Authors: Kate Davies
She set her wineglass down on the table very carefully, crossed her arms over her chest and snapped, “What?”
“Nothing.” He raised both hands in mock surrender. “Nothing at all.”
“I’m hungry,” she complained. “When are we supposed to get dinner?”
Marc looked around. “Pretty soon, I’d guess. The band is going on a break.”
“And where the hell is Tess?”
“Right here.” Tess sat down at the table next to Bree.
Marc looked at Tess a little more closely. It must be getting crazy back in the kitchens. Her hair was all messed up, and her skirt was wrinkled.
The hotel manager was standing a few steps away, so Marc gestured at the remaining chair. “Why don’t you join us?”
“Thanks, but I need to go check on the dinner service.”
He turned to go, almost bumping into the waiter who had come up behind them. “Why don’t you bring over another bottle of merlot,” he said, “and another glass or two.”
“Good idea,” Bree said, tipping the last of the wine into her glass. “Running a bit low here.”
Tess looked at Bree, then at Marc.
He shook his head briefly.
“Honey, everything okay?” Tess touched Bree’s hand lightly.
“Absolutely perfect,” Bree said, enunciating just a little too clearly. “You’ve outdone yourself, Tess.”
“I’ll send your dinners over,” the manager said, then walked away.
Tess watched him go before turning back to the two of them. “Are you sure you two want company? I’m not interrupting, am I?”
“Nope,” Bree said. “Always room for my besties.”
? Good Lord, she really was drunk.
“Your dinners,” the waiter said, appearing at Marc’s elbow with a tray of covered plates. “Salmon or steak?”
“Steak,” Marc said, at the same time Bree said, “Salmon.”
The waiter inclined his head, distributed the plates, took off the covers and retreated.
Then the wine arrived, and the three of them settled down to eat in relatively peaceful circumstances.
Looks could be deceiving, though. Sometime this weekend, the pin had been pulled, and underneath the veneer of polite conversation was the potential for that grenade to blow sky high.
He just hoped the pieces were big enough to be put back together.
* * *
“So, Marc, I have a question.”
Bree sank back in her chair and took another drink of wine. Tess had ignored all of her pointed looks, choosing to interrogate Marc instead.
So far she’d learned that he was in the infantry, had served several tours overseas and was a sergeant first class. Which apparently was a big deal for someone who’d only been in the military for ten years.
She wasn’t sure if she was glad Tess was asking the questions she couldn’t, or if she was irritated that she was being so blatant about it.
Probably a little of both.
“When are you going to be sent overseas again?”
Marc shook his head. “Not for a long while, if at all. After ten years in the infantry, I’m finally assigned to a non-deploying unit. I’m kind of looking forward to it.”
“Kind of?” Bree sat up straight and set her glass on the table with a thunk. “You’re
glad you won’t be in a combat zone anymore?”
“That’s not what I...”
looking forward to not being in serious danger every single day?”
“Bree.” Tess put her hand on Bree’s arm, but she shook it off. How dare that bastard take this so lightly?
“You have a son,” she said, her teeth clenched. “You have responsibilities now.”
He smacked one palm against the tabletop. “I had responsibilities ten years ago. I just was never informed of that fact.”
“I said I was sorry.”
“Well, that’s a start.”
Tension settled over the table like a palpable thing.
“I want him to know, Bree.” Marc’s voice was quiet, but even in her inebriated state Bree could hear the thread of steel underlying it. “He deserves to know I’m his father.”
The panicky sensation was back, raising her heart rate, turning her breathing quick and shallow. No amount of alcohol could mask that. “I’m not ready.”
He swallowed. She could see a muscle tic in his jaw. “You’ve had a decade to prepare, Bree. I don’t want to wait another minute.”
“Tomorrow,” she said desperately. “He’s asleep now. We can tell him tomorrow.”
He looked at her for long moments, not moving, until she squirmed under his gaze.
She had to get out of here. She stood, only wobbling a little bit in her heels. “I should go.”
“I’ll drive you.”
“That’s not necessary.”
He glared at her. “Like hell it is. You shouldn’t be driving in that condition. In fact, give me your car keys.”
