfriend, and no self-control when it came to shoe stores. She was twenty-six years old, yet everyone in her family treated her like an inept five-year-old who couldn’t make smart decisions.

That’s why she’d been so happy when she’d met Brendan. He had a successful career, money in the bank, a practical head on his shoulders. She knew he’d impressed the hell out of her parents when she’d introduced him, and for the four months they’d been together, Jen had been pretty damn happy.

Until she discovered Brendan had a case of the crazies.

“My unemployment status isn’t my main concern right now,” she said tersely. “How am I going to tell Mom and Dad about Brendan?”

“I can tell them if you want,” Carson offered. “But that’s not important right now either. We need to take measures to make sure this asshole doesn’t come after you again.”

“I just filed a restraining order,” she reminded him, gesturing to the manila envelope she’d tossed on the glass coffee table. “He won’t risk violating it.”

“This guy is nuts. Of course he’d risk it.” Carson paused. “When is his work transfer thing happening?”

“Three weeks.”

And thank God for that. Brendan’s transfer to his firm’s Oakland office had been the reason she’d broken up with him. On the surface, anyway. His clingy behavior was what really triggered her inner alarm system, but when he’d told her about his impending move, he’d provided her with the perfect exit strategy. Brendan, however, had wanted them to keep seeing each other long-distance. When she’d refused, he’d gone bat-ass crazy on her, proceeding to give all those cinematic stalker creepshows a run for their money.

“Are we sure he wasn’t lying?” Carson asked sharply.

“He wasn’t. I helped him pack up his apartment. Oh, and we ran into one of his colleagues when we went out for dinner last month, and the two of them were talking about the transfer.”

“So in three weeks, Psycho McGee will be gone.”

“Glory hallelujah.”

“Did you join a Baptist church when I was overseas? Forget it, don’t answer that. Knowing you, you probably did. Anyway, we need to make sure he stays away from you until then.”

“My super had the locks changed this morning, and I won’t leave the apartment unless I’m with somebody.”

“Not good enough.”

A warning bell chimed in her head. “What does that mean?”

Without answering, Carson gave her shoulder one last squeeze before getting to his feet. “I’ve gotta go. I wanted to stop by the restaurant to surprise Holly for lunch.”

As he strode toward the door, Jen shot off the couch and hurried after him. “What did you mean by not good enough, Carson? What are you planning and why do I get the feeling it’s going to annoy the shit out of me?”

Shooting her a saccharine smile, Carson reached out to ruffle her hair, a gesture that never failed to aggravate her. “Don’t you worry your pretty little head, Jenny. I’ll make sure nothing happens to you.” He reached for the doorknob. “Lock up behind me.”

Stifling a sigh, Jen watched her brother go, then flicked the deadbolt and locked the chain. She couldn’t shake the feeling that Carson was about to add a little more misery to her already miserable life. He’d always been incredibly overprotective of her, just like their dad. But what else could she expect? When you were related to a retired admiral and an active-duty SEAL, macho posturing was a fact of life.

Her shoulders felt heavier than stone as she went to the kitchen and poured herself a glass of water. She kind of wished it was a shot of whiskey, but she wasn’t much of a drinker, and besides, no amount of alcohol could improve her mood.

When had everything become such a mess? She’d lost her job, her love life had turned into Fatal Attraction, her brother had snapped into alpha-male caveman mode, her parents would probably lecture her for falling for a psycho.

And to make matters worse, her sexy stranger hadn’t called, even though it had been two days since she’d given him her number.

You’re better off. This isn’t the time for a new relationship.

Yeah, that was probably true. Adding a new complication to the mix would undoubtedly lead to disaster, but even knowing that, she couldn’t help but feel a spark of disappointment.

She’d really enjoyed that encounter with Cash McCoy at the Tavern. The conversation, the laughter, the hot make-out and groping session. After being on edge for the past month, looking over her shoulder expecting Brendan to pop out of the shadows, it had been nice to let loose and flirt with a hot guy.

And kiss a hot guy.

And almost have sex with a hot guy.

Just the memory of those piercing blue eyes and chiseled male-model features made her pulse speed up. Hands down, Cash McCoy was the sexiest man she’d ever met. She shivered, remembering the feel of his hard chest against her breasts. The thick ridge of arousal pressing into her thigh. The firmness of his lips and greedy thrust of his tongue.

Jen gulped down the rest of her water, suddenly feeling parched. She didn’t normally fool around with complete strangers, but Cash had unleashed some kind of primal urge inside her. The urge to fuck him senseless.

If they hadn’t been interrupted, she knew without a doubt that senseless fucking would’ve definitely been on the agenda.

And she would’ve loved every second of it.

“You’re such a little slut,” she mumbled to herself.

She couldn’t help but laugh. Ha. Hardly. Truth was, she was the furthest thing from slutty. She wasn’t a virgin, but she hadn’t sown any wild oats either. Which sucked, because sowing some oats sounded unbelievably appealing to her.

Unfortunately, she’d yet to meet a man who was interested in helping her explore her sexuality. Her past boyfriends had treated her with kid gloves, like she was a fragile object that would break if they got too rough. They’d seen her as a pretty little blonde they needed to protect, but she didn’t want a protector. She wanted hungry kisses and husky demands, a man so desperate to get her naked and screw her brains out that he didn’t bother with the when or where or how—he wanted her now and he’d damn well take her.

She’d experienced that with Cash in the brief moments they’d spent together.

Fighting a rush of frustration, she slammed her drinking glass in the sink, then marched out of her tiny kitchen, crossed the tiny living room and entered her tiny bedroom. Running motif of her apartment? Tiny. It was all she could afford on her wages, but this one-bedroom flat sure beat living under her parents’ roof. Their constant lectures and relentless nagging were detrimental to her sanity.

She froze in the middle of her bedroom as a terrifying thought struck her. Now that she’d lost her job at Arnold’s, she might actually have no choice but to move back home. She had enough money saved to pay a few more months of rent, but after that?

“Don’t think about it,” she mumbled, banishing the scary notion.

Squaring her shoulders, she approached the weathered wooden desk sitting beneath the small window that offered a stunning view of the brick wall belonging to the building next door. Her camera bag sat on the desk, and as she slung the strap over her shoulder, the familiar weight of the bag and the Nikon digital SLR it housed brought a sense of tranquility.

Her camera was the one thing guaranteed to soothe her soul. Whenever she peered through the lens of a camera, she felt so confident, so utterly in control. Everything else seemed to melt away—the problems, the stress, the bullshit bogging her down. Taking pictures had always been her means for escape, and at the moment, she needed to escape. Big time.

However, she’d promised Carson she wouldn’t venture out of the apartment unless it was absolutely necessary, which meant she’d have to make do with taking pictures from the balcony.

As she left the bedroom, Jen tried convincing herself that everything would be fine. She’d find a new job. She’d be rid of Brendan once he left San Diego—and until then, the restraining order would keep him in line. And if Cash didn’t call, then no biggie.

