A SEAL's Seduction cover February 2013

Subject: Navy SEAL Lieutenant Blake Landon

Current Status: Two weeks of enforced leave

Mission: Distract himself in any way possible

Obstacle: A woman who tempts him to break the rules…including his own!

Navy SEAL Blake Landon (a.k.a. “Boy Scout”) knows the rule book inside and out. Checked. Rechecked. But when a mission ends badly, his entire team is ordered on leave. And that’s when Blake sees the tall redhead whose dark eyes suggest that the rules— especially those in bed—are made to be broken.

Scientist Alexia Lane has sex on the brain—partly for work, but mostly because she needs a man who makes her girly parts do the happy dance. Her only no-no? No military dudes. But Blake’s rockin’ bod promises delicious pleasures, and Alexia is halfway to sexual Nirvana before she can find out he’s actually a Navy SEAL.

And where one rule is broken, more are sure to follow….

SBN-10: 0373797427 | ISBN-13: 978-0373797424

 

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Chapter One

A SEAL’s Seduction

Chapter One

“And they who for their country die shall fill an honored grave, for glory lights the soldier’s tomb, and beauty weeps the brave…”  Joseph Drake      

A loud blast filled the air as seven guns exploded in succession.  Once, twice, thrice.  Twenty-one shots.  Faces implacable, the Honor Guard shouldered their guns and stood as tall and rigid as the Oaks lining the cemetery.

The echoing silence broke when the bugler sounded Taps.  Lieutenant Blake Landon stood at attention, his eyes narrowed against the bright morning sun.  The Chaplain’s words of honor, bravery and sacrifice rolled over him like the gentle breeze, teasing, hinting but not really making an impact.

There was no mention of Phil’s sense of humor, of how he always carried a rubber snake on missions to break the tension.  That he’d hit a McDonalds the minute they were stateside for a bagful of french-fries.  The Chaplain didn’t know that before jumping from a plane, Phil always kissed his mother’s picture, then rubbed a rabbit foot.  He wouldn’t mention Phil’s love for the beach.  It didn’t matter how god-forsaken hot their assignment might have been, the minute he was off-duty, he’d hit the beach—sun, surf and girls in bikinis—he’d often said those were his reward for getting shot at on a regular basis.

But that wasn’t the Phil they were honoring right now.

Here, at Arlington National Cemetery, Lieutenant Phil Hawkins was a soldier.  Here, the sacred tradition of honoring the noble warrior focused on service, dedication and sacrifice to country.

The entire SEAL Platoon in attendance, Blake stood shoulder to shoulder with his team.  His squad mates.  The men he served with, fought with, trained with.  Stood with, prepared to offer up the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Later tonight, they’d all celebrate Phil, the man.  Their squad mate, buddy, friend.  The Joker.

Jaw clenched, his eyes glanced off the flag-draped casket, then shifted to the distant trees again when the Captain began the ritual of folding the red, white and blue material.  As the Chaplain offered his final words of comfort, the Captain gently place the folded flag into Mrs. Hawkins hands.

Blake’s focus locked on that triangle of fabric and didn’t waver as the funeral finished.  The people around him moved, shifted, left.  He didn’t.  He couldn’t.

They’d gone through BUDS training together.  He, Phil and Cade.  All cocky as hell, all determined to push their limits, to be supermen.  The Three Amigos, the rest of the team had called them.  Inseparable.

Now permanently separated.

A large, beefy man joined him, scattering his thoughts.  Grateful for the distraction, Blake shifted his gaze to the Admiral.  His hair as white and gleaming as his uniform, the older man topped Blake’s own six-feet by at least two inches.

“Lieutenant,” Admiral Pierce greeted quietly.  “I know this is a hard loss to you and your team.  You have my sympathies.”

“Thank you, sir,” Blake said, his words stiff as he watched  Phil’s mom softly smooth her fingers over the folded flag, as if running her fingers over her son’s cheek.  Blake cringed when she lost it, her slender shoulders shaking as she sobbed into the triangle.

Desperate for distance, he ripped his gaze away.  He looked at the trees.  Oaks, mighty and strong, stood tall.  Symbolic, probably.  But he was having trouble finding solace.

“It never gets easier,” the Admiral said.

