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Lexi McGowen stripped naked, bit her lip against the knowledge that she was trespassing and stepped into Cord Madden's shower.
She told herself it wasn't breaking and entering if she had a key. It wasn't sneaking either, not really, not when she'd been bringing in his mail every day anyway since she lived in the condo right next door. And it wasn't rude—
Well, okay, it was a little rude to break into her best friend's place. It was just that her own showerhead had broken. She could have waited for a plumber, but the truth was that she was also here because—
She missed Cord, so very much. It was a little kernel of an ache that wouldn't go away, so she used the broken showerhead as an excuse to be here in his space, to stand here and inhale his scent and feel a little closer to him.
She couldn't help it, he'd been gone so long.
She cranked the water to steamy hot and told herself that Cord wouldn't mind. He was army, Special Forces, actually, and was probably off saving the world. And, she hoped, keeping himself safe while he was at it, because for weeks now she'd been having bad dreams about him, to the point that sleep was getting to be a rare commodity.
Coming here, being in his place, gave her a small sense of peace. He'd be okay. He'd been gone this long before and he always came home okay.
She played with the showerhead, which turned out to be a miracle of engineering. Removing the nozzle, she ran it over her body. The sound of her own low, soft moan shocked her as it echoed off the tiles. She'd had no idea what she'd been missing. Heaven. This was heaven on earth. Adding to that sense was the scent of Cord's soap. She could almost feel him in here with her.
Did he do this, did he run the massager over his gorgeous, hard, leanly muscled body? The thought gave her more than a tingle and she got warm in places that hadn't been warmed in far too long. She moaned again, realizing she was completely overstepping the "friend" code, the invisible boundaries Cord had given her when he'd handed her his key eight months ago and asked her to keep an eye on his place during his fourth tour of duty. But truthfully, her mind had violated the friend code long ago, when her heart had first stepped over the "friend" line.
He didn't know it. She intended that he would never know it, mostly because she wasn't ready for those feelings anyway. She might feel guilty about not telling him, but standing there with his handheld massaging shower-head, Lexi was far closer to orgasmic bliss than guilt. Of course that might have been because she hadn't had sex in months—her own fault. She worked alone on the early shift at a grocery store designing and putting together floral arrangements for the convenience of their shoppers, and was gone before most of them ever even woke up. Hard to meet potential dates that way.
That's not why you're single, a little voice deep inside her whispered. You're single because beyond the occasional mutually gratifying sexual release, you aren't interested and haven't been since losing Brad three years ago now.
Oh, yeah. That. She closed her eyes. Except now—with Cord—only he was gone so much.
The strategically aimed water was making her body come alive. Maybe she wasn't ready to face what she was feeling for Cord, but her body was most definitely ready to be rocked again.
If only Cord could do the rocking. Just the thought took her body from warm to hot, and she promised herself if she ever had the opportunity to be naked with him, in or out of this shower, with or without the showerhead from heaven, she'd take it.
Standing surrounded by the steamy heat, her body being gently pummeled by the delicious sting of the pulsing water, felt a little decadent, and no matter how she rationalized it, a whole lot forbidden. She soaped up, then ran the water over her shoulders, which shuddered in pleasure. When she got to her breasts, her nipples hardened. Lower still, and the muscles in her belly quivered—
When the hot water rained on her thighs, they trembled, too, and then in between—
It all felt so good, the water drumming out a beat on her heated flesh, the scent of Cord's body wash on her limbs, fooling her brain into believing that he could be right here with her.
Five minutes ago she'd been a shower-massage virgin, and now here she was, losing that virginity with another moan and then a soft cry, which she tried but failed to bite back as she slumped against the tiled wall, unable to hold herself upright as she rode out the unexpected orgasm.
Talk about pent-up tension—
The shower door flew open, and Lexi squealed in shock, making her jerk to try to cover herself. Her arm came up with the nozzle, spraying the intruder in the face and chest.
Except it wasn't an intruder at all. "Cord," she gasped.
