Midnight Special Coming on Strong
Author:Tawny Weber

9



HUNTER CONSIDERED HIS life damned good. He had a great career. He had excellent luck with the ladies. He was financially secure, had good friends and a great father.

He’d never claim to be a humble man, nor was he interested in false modesty. So he’d always been pretty comfortable with the fact that he was good at sex. Damned good.

But he’d never been—the sex had never been—this good.

He wasn’t surprised, though.

Marni inspired him to new levels of greatness.

What was tripping him out, though, was how fabulous the nonsex was with her.

They sat across from each other at the small table in their cabin, Marni’s hair a tumble of curls over her silky robe. The deep blue fabric clung to her full breasts, emphasizing nipples still peaked from his earlier ministrations.

“So who’s your biggest life influence?” she asked, dipping her strawberry into a pot of warm chocolate, then nibbling. Hunter’s mouth watered, his gaze locked on her mouth.

“Influence?” he repeated absently, shifting in his chair. His jeans, all he had on, tightened enough to make him glad he hadn’t bothered to snap them.

“Yes. Influence. Mine is my aunt.” Marni continued to eat her strawberries, alternating between the chocolate and fluffy whipped cream. As she nibbled, she talked about her huge family and how her aunt stood out from what sounded like a very intrusive crowd.

“How do you deal with that?” he asked, interrupting her description of a recent family outing that’d turned into a speed dating–style blind date, with four cousins bringing along their version of her perfect man. “The interference, the constant nagging. Isn’t family a pain in the ass?”

Marni laughed and shrugged. The movement did delicious things to her robe, the fabric rippling over her breasts, baring a little more of that pale, silky flesh. Hunter shifted in the chair again.

“They’re interfering, yes, but they love me. There’s something incredibly comforting in knowing they are always there. The ties of family are like a safety net, you know? It’s a lot easier to fly knowing they are there.”

Hunter nodded before he realized he was agreeing.

“My dad’s like that, I guess. He’s always had this absolute belief in me. Even when I was a kid.” Hunter gave a little laugh, remembering. “I was maybe four when I declared I wanted to be—” FBI. Hell, he was getting a little too relaxed here. To cover his wince, he reached over and stole one of Marni’s strawberries. “I’d told him I wanted to be like him. He never laughed. He just sat my four-year-old self down and said if I wanted something, I had to work at it. Then he spent the next fifteen-to-twenty years showing me how.”

Twirling the strawberry between his fingers, Hunter watched the juicy red fruit swirl as he remembered all the times, all the ways, his dad had been there. Had influenced him. Paving the way in his career, showing him overtly and silently his unstinting support.

“You really look up to him, don’t you?” Marni asked quietly. “I mean, I love my family, but the only one I think I might want to be like is my aunt. But you and your father, that must be a pretty special relationship.”

Hunter shrugged, a little abashed to realize just how much he did love his father. And how easy Marni made it for him to feel those emotions without feeling like a jerk. The only other person he’d ever talked about his family with was his best friend, Caleb.

Shifting his gaze from the strawberry to Marni, he noted the sweet warmth in her eyes, the softness in her expression as she looked at him. It was as if she was reaching into his heart and tugging at the strings there. As if she was testing to make sure he had enough depth, enough emotion, to match hers.

Damned if he didn’t wonder that himself.

And suddenly, for the first time in his life, he hoped he did.

Like a slap upside the head, Hunter reeled at that insight.

Then, because he knew thinking about it would ruin what they had going here, that the minute he accepted that there was something emotional here, he’d slam the door shut. If he ignored the emotions, he could happily enjoy everything else between him and Marni.

The laughter.

The discussions.

The teasing.

And the sex.

Those emotions, though, kept pounding, pushing, trying to get his attention.

Determined to ignore them, Hunter went the only route he knew would work one hundred percent.

He stood and, ignoring Marni’s surprised look, pulled her to her feet. Then he grabbed up the tray of chocolate and whipped cream.

“What are you doing?” she asked, following him to the bed.

