Midnight Special Coming on Strong
Author:Tawny Weber

7



MARNI BLINKED, TRYING to bring the room back into focus. Her eyes were blurry, her head ached and her body...oh, her poor body.

Lack of sleep bad enough.

But lack of sleep for three days added to an ongoing state of unfulfilled sexual arousal? That was straight-up abuse.

“Another espresso, Miss Mystery?” the waiter asked with a friendly smile.

Marni hesitated.

It wasn’t that she had an issue with six espressos before noon. It was the worry that the lack of caffeine boost, combined with almost painful jitters, would be worse than falling asleep at the table.

“Maybe a cup of hot tea instead,” she decided. “Earl Grey with a side of lemon wedges, please.”

If nothing else, she could suck the lemons.

Maybe the citrus would add a little extra zing to her article.

Marni checked her email, excited to see a note from her editor. He was looking forward to seeing the article and, thankfully, had agreed to cover the expenses of her trip. Marni gave her laptop an affectionate look, all but patting its casing in pride.

Over the past three days, while banished from her cabin, she’d written a damned good article. She’d done in-depth research, not only on Charles Burns, but on the FBI, as well. She’d pulled together an incredible amount of facts, figures and information on Burns, his history, his organization, his marriages, right on down to his addiction to cherry licorice. What she didn’t have, though, were the insights that would take this from an exposé to a hard-hitting piece of journalism. It might be a good follow-up for after the trial, buried somewhere in the middle of the magazine. But it still wouldn’t net her the cover.

Frustratingly, neither would the pitifully small bit of information she’d been able to cull together on the man who’d arrested Burns in the first place. Because Hunter was still an active-duty FBI agent, there was almost no information to be found—including his darned first name, which had driven her crazy for an entire day. Then she’d shifted focus, spending almost as much time studying Hunter Sr. as she’d spent pulling together information on Charles Burns.

The man was amazing. The more she found out, the more she wanted—no, needed—to know.

She pulled up that document, noting that the word count was quickly heading toward a novel instead of an article. The man was fascinating, both in his adventures with the FBI and in the connections he had outside it. What must it be like to have a father who stood godfather to the child of a notorious con artist? Who’d headed up the FBI, had dinner with presidents and vacationed with foreign leaders? Rick Hunter’s story enthralled her.

It’d been through studying his father that she’d garnered the most information on Hunter. She’d talked to people who were happy to share stories about the senior Mr. Hunter, and she had charmed out of them bits and pieces about Hunter’s own talent for looking past the obvious and his habit of solving cases through unconventional methods.

“Your tea.”

She mumbled a thanks to the waiter as she made more notes on her laptop. This profile of Rick Hunter was probably the best work she’d ever done.

“Well, you’re bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning. And with a fake murderer on the loose.” Sugar Dish, as the brunette had introduced herself three nights past, sidled into the chair opposite Marni with a big smile. Ever since the mystery murder had occurred, everyone had been sleuthing their hearts out. “I don’t know how you do it. Must be rough, those all-nighters with your boss.”

Marni sighed, and realizing she wasn’t going to get any more writing done, shut her laptop cover and gave Sugar, or Carla as she was known outside the train, an impatient look.

“Again with the all-nighters jokes?” She sipped her tea while Sugar ordered a cup of coffee. “You know we’re not really a thing.”

“And you know I think that’s a horrible shame.” The brunette grinned and fanned herself. “Because your handsome roommate is worth losing sleep over.”

Wasn’t that the truth?

Most guys, after a couple of days of constant exposure, lost that initial oh-my-God-gorgeous appeal.

Hunter, though, just kept getting hotter. He was hot in the morning, with his blurry-eyed mumbles and stubbled chin. He was cute in the afternoon, during the one hour he’d designated that she was allowed in the room—as long as she brought a snack. He was freaking sexy as hell in the evening, when he wound down and relaxed, losing a little of that intense edge that always seemed to drive him the rest of the time. He was fascinating and so damned cute, the way he’d share stories about him and his father, the hero worship he’d mentioned once coming through loud and clear.

Was it any wonder she wasn’t getting sleep?

Or that each passing night made her think there were much better ways to spend those endless waking minutes instead of staring into the dark, resisting her body’s urges.

The other woman thanked the server, waiting for him to pour her coffee and leave the creamer. While doctoring her caffeine with that and enough sugar to give a diabetic a coma, she studied Marni’s face.

“Of course, it looks like you’re doing just fine on that lack of sleep already. Wouldn’t it be better if you were having great sex to go with it?”

