She yanked his T-shirt free of his pants.

Any rational thoughts made a double-time retreat. Air whispered over his back, followed by her touch. He traced the hem of her surgical top, hesitating, his conscience kicking him in the ass.

Her cool fingers slid up his spine, her clipped short nails digging into his back. “Stop thinking. I know what I’m doing. I want this. I need to be with you, to forget about all of those horrors that I’m helpless to fix.”

How she’d read his mind, his doubts, his own howling frustration, he didn’t know. Still, he had to be sure, to protect her, even if only from herself.

He smoothed back her hair with a hand that shook harder than a newbie on his first mission. “You’re mixed up because I rescued you.”

“What about you?” Her fingers crawled up his chest to caress his neck, her body melding with his in an unmistakable invitation. “Are you mixed up? Should I be protecting you?”

Blood supply to his brain was seriously compromised, since it was all surging south. His erection throbbed against his fly as he tried to sift through her words. Had she somehow found out about—God, he couldn’t even think of their names right now. “I’m not sure I know what you mean.”

“Do you sleep with the people you save very often? Enough that you can be so sure of what I’m feeling?”

Her words flicked cold water on his libido, not totally dousing it but definitely giving him enough of a wake-up call to clear this up. To make sure she understood how she affected him in a way even he wasn’t sure he understood yet. “I’ve never slept with anyone even remotely tied to one of my military rescues, and if you don’t believe me on that, then we need to stop this right now.”

“If you’re sane”—she traced his ears lightly, intimately—“then why are you trying to push me away, unless you think I’m a needy nutcase who doesn’t know what she’s doing?”

The surety in her voice fed the hunger searing his insides. “I’m only asking you to be certain. I don’t want you to have regrets or add to the fallout from what you’ve been through.”


“I am thirty-one years old, and I know my own mind.” Her feathery touch skimmed over his temples, down his cheeks to circle his mouth. “I want to have sex with you, no strings, just now. Together. To affirm the fact that we both came out of this alive. To find some closure. To feel good again.”

She sounded clearheaded and decisive to him. Fair enough. And the way she’d started nipping his bottom lip…

He swallowed hard. “So you trust I have the ability to make you feel good?”

“Very much so,” she said with an intensity echoed in her sky blue eyes, “and I can’t wait for you to prove me right.”

“Okay then.” He sealed his mouth to hers, his arms locking around Amelia as she twined hers around his neck.

She kissed him again, more knowingly now, more familiar. He plunged his fingers into her hair, absorbing the texture, memorizing the feel of her. Burning to see every inch of soft feminine flesh.

Bunching up her top, he inched the fabric higher between them. She covered his hands with hers just below the gentle curve of her breasts.

“Everything’s borrowed from the rescue supplies,” she gasped breathlessly. “I’m not wearing anything particularly seductive under there. Just a generic sports bra.”

Keeping his eyes locked on hers, he eased the top the rest of the way up, breaking eye contact only for the instant it took to sweep the shirt the rest of the way off.

And then he absolutely could not look away. “You make white cotton look sexier than any lace.”

The horror of the past hours faded as he drank in the curves of her br**sts hugged by the fabric, her ni**les beading in obvious arousal. Then he saw the bruises purpling her ribs, another mark on her shoulder. No doubt, there were plenty more dotting her all over after what she’d been through. He reached toward the largest on her side.

Grasping his wrist, she redirected his palm until it rested over her breast. His fingers massaged reflexively into the softness and she moaned softly in response. Encouraging him. He peeled the bra up with precision, deliberation, savoring every damn second. Her eyes sparked the hottest blue flames back at him, warning him she was every bit as on fire as he was. She stroked under his T-shirt and palmed her way up his chest, scrunching brown cotton in her hands until she cleared his head and flung away the military-issue tee.

He hauled her against him.

Skin to skin.

Bare br**sts to his chest.

Hips to hips, with too many barriers between them. And one very important barrier missing.

He pressed a kiss to her forehead. “I need for you to wait one second.”

“Why?” she gasped.

“I need to get a condom.”

“You carry them with you to earthquake rescues?”

“Believe it or not, they’re part of the gear in a survival vest—the most efficient way to carry water.”

“Water carrier? Like a balloon? You’ve got to be kidding.”

“Afraid not.” He knelt, scooping his vest off the floor. “But I’m really not in the mood to discuss survival training right now.”

“Me either.” She tugged his vest from him. “And I have a better idea than you using up the ‘water jugs’ stored in your vest.”

Amelia pointed past his ear.

He turned to look at the metal shelves behind him and found… an industrial-size box of condoms. “Holy crap. Somebody’s got ambitions. Although if we were out of this hell and had a long weekend, maybe…”

She yanked the box from the shelf. “How about you stop bragging and start proving?”

“Roger that.” He took the carton from her, tore open the top, and dug around inside.

“Hurry,” she demanded. She shoved the box back on the shelf quickly, toppling it sideways. A half dozen rained from the box onto the floor.

