Authors: Lindsay McKenna
She smiled patiently, letting him blow off excess steam. She’d worked with SF teams before. If she truly believed Gabe, she’d have asked General Stevenson to retract the orders. Her experience in Iraq and Afghanistan with SF made her confident to work with them again. Bay wasn’t going to try and argue the point with Gabe. It would be a useless waste of time and energy. Besides, they didn’t have much time together, anyway, and she didn’t want to spend it on a no-win discussion.
Bay had only six months to go before her enlistment was completed with Operation Shadow Warriors. Her time in the military would come to an end. She’d been one of the forty women volunteers for the seven-year top secret Pentagon project to see if women could handle combat. They each spent half a year with a black ops group, the reports on them being funneled back into the Pentagon and to General Stevenson. It was the general’s contention women could handle combat, and so far, the stats were proving her right. Bay was proud to take part in this top secret experiment.
“Six months. It will be okay, Gabe.” Bay squeezed his hand to reassure him. He didn’t look reassured at all, his eyes blazing with discontent. She could feel him thinking, feel him trying to find a way to fix this. To get her out of the assignment. But it couldn’t be fixed as much as he wanted.
The duffel bag fell out onto the carousel. Gabe released her and went over and hefted it across his broad shoulder. The thing weighed nearly ninety pounds, and he handled it as if it were nothing. He walked over, cupped her elbow and said, “The SUV is parked out front. Let’s blow this joint.”
On the way to his condo on Coronado, Bay asked, “Did you just come out of the field?”
He snorted. “Don’t I look like it? Hell, I must smell pretty bad, huh?” And then he chuckled. “Yeah, we were doing nav course training up in the rocks, cactus and that damn manzanita that tears holes out of your skin the size of craters up in east San Diego County.”
“Did you win the navigation course contest?”
Gabe turned and met her sparkling eyes. “It always pays to be a winner, baby.”
“You did.” She reached over and slid her hand across his dusty shoulder. “Congratulations.”
“Thanks. I was paired with Hammer for the contest. Chief Hampton told me if the two of us won the course competition, he’d grant me my seven-day leave request to be with you.” His lips drew away from his teeth. “And I sure as hell wasn’t going to lose that one. Hammer hauled ass with me, and we made it through the course in record time.”
Pride for him, for his being a warrior, rose in her chest. Gabe was a supremely confident man. Nothing rocked his world except her, she had discovered. He was a vaunted sniper and had killed too many Taliban to count. He’d had four rotations into Iraq and Afghanistan. Out on a patrol he was steady and reliable.
Bay had found that out several times when she was teamed with him on different missions last year. Nothing affected Gabe. Except love. Their love. And it was a miracle to Bay. She had been privileged to meet the man who was a SEAL warrior. His military demeanor took a backseat when they were alone. When she was around him, the man in all of his facets became available to her. She looked at his large, spare hands on the wheel as he drove. There were so many old and new scars all over them, she winced inwardly.
“Is that dried blood on your fingers? Did you cut yourself on that awful manzanita?”
He frowned and looked at his right hand. “Yeah, guess I did. No big deal.” Hell, SEALs worked hurt all the time. They were always in pain. It was just part of their profession.
“I’ll look at them when we get home.”
He picked up her hand she had in her lap. “It’s nothing, Bay.” He squeezed her fingers. “How did the final exam go at medical training?”
“It was a mean mother,” she admitted, her hand tingling with his roughened fingers around it. Touching Gabe was like touching the sun. She could feel his powerful male warmth infusing her hand, sliding up through her arm and encircling her heart and then teasingly embracing her womb. The man was so damn sexy. All he had to do was give her that smoldering look, and she began to tremble in anticipation. And when he touched her, she melted and went hot, starving for him in every possible way.
“How many didn’t?”
“Fifty percent of the class, unfortunately. It was a tough course, Gabe. Really tough. It involved women’s issues, pregnancy, birthing, labor and health issues with newborns.”
