Authors: Suellen Smith
Tags: #romance, #action, #dogs, #country, #military, #western, #cowboy
The van pulled up to the spectacular circular
brick drive of the stately old mansion that had dark green ivy
crawling all over its impressive frame. It was like it was used to
such luxury and that the ivy was just an extension of the rest of
the chattel on the property.
The uniformed driver didn't bat an eyelash as
he came to a stop in front of the entrance. He immediately began
unloading their luggage. Lily instantly stopped the driver before
“Please wait until I am sure that I will be
staying,” thinking that she didn't want to intrude by spending the
night if the owner objected to her being here.
Lieutenant Jackson jumped out of the van
almost as soon as it came to a halt, “I'll let them know that we're
Setting his hat upon his head, Tom climbed
the wide steps to the veranda, which was connected stepped to the
oversized brick porch surrounded with succulent flowering plants.
The stately entrance was decorated above the double doors and on
the surrounding sides with sparkly beveled glass that shown with a
variety of prisms as the afternoon sun came shining down, making it
sparkle like a rather large polished diamond. It was meant to be
intimidating and make a statement. It did.
Straightening his hat and adjusting his
uniform, Tom pressed the chimes indicating to the occupants that
their guests had arrived. He waited until the butler with white
gloves opened the door and bowed.
“You are expected, Sir, please follow me,” he
indicated. “Mr. Slater is waiting in the library.” Then, the butler
spared a glance outside and sort of wrinkled his nose, which made
the lieutenant think that he probably wasn't a bit happy to have an
animal in the midst of what he considered his pristine domain – too
Quinn stood at the large window of the luxury
den leaning against the ledge with one arm. It was the same scene
that overlooked the Mediterranean on one side while the front
window overlooked the circular drive. He had been watching the van
as it crawled up the impressive drive for the past ten minutes with
his usual scowl on his face indicating that he was not one bit
happy with the arrival of his guest. It made him all the more
elated that he had asked for an honorable discharge from the SEALS
last week, which would probably take several months as you could
always count on the government to move at a snail's pace. At least,
the commander had said nothing about having to be charming, which
was the only thing that would help him get through the next week
before he sent the soldier on his way as soon as possible.
Quinn continued to watch as the van pulled to
a stop at the front door and a young soldier hopped out who looked
physically fit and healthy. That in itself annoyed Quinn as he
could just see him hitting on his nurses day and night. Besides, he
was expecting someone missing body parts.
How did the idiot
commander expect him to relate to this guy – the ass hole?
Just as Quinn was about to turn away from the
window, he noticed another passenger. It was a young woman who
immediately turned her back towards the vehicle. He watched in sort
of fascination a she helped what he recognized as a bomb sniffing
Belgium Malinois limp from the interior of the van before his
attention riveted back to the young woman that was talking to the
dog with deep intensity. Her hair was a deep red like Lily's but
longer, which is why she commanded his attention. Her jeans hugged
her bottom and her dark purple sweater hugged her generous boobs.
She was slightly rounder than he remembered his Lily being – more
womanly, more stacked. He stood motionless as he watched the wind
pick up the mahogany dark red locks and blow them across her face,
concealing her facial features. All he could tell was that she had
white creamy skin and cherry red lips. He froze when she brushed
her hair out of her eyes.
Shit! It was his Lily.
He stood up
straight at attention.
What the hell was she doing here? Did she
know he was in residence? Of all the people he expected to see at
his door, he would never have guessed it would be Lily, the last
person he ever wanted to see in this lifetime; especially, in his
condition with another physically fit male hanging around.
Quinn began quickly scanning the scene
unfolding before him putting the puzzle pieces together as his
minded jumped from Lily, to soldier, to Ft. Riley, to injured
Malinois, to wounded soldier, to Doc Lily concluding in seconds the
correct scenario. The muscle of his jaw tighten as he clenched his
teeth preparing his body to meet the unpleasant intruder that had
once been his lover, but now belonged to someone else. This was not
how he pictured their first meeting would be. He felt at a
disadvantage not being completely healed and quite the buff young
man he had been at their previous encounter. It was all he could do
to keep from punching another hole in the wall for the third time
in his life. The only thing that stopped him was a knock on the
door before he acted on impulse.
