Delta Force Book 1 – Lexie and Mike

Delta Force Book 1 – Lexie and Mike

Release Date: May 1, 2020

Delta Force Book 1 - Mike ARC Copy

Lexie Martin has a secret! A secret that she’s hidden from everyone. But Colonel Mike Cain, Delta Force Team Commander, is extremely good at discovering secrets. It’s his job, his mission. So when he discovers that Lexie is hiding something, Mike is determined to unveil her secrets. But when he finds out what she’s hiding, he’s…stunned!

Lexie is unable to resist the uber sexy Army Colonel. Mike is big and strong and enticing. But would he understand her secret? Or would he laugh at her? She’s revealed her secret to others in the past and had come away humiliated. Was Mike different? She trusts him with her body, but can she trust him with her heart?

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Chapter 1

 

“What can I get you guys?” Lexie asked, smothering another yawn.  It was only about eight o’clock and she had many more hours to go before the bar closed for the night. 

“Just a pitcher of beer,” one of the men replied.

The deep, sexy voice startled Lexie and she looked up…into the darkest, most amazing eyes she’d ever seen.  Dark, sexy eyes that perfectly matched the man’s low, husky voice!  Oh my, she mentally whispered. 

“And four glasses.”

Oh, if she could bottle that voice, she thought.  She could…a dark eyebrow went up and Lexie realized that she’d been staring. 

“Right!” 

Lexie pulled her eyes away from Mr. Sexy Eyes.  “Pitcher of beer and four glasses.  Do you want Miller, Coors or…?”

“You have Blue Moon on draft, right?”

She had to smother a sigh as his wonderful voice sent shivers of happiness throughout her whole body.  Blinking, she pulled her gaze away from the man and stared at…something.  She wasn’t sure what but was just relieved that she wasn’t staring at the man any longer. 

Nodding, feeling weird for her fan-girl staring-blip, she stepped back from the table.  “Yep.  A pitcher of Blue Moon coming up.”  Turning on her heel, she walked away from the table, weaving her way through the bar that was mostly filled with men.  It was eight o’clock on a Friday night.  Living near a military base was a bit different than living in other cities.  It was a bit dirtier.  A bit louder.  And a whole lot more male.  This was one of the nicer bars in the small town situated just outside of the base, but no one would mistake it for The Ritz. 

Walking towards the bar, she realized that she had no idea what the guy looked like other than his eyes.  Thinking to rectify that, she moved behind the bar where she could spy on the table more surreptitiously. 

“Hey, Tim.  I’ll get this,” she told the manager. 

Tim walked over to grab several more glasses, looking more than slightly frazzled. “It’s a bit crazy tonight,” he grumbled. 

As she positioned the plastic pitcher underneath the Blue Moon draft nozzle, Lexie moved her eyes over the crowd, pretending to be casual, but her main goal was to find the guy at the corner table and see what he looked like.  One table at a time, she let her eyes move past until…!

“Wow!” she whispered.

Instantly alert, Tim followed her gaze. “What?  Is there a problem?”

Georgia, one of the other waitresses, came behind the bar to grab several more beers.  “Who are the hot guys over at the corner table?” she asked, sounding a bit breathless. 

Georgia and Lexie were friends, but at that moment, Lexie could have scratched the woman’s eyes out!  She wanted to swat the woman’s face and tell her to stop looking at her man but…but she couldn’t pull her eyes away from the big guy sitting in the corner, his chair tilted back slightly on the back two legs and…and he stared right back at her.  Stared at her as if he knew exactly how she was undressing him!  Wow!

“Watch it!” Tim snapped at Lexie. 

The liquid on her hands was the first clue that Lexie wasn’t paying attention.  Jerking back to the present, she looked down to realize that the pitcher had filled up and was now running over the edge. 

“Oh!” and she jerked the tap back into place, hastily grabbing a bar towel to clean up her mess.  “Darn it!” she muttered.  “Sorry Tim.”

“Don’t worry about it,” he grumbled, and reached over to pour two more beers while she wiped up the spilled beer.

Lexie tossed the wet towel into the bin to be washed that night, grabbed four chilled beer mugs and hefted the pitcher with her other hand.  Taking in a deep breath, she headed towards the table again, bracing herself and hoping she didn’t feel so…wowed…this time.

“Here you go, gentlemen,” she called out, pasting a smile on her features as she set the pitcher of beer down in the middle of the table.  She’d moved to the opposite side from the big guy with the dark eyes and deep voice, needing the space.  But as she pulled back, her eyes glanced up at him and…sure enough, he was staring right back at her, a knowing look in those incredible eyes. 

The other three men said something, but Lexie couldn’t hear their comments.  Wiping her hands on her apron, she muttered something that she prayed was intelligible, then backed away, almost tripping over a chair behind her.  Righting herself, she glanced over her shoulder and…darn it, he was still watching her!

Thankfully, there wasn’t a look of amusement in his eyes.  Curiosity, yes.  Interest?  Well, Lexie couldn’t really say because she wouldn’t look back up at him.

Moving over to the other tables assigned to her that night, she took several more orders, checked in with the others and then moved back to the bar to fill the newest requests.

“What’s his name?” Georgia asked.

Lexie jumped about a foot in the air and Georgia pulled back, her eyes wide. 

“Sorry!” Lexie called out, putting a hand on her chest.  “You just scared me for a moment.”

“Ditto, honey!” Georgia laughed.  They both reached for glasses and started making the drinks for their customers.  “So what’s his name?”

Lexie didn’t even look up from her mixing.  She grabbed the vodka bottle, the gin and the mixers.  “I don’t know.”

“Why don’t you ask?”

“Because I don’t care,” she asserted and grabbed the bourbon, looked at it, forcing her mind to remember the orders her customers’ had requested, and then put the bourbon back.  With a shake of her head, she finished preparing the various drinks, poured five more mugs of beer, setting all of the drinks on her tray. 

“You care,” Georgia laughed, doing the same routine for her tables, although Georgia was faster about her mixing than Lexie today.  Normally, both of them were extremely fast and efficient, getting the drinks mixed in record time.  Sometimes, they even competed with each other, just to make the night go by a bit faster. 

“I don’t,” she grumbled with a smile, then hefted the tray in her hands, lifting it over her shoulder and carrying it through the increasingly dense crowd of patrons in the bar.  At this time of the night, there were mostly men here, military men and women who had drifted in at the end of a hard week of training.  The civilian ladies would show up soon, but they preferred to arrive a bit later.  The military guys had already been drinking and were more generous with their offers and their compliments. 

In other bars, there would also be arguments and fist fights that might or might not be broken up by the local police or the military police depending on the severity. 

This bar was, thankfully, more tame than the others.  But that didn’t mean it didn’t have its problems.  

“At least the boys are behaving tonight,” Georgia muttered as she sidled up beside Lexie later that evening. 

Lexie laughed.  “So far!”

They both chuckled, grabbed their fresh beers and moved back to their tables to deliver the latest round of drinks.

It was about eleven o’clock that night when Lexie was feeling pretty happy about the evening.  The tips were good, the customers were behaving and the music was loud, and so far, no one had chosen the more obnoxious songs on the juke box. 

That’s when she spotted the ladies coming into the bar and mentally groaned.  Obviously, Georgia saw them as well and walked over to where Lexie was working.  “Oh no,” she muttered, looking grim and Lexie understood.

“I’m with ya,” Lexie replied.  “Think it will be…” She stopped speaking when the four ladies in question, ladies that showed up pretty much every weekend, spotted the four men in the corner.  Her men, Lexie thought with rising jealousy. 

“They’re after your guys,” Georgia hissed with increasing anger.  “Should I run some interference?”

Lexie stiffened, not wanting anyone to know how she felt about the four men sitting at the corner table.  She looked away, not wanting to see those four woman approaching the table that…well that table. “No.  Why would you do that?”

Georgia’s only reaction was to roll her eyes before picking up her tray of drinks and moving off to deliver them to her patrons. 

 

Mike watched the pretty waitress, wondering what it was about her that kept drawing his eyes towards her.  Besides her figure, which was an obvious allure, he thought.  And her cute features.  The brown hair was pulled up into a pony tail that hung down to about her shoulders.  He suspected that she blue eyes, although he wasn’t sure in the dim lighting of the bar.  But every time she walked away, his eyes were drawn to her legs.  The woman had great legs!  They were currently encased in a tight pair of jeans that hugged every one of her luscious curves.  Since she was in charge of serving about ten tables, Mike was able to enjoy her walking away pretty much all the time. 

The pitcher of beer they’d ordered a while ago was now empty and he looked around, trying to spot the pretty woman.  But instead, his eyes collided with a brash blond woman in a tight, red dress and way too much red lipstick.  Her hair was curled and primped so that it was huge!  It was similar to what the women in the eighties might have pulled off!  Lots of makeup, skin tight red dress, huge earrings that dangled down to her shoulders and…he shuddered with horror…a determined, man-eater look to her eyes that were laser focused on him. 

“Oh boy,” he muttered in disgust.  His comment garnered the attention of his friends and teammates, all four of them watching the heavily made-up ladies who were making a bee-line for their table. 

“Aw hell,” Joe groaned.  “They look like trouble!”

“Agree,” Derick grunted, the front two legs of his chair thudding onto the wood floor. 

Zeke remained silent, but his eyes narrowed. although Mike wasn’t sure if that was caused by interest or disgust.  One never knew when it came to Zeke.  The guy was a mystery when it came to women.  Even after years of friendship, Zeke kept to himself, never commenting about women one way or the other.  Some might attribute that lack of interest to be because Zeke was gay.  But Mike knew that Zeke was about as heterosexual as he was.  Something in Zeke’s past still haunted the man, although Mike never asked and Zeke didn’t tell. 

“Make ‘em go away,” Joe whispered, lowering his head so that there wasn’t any eye contact with the approaching ladies.  They all pretended to be afraid of the ladies, but in reality, the four men had seen enough to fear very few things. 

Mike laughed, shaking his head.  As an Army colonel and the highest ranking officer in the group, they would all follow his orders without hesitation.  But Mike wasn’t inclined to help out his fellow officers in this case. Especially since their pretty waitress was showing definite signs of jealousy. 

“They’re gonna eat us up,” Joe grumbled.  “Mike, don’t you have…”

“Hi fellas,” the blond with huge hair greeted the guys, leaning her hand on Joe’s shoulder. 

Mike almost laughed at the look Joe shot him.  It was one of those, “Ick, get it off,” sorts of expressions.  Mike had seen that look once before.  They’d been in the jungle on deep cover and a snake had slithered onto Joe’s shoulder.  Joe could handle just about any type of problem.  He’d gone into situations that would leave other people with a psychotic breakdown.  He’d destroyed terrorist strongholds, single handedly carried two grown men out of a hostage situation – while firing his weapon at the same time.  And Mike had seen Joe take apart a computer with deft fingers and install a secret bug, put the whole thing back together without anyone the wiser.  But snakes really freaked the big guy out! 

Right now, Joe looked as if a snake was crawling over Joe’s shoulders.  In reality, it was only the long fingers tipped with red fingernails of a woman who, if she hadn’t been wearing an inch of makeup and about a gallon of hairspray, might be pretty. 

“Ladies,” Mike nodded. 

“Wanna buy some ladies a drink?” the woman asked. 

Mike cringed, but then spotted their waitress over by the bar and, if looks could kill, all of them would have been blown away. 

He chuckled at the death glare, but since she’d been avoiding him all night, he turned back to the woman.  “Sure.  Why don’t you ladies pull up a chair?” he offered. 

“What the…!” Joe snapped, but with a look from Mike, he shut his mouth, stifling his next expletive. 

Mike shrugged.  “Why not?” he muttered under his breath as Zeke walked over to grab four empty chairs lined up against the wall, bringing them to the table.  But instead of putting an empty chair between each of the men, Zeke lined up the chairs right next to Mike.  It was a very obvious signal that Zeke didn’t want the company of the overly made up ladies either.  

Derick leaned back in his chair, chuckling at Mike’s new dilemma.  “You’re fault,” he laughed, leaning back in his chair again. 

The blond didn’t like the set up either, but she wasn’t sure how to change it, especially since Derick, Zeke and Joe all scooted their chairs closer together to make room for the four chairs, leaving Mike to be surrounded by the ladies. 

Mike rolled his eyes at the maneuver, his dark eyes promising retribution.  “You know, I’m in charge of PT tomorrow morning,” he warned.

Joe and Derick snorted, not alarmed in any way. 

Zeke lifted a shoulder in dismissal.  “Bring it on, old man.”

For the next two hours, the four men pushed back from the table, allowing the ladies to entertain them.  Meanwhile, Mike watched the waitress.  She was cute, he thought.  Definitely not his normal type, but he liked her soft, brown hair and…the more he watched her, the more he thought that her eyes were blue.  Irish blue.  And her legs were incredible!  She had a slender waist, but he couldn’t see much about her breasts since her tee-shirt was too big. 

Although, it wasn’t her figure that kept drawing his attention. 

Okay, her figure definitely drew his eyes!  But it was more than just her figure.  There was just something about her, something bright and alive and…almost innocent.  Her eyes were filled with happiness, her smile, when she greeted her other customers, was genuine.  When someone complimented her, she pretty much waved the comment aside, not believing the men.  But she was nice about it. 

