Read Texas Stand-Off: The Omega Team Novella (Kindle Worlds Novella) Online
Authors: Sable Hunter
Deacon nodded, reluctantly. “Pass.”
Would it kill the man to smile? His apparent inability to praise her rankled a little. “Thank-you.”
Deacon dry-scrubbed his face. “Look, I’ve got some things to do after I clean this up.” He really didn’t, but he needed some breathing room. “Why don’t we take a break until tomorrow. Be ready at seven. I’ll leave some cereal out for you so you won’t have to cook breakfast and those cold cuts I mentioned earlier are in the fridge. Help yourself.”
“Do you want me to do it?” She pointed to the debris on the floor. “I don’t mind.”
“Sure, the broom is in the closet. Thanks.” With that small speech, he made a hasty exit.
“Is it me?” she whispered to herself, “or is he always this charming?”
* * *
It was her. She was getting to him. This was a woman he could relate to – who could relate to him. For a second he imagined them playing together. Hell, she’d probably go deer hunting with him. He’d loved Sylvia, but other than occasional sex, she’d just tolerated his passions. Something told him Natasha would be game for anything he threw her way–including sex. “Fuck,” he muttered. As soon as he started to fantasize, he’d remember his damn leg and the disgust his wife hadn’t even tried to hide. No, he could live out his remaining days without seeing that look on a woman’s face again.
What he needed was fresh air. Deacon decided to walk the boundaries of his property and just look around. He could kill two birds with one stone – make sure everything looked normal and give himself some distance from Wonder Woman. Shit. Now he was picturing her in that short little red, white, and blue suit. “Down, boy.” He palmed his dick and gave it a consoling pat.
Inside, Taz washed her hands. She’d cleaned up the mess, then found something totally unexpected. When she’d been hunting the proper place to store the portable X-ray machine, she’d discovered another room full of children’s toys–little Jeeps, battery powered cars and small trucks with pedals. It appeared Deacon Jones was working on them. She’d hardly expected to find Santa’s toyshop in this quasi-military training camp, but that’s what it looked like. Taz wanted to ask him about what she’d discovered, but he wasn’t exactly an inviting conversationalist. So she’d shut the door, leaving his secret intact.
Now she had some free time and she didn’t know what to do with it. Maybe she would read. After taking a quick shower, she redressed and plopped down on the plaid bedspread, picking up her kindle off the bedside table. This was one indulgence she just couldn’t live without. Her passion was mysteries, especially ones set in England and if they included a haunted house, she didn’t quibble. Sinking down onto the pillow, she read a couple of chapters, then padded in her bare feet to the kitchen to make a ketchup sandwich. Spying a few cans of soda, she took one, then felt guilty and put it back. Instead, she found a glass in the cabinet and filled it full of water.
Carrying her food back to the second bedroom, as Deacon called it, she settled in to eat, touching the button on her kindle periodically to turn pages. A noise outside her bedroom door told her Deacon had returned. She tensed, thinking perhaps he’d knock on her door, but he didn’t. With a tiny huff, Taz realized she was disappointed. After she finished her ketchup fold-over, she stared around the room, noting how utilitarian everything appeared. Even though the house was an architectural marvel, the furnishings could have been bought at IKEA. Finally, her eyes rested on a small TV. She loved television, especially old movies. With a smile, she rose and rummaged around until she found the remote. After hitting the power button, Natasha was relieved when a picture appeared. She channel-surfed until she found a rerun of ‘Deal or No Deal’ and settled down to watch it, always amazed the contestants were so greedy they risked a fortune when it was offered.
After a while, she decided to shed her clothes and get under the covers. Taz tried to go to sleep but her tummy rumbling and tumbling wouldn’t let her. Damn…her small meal hadn’t been very satisfying. She started having visions about the pickled loaf she’d seen in Deacon’s meat-keeper. Glancing at the clock, she saw it was after midnight. Surely, he was asleep. Throwing back the cover, she stood – then slowly opened the door and began to sneak down the hall for a snack.
