Into the Crossfire—an ExcerptHere’s an excerpt from INTO THE CROSSFIRE, which came out in August, 2010. I hope it’s a book you all enjoy. I also hope it’s a book that makes all of us reflect on our blessings and be thankful to those who protect us.
San Diego Early morning July 29The sky had turned pewter, a shade lighter than the ocean that still carried the darkness of the night. Nicole opened one eye, then closed it quickly. Eyes closed, she tried to process what she’d seen. A train wreck, that’s what she’d seen. She opened her eyes each morning to her calm, orderly bedroom, with the four-poster that she’d slept in in seven countries, with its French lace canopy and Frette sheets. The 17th century armoire and 18th century Italian madia. The vases with fresh flowers, the ceramic bowls of potpourri, the big Baccarat crystal vase full of multi-colored sand. Her mother’s lovely watercolors and a collection of photographs taken by an old school friend who was now one of the top fashion photographers in the world. Everything in its place. Cool and quiet and neat, exactly as she liked it. This room looked like it had been at war, particularly the bed. She looked down at herself, naked, one leg trapped by the powerful, hairy leg of an equally naked man. A man with hormones instead of blood, she’d swear. Sam Reston did not have an off button. He’d finally stopped a few hours ago because she was ready to go into a coma, after too many orgasms to count. Time out, she’d gasped and he’d laughed and slowly pulled out of her, the act so sexy she’d mourned the absence of his penis immediately, though she’d been the one to call a halt. He’d disappeared for a moment and come back with two glasses of chilled white wine and a plate of ripe grapes. Even after dinner, even after the impromptu midnight picnic on the terrace, she’d been ravenous. Nonstop sex, it appeared, was an appetite stimulant, in more ways than one. As she sipped the wine, she couldn’t help but give an admiring look at him sitting beside her, muscles bulging as he fed her grapes, big, thick, erect penis dark, engorged with blood, twitching when she looked at it. She’d glanced at his lap then looked away again, but she could feel the flush rising from her breasts to her face. She thought she’d stopped blushing in her teens, but apparently not. Close proximity to Sam Reston made the blood pound through her body, rise to her face, color her nipples deep pink. He’d looked at her, really looked at her, from her flushed breasts, the left one moving slightly with the hard pulses of her heart, the vein beating in her neck, the pearls of moisture in her pubic hair, a mixture of his semen and her excitement. His eyes had lifted to hers and her entire body thrummed. But it was like asking a car to start on fumes, after having been pedal-to-the-metal running straight through every molecule of gas in the tank. She was sore all over, particularly her sex, and the desire she felt was only a faint echo of the all-consuming drive to have him in her she’d felt all night in his bed. There it was. She’d hit her own personal wall. Finally. It had been a night of excess that had astonished her, but she had her limits and she’d reached them. Sam had moved his free hand to her knee, cupping it, narrowed dark eyes burning into hers. He’d brought his mouth to her ear. “Nicole?” The deep voice had been like a caress. How incredibly sexy it had sounded in her ear while he’d been moving heavily inside her. Her stomach had clenched at the memory. Oh God, he was ready for another round. How could he? With a sigh, Nicole realized she wasn’t being fair. She’d nearly crawled into his skin up until now, matching him heat for heat. If she’d reached the end of her rope, and he hadn’t, it wasn’t his fault. “Lie down,” he’d said softly. Heart pounding, she let her back settle on the mattress. How to do this? Maybe she could psych herself up for another round. He shifted on the mattress and she controlled a wince. But instead of climbing on top of her, as she expected, he smiled and positioned his glass of wine over her belly and slowly, slowly, poured a thin, cold stream of the fragrant Chardonnay over her. It felt good on her overheated skin, the fragrant fruity notes rising to her nose. And then Sam had bent to lick the wine off her stomach, slowly, like a cat lapping cream. She’d tried to rise on her elbows, but he’d simply put a big hand on her chest and gently pushed her back down. He lifted his head and smiled at her. “No, honey,” he said, his voice a deep, dark whisper. “You don’t do anything at all. You just lie back and let me pleasure you.” That was good, because her muscles felt like water, incapable of holding her up. Sam’s tongue moved lower, lower and she gasped as he licked around her sex, gently, as if aware of the fact that she was sore. “Close your eyes.” The deep voice came from far away. “Okay.” She closed her eyes, heard the faint click as he turned the bedside lamp off. Her eyelids turned from pink to black. Sam nuzzled her sex, nose against