A freshman in college, Britt Carmichael wondered if she would ever find another human being sexual stimulating. She had tried boys her age, men, and even girls, but their kisses all left her cold. Until a kiss from Major Wesley Blair spun her world on its axis.
Being a Marine brat, Britt understood Wes better than he understood himself. Wes saw himself as her protector, not a potential lover. So she leaves California to pursue her education in Atlanta. She would return older and wiser, and hopefully more experienced. Then she would see if Wes was able to walk away.
“Come on, Britt. Just one kiss and I’ll leave.”
Britt Carmichael looked at the face of her date as she considered his request. Jeff was a nice enough guy. Most chicks she knew considered him a catch with his tall, lean frame, light caramel skin and deep brown eyes, but Britt just wasn’t feeling it. It wasn’t anything Jeff had said or done—she just wasn’t interested. The only reason she had agreed to go out with him was that people were beginning to whisper about her. She never dated, never seemed interested in any of the boys at school. Honestly, she wasn’t. Not that she was interested in any girls at school either. The first year of college was a perfect time for experimentation, but none of her sorry attempts came to much. Which was why she was standing here right now, wondering how she could get away without Jeff confirming what so many were suspecting: that she was a lesbian.
No matter what people were saying, she just wasn’t attracted to females. She had tried kissing some girl from Anaheim at a party a few months back, someone who not only wouldn’t say a word, but someone she wouldn’t have to run into every day. Not only did she feel nothing, she felt wrong. Not that there was anything wrong with being a lesbian, she just wasn’t one.
So why didn’t she feel a thing for the current “it” boy who was generally accepted to be a major catch? For that matter, why was it none of the boys she knew make her heart beat faster or take her breath away? What the hell was wrong with her?
“Okay,” she sighed finally. “One kiss, and that’s it. I mean it. Please remember my father was a United States Marine. Try anything else and I’ll have you singing soprano for the rest of your life.”
As soon as the words left her mouth, Jeff was all over her. Not only did his sloppy, wet kiss repel her, he seemed to have grown more hands than an octopus.
“Hey!” Britt exclaimed, trying to shove the jock off of her.
Just when she felt she would suffocate, she was suddenly free, the night air cooling off the skin that had so recently felt as if it were being smothered.
“What the…” Jeff began only to be cut off by a deep, gruff voice.
“I think the young lady has had just about enough.”
An unfamiliar tingling race through Britt’s body at the sound. Wes! Wes was back! Since the death of her father, Master Sergeant Brandon Carmichael, Sr., two years prior, Major Wesley Blair had been the official guardian of Britt and her two older brothers Michael and Brandon Jr. He was rarely at the home he had provided the orphans of a member of his recon team. Brandon, who was a grad student at the University of California Irvine, generally took care of Britt and Michael, though essentially they were pretty much a self-reliant bunch. Being the children of a single father who happened to a member of the Marine’s elite Force Reconnaissance, they had to be.
When their father had died on one of his many secretive missions, Wesley had taken them in rather than letting the siblings be split apart by the state. Although their father had left them well provided for monetarily, the state didn’t look too kindly on minors living without adult supervision, even if they had lived that way while their father was alive.
Not that their father had been a bad parent. He had taught his children everything they would need not only to survive in the world which he knew to be cruel and unforgivable, but to thrive. His recon team had provided backup and support of the motherless children all their lives. Wes, being the leader of that team, felt it was his duty to take up where their father had left off.
Their mother had disappeared after Britt had turned ten, deciding that she just wasn’t cut out to be the wife of a Marine who was rarely home and a mother of three. Britt and her brothers had no desire to look for her. She had shown she had no honor, no sense of duty and family. Why would they want to live with someone like that? Wes had been their savior, just as he was saving her from a sticky situation right now.
“Say goodnight,” Wes told Jeff in his low, calm voice. It was a voice that indicated impending danger for those smart enough to heed its warning. Too bad Jeff wasn’t that smart.
“Who the hell are you?” Jeff, who was literally dangling by the scruff of his neck in Wes’ powerful grip, demanded. Unwise. Britt almost felt sorry for him. Almost.
“I am Britt’s guardian,” Wes informed him, bringing his face up close and personal with Jeff’s. “This means I’m your worst nightmare.”
“Can’t a guy kiss his girlfriend?” Jeff squeaked meekly.
Girlfriend? Since when did one date constitute a relationship?
“Say goodnight, kid,” Wes told him.
