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Navy Special Security Officer Lieutenant Adam Mancuso pressed his eyes to the state-of-the-art, wide-angle binocular-telescope mounted on a tripod. He frowned in stern disapproval while at the same time his pulse kicked up.
His target was doing yoga in the nude.
Warrior Pose, if he wasn't mistaken.
He had no business staring at the woman once he realized what she was doing. His surveillance assignment was limited to her comings and goings and those of her guests. He was violating her privacy. She had a right to do naked yoga in her own living room if she chose.
Never mind that she hadn't quite pulled the drapes all the way closed. With this kick-ass telescope he could spot a fly in a sandstorm from two miles away.
And he could see every incredible detail of Eva St. George's lush, supple body. Those pert breasts, narrow waist, lean legs and luscious, luscious ass.
Fascination dried his saliva. Lust drained the blood from his face and drove it straight to his dick.
Move, dammit. Step away from the telescope. Transfixed, he fisted his hands and clenched his jaw.
He was going to stop this. Right now. Except who could move with a boner the size of Catalina?
Shake it off, Mancuso.
How could he, when such a glorious sight met his eyes? Right, that was nothing but an excuse. He hated what he was doing. Totally disgusted with his caveman behavior. And yet, he did not move.
He was caught off guard. Knocked for a loop. Who would have expected the woman to strip off all her clothing and jump into the lotus position without any warning? He was too rattled to even blink, much less take a step back from the telescope.
Neanderthal. Troglodyte. Ape.
Yeah, sure, calling himself names would work. His toes curled inside his boots anchored on the hardwood floors of the rented apartment in San Diego. His eyes were practically bugging out of their sockets as he watched the oh-so-perky Ms. St. George do something with her body he hadn't thought humanly possible.
Her skin glistened with perspiration, her adorable blond ponytail swishing as she moved. Hi Ho, Silver. He licked his lips gone Sahara desert dry. Man alive, it was hot in here in spite of the breeze blowing in through the open window, bringing with it the smell of the Pacific Ocean and rustling the curtains.
Here she was stretching and bending and twisting, naked as the day she was born, without a clue that she was being watched. She thought she was safe in her own home, protected from prying eyes. Free to express herself with that body bestowed by the gods. She had no idea that she was under scrutiny by the U.S. Navy.
That thought got through to him when nothing else had. He could not afford to forget why he was here or whom he represented. Military secrets had been stolen and if they fell into the wrong hands American lives would be in jeopardy.
Then she turned and he spotted something on her left shoulder that seemed to flitter in the flickering glow from the candles she'd lighted before starting her erotic exercise. Something silvery and blue. He fiddled with the focus, honing in on it.
Of a handsome blue-and-silver butterfly, wings unfurling, ready to fly free.
He should have figured. Everything in her dossier pointed to a free-spirited, no-regrets type. That made her his polar opposite in every way. According to her file, St. George had grown up without a father and trailing after her nomadic, hairstylist mother from town to town.
Adam had been raised as the oldest of three kids in a stable, well-to-do military family that set the bar high. His father had also served in the Navy and upon his retirement, had followed the family tradition of going into politics. Adam was expected to follow suit, marry a woman who could navigate that world with ease and aplomb, all the while exhibiting the highest moral conduct.
And yet, here you are staring at a naked woman through a telescope.
She stretched to the side, giving him a perfect view of the butterfly. Body art had never turned him on before, but something about that tattoo on this woman stirred an unexpected reaction inside him.
Sweat broke out on his brow and he sank his top teeth into his bottom lip, suppressing a groan.
She dropped like silk panties to the floor, pressing her belly down flat on the yoga mat stretched over the hardwood flooring, while at the same time angling her fantastic butt into the air.
Holy crap! What was this new pose? The erection that had already been straining against his zipper tightened and grew. His blood ran red-hot through his veins and his breath shot out in quick, hard rasps.
The bottom of her ponytail grazed the middle of her back just above where her sexy little waist tucked inward. She arched her spine, shifting her position again, putting that impressive little fanny right in his face.
