Alex splayed his hand over the warm skin of Mallory’s tummy and wondered how he’d ever gotten this lucky. Just a month ago, he’d assumed he was destined to live and die alone. Now the woman he worshipped was carrying his child, knew his secrets, and loved him back anyway. In addition to that minor miracle, he was working with the FBI rather than being held hostage by The Gateway Project’s agenda. He was still chasing deviants, but staying within the boundaries of the law. Kind of. The devil was in the details.
“Do you have any plans to do anything down there or are you just literally navel gazing?” Mallory asked, laughing at him.
It was good to see her smile.
Yesterday, they’d buried her sister, Payton, in the cemetery near her family home of Eastborne. It had been hard on Mallory and her parents, and also on the law enforcement officers who’d spent years investigating Payton Rooney’s disappearance. Every person in attendance had felt like they’d failed that innocent little girl in one way or another. Alex was determined to help Mallory forget the bad times.
“I’m just enjoying the view,” he said.
She lay on the bed wearing only a gray camisole and matching panties. He bent and kissed her cute belly button and then made his way across to her hipbone, loving her slowly now they finally had a free weekend to relax and just be.
He ran his tongue over the top edge of her panties and felt her shiver beneath him. He’d never get enough of the scent of her or the feel of her in his arms. The look of her face, the long lean lines of her body. The sharp brain and endless dedication to others only enhanced his love for her.
Her hand rested lightly over her stomach. “Enjoy the view while you have the chance. It won’t be long before I’m the size of a house.”
He took her hand in his and squeezed her fingers. “I can’t wait.”
“I’m going to be fat. Really fat.”
“You’re beautiful. You will always be beautiful to me.”
He stiffened when tears filled her whisky-colored eyes. His attempt to cheer her up definitely wasn’t working. He crawled up to lie beside her. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
She smiled even though her eyes glittered. “I’m not sad,” she sobbed.
He wiped the silky tears with his thumbs and rubbed them between his fingers. They scorched his flesh. “These are not happy tears.”
“It just hit me that the whole thing is finally over. Payton’s at rest.” She drew in a ragged breath. Mallory and her sister had experienced an almost telepathic connection, which had driven Mallory’s search for years. “For eighteen years, her disappearance dominated every facet of my life. She was the reason I joined the FBI, the reason I got out of bed every morning to go to work. That’s done now. I’ve had to let her go and move on—which is good, but…” She touched his face and then carried his hand back down to her stomach. “I have this new and terrifying reality to deal with. You and me, and this baby. It’s huge for someone like me. I’m not the warm and fuzzy maternal type. I’m the teeth and nails and sidearm type.” Her eyes shone with fierceness. He also knew she was still struggling with guilt over feeling happy when Payton had suffered so terribly. “I’ve begun an entirely new phase of my life, and I don’t have a clue about how to be a girlfriend, let alone a mother. I don’t want to screw it up.”
“You’re not going to screw it up, and I couldn’t imagine a better girlfriend.” He gathered her close to his chest. “It’s terrifying for me, too. I feel so helpless and undeserving. What if I fuck up? What if something in my past comes back to hurt you or the baby?” He’d done his damnedest to protect them, but a threat could spring up from someplace unexpected. Someplace unanticipated. His mouth went dry, and he swallowed his fears. No one could predict the future. They had to move forward and be grateful for what they had. He lightened the moment. “After what you’ve been through I’m surprised you don’t run away from me screaming bloody murder.”
She punched his arm. “Not funny.”
A smile tugged his lips. “It’s kind of funny.” He kissed her and then eased to his feet. He had plans today. Big plans. “Okay, Rooney, out of bed. No more dawdling.”
Her mouth dropped open in surprise. “What?”
He pointed his finger at her. “Up.”
“Up?” Mallory said doubtfully. She snuggled further under the sheets.
“Today’s the day we go on that first date we keep talking about.”
Her brow crinkled in a cute little frown. “I think getting someone pregnant qualifies as a date.”
He huffed out a laugh. “That’s not what you said at the time.”
