Buck and I carried the empty keg between us.
Here in Sparks, there was no war. No enemy. The only chance of being killed tonight was from alcohol poisoning or getting eaten by a bear.
We were used to moving around under the cover of darkness, but that was to evade the enemy, not to cut across a field beneath a Montana black night sky.
Neither of us had been home for over sixteen months, and I’d forgotten how dark it got. No big cities anywhere nearby. No desert either. We weren’t wearing our fatigues, and we weren’t carrying multiple weapons.
“Did you hear Lee Landers is taking over his dad’s mechanic shop?” Buck asked.
“I know. The most exotic thing he’ll see of the world is the undercarriage of a sixty-seven GTO.” I took a deep breath.
Fuck, I missed that scent. The tang of pine and damp earth was as much a reminder of home as Gram and Gramps. Or the twenty or so friends from high school who had just finished off this keg, listening to music, fooling around and having fun in the back forty behind us.
“The undercarriage I want to see is that of Kenzie Michelson. She was hot in high school, but did you see her tonight? Were her tits always that big?” Buck held up his hands to show how big he thought they were as he grinned.
“Why the hell are you helping me carry this keg when you could be helping Kenzie out of her panties?”
Our long legs ate up the distance between the party and the truck. The get-together was in the usual party spot by the creek, originally chosen so my grandparents wouldn’t know about any of the late night get-togethers. Of course, I’d been stupid to think that. They’d been pissed back in the day when they’d learned of them, but now? I was twenty-three. I’d had hair on my balls for years, but I’d also become a SEAL and gone to war. Neither of them gave a shit if I wanted to get drunk with a few old friends. Hell, they were content I was in one piece. And home.
They were off on a trip to a nearby casino for two nights, having their own kind of good time.
“She’s not port pussy,” Buck countered, stopping when we got to the truck. He leaned against the back end. “Still, I get the feeling she wants me to be her ride out of town.”
I remembered Kenzie, big tits and all. I’d been cautious where I stuck my dick in high school because I had plans. Plans that didn’t involve a surprise baby and wife at eighteen. I’d wanted out of Sparks, to follow in Gramps’ footsteps in the military. So I understood where Buck was coming from. We both might be up for a fun fuck but nothing more than that.
I pulled down the tailgate and jumped into the bed. Fuck, I loved this truck. I’d bought it when I was sixteen after spending the summer working at the seed and feed lugging sacks of grain, bales of hay and every other piece of heavy farming shit. It’d helped me get into shape for basic training and eventually BUD/S.
That had been hell, but I had Buck to tell me to stop being a pussy whenever I had an inkling of quitting. Now it seemed I had to give him a pep talk to get laid or at least blow his load. There wasn’t any chance for it deployed.
“Get her to suck you off,” I told him. “She won’t get pregnant from that.”
There. Problem solved.
“Think we’ll ever fit back in here?” Buck wondered, glancing around, Kenzie forgotten. The only thing visible in the dark was the backside of the house and a hint of Gramps’ workshop beyond.
“Who the hell knows. I didn’t survive drown-proofing to plant wheat and drive a fucking tractor for a living.”
“Do you miss it?” Buck cocked his head with the usual tilt.
The back stoop light cast a glow across his face. His blond hair was cut military short. He hadn’t shaved in a few days, but he still couldn’t grow a damn beard. Not even a mustache. An inch taller than me, Buck was leaner. He was a faster swimmer, but I had him in hand-to-hand combat. Not that anyone from around here understood anything about what our lives entailed. What we endured, so they could fuck beside a bonfire.
“Sparks?” I ran my hand over the back of my neck. It was late August and summer was still hanging on. Barely. The air was cool, and this was Montana. We had another week to go before we were due back in San Diego, but the chance for the weather to turn was always a possibility this far north and at this higher altitude. “I miss snow.”
Buck sighed. “I don’t think I can ever go on a beach vacation. Shit, I hate sand.”
I had to laugh. Afghanistan was hot as hell and a fucking sandbox. That shit got everywhere. In places I never thought possible.
“I got this,” I told him. “I can carry the keg by myself. Go have fun with Kenzie.” I had no intention of cock blocking my best friend. We were on fucking leave. Our commanding officers expected us to unwind and fuck.