On the far side of the house, Deacon lay on his bed, still fully clothed and wearing his prosthetic, trying to forget Natasha was only yards away. He was so damn torn. Part of him wanted to give her the boot and send her on her way. Another part of him, which usually hung down between his legs, but was now tenting his pants, wanted to keep her here as long as possible. A muffled noise and a creaking board made him jerk upright. He didn’t even stop to check the monitors–that might be Natasha, but old habits die hard. The possibility it was someone else made him grab his gun from the nightstand drawer and sneak out of the bedroom.
As quietly as possible, he crept down the hall. The moonlight was bright enough he chose not to turn on the light. He’d rather surprise the intruder with the cold tip of a gun to their back. But when he rounded the corner, the sight that met his eyes almost took him to his knees.
Natasha Levin was standing in his kitchen gloriously nude.
Deacon blinked his eyes, then opened them again. Yes, Natasha was still naked. She was standing at the kitchen window munching on something. She was humming and her backside wiggled enticingly. All of that dark red hair was streaming down her back and he wanted to beg the beautiful woman to turn around so he could appreciate her front view as much as he did the rear. His cock agreed with him, hell – it was giving their formerly unwanted visitor a standing ovation. Lowering his gun, he cleared his throat, causing her to nearly jump out of her skin.
“What?” she gasped, whirling around. “Deacon?” she cupped one breast, covering the other with her arm. Grabbing a nearby dishtowel, she held it in front of her privates. “I thought you were asleep!”
“Obviously,” he drawled. “Do you think this is proper attire for a houseguest?” Not that he was complaining, he leaned his shoulder on the refrigerator and settled in to enjoy the show.
“I thought I wasn’t a houseguest.” If he wasn’t blocking the path, she would’ve made a run for it by now.
“A rose by any other name still has thorns.” Damn, he was enjoying this.
“Are you through? Could I leave now?”
He stepped to one side, never removing his eyes from her fine form.
“Anyway–I’m a woman. My being naked shouldn’t interest you or bother you or…whatever!”
So much of his blood starved brain was focused on looking at her hot body, it took a few seconds for her words to sink in. “Hold on.” He grabbed her arm. “Why would you say that? You think I’m gay or something?”
Taz tried to pull from his grasp. “You are gay. I’m fine with it. So, you don’t have to hide it from me.”
Deacon didn’t let her go. Instead, he pulled her up close and personal. There was no way she could miss his swollen cock. “What in God’s name gave you the idea I was gay?”
Now, she was confused…he was aroused. By her? “Athena.”
“She told you I was a homosexual?” Something wasn’t making sense.
“Not in so many words.” She tried to pull back, but his strong arm was firmly locked around her waist. “She said you were a man’s man.”
“And that made you think I’m gay?” He growled deep in his chest.
“Well, you don’t look it or act like it and I’m a little…” She let her voice trail off. “But isn’t that what it means? You are a man’s man, a man who belongs to a man. According to my grammar lessons, the apostrophe shows possession!”
“No-o-o.” He dragged the word out longer than necessary. “Being a man’s man means you’re more of a man–not less!”
“Oh.” She had no basis for argument. His shoulders were wider than the refrigerator and he wore no shirt, her eyes strayed to his chest and lingered there. No wonder her mouth watered when she looked at him. Even that phrase formerly confused her, but now she completely understood the concept. He was delicious and she wanted very much to take a little bite.
“Now, finish your sentence. ‘I’m a little’…? Nuts? Blind?” He nudged her with his erection. “Confused?”
“Embarrassed and a little angry.” She yanked her arm from his hold and pushed him out of her way. “I told you I’m not familiar with all American slang. Why don’t you people just try saying what you mean?”
“Okay, let’s try it. Your nipples were swollen and poking me in the chest.” He yelled behind her. “You’re not angry, I turn you on!”
“Hell will freeze first!” Natasha yelled back as she hurried down the hall. Damn that amazing hunk of a man!
Deacon smiled. “I’m sure the bastards are enjoying the cooler weather.” He stood there a moment, not really knowing what to do. His smile faded. What was he so happy about? Whatever she felt for him would die the moment she realized he was only half a man.
Taz slammed the bedroom door as hard as she could. “Arrogant, presumptuous asshole.” Ha! That was one piece of American slang she’d mastered. She cursed a little more, some in English, some in Russian. Grabbing her clothes, she redressed before crawling under the covers. “I’ll never sleep naked again.”
