Soldier's Christmas Page 11


She rolled her h*ps against the length of him, hot and moist Alicia embracing him with a hint of the satin he would find deep inside her. Her head fell back, eyelids sliding to half mast. Watching her eyes go smoky proved headier than merlot.


"Tell me," he demanded. "Talk to me. Do you want more of this—" he brought them closer, increasing the frustrating incredible friction "—or this?" His hands returned to her breasts.


"Both, as long as you're looking at me. Most of all I melt over the way you look at me. The way your eyes turn a different shade of green when you're seeing me, just me. I didn't notice it at first. I just thought," she babbled in a litany of near indiscernible encouragement, "that...they were always this color.


But then I started watching you too and I realized they were different for the rest of the world, more kelly-green."


"And what about when I'm looking at you?"


"They're darker, emerald. Hot." She leaned to kiss him, her molten brown eyes staying open. "Warming me all over."


"Keep talking," he growled.


"I remember," she purred against his mouth, phrases and kisses alternating, "the first time you kissed me." "Oh, yeah?" "The day our rotation in Cantou officially ended."


"And we weren't working together directly anymore." His initial pursuit of her in the bar had been stalled once they were paired together for war missions. But he'd known it was only a matter of time until their rotation ended. Then he would make his move, because every day he spent with her made him more


determined that she would be his.


"You were heading back to England and I was returning to North Carolina." Her hands traveled over his shoulders into his hair while she talked, kissed, rocked, a master at multitasking and driving him crazy.


"You met me at my plane and right there in front of God and the whole squadron you asked..."


"Want to go get a drink sometime?" he said, repeating his words from more than a year ago, the past and present merging in a mating dance even more important now with the stakes all or nothing in this their last chance. "Preferably just the two of us this time. Although, if you want to ask the whole damned squadron along for drinks, too, I can deal with that, because when you walk in a room it's not like I even see anyone else."


She stilled, her eyes wide, her heart hammering against him. "You remember." "I remember. And you answered..."


"It's a date. I'll meet you in the Azores." Islands halfway across the Atlantic, the midway point between them at that time, and somehow those thousands of miles seemed easier to cross than the emotional distance between them lately. "I didn't think there was a chance it could work. But then you kissed me."


He stroked her tousled hair from her face. "Right there in front of God and the whole squadron." "And then I knew it had to work." Her words sent his heart hammering as hard as hers.


He had to touch her, more of her, all of her. His hand skimmed down, parting her, stroking lightly. He couldn't think about much of anything except the scent of her damp, satiny heat against him, her moans and sighs and yes, more pleadings.


A passionate flush spread along her skin, an unmistakable sign of how close she was to completion. A good thing since he was about to lose it and he hadn't even been inside her yet.


Better not think about being inside her.


Even with the need to finish thundering through him, he kept himself in check, in the moment, so damned grateful for the chance to touch her again he vowed not to squander even a second. Anything with Alicia was better than everything with anyone else. And this was more than just anything.


He tried to scrounge words to keep her talking to distract her from thinking too much. Words were tough to find. Maybe he should have spent more time distracting her out of bed, too, so she wouldn't have pushed him out of her life.


She was anything but pushing away now. The flush along her body darkened and he stroked her higher and higher until...


Her whole body tensed, bowed, the velvet heat clamping and massaging her release along his fingers.


The sheer honesty of it all threatened to hurtle him over the edge with her.


In this moment, at least, she was completely his.


The afterglow swallowed Alicia completely. She sagged against Josh, grateful he still had the ability to hold her up because her sated, mellow muscles weren't working all that well at the moment.


How could she be so glad and scared at once? And why did she have to think? She wanted to enjoy her hot, na*ed husband.


Alicia traced bunched muscles along his back. "I can feel you smiling against my neck." "Is that a bad thing?" His steamy breath caressed her.


A much-needed laugh broke free. "Not really, I guess. I'll give you thirty more seconds for your macho-male testosterone victory dance."


He raised his head and chuckled into her mouth with his kiss. "I'm just happy for you."


