As he slowly opened his eyes and saw Jane sleeping on the pillow beside his, he almost laughed out loud at the relief. He’d been dreaming; it was all a dream. He was all right. LJ was all right. Michael was all right.
Okay, it hadn’t all been a dream.
He sat up gingerly, trying not to shake the bed and wake the beautiful woman sleeping next to him. She had turned on one of the bedside lamps and it gave a soft glow to the room. She lay facing him, still only wearing the ARMY t-shirt. The hotel room was warm, even with the air conditioning on, so neither of them had bothered using the blankets on the bed.
Looking around, he saw her cell phone sitting on the nightstand on her side of the bed. Walking around the bed quietly, he picked it up and went into the bathroom. It was dark outside now, but he had no idea what time it was or how long he’d been sleeping. He figured it had been a while though, because for the first time in ages he didn’t feel totally exhausted. He dialed the number of the cell phone he’d left with his brother and Michael answered on the first ring. “Linc?”
“Yeah, it’s me.” He shut the door and glanced at himself in the mirror as he sat down on the closed seat of the toilet. The robe had to go. He couldn’t wear it much longer and retain his self-respect.
“Where are you?” Michael asked, though he didn’t sound anxious.
“With Jane,” Lincoln responded. “She had her own hotel room, I figured it would be less crowded.”
“Right,” Michael said, his voice neutral.
“What time is it?” Lincoln asked.
“Almost 3. We’ve slept some, but we’ve been talking, Linc. I don’t really want to use Sofia as bait. I’d be willing to let Whistler die, but she’s not having any of that, so we’ve got to figure out if he willingly went with them, or if he’s their prisoner. I don’t know how we’re going to get that information.” Michael sounded somewhat refreshed, but not all that interested in what he relayed.
“No, I agree. We won’t let her do anything that might get her killed. You gotta keep an eye on her, though, man. She’ll take off and do her own thing. You gotta keep on her, or keep Sucre on her. Don’t let her get away. She’s crazy in love with that bastard, and she’s likely to do something stupid.” Lincoln sighed. “Jane’s called in some favors. Some of Dad’s old crew, I guess. She’s asleep right now, but when she wakes up I’ll find out everything. I’m going to call the hospital and check on LJ, but let’s meet up, in the morning. We’ll talk about what we’re going to do, and I’ll sit on Sofia if I’ve got to. You got it until then?”
“Yeah, I’ll take care of it. How about 9?”
“Sounds good. Let’s meet at the hospital, okay?”
“Okay. But call me back if anything’s up with LJ?”
“You know I will. The hospital has Jane’s number, they were supposed to call if anything changed, and we haven’t heard anything, so I’m sure it’s all good.”
“I went back and saw him around 9 o’clock last night,” Michael said, and that didn’t surprise Lincoln at all. He’d been so exhausted he’d crashed hard, but with the way Michael’s mind worked, it wouldn’t let him totally rest. “He was still sleeping, but he looked good. He’s really gonna be okay, Linc.”
Lincoln’s chest hurt with sudden pressure; Michael’s wistful tone had a physical effect on him. “If I could not be responsible for one more death, it’s his,” Lincoln confessed.
“You’re not responsible for any of them,” Michael said softly.
“No more than you are,” Lincoln retorted sharply. “You don’t get to go from being pissed at me to taking it all on yourself, Mikey.”
There was a slight pause. “I’m not, Linc, I swear. It’s just, in that moment, when LJ got shot—I just realized how powerless we’ve been all along. I’m sick of it. I want something more from Sara’s death than Susan’s death. I want something better than that.”
“I don’t know if we can have anything more than that,” Lincoln replied honestly. He wished they were having this conversation in person, but he supposed it was easier over the phone. He knew his escape with Jane had been in part about being with her, but it had also been about not having to be with Michael, not right now, not when everything was still so raw and painful between them.
Michael took a deep breath and answered, “I know.”
“Get some more sleep, okay?” Lincoln commanded as nicely as he could.
“I’ll try. You too.”
“I’ll see you in a few hours.”
Lincoln disconnected the call and sat with the phone pressed to his forehead for several minutes. He didn’t know if it would ever be possible for things to be all right between him and his brother again, but he hoped this indicated something good. Maybe Jane and her friends could do something to make this right, or at least less wrong.
He dialed the hospital but was told LJ was resting comfortably. He left a message for his son to call in the morning if he didn’t feel up to company, though he couldn’t see himself not really going to see LJ, whether the kid wanted it or not. He needed to see with his own eyes that his son was still getting better.