Marni snickered into her teacup. She’d been prepared to straight up dislike the other woman. Especially after she’d hit so hard on Hunter that first night. Jealousy wasn’t a pretty thing, but it was powerful.

“We’re not a couple,” she said, trotting out her usual excuse. “We’re strangers who happen to be sharing a berth. Just like this train would have seen in its heyday.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Sugar waved that away. “But you’re a smart woman. You’ve got brains and looks, and enough savvy to know that the only reason the two of you are both lying awake all night in separate beds is because you are choosing to.”

Something Hunter reminded her of each night.

Not in words.

But in the look in his eyes, the husky tone of his voice as he said good-night. He didn’t tease, or play games like some guys would, like insisting he always slept naked and stripping down in front of her. Instead, he respected her no, kept his boxers on and tortured her with the wonder of what was underneath.

She was going crazy.

Just thinking about it got her hot, made her want to wiggle in her seat.

“I’m not a fling kind of gal,” Marni demurred truthfully. She could be. She would be, if it wasn’t for this article. She wanted to be, given how intensely her body reacted when Hunter was in the room. How her nipples beaded at the sound of his voice. How the few times they’d casually touched, her thighs melted.

She took a deep breath, reminding herself that, as always, career came first. It had to.

And she couldn’t, in good conscience, use a guy for a story while riding his body to new heights of orgasmic pleasure.

“I’m hearing a lot of are nots out of you,” Sugar said with a tilt of her head. “What about the ares? What are you?”

Horny.

Obsessed.

Quickly sliding toward infatuated.

What she was must have shown on her face, because Sugar reached over and gave Marni’s hand a sympathetic pat.

“Sweetie, if you want something, you know perfectly well how to make it happen.” With that, and a wink that was as natural as it was in character, coffee cup in hand, the brunette rose, tossed her hair over her shoulder and scanned the room. “Now, I’m off to find out who is allergic to red roses, but loves hot bubble baths before bed. Three days down, three left to find the killer.”

She arched a look at Marni, who, figuring one good turn deserved another, angled her head to the three crimson roses in the bud vase in front of her.

“Oh, good point.” Scanning the room to see who had ditched their centerpiece, Sugar gave a little finger wave and was on her sleuthing way.

Marni gave the departing woman a grumpy glare.

She had no problem figuring out how to get what she wanted.

The problem she had was figuring out how to not take what she shouldn’t want.

It was exhaustion. That had to be the problem. If she’d had sleep, she wouldn’t be having these crazy ideas. Or, at least without the cloud of fatigue, she’d be mentally strong enough to shove them back in a dark corner of her mind where she could more easily ignore them.

That was it. She’d spent yesterday afternoon in the library car, dozing next to a corner bookcase. She’d awoken to the hissing whispers of six people, three of whom were sure Hunter was the murderer, and the other three just as sure he’d been murdered himself in a surprise twist they hadn’t heard yet.

When they’d seen Marni was awake, they’d all plastered on their most innocent smiles and pumped her for information on her boss, Lex Lanternjaw.

“He can eat lunch out here,” she decided in a grumpy mutter. Scooping her laptop into her messenger bag with a scowl, she left the dining car and stormed toward her cabin. Hunter was making her job harder, her fake job and her real one, by hiding out in their berth. He could get his tush out in public so people quit trying to pump her for information.

And while he did, she could take a nap.

A glorious, deep-sleep, cozied-under-the-covers nap.

It was all she could do not to melt into a puddle right there in the corridor.

With a big smile, her arguments all neatly lined up, she flung open the cabin door.

There, in the desk chair exactly where she’d expected to find him, was Hunter.

Sleeping.

She almost slammed the door shut, just to watch him jump.

Then she noticed the exhaustion on his face.

Looked as though the two of them had his-and-hers matching circles under their eyes.

She sighed, her entire body sagging under the weight of her shoulders. She was so tired, she felt as if her head was floating a foot over her body. She needed sleep.

Marni shut the door with a quiet snick, then laid her laptop on the small table next to it. Sliding off her shoes, she eyed the button that would release the bunk from hell.

If she pushed the button, it’d wake Hunter.

Then they’d have to have the argument over him leaving and her napping. And she was just too tired to argue.

Besides, three nights she’d lain on that bunk. For a piece of mattress-covered plywood, it wasn’t too uncomfortable. If she hadn’t been constantly struggling against the desperate need to climb down and jump the man beneath her, she might have actually slept okay.

