“Bobbie Faye—keeping paramedics employed since 2005.”
Bobbie Faye Sumrall lay flat on her back on the thick blue mat in the sparring ring, and if she weren’t so exhausted, she’d kill him. If she could just roll over and push her rancid sweaty self up, she’d crawl out of the room, pride be damned, and find the gun. It might take days to load because she’d probably have to load it with her teeth, her arms were so tired, and then she’d probably have to prop the damned thing up on something and ask him to please move within range because she was too worn out to aim properly. And then she’d shoot him, assuming she had the strength left to pull the trigger.
If she thought hard enough, maybe she could come up with a good argument that “lying in a slobbering heap” was the same thing as “being prepared for the next disaster.” There had to be some rationalization somewhere she could use, dammit. Because Trevor seemed to believe that another disaster was imminent and that she needed to be all prepared and shit.
He leaned over her and the light from the rafters of the old converted barn gave him a halo. He grinned, white teeth against tan skin, biceps bulging and forearms cording as he crossed his arms against his tight black t-shirt, and his wavy brown shoulder-length hair fell into his Satan-blue eyes. The least he could have done was broken a sweat.
“You’re improving,” he said. “You almost managed to land a kick that time.”
“I hate you.”
His grin went from merely smug to completely obnoxious. “You did not hate me before breakfast. Which reminds me, we need to add strawberry jam to the shopping list.”
Her eyesight fuzzed for a moment as her brain just skipped right on away from the subject of how much of a pain he was being, making her work out for hours every day, and frolicked over to exactly what he’d done with that strawberry jam. Now her favorite food on the planet. She hadn’t even known you could do that with a topping, and she had a friend who ran an S & M magazine.
“We could have stayed in bed all day,” she pointed out. “I’m on vacation. You’re on leave. Allllll weeeeeek.”
“And you,” he said, squatting next to her, “are still hesitating. You’re not firing as fast, you’re not hitting as fast, and you’re thinking too damned much.”
“I don’t think anyone’s ever actually accused me of thinking too damned much.”
He glowered at her.
He was right. What was worse was that he knew that she knew that he was right. She really reallyhated that.
She needed a temporary amnesia potion.
Of course, she did not dare tell that to her boss, Ce Ce, who had a little voodoo side business to her Cajun Outfitter and Feng Shui Emporium where Bobbie Faye manned the gun counter. Ce Ce’s potions often had unexpected side effects. With Bobbie Faye’s luck, a “temporary amnesia potion” would probably erase way more than just the stuff she wanted to forget. She studied the man waiting next to her, his blue eyes heated like someone had turned on a copper blaze as his gaze roved over her body, and there were just some things she was not willing to sacrifice, no matter how much sleep amnesia might give her.
“C’mon, slacker, up. You have at least thirty more minutes of sparring, and then we’re going to run.”
“Did you have to pinky-swear you’d be a relentless, impossible hardass when you joined the FBI?”
“No,” he said, his eyes crinkling at the corners as he stood up, smiling, “pinky swearing was all the rage back in Spec Ops. The feds are big on promise rings.” He offered her a hand to help her up. “You can do this.”
“Ugh. Just shoot me now.” She saw him shift, and she might as well have slapped his face, the way his relaxed stance stiffened, and she felt her own body tense in response. The tightening of the muscle in his jaw was infinitesimally small; most anyone else wouldn’t have noticed it, but she did and she knew what fury flashed through him when that little muscle quirked. Fury on her behalf.
Four months ago.
Three shots. Meant for him.
Bobbie Faye had jumped in the way.
They didn’t talk about it. At all. Every single morning, he kissed the scars, and every single night he held her, his long, lean fingers splayed out over that area as if he could ward them off, shove away the memory.
“Hey,” she coaxed, tugging his hand, trying to dispel the mood, “he’s a metric buttload of miles away.”
“MacGreggor escaped.” He bit the words out with the same harsh disgust as the first time he’d told her. He’d damned near gone feral, his protective instincts kicking into full gear those first few weeks, and she’d had to fight him to keep him from putting them into complete lockdown mode. He’d have put armed guards on her if she’d have let him, and he’d vetoed traveling to meet his family and his family traveling to meet her. Hell, he’d have vetoed going to the grocery store and Ce Ce’s and ever seeing the sunlight again if she’d have listened to him.