“What about you?” he asked.
I lifted the keg from the tub, ice sloshing, and sat it in the bed beside me. “What about me?”
“There any pussy around here you want to tap?”
Yeah, there definitely was. Indigo. Buck’s sister. His smart, gorgeous, barely eighteen sister. The one who’d followed us around when she’d been a kid. Who’d done shit all to get her big brother’s attention. When we left for boot camp, she’d been thirteen. But now?
Holy fuck. Indi wasn’t a little kid any longer. She was a beauty. Blonde hair down her back that she no longer wore in two braids. A toned, curvy body with full, high tits. An ass that could probably crack walnuts. Smart and funny and familiar in that coming-home sort of way. How did I know all this?
The Buchanans had had me over for dinner a few nights ago, and there she was. All tanned skin. Full lips. Bold blue eyes that tracked my every move.
I’d gotten one look at her, and my dick had gone instantly hard.
For Buck’s little sister.
He’d seen the way I’d stared. Maybe a second too long because he gave me a look. An I’m going to cut your dick off and feed it to you before you even know what happened glare.
I’d never dealt with the bro code before because, hell, I didn’t lust after jailbait. But Indi wasn’t little or a girl any longer. She was perfect.
So I answered my best friend the only way I could so as not to lose my dick. “Nah.”
He tipped his head toward the house. “You sure?”
I glanced that way and saw a lacy white bra dangling from the screen door handle.
He grinned. “I don’t need to speak five languages to understand that’s for you.”
I hopped down from the bed, my boots hitting the dirt of the driveway. I pulled the keg onto the tailgate, then slid it toward him.
“Here. I’ll go see what’s going on inside.”
I was fine with one-night stands. In fact, that was the only kind of sex I had. It wasn’t like a SEAL led the nine-to-five lifestyle. Girlfriends and wives didn’t know when their men would come walking through the door. Or if they would ever again.
I knew the chances of survival being in the military, especially being a SEAL. I took it on voluntarily. Even my grandparents understood the risks since Gramps had been in Vietnam. But I wasn’t putting a woman through that fuckery. It wasn’t fair to her.
The bra on the screen door? Whoever it belonged to was in my house. Uninvited. Even if she was—very obviously—requesting sex. I didn’t like being surprised. Ambushed, even with pussy. Because I’d been trained to stay alive. To watch out for shit like this.
But this wasn’t war, and the woman not wearing a bra? She sure as hell wasn’t my enemy. Since my dick was also on vacation, it got hard at what was being offered.
Buck slapped me on the back. “Have fun.”
He hoisted the dripping keg up onto his shoulder and hoofed it back toward the bonfire. He disappeared into the darkness, and I went to snag the bra off the door. Based on the size of the cups, the woman who’d discarded it had a nice handful. Perfect.
I went into the familiar kitchen. The house was quiet, only the light over the stove was on. After peeking into the family room and finding it empty, I went up the back steps to my bedroom. A sliver of light seeped out from beneath the closed door. I took a second to adjust my now-hard dick before turning the doorknob.
Holy fucking hell.
It was Indi, and she was naked.
In my bed.
Nine Years Later
The heel of my hiking boot skidded ten feet down the slick embankment before I managed to stop. At least I stayed on my feet—oof. I slipped a second time and slid another six feet on my ass, which was now muddy and soaked.
Great. Just perfect.
I lurched back to standing. A bolt of lightning followed instantly by a crack of thunder meant being exposed. Cold rain pelted my head and shoulders, and every drop registered through my hooded, waterproof jacket. The sudden summer cloudburst turned the already muddy soil of the mountain to the consistency of a soggy bar of soap. The kind that slid out of grasp and had to be chased around the tub while leaving slick remains in its wake.
I needed to find a place to take cover until the storm passed. There were trees taller than me to get hit by lightning, but I wasn’t stupid. I needed shelter and now. The trouble was the closest place belonged to Ford Ledger.
God, Ford. The guy I’d been stupid over when I was eighteen. Who’d embarrassed me. No, I’d done a really impressive job of that all on my own. My own tattered pride was the reason I was debating whether to step foot on his land, even in a flash storm.
