I've Been an Awful Good Girl (4 page)

BOOK: I've Been an Awful Good Girl
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“I
can explain,” Cam said.

“We
were just talking about the party the other night.” Emma offered. Her body
tingled from head to toe in all sorts of very private places, but particularly
where her pelvis had jammed against Cam’s.
Irritation that
Ryan had interrupted them, mingled with unfulfilled desire running rampant
through her body.

“No
need. I get the picture,” Ryan said. “With the amount of heat you two were
generating, I don’t think you need hot chocolate to warm up. Another minute and
you’d have been going at it on the lawn.”

Heat
warmed Emma’s cheeks. She glanced at Cam. His face had hardened into an angry
mask. He stepped up to Ryan until they were nose to nose. “That’s enough,” Cam
snapped. “We were just kissing like two normal, consenting adults.”

Ryan
sneered. “You’re my best friend, but if you hurt her, Cam, you’ll answer to
me.” He looked at Emma. “Cam might be like a brother to me, but he’s still a
hound dog. Don’t forget that.”

“I’m
not that kind of guy anymore,” Cam ground out. “Besides, your hormones were
raging just as much as mine back in high school. I seem to remember you had a
trail of women after you too.”

“That’s
different. This is Emma we’re talking about not some high school chippie.”

Emma
stepped between them, placed a palm on each of their chests and nudged them
apart. “Stop talking about me as if I’m not here. I’m a grown woman. Ryan,
please leave us alone for minute.”

After
her brother left, her gaze locked with Cam’s. “I’m capable of deciding who I do
and don’t want to sleep with. I’ve chosen you. Let’s see if you’re man enough
to step up to the plate.” She turned and stomped inside the house.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter
Six

 

Cam
found Ryan throwing baskets. He stepped in front of him, hands on his hips and
glared. “You handled that well.”

Ryan
jabbed a finger into his own chest. “Me? You had all but swallowed her whole.
Be glad it was me and not Mom who caught the two of you. She’d have blown a
gasket.”

“What
about you?” Cam asked. “Like Emma said, she isn’t a little girl anymore. She’s
a woman with a will of her own. How would you feel about us getting to know
each other better?”

Ryan
shrugged. “It’s up to
Em
. It doesn’t really matter
what I think. She’s always gone her own way.”

“It
matters to me.”

Ryan
arched a brow. “Do you need my blessing before you go ahead?”

“No,
but I’d feel better if I knew my best friend approved.”

Ryan
didn’t say anything for a few moments and Cam thought he was going to refuse to
give his blessing. Too bad because he knew he and Emma would go ahead anyway
without his blessing. Then Ryan smiled and stuck out his hand. Thank God. Cam
took his hand in a firm grip. “Thanks.”

Ryan
didn’t let go of his hand yet, only squeezed it tighter until his bones
cracked. “Remember to be careful with Emma because best friend or not, if she
ends up with a broken heart, I’m going to break every bone in your body. Got
it?”

He
wouldn’t have it any other way. If Cam had a sister, he’d do the same thing.
“Yeah, I got it.” He glanced toward the house. “I think it’s time I asked Emma
for a date.”

***

Later
that night after dinner at the Olive Pit, Cam stopped the truck in front of a
half-finished house in the suburb of Highlands Ranch. Emma gazed through the
windscreen at the snow coating the house and surrounding landscape in layers of
white. “This is where you’re taking me?”

Cam
smiled and reached into the back seat. “Yeah, I like to take a girl someplace
special on a first date.”

First date.
She wasn’t sure
if she liked the sound of a first date or not. All she had planned was to spend
one glorious night in Cam’s arms then move on. Despite what he said about not
being a hound dog anymore, she wasn’t sure if she believed it. Sometime in the
future, not now, she might start looking for the
one
she wanted to
settle down with. Usually she never went on more than a few dates with any one
guy, before she was ready to move on.

They
climbed out of the truck and Cam took her hand and with the other he carried
the picnic basket. When he opened the front door of the house, she stepped into
a large unfinished room that had been dry-walled. The stone fire place was
almost complete, the sub-flooring scattered with shavings and a few nails.
After laying a blanket on the floor, Cam opened the picnic basket, removed a
candle, followed by a bottle of wine and two plastic glasses. “Have a seat.”

The
cold house smelled of new lumber and Emma loved the scent. The bay window had
been set but showed fingerprints and a sticker from the maker. Outside the snow
increased and muffled any sounds. Emma sat down on the blanket and Cam handed
her a glass of wine. Holding up his glass, he made a toast. “Here’s to the
health and happiness of the family who buys this house.”

Not
the toast she was expecting. She nodded in agreement and took a sip of the
chilled wine. “I hear pride in your voice. You must really enjoy your work.”

He
leaned back, propped himself up on one elbow and gazed around the house. He
looked comfortable and content here in his jeans, work boots and jacket. She’d
seen a picture of him in his army uniform but she liked him much better this
way. He seemed more at ease, happier.

“Yeah,
I really do. I like it because I’m building something to last, something to
house a family and keep them safe. In Iraq, practically everything is blown up,
families are torn apart. So many people were killed.
Including
a lot of the members of my platoon.”

Regret
and sadness filled his voice. The expression in his eyes grew distant as if he
were seeing it all again for the first time.

“I’m
sorry. I can’t imagine what you’ve been through, it must have been horrible.
It’s bad enough seeing all the destruction on the news, but standing over dead
bodies, and looking through buildings ripped apart by bombs, must have been
terrible. Not to mention the soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice, by
paying with their lives.”

He
nodded. “Yeah, it’s not something I can easily put behind me, but building new
houses is helping. The worst part is I wasn’t even injured. So many men came
home without their arms or
legs,
some were blinded by
shrapnel and can never see their family’s faces again. Here I am whole and
hearty without one scratch.”

