Read Just Fooling Around: Darcy's Dark Day/Reg's Rescue\Cam's Catastrophe/Devon's Dilemma Online

Authors: Julie Kenner,Kathleen O'Reilly

Tags: #Romance: Modern, #Contemporary, #General, #Romance, #Adult, #Romance - General, #Romance - Contemporary, #Fiction, #Fiction - Romance

Just Fooling Around: Darcy's Dark Day/Reg's Rescue\Cam's Catastrophe/Devon's Dilemma (8 page)

BOOK: Just Fooling Around: Darcy's Dark Day/Reg's Rescue\Cam's Catastrophe/Devon's Dilemma
5.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
2

“O
WWWW
!”

That wasn’t a good sign.

Devon cracked the door open again. “Did I hurt you?”

“Just the nose,” he muttered.

“Sorry,” she apologized, then added in the spirit of total deniability: “Please take a step back before it gets beat up again.” All legal waivers of liability completed, she slammed the door shut. If his nose got out of joint this time, it wasn’t her fault. He’d been warned.

Seemingly incapable of showing good sense, he knocked quietly.

“Ma’am?”

Her eyes closed, as if a lack of vision could block out the insidious persistence of that voice. This man wasn’t used to women who slammed doors on his nose. He wasn’t used to horrible miseries for one day of the year. No, he was that clueless individual who believed that all mountains should be climbed and all plumbing leaks could be fixed with a wrench and a roll of duct tape.

In other words, he was a man.

If only he wasn’t so…tempting.

After suffering from previous April Fools’ day hoaxes that required FBI interrogations (no she wasn’t
a terrorist, and she didn’t know any Nigerian princes, nor had she ever claimed to be one) and accidents that required interior fumigation, it was somehow freeing to know that she wouldn’t mind spending twenty-four hours in bed, if Mr. Ball-and-Chain were there to keep her company.

Sensing her defenses starting to falter, Devon moved to the offensive. “Do not attempt to guilt me into opening the door against my better judgment, knowing that you’re an escaped criminal with a sordid past, recently on the run from a chain gang.”

“No chain gangs in North Dakota, ma’am. The penal system is a lot more humane than it used to be. No, this is just my buds pulling an April Fools’ joke on me.”

An April Fools’ joke? Seriously?
For the first time on this godforsaken day, she found herself actually smiling. “You have very sick friends.”

“I know, I tell them that every day. You don’t know how many times I wanted to ditch the bastards, but then I tell myself, Self, you’ll get shot down behind enemy lines and captured, and if I went and kicked their ass—exactly like they deserved, mind you—then they’d have no reason to pull off one of those death-defying rescues you see in Hollywood and I’d never get famous. So you can see, I don’t have any choice in the matter. And that’s why I’m here at your doorstep with a ball and chain wrapped around my leg. It’s pitiful. It’s pathetic. But you’re my last hope. And I know you’re a very smart lady, and shouldn’t open the door, but goddamn it, it’s cold and wet out here, and the base is sixty-five kilometers away and I think if I was one hundred percent sober, I could probably make it, even with this monstrosity
attached to me. But currently I’m sitting at about seventy-eight percent sobriety, and I think I’m coming down with a cold.” He sneezed, a genuine sound that breached the nuclear-bunkered walls of her heart.

All biological dictates aside, Devon knew there were a thousand reasons she shouldn’t open the door. More importantly, no self-respecting female would let a slightly drunken voice curl her toes and cause her spine to collapse upon itself.

But something about that low, hot summer drawl made her warm in places that had forgotten they could get warm. Her skin was starting to feel tight and itchy, and she had a strange desire to dig through her lingerie drawer to find something more attractive than a red-rose flannel gown. All further arguments against the door opening died a short and violent death.

Maybe it was April Fools’. Maybe it was a mistake. But so what? As a female, more than eighty percent of her decisions that involved the male sex would be a mistake. As an actuary who calculated life and death expectancies on a daily basis, Devon believed in always playing the odds.

After she opened the door, the first thing she noticed was the blood that trailed down from the bridge of his nose, and meandered along his cheek. It was a nice cheek, innocent and undeserving of blood caused by her. Automatically she reached for the first-aid kit on the wooden cabinet nearby, and then handed him an antiseptic wipe and a piece of gauze.

She hoped he’d had all his shots. Yes, her front door was made of steel, and tetanus shouldn’t be a problem, but Devon wouldn’t be surprised if a rusty nail hadn’t winged its way to her home sometime in the last few hours.

