Book 3 in the Harmless Military Series
Part of the Harmless World
To claim the woman he loves, he will have to be the Dom she desires.
Navy SEAL Malachai Dupree has everything a man could want. Well, not everything. The one woman he wants is too innocent for his Dominant needs, so he plays the role of supportive friend even if it kills him.
Amanda Forrester is tired of being treated as if she were fragile. She might have been through a rough patch losing her husband in the line of duty, but she is not a wimp. Her feelings for Mal have grown and she is more than ready to be the woman he needs in and out of the bedroom.
One night she pushes him too far and the result is more than either of them ever expected. Mal wants forever, but after losing one husband, commitment isn’t in Amanda’s vocabulary. What she doesn’t realize is that Mal is one SEAL who isn’t backing down until he gets exactly what he wants: Amanda’s total submission.
»WARNING: The following book contains: Sexy Navy SEALs, a stubborn woman, handcuffs and crops and all kinds of naughty things. This book has one of those hot Duprees, so you know that you will need a glass of water to cool off. Every Addict will tell you that reading a Harmless book is anything BUT harmless—so read at your own risk.
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Malachai Dupree shook his head as he turned down the aisle of freezer cases. He’d sunk so low that he was spending Friday night at Wegmans grocery store. A box of wings caught his eye, and he slowed down the cart. He should have just stopped by some fast food joint on the way back to the hotel, but he hadn’t been in the mood for another meal like that. Mal studied the selection in the freezer case. Okay, this might not be much better, but at least it was different than what he’d been doing. He was still pathetic but at least he wasn’t eating another burger. Friday night at Wegmans was no way for a single man to live.
After his third week at the Pentagon, he just wasn’t in the mood to give a damn. Early mornings and late nights had worn old. No. Monotonous. That was a better word for the crap he was dealing with while on special assignment. Why anyone would choose to do the job was beyond him. He missed being out in the field, training…damn, he missed blowing shit up.
“A man like you should eat better, Dupree,” the sultry southern voice said from behind Mal. He knew without turning around who it was. The voice was imprinted on his mind…and haunted his dreams.
He turned around to face Amanda Forrester smiling at him, looking just as gorgeous as the first day he’d met her. She was petite and a little more rounded on the bottom than on the top. The green, long-sleeved knit shirt matched her eyes, and she was wearing her regular faded blue jeans that hugged her full hips. The moment he heard her voice, his heart had started doing a tap dance, but seeing her had his body heating. Even the cold air from the freezer case wouldn’t help.
If he repeated the word enough times, he might remember that she was just a friend. His brain knew it, but his body tended to ignore any sane thoughts when Amanda was around. He reminded himself that she’d been married to one of his best friends and only been a widow for eighteen months.
She glanced into his cart, making a tsking sound. He couldn’t fight the smile that curved his lips when he saw the amusement dancing in her eyes. Amanda had a wicked sense of humor, and with three older brothers, she knew just how to mess with him.
“Are you going to a frat party?”
When he looked down in the buggy, he realized that it did look like a party. Beer, hot wings, and chips. Boredom had driven him to shop for food, and it was a mistake to do that after skipping lunch.
But a man couldn’t admit it, especially to a woman.
“Look, woman, I live in a man house, and we eat the way we want to. And what are you doing here on a Friday night?”
She leaned her arm against the hand rest of her own shopping cart. The grin she gave him had his body heating more and his palms sweating.
“I have a morning wedding, so I figured I’d pick up something to eat.”
Amanda owned her own floral shop in the Woodbridge area, not too far from the grocery store. And, dammit, he realized he drove out there for a reason. It wasn’t until that moment he realized there was a Wegmans closer to the hotel he was bunking at.
“Ah. So what were you doing in this section if you think the choices are so bad?”
