CHAPTER ONE (Smolder Excerpt)
“What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done, Jen?”
Jen’s eyes moved away from Major Winters’ award — which she held in her hands, ready to pack it away for him — and looked at the Major himself. His expression was flirtatious, but a tone of sadness tinted it, she thought. She shook her head and smiled. She’d still devour him, if given the opportunity to do so, which she doubt she ever would.
“I’m not like you, Adam. I’m not a trouble-maker, and you know it.” In fact, Jen was just plain old Sergeant Jennifer Flynn. A trained Humvee mechanic, but currently assigned as a driver to Major Winters. She’d held the position for a year. A year full of dreams, fantasies, and hopeless thoughts. She remembered that he set her at ease at their first meeting, just outside of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, then in Washington, D.C., now in Bethesda. He had informed her that no, he didn’t need any help, and no, I’m not Major Winters to you, I’m Adam. He had a stoic, heroic look about him, even if the crutches, bandages, and occasional winces and groans accompanied the statement.
“Seriously. What’s the naughtiest thing you’ve ever done?”
Adam Winters enjoyed making others laugh in-between making them feel uncomfortable with his sarcastic humor. It was one big joke to him when he found pity in other’s eyes, or so he tried to portray that it was a joke. Jen felt it was the complete opposite. She never once pitied him, even when she first met him almost one year ago. He put her at ease while everyone else was relegated to a certain distance.
But his question just now wasn’t exactly playful; again that sadness crept in. It was serious. Something was on his mind.
“I’m just thinking, is all,” he said casually once he realized Jen wasn’t going to answer him. “After today I don’t know when I’ll see you again.”
Jen felt this, too, and it depressed her. The Army decided that Adam was fit to return to Afghanistan. He’d be a pencil pusher, as he said countless times, but she knew that it was what he wanted. He hated working at the Pentagon (as most of them did). He hated all the politics that permeated the air in the Secretary of Defense’s corridor.
Jen had been assigned to the Pentagon two years ago, performing various mechanic and driver duties to Army officials. And then one year ago her life changed. It wasn’t as melodramatic as she liked to remember it. But when Major Adam Winters entered her life, she found a friend. A sarcastic buddy that understood her dry humor. If their initial meeting was a movie scene, a cheesy song would play as he walked (on crutches) to her government SUV in slow-motion. That’s how she remembered it at any rate.
The fact that he was sexy as hell didn’t hurt either. Tall with dark blonde hair, thick eyebrows, and a slightly crooked nose. Oh, and those gorgeous hazel eyes! And he was a mess back then, too. Amputee and burns and shrapnel scars. Almost everywhere.
All he did was smile at her when he left the hospital. And wink. Or, at least she thought he winked. She didn’t know what to make of that, but she liked it. Soon, her thoughts turned to other things. Like whether or not she could trace his scars all over his body with her tongue. Or suck on him on the smooth parts. And she wondered if he would like it.
She suspected he would like it. Eventually she noticed that his eyes would watch her longer than the cursory glance. He began ask her personal questions about boyfriends (“I think I’m juggling an even dozen at the moment”); what she did for fun (“Haze the incoming soldiers”); and what her career goals were (“Get pregnant and go on welfare”).
But the year was over, Adam was leaving, and they were packing up his meager belongings at his Pentagon office. And she might not see him again. Correction: she probably wouldn’t see him again.
“Yeah, I know,” Jen said in response. “What time is your flight in the morning?”
“Six.” Then he laughed at her. “How long are you going to hold on to that award for?”
“Oh!” she stammered, aware that she was gripping the frame rather hard. “Why don’t you keep it for me, until I get back?”
“I’m not sure if that’d be proper, Adam.”
He smiled again, then walked across the room. His limp was hardly noticeable now. The metal leg was a part of him.
“What if I don’t want to be proper with you?” he asked in a near whisper. He stood beside her, his eyes on her. Dead serious. This wasn’t one of his jokes.
Jen almost stopped breathing, thinking. And then she did something about it.