First Time ~ Morning After

It’s a First Time post and this month it’s the first Morning After… lol. Either it’ll be great or very awkward. For this one, I chose Carved in Ice, because I kinda love how their first morning after went. Harlequin definitely wasn’t sure what to expect. Hope you enjoy it…

I’ve included the whole chapter, because… well it’s also where you meet Rigs from Going in Blind and I so love him. Feel free to only read whatever floats your boat.

Sunlight bathed the room when Quinn finally managed to open her eyes. It was obviously well past sunrise and, judging by the shadows stretching out across the floor, closer to noon.

She groaned, still trying to shake the fuzzy feeling from her head, when she realized what felt off. Russel was gone, his side of the bed cold. She bolted upright, grabbing at the covers as they slid to her waist. The room was cool, and she was naked.

Naked. She’d slept with Russel. Or, not slept.

She lifted her knees and braced her elbows on them, palming her face in her hands. When she’d woken last night, having sex with him had sounded like a great idea. They’d nearly died. Had been dancing around the attraction between them every second they were together. So, blowing off some steam—having a few orgasms—had seemed a reasonable recourse to all they’d been through. A small celebration of life.

But then, Russel had shifted gears. Had gotten…personal. Christ, he’d basically said that, if she agreed to have sex with him, she was agreeing to be in a relationship with him. A relationship.

The guy was nuts!

He’d just fought off armed men—men sent to kill her. And he thought getting involved was wise? Was anything other than completely insane, because she thought it was insane. Who signed up to have a bullseye put on their back over a tumble in the sheets?

Crazy people.

And ex-soldiers, it seemed.

But what was crazier—what blew her mind—was that she wanted one, too. Wanted to think in terms beyond the next sunrise. Beyond the end of the weekend. That’s as far as any “relationship” had ever gone. Two days then done. Over. Nothing but a ghost.

Russel seemed to think two years was equivalent to a first date. Twenty to celebrating a few months. It was as if he lived by a different time scale. The Russel scale. Like dog years only longer. Twenty to one. Like a bet at the race track.

She should have told him no. Sorry. Can’t do it. Can’t put your life on the line. Because she’d forgotten to mention the part where her father was a crime lord. One who apparently had holdings in her name. Her name. Harlequin James, photographer and heiress to a crime empire. Which meant she might go down with the ship when it finally took on water—through the hole she’d been trying to blast in the hull. The reason Thomas was gunning for her.

But, instead of shoving him away, taking the initiative and going to sleep on the couch, she’d surrendered. Actually surrendered. She might as well have waved a damn white flag in the air because she hadn’t put up any kind of a fight. Hadn’t remembered all the reasons she’d pushed him away. Nothing had registered beyond the hot, wet press of his mouth on hers, and the white-hot need that had sparked inside her.

Heat billowed up from her core, increasing her breath. God, the things he’d done to her. After they’d gotten the first round over—the one that had been better than any other sex she’d ever had—he’d gotten serious. Had mounted her, again, pushing her through several more orgasms before pumping his body weight of sperm into her. Then, he’d carried her to the shower. Naked, but she’d just clung to his shoulders, trying to kiss him the entire way.

They’d showered, fucked, then showered some more.

Then, after carrying her back, he’d settled between her thighs and tasted every inch of her. She couldn’t even remember how their last encounter had ended, fairly certain she’d passed out before he’d climaxed. But, judging on the stiffness in her joints, it had been just as mind-blowing as the other times.

Quinn took a deep breath, scrubbed her hands down her face then sat upright. The situation was definitely screwed up. And she wasn’t sure how she felt about putting not only Russel, but this “team” he’d mentioned, in the line of fire. But it didn’t seem to matter what she thought. Russel had made it clear he was hell bent on protecting her. Period. Arguing now, after he’d saved her life, seemed pointless.

Instead, she lifted the covers and swung her feet over the edge. She hoped the fact Russel hadn’t stayed in bed with her wasn’t an indication that he’d changed his mind. He’d be wise to. And she’d tell him to get out while he still could a dozen more times given the chance. But a part of her didn’t want him to go. Didn’t want to face this alone. Face the future alone.

After pushing anyone and everyone away—limiting herself to mostly acquaintances instead of friends—to never allowing herself to care about anyone more than idle friendship… Having Russel open the door to new possibilities—to a bonafide relationship—had cracked through the tough shell she’d built around her. And, like it or not, her damn heart had started pouring out. Seeping through the fissures until it was sitting there, exposed. Raw. Ready to be broken. She just hoped it was broken because he’d walked away and not because she’d gotten him killed.

