Authors: Cindy Dees
“Archer?” she asked tentatively.
He was frozen on top of her. And he was heavy.
“That was amazing,” she tried. He didn’t answer and she felt him breathing heavily. “Are you okay?”
“Stay down. Keep quiet,” he bit out. “New bird’s on the way. Just have to stay alive till it gets here.”
Huh? He must be having a flashback or something. So much for hot romance. Although it figured. That stupid jinx was going to be the death of her! Did she play along with whatever he was reliving or try to talk him down from his mental bridge?
“Archer, we’re in California. On a movie set,” she whispered.
“I’m out of ammo. Pass the med kit,” he mumbled under his breath.
She pushed at his shoulders, but he didn’t budge. The man might not be as big as Gordon Trapowski, but he was all muscle.
Another round of explosives went off overhead and his entire body flinched against hers. She wrapped her arms around him in an instinctive effort to protect him from whatever memory had him so freaked out. In the light of the explosions, his eyes were glazed and he looked a million miles away. Agonized. Lost.
“Hey, Archer. Are you okay?”
Worry flooded through her, washing away all thoughts of sex, as he flinched in time with the explosions.
“Archer!” she said sharply. “Talk to me.” She pushed at his shoulders awkwardly, but it had no effect on him at all. His eyes were open, but whatever he was seeing was half a world away.
Desperate, she grabbed his face in her hands and kissed him. Hard. This was about getting his attention, not romancing him. She took his lower lip between her teeth and bit down.
She let go of his lip with her teeth and licked it apologetically. His mouth opened against hers, and he kissed her voraciously, desperately, even. He sucked her tongue, shocking her with the bolts of lust that shot straight to her girl parts. She moaned and her hips rocked against his.
Relieved that he’d come back from wherever his mind had gone off to there for a few seconds, her lust came roaring back. “Again,” she demanded, desperate for another orgasm to tear her apart and put her back together.
Archer froze against her. His eyes opened wide. Oh, he was back with her, all right.
He stared down at her in horror. “What happened here?” he rasped.
rcher registered pain in his lip first. And then some of the softest, sexiest breasts he’d ever had the pleasure of lying on. Warm, soft lips soothed his mouth, and female thighs cradled his body sweetly.
And then the rest of it hit him all at once.
Wrapped around him like he’d just flown her to the moon and back. Begging to do it again.
But that memory was interspersed with vivid images of his last mission in a classified valley a thousand miles from anywhere. His bird getting hit. Going down. Ending up stranded on the ground with the very men he was supposed to be rescuing. Radioing frantically for another rescue bird to come for them. Yelling for close air support.
Ho. Lee. Cow. Had he just had sex with her?
Taken her virginity, if he wasn’t mistaken. How long had he been mentally checked out, reliving the mission that had gotten him sent home? Remembering the way rockets had been coming in at them from every direction, the injured soldiers he’d been sent in to rescue moaning around him, Yelling on the radios for that back bird to hurry...
He rolled off Marley fast. What the hell had happened with her while he was in la-la land? He was still as hard as a rock. But just because he hadn’t had an orgasm didn’t mean the damage hadn’t been done. He searched frantically for memory of what had gone on between the two of them and came up with a single sound. Marley keening in pleasure. That and explosions. He flung an arm across his face in distress while he pleaded with his brain for details.
Nothing. The past few seconds or minutes or however the hell long he’d been out of it were a complete blank. Except for the part where he became aware of her plastered against him begging for more. He sat up, propping an arm on his upraised knee while he shoved his free hand through his hair. He couldn’t exactly blurt out, “Hey, baby. Did we just have sex?”
What the hell was a guy supposed to do in this situation? It was the most important sexual encounter of her life. It would set the tone for her entire attitude toward sex going forward, and he’d completely forgotten it. What kind of schmuck
She leaned against his side trustingly and murmured, “That was amazing. You were amazing.”
Damn, damn, damn,
She said playfully, “It’s safe to say we’ve established that screaming orgasms rock. And you were right. I definitely want more of that.” And then she changed subjects abruptly. “How are you feeling?”
Like gum on the bottom of a shoe.
“Aww, hell, Marley. I’m sorry...”
She slid around in front of him and wrapped her sleek arms around him. Her lush breasts pressed against his chest until he was so distracted he could hardly focus on what he was saying. “Hush,” she murmured. “There’s nothing to apologize for.”
Panic clawed at him. There bloody well was something to apologize for! But if he admitted it to her, he would ruin her first sexual experience. He didn’t have the heart to do that to her.
Jeez. Maybe there was something to her insistence that she was jinxed.
