Elizabeth is on a mission to find out who is smuggling drugs in weapons shipments. Instead of sending an investigator under her command, she goes undercover. For her it’s personal –the scum who is doing this is responsible for the attack on her sister.
Erik is a hardcore take charge Marine, who spent years in the field as the commander of his Recon unit. He wants to know two things about the sexy Navy officer who crosses his path: What is she doing in his weapons depot and why is she pretending to be a ditzy debutante?
No one had ever given Major Erik Dean Young a damn thing. He’d joined the Corps at seventeen as soon as the ink was dry on his high school diploma. He’d kept his nose down and worked his way up from private to corporal, then went through Recon training with flying colors. He had fought to earn a place at the Naval Academy in Annapolis and graduated at the top of his class through sheer force of will.
He’d volunteered for every dangerous mission in some of the worst hellholes on the face of the earth as the leader of his own Recon team. He’d served on the front lines of every conflict since the early 1990s, never losing a single member of his team. Well, sort of on the front lines. In his line of work, you weren’t exactly on the front line. If you’re good, you weren’t seen at all.
He had more medals than would fit on the breast of his uniform. He had stood his post with honor, courage and unfailing loyalty. Semper Fidelis was a way of life for him. He had no family; the Corps was his family.
His current command was his reward for years spent knee deep in the worst kind of shit imaginable. The quiet Maryland weapons depot was a reward for a job well done, as well as a transition to life outside combat zones and top secret missions. It was recognition that the Corps couldn’t and wouldn’t keep a warrior at war on a constant basis. He doubted he would return to the field, having spent more than thirteen of his sixteen years in the Corps on some sort of mission. He would eventually be transferred to the Pentagon, after it was clear he didn’t suffer from PTSD and could handle the highly stressed, political world of Washington D.C. Possibly a position with the Company, otherwise known as the CIA.
This was a stress free assignment. He ran a depot that exported weapons to Marines and soldiers in the field. The weapons were shipped to the depot directly from the manufacturers. Everything from FIM-9 Stinger Missiles to M-4 Carbines came through here, where the Marines and a few military contractors (mostly ex-military) would test, pack, and ship them to one of the midway points in the Mediterranean, then they would make their way to the troops in the Middle East.
It was a sweet little command; they were a tight unit. The last thing he needed was a disruption to the well-oiled machine that was his command. When he’d received word he was to have a new member in his tight knit crew, he had been curious. He wasn’t understaffed, and he hadn’t requested extra help. In fact, things were running pretty damned smoothly.
Then in came Lieutenant Commander Elizabeth Pearson.
The damn woman was turning his nice little command upside down. Right now she was downstairs laughing and flirting with his crew, slowing the progress of his well-oiled machine, causing havoc among officers and enlisted alike. All she had to do was bat those long, thick eyelashes of hers and work ground to a standstill while eighty percent of the command—the entire male population—drooled over the woman. And damned if he wasn’t one of them.
The worst part wasn’t that Elizabeth had him sporting a permanent case of blue balls. Yeah, it was pure hell walking around with a perpetual hard on, especially because she worked in the office with him and his executive officer, Mike Torres. It wasn’t just that her perfume, light and airy, drove him crazy. It wasn’t that her flowing little sundresses hugged her goddess-like curves, making a man want to drop to his knees and beg. It wasn’t the way her espresso-colored skin glowed with health and vitality, a perfect foil for her amber eyes. It wasn’t the loose midnight curls falling to the middle of her back, daring a man to bury his hands in the thick, silky looking waves.
No, none of those things were what burned Erik. Well, okay, he was burning all right. Burning to bury himself so deep inside her she wouldn’t know where he ended and she began. But that was neither here nor there. What he really wanted to know was why the daughter of the one and only General Pearson was working as a civilian in Maryland. General Pearson wasn’t the Commandant of the Marine Corps, but he was damned close. He happened to be the Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was the second highest ranked Marine in the entire Corps.
As soon as Erik had gotten word that Elizabeth Pearson was coming to his command, he’d been suspicious. Her father could have gotten her a job anywhere in D.C.; why send her to a backwater command in Maryland? There were plenty of easy jobs for idiot children of the well placed. And no matter how ditzy Elizabeth acted, she was anything but an idiot. Erik was highly suspicious within a week of her arrival. There was just too much intelligence in those glowing eyes of hers. She watched everything, was careful to get to know everyone. No, she was not some ne’er do well kid of an important man.
He’d gotten his second-in-command, Mike Torres, to dig around a little, dropped a few inquires and low and behold, little Lizzie Pearson was actually Lieutenant Commander Pearson, Intelligence Officer. Not just any intelligence officer, either. She reported directly to the Director of Intelligence of the Joint Chiefs. Apparently someone was shipping drugs directly to the front lines in Afghanistan, and they were using weapons shipments to smuggle them. They had managed to discover the supply route, which went through NAS Sigonella, RAF Mendenhall, directly back to this depot.
