Disclosure, p.20
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       Disclosure, p.20
 

           Nancy Holder
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  “Then change the definition,” he said, coming for her. “Maybe we don’t have what a lot of other people work for all their lives. A nine-to-five job, kids, our favorite shows on TV and a lottery ticket every Friday. But we can have what they have when they turn the lights out at night.” He nuzzled her forehead with his nose and stepped against her, letting her feel the hard bulge.

  “We can have pleasure, and the comfort of being together before we go in,” he said. “We’re good together. Great, in fact.” She heard the surprise in his voice. “Allison, I know this is your mission. I’m along for the ride. I won’t get in your way.”

  But you are in my way, she thought. You’re tall and strong and I want you.

  But she knew that wasn’t it. Not simple lust. He was right; they didn’t have normal lives. They didn’t really have lives. They had ops. Once they took out Echo—and they would, they had to—something else would come up. And something after that. She was Delphi. She knew things no one else knew, things no one else should ever know.

  “Allison,” he whispered, as he kept his hand on her hip and moved the other one up her side, his palm moving over the swell of her breast. “Sometimes the good guys do win. You have to allow for that possibility.”

  His lips moved over the crown of her hair. She closed her eyes, savoring his touch, smelling the coconut warmth of his sunscreen, the fragrance of his body. Her sex contracted; the moistness between her legs was undeniable as her body prepared for his, as her muscles tightened and her heart raced. She breathed him in, out.

  I will die if you die, she thought.

  Hearing herself, knowing that was her core truth, she pulled away from him firmly and turned her back to him.

  “We should get camp ready,” she said. “The others will be here soon. I have to go over our strategy.”

  He came up behind her, cupping her breasts with his hands and kissing her neck. His aggression caught her off guard and she arched against him, her bottom brushing his erection. Then, as he bent his knees, she came down with him, onto the sand, planting her hands in the silky, warm grains. She was on her hands and knees, and he knelt behind her, rocking against her body as he found the zipper on her parachute pants and pulled it down. He snaked the pants around the ankles of her boots and grunted low in his throat as her black lace thong was revealed.

  “I see you dressed for battle,” he murmured.

  She wanted to say, It’s not funny, and she wanted to tell him to leave her alone precisely because she was preparing for battle.

  But what she said aloud was, “You might die.”

  “I will die,” he said, easing her over onto her back. He reached down and pulled off his T-shirt, revealing a set of dog tags in the thatch of chest hair. “I don’t know when or where, but I know I will. So your point is…?”

  “I can’t do this,” she told him. “I can’t. I—”

  He unzipped his camouflage pants and slid them down. His large, hard penis bobbed, fully erect.

  She was still wearing her thong, her olive-green T-shirt, her sports bra and her boots, and yet she felt more naked and vulnerable than she ever had in her entire life.

  She put her hand over his. “It’s like you said, Morgan. We’re not like other people. I’m Delphi.”

  He shook his head. “You’re more than Delphi. You’re Allison.” His eyes flared. “And you care about me, and that’s what you don’t want to admit. Because then I’ll die.”

  “Oh God, Morgan, please, shut up,” she said, as a tear spilled down her cheek. She looked away from him. “Just…shut up.”

  “Baby,” he whispered, “I’ve sent guys out I knew weren’t coming back. Men I’ve known for a long time. It’s never been easy, but I’ve done it, and if I have to, I’ll do it again. And you can send me. There’s some things worth dying for, and I’m going to die anyway.”

  He laid his hand over hers. “But we’re alive now. Don’t deny us what other people have, just because we put it all on the line.”

  “When my mother died I…” She shut her eyes tightly against the onslaught of emotion. “I’ll be watching you. If it comes down to it…” She gritted her teeth. “I can’t be in this place now. I can’t second-guess my motives. If I see you in trouble…”

  “Don’t deny me a good death,” he said, “ever. Don’t take my self-respect away from me, Allison. I’d rather die doing the right thing than live for a hundred years because I didn’t give it a hundred percent. If you really…” He caught his breath, thunderstruck by the world that sprang into his mind.