Yeah, it had been that bad. He was the extremely hot but jerky best friend of my brother, David. Or better known by his friends as Buck. Ford was the last guy on Earth I wanted to ask for or accept help from. His grandmother might be there. She’d let me in with open arms and dry clothes, but I couldn’t risk it. Not if it meant seeing or dealing with Ford. So there was no chance in hell I’d show up at his door. Not even if the mountain turned into a volcano and erupted.
Sparks was a small town, but somehow I’d managed to avoid Ford in the months since he retired from combat to do God-knows-what on his land. That was because I would’ve rather frozen to death than have a one-on-one conversation with him. I didn’t need to be told off and turned away. Again.
I slid again. I was completely off-trail now, and getting back to the path and following it probably wasn’t my best bet. It was a ninety-minute hike without any cover to the trailhead where I parked. Not even a rocky outcropping to shelter beneath.
I looked down the mountainside toward Ford’s property through the pouring rain. It was hard to see, but there was an old greenhouse, one I never remembered. Although the one time I’d been to his house, I’d been more interested in his bedroom than anywhere else on the huge property. I could hole up in the greenhouse until the storm passed. I wasn’t the first Montanan to seek refuge from a neighbor.
I hunched my shoulders against the wind and rain and changed the angle of my descent, picking my footholds carefully to avoid more sliding and slipping. A lot of good it did me. I spilled three more times before I reached the property line. The barbed wire on the low fence looked new and aggressive like it was built for more than just keeping stray cattle in or out. Going to the nearest post, I braced on it as I climbed the strands of taut wire. Even taking great care, I ripped my pants climbing over it.
“Fuck,” I muttered, wiping rain off my nose and setting off again.
I made it to the greenhouse—which was also in better repair than I expected—and tested the door. It was locked.
“Seriously?” I said to no one.
Who locked a greenhouse? I might hate the guy, but I’d known Ford my whole life. Sure, the only time I’d seen him since that fateful, naked night years ago was at Buck’s memorial. Pot was legal to grow now, but I couldn’t imagine Ford or his grandmother cultivating plants that had to be kept safe from theft. What was the guy up to? A lock only meant one thing. He was shady. Like Buck, whose last actions as a SEAL were supposedly less than heroic. Hell, they said he’d murdered someone.
I pushed that thought away like usual because I didn’t want to think about the shit that we were told about my brother. The things he couldn’t answer. Because he was dead.
Dropping my backpack on the ground, I grabbed the multipurpose tool I always carried. I tried to jimmy the lock, but after several frustrating attempts, I gave up. Finding a rock, I smashed a low window and used it to clear the remaining shards. Grabbing my bag and shoving it through the opening, I then hoisted myself through next and tumbled inside.
Christ, I was wet.
I left a puddle which only grew larger as I shook like a Golden Retriever to get the water off my jacket. My hiking pants were soaked through, despite being made of water-wicking material. They were no competition against this rainstorm. My boots, well, they were at least five pounds heavier than normal and caked with mud.
I was a mountain guide, used to things like this, but it didn’t make being soggy and cold any more pleasant. Thankfully, I didn’t have to paste on a smile for paying tourists. Tell them that a little rain made a vacation more memorable. I glanced around. “What the hell?” I whispered to myself.
There weren’t any plants. The space had been converted into a gym. A gym like at a fancy hotel. Two treadmills and a rowing machine were at one end. Racks held free weights, and in the corner were neatly placed kettlebells. The floor wasn’t concrete but a grid of cushioning rubber. A giant punching bag hung over the mats on one end.
I glanced up at the glass ceiling, and all I saw was pounding rain. Who knew how long this spring storm would last. I had no intention of putting in a few miles on a treadmill; I had the wilderness outside for that. Except I couldn’t sit here in my wet clothes while I waited for the weather to pass. Before the front came in, it had been in the high seventies, and thankfully, the glass kept the space balmy. I sighed, then shivered, even though it was warm.
“Sorry, Ford,” I muttered as I toed off the muddy boots. Nah, I wasn’t sorry. Getting his fancy home gym muddy wasn’t close to what I’d had in mind for getting even after all these years.
