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Eighteen months ago MARINE CORPS CAPTAIN Zachariah Clark was so tuckered out he could barely put on his uniform, much less speed up the process.
But, oh, man, what a way to go.
He had only five hours until he had to report for duty at the training base in Quantico, Virginiaforty miles away. Against city traffic. Through the mushy dregs of the snowstorm that had blanketed Washington, D.C. He should be kickin' his ass into gear and bookin' it out of this hotel.
But as he tied off his boots, all he could think about was the naked woman in the shower, singing a bluesy rendition of "Too Darn Hot" that danced against his eardrums like a seductive whisper and heated his groin like the touch of a slow, firm hand.
"Keep dressin', Clarksie," he chided himself as he carefully buttoned the fly of his camouflage pants.
After nearly a week in this room with Becky Owens, he thought he would have gotten the woman out of his system. He'd already had her six ways to Sunday, and she'd had him back.
Enough, man! Duty calls.
But she was in there.
Naked. Absolutely his favorite version of the Beckster. He'd seen her in every role from buttoned-up exec in a chaste gray suit to adorable sex kitten in her funky flannel pajamas. He'd had fun with them all. But naked? He swallowed hard, doing his damnedest to blank out the image of soft, decadent curves, flexing and bouncing with each precise movement she made. The pale, perfect skin, the result of her Scandinavian heritage, would be steaming beneath the spray of the water.
Zachariah reached for the khaki T-shirt he'd pulled from his duffel bag. Maybe if he kept puttin' his clothes on, he'd quit obsessing about takin' hersoff.
Of course, he wouldn't have to take off anything because she was already
Shit. His dick stirred in response. "Helluva pep talk, Clarksie."
He pulled the T-shirt over his head, stretching the cotton over his chest and arms until the Corps tattoo of eagle, globe and anchor peeked out beneath the sleeve on his left bicep. Yeah. Focus on that. Think Semper Fi. Think duty. Honor. His responsibility to his men and country. Neutralizing threats around the world. An eleven-year career.
Zachariah's pants tightened.
He resolutely tucked in his T and pulled his camo overshirt off its hanger as Becky's husky serenade ended. The pulse of beating water dwindled to a few noisy drips and then silence. Lordy. If she walked out here naked
Zachariah inhaled a deep, steadying breath and buttoned his shirt. He was a Marine, damn it, not some lovesick puppy. Though, with his mug, he hadn't had the same success as some of his poster-boy comrades; this wasn't the first time he'd come home on leave, picked up a woman at a bar and spent the night with her. It was the first time he'd spent six nights with the same woman. The first time he'd ever had any trouble kissing her goodbye, thanking her and walking away.
Hell. He was beginning to feel like he was never going to get enough of her. The cool, conservative attorney with the secretly sinful alter ego wasn't intimidated by his crew cut or brawn or bad-ass bravado. If anything, the challenge of going head-to-head with him seemed to excite her. It excited him. From the moment she'd walked into Groucho's Pub in the heart of D.C. nearly a week ago, and refused to let him buy her a drink, the game between them had been on.
How could he leave before the game was finished? The bathroom door creaked open.
Despite his best, self-preserving intentions, Zachariah's gaze searched the mirror over the hotel room desk where he was dressing. He zeroed in on the cloud of steam filtering into the archway behind him, a tempting prelude to the Venus who'd follow.
The steam carried the exotic scent that was uniquely Becky'sa heady fragrance that reminded him of long nights in the tropics. Everything in him tensed with anticipation. If she was naked
"Whew! Now I'm awake." The steam cleared and Becky appeared in the doorway.
Thank God. He'd be able to walk away.
She wore a white, fluffy towel, tucked around her breasts sarong-style, covering her from her armpits to her thighs. It was a demure enough look if he didn't already know what was hidden underneath. The skin he could see was pink from the shower's heat, and try as he might, he couldn't look away from the tempting sight. She dried her hair with a second towel, then tossed it onto the marble vanity beside the bathroom sink.