  “Allison, if you love me, you know I’d rather die than simply exist.”

  Her eyes flew open. He stared at her. He felt her shock and her uncertainty. But there was something there; it was electric, and it was real.

  “I don’t love you,” she whispered. “I’m nowhere near that.”

  “I know.” He pulled the thong off, exposing the shell-pink treasure it had barely concealed. “I know you don’t.”

  But everything in him knew that she did.

  He had never seen a woman as afraid to give her heart as she, and he loved her all the more for it. There, yes, he loved her, too.

  He loved that she was so strong and brave. He loved that she had endured so much sorrow, yet could scarcely stop herself from loving all her women…and him. He loved the whipsaw strength of her heart and her soul. She was a warrior not just of the body, but of the heart.

  “You can win this one,” he said to her. “I promise you, Delphi, you really can win.”

  The tears slid down her temples. Her dark hair was a sharp contrast to the golden-yellow of the sand, just as her tears were a contrast to the joy he knew he would bring her, if she would just lay down arms for a heartbeat.

  “If I love you, I lose,” she whispered.

  “You don’t believe that for a second,” he countered.

  Then he put his hands on either side of her shoulders, making his intentions clear. He angled his lower body and poised himself just above her, the tip of his penis rubbing against the delicate, sensitive nub of her sex.

  “Don’t stop me,” he told her, reassuring her that she had the final word. He had never forced a woman, and he never would. As much as his body cried out for release inside her, he would stop in a heartbeat if she told him to.

  She widened her eyes, and the golden flecks were like glimmers of her soul. He felt a rush of tenderness for everything she had gone through, and everything she was. He understood at that moment how thoroughly she had put walls around her heart so no one could hurt her that much again, and he understood that he could hurt her that much. His own protective armor was just as thick, equally effective. She had been right all along. If they did this thing…

  …they both could lose.

  There’s no way out, he thought. And I don’t want one.

  “You,” he said, his voice hoarse with emotion. “I want you to be with me. I want you to know me in case I don’t come back from this mission. No one has ever really known me. I haven’t let them. So no one has ever slept with the real me before.”

  She caught her breath.

  “This is me,” he said. “I would rather die than not be me. I’m flawed, and I can be a bastard. I can be mean. I get scared. But I’m a man, and I’m alive, and I’m in love for the first time in my life.”

  Her lips parted, but she didn’t speak. Silently she gazed into his eyes and tipped her pelvis up, inviting him to join his body with hers.

  It was a sacred moment. In the ages-old sense of the word, she wanted to know him.

  So he entered her world; his eyes wide-open, he slid into the wet heat of her, gasping aloud at the sheer pleasure. Allison, his Allison, his woman, his.

  She whimpered once, deep in her throat, and her back arched off the sand. But she didn’t close her eyes. She maintained her gaze as her body found his rhythm, as they moved together in the ancient dance of claiming.

  I know you, and you are mine. I know you as no one el
se knows you; I am yours.

  Every masculine impulse to protect rushed over him, and he gripped her arms as he thrust hard and slow. He brushed her hair away from her forehead and rested his chin against the damp, smooth skin. He thrust; she thrust back.

  “It’s all right,” he said. He had been careful in the past with protection and she had nothing to worry about.

  “It’s all right,” she replied huskily, adopting his code.

  But he knew she was still holding back, afraid to take him; because if he was hers, then she might lose him.

  Never, he told her, using his body and all its skill to push her past her fear. Never.

  And all the words he had been afraid to speak to any woman poured out of him like breakers, like crashing surf, like a tidal wave. Tears and sweat spilled down his face as she took him; she possessed him; he didn’t give, he didn’t know how—

  Damn straight I do. Damn straight, and I’m yours…Oh my God, I know it. I’m yours forever. Let me into your soul. Let me live there, and I will never die. And neither will you.

