His To Keep ONLY
a Out of Uniform novella by New York Times bestselling author Katee Robert
School teacher Marceline Bellini gave up everything—men, sex, anything resembling a social life—to raise her young daughter. To be the perfect parent. But when she attends an engagement party in her standard stick-in-the-mud mode, her friends begin plying Marceline with shots. Just enough to convince her that a little fun doesn’t sound like a bad idea… and having some naughty fun is an even better one.
Like finding herself deliciously pressed against a dark alley wall by the very familiar and über-hot bod of her best friend’s older brother.
After years of waiting in painful silence, cop Aaron Robinson finally has Marceline’s attention. And man, does he have it. But nothing could have prepared either of them for the rush of fiery lust between them. So he’ll just have to convince Marceline he’s for real. And that a rainy, lust-fuelled romp is the first step to a lifetime of completely imperfect happiness…
Title: His To Keep
Series: Out of Uniform
Author: Katee Robert
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: 101 pages
Release Date: April 2014
Price listed is for the U.S. digital format. Please confirm pricing and availability with the retailer before downloading.
An Excerpt from:
His To Keep
by Katee Robert
Copyright © 2014 by Katee Robert. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Marcy Bellini looked around the bar and wished she were anywhere else but here. Right about now, her daughter would be winding down and getting ready for bed. Marcy’s favorite part of the evening was when Claire crawled into her lap for a little mommy-and-me time. They’d watch Claire’s favorite movie of the moment—inevitably a princess one—and snuggle until she was so sleepy, Marcy had to carry her to bed. If she concentrated, she could almost smell the faint lavender of her daughter’s shampoo instead of the stale beer and conflicting colognes of the men around her.
She snatched her beer off the bar and smiled her thanks to Gena. The woman gave her a grin in return and waggled her eyebrows. Everyone seemed to be doing something like that—nudging each other or grinning at Marcy like they were in on a joke she didn’t understand. It had started the moment she’d walked through the door of Chilly’s, and as people drifted inside and out of the warm spring night, it was only getting more obvious.
Maybe they’re just looking at Bri. It is her wedding party, after all.
While that might make sense, she couldn’t shake the feeling they were all staring at her. Maybe it was just what people did at bars. It wasn’t like she’d spent any time in them in the last four years. She’d hopscotched right over that wild stage most of the girls in her graduating class went through. There had been no one-night stands or drunken adventures or trips at the drop of a hat.
She had no regrets about that, though. Claire was the center of her universe and there was nothing as wonderful as relearning to see the world through her three-year-old’s eyes. Everything was new and exciting, and she towed Marcy along on adventure after adventure.
What was drinking herself stupid and making bad decisions compared to that?
She dropped into the seat next to Bri, needing to get out of her head before she talked herself right out the door. “This is…fun.”
Bri laughed. It was strange to reconcile this glowing woman with the shy librarian she’d met just two years ago, but falling for the younger Flannery brother had brought Bri right out of her shell. Marcy still remembered Ryan from high school, though, he’d been a few grades ahead of her. He’d blown town so fast after graduation, she’d been sure he’d never come back.
But she’d been wrong about a lot of things back then.
Bri nudged her. “I know this isn’t your thing, but you need this.”
“That’s up for debate.” She didn’t need this. She loved her life. It wasn’t traveling or any of the exciting plans she’d had before graduation, but it was comfortable and filled with the little delights she’d never known existed.
“When did you last have actual grown-up time?”
“I played bridge with Miss Nora and her ladies—and you—last week.”
Bri sighed. “Playing cards with a group of old ladies hardly counts—something Ryan never hesitates to point out to me. I mean something like this.” She motioned at the room around them.
“You’re one to talk. You hate the bar scene.”
“This isn’t a bar scene. This is a party for Ryan and me.” She glanced over the top of her black cats eyeglasses at the Flannery in question. He was leaning against the wall and watching his older brother take his turn at the pool table. There were other friends scattered around the room with the rest of the locals, but that didn’t lessen Marcy feeling like she had a spotlight pinned on her face.