She would be just fine.

Still, that didn’t stop her mind from drifting back to the blue-eyed charmer who’d almost rocked her world two nights ago. She wondered what he was doing right now. Probably working, though she wasn’t sure what “security” entailed. He’d been pretty vague about it. Was he a security guard? A bouncer? Sitting in an office right now, designing security software or something?

Or maybe he had the day off and was at home at this very moment, bored, restless—and not thinking about calling her. She’d given him her number in the hope that they could continue exploring the spark burning between them, but evidently Cash hadn’t felt the same combustible chemistry.

Too bad. Considering she’d be housebound for a while, it would’ve been nice to pass the time with her dark-haired hottie.

“You’re missing out, McCoy,” she murmured as she stepped out on the small balcony that overlooked the quiet street below.

Yep, he was totally missing out. With the way her life was going right now, she would’ve jumped at the chance for some hot, sweaty, forget-about-your-problems sex. He wouldn’t even have to buy her dinner—that’s how much of a sure thing she was.

But oh well. He clearly didn’t plan on calling her.

Apparently he had better things to do.





“That’s it, babe, suck my cock. Ah, just like that.”

Cash pushed his erection deeper into the brunette’s mouth. Her teeth scraped the underside of his shaft, sending a zip of heat to his balls. Sweet baby Jesus, he’d needed this. A hot mouth surrounding him, wet tongue lapping him up, soft fingers teasing his sac.

The girl bobbed her head as she got into the blowjob, sucking with such fervor Cash found his ass bumping into the arm of the couch. He hadn’t wasted any time once he’d walked into Dylan Wade’s living room and found the luscious Vanessa on her knees, servicing his buddy. Clothes had come off, positions had switched, and now Cash was on the receiving end of that wicked tongue while Dylan screwed Vanessa from behind.

By some miracle, he hadn’t come the second she took him in her mouth. After six months with no sex, he’d figured he’d explode like a Fourth of July firecracker if a woman so much as looked at his dick.

The sounds of sex bounced off the walls—sucking, slurping, moans, grunts. Dylan’s roommate Seth had gone out for the evening, but even if he walked in right this very moment, Cash knew the sexy brunette wouldn’t balk. She hadn’t even batted an eye when Cash showed up, more than willing to take on both SEALs.

“Fuck, you’re so tight,” Dylan muttered, gripping Vanessa’s ass as he fucked her with slow, steady strokes. “So sweet. I love this hot, tight pussy.”

His buddy’s hips thrust and retreated, each plunge pushing Vanessa’s face into Cash’s crotch. He cradled the back of her head to steady her, groaning as her eager mouth sucked him so deep his balls tickled her chin. The tingling in his groin told him he was close, and he squeezed his eyes shut, trying to ward off impending release. He didn’t want to come yet, not until he was buried inside that tight channel Dylan kept waxing poetic about.

“Slower, babe,” Cash choked out. He tangled his fingers in her long, silky hair and stilled her enthusiastic bobbing. “I want this to last.”

She slowed down, tickling the head of his cock with her tongue. While her lazy mouth tended to his dick, one hand teased his balls, rolling them between her fingers, fondling, squeezing. She kept her other hand on the hardwood floor to brace herself.

Dylan’s bare chest gleamed with sweat as he drove into the place Cash was dying to be, but Cash could afford to be patient considering his buddy had expended all the effort in wining and dining the delicious Vanessa before bringing her home. Then again, it probably hadn’t taken much effort. All Dylan had to do was bat those green eyes, offer a dimpled grin, and the chicks lined up for a chance to get with the man.

“You want to come, don’t you, honey?” Dylan teased. He slowed the pace and rolled his hips into the brunette’s ass.

“Yes,” she burst out, the sound sending tremors up Cash’s shaft.

Dylan reached one arm around and brought his hand between her legs. Cash knew the moment his buddy’s fingers found her clit, because she reared her ass like a filly in heat and moaned against Cash’s erection.

Didn’t take long until she started to orgasm, and before he could make a preemptive withdrawal, Dylan had already yanked the girl’s mouth off Cash’s dick. “Easy there,” he drawled. “No biting, honey. Cash plans on using that cock of his again after tonight.”

As Vanessa recovered from her climax, Cash sank to his knees, positioned her so she was draped over his chest, and slid his hand between her legs. He took over for his friend, rubbing her pussy and huskily urging her to another orgasm while Dylan pumped into her.

A groan sliced through the air as Dylan began to come, followed by Vanessa’s delighted cry as she came again. Cash rode out the orgasm with the duo, stroking that swollen clit, kissing her neck, watching as Dylan rested his forehead between Vanessa’s shoulder blades and shuddered with release.

The pair finally went still, Dylan’s green eyes glazed as he pulled out. Vanessa sagged into Cash’s chest. Her tongue darted out to briefly taste one of his nipples and then she lifted her head, those brown eyes hazy with desire. “I want you in me,” she said in a breathy voice.

She didn’t have to ask him twice.

He donned a condom, then took her hand and led her to the couch. The cushions bounced as she got on her back. A second later, Cash covered her body with his and plunged into her with one fluid stroke.

And then his cell phone rang.

He froze.

So did Dylan, who stood in the middle of the room, ditching his condom.

“You gonna get that?” Vanessa asked, looking annoyed that he’d stopped midthrust.

When a second ringtone didn’t join the first, both men relaxed.

Cash bent down to plant a kiss on her lips. “Naah. If we had to report in, both our phones would’ve gone off.”

“You’re good to go, McCoy. Resume the fucking,” Dylan drawled.

Ignoring the smartass remark, Cash brushed his lips over Vanessa’s and rocked his hips as he eased back into a nice, languid rhythm. Watching her brown eyes grow misty with pleasure, he realized just how pretty she was. High cheekbones, pouty lips, smooth olive-toned skin. She wasn’t as beautiful as Jen, but—

Uncool, bro.

Shit, what was he doing, thinking about another woman right now?

And why had his erection hardened to a whole new level the moment Jen’s face floated into his mind?

“Faster. God, I need it faster.”

Swallowing, he forced himself to focus on the woman beneath him, who was bumping her pelvis into his groin, trying to deepen the contact. He withdrew completely, slammed back in to the hilt, and gave the lady what she wanted. Hard, fast strokes guaranteed to drive them both over the edge.

It didn’t take long before he was coming in a hot, boiling rush. He shortened his strokes and dug his fingers into her hips as the orgasm burned through his body like wildfire. When Vanessa let out a throaty cry and clenched her inner muscles over him, the fire burned hotter, making his balls ache with exquisite agony.

Fuck, he’d needed that.

Once the pleasure finally ebbed, Cash caught his breath and gently pulled out. The haze of satisfaction fogging Vanessa’s eyes brought a jolt of matching satisfaction to his gut. He might not have given her his full attention by the end, but at least he’d gotten her off again. He still felt shitty, though, for tastelessly thinking about Jen during that one inappropriate moment. Vanessa didn’t deserve that.

