Lincoln Arnold held his breath and waited to see if she would come to the window. Disappointment wiggled its way in the pit of his stomach, but he would not be deterred. He grabbed a few more pebbles from the ground in front of him and tossed them at the glass.
Maybe she was too involved in her video game to notice he was throwing rocks at her window. He didn’t entirely blame his wife for ignoring him. With all the traveling he’d done lately, they hadn’t been able to spend any real time together. Lincoln was hoping to remedy that with a little impromptu lunch. If he could get his wife’s attention, that was.
AN EXPLOSION FILLED the screen. Randa shouted in triumph, as did the voice in her headset, when several bodies went flying.
“Now let’s go get their flag,” she said. The wireless controller vibrated in her hand. Multiple light flares soared over her avatar’s head, and she frantically searched the screen for the enemy.
“What the…” the voice said in her ear. “Where’d that come from?”
“Dunno, but I’m almost outta health.”
“What’s up with FazFazol? He sent me some weird message that he was pissed about losing the last tournament.” Randa grunted when she narrowly missed an opponent’s attack.
“He’s upset because he recruited you, and already you’re a better player.” Gremlin chuckled. “I wouldn’t worry. You know how fragile his ego is.”
Another explosion vibrated her controller.
Distracted from the screen, Randa lowered the volume on the television and looked toward the window in time to see three more pebbles hit the glass.
Now who in the world would be throwing rocks at her window? She stood. The late-afternoon sun burned through the window, adding a glare she couldn’t see through.
“Hey, Gremlin, hold the fort. Someone’s throwing rocks outside.”
He laughed a warm braying tone that reminded her of a hoarse donkey. “That sounds oddly like a boyfriend trying to get attention. What would your husband say?”
She smirked. She did have a boyfriend, but Gremlin didn’t need to know that. Matteo, her live-in boyfriend, had even accompanied her to a few of the tournaments in the past couple of years. Since he was helping out at her husband’s bail bonds agency this afternoon, she figured it had to be Lincoln.
“It’s probably my husband trying to get attention.” She giggled. “Hey. Don’t let them take our flag.”
Again he laughed, and she crossed the dark wood floor to the windows. Just as she reached the glass, three more pebbles hit. She jumped back with a gasp. Shaking her head, she chuckled and then pressed her nose to the glass. After all the time her husband had been away, it would be sweet if he were doing something so utterly romantic.
Randa cupped her hands on either side of her face. There, in the middle of the yard, was the tall, somewhat bulky silhouette of her husband. Wind rustled his hair and tugged at his clothes. Flutters whispered through her belly as a slow smile creased her lips.
“Hey, Gremlin. I’ve got to go.”
His exaggerated sigh was heavy in her ear. “Really?”
“This won’t be the same without you.”
She laughed. “Pu-leeze. You can handle this team blindfolded.”
It was his turn to laugh. “Yeah, you’re right. Have fun, love.”
She crossed the room to the television and video game console. “I will. Later.” Before he could respond, she disconnected and removed her headset, then powered down the game. With a smile, she returned to the window.
THE EASY THING would’ve been to just walk into the house and bring Randa out to the special little spot Linc had prepared, but he wanted a somewhat dramatic moment, to remind her that he could still embrace the youthfulness of love. That he could romance her with something as silly as tossing pebbles at her window just to spend time with her at an indoor picnic and roaring fire.
He glanced around the yard. Several leaves had blown onto the grass. Their red, gold, and brown offerings dotted the lawn like autumn flowers. A rake was propped against the riding lawn mower. Down the path and beyond a small garden was a pool house. Since they seldom used the pool, they utilized the structure as guest quarters. He had to remember to schedule a pool draining before the weather got much colder. Just another autumn day in suburban Michigan.
Faint scraping drew his attention back to the house. He selected a few more pebbles, raised his arm, and took aim.
The screen wiggled, and a moment later Randa’s beautiful oval face appeared in the window. She pressed her nose to the mesh. “What are you doing?”
“Wooing you.” He lowered his arm.
“I was in the middle of a game,” she said with a smile.
Disappointment warred with hopefulness. Would she brush him off totally? “Well, could you pause it long enough so I can spend some time with you?”
Without a word she disappeared from view, and the window closed. Vibrations shook his hip. He removed his cell phone from his jeans pocket and stared at the screen.
We need to talk.
His pulse pounded a little harder. What did Selena want after all this time?
He gazed into the distance as he waited for a response. Selena was a complication he didn’t need at the moment. For the past several years, he and his wife had practiced polyamory. Selena, when she was part of their unit, couldn’t quite cope with the concept that he would never leave his wife or have her as his primary partner. That was one of the reasons the relationship between him and Selena didn’t work.
That space and title were reserved for Randa. She was entitled to that role and function, and frankly, he loved Randa more than any woman who had come before or after her. After everything they’d been through, she deserved to know how much he cared for and cherished her. The romantic interlude he had planned was the best way to show her.