“You ate all the strawberries,” he pointed out, flicking the belt of her robe open with a quick twist of his fingers. The heavy satin slid down her body, leaving her gleaming, naked, in the dim lamplight. “So I’ll have to eat my snack off your body.”

* * *

MARNI LAY IN HUNTER’S ARMS, her body limp with satisfaction. Forty-eight or so hours of exploring each other’s bodies, of playing out ever sexual fantasy that could be played on a moving train, and you’d think she’d be satiated.

She glanced at the floor next to the door, where the daily briefings of the train’s murder mystery event had piled up since their first morning together when Hunter had insisted that Simpson slide them under the door instead of disturbing them.

The last one declared the murderer to be Peter Principle, and invited everyone to the final party that evening to celebrate the sleuthing successes.

Which was yet another reminder that the train was due in San Francisco in the morning.

A feeling of panic tried to take hold in Marni’s stomach. This was almost over. She needed to get her fill of Hunter. To convince her body that it’d had enough to last the rest of her life.

“That was good,” he murmured against the back of her neck. One hand released its gentle hold of her breast to slide down to her waist, but the other stayed, all cozy and tempting, in the warm, damp heat between her thighs. His fingers didn’t move. Just set up camp, like an ongoing reminder that he could send her spiraling into a lovely orgasm anytime he wanted. “I think that was good enough to qualify for our top-ten list.”

“Which position are you bumping to put it there?” she asked with a husky laugh.

“Hmm, I don’t know,” he teased, his warm laughter making her hair flutter across her ear. “I’m pretty sure they’re all tied for first place.”

“Nice answer,” she said with a sleepy giggle.

And not one she’d argue with.

Every time they’d made love was a vivid memory. Every kiss, every touch stood out in her mind in bright, intense detail. It was a little scary how incredible they were together.

They’d had each other every way she could imagine, every way he’d suggested. At this point, they’d need to hit Google for position inspiration.

“You know, I think we need a tiebreaker.” She reached behind her, her fingers trailing between their bodies to cup his growing erection. The man had the most amazing recovery powers. “What do you think it’ll take to top all the other times? You on top? Me on top? Chocolate, whipped cream, scarves? What do you think?”

Hunter’s laugh was just this side of wicked.

Seductive.

Marni melted at the sound. She should laugh, too. Make as if it was all in fun.

But he made her feel things inside, the most incredible things. She could handle the physical ones. The emotional ones, though? They were starting to scare the hell out of her.

“Why don’t we give this a try,” he suggested, his lips skimming her shoulder before he shifted downward. Marni shivered, reluctantly releasing her hold on his hardening cock. She loved stroking his length, enjoying the power of his reaction to her tactile teasing. Still, she reveled in the feel of its rigid velvet slide as it pressed lower, over her butt cheeks and to her thigh as he kissed his way down her spine.

Marni moaned softly when he reached that delicate spot at the small of her back and nibbled soft, wet kisses over her sensitive flesh. She wrapped her arms around her pillow, curving her body into the mattress and rolling flat on her belly to give Hunter better access to play.

He seemed to have some special sense of when her thoughts were going too deep, of when she was freaking herself out.

Marni knew that part should freak her out, too.

But whenever she got her hand on the handle of that freak-out door, he pulled her back, distracted her with incredible sex.

Her eyes fluttered, the lights of the passing night flashing through the train window as his hands squeezed her breasts, his tongue skimming the curve of her back where it met her butt before continuing downward.

His hands scooped under her body, lifting her hips into the air as he wedged himself between her thighs so they parted wide. Heat, a combination of embarrassed delight and passion, washed over her cheeks—all four of them. He pressed one finger, then two, into her burning, wet passage. Marni whimpered. His tongue slid along her folds, sipping and flicking. She moaned.

He played her as if she was an instrument and he a master musician. Fingers and mouth worked in concert, building the tension in her body to a crescendo pitch. Marni’s back arched. Passion tightened, curling like a taut spring between her legs.

