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12 Shades of Surrenderby Anne Calhoun
Tess Weston soaked a facecloth with cold water, then bent forward, drew her hair over one shoulder and held the cloth to the nape of her neck. Rivulets trickled down her back, merging with the sweat seeping from her pores. Even with the windows open, and a fan oscillating as languidly as a spoon through soup, the temperature on the second floor of her house was hotter than the ambient air outside.
She swiped the now-tepid cloth down her throat and paused at her collarbone. The washcloth soaked the thin ribbed fabric over her breasts while she considered the sheer curtains hanging lank beside the open window. Such an unremarkable thing, an open window, a simple pleasure people generally took for granted. Drew Norwood, her navy SEAL boyfriend, had extensive experience managing risks of all shapes, sizes and situations. Given her borderline neighborhood, he'd weighed simple pleasures against physical safety and insisted on windows and doors locked tight at night. However, Drew had disappeared almost a month ago, as usual with no warning. Three times in the six months they'd been dating, he'd simply vanished into thin air, reappearing weeks later sunburned, thinner and exhausted.
The disappearing act didn't bother her. It came with dating an active-duty SEAL, and she was used to people walking out of her life. The reappearing, as abrupt and unannounced as the disappearing, still set her back on her heels.
Not much else did, but a brutal heat wave, an AC unit that had frankly become an ugly pile of scrap metal three days earlier and no money for repairs left her with two choices: sleep in a situation Drew adamantly opposed or melt into a puddle in her bed. She preferred to dissolve into liquid bliss when he was the one heating her up, and she flat-out didn't have the money to fix the AC.
What Drew didn't know wouldn't hurt him.
She scrubbed at her breastbone as if she could wipe away the disloyal thought, then draped the washcloth over the edge of the sink. When she shut off the bathroom light and stepped into the moonlight illuminating a path along the scratched hardwood floor, a shadow disengaged itself from the dark corner behind the bathroom door, clamped a hand around her wrist and spun her face-first into the wall. The callused palm clapped unceremoniously over her mouth muffled her instinctive shriek. With her free hand braced at shoulder height, and a strength born of sheer terror, she pushed back into an iron-hard body. Her captor didn't move an inch. Instead, he knocked her off balance by wedging one leg between hers and with minimal effort forced her flat. He had superior size and strength, the advantage of surprise, and she was trapped.
Eyes wide with panic, she twisted her head and peered over the big hand engulfing the lower half of her face, but her vision only confirmed the input from the quivering nerves in her hypersensitive body. Heavy shoulders and a broad chest clad in black pinned her torso, and a ridged abdomen trapped the arm bent behind her back. Squirming futilely in an effort to regain her balance only ground her bottom against his hips, and her thin cotton bikini panties provided no protection from the insistent erection shoved firmly against her ass.
Knowing it was futile, she inhaled sharp and hard, drawing breath to scream. The air rushing through her nose carried with it the familiar scent of musky skin and the sharp odor of no-frills soap used at Coronado. In a millisecond she plunged from ice-cold fear to weak-kneed relief and sagged against the restraining body.
Drew. Back with no warning. In her bedroom, scaring her half to death.
She'd been working downstairs all night, the front and back doors secured with the handle lock and dead bolt. He had a key, but hadn't used it; the door would have caught on the chain. The downstairs windows were so warped that opening or closing one was a noisy process that took effort, even from Drew. But upstairs the windows were unlocked and slid, loose and flimsy, in their frames. Discarding the possibility he'd slithered under the front door, he must have clambered in through the damned open window in her bedroom.
"Tess, you are in so much trouble."
Silky menace simmered under the growled words as he shoved off his black stocking cap and tossed it behind him. His thick, sweat-dampened hair, bleached near-silver by hours in the sun and salt water, gleamed even in the midnight-blue of her bedroom. With a wickedly accurate sense of timing, he'd caught her at her most vulnerable, dressed for bed in one of his tank undershirts, and string bikini panties. Her feet were bare, her body crushed between his and the wall, and she stood no chance of breaking free from his tight grip.