But it wasn’t as comfy as the bed. The bed was glorious. The bed was wide. The bed was sleepy-time heaven.

She was napping in the bed.

She stopped at Hunter’s side, glancing at the work spread out around him. The laptop showed a lock screen. The papers sitting next to the multilock briefcase looked like they were in code. Even his notes were some form of weird shorthand she couldn’t decipher. All she could make out were the initials B.B. here and there.

Snoop?

Or sleep?

No contest.

Silent as a mouse, Marni carefully, oh-so-slowly, pulled the duvet back. Her watchful gaze never left Hunter’s face as she slipped under the plush cotton and slowly, as if the sound of the feathers compressing might wake him, lay her head on the pillow.

Oh, mercy.

It felt so good, she almost cried.

Breathing deep, she inhaled the rich scent of Hunter’s cologne that permeated the bedding. It was like being wrapped in his arms. Hugged close.

Slowly, so slow she wasn’t even sure when it happened, her eyes drifted closed. Her brain drifted into that glorious cloud that was a deep, dreamless sleep. Her last thought was how wonderful it felt, as if she was actually in bed with Hunter.

* * *

MARNI WAS FLOATING. Somewhere, high above the level that consciousness could currently reach—higher than she had any interest in checking out—something nagged. Like a thorn in her shoe, it poked at her, trying to get her attention.

She snuggled deeper into the pillow, easily ignoring everything except how wonderful she felt.

Wow. Sleep was awesome.

Warm, delicious and awesome.

And a total turn-on.

Not an unusual state for her these days. It was as if being around Hunter had flipped her desire meter from average to super-high, keeping her in a constant state of excitement.

This wasn’t the usual sex dream, though.

Maybe it was four days in close proximity to the hottest guy she’d ever met. Hormones run amok. Constant awareness keeping her passions simmering. Heck, maybe it was just horny overload.

Whatever it was, Marni’s body was on fire.

Curiosity pierced her sleepy cocoon.

She pulled herself out of sleep just enough to take stock of what was going on.

She could feel the rumbling motion. So she was on the train.

Warm sunshine glowed behind her closed lids. So it was early afternoon.

The duvet was light and comforting over her body, the mattress soft and giving beneath her. So she was still in bed.

And there was a hard body wrapped around her back, one arm thrown over her waist. Her body was awash in a lusty sort of awareness, her nipples aching and the damp heat between her thighs needy.

She wasn’t dreaming.

Her eyes flew open and, without moving her head, she glanced down at the hand pressed against her belly. Just there, within inches of relieving that damp, hot need.

Holy shit.

She was in bed with Hunter.

Again.

How did this keep happening?

She should get up.

She should rip herself out of his arms, jump from the bed and throw a fit. Accuse him of taking advantage of her. Of sneaky napping practices. She should be outraged.

She snuggled deeper instead, breathing deep the scent of his skin, letting the warmth seep into her muscles, relaxing her even more.

Outrage?

She wasn’t sure she could force herself out of his arms even if the train were on fire.

God, he felt good.

Hard and solid.

Warm and safe.

Comforting and, oh, yeah, she wiggled her butt just a little against his groin, he felt sexy.

“Do that one more time and you’re going to have to deal with the results,” he murmured sleepily against her hair.

Her breath caught in her throat. She was tempted. Oh, so very tempted.

And in this second, with Hunter’s arms tight around her and his erection pressing its delicious length along her tush, she couldn’t think of a single reason not to give in to that temptation.

At least, not a single reason she cared about.

* * *

HUNTER WAITED, EVERY FACET of his being hoping she’d wiggle her ass again. Just like he’d hoped, every night on this train, that she’d hang her head over the edge of that damned bunk and tell him she’d changed her mind.

That she wanted to strip them both naked and play a few rounds of count the climaxes.

He knew better.

Over the past few days, she’d been sweet. She’d been friendly. She’d been fun and entertaining and sexy as hell.

She’d also been sticking to her no.

Still, a guy woke from a dead sleep to find his fantasy woman in his bed, he was bound to hope.

Hunter was used to catnaps. His was a job of long hours and odd sleeping arrangements, so he’d taught himself early on to snatch enough energy from fifteen, twenty minutes of shut-eye to let him power through.

He’d opened his eyes, and there she was, like a fairy-tale princess, waiting under the covers.

He hadn’t been able to resist climbing in with her. Both to freak her out, because he loved that chiding look she gave him, and because he was weak. Yes, he admitted it to himself. He was weak enough to take whatever chance he could get to wrap his arms around the delicate blonde. To hold her, breathe in her scent, to tempt his body with the feel of her curves.