* * *
The next day things seemed to change. Deacon wasn’t embarrassed, but he did regret giving her a hard time. She was a woman and she was–technically–a guest in his house. He still didn’t want to work with her, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t be…civil.
When Natasha joined him in the kitchen, the happy smile he’d come to expect from her was gone. She stood before him stiffly, refusing to meet his eyes. “I apologize for my behavior last night. It was unseemly,” she said.
Deacon’s jaw would’ve dropped open if his mouth wasn’t full of cereal. She was apologizing? By the time he swallowed, she was about to walk away. “Stop!”
She did, but she didn’t face him. He pushed away from the table, standing up. “Look. I’m the one who should apologize. I shouldn’t have just stood there staring like a…”
“Peeping Tim.” Natasha finished for him.
“Actually, it’s Tom,” he corrected her, then shook his head. “Same difference. Anyway, I apologize.” Moving around where he could see her face, Deacon could tell she wasn’t convinced. Spreading his arms out in surrender, he explained with exasperation. “Hey, you’re a beautiful woman and I’m really not gay.”
“Fine.” She waved her hand in the air. “Let’s just complete the tests. Unless you’ve changed your mind about wasting time with me.”
“No.” Deacon took his jacket from the back of his chair, “I still want to see this through, give you every chance to prove yourself.” He slung the garment over his shoulder. “Then when you don’t, I can assure Grey I did my best.”
Taz bit her lower lip to keep from saying something she shouldn’t. From the moment she met Deacon, she’d been drawn to him. Now knowing he liked women…the tension between them could be cut with a knife. The only problem was–while she was experiencing sexual tension, he was tense because he was anxious to be rid of her. “Let’s make a deal.”
Deacon snorted, unable to get the vision of her suckable nipples out of his head. “A deal with the devil?” An old Elvis song kept going through his mind,
Devil in Disguise
. “What do you have in mind?”
She held his gaze. If she didn’t think she could do this job, if it wasn’t so important–she’d leave. “A contest. Let’s compete. If you win the majority of the tests, I’ll call Grey and tell him myself that I failed. If I win, you tell him I’m Omega Team material.”
Deacon smirked. “Convincing me of your qualification will be hard enough, beating me will be impossible.”
Putting her hands on her hips, she glared at him–the handsome ass. “Don’t count your chickens before they roost.”
“Before they hatch.” He made a face. “Who taught you English?”
“I’ve been to school and I watch a lot of American TV. So?” She waited, her stance emphasizing lush round hips.
“Fine, Levin. It’s your funeral!” He threw up his hands. She wasn’t going to best him. He was a goddamn Navy SEAL. The fact he was also a cripple was his business. His handicap wouldn’t stop him from proving to her that women did not belong in dangerous situations.
He stalked out of the room and she stalked behind him. Her heart was beating too fast and parts of her were tingling that had no business tingling. Before when she thought Deacon was gay, he was off-limits, like admiring an expensive sports car from a distance. But now it seemed the muscle-bound, sexy beast was way too close for comfort. Taz had an almost uncontrollable urge to reach out and touch him. But she wouldn’t. Deacon Jones might be aware she was a woman, but he clearly had no respect for her as a person.
Deacon could hear her footsteps. She was too quite. Not that she normally chattered like a magpie, but he was used to her at least asking what was next. “Let’s see how well you can shoot.” He stopped by a narrow door with an electronic key pad on the wall next to it. “Turn around.” She did and he pressed the password and went in. Natasha didn’t move, but she could hear him opening drawers. “All right.” When she faced him once more, she could see he had a sling bag over his shoulder. Two rifle barrels stuck out the top. “Now, we’re armed.” He led her to an area some distance from the house to a practice range.
Taz considered asking if she could use her own guns. She had a small armory under the bed in the RV, her father’s weapons. But making the request would entail having to converse with him, which she had no desire to do any more than necessary. Why he disliked her so much, she didn’t know. Clearly he got on well with Athena, her friend thought a lot of him. All Taz could conclude was that his antagonism extended only to her. Maybe he just couldn’t get past who she was–Mikhail Levin’s daughter.