Zachariah dropped his gaze to the glimpse of rounded butt cheek that appeared beneath the edge of the terry cloth as she leaned in closer to the mirror running the length of the vanity. He glanced back up as she finger-combed her hair. Damp from her shower, the white-gold waves had darkened to the color of wheat. One tendril stuck to her cheek, and before Zachariah could even identify the urge to do the job for her, she pulled it free and tucked it behind her ear. Only then did her deep cobalt eyes look up to meet his reflection in the mirror. "Good morning, big guy."
I have to go, he meant to say. "God, you're gorgeous," he said instead. That's tellin' her, Clarksie. Way to be large and in charge. How the hell was he supposed to begin this farewell conversation? Where was that hoo-yah drive to get the job done?
Twin dots of rosy color dotted her creamy cheeksthe ones up top. But she neither thanked him for the compliment nor made any effort to put him out of his ineloquent misery. Instead, Becky pulled a bottle from her toiletry bag and dabbed lotion onto her face. She worked and conversed as if this was any other morning. As if they had a thousand more mornings together instead of just hours.
"You wore me out last night. Again." Her low, husky laugh danced across his skin. His dick stirred in a helpless response to the sound, as if she had caressed him there. "I don't think I've ever had this much exercise on a vacation before."
Setting aside his goodbye mission for a moment, Zachariah played the double-entendre game, too. "I've always enjoyed a good workout myself."
"So " She eyed his duffel bag on the bed. "Where will you be?"
The bantering mood broken, he returned his attention to adjusting his collar. "We talked about this last night."
"I know you have to return to base to report for duty by noon1200 hours, you said. I meant, where will you be stationed after that?"
She wasn't game-playing. But he couldn't give her the straight answer she wanted. "That information's classified."
Pulling out a comb, she made a job out of smoothing her hair into a sleek style before it dried into the loose tumble of waves he preferred. "Do we try to keep in touch? Write letters? Will you have access to a phone or e-mail?"
"Possibly. But I'd have to contact you first to let you know the when, where and how. Until then, you won't be able to reach me."
She nodded. "Will your mission be dangerous?" Special Ops assignments always were. He wasn't an idiot about his safety or the safety of his men, but the risk inherent in his work couldn't be denied. "Yes."
"Are you headed to the Middle East?"
"Are you staying stateside? Fighting the war on drugs?"
"I can't tell you."
Becky huffed what sounded like a curse, tossed the comb into the sink and spun around. "What can you tell me?"
Was it the lawyer in her, asking all these questions? Was she picking a fight to make sure there weren't any lingering emotions or foolish expectations once he walked out the door? Or was this how she masked her concern? Sometimes, his parents got funny, too, over how secretive his work could be.
"I'm waiting." She gripped the vanity on either side of her, thrusting her tits forward in a defiant posture that strained the confines of the towel.
Zachariah carefully considered her request. Even the Corps couldn't control the way a man feltbut regulations were regulations. He held his hands up in mock surrender. "I can say that you may well have the most perfect set of breasts on the planet. Big enough that they can fill these hands without feelin' like I'm gonna break something, yet soft and sassy enough that I know I'm dealin' with the real thing."
After a long pause, the stern lines around her mouth eased and she laughed. "You like these, hmm?"
"Oh, yeah." Zachariah's own mouth shifted into a cautious smile. "Are we okay?"
She nodded. "It's been fun, hasn't it? Certainly not how I was expecting to spend these last few days before starting my new job with the State."
"Not what I had planned for my leave, either. But yeah, it was" though the word felt inadequate, Zachariah felt stymied to come up with something better "fun."
"And you're leaving in five hours?"
He'd better leave now. Or he'd have a unit of MPs on his tail to haul him back to base. Despite the desire drumming through his body, and the longing and guilt twisting him up deeper inside, Zachariah gathered his keys and billfold and stuffed them into his pockets. "I have to be at Quantico in five hours. I'm leaving sooner than that." He picked up his duffel, but paused when he noted how her face had gone pale. This was what military life was like. She had to understand that. "I told you when this started it was gonna be short and sweet between us."