After an hour, she could leave without being a terrible friend, couldn’t she? “It’s been fun, but it’s getting kind of late—”
“Don’t you dare.” Bri grabbed her hand like Marcy was going to bolt out of the door at any moment. Obviously her friend knew her too well, because she was in the process of inching out of her chair. “You have a sitter. A wonderful sitter who Claire loves. You’re going to take full advantage of it.”
“No buts. You should do shots! Since I’m pregnant and stuck with ginger ale, I’ve got to live vicariously through someone.”
Marcy laughed and stopped trying to slide away. “Shots? Who are you and what have you done with that nice girl, Bri Nave?”
“You mean Bri Flannery, don’t you?”
They both looked up as Ryan took the seat across the table, closely followed by his brother Drew. Seeing them side-by-side was enough to make most females in town swoon. Both men were of the tall, dark, and handsome variety—the kind who made women sit up and take notice. But she’d seen enough over the years to see the Look but don’t touch neon sign flashing over Drew. He was Wellingford’s most eligible bachelor and Marcy would be old and gray before he settled down. Not to mention, tonight he looked as out of sorts as she felt, even if the lovebirds beside them didn’t seem to notice. Drew glanced at his watch. “Avery’s late.”
“We’ve gone over this.” Ryan rolled his eyes. “She’s waiting for a shipment. She’ll be here after it’s delivered. And, for the last time, no, she doesn’t need you over there and underfoot while she’s doing it.”
Before he could say anything else, Gena approached with a tray. She winked at Bri. “I heard someone say something about shots.” She set two milky-looking shots in front of Marcy.
Gena winked. “One for you and one for you to have for Bri.”
“Good lord, it’s a conspiracy.” She frowned at the people around the table. “You can’t all be working against me.”
Bri grinned. “I prefer to think that we’re working for you, despite you. You have a lot of living to pack into one night.”
“I think you’re under the mistaken impression that I need to get out more.” Getting out meant leaving Claire behind with a sitter. No matter how good a sitter she found, they weren’t a replacement for Marcy. And her daughter wasn’t a burden to be foisted off on someone else when having her around got inconvenient.
“Not more. I’d just like to see you actually having a good time when you are out.” Bri gave her a pointed look. “Which, coincidentally, is right now.”
It was on the tip of her tongue to protest that she was having a good time, but it wasn’t strictly the truth. She’d been dragging her heels since Bri showed up at her front door earlier. Every time she looked at her phone, she was half hoping that the sitter would call her home. Marcy sighed. “I’m being a stick in the mud, aren’t I?”
“That might be kind of a—”
“Yes, you are.” Drew motioned at her with his beer. “You need to live a little, Marcy.”
“I don’t know. I think you live enough for both of us.”
He laughed, looking completely unrepentant. And why would he? He had no idea how heavy even welcome responsibilities could get. But maybe he was right. Maybe she did need to let down her hair a little bit. And it wasn’t like doing it tonight meant she was jumping onto the slippery slope of neglecting Claire’s needs in favor of her own.
Marcy eyed the shots in front of her. They didn’t look particularly appetizing, but Gena wouldn’t steer her wrong. She braced herself and took one. It went down surprisingly easy, leaving a yummy watermelon taste behind. An answering warmth started in her stomach and she shot Drew a triumphant grin. “I can live a little.”
“There you go.”
Bri leaned forward and inhaled. “It doesn’t make any sense. I don’t even like shots, but that smells so delicious.”
“You’re pregnant. Nothing is supposed to make sense.” Marcy laughed, some of her tension melting away. Both Bri and Drew were right—she needed this tonight. She just had to relax and enjoy it.
Gena reappeared. “Everyone’s come out tonight, and they’re all determined to run me ragged.” She passed two more beers to the Flannery boys. “These are from Old Joe.”
They raised their beers as one, and Marcy followed their gaze to find Old Joe sitting at the end of the bar. He raised his beer in response and grinned. Then his gaze landed on her, and his grin widened. Oh no. She knew that look. He was about to start meddling. He hopped off his bar stool, more spry than any man his age had right to be, and nudged the young guy next to him.
Crap. Marcy turned back to the table, already feeling a flush spreading up her neck. The second shot did nothing to bolster her courage, but it was too late to flee. Besides, she was supposed to be letting her hair down. That meant she couldn’t hide in a corner to avoid Old Joe’s matchmaking attempts. Crap again.