He
shot to his feet, strolled to the bay window and stared out at the snow. His
guilt filled the room making the air colder. She was glad he had come home in
one piece and hadn’t been shredded by some road side bomb. Her heart went out
to all the servicemen-whose lives had been irrevocable changed by the war, but
she was glad, down to her soul, that Cam hadn’t been one of them. It had been
years since she’d seen him and they really didn’t know one another that well,
but she needed to offer some kind of comfort. One of her friend’s husband was a
cop and she remembered her saying that when her husband came home each evening,
they didn’t talk about work because he didn’t want to bring it into his home.
He just wanted to forget what he had seen that day and focus on family. But
deep inside, Emma knew she had to say something.

She
walked to his side but didn’t touch him. Somehow she felt he wouldn’t welcome
it. Together they stood for a moment and looked out at the snow streaming down
in a soft, white curtain. “There are a lot of people who’re glad you came home
in one piece.
Including me.
What if every man or woman
who went to war lost a limb, their sight or was killed? What about the soldiers
who are injured in their mind? Where would that leave our country and the
family’s they belong to? What would that do to us as a nation? Have you ever
thought about that?”

He
turned his head slightly toward her, but didn’t look directly at her. “No, what
do you mean?”

She
inhaled a deep breath and prayed that what she was about to say was the right
thing. “I mean that as a nation we need to see as many of our servicemen
healthy, not only physically but mentally as well. War is an ugly, brutal
business, but sometimes it’s necessary to preserve our freedom. I understand
that and so should you.”

He
jerked his head around and glared at her. “I do understand it, damn it, it’s
the reason I joined up. I knew what was at stake then and I know what’s at
stake now.” He turned his face away. “I just wish I could have given more,
that’s all.”

Frustration
and compassion fought inside her. “More? So going into battle with brave men and
women and fighting for freedom wasn’t enough? Taking ten years out of your life
to serve your country wasn’t enough? Just think if every time someone turned on
the news they saw only injured or dead men and women coming home in body bags,
can you imagine what that would do to our moral? Not to mention their families.
It would be devastating. I’m glad you weren’t hurt or killed. I’m glad you’re
standing here in one piece. I’m glad you’re whole and healthy so you can build
something to last. If you were bound to a wheel-chair or didn’t have your sight
or had lost your legs and arms, you wouldn’t be able to help people here, at
home. And helping our country at home, is just as important as helping our
country overseas. Think about it.”

She
started to turn away when he gently grasped her arm. She turned and looked up
into his eyes. The only light in the room was from the candle and the glow from
the snow outside. His face was in shadow but she could see the emotion burning
in his eyes. He didn’t say anything as he pulled her into his arms. She
snuggled into his chest, her head over his heart and listened to the thump of
his life’s blood. Thank God, he was whole.

“Are
you sure you don’t have a degree in psychology rather than law?”

She
chuckled and pulled slightly back so she could look into his eyes. “I’m no
psychologist but I am an American and damn proud of it. You have a lot to give
to this country that doesn’t have to involve a weapon or losing a body part or
your life. And so do
I
. And so does every person
outside this house.
Including every mother, every father and
every child.
Don’t ever doubt that.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter
Seven

 

After
Cam took Emma back to her apartment, he drove to his parents’ house with the
snow drifting down decorating everything like the sand in Iraq did with an
unrelenting intensity. Christmas lights and festive decorations sparkled in the
night. He remembered Emma’s face inside the shadowy house. She had filled the
house and him with hope. He’d been feeling sorry for himself because he
came
home in-tact, when he should have been proud of his
service and thankful. He smiled as he turned onto the street where he grew up.
Emma was an amazing woman, beautiful and sexy, but she was so much more. She
was intelligent, insightful, a woman any man would be proud to be seen with. He
thought all he wanted was to put the war behind him and find comfort in the
arms of an anonymous lover, but he realized he wanted more. He was ready now to
move forward with his life, not forget the service to his country, but be proud
of it and to help his country here on his home soil. But he also wanted the
lover to be Emma and she wanted a one night stand in his arms. He grinned as he
turned into his parents’ driveway. He wanted more than one night with Emma and
he had just the idea to convince her she wanted more too.

***

Emma
pulled her Mini-Cooper into Cam’s apartment complex and wound around until she
found his building. Climbing from the car, she breathed in the cold, crisp air.
Nearly every apartment boasted Christmas lights and a decoration on the door
and Christmas trees glistened with the warm spirit of the holidays in every
window. She shivered inside her coat. Her little black dress and spike heels
offered little warmth, but she’d worn this outfit not for warmth, but to hit
Cam in the solar plexus with a blatant sexual message. She hoped it worked.
Emma looked up at the clear sky crowded with a vast array of stars. It was the
perfect night for a holiday party. She’d been thrilled to receive Cam’s phone
call inviting her to his combination house warming/Christmas party. Several
days had passed since the night he’d taken her to one of the houses he was
working on. She was glad he had accepted what she’d told him. And now she was
ready for that passionate night he’d promised her. Maybe after the party, when
everyone was gone and just the two of them were left … She found a bright star
and made a wish that tonight would be the night she could shed her good girl
image. Emma made her way inside the building to Cam’s apartment where a
reindeer in combat boots decorated his door. She knocked and waited. Bing
Crosby crooned
I’ll be Home for Christmas
and her eyes misted with tears
at the classic song sung from the point of view of a soldier writing a letter
home to his family. The song never failed to touch her heart. She swiped at her
tears,
put on what she hoped was her best smile and
knocked on the door.

BOOK: I've Been an Awful Good Girl
10.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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