Authors: Rochelle Paige
Damn, Chloe was even more gorgeous in person than she’d been in all the photos I’d seen of her. She was visibly exhausted, her skin paler than usual and had dark circles under eyes, but it didn’t take away from her beauty in the least. Neither did the baggy clothes which hid her curvy figure. Or the cute as shit fuzzy socks covering her feet. I’d seen plenty of photos where she’d been dressed in expensive gowns, with her hair and make-up perfectly done, and I’d thought I’d never seen anyone as beautiful as her. Seeing her like this, I knew I never would because hers was a natural beauty which couldn’t be hidden.
This woman really did have the power to make me act completely out of character. An hour ago, I would have sworn I didn’t have a poetic bone in my body, but fuck if I didn’t sound like a sap with the way I was thinking about her inner beauty of all things. Chloe Porter packed quite the punch, and I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to recover from it. Hell, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to.
It should have made me want to run in the other direction, but there was no way that was going to happen. Not while she had a stalker after her. Maybe not ever.
“Is there anything we need to do to the settings so nobody else can use it to track me?” Her soft question, tinged with fear, pulled me out of my thoughts.
“No, Tex hijacked your GPS and is rerouting it just in case,” I reassured her. “I don’t expect your stalker to get close enough to know about the iPad, but if he does it’ll send him on a wild goose chase.”
“Okay,” she sighed, her shoulders slumping in relief.
I moved a couple steps closer to her. “Is there anything you haven’t shared with the police about this guy?”
Her head shook wildly. “No, I swear! I told them everything. I didn’t save the first few notes he left because they didn’t seem threatening, but I told Detective Lancaster about them. Once they started to scare me, I kept it all to give to him. I tried not to touch them too much and used plastic bags just like I was told to do. But it didn’t matter how careful I was because he never slipped up enough to leave a clue as to who he is!”
She was starting to sound hysterical, so I dropped to my knees at her feet and pulled her hands into mine. Her eyes widened as she stared down at me, but she didn’t jerk away.
“Remember how I mentioned Tex?”
“Yeah,” she whispered shakily.
“He’s scary good at all that computer stuff, even better than a guy who I went through BUD/S with who found his way into more systems than most hackers ever dream of. Tex was the best when he was with the SEALs, and if the stories I’ve heard are true, he’s gotten even better since he’s been out.” She looked so damn hopeful, I decided to share a little more about Tex. “The guys he served with? They’re all married now, but they had to fight for their happiness. Each of their women faced trouble of their own, and Tex is the one the guys turned to in their time of need.”
“What kind of trouble?”
“I think there was an airplane hijacking, a couple incidents with terrorists, some kidnappings, a serial killer,” I rattled off, her eyes getting wider with each example. “Tex has dealt with a stalker before, too. It’s kind of how he met his wife.”
“What happened to her stalker?”
“She killed herself in prison while waiting for her trial to start.”
“Holy crap,” she mumbled. “Is it weird that this all makes me feel less alone?”
“Not at all. You’re not in this by yourself anymore, Chloe.” Her fingers clenched, gripping my hand tightly. “I might not have any experience dealing with stalkers, but I’d put the training I got from the Navy up against this bastard any day of the week. I spent eight years fighting for my country, serving with the best of the best. I’m going to put every skill I learned to good use when it comes to protecting you.”
“I’ve been so scared,” she admitted softly.
“I’m sure you were, but you didn’t let your fear make you dumb. You did the right thing, going to the cops with the emails and texts,” I reminded her. “And when they couldn’t keep you safe, you were smart and got the fuck out of town without leaving a trace.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t have a plan for what to do afterwards.” She shrugged her shoulders, her hands jiggling in mine. “I can’t live in this motel forever. My agent is probably going crazy trying to get ahold of me because I’m supposed to be looking over scripts for my next movie. Even if I wanted to avoid the public eye and never took another role, I’m still obligated to help promote the one I just wrapped up.”
I hated the thought of her having anything to do with the movie she’d finished filming last week. From what I’d seen in Lancaster’s file, my guess was that her stalker was connected to the film. His first attempts at communicating with her had started after filming began. He’d dropped hints here and there that made me think he’d seen her on set. Plus, he’d known exactly when the studio had dropped her protection, which meant he had to be fairly well connected. If her contract included her involvement past filming, he probably had all the details. It might be why he hadn’t done anything crazy since she’d left—he knew she couldn’t stay gone. He was biding his time, waiting for her to come back and then he’d strike. If I’d figured it out, then I had to assume Chloe knew it too.
