First Chapter Week: Jambrea
Semper Fi: Ben comes out in print today!!!! *SQUEE*
Book two in the Semper Fi Series
Colonel Ben Davies was going out of his mind. Why was he having sexual thoughts about his best friend’s kid sister? Nothing could happen between them. No matter how much Mari tempted him.
Maribeth O’Malley admired the boy who hadn’t minded a girl tagging along with him and her brother. Over the years, those feelings turned to love for the man he’d become. Now she had to convince him that she was all woman.
When Mari comes across information she shouldn’t have she turns to the man she loves for help. Her life is in danger and Ben must find the person responsible without falling into bed with her.
Reader Advisory: This book contains scenes of violence.
I hoped we never had to realise all the opportunities we missed in this life. ~ The Year of Pleasures, Elizabeth Berg
Mari jolted out of bed. Something had woken her up and she was a bit disoriented. She threw off her blankets, stumbled to the front of her apartment and paused with her hand on the doorknob, still not all the way awake.
Something isn’t right.
She cocked her head at a noise coming from the other side. It was times like these she wished she’d listened to her brother and had that peephole installed. The rustling sound came again and the knob turned in her hand. That woke her up.
What the hell?
She backed away and looked around to find a weapon. The only thing close was an umbrella so she grabbed it and waited. It seemed like hours, though it was only seconds later when someone stepped through the doorway. She closed her eyes and swung the umbrella like a bat. It made a nice swooshing sound, then a whack as it connected and a thud when the person fell. She opened her eyes and her jaw dropped.
On her floor was Ben—all six foot three inches of him. Mari flipped on the light so she could see him better. He was dressed in blue jeans and a red T-shirt that showed off his dark complexion. His black hair was barely there with its short Marine high and tight cut. His full lips looked so inviting and she wanted to kiss him, but she was pissed off and he’d probably have heart failure if his best friend’s sister gave him a lip lock.
“God damn it, Ben! How many times have I told you to knock!”
Mari went with anger, it was easier than focusing on how much she wanted in Ben’s pants…or him out of them.
“Well shit, Jellybean, if you’d lock your door, I might just knock.” He looked up at her from the floor, rubbing his head.
Mari put her hand out to help him to his feet, not letting his big brown eyes distract her. She was upset. He’d just broken into her house and she hadn’t seen or heard from him in weeks.
“When are you going to realise I’m not a kid anymore and stop calling me by that ridiculous nickname?”
Secretly she liked Ben calling her Jellybean, but she’d never let him know that. Lusting after her brother’s best friend probably wasn’t the best thing she could do, but she couldn’t help it. She’d been in love with the man for as long as she could remember and he never saw her as more than a friend’s annoying sibling.
Mari thought things might go differently after they both attended a family friend’s wedding. The dance she’d shared with Ben had been wonderful, but he ran off right afterwards. This was the first time she’d seen him since the reception.
“What did you hit me with?”
Ben still rubbed his head and she chuckled at his hurt expression. She also noticed that he’d ignored her comment about the nickname.
“An umbrella, I couldn’t find anything else.” Mari shrugged and put the umbrella away.
“Just wait until I tell Fin.”
“What? That you broke into his poor defenceless sister’s house? And you leave my brother out of this. What are you doing here anyway?” It was nice to see Ben back to his old self. This was who she knew and loved. Not that man who had left her on the dance floor feeling so alone and confused.
Ben snorted. “I’m taking you out. Go get dressed, Jellybean.”
She liked how he dismissed the poor defenceless part. Of course it helped having an older brother and his friends teaching her ways to make sure her dates didn’t get too grabby.
“Why me? Isn’t Fin home?” Mari plopped down on her couch.
“He’s out on assignment.” Ben moved to sit down beside her.
Mari loved the way his cologne smelled and she liked having him here beside her. She really didn’t feel like going out.
“Shoot, that’s right. I forgot he was delayed because one of the pilots got sick. He’s due back any day. Can’t you wait?”
“Nope, I just got my orders; I’m off to Iraq day after tomorrow.”
Shit, it was bad enough when Fin went on assignment, but to have Ben leaving too ripped her heart out. If anything happened to them she’d lose her mind.
“How long will you be gone?” Mari hoped the fear didn’t creep into her voice. She’d become better at hiding her worries and putting on a happy face.
“It’s supposed to be a month hitch to help out and do some training, but you know how that goes. So go, get dressed we’re gonna paint the town.”
“Just where are you taking me?”
She needed to stop thinking about the bad and live in the moment. After all—she was going out with Ben.
“It’s a surprise.” Ben winked at her.
“I need to know how to dress. And I can’t stay out too late. I have work tomorrow.”
“I thought you were on summer break? One of the perks of working in a school.”
“I will be, in a couple of weeks.”