He stood there, nearly unrecognizable to her. And not just because he now had water dripping from his hair and the tip of his nose and chin. He was just over six feet of solid muscle and testosterone on any given day, but always when he came back from one of his missions, that sinew and innate maleness came with a tough, dangerous edge, at least until he decompressed.
Given the almost feral look in his dark eyes now, the tight jaw, the lines of grimness around his mouth—not to mention the tense way he held his body—he hadn't yet even begun the decompression process. He wore fatigue cargoes and an army-green T-shirt tight to his biceps and broad chest, loose over his flat belly. His dark hair was even shorter than his usual military short, revealing a fresh scar that cut from his left temple nearly to his jaw. He was leaning on crutches, his wide shoulders slightly hunched, exhaustion seeping from his every pore.
Her heart twisted and ached—for him, for whatever he'd had to see and do and be, and God—God, she'd missed him.
He hadn't moved a muscle since he'd opened the shower, not even to blink. Instead he stared at her as she stood before him, nozzle in hand, naked, dripping wet, body still quivering from her own decompression process.
"You're home," she whispered, her joy at seeing him tempered by the gut-wrenching proof that he'd been injured. "And you're hurt."
His gaze lifted from the showerhead in her hands, ran briefly but heatedly over her flushed body, and then he shook his head as though he hadn't heard her because he couldn't quite believe the situation in front of him.
She couldn't either. "I was just…"
Leaning forward past her, he turned off the shower with a quick flick of his wrist.
She stared at his back, watching his muscles flex and bunch beneath his shirt as he moved, and felt the heat of embarrassment. "I'm sorry. My shower's broken. Well, not the shower, but the showerhead, and yours is—" Perfect. "Not broken," she finished lamely. "I didn't think you'd mind, since mine can't be fixed until tomorrow, and—and never mind," she said, shaking her head at herself for babbling. "You're home. And you're hurt! What happened?"
Straightening back up, he handed her a towel and met her gaze. "What are you doing?"
She blinked. Had he not heard a thing she'd just said? "I just told you—" And then it hit her—he couldn't hear her clearly, if at all. The knowledge had her heart drumming again, dully now, in worry and fear for him. "My shower's broken," she repeated carefully.
And I missed you…
His eyes never left her lips. "Broken?"
"Yes. The showerhead— Cord," she managed past her burning throat. "Are you okay?"
Again his gaze left her mouth, running slowly down, then back up as she worked to wrap the towel around her body with hands that still shook, which meant it took longer than it should have. When she looked at him again, his eyes were closed, his jaw tight.
"I'll wait for you out there," he said, and struggled to the door, making what appeared to be a very painful exit from the bathroom without another word.
Cord staggered into the hallway. His back hit the wall next to the bathroom door and he used it to prop himself up, for the first time in three weeks not feeling any pain. Nope, all he could feel was the blood flowing out of his brain for parts south. Leaning his head back, he took a slow, deep breath. It didn't help.
Lexi wet and naked.
Lexi wet and naked and gorgeous.
He swiped a shaky hand over his face.
The bathroom door opened and a glowing, dewy Lexi peeked out, wearing nothing but his towel wrapped around her body. Her auburn hair tumbled in wet wavy strands just past her shoulders. "Cord." She looked him directly in the eyes, clearly having caught on that he needed to read her lips.
"Tell me what happened to you. Talk to me."
He shook his head. Not going there. Not least because he was so unbelievably turned on by the sight of her, his good friend, his neighbor, a woman who trusted him enough to borrow his shower, that he couldn't speak.
Worry etched lines in her face and propelled her forward to him, until she could set a hand on his chest. "Cord? Please?" Her fingers moved over him.
He let go of one of the crutches propping him upright and wrapped his hand around her wrist. "Don't."
"Don't touch you, or don't ask what happened?"
She hesitated, then slowly ran her gaze down his body, stopping at the obvious erection straining the front of his cargoes.
He gritted his back teeth. "It's not what you think."
"Really?" She laughed softly and actually reached out with her free hand to touch. She nearly accomplished it, too, but he managed to drop his other crutch and, leaning his full weight against the wall, captured both of her hands.