Not to mention, his whole body was alert to her presence.  It was similar to the sensation he got when he knew that the enemy was close by, although this wasn’t a malevolent sensation.  No, this was just the opposite.  He was aware of her, as if she were essential to his world.  As if she could…okay, he was starting to sound like a romantic sap!

“Hey honey, why don’t you pay attention to me?” the blond woman whispered into his ear.

Mike immediately wanted to reach up and wipe the red lipstick away, wondering if he might get rabies from her saliva. 

Shifting further away, he smiled politely down at her.  “I’m fine,” he replied back politely. 

The woman, he couldn’t remember her name even though he was pretty sure that she’d introduced herself as well as her three friends, was undeterred by his less than enthusiastic response. 

“Forget Lexie,” the blonde whispered, moving closer so that her ample breasts brushed against his arm.  “She’s not interested.  I am.”

“Lexie?” he asked, looking down at her, then pulling away when he realized how close the woman was to him.  Damn, she was scary! 

“That’s the waitress you keep looking at.  Her name is Lexie and she’s a complete prude.  I’ve never seen her leave here with any guy.”  Her red lips curled into what she probably thought was a sexy smile, but to Mike, the smile looked predatory.  “I’d leave with you right now if you just say the word.”

Mike didn’t want to know what “word” might give her a signal that he was interested, so he kept his mouth shut and pulled away from her, looking towards his friends-slash-traitors. 

“Guys, we have training tomorrow morning,” he said to the other three, all of whom were sitting on the other side of the table with their arms crossed, looking pissed off. 

Before he was even finished with the statement, the three of them had stood up and were heading towards the door.

Mike looked at their backs with irritation.  “Don’t worry about the tab.  I’ve got it covered!”

Only Zeke lifted his hand in acknowledgement, but the guy didn’t even slow down. 

Mike watched them leave as he extricated himself from the blonde’s scary clutches.  “I’ve got to head out, ladies,” he said. 

The blond pouted, but her red lips were too glossy for the expression to be very effective.  “Why don’t you come back to my place tonight?” she offered.  “I’m pretty sure I could convince you that training tomorrow morning can be delayed.”

Mike didn’t even bother to laugh at the absurdity of her statement.  Right now, the way his body was primed, a good, hard training day was exactly what he needed.  And his body definitely wasn’t primed for the blond.  It was the cute brunette that had him all fired up. 

“Maybe another time,” he replied, but with a tone that warned her that there wouldn’t be another time.  Ever! 

She sighed, crossing her long legs in a way that almost showed her small panties since the dress was so tight and so short. 

Mike refrained from rolling his eyes as he walked over to the bar.  With a nod, he caught the brunette’s attention and she approached warily. 

But before he could ask her for their bill, another guy roared with laughter, lifting something up in the air. 

“Guys!  Look at this!”

Mike’s eyes focused on the object and realized it was a book.  And from the bare-chested, muscular man on the cover, it appeared to be a romance novel. 

A small, angry noise caught his attention and Mike realized that it was the cute waitress, fuming, her cheeks flushed and…hell, she looked ready to attack the guy.  Over a book?

“Who reads this drivel?” the guy holding the book asked, and several other men laughed.  The guy with the book flipped through the pages, obviously trying to find something in the text that he could read out loud.  “How about this…” and he was just about to read something when his little waitress rushed over and grabbed the book.

“Please, that’s not…,” she tried to hide the book behind the bar, but the guy just reached around her and grabbed it back.

“What’s wrong, honey,” he schmoozed with what he probably thought was a silky, soft tone, but it really came across as sleazy.  “Are you missing a little bit of male companionship?  Are books the only place where you can find love?”  He laughed and looked over to his companions, chuckling as if he’d just said something hilarious.  When he’d gotten the reaction he wanted from his friends, he turned back to Lexie.  “I’m here for ya, babe.  Just try me out for a spin.  I can make your world go round and you don’t need that trash novel.”

“Of course it’s a romance novel!” the waitress snapped at him, grabbing the book out of his hands.  “And if you weren’t such a buffoon, you’d ask yourself why women read romance novels!”  She tossed the book back over the bar, not taking her eyes from the jerk.  “Since you’re too stupid to understand, I’ll explain it to you!” 

She moved closer, poking him in the chest.  “Women read romance novels for the escape, you idiot.  The escape from real life.  An escape from the tedium of the men that we have to deal with on a day to day basis.” The guy who had mocked the book appeared startled, as if he hadn’t anticipated anyone challenging him. 

She moved closer, almost on her toes as she glared at the guy.  “And the sex scenes in the romance novels?  If we’re reading a romance novel to escape from our normal, boring lives, then ask yourself why we like the sex scenes!  Perhaps it’s because the sex we get from the men in our lives is completely unsatisfying, tedious and boring!”  Her shoulders shifted, as if she were bracing herself for something more.  Sure enough, the lady wasn’t finished.  “Furthermore, mocking a piece of literature that was written by women and for women only shows that you don’t respect women!  It shows a complete lack of decency and understanding of women’s culture!”

With that, she stomped away, leaving about a dozen men staring after her with their mouths hanging open. 

The guy who had started it all looked around, not sure what to say.  He looked like an idiot and even his friends were turning away from him. 

“What a bitch!” he finally blurted out. 

For some reason, the word just exploded inside Mike’s head.  It was the one insult he couldn’t ignore. 

“What’s your rank, soldier?” Mike demanded, walking over to the guy and getting really close.

The guy’s eyes widened as he recognized The Voice of Authority. 

“Uh…private first class Miller, sir!”

Mike moved even closer.  “PFC Miller, do you have any idea what the term ‘bitch’ actually means?”

Mike had to give the guy a bit of credit.  He didn’t waver in his stance.  “I believe it is technically a female dog.”

“Exactly.  Now turn around and look at the woman you just insulted.”  He waited for perhaps a half a second.  “Does the waitress who has been bringing you drinks all night look like a dog to you?”

The guy’s eyes barely moved.  “No, sir.”

“And has she been serving you drinks all evening with a pleasant smile?  Or has she done something to offend you, other than defend something she feels passionate about, and the object you just insulted?”

PFC Miller swallowed audibly.  “No sir.  She doesn’t look like a dog at all, sir.”

Because Mike had been trained to be aware of his surroundings at all times, he knew that Joe, Derick and Zeke had stepped back into the bar, and that the rest of the customers had gone quiet. 

“Since you thought it might make you look more manly by insulting the waitress, perhaps you should just pay your tab and get back to the barracks.”

The man stared for a moment, then to his credit, quickly reached into his back pocket and pulled out some bills. “A big tip,” Mike warned.  The guy pulled out anther twenty, then looked at Mike for approval.  “Excellent.  Be sure and take a cab back to the base since you’ve been drinking.”

The guy nodded, then ducked his head, walking out the front door as fast as he could.  Mike then turned to the other soldiers at the table, all of them looking glum.  “I didn’t hear any of you standing up for the lady, did I?” he asked softly, but with menace to his voice.  “What’s the point in being a soldier and defending this country if you don’t have the courage to defend one lady?”

The guys looked ashamed, but each of them pulled money out of their wallet, dumped some cash on the table, then walked out, following their friend.

Mike nodded, then looked around, his eyes taking in all of the others present.  “That goes for everyone here!  We took an oath to defend all enemies, foreign and domestic!  Let’s all be sure that we aren’t the enemy!”

And with those words, Mike walked out of the bar, Zeke, Derrick and Joe grunting their approval as they walked out, defending his back. 

 

Lexie stared at the four men, her eyes focused on one in particular.  There was just one word for him.  Wow!  He’d stood up for her, defended her!  No guy had ever done that!

Of course, she’d also done it herself when the jerk had grabbed her book, the book that had just recently been published and was her personal pride and joy.  She’d put her heart and soul into that story, then to have it maligned by some jerk had been…! 

But still, it was really nice to hear someone else stand up for her.  Especially a guy who looked like Thor and spoke like… well, like chocolate silk.  Oh my.

“Whew, honey!” Georgia said as she came up behind Lexie, waving a napkin as if to fan herself. “I do believe that you’ve made a very nice conquest in that guy!”

Lexie’s cheeks blushed and she busied herself dumping ice into several glasses.  “Don’t be ridiculous.  He’s just a chivalrous kind of man.”

Georgia laughed.  “You keep telling yourself that, honey.”

Chapter 2

 

Mike spotted the woman walking into the coffee shop and almost crashed into the telephone pole.  She was here!  Damn, he’d been searching for her all over!  And here she was, looking cool and relaxed, headphones in her ears and a cup of coffee by her elbow.  Her silky, brown hair was down, cascading over her shoulders and…she looked like dessert! 

“What the hell?” Zeke snapped, looking around as a horn blared.  Mike’s friend then looked in the direction Mike was gazing and let out a heavy sigh.  “So you finally found your pretty waitress, huh?” he grumbled, leaning back.  For long seconds, Zeke and Mike sat there.  Finally, Zeke punched Mike in the arm.  “Go get a freaking cup of coffee finally!”

And with that, Zeke stepped out of the black Jeep and walked around, stepping right into the coffee shop.  He went to the back and ordered two black coffees.  No milk.  No latte.  No chocolate or raspberry or pineapple-whatever syrup.  Just black coffee! 

He then took his own cup of coffee to a small table, grabbed the discarded newspaper off of an empty table and sat down, completely ignoring Mike and the other woman who was typing on a computer. 

Mike watched her for a long moment, considering his options.  In the end, he decided on a direct approach.  He wasn’t much into subtleties anyway. 

Walking over, he sat down on the chair opposite her, then looked directly into the most beautiful pair of blue eyes he’d ever seen. 

Slowly, she pulled the headphones out of her ears and looked at him, her soft, full lips parted slightly and he wanted to pull her onto his lap and discover all of the secrets of that mouth.  “I’m sorry,” he told her with sincerity.  “I know that you were fired from your job at the bar and it is my fault.”

 

With a quick flick of her wrists, Lexie pressed the buttons that saved her work, then closed her computer.  “Its fine,” she lied.  It wasn’t fine.  She was in a bit of a panic after losing her waitressing job that night after the book scene.  She couldn’t figure out how to find another job that would allow her to write during the daytime and earn more money at night.  She only had one book published and that definitely wasn’t enough to live off of.  It was a start, but she needed many more book successes in order to even eke out a living writing the stories she loved. 

He leaned forward, a bold look in his eyes that told her that he knew she was lying.  “It’s not fine.  But I don’t regret standing up for you.”

Lexie pressed her lips together.  Tim had fired her that night, telling her that he couldn’t have someone in the bar who would scare the customers away.  And since the jerk that had stolen her book and started to make fun of it was one of the regulars, while this guy was new to the base and hadn’t been in the bar since that night, Lexie had been let go. 

She looked out the window.  “Don’t worry about it.”  She was doing enough of that on her own.  Life in a military town was difficult.  The whole town existed to support the base as well as the military families and word had gotten out about the other night.  Lexie was pretty much black listed from most of the businesses around town. 

“I know of a job.  The hours are better and I suspect that the pay is better too.”

Lexie’s ears perked up.  “A job?”

She didn’t want to appear too excited, but the prospect of another job sounded…awesome!  She had some savings, but not much. 

He shrugged one of those amazingly broad shoulders, still looking intently into her eyes.  “There are times when the work will be fast and furious.  And other times when you’ll be bored out of your mind.  Are you interested?”

Startled, Lexie laughed.  “Way to sell it.”

He smiled slightly, but reached into his pocket, pulling out a card.  “Call this office and schedule an appointment.  General Kelly is in charge of hiring.  I’ll put in a good word for you.”

With that, he walked out of the coffee shop without another word. 

Lexie watched him until he and another guy got into a big, black Jeep and…well, she couldn’t help but notice the guy had a really great butt!  It looked hard and firm and his waist was flat enough that it really made his butt look…!

What was she thinking?  That butt looked amazing no matter how much flab was on his waist.  But since there was zero flab there, this guy…whoever he was…looked hot!  She’d thought it the other night at the bar and it was still true now.

When he was gone, disappearing down the street, Lexie finally pulled her eyes away and looked down at the business card in her hands.  Having only lived in this town for less than a year, she wasn’t as familiar with the names of the officers as some other, longer term resident might.  So she didn’t recognize the name “General George Kelly”.  But what did she have to lose?  She’d already lost her job and, if she didn’t find a new one soon, she’d have to leave town. 

Chapter 3

 

“You’ll work here and,” General Kelly looked at her over his thick glasses.  “I don’t need to remind you that everything you hear or see is absolutely top secret.”

“Yes, sir,” she responded, feeling awed.  The hoops she’d had to jump through to get this job had been annoying, but the pay was great!  She would be making twice as much here as she’d earned at the job at the bar, with all of her tips included!  Plus, she wouldn’t be on her feet for ten hours a day and she wouldn’t come home at night smelling like cheap beer. 

Seemed like a win-win all around! 

She’d spent the last two weeks training with another person who supported a different training team.  So Lexie understood her role.  She’d be answering phones, filing, submitting and following up on supply requests and anything else that was asked of her.  She’d gone through a fast tracked security clearance and, because she had no issues in her back ground, hadn’t ever been married, her parents had passed away years ago and…well, she was pretty clean and lived a boring life.  So her clearance had gone through faster than normal.  For some people, a security clearance could take months, sometimes years!  She’d gotten her clearance in two weeks!  Someone had a lot of pull, she thought as she slid the desk chair closer to the desk. 

