Dampness sealed her cheek to his and she knew the tears weren’t only hers. Her own had nothing to do with pain and everything to do with the emotion welling inside her.
His hand in hers spelled over and over, “I love you. I love you.”
And he kept repeating the words in her palm as he moved inside her, thrusting, determination stamped on his face that he wasn’t leaving her behind. And she trusted him, with her heart and with her body. This was the Flynn she’d known before, but stronger, more mature, the man she’d dreamed he would become.
Bliss swelled inside her, tingling and spreading until even the roots of her hair shimmered with the impending…
Her arms flung wide, her fingers twisting in the sheets as ripple after ripple crashed over her. Flynn covered her mouth with his and she realized she must have been moaning with the power of the orgasm slamming through her.
Or maybe he was covering his own shout of completion. His muscles bunched against her. His skin darkened with the flush of desire culminating. Just seeing him launched a fresh wave over her until her body lay spent and his arms gave way. He collapsed on top of her, his weight a welcome blanket grounding her to earth again.
His forehead rested on hers, his mouth so close she could read most of what he said, enough to understand the gist. “I love you.”
“You told me.” She cradled his face in her hands the way she still cradled his body inside hers.
“I want to be sure you believe me.” He slid beside her, stroking her hair from her brow. “If I could go back in time.”
“We can’t go back. But we can start from here. A day at a time being honest with each other.”
“Okay, then, I’ll take that.” Relief shuddered through him as he kissed her once, twice, again, punctuating his words. “God, I’ll take that. Because it’s more than I expected to ever have and more than I deserve. If you really can give this a day at a time, then I will work my ass off each and every one of those days, earning your trust back.”
He tucked her closer to him, his chin resting on top of her head. His rapid breathing slowed, evened out until a slight snore ruffled her still-damp hair.
Holding him to her, holding on to the moment, she waited a little longer to be sure he slept deeply. Because she had one last loose end to tie up before she committed to him fully. She needed to send Brett an email to tell him she was sorry, but she had made a mistake. She couldn’t meet him and she didn’t love him.
Her heart still belonged fully and irrevocably to Flynn Everett.
Hot springs bubbling around her, Sunny straddled Wade’s lap as he sat on a submerged rock step. Only their shoulders and faces peeked above the lapping water. The springs refilled from the geyser in the middle, heated naturally from the mountain’s volcanic core.
The ultimate place to make love.
Aftershocks from her release pulsed through her, steam wafting upward with a slight tinge of healing sulfur. She let the essence of it sink into her pores as she gave over control to pure, undiluted sensation. Sulfur was necessary for all living cells and she could swear she felt those revitalizing qualities now.
Her limbs went boneless and she almost melted against Wade, but remembered his injured shoulder at the last second. She flung her head back and let the tide tug her. She floated toward the geyser in the pool’s center, her body barely submerged. Warm bubbles caressed her back while cool air sketched across her front. The swirling water played peekaboo, revealing patches of her skin.
Above her, northern lights painted the sky with green streaks and bursts of red. God, she never got tired of watching the aurora borealis, named after the Roman goddess of the dawn, Aurora, and Boreas, the Greek god of the north wind. This place was the closest thing to paradise that she could imagine.
The fact that she had a business here that also kept her fed was just an added bonus. She eyed the outdoor haven with pride, the planked fence her brother had helped her build, the small dressing corner stocked with dry, warm towels and robes.
She chased thoughts of her brother from her mind. Not ready to go there yet in any way.
Being with Wade offered a temporary escape from the fast-encroaching reality. Here in her fenced Alaskan oasis, she had a stolen pocket of time before her town self-destructed when everyone woke up and news of the murders spread.
The water swirled faster around her, giving her a second’s warning that Wade approached.
“This is not what I expected.” He stopped beside her.
Underwater, his fingers stroked her spine, caressing with the bubbles until she almost couldn’t separate his touch from the rippling rush. He moved down her back, over her bottom, and along the outsides of her legs.
She sighed with pleasure. “This is probably my favorite place in the whole world. Now I have all the more reason to love it.”
A whisper of worry trickled through her brain like melting water down an icicle. What would happen to her little business, to her haven, to her way of life? It wasn’t as if she could just put a survival school based in a log cabin on the market and folks would come streaming in with big-money offers.
Her feet started to sink and his hands closed around her toes, his thumbs massaging the arches. His artful touch chased away concerns and her eyes slid closed. The feel of his hands on her flesh sent a rush of aurora borealis behind her lids.
“Keep talking,” he said, moving up her body again, between her legs.
Her throat closed up and she worked to push words past. “When I was a teenager, I dreamed of building a place around this spring.”
“Why is that?” He massaged her thighs, higher inch by inch.
“I, uh, missed our gym back in Iowa, and it seemed like having at least a small workout space here would be the perfect way to stay in shape and burn off energy during those dark winter months.” Right now, she was burning off more than energy. Her whole body was on fire from the subtle pleasure of his caress up her thighs.
“Talk,” he commanded, “or I stop.”