He smiled a little. “Right down your alley. You’re a woman. You know a woman’s body. Bet those guys in the class were sweating bullets.”
“Some were,” she admitted. “I loved the course. Every second of it. I knew how to birth a baby, but this five-month course went into just about every aspect of prenatal, natal and postnatal care, plus health issues with the baby.”
“Bet you aced the test?”
It was her turn to chuckle. “I got a ninety-eight percent.”
“And if I hadn’t asked you about your score, you’d never have said a word about it, would you?” Bay was one of the most modest people Gabe had ever met in his life. She never bragged or spoke about what she knew or how good she was as a combat medic. The only way Gabe could drag intel out of her was to ask her many questions and then piece the answers together to get the larger picture.
Shrugging, Bay sighed. “It doesn’t matter in my world, Gabe. You know that. What matters is that I’m good out in the field. I want to stop suffering. I want to ease pain.”
“You are such an R.N. at heart,” he teased gently.
When Bay was finished with her military duties, she wanted to go to school and become an R.N. God knew, she’d have a huge jump on the courses with her being the consummate combat medic trained by the military—18 Delta medics were the best in the world. They were the people you wanted around if you got gut shot. They were the “golden hour” to the military in harm’s way. Their ability to save lives was legendary. He was so damned proud of her but, at the same time, scared to death. Bay would not hesitate a split second to put herself into the cross fire to save a man’s life during a firefight. And being exposed meant she could be killed. Just like that. His hand tightened around the steering wheel, his knuckles whitening.
“Some of the guys in the course and I would go out and get pizza and a beer off base after classes. I usually ended up drilling them on techniques and quizzing them to help them pass the course.” She smiled a little. “And all of them did pass.”
“And that’s why you have dark circles under your eyes. You burned the candle at both ends, Bay. Again.”
A wry look crossed her face, and she squeezed his hand. “Now, now. You know I like to help others. It’s who I am, Gabe. You love me for who I am. Not what you want me to be. Right?”
His mouth curved faintly, and he risked a glance at her in the heavy traffic heading toward the Coronado bridge. “I fell hopelessly in love with you just the way you are.”
“That’s what I thought. So stop gigging me about the dark circles under my eyes.”
“But that doesn’t mean I don’t worry about you.”
“One good night’s sleep will take care of that.”
He gave her a feral look. “Who said we’re getting any sleep tonight?
inside the door of Gabe’s condo, feeling exhaustion sweep through her. He walked past her with her ruck and duffel bag, going down the hall to put them into the guest bedroom. She looked around, appreciating the quiet instrumental music in the background.
Gabe’s condo was one of six in the building and he owned them all. His individual condo reflected him: spare, understated and peaceful. The blond bamboo floor shone. Furniture made of the same wood and jade cushions gave Bay a sense of infinite calm. This was where someone who wanted peace and quiet came to live.
She lifted her head as Gabe wandered back down the hall toward her. He had gotten rid of his dirty, sweaty shirt already, pulling off the tan T-shirt that stuck to him like a second skin, revealing his dark-haired chest, powerful shoulders and lean torso. Her body automatically went to burn as she followed the dark-haired line down across his belly, disappearing beneath the waistband of his trousers.
“Welcome home,” he said, pulling the door closed and then placing a light kiss on her lips. “Want to take a shower with me?”
She smiled and felt the heat coming off his body. The sweat was like an aphrodisiac to her. “That’s the best offer I’ve had all day.”
He dropped the T-shirt on the couch and grabbed her hand. “Come on, then...”
She loved his large tiled bathroom. It was huge with a glass-enclosed shower for two, plus a Jacuzzi tub in another corner. She sat down on the small chair and took off her desert combat boots, setting them aside. After yanking off her socks, she sighed and rubbed her sore, tired feet. Hot water was going to feel good on them.
