Authors: Marysol James
Tags: #romance, #military, #sex, #contemporary, #fiction
“Who else?” Dallas said. “Your pocket angel.”
“My – what?”
“That’s what my Dad always called women like Emma. Short, curvy little angels that could damn near fit in the back pocket of your jeans.”
“Huh.” Dean thought about that. “I kind of like that.”
“Anyway,” Chris said. “She’s not here?”
“I have no idea.” Dean shrugged. “I’m not looking for her.”
They rolled their eyes again, harder this time.
“Why are you lying to your brothers?” Dallas asked in an injured tone. “You think we don’t know exactly what you’re doing every time you look around the room?”
“Maybe I’m looking for that hot blonde from last week that I passed on.”
“Are you?” Jim said.
“Well, then,” he said. “You’re in luck, ‘cause she’s right over there.”
Dean followed his gaze and sure enough, there she was. Every bit as stunning as he remembered and wearing even tighter clothing than the Friday before, which Dean hardly thought possible. Her body was fucking amazing, her face exquisite.
But she’s not Emma.
Annoyed at himself now, he tried to shake off thoughts of her. He’d been trying to shove her the fuck out of his head all week, and he’d had no success at all. That little brunette had just crawled in to his headspace as easy as she had crawled in to his bed, and he was pissed off about that.
It was one fucking night, Jessop. Get over it.
He couldn’t figure out just what the hell was happening here. Emma was a nice girl, sure; she was funny and smart. They’d had shockingly hot sex, also true, so good that she’d wept afterwards. It hadn’t been the first time that a one-night-stand had cried in his arms after orgasm, and he’d always been considerate when he held them, but something about Emma’s vulnerability had stayed with him.
He had so many questions about her. Why hadn’t she had sex in almost five years? Why had she decided to break that long period of abstinence with a total stranger picked up in a bar? And of all the strangers, why did she choose him? Dean was touched and humbled by the faith she had shown in him when she made that choice, but he couldn’t even begin to understand it. And if she’d trusted him, why did she sneak out in the morning? Had he scared her after all? Was she OK?
There were no answers to these questions, and even though he was hoping that she’d show up here and he could take her back to his place and keep her in his bed for the whole weekend, he knew in his heart that it wasn’t going to happen. She was gone.
He looked back at the blonde. She was staring at him, her gorgeous eyes bold and telegraphing her desire loud and clear. She wasn’t Emma, not even close, but she was here and Emma wasn’t.
She’ll have to do.
Dean got to his feet and crossed the bar. His friends watched him go, knowing that she wasn’t what he really wanted. They exchanged glances, but said nothing. They all had their own empty distractions sitting in their laps or standing at the bar catching their eyes. Anything at all to avoid the gaping voids in their own beds; anything at all to have a warm body next to them offering comfort and oblivion from their demons and ghosts, even for a few hours.
Later, back at his place, Dean thought about Emma again. Just for a few seconds. He remembered how her face had looked as she came and how it had felt to hold her afterwards. The blonde was on top of him now, her perfect breasts bouncing as she ground his cock inside of her and she was so practiced and confident and good –
no actually, she’s fucking great
– that he came hard and more than once.
So, it was all OK. It was pretty good. But it wasn’t what he wanted, not at all.
Three weeks later, Emma was sitting on a chair inside the hospital, trying to get up enough energy to go home. She had spent the whole day at the hospital, getting her blood tests done, seeing her doctor, arranging her next round of chemo for two weeks from then, and – of course – filling in yet more paperwork. She hadn’t eaten at all and she was exhausted.
I think I’d better call one of the girls. I’m not in any shape to get myself home. God, the fatigue is bad today. I’ll try Jenny… I think she said she’d be finished at the restaurant around three o’clock today. Maybe she’ll even bring me some food, if I ask.
She was just reaching in to her purse for her phone when she saw jean-clad legs stop right in front of her.
She glanced up and dropped her phone in shock. It was Dean.
He was standing there, as huge and achingly gorgeous as she remembered him. His green eyes were bright in his hard face, his hair still a bit too long. He was staring down at her, and she couldn’t read his expression at all.
Emma had thought about him over the previous month; she’d thought about him far more often than she wanted to. Flashes of their one amazing night would come to her at odd times – when eating breakfast or ironing her blouse – and she’d have to stop and catch her breath as she remembered that muscled chest rising above her or those large hands carefully stroking her clit. She remembered his face when he came, his face when he touched her cheek and asked if she was OK.
And now here he was, and she was so tired and weak today. She wanted nothing more than to curl up into his massive body and absorb some of his warmth and strength.
Dean just couldn’t fucking believe that she was sitting right in front of him. He had wished for her to reappear so hard and so often, he almost felt like he must have conjured her up out of thin air. He looked her up and down, drinking her in. Still lush and beautiful, still bright and sweet. But – wait a minute. Under that dress, her curves were less rounded and her astounding eyes looked tired in her pale face. He thought she looked stretched and strained, pulled too tight and thin. Maybe she was working too hard?
“Dean,” she said. “What – what are you doing here?”
