Private Maneuvers / Page 24

Page 24


Her fingers combed through his spiky hair as she'd longed to do countless times since she'd first eyed the sun-kissed strands. She submerged herself in the sensation of his coarse hair rasping over her sensitized skin. Not because of a need for risks or adventure, but in a heart-twisting hope to connect with Max on a deeper level.

They'd both almost died. The thought tore through her—that they might never have shared this moment. That she could have lost him before she'd ever had the chance to really know him.

She would know him now, if only on this superficial level. A meeting and mating of their bodies to affirm life.

Darcy molded herself closer to the hard wall of his chest and struggled to will away somber thoughts. Some things in life were beyond her control. Finding a way to hold on to the special bond with Max might well be beyond her control. She gripped him tighter, locked him closer, not nearly close enough.

Max buried his face in her hair, his hands low, guiding her h*ps against his. "I wish I could take you somewhere special, memorable, out under the sun. For weeks, I've wanted to peel that bathing suit off you, make love to you on a sandbar." He stroked the back of one finger down her neck, lower, dipping into the collar of her flight suit and hooking around her chain. "See you wearing nothing but the sun and these."

Her dog tags dangled from the crook of his finger.

Darcy glided her hand along his cheek. "Seems to me we've already had the wide-open-spaces experience, and it didn't end very well for us."

His hand clenched around the chain. "No baggage from that day."

She totally agreed. They'd earned this time together, damn it. She arched up on her toes. "Here is good." Perfect. "Any military brat worth his salt should know it's not where you are but who you're with that counts."

"Touche. And now you're about to be with me."

Darcy stared into his eyes, deeper, and saw him because finally he opened himself up enough to let her inside. This man who was too well versed in keeping his identity hidden.

But not now.

He wasn't the moody doctor of the weeks prior or the driven operative of recent days. But Max, a man who wanted her. No games here. She might not have a clue about what made him tick, but there was no mistaking his desire for her—a heady aphrodisiac.

A thrill of anticipation tripped along her adrenaline-heightened nerves. She waited, wanted...

His lips found the throbbing pulse at the base of her neck. Who'd have thought anyone could have so many nerve endings in one patch of skin? Her head lolled back and she sighed. She inhaled the warm sunshine scent of his hair as Max inched the zipper down on her flight suit, following the revealing path with his mouth.

If only she wasn't so aware of how long it had been since she'd put on that flight suit. How damned unfair that he smelled like coconut oil, sunshine and a hint of musk while she likely reeked of sweat and smoke.

She clasped his hand. "Max, wait."

Groaning, he dropped his head to her breasts. "You're gonna make me be honorable, aren't you?"

"No." Definitely not. "I need to shower first. I know it's probably unromantic of me to want to delay, but man, Max. A girl only has one first time and—''

He hooked an arm behind her knees and swung her up against his chest.


"You want a shower, lady, you're going to have a shower."

Why hadn't she just suggested they shower together rather than admitting she smelled like a crewdog? Alicia's voice mocked her as they crossed the room.

Way to go, kiddo.

As much as she and Max might be equals in the work world, his experience in the sexual arena left her in the dust. His past included women who likely wore lace or silk and not a green flight bag with white athletic socks.

She hated encroaching insecurities, especially when she prided herself on conquering in any field she chose. Hang tough and be bold. She wanted this. She wanted Max.

He turned sideways through the bathroom door. He set her on her feet in front of the shower stall and reached to turn on the water.

Darcy looped her finger in the drawstring of his flowered swim trunks. "Maybe I should get a tropical shirt so we'll match."

He cupped her face between both broad palms. "Darcy, there's so much light and life in your eyes, in you, clothes couldn't compete." His sea-green gaze devoured every inch of her. "And there's something so damned sexy about the way you're completely covered in that uniform. Makes me want to..."

He grasped the tab on her zipper and tugged farther. Slowly. Link by link he pulled until he unveiled the hem of her black T-shirt and a hint of underwear.

The combination of his words with his stare hotter than any jet engine swept away insecurities.

Max grinned. "Layers. I like layers. Sometimes the payoff is all the sweeter when you've had to work for it."

His hands slid inside, cupped her bottom, his arms shrugging the flight suit from her shoulders. Darcy whipped the uniform down and off, kicked it free while pulling her T-shirt overhead.

Until she stood in a sports bra and high-cut panties.

His low growl of approval caressed her ears, swirled inside over feminine instincts. His fascination with her dog tags, the way his eyes had so often lingered on the high-cut hip of her bathing suit, all told her that while he might opt for flamboyance in his own clothing choices, he in no way found hers lacking.

Then with two bold sweeps of his hands, her underwear fluttered to the floor. And she knew by the heat of his gaze as he stared at her wearing nothing but her dog tags, he definitely didn't find her lacking.

Sliding his swim trunks down and off, he backed her into the shower before she caught nearly enough of a glimpse of him. Warm spray sluiced over her, warmer still as the water heated.

Or maybe they heated the water. A definite possibility.

Darcy trailed her fingers along hard muscle and Max, down to his hip, discovering another tattoo. Poseidon's trident sliced across a hard hip, launching a tingle up her arm.

