“I have a room with a king-sized bed available. Will that be all right?”
“Perfect.” Tucker shot her a smirk and she felt her cheeks heat.
How many more embarrassing questions could this desk clerk ask? There couldn’t possibly be any more. He’d pretty much covered everything he could to humiliate her.
Yes, only one night. Yes, the bigger the bed the better. Yes, we’ll be having lots of sex. Thank you for asking.
“Do you need help with your luggage?”
She nearly choked as the hotel employee managed to come up with one more thing she hadn’t even considered.
No, no luggage. Just sex.
“No, thanks. We’re good.” Cool as a cucumber, as he had been through the entire check-in, Tucker picked up the pen and signed the paper the clerk had pushed toward him.
“We’re all set then. Check out is eleven, and elevators are to your right.”
“Great. Thanks.” Tucker slid the signed form back and took the keycard from him. After slipping the small piece of plastic into his back pocket, he took her hand in his and turned toward the elevators.
At least that part of the night was over, but even though she couldn’t wait to get out of sight of the lobby and the front desk, Tucker moved at his usual pace. Something between an amble and a stroll. It would be very atmospheric in an old Western movie. Here and now, it made the New Yorker in her cringe as she fought the urge to sprint—or at least power walk—to their destination.
When they finally reached the elevators and were out of earshot of the clerk, she turned to glance at Tucker. “I’m so embarrassed.”
He frowned down at her from beneath his ever-present cowboy hat. The bad-girl side of her—the one she hadn’t known existed until Emma forced her to go to the rodeo to look for cowboys in the first place—couldn’t help wondering if Tucker normally took his hat off to have sex or if he left it on. It was like a fist to the stomach when she realized she’d know one way or the other very soon. Wow.
“Embarrassed about what?” he asked, knocking the image of him, naked except for his hat, out of her spinning brain.
“He must know why we’re here. What we’re doing.” Even though there was no one nearby, Becca kept her voice as low as humanly possible.
“You mean that we’re checking in to have sex?” He leaned toward her and hissed the last word in an exaggerated whisper tinged with a laugh. “Becca, why would he assume that?”
“Because it’s practically the middle of the night.” She opened her eyes wide. Jeez. It was so obvious.
“So? We could just as easily be two weary travelers looking for a place to rest on a long journey.” The smirk on Tucker’s face told Becca he was enjoying this a little too much. She, on the other hand, was not.
She frowned. “We don’t look like travelers. We don’t even have any luggage.”
“You’re so cute being embarrassed. Just because we don’t have luggage.” He smiled and ran one hand up her arm. “If you want, I can go get my gear bag from the truck and carry it past the front desk so he thinks it’s our overnight bag.”
“No.” She rolled her eyes at his suggestion. “That won’t work.”
“Because this is Oklahoma, the rodeo state. He’ll probably know it’s full of bull stuff and think we’re doing kinky things upstairs with it or something.” She felt the scowl settle on her face at the thought. Best to leave it alone and cut their losses.
“First of all, Oklahoma is the Sooner State, not the rodeo state. But besides that, I’m trying to imagine what kind of kinky things we could possibly do with the bull stuff in my gear bag.” Tucker raised a brow. “I suppose we could get creative with the tape I use to wrap my wrist. There is the cowbell hanging on my bull rope… Although unless you’re into some really weird kind of role playing, that won’t be of much use.”
He grinned as her cheeks grow hotter.
The hostess seated them at a back table, also good for privacy, and handed them menus. Two needs dominated Tucker when he glanced over the menu at Becca, looking adorable across the table—food and sex. Since he wasn’t sure he should be talking about sex so early in the day, he figured he’d better stick to the other topic occupying his thoughts. Food.
“I’m not letting you leave here without having your very first hush puppy. We’re definitely ordering those. So besides that, let’s see what else looks good.”
She frowned down at the menu. “There’s a lot on here.”
“Not all that much.” He smiled at her. She most likely meant there was a lot of food on this menu she’d never had, and some she’d likely never heard of. “Want me to help you choose?”
Becca folded her menu and laid it on the table. “That would be good. I’ll eat anything except the fried smoked bologna sandwich.”