All it took was one extra pluck of his finger, his teeth scraping over her aching bud. The climax swept through her body. Marni buried her face, her cries muffled by the soft pillow. Her body shook with the power of her orgasm, tiny tremors going on and on.

She felt Hunter move and tried to catch her breath, to prepare for the next round. Hands grasping her hips so she couldn’t move, though. Then he plunged.

Hard.

Powerful.

Marni tried to meet his thrust, to intensify the driving friction.

But he held her captive, his fingers stabbing into the soft flesh of her hips like a vise.

She whimpered.

He slid in, then out.

Slow, wet, deep and hard. He was so big, so incredible.

And totally in control.

Marni’s fingers flexed, as if to reach back. But she didn’t. She kept her hands on the pillow, her body at his mercy. This was a part of the game. To see how long she could last before trying to wrest back some portion of control.

She didn’t make it more than a minute, maybe two, before the next orgasm exploded. Lights flashed behind her closed eyes, like fireworks matching the heat deep in her belly.

Before the scream had cleared her throat, he flipped her over. His hands gripped her thighs again, this time anchoring them high, so her ankles draped over his shoulders.

Through passion-blurred eyes, Marni stared at his face. Tight, controlled. And right there on the edge. She knew the signs now. The taut pull of the flesh around his eyes. The fire in his gaze as he demanded without words that she put it all out there, that she give over everything. Because he’d do the same.

The thought of that, the knowledge that he was willing to put everything he had into this connection between them, that it was so much more, bigger, deeper than just his very talented dick in her very well-pleasured body, flipped her trigger.

Marni arched, gasping.

She couldn’t close her eyes. Couldn’t tear her gaze from his. But she flew over the edge, soaring higher because he smiled, his look pure triumph.

Then, because she knew it drove him crazy, she called on the last vestiges of her own control and gave him a sultry smile and a flutter of her lashes.

His explosive climax sent her flying over one more time, her gasps mingling with his guttural cry.

Oh, yeah. The man was amazing.

* * *

THE TRAIN WAS STILL. They must have arrived in San Francisco, Marni realized when she awoke the next morning.

And she was still wrapped in Hunter’s arms.

With a deep, satisfied sigh, she gave herself a moment to revel in how good it felt. Better than anything she’d ever experienced. Not just the sex, which was mind-blowing. But this, she realized, snuggling closer. Feeling so connected, so safe. So loved.

Her eyes flew open.

Her heart stopped for a quick, panicked second.

What had happened? Or a better question would be, What the hell had she been thinking? Or not thinking, clearly. If her brain had been engaged instead of her body reveling in indulgent pleasure for two days, she’d have seen this coming. She’d have been able to sidestep it.

Maybe.

But it was too late now.

Terror took hold in her belly.

She’d gone and done it. Brilliant, career-focused, got-her-shit-together and nobody-was-going-to-stop-her Marni Clare had absolutely gone and done it.

She watched as the room did a slow, murky spin, even as her mind grappled with the truth.

She’d fallen in love with Hunter.

Holy cow. How could she fall in love with him? She didn’t even know his first name.

She shifted. Slowly, so as not to wake the man who she was suddenly terrified of. As if he were an explosive device that any quick move might set off, she put every bit of her concentration on getting away as fast as she could without waking him up.

And tried to pretend she wasn’t turned on by the feel of his hair-roughed thigh sliding over hers, of the heavy weight of his arm as she carefully lifted it off her waist.

As she slid from the bed, he muttered something in his sleep, then rolled facedown into the pillow.

The urge to climb back between those sheets and cuddle against his warm body was stronger than anything Marni could remember feeling. Stronger than her desire to protect her heart. Stronger than her ambition and career goals.

It was like getting hit upside the head with a giant cartoon frying pan. Marni swore she could see little birdies flying in circles around her head, all singing to the demise of her dreams. Tweeting their goodbye to her career.

Terror buzzed in her ears, gripped her stomach in a tight fist.

She had to get out of here.

Not to protect her heart.

