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Men Of Courage
By Lori Foster
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneEthan Winters jerked awake with a start. His heart slammed into his ribs, his head ached, his eyeballs felt gritty and his mouth tasted like sawdust. Still, despite all that, he realized several things at once.
Most noteworthy was the woman in his bed. Yep, that very shapely slim leg draped over his belly was definitely of the feminine variety, not to mention the small, delicate hand resting over his heart. Ethan looked at that hand, but with his eyes so fried, it didn't look like any particular woman's hand. Just a hand. A female hand.
Yeah, okay, so he was in bed with a woman. No big deal. He'd figure that one out soon enough. Since he wore no shoes and no shirt, only slacks that were unsnapped and unzipped-he knew that because he could feel her warm thigh on his skin-it stood to reason that the female was only half-dressed, too. That could mean several things, but likely only meant one thing.
So what? He was thirty years old, single, free to do as he damn well pleased, never mind that he didn't remember what the hell had pleased him.
With the sun so bright through the window, he realized it had to be midmorning. A quick glance at the clock showed it to be eight-forty. What time had he gotten into bed?
The incessant pounding on his front door, now getting louder, had probably awakened him, not the soft woman clinging to him.
Groaning with the effort, Ethan raised his head off the pillow to look at her. All he could see was a luxurious tangle of silvery-brown hair. She had her nose stuck close to his side, practically in his armpit, and she wore his uniform dress shirt-a shirt that didn't quite cover the satiny peach panties stretched over a very fine ass.
He didn't remember giving her his shirt and he sure as hell didn't remember either of them undressing. He reached for her hair, ready to brush aside the heavy mass so he could at least figure out her identity, when the pounding on his front door started again.
The woman stirred, then stretched awake, arching her body into his, raising her hands high above her head. Ethan stirred, too, despite being horribly hungover and in pain. Whoever was at the door could just damn well wait. He smiled down at the woman, anxious to see her, to have the mystery solved.
She rolled onto her back with a sleepy little moan.
Ethan leaped out of bed so fast his head spun and he nearly dropped to his knees. No. Hell, no.
His shaky legs continued to try to give out on him and his heart shot into his throat, making him dangerously close to barfing. He grabbed the footboard for support, swallowed hard, found his voice and shouted, "What the hell. Rosie!"
The smile faded off her face. Very slowly she peeked open one smoky-blue eye and groaned. "Shut up, Ethan. My head is splitting."
He sputtered, heard the continued noise at his front door, and nearly panicked. "Get out of my bed."
The look she sent his way wasn't nice. Rather than obey, she rolled onto her stomach and nestled into the pillows. "I need coffee."
Unbound, her hair was glorious, but it wasn't long enough to cover her rump. Ethan stared.
Oh, God. What to do? Rosie. His Rosie. His longtime friend, a woman he'd grown up with, his ex-best friend's little sister ...
Damn she looked good.
No. No she did not. He squeezed his eyes shut to block out the view of her sprawled in his bed, the sight of her plump bottom turned up for him to see, the long length of those legs. He'd seen her legs before, of course. She wore shorts, even the occasional swimsuit. But he hadn't seen her legs in his bed. Not once. Not ever.
Surely he hadn't ... Of course he hadn't. Ethan snorted. What a ridiculous thought. Why, if he'd done anything with Rosie, he'd remember it, and besides, he wouldn't do anything with Rosie. She was practically like family. Practically. Not quite, but close enough.
Reassured with his own thoughts, he opened his eyes again-but to be safe he didn't look directly at her. "Stay put."
Rosie grunted but otherwise didn't reply.
Ethan slipped out of the bedroom on unsteady legs and pulled the door shut behind him. Whoever loitered at his front door was making a horrid racket and if he woke up all the neighbors, they'd give Ethan fits.
He crossed the living room, jerked the door open and was met with the sight of Riley Moore, Harris Black and Buck Bosworth. Without being invited, they pushed their way in. Ethan cast a quick glance at the hallway, but all was secure. The very last thing he wanted was for the guys to know Rosie had spent the night.
They wouldn't believe that nothing had happened. Hell, he wouldn't have believed it. "What do you guys want? As you can see, you've interrupted my beauty sleep."
Harris snickered. "You'd need to hibernate for a whole winter to improve that mug."
Buck shook his head pityingly. "I knew you were crocked last night, but you must have really fried the old gray matter if you don't remember our fishing day."
Fishing. Oh, hell, he didn't want to fish. Ethan held his splitting head and took two deep breaths. "I've gotta pass today. I can barely stay on my feet."
Riley, the most serious of the three, gave an aggrieved sigh. "I told you last night to quit drinking. I told you to give it up and get over it. But, no, you wouldn't. So now you have to pay the consequences. Go get dressed. We're not leaving without you."
Excerpted from Men Of Courage by Lori Foster Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
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