She grinned at him with a glint in her eye, then propped herself up on her elbow. “If I remember correctly I said, ‘more, Alex,’ ‘harder, Alex,’ ‘do that again, Alex.’” Her voice got all deep and breathy, and he felt himself getting turned on. Great. He had no control with this woman.
She pulled her top over her head and tossed it across the room. Fuck. He was toast.
“I guess we’ve still got a few minutes.” He eased down beside her in the bed and lowered his lips to hers, kissing her hungrily. The heat of her engulfed him. Her passion swept away any thoughts of leaving this bed for the next thousand years.
She reached down to touch him through his boxers, and his mind blanked.
The bottom line was, he’d give this woman anything she wanted or die trying, and she knew it. Her touch turned greedy, their skin growing damp with sweat, their kisses frantic. She wrapped her legs around his thighs and urged him inside.
The feel of her surrounding him was like coming home—every single time. He wanted to close his eyes and hold this feeling inside his heart like a precious jewel. He never wanted to lose the magic of them.
“More, Alex.” She groaned. “Harder, Alex.”
He held her hands and looked into those amber depths as he drove into her. She was grinning up at him, but then her breath caught on a gasp. “Do that again, Alex.”
“With pleasure.” He met her smile, and raised her a laugh, taking them both on a crazy, wild ride.
An hour later, they stood outside the National Museum of the American Indian near the Capitol Building. She wore a red pea coat, black slacks, and a gray wooly hat, because Alex insisted they were going somewhere nice to lunch afterwards.
“Is there a restaurant inside?” she asked her very handsome partner. The morning sickness that had plagued the start of her pregnancy had morphed into a ravenous appetite.
He slipped his arm around her shoulder and whispered in her ear. “You just had breakfast.”
“No, I didn’t—” Her mouth dropped open. She smacked his arm. “Oh my God. Hush. People might hear you.”
He threw back his head and laughed.
Today he was wearing a black woolen coat over a blue shirt, and well-worn jeans with black leather boots. He looked built, sexy, and gorgeous—the epitome of an ex-soldier turned cyber-security expert. She knew the ruthless assassin was a part of him too, ever-present but cloaked. That part of him constantly calculated threats and their odds of survival in any given circumstances. That part of him would always be ready to kill to protect her and the baby, and willing to die to save her. It was humbling and a little bit scary. If they had a girl, prom night in eighteen years time was probably going to involve a shotgun on the porch, or covert surveillance, or both. Which meant they were both going to have to figure out how to let go, because she loved him just as fiercely as he loved her, and knew all about the dangers little girls faced. She pushed the worry aside. Peace of mind was one more thing Leo Chance had tried to steal from her. Lincoln Frazer had given them another opportunity, and she wouldn’t ruin it by worrying about all the things that could go wrong.
A small delegation of museum staff stood on the sidewalk, stamping their feet and checking their watches.
“They must be waiting for someone important.”
“She’s already here.”
It was corny, but she loved him for it. A big black limousine pulled to a stop in from of the museum. An older man got out, dark-haired and handsome.
“Oh, I know him. Senator Talon.” She could feel a certain tension enter Alex’s body. She looked up at him. “You don’t know him, do you?” Her heart thumped. Had the senator been in cahoots with her own mother in her crazy vigilante scheme?
“No.” He squeezed her hand. “I’m just not a big fan of politicians.”
The senator strode across the plaza, surrounded by aides and officials. He spotted her standing with Alex. “Mallory! So good to see you.”
He broke free of his escort and wrapped her in a bear hug. Then he held out his hand to pump Alex’s as Mallory introduced them.
“I hear your mother’s retiring from the senate?”
“Finding out what happened to your sister must have been a terrible shock to her.” His dark eyes looked sympathetic as they searched her face.
She huddled deeper into her coat. “It was, but it’s a relief, too. For all of us.”
“I hear you tangled with the killer.” He pinched his lips. “Can’t say I approve of your actions.”
Mallory grinned at the man. “Thankfully you don’t have to.”
Senator Talon laughed. “Always hoped you’d get together with one of my boys.” He spread a look between her and Alex. “Looks like JT and Lee missed the boat.”
