Prologue | Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday
It was an unspoken rule, at least among men any way, that all was fair in love and war.
Chris Larabee had never had reason to put the adage into effect, at least not until he had met Mary Travis. From the day she had walked into his life, he knew that things would never be simple again and for the first time in too long, something grown cold and dead in his heart was revitalised by a single ember sparked by her breezy smile.
He had not known that he was falling love with her though, at least not until he was up to his neck in the emotion and was completely bewildered at how it could happen to him. Further more, to his astonishment, he found himself doing and saying things that was completely out of character for him. Chris had grown accustomed to being the brooding, sombre leader of Team 7, still mourning the loss of his wife and child. It was an easy persona to wear, at least for him anyway and it kept people from prying or trying to inundate him with sympathy since their fear kept them away. Secretly, he had grown so content with the grim mask he wore that he was not prepared for how easily Mary had decimated it.
And she had decimated it.
Around her, he did not feel sombre or dark. His mood lifted and he found himself enjoying their sparring matches, knowing without even understanding how it was possible he could be so sure, that she enjoyed it too. While her grief for her husband was not as intense as his, it was no less potent for her and when something was said to bring that pain to the surface, Chris felt an empathy for her that would surprise Mary if she knew about it. For the first time in his life, Chris Larabee found himself with the only other woman in the universe besides Sarah, that he understood.
So when a goddamn CPA named Gerard Whitman turned up out of nowhere, with his sensitive and downright drippy manners, setting his sights for the only woman Chris Larabee could ever think of being with again, the leader of Team 7 felt perfectly justifiable for what he had done. Once again, it came back to everything being fair in love and war, right?.
As found himself behind his desk, staring at what the National Weather Bureau might designate Hurricane Really Pissed Off Mary, he wondered if using that argument to explain himself would get him out of trouble. After all, had that not been the way of things since the dawn of time? He could not be helped if he was slave to the ritual of competition between males for the female of the species since the time they were primates. However, judging by the look in her eyes as she slammed the door to his office behind her while he waited for the torture to begin, he decided that it would probably just make things worse.
Still, Chris being Chris, was not about to let the situation slip out of his control, no matter how furious she was and she was very angry.
"Mary....." He started to say.
"DON'T MARY ME!" She roared. "You...you....don't get to talk your way out of this." She sputtered in nothing less than outraged fury. The venom in her voice was enough to shut him right up immediately. "Of all the crap I have had to take in my life, this has got to be the most juvenile, stupid, puerile garbage that a grown man who should not be allowed to handle an ice cream scoop let alone a gun, has ever pulled on me!"
She ranted as she paced the floor in front of his desk, so livid with rage that the mention of his gun made Chris glance instinctively at weapon hanging behind him on the wall. Slowly, Chris began to inch towards the gun, rolling quietly along the carpeted floor when suddenly she leaned forward as she dropped in front of his desk on her palms and glared at him, her blue grey eyes were as black as her mood. "Don't even think of getting out of here." She growled and Chris stopped in his tracks.
"Look," Chris tried to regain control of things again. "I know you're mad..."
"Mad!" She looked at him wide eyed, unable to believe his estimation of the situation. "Mister, I'm not mad. Furious yes, murderous definitely, almost certainly homicidal but hell no, I ain't mad!" She glowered. "How could you even think to tell Gerard something like that! I mean I know you've got a sick sense of humour and you're somewhat desperate for a woman but teenage boys have a better way of coping with it than you do! Besides, don't you have a credit card? There are 900 numbers you know! Get off on your sick lesbian fantasies during your own time!"
"Hey!" Chris stood up only to be shoved back into his seat by Mary.
"I didn't say you could stand up!" She barked and gave him a glare that made the infamous one he was known for himself pale in comparison. "You will explain to Gerard that you were delusional and twisted and you made a mistake!"
"Like I hell I will." Chris found his voice at that point. There was no way in hell, he was going to be made to apologise to Gerard Whitman for anything. Making her out to be a lesbian to get rid of the competition, aside, he still had his pride.
"Like hell you will or I will never speak to you again!" She retaliated.