Of course, the work environment wasn’t all that glamorous.  Looking around, she took in the large warehouse that was filled with…mysterious blobs that were covered in tarps.  There were vehicles on one side of the warehouse, some locked doors on the other side and several offices along the same wall as where her office was located.  Her desk was at the end of four offices and there was a large, very technologically advanced conference room to the right. 

No pictures.  No music.  No windows.  No soft lighting to make the room more habitable.  It was just starkly utilitarian. 

“This is weird,” she whispered as she pulled the stack of files on her desk forward.  The phone rang and she answered it.  “Ovid Supply Team,” she said, exactly as she’d been directed.  “How can I help you?”

There was a pause at the other end of the line, then the deep, sexy voice that had invaded her dreams over the past two weeks spoke to her.  “Lexie, this is Colonel Cain.  I know this is your first day on the job.  Is everything okay?”

Lexie closed her eyes and took a slow breath.  “Yes, sir,” she replied quickly.  “Everything is great.  Is there anything I can do for you?”

He laughed softly.  “Nothing right now.  I just wanted to check in with you.”

There was a soft, odd sound that Lexie didn’t recognize.  “Where are you?” she blurted out.  It sounded like high winds in the background. 

“Can’t say.  We’ll be back in a while.” And then the line was dead.

Lexie pulled the phone away from her ear, staring at it with a confused expression.  “That was weird,” she said to the empty room.

 

Over the next two weeks, Lexie finishes all of the work that was in the files on her desk, but wasn’t sure what else to do.  “Hey, Melanie, I’m over here in Ovid Supply.  Should I be doing something?  I started this job but there isn’t anyone here to tell me what to do.”

Melanie laughed. “Oh, don’t worry.  You’ll have plenty of work very soon.  Just hold on and enjoy the calm before the storm.”

Lexie shrugged, feeling guilty.  But because she was so bored, she took out her computer and started writing.  For the next three days, she worked on her next novel, losing herself in the words and the scenes that she had in her head.  It was great!  After working at the bar during the nights to pay the rent, then trying to write during the daytime hours, this job was perfect for her, even if she felt like she was cheating somehow.

That all changed a week later.  Lexie was sitting out on a stack of…something, lifting her face the warm sunshine.  She had no idea what was under the tarp, but it was outside of the warehouse building and in the light.  She nibbled on her sandwich while she contemplated the next scene in her book.  This building was isolated from the other buildings on the base, so it wasn’t as if she could just walk over to someone else and have lunch with someone.  She could easily drive off the base and grab lunch with Georgia or one of her other friends, but the military base security was difficult to get through, even with her identification cards.  So it was better to just stay on the base during the work day.

She heard the engine before she saw anything else.  A plane?  No, that was impossible.  There wasn’t a place to land a plane here.  Looking up, she only saw the beautiful blue sky and…!

A plane was coming in fast and hard.  Lexie watched in horror, even pulling her legs out of the way since the plane was coming in for a landing so close to the warehouse. 

It wasn’t really, but because she’d never seen anything like it before, she was shocked and stunned and…well…too many other words! 

The plane had barely landed before it came to a stop at the end of what Lexie had always thought of as a really long, empty parking lot.  Apparently, it was a runway!  Who knew?! 

As she stared, the plane door opened up and…several weary men stepped down the stairs, walking along the tarmac to the warehouse building. 

She didn’t recognize the men at first, which wasn’t a surprise since they were mostly covered in dried mud and sweat, several had some filthy bandages on their head or hands and one of them walked with a slight limp.

“Hey Lexie,” one of them called out to her.  “Nice to have you on the team.”

Lexie smiled weakly, not sure who that man was.  He looked vaguely familiar but…?

The others nodded politely towards her as well as they headed towards the warehouse but there was one man that veered off from the line, walking in her direction.  He was the only one that didn’t seem to be wounded in any way.  They were all big, muscular men but this guy was…oh my!  This was the guy!  This was her coffee shop/bar guy! 

“Lexie,” he said in greeting.

Lexie lifted her hand, then glanced at her fingers which still held the last bite of her sandwich.  “Sorry,” she mumbled, dropping the bite onto the wax paper.   She then extended her hand.  “I’m guessing that you’re Colonel Cain?” she asked. 

“That’s right.  And you’re Lexie Martin.”  He extended his hand. “It’s a pleasure to officially meet you.”

Lexie hesitated for only the briefest moments before taking his hand and…the electric shock of his touch was surprising.  She tried to pull her hand away, but his fingers tightened and she saw from the look in his dark eyes that he felt it too. 

For a long moment, there was nothing but his hand and the sparks shooting between them.  She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move.  Didn’t want to do either.  Lexie just wanted to sit here in the warm sunshine and bask in the heat of his eyes looking down at her. 

Unfortunately, someone called his name, disturbing the erotically sensual moment. 

He turned, keeping her hand in his as he glanced at whoever was calling to him.  With a sharp nod, he looked back at her.  “Duty calls,” he said, a smile to his eyes but instead of releasing her hand, the man moved closer.  “Have dinner with me tonight.”

It wasn’t a question and Lexie felt her heart thud against her chest.  “I…can’t.” She tried to remember what was on her schedule that night but, for the life of her, she couldn’t think about anything at all. 

“Another time, then.”

And then he was gone.  She stared at him as he walked away, her eyes moving over his broad shoulders and long legs.  Lexie couldn’t see much more of him because of the uniform and…well, the mud, but she suspected that there was a whole lotta muscles packed onto that man’s tall body! 

Chapter 4

 

“What are you working on?”

Lexie’s laptop almost crashed onto the concrete patio when she heard the deep voice.  She’d been so focused on writing the scene, trying to get the pictures in her mind translated into words, that she hadn’t heard Mike walk up.  Hadn’t even noticed another car driving into the parking lot even though the headlights should have given her some sort of warning.  Especially since she lived in a ground floor apartment that faced the parking lot. 

“What are you doing here?” she demanded as soon as she’d steadied her computer once again.  But before he could see what was on the screen, she quickly saved her work and slapped the laptop shut.  No way would she ever let this tough, rugged, hugely muscular man see what she was writing!  He’d defended her at the bar that night, but she couldn’t ever let this man know that she was the one that had written it.  Lexie wasn’t completely sure why she wanted to keep her writing a secret, but knew that it was a good thing to do.  For now, at least. 

Mike moved closer, out of the shadows.  “I called, but you didn’t answer.”

Lexie glanced down at her cell phone.  Sure enough, there was a notification of a missed call blinking at her.  “Huh.”  Standing, she pressed her laptop against her chest, as if the plastic and electronic circuits could protect her from this man’s powerful presence.  “Well, um…”

Lexie floundered, not sure what to say.  He was tall!  Taller than she realized and…boy did he look good!  He was showered and out of his uniform now, wearing a pair of soft-looking jeans and a tee shirt that was stretched to the limits over all of those drool-worthy muscles of his. 

And were those scrapes and bruises on his forearm? 

“You’re hurt,” she gasped now that her eyes could focus in the dim light. 

“I’m fine,” he countered.  “And I come bearing food.  Are you hungry?”

“Starving!” she replied before she could think better of her answer.  She’d turned him down the other day and had regretted it ever since.  He’d been incredibly kind to her whenever he asked her for assistance, and she was relieved at that.  But dinner?  Now?  Tonight? 

“Um…thank you.”  That sounded so lame.  Surely there was some wonderful, sexy response she could have offered.  But nope!  Her brain was fried.  This time, it wasn’t just fried from her writing, but because he was…wow! 

“Can I come in?  We could split this,” he teased.  “Or I could stand here while you ogle me a bit longer.”  One of those delicious shoulders lifted slightly.  “I’m fine either way.”

Lexie flushed at his statement because…well, there really was no other way to describe what she’d been doing to him. 

“I’m sorry.  That was rude of me.  But…” she hurriedly picked up her mug of now-cold herbal tea and her notebook, pen and laptop, hugging everything close to her chest as she made her way back into the apartment. 

Looking around, she realized that it probably looked a bit messy to someone who didn’t understand her situation.  She dumped her laptop and other items from the patio onto the kitchen island, then hurried over to the small living room.  “I don’t have a lot of stuff right now,” she explained, grabbing a pair of jeans and sweater…then hurriedly grabbed the pair of red, lace panties that fell out from the jeans.  She’d worn them yesterday after she’d come home from working at the base.  By the time she’d finished writing last night, she’d been too tired to do anything more than just fall into bed. 

“Sorry,” she mumbled as he opened the door to her bedroom and tossed everything inside, slamming the door closed again. 

“It’s all good, Lexie,” he replied softly, still holding the pizza.  “Do you have napkins?  I brought beer as well.  But are you a wine drinker?”

She stared at him for a long moment, wondering if she should be honest or sophisticated.  She went with honesty.  “I wish that I was a wine drinker.  All of my friends drink wine, but I’m a beer woman.  And not even the interesting, artisanal beers.  Just the regular old…” she paused when he held up a six pack of Corona.  Smiling, she nodded.  “Those are perfect.”

 

Mike chuckled as he set the pizza on the small coffee table, then walked over to the fridge and placed the six pack inside.  He noticed that she didn’t have a lot of food.  Or furniture.  It didn’t appear that she’d been living here for very long, but from the information he’d gathered, Lexie had lived here for the past year.  Taking two of the beers and opening them, he handed one to her before taking a long swallow from his own. 

“So how is the job going?” he asked, taking a napkin from her and sitting down on the couch.  It was surprisingly comfortable.  He then pushed the pizza box open and pulled a slice out for her, then took one for himself. 

“Oh, it’s good.  Good,” she said, nodding her head as if that might convince him of the lie.

He chuckled softly, seeing through her words.  “That bad, huh?”

She’d just taken a bite of her slice of pizza, so instead of answering, she shrugged.  “It’s okay, I guess.”

“Not much to do while the team is off base, is there?”

She looked at him curiously.  “Is that going to change now that you guys are back?”

He laughed softly, nodding.  “Oh yeah.  Now is when your true colors will be tested.”

“How?”

“You’ll see.  Tell me about yourself.  Where are you from?”

For the next two hours, they talked and laughed and shared small bits of their lives.  She learned that he’d enlisted in the Army right out of college after earning an engineering degree.  She told him that she’d majored in English literature and thought she’d go on to earn her doctorate in literature.  When he asked why she wasn’t still pursuing that goal, Lexie laughed.  “Money,” she admitted.  “Education is very expensive!  I’ve taken some masters level courses, but…its slow going.”

Mike noticed her trying to hide a yawn and knew that he needed to leave her alone so that she could get some sleep.  But there was just something about her, something that…something that he really liked. 

Still, he stood up and grabbed the pizza box.  “I’ll toss this into the dumpster on the way out,” he told her. 

She stood as well, her hands clasped in front of her and he had the intense urge to pull her into his arms and kiss her. 

Instead, he stepped back.  “Will you have dinner with me tomorrow night?”

She’d looked surprised when he stepped back from her, but with his question, the light came back into her eyes.  “Okay,” was her simple reply.  Then her eyes clouded again.  “Will that be a problem?  Since I work for you?”

He laughed softly, shaking his head.  “You don’t work for me.  You work for General Kelly.  Although you support my team when we need help.”

“Oh.”  He could tell that she didn’t understand.  But she’d figure it out soon enough. 

“No.  It’s not going to be a problem,” he assured her. 

“Okay.”  She nodded her head.  “Good.”

He breathed in deeply, drawing on all of his years of self-discipline. “Lexie, I want to kiss you pretty badly right now, but if I do that, then I don’t know if I’ll be able to stop.  So you gotta help me out here.”

Her eyes widened and she tilted her head to the side.  “Help you?”

He moved closer, then shook his head and stepped back again.  “Yes.  Stop looking at me like that.”

Lexie blinked.  “Looking at you…how?”

His eyes dropped to her lips.  “Like you want me to kiss you.”

There was a long silence after that and Mike could tell that she was debating the issue.  Still, he stood there and fought his instincts.  In the end, he grabbed his keys and walked to her door.  “Tomorrow night, Lexie!” he warned without looking back.  And then he left, forcing his feet to carry himself to his car. 

Chapter 5

 

Lexie hummed as she walked into the warehouse the following morning.  She hadn’t slept very well last night, wondering what it would be like to be kissed by Mike.  But as soon as she stepped through the doorway, she was met by absolute chaos!  Or what she perceived to be chaos. 

“Are you Lexie?” some guy called out. 

Lexie stopped mid-stride and looked around, locating the person calling out to her.  “Yes!” she called back.  The man was only a few inches taller than her, but he had a look of absolute determination on his features.  She couldn’t call him handsome but he was…good looking, although not in a traditional sense. 

In fact, all of the men in the warehouse had a certain appeal to them, although none sent her sense firing like Mike could with just a look.  A look he was sending her way right now. 

Stuffing her backpack underneath her desk, she grabbed a notebook and pen.  “How can I help you?”

The guy walked over to her and nodded.  “I’m General Kelly.  And here’s what I need you to find for me.”

Lexie nodded, writing as fast as she could.  The items he was asking for made no sense, but she nodded and wrote them down. 

“Got it?” the General asked. 

“Yes, sir,” she replied, mimicking what she’d heard others say over the past couple of weeks.  Having not grown up in the military, she wasn’t sure what the protocol was when addressing officers versus enlisted personnel, but she’d do a bit of research tonight on the subject so she didn’t embarrass herself. 