"And I agreed to that. I have a new job to focus on. I'm fixing up my own place. I'm not looking to invest in a long-term relationship." She pulled her lush bottom lip between her teeth as she slipped into deep thought. Zachariah fought to get past the need to taste that sweet lip himself, and listened to what she had to say. "Saying goodbye is tougher than I expected."
"Yeah." Wow. That was profound, buddy. He thumbed over his shoulder toward the door. "I need to go."
Becky released her lip and straightened. She'd checked whatever emotion she'd been feeling, and now he could see the wheels churning behind those deep blue eyes. Zachariah braced himself to deal with whatever she was thinking up. "How long does it actually take you to get to the base from here?"
"About an hour. Unless I hit some freaky midmorning traffic out of D.C."
Her lips curved into a serene smile. "I just realizedI've never seen you in uniform before."
Pulling his shoulders back, Zachariah proudly gave her a good look at what 280 pounds of big, bad Marine looked like. "Captain Zachariah Clark at your service, ma'am."
Becky lapped her sweet, pink tongue around her lips in an assessing, appreciative pout that made his entire body lurch. "You wear it well."
She scanned him from shoulder to shoulder, from head to toe. Then she looked him straight in the eye.
"Take it off, Captain."
"I said take it off."
In a single beat of time, the atmosphere in the room had thickened.
"The hotel cleaners just sent it up, starched and pressed."
"So we'll make a point not to wrinkle it." She reached for the knot of terry cloth between her breasts and dropped her towel.
Damn. Zachariah's cock throbbed to shameless attention as he stood transfixed by all her abundant glory.
"Take it off. And get over here."
Zachariah tossed the duffel onto the bed. "At your command."
He stripped in record time, never even considering the bed as he swapped his uniform for their box of condoms, and strode across the room with a single purpose. Her.
Becky's kiss was waiting for him as he lifted her up onto the bathroom counter and spread her legs to move between them. She smoothed the friction between their lips with her tongue, then delved inside to toy with his. Every stroke kicked up the heat throbbing through him another impossible notch. She linked her arms behind his neck and pulled herself up against his body, teasing his chest with the brush of her nipples, teasing him down below with her fragrant, dampening heat. She was a decadent delight for each of his sensesfrom the contrasting reflection in the mirror of his suntanned hands moving over her fairer skin to the minty taste of her bold tongue in his mouth.
Zachariah tried to savor every moment, taking note of every sensation so he could replay the memories months from now when he was stuck in the middle of the desert or in some foreign junglefar from letters and e-mails, farther still from kisses and touches like these.
But patience wasn't his friend this morning. Becky's mouth was pliant and eager, matching every foray he made. She trailed her fingers along his spine, sparking an electric impulse in every cell she touched. Still anchoring her atop the counter, Zachariah slipped his hand down between them, seeking her heat, testing her readiness. He stroked one finger along her slick crevice and she gasped, tearing her mouth from his and burying her face against his neck.
An answering groan from deep in his chest was all he could manage. He dipped one finger inside her, then two. She writhed against his hand. He found her responsive nub with his thumb and begged the cool, calm, controlled attorney to go wanton on him.
"Not fair," she gasped, nipping at his collarbone.
"You have to" her hum vibrated against his skin "come too." Her knees flexed convulsively around his hips as she neared her release. He knew the feeling. Understood the need. His aching dick poked her hip and thigh as he rocked helplessly against her. Zachariah was like a temperature trigger on a brick of C-4 explosive, rapidly heating up to the point of detonation.
Becky's fingers dug into his back. "Zachariah?" She was breathing hard. "Zacha" breathing deeply "Zachari ?" Breathing quickly.
After seven days together, he recognized the sound. She was coming.
So was he.