He slid his hand into her hair. “I never coddle you. How could anyone ever coddle you? You’re way too tough for that. And there’s nothing silly about a dream.” He stroked her cheek with his thumb. “We’ve had this conversation. Dreams are what soldiers fight for. And your dream is personal to me now. You’re personal to me.”
“I believe you mean that. I do. I see nothing but honesty and directness in you, Sam, and that matters to me. It’s been part of what has made you so hard to ignore. Probably why I didn’t want you to talk to me and show me what I already sensed was there. But you had your life stripped away by an injury.” She looked away, unable to keep her eyes on him. “I know from things you’ve said to me that you weren’t ready to leave the army. You planned on that life being a career for you. And here you are, in the middle of all this superficial glamour.”
“And with a woman I really care about.”
“Sam,” she chastened. “I can’t…you have to understand that I…” Her voice broke.
“Don’t want to count on me if I’m not going to be here,” he said, accurately filling in the blanks. “Who let you down, Meagan? Who did you count on who let you down?”
Her lashes lowered, the confessions on her tongue, unspoken—of a dream of dancing, of a family who’d said her injured knee was proof she’d been on the wrong path.
“You don’t have to tell me,” he said gently. “Not now, but I hope sometime soon you will. You’re right. The network isn’t for me long term.”
Her gaze lifted sharply, a knife jabbing her right in the chest. “I didn’t think so.”
“I have a plan. And that plan is probably why I’m okay with where I’m at now and will be in the future. I’ll be opening a private security business next year, when several of my former Special Force team opt out of re-enlistment. And my uncle, the one who works for the studio, is our primary investor. He fully intends to pull some of the Hollywood crowd as clientele and even move studio business.”
Relief washed through her. Sam wasn’t going to run off. Sam was invested in this world, in her world. Sam was Sam, and she liked everything that meant.
“Why are you smiling?”
“I don’t know,” she replied honestly, but she really couldn’t hold it back. She kissed him, and it was a good thing that the diner was open twenty-four-hours because they’d managed to undress again.
Meagan and Sam shifted comfortably on the mattress. “You’ve been so polite lately,” he said. “We haven’t fought at all. You’ve been full of thank-yous.”
“You complaining?” she challenged.
“Not at all,” he assured her. “In fact, I like the way you say thank you. So much so that I wonder if I can make you say it now?” He trailed kisses down her jaw, over her neck, until he suckled her nipples, teased them with his tongue and his teeth.
“No thank you yet?” he asked, lapping at a hard peak.
“Not yet,” she confirmed. “Right now, you’re just driving me crazy.”
“Hmm,” he said. He suckled again. “I like that.”
He raised his head. “No? I’ll see what else I can come up with.” He palmed her breasts and kissed a path down her stomach, until he was licking her, teasing her, in the most intimate of ways. And just before he pushed her over the blissful edge, before she happily said thank you, she made a vow.
“Just remember. One thank-you deserves another. Your time is coming.”
And the low masculine laughter that radiated against her clit, sent her tumbling into release. She’d never had a man bring her to orgasm in the midst of laughter, but then, there were a lot of firsts with Sam. And that made letting go feel a whole lot less scary.
* * *
AN HOUR LATER, SAM reluctantly allowed Meagan to dress, but only because of her threat that she’d collapse if he didn’t feed her. He had this nagging feeling that as soon as they exited the tent, she’d run from him emotionally. He’d pushed her tonight, taken her from “don’t talk so I won’t like you” to someplace much more intense, much more long term, and he could see that she was wrestling with that wall of hers—which meant he was wrestling with that wall of hers.
They were just stepping out of the tent, into the cool air rising off the ocean, a high moon overhead, and he was looking forward to the diner, when his cell beeped with a text.
Displeased with the news and knowing she would be too, Sam glanced from the message to Meagan.