“Should it?” Blake asked, looking at the older man.  His superior.  His trainer.  His mentor.

“No.”  The Admiral’s gaze shifted to the trees.  He sighed, then looked at Blake again.  “No.  But it’s something you’ll revisit.  One way or another.  Make sure you don’t let it get in your way.”

Just like that?  Blake wanted to protest.  To call bullshit on it being that easy to simply push the loss of his comrade, his friend, aside.  But years of training, the respect he had for the man who’d recruited him to the SEALS, eliminated that thought almost before it’d formed.  Instead he inclined his head to indicate he’d handle it.

Clearly expecting exactly that, the Admiral nodded.  Then he cast an assessing glance around the graveside.

“Lieutenant Commander” The Admiral called, his words carrying over the gentle grasses and soft murmur of the milling crowd.

Cade Sullivan, Blake’s team commander and the third amigo, subtly came to attention.  With a quiet word and a brush of his hand over Mrs. Hawkins’ shoulder, he turned and strode across the lawn.

“Sir?”

“I’m assigning your men leave.”

Blake and Cade exchanged looks.  All it took was two seconds, a slight furrow of the brow and a shift of their shoulders to know both men were in perfect accord.  They didn’t want to go on leave.

“Sir?”

“Two weeks R&R, effective immediately.”

For the second time since joining the Navy—and both in the space of the last few minutes—Blake wanted to protest an order.  He didn’t want time off.  He needed distraction.  Work.  A mission.  Preferably one that included blowing up large buildings and letting loose vast amounts of ammo.

Fury was like a storm, brewing and stewing inside him.

It needed an outlet.  The shooting range would work.  Or the base gym.

As if reading his thoughts, the Admiral inclined his head, offered a stern look and added, “You’ve just finished a tense mission, and lost one of your own.  I hope you have places off-base to stay, as I’ll be leaving word at the gate that you’re on inactive duty until September seventeenth.”

For a second, Cade’s usual charming façade cracked, the same anger Blake was dealing with showing in the other man’s vivid green eyes.  In an instant, it disappeared and his smile—the one that lulled friend and foe alike into thinking he was a nice guy—flashed.

“Looks like it’s time for a trip home.  My father will be thrilled.  Thank you, Sir.  I’m sure the team will be excited about the R&R.”

You had to admire Cade’s talent at lying.  The man had a way with sincerity, that, when added to that smile, was pure gold.  At least, it was if you weren’t the one he was conning.  The truth was, the team was going to be pissed, Cade hated visiting home and his father hated having him there.  Yet the guy still smiled like he’d just been pinned with the Congressional Medal of Honor.

That’s why Phil had always called Cade Slick.  Blake was Boy Scout.  By the book, a goody goody, his whole life was focused on being prepared.  On being the best SEAL he could be.  And Phil?  He’d been the Joker.  The last thing he’d said before that bomb had blown him in two?  Knock knock.

Knock knock.

Jaw clenched, Blake glared at the sleek black lines of the casket.

Cade excused himself to inform the men of their spiffy little vacation, leaving Blake and the Admiral standing alone.  The rest of the mourners were dispersing, civilians leaning against each other, shoulders low as they made their way across the lawn.

“Landon?” the Admiral prodded.  As if there was any option?  Cade, like the Admiral, was Blake’s superior.  He’d accepted the order, so it was a done deal.

“I’m sure I can find something to do,” he said quietly.  Not go home.  He was less welcome in the trailer park he’d been raised in than Cade was at his big fancy mansion.

The guys were meeting later at JR’s, the local bar and dance club Phil had favored.  After that, Blake would take off.  Drive up the coast, check out Alcatraz, the Golden Gate.  Anything.

“I’ll see you on the fifteenth.”

Blake frowned.  “I thought we were ordered off base until the seventeenth.”

Had he misunderstood?  Hell, it was only two days, but he’d take them.

“My retirement party.  I expect you there.  You can meet my daughter.”  With that, a stern smile and a clap to the shoulder that would have put a lesser man a foot into the ground, the Admiral strode off.

Leaving Blake to contemplate those last words.

Meet the Admiral’s daughter?

Shit.

#

Hot.  Hot.  Hot.