“Good.  You’ll be able to find most of those items here on base.  But if you can’t find them here, then get them in town.”  He handed her a credit card.  “This is for government use only.”  And then he walked away. 

Lexie nodded, her mind reeling with all of the items she’d need to procure.  Rope and clothespins she could handle.  Hydrogen peroxide?  Yeah, that should be easy enough to find.  But what in the world was “stork beak plyer” or a “tooth chisel”?  Surely the general wasn’t going to do any sort of dental work, was he?

But Lexie refused to ask any questions.  At least, she wasn’t going to ask any of the men in this warehouse, especially since they all looked like they were doing very industrious things.  Some of them were heading out in what looked like workout clothes, including Mike.  And boy, did he have some nice legs! 

By three o’clock that afternoon, she had most of the items on the list, but she was only missing a few. 

So when five o’clock rolled around and the rest of the men headed out of the warehouse, Lexie was mentally exhausted.  That’s when she saw Mike coming back into the building.  The last time she’d seen him, he was wearing workout clothes.  Now he was wearing black boots, camouflage pants and an Army green tee-shirt, sweat stained and muddy, but he still looked amazing! 

He caught her look but Lexie quickly pulled her eyes away, grabbed her backpack that acted as both her purse and a place to store her private notebook where she could write things down when a new idea occurred to her. 

Without looking back, she walked out of the warehouse and got into her car.  Now that the teams were back, there were several cars in the lot and Lexie wondered where the guys parked their vehicles when they disappeared. 

There were some very interesting mysteries here!

Just as she pulled into her apartment parking lot, she felt her phone buzz with a text message.  “How about Chinese for dinner tonight?”

Lexie didn’t recognize the phone number, but she knew that the message was from Mike and she smiled, feeling all warm and gushy inside.

“How about if I cook tonight?” she texted back, carrying the groceries into her apartment. 

“Are you a good cook?” he asked back.

Laughing, Lexie considered her response.  “Are you brave enough to try my food?”

“That doesn’t sound very promising.  But yes.  I’m brave enough.”

“Good soldier,” she replied right back. 

“See you in an hour?”

“See you then.”  After tossing her phone onto the sofa, she rushed into her bedroom and took a quick shower, being careful not to get her hair wet.  She wanted to smell good and, after being around thirty sweaty men all day long, she felt like a shower was necessary.  After, she pulled on a clean pair of jeans and her nicest sweater, since the spring day had cooled down now that the sun had set. 

She added a touch of makeup, brushed out her hair, then added just a small bit of perfume.  She hated people who bathed in perfume so that it was the only thing that she could smell.  But a dab wouldn’t hurt, would it?

After freshening up, she hurried into the kitchen and started slicing up the chicken.  Then she heated up the garlic, added some butter and cream, then with small handfuls, added in the freshly grated parmesan cheese, stirring and stirring.  Midway through that process, she heated a pot of water and, when it was boiling, added in some linguini noodles. 

She was just cutting up the tomatoes for the salad when she heard a knock on the door.  Grabbing the dishtowel, she wiped her hands, fluffed her hair, then walked over to the door. 

Lexie took a moment to brace herself, then pulled the door open. 

 

Mike stood there, beer in one hand and a bouquet of flowers in the other.  But the greeting he’d been about to utter fell away as soon as he took in Lexie’s appearance.  She’d added a bit of make-up and, damn, she smelled good!  Or was it the food?  He wasn’t sure, but, at this moment, he didn’t care. 

Stepping inside, he didn’t hesitate to pull her into his arms and kiss her.  He’d regretted leaving her last night without a kiss and he wasn’t going to lose the opportunity this time.

She was softer than he’d expected.  And damn it, she lifted her face up to his, kissing him back with a shy eagerness that totally turned him on.  When her hands slid up his chest, he almost dropped the beer. 

Pulling back, he looked down at her, shaking his head.  “You smell amazing!” he muttered.  Which wasn’t what he’d planned to say, but it was true. 

“Thank you,” she whispered back, then licked her lips as if wanting to taste the kiss again.  “I made Alfredo sauce, but I used linguini noodles instead of fettucine, but I don’t think it will be a problem.”

Mike laughed, shaking his head as he looked around.  “I can honestly say that I don’t know the difference between linguini noodles and fettucine noodles.  So the substitution won’t be an issue.”

“Good,” she laughed, then walked into the kitchen while he watched her legs.  And her butt.  Yeah, she had a very nice ass! 

“Thanks for bringing more beer.  I thought about getting wine for dinner, but after our conversation last night, I suspected it would be a waste of money since neither of us like wine.”

“Excellent choice,” he told her and she looked up at him, seeing him standing at the edge of the kitchen. 

“What were you doing today that made you so sweaty?”

“The obstacle course,” he replied.  “I take various teams out and test them to check their timing.”

“Do the guys slow down if they don’t hit the course often enough?”

“Not on my watch.”

She smiled, thinking he was kidding but Mike knew that he was absolutely serious.  “So how did you learn to cook?”

She shrugged and the movement shifted her sweater slightly, giving him a brief glance at a black bra.  Or the edge of it, at least.  He liked that she’d changed clothes for him.  And he knew that she’d changed because he’d seen a brief peek at her bra earlier today when the blouse had gaped slightly.  It had been tan earlier today.  Did she have “work” underwear and “date” underwear? 

Interesting thought!

“I don’t really know how to cook a lot of things,” she said, adding some cheese to the plate on the stove before dumping the noodles from the pot into the colander already in the sink.  “I only know a few recipes and this is the most decadent.”  She looked over her shoulder.  “I’m trying to impress you.  Is it working?”

Hell yes!  “Absolutely,” he replied, but he was referring to her underwear and not really her cooking, although the smells of the food was pretty darn good and he was starving. 

“You were busy today,” he commented, taking a slice of tomato out of the salad and popping it into his mouth.  “What were you working on?”

Lexie stilled for a moment, then carefully turned and put the pot back onto the stove before turning to face him.  “I’m sorry, Mike.  I know that you’re on the teams, probably in charge of them.  But I can’t tell you anything.”

He smiled at that, nodding his head.  “I understand.”  Then he walked over to her and pulled her into his arms, kissing her yet again.  “Good answer.”

She sighed and those hands slid down his chest again.  Mike wanted to take her hands and put them right back on his body, but she’d already turned around and was preparing the dinner. 

They ate out on the patio and talked about favorite movies and actors, books they’d read, keeping things safe and non-work related. 

By the time they’d finished dinner, Lexie wasn’t sure what to do with Mike. She wanted him, that was a given.  But…

“Walk me to my car,” he said, then stood up and took her hands, gently tugging her out of the chair. 

“Walk you…?”

“Yes. I want to kiss you, but the same issue from last night applies again tonight.  Right now, it’s late and you’re exhausted.”

He laced his fingers through hers and she tilted her head to the side, looking up at him.  “You’re the one running around in the woods doing all sorts of crazy stuff,” she teased, but followed alongside him. “Why aren’t you pushing for sex?  Other guys would be about now.”

He stopped and turned to face her.  Looking down into her eyes, he wrapped his hand around her neck.  “Because I don’t want to be one of them.  I want…” he sighed, his thumb stroking her cheek.  “Lexie, I want more than just a night with you.”

Her heart melted a bit more with those words.  Moving closer, she smiled up at him.  “Okay,” she whispered, nervous, but tempted and intrigued.  Okay, more than intrigued.  She wanted him but…did she want something more than just a casual affair? 

Granted, Lexie knew that she wasn’t a casual affair sort of person.  At least, she hadn’t been in the past.  But their time together…it was temporary.  Lexie had no idea where she might be tomorrow or next week.  She’d committed to a goal and she would do whatever it took to reach that goal.

But she’d also never felt this way about any man.  Mike was special and the way she reacted to him was special.  What that meant, she wasn’t exactly sure. 

“Come on,” he urged, leading her over to his car.  “Okay, I’m going to kiss you now,” he warned.

Lexie laughed.  “Do I need a warning?”

He leaned down, his lips hovering over hers.  “You do when you’re wearing a red, lace bra,” and then he was kissing her.  A deep, sensuous kiss that she felt all the way to her toes. 

Lifting up, she wrapped her fingers over his shoulders, pressing her body against his as he deepened the kiss even more.  It was thrilling, feeling him like this.  Feeling his body’s reaction to this kiss.  Scary, but thrilling! 

And over too quickly! 

Mike pulled her into his arms with a groan.  “I want to carry you right back into your apartment and make love to you, Lexie.”

She shivered, wanting that too. 

“I’m going to leave now.  But I need you to walk back into your apartment and lock the door for me.”

“Okay,” she whispered, feeling as if anything louder might detonate this perfect moment. 

Reluctantly, she pulled out of his arms and walked back through the patio door.  With a flick of her wrist, she engaged the lock, then added the bar at the base of the door so no one could get in even if they broke the lock. 

Only after she pulled the curtain closed did Mike drive away.  She knew that because she peeked out to watch him leave, feeling as if she’d missed a prime opportunity with him tonight.

Chapter 6

 

Friday night, Mike took Lexie to play mini-golf.  While Lexie stood back to admire the muscles flexing along Mike’s back and shoulders as he set up the putt, Mike suddenly turned and looked at her.  Feeling guilty because she’d been watching his body instead of the game, she looked up at him, trying to appear innocent even while her face heated with color.

He laughed softly, shaking his head. “I don’t know what you were thinking a moment ago, but how about a contest?”

She looked around, leaning slightly on her putter.  “Isn’t the whole game a contest?”

“Sure, but…” he walked closer to her, stopping a few inches away, but close enough that she felt her breath catch.  “How about if we make it more interesting?”

Lexie considered his offer.  She’d been playing golf all her life.  Her father had taught her and she’d been on her high school and college golf teams.  So she felt pretty confident about her chances no matter what he offered. 

“Okay.  What are you thinking?”

“For each hole I win, I get a kiss.  For every hole you win…what do you want?”

Lexie laughed because she’d actually take a kiss from him any day.  But for some reason, she decided to play it hard to get.  “Okay, for every hole I win, you have to cook dinner for me.”

An eyebrow went up.  “I have to cook it?”

She nodded.  “Cooked with real ingredients and side dishes.  Is it a deal?”

One side of his mouth quirked up.  “Aren’t you worried about my cooking skills?  So far, my culinary expertise has been bringing you a pizza and choosing the right beer.”

Her hand moved to touch the middle of his chest.  “I suspect that there are very few things in this world that you either don’t already know how to do extremely well,” she paused, thinking of exactly what she wanted him to do well…to her!  “Or that you can’t figure out.”

He chuckled.  “So you want me to cook dinners for you?  What if you win all eighteen holes?”

She grinned.  “Then you owe me eighteen dinners.”

“Sounds like I win no matter what,” he replied, his voice going deeper. 

Her eyes dropped to his mouth.  “Yeah, I was thinking the same thing.”

His laugh was smooth and sexy, but he stepped back and positioned himself again, ready to putt the ball. 

It was a good putt, but it went wide towards the hole and it took him two shots to get the ball into the cup.  Lexie sauntered over, positioned herself carefully, then swung the putter.  The ball went right into the cup and she stood up, proud that she hadn’t lost her touch.

“Good shot,” he mumbled.  Then put a hand on the small of her back as he walked her to the next hole.  The first hole was meant to be an easy one, giving players a chance to get used to the putter and the ambiance.  The next hole had a windmill in the middle and Lexie had no idea what was inside that windmill to slow down or curve the ball. 

“This should even things up.”  He bent down and placed the ball on the ragged green area, with Lexie’s eyes moving right towards his…!

“Are you ogling me?” he demanded.

Caught!  Lexie’s eyes shifted to his and she blushed again.  “That would mean that I’m objectifying you,” she told him with a serious expression.  “Women have been fighting against being objectified for centuries.  I would never do that to a man.”

He looked at her for a long moment, then shook his head.  “That was a load of bull,” he commented, and Lexie laughed, appreciating that he’d left off the next word and kept his disbelief “family friendly”. 

It took him three swings to get his ball into the cup this time, but Lexie was nervous after being caught ogling and it took her four swings.  As soon as her ball fell into the cup, his strong arm wrapped around her waist and he pulled her in for a long, deep, soul-drenching kiss that had her melting against him.  She might have even whimpered when he lifted his mouth from hers. 

“Good shot,” he muttered.

He won the next three holes, but only because he kept kissing her like that and causing Lexie to lose her concentration.  But she pulled herself together on the next several holes, then purposely lost the last several holes, hoping that his kisses meant that they would go back to her place and…he’d kiss her a whole lot more. 

But after mini golf, he took her out for ice cream and she fell a little bit in love with him for that.  She refused to fall completely in love with him because…well because their futures were so unknown.  She might move on at any point and Mike could…okay, she wasn’t going to think about that.  He could be killed doing whatever it was that he did or he could be shipped off to another state, country or war zone.  She had no idea what could happen.  So Lexie told herself to keep things light and casual with Mike. 

Harder to implement, she thought later that night when he kissed her in his car, refusing to walk her to her door.  “Not yet,” he muttered when she looked frustrated.  “Soon, though,” he assured her, sliding a finger down her cheek. 

So instead of debating with herself over inviting him inside tonight, she walked into her apartment and locked the doors, flicking the lights to tell him that she was okay.  Then she walked over and, just as she’d done the previous night, watched Mike drive away. 