He couldn’t help laughing at that. “All right.”
“What’s so funny?”
“That’s my favorite.”
“Fried bologna?” Her eyes opened wider. “You’re kidding, right?”
“Nope. Love it. Get it near every time I come here. It’s an Oklahoma barbecue tradition. Hickory smoked and deep fried with melted cheddar on top and a side of steak fries.”
Her expression had him laughing out loud as she reached for the menu she’d put down. “I think I’ve changed my mind about you ordering for me. I’d better pick my own.”
“Stop. I won’t order you that. Promise.” He glanced down at the listings. The stacked sandwich with beef, sausage, and coleslaw piled high would probably send her running for the door, but he couldn’t let her leave here without at least trying some of the smoked beef served with smoke sauce. “How do you feel about the brisket?”
Becca pursed her lips and finally nodded. “Okay.”
“Good.” When she didn’t put down her menu right away, he reached out and took it away from her. “Stop. I know you’re looking at the chicken Caesar salad or something equally safe, but you can’t eat in an Oklahoma landmark famous for its special sauce and smoked meats and order something you could get anywhere in New York. As your tour guide, I won’t let you do it.”
She finally relinquished her hold on the menu. “All right. Since you’re my tour guide, and since you’re not making me eat the deep-fried bologna thing, I’ll listen to you.”
“Oh, I won’t make you order the bologna, but you’re sure as hell gonna take a bite of mine.” That came out a bit more suggestively than he’d intended, but she didn’t seem to mind.
“Oh, really. Is that a fact?” Becca leaned in, her voice low and sultry, and his gaze dropped to her tempting lips.
“Yes, it is.” He noticed his own voice had dipped lower.
“If I do, I certainly hope it lives up to expectations.” Her eyes narrowed.
He let out a snort. “Oh, it will. Believe me.”
And now he had a raging hard-on from talking about fried bologna sandwiches. Though not really, because somewhere along the way, this conversation had taken a severe left turn.
They definitely weren’t talking about sandwiches anymore.
Listen to a funny audio rendition of this excerpt HERE
and read the story behind the audio HERE
Becca unlocked the door and had just turned the knob when Tucker grabbed the back of her head, spun her around, and crashed his mouth into hers. As he kissed her silly, he backed her into the apartment, kicking the door shut behind him. He didn’t stop until they’d hit the kitchen island.
She broke away from the kiss, a little breathless, but she still managed to ask, “What got you all . . .”
“Horny?” he suggested before he latched on to her earlobe with his teeth and tugged.
That proved so distracting she had to struggle to maintain her train of thought. “Not exactly my choice of words, but yes. That. You’ve been looking at me strangely since the restaurant.”
“The bologna sandwich conversation got to me.” He growled his answer near her ear and then nipped the skin of her neck.
A tingle ran down her spine, even as she pulled back. “Are you serious? Bologna sandwiches got you turned on?”
“Oh, yeah.” The dark, overt sexual desire she saw in his eyes now, and to a lesser extent every time he’d looked over at her in his passenger seat, was proof he wasn’t lying.
His raw need was more than enough to make Becca’s insides heat. She supposed it was a good thing they’d made it through lunch at all. At this rate, they could both waste away to nothing, because sex with Tucker was much more enticing than food.
He lifted her as if she weighed nothing and set her on the kitchen island. With a near feral growl he bit her neck while his hands settled on her thighs.
“What are you—” She didn’t have to finish the question, not that she could have since his mouth had found hers again. The answer was more than obvious when he pushed the hem of her sundress up her legs. She leaned back. “Tucker! Oh, my God. Here?”
“Mmm, hmm.” He smiled as he spread her thighs and stepped between them.
“But the bedroom is right there—”
“I know very well where your bedroom is. If I’d wanted to take you there, I would have.”
“Live a little dangerously, darlin’. You might like it.” His smile looked devilish. “You will if I have anything to say about it.”
This did seem dangerous, all right. She was pretty high up, sitting there on the island. One wrong move and she could fall off, break a tailbone or something. It was almost as scary as when he’d tried to pick her up in the shower last night and she wouldn’t let him. Slips and falls in the shower were a very real danger. How would she have explained that in the emergency room?
