Authors: Cindy Dees
Well, okay, then. He made her think about sex, too. A lot. She drank more of her tepid beer in search of a little liquid courage. If she was not mistaken, he’d just announced that he was amenable to a relationship with her. They’d have to be careful. Keep it secret. But that wasn’t impossible. The little voice in the back of her head let out an excited
“So tell me, Marley. Why’d you jump in this afternoon to save my hide with Prescott?”
“Why wouldn’t I? I work with you, and I could get you off the hook with a few words. Wouldn’t you do the same for your coworkers?”
“Depends on who we’re talking about. Most guys, yeah. A guy like Gordon Trapowski...I might let him swing in the wind.”
“Really?” she asked in disappointment. She’d thought better of him than that.
He made an exasperated noise. “No, I’d probably save even his double-wide ass.” He finished his beer and tossed the bottle behind the seat. “I just didn’t expect a civilian like you to understand why I’d do it.”
“Are you saying I don’t get the ethics of it because people don’t routinely shoot at me, or because I’m a girl? Answer carefully because I’d hate to have to break this bottle over your head.”
He laughed aloud. “That’s what I’m talking about. You surprise me. And for the record, don’t ever try to break a bottle over my head. I’d hate to react reflexively and hurt you by accident.”
Warmth coursed through her. She surprised him, huh? That could be the foundation of a beautiful one-night stand. “How long are you here for?”
He answered evasively, “As long as Steve needs me.”
“I think we’re supposed to be done filming in about four weeks,” she replied.
He shrugged. “Stuff happens to extend shooting schedules. Bad weather, refilming shots.”
Which she would duly commence praying for so she had more time to build a relationship with Archer. She would also pray that it ultimately led to sex. People had
idea how socially crippling it was to be a virgin at her age.
“So tell me, Archer. Did anyone figure out what happened to Minerva this afternoon? Why did she refuse to turn like that?”
He shrugged again. “Some sort of mechanical malfunction. A widget hung up on another widget, most likely. Apparently he mechanic didn’t find anything wrong when he took a look at her.”
He said that so damned casually. If she were a pilot, she would bloody well want to know exactly what had happened up there and why before she flew in that aircraft again. Heck, even if she
a pilot, she would want to know what happened before she rode in that helicopter again!
“It was just a one-time anomaly?” she asked.
“And we’re supposed to get back in that helicopter and fly in it like nothing ever happened?”
“Minerva behaved just fine all the way home. The maintenance guys wrote it up as a CND. And before you ask, that stands for Could Not Duplicate. The bane of pilots and mechanics. A one-off problem that never repeats itself.”
“I can’t believe you’re just blowing it off like this.”
“Honey, I’m not blowing off a thing. But stuff like what happened today is all part of taking machines built by human beings up into the air and going very high and very fast. Or, in our case today, very low and kind of fast.”
She just shook her head. No way could she be as cavalier about nearly dying as he was. She wasn’t at all used to men who were quite so sure of themselves.
What would it mean when it came time to sleep with him—jeez, she was pretty sure of herself all of a sudden.
she slept with him. She had to catch the fish before she could eat it.
“When do you have to show up for work tomorrow?” Archer asked.
“I’ve got an 8:00 a.m. call. We’re shooting close-ups to go with today’s footage. Since I have experience at fixed-camera facial stuff, I’m on deck for that.”
“It’s probably time to get you home, then. It’s getting late.” He reached for the ignition.
Mentally, she sighed. Note to self: the girl who was interesting to talk with didn’t get kissed. Maybe if she had bored him to death, he’d have run out of other things to do up here and would have resorted to making out with her. She so
at this dating stuff.
The drive back to the outskirts of the tiny town of Serendipity, California, only took a few minutes and he parked behind the motel. “What room are you in, Marley?”
“I’ll walk you up.”
“You don’t have to.”
He came around the truck to open her door for her. “I know I don’t have to. But my grandmother didn’t raise a total heathen.”
“You mean the human Minerva?”
He did an odd thing, then. It was as if his entire being shut down for a moment. Like she’d opened his soul to have a look around and some powerful emotion had tried to break out. Instead, he’d slammed the door shut on it. Hard. And now he was waiting to see if she poked again where she wasn’t welcome.
