Authors: Renee Rose
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Military, #Romantic Suspense, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense
Safe in His Arms
Copyright © 2013 by Stormy Night Publications and Renee Rose
Copyright © 2013 by Stormy Night Publications and Renee Rose
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Published by Stormy Night Publications and Design, LLC.
Safe in His Arms
Cover Design by Korey Mae Johnson
Image by The Killion Group.
This book is intended for
. Spanking and other sexual activities represented in this book are fantasies only, intended for adults.
“Squid or jarhead?” Becca asked, flirting with her new friend at the hotel pool bar. She could tell by the way he carried his chest and shoulders he was military, but with three branches in San Diego, it was hard to tell which. They’d been making small talk for the past half hour while she’d been busy putting back too many margaritas.
He grinned. “Jarhead.”
A marine. “And you’re here for the wedding?” They were on Catalina Island, the location for her sister’s wedding, and the entire hotel was overrun with guests for the event.
“Yep, groom’s side,” he said.
“Bride’s,” she said. “I’m the bride’s sister, actually.”
“Ah,” he said, moving his bar stool closer to her. “Shouldn’t you be off at the rehearsal dinner or something?”
“It’s already over. And I can’t stand anymore of the incessant wedding planning talk. I’ve been hearing about this event nonstop for the past 18 months.” She grinned at him, licking the salt off the rim of her fourth margarita. She’d ordered the third to alleviate her nerves at talking to her new good-looking friend, who seemed rather into her. Now she was on the fourth because the bartender had made up an extra by mistake and gave it to her for free.
“I don’t care about being ‘always the bridesmaid, never the bride,’” she confided, taking an ice cube into her mouth and rolling it around on her tongue. “I’m only 25; I couldn’t care less about finding a husband.” She was only slurring slightly.
He grinned at her, the blond brows and ice blue of his eyes popping under sun-soaked skin. “I don’t care about finding a husband, either.”
She giggled, leaning toward him with tequila-fueled courage to say in a low, conspiratorial tone, “All I really want is a guy who will bend me over and spank me!”
He reached over and cupped the dewy rocks glass, sliding the margarita out of her grasp. “I’m down,” he said with a flick of his eyebrows.
Seven years later
Becca zipped into a parking space outside the pickup gate at her son’s school. Quarter after five.
She was fifteen minutes late to get him from the after-school program and Parker was the only kid left waiting. She jumped out of the RAV4 and gave a cheery wave. He lifted his little hand and trudged toward her.
“Thank you!” she called out to the after-school director, giving another exaggerated wave.
She hated being late. The stress of it made her asthma kick in, forcing her to pause by the fence to take a measured inhale. She’d been sitting in a two-hour staff meeting at the private high school where she taught English, and then she’d hit a snarl of five o’clock traffic on the way.
Parker trotted over to her and she led him to the car, opening the back door and helping him take his backpack off.
“How was school, buddy?”
“What did you learn today?”
Parker didn’t answer; he stared out the window, digesting whatever six-year-old thoughts were running through his head.
“What do you think Christine will be making for dinner tonight?” Christine was their new live-in nanny—an older college student who was part nanny, part housekeeper in exchange for room and board.
“Do you like Christine?” she prompted.
She glanced in the rearview mirror, surprised. “You don’t?”
“Huh uh. I don’t think she’s real.”
“What do you mean, you don’t think she’s real?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. She’s not a real nanny.”
Becca bit her lip. It was hard to sift through Parker’s often bizarre statements. This was the kid, after all, who’d invented an entire identity for his dead father.
“My dad is a spy guy,” he’d been known to tell his friends, zooming around the house throwing karate kicks and pulling pretend guns. Or, “My dad owns this entire apartment building, but we never see him because he’s a ghost” or “My dad bought this car for us, but my mom thinks she won it in a drawing.”
That one had hurt the most, for some reason. She’d wanted Parker to appreciate their good fortune at winning the raffle that awarded them a brand new Toyota RAV4, but instead he attributed it to some fantasy he’d created about his father.
The truth was, she knew next to nothing about his father. Parker was the product of a steamy weekend fling with a marine about to be deployed. They’d spent 48 hours together at her sister’s wedding, and she hadn’t seen him since.
When she’d discovered she was pregnant, she had emailed the address he’d given her, though he’d warned her he wouldn’t have much access to it. She never heard back until six months later, when a uniformed officer showed up at her door to inform her Lieutenant Zac Casper had been killed in combat, but if a blood test proved paternity, she qualified for his pension.
* * *
“Have you done this before?” she asked, trying to keep the quaver out of her voice. The adrenalin of anticipation had taken some of her buzz away.
“No, but I think I have the basic premise. Your ass. My hand. Isn’t that about it? Unless you want me to use something other than my hand?” He waggled his eyebrows, fingertips caressing his belt buckle.
Her insides lurched as if she were a tube of toothpaste that had just been squeezed. Fear buzzed just beneath desire. She’d invited a perfect stranger to her hotel room. Just because he knew her future brother-in-law didn’t mean he wasn’t dangerous. And what if she changed her mind and wanted to stop? Would he?
“Ah, I think your hand would be fine for starters. So…ah, how do we—?”
