Rush spat a four-letter word.

"My sentiments exactly," Jeff answered.

Rush let himself into the dark apartment and set his seabag just inside the door. The way things were working out he could be here awhile. The realization angered him every time he thought about it. He moved into the kitchen and set the six-pack of cold beer on the counter. He rarely indulged himself this way, but tonight he was in the mood to get good and drunk.

Not bothering to turn on any of the lights, Rush took one chilled aluminum can and carried it with him into the living room, pulling off the tab as he went. Standing in front of the wide picture window, he offered a silent toast to the glittering lights of the waterfront several blocks below. He took a large swig of beer. Tonight something cold and alcoholic suited his temperament.

He took another long drink, sat on the sofa and propped his feet on the coffee table. What he needed was a woman. One sexy as hell, with big breasts and wide hips to bury himself in – one who would relieve his angry frustration. Rush frowned. The crude thought wasn’t like him. He rarely allowed his mind to indulge in such primitive fantasies. But tonight, after watching weeks of planning and months of hard work go down the drain, Rush wasn’t in the mood for niceties.

Against his will, Rush remembered the look in his friend Jeff’s eyes when he’d stepped off the gangplank. Jeff had been hurrying to get home to his wife, Susan. Rush didn’t need much of an imagination to know what Jeff was doing about now – and it wasn’t drinking cold beer in a dark living room. He allowed himself to grin. Jeff and Susan. Now that was one marriage Rush wouldn’t have bet good money on. But Susan Dwyer had pleasantly surprised him. When Jeff had left Bremerton earlier in the week, there’d been no tears in her eyes, only smiles. She’d been a good wife to Jeff from the first. Susan wasn’t a dinger or a complainer; the only bonds she’d wrapped around her husband had been in his heart.

Rush had seen subtle changes in his friend since his marriage. He’d been looking for major ones. Over the years Rush had witnessed the power a woman could wield over a sailor’s life often enough to recognize the symptoms. But Susan Dwyer hadn’t been like some of the others, and Rush had silently admired her – and envied Jeff. His friend had .gotten damn lucky to find a woman like Susan. Luckier than Rush---But then Rush had given up trying.

The sound of someone moving behind him jerked Rush into action and he vaulted off the sofa. The bathroom door closed and he heard the rush of running water. What the hell! Someone was in the apartment. It had to be Steve. He moved down the hallway, looked inside his roomate’s bedroom and cocked his eyebrows in astonishment. A silk robe was draped across the end of the bed and the room was littered with female paraphernalia.

Rush released a slow, exasperated breath. He’d been afraid something like this might happen. Steve was still working his way through the pain of his divorce and it had left him vulnerable. Rush was all too familiar with the seductive wiles a woman could use to cloud a man’s better judgment. And now it appeared that some schemer was taking advantage of his friend’s generous nature, planting herself in their apartment. Apparently Steve was still susceptible to being tricked and used. Well, Rush wouldn’t stand for it. A surge of anger at the thought of someone taking advantage of his friend’s kind heart made him clench his fists.

He’d gladly handle this situation, he decided. He’d get rid of her, and if Steve asked for an explanation later, Rush had the perfect excuse. After all they had an agreement about this place and it didn’t include inviting women to move in. His mouth tightened into a narrow line. From what little he could see, this one had made herself right at home. Well, no more.

With beer in hand, he leaned against the wall, crossed his legs and waited. Within a couple of minutes the bathroom door opened and the woman stepped out. Her dark eyes rounded before she let out a soft gasp.

Obviously startled half out of her wits, the woman’s hand flew to her heart, gripping the lacy edge of her pajamas. "Who are you?"

Dear God, wouldn’t you know it, Rush groaned inwardly. This wasn’t just any woman, but one as sexy as the one he’d been fantasizing about, with nice, round breasts and long, inviting legs. One look and Rush could understand why his friend had set her up in this cozy arrangement. Lord knew she was tempting enough. Her sheer baby-doll pajamas revealed peekaboo nipples, firm hips and shapely legs. It took him a full second to realize her hair was dark and nothing like that of the blondes that usually appealed to his friend.

She continued to stare at him, eyes as round as golf balls, her hands pressed flat against the wall behind her. She opened her mouth and stammered, " Wh-what are you doing here?"

Other than the small gasp, Rush noted, she revealed no real fear. "Isn’t that supposed to be my question?" he taunted, and his mouth twisted into a cool, appraising smile. She didn’t make an effort to cover herself, but perhaps she wasn’t aware of how the muted moonlight played over her pajamas, giving him tantalizing glimpses of her full breasts. Then again, maybe she was.

"You must be Rush."

"So Steve mentioned me?" That surprised him.

