Midnight Special Coming on Strong
Author:Tawny Weber

4



HUNTER WATCHED THE PRETTY little blonde pretend that she was perfectly comfortable with his staring.

He figured a few hours of this friendly roommate farce and she’d not only welcome but be falling all over herself grateful for his offer to refund her full ticket cost and put her off the train in Chicago.

In the meantime, he’d just kick it here in this cozy club chair and enjoy the view.

A view that was currently sitting at the small desk, typing away. Waves of gold flowed around a round, dimpled face. A milkmaid complexion combined with thick lashes and big sky-blue eyes completed the picture of all-American beauty. She was too lush to qualify as the girl next door, though. More along the lines of Marilyn Monroe than Jennifer Aniston.

Not that he was paying any attention to that overt sex appeal, even though it was wrapped in a deliciously tight-fitting, fuzzy pink sweater that cupped full breasts and a perfectly fitted, hip-skimming gunmetal-gray skirt. The packaging was pure feminine heat. The kind that made him think of long nights sliding over her body while she moaned in appreciation.

Not that he was affected by lush curves or pretty blue eyes.

At least, not while on the job.

Right now those eyes, partially obscured by black-rimmed rectangular glasses, were fixed on the screen of her laptop as she typed away. He was pretty sure if he tried to read over her shoulder, he’d see nothing but gobbledygook.

Because if there was one thing that Hunter was damned good at, it was intimidation.

Five minutes later, his frown was more irritated than menacing. She hadn’t even looked up. Her expression was focused, her fingers still flying over the keyboard. Heck, her breathing and skin tone hadn’t changed at all.

What the hell?

Hunter shifted in the chair.

He tapped his fingers on the slick fabric.

He crossed one leg over the other.

Then he uncrossed them.

He scared gangbangers and drug lords.

He sent crime bosses cringing behind their hired guns.

And this pretty little blonde barely noticed he was here. Was she immune to men? Had she gone to an all-girls school or something?

Suddenly, she looked up and gave him a bright smile.

“Oh, just remembered I’m here, did you,” he muttered.

A tiny frown creasing her brow, she reached under all that thick hair and pulled a small, wireless earbud from her ear.

Hunter almost growled.

Half his intimidation was based on his ability to sit, silently staring. How would she know he was silent if she had noise blasting through her head?

“I’m sorry, did you say something?” she asked, pulling the other mini-earphone out and shaking both in her palm.

“Nothing.”

“Oh.”

After a couple of seconds of his death stare, her smile drooped, and then she bit her lip and looked away.

There. He still had it.

The ability to intimidate sweet women. He’d bet he could make babies cry and puppies whimper, too.

“You look grumpy.”

Hunter scowled.

“Really grumpy,” she decided, closing the lid of her laptop, setting it aside and getting to her feet. She glanced at the clock on the wall, then at her watch as if to verify the time. “I’ll bet you’re hungry. We haven’t had anything but coffee in two hours. Want to get breakfast?”

“Look, you’re going to have to let me have this berth,” he said instead.

“I’m what?”

“I can’t do this roommate thing. It was nice enough of you to offer to share, but it’s just not going to work.”

“So you’re leaving?”

“No, you are.”

Her cupid’s bow mouth dropped open and she stared for so long, he wanted to blow on her face to make her blink.

“It’s my berth. I was in it first. Out of the goodness of my heart, I offered to share it with you. So why would I give it up?”

Hunter considered flashing his FBI badge and going the national security route. But he was seriously tired. Tired and sore and empty. He needed a little downtime. He had a week to build a case that would put away the head of one of the biggest criminal organizations on the East Coast. He wasn’t going to do that with people bugging him, asking FBI questions and passing him in the hallway muttering, “The truth is out there.”

He could ask her to keep it a secret. But in his experience, women couldn’t keep secrets. And she’d have no reason to want to once he’d booted her off the train.

“I was in an accident recently,” he ventured, shifting his expression from intimidating to doleful. “I’m feeling some pain. I need space, privacy, so I can sleep when I feel like it, pace at night if I’m hurting too much. I need it if I’m going to recover properly.”

Her pretty face creased in sympathetic lines and she poked out her lower lip in a sad pout.

“You poor thing.”

“So you’ll vacate the berth,” he confirmed.

She patted his forearm. Hunter frowned at the heat he felt at her gentle touch. There, another reason to be glad she was leaving. A couple more touches like that and he wouldn’t be thinking about the case, about catching up on sleep or about the miserable ache of his screaming muscles.