"I can explain," she said, but his palm muffled her words.
The barked question told her that having the living daylights scared out of her hadn't atoned for her sin. She tossed her head back, away from his hand, and he lifted his palm just enough to let sound escape. "I said I can explain!"
His hand mashed down over her mouth again. "I don't want an explanation," he growled. "I've been gone for twenty-six days. I want you. Now."
A bolt of hot lust shot through her when his gorgeous tenor drawl, laced with rough need and tightly controlled ire, tumbled into her ear. She jumped when he nipped the sensitive rim of her lobe, then slapped her other hand up against the wall. Docile, trembling, she stood still for him as he pushed her panties down her thighs, then went to work on the buttons of his cargo pants. Sensations zinged through her as his abraded knuckles brushed against the soft, rounded flesh of her bottom. He made room for himself between her legs, the width of his thighs urging her feet farther apart, her thin panties straining against the muscles quivering in her legs.
Disconcerting, palpable desire streamed along nerves lit up by the adrenaline rush from his unorthodox appearance. Need coiled tight and hot between her thighs. Without conscious thought she arched her back and tilted her hips toward him.
His low, dry chuckle didn't mask the sound of a condom wrapper tearing. After a pause he settled big hands on her hips and lifted her up and forward, to the very tips of her toes. Turning her face to the side to rest her hot cheek on the cracked plaster, she closed her eyes as fear, the unintentional aphrodisiac, heightened the sensations swamping her. His rough black BDU pants chafing her inner thighs. The soft brush of his cotton T-shirt against her shoulder blades and back. Sweat slicking the skin of her bottom and his lower abdomen where he leaned into her. Whirling, sharp sparks settling low in her belly, ready for him to strike the tinder and set her on fire.
Did doubt linger under his taunting question? It was so hard to think with his hand pressed flat to her abdomen, his cock hot and hard against her bottom. Nuances aside, the answer flowed easily from her parted lips. "I always do," she whispered and felt his breath hitch in response.
The eight-inch difference in their heights didn't deter him. He simply bent his knees, wrapped one arm around her waist to hold her up on her toes and braced the other arm next to her face. His thick cock parted sensitive flesh only beginning to swell and dampen with arousal. He drove in, and she winced.
He went still. "You okay?" he asked, his voice roughened, strained.
No Maybe "I Yes."
A soft, almost unwilling groan eased out of him, then he began to thrust, deep and hard. Experience had taught her that although the first time would be fast and furious, she could come from the intensity alone, riding the waves of Drew's weeks-long adrenaline rush. Sometimes they made it upstairs before he was buried deep inside her, but more often than not he had her up against the door or on her rickety kitchen table. Watching Drew drive into her body, then shudder in her arms, reduced her to female at its most primitive. Taken. Possessed. The spoils of battle, even. She would come under the sting of his teeth on her shoulder, the brutal grip of his hand on her hip.
Tonight was different. Tonight the remnants of shock entwined with lust in her veins, and she added submissive to the list of adjectives describing how she felt when he had her spread and penetrated within thirty seconds of walking in the door, or, as the case may be, climbing through the still-open window. The unorthodox position left her off balance, straining up on tiptoe with her forearms braced in front of her face, pushing back into each thrust to avoid smacking her forehead on the wall. Her helpless acceptance made him growl again, low and deep in his throat.
His strokes were relentless, almost punishing, as was his arm around her waist, clamped down on her slippery flesh. The fingers of his other hand gathered her loose, sweat-dampened waves of hair at her nape and turned her head to the side so he could look at her. Her eyelids fluttered, on their way to closing as desire surged with each slick stroke, but an unfamiliar tenseness flashed behind the familiar hot need in his blue eyes.
For a brief moment she surfaced from the whirlpool of erotic sensation, but he angled his hips forward, stroking over a spot inside her that sent hot, electric pulses zinging through her. She succumbed to the immediate. The ribbed undershirt chafed her nipples each time they brushed the wall, and pleasure swelled in her clit. She shivered and moaned over the sound of his abdomen slapping against her ass.