Fortunately, Dylan was considering her feelings for the both of them. As Cash removed the condom and staggered to his feet, Dylan quickly took his place, launching himself at Vanessa, making her laugh as he nuzzled her neck and whispered something in her ear.

Sighing, Cash stalked naked across the living room to the spot on the floor where he’d ditched his pants.

It really fucking sucked, losing Jen’s number. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had that much fun with a woman. He’d been dying to see her ever since they’d parted ways at the Gaslamp Tavern two days ago, but he had no idea how to track her down.

You can’t. Deal with it.

Resignation fluttered through him and settled in his gut. Yeah, he really had to put Jen out of his mind. The chances of seeing her again were pretty much nonexistent, and as much as that sucked, he needed to face the facts.

With a weary exhale, he fished his cell phone from one of the many pockets of his cargo pants. A moan caught his attention, and his gaze drifted to Dylan and Vanessa, who were still tangled together on the couch. Gripping the back of Dylan’s blond head, Vanessa held him in place as he kissed her breasts. Dylan’s mouth latched onto one dusky nipple, and he made a little growling sound of approval as he suckled her.

Despite his frustrated mood, Cash’s body responded to the scene in front of him.

“Ready for round two or are you heading out?” his buddy called when he caught Cash looking.

“Round two. Let me just check my messages.”

He glanced at his phone, cursing when he noticed the missed call flashing on the screen. Carson Scott. Shit, why was the lieutenant calling him? Did they have plans he’d forgotten about?

He was just punching in the code for his voice mail when the phone vibrated in his hand. Text message coming in. From…Carson Scott.

Frowning, Cash opened the message. Wariness crept up his spine as he skimmed the terse note.

NEED TO TALK. IMPORTANT. MY PLACE—NOW.

Well, okay then. That didn’t sound good. And all caps? Definitely important.

He shot back a quick text saying he was on his way, then cast a rueful look in the direction of the couch, where Vanessa now lay on her back, legs spread wide. Kneeling on the floor, Dylan had his head buried between her thighs, and from the throaty purring noises she kept making, she was clearly enjoying everything Dylan was doing.

So much for round two.

“Actually, I gotta go,” Cash announced.

Dylan lifted his head long enough to mumble, “See you later,” then resumed feasting.

Lucky bastard.

Stifling a sigh, Cash got dressed, grabbed his keys and headed out the door.





Chapter Three

“Hey, man, thanks for coming over.” Carson gestured for Cash to enter the apartment.

As Cash stepped inside, he experienced a sense of disorientation. He’d been to Carson’s place a dozen times, for poker games and whatnot, but something felt off tonight. It took him a moment to realize that it was the smell. Or lack thereof. Every time he’d been here, Carson’s wife had been cooking up a storm, thrilled to use her husband’s teammates as guinea pigs for whatever recipe she happened to be experimenting with.

“Where’s Holly?” he asked, shooting his commanding officer a quizzical look.

Carson’s jaw tensed. “She’s crashing at her sister’s tonight.”

He didn’t elaborate, and Cash didn’t push. But damn, he hoped there wasn’t trouble in paradise. Carson and Holly were the most rock-solid couple he’d ever met, and so well suited for one another it was almost disgusting. They’d been together for five years, married for two, and every time Cash saw them, he experienced a raw pang of envy. They were so at ease with each other, on the same wavelength in every conceivable way, something Cash had never experienced with a woman.

The girls he’d dated accused him of being too blunt, too detached, too selfish. It grated, because he truly didn’t see himself as any of those things. Sure, maybe he didn’t always know the right thing to say, maybe he didn’t understand all those mind games females liked to play, but that didn’t make him a shitty person, did it?

Pushing aside his troubling thoughts, he followed Carson into the living room and settled on the couch, while Carson disappeared into the kitchen to grab them some beers. He returned a minute later, handed Cash a bottle of Bud Light and sank into the leather recliner opposite the couch.

“So listen, I need a favor,” Carson began, his blue eyes crinkling with discomfort.

Cash furrowed his brows. “Sounds ominous.”

“Not really. It’s just… Fuck, my sister drives me crazy sometimes. You won’t believe the trouble she winds up in.”

“Your sister? The favor has to do with her?”

“Yeah. See, she’s got this psycho ex-boyfriend.” Carson’s mouth flattened. “Well, more like a stalker.”

“Your sister has a stalker.”

“I know, right? Sounds really fucking dumb when you say it out loud. But it’s not a joke. This guy is a total creep. She broke up with him about a month ago, but he refuses to leave her alone. I actually went to the police station with her this morning to file a restraining order.”

Shit. That sounded bad.

“What’d he do?” Cash narrowed his eyes. “Did the asshole get physical?”

Carson’s cheeks hollowed, as if he were grinding his teeth together. “Son of a bitch manhandled her outside a club. She managed to get in a cab and hightail it home, but the next day, Psycho McGee shows up at her store with flowers. She says thanks but no thanks, asshole, but he doesn’t stop there. Starts sending her creepy texts and emails, along the lines of if I can’t have you, no one else will.”

“Fuck.”

“Fuck is right. She changed her number and blocked his email address, hoping that if she keeps ignoring him he’ll give up. But then last night, she comes home from work and finds rose petals all over her fucking bed. Apparently he figured out where she hides the spare key and let himself in—and before you ask, yes, she had the locks changed. Anyway, Psycho McGee left another note with the rose petals. Some real sicko shit.” Carson shook his head. “I’m worried a restraining order isn’t going to stop the guy, that he’ll come after her again, except this time, he really won’t take no for an answer.”

“So what do you need from me?” he asked slowly.

“I want you to keep an eye on her.”

Cash blinked. “What?”

“The psycho’s office is transferring him to Oakland so he’ll be leaving town soon, but until then, I don’t want my sister to be alone. She’ll come stay with you for a few weeks—”

“Wait, what?”

Carson shot him an impatient look. “Should I slow down and talk in words you understand?”

“Yes,” he grumbled. “What do you mean, your sister’s coming to stay with me?”

“I can’t leave her all alone in her apartment, not while this guy is still around. I’d let her stay with Holly and me, but—” Carson paused, looking vaguely embarrassed, “—but it’s not a good time, okay? And I can’t stay at Jenny’s and leave Holly here by herself.”

“Don’t you have parents?”

He knew he sounded like a whiny brat, but come on, he wasn’t in the mood to babysit Carson’s sister. He didn’t go back on duty for a few more weeks, and he’d been looking forward to the downtime.

“She won’t go for it,” Carson said with a sigh. “My parents give her a lot of shit, and there’s no way she’ll agree to stay with them. Besides, I’d like her to be around someone who can protect her in case Psycho McGee shows up and gets violent.”

Great, this just got better and better. Babysitter and bodyguard.