She let one eyebrow rise and damned if that didn’t turn him on more. “First, I wasn’t in this section. I was down there,” she motioned with her head, “looking for a good bottle of wine when I saw you. Oh, and secondly, I’m much younger and I can eat this stuff. Although I don’t. My mother would have a heart attack if she found out.”
“I thought your parents were living in Texas?”
She laughed. “Yes, but my mother always knows.”
He smiled. “Your mother and my mother have a lot in common.”
Then, silence. It had been happening a lot lately. They used to have such a comfortable relationship. It had been the reason he’d taken on the task of checking up on her. Most of the guys on his Seal team were married or involved with someone. He was one of the few left that was not in a committed relationship, so he had taken to looking in on her. She had been so young, widowed, and vulnerable. Their friendship had been natural…until the last couple of months. Now, they couldn’t seem to have a conversation without an awkward pause. It might have to do with the fact that he wanted nothing more than to strip her down and feast on her flesh.
Damn, he needed to escape. The more time he spent with her, the more those thoughts popped up in his head.
“Tell you what, Dupree. Why don’t we have dinner together?”
They had done it before. Since Kyle Forrester, her husband of less than a year, had been killed on a mission, he had been there for her, as had many of the guys on the team. But now…it seemed weird.
“I was looking forward to a quiet night at home.”
She laughed and patted his hand, which he tightened on the buggy to keep from reaching for her. His fingers were freaking itching to reach over and touch.
“Why not a light dinner, some good conversation, and then we can get to bed early.”
He knew what she meant, but it didn’t keep the image from popping into his head. Mal would like nothing better than to slip into her bed and pull her against him as they slept. She always smelled of roses. Until he met her, he had always hated flowery perfume, but hers was natural. He knew her scent came from the flowers she worked with all day long.
“Mal?” she asked.
He shook his head, trying to clear it. It was hard because the images of her wearing nothing but rose petals came into his head more often these days, and at the most inappropriate times. Like now.
“Is that a no?” she asked.
He gave his head one last hard shake and finally knocked enough brain cells loose to form words. “No, that’s a yes. I mean…” He drew in a deep breath, trying to get his brain to work. “I know what a good cook you are, so I would be an idiot to turn you down.”
She smiled. Not one of her little smiles, but one that lit up her whole face and brought out her dimples. He felt as if he had won the lottery. Damn, he was in trouble if that was all it took for him to get hot.
“I buy the food, you cook?” he offered.
She shook her head. “Why don’t you pay for the wine, and I’ll do the food?”
He cocked his head to one side. “That doesn’t seem fair.”
“You haven’t seen the price of the wine I wanted to get. It’s fair.”
He laughed. “Okay, but you better fix me something good.”
“You bet,” she said and turned her cart around. “Come on.”
He tried his best to ignore the way her hips swayed as she walked down the aisle, but it was more that a little difficult. Until he notice one or two men having the same reaction. He tossed them mean looks and hurried up to follow after her. The woman was completely oblivious, but it didn’t keep them from ogling her. Mal tossed a few of them death looks and then caught up to her. If there was one thing he could do for Kyle Forrester, it was protect her from men like that.
Amanda silently swore when she dropped the tongs for the third time in five minutes. Closing her eyes, she drew in a deep breath and tried to control her heartbeat. Malachai Dupree in her house. God, it was something she hadn’t really thought would happen.
Well, it had before but this was different. She was different. The past six weeks she had been having daydreams about him, night dreams about him, and the stray thought about him had her brain scrambling and her body overheating. She had been acting more like a sixteen-year-old with a crush than a twenty-three-year-old widow.
“Did you need some help there?” he asked.
She glanced at him, and she found herself at a loss for words. He was leaning against the counter drinking a glass of water. The red polo shirt he wore stretched over his massive chest. He was beyond gorgeous. Sculpted muscles, dark mocha skin…and all that control. Amanda knew without a doubt he would be amazing in bed
That little quiver in her stomach happened again. Dammit.