“Stop thinking so hard or I’ll be forced to do something to distract you.” He issued that order just before he leaned over her.
He slipped the tip of one finger beneath the elastic of her panties. That was certainly distracting. He plunged his other hand beneath her hair and held her head captive as he claimed her lips again. After a few heat-filled moments, he pulled back, but the clenching need low in her belly didn’t stop just because the kissing had.
“Mmm, you keep any honey in this place for that tea you’re always making?” He spoke so close to her ear, the warmth of his breath sent another tingle of desire through her.
“You remember which cabinet it’s in?” There was laughter in his question.
Maybe. She wasn’t sure she could think right now with what he was doing to her. “Next to the stove, where the cups and tea are. Why?”
“We didn’t have any dessert, but I’m thinking we can come up with something both of us will enjoy.” He leaned back and raised his eyebrows. “If you’re game.”
Her cell phone rang on the counter inside her purse. He reached for it and glanced at the readout. She watched as he answered and said, “She’ll have to call you back, Emma. She’s busy. Bye.”
He hit the button and tossed it back into her bag. “What? I didn’t tell her what you were busy doing.”
“You have to stop answering my phone.” Her eyes opened wide to reinforce her point.
“Why? It’s always your sister. You don’t want to talk to her right now while we’re together, so instead of being rude and ignoring her, I answered.” He shrugged.
“But . . .” She frowned because his logic was . . . well, logical. “What if I started to answer your phone?”
“Go ahead.” He pulled it out of his pocket and put it on the counter.
She tried to come up with some response but was having trouble.
“What’s the matter, darlin’? Run out of things to say?” A sly smile bowed Tucker’s tempting lips.
Hating to admit he was right, she frowned. “Maybe.”
“Good, because I’ve got a better idea for that pretty little mouth of yours.” He ran a finger along her lower lip and grinned. “Let’s find that honey.”
Tucker found the correct cabinet on the first try and reached up for her plastic honey bear. He returned and planted the bear on the counter next to her. “Squeeze bottle. Convenient.”
“What are you going to do with it?” She was starting to get an inkling of what he might have in mind, which only made the flutter of desire inside her grow.
“You’ll see. Come on. Time for the bedroom.” He set her down on the floor with ease.
“The bedroom. Now?” She had a suspicion they were about to get very creative—and sticky—with that honey. Of all times they should be having any sort of sex in the kitchen, it seemed like now would be a good one. “Won’t that be . . . messy?”
“If we’re both careful and lick it all off real good, it won’t be.”
Oh, boy. “Oh. Okay.”
“Besides, we need a bed for what I have in mind.” He continued, as if unaware what his words were doing to her imagination. He grabbed the honey bear with one hand and her with the other. “Come on. Don’t dawdle. I only have a few hours before I gotta leave here for practice. We definitely don’t want to have to rush this.”
“Rush?” A few hours of honey-filled sex would be rushing it? She swallowed hard as she realized exactly how boring her sex life had been before the night she’d met Tucker.
He shot her a grin over his shoulder. “I tend to last for an extra-long time doing what we’re about to do.”
An extra-long time? Longer than usual? Wow. She glanced back at the fridge, wondering if she should grab a few bottles of water before the marathon, but she was already being pulled halfway across the living room. “And what exactly are we about to do.”
“Don’t worry, darlin’. You’ll see soon enough.”
“So, you got a girl at home, Jenkins?”
The rounds had slowed, but they sure as hell hadn’t stopped. Maybe the enemy fighters were starting to run out of ammo and were forced to ration it. Good. Maybe they’d run out completely. That thought gave him a small amount of hope.
“You want to talk about home now?” Tuck still had to raise his voice to answer.
Conseco shrugged beneath his body armor. “Sure. Why not? You got something better to do?”
Tuck glanced at him. “I’d feel better if I were shooting back.”
“We all would.” Conseco blew out a sound of disgust. “If you’d like some ventilation holes in your helmet, go ahead. Stand up and try to take a shot. Otherwise, we’re stuck here waiting.”
