Operation Summer Storm
Summer took a closer look at what the men were up to, and felt her stomach clench with a sick sensation. “What’s going on?”
“We’re jumping,” Del explained with a shrug, as if it were totally obvious.
“From the plane?” she yelped, in disbelief.
“That’s the general idea,” Maloney piped up.
Summer swivelled to find Tate, and staggered her way, against the unsteady gait of the plane, to stand before him. “You didn’t tell me anything about jumping out of a plane,” she yelled, over the noise.
“You didn’t ask,” he shouted back.
Summer stared at him in disbelief, “so I’m going to land with the plane?” she asked hopefully.
“Only if you’ve changed your mind and want to make the return trip back to the island, tonight.”
Summer stared at him helplessly, “I can’t parachute,” at least she assumed they were going to use parachutes—then again—who’d know, with this lot. “I don’t know how.”
“You won’t have to.”
“Then how am I getting off the plane?” she asked becoming more exasperated by the minute.
“Step into this,” he said, holding out a black harness contraption.
Summer stared at it for a second, and then started to back away. Oh God, she hated heights. How on earth was she going to do this?
He took a step toward her, and helped her into the harness while she still appeared dazed. “Now, turn around.”
“Turn around,” he repeated, slowly circling a finger in the air to demonstrate.
Summer caught the look in his eye and decided not to argue. She stiffened as Tate reached around her and began hooking various gadgets and buckles together—deftly working around certain areas—areas that were not used to being…worked around.
“Just what—” Summer asked, through tightly clenched teeth, “—do you think you’re doing?”
“You’re jumping with me,” he informed her in a calm tone.
“I told you, I don’t know how!”
“You’re jumping…with me,” he repeated as if to a slow-witted person.
The meaning became clear and alarm followed a brief sense of relief, as she realised the extent of what with him, involved. She’d seen enough TV reports on tandem sky jumping, to know just how close the two jumpers got. She didn’t, however, have any more time to think about it because all of a sudden, it was time to do it.
A large door opened and the noise she’d thought, couldn’t get any louder, just did. The others were busy throwing the equipment through the doorway, when Tate lent close to her ear so she could hear him.
“Usually this would be a half hour run through, before your jump, but we don’t have time. So here’s the condensed version. When I tap your shoulder, spread out your arms and legs, and when I tap again to land, bring them in again. Okay?”
Summer stared back at him in disbelief, her thoughts bordering on hysteria. He expected her to jump out of a plane with thirty seconds of training?
They moved closer to the doorway, and she panicked. She now stood in the open doorway of a moving aircraft.
Tate put his arms around her and coaxed her frozen fingers from the side of the door frame. “Just relax, I’ll take care of you,” his deep voice promised as he shouted over the thundering noise around them into her ear.
She could feel his big body pressed tightly against her back. “You better not be doing this for some kind of cheap thrill buddy because, I swear, if we make it down there alive, you’ll live to regret every moment,” she shouted back at him.
“Darlin’ there ain’t nothing cheap about the thrill I’m getting at the moment,” he assured her. “—and if we don’t make it,” he added with a deep drawl. “—just know I’ve died a happy man.”
Summer’s un-lady like retort froze in her throat as they fell through the opened doorway into the abyss.
Operation Willow Quest
A soft sound drew her attention back to Del once more. He’d rolled his head sideways and was now watching her with that steady unflinching gaze that seemed to be constantly weighing her up.
“You all right?” he asked in a soft drawl.
Willow gave a shrug, pushing her jumbled thoughts aside. Her eyes fell to his hand and saw he was absently rubbing his injured thigh.
“Is your leg hurting?” she asked with a mild touch of concern.
Looking down at his leg he slowly removed his hand and gave a wry smile. “Not much.”
She didn’t believe him but she didn’t feel like arguing either, so she let it go. The hum of the aircraft’s engines created a soothing backdrop and added to the illusion they were somehow isolated from the rest of the passengers.
“Thank you for coming down here. I really don’t know what would have happen to me if you hadn’t been there,” she said quietly. Looking back now, Willow was sure that without Del’s help she’d probably be sitting in some prison cell—or worse, if Trèago had been behind the police raid. “I’m sure you had plenty of other stuff you’d have rather been doing.”
* * * *
Del looked her over in contemplative silence before a slow grin crossed his face. “Not really.”
“I know I can be a bit—”
“Pig headed, stubborn, bad tempered…” Del filled in helpfully.