“I already spoke to Matt and he agreed to give up his room for the next few weeks. He’ll stay at Savannah’s.”

Cash stifled a groan. Looked like the lieutenant had it all planned out. Would’ve been nice if Cash had had a say in the matter before Carson decided to rearrange his life.

He quickly scanned his brain for another option, one that didn’t involve spending the rest of his vacation babysitting. “She can stay with Seth and Dylan,” he suggested. “They have a spare room.”

“And send my baby sister into the lion’s den?” Carson looked horrified. “No way. I know the kind of shit that goes on there. Not that I’m knocking the lifestyle—I was all about the fun and games before I met Holly. But those guys give a whole new meaning to the word player.” He paused. “Well, so do you, but I figured you’re probably not as bad as the tag-teamers.”

Uh… Cash decided not to mention what he’d been doing before he’d been so rudely interrupted.

Instead, he tossed out another suggestion. “Jackson’s got an empty room too…”

“Yeah, and the second he gets my sister in it, he’ll turn up the Texan charm and have her out of her clothes in five seconds flat.” The lieutenant shrugged. “You’re the lesser of four evils, man. And I know you’re planning on going to Officer Candidate School first chance you get, so…”

So you’d be a fool to deflower my sweet virgin sister and risk a bad recommendation from me, was Carson’s unspoken warning.

Wow. He really wasn’t getting out of this, was he?

“It’ll only be for three weeks,” Carson said, clearly picking up on his hesitation. “You don’t have to entertain her or prepare home-cooked meals or any of that shit. Just tag along if she needs to go somewhere and make sure she’s safe. That’s all.”

That’s all? He wanted to point out that having a houseguest pretty much guaranteed he wouldn’t be getting laid for the next month but he suspected Carson valued his sister’s safety over Cash’s sex life.

And wow, didn’t that make him a total jackass, Cash realized as he registered where his thoughts had drifted. Was he really bitching about the lack of sex he’d get when some poor girl was being terrorized by a stalker?

As everything shifted into perspective, he let out a resigned breath, knowing he couldn’t refuse the request. Carson never asked him for anything, and the man had taken Cash under his wing once he’d joined the team. Invites to dinner, poker night, the mini-golf tourney Carson and his buddies held every month. Carson had done a helluva lot to welcome him to the fold.

“Okay,” he agreed. “I’ll keep an eye on your sister.”

Relief flooded the other man’s face. “Thanks, man. I’ll drop her off tomorrow morning.”

Cash took a swig of beer, then set the bottle on the coffee table and eyed the flat screen. “Wanna catch the NFL highlights?”

Carson reached for the remote. “Sure.” But rather than turn on the TV, he fixed Cash with a deadly look. “One more thing I forgot to mention.”

“Yeah?”

“Keep your hands off my sister.”

Cash frowned. “I wasn’t planning on—”

“I’m serious. You touch her, and I’ll drown you. Your building’s got a pool in the back, so I won’t have to go far.”

He had to laugh. “You’ll drown me? That’s the most creative death you can come up with?”

“I’m in the navy. I do my best work in the water.” Those blue eyes glittered with menace. “And don’t think I’m kidding, McCoy. Touch my little sister, and you’re a dead man. She’s off-limits.”

Brrr. The temperature in the room had dipped below the freezing mark, and from the look on his lieutenant’s face, Cash didn’t doubt the dude meant business.

With a pleasant smile, Carson clicked a button on the remote. “What’ll it be? ESPN or SportsCenter?”





Sitting in the passenger seat of Carson’s Range Rover, Jen resisted the urge to reach over the center console and strangle her brother to death. She was beyond furious, but he’d been pretending not to notice the steam rolling out of her ears as they’d driven in complete silence.

Up ahead, a low-rise apartment building came into view. Seven stories or so, it boasted a sleek gray exterior, balconies with wrought-iron railings, and colorful flowerbeds lining the lush lawn out front. It was much nicer than her building, but that didn’t make this situation any less annoying.

With an overly pleasant smile, Carson pulled over by the curb and killed the engine. “We’re here.”

She shot him a stony glare.

“Come on, Jenny, stop with the silent treatment already. You know this is a good idea.”

Right, because being blackmailed into staying with a complete stranger was a splendid idea. She couldn’t believe she was letting Carson call the shots like this, but the alternative he’d posed was even worse; he’d threatened to tell their parents that her life was in danger, which wasn’t only an exaggeration but also a surefire way to get her locked up in the family panic room for the next month. If the admiral believed his little girl was even in the slightest bit of danger, he’d throw her over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry and march her all the way back to the family homestead in Del Mar.

Jen loved her parents—she really, truly did—but the two of them drove her absolutely crazy. No way could she survive living under their roof again.

So Carson’s “solution”, as much as it aggravated her, was clearly the better option.

Didn’t mean she had to be happy about it, though.

“How do you know Brendan didn’t follow us here?” she asked in a last-ditch effort to derail her brother’s plan. “Maybe he’s been watching my apartment, tailed us and ruined your cunning scheme to keep me hidden. In that case, I might as well go back to my place.”

Carson smirked. “Do you honestly think I didn’t keep an eye out for a tail? Trust me, we weren’t followed.”

“Fine.” She pursed her lips. “But what if Brendan does show up, and this rookie you’re sticking me with drops the ball? What if he gets, uh, rookie freeze-up syndrome or something?”

Now her brother rumbled out a full-blown laugh. “Rookie freeze-up syndrome? I like it. Remind me to accuse one of the guys of having that.”

“I’m serious, Carson.”

“So am I. And trust me,” he said again, “Cash has mad skills. He won’t let anything happen to you.”

Jen froze as the name registered in her head.

No, she must have heard wrong.

And if she’d heard right, then that didn’t mean the Cash he’d referred to was the same one she’d met at the Tavern. Her Cash worked in security, or at least that’s what he’d told her. Unless he’d lied… But why would he? If he was a SEAL, why not just tell her?

Yeah, had to be a different man. Maybe the name Cash was more common than she’d thought. People were naming their kids all sorts of weird things these days—maybe Cash topped one of those Most Popular Baby Names lists, along with Apple and Potato and every other bizarre moniker.

Jen put on her most nonchalant tone. “Cash? That’s the guy you’re dumping me off on?”

“Yeah. Cash McCoy.”

McCoy.

Crap. It was him.

Annoyance rippled through her as she realized that he had lied about what he did for a living, but the irritation couldn’t mask the rush of heat that flooded her belly as she grasped what this meant. She’d be playing house with her sexy cowboy for the next three weeks.

“How come I’ve never met him?” she asked suspiciously. “And if he’s such a good guy, why wasn’t he at your birthday party?”

“Because his parents were in town and they had tickets to a show. He came over the next night for beers.”

“Oh.”

Jen suddenly felt queasy. Did Cash know she was going to be his new houseguest? She hadn’t told him her last name, and knowing Carson, he’d referred to her as Jenny-Pie or some other juvenile name when he’d told Cash about her. Chances were, the guy was in for the surprise of his life.