Erik didn’t know what pissed him off more, the fact that she was investigating his command without his supposed knowledge, or the fact some asshole thought they could ship drugs from his domain. To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t really either one of these things. What really, really got him hot under the collar was the fact that the only person Miss Pearson hadn’t tried to beguile with that thousand-watt smile and sexy cat eyes was him.
It was like she was afraid to be alone with him. Whenever he approached, she would scurry away. He had to threaten Mike with bodily harm to get him to keep his distance. Elizabeth was all his, even if she didn’t know it yet. She had been his from the moment she’d arrived. He remembered it like it had happened five minutes ago, rather than three months ago.
Erik had known he was in trouble as sure as he knew his own name. When she had driven up in the brightly colored Mini Cooper, waving at Mike and him as if she were greeting old friends, he’d been annoyed. At first glance, she had appeared to be everything he’d expected—empty-headed, spoiled, and completely self-centered. He was fine with that. There was plenty of busy-work to be done far away from the weapons or any important paperwork. In fact, it made him feel good to know his suspicions about the daughter of a top general, given a job so far away from the hub of D.C., seemed to be unfounded.
Then she’d gotten out of the car.
“Holy fuck!” Mike had whispered gruffly beside him.
For the last ten years, Mike Torres had been constantly by Erik’s side. They were an inseparable team, climbing the ranks and fighting through the worst shit-storms together. Never in all that time had Erik ever wanted to punch the other man’s teeth down his throat, until now.
He did know how the other man felt, however. The woman who stepped out of her jaunty little striped ride was not the same one who had driven up a few seconds ago. Gone was the air-headed piece of fluff he could dismiss.
As soon as she stepped out of the car, she assessed them. Erik could feel it. She was judging them in some way. The smile she wore did not reach the liquid depths of those cat-shaped, topaz eyes. And those eyes missed very little. There was a faint tension to her movements. He probably wouldn’t have noticed had he been able to look away. Fat chance of that happening.
Even if the short excuse for a dress she had worn hadn’t molded to her body, he would have noticed her full, lush curves underneath. She was a tiny little thing, no more than five foot-one, if that, yet she was every bit as stacked as a statuesque woman a foot taller. Her generous breasts stood proud and firm, the kind that made a man’s mouth water just thinking about how they looked uncovered. He could probably span the width of her waist with his hands, but that tapered waist spanned out to hips that made his knees weak. Those were hips built to take a rough ride. There was no doubt in his mind. One day he would be the man to answer their siren’s call.
By the time he managed to look back to her face, he had known he was lost. He had been to over twenty different countries and seen some of the most beautiful women on the face of the earth, but none of their faces could compare to the dark beauty in front of him now. Full, lush lips that begged to be kissed were dressed with a shiny gloss, plum colored tint. Arched eyebrows and long, thick lashes framed those beautiful eyes. Her cheekbones were high and aristocratic, all of it set off by dark skin. Even now, after all these months, the thought of that skin had him unconsciously licking his lips at the idea of how she would taste.
His only thought then had been, Yeah, baby. Come to Daddy.
Her eyes had lifted to meet his own, and she’d stopped dead for a split second. Electricity had zapped the air between them. In that moment, he had seen past the façade. There was nothing frivolous about this woman. She was here for a reason, and whatever it was, it wasn’t good. His lips had lifted in a wry parody of a smile.
“She’s no aimless deb,” Mike had muttered. “Want me to find out what she’s really after?”
He hadn’t meant to growl, but he didn’t want Mike anywhere near her. Something dark and primal took hold of his very soul. He didn’t even bother to try to fight it. Every cell in his body screamed out, Mine! And that was just fine and dandy with him. Erik trusted his gut instincts, and every one of them was telling him this was his woman. What was the point in denying it?
In the end, he had enlisted Mike’s help to find out why exactly she had come to the depot. Shadowing her investigation had been tricky, but the two of them had managed to do it. They had to go to extreme measures at times, like breaking into the command to set up surveillance cameras because all key card entries were monitored by the Quality Assurance officers. Unfortunately for Erik, the military and civilian Quality Assurance officers were Elizabeth and her number one suspect, Lieutenant Johns. At least he now knew why she seemed so damned interested in the idiotic junior officer.
Even now as Erik watched, she was chatting up the number one suspect, touching him, smiling up at him. Erik was hard pressed not to go down there and bash his face in. Lieutenant Timothy Johns was bad news. He’d entered Annapolis as a legacy, barely making it through. He was known to have a temper and be a complete bastard where women were concerned. Erik didn’t like Elizabeth anywhere near the bastard. This was going to have to be brought to a head soon; his sanity was hanging on by a very thin thread.