Surely, getting so freaked out by some fireworks that he blacked out on sex with her counted.
“What were you thinking about just now?” she asked curiously.
He owed her at least a little explanation, he supposed. “I had a really rough mission right before I got sent home on leave. Haven’t had much time to think about it. I’ll replay it in my head a few hundred times, figure out where things went wrong and then I’ll be fine.”
It had worked in the past. Nightmares and reliving missions were not uncommon in his profession, and all the guys knew to just ride through them, and they would subside over time. He only prayed it worked for this mission gone bad, too.
He just wished all to hell that he hadn’t had to relive the damned mission when he was in the middle of making love to a beautiful woman he was genuinely interested in. She was so sexy even now, all worried about him and acting protective, that he was struggling to keep his mind on the problem at hand of figuring out what had happened in the past few minutes.
She shivered lightly against him, and he dived on the excuse to get her dressed and safe from the lust still pounding through him like a jackhammer. “You’re getting cold. Let’s get you warmed up.” He searched the truck bed, snatching up her clothes and practically throwing them at her. “Put these on,” he ordered.
It dawned on him that it might look to her like, now that he’d gotten in her pants, he was in a giant hurry to get rid of her. God, could he screw this up any worse? “Take your time,” he added belatedly.
He folded the blanket and stowed the pillows behind the seats in the truck, mentally cursing himself out all the while. Right now, all that mattered was damage control with Marley. “Are you okay?” he asked her gently as he opened the door for her. He kissed her sweetly before handing her inside.
She nodded as she climbed into the vehicle. Not helpful. In his experience, silent women were usually brooding women or scheming women. Neither ever boded well for the nearest male target. In this case, him. Of course, he deserved every angry word she could launch at him and more for the crappy stunt he’d just inadvertently pulled on her.
About the third time during the drive down the mountain that he asked if she was okay, she finally got a little short with him. “Will you stop, Archer? I’m fine. How are
? Can you talk at all about what you were remembering back there?”
There wasn’t a lot to say. That last mission downrange had been a nightmare. Bar none the worst disaster in his entire career. But what would banish the nightmare—he had no idea. To top it all off, he’d possibly had sex with Marley and couldn’t remember it.
Damn, damn, damn.
Marley fidgeted in her seat as the production meeting got under way and pensively watched the dancing of dust motes in the sunshine streaming in the window. Archer had been thoughtful and considerate upon their return to town last night. He’d kissed her long and romantically in the truck, murmuring about how great she was and how much he enjoyed being with her.
But he’d made a point of leaving her at her door and not inviting himself into her room or her into his, either. Had that momentary flashback, or whatever it was, upset him more than he was letting on? She chewed her lip anxiously. Was something serious going on in his head? Had the pyrotechnics being filmed in the valley just reminded him of a particularly rough mission, or was there more to it? Based on the things he’d mumbled in the thick of reliving it, there was no question something awful had happened on one of his flights, clearly involving explosions and his helicopter being hit.
She sighed. He’d zoned out at the worst possible moment. She’d been right on the verge of asking him outright to make love to her. Not that she could blame him for the rockets making him remember a bad mission, of course. But Lord, the timing of it was frustrating. She’d gotten
to finally going all the way. The gods of love had a really awful sense of humor.
The production meeting adjourned, and she headed for her afternoon’s assignment: shooting still shots of the quarter-scale city the set construction crew had spent the past several days building. It felt weird walking around the waist-high buildings. Like she was a giant stomping around among Lilliputians. The detail was meticulous, and she crawled around on her hands and knees with a shoulder-held camera, shooting the town from every conceivable angle.
A couple of times she thought she caught sight of movement between the buildings. But she was the only camera operator scheduled to be out here today. It must be one of the other explosives techs getting ready for tomorrow’s destruction of this set. Airplanes would fly over to simulate dropping bombs on the city, but pyrotechnics set inside the shells of the fake buildings would do the work of actually destroying the town. It should be pretty spectacular, if the big combat scenes to date were any indication.
The sun began to set, and Marley captured a few last shots of the buildings in silhouette. She was squinting into the setting sun when she thought she saw a person momentarily rise up from behind the spire of the central church in the “town.”
She raised her eye away from the viewfinder quickly, and was promptly blinded by the actual setting sun, unfiltered by her camera lens. Darn it. She thought she’d recognized that profile. Surely not. Why on earth would
be here, across the country from home, where she didn’t belong?
Marley shook her head. She was imagining things. It was just the talk about her last night that triggered her thinking she’d seen Mina today.
