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Her Sexy Marine Valentine

By:Candace Havens

Her Sexy Marine Valentine
Candace Havens

       1

LIEUTENANT BRODY WILLIAMS dumped a bag of tortilla chips in his grocery  cart and tried not to wince when the wheels squeaked. The headaches  were less intense since the crash, but he still had them daily. That  level of pain, paired with the dreams that had him waking up in the  middle of the night in a cold sweat, had left him feeling rotten for  months. If he took the drugs the doctors gave him, he couldn't fly, so  he ran for miles every day and drank more coffee than any man should.

He added salsa to his cart. A hobby, that's what he needed, something  that would keep him busy and the memories at bay. Fixing up his rented  house was almost complete. New projects-that would do it. He was about  to turn the corner when he saw the familiar red head.

Shoot. His CO's daughter was walking down the frozen food section.

Why does she always seem to turn up wherever I am?

He'd met her at a reception his boss threw a few weeks ago. At first,  he'd thought she was pretty, but then discovered she was the boss's  daughter. Hands off that one. Unfortunately, she didn't seem to  understand that dating her wasn't even a remote possibility for him. His  boss was already an aggravation, he didn't need to be adding to it by  taking out the man's daughter.

Turning his cart quickly, he headed the opposite way. A woman plus a  couple were blocking his escape. He stood off to one side pretending to  look at the different brands of coffee.

"Marigold, I'd like you to meet my beautiful fiancée, Annalise. She's a  model," the man said. "She's been in a ton of magazines." His tone was  snide and Brody felt sorry for Marigold.

"Fiancée? But we only broke up two months ago," she said. "I mean,  congrats and all, but that's kind of fast." The voice was familiar to  Brody, smooth and rich like honey.

The guy was showing off his new girl to his ex? From Marigold's  reaction, she was barely holding on by a thread. Brody's guess was that  this guy had done a real number on her. And she was right. A couple of  months wasn't nearly long enough to get to know someone well enough to  marry them. Heck, twenty years wasn't long enough in his book. Then  again, he never planned on marrying.

He sucked at relationships. Mostly because he was seldom in one place  for longer than six months. As a pilot, and a trainer, his situation  could change any day.

"Oh, my little sweetie couldn't wait to put a ring on it," the woman  named Annalise said, as she waved her hand back and forth. Brody  realized he knew the poor woman who was caught in her ex's crosshairs.  She was his neighbor, Mari, or rather Marigold. He'd once lugged some  wood flooring she'd been struggling with. She said she was flipping the  old Victorian across the street from his place. He'd wondered then why  she didn't have someone to give her a hand with heavy loads like the  flooring. Not that he minded helping. She'd been kind and even offered  him lemonade.

That day she'd been wearing a ball cap pulled low, and baggy overalls  and a fresh white tank, but those deep blue eyes had made him think  about the sea off the coast of Greece. Today, her shiny blond hair was  pulled up into a sleek ponytail and she wore denim shorts with a Dallas  Cowboys jersey. He could forgive her choice of team, if only because of  the startled look in her eyes.

He hadn't been able to help his men a year ago. He'd barely been able to help himself, but he could do something about this.

"Mari, there you are," he said before he even realized the words were  coming out of his mouth. He pushed around her ex. "I've been looking all  over for you, babe. I found the chips and salsa, but not the cheese  stuff you wanted."

At first, she glanced up at him as if he was crazy, but then she smiled when she recognized him.

That smile stole his breath away. As in, he could not suck in air even if he tried. Damn. She was beautiful.

She cleared her throat. "That's okay, honey, I think I'll make the  queso from scratch," she said without missing a beat. Then she stood on  her toes and kissed his cheek. Her lips were soft. "I love that you are  so helpful." And then in his ear she whispered, "Thank you."                       
       
           



       

"You know I'd do anything for you." He grabbed her and pulled her to  him. Her vanilla scent made him forget where they were. "Who's this? Do I  need to be jealous?" He nodded toward her ex.

"Oh, uh..." She stumbled over the words. "My ex. He was introducing me to his fiancée."

The other man appeared as if he'd swallowed a toad. Clearly he hadn't been expecting Mari to find a man so quickly.

Brody chuckled. "Well, I should take you out to dinner, man. Because if  you hadn't been an idiot and left my Mari, my life would be empty.  She's the best thing that has ever happened to me. The day we met was  the most special one in my life." Oh, now he was laying it on thick, but  he couldn't stop. He had this need to protect her. To show this fool  what he was missing. The brunette with the false eyelashes and even  falser breasts couldn't compare to the natural beauty he held in his  arms.

The ex's mouth opened and then closed, as if he couldn't decide what to  say. His brows furrowed and he opened his mouth again, but...

The brunette squealed. "I've had a marvelous idea. You guys have to  come to our engagement party," she said. "It's so cool that everyone can  kind of be bygones."

Wow. He had a feeling the supposed model had no idea what bygones meant.

"That's probably not a marvelous idea," the ex said. "I'm sure they're busy."

"We do stay pretty busy," Mari said.

"True," Brody agreed. "But send us an invite anyway. You never know. I love showing off my Mari."

The jerk's eyes flashed wide. Good. Even if she didn't go, he'd be worried she might show up.

"We should get going," Mari said. She put a hand on his arm and shot  him a quick grin. "I hope you two will be very happy together. Come on,  Brody."

He and Mari turned and made it several aisles over before stopping.  "You didn't have to do that, but thank you," she said softly. She blew  out a breath. "That wasn't how I imagined seeing him for the first time  since we broke up. I was shocked. I mean, who gets engaged so fast? We  dated for five years."

"You're better off without him," Brody said honestly. "And you're way too good for him."

She grinned. "You've known me five seconds, but thank you. It was  really kind. The breakup was bad and I thought I was over it, but wow.  Just wow. You're the best. I was sinking there and you threw me a life  preserver."

He still wasn't sure why he'd done it. Wasn't like him to butt into a  stranger's business. He preferred being alone. But there was something  about her that made him want to get involved. "It's a Marine thing. We  live by our code. You were a damsel in distress and I came to your aid."

"I'm not sure anyone, especially someone I didn't know well, has ever  been so kind to me. I'd say your duty is done, Marine. That was just a  whole lot of awesome. He looked like a marooned fish trying to figure  out what to say." She laughed this time. It was a sweet sound. "You are  the best boyfriend ever."

"Brody?"

His shoulders tightened at the sound of his name. She'd finally found  him. "Please help me," he whispered to Mari before turning around.

"Hey, Carissa."

The CO's daughter had her eyebrow raised and seemed to be focused on something, or rather someone, just past his shoulder.

"Did I hear you say you're dating her?" She pointed a red fingernail toward Mari.

"Do you have a problem with that?" Mari said. Her acidic tone very nearly made him chuckle.

Knowing a cue when he heard one, he quickly stepped aside and grabbed  her hand. It was so small in his, and her skin was silky smooth against  his calloused mitts. He raised Mari's fingers to his lips and kissed  them. "Calm down, babe. This is my CO's daughter, Carissa. The boss's  daughter."

"Oh. Ohhhh." She smiled and then shook her head. "I'm so sorry. Hi, I'm  Marigold McDaniels. You have to forgive me. My man is so handsome that I  always have to be on alert to discourage women from throwing themselves  at him. It gets annoying after a while. But he's a sweetheart, and I'm  maybe just a little bit the jealous type. At least, when it comes to  Brody."                       
       
           



       

Mari might win an award some day for this performance.

For once Carissa seemed speechless, but still, she recovered quickly. "Funny that he's never mentioned you."

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