“I’ll call you!” Jeff declared to Britt as he flew through the air towards his car parked at the curb.
Yep, the boy was dense. Britt shook her head, wondering how she would get out of being Jeff’s “girlfriend” at school on Monday. Then again, maybe she wouldn’t. Since it was clear she just couldn’t seem to work up enough interest to be attracted to anyone, maybe she could use Jeff’s delusions to hide behind for a while. High school might have been a treacherous place, but the small local university was proving to be far worse. The rumors that were now a dull whisper would soon become a deafening roar should she continue to rebuff every guy who showed interest.
“Hey, you alright, kid?”
Wes. She had completely forgotten about his presence as she watched Jeff disappear. Suddenly the weight of what a freak she was became all too unbearable. What the hell was wrong with her? Why couldn’t she seem to make a connection with anyone other than her family? As soon as she felt a strong arm wrap around her shoulder, Britt did something she never did; she broke down in tears.
“Hey.” Wes squatted to look at her face to face. “What’s this? Tears? Did that little shit hurt you?”
Britt shook her head mournfully. “There’s…there’s something wrong with me!” she wailed, both ashamed and overcome by the unfairness of it all. It was such a stupid little thing, but damn it, she didn’t want to be some kind of freaky outcast her first year of college! She was supposed to be enjoying her youth and first blush of sexual freedom. Instead she found herself uninterested in anyone that way. What if there was something seriously wrong with her? Did she have some kind of defect?
Wes was at a loss. He had known Britt and her brothers most of their lives, and he would have sworn on a pack of Bibles that Britt was the toughest of the three. He had heard African-American women had an incredible inner strength, and from what he’d observed from Britt since her mother left, and then, four years later, her father died, he believed it. She kept her brothers from wallowing in self-pity, running the household like a Gunny Sergeant running new recruits. To see her breaking down over some stupid little kid with his dick in his hands did weird things to Wes’ normal equilibrium. He swore he’d kill the kid if the boy was the reason for Britt’s tears.
“There’s nothing wrong with you, sweetheart,” Wes told her, enfolding her in his arms. “You’re a beautiful young woman. The kid just didn’t know how to deal with that.”
It was true. Wes had arrived home five minutes before Britt and the dunderhead she was with had driven up. At first he’d thought it was Michael or Brandon with a date. Hearing her date call her by name had been something of a shock. When had Britt developed all those lush curves? Gone were the tight ponytail and sweats he was so familiar with, and in their place stood a striking young woman. Even now he could feel her perky breast pressing against his torso. She may be a bit on the petite side, but there was no mistaking the curves he felt against his front. Against his will, he felt blood rushing to his cock, making it rise, pressing insistently against the confines of his jeans.
He was going to hell. She was a kid, for God’s sake. Shifting so she wouldn’t be able to feel evidence of his depravity, he awkwardly patted her back as the floodgates opened full force. Damn, where the hell was Michael or Brandon?
“There is something wrong with me!” Britt sniffed, holding her head up to stare up at him.
The heartbreak in those deep brown pools that were her eyes made him physically hurt. His heart tightened in his chest as his arms squeezed around her. He was definitely going to have to kill someone for this. Fierce protectiveness rushed his brain, literally making him see red. If there was anything in modern times equivalent to the mythological Viking berserker, it was a United States Marine, and as the cliché said, the kid he just threw off his porch had fucked with the wrong Marine.
“I don’t like boys!” Britt continued, completely unaware of the turn of Wes’ thoughts.
“What?” Surely he heard her wrong. Not like boys? What the hell had been going on while he had been deployed?
“They do nothing for me!” Britt went on as if she was making perfect sense. “I tried a girl, but that didn’t do anything for me either!”
Wes felt his eyes cross. He looked down at those hauntingly beautiful baby browns, taking in the soft pillows of her lips. His tried to wrap his head around what she was saying. Try what with a girl? Oh, dear Lord, he was definitely going to hell for the visions flashing through his head.
“Kissing, I mean!” Britt exclaimed, although that didn’t make his cock go down even a little bit. “I tried to kiss a girl to see if maybe I was a lesbian, but nothing! So I went out with Jeff, thinking maybe I needed to try a guy again, and still, nothing!”
Wes opened his mouth, but nothing came out. What could he say? He was swimming in deep waters here; he needed to tread carefully.
“Do you, um, have urges? I mean, in general? Without, you know, another person being around?” Okay, now the images he was picturing at his own words were not only going to send him to hell, he was pretty sure he could be arrested. But at least she’d stopped crying.