There were a lot of things to be grateful for in life.  Good friends.  A healthy body.  Chocolate covered caramel.

All good.

But not nearly as good as the sight of a gorgeous, mostly undressed man.  The kind of man who made a woman very aware of all her girly parts.

The one striding along the waters edge was that kind of guy, Alexia Pierce’s girly parts assured her.  Gorgeous, built and since he seemed oblivious to the women he left panting in his wake, as humble as he was hot.

Tall, she’d bet his body lined up perfectly with her five-ten frame.  Long legs ate up the sand as he strode toward the ocean, his deliciously broad shoulders straight, his flat belly framed by a tapered waist.  He had that sleek, muscled look that said he could kick some ass, but didn’t have the bodybuilder bulk that screamed mirror-whore.

Dark hair, a little too short for her taste, had just a hint of curl.  She wrapped her finger around one of her own ringlets, figuring a guy who fought the wave would have a little sympathy when humid days made her look like a demented poodle.  She couldn’t see his eyes from this distance, but he had those dark, intense brows that made guys look ferociously sexy.  Either blessed genetics or the summer sun had washed his body with a pale golden hue.

She wondered if he was just as golden beneath those summer blue swim trunks.  Was it too much to hope a big wave would help out in giving her a peek?

C’mon waves.

The guy was potent combination, guaranteed to make a strong, independent woman whimper with desire.

At least, in her own mind.

As she mentally whimpered, Alexia shaded her eyes against the bright arcs of sunlight reflecting off the Pacific and interfering with her view of the gorgeous specimen of manhood as he dove into the ocean.

She actually envied the water as it slid over that rock-hard body.

“Want a towel?”

“Hmm?” she murmured, absently taking the soft fabric that was handed to her.  Frowning, she glanced at the red beach towel, then at her brother.  “What’s this for?”

“To wipe your chin.”

“Goof,” she laughed, tossing the towel back at him before setting back on her beach chair, her toes digging into the warm sand.  “That’s sweat from the sun.  I’m not used to it being this warm the second week of September.”

Or, admittedly, to seeing a man sexy enough to make her sit up and drool.

“Right.  It’s the heat.”  A master at sarcasm, Michael’s words were as dry as the sand beneath their feet.  “Aren’t you in a relationship?”

Even as Alexia waved that away with a flick of her wrist, she yanked her gaze away from the water.  She didn’t know why.  Even if she were in a relationship, looking wasn’t cheating.  And at this point, she and Edward were just colleagues who’d dated a few times.  Friends—without benefits.  Buddies, even.
“Not so much in a relationship as considering one.  Dancing around it, maybe,” she admitted.  More like trying to justify pushing herself into taking a handful of dates and a solid friendship into something more.  Something bigger.  Of course, she’d been trying to talk herself into it for three months now.  If there was one thing Alexia was good at, it was talking.  “I don’t know what we are, to be honest.”

Michael tilted his red sunglasses down to peer at her.  His eyes were just the same dark, depthless brown as her own, but he was blessed with thick lashes while she was stuck relying on volumizing mascara.  It’d be so easy to hate him for that.    “You moved across the country for a guy.  That says relationship to me.”

Alexia lifted her bottle of water and sipped, her eyes sliding back to the ocean.  All she could see of the swimmer was the occasional elbow.  Why did that turn her on so much more than the idea of seeing all of Edward, naked?

Which was the problem in a nutshell.  She liked everything about Edward.  The man was brilliant, one of the foremost scientists specializing in psychoacoustics.  She’d studied under him for two years when he was in New York, before he’d moved to California to take over The Science Institute.  They had a lot in common, enjoyed each other’s company and always had a ton to talk about.

The only problem was, she wasn’t sexually attracted to him.  And she couldn’t imagine a relationship without sex.  Without heat.  Excitement and orgasms and spontaneous wall-banging releases.  Those were as high on her relationship list as honesty and communication.

“I moved across the country for a once in a lifetime job.  That says career to me,” she said as she dug her bottle back into the sand.  “This position is off the charts exciting.  I’ll be doing in-depth research into correcting and enhancing sexual recovery for abuse victims through the means of subliminal messaging, neurolinguistic programming, and brainwave technology.  And get to be the face of the Reclaiming Yourself project.  I’ll meet with investors, promote the project and make a difference in how it’s perceived by the press.”