She hadn’t been everyone’s little sister for nothing. She knew a raw nerve when she saw one and backed off immediately.
He opened the motel door and held it for her. She moved past him, and his hand touched the small of her back as he ushered her in. A shiver of delight rippled up and down her spine from the spot he’d made contact with her.
“Is your grandmother still alive?”
He did it again. Whatever emotion had wanted to escape him was rounded up, captured and stuffed back into its little box inside him. The guy was seriously repressing something. His voice was stripped of all emotion when he replied, “Alive and kicking. Doesn’t mean we’re on the best of terms at the moment, though. She’s on this big kick for all of us to get married and start giving her great-grandchildren. None of us are keen on the idea except for one of my brothers, who’s a damned overachiever. He and his fiancée are expecting a baby any day now.”
“Uncle Archer. That has a nice ring to it.”
He scowled and ushered her into the elevator. “I’m just glad she’s lived long enough to see me get my wings and to know I didn’t end up in jail.”
“That was in some doubt?” she responded drily.
“For a while there, it looked highly probable.”
“What turned you around?”
“The military,” he answered without hesitating. “It provided the discipline and structure I needed and all that rot.”
“All that rot” sounded like a highly charged topic that he also was suppressing hard. But who was she to judge? She figured everyone had crap in their past they’d just as soon not think about.
They reached her door and she fumbled at the lock with her key card, but tanned knuckles appeared on the door handle and blocked her attempt to finish unlocking her door. She looked up, startled.
“Thanks for spending this evening with me,” he murmured in a low voice as rough as the stubble on his jaw. “I enjoyed it.” And then,
, he touched her chin with his finger, tipped up her face and his lips touched hers.
She inhaled sharply and tasted the yeasty tang of beer. It was arguably the sexiest thing her tongue had ever experienced. His hand crept around behind her head to cup her neck as his mouth slanted across hers, deepening the kiss.
She leaned forward, breathless, for more. Her entire body swayed toward him like a magnet drawn to its natural pole. Finally. Kissed by a real man. The roughness of his jaw stubble and the silky softness of his hair passed under her fingers. The faint tang of sweat and the woodsy musk of his cologne went straight to her head and made it whirl. And his mouth. Holy smokes, his mouth. It was firm and smooth, wet and hot, and totally in command of her, body and soul.
Her mouth opened beneath his and he wasted no time tasting her, his tongue sliding seductively across her lips. Her sex throbbed so hard he might as well have been licking her there instead. She moaned in the back of her throat and he devoured the sound, sucking it out of her mouth and into himself greedily.
She surged up against him, bumping into him awkwardly. His arms tightened around her with effortless strength, steadying them both. He backed her against her door and her lust soared at being sandwiched between its cold wood and his hot steel.
Her right leg crept up around his hips and she shamelessly rubbed her female regions against the hard bulge of his male regions.
“Oh, baby,” he groaned under his breath. “That feels so good.”
idea how good it felt to her. Liquid heat erupted in her core, making her standing leg so weak she had to throw her arms around his neck to stay upright. At least until he grabbed her rear end in both hands and lifted her entirely off the floor. Her left leg, that hungry wench, whipped around his waist, opening her completely to him. His hips rocked forward once, twice.
Shocks of pleasure ripped through her and she cried out into his mouth. “Yes. Yes,” she gasped. “More.”
“How much more?” he gritted out, his hips rocking more urgently now, his denim-covered erection driving her out of her freaking mind.
“All the way. Right now. Please.”
He let go of her tush with one hand and fumbled for the door handle. Omigosh. This was really going to happen. She wanted to be with him so bad she could hardly see...
The elevator dinged and a spate of male voices erupted at the end of the hall as the doors slid open. Archer dropped her to her feet abruptly and she staggered, so disoriented she could barely stand upright.
He stepped back and smiled down at her ruefully. “Good night.”
So. Damned. Close.
