In Edge of Surrender, Navy SEAL Ryan Owen has one job: keep Emma Wright safe at all costs. But after a night of passion, Emma takes off and Ryan soon realizes he's not the only one looking for her. Can he figure out who's after the beautiful government aide and why before she falls into the wrong hands . . . if she hasn't already?
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Emma didn't know what time it was. Or what day. She didn't even know what city they were in as they jogged on the sidewalk alongside a congested street. Ryan had her hand clamped in his, and she struggled to keep up, but she kept glancing over her shoulder to see if anyone was after them.
They reached a strip center, and he tugged her through a parking lot.
"Ouch!" She stopped and glanced down at her foot.
"Damn, where are your shoes?"
She looked up at him. Really looked at him for the first time since he'd rescued her.
He wore jeans and heavy work boots--that somehow didn't slow him down at all. His black T-shirt was plastered to his chest with sweat, but that was his only sign of stress--he wasn't even breathing heavily.
He took his phone from his pocket and checked the screen, then tucked it away.
"Come on." He caught her hand and pulled her toward a convenience store. She followed his lead, too shocked and shaken to protest whatever plan this was.
The store was cold inside and smelled like hotdogs, and Emma became acutely aware of her own unique fragrance--a combination of sweat and fear and rotting garbage.
Ryan stopped in the candy aisle and nodded at the restrooms. "Go clean up. I'll meet you in front, okay?"
She limped down the aisle, glancing anxiously around the store as she made her way to the bathrooms. She stood in front of the sink for a ridiculously long time scrubbing her hands and arms and feet with soap until her skin felt raw. Then she spent a few minutes finger-combing her hair.
Her reflection scared her. Her hair was a wild mane again, like it had been the day Ryan's SEAL team found her in the rainforest. Her white silk blouse was now soiled and torn, and she had a smear of red down the side of her Donna Karan skirt. Not blood. Or ketchup. Maybe barbecue sauce? She tried to rub it away, but only managed to make the stain worse.
She looked at herself and sighed. At least she was clean. Relatively speaking. Now she needed to go back out there and make Ryan tell her what the hell was going on.
He was waiting on the sidewalk out front beside the ice machine. He looked her over, then held out a plastic bag.
Emma glanced inside. Flip-flops, thank God. The instant she slipped them on her feet, Ryan pulled her around the side of the building and backed her against the wall.
His mouth crushed down on hers, cutting off all words, all thought. There was only him, and his lips and his taste and impossibly perfect feel of his body pinning her. He braced her there, keeping her on her feet even when her legs felt like limp noodles and her head felt so dizzy she didn't even know her own name.
He pulled back, and the intensity in his green eyes sent a shiver through her.
"You scared the hell out of me, you know that?" He cupped his hand around the side of her face. "From now on, we do this my way. I will keep you safe if I have to take a bullet doing it, but no more arguing."
He kissed her again, and her mind reeled from his words and the emotion flooding through her system. She couldn't get enough of him. She wanted to let go, to step away, but instead she kept kissing him and kissing him until all she could feel was his rock-hard body. He tasted so good. He was solid and strong and insistent, and his body formed a protective wall around her, keeping the outside world away as he pulled her into the private depths of his kiss.
His face was shadowed in the moonlight, but she could see the heat in his eyes as he pulled her into his lap.
"Ryan, I'm serious. We tried this before, and it didn't work out."
With a slow, deliberate move, he brushed her hair off her shoulder and dipped his head down. "Oh, yeah?" He kissed her neck, and a shot of lust went through her.
He slid his mouth over the tender spot beneath her ear and then down to her collarbone. He pushed the flannel aside so he had better access. He nuzzled her, and she couldn't help squirming against him as she inhaled the musky scent of him. He smelled like male sweat, and she should have been turned off, but she wanted to bury her head against his shoulder and soak up his scent like a sponge. She blamed pheromones. Or hormones. Or some other chemical reaction that she had absolutely no control over, because whenever she got close to this man she seemed to lose the capacity for logical thought.
Her hands settled on his strong shoulders, and she couldn't bring herself to push him away as he trailed kisses over her neck.
"I thought it worked out great." His breath was warm against her skin.
"No, it didn't. We ended up in a fight."
His gaze locked on hers. "Honey, I remember the look on your face, and it definitely worked out."
He cupped his hands on either side of her face and gently tipped her head back, then slid kisses down her throat, then started unbuttoning her shirt.
She kissed him then, stroking her hands over the stubble along his jaw. He tasted sharp and familiar, but slightly sweet tonight because of the Coke they'd shared. "You taste good," she whispered.
He kissed her again, expertly distracting her as he pushed her skirt high on her thighs and shifted her so she was straddling his hips. He was rock-hard, and she made a little gasp, but he swallowed up the sound.
Her head was spinning. Heat pooled inside her body and she felt that ache starting deep in her core. She instinctively arched against him, even though her mind was telling her to back away. But she couldn't. His kiss was too potent, too demanding, and every cell in her body was screaming for her to get closer, as close as she possibly could as his warm hand slid under her flannel shirt and closed over her breast.
"Ah, Emma." He murmured against her mouth, rasping his thumb over her nipple until she pressed against him. "You like that?" He looked at her in the moonlight, but she couldn't answer, couldn't speak, could only kiss him to shut him up because she didn't want to think.
Yes, she liked it. Loved it. Loved his big palm cradling her breast and the rasp of stubble against her skin as he slid his way down her throat. He fastened his mouth over her nipple and sucked her hard through the lace of her bra and she nearly jumped from his lap. But he held her in place and gentled his touch, and she squirmed closer, stubbornly ignoring all the warnings racing through her mind.
She shouldn't get into this with him. This was temporary for him, nothing more. And meanwhile, she was getting more and more emotionally attached.
He held her close, licking and suckling her, and she combed her fingers through his soft hair and pressed herself against him, even as the logical side of her brain told her to pull away and escape while she still could.
The thing was she didn't want to. She knew what his mouth and his hands could do to her, and she wanted it with a determination that shocked her. She wanted him to take her to that white-hot, blissful place again, that place that made the rest of the world disappear until it was just his kiss and his body, and the all-consuming heat of what he did to her.
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