‘You don’t need to think,’ a female voice whispered.
Euan pulled from Nick’s embrace and looked up.
His attention latched onto an apparition who stood in the doorframe. A female prodigy of indefinable value. A look of disquiet and concern was etched in her features. Kira’s eyes were serious, a reflection of the moment and the feelings that swirled around the room.
She seemed to float towards him. A fantasy in truth. An illusion made real. In her eyes he saw the beginning and end of all things. In her eyes he saw their future. Not his future, because that was over, but the future of the human race. This tenacious, driven, little platinum-blonde spitfire was going to drag humanity back into civility. Kicking and screaming.
Euan’s only job now was clear the path for her.
She stood alongside Nick. Her concentration didn’t waver. She studied him. She comprehended the character of the small, indistinguishable creatures he thought he’d hidden deep within his soul.
Euan had stood before men with weapons of steel and wood that were held comfortably in their fists. He’d taken the lives of men to save them from destruction. He’d stood on the cliff of humanity’s destruction and watched as it imploded. And yet, when he met the crystal-blue eyes of the tiny woman before him, he was naked, childlike, vulnerable.
‘Trust us,’ Nick beseeched.
Euan’s gaze flicked between Kira and Nick. He swallowed. Trust them? Could he? His stomach tightened.
Kira’s hands were now on his head. But this time, there was a sensual element. They explored his broad shoulders, his neck. They gently pried under his fingers so she could hold his hands in hers.
Then she knelt so they were eye to eye.
He was going to implode. He was. He knew it. As much as he knew that his heart was filled with the love for both of them, in this moment, his body and mind couldn’t manage the dichotomy of the love for them, and the hate for himself.
Her gaze was all encompassing. ‘We’re going to love you.’
‘No.’ His voice broke on the single word.
Her voice consumed his world. ‘You’re going to let us.’
Delicate fingers were placed over his lips. ‘I can. We can. We do.’
‘No,’ Euan mumbled as his heart shattered.
She whispered, ‘Yes.’
He’ll never come back to stay, unless someone asks him to…
Samantha O’Hara stood so close to the window that her breath fogged the glass. She wiped it clean with her sleeve, her eyes never leaving the men she’d known longest in her life. She’d expected Ethan to return. Significant events consistently drew him back to town. From where, no-one knew. He always arrived in the same ute, never a rental, always looking irritable and tired, but never exhausted. She guessed this meant he was about three or four hours away.
Too far to be called upon, but too close to convince her that he truly wanted to forget.
He held a glass tumbler. Mona’s. Even from this distance, Sam could tell it was empty. She hoped the rumours weren’t true. Four beers and a bourbon did not equal a drinking problem, but it surprised her that he would consume so much on such an occasion.
He was only twenty-nine, a mere month older than Cal and a year older than she, but he’d looked tired and beaten down for a long time now.
He wore the old suit that typically hung in the wardrobe of his old room. It barely fit anymore, and she wondered if there was another suit somewhere, hanging in a faraway wardrobe—one that did fit him and that never came to Denman. He was broader in the chest and shoulders than he had been, thicker in the arms and legs. More solid than she’d ever seen him. If he was going to keep coming back here for occasions, that suit was going to need to be retired.
Not wanting to be caught staring, Sam stepped away from the window and looked for something to do. She collected empty bottles, used plates and food scraps. Mingled when cornered, nodded politely and excused herself at every opportunity. Twice she rearranged the fridge and freezer to accommodate the dozens of meals, desserts, snacks, and finger foods the mourners had prepared for the fractured family.
All the while she wondered about him.
The long-awaited reunion occurred at the buffet table. Ethan drew alongside Sam as she was scraping pavlova into a plastic container. She would rather have been doing something a touch more glamorous or poignant, but she had to appreciate life’s sense of humour.
She prickled at the old nickname, the long-ago endearment that used to be whispered in her ear or cried against her throat. She looked up and smiled, and made sure the welcome extended to her eyes.
