“Those are sweet ages. My nephew is only a year.” Unable to look away, she watched his big capable hands stoke the logs with quick efficiency. “His name is J.T. Most days I get to spend extra time with him, since we have a day care at the gym that my brother uses while he work—”
She stopped short before she spilled her whole flipping life story. What was it about this guy that made her babble on?
Glancing back over his shoulder, Wade stared at her so long she looked behind her… and found nothing.
“Do I have something caught between my teeth?”
He shook his head, dusting bits of bark from his palms as the logs crackled with building heat. “Nah, I’m just enjoying the view. And before you get nervous or offended, I’m about ready to fall on my ass from exhaustion and blood loss.” He winked. “I’m not a threat to your virtue any more here than I was in the cave.”
All the same his words stirred images of what they could have done in that sprawling bed of his two steps up under the skylight.
When she looked back, he’d opened a drawer on the dresser, all the wood light colored with a simple sealant over the natural maple.
He pulled out a couple of perfectly folded items. “T-shirt and drawstring exercise pants for you to sleep in.” He tossed the pile on the counter, the words Air Force stamped in blue across the front. “I’m gonna change into some sweats, in case you were wondering. And I’m gonna clean up again. The shower at base was rushed, to say the least. After I finish, we can talk about where to go next in the morning.”
He was making it too easy to lie to him.
“May I use your computer?” She scooped up the large T-shirt that smelled like him. “I need to email my sister so she can let my family know I’m okay.”
“Of course.” He leaned in the open doorway to a roomy bathroom with a spa shower.
She hauled her eyes off the glassed-in shower and the steamy fantasies it evoked. “Thanks.”
At least she didn’t have to explain the whole phone issue in detail, how they had local telephone service available, but long-distance connections were harder to come by. And most people didn’t want either.
Being out here, things that had once seemed normal now seemed… not so normal. “Thank you. I won’t monopolize it.”
“I’m good. I won’t go through withdrawal if I go another hour without checking messages.” His smile squeezed the guilt inside her all the tighter.
He closed the bathroom door behind him and she rushed to the kitchenette. Dropping into the chair, she stared at the keyboard and screen for a minute to familiarize herself, then logged on to her community’s home page.
Sunny: Misty? Are you there?
She watched the cursor blink, blink, but nothing happened. Her sister must have left the computer logged on while she stepped away.
Sunny: Wanted 2 let U know I’m okay. Got caught by the storm. Safe in Anchorage. Have help from guy who rescued me. Will b home soon.
The next part was tough and didn’t seem right to pass along in an instant message.
Sunny: See my email. Have sad news 2 long to explain here. Love U.
Composing that email was even tougher than she’d expected. Breaking the news of a death this way was unimaginable. But she had to be sure Misty did not leave with the deputy. Heaven only knew why he’d gone off the deep end, but she’d be damned before he got near her sister. And she wasn’t trusting the sheriff to do the job for her in a timely fashion. The deputy was in law enforcement too, after all…
God, she sounded like a paranoid conspiracy theorist.
She logged off. There was nothing more she could do tonight. Even if she found a way to magically get back to the Aleutian Islands before morning, she was simply too dog-tired to start the climb home. Hopefully tomorrow, in the broad daylight, she could construct a logical plan to return as quickly as possible.
The back of her neck prickled with awareness, the sense of being watched. She pivoted in her chair fast to find Wade standing in the bathroom doorway again, sweatpants slung low on his narrow hips. Curly dark hair sprinkled along his chest up to his shoulders—and a small strip of gauze over his stitches, not larger than a Band-Aid. Yet a few inches lower and he could have been dead.
His eyes were surprisingly alert for a person who’d been through so much, and right now his entire attention was focused on her. “The bathroom’s all yours.”
Her throat went so tight she had to force words up and out. “Thanks, uh, I insist on taking the sofa, since you’re injured.” She grabbed the T-shirt off the counter on her way. “So don’t even try to argue some he-man chivalry stuff.”
She charged toward the bathroom, needing to put a door between herself and Wade with no shirt. Too late, she realized he hadn’t moved.
“If you say so,” he answered simply, looking down at her as they stood chest to chest in the narrow doorway.
“Thanks.” The lone word came out breathier than she would have liked, but then she didn’t seem to be in control of much about herself around this guy. “For the shirt and the Internet.”
“So you were able to send an email to your family.” He appeared relaxed. In no hurry to step away from her.
Her throat went dry as dust. She edged back half an inch, the doorframe not budging. The scent of his soap was so vivid she could almost imagine what his skin would taste like if she were to…
She cleared her throat and willed her heartbeat to conduct business as usual.
“I did send a note, thank you. I worry though, about it getting through, since the connection can be spotty, depending on the weather. Hopefully everything will be fine for me to leave in the morning.” What should have filled her with relief also brought a strange kick of regret over saying good-bye to this man. “I guess I should get some sleep.”
He caught her arm as she started to turn, his touch sparking off a delicious reaction inside her. “I just have one more question for you.”
Oh God, how could she have let her guard down so quickly? “What would that be?”