The thought had her moving, reaching for her clothes, which Russel had folded on a chair at the end of the bed. She lifted her shirt and a note fluttered to the floor. Quinn bent over, unfolding the paper then reading the oddly neat handwriting.

Gone out for supplies. Rigs is here. The guy’s top notch. Ex-Marine. If things go sideways, glue yourself to his ass. And it would be wise not to venture off alone. He’s got the place…secured.


P.S. You’re damn cute lying there, snuffling, hair a perfect mess. Especially since I was the one who messed it up. Be back soon.

The guy was smug. Smug and pushy, and it made her heart beat faster because, beneath it all, he cared. He wasn’t just tagging along out of a sense of duty. Every look, every touch, was a display of how deeply he felt for her. He’d willingly put himself between her and bullets. Bullets! And he hadn’t even insisted she talk, yet. Had spent the night making her feel as if she was the center of his world. Even now, he’d left a note so she wouldn’t worry. Wouldn’t assume he’d just left.

Which she would have. Because that’s what she’d always done. Left. Escaped before anyone could figure out who she was or get caught in the crossfire.

She folded the note and shoved it in her pants’ pocket then quickly dressed. He’d left another towel for her, and she took a quick shower before tentatively heading for the main living area. Other than their room and the bathroom, she wasn’t sure what to expect. Hadn’t met this Rigs guy.

She reran what Russel and his buddy, Midnight, had said in the truck the night before. Something about a firefight. About him having scars and what she assumed was PTSD. Which, hell, she understood. Just one round of having someone shoot at her, and she felt like she was losing her mind. She couldn’t imagine what it would be like to face that day in, day out. Always putting your life on the line.

So, he likely had visible scars—the kind that some people wouldn’t understand. Would gawk at. Maybe had experienced some kind of amputation. She could deal with that. Had taken photographs of burn victims for an exposé and had seen her share of war veterans when she’d done the calendar spread. As long as he didn’t try to kill her, she’d manage.

The smell of coffee led her to the kitchen. A large pot was brewing in the far corner, a couple of mugs set out in preparation. She walked over, inhaling the rich scent, when a hand landed on her shoulder.

She screamed, grabbed the person’s wrist, locking it against her, then pivoted, ducking under the guy’s arm and successfully exchanging places. She turned to face the man, hands in the ready position, her weight shifted forward onto her toes.

A bemused smile greeted her before the guy crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the counter, his right side in silhouette. “Not bad, Red. I wasn’t expecting you to counter.”

Her breath heaved in her chest, the frantic sound echoing around them. She took a step back when he groaned and shook his head.

“Easy, I’m not going to hurt you.” He extended his hand. “The name’s Rigs. Ice’s buddy.”

Of course. This was his house, so obviously he was her host of sorts. She should have guessed that, but after all she’d been through, her body was primed to fight, first, ask questions, later.

Quinn stared at his outstretched hand for a few moments before shaking it as she dragged her gaze up to his face. Rigs was handsome—with piercing blue eyes and symmetrical features. His hair was longer than Russel’s but a similar shade of brown with hints of blonde running through it. His skin had a healthy tan to it, as if he’d spent a lot of time out in the sun. Though she suspected it was most likely from his career in the military. Ex-Marine, Russel’s note had said. Which translated into badass. Rigs had probably spent the past few years overseas in one desert camp after another.

He took a deep breath then turned to fully face her, exposing two large scars crossing his left side—from his temple, through his eyebrow, then down past the corner of his mouth. The lines were raised, with a few ladder-type stitch marks visible. God, he must have had the lacerations closed in the field. No self-respecting plastic surgeon at a hospital would have left that kind of damage behind. She couldn’t imagine how much it had hurt, and not just physically. While they’d most likely fade a bit with time, they’d be a permanent feature for the rest of his life. Not that she thought they detracted from his appearance, but she understood why he’d be sensitive about them.

She met his gaze, thankful she hadn’t flinched and that any flush on her cheeks would be attributed to their brief interaction. “You’re Rigs? Then why the hell did you sneak up on me like that?”

He watched her, eyes narrowed, his hand still holding hers. He seemed to be waiting for her to react, which she wouldn’t. She’s just hoped it didn’t mean they’d be standing there all day. Because he could search her face until sunset, and he wouldn’t find the kind of rejection she believed he was looking for. The kind that made him feel like less of a man. Less human. She thought the opposite. That the scars were badges of honor. Proof he’d had the balls to face the unthinkable without fear. Unlike her. She’d spent a decade running away from it. Hiding under another name so no one would figure out her secret. Her scars were invisible, but far uglier.

He sighed then chuckled, finally releasing her hand. “I wasn’t sneaking. