By: Cristin Harber


Trace Reeves was lost in a woman he only knew by first name. Mallory. There had to be more to her than the crush of a hot-as-hell kiss and the sweet smell of her hair as it dangled around him. Her mix of daring and confidence had left him lust drunk. Then she batted those eyes, and he could’ve sworn the badass-babe act was a front for something so much deeper. He just couldn’t put his finger on it.

Well, actually, his fingers were all over it. All over her—and what a rockin’ body.

She was the perfect way to escape after his day stuck at Landstuhl. He’d been nosing around the medical center near Ramstein Air Base. Seeing wounded survivors served as a constant reminder that he continued to fail the only person who mattered—his brother in blood and in arms. His twin turned soldier turned fallen comrade. Heart racing, he pinched his eyes closed, ordering his stomach to calm. It’d been weeks, but time felt as though it had stopped. So much anger lived within him, and he couldn’t let it go.

Tonight, drowning the night in beer had been the plan. It made him forget about the fruitless questioning of wounded, shell-shocked soldiers who may’ve seen something after his brother’s attack. Screw it. He’d learned crap and had needed a drink—and a woman. Then, he’d had both.

But the woman lying next to him was a surprise. An American. Maybe southern, given her slight accent. She was definitely fiery, given everything wild he’d heard come out of her mouth. If they’d been back in the States, she might not have been old enough to grab a beer with him. Not that it mattered in Germany.

His hands had stroked her supple body, and God, he loved a woman who was more than skin stretched over bones. Mallory cradled a pillow. She was a terrific mix of innocent and sex kitten, and fuck, man, that combination worked for him.

“That was wild.” She sounded breathless and sated.

“It was.” Surely there had to be a better response than that. But he hadn’t expected stranger sex to make his mind go numb.

Something had just worked between them. Sparks and fire that made for mind-numbing sex. Great chemistry. She had matched him for every crazy move he’d made in that hotel room, and damn, it felt good to burn off all the tension from the day. As if he could finally breathe when he fucked her. The deeper her nails had dug, the lighter his mind had felt.

Her fingers skimmed over his biceps, tracing the outline of his intricate tattoos. The swell of her full breasts taunted him. Running his tongue over the tips of her nipples had acted like a stroke to his shaft, and now he wanted her again. He wanted to taste her neck and tease her collarbone, but what he most wanted was to watch her fall apart again while she called his name.

She twirled a piece of hair and smiled while scrunching her nose. “Sorry. My hair smells like that bar.”

“Didn’t notice.” Because she smelled like sugar—but he could keep that to himself. He nodded to the back of the room. “Take a shower.”

“My mascara would be a mess. That’d drive me crazy.”

“I’ll go start the water.”

“You don’t listen very well.” She leaned against him and bit his shoulder.

“But I do when it counts.”

She laughed, nodding, then rolled back onto her pillow. “You are kinda cute.”

Wasn’t that some shit? “No one’s ever called me ‘cute.’ Ever.”

“Tough guys can be cute,” she said.

What was it about this girl? It had to be her innocent eyes, coupled with his own stress, because he couldn’t keep his hands off her. A strong tug, and she was on his chest, laughing and kissing. His fingers threaded through her silky hair. “Playing to my ego, huh, babe?”

Another light-up-the-room smile played on her heart-shaped face. “You don’t seem the type to need an ego boost.”

“I don’t.”

“So what do you need, Trace?”

Easy answer. “You. In a shower. Now.”

“That’s direct.” Laughter fell from her lips.

“You weren’t clued in to that before?” How many beers had he had tonight? Noticing her laugher and her hair wasn’t his MO. Hell, paying attention to much other than himself was out of character. He set her to the side, rolled out of bed, and headed toward the bathroom. A quick glance in the mirror assured him that, in the last few hours with her, there was no question, he had not turned cute. But it had been some of the best hours in recent history. Damn. He slapped the water on in the shower, waited until it was steamy hot, and moseyed back to the bed. He couldn’t think of a better way to forget the day—

The bed was rumpled and empty.

His stomach dropped. The small room was the loneliest sight he could recall. On the nightstand, his wallet remained. Already knowing the answer, he double-checked, and all of his cash and cards were still there. She was gone and hadn’t left with a thing, except maybe a slice of his ego.

Trace scrubbed his hands over his face and found a pair of shorts. He stepped into them and sat on the edge of the bed. Nothing was ever as it seemed. Beer and the bat of a girl’s pretty eyelashes had momentarily made him forget that.