“I was going to say ‘obstinate,’” she said dryly.
“You know, using big words like that might be a bit risky on a dumb old marine,” he pointed out, as he enjoyed the way her eyes narrowed as her temper built.
“I never said you were dumb. I’ve simply pointed out that you’re not my type. I realise an ego the size of yours must have a hard time handling that—but I’m sure you’ll get over it.”
He lifted an eyebrow. “I thought you were apologising.”
“I have nothing to apologise for! I was simply trying to…oh forget it, we’re only going to end up fighting, and I’m not in the mood.” She sighed wearily.
Dels low chuckle had her snapping her head around to glare at him suspiciously.
* * * *
“Why don’t you just admit that you’re attracted to me and that I make your knees go weak and we’ll leave it at that,” he suggested with a shrug.
Willows mouth gaped open in disbelief, but he kept talking.
“Come on Sheldon, we both know what’s simmering under the surface here. Hell—I’ll admit it—you make me hotter than hell. You get me so worked up most of the time I don’t know whether to strangle you or kiss you,” he said, his voice losing its teasing note to become rougher with each admission. “Do you know what I see whenever I look at you?”
Mesmerised by the force of his gaze, she could only move her head a fraction side to side.
“I picture you sprawled across my bed—moaning my name over and over—”
“I get the picture,” she snapped quickly after gaping at him in astonishment for a few seconds. What the hell did he think he was doing? She shook off the images that flashed before her own eyes. Boy, did she ever get the picture… “I can’t even begin to imagine any girl finding that line a turn on,” she lied. “You would have to be the most, egotistical, arrogant, obnoxious bloody man I’ve ever laid eyes on,” she whispered furiously, gathering her scattered thoughts and turning on him with a narrow-eyed gaze.
“Hey! I’m going to look up all those words when I get home, you know,” he warned.
He’s yanking my chain again. Gritting her teeth and counting to ten slowly, Willow forced herself to continue, ignoring his interruption, “and if you think for one moment I would actually even consider sleeping with you—”
“Uh-ah,” he said, leaning towards her threateningly, “make no mistake—when we go to bed together darlin’, for real,” he emphasised, acknowledging their previous sleeping arrangement, “I can assure you, we won’t be doing any sleeping,” he said.
Her eyes widened at the unmistakeable image he’d drawn for her. “You’re not my type,” she repeated, captivated by the blue of his eyes as he leaned across, his gaze holding hers securely.
“Because you’re…” Her words trailed off faintly as she caught the musky male scent he wore and saw his eyes deepen. He was moving—or maybe she was—but somehow she was getting closer and her heart began thudding painfully against her chest, making her feel off balance and out of control.
“Excuse me, would either of you like another drink before we land?” The hostess’s polite voice had the same effect as a bucket of cold water being thrown over them.
Del looked away from Willow and nodded faintly. “Give me another scotch…straight.”
Willow sank back against her seat and let out a long slow breath. “Make mine a double.”
She heard Del’s uneasy chuckle as he ran a hand through his short hair restlessly and gave a small nod of satisfaction.
Good. She wasn’t the only one shaken by the encounter…now if they could pretend they didn’t feel the lingering hum of desire for the remainder of the flight, everything would be fine.
Operation Swift Mercy
“What happened?” He managed to get out, glad he sounded a lot calmer than he was feeling.
“I was in the shower,” she whispered. “Then all of a sudden he was just there, in the bathroom.”
“Why didn’t you lock the room door before you took a shower? You saw the kind of men who work here when we came on board. Why the hell didn’t you make sure you were safe before you went in there?” What he was really thinking was why the hell he hadn’t made sure she’d locked the door…why he hadn’t made sure she was safe.
“I just didn’t think…I mean I didn’t think anyone would come in…I—”
“He had his hands all over you,” he grated, pushing away from the door to pace the room.
“Why are you acting as though it was my fault? He broke into my room! I didn’t exactly ask him in!” She yelled and Chase smothered another curse at his stupidity. He was handling this all wrong. God damn it! Out of all of them, he was the one who usually knew what to do in situations like this—at least he had, until it was his woman in the line of fire. Now he was a hyped-up testosterone filled maniac who couldn’t seem to say the right thing.
He saw fresh tears building in Mercy’s eyes and forced himself to calm the hell down. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to yell.” He reached out to draw her close to him, but she grabbed his arm and pulled his hand closer to her for inspection.