She mumbled something completely inane akin to “Hum-a-duh, hum-a-duh” before she finally managed to fumble around and get her door unlocked, then slip into her room. She closed the door and leaned against it, panting and cussing like mad until the building orgasm taunting her mercilessly finally drained away enough for her to stand unaided.
Hot sex, thy name is Archer...and here I come.
rcher observed sourly that, after Marley had shown up at the motel bar last night looking like a million bucks, the guys in the crew were sniffing around her today like a pack of horny dogs.
And after the smoking-hot kiss she’d laid on him last night, he was freaking
about to share her with any of them.
Interesting girl, Marley. She’d all but told him she caused accidents to happen around her. That bad stuff happened to men she dated. That dangerous accidents were known to happen to people near her. How had she put it?
Sometimes I wonder if I’m never supposed to be happy, and if that’s why bad things keep happening around me.
But as much as his brain saw the evidence stacking up against her, his gut argued that no way was she a psychopathic saboteur. Maybe because he’d had a rough youth, made some mistakes along the way, he was too eager to see the best in her. To believe that she wasn’t responsible for the movie’s accidents. Or maybe he was really just so antsy to get in her panties that he couldn’t think straight.
He spotted her the second she walked into the motel dining room—he’d been lurking here for nearly a half hour waiting for her—and she had at least a half dozen hopeful bastards trailing along after her drooling. If only they knew how she could kiss. They’d be tearing their shirts off and worshipping at her feet.
Today, she sported a toned-down version of last night’s full Marilyn getup, but the effect was still hot enough to give him an erection of granite. That sexy-innocent vibe hummed off her so hard he could barely see straight. Her blond curls were tucked behind her ears, and it was all he could do not to grab her and take a bite out of a cute, pink earlobe. Since when had he developed an
fetish, for crying out loud? Of course, if she didn’t quit chewing on her kissably full lower lip like that, he was going to develop a lip fetish, too.
He’d intended to keep his distance from her today. If she was as cunning an actress as Steve thought she was, she would be scared off by too aggressive an approach by him. And if she was as innocent as his gut said she was, too aggressive an approach would still scare her off.
But then he spied Gordon Trapowski moving across the dining room toward the buffet line. And the bastard’s stare was targeted in on Marley like a laser designator.
Stay away from her. Turn around and walk away.
No way could he stand idle and let that guy get his hands on a sweet kid like Marley
Gordon moved to stand right behind her in the buffet line, openly crowding her, and she got a panicked look in her eyes, like a baby bunny cornered by a big, bad fox.
Swearing, Archer stood up. He had no choice but to act. Painful erection notwithstanding, he managed to stride across the dining room to her side. He rested a light, but unmistakably possessive, hand on the small of her back.
“Hi there, beautiful,” he said to Marley before nodding at Gordon. “Hey, Trap.”
“Scram, Archer,” Trapowski growled. “I’m talking to the girl.”
“She’s not your property, buddy.”
“She ain’t yours, neither.”
Archer glanced down at Marley’s plate, and it had enough food on it for her to politely walk away from the buffet. “Would you like to sit with me, Marley?”
“I’d love to.” She smiled brilliantly at him, and in that moment, rescuing damsels in distress leaped high on his list of favorite things in the world to do.
He was pretty sure he heard Gordon’s teeth grinding together as she leaned into his encircling arm. Over her head, he flashed the guy a triumphant grin, and Trap actually growled aloud.
Too bad, jackass. The girl’s mine.
The thought jolted him.
Hell, no! Love ’em and leave ’em,
his gut chanted at him.
Before they walk out on you.
His mother had given up on him, on life, and died rather than deal with her grief and failures. He had always been the kind of guy whom women used for his body until they got bored and moved on to the next gigolo wannabe—unless he beat them to the moving-on bit.
Marley deserved better.
Screw Steve and his admonition not to get emotionally involved with her.
His gut said she was no way, no how, guilty of the crimes of which she was suspected.
He led her to the corner of the dining room and a cozy table for two. Their knees bumped and the heat leftover from last night’s good-night kiss abruptly flared like a supermassive solar storm between them. Her gaze jerked to his face, and her breasts lifted sharply on a gasp. His male parts leaped against the tight confines of his jeans.
“I can’t remember the last time a woman made me react like this.”