The man wiped away the blood and then waved a casual hand. “No problem. No boyfriend?” he asked, and she noticed the steady watchfulness in his gaze.
Not as tipsy as she had thought.

“I have an alarm system,” she answered, pointing to the big red button. “It’s very good. One wrong move, and you will be eviscerated.”

“I assure you, there are no evisceration plans in my future. I’m fingerprinted and on file with the U.S. Air Force, and they’ll mostly vouch for my sterling character, although don’t ask about last Halloween and the colonel. He’s still a little touchy. Right now, I just need to use the phone, and then I’ll be…” Gazing down at his leg, he winced, and then pulled at the chain with one powerful hand, creating that fingernails-on-the-chalkboard dragging noise that she’d heard earlier.

The noise was almost worth the visual. While she watched his strong movements, thigh muscles bulking underneath faded jeans, biceps enlarging and then elongating with each tug of the chain, tension featured on his face much like a man in the throes of…

of…

of…

…orgasm. Yes,
orgasm
was what they called it.

A momentary twinge of nostalgia started in her brain and then settled happily between her thighs.

The heavy black ball left tread marks on the linoleum. Permanent tread marks that would be impossible to clean up. Still, linoleum could be replaced, and frankly, Devon was currently enjoying these twinges. Later, there would be some sort of penance, but her insurance (home, life, car, flood, travel) was paid.

“Are you getting married?” she asked, the cultural implications of a ball and chain just sinking in.

He looked at her, horror in his eyes, and then seemed to pick up on her thoughts. “Not me. I’m not that stupid. The ball and chain was for the groom. It was my idea, but I got double-crossed. Damned tequila.”

Her mouth twitched, nearly curved into a smile. What a dilemma, and here was a man who defied gravity in million-dollar flying machines designed to protect his country and the lives of innocent citizens the world over.

In Devon’s opinion,
hero
was merely another word for fool.

And yet he was also a man who took his pranks seriously, but when outpranked, took it in stride. Refreshing.

She schooled her features into something not quite so admiring. “And you got chained up instead?”

“Bastards,” he answered with a grin. “Retribution will be sweet, swift, using methods unsanctioned by the CIA. Phone?” His deliberate gaze took in her small, tidy, kitchen, took in her small, tidy house, but she noticed how carefully his eyes did not take in the small, tidiness of
her.

She was accustomed to it and had settled into a peaceful acceptance of her solitary existence. Was she pretty? Yes. Was she worthy of a flirty wink or a cat-call? Yes. Was she worthy of risking a car off the cliff or a seemingly demonic attack dog? Not a chance in hell.

Calamities such as what she termed the Cujo incident—sometimes in the presence of the opposite sex—were why her evening attire was a thigh-length flannel nightgown (flame-retardant), why her brown hair was tied back in a very practical long braid (she was
too vain to cut it off), why wool socks had a hole in the right toe (currently hidden by the skid-proof slippers), why he wasn’t hitting on her…

“The phone’s over there,” she muttered, pointing toward the old princess-style phone with a frankly cranky finger.

Up until this moment, she’d considered herself above the superficiality of the eternal quest for male companionship. It worried her that now, in the presence of a lust-worthy serviceman tied to a ball and chain, she might be devolving—condemning herself to a life of women’s magazines, drawers full of mascara, cottage cheese and, worst of all,
exercise
. Seventy-eight percent of all weight lost came back on. Exercise was futile, it was painful. In the end, Cujo was preferable.

“I won’t be long,” he said apologetically, most likely noticing the sour expression on her face, which she should erase. But if she did, then wasn’t she falling into the very trap that she wanted to avoid?

He picked up her pink receiver and then promptly frowned.

“I’m not getting a dial tone,” he said, as if surprised.

Devon shrugged, perhaps a bit cocky. “Sometimes that happens with storms,” she replied vaguely.

“Damned phone companies. Never there when you need them most. Do you have a cell?”

Seeing the easy confidence in his expression, Devon’s smile became more sure. “Absolutely. Do you want to try it?” Not that it was going to matter. She’d bet the last dollar in her emergency savings account (well-funded) that there was no cell reception. No, Mr. Who-Needs-Insurance was going to be stuck.

Alone with her.

At that lusty thought, she almost grinned. Instead, she handed him the sturdy mobile phone that she kept for emergencies.

Efficiently he punched in numbers, holding it up to his ear, and then nodding, as if there was an actual chance in hell of communication with the outside world.

Devon waited.