She packed her camera and headed to the bus stop for crew members. In a few minutes, a van came along and she hopped into the vehicle. She let the chatter of the other crew members flow past her, surrounding her in a web of human companionship that spelled safety.
She’d escaped her past and her sister’s shadow, and she wasn’t looking back. That part of her life was over. Done. Finished. She was her own person now.
But the incident disturbed her nonetheless. She grabbed a quick supper at the crew buffet and headed upstairs to her room early. The stunt pilots were all at some kind of briefing to go over tomorrow’s flying sequences and would be tied up with it all evening, so there was no chance she could hook up with Archer tonight.
She crawled into bed, and as her thoughts turned to him, desire built of its own volition low in her belly. She imagined what would have happened last night if those explosions hadn’t gone off overhead, hadn’t thrown Archer back into combat inside his mind. The more she thought about it, the more turned on she got. Amazement that just thinking about the man could have this effect on her rolled through her. She had it
for that guy.
An orgasm built deep within her, growing from an electric tingle into a massive storm of pounding lust. But thinking about Archer didn’t quite push her over the edge. She hovered on the edge, desperate for the man himself. She needed his hands and mouth on her. His body moving inside hers. To feel his strength and possession filling her arms.
And then she remembered what Archer had said. He wanted her to show him what she liked. An image of him watching her wantonly exploring her own body exploded across her brain and her body arched up off the bed violently as an orgasm broke over her without warning, all the more violent for its surprise explosion. Her entire body clenched in a shuddering spasm of release.
She collapsed against the mattress, breathing hard while aftershocks rippled through her. Holy cow. What kind of wanton had he turned her into?
Whatever it was, she liked it. A lot.
* * *
Archer arrived at the airport barely after dawn to prep for the day’s flying. He hadn’t slept for squat, anyway, and had given up on sleep when the continuous hard-on he’d had ever since being with Marley drove him to the shower in desperation.
He preflighted Minerva and asked a mechanic to put a couple quarts of oil into her, but all the while, pressure was building in his gut. Finally, it bubbled over into conscious thought: he didn’t want Marley to fly with him again.
He and Steve had argued about it last night. Steve thought there was no way Marley would sabotage a helicopter she was scheduled to ride in given how close she had come to dying the last time her ride had been messed with. Unfortunately, the crew was short on pilots and Archer was really needed for today’s shoot, as was Marley’s camera. The fake city could only be blown up once, so it was every camera on deck to shoot the scene from every possible angle that might conceivably be required in the final cut of the movie.
Steve had confessed that in a perfect world he would pull both Marley and Archer off the movie crew entirely, for Archer’s safety and to get Marley away from the set where she couldn’t cause any more trouble.
Steve had also reported that a background check on Adrian Turnow’s finances showed the director had thrown most of his personal wealth into buying his share of Serendipity Studios. Steve still wasn’t ready to admit that Adrian might be sabotaging his own film to collect the insurance on it. Of course, Steve had also declared that the director was innocent until proven guilty.
Archer had replied hotly that Marley was innocent until proven guilty, too. Steve’s equally hot reply that all the facts pointed at her devolved into an argument that went nowhere. The upshot was an uncomfortable stalemate between him and his brother.
Archer got the distinct impression that Marley was on tight probation with Steve, though. One more incident in her wake, and she was out of here.
He’d lain awake for long hours, asking himself if he was missing some sign from her that she was pulling a con on him or that she was behind the string of accidents around the movie lot.
Cars were having violent tire blowouts, equipment was failing and a set had collapsed inexplicably. A heavy light bar had even fallen and narrowly avoided crushing several crew members, the power to the soundstage had failed for no apparent reason, costing an entire lost day of shooting...the list went on. And recently, the accidents had gotten more serious, as if the saboteur was getting more bold...or more crazy.
Rumors were starting to circulate around the set, and the crew was getting nervous.
When Archer had seen the full list of incidents, he’d understood why Steve was convinced a saboteur was at work. Even the worst run of luck ever couldn’t explain the continuous stream of problems, particularly given the experience and professionalism of this crew. Most of them were longtime movie veterans with excellent reputations.
When he hadn’t been fretting over her guilt or innocence, he’d spent much of last night imagining how fantastic sex with Marley—that he remembered the next time—would be. Of course, he’d spent the remainder of the night worrying about his own screwed-up head.
Intellectually, he knew he hadn’t even begun to process what had happened on that last, disastrous mission. He also knew it hadn’t been his fault that the rescue had turned out to be an ambush. It wasn’t the first time he’d been ambushed moving in to extract a patrol in enemy territory. It came with the job.