Aaron Robinson nursed his beer in the corner and watched the rest of the room. Everyone was laughing or talking animatedly and the overall vibe was a good one. There’d be no big dramas tonight. When his gaze landed on Marceline Bellini for the seventh time in thirty seconds, he gave it up for a lost cause and just looked.
It had been a while since he’d seen her in more than passing at the grocery store or walking down the street, though, even those encounters had become more and more infrequent. She’d become something like a princess in a tower, building up the wall between her and other people until it was damn near unassailable.
Though not all other people. She had friends—and he knew for a fact she never missed Miss Nora Lee’s weekly bridge game—but she’d effectively closed the door on any man who got too close.
Hell, who was he kidding? He shouldn’t even be looking at her. She’d been best friends with his little sister since high school, and there was something just plain wrong about wanting her as much as he did.
Besides, he understood why she’d taken the stance she had on men. She had a kid—a frighteningly adorable little girl who looked just like her mama—and that responsibility was something Marceline took seriously. She’d move heaven and earth for her daughter, and that kind of dedication didn’t leave much room for dating. A mixed blessing if there ever was one—he wouldn’t have to watch her with someone else, but he had no chance with her, either.
Aaron watched her take a shot and laugh at something one of the Flannerys said, and tried to convince himself that he had no business walking over there and striking up a conversation. He’d promised himself he’d stay away from Marceline. For a lot of reasons.
But then Old Joe popped up next to the table with his grandson in tow. Aaron strained to pick out what they were talking about, but the dull roar of the crowd drowned out any possibility of eavesdropping. There was no mistaking the way Warren looked at Marceline—like he’d just been offered a buffet of his favorite foods. It didn’t matter that the kid was a good boy from all the stories the old man told—he was a goddamn Marine and those guys were all cut from the same cloth. Marceline, of all people, should know that. Her asshole of an ex had up and joined the Corps, leaving town—and his pregnant ex-girlfriend—without looking back. He’d had the pushy asshole aspect down to a science.
Just thinking about it had Aaron clenching his hands and fighting against the urge to pound some sense into the idiot kid. Warren didn’t know the history he was dealing with. He saw an exotically beautiful woman who seemed interested, so of course he was smiling. The little shit probably thought he could charm his way into her panties and then head back to whatever base he was stationed at without a second thought, leaving Marceline to once again pick up the pieces.
Over his goddamn dead body.
She took Warren’s hand and stood, the way she filled out that dress nearly making Aaron groan. These days, it seemed like every time he saw her, she only got more beautiful. She didn’t dress for attention, but those sundresses she favored when the weather was warm did unforgivable things to his blood pressure.
And now the goddamn Marine was looking even happier as his gaze raked over her. God damn it. He wasn’t a good enough man to sit here and let her jump into a mistake like Warren. She deserved better than that.
Or that was what he told himself as he finished his beer and stood, not bothering to slouch like he often did in a crowd. He wanted Warren to see him coming—and hell if the little shit didn’t catch sight of him over Marceline’s shoulder.
Either she felt him at her back or she followed Warren’s gaze, because she rotated on her bar stool and took him in, an unreadable expression on her face. He hated that, hated how she seemed so damn effective at blocking him out, even if he’d been doing his damnedest to stay away from her for the last ten years. The ever-present conflict inside him didn’t do a thing to help him resist the need to throw her over his shoulder and take her away from this place. This man. “Marceline.”
She grimaced. “Don’t call me that.”
It was the same conversation they’d been having for years, ever since he found out that his little sister’s best friend’s real name wasn’t Marcy. Back then he’d enjoyed seeing how much he could rile her up. Now he just liked the feel of it on his tongue. “What are you doing here?”
She frowned harder, and he realized how harsh he’d sounded. He met Warren’s eyes over her head and telegraphed, Get lost, fucker. The kid held his gaze longer than he would have expected, but he finally shrugged and stood. “I’ll see you around, Marcy.”
“What? Wait.” But it was too late. Warren was gone, heading across the bar to where Old Joe had set up camp with his old poker buddies. Marceline turned back to him and frowned. “You didn’t have to run him off. He’s a nice guy.”
“He’s a Marine. None of them are nice guys.”