  “Oh my God,” he whispered, overcome, as she moved with him, rode him, her eyes flaring, her mouth in a passionate grimace. Then she raised her head to meet his and she kissed him, sliding her tongue into his mouth and wrapping her arms around him. She held him, cradled him. They moved together, and he could hear the roar of the surf on the beach and the tidal urges of his body, trying desperately to fill her with his immortality.

  Send me into battle, he thought. Use me. Don’t waste a second of my life.

  “Morgan,” she murmured, “I-I’m—”

  “You’re not,” he insisted. “You’re not afraid.”

  He thrust again, harder. She cried out, and began to move faster. All her muscles tightened. Sweat ran down her neck between her breasts, where the spider necklace glittered and gleamed. She clung to him, moving with him as he got closer, and closer, as their bodies fused.

  “Allison,” he pleaded.

  Then he lost track of words, and he lost himself in her; it was the most terrifying moment of his entire life, and the bravest. No longer I, no longer Morgan, but we—this new thing, this paradise, this forever-moment—

  We.

  And he climaxed hard. Waves of pleasure obliterated him.

  As Allison climaxed, she shattered. There was only being…with him. It was ecstasy, in every true sense of the word. She had no sense of where he ended and she began; she had never known such a thing could be. The pleasure he gave her transformed into the pleasure she gave him—looping, infinitely. It was something beyond them both; it was like feeling the universe inside her; it was…

  …It was over.

  With a groan, Morgan fell against her, still holding up his weight but spent and exhausted. His breath tickled her earlobe and she turned her head toward him. He kissed her, long and hard, like his lovemaking, and she felt a rush of panic, followed by a grief so intense she thought she might die. Now, more than ever, she couldn’t stand the thought of losing him.

  I shouldn’t have done this, she thought. I lost control. I can’t do that. I can’t do this, ever again.

  “Whoa.”

  Morgan raised himself up on his elbows and smiled down at her. His face was radiant, his lips soft with a delighted smile that cut her to the quick. Whatever they had created, he still held it. But she’d lost her grip, and she felt somehow like she’d failed him. Failed them.

  His smile faded.

  “You’re sorry,” he said.

  She didn’t want to say it. She didn’t know how. In the throes of her passion, she had felt…completed. But now that it was over, she felt like he had taken some of her away with him…a heart she had barely dared to admit she possessed.

  If she gave herself to him again, would she lose even more?

  “This wasn’t the right time,” she said, shifting beneath him.

  He clearly took that as his cue to move away. A soft tropical breeze took the place of flesh on flesh as he rolled onto his side and sat up.

  “This was the perfect time,” he countered. Then, gruffly, “For me.”

  “It’s not you,” she said. “It’s me.”

  “No. It’s us,” he replied. He slid his fingers through hers and brought her hand to his lips. “It’s the way we are.”

  She swallowed hard as he let go of her hand. There was a finality to it that pierced her to her core. His walls were back up…as they should be. He was right to guard himself against her.

  “This…it wouldn’t end well,” she murmured, and she was grateful that he didn’t hear her as he tore off the rest of his clothes and his boots, got to his feet and walked naked to the water’s edge. He was magnificent, hard sinews and scars and all. As he strode into the water, she wished she could just hand everything off to someone else and be his, be with him and let it all go….

  She wasn’t there, emotionally, and she knew Morgan was aware of that, as she took off her boots and followed his footprints into the water. The sea smelled like Morgan’s seed, trickling between her legs. Ironically she was on her last month of birth control pills, and she hadn’t renewed her prescription. She hadn’t had sex in so long that contraception didn’t seem worthwhile.

  He saw her, but he made no move to come near her. She bobbed under the surface, letting the surf rush over her. Then she left the water, drying off in the hot sun, and dressed, feeling invaded, aware that he was watching her. She picked up her bulky black radio phone and walked over to their cache of equipment. She turned her back to Morgan, grabbed an unloaded Uzi and cracked open a box of black-tipped ammo rounds. Time to prepare. She loaded the submachine gun and started on the next one. Finished that, got another bottle of water and picked up a third Uzi.