As panic jolted through her, Jen got ready to blurt out a protest, but apparently Carson was done talking. He threw open the driver’s door and slid out of the SUV, rounding the vehicle to get her bags out of the trunk.

She stayed rooted in her seat, her heart lurching. She couldn’t spend the next few weeks with Cash McCoy. Maybe if he’d called, things would be different, but looking into his sexy blue eyes and drooling over that spectacular body, all the while knowing he wasn’t interested? That would suck.

And the icing on the cake? He was military. She had a firm rule about military men: don’t date one.

Who says you have to date him?

True. She could always just fuck his brains out.

Except he clearly wasn’t interested in doing that, seeing as he hadn’t called.

A sharp rap on the window jarred her from her thoughts. She turned to see Carson’s exasperated face peering into the half-open window. “Out of the car, Jenny.”

She opened her mouth, nearly confessing that she already knew Cash. But she stopped herself at the last second. Shit. She couldn’t tell her brother about the night at the Tavern. Not only did it make her look like the slut of the century, but it suddenly occurred to her that if she did tell Carson she knew Cash, he might scrap this whole houseguest plan and act on his threat of involving their parents.

Another knock sounded on the window.

“I’m getting annoyed,” he announced.

Sighing, Jen got out of the car. “I doubt you’re as annoyed as I am.”

Her brother’s blue eyes softened. “I’m just trying to look out for you. Maybe I’m overreacting, seeing a threat where I shouldn’t, but I won’t take chances with your safety. Until Brendan is gone, I refuse to leave you unprotected.”

An arrow of guilt pierced her chest. Carson sounded so genuinely concerned that she felt like an ass for the way she’d bitched at him all morning. “I know. I’m sorry I’m being such a brat.”

“’S’all good. I’m used to your brattiness.”

He reached out and tugged on the end of her ponytail, the way he’d always done when they were kids, and Jen couldn’t help but smile. As infuriating as Carson could be, he was still her big brother and she loved him something fierce. Besides, as much as she didn’t want to admit it, he was right. She didn’t feel safe. She’d been on edge ever since Brendan started playing these sick games with her, and although she wasn’t convinced her ex would actually cross the line from creepy to violent, she’d definitely breathe easier once he left town.

“Come on, let’s go in,” Carson said, linking his arm through hers.

Jen’s anxiety returned once they entered the building. She wondered how Cash would react when he saw her. If he even remembered her. A guy as good looking as him probably hooked up with ten girls a night. What if she’d just been another one of his faceless conquests?

Lugging her bags, Carson crossed the small, clean lobby toward the stairwell door. “Cash and Matt are on the second floor,” he told her. “But Matt’ll be staying with his girlfriend while you’re here.”

When they reached the second floor landing, Carson led her to a door at the very end of the hall. “Oh, and Ryan and Annabelle live upstairs,” he went on. “So if you want to do any girlie things, just call Annabelle. You met her, right?”

Jen nodded. Although she’d yet to meet her brother’s newer teammates, she knew most of the older ones well, along with their wives and girlfriends. Out of all the women, Annabelle Holmes was her favorite. They’d gone out for dinner a few times, and she’d hung out with the sarcastic brunette at Carson’s thirty-fourth birthday party last month, so it was a relief knowing that Annabelle would be nearby.

“By the way, I told Mom and Dad that your apartment is being fumigated,” Carson added. “So if they call, tell them you were overrun with ants.”

“Ants? That’s what you came up with?”

He shrugged. “First thing that popped into my head.”

They reached the door, which Carson opened without bothering to knock first. “McCoy,” he called. “Come say hi to Jenny.”

She cringed. Of course, he just had to refer to her by the name she hadn’t used since grade school.

As Carson dropped her two huge suitcases on the hardwood floor with a thump, Jen examined her surroundings. The apartment looked like a typical bachelor pad—no surprise there. It featured an open-concept layout, with a spacious living room boasting a black leather couch, two big armchairs, a flat screen mounted on the wall, and an entertainment system that screamed man cave. A small kitchen with stainless-steel appliances and an eat-in counter took up the other side of the room, next to a dining area with a big glass table and a shelf lined with an assortment of beer glasses. Her gaze flicked to the corridor in the back, which she deduced led to the bedrooms.

When footsteps thudded from the vicinity of that corridor, her pulse kicked up a notch, then took off in a mad sprint at Cash’s appearance.

Oh boy. He was as gorgeous as she remembered. Actually, even more gorgeous, because instead of a leather jacket, today he wore a black T-shirt that clung to his massive chest and revealed his bulging biceps. Jeez, he had great arms. Tanned, sinewy, roped with muscle. The kind of arms you wanted pinning you down while those trim hips pumped into you.

The rest of him was equally appealing. Long legs encased in camo pants, strong jaw dusted with stubble, black-brown hair cut in a short military style. Her nipples tightened involuntarily, her core clenching at the sight of all that manly goodness. Lord, the man was sexy as hell.

And shocked as hell, judging by the way those piercing blue eyes widened when he spotted her. Recognition splashed across his face, and his voice came out in a startled rasp. “Oh. Hi.”

She met his gaze, her mouth drier than a desert. “Hi.”

Carson swung his head from her to Cash. “Do you two know each other?”

After a moment of hesitation, during which Jen transmitted a silent warning with her eyes, Cash visibly swallowed and turned to her brother. “No. I was just…I, ah…” He stuck out a hand in her direction. “It’s nice to meet you, Jenny.”

“Jen,” she corrected, moving forward to shake his hand.

The second their palms touched, heat seared into her like a bolt of lightning, spreading through her body and warming every inch of her skin. Their gazes locked again, and the fire inside her burned hotter. Desire pulsed in her veins, making her dizzy and breathless. Holy mother of God. She craved this man on a basic, carnal level she hadn’t known existed.

Sucking in a breath, she jerked her hand back. Touching him was too big a temptation. It only intensified the crazy urge to strip him naked.

“So we’re all cool with this, right?” Carson spoke, oblivious to the tension hanging in the room. “Jenny will stay here until Psycho McGee leaves town?”

Cash’s blue eyes rested on her before turning to Carson. “Yeah, it’s cool. Matt’s room is all ready.”

“Good.” Carson focused on her. “Jenny?”

She sighed. “It’s fine. But only until Brendan is gone.”

Carson nodded in agreement, then picked up her suitcases. “I’ll put these in Matt’s room.”

The second her brother disappeared, Jen cast a slightly embarrassed look in Cash’s direction. “I had no idea you were the one I was coming to stay with.”

“I figured,” he said wryly.

An awkward silence settled between them, bringing a jolt of annoyance. She hadn’t expected him to greet her with a passionate kiss or anything, but did he have to look so unhappy? As he fidgeted with his hands, his chiseled features creasing with discomfort, her self-esteem took a couple of hits. Couldn’t he at least pretend to be pleased to see her?