her clitoris, tongue gently swirling, dipping into her, where his penis had just been. Her breath came out on a sigh, his own murmur of satisfaction echoing hers. Soft plashing sounds came through the open French windows, gentle and regular, as if the sea were breathing. There were soft gentle sounds coming from down her body as Sam worked her with his mouth. Such a strange sensation, slowly becoming aroused while the mantle of sleep bore down on her, as she drifted further and further away, to a land of pleasure that grew ever darker… Unlike the other contractions of orgasm, so sharp at times they poised on the knife-edge of pain, this climax was gentle, dreamy, her body a boat rocking on the soft waves of the sea, rocking, rocking… It was the last thing she remembered. The sky was growing lighter by the minute. Soon it would be dawn. Nicole rose slowly from the bed, wincing at all the sore muscles, making her halting way to the bathroom. She passed a mirror and winced at the sight of the unknown woman in the mirror, clearer by the minute as the world outside lightened, like an image emerging from the fog. Wild, dark hair tangling around her head, huge eyes, swollen lips. She looked back at the bed, at him. He was so long, his feet hung off the bed. Even his feet were gorgeous, long, lean, high-arched. One thick arm was over his eyes, the other outstretched to her side of the bed. Deeply asleep, completely still except for the expansion of his broad chest with each breath. Well…he’d made love all night. Literally. She’d had no idea that any male over the age of 15 would have been capable of that, capable of coming so many times she’d lost count. Even now, in complete repose, in a sleep so deep it could have been a coma, his penis looked full, veins visible, semi-erect on his thigh. If Sam’s eyes were to open right now, and if he were to see her naked, that penis would swell fully erect in an instant. She’d bet the bank on it. Something in her seemed to set him off. Certainly, something in him set her off. She looked like she was making love right now. Her breasts were swollen, nipples red and hard. And oh, God, just looking at him, like some Greek statue come to life, her thighs trembled. She had to get out of here. Fast. For a second, she looked with longing at the bathroom door. A shower. A shower would go a long way toward making her feel like herself again, washing away the smell of him permeating her skin. He’d touched every inch of her last night, marked her irrevocably, inside and out. She wasn’t used to not feeling fresh and she definitely wasn’t used to smelling of someone else. She stared at herself in the mirror, this face she’d never seen before, eyes wide, pupils dilated. And then she was aware of something else. Wetness between her legs, running down her thighs. For a moment, she thought she’d unexpectedly got her period, that her body had simply disobeyed the pill and gone ahead and had a period, breaking the hormonal schedule. An entire night of wild sex surely would be enough to knock her for a loop, hormonally speaking. She looked down at herself, expecting to see drops of blood, but all she saw was a gleaming wetness. His semen. Sam had shot a small lake into her during the night. At the memory, her knees wobbled. She gasped for air, the sound loud in the quiet room. Nicole’s head whipped around to see if she’d somehow woken Sam up, but he was out like a light. The thought of that—of Sam waking up and finding her here, of having to face him after last night’s excesses…Oh no. It wasn’t that she wasn’t still attracted to him, it was that she was attracted too much. The Nicole Pearce of last night—the woman who had wallowed in sex, who had tuned out the world to focus narrowly on Sam Reston and his luscious, utterly male body—she had to simply put that woman away. That Nicole was an aberration and she had to disappear, right now. Speaking of disappearing… She looked around wildly. Her dress was on the floor, crumpled, bra on top. Jacket on the back of a chair. One sandal was toppled on its side next to a big, sleek chest of drawers and its mate…where the hell was its mate? Walking barefoot out of Sam’s house was too awful to contemplate, but the other sandal was nowhere to be found. Two sweeps of the room and no shoe. Just one place left to look. She crouched and yes, there it was. Halfway under the bed. Under Sam’s very large, very low bed. It took a full minute, but she finally got it. She couldn’t possibly walk out looking like this, but on the other hand, there was a drumbeat inside her, insistent and loud. Get out now. Get out now. Before he woke up, because she had no clue what she could possibly say to him. Dress and go, now. She slipped into the bathroom, leaving the door open, so that a little of the faint morning light could seep in. If she turned the lights on in the white-tiled bathroom, the glare could wake Sam up. A splash of cold water on her face, a quick wash between her legs—and oh my god, the nap of the washcloth felt incredibly rough