“I know what you mean.”
Just watching those glossy red lips form words made him think about how they’d feel on his flesh. All warm and soft and tight. He groaned and tore his gaze away from her mouth. They were in a cafeteria full of people, for heaven’s sake.
She looked down, blushing nearly as red as the strawberries on her plastic plate. He studied her face as she concentrated on her food, slicing it into precise little chunks that she proceeded to push around on her plate like toy cars. Too sexually frustrated to eat, huh? He knew the feeling.
Yup, he made her nervous. Really nervous. Like she was seriously hoping to sleep with him and didn’t know what to do about it. It was one of the sexiest damned things he’d ever seen, watching the struggle play out on her sweet face. A weird, nameless thing...moved...in him. It was more than sexual attraction. Different than simple lust. Deeper than mere possessiveness. But putting a name to it completely eluded him.
One thing he knew for sure. He wasn’t going to let his brother or anyone else railroad her out of this job without proof positive that she was the culprit behind all the accidents.
“Uh, how are you today?” she asked awkwardly. She peeked up at him shyly, caught him studying her and looked down hastily. She was adorable when she was all jumpy and unsure of herself like this.
“Turned on. You?”
“How’d you sleep last night?”
She pushed her green-pea salad in fast little circles around her grilled chicken breast.
He leaned close to murmur, “I dreamed about you, too. Woke up so hard I had to take a shower in the middle of night to relieve my discomfort.”
What the hell are you doing, buddy? She’s not your type.
“Really?” she blurted. Her cheeks turned bright pink. Bonified all-American-girl material.
You don’t do pure and sweet. You don’t break innocent hearts. Stop flirting with this girl...
He answered, “You and I were in an outdoor hot tub. And it was snowing. The stars were out and we were naked. And then we...”
Her soft fingers pressed frantically against his lips, halting the tale. “Someone will hear you!” she whispered in panic.
Damn, she was beautiful. Mesmerizing
“Tell me about your dream,” he murmured against her fingertips, “or I’ll keep telling you about mine.” He touched her fingers with the tip of his tongue. She jerked her hand away like he’d burned her with a hot iron. He was being a jerk. He should get up from this table and walk away right now, and instead he was flirting in the most openly sexual way with her. He wasn’t her type any more than she was his. They really, really shouldn’t do this. And yet, he wasn’t standing up. Wasn’t walking away. Correction: he was an idiot and she was...not.
“Um, I dreamed we were camping,” she stammered. “In the woods. And there was a tent.”
“Were we in it together?” She was too innocent for him. Deserved a real relationship to go with her first sex.
“Inside one of those double sleeping bags?”
Shut. The hell. Up.
“No. On top of one.”
Stop leading her on.
She looked around the dining room guiltily.
dreamed about the two of them together. His mouth curved up into a knowing smile. “We were making love, weren’t we? Was it hot? Wild? What did we do? I’ve got a few things I’d like to try with you...”
“Hush!” she whispered urgently.
She was breathing fast and her tongue kept darting out to moisten her lips. She was rocking her hips forward and wiggling in tiny little pulses she probably wasn’t even aware of. Triumph roared through him at how bad she wanted him. Nearly as bad as he wanted her.
Gritting his teeth against the lust pounding through him, he changed subjects. “Are you shooting this afternoon?”
“Yes. We’re finishing the close-ups and then we’re shooting stills of the fake city that’s getting blown up tomorrow.”
“What time will you be done?”
“Around dark, if I had to guess.”
“I’ll pick you up at eight, and we’ll go somewhere private so you can tell me the details of your dream.”
just ask her out again.
“Are you for real?” she asked earnestly. She sounded like she couldn’t believe he was actually attracted to her.
Smart girl. Run away, Marley. Far, far away as fast as you can go.
Jesus, he felt like a tennis ball bouncing back and forth between lust and sanity. And unfortunately, lust was a much better tennis player.
“Why are you the slightest bit interested in me? You barely know me, and Lord knows, I barely know you.”
If she did know him, she’d leave him, just like every other woman he’d ever given a damn about. Ouch. Sanity had just served an ace. The thought was a bucket of ice water on his raging libido.