God, she loved his voice. The hint of New Orleans threaded his deep baritone. Worse, any time he talked, she would watch his mouth. It was impossible not to look at it and wonder how it would feel as he moved it over her skin.
“Amanda?” he asked, the worry in his voice finally getting through to her.
She shook her head when he stepped toward her. No good would come of him touching her. Right now, she was barely keeping herself in check. “No, I’ve been dropping things a lot. Just one of those days.”
He relaxed against the counter again and smiled. “Doesn’t bode well for your wedding tomorrow.”
“Well, there is that. But I have some helpers.” And Malachai Dupree wouldn’t be staring at her. Like he was now. She glanced at him as she rinsed off the asparagus. “If you want to earn your food tonight, you need to dry these off, then wrap the bacon around them.”
He gave her a look that told Amanda he wasn’t accustomed to a woman telling him to work in the kitchen. But he still did what she ordered.
“How did you get to be such a good cook?”
She shrugged. “Mama loved to cook. It’s a family thing.”
“It’s hard to see General Simmons hanging around the kitchen.”
She shrugged. “Mama didn’t think having stars made him the commander of the household.”
Mal chuckled, and her heart danced along with the tune. It was worse, much worse, with each passing day, but there was something about him, something that made her so danged happy she couldn’t help being around him.
When she realized she was just standing there staring at him, she shook herself and pulled out a cutting board.
“Your family is very culinary. What happened to you?” she asked.
“What, you think I can’t cook?” his voice was filled with mock disbelief. “Personally, I am offended.”
She shook her head. “You were buying hot wings for dinner.”
“Doesn’t mean I don’t like to cook or can’t. Just didn’t feel like it tonight. And my room doesn’t really allow for it.”
She sensed something in his voice and glanced over at him. “Not liking the new job?”
He shrugged. “It’s temporary, only until this other person gets back. I have figured out one thing from my three weeks so far at the Pentagon.”
“They’re all fucking crazy there.”
She laughed. “Dad always called it a necessary evil for his career, but he didn’t like it much either. It’s why he was happy to get out with two stars. He was ready to spend time at home.”
“It couldn’t have been easy growing up military like that.”
“There are privileges to it, too, and I’m not talking about being a general’s brat, but being just a military brat. Crappy having to move every two years, but I’ve lived all over the world, and I speak four languages.”
“There is that. I guess it isn’t something I thought about before my sister got married to Kade. Then with Samantha pregnant, sort of brings it all home.”
“I can assure you, it isn’t always fun. It sucks a lot of the time, but I don’t think I would have wanted to grow up any other way.” She glanced over at his bundles. “You’re pretty good with your hands, Mal.”
He paused in wrapping the last bundle and then her face flushed when she realized what she had just said. Hell, she was acting like an idiot. Worse, she wanted to keep this relationship. No, not relationship. Friendship. That’s all it was. All it ever would be.
She decided it was better to just pretend that she hadn’t said a thing. “W-why don’t you pop those into the oven? I’ll get the scallops started.”
It took him a second to act, and that was when she realized she was ordering him around the kitchen. Amanda knew from rumors that he was a Dom and was a member of Capital Punishment in DC. He probably wasn’t accustomed to women telling him what to do.
“Do you mind?” he asked.
She noticed he’d snagged a beer. “Not at all, as long as you pour me some of that wine.”
She finished mincing the garlic, then grabbed the flour and scallops. Pouring a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet, she set it to medium heat and started to prepare the scallops.
“I was surprised that you decided to stay in the area,” he said.
“You’ve said that before, but I do like the DC area. Not so much DC, although I like being near all the touristy things, but I like the weather here, the people. I like the idea that I can walk down the street and hear five languages in just a matter of minutes. Even out here in the burbs.”
“I guess that appeals to the military brat in you.”
She nodded. “What about you? With Berg over there in Hawaii, and a sister and brother there also, have you thought about going for one of those teams over there?”
