End of Sunny.
Enough time bought to complete his week’s work.
But now he had to adjust that plan. He would go ahead and land on the island as Sunny and her pal expected. They could head off for their trek up the mountain.
Wade glanced at them in the mirror, their heads tucked together so obliviously. He had plenty of connections now in the spies he’d helped place. He would simply have one of his people stage an accident for Sunny and Wade later, on their way up the mountain.
The power plant explosion would go off on schedule—and his most high value terrorist yet would slip into the U.S. with enough of a payoff for him to slip the other way, right out of the country and into a life of luxury, tucked away in Europe.
Again, he checked the altitude, air speed, heading. And ahead of him, miles and miles of nothing. No cities. No lights. So few people lived out here, he could get away with anything.
He was in control. The beauty of smuggling so many terrorists into the country? He had untraceable people to call on at the drop of a hat. He preferred to steer clear of the fanatics, but at least they could be counted on to plow through to the end.
Even Sunny’s new special ops boyfriend wouldn’t stand a chance against the unlimited resources at Brett’s disposal.
Misty stifled a yawn behind her hand, the fading sun and warmth of the truck’s heater making her drowsy.
She couldn’t believe she was sitting in the front seat with Flynn again. It had been so long. Everything felt familiar in some ways. And in others? The differences were painfully apparent.
He passed the thermos of coffee over. “Need some caffeine?”
“Thanks, I think I do.” She took the metal cylinder, twisted off the cap, and poured herself half a cup. The rich java scent drifted up as she blew into the still-steaming drink. As she pursed her lips to blow again, she felt the weight of Flynn’s stare.
She looked over quickly. “Keep your eyes on the road, Flynn.”
“I want you to see what I’m saying.”
“You assume I want to know,” she snapped back.
“Then why aren’t you looking away?”
Oh crap. She pulled her gaze off the potency of his pale blue attention. She gulped down her coffee and struggled not to wince as it scalded her tongue.
Holding a conversation in the truck had been difficult all afternoon. Signing was tough one-handed, and even when he tried to spell out words, he kept having to reach for the wheel. Maybe if they had practice communicating, time to be comfortable with each other. He couldn’t turn fully toward her except when he stopped—not unless they wanted to risk sliding off the icy road and off a cliff drop. The dangerous curves in the roads and paths were all the more apparent in this nearly treeless landscape. Just ice and craggy angles.
Stark. Like her life.
Not for the first time, she wondered what her world would have been like if he hadn’t cheated—or if she’d forgiven him—even if she’d still lost her hearing. They would have settled into their own routine, their own unspoken ways of communicating. She likely would simply have slid over to the middle of the seat. She would have leaned against him, soaking up her last view of the Aleutian volcanic mountain where she’d lived for the past fifteen years.
She would miss the summer thaw, the kayaking, even walking across glaciers. Sunny had always reminisced about California vacations and the openness of their Iowa home. Their home before this isolation.
But Misty? The silence here had a way of speaking, like a hum from the earth’s core.
The movement of the snow across the road filled her with the haunting echoes of a howling wind.
Water trickling down a jagged rock whispered through her memory of the gushes beneath that would foam into a hot springs retreat.
The sun sank lower and she realized daylight was running out. Traveling this road in the dark and the snow would be dangerous. There weren’t exactly Holiday Inns on every corner. God, it had been so long since that California family vacation she only dimly remembered. Once her parents had decided to leave Iowa and move to Alaska, they used a camper the whole way up the Alcan Highway.
Plane tickets would have left a paper trail to her brother.
She’d thought about how to handle all day in the truck, easy enough since they’d both opted not to converse. But she hadn’t considered how they would spend the night.
“Flynn?” she said, pulling her eyes off the darkening landscape.
He slowed the truck to a stop, then slid it into park. He turned the power of his vibrant blue eyes her way. “Yes? Is there a problem? Do you want to turn back?”
Yes and no. She wanted everything.
“Where are we stopping for the night?” Why hadn’t she thought to ask earlier? Maybe she’d been afraid to know, afraid she wouldn’t be brave enough to face a night alone in a tent with Flynn.
“I had hoped to make it to an actual village, but it’s been slow going with the snow earlier.” He cranked open his thermos of coffee and took a swig. “I did prepare contingencies other than camping out. I went on the Internet before we left and found a bed-and-breakfast.”
“A bed-and-breakfast? Out here?” Her mind filled with images of the old Victorian homes she’d seen in books. That didn’t seem possible or probable out here.
“It didn’t look like much in the pictures, which means it’s probably worse in reality. But we’ll have a place to sleep for the night before we head out in the morning.”
He put the truck back in gear, tires crunching along the icy road. Tomorrow, she would tell him good-bye forever.
But first, she had to make it through the night with the only man she’d ever loved.
The sun was setting faster than Wade’s feet could carry him from the tiny landing strip to the lodge across the street. Salty wind tore in off the rural harbor. He hitched his backpack more securely over his shoulders, Sunny keeping pace beside him. But then she always did.