Hell, that was already guaranteed to be shattered. She’d have to deal with it no matter what.

But if she didn’t leave now, didn’t get away from the Novocain-like effect Hunter had on her ambition, she’d give it all up.

And end up hating herself.

She dressed in silence. Constantly reminding herself to pull on each item of clothing quietly, as if a single sound would waken not only Hunter, but waken a Hunter who would immediately start spouting off verbal demands that she wasn’t prepared to meet. Questions.

She was the one supposed to be answering questions. To be searching for information, building a story.

Some ace reporter she was. The only prize she’d had her eye on for the past two days was the one between Hunter’s thighs.

She wet her lips, her gaze sliding over his body with regret for the blanket covering that prize. One more peek, one more taste, was that too much to ask for?

God, she was ready to come again just thinking about his dick. She realized in the past couple of days, this gorgeous man had unknowingly provided her with years of sexual pleasure, whether he was present in the flesh or not.

As she held on to the table to steady herself while slipping into her boots, she averted her eyes, glancing at a sheaf of papers Hunter had forgotten to put away when she’d surprised him the previous night. As before, the writing was a bizarre mess, somewhere between Middle-earth runes and sloppy shorthand. Was that an FBI thing or just how he wrote? Smiling a little, she imagined Hunter as a schoolboy, explaining to his teacher that his report was illegible because he was gonna be a government agent when he grew up.

Even though she knew she couldn’t read anything there, she flipped through the pages as if they were a fan. Then, frowning, she flipped back to one that’d caught her eye.

B.B.

Beverly Burns?

Beverly Burns had disappeared. Nobody knew what had happened to her. Rumors abounded, everything from a runaway wife to Burns locking her in a cellar somewhere.

Marni had talked to the doorman of their building right after the explosion. He’d told her that the couple had a major argument the night before, a screaming match right there in the middle of the lobby. It’d ended ugly, with the missus slapping her husband across the face, then storming out. When Marni had followed up with the same doorman four days later, he still hadn’t seen the pretty young Beverly. Nor, he’d whispered, had someone come to get any of her treasured possessions. At least, not according to the maid who cleaned their apartment.

Marni actually knew Beverly Burns from her work in fashion circles. Using her husband’s money, she’d launched her own designer line and was obsessed with being the next big name in fashion. The woman was a vain name-dropper who lived for her clothes and valued each button more than any single person in her life. She wouldn’t have taken off without her fancy wardrobe.

Had Charles done something with her?

Or was she the woman Hunter had escaped the exploding building with? Had Burns left her for dead before blowing up his own building? Was she still alive? Meghan had said there was a woman, but not whether she survived or not.

Holy cow. That’d blow her original story idea out of the water. Tying Burns to attempted murder? She could start working on her Pulitzer acceptance speech as soon as she turned that article in.

Trying to curb her excitement, Marni frowned at the notes again, but couldn’t make heads or tails of more than the initials. Then she spotted the letters SF and the word Paris. She turned the paper over, noting it was a hotel receipt dated three days ago, again with the initials B.B. She glanced at the bed quickly to make sure Hunter was still sleeping, then shifted a couple of the papers covered in his unreadable handwriting to see if there was anything she could understand.

Did this have anything to do with the case? How? Burns was strictly U.S. From what Marni had been able to pull together, the guy had a major phobia of the ocean. He refused to fly over water, so hadn’t ever left the continent.

So what was all the information on fashion and Paris for? Was Hunter looking into being transferred to Europe? Did they even have FBI operatives overseas? In the fashion industry? Her brain raced with possible answers, a million more questions and a ton of directions of inquiry. She wanted her laptop. She wanted her phone. Like a nagging, impossible-to-ignore need, she had to get to the bottom of this.

All of her excitement came to a painful, screeching halt in her mind. She sighed, feeling as if someone had just poured a vatful of misery over her head. Getting to the bottom of this meant using this information she’d just found. And that meant betraying Hunter.