“You’re hurt,” she said and he heard her voice crack slightly.
He didn’t bother looking at his hands, he knew his knuckles were covered in blood—most of it wasn’t his though and he headed into the bathroom to wash it away—he didn’t want anything belonging to that man anywhere near Mercy.
Behind him, he felt her enter the room. There was very little space with one person in there; two made it little more than standing room only. She placed her hands on his back and she felt her tug at his t-shirt.
“You’ve got blood all over your clothes,” she said quietly, continuing to move the fabric up over his torso and over his head.
Chase didn’t dare breathe in case it broke the fragile moment. She’d never been the one to initiate a move until now. He closed his eyes and searched for a measure of control as she gently caressed the skin on his back. He knew she would be looking at the scars—a legacy of wounds he’d received over his long career in Force Recon. They’d never taken the time to really look at each other when they’d made love before—it had always been a heat of the moment kind of thing. He vaguely worried that seeing him now, with all his faults and scars visible, she’d have second thoughts about wanting him but she continued to explore, taking her time to caress the puckered and risen scar tissue with a gentleness that almost undid him.
“I want to see you—all of you,” she said quietly, so quietly, he wasn’t sure at first he’d heard her. Slowly he turned to face her, his gaze locking onto her face and holding her gaze steadily. He slowly reached down and unbuttoned his fly, tugging at the zipper, careful to manoeuvre over the all too eager part of him that had been straining for release.
He watched as she lowered her gaze, and felt himself leap in anticipation. He would have apologised, even though he had no control over how Chase junior chose to react to a beautiful woman touching him with the softest hands he’d ever felt in his entire life, but it didn’t seem to bother her.
He stifled a groan as she gently stroked him and clenched his fists by his side to keep from grabbing her and doing her right here against the wall of the bathroom.
She began rhythmically sliding her hand in long sure strokes, the movement causing sweat to break out across his brow.
“Baby, I don’t know how long I can stand here and take this,” he groaned, dropping his cheek to rest on top of her head, weakly.
“So don’t just stand there,” she said, pulling back slightly to look up at him with a shy smile.
Operation Date with Destiny
She may have class written all over her—but that tattoo didn’t wash with the high maintenance designer image she was projecting in this dress that clung to all the right places, yet somehow managed not to look at all skanky. He loved a bad girl and that tat was a bad girl statement if ever he saw one. Oh yeah—he liked a challenge and something told him there was one great big mystery hiding out beneath that dress.
“Names Johnny,” he said holding his hand out and saw her hesitate briefly before sliding her smaller, well-manicured one into his. “What’s yours?”
“Destiny,” she said in that sultry tone that reminded him of hot sweaty nights tangled in silk sheets.
“Not every day a guy gets to meet his destiny.”
“You never know your luck,” she said softly and he watched as a slow, sexy smile spread across her lips, causing a roar of pure, unadulterated lust to echo through him.
Most people who hung out in this bar were connected to the base in some way, but she didn’t look the type. “I haven’t seen you here before. What line of work are you in?”
“I’m an accountant.”
Tupper sent her a sceptical lift of his eyebrow. “No way.”
“Way,” she shrugged slightly.
“Wow. You know if my accountant looked like you—I’d actually look forward to filing my tax return.”
She smiled politely, but beneath it, Tupper sensed she’d probably heard her fair share of similar remarks and wasn’t impressed. Better lift your game pal, he thought quickly. “Can I get you a drink?”
“No,” she said and for a moment his hopes teetered on the cusp of disappointment. “Not here…but maybe at your place?”
“You wanna’ go back to my place?” he said, staring dumbfounded into those dark, bottomless eyes. This wasn’t the way he usually worked—he was the one who made the first move. He did the asking and okay—he had to admit it, sometimes he got a slap across the face for his trouble…but this woman threw him off his game. Snap out of it dumbass! His ego barked. Pull your shit together and tap that fine ass before some other guy does.
“Ah, sure—we can do that,” he said, striving for something a little more indifferent. He stood up and put his hand out to indicate she should walk ahead of him to the door. He couldn’t help but watch the sway of her hips in the tight red dress, his eyes fixed on the intricate detail of the set of wings across her back. He wasn’t sure what he’d done to deserve this stroke of good luck that had almost, quite literally, fallen into his lap—but he wasn’t about to throw it away. Now, if he could just remember he was a grown man and not a God damn teenager—he might just get through this without embarrassing himself.