"And this is a threat how?" Chris returned sweetly. "You've be a pain in the ass since I was forced to put up with you! I'm sorry I made a little joke at your expense but you couldn't possibly be serious about that idiot could you? I mean he's known you long enough to not be stupid enough to take the word of a complete stranger that you were that way inclined!"
"The word of brain dead, scum sucking pig but yes, I suppose you could look at it that way." She retorted sharply, daring him to counter that opinion of him. "Besides, what business is it of yours if I took him seriously? Gerard is polite, he's sweet, he knows how to treat a woman."
"You mean he's whipped." Chris snorted with a sneer of utter derision.
Mary's jaw dropped open and her cheeks became redder if such a thing was possible. "Well you won't have to worry about being in that position now will you?" She said just as sweetly, giving a triumphant smirk as she made that statement..
"Don't flatter yourself." He snorted, turning away, not wishing her to see that he was at all bothered by that statement. He was not. Mary wanted him as much as Chris wanted her. He just wasn't in denial about it.
"I don't need to flatter myself," she said smugly and leaned closer towards him. "You haven't take your eyes off me since I got here! I've noticed all the pathetic attempts to get my attention, the least of which is this ridiculous story you've told Gerard!"
"Pathetic?" Chris growled, started to feel his own temper stoked into being and Mary had never seen it in full flower to beware of it. "Correct me I'm wrong Ms Travis but you didn't have to come with me the past week, if you weren't so hot be around me either, you could have gone off with anyone of my men. I don't particularly get off on being a nurse maid to you while you try to play big boy games."
"Why you sexist son of a bitch!" She cried out in anger, her mouth gasping in 'o' of outrage as he made that statement and struck him square in the jaw.
Chris felt back into his chair from the force of the blow. She stared back at him, the least bit unrepentant as Chris stood up, rubbing his chin. Leaning forward, he decided that he had enough of this. Narrowing his eyes, Chris exuded a smug expression of perfect calm before he said in a low voice. "That's what they all say...just before they beg me to take them home."
"You twisted...." She raised her hand to strike him again when he caught her wrist, wrapping his fist around her slender hand.
"Don't even think about it." He warned in a low hiss.
"I'm not afraid of you." Mary returned but the truth was she was because suddenly, the rules had changed and she felt the whole thing slipping out of control, her emotions moving from the safe place of being angry with him to the more uncharted waters of naked desire. Mary could see that he was just aware of the shift as she was although he seemed to be better prepared for it than she. However, Mary was not about to cry defeat yet.
"You look it." He replied, unwilling to give an inch because right now in this room, they were getting down to the heart of how they felt about each other, far from the insecurities and trivialities that made modern day relationship so damned hard. He was aware that he was backing her into a corner, forcing her to say it even though the heat of their chemistry saturated the air with its musk, until it became intoxicating and impossible for either of them to ignore.
"I am not afraid of you." She said firmly, challenging him to say otherwise.
Chris did not speak. Instead, he pushed his mouth against hers, crushing her soft, silken lips with his own. For someone caught by surprise, Mary seemed to respond, her lips parting for him as his tongue forced its way past her teeth, tasting her and moaning inwardly at just how perfect she felt. He felt his pulse quicken with arousal as he took in a deep breath of her scent and he reached for her shoulders to draw her closer when suddenly she wrenched herself free of him and slapped him hard across the face
"How dare you!" She hissed. Her cheeks flushed as she stared at him. For a moment, she seemed trapped in amber, stuck between that limbo between hesitation and a leap of faith. Her lips were red and swollen from the delivery of his searing kiss and Chris stared at her in shock at the sudden rejection after such an ardent response when he saw her breathing hard and fast, trying decide what she ought to do.
Suddenly, she leaned forward again and grabbed him by the collar of his shirt, her own passion taking hold as her mouth started plundering his, her fingers raking through his blond hair while he wrapped his arms around her and nearly dragged her across the desk. Objects clattered to the floor but both of them were oblivious to everything except the raw aching need that had been stabbing at both since the first moment they had sighted each other. Chris felt himself burning inside as he kissed her, unable to believe just how incredible she tasted.
Mary felt her head swim, stunned that they had been reduced to this as she felt him suckle on her lower lip before moving to thrust his tongue into her mouth again and exploring the sweet recess like some wonderful new discovery. Mary felt herself swept away by the power of that kiss, feeling every perfect sensation down to her toes. She could feel his large hands gliding up and down her back, caressing the flesh with such agonising pleasure that she felt dizzy. The pleasure of him so eclipsing that she could nothing but let him continue because she could not imagine him stopping.