She glanced up and watched Gabe lean over to remove his dusty boots. His every motion was spare and clean. As his arm muscles flexed, the corded strength of his back was highlighted, and she sighed with pleasure. The man was beautiful in every way.
Gabe straightened and opened his pants, pushing them to his ankles. Heat curled in her lower body as he shoved the cotton boxers downward, revealing his erection fully. Her throat tightened with need. Though tired, she felt a wave of lust. Want of Gabe, his hands on her, loving her, him inside her, taking her to an unknown destination together.
When he turned and walked toward her, she met his eyes and clearly saw arousal in them. “Do I get a running start?” she teased, standing and unbuttoning her blouse.
“Maybe,” Gabe growled, going to the shower to turn on the two large, round raindrop nozzles. “Do you want a head start?” he teased, closing the door and picking up two towels and setting them nearby.
“I don’t think so,” Bay answered, setting her blouse on the caramel-colored granite counter. She wore a silky white camisole because she hated bras. Never wore one unless she really had to. She felt his masculine warmth and looked up to see him inches away from her. He lifted his hands and tugged at her waistband, opening it.
“How tired are you, baby?”
Bay trembled beneath his gritty voice heavy with passion. “I was tired. I’m not now.” He slid his hands down and around, bringing her cammie trousers across her hips and thighs. Her skin flamed wherever he grazed her as he pulled the material down and helped her step out of it. She wore silky boxer shorts, and he slowly slid his hands up the outside of her legs while he rose to his full height.
“Good,” he crooned, giving her a boyish smile. He eased his fingers beneath the soft, silky material around her waist.
“Ummm.” Bay sighed, her knees already growing weak. He must have sensed her instability because one hand left her silky boxers and curved gently around the small of her back to hold her steady.
He sighed. “Good having you here, having you standing so close to me, almost naked...”
His dark voice fell over her, and Bay closed her eyes, easily seduced by his hands, the soft shorts falling away from her thighs. She leaned against Gabe’s powerful chest. She could smell his sweat, the scent of sagebrush and hot sunlight on his sun-darkened flesh. She wanted to move closer, but he held her away from him.
“Not yet, baby... Your camisole has to go...” And he lifted it up and over her head. As it dropped to her feet, white-hot heat plunged through his entire body. Bay was five foot ten and a large-boned woman. Her breasts were perfect and her hips wide, the kind a man could hold on to. She was in top shape, her body taut and firm.
Gabe slowly slid his hands from her proud shoulders, skimming her strong arms and finally grasping her fingers. She opened her eyes, and he smiled down at her. “You’re so damned beautiful. I don’t know what I did to deserve you, baby, but I’m glad you’re mine. Ready to shower?”
She drowned beneath his hooded eyes that glinted with desire for her alone. Her fingers curved around his. “Let’s go, Frogman...”
He chuckled and opened the door, the steam escaping momentarily from the enclosure. “You have such a way with words, woman.”
The gentle water rained down upon Bay. She groaned as Gabe led her to a small seat, her hair becoming wet. In moments, he’d applied jasmine-scented shampoo throughout her hair, the fragrance swirling around in the steam surrounding them.
“Tip your head back a little,” he coaxed, standing near her left shoulder, kneading the soap gently across her scalp. He saw her lips part, her eyes closed, a look of utter pleasure on her face. Gabe always wanted to see that look. He loved Bay so much. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for her to always keep her happy.
“Ohhhh, Gabe...” Bay uttered with a sigh. “That feels so delicious...what you’re doing....” She trembled as his strong fingers wreaked relaxing magic across her scalp, the water softly drizzling warmly around her. The way he massaged her scalp, she was putty in his hands. The soreness in her shoulders disappeared. The tension she’d been carrying dissolved beneath his slow, sensual ministrations. As he took a large cup, catching the water from the showerhead and rinsing the shampoo out of her hair, Bay made a soft sound in her throat.