“You’re an acoustical physicist with a minor in psychology.  How does that translate into PR shill?”

Alexia grimaced at her brother’s irritated tone.

“Show a little more enthusiasm, why don’t you,” she said, swiping her towel at him.  “It got me back to California, so you should be grateful.  Investors want to talk to someone direction involved, who is working on the project.  I’m better at the social stuff than Edward is, and since the project focuses more on female sexuality, it’s better to have a woman front and center.”

“In other words, Dr. Darling isn’t as good at talking sex as you are?”

Alexia grinned, but as the words sank in, her smile dimmed.  Yeah.  Edward was great at the science of sex.  But talking about it?  Doing it?  She wasn’t so sure.

“I’m just giving you a bad time.  I really am excited that you’re back home,” Michael said, patting her shoulder.   The he gave her a cheeky look.  “With you here, publically talking sex all the time, the heat’s going to be off me with the parents.  So thank Dr. Darling for me, ‘kay.”

Alexia’s smile disappeared completely.

“They’re going to have a fit, aren’t they,” she murmured.

“Yep.”

By the time she’d started third grade, Alexia had known three things.  One, that she was much, much smarter than the average bear.  Two, that she didn’t quite fit anywhere-not with kids her age, not with the agenda her parents lined up for her and not with what her child psychologist had deemed society’s norms.  And three, that her father would never love her.

After a few years of exploiting the first while trying to hide the second, she’d finally realized that there was nothing she could do about the third.  At thirteen, with a slew of academic awards, a couple of skipped grades and a social calendar filled with normal, acceptable, shoot-me-now-I’m-going-crazy-boring activities, she’d done a tight one-eighty.

She’d stopped socializing and started failing classes.  She’d turned to fatty food and sugar for comfort.  She’d explored more ways to numb herself than she liked to remember.  And to this day, she wasn’t sure if her father had noticed any of that.

But he had noticed when, at sixteen, she’d been picked up by the base MP’s, drunk and half-naked with an ensign thirteen years her senior.  That’d been the second turning point in her short life.  Her father’s fury hadn’t mattered.  His blustering and disgust had barely dented her hangover.  Seeing that, the Admiral had proceeded to show her once and for all where she got her brains.  In an ice cold voice, he’d promised that the next time she stepped out of line, she’d be out of his house and no longer a part of the family.  She’d shrugged, saying that she didn’t care.  He’d nodded, as if he’d expected exactly that response, before adding he’d then send Michael to boarding school overseas.

Michael.  The one person who loved Alexia.  Who accepted and celebrated her.  Who she’d be cut off from until he was eighteen, if their father had any say in it.

Yep.  The Admiral was a scary man.

“Don’t stress about it,” Michael said quietly, clearly tracking her trip down memory lane.  “Mom’s thrilled your back and Dad will come around eventually.  They might not like what you’re talking about, but the prestige of seeing you on TV, of hearing you’re at the big fancy billionaire parties like any good socialite will bring them around.”

“Sure, as long as they ignore the part about me publically talking sex.” Alexia sighed.  As much as she wanted to be tough and emotionless when it came to their parents, a part of her still craved—with the desperation of a small child—that approval.  But she couldn’t—wouldn’t—change who she was to get it.

“You could almost feel sorry for them,” Michael laughed.  “We’re not exactly their idea of poster children, huh?  To make it easier on them, when I go to Sunday brunch, I pretend to be straight.  Not an easy thing for the headliner of Sassy’s Fancy, an all-male revue.  Last month I mentioned my photo shoot for Calvin Klein and you’d have thought I tried to jump the waiter, the way dad choked and mom sputtered.”

“Maybe they’ll focus more on the fact that this research project will potentially help abuse victims overcome their fears than the sex part of things,” Alexia mused.  When her brother looked at her like she’d jumped right over naïve into delusional, she wrinkled her nose.

“So enough about how proud we make the parents,” Michael said, with a dismissive wave to both the topic and the low-level guilt Alexia was starting to feel.  “What’s the real deal with you and Dr. Darling?”