Disaster in three…two…one…

Still confident in a rational world order, he started to talk. “Scott, it’s Chance. Yes, Chance Cooper, your squadron commander, the one currently toting an extra fifty pounds, you son of a bitch. Your ass is mine, Airman.”

He kept grinning, talking successfully, actually arranging car pickups, meeting places, time synchronization without any thought to contingency plans. And most remarkable of all, the phone connection was still working. The overhead lights still were shining brightly, there were no strange animals or people jumping through her windows.

It was…ordinary. Immediately Devon sensed there was something wrong with this world. Maybe it wasn’t April 1. Maybe time had frozen, or sped up, or shifted to a parallel dimension. A new and unfamiliar twinge of emotion sprang up inside her. Was this a feeble spark of something that might could be termed hope?

And oh, yes, look outside the window—flying pigs, no less.

Once again secure in her own well-protected lifestyle choices, Devon rocked back on her slippered heels and prepared for impending disaster. Blissfully ignorant,
Chance continued talking while secretly she ogled him and his sodden, dripping, drenching hunk of body.

Her eyes lingered on the black T-shirt that clung to his well-hewn arms. On that bulky chest that might have attracted a more shallow female. She knew those military types believed in physical fitness, and she told herself it was logical that such athletic musculature would cause her tongue to cleave to the roof of her mouth.

Proof that the man was human was a small scar above his right eye, nearly concealed by the thick curl of black hair. The scar was a neon sign that perhaps he wasn’t quite as lucky as he believed. Devon liked it, the way it spoke of hard-fought battles, as if his waterlogged attire and slightly swollen nose weren’t enough. But oddly, it was the tiny scar that kept tempting her eyes.

Survival. That was what it stood for. The scar told of disasters surmounted, and wounds that were healed. He carried no provisions for emergencies. He simply persevered.

Fascinating.

And exactly why had this unlikely specimen of oozing testosterone showed up in her house tonight?

Just as she was contemplating the slim, statistically unlikely, struck-by-lightning, lottery-winning long shot that he might have brought something good into her home, the man stopped his cheerful chattering and swore.

“Phone died?” she asked, blinking innocently, as if she didn’t know.

“It must have been the battery,” he muttered, and right then the bank of overhead bulbs began to spark, pinging one after another like targets in an arcade game.
Devon exhaled with relief. There was an odd comfort to her survivalist existence, and she didn’t like change. When she was a young and naive twenty-one, she’d been tempted to believe that the curse wouldn’t affect her life. That she should go balls-out like her brothers, Cam or Reg. After four bad breakups, long nights alone with Ben & Jerry’s and a lot of movie rentals, Devon realized that balls-out was for idiots who actually enjoyed emotional pain.

Exactly on schedule, her backup generator kicked in with its comfortable hum, illuminating the room in an eerie yellow glow. Chance looked at her with surprise and respect, not quite so life-zestful anymore.

It was about time. If things had stayed the way they were—communication working, electrical facilities intact, fuel gauges functioning—she might have been lulled into complacency. But Devon knew that history repeated itself. The statistics never lied. “Are they coming to get you?”

“We got cut off before I could give Scott the address. If he were more resourceful, maybe he’d reason it out, but God bless him, he’s not the brightest tool. We usually just call him Tool, in fact.”

“I think you’re stuck,” she announced, folding her arms over her chest, and his amused gaze drifted lower, touching on the perfectly adequate curve of her breasts. It was as if he could see through her crossed arms, see through the heavy flannel, see through every bulletproof (literally) defense she had ever designed.

A perilous tingle slid down her body, a tingle that had nothing to do with temperature, and her nipples tightened into buds.

Seeing the very visible proof of her discomfort, he smiled, a cocky, pilot’s smile accustomed to wrangling gravity and seducing women while weighted down with a ball and chain. Prudently Devon reminded herself that there was no insurance policy on her vagina.

“Do you have a car?” he asked.

“No,” she lied because she never drove on April 1. Ever. Even if the insurance company allowed it, she wouldn’t.

“What about the Ford that’s parked in the garage?”

BOOK: Just Fooling Around: Darcy's Dark Day/Reg's Rescue\Cam's Catastrophe/Devon's Dilemma
5.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Extra Time by Morris Gleitzman
Bound by Honor Bound by Love by Ruth Ann Nordin
Hittin' It Out the Park by Allison Hobbs
What Came After by Sam Winston
Race for Freedom by Lois Walfrid Johnson
Gone Tropical by Grant, Robena
Santa Fe Woman by Gilbert Morris
The Billionaire Playboy by Christina Tetreault