I would’ve been lying, though, if I pretended there wasn’t a part of me that didn’t want to stick it to him a bit after what he’d done to me. Okay, what I’d done to him, but either way, “the incident” had left a big scar on my confidence—and heart—and created enough shame to pretty much ruin sex for me. It didn’t make me any less horny because I’d seen Ford at the grocery store a few months ago. Yeah, I’d hid behind a display of canned peaches, but I’d seen him. He’d changed since the night I offered up my virginity to him on a platter. Back then, he’d been a focused SEAL, all sharp edges and precision. At the funeral, he’d looked older. Weary. The gloss had been gone, but I hadn’t paid him all that much attention. But in the pasta aisle? His dark hair had been longer. He had a dang beard like he was settling in well to mountain life, which somehow made me all kinds of aroused.
He still had sharp edges, but they were honed now. As if his focus was laser-sharp.
It made me wonder what all that intensity was like in bed.
Those thoughts were why I was hiding in his greenhouse gym instead of knocking on his front door. I wasn’t going to be denied twice. In the same place.
I removed my jacket and stripped off the wet hiking pants. At least my t-shirt and panties were dry. That was about all, though. I hopped on one foot, then the other, to take off my wet socks. They weren’t going to be fun to put back on, but I’d worry about that later.
The pounding of the rain on the plastic roof must’ve drowned out all other sounds because I had no idea I was no longer alone until a deep, all-too-painfully familiar voice rumbled behind me.
I jumped a foot and screamed then spun around.
There, standing in jeans and a soggy black shirt was an older, broader, bigger Ford Ledger. And he was holding a gun. He ran a hand over his mountain man beard as he raked his gaze over every inch of me.
“You have a real habit of taking your clothes off and making yourself at home where you don’t belong.”
I put the safety back on the M9 I’d palmed when the security system alerted us that someone had breached the fence at the property line and tucked the weapon in the waistband of my pants. This time when the sensor went off, it hadn’t been a deer jumping the fence. Or a bear.
No, it was Indigo “Indi” Buchanan.
I debated if I’d rather wrestle a bear than this woman. Fuck, no. I wanted to roll around with her. Too much. She’d have claws, and I kind of hoped she bit, just a little. At least that was my dick talking.
I tried—fuck, I tried—not to look below her waist. I couldn’t, shouldn’t, drink in the sight of those long, toned legs. The bare skin that…
Fuck—not going to look.
Not going to even think about checking out what color, cut, and style of panties she wore. Not when I remembered all too well what she looked like out of them.
In my bed.
The woman who haunted my dreams. Who taunted me still, even though this was the first time I’d seen her since she was eighteen—except across the church at Buck’s memorial service. All those years ago, Buck and I had been on leav., The summer she’d graduated high school. The night she’d left her bra dangling as an invitation and climbed naked in my bed with the intention of letting me punch her V card. The night Buck had found us thirty seconds after I’d covered my eyes and told her to get out. He’d wanted to hand me my balls for breakfast.
Now? She wasn’t for me even though she was no longer jailbait. She never had been, and she never would be, no matter how fucking gorgeous she was. She was my dead best friend’s little fucking sister. Off-limits.
I’d promised Buck I hadn’t and wouldn’t touch her. It had been because of the bro code before that night, then after, Buck explicitly told me to stay the fuck away from her. No screwing around with younger sisters.
Even if they weren’t young or little any longer. Hell, she was… I did the math…twenty-seven and standing half-naked and dripping wet in the old greenhouse we’d converted into a gym.
Indi’s eyes flashed, teeth clenched tight. Besides wet, her skin appeared wind-chapped, but there was no mistaking the additional flush crawling down her neck.
Clenching my fists, I avoided reaching out and wiping away the rain dripping down her cheeks. Back then and even now, one touch, and I knew I’d be fucking ruined. Because her skin would be silky soft against my calloused palms. Sweet beneath my lips. She was spirited and wild, and I knew her passion would have no depths. I’d drown in her.
I would not break a promise to the man who’d bled out in my arms. The man whose death—and actions leading up to it—I was investigating and intended to solve, even if it catapulted me to my own early grave.
It was clear she wasn’t here bent on seduction. Sure, seeing her like this was sexy as hell, but there was no peekaboo lace or sultry looks. No lacy bras in my grasp. She looked like a dunked cat. A gorgeous, perfect dripping cat.
Fuck, now I thought about her pussy. How it might be dripping. I growled.