“Edward’s last name is Darshwin,” she corrected for the zillionth time, following his lead and sitting up to reach for the sunscreen.  Unlike many redheads, Alexia didn’t have a problem tanning.  She did, however, turn into one giant freckle after too much sunshine.  “And I don’t know what the deal is, really.  He’s a sweetie.  Smart, cute and really big on communication.  A guy who likes to talk feelings.  What’s better than that?”

“A guy who makes you feel things worth talking about,” Michael ventured quietly.

Yeah.  She sighed.  That.

“When did you get so smart?”  Alexia slanted him a look.  Spread out on a bright turquoise beach towel, he looked too pretty, and honestly too vain, to offer up such deep thoughts.  Sleek and toned, he was a man who made his living off looking good.

“Babe, just because I’m not a super brainiac like you doesn’t mean I’m not a pretty sharp cookie.”

Wasn’t that the truth.

Joy, as warm as a big squishy hug, filled her.  Alexia could have turned down the job offer that’d brought her back to San Diego.  But between her dream job and a chance to live close to her brother again, she hadn’t been able to resist.  Growing up as military brats, the only steady thing in their lives had been each other.  And while she didn’t look for a lot of steadiness these days, she needed love.  Needed to feel important.  Special.  If only to one person—and even if that person was her brother.

As if taunting her with Michael’s words, her gaze sought out the gorgeous specimen of manhood again.  Now that was a man who’d make a girl feel things worth talking about.  She let the sight of his body, cutting strong and sure through the ocean waves, soothe her.  Relax away the tension and worries.

Then he stepped out of the water.

And a whole new kind of tension seeped into her body.

At the same time, all thoughts, and most of her brain functions, vanished.  Every cell of her being was focused, like a laser, on his body.

His gorgeous body.

Sleek muscles, from the top of his gorgeous head to his well-shaped feet.  The man’s body was a work of art.  Not in the bodybuilder obsessed way, but pure streamlined power.

Him, she was sexually attracted to.  Him, she could easily see herself begging for.

“You know, I might have questioned your judgment and hairstyle over the years,” Michael said quietly.  “But I’ve never faulted your eyesight.  That is one fine looking man.”

“He’s okay,” she downplayed, as if her body wasn’t melting just looking at him.

“Okay?  Just okay?”  Michael’s voice rose in indignation, as if she’d just insulted gorgeous men everywhere.  “What’d New York do to you?  You say you’re not in a relationship, but your butt’s still planted on this towel.  Why aren’t you going for it?”

“Because, as you pointed out, I’m in a relationship.”

Considering a relationship.”

“Which means I should finish considering before I do anything crazy,” she shot back.  “Like hit on some stranger just because he’s gorgeous.”

“Gorgeous is the best reason to hit,” Michael mused.  Then he gave her an arch look.  “Of course, he might not be your type.”

“I don’t think he’s yours,” she said with a laugh, eyeing the sexy swimmer.  A man who exuded that much sexual energy, who made her wonder how many hours it’d take to try her top ten favorite Kama Sutra positions, gay?  That’d be a crime against women everywhere.

“Let’s find out, shall we?” Michael suggested as the man walked toward them, either because his stuff was up the beach past where they sat or maybe in response to intense do-me signals Alexia was mentally sending.

“Michael,” she hissed, suddenly wishing she were on a plane back to New York.  Or buried in the sand.  Either would be better than what she knew was coming.  “Don’t you dare.”

“Did you say dare?”  Michael’s grin shifted to one-hundred-degrees of wicked.

“Michael.”  Jackknifing upright, Alexia made a grab for her brother’s arm.  And growled when she missed.

“Oh hey, excuse me,” he called as he slid gracefully to his feet.  “Do you have a second?”

Gorgeous slowed, walking toward them.  His eyes—yes, just as fabulous as the rest of him—shifted past Michael to lock on Alexia.

His gaze was like being bathed in a deliciously sensual bath.  The dark blue depths were warm, luxurious, and bone-meltingly wonderful.

Alexia swore she felt the world shift.  Or maybe it was just the sand beneath her butt as her brother hurried forward to offer his hand.

“I’m Michael,” he said, his smile big and bright as he gestured her way.  “That’s my sister, Alexia.”

“Blake,” the man introduced quietly, his voice carrying just a hint of the south.