Frowning, she looked over at sleeping beauty, his soft snores muted by the pillow cushioning his face. Marni’s gaze softened as her eyes traced the strong lines of his back. Her fingers itched to touch, her mouth watered for another taste.

She’d never get enough of him.

Her stomach clenched, terror hitting her like a brick wall.

This was supposed to be a fun interlude. Great sex. A once-in-a-lifetime experience. Hot times with a sexy federal agent. That was the kind of thing that looked great in a fascinating biography looking back over the adventurous life of a prizewinning news reporter when she was, oh, say seventy or so. The sexy chapter, guaranteeing reader delight.

What this wasn’t supposed to be was a way for Marni to ruin her life by falling in love.

She’d always said she was too smart to put her career behind some guy. Despite the fact that her entire family had always ignored her vow, she’d always said she wasn’t marrying, because she wanted her career to come first.

And the best way to avoid the trap of marriage was to evade the complication of falling in love.

She knew that.

She’d vowed it.

Her knees went wonky.

And she’d gone and done it anyway.

If she wasn’t afraid the sound would wake Hunter, she’d smack herself in the forehead.

Instead, she did the only thing she could think of.

The only thing that made any sense when faced with the huge, mind-blowing realization that she had just gone and fallen for a man so strong, so intense and so powerful he’d make her second-guess her every career decision. Hell, at this rate, if Hunter offered her six orgasms a week and a quickie on Mondays, she’d probably agree to don an apron and play housewife.

She shuddered at the terrifying image.

As quiet as a mouse under the nose of a starving cat, she packed her bags and gathered her things.

Then, after one last, desperate look at the man sleeping in a fog of sexual satisfaction, she ran away.

* * *

HUNTER WOKE SLOWLY, irritated before he’d even opened his eyes but not sure why.

He’d fallen into a sexual stupor, exhausted and satisfied, hours ago. Now? He forced his eyes open to a squint and gauged the light coming through the window. It was morning. Time to get up.

Alone, he realized as he rolled to the edge of the bed, looking for Marni’s warm, soft body.

Suddenly alert, he shifted, looked around. Where the hell was she? The sliding bathroom door was open, and the rest of the room took less than a second to peruse.

One thing he’d learned from pre-awesome sex with Marni was that she wasn’t a morning person. She didn’t slide quietly and happily from bed. Nope, she arose in a grumpy state of clumsiness, banging into walls on her way to her shower.

So where was she, and why wasn’t she here, sharing that endearing grumpiness?

He showered and threw clothes on in record time, determined to find Marni and haul her back into bed. He didn’t care how much she needed her caffeine. He wanted morning wake-up sex, dammit. And he wanted her, there, where he could see her, touch her. Be with her.

As irritated with himself for that deep, intense need as he was with her because her absence forced him to admit it, he yanked open the door.

And stopped short.

“What the hell are you doing here?”

All of a sudden, Hunter realized the train was still.

He’d been so obsessed with finding Marni, with getting her back in bed, it’d totally escaped him that they’d already arrived in San Francisco.

“I’m here to make sure you didn’t screw up the case,” Murray said, his smile bland as he stepped around Hunter and into the cabin.

Hunter would have shot back a pithy remark about never screwing up anything. But there was something in his boss’s stance and expression. A taunting sort of triumph that said the guy thought he had something embarrassing to gloat about.

Frowning, Hunter cast a fast look around the cabin, making sure Marni had all her stuff tucked away as usual. He relaxed. Other than her scent, there wasn’t much sign of her.

“Screw up? Based on what? You weren’t happy with the amount of info I got for you this week? Something wrong with me building enough evidence against Burns to add five more criminal counts to the charges? Including suspicion of murder.”

That last one had been a major triumph, as far as Hunter was concerned. He’d dug deep enough into the email files Beverly had provided to find three instances he suspected were execution orders. He’d forwarded the information and his suspicions to the New York office for his guys to track down. He’d heard just last night that they’d found enough to tie Burns to one, possibly two of those murders. Hauling the guy up on murder one without bringing the wife he’d tried to blow to smithereens into it? Success in Hunter’s book.