“Visiting Dallas,” he said, his eyes nailing her in place, determined not to let her out of his sight for even one second. “He was brought in this afternoon.”
“Why?” she said. “Is he OK?”
“He was stabbed.”
“He – what?” Emma said. “Oh, God. Who stabbed him?”
“A deranged fan.”
Emma paused, confused. “He has fans?”
Dean grinned. “Well,
like to think so, but no. He was on a detail to protect an athlete, and some stalker came at the guy with a knife. Dallas got between them and took a stab in the shoulder before he beat the guy down.”
“God. Talk about on-the-job risk.”
“Well, he’s a bodyguard, so these kinds of events and injuries go with the territory. It wasn’t bad, and the attacker never got anywhere close to Dallas’ client. All’s fine.”
Emma shook her head. “So he’s really OK?”
“Yep. They’ll keep him overnight and let him go tomorrow morning, first thing.” He cocked his head at her. “What are
I need a lie, right now.
“I was visiting a friend.”
“No. She’s – she’s just had a baby.”
“Oh, great. Everything’s OK?”
He gestured at the exit. “You just leaving?”
Goddammit. I can’t call the girls now, not with him standing here. I’ll have to tough it out, get myself home.
She picked up her phone from her lap and put it back in her purse. “Yeah. Yeah, I am.”
“OK,” Dean said. “I’ll walk you out.”
And I’m going to get you back to my place somehow, baby. We’re going to have round two tonight. Rounds three and four too, if I have anything to say about it. And this time, you don’t sneak out. I’ll tie you to the bed if I have to. Hmmm. Actually, that sounds kind of fun.
Emma gazed up at him tiredly, wanting nothing more than to go home and sleep for three days. “OK, thanks.” She got to her feet and turned to the door.
The dizziness rushed at her fast, so fast that she didn’t even see it coming. All she knew was that suddenly the world was spinning and everything was a blur. She closed her eyes, her legs starting to slide out from under her.
Dean saw her face go as white as paper, then her eyes shut and she swayed on her feet. His hands shot out and grabbed her shoulders, holding her up. Her head fell forward and he pulled her in to his arms. He felt her breath on his chest and he stroked her hair.
“Emma!” he said. “Hey, you OK?”
She nodded against him.
“OK, angel. Sit down.” Gently, he lowered her back to the chair and kneeled in front of her. She looked so pale, it scared him a bit.
Thank God we’re in a hospital.
“Yeah.” It took a lot of effort for her to form words. “Yeah, I’m fine, Dean.”
“Like hell you are. You almost passed out.” He stood up. “I’m going to get a doctor.”
“No!” She reached out and grabbed his wrist. “There’s no need for that. It was just a dizzy spell – I haven’t eaten today.”
“What? At all?”
She shook her head.
“Just – just busy.”
He knelt down again. “Look at me.”
She forced herself to meet those eyes. He studied her closely, taking in every inch of her face and she tried to look like she wasn’t withholding critical information from him.
Dean took in her pallor, the shadows under her eyes. A wave of worry moved over him and he reached out to touch her cheek. “You need to talk to your employer about more downtime, Emma. You hear me? You look like you need a break.”
“Yeah,” she said, trying to smile. “I’m actually taking some time off work, starting from tomorrow. I have almost a week off.”
Finally. I’m not telling this man a lie.
“OK, then.” He stood up again. “Let’s go. I’m taking you home.”
“Oh, no.” She tried to pull herself together. “I’m fine now.”
“I’m better, I promise.”
“Well. At least let me take you for something to eat.”
“That’s OK, Dean. You don’t have to do that.”
to.” He smiled at her and it was so sexy her stomach clenched. “Ever thought of that?”
She blinked at him. “You do?”
“Yep. So let’s go. There’s a good Italian place just around the corner. Let’s get some food in to you, OK?”
“Are you sure? Maybe you have somewhere to be?”
He held out his hand. “Nowhere at all, Emma. Nowhere but where I am right now. So come on.”
Emma couldn’t believe how much better she felt after she ate. She downed a plate of pasta in almost record-time and felt her strength flow back through her tired body. She resolved to take better care of herself, seeing too late how stupid and careless she had been that day.
Dean watched her from across the table and saw that her color was back. She still looked like she needed a good night’s rest, but she didn’t look so ill anymore. The light was shining in her eyes and she was relaxed again.
She looked up at him. “Sorry for inhaling my food like this. I’m just surprised at how hungry I am.”
“Yeah, well. That’s what happens when you don’t eat for a whole day.”
“Yeah.” She drank some more water. “Thanks, Dean.”
Something in his voice made her look at him again. “What’s wrong?”
He leaned back and she admired his broad shoulders. God, he was just so
. Emma remembered his body, its planes and hardness under her hands, his heat and primal need for her softness. He took her breath away.
“Nothing,” he said. “I’m just trying to figure out how to get you back to my place. Since no stealth strategy is presenting itself, I thought I’d just come right out and ask.”
Her eyes widened in shock.
She found her voice. “You – you want me to come home with you again?”