His throat constricted. The muscles of her sweet ass were tightly defined, but at the same time utterly feminine. His gaze tracked from the curvy rump to where it joined her thighs that tapered down into long shapely legs. Her peachy skin glistened with the glossy sheen of exertion. Adam wanted to touch her so badly his hands shook. A woman like that could lead a good man straight to hell with a big grin on his face.
Gotta stop this. Gotta stop this now.
Otherwise he was going to unzip his pants and do what came naturally.
No. No way. No how. He was known throughout the Office of Naval Intelligence for his self-control. He wasn't about to jack off over the woman he'd been hired to keep under surveillance. That would be unethical and sleazy and and
He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, straightened and finally stepped back from the telescope. He paced the floor, ran a hand over his close-cropped hair, and took several deep breaths to calm his soaring temperature.
If she was going to put on that kind of floor show every night, Adam didn't know if he'd survive this assignment. Maybe he could ask Rogers to take the night shift
The minute the thought entered his mind he squelched it. The only thing worse than having to watch her nude yoga routine was the thought of his partner watching her. Never mind that Tim Rogers had just gotten married and was madly in love with his new bride. Adam didn't want the other Naval Intelligence officer ogling Eva.
And why the hell was that?
Adam surely didn't know. It was a strange, possessive feeling gnawing at his gut. He didn't want anyone seeing her naked but him.
It shocked him. That sudden thought.
The door to the apartment opened and Adam jumped in front of the telescope, arms behind his back, guilt punching him. Tim Rogers came through the door carrying a greasy white paper bag that smelled of sauteed onions and two foam drink cups cradled against his body.
Rogers could have posed for a Navy recruitment poster. Tall, dark eyes, hawkish nose. He possessed a wide, welcoming smile and dark brown hair that he wore slightly longer than Adam's but still short enough to meet military regulations. Rogers shot him a sly glance. "How's the peep show?"
"P-peep show?" Adam stammered and felt the top of his ears burn.
"Don't get offended. I know you're Mr. Straight Arrow," his partner said, clearly misreading Adam's embarrassment as disapproval. "But come on, we are playing peep-eye with a beautiful woman. Sooner or later, we're going to see her partially dressed if not completely naked." His grin widened. "Perks of the job."
You have no idea, Adam thought, the image of Eva's sexy bare body vividly fresh in his mind.
"Have you told Lisa about our assignment?" Adam asked, shifting the conversation off the woman next door and on to Rogers.
"Do I look like a crazy man?" Rogers chuckled. "I told her I couldn't discuss the case, which is true." He rifled through the sack, pulled out a foam container. "Here's your rabbit food."
Rogers shoved the container into Adam's hand, and then went back to the sack to retrieve a hamburger dripping with grease.
"How do you eat that stuff?" Adam shook his head, reached for a plastic fork to dig into his garden salad with low-cal dressing.
Rogers sank his teeth into the burger. "With relish. Not all of us grew up with a gourmet chef at our beck and call."
"You exaggerate. My family had a cook and housekeeper, not a gourmet chef."
Roger held up a French fry. "Still, not the norm. Wanna bite? I'll share."
"No thanks." Adam had given up eating fast food a long time ago. A disciplined man controlled himself in the face of temptation. No matter how delicious.
And then he thought of Eva St. George again. Talk about temptation of a wholly different kind.
"So," Rogers said, dabbing at his mouth with a napkin. "What do you think we did to piss off the-powers-that-be?"
"What do you mean?" Adam frowned.
"This is just lame babysitting duty. I mean, c'mon, if you were Barksdale would you come dragging back to your ex-girlfriend if you'd stolen the prototype to the Navy's newest cutting-edge stealth weapon? Me? I'd get the hell out of the country ASAP."
Keith Barksdale had been a civilian ONI computer analyst in San Diego. While Adam had been working to encrypt the top secret military documents in his office in Suitland, Maryland, Barksdale had remotely hacked into the Navy's computer and stolen the file before Adam had even had a chance to realize what was happening and raise the alarm.
It had taken him and his team almost half an hour to discover where the invader had come from. Once they'd tracked the hacker to San Diego, the local ONI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service had run checks on all the employees who could have been potentially involved in the theft. They'd instantly red-flagged Barksdale when they learned he'd been taking a yoga class with a foreign national who had ties to a country bent on an arms race with the U.S.and that he owed several hundred thousand dollars in gambling debts.