Quinn limped to sit behind the mahogany desk
before he signaled the butler to enter. “Your guests have arrived,
“Send in the soldier alone,” he instructed,
thinking he needed a little time to get his emotions under control
before he saw Lily.
The lieutenant entered with his hat under his
armpit at attention. He saluted. “Reporting to duty, Sir.”
“At ease soldier,” Quinn replied in the
professional voice of a person used to being in charge.
Since Quinn couldn't stand up very gracefully
and because he didn't like looking up, reminding him what it might
have been like as a lifetime in a wheelchair, he indicated to the
soldier to sit in the carved chair that sat in front of the
mahogany desk. He assumed a relaxed position as he steeple his
fingers together while his elbows rested on the arms of the massive
chair behind the desk.
“How was your trip?”
“The dog make it all right?”
“Give me some highlights about the
Quinn's attention was not fully on the
conversation. He was just stalling for time with one ear tuned into
any sounds that came from the hall. His imagination told him he
After what the soldier felt like an
inquisition, the sullen former SEAL dismissed Tom, letting him know
that his services were no longer needed. He could go back where he
came from as he was no longer needed here.
As Tom approached Lilly he whispered,
“Careful, the guys a jerk I think He guycould be a real
son-of-a-bitch!” Tom briefly hugged Lily after informing her that
she would be spending the next week at the chateau adding softly,
“Good luck. See you back at the Little Apple in a week or so. I
won't take off until tomorrow morning should you need me.” Then, he
followed the stately butler who escorted him to the door where the
driver of the van waited patiently to take his single occupant back
Quinn watched the lieutenant hug Lily and
murmur something in her ear. It was all he could do to keep the
feral beast within himself from emerging. As it was, the only one
that seemed to pick up on the inner growl seemed to be the canine
next to her. His ears perked up looking in his direction. He wasn't
so sure that he didn't low growl in answering a warning of his own
as Lily's protector.
As the door shut, the butler with the typical
bushy white eyebrows looked down his beak nose at Lily and Gunner
doing his best to intimidate the young woman. It didn't work. Lily
was sure he was
disappointed. “Please follow me.”
As Quinn heard the butler approach, he
schooled his features to show nothing of his inner struggle.
“Hello, Lily,” he said in a low controlled voice with a dead pan
expression and no warmth, morbidly pleased to see she appeared to
be as dismayed as he felt.
Lily gasped, her hand going to her mouth in
shocked surprise. The colored drained from her face. She pressed
her lips tightly together trying to contain and mask her emotions.
She felt disoriented and lightheaded as if she were one of the
walking dead – there, but not really. It was almost as if her body
had removed itself and she were floating above watching. It was
alarming in its surrealism.
The man standing before her was her Quinn,
but yet it wasn't. He was wearing an immaculately trimmed goatee.
She'd never seen him with facial hair, but only his face smooth and
devoid of any whiskers according to the military code. It looked
like him, but that was when all resemblance stopped. He was cold,
distant, and unwelcoming. She began to feel like something was a
little off, she just wasn't able to get a grip on the situation as
she tried to process the vibes that were emanating from Quinn with
Quinn's leg was beginning to throb. “Won't
you sit down and make yourself at home,” he said in a nasty
That made Gunner growl, warning Quinn that he
was on guard duty protecting his precious Lily. That irked Quinn
farther. He pulled his icy blue eyes from Lily's and pierced Gunner
with them instead. He studied him a moment before he commanded,
“Sit!” making Lily jump and the dog sit. Not taking his eyes off
Gunner, he snapped his fingers and gave a hand signal. Gunner,
immediately hit the floor and put his head between his legs with
only a slight yawn and whimper. He did as he was told, but
obviously not because he wanted to obey.