“You know, when I was in school, our librarian was a troll. I don’t think your students know how lucky they are to have a hot librarian.” Ben slapped her thigh and smirked.
Mari pushed his hand away and got up from the couch. She grinned down at him before turning to go to her room. This Ben wasn’t afraid to touch her. She wondered what had changed.
“You think I’m hot?” she said over her shoulder.
Ben smacked her ass. “Go get dressed.”
Mari paused for a second to take in this new, playful Ben. Maybe tonight would be her chance to show him she wanted more from him than friendship. With that thought in mind, she went to raid her closet for the right outfit.
Ten minutes later she walked out of her room to find Ben at her bookshelf gazing at old pictures of the four of them. Growing up, Ben, Fin and Joe, a family friend lovingly referred to as Magnus, had done everything together. Originally, she had always stayed on the sidelines. It wasn’t until she went to college that the boys let her into their little group. She didn’t date much and that could be because the three of them ran off any guy interested in her. Mari shook her head at the memories. They were great ones and she missed Joe, but he’d been gone from the group for a while now. Ben—he was her constant. The only exception was her twin brother. They shared a different kind of bond. She cleared her throat and put thoughts of her brother in danger out of her head.
Ben turned and the look on his face was priceless. His eyes widened and he sucked in a breath.
“You aren’t wearing that, are you?”
She glanced down at herself, “What’s wrong with what I have on?”
Mari had on a form fitting white tank top that ended at her belly button, showing off the loop she’d got pierced there on a dare from one of her friends last summer. Her jeans were black and fitted just right and she’d topped it off with a pair of sparkly red heels.
“What is that?” Ben pointed at her belly ring.
“I got my belly button pierced. It isn’t a big deal. Are you ready to go or not?”
“Do you have…ah…anything else pierced or tattooed?” Ben looked worried.
“That is for me to know and you to find out.” Mari winked at him and headed out of her doorway. She made sure to put a little extra wiggle in her walk. Ben Davies was going down.
Mari waited by Ben’s truck. He didn’t take long to catch up with her. She stood by while he opened the door for her, always the gentleman.
“Now will you tell me where we’re going?” she asked after Ben settled behind the wheel.
“No, and I want you to close your eyes. Like I said, it’s a surprise.”
She looked over at him with a dubious expression on her face. She knew she was frowning.
“I’m not big on surprises, Ben.”
Bad things happened when someone tried to surprise her. Like the time the family threw her and Fin a birthday party. When they yelled happy birthday she drop-kicked the nearest person and Fin had had to tackle her to the ground. It might have been an extreme reaction, but Fin, Ben and Joe had spent dinner telling her horror stories and the place was dark. That was her story and she was sticking to it. Yep—surprise equalled bad.
“Do I need to blindfold you?” She shivered thinking he’d be the one surprised if he knew what she wanted him to do to her.
“Fine, they’re closed.” She huffed, crossing her arms over her chest.
Mari still thought it was a very bad idea.
“Brat,” he laughed.
Mari let her hands full into her lap. No way did she want him to think of her like a kid.
“Yeah—you won’t be thinking that when someone gets hurt.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Eighteenth birthday party ringing any bells?”
Ben laughed and she grinned.
“Will you take a bribe?” Mari would get him back for laughing at her.
“Who do you think you’re talking to? I’m un-bribable.”
“Not even for”—she paused for dramatic effect—“a kiss.” She ended on a whisper.
The truck swerved, Mari braced herself against the door and she peered over at Ben.
“Hey, I told you to keep ‘em closed.”
“Try not to kill me and I will.” She closed her eyes again wondering what Ben had in store for her tonight. He always tried to shock her. Like that time he threw a frog at her. He had wanted her to scream. They were maybe sixteen. But she hadn’t. She’d caught that thing, named him Kismet, kissed him and put him back in the pond. Ben had been the one who was shocked. He should know better by now. Of course she really didn’t care, at least they were spending time together. That was all that mattered.
Mari lost track of time and with all the twists and turns Ben took, she had no idea where they could be.
“Here we are.”
The tires crunches on what sounded like gravel as the truck slowed to a stop.
“Can I open my eyes?” she asked when she heard the ignition turn off.
“Not yet. Wait a second.”
She heard the creak of his car door. Hers jerked out of her hands and she jumped. He was quick and she wasn’t expecting it. Ben guided her out of the truck.
“Okay, I’m going to open my eyes now.”
“Wait! Not yet. You aren’t peeking are you?”
“No, just hurry up.”
Mari didn’t worry about tripping. She trusted Ben with her life, but she was tired of keeping her eyes closed and wanted to know where they were. Was that music she heard? Maybe he was taking her to that new bar.
“Okay, open your eyes.”