When he returned to the bedroom, Jane still lay curled on her side in the same position. He hesitated for a moment, but it really would have taken more sense than he’d ever had not to pull the robe off and lay down on the bed next to her again, totally naked. He was rejuvenated after the solid length of sleep he’d had, and if they weren’t going anywhere for a few hours, he didn’t really see any point in wasting their time.
Propping himself up on his elbow, he looked at her serene face and the curve of her arms. She had tucked her hands under the pillow under her cheek. Her legs were scissored but drawn up towards the center of the bed. He couldn’t decide where to touch her first, or what the best way to wake her up would be, and then suddenly he found himself unable to touch her. She was almost too lovely, almost too good to be true, and he couldn’t help wondering in this silent hotel room, in this moment of truth, if he really deserved to have any kind of comfort or joy through her. It was selfish, to spend time fucking her, even if she wanted it—which she’d indicated she did. He had seen so much waste over the past few months, the lives of everyone he’d ever loved or had even been connected to in a small way extinguished except for Michael and LJ. Was it fair for him to have sex with this woman while Michael sat across town in a hotel room mourning Sara?
He thought of Veronica and how he’d barely had time to even shed a tear for her, and though he knew his time with her had passed and it wasn’t the same as Michael’s loss of Sara, he doubted their loss could be measured against each other fairly. He had loved Veronica his whole life, and while he’d harbored no hope of ever being with her again, her death had been a blow that would have crippled him if had not been forced to carry on. That’s why he’d given Michael the responsibility of looking after Sofia. Michael had to go on; he couldn’t have time to dwell, not now, not when it might break him. When he was stronger, then he could deal with that pain.
Watching Jane sleep turned him on. Not that it took much, he acknowledged ruefully, but just being in her presence did something to him, inside and out, that couldn’t be categorized, at least not right now. All he knew was he wanted to slide himself inside her body more than he wanted anything else, and even stirring up his misery over what Michael had also been through couldn’t really make it abate. He wanted her, and she was here, and he could see no real reason not to have her if she was willing.
No real reason he wanted to dwell on, anyway.
He reached out and placed his hand on the curve of her hip, slowly spreading his fingers down over the top of her butt. She did have a very fine ass, but he’d been made aware of her very fine breasts when they’d been in the shower together. He squeezed her gently with his hand before trailing his fingers up to the letter Y on her shirt. It was molded to the shape of her breast, and with the way her arms were curved up under her pillow he could trace the letter easily. As his finger moved up the base of the letter, her nipple responded to the faint caress, and with that, Jane finally stirred. Her body shifted slightly and as Lincoln lifted his gaze to her face, she opened her eyes to look at him.
Lincoln had felt attracted to lots of women throughout his life, most of which he’d acted on in some way. He’d spent years banging women he couldn’t remember the names of just to forget about Veronica in various ways, at various times, for various reasons. He’d never loved anyone but Vee, in all his life, but at that moment, as Jane’s blue eyes connected with his and her nipple hardened completely under his finger, he wondered if he could love Jane Phillips.
Love her like crazy, love her and risk losing her, know that she had the training to do dirty jobs that could get her killed, that at any given moment she might vanish from his life, just like Veronica had. It was so much more real, here, now, in this moment. For all the times he’d ‘lost’ Vee, she had still been there, if not in his life, at least in his city, or a phone call away, on the planet somewhere. Now she was significantly and permanently gone, and the idea of Jane suffering the same fate terrified him.
He should have moved towards her, he should have placed his mouth on hers, or flicked his finger over her nipple, something. Anything. He should have done something, but he froze and felt unable to move.
Her eyes skittered away from his, down his naked, aroused body and then back to face. “Hot?” she asked, a sparkle in her eyes that pushed him irrevocably into the realm of wanting more than just to fuck the hell out of her.
“A little,” he managed to say and with the relaxation of his vocal chords, his body remembered to move, or at least his fingers did, strumming her nipple and cupping her breast eagerly when she drew in a sharp breath in response.
“Now?” she asked, and he thought he might burst into pure, blue flame. He wanted her so much, and now he was truly hot, on fire all over, his need for her shoving all other considerations from his mind for a brief moment.
“Please,” he uttered, somewhat uncharacteristically, but he wanted her to know on some level anyway, how much he needed her.
Their lips met, her hands moving quickly from under her pillow to wrap around his neck and pull him closer. Their tongues entwined as he dropped his hand to slide it up under her shirt, skimming across her stomach to fondle her bare breast with the same teasing touch. He wasn’t sure how slowly he could go; in fact, he was pretty sure once he got going nothing would stop him, so he fought against the instinct to simply roll her over with the weight of his body and plant himself between her legs.