“Oh, yeah, baby.” His voice was almost a growl. “You’d fucking better believe it. And not just tonight, either.”
And that was it: she was instantly, immediately, totally wet. Her pussy wanted to go home with him, that much was clear, but her life was complicated right now. She exhaled, hard.
He saw her face, heard her sigh. “Is that a no?”
“It’s… it’s a maybe. A maybe with reservations and conditions.”
“OK, Emma. What’s holding you back? Tell me.”
She looked down. “I don’t – I can’t… I’m not in a good place in my life for a relationship. Not now. Are you – what do you…” Her voice trailed off and she felt incredibly dumb.
He studied her. “You’re saying you don’t want anything serious?”
“Right. I just – life is weird right now. I can’t be in anything that means commitment or expectations or long-term.”
“Well, at the risk of sounding like an asshole, I don’t do commitment or expectations or long-term.”
“Nope. Listen, can I lay it out for you?”
“Yeah. Go ahead.”
“I want you in my bed. That’s it. I want to do all kinds of bad things to you, things that will make both of us feel good.” His eyes were steady and hot. “I want to go down on you until you come against my mouth, I want to fuck you until you scream. But no promises, no pressure. Just lots and lots of mind-blowing orgasms for both of us.”
Her breath was coming faster now.
God, is he actually offering me great sex and I wouldn’t even have to tell him about the cancer? What could be better for my life right now, what could be a better escape? Nothing, that’s what.
“I think… I think I can get on board with that,” she said.
“Yeah?” He narrowed his eyes. “You sure you can handle that? I mean it, Emma – I’m not the relationship kind, believe me. If we start anything up and you expect me to change my mind, I’m afraid you’re going to get hurt. And I don’t want to hurt you, I swear.”
“So maybe we need to set some ground rules,” she said. “Before we decide to get in to this.”
He smiled. “OK. Shoot.”
“First, we don’t tell each other anything too personal. We keep it casual, right?”
Emma thought about her chemo sessions, times when she may well be sick for days on end. “And we don’t have any expectations to see other all the time. When I disappear for a week to travel for work, that’s fine with you. OK?”
“While I’m gone, you can do whatever you want with other women. I just don’t want to hear about it.”
That surprised him. “Really?”
She shrugged. “Yeah.”
“So you’d be with other guys?”
Oh, sure thing. Nothing sexier than chemo, I assure you.
“Maybe,” she said, trying to sound casual. “I mean, why not?”
“And we never stay at my place.” She saw the surprise on his face. “Non-negotiable.”
He considered that quietly. “Can I ask why?”
“No.” She steeled herself for him to call the whole thing off. “I promise you I’m not married or living with anyone or raising a kid alone. Nothing like that. I just don’t want you to stay over with me.” She bit her lip. “Is that a deal-breaker for you?”
“No.” Dean shook his head. “So long as you’re not using me to cheat on someone, I’m fine with it.”
“OK, good. Ummm.” She thought for a second. “That’s it for me. You got anything to add?”
“Yeah. Two things.”
“First, you never sneak out in the middle of the night. You don’t want to sleep over? Fine. But you let me know you’re going. I don’t want to wake up to an empty bed like that ever again. Clear?”
She nodded. It had never crossed her mind that he might have minded waking up to find her gone. She thought guys preferred that, actually.
“Second…” He hesitated. “I want to know why you didn’t have sex for almost five years.”
She went very still. “I think that violates rule number one – not telling each other anything too personal.”
Dean looked at her face; it was cold and distant. She looked like she was shutting down on him, and he reached out and took her hand. She tensed.
“Emma,” he said softly. “I’m asking for a very good reason, OK?”
“What is it?”
“I’m worried that something happened to you – that you had a bad experience five years ago. If somebody hurt you or forced you sexually, I
need to know that. You can see that, right?” He touched her cheek. “If you
attacked, and I’m the first guy you’ve been with since it happened, there may be times when you’d feel scared or freaked out. And I’d need to understand what’s going on.”
She stared at him. It had never occurred to her that he’d see her abstinence that way.
“You don’t have to go in to details,” he said. “Just tell me if somebody hurt you.”
She shook her head. “Dean, I was never raped or abused. What happened five years ago wasn’t about that. It was – it was awful. But it had nothing at all to do with sex.”
His eyes held hers. “Yeah? You’re telling me the truth?”
“Yes. I promise you. I wasn’t hurt in that way.”
“You weren’t beaten or… I don’t know… injured? Nothing that I may trigger by accident while we’re in bed together?”
He was quiet for a few seconds. “But you won’t tell me what happened?”
“No,” Emma said. “I’ve told you what it wasn’t, and that’s all I’m going to say. Can you live with that?”
Dean looked at her. “Yeah. I can.”
“One more condition,” she said. “Last one.”
“Either one of us can end it at any time. No reasons given, no explanations offered, no guilt or hysterics from the other person. But it does have to be clearly stated. No disappearing forever without a word. We at least owe each other a face-to-face conversation about it being over for good. Deal?”
“Deal,” Dean said. “So. Do we shake on it?”