"Yes…of course." The woman worked her way past him and retrieved her robe from the foot of the bed, quickly donning it. She made an effort to disguise her uneasiness, but Rush noted that she was trembling. Even from where he was standing he could see that her heart was pounding like a jackhammer. She glanced his way once, silently appealing to him with those huge brown eyes of hers, but Rush was unmoved. If she thought to practice her charms on him, then she could think again. Steve Kyle was his friend and he wasn’t about to let his buddy be used by this woman or anyone else.

As nonchalantly as possible Rush followed her into the bedroom, ignoring the soft scent of jasmine. "How long have you been here?" Her clothes hung in the closet and her things were lined atop the dresser. He lifted the sleeve of a blouse and let the smooth feel of silk run through his fingers. From the look of things, she’d settled right in as though she owned the place. Perhaps she assumed she did; but she’d learn soon enough.

The woman didn’t answer him right away. Instead, she moved out of the bedroom and into the kitchen and turned on the lights. "Only a couple of days."

"You didn’t waste any time, did you?"

She looked at him as though she hadn’t understood his question. "No."

He snickered. "I thought not."

Her gaze left his and rested on the partially empty six-pack of beer. The sight of that seemed to make her all the more nervous and she rubbed the palms of her hands together as though to ward off an unexpected chill. "You’ve been drinking." Her words sounded like an accusation. The woman’s judgmental attitude only served to amuse Rush. He had to give her credit, though; under like circumstances he didn’t know if he could have exercised such an impudent spirit.

In response to her statement he reached for another beer. His mouth twisted into a sardonic smile. "Care to join me?" he asked, gesturing toward the four remaining cans.

"No thanks." She tightened the cinch on her robe and squared her shoulders.

"Somehow I didn’t think you would." Rush tossed his empty can into the garbage and reached for another. More to irritate her than anything, he took a long, slow drink, letting the cold liquid slide down his throat.

She watched him and braced her hands against the back of the counter. "How long will you be… staying?"

She had one hell of a nerve. "I think I should be the one asking questions, don’t you?"

"I – I suppose."

She continued to stare at him with those wide, appealing eyes, and Rush struggled to ignore the false innocence of her silent entreaty.

"I take it Steve didn’t let you know I was coming."

"No, he forgot to mention you." It was apparent to Rush that his roommate probably had no intention of letting him know. It would have been easy enough to let the matter slide since Steve would be returning from sea duty before Rush was due back into port.

"I’m Lindy."

He didn’t acknowledge her greeting.

As though to cover her embarrassment, she opened the refrigerator and took out a carton of milk.

Rush watched her actions carefully and noted that the inside of the fridge was well stocked. The observation only served to irritate him more. Knowing how generous Steve was, Rush didn’t doubt that he’d given her the money to get set up in the apartment.

Lindy poured herself a glass and replaced the milk. "This does make things a bit awkward, doesn’t it?"

Again Rush ignored her. Instead of answering her question he pulled out the chair opposite her and sat down, nursing his beer. As hard as he tried, he couldn’t take his eyes off her. She was more than just pretty. Delicate, he decided, with a soft injured look about her. Damn, he fathomed better than he would have liked what must have led Steve to invite this woman to move in. In addition to the fragile beauty, she was soft and feminine – the kind of woman a lonely sailor imagines sleeping in his bed, waiting for him. Rush understood all too well, but he didn’t like the idea of some woman using his friend. Not when Steve was ripe for pain.

She took a quick swallow of the cold milk, her soft, dark eyes hardly leaving his. Rush was growing more uncomfortable by the minute. He didn’t want her here, didn’t want her anywhere near this apartment. As far as he was concerned she was trouble with a capital T. She must have sensed this because he noticed her fingers tighten around the glass. Obviously she didn’t plan to make this easy.

"It would help if we could reach some kind of agreement to share the place – at least until you leave again," she said, looking both embarrassed and uneasy.

His slow answering smile was as cool as Rush could manage. He wasn’t about to let a woman sway him out of doing what he must, unpleasant as the task seemed. "Listen, honey," he said brusquely, "the only one of us who’s going to be leaving is you. And the sooner the better. So pack your bags; I want you gone before morning."

Chapter Two

Rush Callaghan was kicking her out of the apartment, Lindy mused. Terrific. What else could go wrong? The answer to that was something she didn’t want to find out. Oh Lord. She’d known Steve’s invitation was too good to be true. Nothing was ever going to be right for her again – she’d been sabotaged by fate while still in her prime--- A quick calculation of her limited funds suggested that she could possibly last two weeks if she rented a cheap hotel room and ate sparingly. Two weeks and she’d be forced to return to Minneapolis a failure. The thought wasn’t a comforting one. Her parents would gladly take her in, but their excessive concern right now was more suffocating than she could bear.

With deliberate calm Lindy drank the last of her milk, carried the glass to the sink and rinsed it out. All the while her thoughts were a churning mass of wary doubts.

She would leave, she decided, because Rush Callaghan had decreed that she must. But she could see no reason to hurry. Simply because he was an officer used to giving orders and having them followed didn’t mean she had to jump at his every command. Copyright 2016 - 2024