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Copyright © CHANDRA RYAN, 2014
All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.

Chapter One


Captain Renee Holt stared at the man sitting on the edge of the bed in the cheap space station motel and bit her tongue against the flippant remark that begged to be spoken. She was the one who gave the orders. Always.

But he didn’t know that. How could he? He didn’t even know her name. And she didn’t know his. Anonymity was exactly what she needed. It was the way her family name and officer’s rank demanded this encounter be.

The truth softened her desire to voice a witty comeback. This was what she wanted—what she’d gone searching for, she reminded herself patiently.

“I said strip,” he repeated calmly.

Except he was a little bossier than she liked, she corrected.

If it hadn’t been three months since her last shore leave and if she didn’t find shaved heads, taut bodies and bad-boy charm so damn attractive, she’d walk away right now. But it had and she did, so there was nothing that could drag her away from this room. Not even a bossy bedmate. Not until she’d gotten what she’d come for, at least.

She smiled at the evil little thought as she slowly undid the first button on her red silk blouse.

“That’s more like it,” he said with a wicked smile of his own.

He leaned back against the headboard and waited expectantly. He appeared more than comfortable calling the shots. Not that that should’ve surprised her. It’d been his quiet confidence that’d drawn her to him in the first place.

That and the network of scars that raced from his forehead to his chin on the left side of his face. God, she had a weakness for scars. Always had.

Scars built character.

Or maybe it was the surviving of them.

She’d never quite figured it out but the semantics really didn’t really matter much. He’d been tested and he’d passed. That was hot.

It was also something they had in common. He’d never know, but as the captain for a covert ops team, she’d earned countless scars herself. Hers, however, she wore on her soul. And that, no one ever got to see.

The second button slid through its hole, bringing the tops of her breasts into view. By the way his smile widened and changed to one of hunger, she guessed he liked what he saw.
There wasn’t any music playing in the room but the bass from a nearby party rippled through the air and she couldn’t help rolling her hips in time with it as she undid the third button to expose the first glimpse of black satin.

The matching bra and thong weren’t exactly military regulation but she always made a point of wearing sexy things when she wasn’t on duty. Femininity wasn’t encouraged in her profession so she relished moments like this, where she got to embrace her sexuality.

When she looked down she realized she was already at the fifth button. Just two to go. She turned her back to him playfully as she finished unbuttoning the shirt and then looked over her shoulder as she let the article of clothing slip from her body to land in a gentle billow on the floor around her feet.

She kept her back turned but continued to stare at him as she undid the single button on her black pencil skirt and then slowly slid the zipper down over her hip. The cool air of the room caressed her skin as she went and made her break out in goose bumps. Still, when she got to the black lace of her panties she paused to tease him with a glimpse before allowing the skirt to puddle on top of the discarded shirt.

The intensity in his gaze made her stomach knot with need and her nipples harden in anticipation. Yeah, this was going to be good. It’d damn well better be.
Unhooking her bra, she threw it to the floor and cupped her now-naked breasts in the palms of her hands before turning back to face him.

“Was that what you had in mind?” she asked, taking a step toward him.

“Definitely a start.” He looked down her body with appreciation glowing bright in his green eyes. As well it should. She was a perfectionist and insisted on being the best—at everything. That included working out. “I like that you left the panties and heels on. Nice touch.”

She took another step, which brought her just out of his reach, before she started to gently caress her breasts with her hands. “And this?” She pinched one of her nipples between her thumb and finger. “Would you consider this a nice touch?”

He chuckled gently as he watched her. “Damned if you don’t already have me figured out.”

“Men aren’t all that mysterious. Some things are universal,” she teased.

“Good to know.” His voice deepened as he stared at her playing with her nipples.

The raw desire that sparkled in his eyes made her movements more brazen. Rolling one nipple between her thumb and finger, she moaned and threw her head back at the overwhelming heat that raced through her. But the covers rustling on the bed brought her attention immediately back to him.

“Undress me,” he challenged as he stood in front of her.

The thought of it made her smile. Maybe playing submissive wasn’t as bad as she originally believed. Just this once.

He was a big guy. At five foot eight she was not petite but even in heels he was still several inches taller than her. And running one of her palms over his chest, she confirmed what she already suspected. His body was that of a fighter—all muscle and brawn.

Wanting to feel his naked skin against hers, craving his warmth wrapped around and thrusting in her, she didn’t take nearly as long getting him out of his clothes as she’d taken with hers. When he was standing in only boxers in front of her, she took a step back so she could appreciate his well-muscled torso that V-ed into lean hips.


She sank her teeth into her bottom lip as she thought about those powerful thighs straddled under hers.

“Like what you see?” His voice held a bitter edge she hadn’t expected. If she cared about his feelings she’d almost worry she’d insulted him in some way. But she didn’t care. She wasn’t here to psychoanalyze him.

She hummed softly as her gaze made its way back up his impressive body. The scarring continued down to his left thigh and she found herself entranced by the intricate pattern of it as it branched out across his chest. Whatever caused it must have been painful. “Wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.”