He waited to hear what it was in Murray’s, though.

“You spent the entire trip here in this cushy berth?” the deputy director asked, twirling his finger to indicate the cabin.

Hunter leaned one shoulder against the wall and shrugged the other.

“I thought participation in the events was mandatory,” Murray continued, his smirk a reminder of why he’d booked Hunter on this particular train in the first place.

“I think we’ve established that I’m okay ignoring rules that get in my way,” Hunter shot back.

Murray’s smile was replaced by an irritated grimace. Then, saying the words as if they were painful, he told Hunter, “Looks like your refusal to follow directions paid off in this case.”

“Because you didn’t get any photos of me looking like an idiot?”

“Because I got a tip that there was a reporter on the train. She’s been asking questions about the Burns case, digging around. I don’t want this story broken on the cover of some magazine.”

Hunter grimaced. Damn. Unlike Murray, he didn’t begrudge them doing their job. Hell, there were a lot of times their job made his a lot easier. Still, this case was as sensitive as a teenage girl with self-esteem issues. The extra charges could fall apart over the slightest detail. The last thing the FBI needed was some half-assed article on the case to put a screw to the works.

“Who’s the reporter?” Everyone he’d met had been using their mystery event pseudonym, so he probably wouldn’t recognize the name. Still, it was good info to have.

“Marni Clare,” Murray said, consulting his pocket computer. “Writes for Optimum magazine.”

What the fuck?

Hunter’s expression didn’t change.

His body didn’t shift from its casual stance leaning against the wall.

But his mind?

Well, it took a good ten seconds to get past the vicious swearing for his mind to engage.

Marni was a reporter?

A freaking reporter?

He mentally put his fist through the wall, cussed up a storm and heaved a chair out the window. In his mind, he threw a fit so ugly, hardened criminals would hide.

But, thanks to years of practice, on the surface he kept it casual.

He cast another glance around the cabin. This time he noticed that Marni hadn’t tucked her bags away, keeping things neat. She’d tidied herself right out of there. Her suitcase wasn’t under the bed. Her lotions weren’t on the tiny bathroom shelf.

“Nope. Didn’t meet anyone claiming to be a reporter, or anybody asking questions about the case,” he said honestly. His brain raced, reviewing the week. She’d never mentioned the case, or even hinted that she knew anything about the Burns case. Either Marni was a hell of a lot better reporter—or actor—than any he’d ever met, or she had no clue that he was FBI.

“Figured you kept it under control, but I had to check. Wanna get coffee before the official debarking time?” Murray suggested, glancing at his watch.

A vat of it might kick-start his brain, pushing him past this mental stuttering shock that the woman he’d been falling for had used the hell out of him.

Hunter still kept his expression neutral, but his gut churned with fury.

He’d love nothing more than to get coffee and find his erstwhile roommate for a few words, except he was sure she was long gone. Which meant she wouldn’t be outing him as an idiot to his boss.

Still, discretion and valor and all that crap deemed it smarter to just get the hell out of here.

“Let’s just go. Meals in this place are a circus, complete with sideshows. We’ll check into the hotel and load up on room service.” To emphasize his choice, Hunter grabbed what little he’d unpacked and started tossing things into his suitcase.

His eyes fell on the bed, still rumpled from his and Marni’s last mattress tussle. The image of her face, glowing and tight with passion, filled his mind.

Watching her fly over the edge, listening to her laughter, seeing her curled up asleep next to him... He’d finally understood how a guy could put his career in second place for a woman.

Damn, he was an idiot.

Murray poked around the cabin. Cozy when it’d just been Hunter and Marni, with two large men—one of whom was bristling with barely controlled fury—the space was more fitting to a dollhouse.

“Yeah, let’s go. I’ll bet you’re tired of this cramped space, right? Done with the whole train experience?”

Packed bag, briefcase and laptop in hand, Hunter offered a bland smile.

“You have no idea how done I am with this entire affair.”