She flicked water on him, while clamping her legs around his waist. “You’re not going anywhere.”
Laughter rumbling, he moved closer, his thumbs at the juncture of her thighs, then…
He pressed against the oversensitive bundle of nerves that already ached for him all over again.
“Let go, just float. I have you.”
And he did. Her arms splayed out and she felt the waters tug her hair out into a fan around her. Her br**sts peeked from the water, her ni**les pulling painfully tight from the cold and desire. She tried to speak, but words wouldn’t come.
Increasing the pressure ever so precisely, his fingers circled, plucked, teased. “All this heat with no electric bill.” He stroked along her cleft, already moist from increasing arousal. “As long as the thing doesn’t erupt underneath us.”
She laughed softly, then gasped as his mouth closed over her, lapping, laving, until the aurora borealis wasn’t just behind her eyes, it was exploding inside her. Wade braced her back and urged her farther, higher, milking every last sensation from her completion. Finally, seconds—minutes, hours, she lost track of time—later, her legs slid down him and she slowly righted again.
Looping her arms around his neck, she sagged against his chest and let him hold her, support her weight, as her legs probably wouldn’t work yet anyway. “I think… I’m having… a heart attack.”
“And living so deep on a mountain? That would make access to a major medical facility tough.” He grazed her cheek with a kiss. “Lucky for you I’m proficient in CPR.”
His words chilled her from the inside as she thought of her sister and wondered not for the first time if things could have been different for her if she’d gotten sick somewhere else. How could Wade help but think of his mother, cut off from help? No ambulance and ER right around the corner to care for her horrific injuries.
Sunny eased from him, her toes touching rocks along the bottom until she was grounded again, the fantasy dimming. She struggled to think of a way to get it back, her eyes lingering on her lover. Moonlight glinted off his short dark hair, slick with a mix of water and hints of ice, while his chest was flushed from the heated water and great sex. She knew his body so well in some ways, and in others not as much.
Desperate to chase away negative thoughts that threatened to steal this fantasy moment from her, she stroked his shoulder blade. “You have green footprints tattooed here.” A strange color that seemed as out of place on his skin as the lights misting overhead. “What’s the reason behind it? Because if it’s a bar story, I’m betting it’s a good one.”
Laughing, he kissed the inside of her elbow, their legs brushing underwater. “It’s a pararescue thing. Most of us have them somewhere on our body. It dates back to the Vietnam War, when the H-3 Sea King was the helicopter used most often to drop PJs in and pull us back out. The chopper was big and green—thus its nickname, the Jolly Green Giant. PJs started getting green footprint tattoos.”
Her fingertips sketched along the rougher patches of inked flesh, her nerves still on heightened alert from the power of her orgasm… orgasms actually, as he’d brought her to completion three times since they’d entered the pool. “Any other tattoos I should know about ahead of time?”
“That’s it. But you’re welcome to look again.” He kissed up her arm. “And again.”
He pulled her closer until she pressed flush against him. The gush of water from the geyser echoed her speeding pulse in her ears. Her ni**les skimmed his chest, his swirls of hair a gentle abrasion. She was definitely too spent to have sex again so soon, and even if she weren’t she knew he was talking about the future. Which wasn’t unreasonable, given the tenuous connection forming in spite of roadblock after roadblock.
He tucked her hair behind her ear, the longer ends floating out around her. “What am I going to do with you, Sunny Foster?”
“Could we just have sex twenty-four/seven?” she whispered against his mouth. “Seems like we communicate best that way.”
He nipped her bottom lip. “Believe me, I would if I could.”
“You mean you’re not a superhero?” She stared at him in mock surprise.
He scrubbed a hand over his face, not meeting her eyes.
Her hands grazed down his back until she cupped his tight, amazing butt. “No comeback, for once? That’s a shocker.”
He shrugged. “I don’t really know how to joke about it. I’ve spent a lot of my life training for this.”
“How long? Spell it out,” she asked, hungry for everything she could learn about him. They had so little time left together, with his impending deployment, her own uncertainty about her future. “I can’t know what you don’t tell me.”
“PJs spend nearly two years training overall. Indoctrination course at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, then on to Airborne School at Fort Benning. Combat Divers School next.” He paused. “Are you bored yet?”
“I’m impressed. Please continue. I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t want to know.”
“Okay, since you asked… Then Navy Underwater Egress Training at Pensacola Naval Air Station. Survival school up in Washington.” He shivered melodramatically. “Freefall Parachutist School after that.”
Now she was more than impressed, she was awed. “What else could be left to learn?”
“Special Ops Combat Medic Course, then our PJ Recovery Specialist Course, finishing up at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.”
“I knew PJs were a highly specialized group… but, wow, I didn’t have a clue.” She sifted through it all. So much training, so many places. “How do couples manage to stay together during all that time apart?”
He angled his head back, his cocoa-brown eyes meeting hers somberly. “If a couple can’t handle the training, they aren’t going to be able to handle the stress and separations of military life. Our divorce rates are high.”