  Then she cocked her head, suddenly aware that she was hearing something that didn’t belong. She tried to ferret it out. Radio chatter? She skimmed her gaze over their setup and checked her radio phone.

  “Armygirl to Gordita, over.”

  Then she looked past the phone to the ocean.

  “Morgan,” she whispered.

  He was kneeling naked on the beach with his hands on top of his head. A man in a wet suit held a Browning to the back of his head while a second man fanned the area with the barrel of a Kalashnikov.

  Chapter 17

  The world of Athena Force

  “G et here, danger, stat,” Allison whispered into the phone as she pressed herself flat into the shadows, eyes on Morgan and the gunmen. “Armed men. At least two.”

  She set the phone down and grabbed up the Uzi she had just loaded. Her mind raced as she put the trio of men in her sights. If she took out the shooter, what would the guy with the Kalashnikov do? She doubted he would take out Morgan first. Self-defense would be his highest priority.

  She formed a tripod—legs spread apart, elbows cocked—and forced all the air from her lungs. Then she drew in half a breath and held it. Her heart roared. She kept steady.

  She aimed for the temple of the man with the Glock. When she hit him, would his finger reflexively squeeze the trigger, sending a death-dealing barrage of rounds into the back of Morgan’s brain?

  No way to tell. No time to find out. If she delayed, Morgan would probably die anyway.

  She pulled the trigger. The report was more of a snap than the dramatic roar of movies and TV. So was the second round, when she saw that the shooter was still standing. She stood rooted to the spot, battling her impulse to run to Morgan and prepared to fire again.

  Then, to her surprise, both assailants collapsed into the foam. The spear from a spear gun was centered in the back of Kalashnikov’s neck; blood gushed from the wound. Morgan was on the shooter in a flash, pushing his head under the surf and keeping it there. The breakers fizzed to pink foam. She kept the Glock in her right hand and grabbed a spear gun in her left.

  She didn’t call to him; no need to advertise her approach to any additional hostiles she hadn’t seen yet. Morgan would know she was on her way if he had any
faith in her at all.

  As she flew toward him, she saw someone in SCUBA gear rise from the water with his—her—hands in the air. She was holding a spear gun, and her hair was white-blond.

  The diver yanked off her mask and looked straight at Allison. It was either Elle Petrenko or her twin, Sam St. John.

  Or both…Allison saw a second diver breaking the surface, on the other side of Morgan, with a wickedly sharp knife in her fist.

  “Morgan, friends!” she shouted, dashing toward them. She waved her own spear gun and the bang stick over her head.

  “Allison!” Elle’s thick Russian accent cut through the roar of the breakers. Then she and Sam grabbed one of the facedown floaters as Morgan dragged the other one—Kalashnikov—onto the beach. By the time Allison reached them, they had turned the two men onto their backs. Morgan, unconcerned about his nakedness, took the knife from Elle with a nod and started slicing the wet suit off the corpse.

  “Slice deep, Comrade,” Elle said, as Allison reached them and threw her arms around Morgan, dropping her weapons on the sand.

  “This is Morgan Rush,” she said, burying her face against his chest.

  “Nice to meet you,” Elle said politely, her mouth twitching as she shook his hand.

  “The pleasure’s mine,” he replied, keeping his arm around Allison. “Thanks for saving my life.”

  “My sister, Samantha,” Elle said. She gestured to the dead men. “These were the men I’ve been chasing. Monya Kishinev’s thugs.”

  “Let’s get them out of the water,” Sam said.

  Allison jogged back to the radio phone.

  “Armygirl come in,” she said.

  “Armygirl on my way. Status?”

  “Appears nominal, come in asap,” Allison replied.

  “Roger, over.”

  Allison put down the phone and returned to the group on the beach. Morgan had taken Kalashnikov’s arms and was dragging him onto the beach, his wet heels carving deep ruts in the sand. Sam and Elle gathered up the shooter. Allison collected her weapons and walked beside Morgan.

  “Diana’s on her way,” she reported.

 
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