“I think your hair’s clean now,” Gabe said later, setting the cup on the shelf. When she opened her eyes, her long lashes framing those incredible blue irises, he felt himself grow even harder. It was always a balance and a matter of control on his part. He loved her, wanted to pleasure her, hear her soft, husky sounds, watch her expression melt into utter joy.
“You always come first, baby.” Gabe leaned over, brushing his mouth against her wet, parted lips. A moan vibrated in the slender column of her throat, and he absorbed the happy sound into his body, his soul.
In one smooth motion, he lifted her and brought her into his arms, the raindrops surrounding them. Gabe didn’t want to leave her lush mouth, meeting her tongue as it shyly danced with his. Her breasts pressed against his chest. He felt her belly taut against his erection. Easing his hand down her spine, his fingers splayed outward, cupping her hips, pulling her more tightly against him. Now, he groaned. He had to have the control and wait. But her sleek, wet body sliding against his was undoing him.
Bay eased from his mouth, stepped back and picked up a bar of soap. “My turn...” She lathered the soap between her hands and skimmed her fingers across his scalp. Next, came his hard, weathered face. Gabe rested his hands lightly on her hips, and he closed his eyes. There was such trust between them as Bay gently began to remove the dirt and sweat encrusted in his short, gleaming hair. The dirt dissolved, and she lathered more soap, tracing his deeply lined brow. A brow of a man who thought a lot, said little, but had a mind like a steel trap. Her fingertips moved lightly across his straight, black brows and feathered across his closed eyelids. She felt his hands grip her hips a little more firmly, and she smiled, wanting to give him equal pleasure.
Gabe gratefully absorbed her healer hands as they washed his face, neck, arms and chest. Every touch was building a fire within him, stoking his need for her until he wasn’t sure he could last beneath her tender foray. As her soapy fingers glided toward his narrow hips, he drew in a sharp breath, clenching his teeth. Her fingers wrapped gently around him, and his entire body locked up on him. Gripping Bay, he hauled her against him. He drowned in her wide blue eyes that were filled with love for him. Her lips were parted, and she licked her lower lip. It was damned near his undoing.
“Just a little longer,” she pleaded huskily. “You want to be clean, don’t you?”
He sucked in a ragged breath of air, feeling her clean him slowly, thoroughly. Gabe thought he was going to lose it. Her hands skimmed his hard thighs, sliding down to his knotted calves and finally, his large feet. Every stroking touch of her fingers was healing. At every scar, Bay stopped, kissed it gently and then moved on. Gabe didn’t know whether to cry or scream. No woman had ever loved him with her hands like Bay did.
The first day Gabe had met Bay, he’d noticed her long narrow hands. Her fingers were tapered and beautiful, nails blunt cut. He remembered thinking how much he’d wanted to feel her touch on him. And when he learned she was a medic, it had made even more sense to him. Healing hands. Loving hands. Compassionate hands that knew...they just knew...and Bay knew he needed this...needed her touch like this. But by every name in his book of life, Gabe couldn’t stop loving her for who she simply was: a very kind, sensitive and caring woman. Who loved him.
What the hell had he done to deserve Bay? Gabe hadn’t led a stellar life. It had been ugly and dysfunctional throughout his childhood. He knew abuse. He knew a man’s fist, his belt lashing his flesh until it welted and bruised. He’d never known the tender touch, the loving touch that she now shared with him alone.
Bay watched all the tension drain out of Gabe’s face, out of his hard body. The sexual tension that replaced it was as it should be. She washed herself as he stood beneath the streams of water, soap sloughing off him, his flesh clean and glistening. Gabe looked at her beneath hooded, burning eyes, not making a move toward her. Simply watching her.
The dark desire was evident in his eyes. And he loved her. She gave him an impish look as she approached him, placing her hands lightly on his powerful shoulders. Leaning up, she whispered in his ear, “I’m ready to swim with the sharks, Frogman....”