She was aggressive, though, her teeth sinking into his bottom lip then pulling back slightly, which forced him to move or lose contact, and then she turned just right and he was half on top of her, his cock throbbing against her inner thigh. “Oh, shit,” he breathed when she instinctively rolled her hips up, caressing him in a very general but nonetheless mind-numbing manner.
One of her hands dropped from his neck to grip his waist. She moved against him again, and he suddenly got that she purposely wanted herself completely under him. Of course, he should have realized any woman who grabbed his ass on the first kiss probably didn’t require much foreplay, especially when they had engaged in so much of it earlier in the bathroom.
That might have been hours ago, but their bodies may as well have just come from that place.
Her nails dug into his side, and she whimpered a little, he hoped in response to the fact that he’d shifted his hips forward and his cock had brushed intimately between her legs. It was all he could do to breathe properly as he felt the soft touch of her pubic hair and the heat he so desperately wanted to plunge himself into. “Linc,” she breathed unsteadily and then he was there, totally on top of her, poised to push inside.
He had no condom, he had no restraint either, but something made him lift his head and ask gutturally, “You on the Pill?”
She nodded jerkily and her thighs widened, making a distinct haven for him that he hadn’t had in a very long time. He dropped his head down, resting his forehead against her cheek. “It’s been a while,” he confessed tightly. “I swear to you the second time will be better.”
He felt her chest move under him in a breath of laughter, and he remembered his hand was still under her shirt, and she wasn’t even totally naked yet. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep,” she whispered against his skin. “This might be the best I’ve ever had.”
He grew impossibly harder at those words, but paused to move away from her, though it nearly killed him to do so. Her eyes widened, and he saw uncertainty at a time when she should have felt immensely confident because there was no way in hell he would stop. Quickly, his hands moved to the hem of her t-shirt and he tugged firmly. “I want you naked,” he explained and she sat up, allowing him to undress her the way she had him in the bathroom earlier.
He knelt between her thighs and looked at her, his eyes scorching every unknown crevice of her body as it was exposed to him. He was so ready he couldn’t believe he wasn’t inside her yet. Her hands slid up his abdomen to his chest, her nails raking lightly and then she laid back, surrendering control in a way that made him positive he would never want to let her go, ever. She wasn’t the kind to ‘bend over’ as they say, but her offering to him humbled him almost as much as it turned him on. He moved forward, ready to end the agony, ready to begin a new, delicious torture, but just as he poised himself at her entrance, the phone, which had been placed back on the bedside table, started ringing.
Lincoln couldn’t help groaning because he knew they couldn’t not answer the call. “Fuck, fuck, fuck!” he muttered, carefully moving himself off of her to reach for the disruptive device. “Hello?” he barked hoarsely into the phone.
Jane hadn’t had sex in a long time, probably as long as Lincoln had gone without, though her celibacy hadn’t been of the forced variety. It was difficult to get into a relationship with anyone in her line of work, and the men she’d worked with had never been the kinds she would have been with anyway.
On the verge of bliss, her heart pumping so hard she couldn’t hear anything besides the roaring of blood in her ears, it confused her greatly when Lincoln didn’t join their bodies. His lowly muttered curse words seemed to clear the thump-thump sound in her ear canals so she could hear the phone and then him answering it but when he said, “LJ, calm down,” she sat up, instantly alert. She listened as Lincoln soothed his son, and then he said, “We’re really close. Like three blocks…Yeah, we were sleeping, so give us a little time, but we’ll be there as soon as we can…Listen to me, son. Okay, I want you to take a deep breath. Like this—“ he demonstrated, and then sat quietly while, Jane supposed, LJ did the same thing on his end of the line. “That’s good, buddy. Good. See, you’re just a little panicked, like how Uncle Mike used to get, remember? See? No problem. We’ll be there soon…Yes, I’ll bring Jane with me…Okay, see you in a few… I love you… Kay… Bye.”
He flipped the phone shut and dropped it back on the tabletop. He swung his legs over the edge of the bed so his back was to her, and then he breathed deeply again, the way he had shown LJ. “He had a nightmare. He’s okay, he’s just scared,” he explained, his voice betraying his torn state. She knew he had been as close as she had without actually getting there, and though they’d both give their lives for LJ, right now his phone call could have come even just five minutes later and they would have been done. At least, Jane was sure she would have been done, and she was fairly certain Lincoln would have been too. She’d never been that turned on in her life, ready to come at the slightest touch, but worry for Lincoln’s son had cooled her ardor a tad.