Good thing she’d patented “hard ass stubborn” years earlier.
“He escaped three months ago.” She was going to put a happy spin on it, if it fucking killed her. “And he’s heading toward Canada. We know that from the tips and witnesses calling in.” There was a BOLO out on Trevor on every continent—a “be on the lookout for” notice that went out internationally, at all levels of law enforcement. “He’s trying to get home.” To Ireland, she hoped. Well, she hoped for Hell, because Ireland had never done anything to deserve Sean MacGreggor, either.
She watched Trevor tamp down his fury, that ice cold hatred he had for Sean MacGreggor, the man Trevor had shot. The man who’d promised to come back and “claim” Bobbie Faye.
She’d been studiously ignoring that little nugget of information. Trying to be normal, whatever-the-hell that was. She’d actually slept a whole night. Well, sort of a whole night. Okay, four hours without waking up ready to fight someone and accidentally smacking the crap out of Trevor.
Still, she’d been working her ass off to convince him she was okay. “Hey,” she said when he didn’t answer, “Everything is back to normal… in fact, better than normal, all flowers and sunshine and fluffy clouds. I have set a whole new record of no one trying to kill me. I think I should get a trophy.”
“C’mon.” He reached for her again, not smiling at her attempt, his perfect poker face back in place. For an absolutely hot man… her Hormones took their own little detour at that moment to wander over his muscled thighs, nearly derailing her entire brain with an Ode to Man… he could go granite-cold, a veneer he carefully adopted whenever he was undercover. It had become something of a personal goal to make him forget how to use that mask, particularly with her.
He pulled her to her feet, his sparring gloves smooth against her arms, and they stood face-to-face—er, eyes to chin, technically, since he was nearly six inches taller at six foot. She gave him a big grin, which inspired his suspicious appraisal.
“You realize,” she poked him playfully in the ribs, “that as soon as we get me in prime fighting form, I’ll get flattened by a bus instead.”
And just as he started to retort, she landed a punch and didn’t take the time to revel in his surprised expression, though he did manage to block her next flurry of moves. Damn freaking man. Two steps later, she nailed his thigh (and her Hormones wailed in protest) with a kick and they were suddenly game on, sparring, and she came very very close a few times to almost landing another one. Close enough to make Trevor’s eyes narrow and he had to concentrate and not merely bat her away. Ha. Girl power.
She maneuvered him the way he’d taught her, and in one sweet move, the angels sang and the Universe was distracted from bringing on her total abject humiliation and she managed to take him down. They slammed against the padded floor mat, and if he hadn’t immediately rolled and pinned her beneath him, she’d have danced around the ring like a winning prize-fighter.
Instead, she kissed him. Which made him relax. Whereupon she flipped him over and straddled him.
She’d have paid big money to have a photo of his expression—half shock, half pride. She wriggled on top of him and leaned down, kissing the corner of his mouth.
“You need to focus,” he said, the words grinding out against her lips.
“I am focused,” she smiled and kissed him again, and reminded herself that she was getting to marry this man.
“You planning on using this technique on everyone you take down? Because that’s a lot of guys I’ll have to kill.”
“I’m not sure whether to be annoyed that you’re obsessing again, Mr. FBI, or happy that you think I’m capable of taking down multiple men. I landed a punch and a kick and a takedown. I think we need to celebrate.” She grinned, running her fingers through his hair and wiggled just enough for him to be absolutely certain that sparring practice was over.
“Let’s go with happy.”
He yanked off his shirt as he rolled over onto her, his hard body pressed along her own, his skin against hers delicious and warm against the cool air in the barn, like safety somehow sheathed in danger. Her body hummed as he braced on one arm and slid the other hand along her body, a knuckle rasping just beneath her breast while he kissed her, possessing, dominating. She liked that he could be bossy and strong and rough and gentle at the same time and she wasn’t quite sure how he managed it, this treating her like an equal, but still his, and then she quit thinking completely as she burned beneath the fire of his kisses trailing down the line of her throat. She wasn’t entirely sure when he’d unhooked her work-out bra, but she shivered beneath the scratch of his days-old stubble against her breast as he raked his teeth across her nipples, biting, then his tongue soothing, her body flooding with heat and want and need.
