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?"