Tomorrow, she would explain how she’d fallen for him and see if this could be more than just a friendship with intimacy.
For the first time in two years, Alexa was ready to move on and cling to the happiness she’d discovered. If only her lie by omission didn’t stand in the way… If only Hayes wanted a family, because she and Mason were a team.
The handshaking, fake smiles, impromptu speech and that damn shiny award with his name engraved on the gold plate were all sickening.
Hayes drove back toward Alexa’s home. It was close to midnight according to the glow from the dash clock. Alexa had slipped her shoes off onto the floorboard of his sporty car. He’d opted for something nicer than his truck, mostly for Alexa because he didn’t give a damn what anyone else thought of him.
She hadn’t said a word since they left. It was almost as if she knew he needed to be alone inside his mind. That was what was so great about her. She just knew what he needed.
“Seven of my best friends were killed that day.” He wound through the streets leading to her town house. He didn’t even realize he’d started speaking, but now that he’d started, he found he didn’t want to stop. “We were sent in to rescue three women and eighteen girls at a school that had been overtaken. We had a solid plan, but nothing is foolproof.”
Alexa reached across, sliding her hand over his on the console. Silence settled between them, but her act of compassion spoke volumes. Damn it. She was getting to him. He’d known she was, had known the more he was with her the more likely he was to want more of her.
“I’ll spare you the details, but there was an ambush,” he added, trying in vain to block the images that played like a horror movie inside his head. “The women and girls were saved, I was spared, but…”
“I won’t tell you not to have survivor’s guilt.” Her soft words filled the cramped area. “That’s human nature to wonder what if. I went through it. I’m still going through it. I wonder what would’ve happened had we known about my husband’s condition. Could we have prevented his death? But I can’t get stuck in that mind-set, mostly because of Mason. He deserves to have his mother at one hundred percent.”
“Mason is a lucky boy,” Hayes stated. “I’m sure he’ll know how loved he is.”
Alexa sighed. “That’s my hope. But you’re doing remarkably well, considering. You only tensed a few times tonight being with all those people.”
He turned his hand over, lacing his fingers with hers. “Figures you’d notice.”
“I know you,” she said simply.
Wasn’t that the truth. After such a short time, she’d honed right in on what made him tick, what his fears were, how to handle them. He hadn’t wanted to show any vulnerability, but Alexa never made him feel as if he had. She made him feel…human. Like everything he was going through was okay and he’d make it.
“I just pictured your underwear.”
Her laughter warmed him, taking him to that place that was so perfect, so right. He hadn’t thought such a place existed after he’d come home, but since meeting Alexa, he’d discovered maybe there was a bright spot in the world. Maybe that was the one thing he shouldn’t fear.
“I could tell when you’d look at me across the room,” she told him. “I knew exactly what you were thinking.”
“Good. Because I’m about to show you exactly what was running through my mind.”
He pulled into her drive and barely got the car in park before he reached across and cupped the back of her head, bringing her mouth to his.
Finally. He hadn’t kissed her all evening, hadn’t touched her in the way he’d wanted to. In short, he’d been on his best behavior.
Now, he was about to be on his worst. He reached for the zipper on the back of the dress. “How the hell did you get into this thing?” he growled against her lips.
Alexa laughed, her eyes shining bright as she stared back at him. “Side zipper, but we better get inside before my neighbors see us making out like teenagers.”
“Your neighbors’ lights are off.”
Alexa tugged on the door handle. “I’m not taking the chance.”
Hayes followed her inside. They barely made it in the door before he backed her up against it, flicked the lock and caged her head between his forearms.
“You have three seconds to get that side zipper or I’m going to rip this dress off.”
Her hands were moving as she tossed her head back with a sultry laugh. “You paid for it.”
“Best money I’ve ever spent.”
As the dress peeled away and fell below her breasts, Hayes was on her. He couldn’t get enough and this entire evening of foreplay had nearly done him in. Watching her curves move beneath that red dress, the way her dark hair flowed around her shoulders, seeing her laugh across the room, then catch his eye. He knew he wasn’t the only one thinking of this.
Her little striptease had him jerking his uniform off, quickly ridding himself of everything so he could be skin to skin. They still hadn’t turned on lights, but he didn’t need them. There wasn’t a spot on her body he wasn’t familiar with.