“Jen—” he started, only to be interrupted by Carson, who sauntered back into the living room as if he had no care in the world.

Well, of course he didn’t. He wasn’t the one who had to spend the next three weeks with someone who wanted nothing to do with him. Oh no. Carson just got to drop her off, leave her in the clutches of the man she’d almost fucked, and be on his merry way.

“You’re all set,” Carson said. “I guess I’ll head out now.”

Panic flitted through her. “Now?”

“Don’t worry. McCoy will take good care of you.” He frowned as he turned to his teammate. “Remember what I said—she doesn’t leave the house unless someone is with her. You, preferably, but any of the other guys are acceptable alternatives. Annabelle and Holly, too, since they’ve taken self-defense classes. But not Savannah—I don’t want her corrupting my little sister.”

Jen waved her hand around. “Hello? I’m right here, you know. Quit talking about me like I’m a five-year-old.”

As usual, Carson ignored her. “And make sure she stays away from her usual haunts. Psycho McGee might be lurking around, waiting for her to show up.”

“Got it,” Cash said with a nod.

“Good. Okay, I’m out.” Her brother didn’t rumple her hair again, probably because he could see the murder in her eyes, but he did lean in and plant a loud smack of a kiss on her cheek. “Don’t give Cash any trouble.”

He strode toward the door, then paused to shoot Cash a sharp look over his shoulder. “And remember what I said, McCoy. There’s a pool right downstairs.”

After Carson left, another silence fell over the room. Smothering a sigh, Jen studied Cash’s face, wishing she could make sense of that indescribable expression. He obviously wasn’t happy to see her, but she refused to spend the next three weeks tiptoeing around without clearing the air between them.

Her brows puckered into a deep frown as the silence dragged on. Finally, unable to stand it, she crossed her arms and said, “So why didn’t you call?”





Cash couldn’t fucking believe Jen was actually here. In his apartment. Standing right in front of him. Three steps and she’d be close enough to kiss. Twenty steps and they could be in his bed. Naked.

She’s Carson’s sister.

Despite the warning bells in his head, he couldn’t tear his gaze off her. Those tight-fitting jeans of hers were damn sexy, but the rest of her outfit was cute and girlie. Bright yellow T-shirt. A pair of flip-flops with yellow daisies on the toes. Her blonde hair was tied in a low ponytail, and she wore no makeup except for shiny pink lip gloss.

Cash gulped. Fuck, he wanted to kiss the gloss right off those sexy lips. To slide his hand underneath the hem of her shirt and stroke her smooth, tanned flesh. Squeeze that firm ass. Undo her ponytail and tangle his fingers through all that golden hair.

Jeez, there were so many things he wanted to do to this woman he didn’t even know which one to focus on.

But…he’d promised her brother he wouldn’t touch her.

Jen’s blue eyes darkened with displeasure. “You’re just going to avoid the question?”

He blinked out of his trance. “What?”

“Why didn’t you call? Not that I cried about it or anything, but I’m curious, especially since you gave me that whole speech about finishing what we started.”

“I lost your number,” he admitted.

She looked dubious.

“Well, technically, the rain washed your number away.” He shook his head in aggravation. “Trust me, I wasn’t too happy about that.”

Her expression relaxed. “So you really planned on calling?”

“I told you I would,” he said gruffly.

“Okay. Next question—why did you lie about your job?”

Discomfort curled around his spine. “Some women go a little nuts when they find out I’m a SEAL,” he confessed. “Like the chick I was hiding from that night. So I don’t always advertise what I do.” He shrugged sheepishly. “Sometimes I like knowing that the woman I’m with actually wants me for me, you know?”

She sighed. “I don’t like being lied to, but I get it. I’ve watched girls throw themselves at my brother for years all because he’s a SEAL.”

They both went quiet again.

Cash raked a hand through his hair, wanting to kick something. Fuck. The universe really did hate him. Here he was, standing in front of the woman he’d been fantasizing about for days, and he wasn’t allowed to touch her.

“Why do you look so pissed off?”

Her weary voice drew him from his thoughts. “I’m not pissed, I’m frustrated.”

“Why?”

He bit back a groan. “Because I really want to kiss you right now.”

Those blue eyes widened. “Oh.” She swallowed. “I probably wouldn’t mind if you did.”

He chuckled. “Probably?”

“Fine. I wouldn’t mind at all.”

Their eyes locked. The air between them sizzled.

The groan he’d been holding slipped out as he remembered how good her lips had felt pressed against his own. How sweet she’d tasted.

Jen took a timid step forward.

He took a speedy step back.

“But I can’t,” he said flatly. “We can’t get involved, Jen.”

She frowned. “May I ask why?”

“Because I promised your brother I wouldn’t.”

Her jaw fell open. “Are you joking?”

“I wish I was, but I’m dead serious. Carson made it crystal clear that I’m to keep my hands off you.”

She laughed in disbelief. “And I don’t get a say in it?”

Oh boy. Annoyance and anger had stained her cheeks red and her eyes glittered like bright blue diamonds. She looked really fucking hot when she was pissed off. Then again, it was probably impossible for her to not look hot. Hell, she turned him on by breathing.

Fuckin’ universe.

Clenching his fists at his sides, Cash cursed under his breath. “I know, okay? This sucks. Three days ago, I wanted nothing more than to tear your clothes off and—well, and you know. But three days ago, you were Jen, the amazing woman I met at the Tavern.”

She huffed out a breath. “I’m still Jen.”

“Yeah—Jen, Carson’s sister,” he said unhappily. “Which means you’re off-limits now.”

She arched one blonde eyebrow. “You’re seriously going to blow me off because you’re scared of my brother?”

“Yes. And I ain’t too manly to admit it—your brother scares the shit outta me.”

“Wow.” She shook her head in amazement. “You’re breaking up with me and we weren’t even dating.”

He narrowed his eyes as a thought occurred to him. “As I recall, you said you don’t date military men.”

“Date them? No. But I’m not averse to sleeping with them.” She smiled faintly. “Come on, cowboy, you know you want to.”

Hell. He was in hell. No, scratch that—he was in the Garden of fucking Eden and Jen was standing before him, dangling the forbidden apple under his nose.

Cash licked his suddenly dry lips. “I can’t. I promised Carson I’d behave. In case you haven’t noticed, he’s ridiculously protective when it comes to you.”

“He’s overprotective. And just because he’s my brother doesn’t mean he can dictate who I spend time with.” She went quiet for a beat. “So Carson gets to dictate your life too now?”

“It’s guy code,” he muttered. “You don’t mess around with your friend’s sister, especially when that friend tells you not to. And especially when that friend isn’t just a friend, but also your lieutenant. I made him a promise, Jen.”

“You kind of already broke it. We almost had sex in a coatroom, remember?”

His cock twitched at the memory. He briefly closed his eyes, then opened them to pin her with a firm stare. “I promised Carson to behave,” he repeated. “And I’m a man of my word.”