Her eyes flashed. “I think I’d know more about Marines than you would, Aaron. Let me make my own mistakes.”
Her own mistakes… It dawned on him that she’d actually been considering following through on something with Warren. What the fuck? Aaron stepped forward, forcing her to part her knees. This was closer than he let himself be to her in years, but he couldn’t back away. “You were playing with fire with that kid.”
She met his gaze coolly before turning to take the shot in front of her. It smelled fruity, but it had nothing on whatever perfume she wore. “Don’t be silly. We were just going to dance.”
“I saw the way he looked at you. Dancing wasn’t what was on his mind.”
“How would you know what was on his mind?”
Because he’d had the very same thoughts more times than he cared to count. All the ways he could seduce Marceline Bellini into giving him half a chance. “He’s a man and a Marine. He was going to try to take you to bed.”
Her chin went up, and he knew he was in trouble. “I don’t see how that’s any of your business.”
Then she went on and ruined his night. “Besides, maybe I was thinking the same thing.”
She’d actually been thinking about letting that asshole have his way with her?
The roaring in his head competed with the red filtering over his vision. He counted to ten once, twice, and a third time. It didn’t do a damn thing to calm him down or give him the distance he desperately needed to deal with this without pissing her off.
That was the problem, though—he’d never had enough distance when it came to Marceline Bellini.
While he was trying to get control of himself, she was finishing the second shot next to her and stacking the glasses. “Obviously that ship has sailed, so…” She met his gaze and trailed off at whatever she saw on his face.
He could only imagine.
He’d come home on leave from the Army at twenty-two to discover that Erin’s awkwardly pretty best friend had morphed into a woman so beautiful, she made his chest ache. It was a blessing he’d had to leave again for another tour or God knew if he could have resisted her back then. By the time he was back in town for good, she was dating that jackass, Jeff. It hadn’t been easy to watch him treat her like shit and then up and leave her with a new baby on the way, but the single time he’d tried to offer to help, she’d shut him down so thoroughly, he’d backed off.
There had been so many times over the years when he’d thought about asking her out, but something had always kept him back. First it was that she had enough to deal with finishing up college with a brand new baby. Then, when the dust had settled, she barely gave him the time of day. She’d seemed determined to put herself as off the market as physically possible.
He pinched the bridge of his nose. “You decided to get back out there by going home with another goddamn Marine.”
She crossed her arms over her chest and glared. “Sure, why not? He’s a decent enough guy, and he’s gorgeous.”
It shouldn’t surprise him she thought Warren was gorgeous. It seemed like every single woman in town did. But that didn’t change the fact that hearing her admit it aloud made him want to kiss her until she forgot that fucker’s name. “Not him, Marceline.”
“You can drop that protective older brother routine. I’m not seventeen anymore, and I’m more than capable of making my own decisions.” When he just stared, still trying to get ahold of his temper, she threw up her hands. “Lord, Aaron. According to you, no one is good enough for me.”
Because it was the truth. He could still remember spending those two weeks he was home running off any boy that looked at her sideways.
Apparently he didn’t respond fast enough, because she huffed out a breath. “If not Warren, then who?”
“Me.” The word fell between them as if it was a physical thing.
Her mouth dropped open. “What?”
It was too late to back out now, and hell if he wanted to. He’d been patient. He’d been more than willing to take the white knight route and let her live her life and take care of her daughter. It was the right thing to do. But he wasn’t saint enough to sit back and let her put herself out there with another man right in front of his face. “If anyone is going to take you off the shelf, it’s going to be me. No one else.”
Marceline licked her lips. “You.”
“Yeah, me.” He let himself look his fill, from her cowgirl boots to her fitted jacket to the flowery dress that hugged her breasts and fell to her knees. Up to her tousled dark hair, to those eyes that held a new awareness. Awareness it would take a better man than Aaron to ignore.
He held out his hand. “Come on.”
Marcy let Aaron lead her out of the bar and wondered if Gena had thrown a little something extra into those shots. It was the only explanation for what she’d just heard. That, or the countless fantasies she’d concocted over the years had finally sent her around the bend. Because there was no way he’d just told her he wanted her. It was impossible.