Her smile dazzled his senses as she eased away to see his reaction. “You’re mine,” he rasped, and he began a slow, sensuous path, starting with her mouth.
Bay leaned into him, the water nestling in nooks and crannies between them, liquid flowing heatedly down her body as he took possession of her mouth. At the same time, he brought her hard against him. His other hand moved toward her breast, cupping it, moving his thumb languidly across the hardened peak. She uttered a small, fierce cry into his mouth as an electric shock bolted from her nipple straight down to her womb. Her entire body convulsed.
“Easy, baby, easy,” he coaxed, moving his hand even farther downward, exploring her waist, her hip.
She felt his lips leave her breast and then kiss the area between them. Gripping her hips, Gabe held her as he continued the trail of kisses down her stomach, across her abdomen. Giving a whimper, she gripped his thick shoulders as his mouth followed the crease where her thigh met her torso. Her knees shook with anticipation; she wasn’t sure she could remain standing, his tongue slowly following the crease down, down, down....
“Oh, Gabe,” Bay whispered, nearly crumpling if not for his steel strength holding her. Tightly shutting her eyes, her breath became ragged and shallow. He parted her, leaving her open and available.
He rose swiftly. “I’ve got you, baby. Just let me do the heavy lifting.” He gave her a heated look. “Ready to swim?”
Her heart fluttered wildly. The warm water only increased the heat already scalding her aching lower body. “Y-yes...” she whispered brokenly, her knees beginning to give way. In the next moment, she felt Gabe’s arm slide beneath her thigh, and she lifted upward. He guided her legs around his waist and then gently pressed her back against the warm, wet tiles, holding her in place.
“Open your eyes,” he rasped. “I want to see the look on your face when I enter you....”
Water sluiced across Bay’s face in rivulets. Her body was cramping, almost painfully, wanting him inside her. She was more than ready as she barely opened her eyes, her breath uneven. His eyes were narrowed, focused solely on her. Gabe was a sniper. No one had more focus than a sniper. They sighted their quarry, and they never let it go. She was his quarry. Gulping, she whispered, “Hurry...oh, please, Gabe....”
As Gabe gently entered her, he watched her eyes widen. It wasn’t from fear but from raw, welcoming pleasure of their bodies meeting like fiery, melting flesh into one another. Slowly, so slowly, he brought her down upon him, watching the wildness come to her eyes, the yearning and then the feverish heat enter them as they fused completely into oneness. He captured the hard nipple, suckling her. It made him feel so damn good to give Bay this kind of pleasure. Her fingers spasmodically gripped his shoulders, her head moving side to side. He increased the pressure, feeling her tighten and so near climax. That was what he wanted for Bay, utter, wild sensations that only he could give her.
Thrusting quickly, he established a fiery rhythm. Gabe felt her tensing, so close to orgasm. Bay cried out, gripping him, arching into him, spinning into the heat and light as she came, a cry tearing out of her. He prolonged the rippling sensations, urging her to let go, to fully give him the gift of herself, her love. And she did. Bay leaned forward, arms around Gabe’s tense shoulders, gasping for breath, sobbing.
And then, his entire body stiffened. His breath hissed between his clenched teeth, his hands tightened around hers as he released deeply into her. Bay rested her cheek against his wet shoulder, the raindrops sliding gently across her face and soaking into her hair.
Gabe dragged in air, his body quivering beneath the onslaught of his release. He steadied himself, using Bay and the wall to remain standing. Feeling her lips against his taut neck, her breath mingling with the water, he gently removed himself, holding her, easing Bay away from the wall. The water made it easy for her to slide down the length of his hard, quivering body and through his arms. Her feet touched the floor. Their brows rested against each other, noses touching, lips millimeters away from one another as they leaned against one another for support. Breathing shallow and fast, Gabe held Bay tightly in his arms, loving her fiercely. Loving her forever.