It was as if he was hardwired after their little wake-up games. She touched, he got hard.

“Sorry, but no.” She even added a regretful smile to her refusal.

Hunter frowned, trying to pull some of the blood north to his brain so he could remember what she was refusing.

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Look, this trip is important to me,” she said, looking less like a china doll and more like an avenging angel all of a sudden. Her chin lifted, her eyes heated and she got that same stubborn my-way-or-else look his mother used to get. “I’m not giving it up.”

“I need my rest.”

“I need to get to California.”

“So fly.”

“You fly.”

“I can’t fly. I told you, I was in an accident. Ruptured my inner ear. I fly, I die.” An exaggeration, but he was going for effect here.

“I fly, everyone on the plane dies,” she shot back. Clearly she was better at exaggerating.

“Oh, please.”

“They will all die. I know they will. I’ve had horrible dreams for years about crashing, of going down in flames. And my psychic agrees. If I get on a plane, it will crash. I owe it to those other people to not put their lives in danger.” She gave a big, tearful sniffle before turning her back to him.

Hunter squinted. She’d played it pretty well, but that had to be a total bullshit act.

When she faced him again, her lower lip was trembling just a little and she’d raised her chin as if putting on a brave face. Hunter almost grinned.

She really was cute.

Until she heaved a big sigh and shook her head.

“I guess that settles it. Unless, of course, you’re giving up the berth?” When he gave a scowling shake of his head, she shrugged, then walked over to the little table by the door. He wasn’t sure whether to be relieved that she might be going, or wish she’d walk a little more so he could enjoy the view of her hips swaying.

She picked up a small leather folder.

“Breakfast?” She waved the menu in the air.

Hunter frowned. He was starting to get the feeling that she wasn’t going to be easy to get rid of. Not willingly.

“How about we settle the room situation first.” He folded his arms over his chest and leaned back in the chair, making it clear he wasn’t moving until he’d gotten his way.

She gave an elaborate eye roll, leaned against the table and matched his crossed-armed stance.

“And what is it that you suggest?” She widened those gorgeous eyes, pure sweetness and light.

“I suggest you get off in Chicago. Take the next train. I’ll cover your ticket and reimburse you for this one.” There. Pure generosity. He offered his most reasonable smile to go with it. The one he used when he gave criminals the choice between jail and bodily harm.

“I have a better idea.” Her smile took on an irritated edge, toning down the sweetness and dousing all that light. “Why don’t you get off in Chicago instead? You’re the one with the issue, you can take the next train.”

“I have to be in San Francisco in seven days.”

“I have to be in San Francisco as soon as possible,” she countered.

“Then fly.”

“I told you, if I fly, people will die.” She gave a stubborn jut of her chin before adding, “Do you need to talk to my psychic? She’ll tell you.”

Hunter growled. His wannabe roommate didn’t even blink. Instead, she waved the menu in the air again.

What the hell? Had he lost his mean-guy mojo in that car accident?

“I haven’t eaten yet today,” the not-at-all-intimidated blonde said with a wide-eyed look and a pat of one slender hand on her tummy. “And I promise you, the hungrier I get, the less reasonable I am.”

When had she been reasonable before?

Hunter all but growled.

He wanted her out. He had a case to build. An explosion to recover from. And a general state of mental health to maintain.

He couldn’t work on high-security material with a civilian in the room. He couldn’t relax with a gorgeous blonde hovering around his libido. And his mental health was already taking a hit, thanks to her lack of respect for his dead-eye stare.

He could pull rank, flash his badge and boot her out of the berth.

Except for two things.

First, she’d been here first. Booking a ticket an hour before the train left didn’t give him the right to steal a bed out from under her.

Second, and as much as he hated to admit it, Murray was right. Another few days without things exploding around him and he’d have been clear to fly. But he hadn’t been able to resist hotdogging, trying to wrap up one more case, to tally one more arrest on his record before the big, career-breaking trial next week.

His innate fairness said he couldn’t pull rank to get the cabin. It said nothing about not using every trick at his disposal to convince her to leave willingly, though.

“Actually, I’m hungry, too.” He rose to his full height and offered a slow smile filled with as much sexual heat as he could muster. Which, given that he was still half-hard from waking to find her sexy little body in his arms, was quite a bit. “Marni, right? Why don’t we visit the dining car.”

