By: Melissa Schroeder


“I thought you would want to talk about us.”

His normally easy voice sounded strained, as if he were barely holding onto his temper. Why was he mad at her?

“I got the impression there was no ‘us.’”

Kade stared at her then with those deep blue eyes of his, as if trying to find out if she were telling the truth. Did he think she would beg him back into her bed? Fat chance there, buddy.

“I thought women liked to discuss these things.”

“Maybe. Most of the time. But you made it pretty clear by not contacting me. I guess I could beg for a reason, but those are just made up most of the time, right? I mean, when you break up with someone, most of the time it’s because they just weren’t for you.” She forced herself to shrug as if it were nothing big. “It’s fine, Kade. You didn’t have to pretend it was something it wasn’t. I won’t bother you.”

He muttered something under his breath, and she got a bit of satisfaction over that.

Frustrated? Suck it up, Seal.

“Now, I’m going to get the jambalaya ready for y’all, and then I’m taking a long, hot shower. It’s been a bitch of a day.”

He stared at her as if she had grown another head.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t think it was special. It was. Just...things are different now.”

She cocked her head to one side and studied him. “How so?”

She knew it was rude, but she didn’t give a damn. If he wanted to drag all this shit out, then she wasn’t going to make it easy on him.

“Just...things happened. I…,” he swallowed, and his breathing increased. “I’m not fit for a relationship right now.”


He frowned harder. “Okay?”

“Listen, Kade, I’m not sure what kind of women you usually get involved with, but I’m a sister of a Seal. I know what your life is like. And I know that sometimes you come back a little less stable than before. Don’t forget, Mal stays with me most of the time after he comes back from a long mission. The fact you don’t want me hurts, of course. I am strong enough to say that.”

“I didn’t say I didn’t want you.”

The words seemed to be torn from some place deep inside of him.


He swallowed again. “I just can’t.”

She sighed, regret and pain filling her heart. She wanted to yell, but couldn’t. Not with him looking so damned sad, not to mention her other two houseguests.

“Tell you what, Seal. You get your shit together, then you can let me know. But I’m not waiting around forever.”

Just then, her brother walked up behind him. “Is that jambalaya I smell?”

She smiled at the happiness in her brother’s voice. He always said the smell of jambalaya simmering in the kitchen was the one thing that reminded him of home.

“Sure, and I have some bread too. But first, I have to get changed and de-stress.” She walked to the doorway and had to inch past Kade. Dammit, the man wasn’t making it easy on her. She could smell him, the soap he had used, and the wild untamed scent that was totally Kade. She inched past him, gave her brother a hug, and then walked to her bedroom.

As soon as she shut the door, she leaned back against it. Her heart was beating a mile a minute, her body a strange mixture of hurt and arousal. How could he still do that to her? Of course, she hadn’t really accepted the end, not that there was actually a beginning. Still, there had been that kernel of hope she had held onto. She felt the sharp jab to the chest. Damn the man for getting her tangled up. She knew he still wanted her. Well, she was pretty sure. But something was holding him back. Mal? She figured if Mal knew about them, he wouldn’t have brought him here. He played the easygoing brother, but he would kill a man for looking sideways at his sisters.

She closed her eyes and felt the tears slip free. She couldn’t do this. Would not do this. She had to hold herself together. The three men in her house where all holding on by a very tiny thread. Mal might not have talked to her about it, but she knew the last mission was worse than any of the ones they had been on.

Drawing in a deep breath, she started to undress. She needed to get her emotions under control. They didn’t need a blabbering woman crying all over them.

By the time she had changed into comfy clothes and splashed water on her face, her temper had cooled and she had washed away some of the fatigue that was pulling her down. She dried her face and looked at herself in the mirror. She had always been considered the “healthy one.” Teenage years being Jocelyn Dupree’s sister hadn’t been easy, that was for sure. With her tall, athletic body, Jocelyn had always made Shannon feel like a goblin. But in her late teens, she had grown into her body. She was full, curvy, and she thought, happy with what God gave her. Unlike some of her friends who dieted constantly, she never lacked for male companionship. And she had always thought Kade liked her just the way she was.

With a sigh, she decided to clean the rest of her makeup off and get out there. Those Seals needed someone who could hold it together.

And if there was one thing about the Dupree women, they held it together with an iron fist.

• • • • •

“So, do you know if your sister is seeing someone?” Deke asked Mal.

Again, Kade had to bite back a growl. Being in her house, being that close to her, had his possessiveness growing.

Mal looked at him then smiled at Deke. “Nope. Not that I know of. There was that one guy...Mike?”

“Jonathon,” Kade said.

“Yeah, Mike was the guy before. Well, good old Jon was trying his best to tie her down. Shannon kicked him to the curb. I really thought he would be at the wedding in Hawaii.”

“If she cooked this, I think I’m in love.”

Mal laughed. “Oh, lord, no. You don’t want Shannon’s cooking.”

“Am I being disparaged in my own kitchen?

He wasn’t ready for her. Would he ever get used to being this close? He didn’t think so. Before Hawaii, he could control his feelings more easily. Now, he seemed to be completely off. Nothing seemed to work. He felt powerless to do anything about it. Every day he was worried he would freak the hell out.

Before, she had been sexy. There wasn’t anything she could wear that would make her look ugly. Shannon personified beauty. Now, though, she looked...cuddly. Due to the cold weather, she had pulled on soft, pink sweats. They shouldn’t make her any more attractive, but they did. Just seeing her that way made his body respond. He wanted to do nothing more than pull her into his arms and snuggle. Then fuck her until neither of them remembered their names.