“I was going to call a cab, you jerk.”
“I’ll drive.” Marc looked at Tess, his expression weary. “I’ll make sure she gets home safely.”
Bree gathered up her purse and wrap, fighting back the tears that threatened. The least she could do was walk out of here with some dignity.
Then Marc placed his hand in the small of her back, the heat of his touch branding her through the fabric of her dress, and escorted her out of the ballroom under the speculative gaze of their former classmates.
She had a sinking feeling that she was making a big mistake.
They were almost to the car when Tess caught up with them.
Marc started to step aside to give her space with Bree, but to his surprise, she pulled him to the side instead. Bree opened her mouth to protest, but Tess put up a hand and said, “No, I got this.”
Bree snapped her mouth shut and glared at Tess, but stayed where she was.
Tess turned to Marc, still gripping his arm. “Marc, you know I respect you and consider you a friend. Or at least I did, back in high school. So with all that in mind, you hurt her, and you will regret it.”
“I’m not going to hurt her.” He glanced over at Bree, who was now leaning against the car, her arms crossed. “Probably the opposite.”
“Well, you’re both experts at hurting each other, aren’t you?” She sighed. “Just...be kind, okay? She’s vulnerable right now.”
“Tess, I’m going to take her home and come back to the hotel to crash. End of story. I’m exhausted and need some sleep before tomorrow.”
She stared at him for a long time, searching his face for who-the-hell-knew-what. But she must have been satisfied by what she saw, because she nodded and stepped away. Crossing to Bree, she wrapped her in a big bear hug and whispered something in her ear. Then she waved goodbye to them both as she went back into the building.
Marc unlocked the passenger door and circled the car to get in. Bree was already in her seat, belt on, her head lolling back against the headrest. Eyes squeezed shut, she mumbled, “I could have taken a cab.”
“Yes, you could,” he said reasonably, pulling out of the parking lot. “But this is quicker and easier.”
“But not smarter,” she added, eyes still closed.
He glanced at her in the dim light of the dashboard. Her hair was escaping the updo, tendrils curling around her temples and nape. It should have looked sloppy or messy, but to his eye, she just looked younger, more vulnerable. More
Suddenly, she sat up, panic on her face. “I can’t go home now,” she gasped.
Marc stared at her. “Why not?”
Bree looked at him like he was crazy. “Because I’m
“And I have a nine-year-old at home who shouldn’t see me this way!”
He flicked on the turn signal and rounded the corner. “I thought you said he’d be asleep by the time you got home.”
“Maybe! But maybe not. My mom tends to spoil him a little when she babysits. Let’s him stay up a little too late. Oh, God, my mom is there, too! She’ll totally be able to tell.”
He bit his tongue.
“Can you just, I don’t know, drive around for a little while?”
“Sure.” And if he was lucky, they’d actually be able to have that conversation she kept avoiding. Nothing like having a captive audience.
There were a lot of winding roads in the area. No traffic, no stoplights, just a chance to drive until Bree was ready to go home.
* * *
She was so going to regret this in the morning.
Already, the beginnings of a hangover were lurking around the edges of her consciousness, a low-level throb at the base of her skull. Why had she had so much to drink?
Marc drove with the same confidence and skill that he brought to everything he did. He’d always seemed older, more mature than the other guys in school. That was what had originally attracted her to him—the new guy in class who seemed above all the petty high school drama. He was solid, in the best possible way, the kind of guy you could depend on to always do the right thing.
So why had she been so quick to believe the worst of him when she didn’t hear back all those years ago?
Sighing, she looked out the window at the scenery whipping by, the dark shapes of the trees against the night sky. Side roads opened up at irregular intervals, the woods otherwise interrupted only by a home or two tucked in between the stands of evergreens.
The curve up ahead looked familiar, and she squinted as she looked through the windshield.
She couldn’t hold back the gasp of recognition the moment she realized where they were.
“What?” Marc looked at her, then back at the road. Expression puzzled, he turned back to her.
All she could do was wave a hand at the upcoming turn, giggle threatening to burst free.
“Bree, I—” His mouth snapped shut. He must have recognized it, too.