"I'm happy for me, too. And we're about to be really happy for you as well." "Oh, we are?"


His laugh and smile untwined fears and tension working to coil inside her again. Light and simple was good. Before, sex with them had been so intense. She enjoyed his sense of humor and yet they'd never brought it into the bedroom with them, an odd oversight.


He'd told her to let him know what she needed. Well, she needed fun. Light. Uncomplicated. And him.


On his back. Most of all, she wanted to give to him as much as he'd given her.


Alicia shoved him backward onto the sleeping bags, walking playful fingers down his chest. His eyes widened in surprise and, my, how she enjoyed surprising this man. She understood great sex couldn't sustain a marriage, but she wanted to tell herself if they could fix this, somehow that could fix everything else.


She took him in her hand, took him inside her, and yes, this process was every bit as wonderful as she remembered. More so since she could simply glide in the moment as she glided against him. No thoughts of the past or future or worries about what he would expect from her, just the present and them.


"Talk to me," she commanded in impish retaliation.


"Talk?" he growled through clenched teeth. "In a few more minutes I'll recite the whole preamble to the Constitution for you, but at the moment you've pretty much shut down my brain."


The sleepy seduction of his definitely dark green eyes sent a shower of heat tingling over her skin.


Tension knotted inside her again, surprising her, because wait, hadn't she already...


And then she couldn't think anymore. Her head fell back, her eyes tight as she focused on the firm grip of his hands on her hips, the synching of their rapid breaths. Increasing need climbed along with the rising passion. Together. This was more than just a process.


She didn't know what to call it, just wanted to devour the moment.


"Open your eyes," he demanded. "See me see you."


Eyelids heavy, she forced herself to look down, and was it ever worth the effort. Deep green stared back up at her, only her, until tension pulled tighter within her. His hands trekked up to cup her breasts, to her shoulders, up farther until his fingers threaded into her hair. He massaged a firm caress that brought back the sensual unraveling of the hair wash earlier, water and Josh pouring over her.


The burning tingle along her skin increased. Her gasps paced with Josh's, matched rhythm, just like in the


plane, until a shout rolled deep inside her, out to mingle with Josh's hoarse groan of completion. Echoes cycled around them like a spiraling aircraft.


Alicia collapsed forward onto Josh's chest, his arms already around her. Aftershocks rocked through her, physical and emotional. And as much as she wanted to bask in the moment, fear flickered. For a woman accustomed to taking charge of her life, the thought of giving her heart fully left her shaking all over again.


Until this moment, it hadn't occurred to her how little experience she had in equal give-and-take relationships of any kind. Her mother had died so early, leaving Alicia to step into more of a parental role with her siblings. And of course her dating history pretty much sucked.


What she felt for Josh went far beyond anything she'd felt for Ben. She knew she could trust this incredibly funny, stubborn, honorable man beneath her. She just wasn't certain she could trust herself.


And with her heart lying there at his feet, she realized more than being hurt, she feared hurting him.


Two hours later, Josh buried his face in Alicia's neck while angling on his elbows to keep his weight off her. After round three of loving Alicia, he willed his slugging heart to slow to a halfway normal pace. He wasn't smiling against the soft curve of her shoulder now.


Already, he could feel her retreating from him. Making love to her each time with no holds barred had been every bit as incredible as he'd expected. Just the thought of her unraveling in his arms had him throbbing to life inside her. But their pocket of time here was ticking to an end. They would have to dress soon and evaluate what to do next.


He turned his face against the sweet scent of her skin toward the hazy glow rippling across the Plexiglas.


Northern lights streaking across the night sky cast banners of purple and pink through the dark in their own holiday light display. Sunrise wasn't far off. "Merry Christmas Eve."


She kissed his shoulder. "I'm sorry you had to spend Hanukkah alone."


He didn't want to think about their last fight or the breakup. They'd had every reason to be happy, finally living in the same city, and still they'd screwed up. "We could always float the date, like you used to do as a kid so your whole family could celebrate together. We could make this the holiday season for both of us. We've had your star to follow by. And it seems my Bic lighter has an endless supply of fuel."


