Maddie's Marine - By Lynn Raye Harris

CHAPTER ONE

“Sex on the Beach and a Mai Tai, please,” Maddie Forester said when she reached the bar.

“Starting without me, Maddie?”

Maddie sucked in a breath. No way, it can’t be.

She turned her head toward the voice. Oh, she took her time, but her heart was speeding like a downhill skier at the Olympics. She forced herself to breathe normally as she met his gaze. “Major Ryan Cavanaugh. What a surprise.”

Gorgeous green eyes narrowed, though the smile never left his face. “I bet it is.”

Maddie felt a pang of regret. “I tried to pull the story, Major.”

He tsked. “So formal now. As if you’ve never had your hand down my pants or your tongue in my mouth.”

Heat seared Maddie’s skin as she darted a look at the patrons surrounding the Hale Koa beach bar. The conversation didn’t miss a beat, though a blonde with a fake tan and too-perky breasts smiled into her drink and shot an interested look toward Ryan.

And who wouldn’t be interested in a six-foot-four Marine officer with a face and body guaranteed to melt all but the hardest of female hearts? Maddie swallowed. For one too-brief evening, she’d known what it felt like to press herself against that lean-muscled body, to want a man so badly she’d made a fool of herself and lost any credibility she’d managed to gain in the two months she’d spent embedded with the Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq.

What the hell was Ryan Cavanaugh doing in Hawaii?

Maddie paid for the drinks, then shot Ryan a sweet-as-syrup smile that barely shook at the corners. “It was so good seeing you. Hope you enjoy your vacation.”

Before she could escape, Ryan was on his feet, reaching for the drinks. “Here, let me. Least I can do is help.”

Maddie didn’t bother protesting. It wouldn’t have done any good anyway. She led him across the patio, threading her way between tables until she reached Tom. He sat with his back to her, watching bikini clad girls play volleyball on the beach a few feet away.

She cleared her throat and Tom turned, smiling. His smile faded.

“Tom, this is Major Ryan Cavanaugh. Ryan, this is Tom Tucker, senior editor for The World Today.”

Tom shot her an alarmed look. “The Major Cavanaugh?”

Ryan set the drinks on the table. “Cozy, huh? Drinks with the boss in a romantic setting.” He looked her up and down. “Anything for a new angle, right Maddie?”

Tom wisely remained silent, though Maddie felt a twinge of annoyance that he didn’t make any attempt to defend her. But what was he supposed to do with two hundred and twenty pounds of lethal, angry Marine just waiting for an excuse to punch something?

“Are you done?” Maddie demanded. “Because I’d like to sit down and have my drink and forget I ever met you, okay?”

As if forgetting was possible.

Ryan’s face might have been carved from a block of granite for all the emotion she saw there. But she could feel the hostility rolling off him in waves.

“You might forget a lot of things, but I promise you won’t ever forget that night you spent in my tent in Ramadi.”

“Madelyn?”

“It was a sandstorm, Tom,” Maddie said, infusing her voice with as much boredom as she could manage. “I was trapped.”

Ryan grinned then, and her heart did a somersault. “Yeah, trapped,” he said, and she knew he was remembering the storm raging inside the tent rather than the blowing sand outside it.

The way they’d torn each other’s clothes off. The way he’d lowered her to the cot and pushed inside her while she wrapped her legs around his waist and urged him on. The way they’d slumped, utterly spent in the aftermath, and the way he’d kissed the tears from her cheeks and told her he wouldn’t ever let anything happen to her.

“Sadistic guys like you have no business commanding troops in a war zone,” Tom said. “I’m just glad Madelyn got the truth.”

Maddie closed her eyes and sent up a prayer that Ryan wouldn’t turn Tom into a pile of jelly. Her eyes popped open as a metal chair scraped against the concrete. Ryan sat close to Tom and leaned forward as if he were about to impart something vital. Tom didn’t flinch, though he also didn’t meet Ryan’s hard stare.

“You and your journalist here don’t care about the truth; all you really want is a sensational story that’ll sell your magazine and to hell with the Marines you might endanger. The truth is the last thing you care about, so