She smiled. It took a bit, but once she adjusted to the dark she looked around and did a double take. Was that—could it be—no way, Ben had taken her to The Lucky Lady, a strip club. It had a god awful flashing neon sign with an animated lady kicking up her foot. The rest of the building wasn’t much to look at and Mari had never been inside before.
Oh Ben was in so much trouble. Mari laughed as she imagined Fin’s face because she was telling him all about the evening. Well, maybe not all about it, if she could get Ben to see her as something other than a sister. And who took their sister to a strip club.
“A strip club? I hate to tell you this, but I’m not shocked and you know I’m going to tell Fin all about this, right?”
“Now, you don’t have to tell Fin everything, plus, he knows you’re here.” Ben sounded smug.
“What! Nope, I don’t believe Fin would be okay with this.”
Her brother? The one who told her she couldn’t date until she turned fifty and wouldn’t let her out of the house in a bikini, knew she was at place where women took off their clothes? Uh-uh, because he’d be afraid she’d jump up and start swinging around a pole.
“It was his idea.”
“Now you’re pulling my leg.”
Ben laughed, “No, I’m not. Do you remember Private Michaels? He’s going on his first tour so we’re having a night out. Fin suggested bringing you along, well, it was more of a dare. He owes me fifty bucks.” He looked entirely too pleased with himself.
Well wasn’t that just peachy. Ben didn’t ask her out to have some fun because he truly wanted to spend time with her. He did it on a dare. She shouldn’t be surprised. Ben and Fin did that kind of shit all the time, but it hurt just a little that Ben didn’t appear to feel what she did when they had danced at Joe’s wedding.
Screw it. She was going to have a good time anyway and tempt him beyond his wildest dreams. Hopefully. He opened the door and led her inside the club. It wasn’t anything fancy. A stage set up in the centre of the room with tables all around, topless waitress’ bringing drinks and something a little extra if requested. She was actually a little disappointed it wasn’t more raunchy and dirty. A woman was on the stage twirling around the pole. She was kind of bored truth-be-told.
“He dared you to take me here?” She glanced back at Ben, thinking that couldn’t be true. No way would Fin want her in a place with a bunch of horny men. Why would he dare Ben?
“Yes. He said I couldn’t get you to come with me. Plus, it isn’t like there are guys stripping. Are you complaining?”
“Hell no. Do you think they have bubblegum wine here?”
“Yes, you know, something pink.”
“What are we going to do with you? The guys are over at that table in the corner. Why don’t you go over and I’ll bring you a glass of wine.”
“Sir, yes, sir.” She saluted him and turned to the table. She recognised a couple of guys from barbeques and parties her brother put together. She spotted Michaels right away. Such a baby face. She shook her head. She’d grown up a military brat and should be used to the horrors of war, but it hit her hard when kids of eighteen were shipped off.
Someone bumped into her and apologised. Mari nodded and continued to the table with a smile on her face. It was time to shine and send Michaels off with style.
* * * *
Ben reached the bar and shook his head. Bubblegum wine? He wondered if this was a passing phase. He hated the fact that he and Fin would both be on the other side of the globe—not that Mari couldn’t take care of herself because he, Fin and Magnus had taught her well. But if she kept doing stupid stuff, like leaving her door unlocked, she was going to get into trouble. Then where would she be? Magnus was out of touch and he hadn’t heard from him since his wedding. Too much shit going on. He was lucky he had any contact with Fin at all and he was not even going to think about his actions at the reception. That was best left in the past. Mari was like a sister and that was how she was going to stay. He could do this. Be the friend that he’d always been. Whatever he’d been thinking was in his imagination anyway. No way Mari had a thing for him. It was wishful thinking on his part.
He placed his order and waited for his drinks. He looked over his shoulder to see Captain Walsh step up.
“Colonel, we didn’t think you’d make it. Who’s the fox you came in with?”
Ben clenched his fist to stop himself from decking the man for nothing more than stating the obvious.
“You will show some respect, if you know what’s good for you. That ‘fox’ is Captain O’Malley’s sister.”
“Shit. Sorry, sir, I didn’t know.” The Captain held his hands up in surrender and backed up a little.
“Just don’t do it again.” Giving the man a short nod, he headed to the table where his men sat.
He needed to get his temper under control. He had no claim on Mari. He never had. No matter that she kept him company in his dreams almost nightly since the wedding. Fin’s twin sister. Hell—they’d grown up together and he shouldn’t be having fuck dreams about her. She was as off limits to him as she was to the Captain.
Ben drew in a breath. Someone made her laugh and the sound caused pure joy to envelope him. His cock took notice of the way her head tilted back, her glossy red hair swinging around her long neck. He wanted to kiss her and draw her essence into him.
Bad idea, this was a bad fucking idea. Damn, Fin and his stupid dare. And damn me for taking him up on it.
Fin knew he couldn’t pass up a good dare and if there was money involved—Ben always won. Two hours tops and he would be driving her home, dropping her off and finding the first available woman and fucking his brains out. Anything to drive Mari out of his head.
