On leave for Thanksgiving, the last thing marine lieutenant Talia Barnett expects to find is Liam Brodie waiting for her at the airport. He's had a starring role in her fantasies for the past two years, and although she'd love to make them a reality, she has a dark secret that prevents her from taking things further.
A former marine, Liam's specialty is planning tactical operations, and that's just what he plans to do to win Talia. The woman has kept him at arm's length for too long, and this time he's finally going to claim her--body and heart.
What begins as comfort quickly turns hot. When Liam shows Talia a hint of the dominant nature inside him, the submissive part of her flares to life. Though she desires him, she's going back on deployment and doesn't want to dump all her drama on him. Will he find a way to break through the protective walls around her heart and convince her they have a future that goes far beyond the bedroom?
"Welcome back, soldier."
Lieutenant Talia Barnett smiled politely at the customs officer. "I'm a Marine, actually." It was stenciled on her uniform, so kind of hard to miss. Most civilians didn't understand the difference though.
He glanced up at her. "Oh. The few, the proud..."
"That's us." She was proud to be a Marine. And apart from allowing her to serve her country, her job had the added bonus of taking her as far away from home as she could get for long periods of time.
The man studied her passport, graying brows pulling together in concentration. "Where're you coming from?"
He nodded, tapped a few keys on his keyboard. "Home for Thanksgiving?"
Looking up at her, he actually smiled a little. The first time she'd ever seen a customs officer do that. "Bet you're looking forward to a home-cooked meal while you're home. Probably didn't get much of that over there."
"Food was pretty good, actually." She kept her tone civil, but not so friendly as to invite further conversation. All she wanted was to get settled at a hotel and figure out what she was going to do.
The man handed her back the passport. "Have a good visit, and thanks for your service."
Pleasantly surprised by his refreshing attitude, she smiled. "Thank you." Was it the holidays that were making everyone so appreciative all of a sudden? The last couple of times she'd come home no one had said anything to her, but today a handful of people had stopped her since landing stateside to thank her. She appreciated the acknowledgement.
Shouldering her carry-on duffel, Talia headed through the glass doors into the waiting area. Out near the entrance of the airport, a crowd of people waited for the passengers filing out of the security area. She watched as several other Marines from her flight hurried past her, met with open arms by ecstatic family members.
One little boy about five years old held a fistful of balloons in his little hand. When his father rushed up to hug him, the boy's face lit up with a joyous smile, his little arms and legs wrapping around his dad.
A hard lump settled in her throat and she had to look away. All around her people were hugging and crying, laughing. Stupid of her to be lonely now. It had been her decision to come home instead of spending her leave in Europe with friends. But seeing all these happy reunions hit her harder than she cared to admit. She dreaded the holidays because they were a constant reminder that she had no one to spend them with. Figured the start of her leave would fall on the week of Thanksgiving. How ironic was that?
Hyperaware of the reunited families around her, she couldn't help but imagine what it would be like to have a loved one waiting at the airport when she arrived. In the handful of times she'd come home over the past three years, not once had anyone been there for her. Maybe because she only had one relative. And half the time she never even saw her mother while she was home. If not for the Brodies, she'd have no reason to come home at all.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself, she scolded, walking faster past the milling families toward the exit. Outside was a taxi with her name on it, to take her to her hotel for a hot shower and a good night's sleep.
Startled, she whipped her head around to see her closest friend, Angie, hurrying toward her with a big bouquet of yellow roses in her arms. Talia grinned in surprise. "Hey," she called, dropping her bag to hug her.