‘Hi, Ethan.’ She didn’t trust herself to say more. Just standing this close to him made her heart feel heavy. It was foolish to miss a man who had left so long ago and stupid to let his occasional returns unbalance her so much, but she’d never been able to control that.
‘You look good. Your hair’s got long.’
Sam continued to scrape, unsure how to respond. He didn’t look good, and she wouldn’t pretend he did.
He paused, slowed by her lack of answer. ‘It’s good to see you.’
Her hand stilled. She looked up, measured her tone and removed the sting from the words before she said, ‘One day you’ll say that on a normal day. But it’s good to see you too. How’ve you been spending your time?’
‘Poorly,’ was his unsatisfying answer.
Summer Return is the expanded and revised version of Elise’s Ella-nominated novella, Ask Me To Stay. It releases in July, but is available for pre-order now!
A submarine, a one-night-stand, and a forbidden workplace romance…
This was turning from potential hook-up into a possible date rather too quickly. He wanted to scrabble around and find something to grab onto as the ground shifted and tilted, yet a date would be nice. He hadn’t been on a real date in a while. But even as he smiled and watched the play of light on her cheek and lips, he knew it wouldn’t last.
They’d break up before he sailed. That’s what he did; the long-distance thing never worked out. He’d seen too many failed relationships on the boat. Joining the navy had scuttled his dating life and reduced it down to mini relationships of three months tops. He’d pretty much resigned himself to not having a serious relationship until he rejoined civvie street.
His looming decision raised its head. He was running out of time. He had to sign on for another two years or get out. He’d stayed in last time, and started seriously saving, putting away money for when he got out. This time he wasn’t so sure he wanted to do another two years, nor was he sure about being a civilian again since it hadn’t gone so well the first time. But when Rainy looked at him she wasn’t seeing a sailor, she was seeing a cook. Because he’d told a half-truth. He liked the idea of testing out being a civilian again.
She released her glass and turned her hand so their fingers touched. Her skin was cool and dewy and her touch sent a shiver along his skin.
‘And what happens after the pizza?’ It was possibly the wrong question to ask, but since she was the one putting out the suggestion he wanted to know how far she was willing to go.
She stood and for a heartbeat he thought he’d gone too far, then she walked around the table and sat next to him. ‘That depends on two things.’
‘Two?’ His heart was beating harder than it should be, echoing the beat of the music.
‘Firstly, do you remember my name?’
Of course he did. ‘Rainy. Your eyes are like the sky on a rainy day.’ A beautiful soft blue-grey. He wanted to take that back as soon as the words had fallen off his tongue. It was too obvious and too much of a pick-up line.
She laughed and shook her head. ‘I’ve heard that so many times before.’
Yet she leaned closer. Close enough that he caught the faint scent of perfume. Something like spring flowers. He hadn’t expected that, for some reason he’d expected her to smell like grease and fuel. Then her hand landed on his knee, and there was a definite glint in her eyes.
That was when he realised he wasn’t the one doing the picking up. Rainy was.
He swallowed as a rush of pure lust shot through his blood.
That was sexy. As his jeans tightened around his groin, he was hoping he passed whatever the next thing was. ‘And two is?’ He was sure his voice was a little rougher, like he’d spent the night drinking and singing karaoke.
‘How well do you kiss?’
Kurt Garland is at a crossroads: sign for another two years as a submariner or leave and rejoin civilian life. With only weeks to make up his mind, he’s torn between the financial stability and mateship of life in the Navy, and the freedom and balance outside of the military. With big life decisions on the line, Kurt needs space to think, so a one-night-stand with a sexy stranger is all he can commit to. Until his sexy stranger shows up on his submarine…
Getting accepted into the Submarine Corps was an enormous career goal for Rainy Miller, and she has no intention of screwing it up. A Marine Technician for the last eight years in the surface fleet, Rainy craves the new challenges of a submariner. With her training complete, she’s about to join a boat for the first time, and her career relies on a good impression. When her one night stand shows up in the galley, she has to shut it down, walk away, pretend it never happened. But all submariners know that secrets don’t stay secret for long on a sub