Satisfied, Quinn turned his eyes back to Lily
pinning her in silence with those cool mocking eyes again. It was
all she could do to keep from squirming. She was determined that
her ex-lover wasn't about to intimidate her and raised her head a
little higher, stuck out her chin, and glared back. If Quinn hadn't
been so damn angry with her, he might have laughed. But, he was
angry and he was having a tough time hanging onto his temper and
not going for her throat.
“So, what brings you here, Lily?” he snapped
wondering if for some perverse reason she'd came to see the
condition of her ex-lover.
Lily, could only stare at him in silence
trying to rearrange her thoughts around the hostility that emanated
from this man that she had loved and thought she knew. Determined
not to grovel, squirm, and turn to mush as Gunner had done, she
answered in an equally cool tone, “I am here as a favor to the
commander from Fort Riley to help Gunner adjust and make a decision
as to whether you are a match for him.”
Quinn laughed a hollow laugh and said, “Just
what makes you think I give a damn whether we are a match or
“The commander said that you might be
difficult. If I'd known it were you, I could have saved us both a
lot of aggravation,” Lily replied with dignity.
Well, at least he had part of his question
answered. He was as much of a surprise to her as she was to
Just then, the butler appeared like he had
been summoned by an invisible signal. “Show this woman and her dog
to their bedroom.” Then, Quinn dismissed her by turning his back.
She thought she heard him muttered to himself, “Get her out of my
Lily let her guard down the minute she
slipped out of the library with relief. Whatever did she ever do to
deserve that comment? She was upset, confused, and thought about
having a taxi come and get her. She wanted to go home. This was not
the same man that she had been in love with her entire life. This
man was an angry stranger. Tears began to gather in her eyes, but
before they could start strolling down her cheeks, Gunner nuzzled
her hand with his cold nose bringing her back to the present. Quinn
was making her emotions so muddled that she almost forgot why she
When the butler closed the door to the
library, Quinn continued to smell the lingering soft scent of
strawberries so subtle and yet potent at the same time, which was
Lily's very own special aphrodisiac. It was one of the many things
that had turned him on since he stole that first kiss in the shower
at sixteen. She had turned and clung to him like he was her
powerful and shining knight. He remembered that it had been a heady
feeling for more reasons than one even though he didn't want to do
Quinn walked over to the silver tray on the
nearby coffee table and poured himself another scotch with shaky
hands. What a shitty day this had turned out to be. He was furious.
He was furious with his situation, with Lily not waiting for him,
with the cruel joke of Lily belonging to another man, with another
man holding her in his arms, making love to her, making a child,
but most of all with himself for still wanting her. The minute she
walked into the library his heart had lurched. She had looked at
him with her big blue eyes in shock, confusion, surprise – then,
defiance as she jutted out her chin reminding him of that day in
his dad's library when he had a little chat about saving one's
virginity so long ago. He gulped down the last remaining drop of
smooth scotch as he watched the blue and orange flames in the
fireplace jump around as though it were angry, also. Suddenly, he
threw the glass into the fireplace with such force that it caused
it to shatter into a thousand fragmented pieces that only matched
the lining of his heart.
Lily and Gunner solemnly followed the grumpy
butler to the top of the showcase stairwell surrounded by stain
glass and picturesque windows of the outside surrounding colorful
garden and sea. Lily was so upset that she noticed very little as
she concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, only
vaguely aware of the postcard setting of the sun that shown down
upon the evening Mediterranean. Her emotions were churning. She was
barely aware of the opulent grand marble staircase that she climbed
like a wooden doll following the shiny black shoes of the butler in
front of her like they were a beacon in the middle of a storm as he
led her to a room at the top of the stairs. Gunner must have felt
her inner feelings as he leaned into her to give comfort and
guidance as though she were a blind person. This time, she was the
needy one and he sensed it.