“I can’t believe it’s over,” Jessica Beck whispered to her brother-in-law. “I never thought it would end like this.”
“I’m still in total shock,” Keegan replied—his voice low. “Daniel wasn’t a spy.”
“He was a lot of things, but definitely not a spy.”
Her husband, Daniel, had been convicted of espionage while on a photo shoot for News Weekly. He’d always been a manipulator, playing games with people’s lives. Odd, that before he died, he’d lost all control of his own.
She recalled the scene of his execution in a Middle East village shown on a viral video. They had warned the images were graphic, but still she had watched. She released a pent up breath that came out in short, broken sobs. “It was horrible.”
“I hate you saw that.” Keegan’s hand remained on her back, rubbing gently.
For the last hour, she had innocently lain in Keegan’s arms, waiting for her pain to ease. She gripped his shoulders, her face pressed into his chest. She needed his strength. His strong arms held her tightly against him as he too grieved for his younger brother.
Until now, it had been over four years since Keegan had spoken to her. His last words had been said at her and Daniel’s wedding.
Congratulations. You deserve one another.
After their wedding, Keegan joined the Army and had only been back home three months but in time to see Daniel at Christmas.
It surprised her he’d stopped by to console her. Now here he was, holding her. It was as if they’d gone back in time. They’d been high school sweethearts until the day his youngest brother, Michael died from a snowmobile accident. She’d been driving. She was the one Keegan blamed. Then when she’d started dating Daniel, his resentment grew.
He had had two brothers, and she’d managed to take them both, leaving him with nothing.
Had he finally forgiven her?
Emotions swelled in her over the loss of Michael, Daniel, and the relationship she’d once cherished with Keegan. The Beck brothers had played a major role in her life in one way or another.
A whimper escaped her lips, and she gasped for breath.
Keegan patted her back. “I know it hurts. I hurt too. Let it out, Jessica. I’m here for you.”
She squeezed him tighter. “I feel so guilty.”
“But, you don’t understand.” She sniffed a few times, then cleared her throat. “Daniel was so hateful the last time he was home, I wished he’d never come back. And now he’s dead.”
“Oh, Jess. That doesn’t mean you caused it. Daniel knew the risks involved.” He paused. “He could be a real ass at times. Did you tell my mom?”
“I was too embarrassed to tell anyone. He wouldn’t even sleep in the same room with me. I tried so hard to be a good wife and to please him. But he wouldn’t let me.”
“Daniel was my brother, and I never could figure him out. He didn’t deserve you.”
But there was another reason she’d made the fatal wish. One she wouldn’t tell Keegan. During the interview with a young woman photographer who’d been on the trip with Daniel, Jessica realized the truth. This woman had his love and made him happy. This sleek, exotic, beautiful woman pleased him in bed, not her.
And now that he would never return to Alaska, guilt blended with grief to increase her pain.
“I didn’t love Daniel, but I did care about him. I would’ve never wished him the agonizing torture he’d endured or the brutal execution that became his fate.”
“I know, Jess.”
When a trembling sigh escaped her, Keegan held her closer.
The late hour didn’t matter.
For two months since Daniels abduction, she’d lived in limbo. It had happened no sooner than his team had crossed the border.
Earlier that evening the news media had pursued her as though she were a celebrity, stalking her and shoving microphones in her face. But Keegan had made them leave, even threatening several with bodily harm.
Light flickered from the lamp beside the bed, bothering her tired, sensitive eyes. She’d intended to replace the bulb but kept forgetting to.
The only sounds in the house were the rhythmic ticking from the clock and the thermostat switching on and off.
With her face against him, she listened to Keegan’s heart beating. It beat out the song of life. This reminded her of when they used to lay in the hammock together as teens.
“It’s all right, Jess. You’re going to get through this,” he whispered, his warm breath softly caressing her ear. His mouth lingered.
He smelled like wood in a fireplace, evergreen, and the scent of a virile man. It felt so right to be in his arms.
Finally, the light bulb blew, leaving them in darkness.
In those dark moments, her lips found Keegan’s.
The first kiss revealed light affection.
Comforting. So comforting.
Jessica’s pain eased slightly.
The kisses grew in intensity, driven by her grief.
She couldn’t stop touching him as her hands kneaded his shoulders and arms. He kissed down her neck before finding her mouth again.
Stop the pain.
Just stop the damn pain.
The deeper his tongue swept the depths of her mouth, the more her grief and guilt diminished. His large, rough hands eased over her sensitive skin as he pushed her flannel gown up over her head, leaving her naked. Sexual impulses surged through her. Her hands fumbled with his belt, then she unsnapped his pants.
She couldn’t think.
Refused to think.
She needed to feel loved, but most of all she needed to feel alive.
The touch of his lips to her nipple made her moan as she raked her fingers through his dark hair. The desire that hummed between her thighs intensified. “I need you, Keegan.”
“Oh, God, Jessica. I can’t stop.”
As his mouth returned to hers, he mounted her, urgently parting her legs with his knee. She raised her hips guiding him. He thrust forward, driving deep inside her, causing her to whimper.
Their flesh heated as his pelvis pounded against her. The heat from his muscular body made her skin sizzle.
Sweet, hungry passion drove Jessica until they both cried out in ecstasy.
Their passionate cries immediately transformed into sounds of distress as Jessica acknowledged what had just happened.
Keegan broke into deep sobs. His body shook violently, and he cried out like a wounded animal. He rolled over on his back, pushing her aside, draping his arm over his eyes as he grieved.
Her own body fell limp like seaweed, drained of any energy from the despair that consumed her.
Oh, my God, what have I done?
Guilt and remorse pushed upward from Jessica’s stomach to her throat, making her gag. Adulteress.
No. . . .no, I’m not.
But her reassurance didn’t stop her from feeling like a sordid seductress.
Poor Keegan. What must he be feeling?
Keegan, are you all right?” He inhaled a deep ragged breath.
“No, I’m not. I just had sex with my brother’s wife. Shit, he’s not even buried yet.”