“Ford Ledger. Still an ass, I see,” she shot back, tipping up her chin and glaring.
I deserved it, and not just for my unnecessary taunt. If I’d had any honor left at all, I’d have gone to the Buchanan house in town or even their hardware store every week to see what I could do to help Buck’s parents. To try to ease their pain and grief over their dead son. But they hadn’t wanted to see me—too painful, his mother had said at the funeral—and I couldn’t face them again, either. What could I say besides their son’s death was my fault. Buck had gotten into something and hadn’t confided in me. Hell, he’d been accused of buying drugs and murdering Abdul Tareen, a local Afghan law enforcement officer looking into the case a few weeks before his death. It wasn’t fucking possible. I knew Buck, and he wouldn’t do that.
Still, he’d been involved in something. And I had been his Master Chief and should’ve known what the fuck had been going on with him. Protected him from the shit he’d gotten into—whatever it was.
No, I couldn’t face any of the Buchanans until I figured out who killed Buck and why. The day he’d died, he’d left the US base without authorization. Yes, he’d gone to meet someone in the village—I didn’t know who. Knowing Buck, there had been a damn good reason. One that got him killed. I intended to figure out who was behind it all.
I took a few steps forward. Not because I wanted to be closer to Indi. Hell, no.
Because I wanted a better look at her face while I questioned her. Not that she required interrogating. She wasn’t on some kind of mission to destroy me. No, it was pretty obvious what happened here.
“Got caught in the storm?” I asked. I was soaked too just from the sprint from the house, but my clothes were staying the fuck on.
She shoved her wet honey-colored hair out of her face and cocked a hip like she was ready to stand her ground with me. In just a shirt.
Which was cute. Damn cute. I was a fucking SEAL. Former fucking SEAL. I did shit for exercise that would kill a regular guy. And she was a tiny slip of a woman in comparison. If she kicked my shin, I wouldn’t even feel it. Although the way she was looking at me, I expected her to aim a little higher.
“Sure did.” She said it like a challenge, lifting her chin at a haughty angle. That cockiness had my dick going rock hard.
I was still having a helluva time not looking down at those legs. Especially with the way she stuck one out at an angle toward me.
“So you decided to break into my greenhouse.”
She shrugged as she glanced around, taking in all the exercise equipment. “Shelter’s shelter,” she explained as if I didn’t know a thing or two about survival skills.
I cocked an eyebrow and crossed my arms over my chest. My t-shirt was damp against my forearms. “Rather than try the house?”
She rolled her eyes like a brat. “Can you blame me? You’re not exactly the welcome wagon.”
Now I was offended. “You think I’d turn Buck’s little sister away in a storm?” I asked incredulously.
She flinched at the mention of her brother—and probably the fact that I’d done just that once before—and I immediately regretted it, but then I was distracted by something else.
They were covered—completely covered—but her nipples still poked through the thin material. They were stiff and erect under her Sparks Outdoor Adventure company t-shirt. Even after all this time, I remembered how pink those tips were, how they were upturned and… fuck, lickable. Even though I hadn’t gotten close enough to do any licking.
They were like that now, probably from the cold. Or the rain. Except, wouldn’t I have noticed them right away? No, it seemed like they’d gotten stiff talking to me, which, unfortunately, made me harder.
Buck’s sister, I reminded myself. She was Buck’s sister. Fuck.
“Jesus, I’m not just Buck’s little sister.” She raised her hands and made air quotes to go along with the sass. “I’m my own woman, Ford. I was then. I am now. How did you even know I was in here?” She turned the convo back to me.
I’d been out of the military and back in Montana for less than a year. One of the first things I’d done to the place when I returned was to set up top-notch security. I didn’t fucking trust anyone. Especially not the US government who was supposed to have my back. The only people I trusted were my grandparents—and Gramps had been gone for two years now—and my team.
I’d called in Kennedy, Alpha Team 5 expert data analyst, who’d left the service right after I had. After the shit that went down, he’d chosen not to reup. Instead, he’d showed up in a fucking snowstorm and gotten to work, putting up sensors to let us know of anything over four feet tall—keeping the alarms from pinging with every wild animal—crossed onto the land or was moving about. Every inch of the Ledger land was monitored. The compound the men and I were building was like a fortress with impenetrable, invisible walls.