She smirked. “You really think we can live together and be able to keep our hands off each other?”

No.

He dismissed that deviant burst of cynicism and gathered up some willpower. Jesus. He was a grown man—surely he could respect his friend’s wishes and keep his goddamn pants zipped. Jen might be appealing as hell, but he’d met her only three days ago. His friendship with Carson trumped three measly days.

Steeling himself against her mocking blue eyes, Cash smirked right back at her. “I’ve got great discipline, sweetheart. I think I can keep my hormones under control.”

“Really.” She slanted her head. “What if I told you I like to walk around naked?”

The appealing image caused saliva to fill his mouth. Swallowing, he crossed his arms over his chest. “Then I’d politely ask you to put on some clothes.”

“What if I sleepwalk in the middle of the night—naked—and wind up in your bed?”

“Then I’d carry you to your bed, tuck you in, and go back to my room.”

“What if I want to sit in the living room and watch porn? Naked,” she added.

He shrugged. “I’d read a book in my room until you’re done, then come out and watch football.”

She looked frazzled. “You sound very confident in your ability to resist my charms.”

“Discipline,” he reiterated.

“Is that a challenge?”

Aw, hell. This entire discussion was treading on dangerous territory.

“I won’t deny I’m attracted to you, but I won’t act on the attraction. That doesn’t mean we can’t be friends, though.”

Friends? Christ, he was grasping at straws here. His dick was so hard it had started to tent in his pants, and Jen’s gaze, of course, immediately dropped to his crotch.

“Friends,” she echoed, her eyes twinkling.

He willed his erection to subside. “Why don’t I show you to your room?” he suggested, desperate for a distraction. “You can unpack, and then maybe we’ll grab some lunch or something.” AKA, get the hell out of the apartment before he jumped her bones.

Her mouth tightened in a resigned line. “Fine. I’ll unpack. But I don’t want lunch. I’m kind of pissed off and the only thing that’ll improve my mood right now is Choctastic Verryberry Swirl.”

He gave her a blank stare.

“It’s an ice cream flavor,” she muttered. “There’s a place a few blocks from here that sells it.”

“You want to go out for ice cream,” he said, perplexed.

“Yes.” Those delicate eyebrows lifted in another challenge. “That’s what friends do, no? Go out for ice cream, have a friendly conversation, walk down the sidewalk while keeping a respectable friend distance between each other.”

“Yeah, I guess that’s what friends do,” he said lightly. “Come on, your new room awaits.”

They were two steps to the hallway when his cell phone rang. Sliding it out of his pocket, he glanced at the display and saw Dylan’s number flashing on the screen.

He was about to ignore the call, but Jen stopped him. “Answer it. I think I can manage unpacking by myself.”

Frustration gathered in his chest as she flounced off. With a sigh, he brought the phone to his ear and said, “Hey, man. Now’s really not a good time.”

“Why? Are you washing your hair?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing.”

Dylan laughed. “Seriously, why do you sound so weird?”

“I’m about to take my new houseguest out for some Choctastic Verryberry Swirl.”

“I don’t know what that means. Is that a code?” Dylan paused. “Are you being held hostage and this is your way of signaling me? Blink twice for yes.”

“How’s that going to work? You can’t see me, asshole.” Cash shook his head, unable to contain his amusement. Life was never boring with Dylan Wade around. “And I’m not being held hostage. I really am going out for ice cream with my new roomie.”

“O’Connor moved out?”

“Short-term. He’s giving up his room so Carson’s sister has a place to stay.”

“The LT’s sister is staying with you?” Dylan sounded mystified. “Why?”

“Long story.” He shot a quick look at the empty hallway, then lowered his voice. “This is bad, man. Like really, really bad.”

“Oh, I get it—total cockblock, huh? You can’t exactly bring chicks home and parade them in front of the LT’s sister.” Dylan made a sympathetic noise. “And speaking of chicks, did you ever find that girl’s number? The one you met at the bar this week?”

A hysterical laugh bubbled in his throat. “It’s her.”

“It’s who?”

“Carson’s sister. She’s the girl from the bar.”

A beat of silence, and then his friend began to laugh. “Seriously?”

“Seriously,” Cash said glumly.

“That’s awesome. See, I told you everything would work itself out.”

“This isn’t awesome. It’s a total fucking disaster.”

“Uh, didn’t you tell me how badly you wanted to hook up with her?” Dylan reminded him. “And now she’s crashing at your place. Dude. Forget about the ice cream and have sex with her instead.”

“I can’t.”

“Okay, I have to ask this again—are you being held hostage? This whole conversation is confusing me.”

“I can’t sleep with her. Carson said she’s off-limits.” He sighed. “The threat of drowning may have been involved too.”

A soft whistle filled the line. “The LT threatened to drown you?”

“Yep.” Cash chewed on the inside of his cheek. “But he was yanking my chain, right? He probably wouldn’t care if I hooked up with his sister, right?”

“No, he really will kill you,” Dylan said matter-of-factly. “Trust me. One time he caught me flirting with Holly and threatened to clock me if I ever did it again. But you know me, I totally did it again. It took two weeks for the swelling in my eye to go down.”

“Wait, you got that shiner from Carson? You told us some loser sucker-punched you at a bar.”

“I lied.” Dylan’s normally lazy voice turned serious. “If Carson said hands-off, then listen to him. You know what they say about playing with fire…”

“Yeah, yeah, you get burned.”

“No, you get drowned.” With a hearty laugh, Dylan hung up.





Chapter Four

Un-freaking-believable.

Jen snuck a sidelong look at Cash as he parked his black Ford Escape at the curb in front of the ice cream parlor. The entire car ride over, he’d been making idle conversation and acting like they were nothing but a pair of buddies going out for ice cream.

It was disconcerting to realize that he hadn’t been kidding about keeping things platonic between them. Not that she was some sex-crazed nympho who couldn’t keep her pants on, but come on. Their chemistry at the Tavern had nearly set the place on fire. And she hadn’t missed that tent situation under his pants earlier—an entire Boy Scout troop could’ve camped under there.

At least he wasn’t denying the chemistry between them. His admission that he desired her had been a definite ego boost…until he’d announced that he wouldn’t be acting on that attraction.

Because of her brother.

And you’re surprised because…?

True. Why was she surprised? Carson had been doing the whole macho big-brother bullshit her entire life. He’d scared away more potential boyfriends than she could count. He’d ruined her first kiss by bursting onto the porch, pulling Ben Sampson off her mid-liplock, and ordering Ben to keep his tongue in his own mouth. And who could forget prom night, when Carson guaranteed she wouldn’t lose her virginity by informing her date of all the ways he could kill a man thanks to his military training.

And then when she’d finally lost her virginity to Kyle Parker, Carson was the one who sent Kyle running by giving him a speech about condoms and threatening to drown him if he knocked her up.

To drown him. Who threatened to drown people, for Pete’s sake?