She jerked her hand out of his, needing to get this thing between them back on stable ground before she did something embarrassing. Like admit that she wanted him, too. “Enough. You’ve run off Warren and I’m safe from the big, bad Marine. You’ve done your duty.” Just like he had during the two weeks he was home back when she was seventeen. It was just as frustrating now as it had been then.
Attractive, yes, but frustrating.
“This has nothing to do with duty.”
Maybe she shouldn’t have poked at him about Warren, because he was acting like a dog with a bone. And she was the bone. She fought the urge to fan herself despite the rain coming down, already well on its way to soaking her. “Sure it does. You saw me making a mistake, and you moved in to prevent it.”
“Marceline.” For the first time in her life, the sound of her full name didn’t make her cringe. Coming out of his mouth, it sounded like a benediction. He closed the already tiny distance between them, and the look on his face was one she’d never seen before. “The only mistake you made was thinking I’d let you walk out of here with another man.”
She stood frozen as he leaned closer, her mind jumping ten years into the past when she’d spent her junior year doodling Mrs. Aaron Robinson over every spare inch of her binder. She’d put a lot of thought into what kissing him would be like, how he’d be soft and gentle and make her feel like a princess.
In none of those fantasies did he growl against her lips and take her mouth as if it had been his all along.
He claimed her with that single kiss as she’d never been claimed before, silently demanding she open to him, an order she was only too happy to obey. She slid her hands up his chest, whimpering a little at how good he felt against her. He was busy with his own exploration, his big palms smoothing down her sides and over her backside as he maneuvered them around until her back hit the cool brick of the wall. One of his thighs slid between hers, the shock of hard jeans-covered muscle against her panties making her gasp.
She pulled back to say… It didn’t matter, because he palmed one breast, tracing his fingers over the now rain-soaked fabric of her dress. The feel of his calluses against her sensitive nipples had her entire body shaking.
He felt it—how could he not?—and gave her a wolfish grin. That was an expression she’d never thought would be aimed at her.
Marcy took a shuddering breath and let go of the last of her reservations. Tonight she was living a little. Tomorrow she would be back in the safety of her roles as mother and teacher, and her comfortable safe life. Tonight…tonight she was going to give into this man and how terrifyingly good it felt to be touched by him.
She kissed him back for all she was worth, arching into his hand and wrapping one leg around his waist. Aaron took advantage of the new position, shifting his hips until he could slip a hand between them, moving up her thigh.
But he stopped a few inches short of what should have been his destination.
And then he stopped kissing her, too, and rested his forehead against hers, exhaling harshly. That’s good because she couldn’t seem to catch her breath, either. “Marceline—”
Oh hell. He was going to do something honorable, like try to stop this. Next he’d tell her that he never had any intention of defiling his baby sister’s best friend, and go back inside Chilly’s.
Damn it, no. She was trying to let loose and he was in danger of ruining everything. So she did something a little bit shady and a whole lot of pushy. Marcy took his hand on her thigh and pressed it to her panties, holding him there. “Aaron?”
He jerked back—not enough to break contact, but enough to see her face. “Yeah?”
God, he really wasn’t making this easy on her. She took a shuddering breath and rocked against his hand. “Do you feel how much I want you?”
His voice dropped an octave. “Yeah.”
“Then don’t stop.” Please don’t stop. She hadn’t been touched like this in a terrifyingly long time, and if he left her like this, she might just die right here and now.
He cursed, and she knew he wasn’t walking away. Aaron kissed her, reclaiming the tiny distance between them that he’d created. He pulled aside her panties and dragged a finger over her. “Yeah, I can feel you.”
Being touched so intimately out here in the open with the rain creating a mist around them did something for her on a level she hadn’t known existed. She ran her hands under his shirt, needing to feel his skin beneath her fingers. He was just so big. She wanted all that skin laid out where she could take her time touching him.
That wasn’t going to happen, even if she’d had the patience for it.
She unbuttoned his jeans and dragged the zipper down. He sprang free, totally unencumbered by such small details as underwear. Holy crap, had he been going commando all these years? Aaron hissed out a breath, growling her name again. But she wasn’t stopping and she wasn’t slowing down.
“Greedy, aren’t you? I can be greedy, too.” He responded in kind, shoving two fingers into her and nearly making her eyes roll back in her head. He kissed down her neck as he worked her, overloading her body with sensation, until all she could do was cling to him and feel.