His phone vibrated again.
I have something you want.
He glanced up in time to see Randa step through the sliding glass patio doors. She offered him a wide smile as she skipped across the redwood planks, stumbled at the top of the stairs, and pitched forward. She let out a shriek, her arms windmilling, and grabbed for the handrail only to miss. Lincoln sprinted forward and seized her before she could hit the hard paving stones.
He held her close, his heart pounding as she clutched at his shoulders. She was breathing hard.
“That could’ve been bad.” He smoothed a hand over her hair and stared at her face.
Randa licked her lips and exhaled a ragged breath. “Indeed.”
“Are you okay?”
She maintained his gaze. “Now that you’re here.”
“Good.” He carefully set her on her feet, looked her over, and found the culprit to her fall. An untied shoelace. “Hold still a moment.” He squatted, lifted her right foot, and rested the extremity on his thigh as he tied her shoe. She placed a hand on his shoulder to maintain her balance.
He lingered on her foot, tracing the exposed skin around her ankle. The sharp inhale from above was enough to tighten his groin and instill a sense of urgency to get her to his special spot.
Lincoln placed her foot back on the ground and stood, dusting off his jeans. He allowed his gaze to drift down her body. Randa visibly trembled beneath his scrutiny. He smirked. The woman—his woman—was all soft curves and voluptuous perfection.
“I love when you look at me like that.” Her voice had a breathless quality to it, and it hardened his dick to a painful throb.
“Like you want to gobble me whole.”
He drew her near. So close her breasts pressed against his chest with every breath she exhaled. Good thing they would be alone and uninterrupted for what he had in mind.
“I do.” Lincoln tucked her hand into the crook of his arm. He led her across the yard to a paving-stone path that wound through a copse of trees to a screened gazebo.
Just inside the structure, flames flickered in the wood-burning fireplace. As they approached, the blue-checkered tablecloth he’d stretched over the low coffee table and the picnic basket he placed there earlier came into view.
Lincoln held the door open, and she crossed the threshold. Despite the chill of the day, warmth embraced them. He shut out the cold, leaned against the door, and waited.
Randa walked around the sofa, trailing her fingers along the back, staring in the direction of the cloth-draped table.
“You did all this?” She looked at him, a combination of awe and delight on her face.
The pleasure he read on her features made all the worrying and planning he’d done worth it. “Of course.” He waved a hand at the sofa. Once she sat, he placed a napkin across her lap. “I’ve been away a lot these past few months and wanted to take time and celebrate us.” He caressed her cheek with the backs of his knuckles. He loved the petal softness of her skin.
She grasped his hand and pressed it to her face. He closed his eyes and savored the smoothness of her cheek on his rough and calloused palm. Too long. That small gesture, so comforting and yet so elusive, set his pulse racing. He had been away extensively, not just chasing down bail jumpers, also attending seminars and trainings. Lincoln still had a few more seminars to attend over the next couple of months, and all he wanted to do was spend the time with her.
His only consolation was that neither of them would be alone, but there was nothing like spending time with his wife.
“I’ve missed our time together,” she said, rubbing her cheek against his hand.
“Me too. Even though I know Matteo is here, I miss being with you.”
Matteo, who was tracking a fugitive, helped alleviate the burden of loneliness when Lincoln was out of town.
“He isn’t you.” Sincerity rang in her words.
“It warms me to hear you say that.” Lincoln released Randa to uncork the bottle of wine and poured two glasses.
“It’s the absolute truth. I like Matteo a lot, but he can’t replace you.”
“You sweet talker.” He handed her a goblet of the pale golden liquid and settled next to her on the sofa.
He brushed a strand of hair from her forehead. “It’s been way too long since the two of us have just had some time together.”
She sipped her wine and studied him above the rim.
“One of these trips, you should come with me.”
“That sounds wonderful. Are you sure I wouldn’t be a distraction?”
“A welcome distraction.” He leaned forward and touched her lips with his. Just a hint of a kiss, but it was enough to ignite his desire. “I miss you being by my side when I go out of town.” He combed his fingers through her hair before twisting a kinky coil around one digit. “Do you think we can do that again?”
“I don’t see why not. I enjoy traveling with you. Helping you demonstrate self-defense techniques is a thrill.”
He grimaced. “You were always a little too enthusiastic about helping in that area. Almost makes me wish I hadn’t taught you anything.”
She laughed. Despite his protest, he was pleased with her prowess. Teaching her how to defend herself was one thing that eased his mind when she was alone, and if she was attacked, she could do something to give herself a few precious minutes to escape.
“I’m so glad you did. I feel better about going out by myself or even when I go to the tournaments with all the gamers.” She shook her head. “I like the confidence boost.”
His phone vibrated. He reached in his pocket to silence it.
“Not going to answer?”
“Whoever it is can wait.” That was the truth, but he also didn’t want her to stumble across Selena’s texts. At least until he could find out what that crazy female wanted.