Chapter 7

 

Over the next two weeks, Lexie fell a bit more in love with Mike.  Every time he cooked for her, took her out, made her laugh, or just kissed her with his normal mind-melting kisses, she knew that she was in big trouble.  And it grew even more intense when he wouldn’t come in and make love with her.  Lexie sort of knew that sex was the death knell for her.  She wasn’t a huge fan of sex, never really understanding the point.  It was fine.  She liked the snuggling afterwards.  She’d been with two men in the past and, although she’d enjoyed kissing them, sex had been…underwhelming.  Very soon after each sexual interaction, Lexie had found a reason to break things off with each of them.

What would it be like with Mike?  She wondered that every night as she stared up at the ceiling, thinking about his kisses, the way he touched her, the way he’d make her laugh during dinner or…well, the sweetly protective way he touched her when they were in a crowd, as if he needed to shield her with his own body.  Or the way he would glare at any man who looked at her, even in passing.  She’d caught him doing that earlier tonight, and she’d laid her head against his shoulder during the movie, thinking he was her own personal superhero.

Yes, Lexie could really get used to this. 

Which was why she might…she was considering…good grief.  Lexie wasn’t going to high tail it out of the area.  As much as her brain was telling her to pack up and move on, her heart wouldn’t let her.  Her heart and her body, actually.  Both wanted to see where this thing with Mike would end up. 

And in reality, she really loved her new job.  Her curiosity over the teams’ activities was making her a bit crazy.  Not to mention, some of the tasks that General Kelly asked her to accomplish were just…well, she really wanted to know why he’d asked her to purchase playdough.  Seriously?  Why playdough?  And he’d wanted several colors of it too!  She’d driven to the next town over to find additional colors and…it was just weird.  Very weird! 

Despite the odd requests, Lexie found that she truly enjoyed the work and the soldiers who came and went through the warehouse tended to stop by her desk and say hello, offer her coffee, tease her about being too efficient or just offer a wave as they came or went.  Even seeing Mike as he passed by in his comings or goings was exciting, although he was less visible about his greetings than the others. 

So it was a shock when she walked in on Monday morning to find everyone rushing around.  Mike walked over to her desk and leaned forward.  “When I get back, we’re having dinner and we’re finishing the night differently,” he warned.  Then he leaned over and kissed her. It was a hard, brief kiss, but it still left her breathless.  

Then he was gone.  In fact, everyone was gone!  They all swung their heavy sacks over their shoulders, stuffed weapons into the holsters on their hips and grabbed their rifles, then headed out of the warehouse.  Several of the mysterious covered blobs that had been at one end of the warehouse were gone as well. 

But it was the silence that rang in her ears that was the most startling.  After weeks of what one might assume was chaotic activities, the warehouse was suddenly very…silent.  Too silent. 

Lexie looked around, feeling abandoned, even though she knew that the emotion wasn’t fair.  The men had gone off to do something heroic.  She was their support staff.  Lexie didn’t really have the right to be hurt or lonely.  This was part of her job. 

“Right!” she muttered, then pulled her shoulders back, lifted her chin and headed back to her desk.  Because of the increased demands on her time recently, her space now consisted of an additional folding table, a bookcase, printer, scanner, a laptop computer with three screens that allowed her to be looking at several task requests at the same time and a kitchen area had been built up just outside of her work space.  When that had moved in, Lexie had wondered if she’d be responsible for cleaning up after a bunch of sloppy men.  But these guys were clean and incredibly considerate.  If someone made a mess, the guy cleaned up after himself, even if it was General Kelly. 

“It’s too quiet, now, isn’t it?”

Lexie spun around, startled to find General Kelly standing in his doorway. 

“Oh!  I thought you’d left with the team.”

The general shook his head as he leaned against the doorframe of her office.  “Nope.  I’m too old for field work these days.”

Lexie snorted, looking at the man who was probably in his sixties, but looked to be in better physical health than just about every man she knew.  He was certainly in better shape than most of the soldiers she’d served at the bar! 

“I doubt that,” she replied, moving over to her desk and started straightening the files. 

“It’s true,” General Kelly replied, pouring himself a cup of coffee, then doing the same for her, even adding the sweeter, just how she preferred it. 

“Thank you,” she replied when he handed the cup to her. 

“You’re doing a great job.  Several of the men have commented that you’re much better than several of the previous people who have attempted to keep up with the team’s requests.  So thank you.”

Lexie felt a burst of pride at his words.  “Thank you so much.  That means a great deal to me.”

“And you?  Are you okay with the pace?  I know that it gets a bit crazy at times.”

Lexie took a sip of her coffee and shrugged.  “Actually, I really enjoy the pace.  It definitely keeps me on my toes.”

He laughed, then nodded. “Glad to hear it.”  He moved his coffee cup towards her.  “I know you have a lot of work to do and I have to get some briefings done.  I’ll see you in a few days.”

Lexie wanted to ask where he was going, but bit her tongue, remembering how he’d warned her not to ask any questions.  Everything, including any travel plans, were top secret.  Lexie didn’t even make those travel plans, so it wasn’t as if she could keep anything secret since she didn’t know anything. 

Still, her curiosity was rampant. 

The general left about twenty minutes later and Lexie stared at her computer.  Over the past several days, she’d grumbled about the noise and distractions.  But now, hearing the silence almost echoing around her, she couldn’t seem to concentrate.  It was almost as if the noise had pushed her mind to a higher level of concentration and now, with the silence around her, her mind just wouldn’t start working.

With monumental effort, Lexie got through several of the tasks that had been requested and she even managed to resolve the issues that the general e-mailed to her from wherever he was heading or had gone to. 

By the end of the week, with no one to talk to and only occasional phone calls from the general, Lexie was exhausted!  The effort it took to concentrate in the silent warehouse took a great deal of energy. 

Chapter 8

 

The knock on her apartment door startled her.  It was Friday night and all she’d wanted to do was take a shower, then crawl into bed to fall asleep for the next ten hours.  Instead, she tossed the towel into her bathroom and twisted her wet hair up into a twist, then pulled on a robe, tightening the belt around her waist.  With the chain still in place, she pulled the door open. 

“Yes?” she asked, then her eyes widened when she spotted Mike standing in her doorway.

“You’re back!” she screamed, slamming the door shut and pulling the chain open, then yanking the door wide before grabbing him and pulling him inside.  “You’re back!” she sighed, starting to lean in to kiss him but then she got a good look at him and froze.

“Mike!  What happened to you?” she demanded.  There were bruises and scratches all over him, including a black eye! 

Despite his wounds, there was an intense, heated look to his dark eyes as he stepped into the apartment.  “I’m hurt,” he joked, holding up a first aid kit.  “Think you could patch me up?”

Lexie gasped and took his arm, pulling then stopping when he hissed.  “What?  What did I do?’ she demanded.

“It’s nothing,” he told her softly, but he pulled her against his other side.  “I missed you.  Did you miss me too?”

She leaned against him carefully, sliding her hand up his chest as she smiled mischievously.  “Why would I miss you?  Were you gone?”

She laughed when he spanked her bottom, feeling the delicious sting. 

“Try again,” he growled, lowering his mouth to kiss her lips. 

“Yes,” she laughed.  “I missed you a lot.”

“Better!”  Then he kissed her again, but gently this time because of his split lip.  “You should take off my shirt.”

Lexie pulled back, blinking in surprise.  “Your shirt?  Mike you’re hurt.  We shouldn’t…”

Mike leaned forward.  “I need first aide,” he teased, then took her hands and put them on his waist. 

Lexie stared at him for a moment, then slowly, gently, lifted his shirt up and over his chest.  After she turned back to face him, her eyes took in all the glory of Mike’s body.  Or at least the half of it she could see. 

“Mike,” she whispered, then words failed her.  She’d known that he was muscular because of the way he filled out his tee-shirts. But seeing him like this, all those muscles in full view was…wow!  “Mike, you’re gorgeous.”  Her fingers trailed softly down over his muscles, tracing the ridges and exploring every part of his chest, shoulders, abs.  Her fingers stopped as they rested on his belt and she looked up at him, waiting for his permission to continue.  “Are you hurt anywhere else?”

“Yes,” he growled, leaning down to kiss her.  “I’m in pain much lower.”

She laughed briefly, but then her need to see all of him returned.  Concentrating, she slid her fingers between his hard abs and his belt, feeling his muscles tense as she worked to release the buckle.

“Maybe I should do that.”  He grabbed her wrists and started pulling away.  “You’re taking too long.”

“I’m fine,” she asserted, and pushed his hands away.  With slow, curious fingers, she released the buckle, then the snap at the waistband of his jeans.  With excruciating curiosity, she lowered the zipper, savoring this moment.  She wanted to remember this for the rest of her life. 

“Lexie!” he whispered with a warning tone. 

“Yes?”  She smiled up at him.  “Do you want me to stop?”

Slowly, the zipper moved lower and lower.  Lexie could feel her whole body vibrating and loved this sensation.  She’d never felt this way about sex before and wanted to enjoy it a bit longer. 

Unfortunately, she discovered that she’d pushed Mike too far.  His hand gripped her wrist and pulled her hands away.  A moment later, he lifted her into his arms, his forearms under her bottom as he carried her into her bedroom. 

“Yes.  If you want this to continue, you’re going to have to stop.”  He put her down on the bed, then followed, bracing his hands on either side of her head as he lowered his mouth to kiss her.  When he lifted his head, both of them were breathing heavily.  “Next time, you can explore all you want.  But after the past few weeks, we’re going to do this my way.”

“Why do you get control?” she asked, wiggling out from underneath him.  Or trying.  He caught her before she’d made it two inches.

“Because I’m stronger.  I’m bigger.  And because I’m meaner.”

Despite the increasing throb lower in her body, Lexie laughed.  “I think that I might be stronger,” she challenged. 

He ignored her comment, looking down at her robe.  “Yeah?  Go ahead.  Try to take control.”  But he was already separating the sides of her robe, the belt having come loose during their trip into the bedroom. 

Without hesitation, Mike lowered his mouth to cover her nipple, not giving her any warning.  So it was a shock when his hot mouth covered that rigid peak and fire shot along all of her body.  “Mike!” she gasped, wiggling underneath him.  Without being aware of her actions, her legs moved higher, wrapping around his waist. 

“I thought you were going to take control,” he teased, moving over to her other nipple, torturing that peak and sending more stabs of pleasure throughout her whole body.  Arching her back, she cried out, not sure if she was begging him to stop or to keep going, but either way, she couldn’t control the sensations. 

When he nibbled lightly, her whole body jerked and she whimpered.  “Mike, I can’t take anymore.  Please, you have to stop this!”

“Not going to stop,” he replied smoothly, but started moving down her body, kissing and nibbling and teasing her stomach, her hips, her inner thighs.  Because she’d just gotten out of the shower, there were no clothes to slow him down and he found his goal easily enough, spreading her legs wider as he nibbled and licked and teased her more.

“Mike!  This isn’t…!”  

Her soft sobs were her only response when she felt his long finger slide into her heat.  Then something softer and rougher and…!  “Mike!”  Her cry was only a whisper this time as she closed her eyes, her body trembling with the need for…something. 

When his mouth closed over that nub and sucked, softly at first, but then with increasing pressure while that amazing finger twisted around, teasing the inside of her in the same place, Lexie couldn’t hold back any longer!  Her body climaxed almost before she knew it was going to happen.  Arching into his mouth, her fingers held his head in place while her body throbbed again and again. 

Afterwards, she went limp, breathing heavily so she didn’t see Mike when he stood and stripped off the rest of his clothes.  It was only when she felt the bed move again, felt the warmth of his body against her skin, that she opened her eyes once more and looked into his dark, victorious eyes.  “I like it when you do that,” he said, kissing her lightly, but increasing the pressure. 

A moment later, he pushed up and rolled a condom down over his shaft.  Lexie watched, wanting to touch him, to explore that impressive appendage.  But before she could utter any words, he came back to her, lacing his fingers with hers over her head, then nudged her legs wider, making room for his hips.

“Damn it, I don’t think I can go slowly, Lex,” he warned a moment before he pressed into her heat.  “Tell me if I hurt you.”

Lexie opened her mouth to tell him to slow down, that it was hurting, but as he pressed into her, she felt her body give way, felt those incredible tingles again.  With wide eyes, she stared up into his, surprised at how…amazing he felt.  “Don’t stop!” she whispered to him, even lifting her hips to pull him in deeper.  “Please don’t stop!”

 

Mike nodded, pressing in deeper and deeper.  It was hard to slow down because Lexie felt so tight, so wet and perfect!  He could feel her muscles relaxing as she took all of him into her tight body and he was awed by her beauty and the amazing sensations of her wrapped around him. 

As soon as he was fully inside of her, he paused, looking into her eyes.  “You okay?”

That cute tongue of hers whipped out, licking her lips and he couldn’t resist.  Lowering his head, he kissed her softly, holding himself very still until she relaxed. 

When he lifted his head, he shifted slightly and heard her gasp.  Eyes sharp, he did it again with the same reaction.  “You like that?” he asked, needing to hear her say the words.

“Yes!’ she gasped, arching into him.  He did it again.  And again!  With every thrust, he felt her body tighten around his shaft and it felt like heaven! 

“Tell me what you like the best.”

Lexie smiled, but shook her head.  “I don’t think I can…you know…again.  Just…this is for you, Mike.”

He might have laughed, but wasn’t sure that he had the strength for that.  Not right now.  Later, he might tease her for such a ridiculous statement.  At the moment though, Mike wanted to prove her wrong. 