Her orgasm threatened, dangling just out of reach. “I need you, Aaron.”
He cursed. “Fuck, Marceline, are you sure?”
She wasn’t sure of anything but the fact she needed Aaron inside her right this second. Even if he didn’t have desire pounding a demand in her blood, the knowledge that she’d never get a chance like this again settled in the back of her mind. “I’m sure.”
He cursed again, and she thought he might stop touching her, but he just yanked her panties off and pulled a condom out of his wallet. He rolled it on and stepped back between her legs. It’s actually happening. He lifted her and she didn’t waste any time wrapping her legs around him. The new position had his hard length rubbing over her clit with each breath, driving her need higher.
But Aaron kept her pinned so she couldn’t adjust their angle. He gripped her thighs, sliding over her until she thrashed against him. “Please!”
“It wasn’t supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be—”
She kissed him, cutting off his words. Who cared what it was supposed to be? All that mattered was the here and now and getting him inside her. She tried to convey that with tongue and teeth, needing him on the same desperate page she was. He responded in kind, hiking her up until he pressed against her entrance. When he took a deep breath, she had the hysterical thought that maybe he really would call the whole thing off, but then he slammed into her, sheathing himself in a single stroke.
This was perfection. There was no other word for it.
He withdrew and shoved back into her, the move sending bliss spiraling through her body. She moved as much as the position would allow, needing him deeper, taking her harder, driving away anything that wasn’t the feel of him inside her. “Right there, that feels so good.” She dug her nails into his shoulders, but it did nothing to keep her connected to earth as her orgasm shot through her. “Aaron.” He cradled her head as he kept thrusting, following her over the edge.
The first thing Marcy registered was the weight of her wet hair tangled over her shoulders. Then she opened her eyes and realized she was pinned against the wall outside of Chilly’s with Aaron still inside her. He smoothed his hands over her thighs and up to cup her backside, allowing him to move back enough that his weight no longer kept her pinned to the wall. It didn’t create much space, but it was too much. Or not enough. She couldn’t be sure.
All she knew was that there was no mistaking the possessive glint in his gray eyes. What they’d just done was supposed to be about getting her out of her shell for just one night. The look on his face didn’t fit with that. She wiggled until he set her back on her feet. Thank God she wasn’t in high heels, or her buckling legs would have sent her to the ground.
Marcy cleared her throat. “That was…” Hot. Dirty. So damn good.
“Perfect.” He stroked a thumb over her bottom lip and smiled. “Though, this isn’t how I pictured our first time.”
Whoa, Nelly. He’d pictured this? She lowered her eyes, because she wasn’t sure how to respond to that. Because she’d pictured what it would be like to be with Aaron, too, even if it was only ever supposed to be fantasy. The sad truth was that reality blew fantasy out of the water. “I should go before someone comes looking.”
“Right.” He dipped down and kissed her, a light, sweet thing that was completely at odds with what they’d just been doing. He hesitated, his lips a bare breath from her own. “I’ll call you.”
Oh God. No, no, no, no. This wasn’t supposed to be anything but a fun time that stopped when the sun came up. She took in the stormy dark sky. It didn’t look like the sun would ever come up, and hell if that wasn’t something she couldn’t deal with right now. Aaron was wonderful, but he was also a complication she had no room in her life for. The precarious balance she had was too delicate to throw something as… She didn’t have words to describe him right now.
How quickly could she change her number? If she called AT&T as soon as she got in her car, could it be done before morning? Surely he wouldn’t try to call her before then? Marcy sidled away from him, well aware that he watched every step she took. “Sure, sounds good.” She almost froze when she remembered he knew where she lived—everyone in Wellingford knew where she lived.
Maybe it was time to take a long vacation down to visit her sister in New Jersey. Claire would love the boardwalk and there was no chance she’d run into him there.
This was in danger of becoming a serious mistake. She gave a little wave as she backed to the corner of the building. “I’ll see you later.” And by later, she meant ten years from now, when the fact she’d just had sex with Aaron Robinson was a fond, distant memory.
Her body ached from what they’d done and she mentally corrected herself—better make it twenty years.