against her super-sensitized flesh—a comb hastily pulled through her hair was all she allowed herself time for. Bra and dress went on in under a minute. Holding her sandals by the straps, she tiptoed her way to the front door. On the floor was a silky mauve slash of material. Her panties. Her beautiful La Perla panties, ripped apart. And how she’d revelled in Sam tearing them off her, because they’d been this unacceptable barrier between her and Sam’s hard flesh. She closed her eyes for a second, then opened them, intent more than ever on getting out as fast as she could, like someone fleeing from the scene of the crime. The door. She eyed it warily. Last night, getting in had been like getting into some secret room at the Pentagon. Palm print, key pad, five-digit code. She had no idea what the numbers were. Her mind had been utterly lost in mists of lust. If she needed a secret code to get out, she was in trouble. The idea of having to walk back into the bedroom, wake Sam up and ask for a code made her focus, concentrate. She studied the door, narrow-eyed. A door had to work both ways, didn’t it? You have to be able to get out, not just in. There was no security panel. No door handle either, for that matter. She stared at the door, willing it to yield up its secrets. Did it open by remote control? Did she have to go back into the bedroom and root through Sam’s pants? That would be the last straw. There was one button on the wall next to the featureless door. She held out a hesitant finger, hovered over it, then gathered her courage and pressed it, hoping it wasn’t connected to something dangerous, like a siren. Or a bomb. A crisp click and the lock disengaged, the door sliding open. Yes! Nicole tiptoed through, then quietly slid the door closed behind her. She stood in the hallway, breathing heavily, as if she’d just engineered a jail break. Her heart was pounding so hard it was a miracle the sound didn’t echo in the quiet corridor. It was utterly ridiculous, but she couldn’t do anything about the way she felt—panicky and broken, as if running away from something dangerous. Mindful of the clickety-clack of her heels on the shiny hardwood floor of the corridor last night, she walked barefoot to the elevator and called it up, wincing at the little ping as it reached Sam’s floor. It sounded so loud in the silence. In the elevator, she clutched her pochette tightly, like a shield, and stared mindlessly at the elevator doors. When they opened, she stepped out into the huge, glass-encased lobby. The sky was now a dark pearly gray and she could see the beach not fifty feet away, the small waves curling like lace on the sand. “Miss?” Nicole jumped and barely managed to suppress a scream. “Miss? Can I help you?” The tone more pointed, with a slight Hispanic accent. A security guard, dressed in some security company’s livery, surrounded by a circular polished-wood barrier with lots of video screens showing empty hallways, looking at her with a frown. Nicole heroically refrained from looking down at herself in dismay but she knew exactly what he was seeing. A dishevelled woman who had obviously been up to no good, tiptoeing away shoeless from a night of excess in one of the apartments. This was just so unfair. Nicole was the epitome of a proper lady. Even in the midst of a hot affair, she always kept her decorum, it had been drummed into her. She prided herself on the fact that a casual observer would never know what she was thinking, what she was feeling. Right now, she might as well have had babe after a hot night tattooed on her forehead. The only thing to do was brazen it out. She straightened, put on her best Ambassador’s-daughter polite smile and lifted her head. “Good morning,” she said evenly. “I wonder if you could call me a taxi?” “Sure thing, ma’am,” the guard said, punching out a number on the phone keypad without taking his eyes off her. Presumably in case she made off with one of the stone planters that must have weighed 300 pounds each. “Thank you,” Nicole said primly, and walked to the front of the lobby, sitting down on one of the long, gleaming oak benches. She carefully put on her sandals and stared out the two-story windows at the beach. The sky was cloudless, pale blue, the ocean light gray. It was going to be a glorious day, as so many days were in San Diego. She stared out at the ocean, thinking of absolutely nothing until she heard the guard call out. “Taxi’s here, ma’am.” She turned her head and sure enough, a cab was coming around the circular driveway. Nicole nodded to the guard and got into the cab. She gave her address to the driver and stared blindly out the window as he took off. This part of San Diego was beautiful, but she barely noticed the white sand beaches, lush vegetation, the light dancing on wavelets over the ocean, the runners on the beach. All she could think about was Sam Reston on top of her, nose an inch from hers, staring at her fiercely as he moved in and out of her. And the fact that all last night, she hadn’t thought once about her father.