They exchanged looks, and Tuck realized Conseco was right. He gave in and answered. “No, I don’t have a girl at home. Well, I kind of did. But not really. I don’t know.”
Tuck realized how pitiful that sounded. He laughed, but it was short, more like a wheeze as the bullets peppering the ground in front of him kicked up enough dust to make him choke.
“You don’t know?” Conseco laughed.
“I’m not quite sure.” Pressing back as close as he could against the wall—and safety—Tuck admitted the sorry truth. “I didn’t mean to, but I think I might have totally ended any chance we had by leaving.”
That he wasn’t sure where he stood with Becca, where he wanted things to stand between them, was a pretty sad state of affairs. Especially since today could be his last.
“Sounds like there’s a story there.” Conseco angled just his head toward Tuck. “Tell me about her. What happened?”
“Seriously? You want to hear it all?” The incoming fire had slowed to sporadic bursts, making talking a little easier.
“Sure, I’m bored and we could be here a while. It’ll help pass the time. I’ve heard all these other sorry bastards’ stories a hundred times over the last nine months. It’ll be refreshing to hear something new for a change.”
Tuck had never felt so helpless, and Conseco was bored and wanted to chitchat. But in this situation the man next to him was the one with experience, and like it or not, Tuck was the cherry.
Since he hadn’t been struck yet, he calmed himself enough to glance around them and reevaluate the hellish situation. Shooting back was out of the question. Even if his weapon was trained in on where the insurgents were hiding, which it wasn’t, to get a clear shot he’d have to expose himself to their hail of bullets.
His teammate was right. The best thing to do was sit and wait for air support, or for the bad guys to run out of ammo. Either way, it was going to be a little while.
“All right.” Tuck shrugged and was reminded of the weight of his pack braced against the rock wall.
Even though he’d never told the story in its entirety, not even to his best friends, he swallowed away the dry grit in his mouth and launched into the tale of two city girls who walked into a rodeo one July night in Oklahoma. He somehow felt he had to tell it, from start to finish. That another living person knowing it all would keep the memory alive because there was a very real chance he wouldn’t leave this valley. At least not that way . . . alive.
He glossed over the very intimate bedroom details, but told Conseco everything else, right down to his deciding to leave when they got caught in the library on the security video and how he thought he had to, before they both got into trouble.
When he’d finished, Conseco shook his head. “That’s a hell of a story. Sounds like true love to me. Like a damn fairy tale.”
“Nah. We weren’t that serious.” The statement rang so false in his ears, he elaborated to make it sound more convincing. “Just having some fun together.”
That didn’t sound any more truthful.
Love. The other reason Tuck had left in such a hurry. Love was a word Tuck had deliberately avoided saying or even thinking, yet Conseco spat it out easily. Maybe daily near-death experiences did that to a man. The fear of love and getting hurt by it was starting to feel ridiculous as real pain, the kind inflicted by automatic weapons, loomed literally at their feet.
But as for the fairy tale? No. Tuck couldn’t embrace that concept even a little bit, because being crouched against a rock face braced for the impact of the bullet that would take his life while Becca was back in Oklahoma totally unaware of why he’d really left was certainly no fairy tale ending.
“Here’s my question.” Conseco paused to spit a dribble of tobacco-tinged saliva into the dirt. “If you were having so much fun, then why the hell did you leave her and volunteer to come to this shit hole? I would have said fuck it to the university and their fucking rules and kept seeing her on the sly.”
Another bullet hit close enough to Tuck he could hear the whoosh of it passing his ear. To hell with it. If this were the last thing he ever said, the last man he ever spoke to, he intended on speaking the truth. That old saying was true. There were no atheists in foxholes, and though he would give a year’s salary just to have a foxhole to hide in right now, this shale crevice was close enough.
As if Conseco was a priest and Tuck at confession, he finally spoke the truth. “I guess I left because I love her.”
“Did you tell her you love her?” Conseco’s dirt-encrusted brows rose beneath the rim of his helmet.
“No.” A round hit particularly close, sending shards of rock into Tuck’s face. He closed his eyes to protect them and then blinked away the dust.
Conseco let out a snort. “You should have.”
Didn’t Tuck know it.