"Oh god Chris..." She groaned as she felt his heart pounding against his.
Chris almost came undone at the sound of her languid moan when he running his fingers through her hair, his lips bringing her closer and closer to surrender.
God, he was amazing, Mary managed to think as she felt him slid further down her neck while at the same time paralysing her with caress. His breath quickened as he paused a moment to look at the magnificence of alabaster skin and Mary felt her cheeks flush, suddenly shy as she recognised the hungry need inside those blue eyes as he remained poised over her.
Her palms explored the taut chest, caressed the muscles of his back and drew a pleasured sigh from him at her touch. Chris did not believe he could want any woman so badly when he grabbed her wrists and forced them to her sides before he set upon her, enclosing his mouth over hers in another passionate kiss.
Jesus Christ. That was all that could register in Chris Larabee's mind as he continued to kiss her, savouring every incredible taste that he could barely stand it. He wanted her so bad, the need for it was beyond reason and started to feel his own resolve to keep in control of the situation starting to evaporate....
"Mr Larabee, I am so sorr............" Ezra Standish's voice followed the bursting open of his office door when the ATF agent barged in without knocking and froze in his tracks at the scene before them. Mary let out a soft squeal and shoved Chris off her. The leader of the ATF was so startled by the unexpected arrival of his soon to be dismembered agent that he practically fell off his desk and toppled his chair over on his way to the carpeted floor.
In the meantime, Mary had recovered enough to compose herself before embarrassment made her bolt for the door, with Ezra so stunned that for the first time since either Chris or Mary had known him, he was unable to speak. Mary was mortified as she restored herself to respectability, feeling as if she had broken out of a state of delirium and was still uncertain whether or not it was a good thing or not. She could not deny how close she had come to letting Chris take her in his office because no man had inspired that much desire or feeling in her since Steven had died..
"Mary!" Chris got to his feet and ran after her as he saw her bolting out of his office, his shirt open and flowing behind him. He caught the look of wide eyed fear in her eyes and realised that if he did not catch her, she may very well become lost to him forever. In the light of reason, perhaps the burst of passion had come too prematurely for someone who had not quite recovered from losing a husband, to begin a relationship so intense.
"Chris..." Mary stammered. "Please, I've got to go." She looked clearly distressed. "This was a mistake. I don't know if I'm ready for this yet."
"Mary, don't go away like this." He tried desperately to convince her. Chris reached for her and was mildly shocked when she recoiled from him like she had been scalded.
"No!" She cried out almost in tears. She felt awful about treating him this way but she did not know what else to do. It was too soon! It had only been two years! "I can't deal with this now!"
Chris did not know how to stop her and decided that he could not if she was unprepared to deal with the feelings he knew for certain that she had towards him. The words to stop her would not come from his throat and all Chris could do was watch helplessly as she ran out of the office into the hallway.
He watched her disappear, swearing under his breath and asking himself over and over again, why it was so easy to speak when he was in a life and death situation but not when it was something of a personal nature and this important? She was afraid and he could not blame her for that because he had more than a few years to become accustomed to being without Sarah and Adam while Mary was fresh to the pain even though it was two years since she had become a widow.
Chris was still ruminating on this when suddenly he heard slow, deliberate footsteps behind him and he was struck with a stray, malevolent thought; let the rendering begin.
"Mr Larabee," Ezra stuttered in apology, certain he was going to be killed horribly and cursing that the rest of Team 7 because there would be no witnesses to give Chris pause in his probable need to murder him. "I am so sorry, I had no idea....I mean I came in to apologise for Julia and then I did not hear any shouting...of course there could be no shouting because you two were....never mind that....I mean I just assumed you were recovering from a serious tongue lashing....well let me phrase that another way...."
"Ezra." Chris took a deep breath and let it out. "Before I kill you, do you think you could possibly SHUT THE HELL UP!"
"Was I not attempting to do that?" He looked at Chris bewildered.
"That's it," Chris muttered. "I'm going to get my gun....."
Continues in Friday
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