By: Melissa Schroeder

He had always been quiet, just as Mal had said, but dammit, he had always been...well, like a guy hiding a secret. A fun secret. His eyes had always sparkled, and he had always been willing to listen and join in when asked. Now, it was as if he saw himself as separate from the world. Even from his closest friend.

She started the washer then began cleaning off the table. Was it as simple as guilt? He hadn’t saved Forrester. He had survived. Maybe that was why he was holding back from her, and even Mal?

Did she want to take a chance on helping him? Getting him to talk, trying to draw him out, would hurt. Hurt a lot, that was for sure. Being in the same house as him had her aching from the inside out. Hell, just hearing that funky noise he’d made when she’d touched Deke had sent ribbons of lust streaming through her blood.

She paused and straightened.

He had been cool, at least he’d looked that way. But, in his eyes...her breath caught. “He’s jealous.”

For a second she thought back, tried to debunk the idea. Why would he be jealous of a simple pat? She understood maybe getting upset if she had slept with Deke, but this was nothing. It had to be that he still had feelings for her, yes? Why else would he have growled?

That had her looking at the situation in a different manner. Did she want to put herself out there, take a chance on being hurt again?


Worse, did she want to take the chance of losing him forever? If he felt guilt for what happened, did he think he wasn’t good enough for her? That would make sense. She could at least put out feelers, push him a little. Knowing Mal, he’d been handling his friend with kid gloves. While her brother was a kickass Seal, just like every other Dupree man, he had a gooey, soft center. He hated to see someone he loved hurt and would do anything to protect him or her.

She sat in the chair with a thunk. Well, damn. She had to look at the situation a little differently now. He might be a little rough around the edges now, and she was still pissed at him, but he needed her. He needed more than just a friend, if her suspicions were right.

She would just push some buttons on that damned hardheaded Seal tomorrow and see what happened.

If there was anything worth the pain, it was Francis McKade. And if he was too stupid to realize she was good for him, she’d smack him upside the head and walk away.

She had to try because she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life regretting it.

Chapter Seven

Kade opened his eyes to the blinding sun. It felt as if someone had poured acid on them. He slammed his lids shut with a groan. He had been so tired the night before that he’d forgotten to shut the blinds. No wonder he was burning up.

“Fuck,” he said.

“Is that any way to talk in my house?”

He was slow to react the moment he heard her voice. He was barely awake, dealing with a blinding pain in his head, and the woman of his dreams was in his room. Her slow, New Orleans accent was threaded with amusement and low enough to send heat racing through his blood. Damn, he was naked but for the sheet over him.

Slowly, he opened his eyes and glanced to the doorway. Damn, the woman was gorgeous. Shit, he didn’t need this. He was still dealing with being in her house, being within feet of her, and now she was standing there smiling at him. She was leaning against the doorjamb, a steaming mug of coffee in her hand, and she was wearing some kind of flimsy robe with red flowers all over it.

Of course, without little provocation, his cock went completely hard. What man wouldn’t react like that to seeing her there? Her curls were dripping over shoulders, and her face was scrubbed free of makeup. Dammit, he wanted to see her like that every morning. Wanted her in his bed, wanted to wake up beside her, snuggle against her, then love her slowly awake. And that was why he hadn’t wanted to come. He knew every minute—every second—of the day he was in New Orleans, his need to touch her would grow. He knew it would be impossible to resist her. Less than twelve hours and he was ready to beg her. Mentally, he chastised himself. He couldn’t take her to bed like he wanted, to love her until neither of them knew their names. The man he was in Hawaii had that right. He didn’t now, and he couldn’t stand hurting her again.

“I’m sure you’ve heard worse than that with your brothers around.”

She smiled as she took a sip. God was not smiling on him, he knew it then and there because she walked into the room. She closed the blinds then leaned against the dresser.

“Do you have any plans today?”

He knew she asked a question, but he couldn’t seem to answer. His brain was melting. Holy fuck. The robe she was wearing hit her mid-thigh. If she moved just the wrong way, he would find out if she had any panties on. Jesus, what the hell did he ever do to God to deserve this?


He shook his head, trying to break free of that mesmerizing bit of leg she was showing him and looked up at her face. Those eyes were studying him, and he felt himself shiver. He didn’t physically do it, but everything in him trembled as he tried to hold onto his control.

“Not sure.”

She took another sip and shifted her weight. Dammit. He couldn’t decide if he wanted her to leave or stay. Either one would be bad and good.

“Do you want to come with Deke and me?”

He wanted to. He really wanted to. The idea that Chief was sniffing around her didn’t sit well with him. The man had a reputation with women. He might be older than most of the other Seals, but he tended to have more women, if rumors were correct. But even at his age, he didn’t seem to be settling down. The last woman Kade had seen him with was younger than Shannon.

Still, Kade knew it wouldn’t be a good idea to tag along. He could handle her in small doses, but he needed a break every now and then. And there was a good chance that he might beat the hell out of Chief if he got too handsy.

“Naw. I thought I would hang around the house today.”

She frowned. “Your leg’s not bothering you, is it?”

“Did Mal tell you I hurt it?”

“No. You were favoring it last night.”

He nodded. “It’s stiff from the drive. I thought I would take a hot bath, then put it up with some ice.”

“Well, if you change your mind, we are leaving at eleven hundred.”

He smiled. “Yes ma’am.”

She patted him on his leg, and his eyes almost crossed. Just that simple touch had his body heating, his cock jumping. Damn, if the woman wasn’t going to have him dead from lack of blood to his brain.

“There are some fresh pastries in the kitchen, and Mal is brewing some coffee.”