She'd spent her life around men, had stumbled into more than a few locker rooms with minimal privacy situations on the road. She might be a virgin, but she wasn't naive about the male physique, and man, oh, man, did this guy have a body to make her go weak-kneed against the wall.

Water rained onto his head, saturated his hair, darkening it. How perfect that he should be surrounded by water. Seeing him through the spray somehow made him seem all the more familiar.

She traced the cut of muscles along his chest, to his stomach, a solid wall of tanned heat. Her hand journeyed lower until she wrapped her fingers around him.

Her back flattened against the shower wall.

Max anchored her to the tiles a second before his mouth slanted over hers. His body pressed a hot, hard melding of wet skin to skin until she could almost feel the water evaporating off her overheated flesh.

His hand left her. But before she could even groan her protest, he returned with a bar of soap. Anticipation curled through her. She reached for the washrag dangling from the showerhead.

He grabbed her wrist, lowering her arm. "You won't need that. Quit trying to take control of the jet here, Darcy. There are two of us running the show."

His hands and soap glided over her. All of her. He washed her, washed away the horror of the past week, carefully easing his fingers over the puckered pink scar on her arm. He swept away memories and boundaries with his broad but gentle hands until only the two of them stood together in the waterfall spray.

So very bare.

Then his hands slid up her neck into her hair as he worked in shampoo. Bold, callused fingers massaged against her scalp and every nerve with such thorough intensity. His eyes never left her face while he watched her, as if he had to see what he was doing to her.

And, oh, he was doing so very much to her.

He tipped her head back, stroked his hands over her hair, swiping the soap away from her face so she could keep her eyes open, as well. Water cascaded down her, washing away suds and restraints.

"No more," she pleaded, wanting him out of the shower and on dry terrain where she could tumble him into bed, onto his back.

He grinned. "Much more, Darcy."

Max dropped to his knees.

Heat crawled up her face at even the thought of such intimacy. The whole standing-up-in-a-shower-stall idea was already stretching her limited—hell, nonexistent—experience.

She gripped his shoulders, her nervousness and breath-stealing excitement warring for dominance. "Uh, Max. This might be a little advanced for me just yet. How about we slate this one for maybe, oh, our third time?"

"Darcy?" He brushed his lips across her breasts, drank from her skin.

The sensation made her light-headed. "Yeah, Max?"

"Hush." He drew harder on one taut peak. "Unless you want to tell me exactly how this feels. Then you can be sure I'll listen to every damn word."

His mouth claimed her other breast. She sighed her answer, tracing the tattoo on his arm with trancelike intensity along the red edges of the rectangular flag.

Diver down.

Hot breath blew across her stomach. She shivered with a rush of pleasure. Okay, she could get into this.

He kissed lower. Lower still until bold hands nudged her legs. Parted her. Tasted her.

Her knees refused to support her.

Thank heaven his hands did. Broad palms cupped her hips, lifted and secured her against the shower stall as he spread her farther with his shoulders. Darcy flattened her hand to the wall as sensation washed over her with each glide of his tongue. Her pulse pounded through her veins just as the powerful spray of water throbbed against her body. Need throbbed even lower still.

Built. Swelled. Exploded over her, sending rainbow shards of light sparking through the water spraying over them.

Delicious shimmers rocked right through, leaving her thighs shaking and her body craving even closer connection. She twisted her fingers in his hair and tugged. "Now, Max, really no more."

He rose through the steam, kissing his way up her body, cupping her br**sts to drink the water from each tip before he grazed over her neck. Finally he met her face-to-face.

"Much more," he repeated, molding his body to hers, lifting her.

Her feet dangled. She was losing control. And it would be so easy to lose control with Max calling the shots. She trusted him. She wanted him. But some stubborn part of her still yearned to employ a few seductive moves of her own this first time. If only she had the confidence here she had in her plane, where no matter what fate threw her way, instincts ruled.

Instinct. The number-one flyer rule—trust the instincts.

A slow spiral of women's intuition as old as time smoked through her. She draped her arms over his shoulders. Instinct guided her foot up the back of his calf. He groaned.

Satisfaction spurred her. Oh, yeah. Instincts definitely ruled.

She hooked a leg around his hip, bringing them both closer. The heat of him throbbed against the cradle of her stomach, ready. She refused to let fears or insecurities tense her. She wanted this, everything. Now. Instinct would guide her on what to do next.

Darcy shut down her brain, closed her eyes and readied to fly straight into the mist.

Max gritted his teeth, trying like hell not to fly out of control, instead to press gradually, carefully into the satin grip drawing him deeper. Darcy's Norplant allowed him to enter her without anything between them. He could feel every square inch of her. Deeper until he met resistance.

He steadied his breathing. Willed himself to go easy. Take it slow for her. A damned tough proposition with Darcy arching against him with a needy sigh, bringing herself down—

She winced. He tucked her close and stilled, water, steam and silken woman against him, around him while he waited, chest pumping a ragged pace under the strain of holding back. But he would, damn it. For her.

And then she moved.

Man, did she ever move. Darcy hitched her leg higher, rocked against him with a natural rhythmic grace that threatened to send him hurtling over the edge.

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