“I was wondering if you wanted to join me, us, for a drink?”  Michael reached into the cooler and pulled out a bottle of water, offering it.  “It’d be a great favor.  You can help settle an argument between my sister and I.”

Blake looked at pretty boy, and the proffered water, then at the sexy beach siren lounging at his feet.  She looked like a parting gift from summer, as hot as the season itself.  All red hair and gold skin, she made his mouth water.

Any other time, he’d have made a move to join her.  But instead of offering healing, solace, the last two weeks had simply hammered home his grief.  Made it worse.  He’d hung out at Cade’s apartment for awhile.  Only back a couple of days from a visit home, Cade had been the lousy company.  Silent, morose and distant, wallowing in the bitch of a mood that always went with dealing with his family.  So Blake had escaped to the beach.

The sun hadn’t helped.  Neither had the surf.  And he was sure talking to strangers was just as pointless.  Just make an excuse and go, he told himself.

“What argument?” he heard himself asking instead.

“Alexia thinks a hot date is dinner and a movie,” the guy told him, tilting his bright red sunglasses down his nose to offer a comical eye roll.  “Boring, right?  Me, I think a club and dancing is the way to go.  What’s your take?”

The bottle of water halfway to his mouth, Blake paused to stare.

Was the guy hitting on him?

Tempted to laugh, Blake offered the redhead a baffled look.  Her answering smile was like a ray of sunshine, reaching out to pull him out of a dark hole he hadn’t even realized he’d been hiding in.

“Both,” Blake said.  “Dinner and dancing.  I’m traditional that way.”

“Ahh.”  The guy’s smile didn’t shift, his attitude didn’t change.  But his nod made it clear he’d got the message that he wasn’t Blake’s type.  “Then I guess it’s a draw.”

“You’ll have to excuse Michael,” the redhead said as Blake sat in the chair.  “He’s a nothing ventured, nothing gained kind of guy.”

“Can’t fault him for that.”

“You’re sweet,” she decided softly, her smile flashing bright.  At first glance, her features weren’t traditionally beautiful.  They were too striking, too bold.  Eyes almost too large for her face were direct under a slash of dark brows.  Her jaw was strong, her lips full with an obvious under-bite that spelled all kinds of sexy to Blake’s suddenly wide-awake libido.

A red rose tattoo on her shoulder twined down her bicep, twisting and circling.  Her body, hot enough to make a man grateful for summer, was stunning.  Packaged in a tiny purple swimsuit that hugged, highlighted, curves, he suddenly wished like hell he’d met her another time.  One when he could lavish on her every bit of attention she deserved.

Blake was the kind of guy who’d built his career on doing the right thing.  Who lived his life by the rules.  He not only followed the book, he double checked it to ensure the rules he was following were exactly as written.

Anal?

It worked for him.

At least, it had.

The image of Phil flashed through Blake’s mind, the last thing he’d seen from his buddy was his big, cheesy grin just before the shrapnel had pierced his helmet.

Phil had followed the rules.

The entire team had, to the letter.

And they’d still lost their teammate.

Overwhelmed by the memory, Blake shifted his eyes toward the ocean, trying to find peace again.  The water wasn’t giving any up though.  Of its own volition, his gaze returned to the stunning redhead.

She didn’t look like the kind who followed rules.

Maybe that’s what he needed right now.  A little time outside the rules.

His eyes traveled over the smooth golden skin of the redhead’s bare belly, noting the tiny strings tying her bikini bottoms to her slender hips.  His body stirred.  Blood pumped.  For the first time in two weeks, he felt alive.

He’d come here to heal, though.

And as much as losing himself in a body as lush and welcoming as Alexia’s appealed, he knew better.  A smart man fighting demons avoided addicting substances.  Alcohol, drugs, gambling.  Gorgeous, sexy women.  Anything that let a man numb himself to the memories.

Blake’s body screamed a number of ugly epithets at him.  Ten years in the Navy meant it had a ton to choose from.  Still, he’d put his body through worse than denying it a gorgeous woman.  It’d get over it.

“Thanks,” he finally said, splitting his smile between the brother and sister.  “But I’ve got to go.”

Before he could change his mind, he lifted the water bottle in thanks, and strode away.  And regretted every step

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