"You know how I love quirky and mismatched, so it definitely works for me. Hey, maybe we should create a pamphlet for military folks since they spend the holidays in so many odd places. Something like a thousand and one ways to celebrate the holidays in a tent—or Quonset hut."


He nodded absently, humor tougher to scrounge than normal.


She tapped his forehead. "What are you thinking? I'm not a mind reader, either, you know."


Honesty. He'd demanded it of her and she deserved the same from him. He rolled off her onto his back.


"I'm wondering what we'll do when we return to base."


And they would make it home, damn it.


She sat up, sleeping bag clasped to her chest. "I don't know how we went so wrong. You're the answer man. I only know that no one can touch me, frustrate me, hurt me...move me as much as you. I suspect that much, at least, is mutual."


He stroked the backs of his fingers along her jaw. "That sums it up."


"We're so different. You with your logic, me with my quirky ways and mismatched clothes."


He needed reason and plans in his life. She was all about the unexpected, flying by gut and instinct while he plotted the odds and targets.


Josh sat up beside her, dropped a quick kiss on her mouth before standing. "We should get dressed. The storm's easing and we'll need to start moving again. My guess is that this Quonset is near the river. We shouldn't have far to go."


He stepped back into his boxers and unhooked his flight suit from the clothesline. His snow pants and parka swayed like ghostly apparitions, reminding him of those chem-gear suits hanging in the cave. More than their own lives depended on them returning to base in one piece.


Leaning back against the wall, he rolled on his socks. Sounds of Alicia dressing tormented the hell out of him. He could wade through quantum physics without hesitation, but he didn't have a clue how to ease the awkwardness between them. Whatever happened to reveling in the afterglow of great sex?


Incredible sex.


Alicia padded to a stop beside him, her reindeer toe socks making a perfect Alicia-contrast to the military precision of her flight suit. "We should have dated longer."


The cross-Atlantic relationship had frustrated the hell out of both of them while they spiked long distance bills to rival the national debt. Sure they had leave time, but scheduling it to coincide was nearly impossible. Getting married was the only way to guarantee a joint assignment. And even that had taken six months to shake down before they'd both made it to Alaska—two people so much in love, married and virtual strangers even after eighteen months.


Add the stress of a move and high-pressure military jobs and was it any wonder they'd crashed and burned on the relationship front? So logical he should have seen it coming, but he hadn't stopped hoping for a different outcome all the way to the ground.


He tugged the zipper up on her flight suit until his knuckles rested against her delicate collarbone. The buzz in his head predicted failure if he didn't get his act together. "Yes, we should have. But we didn't have that luxury."


She reached to clasp his hand in hers. "Have we already done too much damage to our relationship?"


To our love? The rest of her sentence stayed unspoken but was clear as the spirals of light playing through the window. The echo of her softly spoken words rattled around inside his head along with the buzz in his brain.


"I don't know."


The drone increased. Built. Until he realized it wasn't in his head at all.


A vehicle was approaching the Quonset hut.


Chapter 8


Josh yanked Alicia by the arm, jerking her away from the small window inset in the door. He shut down emotions until his brain focused only on processing information. "Someone's out there. Snowmobiles, I


think. Sounds like two."


She scooped her mukluks as he dragged her toward the woodstove. "Let's hope it's a rescue."


Sure, he hoped. His gut told him otherwise. He jammed his feet into his boots. "We'll know soon enough."


Military rescue forces would call out first. Of course someone from the mining operation might try calling out with a bluff, but he was damned good at detecting bluffs. Either way, he wouldn't let the past replay again into some kind of twisted holiday massacre, most definitely not with Alicia playing any part.


Where to go? He considered standing to the side of the door and simply ambushing whoever came through. Answers could come afterward.


He started a step in that direction—then stopped. Frowning, he studied their tin-can shelter. Serious intruders would shoot first, enter later, and the thin metal of the rusting Quonset hut would barely slow a bullet, much less stop it.


"Between the stacks of wood, lie flat," he ordered. Not much of a hiding place, but it would provide protection with the stove beside them as well.

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