Was that the accepted amount of time to mourn? Ryan O’Connor stared at his reflection in the mirror, debating whether to change out of the black jeans and black T-shirt. Would his hope of getting laid increase if he wore . . . he glanced at the blue T-shirt he’d tossed on his bed. Didn’t the brightest-colored male birds get the chick?
Over a year since he’d been with a woman, and five years married before that, which meant he was out of the loop on what women liked these days. A decisive man—he had to be, making life-and-death decisions as the SEAL team’s medic and now K2’s doc—it annoyed him that he was standing in front of a mirror and dithering on something as stupid as what color to wear.
“To hell with it,” he muttered. He wasn’t changing again. Someone had told him once that women liked a mysterious, tortured man. If so, he wouldn’t have a problem hooking up tonight. The black of his clothes mirrored the condition of his heart these days.
One year and one day ago, he had buried his wife, and then spent the next 365 days mourning her. He missed the hell out of her, but it was time to venture out into the world again. Besides, he needed the soft feel of a woman beneath him, wanting to hear her sweet sighs as he pleasured her.
Ryan turned his gaze to the picture atop his dresser, one of him and Kathleen on their wedding day. The happiest day of his life. After learning her secret and knowing she was gone forever, tears shouldn’t still be burning in his eyes.
It was not the time to rehash regrets and obsess over unanswered questions. If he was lucky, in a few hours, he would be buried to the hilt inside the wet heat of a woman. Kathleen stared at him from the photo, sending guilt slithering through him for what he had planned. But why should he feel guilty?
“You’re the one who left me,” he said. He snatched the frame and stuck it in a drawer, under a pile of T-shirts, burying her.
“Screw this,” Charlene Morgan—call me Charlie—muttered, and unable to concentrate on the story for some reason, she tossed the book aside. Okay, she knew the reason. The emergency landing she’d had to make that morning had unnerved her. It made her think of the things on her bucket list, like her fantasy of having a mind-blowing night of sex with a man she’d never see again.
Her student, a young man whom she’d realized by his second lesson wanted to be anywhere but in the air, had panicked when the plane had sputtered, coughing like it had a chest cold. In between barfing all over her and the plane, he’d actually tried to open his door. Whether he hadn’t realized what he was doing or just planned to step out and fall to earth, who knew?
When she was unable to calm him by talking him through his fear, he’d tried to grab the wheel. Not having a better idea, she had balled up her fist and landed a hard punch to his jaw, stunning him enough to bring him to his senses. It had been the only way to safely land the Cessna after the fuel gauge had dropped like a rock. Fortunately, they had just taken off and were able to immediately return to the airport.
His father, an airline pilot determined to see his only son follow in his footsteps, hadn’t appreciated it when she’d told him the young man didn’t belong anywhere near an airplane. Her only consolation had been the look of relief the kid had shot her when she’d stood up to his father and said there would be no more lessons.
She decided to go to bed and try to forget the whole freakin’ day. Thirty minutes later, she gave up on any hope of sleeping. What if she went to a pickup bar and by the time the night was over, was able to check that particular fantasy off her list? Her heart jump-started—it was ready to take off for the finish line, in fact—at the thought of doing something she’d never done before. Sex with a stranger? So not her.
Which was why she wondered if she’d been unknowingly slipped some kind of sex drug as she walked out the door of her house, wearing one of the few dresses she owned, on her way to Buck’s on the Beach, the best place in Pensacola to hook up for a one-night stand.
During the twenty minutes it took to get to the ramshackle beach bar, she ordered her car to turn around. Repeatedly. “I do not do one-night stands,” she yelled at the Corvette. Her car was apparently deaf.
Choosing a parking spot where she hoped the Corvette would be fairly safe from getting dinged, she sat and watched the people coming and going, some alone and some paired off. A group of six, three men and three women, walked by, talking and laughing, and she tried not to envy them. What would it feel like to have a group of friends?
Although tempted to return home, she instead forced herself to get out of her car. If she could successfully stall a plane in a hammerhead maneuver, she could certainly walk into a bar and survive the experience.