Sliding in and out of her heat, Mike thrust deeper, shifting his hips so that he rubbed that nub just right.  And with every thrust, he felt her body tighten, straining towards another climax.  Why the hell she thought she couldn’t climax again was a mystery that he’d solve later. Right now, he just needed to hear her, to feel her body tighten with another release so that he could really enjoy this experience. Not that he wasn’t loving it.  Hell, he wouldn’t mind doing this for the rest of his life.  But he wanted Lexie to find her own pleasure before he found his own.  To that end, he moved faster and faster, holding back his own release until…!

She screamed out, arching into him once again as her body throbbed, her fingers tightening on his hands as she turned her head away from him.  This time, he suspected that her climax was even more intense than the last one, and he held back just a few more moments longer, prolonging her pleasure.  When he couldn’t hold off any longer, he let himself go, thrusting into her harder and harder until…vaguely, he felt Lexie climax yet again, but by that point, he was too far gone into his own orgasm and wasn’t fully aware of anything other than his pleasure. 

When it was all over, he collapsed against her, burying his face against her neck as they both fought to get enough oxygen.  With a groan, he rolled off of her, rolling away but pulling her against him.  He felt himself smile because Lexie felt like a rag doll against his side and he knew that he’d done that to her.  He’d given her so much pleasure that she was now without any tension. 

“Wow,” she whispered. 

Mike laughed softly, then kissed the top of her head.  “I’ll be right back.”  He walked into her bathroom and cleaned up, discarding the condom and washing his hands.  When he walked back into the bedroom, she’d curled up on her side, pulling the blanket over her body. 

He slipped in behind her, wondering at her silence.  When he looked over her shoulder, he noticed that her eyes were wide.  “What are you thinking?” he asked, kissing her shoulder as he slipped his arm around her waist. 

 

Lexie glanced over her shoulder at him, not sure what to say.  “I just…” she stumbled, words not forming in her brain. 

“Why did you tell me that you couldn’t climax again?”  His hand moved up, cupping her breast but, thankfully, he didn’t touch her nipples which were still extremely sensitive at the moment.  Not just her nipples, she thought.  Every part of her was sensitive! 

She smiled when he pulled her against his chest and snuggled closer, enjoying the sensation of him warming her back. 

“I’ve never…,” she stumbled, trying to figure out how to tell him the truth.

“You’ve never climaxed during intercourse before?” he finished for her.

Lexie sighed.  “I’ve never climaxed at all during sex.”

She felt him still behind her, but couldn’t look at him. 

“Not at all?  Not from touching or oral sex?”

She shrugged, careful not to knock him with her shoulder.  He was bruised enough already.  “Nope.  I just…I sort of thought I was broken.   A lot of women don’t climax during sex, Mike.”

He lifted up so that he was looking down at her.  “No, Lexie.  A lot of women don’t climax during intercourse.  But I’ve never heard of a woman who couldn’t climax at all!”

“Oh, I can climax,” she told him, then her cheeks heated up.

“Yeah?’ he laughed softly.  “Will you let me watch sometime?”

Lexie groaned, burying her face in the pillow, but Mike wouldn’t let her hide from him and rolled her onto her back so that he was once again looming over her.  “I think that’s hot.”

“Stop it,” she muttered.  “But no, I’ve never…climaxed during sex.”

“Glad to be of service and prove that there isn’t a damn thing broken with you.  Just idiots who didn’t know what they were doing, honey.”

She laughed, feeling wonderful.  In fact, Lexie felt like she wanted to jump up and dance.  “Are you hungry?”

He looked down at her breasts.  “Starving,” he leered.

Another chuckle and Lexie cupped his head, bringing his eyes up to hers.  “For food.”

“Yeah, I could eat something.  Should I order a pizza?”

“No need.  I got bored while you guys were doing your mysterious things.  One night, I made a casserole but by the time I finished it, I’d already nibbled on the ingredients so I wasn’t hungry any longer.”

“What kind of casserole?” he asked, standing up, then grabbing her hands to pull her out of the bed. 

Lexie grabbed her robe and headed into the bathroom, flipping the switch to turn on the shower.  “It has chicken and pasta and lots of cheese.  Hence, why I was no longer hungry after I finished cooking it.  All we have to do now is heat it up in the microwave.”

“Sounds delicious,” he told her, still naked and wrapping his arms around her from behind, kissing her neck and shoulder.  “How sore are you at the moment?”

Lexie laughed, thinking he was just teasing her.  “Oh, you weren’t that bad.”

“Good,” he replied, then placed her hands on the wall in front of her.  “Then while we wait for the water to warm up, maybe I can warm you up a bit.”

Lexie gasped when she understood his intention, but don’t move.  His hands and mouth moved over her, teasing her and making her body tighten with anticipation.  By the time the water was warm enough, he lifted her into the shower, but instead of placing her hands on the shower wall, he turned her around, knelt in front of her and lifted one of her legs over his shoulder.  Before she could protest, his mouth was already on her and she couldn’t even remember how to speak, much less protest his actions.  And when he brought her to yet another glorious climax, she cried out, grabbing onto his broad shoulders to hold herself steady. 

 

Mike stood up, feeling like a king now that he’d brought her even more pleasure.  But before he could spin her around and grab the condom he’d left on the bathroom counter, Lexie was kneeling in front of him.  He almost stopped her, but her sexy, warm lips wrapped around his shaft and he groaned, bracing his hands on the tiles behind her as her tongue and mouth and lips pleasured him right back.  He almost found the strength to pull her away, but her mouth just felt too damn good! 

When she stood up, a victorious smile on her features, it was too much. He pulled her into his arms and kissed her until she was breathless once again.  “Damn, Lexie!  What am I going to do with you?”

She laughed and grabbed the soap, running it over his chest.  And that started their desire all over again.  The hot water ran out before Lexie cried out with release this time, but Mike barely acknowledged the cold water, focused only on Lexie and the warmth of her body. 

Chapter 9

 

“Where did you get all those bruises?” Lexie asked the following morning as they sat at her tiny dining room table drinking coffee and eating pancakes. 

He paused as he flipped over another pancake, looking over his shoulder at her.  “I can’t say,” he told her.

Lexie watched him, feeling shut out for some reason.  Logically, she knew that he couldn’t tell her anything about his activities.  And logically, she even understood that it was for her own protection as well as for operational security.  His silence probably even saved several other people’s lives. 

Still, it hurt that she couldn’t know anything about what he did during his absences.

Mike turned off the heat and walked over to her, bracing his hands on the table.  “Hey.  You know I can’t discuss what I do, Lex.”

She sighed, pushing her plate away.  “I know that.”

He slid a finger down her cheek.  “So what’s the problem?”

Shrugging, she took her plate over to the sink.  “I don’t know.  Nothing.”

He didn’t believe her.  “That wasn’t a ‘nothing’ sigh.  Talk to me.”

She turned around, her eyes skimming over his chest which she could still see since he wasn’t wearing a shirt, just his jeans and, goodness, he looked sexy! 

“I don’t know.  It just feels…odd…not to be able to know anything about what you do.”

He stared at her and Lexie could see him trying to come up with a suitable response.  In the end, he simply said, “I solve problems.”

Oh, if only that were enough, she thought.  Looking down, she accepted that this was the reality of their relationship.  It was sad, but also nothing either of them could do.

“Yes.  I know that.  And I know that the problems you resolve are very dangerous situations.  You probably even rescue people.”  She looked up at him, her eyes searching for some sort of confirmation of her statement.  But all she saw was a blank look, his features even and still.  “Right.  I’m sorry,” she said, placing her hand on his chest.   “You can’t tell me anything.”

Pulling her into his arms, he rested his chin on top of her head.  “If I could tell you, you know that I would, Lex.”

“I know,” she replied, closing her eyes but he couldn’t see her facial features.  “But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

He laughed softly, then kissed her head again. 

Chapter 10

 

Three days later, Lexie was fuming.  Stomping back to her desk, she slapped several papers and file folders onto one corner of her desk. But when that didn’t feel right, she picked them up and stuffed them into one of her drawers. 

“Hey, Lexie,” Joe said, poking his head into her office.  He paused when he saw the angry look she gave him.  “Oh…uh…you okay?”

“I’m fine!” she replied, then sighed, rubbing her forehead.  “I’m sorry, Joe.  I’m just…,” she didn’t know how to describe what she was feeling.  “Just off today.”

“I understand,” Joe replied, stepping into the office for a moment.  He searched for something to say, but then shook his head.  “It gets better over time.”

She looked at him hopefully  “Does it?”

He laughed.  “Hell, I don’t know.  I’m always the one leaving.  But…” he shrugged.  “It might.”

Lexie pulled her lips into a forced smile, but Joe knew that she wasn’t feeling it.  “Hang in there.”  Then he was gone. 

 

Not all of the team left this time, but enough of them were gone.  And Mike was one of them.  She lifted a box and glanced at the order number and groaned.  Another secret, she thought.  Picking up the box, she hefted it into her arms.  “Don’t know why everyone gets to leave and I’m stuck behind, not knowing anything.  Not even why the guy wants a box of light bulbs that don’t fit any of the lights in this warehouse!”

The soft laughter caused her to swing around and Lexie spotted Lieutenant Colonel Zeke Matthews leaning against the wall. 

“Pisses you off, doesn’t it?”

Lexie cringed at the phrase, but she shrugged. “I wouldn’t put it that way, but yes.  All of the secrets around here sometimes irritate me.”

Zeke was one of those men that would make her nuts.  He was so laid back, so…emotionless, unless he was amused.  And he laughed at the oddest things.  He was never mean about his laughter, so he didn’t laugh at someone else, but he laughed with the others, enjoying the various pranks that the team members might play on each other.  And the man loved to exercise!  Goodness, the harder Mike pushed the teams, the more Zeke loved it!  It was like strenuous exercise was the only thing keeping the man sane.  He was usually grim when he went out for their physical training, but came back dripping with sweat and mud, but more relaxed. 

“I heard that he owes you several dinners.”

Lexie smiled, remembering their mini-golf competition.  “Yeah.  That was a good night.”  Her mood brightened at the memory. 

Zeke chuckled.  “Has he paid up yet?”

She thought about the pancakes he’d made for her Saturday morning, but before she could answer, Zeke laughed again.  “I can see that he has.” Shaking his head, Zeke started walking away.  “Shocking.” 

But before Lexie could ask what was so shocking about Mike cooking, Zeke was gone.  The man was a little like a ghost, she thought as she brought the box to the general’s office, putting it down on his desk before walking back to her own office again.  She sat down at her desk and turned to her computer.  The man just…appeared.   Seemingly out of nowhere!  And then he would appear again.  Maybe she should be looking around more carefully because that man was scary! 

Chapter 11

 

Four days later, everyone was back.  Once again, Lexie was sitting outside on a bench, eating her lunch when the plane landed on the short tarmac.  Seconds after the plane came to a stop, the door opened and the men stepped down.  One by one, the soldiers hefted their rucksacks over their shoulders with one hand and carried their weapon in the other hand as they walked into the warehouse.  Every one of them nodded or waved to Lexie and she felt a warm glow of acceptance as they called out a greeting to her, despite their apparent exhaustion. 

Mike was the last one out and he carried more than the others.  He also looked more fatigued and it took every ounce of self-control not to rush over to him and help him out.  She and Mike had done a good job of keeping their personal lives separate from the teams, even if Zeke knew that something was going on.  Still, she wanted to greet him, wanted to touch him and run her hands over every part of his body to ensure herself that he was okay.

And yet, she remained on the bench, her tuna sandwich frozen halfway to her mouth as she watched, her eyes hungrily eating him up instead.

Mike walked over to her, stopping several feet away.  “You okay?” he asked.

Lexie laughed, delighted to see him but amused at the question.  “Seriously?  You’re asking me if I’m okay when you look like you’ve been through hell?”

He shrugged and her mouth watered at the sight of those broad, powerful shoulders she knew were hidden underneath that uniform.  “I owe you dinner.  My place?  Tonight?”

Her smile widened and she nodded.  “I’ll be there.  Now go get showered up and do your…” she paused, searching her mind for the right word.  “Debriefing?” she finally asked, looking up at him hopefully.

He chuckled.  “You’re getting there,” he teased, then turned and headed into the warehouse. 

 

Mike showered and changed, then walked into the conference room where General Kelly was waiting for him.   For the next hour, he briefed the general on what his team had discovered, but his mind wasn’t really on the meeting.  His mind was on Lexie and the cute, prim way she’d been sitting out on the bench.  Her long, sexy legs had been pressed together, her black pumps and her demure skirt showing him enough of her legs to make him drool, but not enough for him to be satisfied. 

Would he ever get enough of her?  He loved these missions, loved getting out into the world and resolving horrible situations.  But in the past, he’d come back to nothing.  The past two missions, he’d always had Lexie in the back of his mind, reminding himself that he had someone to come home to.  Someone special. 

Which was why, at six o’clock that night, he had two chicken breasts sizzling on the grill and baked potatoes now piping hot, ready for butter and sour cream.  He’d added a salad as well and had even prettied it up in the hopes of impressing her. 

The doorbell rang and he was already there, opening the door and pulling her inside and into his arms.  “Damn, I missed you!” he said a moment before he pressed her back against the wall and kissed her.  Thoroughly! 