“Really?” It was the only word she could get out without breaking into laughter.
Marc shook his head. “Bree, I swear to you, this wasn’t planned. I was just driving random roads, giving you a chance to sober up.”
“Even after all these years, you can’t stay away from this place,” she teased, relieved to have a break from the tension between them, if only for a minute or two. “What, are you running on autopilot?”
Eyes narrowing, he turned onto the road and drove slowly down its curving lane. “Apparently.”
The road twisted and turned until it came out on a clearing, the spare grass beaten down by generations of tire tracks.
It was deserted.
Bree could feel her heart beating faster, but this time it wasn’t the start of a panic attack. A different tension rose between them, one she was almost afraid to name.
Marc put the car into Park and twisted sideways in his seat, looking right at her. “Old times.”
“A long, long time ago. Haven’t been here since—”
There was a long silence, broken only by their breathing. The windows were starting to steam up.
When Marc spoke, it was barely above a whisper. “What happened to us, Bree?”
She sighed. “I don’t know.”
“We were so right for each other,” he said. “Two years, always in sync. Even when we fought, it was never nasty or unfair. Until that night.”
That night they’d been here, too. Right after graduation, before the grad-night party, he’d brought her here to talk. He had something to tell her, he’d said.
“You know, I thought you were going to propose,” she said with a self-deprecating laugh. “Big night, right? Graduate high school and get engaged. Our yearbook designation would have been one big self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, it turned into a big joke.”
“It was never a joke,” he protested. “You knew how much you meant to me. Hell, everyone could see it. Why do you think they voted us Cutest Couple? It wasn’t just that we looked good together or something. We fit, Bree. I spent the first fifteen years of my life looking for somewhere to belong. All those moves, all the times I just got to know people and my dad would get a promotion and we’d have to uproot again. When I met you, I found home.”
“Then why did you leave me?” Bree blinked back angry tears. Her throat tightened. “Why did you choose the one thing I couldn’t live with?”
“Because it was where I needed to be!” He unsnapped his seat belt and leaned forward, one hand on the seat back next to her head. “You watched the towers come down that day, too. We sat there in class and watched the world change. And as we got closer and closer to graduation, I couldn’t stop thinking about the sacrifices our soldiers were making, how I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t want to drift. I didn’t want to, I don’t know, just go along to get along. I needed to find a way to make a difference. To keep my country safe. To protect the people I love.”
“By abandoning them!” She poked him in the chest with a finger. “Just like my father!”
Marc clasped her hand in his, holding it over his heart. “I didn’t abandon you,” he said. “And neither did your dad.”
The tears she’d been holding back flooded down her cheeks. Marc scooted forward, unbuckled her seat belt and gathered her up in his arms.
She tried to stop, she really did, but he held her so tightly, rocking just a little bit. His scent wrapped around her, that combination of
that she hadn’t found anywhere else in the past ten years. She could feel his heart beating right under her, the soft
as he stroked her back gently and soothed away her tears.
It had been so long. So long since she’d been held like this, like she was something precious to be cherished and cared for. So long since she’d been in Marc’s arms. So, so long.
Turning her head, she pressed a kiss to the bare skin at the base of his neck, right above the collar of his dress shirt. His hand stopped in mid-stroke, the heat of his wide palm radiating against her back.
“Bree.” His voice was tight, almost strangled. “We shouldn’t.”
“I know.” She kissed up his neck, trailing her lips along his rough-smooth jawline, fine stubble catching the sensitive skin and making her shiver. “But I want to, anyway. And you do, too. Admit it.”
“You’ve been drinking.”
Which was as much an admission as if he’d said the words. She smiled fiercely and traced the curve of his ear with her tongue. He shuddered and she smiled again, gratified to know that his sensitive spots hadn’t changed since the last time they’d been here.
His hands gripped her upper arms and he tried to set her away from him. “I can’t take advantage of that.”
“But I can.” She kissed him then, hot and wet and dirty, her tongue dipping in his mouth to taste and stroke and explore. When she moved away, they were both panting, and his grip had gone slack. “I want you, Marc. I want this. Yes, I had a few too many earlier tonight. But I’m not drunk anymore, I promise. Just relaxed enough to take a chance.”