“Yeah,” she said as she thought about it. “Yeah, I do!”
“Well, if you have no problem, uh, you know—by yourself, then you are perfectly normal. You probably just need to be with the right person.”
She visibly brightened so much, Wes sent up a silent prayer of relief. Maybe this would be over soon. But as soon as he thought he could escape, she jumped up, wrapping her recently filled-out legs around his waist, and started to kiss him all over his face.
“Thank you, Wes!” She was crying again, though these were tears of joy. She continued to rain little girlish kisses all over his face in gratitude. “Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m not a freak at all. I just don’t get turned on by stupid frat boys! I can’t thank you enough!”
The last thing Wes meant to do was turn his head. But somehow, his head angled sideways, just in time to catch one of her enthusiastic pecks. As soon as his lips met hers, their mouths seemed to merge. Honest to all the gods of war, he hadn’t meant for it to happen, but somehow his hands made their way to tangle into her hair, forcing her head back slightly to open her mouth for his seeking tongue. He swallowed her little mewing moans like they were ambrosia. His mind screamed for him to stop, but his body wasn’t listening.
Turning to brace her back against the front door, Wes pressed his painfully hard erection against her; the thin silky layer of her underwear and the rough blue jean material of his pants were all that separated him from paradise. He could feel her growing moisture as he gently rocked against her, his mouth never leaving hers. Far too gone to even think about what he was doing, he pinned her arms above her head, using his hips to keep her anchored against the door.
His lips finally left her as he stared down at her. God, she was beautiful! Her kiss-swollen lips were slightly parted as she panted, straining to move against him as he rocked against her over-sensitized clit. When she came, her eyes fell open, staring up at him in such awe and wonder, Wes felt like weeping like a girl. Instead, he dipped his head to ravish those oh-so-kissable lips once more. Only the tell-tale sound of an approaching car seemed to snap him out of the trap in which he had fallen.
Tearing his mouth away, he stared down at the bundle of pure temptation in his arms. What the hell had he just done? She was a kid, and here he was with his tongue down her throat, dry humping like he was some teenaged punk desperate to get off. What the hell was wrong with him?
Moving back carefully, he let Britt slide to her feet, keeping one hand braced on her shoulder until he was sure she was steady. He wanted to apologize, say anything to excuse what he had done, but nothing came to mind.
“Oh!” Britt exclaimed softly. “That was, that was…incredible!”
Wes winced at her whispered exclamation. He was such an ass.
“I’m really not a freak, I just like older men. It’s not that I can’t get aroused, I just can’t get aroused by guys my age! Thank you!”
Wes opened his mouth to say something, though what, he had no idea, but Britt was already through the front door and jogging up the stairs. The little minx had dismissed him from the equation entirely! Here he was, with a raging hard-on and the taste of her sinful little mouth still on his tongue.
“Damn,” he muttered, making his way into the house.
In her mind, he had just helped her out with a problem. Just good old Wes offering superior wisdom. Yeah, right, he thought as he absently rubbed his throbbing member. He didn’t think he would ever be able to look at little Britt the same way again. He was now hyperaware of the womanly curves, the sweet, sensuous lips, the open, free response.
Wes was a man fully aware of his own nature. While some people took days, months, even years to make important decisions, Wes had always been able to do so in a matter of minutes. He weighed pros and cons in his brain in milliseconds, allowing him to gauge a situation and make a clear, decisive choice in the time it took to tie his shoes. The ability was a blessing in his profession. Times like this, it became a curse.
One minute of lapsed judgment and he was done. His grandmother, a full-blooded Sioux, had once told him he would know the second he met his mate. One kiss…well, one make-out session, and he was hooked. He didn’t need to think about it, or try to talk himself out of it. Britt was his other half. Only Britt was his seventeen-year-old ward. This was so not good.
Licking his lips to try to capture more of the fruity lip gloss she wore, Wes had to fight the urge to march up the stairs and set her straight. The last thing he wanted to do was show her she just needed an older guy to trip her trigger. Just thinking about the possibility made his trigger finger itch. Dangerous thing, that.
Turning around, he stormed back into the living room, where Brandon had just come in.
“Did you know your sister had a date tonight?” Wes demanded to a startled Brandon.
“I had to run the little fucker off while he was trying to manhandle her. I don’t want to see that again.”
That was all he had to say. Brandon was a military brat; more than that, he was the son of a proud Marine. He knew an order when he heard one. Wes wouldn’t have to worry about Britt for a while. At least until she was about sixty-five with a passel of grandchildren.