Too fast, things spiraled out of control.  It might have been the way she’d kissed him back, as if she’d missed him as much as he’d missed her.  Or maybe it was the way her legs wrapped around his waist.  But his mind blanked to everything but Lexie. 

He heard something rip, then felt her panties in his hand.  A moment later, he felt her fingers on his shaft and he lost more brain cells.  He barely had the sense to grab a condom and protect himself before he lifted her up again and slowly lowered her down onto his erection, using the wall as leverage. 

When he looked down at her, feeling her body expand and accept him, he was amazed at how hot and wet and amazing she felt.  Her mouth open, eyes closed, she arched her body against his.  For a long, perfect moment, he just paused, enjoying the moment of her body tight around him.  But that moment was short and he started thrusting, moving against her hard and fast, his hands grasping her bottom as he thrust again and again! 

Too soon, he felt her shudder out a release, her cries making him press even faster into her.  Vaguely, he sensed her climaxing again, but he was too focused on his own orgasm, his body thrusting into hers and it felt as if his soul was leaving him as well.  It was pure pleasure at its most carnal. 

When it was all over, he opened his eyes and looked down at her, shocked that he’d taken her so callously.  But when she opened her eyes, her swollen lips curled upwards and he felt her fingers in his hair. 

“Wow!” she whispered, then leaned forward to kiss his jaw lightly. 

Mike laughed softly, shaking his head a bit in order to try and clear things.  “Are you okay?”

He was looking up at the ceiling, enjoying the aftermath too much to move.  But the soft chuckle brought his eyes down to look at her and what he saw almost made his body harden again.

“Yeah.  I’m good now.”

He grumbled something inarticulate, then shifted, pulling out and carefully lowering her feet to the floor.  “What’s so funny?”

Lexie continued to lean against the wall, smiling up at him.  “I’m not really sure,” she admitted.  “I’m just really happy to see you.”

He braced his hands on the wall beside her head, then leaned down to kiss her, softly this time.  “You’re beautiful,” he told her, and meant it with every part of him.  She was…beautiful.  Her eyes were all sexy and soft, her lips swollen from his kisses and there was a soft glow about her.  Had that glow been there before she’d walked into his house?  Correct, had that glow been there before he’d dragged her into his house! 

“You’re just horny,” she teased, but her hand slid up against his chest, soothing the words and she lifted up to kiss him again.  “I like it.”

Something occurred to him at that point and he looked out through the sliding glass doors to his backyard. “Damn!” he muttered, pushing away from him.  “I think our dinner just burned.”

Lexie smiled as she followed him out the door.  “What was on the menu?” she asked as they both stared down at the two black blobs that were no longer sizzling. 

“It was chicken,” he admitted. 

“Hmm…well, that’s…disappointing.”  She looked at him, a sparkle in her eyes.  “I’m not letting this be one of the dinners you owe me.”

He swung around, grabbing her around the waist and lifting her up.  “I’m claiming foul play!”

She laughed, wrapping her arms around him, loving this teasing side of him.  “Foul play?  How’s that?”

“You showed up, looking all cute and sexy in that tiny little dress,” he said, holding her with one arm under her bottom again as his other hand slid down her bare leg.  “That’s cheating.”

“Oh no you don’t!” she said, wiggling and laughing at the same time.  “You didn’t even see my dress before you had me pinned against the wall!  So you can’t blame that charred mess on me!”

“I’m bigger and stronger than you are, Lex.”

“And that’s relevant how?”

“I win.”

She grinned.  “Oh, so brute strength wins over intelligence?  Is that what you’re saying now?”

He set her down on the kitchen table, then leaned forward, forcing her back.  “Are you telling me that I’m stupid?’

She giggled, unable to stop herself when he was this cute and caveman-ish.  “You’re the one who can’t cook chicken!” she pointed out. 

He laughed, then kissed her again.  “I’ll make some more chicken.  It shouldn’t be too long once I get them pounded out flat.”

She followed him into the kitchen, that’s when she noticed the lack of her panties.  “Um…Mike!”

He spun around quickly at the sound of panic in her voice.  “What’s wrong?”

Lexie stood by the table, her hands pressing the short, flirty dress down over her thighs.  “Um…I need to just…run home for a moment.”

His eyes skimmed down over her legs.  “Did you forget something?”

Lexie laughed, but it sounded a bit self-conscious.  “Nope.  No, I didn’t forget anything.”  She walked over to the carpet where a piece of red satin lay.  “You just…uh…sort of destroyed my underwear.” 

It took him a long second before he fully understood what was going on, but then the smile grew on his handsome features.  “I ripped your underwear, didn’t I?” and he walked over to her, pulling her gently into his arms.  “Sorry about that.”  He kissed her neck, nuzzling that spot right under her ear.

Lexie playfully punched his shoulder, only putting a half-hearted effort into avoiding his lips.  “You’re not sorry in the least, Mike.”

His laugh was low and grumbly.  “You’re right.  There is zero remorsefulness in my heart.”  He lifted his head.  “In fact, I think it’s hot!”

He took her hands and led her back into the kitchen.  “Here,” he said, handing her a mallet.  “Pretend the chicken breast is my head and flatten it out.”  He put a silicon cover over the chicken and nodded.  “Go at it.”

Lexie pounded out the chicken gently at first, but once she knew that the silicon covering wasn’t going to break apart and get all nasty like wax paper or parchment paper would, she put a little more energy into the task.  In no time at all, the chicken breast was perfectly thin. 

“Good job,” Mike said, then took the breast with a fork, placing another down on the matt for her to pound out.  “Do it again while I season this one.”

Lexie went at it, smiling and feeling really good, if a bit awkward without underwear.  And yet, she still hummed with happiness.  Mike was back in town and he still wanted her.  That was good news!  Yes, she knew their affair would end.  There were too many secrets between them, including her own secret, for them to have an open and honest relationship.  But she was going to enjoy it for as long as she could.

He tossed both breasts onto the grill while she brought the salad and potatoes out to his backyard.  She set everything up on his small table and, when the chicken was grilled – perfectly this time – they sat outside and sipped ice tea while dining on delicious, tender chicken with a healthy salad and creamy potatoes. 

Afterwards, she smiled when he pulled her onto the couch to watch a movie. But as the ending credits rolled, Lexie felt his hands on her, sliding over her skin and the whole whirlwind started over again.

Chapter 12

 

Lexie slipped out of bed before the sun came up, slipping her dress back on over her head, trying to be as quiet as possible.  She didn’t want to wake Mike up, but she had a story idea and really wanted to work on incorporating it into her storyline. 

She’d just picked up her purse and dug out her keys when Mike stepped through the door, yawning and rubbing a hand over his face.  He’d pulled on a pair of shorts that looked awesome, revealing all of his chest and stomach muscles to her delectation. 

“Where are you going?  It’s not even five o’clock in the morning.”

Lexie froze, not sure what to tell him.  “Um…well, I have to do something.”

He walked over to her, taking her hand.  “You don’t need to leave this early.  And anything at work can wait until later.” 

Lexie pulled back, shaking her head.  “Mike, I have something I need to do.  I’ll see you on base later.”

She pulled her fingers out of his hand and, because he was awake now, stuffed her bare feet into her sandals. 

“Lexie, what the hell do you need to do at,” he glanced at his watch, “four twenty-five in the morning?”

Lexie sighed, pushing her hair out of her eyes.  “Mike, I have something to do that is personal.  Just…leave it at that, okay?”

He glared at her, irritated by her non-answer.  “What personal?”

She stiffened at his demand, then turned to glare up at him. “Where have you been for the past few days?”

Immediately, his arms crossed over his chest, his muscles bulging, but the movement was more defensive, revealing his frustration at her non-answer.  “You know I can’t tell you where I go.”

She tilted her head.  “I do.  So perhaps you can understand my need for secrecy in what I’m about to do.”

“What the hell?  Are you just…are you trying to keep secrets from me simply because I can’t tell you what I’m doing when I’m not here on base?”

She smiled gently, shaking her head.  “No.  Not at all.  My need for secrecy has nothing to do with national security.  But I have my reasons, Mike.  Just…I have to go.  I’m sorry.”  And with that, she walked out of his apartment, hurrying down the stairs to her car.  Thankfully, it started on the first try and she was able to back out of the parking space and head back to her own apartment. 

As soon as she walked in, Lexie went over to her dresser drawer and pulled on a pair of panties.  Feeling better, she picked up her laptop and snuggled up on her bed with all of her pillows pushed behind her back and then…her fingers flew over the keyboard, typing out the scene in her mind.  It was almost seven o’clock by the time she finished the scene and, by then, Lexie knew that she’d have to hurry in order to shower, dress and drive over to the base so that she’d make it to work on time.  But having gotten that scene written, she felt really good about herself. 

Walking into work that morning, she was rushing because she was so behind schedule.  But she dumped her bag into her desk drawer about five minutes before eight o’clock and sighed with success before pulling the stack of files closer to start working. 

It was perhaps three hours later when she felt something strange. Looking up, she glanced around and…her eyes collided with Mike’s furious gaze as he stepped through the door.  Walking towards the conference room, he pulled his eyes away from her without even a greeting.

Hurt, Lexie forced her attention back to her stack of tasks, but her focus was shot.  He’d been angry with her and that wasn’t fair!  She hadn’t done anything wrong! 

By lunch time, she was still angry with him.  Lexie grabbed her sandwich and walked out of the warehouse, smiling politely at the other soldiers who greeted her or tossed her a wave.  Lexie slipped behind the building and headed down a path where she’d discovered a small creek surrounded by trees.  It was a nice, quiet spot and she enjoyed the springtime breeze as it lifted wisps of hair, tickling her neck. But she was so upset about Mike’s rejection of her that she wasn’t really in the mood to eat.  So she tore off pieces of the bread and fed it to the fish that swam by in the creek, nibbling on her apple. 

She went back inside before her lunch break was over, wanting to get more work done, but her heart wasn’t in it during the afternoon.  When Lexie walked out of the warehouse to where she’d parked her car, her eyes skimmed over the guys that were coming back from the training fields, but Mike wasn’t among their groups.  She hadn’t seen him except for that one moment right before lunch and…she was hurt. 

She’d just walked into her apartment and flipped off her shoes when she heard the knock on the door.  Before she opened it, Lexie was sure that it was Mike. 

Sure enough, as soon as she opened the door, he stepped into her apartment looking freshly showered and sexy, his hair still wet and wearing another pair of his soft, well-worn jeans and a tee-shirt stretched over his shoulders. 

Keeping her hands to herself, Lexie leaned back against the door and watched him pace across her living room with her hand crossed over her chest, waiting for him to say whatever it was that he wanted to say.

“Lexie, I don’t like that you have secrets from me.”

Lexie stared at him, waiting for him to continue.  But when she realized that he was finished, she straightened up and came closer.  “You’re kidding, right?”

“Why?”

“You have so many secrets, I don’t even know where to start!”

Mike ran a hand through his hair, obviously frustrated.  “My job is different, Lex.  I’m not allowed to talk about the things that I do.”

“So?” she demanded, huffing a bit.  “What I was doing this morning was my job.”

His eyes flared with anger and he leaned forward slightly.  “Your job is working with the team!  It’s helping people with ordering and getting things ready for us!  You’re the support staff!  Are you seriously going to tell me that you left my bed this morning in order to do something for the team?”

She pressed her lips together for a long moment, trying to figure out how best to answer him.  “Nope.  What I left your bed to do had nothing to do with the teams.  I told you this morning, it was a personal issue.”

He glared down at her.  “Lexie, I don’t think that we can get more intimate with each other.  And yet, you’re telling me that you can’t tell me what’s going on in your life?”

When he put it like that, she felt a bit surly.  Still, she couldn’t tell him what was going on.  She’d kept this secret close to her heart for too long and it was an ingrained habit.  Plus, he’d probably laugh at her if he ever found out what she did in her own time.  Romance novels weren’t…men simply didn’t understand them!  They didn’t get why women needed them so much!  Mike might have defended her at the bar that night so long ago, but he hadn’t really defended the book.  He’d defended her.  There was a difference. 

Plus, there was a bit of stubbornness going on about it now and she didn’t like it. 

Shifting her shoulders, she glared up at him.  “So, you’re basically saying that you don’t trust me.

He ran a hand through his short hair impatiently.  “Yes!  I trust you!  So why won’t you tell me what’s going on?”

Because he might make fun of her, she thought.  And that was startling.  “I just…,” she stumbled, not sure what to say.  “Mike, please.  This is really important to me.”

He paused, looking at her with an intensity that terrified her.  “It’s important to me too.”  And with that, he walked out of her apartment.

Chapter 13

 

Lexie dragged herself out of bed the following morning, not sure what day it was, and not really caring.  It was the first night she’d spent alone except for the nights when Mike was on a mission in some mysterious place.  But because he hadn’t trusted her and…in truth…because she’d been afraid to trust him, she hadn’t gone after him last night to tell him about her secret passion.

She walked into the warehouse that morning, feeling sick to her stomach at the thought of seeing him again.  But although the teams came and went through the warehouse, she never saw Mike.  The other men talked about him, and they weren’t very complimentary.  In fact, some of them were wondering what was going on with him, wondering why he was being such “a hardass” today. 

Apparently, Mike was feeling just as out of sorts as she was. 

