Authors: Sandra Owens
ALSO BY SANDRA OWENS
The Duke’s Obsession
The Training of a Marquess
K2 Team Series
Crazy for Her
Someone Like Her
Falling for Her
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text copyright © 2016 Sandra Owens
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by Montlake Romance, Seattle
Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Montlake Romance are trademarks of
, Inc., or its affiliates.
Cover design by Eileen Carey
This book is dedicated to all the fans of my K2 Special Services guys. It’s awesome that you love my boys as much as I do. You rock!
Was that the accepted amount of time to mourn? Ryan O’Connor stared at his reflection in the mirror, debating whether to change out of the black jeans and black T-shirt. Would his hope of getting laid increase if he wore . . . he glanced at the blue T-shirt he’d tossed on his bed. Didn’t the brightest-colored male birds get the chick?
Over a year since he’d been with a woman, and five years married before that, which meant he was out of the loop on what women liked these days. A decisive man—he had to be, making life-and-death decisions as the SEAL team’s medic and now K2’s doc—it annoyed him that he was standing in front of a mirror and dithering on something as stupid as what color to wear.
“To hell with it,” he muttered. He wasn’t changing again. Someone had told him once that women liked a mysterious, tortured man. If so, he wouldn’t have a problem hooking up tonight. The black of his clothes mirrored the condition of his heart these days.
One year and one day ago, he had buried his wife, and then spent the next 365 days mourning her. He missed the hell out of her, but it was time to venture out into the world again. Besides, he needed the soft feel of a woman beneath him, wanting to hear her sweet sighs as he pleasured her.
Ryan turned his gaze to the picture atop his dresser, one of him and Kathleen on their wedding day. The happiest day of his life. After learning her secret and knowing she was gone forever, tears shouldn’t still be burning in his eyes.
It was not the time to rehash regrets and obsess over unanswered questions. If he was lucky, in a few hours, he would be buried to the hilt inside the wet heat of a woman. Kathleen stared at him from the photo, sending guilt slithering through him for what he had planned. But why should he feel guilty?
“You’re the one who left me,” he said. He snatched the frame and stuck it in a drawer, under a pile of T-shirts, burying her.
“Screw this,” Charlene Morgan—call me Charlie—muttered, and unable to concentrate on the story for some reason, she tossed the book aside. Okay, she knew the reason. The emergency landing she’d had to make that morning had unnerved her. It made her think of the things on her bucket list, like her fantasy of having a mind-blowing night of sex with a man she’d never see again.
Her student, a young man whom she’d realized by his second lesson wanted to be anywhere but in the air, had panicked when the plane had sputtered, coughing like it had a chest cold. In between barfing all over her and the plane, he’d actually tried to open his door. Whether he hadn’t realized what he was doing or just planned to step out and fall to earth, who knew?
When she was unable to calm him by talking him through his fear, he’d tried to grab the wheel. Not having a better idea, she had balled up her fist and landed a hard punch to his jaw, stunning him enough to bring him to his senses. It had been the only way to safely land the Cessna after the fuel gauge had dropped like a rock. Fortunately, they had just taken off and were able to immediately return to the airport.
His father, an airline pilot determined to see his only son follow in his footsteps, hadn’t appreciated it when she’d told him the young man didn’t belong anywhere near an airplane. Her only consolation had been the look of relief the kid had shot her when she’d stood up to his father and said there would be no more lessons.
She decided to go to bed and try to forget the whole freakin’ day. Thirty minutes later, she gave up on any hope of sleeping. What if she went to a pickup bar and by the time the night was over, was able to check that particular fantasy off her list? Her heart jump-started—it
was ready to take off for the finish line, in fact—at the thought of doing
something she’d never done before. Sex with a stranger? So not her.
Which was why she wondered if she’d been unknowingly slipped some kind of sex drug as she walked out the door of her house, wearing one of the few dresses she owned, on her way to Buck’s on the Beach, the best place in Pensacola to hook up for a one-night stand.
During the twenty minutes it took to get to the ramshackle beach bar, she ordered her car to turn around. Repeatedly. “I do not do one-night stands,” she yelled at the Corvette. Her car was apparently deaf.
Choosing a parking spot where she hoped the Corvette would be fairly safe from getting dinged, she sat and watched the people coming and going, some alone and some paired off. A group of six, three men and three women, walked by, talking and laughing, and she tried not to envy them. What would it feel like to have a group of friends?
Although tempted to return home, she instead forced herself to get out of her car. If she could successfully stall a plane in a hammerhead maneuver, she could certainly walk into a bar and survive the experience.
Inside, she paused to survey the scene. The place was jam-packed, and she choked down the old fear of being ridiculed or shunned by the beautiful people. A waitress passed with a tray of drinks, and Charlie grabbed one.
“Hey, you can’t have that.”
Charlie took a quick sip of the drink. Good God, what was in this crap? Lighter fluid? “Sorry,” she said over her shoulder as she kept walking. Okay, that wasn’t nice to swipe someone else’s drink. At the moment, though, she was so mad at herself for even being in a pickup bar that stealing someone’s—she tasted it again, wrinkling her nose—whatever the stuff was only counted as a minor sin.
Then she saw him.
stood near the dance floor, his gaze riveted on someone. Charlie followed his line of sight, then rolled her eyes. So he liked that type? Sheesh, were all men alike? Her ex-boyfriend would’ve tripped all over his feet to put himself in front of the stacked—every man’s fantasy—woman staring back at the man Charlie suddenly wanted.