“What’s so funny?” He handed Mari her wine, stopping himself from calling her Jellybean. She’d kill him for using that in mixed company. It was a silly nickname, but it helped him to remember she wasn’t for him and he planned on using it whenever they were alone to reinforce that she was a sister to protect.
Mari grinned. “Private Michael was sharing a story about a shower mishap.”
“Do I even want to know?” Ben shook his head.
One of his men sat next to Mari and Ben kicked the chair and jerked his head, letting him know he should move. He caught Mari raising an eyebrow at the gesture. He didn’t care. She was his responsibility tonight and he took that shit seriously.
“Probably not.” Mari chuckled.
Ben noticed how his men had surrounded Mari and put her in the back, away from the action. Maybe having her here was a bad idea. The men were more subdued than normal. Usually there would be hooting and hollering with strippers draped over each Marine.
He turned to say something to Mari and saw she had a dollar in her hand, waving it in the air.
What the hell?
Then she whistled. He looked away to see a couple strippers headed their way—two big busted blondes with only sparkly sliver G-strings on. They didn’t even have pasties covering their nipples. This couldn’t be good. What the devil did she have planned?
Ben didn’t have long to wait. She pointed to Michaels and then pointed to herself. One of the strippers sat in Michaels’ lap and started to grind, her long blonde hair covering Michael’s blushing face as she whispered something in his ear. The other had a big grin on her face as she crawled over the Marines in her path to get to Mari. His heart stopped for a few beats as the big breasted blonde settled into Mari’s lap.
Fuck, that is hot.
He groaned, but the music covered his sound. He couldn’t tear his gaze away from the erotic scene. The blonde gyrated in Mari’s lap and used her arms to press her breast together and urged Mari to plant her face into the cleavage. Mari complied and shook her head. The red strands of Mari’s hair covering the scene with just peeks of what was going on until Mari tilted her head and looked right at Ben. She slid her hands to the stripper’s hips, her hand on the exposed area—just resting there.
His cock throbbed, trying to break free. He almost came when Mari licked her lips and winked at him. He couldn’t control his breathing.
She’s Fin’s sister, she’s Fin’s sister. God damn it, fucking, shit. So hot.
When the stripper rubbed her tits in Mari’s face again, he kicked his chair back and briskly walked to the rest room. He could stay and watch the two women grind against each other. He slammed into the room and headed for the sink, hoping some cold water would cool him down. He needed to get laid. He thumped his dick, thinking the pain might help. It did nothing to stop his raging hard on.
Ben looked at his reflection in the mirror. Idiot. He berated himself until he heard a knock on the door.
“Ben, you okay?” a soft voice enquired.
The tent of his pants had started to go down, but now that he’d heard her voice and it washed over him he was at full attention. This was almost worse than that dance at Mag’s wedding. He now knew how Mari’s body felt against his. Maybe it was a good thing he’d been called to go overseas. Space would be great. It would give him time to get his head—the big one—back in order. His little head became a lost cause the minute he even heard her name.
It helped to think of the look that would come across Fin’s face the second he found out Ben wanted to fuck his sister. That was the ticket. Think of his friend.
“Don’t make me come in there. What’s wrong?”
“Don’t you dare, Jellybean!” That’s it, put her in a nice unassuming place. Friends, that’s it. “Nothing’s wrong. I’ll be out in a second.”
“All right. Don’t be too long, or I’ll storm the men’s room.”
He knew she’d come through on the promise.
“Think of her as your sister.” It sounded wrong saying that out loud. She wasn’t his sister and his body knew it. Wouldn’t let him forget it.
Man up, Davies.
He nodded to himself and walked back into hell. More strippers hovered around the table, but Mari sat by herself. Her face pinched in a worried frown. She kept glancing towards him and biting her lip. He ached to soothe it with his tongue.
Well, that lasted all of two minutes.
Ben hesitated before sitting down beside her.
“Everything, okay?” she reached out to touch his arm and he closed his eyes for a second.
The warmth from her palm went straight to his dick. Like some electric shock jolted his cock to awareness. Not that it needed any help in that department. What would it feel like to have her fingers wrapped around his balls tugging them into her mouth? Fuck he had to change his train of thought.
Ben cleared his throat before speaking and it still came out a bit rough. “I’m good.” He picked up the beer he’d left on the table and drained it. “I need another drink. Be right back.”
He didn’t care that he was running away like a coward. Ben could stare down an enemy with no problem, but one look from Mari and he melted.
“You needing, soldier boy?” a husky voice whispered in his ear and a hand trailed down his body.
“Yes, ma’am. A Bud Lite would be wonderful.” He moved out of her reach. No matter how much he tried to lie to himself, no one could take Mari’s place.
He was well and truly fucked.