Even as she said it, she felt her heart sink a little. The idea he would be so far away made her sad. She had no rights to him, being only his friend, but she knew if he moved away from the DC area, she would probably not hear much from him.
“I thought about it. I like Hawaii. I like it here, though.”
“Ah, you might change your mind after spending a few more days at the Pentagon.”
“There is that. But as I said, it’s temporary. Since the days are lean with officers, when one of us gets deployed, they grab someone else to fill in. Of course, it’s odd that they picked me, being a Seal.”
“What do you mean?”
“Usually, it’s a last resort that they would pull someone in a career field like mine. They spend a fortune to train us, so it isn’t something they like to do. But we aren’t on the schedule to be active for another three months, so I guess a couple of months of me doing this will make me happy to go back out in the field.”
She knew better. They didn’t just pick him. She had been around the military long enough to understand that the man was being prepped for some kind of higher-up position. They wanted him to move up out of the Seals. But she wasn’t going to deal with that. Most active duty people ignored her comments. Even her husband had.
She brushed that thought aside and dropped the first of the scallops into the pan. She had let the oil get too hot and it popped up onto her hand.
Mal grabbed it. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, just a little burn, nothing big.”
He pulled her over to the sink. “You should be more careful.”
His brow was furrowed as he studied her flesh before turning on the cold water and thrusting her hand under it.
“Mal, it’s okay.”
He looked up at her, and she realized that she was only inches away from him.
He didn’t finish. She didn’t blame him. Her brain wasn’t working too well, either. She could smell that unique musky scent of him as she drew in a big breath. Her breast brushed against his arm, and he shuddered.
He dropped her hand like she had a disease then turned off the water.
“You should put some cream on that hand.”
Her body was still throbbing, her nipples tightened almost to the point of pain, and he was asking her to do something. Her brain would just not allow it. Not right now. It seemed to have stalled on the way his fingers had felt gliding over hers as he’d slipped her hand under the water.
She grabbed a towel and pressed it against her skin. She didn’t really think she needed first aid cream, but she did need space.
“Could you keep an eye on those scallops. Turn down the heat to low while I get some cream.”
He nodded and stepped out of her way. By the time she reached the bathroom, her heart was almost beating normally again. She closed the door, then leaned back against it. Holy mother of God. What the hell was that? She’d had a crush on him that she’d kept under wraps for a while. Mal was a military man, and since she’d lost her husband, she had made sure that she’d steered clear of them. It wasn’t something she ever wanted to go through again.
She pulled herself together and pushed away from the door, rummaging through her medicine cabinet to find the cream. She shut the mirrored door and looked up at herself. Her face was flushed, and she could even see her pulse fluttering in her neck.
Dammit! She needed to keep away from him from now on.
But even the thought had her heart breaking. She couldn’t think of being far away from him even if she wasn’t romantically involved with him. She knew women who liked the thrill and would jump from military man to military man. Some even specialized in career fields like pilots or Seals. She had never been that kind of woman. In fact, even with her husband, she had avoided it. Kyle had been military through and through, and not in the best of ways. To this day, she hadn’t told a soul about what she had discovered while he had been away on that last mission. She had been too embarrassed. After that experience, she wanted nothing to do with military in the romantic way. It was hard to avoid altogether when she still had two active duty brothers and a retired general father.
She splashed some water on her face and then blotted it dry. This was just one night, one dinner. She owed Mal this home cooked meal after all he had done for her. She could get through this night and then maybe all this sexual tension she felt would disappear.
She opened the door and walked down the hall. When she turned the corner into the kitchen, the scene caught her completely off guard. Mal was standing at the stove, expertly flipping over the scallops. It shouldn’t turn her on so much, but seeing him do something so mundane, so…normal, was arousing. He glanced at her and smiled, and her stomach didn’t just quiver, it did a somersault.
Oh, mama, she was in trouble.
End of Excerpt
Jun 6, 2012
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