Still, Lexie didn’t feel as if she could go to Mike and explain.  She remembered that night in the bar, remembered how Mike had defended her from the guy who was laughing at her book.  And yet, Lexie couldn’t explain to him what she did in her off time.  She couldn’t tell him that she wove sexy, funny stories that she hoped would eventually allow her to write full time.  She couldn’t tell him that she’d already written one book that had been published and was selling, slowly, but still selling as more and more readers spread the word about her story.  It was as if she had a secret identity that only she knew about. 

 

Mike slammed through the door to his apartment, furious and exhausted.  And he hurt.  Damn it, that idiot private this morning had almost killed himself when he’d gone over the net on the obstacle course earlier today.  If Mike hadn’t been there to pull him back, the fool would have tumbled forty feet to the ground. 

Rotating his arm, he tried to work the kinks out of the muscles.  A hot shower helped, but that wasn’t the only ache that he was feeling. 

Was he being unfair about Lexie’s secret?  If he knew what was going on, maybe he wouldn’t need to…okay, that was silly.  If he knew her secret, he wouldn’t need to know her secret?  Nope, that didn’t even make sense to himself.  So no way could he drive over to her place and tell her that. She’d laugh herself silly.  And then she’d tell him to go to hell, which was essentially what she’d done earlier today when she’d walked out.

Trust.  Right!  Trust had to go both ways!  She didn’t trust him to protect her secret.  And he didn’t trust her to…to what?  To keep her secret?  Mike poured himself a glass of iced tea and drank it down, trying to cool his temper as well as his body. 

Still, he fumed, not sure why she wouldn’t tell him what was going on. 

Chapter 14

 

Mike stood outside Lexie’s door, contemplating what he could say.  Bracing his arms wide against the doorframe, he considered his words, wondering how they could figure this out. 

Before he could complete his thought, the door opened and there she was!  For a long moment, she just stood there, staring at him.  His hungry gaze moved over her features, wishing that he could…that she would…Damn it! 

“Lexie!” he groaned, stepping into the tiny apartment and closing the door.  She backed up a step but he shook his head.  “No, we’re not going to do that, Lex,” and he pulled her into his arms.  She resisted for perhaps half a second, then melted against him and Mike closed his eyes, tightening his arms around her as he leaned back against the door.  “We’re going to figure this out, Lex.”

Her arms crept around his waist and he could feel her hesitation.  “I know that you love me, Lex,” he said.  Again, she stiffened, but this time, she didn’t pull away.  In fact, she pressed her face against his chest.  “It won’t work to hide from it.  I love you too.”

That got her attention and she jerked out of his arms.  “No you don’t!” she snapped.

He let her go, but only because they needed to talk.  If he continued to hold her, they wouldn’t be talking any longer. 

“Lexie, I love you.  I’ve loved you for a while now, I just didn’t realize it because…” he ran a hand over the top of his head. “Because I’m an idiot.”

She crossed her arms over her chest and glared up at him.  “Well, at least there’s one thing we can agree on,” she muttered angrily. 

He laughed, but the amusement quickly faded.  “Honey, we need to work this out.  The trust…I know that…” he stopped, not sure what to say.  “I know that you aren’t a spy.  I know that you’re hiding something from me, but what I don’t understand is why you won’t tell me what it is.”  He moved closer, taking her hands.  “I don’t even believe that you’re in trouble, Lex.  So what is it that you’re hiding from me?”

 

Lexie looked up at him and her heart ached to hold him in her arms again.  It had been a whole week and her body literally ached because she hadn’t slept with him, hadn’t had his arms around her while she cooked or read or slept or…anything!  She needed this man!  She needed his touch and his teasing and his laughter.  She needed his arms around her and she needed…all of him!

“Damn you, Mike!” she grumbled and pulled her hands away, turning around and pacing back and forth across her tiny apartment.  “I don’t want this!”  She smoothed her hair back, taking a deep breath.  “I don’t want to want you!”

Swinging around, she glared at him.  “I didn’t invite you into my life, you jerk!” she snapped. 

He chuckled.  “I know, love,” he said, then pushed away from the door.  “I wasn’t expecting you either.  You weren’t in my plans.”

She huffed a bit, stepping back when he moved closer.  “I’m not going to love you.”

He laughed, shaking his head.  “Too late, honey.  You love me.  Admit it.”

“NO!” and she side stepped his arms again.  “No, Mike.  We don’t trust each other.”

He continued to come closer.  “You trust me.  And yeah, I trust you.” He grabbed her around the waist and pulled her closer.  Lexie contemplated fighting him, knowing that he’d release her if she demanded it.  But…well, he felt good!

“I don’t trust you.”

He lowered his head, nuzzling her neck and Lexie groaned.  Closing her eyes, she wasn’t aware of her arms moving around his neck. 

“You trust me, Lex.  The problem is that you’re curious and my work is top secret.”  He lifted his head and looked down at her, serious now.  “But Lex, even if I could tell you what I’m doing or where I’m going, I wouldn’t.”

“Seriously?” she gasped, the heels of her hands pressing against his shoulders.  “Why not?’

He let her go, but only because he knew that they needed to work this out.  He couldn’t live without her.  So that meant that they needed to talk.  He didn’t let her go very far though. 

“Because it would put you in danger.  If you knew something about my team’s activities, then you could be hurt in order to get that information.”  He moved his mouth quirked up slightly.  “And I’d never put you in danger.”  He reached out, sliding his hand down her arm.  “I love you, Lexie and I won’t put you in danger by giving you any information that someone might try to extract from you.”

When he put it that way, she…well, she kinda felt…warm and fuzzy.  “I just…”

He lifted his hand to stop her argument.  “Lexie, you’re curious.  Not distrustful.”

Lexie stared at him, tossing those words around in her mind.  Curiosity?  Was that all it was? 

“But…”

“Think about it.  You trust me completely, don’t you?”

Lexie licked her lips, thinking about that question.  In the end, she had to be completely honest with him.  “Yes.  I trust you.”  When she said those words, her head fell back.  “Damn it, Mike!”

He laughed, then swung her legs up with his other hand.  “Exactly!” he growled.  “You’re curious, not distrustful.  You just want to know what I’m doing because you’re curious.  Not because you think I’m doing anything wrong.”

He kicked her bedroom door closed with his foot. 

“I’m still not telling you what I’m doing,” she whispered, then gasped when he laid her down on the bed and, with nimble fingers, had her jeans tugged off in what felt like seconds. 

“You write romance novels.”  Mike leaned over and kissed her belly, then nipped at the soft curve.

Gasping, Lexie sat up, pulling his head away.  “How…how did you figure it out?”

He grinned, his fingers wrapping around her wrists to pull her restraining hands away.  “That first night we met?”

“Yeah.  What about it?” she asked warily. 

“You defended that book the other guy was maligning a bit too vehemently for someone to just be a reader.  It was personal to you, wasn’t it?”

Lexie bit her lip and he thought it was sexy as hell. 

“Yes.  It was very personal.”

He grinned and stood up, stripping off his tee shirt and jeans.  “You wrote that book.”

Now she was distracted by his body.  Reaching out, she let her fingers trail down the ridges of his hard stomach.  “Yes,” she whispered. 

“I read it.”

Lexie’s hand froze.  Her whole body froze!  Then her eyes slowly moved higher.  “You what?”

He took her hand and wrapped her fingers around his shaft, closing his eyes as he savored the sensation of her fingers around his body.  “I read the whole damn thing, Lex,” he growled out, then shifted her hand, moving her fingers against his erection. 

Lexie’s mouth dried as she watched his hand move hers against him.  When it was too much for her, she leaned forward and kissed the tip.  Just the tip!  But when that didn’t satisfy her, she licked it.  All over.  Again and again, she licked that shaft as if it were a lollipop, loving the way he groaned or hissed when she found one spot or another.  His fingers moved through her hair, tangling it as she moved her mouth over him. 

“Dam it, Lex, I can’t…I can’t take anymore!” and he pulled away.  With a surge of power, he lifted her back and spread her legs.  “You make me crazy,” he growled, sliding a finger inside of her heat. “Lexie, you’re…perfect for me!”

A moment later, he pulled his finger away and surged into her, stretching her and thrusting deeply, then pausing while she adjusted to his size. 

“Mike,” she sighed, closing her eyes even as she wrapped her legs around his waist.  Lifting her hips, she silently urged him to move.  Slowly, being careful not to hurt her, Mike began thrusting into her.  When she gasped, he thrust harder, pressing his body against that nub.  Faster than he expected, she was arching into him, her body tightening. 

“Look at me, Lex,” he urged, slowing down their lovemaking because he wanted her, not just to understand, but to accept.  “Look!” he snapped when she stubbornly kept her head turned away.

“I don’t want to!” she sobbed, lifting her hips as she fought him. 

Despite being on the edge himself, Mike stopped and looked down at her.  “Lexie, look at me!”

With an angry glare, she turned her head and looked up at him.  Only then did he start moving again.  “I love you,” he groaned as he shifted again and again against that small nub.

“Mike, I…!”

He knew she was resisting and he wasn’t going to let her.  Not this time.  Not ever!  “Love me back, Lexie,” he urged, softly this time, and he moved again, pulling her in closer so that he could nibble on her neck at the same time that he brought her to pleasure. 

Screaming, she couldn’t hold back her body’s response any longer and she wrapped herself around him, screaming out, “I love you!  I love you so much!”

That was all it took to take Mike over the edge as well.  Holding her close, he thrust again and again, enjoying the trembling of her body as they both experienced the throes of their climax together. 

When it was all over, he collapsed against her, then rolled to his side and pulled her on top of him.  It was the moments like this that he enjoyed the most.  Lexie was soft and exhausted, completely dependent on him and he savored this moment as he closed his eyes, letting his fingers run through her hair. 

“I love you,” she whispered and Mike smiled when he felt her soft kiss against his chest. 

“I love you too, Lex,” he replied softly.  “Marry me, Lex,” he demanded, smoothing a hand up her spine. 

Lexie laughed, shaking her head.  “Is that a proposal or a command, Colonel?” she teased, tugging at the hair on his chest. 

“Both,” he growled, rolling over so that she was underneath him.  “And a request,” he said, kissing her softly.  “I love you and you love me.  You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me, Lex.”  He kissed her again.  “I know that I can’t tell you everything that I’m doing, but I promise that I’ll make you happy.”

She wrapped her arms around his neck.  “Well, if you promise…” she teased.

Epilogue

 

Lexie’s breath caught in her throat as soon as she stepped into the small chapel that was filled to the breaking point with friends, family and military personnel.  Since she didn’t have any family and only a few friends, most of these people were Mike’s friends and coworkers.  But it wasn’t the other guests that Lexie’s eyes saw.  It was only Mike.  Only Mike and he looked…she couldn’t even describe how handsome he looked at the moment. 

Everyone stood and Lexie wanted to shout at them all to sit down so that she could feast her eyes on Mike in his uniform.  But this wasn’t his normal “dress greens”.  This one was dark navy, almost black and looked similar to a tuxedo but…wow!  This uniform was more.  So much more!  And how did he stand up straight with all of those medals on his chest? 

Then her eyes lifted and she saw him.  The man.  Mike.  It was Mike she was marrying this day.  Not the uniform.  Not the medals or the hero underneath all of that stuff.  Just Mike. 

Goodness, she loved him!  She loved his honor and strength.  She hated that he went into dangerous situations to protect this country, but she loved him for doing it.  Lexie couldn’t believe how much she loved this man! 

When she finally reached him, Lexie placed her hand in his and he pulled her forward.  Together, they stood in front of the minister, just staring for a long moment.  The minister started the ceremony but it took several moments before Lexie could pull her eyes away from the man. 

“That’s your line,” the minister whispered. 

Lexie turned, vaguely hearing the other guests laughing about something and blushed.  Mike’s fingers squeezed her own and told her that he was just as lost as she was. 

“I’m sorry.  What?”

The minister chuckled and repeated his words.  “Do you take Michael Donovan Cain to be your lawfully wedded husband, to honor and cherish, to…”

Lexie turned back to look into Mike’s eyes.  “I do,” she whispered fervently, even before the minister finished. 

The man smiled, then turned to Mike. “Do you take Alexandra Melanie Martin to be your lawfully wedded wife?  To honor and cherish, for better, for worse, in sickness and in health, from this day forward until death do you part.”

“I do,” he replied in a loud, commanding voice.

In the background, Lexie heard several men yelling out their approval, but her focus was on Mike.  Unconsciously, she stepped closer, loving him more with every word he spoke. 

The minister said something else, but Lexie didn’t hear any of it.  She watched as Mike’s lips curled up and suspected that she had a similar expression.  His fingers tightened on hers and she grinned. 

“I now pronounce you husband and wife.  You may…”

Mike didn’t wait for permission and Lexie was already in his arms by the time Mike’s lips covered hers.  The roar of approval was resounding as Mike kissed her over and over again, sealing their vows. 

When he finally lifted his head, he whispered, “I love you!”

She grinned.  “I love you too!”

As they turned and walked out of the small chapel, the music played and the guests cheered loudly.  There were hoots and whistles and, as soon as they stepped out, someone shouted an order.  A second later, shining swords swooped into the air, forming an “arch” for Lexie and Mike to walk under as they raced to the waiting limousine. 

Lexie laughed, delighted with all of the fanfare.  But what she really wanted was to be alone with Mike.  As soon as they dove into the limousine, she turned and threw herself into his arms.  He easily caught her and she kissed him with all of the love in her heart.  “You’re amazing,” she whispered, then kissed him again. 

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