Navy SEAL Brett 'Cutter' Weaver is on a mission to Nicaragua when he learns his bride-to-be, Tess Kelly, has been injured in a car bombing. At Homeland Security’s demand, he’s rushed home on the next available transport and arrives to find Tess embroiled in three controversial stories. One may offer the key to her attacker.
On top of the emotional and physical upheaval of the bombing, Tess has been offered the journalistic opportunity of a lifetime at the Washington Post. If she accepts the job, she and Brett face living on opposite sides of the country. With their wedding two weeks away, she has temptations to face and tough decisions to make.
Serving as her security detail, Brett sees Tess’s remarkable investigative reporting skills in action, and acts as her sounding board and partner. He’s willing to sacrifice to ensure her happiness, but more, he wants to keep her safe. Because there’s a killer stalking her, and one interview at a time, they mean to catch him.
After eating a quick meal of beef stir fry and rice, Brett stripped off his uniform and stretched out on Tess’s bed in his boxer briefs. While he watched her undress, he realized, out of all the things he missed when he was gone, it was the small things she did he missed the most. The way she laughed at his corny jokes. The way she moved, the sound of her voice, the way she slept curled against him, the way she would run her fingernails down his ribs to tickle him.
Tess pulled loose the scrunchie she’d used to confine her hair while cooking. The dark auburn strands had grown since his deployment and now fell down her back. A quick grimace of pain flitted across her features, her normal graceful movements disrupted.
Every time she hesitated while doing something, every time she flinched, the anger trapped beneath his breastbone flared hotter. He would find the bastard responsible for hurting her. He wouldn’t kill him, though he wanted to. But he planned to seriously fuck him up.
“Did you call your mom and let her know you’re home?” Tess asked from behind the closet door.
From a glimpse of her movements, he guessed she was slipping out of her dress and putting on something else to lie down in. Was she hiding her bruises from him? The anger tripped over into rage.
She glanced around the edge of the door, and he homed in on her face. The falling sensation hit the pit of his stomach, similar to when Harding notified him about the car blowing up. If something happened to her, he’d go crazy. God, he loved her so much. “I called Mom while I was on the plane and told her we’d see her tomorrow. I knew HQ would want to debrief me before I could talk to you or anyone else. Then Homeland and the FBI met me at the base.”
“So you got a triple dose. Poor baby.” She flipped her hair over her shoulder. “They asked me the same questions, a hundred different ways. It was a complete waste of time.”
At least he’d been able to write his report about the mission enroute and submit it before they landed. He ran a hand over his eyes. He was flagging fast. He’d been without sleep for more than twenty-four hours. Without the adrenaline of physical activity and danger to keep him primed, he craved sleep.
Tess climbed onto the bed dressed in a T-shirt and bikini panties.
“Oh, babe. Why don’t you hold that pose for a minute or ten and let me look at you? It’s been ten long, long months.”
Tess laughed and rose on her knees to put her hands behind her head, her movements careful, as she stretched her lean body back in a model pose.
She took his breath away, she was so beautiful. She’d still be gorgeous when she was seventy. The urge to sleep evaporated and his body quickened.
He needed to be close. Real close. And make up for being so far away for so many months. He patted the bed beside him.
“I thought you wanted me to hold the pose.” She smiled, a teasing light twinkling in her sherry-brown eyes. Her gaze tracked down to his obvious erection. “Or do you have something else in mind?”
With his cock just begging for attention, Brett said, “I want to get as close to you as I can, for as long as I can. I’ve missed you like crazy.”
The teasing light dimmed. She crawled to him and straddled his hips. Bracing her arms, she looked down at him. “I love you. I’ve thought of you a hundred times a day and reached for the phone to call you at least that many times. Every day.”
“Ditto, honey. I’m sorry—”
“Shh…” She pressed her fingers against his lips. “I love you and I’m so proud of what you do.” She seemed to struggle between a smile and tears for a moment until the smile won out. “But while you’re here you have to make up for all the sexual frustration I experienced while you were gone.”
Brett laughed. “No problem.” He ran his hands beneath the satiny weight of her hair to cup the back of her head and pull her mouth down to his. Their lips and tongues meshed, then tangled in deep, slow, kisses. Had he ever wanted a woman this much? He wanted to hold her, make out with her, for hours.
She pulled her T-shirt up just enough to rest her breasts against his chest. He caught his breath at the silky glide of her skin against his. “God, you feel so good, Tess.” He cupped the rounded curve of her ass and groaned when she moved her hips to tempt him.
When he pulled up her T-shirt, she tensed. “I have some road rash along my shoulder blades. It’s a little tender.”
“Let me see, honey.”
“Nope. Later. You’re supposed to be concentrating on us, not a few scrapes.”
From the way she moved, she had more than scrapes. If she wanted to put dealing with them on the back burner—But he couldn’t.
He pushed up into a half-seated position and traced the edge of her jaw with his lips. “As much as I want you, Tess, just being here with you is more important to me. If you’re too sore, we have time for the other stuff later.”
She hid her face against his shoulder and collapsed against him. “You’re so full of shit, Brett.” She thumped his chest with her fist.
The blow was just a ruse to cover up her quick tears. Tess didn’t cry at the drop of a hat. She worked through things. Concern rocked the pit of his stomach. She’d been through a trauma, something she needed to work through physically and emotionally. He needed to focus on that, not on getting his rocks off. Brett nuzzled her neck. She shivered and nestled against him. He relaxed against the pillows and splayed a hand along the small of her back to hold her close, her weight a precious burden he’d support for hours if she wanted him to.
Eventually she straightened her legs and moved to lie along his side. Brett turned with her so their limbs lay tangled and their faces close.
“I’m so glad you’re home.” Her breath, warm and moist, skimmed along his collarbone. Her voice sounded soft, drowsy.
“Me, too. This is what I dream about when I’m away.” Being skin-to-skin with her, knowing she was alive, in one piece, safe, was all he needed right now. He brushed her forehead with a kiss.
When her breathing was finally even and deep, Brett allowed his muscles to relax, but his thoughts raced. She didn’t want him to know how badly she was hurt. Now that she wasn’t kissing him, he ran a searching gaze over her body. The shadowed impression of a bruise was forming along the thigh bent over his. The elbow resting along his stomach was already marred by a dark blue mark. Why hadn’t he noticed her injuries before?
Because he’d been focused on her face, the sound of her voice, and the joy of occupying the same space with her.
But now reality reared its nasty head, and with it the rage came rushing back. As soon as she woke, they were going to talk. And he was going to make some phone calls and arrange some backup protection while they conducted her investigation. The San Diego police wouldn’t provide protection for long. And once the Federal guys ruled out an act of terrorism, they’d be gone as well. The FBI or Homeland would figure out who it was eventually, they always did.
He couldn’t do anything about catching the fucker, other than keep her safe while she covered her stories. But in the meantime he and Tess had a wedding coming up, and she would be out and about open to attack.
No one was going to get close enough to hurt her again. It wasn’t happening. Not on his watch.
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