From the Inside Flap
Claire Montoya looked up at her oldest friend, Sergeant First Class Reza Iaconelli, whom she was no longer supposed to be friends with now that she'd earned her commission two years before.
"You're the only person--officer or enlisted--in this brigade I know. I don't really care what it looks like."
"Yeah, well, my commander might have something to say about that if he gets the wrong idea. The guy must have been potty trained at gunpoint."
"That uptight, huh?" Claire grinned and sipped her beer. She'd been in the Reaper Brigade Combat team for all of three weeks, and Reza was the one person she trusted to have her back. "Where is your illustrious commander, anyway?"
"Working, as always." Reza grinned, and it was pure evil. "You'll never guess on what."
Claire braced for the worst. She could only imagine.
"Do I want to know?"
He tossed back the rest of his beer. "Apparently, there are eight new cases of chlamydia in our company.
So the battalion commander has tasked him to find out A, where they came from, and B, what he's going to do to prevent any more outbreaks."
Claire choked on a swallow of Dos Equis that went down the wrong pipe. It was a long minute before her lungs were clear and she could breathe again, let alone talk. "That is wrong on so, so many levels," she said when she could speak.
"Speak of the devil." Reza turned and pointed his beer at someone behind Claire. She twisted on the edgeof the wall that circled the dance floor, prepared to meet someone starched and rigid. "Evan Loehr, Claire Montoya. You two mingle. I'm getting another beer."
She was going to kill Reza. He was forever trying to get her to hook up the way he did: with all the discretion of a dog in heat. She stared daggers into his back as he walked off. He never quite understood why she wasn't into dating. Her track record with men
sucked, and she was not about to add to that losing streak tonight. She was getting ready to deploy with the brigade in less than two months. She didn't need a one-night stand with one of the company commanders to complicate things.
Not that he didn't look like the perfect candidate for a one-night dance with the devil. If she did that sort of thing. Which she didn't. But still, this man didn't look remotely the way she'd expected he would. His shoulders were wide and solid, and beneath that starched white shirt, his chest looked powerful. She could easily imagine those arms wrapped around her, holding her tight while he . . . Down, girl. She might not have moved from her spot on the low wall surrounding the dance floor, but her hormones had snapped to attention, that was for sure.
The way Reza had described him made her imagine a man who would show up in military uniform despite the Texas casual dress code. He seemed out of place in this smoky, seedy bar.
This guy seemed stiff and rigid, as if he'd rather be anywhere but here at this moment. The top button of his shirt exposed the strong line of his throat, revealing dark hair and a glimpse of smooth skin and carved shadows. Beneath the First Cav Stetson, his
hair was black and cut close to the strong line of his neck. There was confidence in the way he moved, a raw power that wrapped around Claire like the smoke in the bar and drew her close.
Claire stuck out her hand, needing something to distract her from her deviant thoughts. Small talk ought to do the trick. "Nice to meet you. Evan, right?"
"Yeah." His hand was rough and strong as her fingers slid into his. "How did you get the last name Montoya with hair like that?"
"I have no idea." Oddly self-conscious, she tucked her red hair behind one ear. "So you're Reza's commander?"
"For the last two months."
"And your first order of business is dealing with sexually transmitted diseases?" He scowled fiercely and Claire laughed out loud, despite her best efforts
"Glad you think it's funny." His voice rumbled over her skin, holding the promise of dark fantasies and primitive yearnings. It had been too long since she'd been with a man. Being around him made her want to do reckless things.
"I've never been a commander, but I hope I never have to deal with what you're dealing with right now."
Evan looked so disgruntled, she smiled. She didn't know him. She shouldn't be amused by his discomfort, but the situation was ridiculous. Plus, the conversation came with the added bonus of locking down her hormones. Nothing said sexy like diseases, she thought
He leaned forward, bracing his elbows on the low wall next to her hips and dragging his hands over his face. "I can't believe that this is what I'm dealing with. Not weapons training. Not running patrols or shooting bad guys. Sexually transmitted diseases."
"Well, commander, what's your plan for dealing with the rash of diseased penises in your formation?"
Evan groaned and buried his face in his hands, then took a long pull off his own beer. Reza emerged from the crowd and clapped him on the shoulder. "I already took care of it. I sent Ramirez to the clinic to pick up a case of rubbers. They're sitting on the counter in the company ops."
"I should make them an inspectable item and have every soldier keep one in their wallet," Evan grumbled.
Claire laughed so hard, she almost fell from her seat on the wall.
Evan gave her a pointed look.
"I'm sorry," she said, trying to stop laughing before she permanently damaged his pride. "But you should see your face."
He took a pull off his beer. Claire watched his throat move, enthralled by the motion of sleek muscle and dark skin. "I feel like I should have a formation and make the platoon sergeants demonstrate how to put on a condom the correct way."
"As one of your platoon sergeants, I'll be the first to refuse that order," Reza said before taking another drink.
Finally Evan laughed and the sound twisted Claire's insides, teasing away the tension and the fatigue and the bone-crushing pressure of being the new girl. Something warm unfurled against her heart, like hot steam rising from a hidden vent.
Something that told her she needed to stay far away from the source of the warmth.