Gram had welcomed me back with open arms, regardless of the military’s reason for kicking me out. She’d also welcomed Kennedy, Hayes and Taft. Said it had been boring around here and was having fun watching us set up my new venture: Alpha Mountain Security.
“I knew the second you stepped over my fence,” I said.
She tossed her hands up and shook her head. “You know what? This isn’t worth it. If you’re going to be an asshole about me getting out of the weather and wave your freaking gun around then—”
“Why were you out in it in the first place?” I hadn’t been waving a gun. Jesus. Either way, I wasn’t going to correct her about that. She didn’t know about my post-SEAL mercenary work. How I took jobs needing my military-trained skill sets that paid a shit-ton more than a Master Chief.
If she thought I was an asshole mountain man, all the better.
“It wasn’t raining when I headed out, you idiot,” she snapped.
“You should be better prepared.”
Her mouth fell open, and I had a feeling if smoke could come out of her ears, it would be now. “Prepared? I had everything I needed, and I found shelter, more than others out hiking today probably did.”
“No one else ended up here.” I raised my hand indicating not just the greenhouse but my property.
“You sure? Maybe I’m to pull your attention one way while my team of tourist hikers overrun your house.”
That sass. Holy shit, she needed her ass spanked for that sass.
“And part of that plan was to take off your pants? I didn’t think you teased people that way… any longer.”
The second I said that, I knew it had been a mistake. A low blow. A true asshole move. I bit my tongue, but I couldn’t take it back. While I’d been pissed she’d been in my bed and offered herself all those years ago, I always appreciated that she recognized her sexual needs, even at eighteen. She hadn’t been shy about them. No, she’d fucking owned her sexuality, and I’d snubbed it. And her.
The biggest thing I’d thought of since then? She’d come to me. To my bed. Offered that gorgeous pussy and sweet cherry to me. Me.
Now? Fuck… I was a dick.
She flushed then glared daggers. “I’d rather be out in the storm than do this with you.” She tried to breeze past me, but I caught her elbow.
What a mistake. Total. Fucking. Mistake. Now I knew how soft and smooth her skin was. Caught her rain and cucumber scent. She was close enough that I wanted to touch other parts of her, too. Lift her up, so she’d wrap those bare legs around my waist, press her against the glass and have my way with her. Lay her over the weight bench and push those thighs nice and wide. Have her bend over the weight rack and take her from behind. Get deep inside that sweet pussy I’d craved for years.
Yeah, thoughts of her forbidden body had gotten me through some of the worst fucking hellholes.
“Stop.” I sounded gruff like I was dressing down a team member, not protecting a friend’s sister. Even if it was from only a storm.
I would’ve dialed it back, but that would have been a mistake, too. I couldn’t encourage any feelings on her part—not that she even remotely still harbored the same ones she’d had at eighteen. She thought I was an asshole, and that would keep her away.
Because if I found her in my bed again, I wasn’t sure if I’d turn her away. I’d take her. Intimately. Aggressively.
I wasn’t a gentle lover.
“You’re not going anywhere but into the house where you can warm up and dry your clothes.”
“Oh really?” she fumed. “You have a lot of nerve, Ford. You haven’t said ten words to me or my parents since Buck’s death, and now you’re acting like we’re all still buddy-buddy? You didn’t want me all those years ago, and you think I’m back for what… more? More humiliation and embarrassment? I don’t think so.” She yanked her arm out of my grasp and tried to pass me again.
I could’ve stopped her. Easily. Could’ve wrapped an arm around her waist to keep her from the door, or tossed her over my shoulder and carried her to the house. Hell, I could’ve even apologized, but the list was so long, I didn’t know where to even start.
She could stay here and wait out the storm, but there was no way I was letting her do that. There was a much easier way to get her to do what I wanted, and it had me smirking. I might fight against having Indi beneath me, but she sure as hell was going to do what I said.
I grabbed her wet clothes and backpack from the ground then beat her to the door. “See you in the house,” I tossed out before walking out into the storm, letting the rain cool my need for the one woman I could never have.
“Ford!” she yelled. “You fucking asshole. I’m going to—”
The pounding rain cut off the rest of her words as I made my way across the field to the house. I was smiling for the first time in months.
READ NOW: https://geni.us/amhero