“It’ll be different when you go back. I’ll be by your side every step of the way. If your stalker wants to get to you, he’ll have to go through me to do it.”
She leaned closer to me, until our foreheads were almost touching. “Please tell me you’re for real. I’m afraid I might still be asleep and dreamed you up.”
She was so fucking sweet, I couldn’t resist the urge to demonstrate I wasn’t a figment of her imagination by kissing her. Maybe if I’d put more effort into it, I wouldn’t have brushed my mouth against hers. I’d meant for it to gentle, but my good intentions flew out the window when her plush lips parted underneath mine. I got a real taste of her, and I wanted more. My tongue swept inside, tangling with hers, and a moan crept up my throat.
I breathed in her answering sigh. My dick hardened, pressing firmly against my zipper, but I pulled back before I let the kiss go too far. I needed to be careful not to take advantage of her precarious frame of mind, even if it meant walking around with a hard-on twenty-four seven. I couldn’t forget how vulnerable she was, it would make me no better than her stalker.
Under different circumstances, I didn’t think Chloe would give me the time of day. Not that I didn’t get my fair share of women when I tried. SEALs were chick magnets, but Chloe was in a whole different league. She was a damn celebrity for fuck’s sake. She’d appeared on several lists of Hollywood’s hottest actresses in the short time since her first movie had been released.
She was probably used to men who could wine and dine her. I’d bet good money her dates showed up with expensive presents. She deserved a hell of a lot more than I could give her, but none of those men could protect her the way I could. I couldn’t compete money-wise with guys like that, but I was the one who’d chased her halfway across the country when she was in trouble. I was the man who’d stand between her and danger, regardless of the risks to myself.
I was also the one she was staring up at with her bright green eyes filled with desire. If I had my way, I’d be the only man who ever got to see her looking like this ever again. I swiped my thumb across her bottom lip, and her eyes drifted shut as she sighed. Then her tongue traced the path my thumb took and her lashes drifted upwards, her gaze locking on mine. If she kept looking at me the way she was, I was bound to do something stupid, like press her soft body into the mattress and kiss her again. With great reluctance, I released her hands, stood up and moved to the other side of the room. It was the last thing I wanted to do, but it was the right decision for her so it was the only one I could make.
“Do you mind if I take a shower?”
I shook my head to clear it, sure I’d heard him wrong. One minute we’d been talking, the next he was kissing me, and then suddenly he was as far away from me as he could get and asking to use my shower. I must have looked confused because he rushed to explain.
“I’ve been traveling pretty much non-stop for a day and a half. It’d be nice to feel clean again.”
“Umm, yeah. Sure,” I mumbled, waving a hand towards the bathroom. “Watch out for the drain, it tends to get clogged easily.” I lifted a lock of my hair and ducked my head after glancing at his head. “Then again, I guess it won’t really be a problem for you.”
He ran a hand over the buzzed hair at the side of his head. “I let it grow out during my last mission, but I knew Gramps would give me a hard time if it was too long. I hadn’t intended to go this short when I went in for a cut, but I kind of froze up when the stylist asked me what I wanted.”
I honest to goodness giggled at his answer, tickled pink by the idea of this macho man getting his hair cut to please his grandfather and then getting flustered by all the choices at a hair salon.
“Best sound in the world,” he mumbled.
Best answer ever
, I thought to myself.
He strode towards the door, and I saw a hint of red tinging his cheeks. My heart melted further at the evidence of this big, tough guy being embarrassed at me catching him being sweet.
“Before I hop in the shower, I need to grab my duffel from my rental car,” he told me. “It won’t take me long, but I’m going to do a quick sweep of the area too. Just to be safe.”
My humor quickly fled at the reminder of why we were here in the first place. “I thought you said Tex took care of it, and we couldn’t be tracked here.”
“I learned to always expect the best, plan for the worst and prepare to be surprised,” he explained.
“Do you really think he can surprise us here?”
“With your safety in my hands, I refuse to be surprised,” he answered calmly. “Lock the door behind me, and don’t let anyone in but me.” He pulled his phone out of the front pocket of his jeans and tossed it at me. “If I’m not back in thirty minutes, use my phone to dial 911.”
“Okay,” I agreed, clenching it tightly in my fist.