And yeah, to hope she’d be tempted right back.

Enough to change her no to a hell yes.

He’d been doing a damned good job of avoiding Marni so far.

Focusing on the case. Scouring the files his agents had taken from Charles Burns’s secret safes. Delving into the computer drive they’d recovered from a house nobody realized he owned. The information Beverly Burns had turned over was a gold mine. So much so that Hunter was taking an extra careful pass to make sure it was all real. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust the woman’s fury against her husband trying to blow her up along with his building. But Hunter had an innate wariness of gift horses who were angling for a deep cover in WitSec, and a fat payoff to continue the luxurious life they felt they deserved.

He’d be a lot further if he’d been getting sleep.

The first night, he’d blamed it on his body’s aches. A taped rib wasn’t comfortable to sleep on, and the constant motion of the train was doing weird things to his ruptured eardrum.

The second night, he decided it was that, plus the fact that the only time he slept with another person in the room—unless they’d just had sex—was when he was undercover. So his senses were on automatic alert, keeping him from anything but the most cursory of rest.

Last night, he’d dropped the bullshit excuses.

He’d lain here on this very bed, staring up at the bunk above him, aching to touch Marni. To taste her. To feel her in his arms again.

He wanted her like crazy.

And then she moved.

Just a little.

So little, his brain argued that she might have only been breathing.

His dick argued right back that she’d just tossed aside the no and opened the door to yes.

Hunter hesitated.

And she moved again.

This time, with the sweet pressure of her butt against his erection, there was no mistaking her intention.

“Oh, yeah,” he murmured, sliding the silky swathe of her hair aside so he could plant his lips on her delicate throat. He breathed in the soft floral scent of her hair and groaned. “Oh, yeah, baby.”

His mouth moved over her skin, sliding, kissing, caressing. One hand was anchored between their bodies, but the other was free to roam. And roam it did. Up the rounded curve of her hip, down the gentle slope of her waist and along the glorious weight of her breast. He cupped the weight, loving how her breath shuddered and her breath quickened.

Needing to make sure this was a genuine yes, not something she could dismiss later with a half-assed I-was-asleep excuse, he swiftly shifted positions. So Marni was flat on her back, staring up at him, those big blue eyes rounded with shock and blurred with passion.

She was gorgeous.

Pale pink washed her skin, making it glow. Those cupid’s bow lips were open, whether in shock or invitation, he didn’t care. He took them anyway.

His gaze not releasing hers, he kept the kiss soft. Easy. Uncomplicated.

The way he usually liked his relationships.

The complete opposite of this.

Because as soft as she was, there was nothing easy or uncomplicated about Marni.

Her eyes didn’t shift, didn’t try to slide away. Instead, they challenged. They tempted. They dared him to take it further, to show her what he could do.

Hunter had never refused a dare in his life. But he’d never been as excited about meeting one as he was in this second.

His hands anchored on either side of her head, he took the kiss deeper. His tongue slid along her bottom lip, then traced the edge of her teeth. Passion flared in her eyes, but she didn’t blink.

Instead, her tongue, delicate and cool, met his. Just the tip, as if she was testing the taste of him. Her breath was a soft, fluttering inhalation. Then she moaned.

Oh, yeah, baby.

She liked what she was tasting.

His tongue dove deep, pulling hers into an intense dance. Swirling, tangling, thrusting against each other. Hunter shifted, so his body weight was angled between his hip and one shoulder, so his hand was free to roam. And roam it did. His fingers skimmed, light and teasing, over her shoulder and down her chest. His palm hovered over her breast, then slid across the soft cotton fabric covering her stomach and down to her low belly where her shirt was tucked into another one of those sexy, hip-skimming, knee-hugging skirts. He didn’t dip lower. Just skimmed. Teased. Reveled in the soft give of her body beneath his hand.

She had the most incredible body.

Welcoming, warm, gloriously feminine.

He wanted more. Needed more. Had been driving himself crazy wondering what more would be like.

Now he was going to find out.

Excitement surged, adding an urgency to Hunter’s hunger.

His mouth delved deeper. He reveled in Marni’s sweet, rich flavor, his fingers working their way back up her body button by button, freeing each from the fabric and revealing silky soft skin. When he reached her chest and that last button, he couldn’t resist. He pulled his mouth from hers to look at the bounty he’d just uncovered.

Like Aphrodite rising from the foam, her breast was encased in frothy lace the color of the inside of a seashell. Lush and rounded, he could see the raspberry tip through the shimmery fabric. His finger traced, light as air, around that tip.

