“And I only had to remortgage the house twice,” he says, deadpan, before his expression sobers. “It was worth it. She’s…woken up since you got here. You could do that for other people, Naomi. You enrich everything. You do it naturally as breathing.”

“Jason,” I say shakily, my heart pumping like I ran ten circles around the block. “I know you said to let it be heavy, but you say these things a-and it’s going to be so hard.”

His eyes flash. “That’s the first time you admitted it’s going to be rough to leave.”

“Do you want it to be rough for me?”

“I can’t help wanting to stick inside you.” He pulls me tight against him, my side to his chest, his voice low in my hair. “You’re going to stick in me. No help for it.”

It takes me a few moments of measured breathing to center myself. I’m only halfway there when I say, “What will a day look like for you when Birdie graduates and you go back…”

“To wherever they send me?” He eases back, a line forming between his brows. “It doesn’t always look the same. There’s a strict order to everything we do, and some weeks, it’s just an endless cycle of surveillance shifts or patrols. But if we’re on a mission, decisions are often made on the fly. Shit never fails to hit the fan. Plans change in seconds. There might be a pick-up time and coordinates where we’ll meet the helo. It won’t wait for us. It can’t, most times, thanks to a volatile environment. Or enemy fire. So we’ve got a limited amount of time to complete the mission and get our asses to the pick-up, or we’re up shit creek.”

Jason’s explanation rolls so easily off his tongue that he has no idea my metaphorical jaw has dropped. I can’t move as he casually explains the danger he faces on a daily basis. Lord, I’m an absolute idiot that the magnitude of life-threatening danger in his profession never fully occurred to me. I’m frozen as he continues on, his hand roaming up and down my thigh as if he’s not devastating me with every word from his mouth.

“Other days I might work solo. Kind of comes with the territory of being a diver. Hours of silence seem to pass while I’m swimming, rationing my air. More silence when I hit shore and scout the target location for—” He finally notices what must be total horror on my face. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” I blurt, smacking my hands over my burning eyes. “I guess I didn’t realize how easy it would be for something to happen to you.”

Jason tries to pry my hands away, but I resist. He sighs. “Christ. Not that easily, Naomi. I’m good at what I do.” A beat passes. “But yeah, the possibility is there. Great men, friends of mine were lost and they were damn good, too.”

I drop my hands away and let him see my unspilled tears. “I don’t think I’m going to be comforted by battle stories anymore.”

His voice is hoarse when he speaks. “I like your stories.”

My chin goes stubborn, but I feel it wobbling. “Too bad.”

Jason’s eyes shut, a muscle working in his cheek. “You’re in my bed crying over something possibly happening to me, Naomi.” His lids lift and his mouth descends on mine, pausing an inch away, his harsh voice resonating deep in my belly. “Never complain to me again about making it too heavy.”

This is it. This is the kiss I’ll think about for decades to come, maybe longer. I can feel it ruining me with every mash of his lips against mine, every seeking sweep of his tongue. The taste of tears. The unsteady breath that drifts up his throat that slides down mine. I’m getting every ounce of man. His passion, his frustration, his lust, his fierce spirit. How he feels about me. It’s being communicated with the sounds rumbling in his chest, half growling beast, half dying man. It’s almost too much to withstand, until his fingers tuck into my panties and begin a determined massage of my clit, as if he knew I needed some of my attention diverted before my heart exploded.

Yes, my heart.

That brief acknowledgment that I’m in too deep is all I’m afforded before need covers everything in an avalanche. Jason is still plundering my mouth and now his fingers do the same to my flesh, his thumb rubbing laps around the sensitized nub he’s become an expert on in such a short time. Lord. I drag my mouth away from his on a gasp, looking down my body at the scene we create. His thick, flexing arm bent over my hips, muscles shifting while his hand works inside my underwear. My thighs are spread in a shameless V, both of them jerking when he pushes two fingers inside me, his mouth getting busy on the side of my neck.

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