He stopped her with a finger to her lips. “Are you supposed to be in charge here? Or is it me?”
She exhaled, smiling against the pressure of his fingertip. He removed the finger from her lips and stroked it up her throat to the base of her chin.
She turned away, relieved to hide her face.
He slid the spaghetti strap of her blouse off one shoulder and ran his finger from her collarbone to the tip of her shoulder. His lips met her neck at the same moment his hand assaulted her breast, reaching under her arm to pinch her nipple hard enough to make her squirm. Her panties, already damp with anticipation, grew wet enough to bunch between her thighs.
* * *
Becca parked in the garage beneath their apartment building and followed Parker, who’d taken off running to hit the elevator button. He held the door for her with his foot and then hit the 11
floor button repeatedly until the door closed. She bent and kissed the top of his head, brushing his hair out of his eyes to see his face. “I’m sorry I was late to pick you up.”
He shrugged but didn’t answer, which meant it had mattered to him.
When the elevator door opened, the smell of garlic and ginger wafted from their apartment. Opening the front door, they found Christine standing over the stove, mixing some kind of Asian stir-fry.
“Hi, Becca, hi, Parker!” she sang out over her shoulder, flashing a white-toothed smile. She was an “alternative student,” who had moved to San Diego to get her masters in physiology at UCSD. Becca considered herself very lucky to have found the help in exchange for the extra room in their apartment, which had been another stroke of luck. They’d somehow managed to get a three-bedroom corner apartment for the price of a one-bedroom, simply because the building manager liked her or took pity on her as a single mom.
“Whoa—is that where we put shoes?” Becca called after Parker, who had already kicked off his Darth Vader sneakers and headed down the hallway to his room.
He raced back, picked up the shoes, and tossed them in the shoe rack she kept by the door, then ran back toward his room. She followed him down the hall to her own room, stripping out of the button-down blouse and skirt and putting on a fitted t-shirt and a breezy miniskirt.
A loud clatter, like the sound of a pan dropping in the kitchen, made her call out, “Everything okay out there, Christine?”
When she didn’t answer, Becca opened her bedroom door and headed down the hallway, a few steps behind Parker. They both froze when they reached the living area—a man dressed all in black was in the kitchen, his forearm crushing Christine’s neck in a chokehold. Becca clutched Parker behind her and drew in a breath to scream, but her lungs closed, and all she uttered was a whimper.
To her shock, Christine was fighting back with what could only be considered expert and deadly technique. An elbow to the man’s ribs, a foot wrapped behind his, and she’d dislodged his balance enough to squirm out of his hold. She reached under the kitchen island and withdrew a pistol.
Becca’s mind reeled as she assimilated the fact that her nanny was not a real nanny and she’d kept a gun in Becca’s kitchen, where her son might have found it and killed himself. Not that they might not both be killed any moment, anyway.
Christine fired straight at the man’s chest, but she must have missed because he lunged at her, catching her wrist and smashing it on the granite countertop. The dislodged weapon skittered across the floor and went under the oven. Undaunted, Christine picked up a butcher knife and slashed it at him. He did not take a weapon, though the butcher block of knives was in his reach, and he barely avoided a slash to his kidney before he smacked the back of her neck with a karate chop. She fell to her knees, but was up again in a flash.
“Mom!” Parker said excitedly. “That’s my dad!”
Oh, God, please. Not this. Not now.
His overactive imagination was proving dangerous. But the stranger looked up, hearing Parker’s words, and her heart stopped in her chest. She knew those blue eyes.
There, in her kitchen, the man fighting her new nanny in all-out mortal combat, was Zac, her weekend fling—obviously not dead.
She pressed herself against the wall for support as her lungs closed. Panic swelled and her gums turned numb, the familiar signs she was going to pass out from her asthma attack.
Christine freed herself from Zac and sprinted for the living room, taking the sofa in one leap and kicking out the screen to the open window. Zac reached her and she sent a high kick to his throat. He caught the foot and twisted it, bringing her weight crashing down to the floor. She scrambled back up, picked up the lamp, and swung it toward his head, smashing it on the coffee table before he tackled her around the waist, both of them plunging out the open window.
* * *
Zac had grabbed the ankle of the fake nanny with one hand, but she was unable to twist to catch her weight with her hands before her head cracked into the brick at a bone-crunching velocity.
He’d been trying to take her alive. He hefted her up and through the window, his eyes sweeping the room for other possible dangers. Becca and Parker were huddled against the wall, looking terror-stricken.
That’s my dad.
Parker had known him, which was impossible, since no photos of him existed outside his sealed employment file. Impossible unless Parker possessed the same sense of intuition he did. He pressed two fingers on the faux nanny’s carotid artery to feel for a pulse, though he could already tell by the bashed skull she was dead.
Standing up, he tossed the body over his shoulder to carry it to the bedroom. Becca gasped for air with little apparent success. She had serious asthma which, combined with the shock, created an oxygen deficiency. He nudged behind her knee to bend it forward at the same time he pushed down on her shoulder, effectively sinking her to a crouch on the floor, her back supported by the wall. Giving the nanny’s body a bump to readjust the weight, he pushed Becca’s head between her knees.