Marni gasped.

He ran his thumb across the pebbling flesh. Once, twice, then pinched.

Marni moaned.

His finger slid between the pale pink lace and her even paler skin, her nipple hardening to a gratifying peak beneath his knuckle.

Marni’s fingers dug into him, one hand on the waistband of his jeans, the other gripping his shoulder as if deciding whether to pull him over her or shove him down so she could straddle his body.

Either position was fine with him.

Figuring he should help her decide, he gently tugged the lace down, revealing one gorgeous breast. He closed his eyes for a second, so blown away at her perfection, then opened them again because, well, he just couldn’t resist.

He took that raspberry-red, pouting tip between his lips, twirling his tongue around the sensitive flesh. Her cry of pleasure was almost lost in a pounding sound from somewhere behind them.

Hunter’s body tensed, but he didn’t stop.

The only threat he could sense was to the end of their pleasure. And he wasn’t ready for that to happen.

Marni gasped, though, making as if to pull away.

“Ignore it,” he advised against her nipple. To emphasize his point, he nipped at the bud with a gentle scrape of his teeth. Her body arched, shuddering as she pressed her breast closer to his mouth. Hunter sucked, hard, reveling in the taste, the texture, the deliciousness of her.

The knock came again.

Marni’s body tensed. He could actually feel her desire seeping away, like a faucet shutting down.

If Hunter’s mouth hadn’t been full, he’d have clenched his teeth. Ignore, ignore, ignore, he mentally chanted. But he didn’t say a word. This, like their sleeping arrangements, was her decision.

“You should get that,” she finally breathed.

Hunter pulled away to stare at her, biting back the barrage of cusswords. Her eyes were blurry with passion, but her jaw was set. Hunter wanted to argue. He damned near wanted to beg. Instead, like the gentleman he hated himself for being at that moment, he ripped his body off hers and stormed across the room.

“What?” he snarled as he yanked the door open.

“Your, um, outfits for tonight,” the porter stammered, his eyes flashing fear. “My instructions were to provide costuming for the big event, that you’d take part in the mystery skit tonight.”

“Whose damned instructions are those?”

The kid, his hand trembling, shoved the hangers at Hunter, then started flipping through papers so fast, he tore a couple.

“Mr. Murray indicated when he booked the room that you’d take one of the roles this evening. We assumed—” The kid stopped to gulp so hard, his Adam’s apple almost bounced. “We figured that meant both people in the room. You can skip it, though. I mean, I’ll make—get someone else to take the parts. You don’t have to do it.”

Hunter had scared plenty of grown men in his day. But he’d never felt like this kind of jerk.

“No, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize what was going on,” he apologized. When the kid tried to take the hangers back, he shifted them, then dug into his still painfully tight jeans to find some cash. “Here, thanks.”

“The, um, the instructions are pinned to the costumes.”

“Okay.” Hunter started to shut the door.

“The dinner dance starts in an hour.”

“Right.” Hunter glared.

The porter swallowed again, then turned heel and scurried away.

Dinner dance. In costumes.

Murray was definitely getting his revenge for Hunter pissing him off.

Shutting the door, Hunter took his time turning around to face the bed and its delightful occupant. He wasn’t sure what he’d see on her face, but he was betting it wasn’t going to be an invitation to finish what they’d started.

He tossed the costumes, hangers and all, over the back of a chair, then met Marni’s eyes.

She looked like she’d been well loved.

Her hair tumbled in a tangled mass of curls over her shoulders. Her eyes were heavy with passion, makeup smudged and lips swollen. She’d tugged her clothes into place and now sat, prim as a schoolgirl, on the edge of the bed. Her feet were still bare, though. Hunter wanted to kneel between her thighs and lift one foot, cover her toes with hot kisses, then work his way up her leg.

“So?” He waited.

She swallowed hard, then lifted her chin. “So that was fun.”

“Fun?”

Hunter couldn’t help it. He laughed.

“Let me get this straight. You broke the rule by coming into the cabin during off-limit hours.” While he had unsecured top secret material out in the open, no less.

“You climbed into my bed. Rubbed your sweet ass against me until I had a hard-on to rival a railroad spike. You drove me to the brink of what had promised to be the most incredible orgasm of my life. And then you forced me to answer the door.”

He gave her an are-you-freaking-kidding-me stare.

Unfazed by his rant, Marni batted her eyelashes right back.

“What? And that isn’t fun for you?”