"Christ, Lexi. You were in my shower." He shook his head, which didn't help clear it. "You were— You looked… amazing," he finished softly. "It's just my body reacting to normal stimulus after a long dry spell."
"It's a pretty spectacular reaction," she murmured throatily.
"It's my first… reaction since surgery," he heard himself admit. "So you'll have to give me a moment."
Her gaze ran down his clearly not-fine body. "But—"
Something in his face must have warned her, and she nibbled on her bottom lip. After a beat, she took the last step between them and rubbed her towel-clad body up against his own. Her moss-green eyes were luminous, filled with both concern and a sexuality that made him close his. "Lexi. We're just friends."
"Your reaction to seeing me naked says otherwise."
"I said we're friends, not that I was dead." He took in her beautiful face, her creamy skin, the way her breasts strained against the towel, and found his hands on her shoulders. God, she felt so good, and it'd been so long since he'd been touched by a woman's hand. And this wasn't just any woman either.
He pressed into her, rubbing his "reaction" up against the crux of her thighs.
"So you're…enjoying your first hard-on," she murmured.
"Let's just say I'm not in a hurry to scare it off," he admitted, letting his cheek brush her hair. When his fingers trailed down her arms, she shivered but stepped back. Holding his gaze, she slowly pulled the corner of the towel from between her breasts.
"We've been friends, Cord. Good friends. Let's try something else to go with." Loosened, the towel unraveled from her body and dropped to the floor.
The breath whooshed right out of Cord's lungs. Any blood that his brain had managed to retain quickly drained in a flash flood, leaving him light-headed. She was soft and curvy and gorgeous.
"Consider me your welcome-home present," she said, holding his gaze. "Welcome home."
Lexi watched Cord's eyes darken as he looked at her standing naked in front of him. He took his time, too, taking all of her in slowly, heatedly.
"Lexi," he breathed again, his voice so low on the register it was barely audible. It was so sexy her knees wobbled.
Shaking his head, he backed her to the opposite wall. Unsteady on his feet, he nearly fell, taking her down with him, but managed to get a grip on her. "Fuck," he muttered, clearly embarrassed, and tried to pull away.
No. He was her best friend, and she'd missed him and worried about him and hoped for him…and now he was back and she couldn't let go. She knew if she did, if they shoved this under the carpet as they'd been doing with their feelings for a while now, that it would forever be awkward between them, too awkward to fix. Refusing to allow that, she grabbed him, flinging her arms around him to hold them both steady. She had no idea how bad his injuries were, what had happened to him, or even how long he'd be here. All she knew was that he was obviously hurting, and if she could take it away, even for a second, she would. "Stay."
"Stay." And then she kissed him.
He went still as stone for a single heartbeat, and then it was as if a dam burst. He pressed her hard into the wall, leaning on her, one hand bracing himself, the other on her jaw. His mouth took over, deepening their connection, stroking her tongue with his, taking her lips in a possessive, hard, wet kiss that took her to another plane entirely.
Or maybe that was his hand, skimming down her throat to her breast, his fingers grazing her nipple. Her knees wobbled, and so did his, and this time she let the momentum take them both down to the floor.
They hit hard, his own clumsy fault, and Cord's heart landed in his throat. Ignoring the pain shooting up his leg, he reached for Lexi. "Are you okay?"
Proving she was, she crawled into his lap to straddle him. His eyes went straight to the apex of her thighs, and from his position, it was a hell of a view.
It rocked his world. She rocked his world. "Lexi, you— Jesus," he managed in a raw voice, finding his hands on her bare arms. Gripping her hard, pulling her closer.
"Wait." She tugged his shirt over his head and then bent to kiss his throat. When she dipped even lower, licking his collarbone, a nipple, he hissed in a breath as his hands came up and fisted in her still-wet hair. "You shouldn't be here," he grated out, trying to make himself let go of her, but his hands only tightened. "I shouldn't have come home—"
"But I am. And you did."