“Up,” he commanded and she arched her bottom and then just as suddenly, he’d stripped off her shorts—thank God for military efficiency—and she was bare to him. The mat warmed beneath her, the rough calluses of his palm sliding down her hip, past the little birth control patch that she’d checked with the religious fervor of a born-again zealot, his hand sliding on past and then up her inner thigh until his thumb brushed her, his fingers sliding inside, his mouth taking hers, fast, hard, at the same time and she nearly came undone at his searing attack of her body.
Then he lifted off her for a moment, a brief heartbeat of loss and cold and just as suddenly, he was there again, having stripped off his shorts and he lay down beside her, his blue eyes dark, serious, and he seemed lost in the curves of her hip, the angle of her knee, studying her as if all the answers lay there, in the bend of her elbow or the place where he knew she was ticklish just beneath her ear. His face was all confidence and darkness, and she’d seen that hunger before on card sharks in a room full of thieves, a look that was patience and determination and secrets, his fingers sliding with knowledge and skill and when she moved to touch him, he stilled her with ashhhhhh.
“Let me,” he whispered, and then he took his ever loving time about it, ’til she felt taut and aching and scattered all at the same time, cards spread on the table, play me.
There may have been whimpering. Possibly a little begging.
Okay, a lot of begging, and she tried to urge him to move faster, but he was ruthless, and he shut her up with an entire repertoire of kisses that tilted her world, and she shuddered beneath his utter control just as—
—his cell phone rang. The Bureau calling. She recognized, and loathed, the specific “urgent” ring tone he’d assigned so that he’d know the difference between pure administrative crap that could wait and the life-threatening other crap that could not. She’d itched many times to pick up that damned tyrant of a phone and “accidentally” lose it in the garbage disposal, but the freaky thing was so sophisticated, she wouldn’t be a bit surprised if it not only resurrected itself, but videotaped her and ran and tattled.
He kissed her and she forgot about the phone for a second, or ten, and then it stopped ringing and he took his time at the corner of her mouth, braced on one elbow, leaning over her, his other hand playing intricate patterns, weaving through her long hair, its dark, rich browns like dark coffee against her ivory no-tan-for-you-this-summer skin.
The phone rang again. The damned thing went everywhere with him. Even to the barn behind the tiny house he’d found out in the middle of nowhere, south Louisiana. The frayed old house, worn at the edges like her favorite boots, tossed almost absently beneath great sprawling trees on acres of land—land bordered by a massive swamp that spilled into an enormous lake. Another ring. They were at the end of the world out here, somewhere back in primordial time, in the Mesozoic era, if she could judge by the size of the damned alligators she’d seen when he’d taken her on a boat ride to show her the property boundaries.
He tried to ignore the call, his hand guiding her into turning toward him, bringing her back to him as he hung onto his control, trying to keep them right there, in that moment, just them together, no duty intruding, but the phone kept shrilling, echoing off the barn walls, and Trevor sighed, touching his forehead to her own as she flopped her arms out against the mat, resigning herself.
“Sonofabitch,” he muttered, knowing he had to answer.
He was supposed to be on leave for another two weeks. The damned FBI had called him every single day. Sometimes, several times a day. She didn’t know what exactly he did, but he was assigned to freaking south Louisiana. How busy could they possibly be?
He rolled off her and crossed the sparring ring to grab the phone and she listened to his very brief, tense side of the conversation.
“What?” he asked. Then, “No, it’s—”
He stood, back rigid, muscles granite. Silent. There was a stillness to him that made her very very nervous, as if he were a predator about to spring, and she held her breath. “I’ll be there,” he said, then snapped his phone shut.
From When a Man Loves a Weapon by Toni McGee Causey. Copyright© 2009 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press, LLC.