- Author: Roslyn Hardy Holcomb
- Genre:Multicultural, Contemporary
- Cover Artist: Anne Cain
Orphaned at a young age, Lelia Assad has spent her life in military service as the leader of the Pussycat Death Squad, personal bodyguards to a ruthless dictator. A devout Muslim, she’s never been tempted to break her vow of chastity until she encounters the ultimate alpha Marine. Patrick introduces her to passion so hot she has a crisis of faith.
Unfortunately, fate intervenes and Lelia is duty bound to return to her country when a coup attempt threatens the life of the man she has vowed to serve. While there she is betrayed and imprisoned with a death sentence on her head. Patrick will have to use all his cunning and lethal skills to save his love from the clutches of a diabolical dictator.
- Note:This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and material some readers may find objectionable: Violence.
He paused, exhaled, then turned back to her, waiting for her to say something more. But she didn't halt the smooth flow of her lifts. What the hell kind of game was she playing? Her signals were so damned mixed, they were giving him a headache. But he was pretty certain she'd been telling him to keep away since the moment they'd met. So why had she asked him to stay now? If she was just fucking with his head, he'd have no problem simply turning and walking out the door. He had no time or patience for head games, but he suspected that she was legitimately confused and conflicted. Not surprising, considering her upbringing—which he'd taken the time to investigate further. He shrugged, then moved behind her on the weight bench and helped her lift it on the last rep.
“It's dangerous to train without a spotter, especially when you're working with”—he glanced down at the barbell—“almost double your own body weight. I know you know better.”
Lelia sat up on the bench. “You're right, but I spend so much time teaching during regular training hours that I have to get my own workout in after-hours.”
He noted that she moved the towel, which had been draped casually around her neck, to a position where it covered her sleekly muscled thighs, visible in the gray knit gym shorts she wore. He wondered if she felt uncomfortable being so casually clothed, or if she'd developed a chill. He'd noticed before that even people from hot countries like Laritrea seemed to have trouble adjusting to the arctic settings of most American air conditioners in the camp's part of the country.
He waited a moment, but when she didn't seem all that anxious to leave, he dropped down to the floor next to her weight bench. They sat in silence for a long moment.
“So, Gunnery Sergeant, what are you doing out at this hour? I would have thought an American marine would be out drinking and despoiling virgins all night.”
Patrick looked up at her with raised brows. “What would give you such an idea? I don't make a habit of drinking all that often, and”—he paused for a moment—“did you really say 'despoiling virgins'? Where in the world do you live, a Jane Austen novel?” He watched as she shifted on the bench, though he didn't know if it was from embarrassment or discomfort from her sweaty attire and the vinyl bench. He suspected the former, as she was probably accustomed to being sweaty, given how hard she trained.
“What do you know about Jane Austen?” Lelia asked.
“I've got three sisters, not to mention I've been on an occasional date. Women have been known to coerce me into going to chick flicks.”
“What a horrid term.”
“There you go again, talking like a Victorian governess. Is Laritrea really that far behind the times?”
Lelia rolled her eyes, sneering at him. “There you go again, acting like a typical obnoxious American. Laritrea is a very modern country. My upbringing was a bit unorthodox, as I was orphaned at an early age and raised by a couple that was quite old-fashioned.”
“I'm sorry. You're right. It was obnoxious for me to make assumptions about your whole country based on the way you speak. Especially since I spent a lot of time talking to your soldiers today, and none of them used the types of phrases you do.”
“It's quite all right, Gunnery Sergeant. It seems that every time I encounter an American, this is the result.”
“Then allow me to apologize on behalf of my whole country. I can assure you that we're not all idiots.” He raised her hand from the weight bench and pressed a brief kiss to the back of it. “And please, we're going to be together an awful lot in the coming weeks. Please call me Patrick, or Trick, my nickname.”
“People have an annoying habit of calling me Pat. When they'd do it, I'd add the second syllable. In other words, letting them know that I preferred to be called by my whole name. Instead, they just started calling me Trick.” He shrugged. “Still beats the hell out of Pat.”
Lelia smiled at his expression of comical distaste, pulling her hand back quickly when she realized he was still holding it. “No, I don't think that's a good idea.”
“Somehow being around you makes me want to do things that aren't a good idea, like being here tonight.”
“Yes, what are you doing here? I assumed you lived off-base like Staff Sergeant Stark?” Lelia stood up and walked over to a table where more towels were stacked. She picked one up and began wiping her sweaty limbs.
Patrick stood up as well and watched her for a moment, helplessly admiring the way the damp gym clothes clung to every curve. The frisson of jealousy that he felt at her mention of Stark caught him by surprise. “How do you know where Stark lives?” He could've kicked himself before the words left his mouth.
Lelia shrugged, giving him a puzzled look, and he realized that his tone was too sharp and had probably revealed the emotion behind it. “What? Are his whereabouts top secret? If they are, then someone should tell him to stop discussing it with everybody. He's invited the entire Amazonian Guard back to his place at one time or another. You know what a flirt he is.”
Patrick decided it would be wiser to simply respond to her initial comment. Asking her if Stark ever flirted with her would be like dropping a live grenade down his pants. “I let my apartment go the last time I was deployed. So I'm staying in the barracks for the next few weeks while I'm aboard Camp Lejeune.”
Lelia took a long drink of water from the bottle that sat beside the towels. She turned back toward him with a brow cocked at a querying angle. “Aboard Camp Lejeune? Perhaps I missed something, but don't you think this base is a bit large to be a ship? I could be wrong, but I doubt it would float.”
Patrick smiled. “It's a navy thing, and since we're part of the navy, it's a Marine Corps thing as well. Marines are always on board a ship, whether it's land, a building, a helicopter, or an actual ship.” He moved to where she was, and stood looking down at her. The water had left a tempting bead trembling on her lower lip, and he found himself unable to resist the lure.
As though sensing his intentions, Lelia moved her head back. “So where were you deployed, Patrick?” she asked, apparently forgetting her reluctance to use his first name.
He responded, his mind still distracted by the full curve of her lower lip. “Iraq.” He could have immediately kicked himself in the ass as he saw her face batten down with the speed of a cutter in a nor'easter.
“I've got to get back to the barracks,” Lelia said as she scurried out the door.
Patrick stood beside the table, struggling with the impulse to knock the neatly folded, pristine white towels to the floor. He should've known mentioning Iraq would set her off. He avoided politics whenever possible, but he knew that for many Arabs, American involvement in that region was interpreted as an attack on them all.
What the hell was wrong with him anyway? He should be thanking God that he'd had such a lucky escape. Instead, all he could think about was his next opportunity to kiss her. He shook his head as though he were the one covered in sweat. He had to get his head together before he wound up in a shitload of trouble. Losing his rank was a real possibility. He knew Colonel Brown wouldn't hesitate to can his career on the spot if he screwed the pooch on this one. She'd made it clear that this was a priority assignment, and she didn't tolerate fuckups. He rubbed his hands over his closely cropped hair, trying to gather his thoughts. After contemplating for a while, he picked up the bottle of water Lelia had left on the table. He raised it to his lips and was convinced that her taste lingered on the cold plastic. He strolled slowly over to the exit door, still shaking his head. Only one thing was certain at this point: this had the potential to be a cluster fuck of mammoth proportions.
But damned if he knew how to contain it.
Copyright © Roslyn Hardy Holcomb