“How do you suggest I remedy that, other than spending time with you?” he asked reasonably.
“I just don’t get what you see in me.”
A thousand deeply sexual images flashed through his mind, but what came out of his mouth was, “Let’s find out together, shall we?”
She shook her head and finished her meal in frustrated silence. He could relate. Honestly, he didn’t have the faintest idea why he was so attracted to her. For years, he’d honed his expertise at spotting the kind of woman who just wanted empty sex. The kind who would treat him with as much indifference as he treated them. Marley Stringer was emphatically not one of them. No matter how hot she was, she would want the whole ball of wax. Sex. Romance. Intimacy. Hell, a real relationship.
Granny Minerva used to talk about kismet, and he’d always thought it was a load of crap. But maybe she’d known what she was talking about, after all. Fascinated, frustrated and thoroughly appalled with himself, he watched Marley bolt from the dining room.
Gordon bit out from beside him, “She ain’t your type.”
Archer looked up at Trap. She might not be his type, but no way was he turning her over to this brute. Women talked, and Gordon had a reputation in the sack for being a bull in rut. “I already called dibs on her, Gordon.”
“The hell you did. She’s hot, and I’m goin’ after her.” Trap poked him in the chest. Under other circumstances, Archer might have taken grave exception to such an act. But he had the girl’s attention and Gordon didn’t. He could afford to cut the guy a break and not rip his finger off.
“I’m turning the Gordon-ator charm on her whether you like it or not, jerkwad.”
Archer pushed past the larger man nonchalantly, but a frisson of worry tickled the back of his neck. Gordon was right: he wasn’t Marley’s type any more than she was his. Would she actually fall for a guy like Gordon? Was she that naive?
He had no choice but to save her from Trapowski. And of course, he’d promised Steve that he would try to find out if Marley was behind the sabotage, but that was as far as it went. After he did those two things, he was walking away from her.
* * *
Marley paced her room in panic. She’d left an SOS on Tyrone’s cell phone, but the makeup artist had yet to respond to her urgent call for help. Tonight wasn’t a gratitude beer with Archer. It was a continuation of that volcanic kiss last night and, good Lord willing,
. Her first time.
A knock sounded on her door and she leaped for it, threw it open and all but cried in relief to see Tyrone standing there, makeup suitcase in tow.
“Hey, girl,” Tyrone said breezily. “A real, live date with Flyboy, huh? You gonna have that screaming-hot sex you promised me tonight?”
“God, I hope so. I’m so ready to finally...” She broke off. The last rumor she needed getting around the set was that the new camera girl was a virgin. At her age, leprosy was a lesser curse than the big V.
“Drink this.” Tyrone shoved a glass of wine into her hand. “You need it more than me. Sit, girlfriend. And pay attention. I’m not always gonna be around to turn you into Marilyn the Second.”
She did watch what he did closely, and Tyrone was generous with explaining the tricks of the trade. But then the makeup artist surprised her by saying, “What’s this I hear about your guy going commando on you yesterday?”
“What are you talking about?”
“A few of the stunt men were talking about Archer nearly taking their heads off with his helicopter during the shoot. I guess he got way too low and scared the bejeebers out of them.”
“I asked him to go lower so I could get a better shot. I was trying to impress Adrian Turnow with my first action scene.”
“I’ve still got a job.”
Tyrone seemed to accept the explanation but still frowned a little. “The way I heard it, Archer might have a screw loose. He’s fresh out of some heavy combat apparently. They thought it looked like he confused movie combat with the real thing.”
what it had been? The movie had gotten a little too close to reality and he’d busted into real combat maneuvers? Why, then, had the flight controls frozen up? Nah. Archer wasn’t crazy. They’d had a mechanical malfunction. She didn’t think he would be held responsible for that, but she wasn’t sure. She didn’t know a blessed thing about flying, after all.
Worse, rumors could get Archer fired. Maybe she could redirect the gossip mill a little. She said as casually as she could, “Well, of course I wanted him to fly like it was the real thing. How else was I going to get realistic footage? Everyone knows Adrian’s a stickler for authenticity.”