Looking a little flushed all of a sudden, she blinked a few times, her lashes sweeping over those big eyes as if she were trying to refocus. She wet those full lips, sparking a sharp, deep regret in his belly that he hadn’t tasted them before he’d been pulled out of the fantasy. Were they as delicious as they looked? As soft? Did they yield, or take control?

“You’re hungry?” she repeated, her words a breathless rush.

“I’m starving.” He let his voice drop just one decibel above a husky growl and let his gaze slide down her body. As though, if they didn’t get out of here now, he wasn’t going to be able to resist taking a big, juicy bite.

Hunter was gratified by her shaky breath, but his own libido took a hit at the amazing things that breath did for her fluffy pink sweater. She was like something sweet and sugary, swirled atop what promised to be a rich, decadent treat. But he was just as good at ignoring his sweet tooth as he was his sexual urges while on the job. All he had to do was remind himself of that. A few dozen times.

Hunter crossed the room, taking the menu from her suddenly lax fingers and tossing it on the table behind her. Marni’s eyes never left him, her focus so intent on his every move. Beneath the suspicion—smart girl—and an intense curiosity—dangerous if she wasn’t careful—there was just enough desire for him to use to his advantage.

With that in mind, Hunter initiated his Evict Blondie plan.

“Babe, here’s the deal. You’re a very beautiful, very sexy woman.” He paused just long enough to enjoy the wash of color over her cheeks and the way her eyes softened. “I’m not a man who’s big on denying himself pleasures. I like delicious food, a good Scotch and losing myself in the delights of a gorgeous woman.”

He let that hang there between them, as heavy and intense as the erection hanging hard between his legs. His body craved the feel of hers, wanting nothing more than for him to press that hard-on against her curves, to feel her warm welcome. But this was Intimidation 101, not Advanced Sexual Harassment. Hell, if he couldn’t scare her into getting off the train, he deserved to share her berth, and he’d have to attend all those stupid dress-up functions the train offered, too.

She wet her lips and looked away. Hunter let himself smile. No worries about tracking down a lame forties-style fedora, here.

Then she shifted her gaze, slowly lifting her lashes as her eyes traveled higher and higher up his body. It was as though she was reaching out and dragging her fingers along his thigh, caressing his throbbing dick, scraping her nails over his flat abs, smoothing her fingers through the hair on his chest, then oh-so-lightly skimming his face.

Finally, as if she’d tired of the torture, her gaze met his. Her eyes were heavy with desire, hot with the promise that the passion he’d tasted that morning was only the tip of the iceberg.

“That’s fascinating, I’m sure,” she told him in a breathy voice. “But I have every confidence that you’re also a man of control. A man who understands the word no. A gentleman, through and through.”

Shit.

Hunter’s expression didn’t change, but his admiration for her jumped up a couple notches. So did his determination.

He stepped closer.

She stepped backward.

He stepped again. So did she. Until her back was against the door.

Hunter’s smile was wicked as he placed his hands on the door, one on either side of her head. He leaned close, just enough to make her aware of his body, but not touching anywhere.

“Is that what you think?” he challenged.

* * *

SHE THOUGHT SHE WAS totally in over her head and sinking fast.

Marni’s body was on fire. Her nipples were craving the touch of his fingers again. Her body melted, hooked after that teensy taste of orgasmic pleasure he’d showed her that morning.

Control, her mind screamed. Get a grip.

“So you’re saying if I don’t get off the train in Chicago and let you have this berth, you’re going to...what?” She let her gaze drop, her mouth watering when she saw the impressive bulge pressing against his zipper. “Seduce me?”

And how would that go? she wanted to ask. Would he start at the top and work his way down her body? Or begin with her toes and lick his way up?

“I’ve never forced myself on a woman. Never had to, never been tempted to,” he promised. “All you have to say is no.”

It wasn’t as much the smile accompanying his words that pulled Marni from her sexual reverie. It was the amusement in his tone, as if he was laughing over the idea of her refusing him.

Maybe he was right.

Maybe she wouldn’t be able to resist the heat, the sexual energy between them for the entire week. Not if they were sharing this space. Sleeping in the same room, listening to each other breathe night after night. Aware of the other’s body, so close, in touching distance.

Her pulse raced.

But she ignored it. Just as she ignored the rest of the possibilities she’d just listed.

This was a job. An important job, with a story that could launch her career. She wasn’t going to be scared away from it by sex. Or more precisely, by the possibility of incredible, mind-blowing, body-melting, once-in-a-lifetime awesome sex.

She could resist.