The woman was unstoppable. He admired the hell out of her, would give just about anything for a shot at a real relationship with her. But he didn’t have a clue how that was going to happen while she protected a deserter brother.
There were a lot of things in life he could overlook or learn to live with. That was not one of them. He’d been too ingrained in military culture with his parents for too long to look the other way when it came to her brother.
So now he knew what Sunny had known all along. Their time together was limited, very limited.
In the morning, they would launch the final leg of their journey to her village. They’d reserved two snowmobile rentals to be picked up at sunrise tomorrow. For tonight, they were staying at the lodge perched on the shore. He waited for a moose to clear the road before continuing toward the one-story building of weather-worn wood.
Twice he’d flown rescue missions out here, once for stranded fishermen, and another time to save capsized kayakers. The water was so f**king cold he could have sworn his chestnuts retreated behind his lungs for warmth for at least a week.
He believed in the mission with every cell in his body, just as both his parents had been willing to give all for country. He squeezed his eyes closed against the headache throbbing at the thought of his mother, once every bit as take-charge as Sunny, whose battles now included struggling for words and learning to feed herself.
Beside him, Sunny gasped. He looked at her quickly, tracking her gaze to a couple of hunters walking across the street, their wolf-hybrid dog loping in step.
Sunny swiped her wrist under her eyes, and he followed her train of thought in a flash.
His hand fell to the back of her neck. “We can call McCabe and check on Chewie after we eat. So far I still have bars on my cell phone.”
She smiled up at him as she stepped into the lodge lobby. “Thanks. I would really appreciate that.”
“Before you go all mushy on me”—he closed the door behind her, sealing the wind away from the warmth of the wood-burning stove—“I’m also calling in to see how the investigation is going.”
He ushered her through the lobby, which doubled as a dining area, tables packed with fisherman tugging off black stocking hats. Walls were crammed with mounted local catches. A stuffed brown bear loomed on its hind legs in a corner.
Five minutes later, he signed the check-in book. Wade collected the key. Neither of them had questioned staying together. The place only had a half dozen rooms, but after this morning’s close call he wasn’t letting her out of his sight.
Waiting beside him, she hooked her thumbs on her backpack straps. “A lot can change in a couple of hours.” She chewed her bottom lip with uncharacteristic nervousness. “After you make your call, there are things I should tell you.”
Yeah, he knew that too well.
This was it. When he had the conversation he knew needed to happen, things between them would change. Call him selfish, but he wanted this chance to be with her.
Once they crossed that line, saying certain things out loud, things would change irrevocably between them. “Sure, but first, I have something to say to you.”
She stepped into the room, easing her backpack onto a split-log bench. “What?”
He carefully placed his own pack beside hers before pivoting back to face her.
“This.” He closed the thick oak door and pressed her to the panel in one smooth move.
Hands bracketing her face, he kissed her. Hard and fast and with all the frustrated energy pent up from a day full of insane twists. They should have been lounging in bed for a lazy week off. He would have used the time wisely to learn every inch of her creamy flesh, to discover the precise location of every erogenous zone.
Instead she’d spent half her day identifying grisly crime scene photos and he was stuck finding out her secrets from OSI investigators. Whatever happened to exchanging phone numbers and astrological signs over drinks?
The day rolled over him. The insanity outside his apartment that morning. How close a crazed killer had been lurking, targeting Sunny. How close Sunny had come to walking away from him.
Tomorrow loomed with a big dark shadow of the unknown. But right here, right now, he had Sunny in his arms.
Her tongue searched his mouth every bit as boldly and thoroughly as he delved into hers. She tunneled her hand between them and unzipped his parka and shoved it from his shoulders and to the floor. A damn good idea. He set to work on her jacket until finally they could press chest to chest. The fullness of her br**sts flattened against him, her curves familiar, enticing, and still entirely too covered up.
Wind howled beyond the curtains, bedside lamps flickering in response, bringing a momentary blink of reason.
He resisted the urge to tear every inch of clothes from her body. “We should slow down.”
“Why?” she gasped, fumbling down the buttons on his uniform.
He covered her hands with his. “Because I don’t want to be an insensitive jackass by taking you against this door.”
“What if I like this door?” She nipped his bottom lip.
Fair enough. “That’s all I needed to hear.”
Finesse fell away faster than the rest of their clothes until they stood skin to skin, his hard-on pressing against the warmth of her stomach. He throbbed with restraint, aching to feel her all around him.
He dipped to snag his wallet from his pants and filched a condom. Sunny snatched it from his palm and sheathed him quickly, efficiently, her haste speaking loud and clear of her own impatience.
He thrust into her, the clamp of her body threatening to send him over the edge before he even really got started. His teeth clenched, hard. She kissed along his jaw, rocking her hips in encouragement as she whispered her need against his ear.
The pounding urge to come damn near deafened him, his pulse hammered so loudly in his ears. No doubt, this was going to be over quick, so he needed to work on making it happen fast for her too.