I watched the time tick away, counting every minute he was gone. I didn’t start to worry until twenty minutes passed. By twenty-three, fear that something had happened to Kael had set in. When there was a knock at the door after twenty-five minutes had gone by, I heaved a huge sigh of relief and rushed to look through the peephole to make sure it was him. I threw it open as soon as I saw it was him standing on the other side and tossed myself at his chest.
He held still for a moment, and I thought he might push me away even though he’d kissed me earlier. Then his arms tightened around me, and it was like coming home. His heat surrounded me, and I felt safe for the first time since this horrible nightmare began. I would have stayed right there in his arms all night long if he hadn’t set me away from him to step into the room and shut the door behind us.
“About that shower,” he said awkwardly.
I cringed inside, thinking I’d jumped on him when he hadn’t wanted me near. “Go ahead, I’ll be fine in here.”
His eyes searched mine, and it seemed like he was about to say something before he sighed and headed into the bathroom. I wished there was some way to know what he was thinking. I’d never been good at the whole guy-girl thing, and I’d never regretted it more than in this moment.
My parents died right before my freshman year in high school, and with the move to my grandmother’s home in Indiana I didn’t date much. I was a late bloomer who blossomed when I got to college, but guys there hardly ever asked me out. My friends tried telling me it was because the boys at school were too intimidated, but I figured they were just humoring me. My only real relationship was with a guy I asked out my junior year. It lasted for about six months, but I couldn’t use him as a yardstick for how Kael would react because my ex had still been a boy. The former Navy SEAL who’d come to my rescue was all man.
Kael’s cell phone buzzed just as I heard the shower go on, and I realized I still had it gripped in my hand. I glanced at the screen when it lit up again with a text message notification. Completely ignoring the invasion to his privacy and feeling a little guilty about it, I swept my finger across the screen, but got stuck when it asked me for a passcode. There hadn’t been a name on the notification, but I figured there was a good chance that the message could be connected to my situation.
What if his friend with the mad computer skills had discovered something we needed to know immediately? What if he wasn’t the only one who’d been able to use my grandmother’s iPad to find me? What if my stalker was on his way to this motel at this very moment?
With Kael’s phone clenched in my hand, I padded over to the window and inched the curtain over about half an inch to peer outside. Nothing looked out of place, but I couldn’t stop the incessant questions in my head. The only thing I could think to do to get them to quit was interrupt Kael’s shower so he could check his phone. Sure, it was bound to be a little awkward since he was probably lathering up all those taut muscles, but if I kept my eyes shut I wouldn’t see the water sluicing over his golden brown skin. Right?
Just thinking about it made my heart race in a completely different way than it had been a moment before. At least the fantasy of what he’d look like in the shower was settling my nerves a bit—until another text notification popped up, startling me again. There really wasn’t any other choice except to walk over to the bathroom door and nudge it open. Or at least that was the excuse I gave myself anyway.
“Kael.” His name stuck in my throat as I caught sight of his reflection in the mirror. The slight fogginess from the steam wasn’t enough to hide his reflection, something for which I was eternally grateful. He was naked,
, with one hand pressed against the tile wall. The water beat against his neck and back, and his head was tilted downwards.
His eyes were closed, but mine were wide open as they swept down his body. My lips parted, and I covered my mouth to hide my gasp when I realized his other hand was wrapped around his dick—stroking it up and down in a tight fist. I knew I should back up and shut the door as quietly as I’d opened it, but I couldn’t bring myself to actually do it. I was frozen in place, helpless to do anything but stare at the sexiest thing I’d ever seen.
My legs shook, and my panties grew damper with each tug of his hand. Completely unaware of my presence, Kael managed to get me more aroused than any other guy had been able to accomplish. Not that I had a lot of experience, but still. As insane as it sounded, watching him jack off was the most sensual experience of my life. So much so that I struggled against the urge to strip out of my clothes and join him in there. If he hadn’t tensed up and groaned in satisfaction, I wasn’t sure I would have been able to resist the temptation any longer.
Terrified to be discovered gawking at him, I finally managed to tear myself out of my lustful stupor and backed up. As soon as the door clicked shut, I moved to the bed on shaky legs and dropped onto the mattress. Had it really only been last night when I’d lain here thinking to myself that my situation was the perfect setup for a Delia Sinclair book except for the missing military man to rescue me? Fate had certainly taken care of that pesky detail. There was no mistaking the reality of Kael when I’d just seen every inch of his delicious six-foot-two body.