“Why did you kiss me out there?”
Finally, he had Sunny Foster off her game. For once, he’d surprised her. Standing in the doorway to his steamed-up bathroom half-dressed wasn’t the smartest way to approach her about the way they combusted around each other. But hell, nothing about the past few days was normal, even for a guy like him who faced the unexpected on a regular basis in his line of work.
He let go of her arm and knuckled back a strand of her silky hair over her shoulder. Strands glided over his fingers, hooking and catching on calluses the way she snagged his attention. Gone before he could catch hold.
She didn’t so much as take a step away from him, but her pupils widened with awareness until her eyes were nearly midnight black. Steam clung to his body, fogged up his insides, disarming him from the core. Who was he kidding, she heated him through and through by simply standing in front of him.
“So, Sunny, why did you kiss me up there on the mountain?” He flattened his hand to the doorframe to keep from gathering up her hair in his hands and burying his face in the mass of it all, aching to bury himself in her.
She chewed on her bottom lip. Even coated in ChapStick, it was still raw and a little cracked from their time exposed to the elements. “The way I remember it, you kissed me.”
Her accusation lacked the boldness of her usual speech pattern. Damn it, she recalled that kiss in every bit as much detail as he did.
“Right, that I did. Because I was feeling the attraction between us as strongly as I know you did. Spending the night together in the cave, so close and aware of your every move, damn near going out of my mind wanting to see if your skin felt as soft as it looked.”
The memories sent an intoxicating bolt straight through him, his groin tightening inside low-slung sweatpants.
She boldly stared him down, even though he was half-dressed. “The way I remember it, we had a wet, smelly dog between us and you were pissed because I didn’t faint at your feet with gratitude when you parachuted through a snowstorm all macholike to rescue the ‘helpless’ damsel.”
He grinned, scratching his bare chest absently. “You think I’m macho.”
“I think you were crazy to kiss me out there.”
His gaze settled on her mouth. “Then you were equally crazy, because I recall in great detail how you kissed me back.”
Her shoulders stiffened, her eyes defensive. “I may have been caught up in the adrenaline of the moment.”
“Maybe. And yet here we are talking an awful lot about kissing.”
She jabbed an angry finger at him, stopping just shy of touching his chest. “I wasn’t propositioning you by asking to come to your place.”
“I didn’t think you were.” He was quite clear she had some agenda hidden inside that mysterious mind of hers. “Although you’re awful trusting, coming here.”
“If you planned to assault me, you had plenty of opportunities out there.” Her throat moved in a slow swallow as she shivered, rubbing her arms. “And plenty of chances to dispose of my body.”
He couldn’t resist touching her, comforting her. He cupped the back of her neck and massaged lightly, letting the mass of her silky hair engulf his hand as well as his senses. “There’s nothing we can do about that tonight. Put it out of your mind.”
“I wish I could.” She swayed toward him, her eyes open and sharing the hurt inside her for the first time.
The medic, the part of him trained to heal, was drawn to her, nudging aside other more primal wants for the moment. “Come on. Let’s see if I can find something more substantial than a sandwich.”
And in order to see to those needs, he should get his hands out of her hair and his eyes off the sweet curve of her breasts. He angled past and away.
Sunny watched Wade walk away from her, his big, honorable, sexy body leaving her aching. No simple sandwich could satisfy the hunger inside her.
She truly hadn’t asked to stay at his place with the intent of seducing him. But come morning, she would have to leave here and she would never see him again. Her life would go back to the way it was, with her narrowly focused world, a life that had seemed infinitely satisfying before these past days with Wade.
That safety, security, comfort had been blown to hell with a simple glimpse of frozen faces through the ice and she needed something, she needed this man, this chance to escape from it all, before reality intruded tomorrow.
Tomorrow, when she would have to disappear on her own, without the military’s help that would undoubtedly be bureaucratically slow. Wade might well be grilled about where she’d gone on his watch, but she’d drawn the deputy and heaven only knew what other kind of trouble to Wade. The best she could do now was stay away from him. It was safer that way, especially when she was still so unsure about the reason for the attack on her, on Ted and Madison, in the first place.
But for now, for tonight, she would steal what moments she could with Wade before she undertook the biggest risk of her life to return to the village and warn her family and friends.
Sunny flattened her hands on either side of the bathroom doorway and called out as he sauntered toward the kitchen, “I realize that I kissed you back on the mountain. And I enjoyed it.”
She’d never seduced a man before. Her scant sexual history hadn’t given her much in the way of an education, practice, or even confidence. But the way Wade stopped in his tracks encouraged her.
Deep in the far corners of her brain, the part of her that never forgot to keep her barriers up, she knew this wasn’t wise. Being together wouldn’t come without repercussions to her life, perhaps even to her heart. She wasn’t being fair to him with all she held back. She wasn’t the sort to let things go so far, so fast, but these weren’t normal times and she didn’t have all that much experience to draw upon. There weren’t a lot of men to choose from where she lived. A couple of dates in high school, none that went too far, as she was still adjusting to the sudden shift in her life.