With an inadvertent tug that made her gasp, his damp hand stroked down through her hair and across her rib cage to cup the top of her sex. One fingertip circled her taut, slick nub. She threw her head back, straining into his unmovable body as he maintained his pace, fast and hard. Her orgasm slammed into her a split second before he ground his hips against her bare bottom and gave a stuttering groan. His cock swelled and pulsed inside her convulsing channel as he mouthed her jaw and neck through slow, jerky orgasmic strokes. Then he exhaled against her shoulder, letting his weight slump into her body.
As the waves subsided, she sagged in his grip, waiting for her jellylike muscles to firm up enough to hold her weight. When they did, she tossed a languid smile over her shoulder, her needy gasps turning soft with satisfaction. That was beyond the heat of a normal welcome-home fuck, well into incendiary, and surely sex that amazing negated the issue of the naughtily open windows.
He didn't smile back. A deep red flush stood high on his cheekbones, visible even under his perpetual tan. Sweat trickled through the blond stubble on his jaw. "I missed you, too, Tess. Now you can explain about the windows." Oh, shit.
He withdrew as he spoke. Given the hint of steel under his soft tone, she did not want to be naked for this conversation, so she pushed herself upright and yanked up her panties. The cotton resisted, clinging to her damp skin as she peered at his back, headed for the bathroom.
"Don't move." The words were tossed over his shoulder in a curt fashion that made her freeze.
Definitely a panties-up conversation.
When he came back into the bedroom, he stopped in the same strip of moonlight she'd occupied when he'd ambushed her. His short blond hair lay plastered forward, serious stubble shadowed his jaw, and the planes and curves of his face were expressionless in the pale swath of light as he considered her. She expected him to look at her body. Her tank—his tank, really—was soaked with water and sweat and therefore practically see-through, and her nipples pushed pertly against the material. Tiny white string-bikini panties cut high on her hip covered her trimmed curls, and her legs were bare all the way to her painted toenails. Under normal circumstances his gaze would be all over her, but instead he focused intently on her face.
She twisted her hair into a loose knot at her nape, crossed her arms and stared right back. His black cargo pants were up and buttoned, his T-shirt plastered to his muscled torso. Bizarrely, he was barefoot. It was on the tip of her tongue to ask him where his boots were, but she bit back the question as irrelevant, given the currents swirling in the hot night. His first hours back were always dark and intense—whether from long-suppressed need or a sheer human desire to reestablish a connection, she didn't know or care. Usually by this point they were sharing a shower, but his distant demeanor felt like a bucket of ice water poured over her head.
After a solemn, purposeful glance at the windows, he looked back at her, his blue eyes glinting in the darkness. "What am I going to do with you?"
Tess kept quiet. He'd told her what he'd do if she slept with the windows open, but if he didn't remember, she wasn't giving him any hints.
He approached her with measured strides, his eyes never leaving her face. His palms closed hot and firm around her wrists, turned her and lifted her hands back to the wall, just above shoulder height. With a gentle tap of his bare foot against her ankle, he urged her legs a little wider apart. Heat flamed in her cheeks as she bent forward, her ass tipped toward him. Having sex like this was one thing, but it was quite another to have a conversation with him at her back. This was a power play, a conscious and unsubtle one. Drew knew exactly what he did and, worse, how she'd respond.
"Didn't we just do this? And what the hell were you thinking to scare me like that?" she asked, nerves stiffening her spine, vertebra by vertebra.
He didn't answer, and if he wanted to avoid a fight about the windows, he'd gone about it the wrong way. She drew breath to lay into him, but when he shifted between her spread legs and laid his warm, damp chest along her spine, she softened back into the sensual aftermath. His movements calm and easy, he gathered her hair in one hand and sent it cascading in dark waves over her left shoulder.
"Your hair was pink when I left."
Okay, she could talk about her hair. "I felt like a change," she said, breathless and again off balance.
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