For the story, for her career, she could resist.

Maybe.

“So?”

“So, what?” she repeated, her brow furrowing as she met his gaze again.

“So what do you say?”

She knew what her body wanted her to say. But her ambition was stronger. Determination, motivation and a few cold showers would keep her from doing anything stupid.

“I say...” She leaned closer, close enough that she could feel his breath warm on her skin. Then she reached up with one finger and tapped it gently on the soft curve of his mouth. “No.”

Marni ducked under his arms, hurrying across the room as if racing against the possibility of him grabbing her back. Feeling as though she’d just run a marathon or through a horror movie to escape a horde of zombies determined to eat her for lunch, she blew out a heavy breath.

She didn’t know if she was grateful or miserable when Hunter didn’t follow. As soon as she realized he wasn’t going to pursue her, her body sagged into a limp mass of unfulfilled desire against the dresser.

“Fine.” He snapped out the word with the same intensity a starving panther would use to snap a slab of raw meat in half. “Let’s go.”

“Go?”

“Breakfast. We’ll discuss this over food.”

When she continued to lean on the dresser and stare, Hunter arched one mocking brow. That’s all it took for Marni to force her body to move.

Get food. Coffee. Richly scented coffee, she thought as he yanked the door closed behind them. Thankfully, shutting away the view of the bed and the thought of temptation.

Or at least the view of the bed.

Ten minutes later, Marni was having second thoughts. Now that they were out of the bedroom, so to speak, she wasn’t sure she could handle going back in there with him.

Maybe she should get off in Chicago, she thought as the waiter led them across the crowded dining car to a small table by the window.

She now had the name of the FBI agent in charge of the case, which was more than the FBI public relations liaison had offered before. She had enough information on the explosion to put together a decent story and, since Burns hadn’t been implicated yet, if she got the story in by midnight, it might run before the trial next week. But the story would be speculation that he blew up his own building, without any facts to back it up. It’d be a decent story.

Maybe. If she found some way to build it into more than conjecture and supposition.

But it wasn’t enough to be her breakout story.

It wouldn’t launch her up the reporting ladder of success.

With a smile of thanks for the waiter holding the leather dining chair out for her, Marni settled down across from Hunter.

She bit her lip, pretending to read the menu while her brain swirled in a million directions at once.

She couldn’t get off the train. She needed a big story, not a fair-to-middling one. Hunter was her hook. Her big break. Her provider of the sexiest, most delicious sleeping orgasm she’d ever had in her life.

“What can I get you?”

“Another org...” Horrified, Marni pressed her lips together, not daring to look at Hunter. She could feel his gaze on her, though. Like a laser peering into her soul, searching out secrets and sexual fantasies. “An organic fruit tray, if you have it,” she corrected with a bright smile and a flutter of her lashes. They worked as distraction enough for the waiter, who blushed and wrote so hard on his pad that he broke the tip of his pencil.

“Sorry. Be right back,” he muttered, hurrying away. But not without giving Marni one last effusive look.

“Do you do that often?”

Steeling herself, Marni shifted her smile to curiously innocent before she met Hunter’s gaze.

“Do what?”

“The cute thing. Does it work all the time, or is it a fifty-fifty thing?”

More like seventy-thirty. And only with men. She’d never been called on it before, though. Which meant he was likely in that elusive, unreachable thirty percent who wouldn’t see her as just a pretty face. He might expect something.

Like the truth. Her truth.

Something no man had ever looked past her face and figure to wonder about.

“Can I bring you anything else?” the waiter asked as he set the plate of fruit in front of Marni.

It took all her will to pull her gaze from Hunter’s intense stare. Marni blinked at the waiter a couple of times, trying to focus her thoughts. Then, not bothering to look at the menu again, she handed it to him and ordered, “Coffee, two scrambled eggs, whole wheat toast and a side of potatoes.”

“Right away.” He offered an excited smile before turning away.

“Excuse me,” she called before he could leave.

“Yes?”

Her lips twitched at his eager reply, and then she tilted her head toward Hunter. “My friend is hungry, too.”

“You’re something else,” Hunter said after the blushing waiter had taken his order and hurried away. “Those eyelashes should be registered as lethal weapons.”

Marni batted her lethal weapons.

“But they won’t work on me.”

She stopped batting.

What would work on him? What was it going to take for him to relax enough for her to sneak a story out of the guy?

Because she’d do it, whatever it was.

Except strip naked and beg him to take her.

Well, maybe whatever it took except that.