Just a tad, though.
Reaching out, she wrapped her arms around his torso and put her chin on his shoulder. “There will be time for this,” she murmured, but she could feel a tension in him now that had nothing to do with the arousal she knew he still felt. She brushed her lips against his ear and whispered, “We’ll go take care of him. It’s all right, Lincoln.”
He sighed and then lifted his hands so they could circle her wrists. He pulled her closer, a strange sort of hug, before patting her arms dismissively. “Maybe it’s for the best,” he murmured.
Jane could hear the defeated tone in his voice, and she wondered at it. You didn’t have a man so hot he was apologizing in advance for how short the show would be only to have him back out of it altogether. She pressed her face against his neck and kept her arms around him even though he was trying to move away from her. “Lincoln,” she breathed.
He shuddered, she felt the tremor move through his entire body and then he made a short, wounded sound, something from the back of his throat that caused her heart to ache for him. “This is just all wrong,” he gritted out, and then he gently but firmly removed her arms from around him. Standing up he looked at her over his shoulder, but his eyes—though she could see he tried valiantly—couldn’t manage to stay on her face. They traced her nudity with barely restrained hunger, and she knew LJ would be more upset to know he interrupted this than he had been about the nightmare he’d had. Of course, she’d never tell him, but she understood why he’d wanted her to take care of his father so badly. Lincoln had gone for so long without affection of any kind, his longing was palpable between them.
Certainly, her own desire was equally strong. She put her hand in his and pulled him back to the bed, and he didn’t really try to resist her. Pressing her lips to his cheek, the corner of his mouth and then opening her lips over his, she kissed him delicately, brushing her tongue over his teeth and flirting with his tongue when he gasped in response. She pulled back and said softly, “There are clothes for you, over there. The concierge was able to find something, just like I thought he would. Now, get dressed, and we’ll go take care of LJ. And when we have time, we’ll finish this.”
He dropped his head down, and she would swear he was still looking at her body, though covertly, but then he sighed forlornly. “Maybe we shouldn’t do this at all, Jane. Maybe we’re just asking for trouble. It’s like daring fate to take you away before I can even really enjoy you. I should just not have you and then there’d be no reason for you to get killed.”
Jane tipped his chin up with two fingers until their eyes met. “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” she said bluntly. “We can’t live our lives like that.”
His blue eyes turned glacial, and she was actually relieved to see some of the moroseness leave his countenance, burned away by anger. “Self-preservation is all I’ve got left,” he stated. He got up from the bed and started looking around.
Jane pointed to the pile of clothes on top of the dresser as she demanded, “You’re gonna go through this—the hardest, most horrible thing in your life—worrying about protecting yourself from this?” she demanded, feeling her ire rise up as she pointed between their bare bodies. “You’re gonna not let it happen now so you don’t shed possible tears later?”
“They killed the woman my brother loves,” he explained gruffly, turning from her to pick up the underwear that sat upon a t-shirt and a pair of colorful board shorts. “And before that, they killed my ex-girlfriend, my ex-wife and my father!” He quickly pulled the boxer briefs up his legs and then as his head popped through the hole of his shirt he asked, “How can I even think about creating some sort of tie to you when we both know how it will end?”
“We don’t know anything, yet. Until my guys get here and assess the situation, until we even know where Whistler is, how can you not? How could you be around me, but not be with me? Especially when I want to be with you?” She fired the questions off so quickly, she saw him blink and try to formulate a good argument, but he didn’t speak fast enough. “I’m not willing to play it that safe. I’m not willing to only cry if someone dies.”
He looked puzzled by that statement, but he also finally found something to say, because he asked, “Didn’t you cry when you found out Aldo died?”
He reached for the shorts, but he didn’t get as far as putting them on because her next words stopped him in his tracks. “Of course I cried. I cried after he was gone, not at the idea that he could be gone. There’s a difference, Lincoln.”
When he finally moved a moment later, he didn’t look at her as he slid the shorts up his legs. Lifting his head, he announced, “The difference is I should know better now.” His tone held a sharp edge of finality that Jane found preposterous when they had only just begun this whole thing. “I’ll wait for you downstairs. If you’re not down there in five minutes, I’ll leave without you.” His eyes did connect with hers then, and she knew he was serious. Fucking stupid, but serious. Long seconds ticked between them, and then he turned and walked out of the hotel room.