“Okay, let’s get to it.” He stopped at a small shed, opened the door and held it so she could join him inside. “Here, load your weapon and we’ll do some target practice. Five hundred and a thousand yards. And this isn’t some precision guided firearm where you wear special glasses that work like some damn video game. You have to have real skill to compete with me.”
Taz took the gun, familiarizing herself with its weight and feel.
“What’s wrong with you? Cat got your tongue?” Deacon didn’t know why he was teasing her. Truth was, he’d love to be the cat in question.
“Just ready to focus.” Following his directions, she stood behind the line at the closest mark to the target and got ready to fire. It was a good distance, but nothing she hadn’t done before.
“Count of three, take five shots, then get ready to weep.” He winked at her, then raised his gun and aimed.
Taz trembled at his flirtatious manner.
“Ready, set, fire!” The volley of shots that rang out would’ve been deafening without hearing protection. When they were through, Taz accompanied him to see the results.
“Well, well…look at this.”
He pointed and Taz gritted her teeth. He had four within the quarter size bulls-eye and she only had three. It didn’t matter they were but a hair’s breadth away, Deacon Jones had beat her fair and square. “I’ll do better at the thousand yard.”
“You think you’ll be better at twice the distance?” His tone was teasing and skeptical.
“Yes, I will,” she answered with confidence. This time, she wouldn’t let thoughts of him mar her concentration. Together they moved to the farthest mark, adjusting their head gear. When he called the shot, she steeled herself and pulled the trigger five times in quick succession.
“Let’s see who’s the winner this time.” Taz let her eyes follow Deacon. Life made no sense. Why did he have to be the man she was attracted to? Lowering the protective gear, she was surprised to hear a different type of explosion. “What the fuck!”
Unable to hide her grin, Taz came closer. “Surprised?”
Surprised wasn’t the word. He jerked his head around to glare at her. If she’d been a man, he’d have offered a beer and asked for lessons. But this…this goddess in camo infuriated him. “How in God’s name did you do that? There’s only one hole–dead center. If we’d been shooting arrows, you would’ve Robin-hooded all five of them!”
Deacon didn’t bother to explain. “Let’s move on.” She offered him her weapon and he took it, stamping off to their next competition. After a few seconds, he let out a long exasperated sigh. “Good job, Levin. You’re a crack-shot.”
His praise made her heart soar. “I’m glad you’re not angry.”
“Angry?” He motioned to his own chest. “Me? Why should I be angry? I can promise you won’t be so lucky at knife-throwing or hand-to-hand.”
She had no worries about the blades, that would be easy. Her accuracy was honed by much practice. The other exercise would be far more difficult–she’d have to touch him, be close to him. No matter if they were fighting, there would be contact and Natasha didn’t know if she could do it without revealing how she felt. “Luck will have very little to do with any of it, Deacon.”
The way she said his name was almost Deacon’s undoing. Last night, after finding her in the buff, he’d returned to his bedroom and yanked on his cock until he’d cum, whispering her name like a prayer. “We’ll see.”
In the same shed where he replaced the rifles in their designated spots, he retrieved two throwing knives. “Let’s move to those posts over there.” He pointed to a rail fence, where she could see two white circles painted on each about the size of the bottom of a coffee mug. “One throw each, same time, sixteen feet.”
She complied with his directions, setting the tips of her shoes to the line on the grass. “I’m set.”
“Fine. Ready! Aim!” She held the knife by the tip of the blade, her arm drawn back and tense. “Throw!” Taz swung through and let the blade go. The two knives whistled through the air and landed with a thud, micro-seconds apart. But even at that distance Taz could clearly see hers was in the center of the circle while his hovered on the edge.
“I think it’s two to one,” she said calmly. “I enjoy practicing with you.”
“To the mats, we need to get this thing settled.” She offered him her knife, handle first and he jerked it from her hand. Taz didn’t react, even as a few drops of blood slipped across her palm from the small wound on her fingers. It was her own fault; she should’ve grasped the weapon differently.
“What are the rules?”
“No rules.” Even though he was emphatic, what he said wasn’t exactly true. His own code would remain unspoken, but he wanted to see what she would do.