But he had one firmly in hand. Urgency hammering through him, he slapped it on the small corner desk behind her, put his gun safely aside on a shelf, and devoted his entire attention to Amelia.

She met him kiss for kiss, touch for touch. His hands dipped inside her pants, cupping her bottom, lifting her more fully against him. The soft pressure of her rocking her hips against his hard-on threatened to send him over the edge.

He dipped his head, taking her nipple in his mouth. Her gasp, then purring moan, sent a fresh bolt of lust shooting through him. She sagged in his arms and he secured his hold, shifting his attention to her other breast, licking, nipping, teasing. Her head fell back and she mumbled breathy encouragement, urgent requests for more.

He completely agreed.

Distantly, he heard a rattle beyond the door, low voices. His body tensed until the sounds continued past their locked haven.

Amelia rubbed her cheek against his. “No more waiting.”

Her fingers worked the fly of his pants until she freed him. For two labored breaths, she held him, her fingers enclosing him like a cool silken glove. Then she stroked and he lost his footing for a second.

He braced a hand against the table behind her. Her lips curved in a knowing smile that she grazed along his neck, up to nip his earlobe.

Reaching behind her, she groped along the table until she located the condom. She tore it open with her teeth and sheathed him quickly, efficiently. So very thoroughly. The caress of her hands down the length of him threatened to undo him right then. He reined himself in, reminded himself of all she’d been through—

She bracketed his face with her hands and stared straight into his eyes, her shoulder-length blonde hair a tousled, sexy mess around her face. “I don’t want tenderness and I don’t want some sort of fake romanticism. We both know what this is about.”


“Tired of talking.” She urged his head to hers and kissed him, full-on and full-out, demanding with her mouth and her hands.

He’d been planning to say she was bruised and exhausted from her ordeal. That this was crazy and they needed to be levelheaded.

Sanity be damned. If this was insanity, he was all in. Literally.

Nudging down the pants of her scrubs, he cupped her butt again, lifting her, settling her on the edge of the desk. She wrapped her legs around his waist, her heels digging in, urging him forward until…

He pushed inside her.

Teeth gritted, he held still. “Okay?”

“More than okay, but I could be better if you would…”

She dug her heels into his ass and urged him closer. Deeper. Her eyes stared back at him in the dimly lit room, the same sweet blue drawing him in as completely as her body held his. He thrust and her forehead fell to rest against his, her sigh filling the air around them.

The tension that had begun building since the first time he saw her, that had only continued and increased, grew teeth inside him. The need, the hunger, gnawed at him, demanding he move inside her, meet the wriggle of her hips in just the right way to take her as high as she took him.

Growling, he kissed the curve of her neck, up, up, until he took the lobe of her ear between his teeth the way she’d done to him, guessing she’d done something to him she liked for herself. Her purr of pleasure rewarded him, and damn, making her feel good made him feel even better. She rocked against him and clawed at his back as the table inched backward, ramming the wall, rattling the bottles on the shelves with each thrust. She buried her face into his shoulder, muffling her cries of pleasure from anyone who might pass by their closet.

A closet, for God’s sake.

He wanted to take her again in a bed, in a shower, anywhere more civilized than a f**king broom closet in an earthquake zone. He wanted to stretch her out naked and taste every inch of her again and again until she came apart. And damn, damn, damn, he was the one coming apart as he pounded inside her.

Still, every time he tried to go slower, easier, she demanded more. She writhed against him, faster, breathing in his ear how close, so close, she was.

Her orgasm squeezed around him, harder and harder in a velvet vise. He thrust harder and faster, finally free to give in to his own release. The tension uncoiled, expanding, pulsing through him as he came and came again inside her. The force of it convulsed his arms around her, damn near buckled his knees like the demolished world around them.

And before the haze of pleasure faded, he felt her pulsing again. Her teeth sank into his shoulder and he reveled in the pain brought on by the satisfaction he gave her.

A light sheen of sweat slicked his torso, sealing their bodies together. He stayed inside her, knew he should pull out, clean up, say something… nice?

Damn, he was the king of postcoital platitudes after his dead-end relationships of the past five years. He knew dozens of ways to reassure a woman she was sexy and rocked his world, but he understood she needed someone different.

Then he could walk away with a clear conscience to hang out with his memories. His grief.

Yeah, that was a screwed-up cycle, but he didn’t know any other way to live without becoming a monk. Not an option.

Right now, really not an option.

So he scrounged for those words to give her, to somehow make sense of what they’d done.

She placed two fingers along his mouth. “Don’t talk.” She pressed her lips to his tenderly, briefly. “Don’t mess this up with words or half-meant promises that will feel awkward when we’re both clearheaded. This is what it is—an incredible culmination—and I thank you for that. It’s something I suspect we both needed and now it’s done.”

Before he could pick his jaw up off the floor, she’d gathered her clothes and dressed. She rested her cheek against his back for a heartbeat… and left.

The door closed softly behind her.

The silence echoed around him, the scent of her, of them, and sex mixing up with the disinfectant in the air. She’d actually walked out on him. She hadn’t even given him a chance to roll out some face-saving words for both of them.

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