He tipped his head back and closed his eyes, a pained expression on his face.
Pushing against his shoulders, she maneuvered him to the far edge of the seat. Then she crawled forward on her knees, not stopping until she was straddling him. She slid forward in his lap, the skirt of her dress hitching up to the tops of her thighs.
He groaned as she pressed against the hard length of him, more blatantly than she ever remembered doing in high school. She leaned in, her mouth barely touching his ear. “Please?”
“God help me,” he muttered, his eyes finally opening. “I can’t say no to you.”
. Her heart thudded in her chest. Reaching over to the other seat, she groped for her purse. Her elbow hit the horn on the way back up, drawing a nervous laugh out of her. “Uh, maybe we should take this into the backseat.”
“I’ve got a better idea.” Gripping her around the waist, Marc shifted both of them into the passenger seat, Bree still straddling his lap. Then he reached down and released the seat back until it reclined almost completely.
Leaning back, he gazed up at Bree with raw hunger in his eyes.
“I’m all yours.”
* * *
Shit. That had been a little closer to the truth than he’d ever planned on getting.
“Then take me,” she whispered. “Take me now.”
He slid his hands slowly up her bare thighs, the calluses on his fingers catching lightly on her soft skin. She shivered under his touch, her legs falling open a little more as he slid higher and higher. His fingertips reached the edge of her bikini panties, his thumbs stroking back and forth, barely ghosting over the fabric covering her mound. Just the slightest touch, not enough pressure to do much of anything except tease a reaction out of her.
She reached blindly behind her and gripped his knees with her hands, arching into his touch, wordlessly demanding more. Acquiescing to her request, he pressed in, searching for her clit through the thin fabric. Suddenly she gasped, her body frozen in place as he stroked her.
Circling the spot with the pad of his thumb, he reached up with his other hand and slid the zipper on her dress all the way down.
The silky fabric dropped away from her shoulders, holding her arms in place as it pooled around her hips. He took a moment to pull the dress back up over her head and toss it onto the floor of the car, leaving her in just a lacy black bra and matching panties. “Beautiful,” he breathed, pressing an openmouthed kiss to the inside curve of her breast.
Reaching behind herself, she worked the clasp of her bra open and dropped it on the floor with the dress.
Her breasts were bigger than he remembered, with pink-tipped nipples that he’d never been able to forget. He leaned forward and sucked one into his mouth.
Bree groaned, shifting in his lap until her pussy was pressed up against his cock again. Her fingers worked frantically at the buttons on his shirt, spreading it wide and stroking her hands up his chest and over his shoulders, pushing it off as far as it would go.
Marc tried to slow things down, explore this body that was an intoxicating mix of familiar and brand new, but Bree had different plans. Her movements were swift, almost frantic, as she stripped the shirt off and threw it behind her. Pressing against his shoulders, she encouraged him to lie back in the seat, then shifted backward so she could reach his belt and slacks.
The touch of her fingers against his hard dick was almost enough to set him off right then. Much as he wanted to take it slow, he just wasn’t going to last. Not with an almost-naked Bree in his lap.
As if she had read his mind, she lifted off his lap just enough to shimmy out of her underwear, leaving her completely bare. Marc, not to be outdone, undid his zipper and slipped his pants and boxers off in one swift movement, leaving them on the growing pile of clothing on the floorboards of the car.
Bree was staring at his cock, eyes wide. She traced its length, then wrapped her palm around it and gave one experimental stroke. “It’s bigger than I remember,” she whispered.
“Growth spurt,” he gritted out between clenched teeth, her touch almost too much to bear. Slipping a hand between her legs, he slid one finger between her lips, spreading the slickness, preparing her.
She shivered under his touch, her hand squeezing involuntarily around his cock. He groaned and dropped his head back against the headrest. “Bree, we have to stop.”
?” She stared at him as if he was mad, which he probably was, to say that while his finger dipped inside her and his other hand teased one of her nipples. He just couldn’t find it in him to stop touching her.
“I don’t have anything. Protection,” he clarified, when her confused expression didn’t change.