Barksdale had been taken in for questioning but they'd been unable to prove his involvementhe'd been an expert at covering his tracksand they'd been forced to release him. The Navy kept him under close surveillance, restricting his computer access and monitoring his every movement, but then the slippery Barksdale had absconded and no one had seen him for three weeks.
The ONI believed he had downloaded the information to a microchip, but that he hadn't yet passed it to his contact. For one thing, there had been no large deposits in Barksdale's bank account before they'd frozen it. For another thing, the suspected buyer was still in the country and taking yoga classes at Miss St. George's studio.
Adam knew exactly why he'd been given the assignment. Even though he'd followed every security protocol to the letter, Barksdale had taken it right out from under his nose and the Navy was highly embarrassed. This was his chance to make amends.
"They're just covering all the bases," Adam said mildly. "At least we didn't get the chore of staking out Barksdale's grandmother in her Iowa nursing home."
Rogers gave an exaggerated shudder. "Yeah, you've got a point. But how come we didn't get a more active assignment, like shadowing Barksdale's contact?"
"This is an active assignment."
"Uh-huh." Rogers took a long swing from his drink. "Keep telling yourself that. Higgins put his glory boy Kilgore on the buyer," he said, referring to their commander, George Higgins, and their nemesis, Miles Kil-gore, who seemed to get all the plum assignments.
"Higgins called it as he saw fit," Adam replied. "Barksdale could very well contact Ms. St. George. We've got the heat on him hard. He'll have trouble getting out of the country or even finding a safe house. It's natural to assume he could turn to her for help."
"Would you go to your ex-girlfriend if you were in trouble?"
He thought about Kirsten, the woman he'd almost married. They'd been so much alike. She was dutiful, dedicated, calm and controlled. It was that self-control that had torpedoed their relationship. She'd broken things off after three years, telling him she needed someone who stirred her passion. That had been a kick in the teeth.
Adam winced at the memory. It would be difficult, but sure, yeah, if he were in trouble he'd go to Kirsten. They might not have had a grand passion, but they had mutual respect and admiration. He shrugged. "Depends on the girlfriend I suppose."
"You don't think Barksdale is smart enough to figure out that we'd have all his family and friends under surveillance? The assignment's lame and you know it. In the meantime, I'm a newlywed stuck clear across the country from my bride."
"Comes with the territory." Adam gave him no sympathy. "You knew what you were getting into when you joined the military." Duty to country often came before family. It was the nature of the beast. He'd had that drilled into him from toddlerhood.
"Well," Rogers said, crumpling up the paper bag and tossing it into the trash can. "I'm hitting the sack. Have a good night."
They ran two surveillance shifts. Rogers kept watch from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Adam had drawn the short straw and pulled the night shift. Now that he saw what Eva did with her late evenings, he was glad.
Rogers yawned, stretched and ambled toward the back of the two-bedroom apartment. The place was barely furnished. The small dining area held two camp chairs and a folding table. In the living room there was a couch and their surveillance equipmentwires, cameras, cords, telescopes, recorders and listening devices. In the bedrooms, twin-size mattresses lay on the floor.
They were stuck here until the assignment was over. How long it lasted depended on how long it took the ONI to apprehend Keith Barksdale. Unless something more pressing happened and the brass decided it wasn't worth the money or manpower keeping tabs on St. George.
Adam went back to the telescope, but Eva was no longer in her living room. She'd blown out the candles and the light was now on in her bedroom. Disappointment settled over him and he realized he'd been hoping to see her naked again.
"Pervert," he chastised himself.
He kept watching, imaging her getting ready for bed, taking a steamy shower, blow-drying her hair, brushing her teeth. He saw the light in her bedroom wink out, envisioned her sinking that slinky body of hers underneath the sheets.
A rush of heat spread through his groin.
Dammit. This had to stop. He had to find a way to turn off his desires. Otherwise he didn't know how long he could stay honorable.
And Adam Mancuso was nothing if not an honorable man.