There was an air of detachment about him, along with a sense that he could be a very dangerous man if he so chose. It was in those eyes that, although focused on the other woman, were watchful of the goings-on around him. It was in the rigid stance of his back, the muscular chest stretching his black T-shirt to its limits, and the way he slanted his head as if listening to the sounds behind him. Like a man who knew better than to let anyone sneak up on him. Even in the crowded bar, those around him had given him space, as if they sensed he was a man best left alone.
Charlie pegged him as military or ex-military. It wasn’t just the short cut of his hair, but his very air of being. That Pensacola was a naval base added support to her guess. Normally, she steered clear of any man that hot, but a humming buzzed hungrily under her skin, like a thousand bees scenting honey. Guys like him were the ones who would break a girl’s heart, but she only wanted him for one night—didn’t even want to know his name—so she could make an exception to her no-super-duper-hot-guys rule.
“Go for it, Charlie,” she murmured. The worst he could do was stampede over her to reach his target. Because that was what she guessed the woman was to him, just someone he’d zoned in on. There was no softness in his eyes as he watched her dance, nor was there any hint of possessiveness.
Charlie tipped the glass and downed the contents for courage, then snorted half of it out her nose. Who the hell drank that swill willingly? She grabbed a napkin from the bar, cleaned her face, then quickly touched up her lipstick.
Taking a deep breath, she stepped in front of
when the song ended. He moved toward the woman Charlie suddenly hated. As he almost walked right over Charlie, she accepted she’d made a mistake. A man like him would never want a runt—the ex’s pet name, one she’d hated from the first time he’d called her that—like her.
Ryan zeroed in on his objective: a tall woman with long black hair, wearing black skintight jeans, and a very low-cut red blouse. She was on the dance floor with some dude, practically humping his leg, all the while holding Ryan’s gaze, a come-fuck-me look in her eyes. She would do just fine, and by the way she watched him back, she would be entirely agreeable. The song ended and he stepped forward, intending to separate her from her dance partner.
“Hey, that was my toe!”
With his gaze still on the woman walking toward him, Ryan barely registered the squeak of words, and when he did, he had to look down to see who had spoken.
“What?” he barked, then regretted his outburst. Some guy who came out of nowhere had just swept the woman back onto the dance floor. Damn. He’d have to wait out another dance.
“I said, can I buy you a drink?”
He returned his gaze to the pixie. “You belong on a ceiling.”
Blue-gray eyes blinked. “Huh?”
Ryan swiped a hand over his mouth. Man, he really was out of practice. “You look like a cherub.” He waved a hand heavenward.
He felt the beginnings of a smile on his lips. If she’d said something like that to him, he would be saying “Huh?” too. He was definitely out of practice. “Nonsense,” he said. “Just spouting nonsense.”
He moved to step around the cherub before he lost sight of the woman on the dance floor, who, with her sexy bedroom eyes trained on him, had as much as promised he would get what he wanted. The tiny thing was quick on her feet, though, moving in front of him so that he had no choice but to either stop or run right over her.
“I’ve never been told I look like a cherub before, so maybe you could tell me why you think that before you go make a mistake.” She glanced toward the dance floor where Painted-On Jeans was now crawling all over the man she danced with while watching Ryan.
Was that supposed to turn him on?
“She’s gonna eat you alive, you know.” Blue-Gray Eyes shook her head as if he were the stupidest man she’d ever met, and he barely refrained from telling her she had that right. She snapped her fingers in front of his face. “Tell me why I’m a cherub . . . I mean, why you think I look like one, and then I’ll let her eat you up.”
For the first time, Ryan looked at the woman challenging him. Really looked at her. Apparently his dick liked what his eyes saw because he felt the stirring of arousal. “You remind me of those murals the old masters used to paint on ceilings. You could have been a cherub model with your short, blonde hair curling all around your face, and those eyes of yours. They’re kind of angelic looking.”
Shut your mouth, O’Connor.
An amused grin appeared, bringing his attention to her mouth. A
full bottom lip—the kind a man might like to nibble on—disappeared
under an even line of teeth as she chewed on it. Then, she laughed.
“What a load of bull.” She grabbed his hand and tugged him along behind her. “Forget that hussy showing off for you, humping that guy’s leg. I’ll buy you that drink, and you can charm me with your clever flirting.”
Fascinated by the woman, Ryan followed her to the bar. She ordered a pale ale in the bottle, no mug. “Make it two,” he told the bartender. “What’s your name?” he asked the cherub.
There was no footrest to help her onto the stool, and when she tried to squirm onto the seat, he bit back a smile of amusement as he put his hands on her waist, lifting her. She was curvy for such a little thing. The sundress she wore inched up, revealing a pair of very nice legs.
After wiggling her butt into a satisfactory position, she shook her head. “No names.”
Although he might have been out of the bar scene for several years—or more accurately, never in it—he knew what
meant. She was looking for the same thing as he was. Ryan forgot about the woman he’d first noticed.
He leaned close to the little cherub’s ear. “Then give me something
to call you, or I’ll just make something up.” Straightening so he could watch her reaction, he said, “It’ll probably be something that will
you blush. Just saying.” What he got was a smirk, not what he was expecting, but it told him one thing. The lady didn’t easily blush, which made him all the more determined to see her cheeks turn pink.
“Charlie, but have at it, puddin’, make me blush.”