And now her brother had gotten to Cash, the only man who’d ever managed to arouse her by merely breathing. His military status squashed any notion of something long lasting between them, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t indulge in a little fling as long as they were living together. She got the feeling that sleeping with Cash would be a whole new experience, an introduction to the kind of sex she’d always craved—wild, passionate, uninhibited. But Carson had officially thrown yet another wrench in her love life.

“So you weren’t kidding the other day when you mentioned a crazy ex,” Cash remarked.

“I never kid about stalkers,” she answered with a sigh.

A bell dinged as they walked through the door of the ice cream parlor. Jen made a beeline for the counter and ordered without glancing at the menu posted on the wall. “Two scoops of Choctastic Verryberry Swirl in a waffle cone,” she told the pimply-faced kid who greeted her. “And a to-go gallon of the same flavor.”

Cash whistled. “As your friend, I should warn you that all that ice cream can’t be good for your figure.”

She bestowed him a sweet smile. “As the woman you refuse to sleep with, I should tell you that my figure is none of your concern.”

The kid behind the counter coughed and averted his eyes. “Um. What can I get you?” he asked Cash in a squeaky pubescent voice.

“Double scoop of rocky road. Waffle cone.”

After they paid for their cones and stepped outside, Jen headed for the wooden bench out front, but Cash took her arm and led her back to the SUV. “We’ll sit in the car,” he announced.

“We can’t eat ice cream in your air-conditioned car, cowboy. You’re supposed to eat ice cream outside, where it’s hot and sunny so the cold ice cream hits the spot.”

Unfazed, he dragged her to the passenger door. “Considering your knowledge of obscure ice cream flavors, you probably come to this place a lot. Which means Psycho McGee probably knows that. Which means he might be lurking in the bushes. Ergo, get in the frickin’ car.”

Lord, his hand felt like a steel band around her forearm. This man was strong.

More than a little annoyed at being manhandled, Jen reluctantly got in the SUV, frowning when Cash slammed her door and rounded the vehicle. He slid in next to her without a word and focused on his waffle cone.

Her gaze followed the movements of his tongue. Gosh, look at him go. Lick. Swirl. Flick. Her thighs clenched together as she imagined that tongue working between her legs with that same focused precision.

Plop.

She squeaked when something cold landed between her breasts. Great. Her ice cream was melting.

A second later, Cash shoved a paper napkin in her direction.

Shrugging away his hand, Jen curved her lips in an impish smile. “I got it.” Then she dipped her finger into her cleavage, swiped at the ice cream and brought that finger to her mouth.

Cash made a hissing sound as she licked her finger clean.

“So out of curiosity, how many female friends do you have?” she asked.

His expression turned stony. “None. How many stalkers do you have?”

“Just the one,” she said cheerfully, then licked the side of her cone before another drop of melting ice cream slid off.

From the corner of her eye, she saw that the tables had turned. Cash was now watching her, those vivid blue eyes glued to her mouth. Deciding to milk it for all she was worth, she licked her ice cream until she heard that sexy little hissing sound again.

She met his eyes. “Everything okay?”

“Yes,” he said stiffly. “So…uh…how’d you hook up with Psycho McGee anyway?”

“He came into my store to buy his mother a locket.” She lapped at the top of her cone, then rubbed her lips over the cold cream. “Gosh, this is so good. Wanna taste?”

Licking her lips, she stuck out her cone.

Cash stared at it as if it carried the Ebola virus. “No thanks.”

“Suit yourself,” she said, shrugging as she went back to diligent licking.

The temperature in the SUV spiked. The sound of crunching filled the air as Cash polished off his cone with impressive speed. The second he swallowed the last bite, he wiped his hands and mouth with a napkin and abruptly started the engine.

“That was fun,” he said in an overly cheerful voice. “We should do this again sometime.”

She rolled her eyes as he practically burned rubber pulling away from the curb. So he didn’t enjoy a little harmless teasing. Too bad, because he deserved it. It bugged her how he could so easily give in to her brother’s demands. That he was actually willing to shove her in the friend zone all because his commanding officer told him to.

As frustration boiled in her belly, Jen focused on her cone, wishing that she weren’t so damn attracted to the man sitting beside her. But he was just so…sexy. And he smelled terrific—the scent of his woodsy aftershave kept wafting into her nose and giving her a head rush.

“Four months,” Cash finally said, bringing the conversation back to Brendan. “When did you realize he was nuts?”

“After he started texting me every hour.” She shook her head, the arousal plaguing her body fizzling as memories of Brendan crept in. “And if I didn’t respond, he’d call and demand to know where I was and what I was doing.”

“Sounds fun.”

“Yeah, real fun. Clingy and possessive are deal-breakers for me when it comes to relationships.”

“No kidding.”

“Once he showed me that side of himself, I knew I had to end it, and when he told me he was being transferred, it gave me the perfect opportunity to break it off. He tried convincing me to have a long-distance relationship, but I held my ground and told him it was over.”

“And he didn’t take it too well,” Cash filled in.

“Nope. He caused a huge scene at the restaurant, cursing and yelling, which was embarrassing as hell, by the way. I figured he’d cool down in a few days and get over it, but he didn’t. He started sending me long, desperate emails, texts pleading with me for another chance. He had flowers delivered to my apartment every day for a week. Finally I called him and told him to stop, making it clear that it was over.” She sighed. “He didn’t like that one bit.”

Cash’s jaw went stiff as he said, “Carson said he attacked you.”

“He grabbed me,” she admitted. “I was at a club with my friend Tessa and he followed us there. When we were leaving, Tessa was on the sidewalk hailing a cab, and Brendan just appeared out of nowhere. He grabbed my arm and begged me for another chance, and when I told him to leave me alone, he shook my shoulders and started yelling.” She couldn’t help but grin. “I kicked him in the balls and dove into the cab.”

“Good girl.” Cash’s blue eyes glimmered with approval.

“And I spent the night at Tessa’s. That sweet cabbie actually walked us to her door and made sure we locked it after him.”

She popped the last piece of waffle cone into her mouth and chewed slowly. “The next day, Brendan showed up at the jewelry store with flowers and apologized. I told him for the hundredth time that it was really over, and he seemed to accept it. But he kept up with the emails and texts, which only got angrier and creepier. Then he started leaving me handwritten notes in my mailbox.” Her chest tightened with anger. “But the last straw was breaking into my apartment. Did Carson tell you about the rose petals?”

Cash nodded.

“How freaking creepy is that?” she burst out.

She still remembered the fear shuddering through her veins when she’d walked through the door and found that trail of crimson petals. Rather than following it to her bedroom, she’d raced into the kitchen and grabbed a butcher knife. Then she’d called the cops and her brother, and waited out in the hall until help arrived. Fortunately, the apartment had been empty, save for the roses and the chilling note Brendan had left on her pillow. She ended up spending the night with Carson and her sister-in-law, and the next morning, Carson drove her to the s