Alex relaxed and smiled. “I’m hoping that spot is taken. Yes, sir.”
She decided she better change the subject. Parents, especially parents who were senators, were compulsive matchmakers. “What are you doing here, Senator?”
“I have a big interest in antiquities. I’m getting a private viewing of one of the new galleries they’re about to open. Would you like to join me?”
Even though Alex remained impassive beside her she knew that wasn’t what he had in mind when he’d suggested a date. She took his fingers in hers. “Thank you, Senator, but we have other plans.”
“Tell your mother I was asking after her.”
“I will.” Mallory turned to Alex after the senator walked away. She reached up and kissed him on the lips. “Sorry.”
“Because I probably know every politician in this town, and you don’t like politicians.”
He shrugged and, by silent agreement, they turned away from the museum and started down the mall toward the Smithsonian castle. “If I don’t want to bump into politicians I need to move out of DC, which we might do if you keep working at Quantico.”
She hadn’t confronted all the issues involved in catching Leo Chance or her pregnancy, but one thing was clear. “I do. I want to keep working with Frazer’s BAU-4 unit.”
Alex dropped a quick kiss to her forehead. She loved the heat and strength of him beside her. “So we’ll buy something closer that will make the commute between DC and Virginia less of a hassle.”
They got to a bench outside the cute red sandstone building and Alex sat down, looking up at her.
It was so cold her breath formed foggy clouds, and she stamped her black boots to keep her feet from freezing. But she was enjoying the fresh air and the sense of freedom from taking the weekend off.
There was something in his eyes. A shadow of unease.
“What is it?” she asked.
He pressed his lips together then swallowed nervously.
She didn’t know anything that made Alex Parker nervous. She sat beside him and grabbed his hands. “Alex, what is it?”
He scared the hell out of her when he slipped to one knee on the gravel path. She thought he’d fainted and went to catch him. Then he put his hand into his coat pocket and pulled out a jeweler’s box. Mallory’s heart went whoop-whoop.
“I know this is a little unusual for the first date, but…” He drew in a big breath, as though preparing himself for a Herculean task. “Mallory Rooney, would you do me the great honor of becoming my—”
“—wife?” He laughed and squeezed her hand. “I could have said anything.” He opened the box, and the most enormous yellow diamond glittered from its velvet cradle.
“I’d still have said ‘yes.’” Oh my God. Her heart raced like the engine of Alex’s fancy sports car. “Is that thing real?”
He took the ring and placed it carefully on her finger. It fit perfectly. Of course it did.
“It reminded me of your eyes,” he said simply.
The stone had to be eight carats in a platinum setting. It was huge, and she was terrified she was going to lose it.
“Do you like it?” He frowned. “We can change it—”
She grabbed his lapels and pulled him to her. “It’s perfect, Alex.” She kissed him on the lips. “It’s beyond perfect.” She dragged him up onto the bench beside her and continued to kiss the hell out him. After five minutes of making out, she heard someone deliberately clearing their throat.
She looked up. A mounted police officer eyed them pointedly.
Alex removed his hand from inside her coat. “Oops.”
She waved her hand at the cop, and was surprised he wasn’t blinded by the dazzle of her new ring. “He just proposed.”
“Good for him.” The cop’s mustache twitched, and he gave Alex a nod. “Recognize you from the papers, Agent Rooney. Congratulations. Now move along. I suggest somewhere private.”
Mallory tugged Alex to his feet. “We’re going. Sorry, Officer.”
They walked off toward the Capitol.
“You’re going to get me arrested one day,” Alex said as he slung his arm around her shoulder and laughed.
She glanced behind them. The cop wasn’t looking at them anymore. She reached up and touched his cheek. “I’ll make it worth your while.”
“And that’s the scary part.”
Mal grinned and then her stomach grumbled. “I guess we’re hungry.”
One side of Alex’s mouth twitched. “I can tell.”
“Ready for the next big adventure, Mr. Parker?”
“Only if you’re in it, Agent Rooney.”
She stopped and turned to face him, staring into those beloved silver eyes. “Always, Alex. Always.”
Copyright © 2015, 2016 Toni Anderson. All rights reserved.