He was going to have to stay far away from Britt, at least for a while. There was no way he could be too near her and not touch her. A Pandora’s box of desire had been opened. There was just no way to close it again.
* * * * *
Seven years later…
Wes was seething. When he had received this new mission, he had barely been able to keep it together long enough to make it through the briefing. Walking briskly from the nondescript building where he and his team had been given this new assignment, all he could think about was getting to Britt before it was too late.
“Hey, Wes! Wait up!”
He could hear Major General Todd Alexander running after him. Though he wanted nothing more than to keep going, get in his car and drive nonstop to Atlanta, where Britt was flirting with unreal danger, he couldn’t very well blow off his commanding officer. The bastard.
He didn’t bother to turn around. He managed to stand still and wait for the older man to catch up.
Keep it cool, keep it cool, he told himself, trying to calm down.
“Hey, man, I know you have a history with this girl…”
“Britt Carmichael is a woman. A young woman, but a woman nonetheless,” Wes bit out.
More importantly, she was about to become his woman. He had waited five years for her to be old enough. He had stood back and watched her sow her oats in college. He was done waiting. He wanted her with a single-minded intensity he was no longer willing to deny.
“Yeah, well, I know you have history with the young woman and her family. She lived with you for a while, didn’t she?”
Wes was not amused. The good Major General had been the commanding officer of Wes’ unit for ten years, since the asshole was just a major and Wes was just a captain four years out of Annapolis. He knew Master Sergeant Carmichael almost as well as Wes did. The prick had even looked like he might shed a tear at Brandon Sr.’s funeral. Now that he was officially in charge of all the recon units operating in the western hemisphere, he suddenly had fucking amnesia.
“Britt, Michael and Brandon Jr. lived with me until I was transferred to the East Coast. Michael and Brandon still live in my house in California. I have known all three for about ten years now.”
Wes didn’t know where this was going, but he didn’t like the tone. Major General Prick Alexander was up to something.
“That’s why your unit was chosen for this job. Now that you have been transferred to the Pentagon for a while, you will be able to keep a close eye on the Carmichael girl and her boyfriend.”
Wes grit his teeth and clenched his hands in front of him. You get court marshaled for striking a superior officer, and that would only throw a huge damper on his plans.
“Miss Carmichael has been accepted in a trainee position at the State Department while taking graduate courses at Georgetown. I need you to stick to this girl like glue. We have Intel that although she broke up with her little boyfriend last year, he isn’t letting go. Maybe you can encourage her to give him a second chance, so that we can find out what the Santos cartel is up to.”
Never had Wes wanted to kill someone so badly. Forget shooting the bastard, he wanted the pleasure of killing him with his bare hands. Somehow, the son of the biggest narco-terrorist, Enrique Socorro-Santos, had hooked his woman, and this asshole wanted him to encourage that shit? Oh, hell no! Not going to happen as long as he was breathing.
“I thought the mission was to simply watch her and make sure she was safe, sir. Not to put her in the line of danger.” It took a lot to say it calmly. It really did. Wes was proud of himself. He hadn’t killed Alexander yet. It was an achievement.
“We need someone close to Victor Santos. We need to know where he goes, whom he meets with. I didn’t want to tell you in front of the others.”
Of course he didn’t. The crew loved Britt and her brothers like their own. They were their own. The unit was a family, not a collection of individuals. They were a cohesive unit in and out of theatre.
“You know the gi…woman better than the rest. You have more influence,” Alexander went on, blissfully unaware how close to death he was treading. “All I’m asking is that you use that influence to try to nudge her in that direction.”
Wes looked at the Major General and saw him not as the honorable Marine he used to be, but as an opportunist willing to use innocent women to further his career. Wes knew damn well Alexander was looking to add another star to his chest, thereby becoming one of the youngest Lieutenant Generals in Corps history. Capturing Enrique Socorro-Santos would pretty much guarantee that promotion. Wes couldn’t help but wonder how many missions his unit had been sent on to advance this man’s career. Some of them damn near impossible, like the one that had killed Britt’s father.
Wes swore right then and there he would bring this opportunist down. No one placed what was his in danger, and Britt was his. Never again would Major General Alexander use another person as a stepping-stone to his main prize of four stars. It would end at two for this officer.
Without bothering to answer him, Wes got in his car and started his long trip from the bucolic Virginia town to Atlanta. To Britt.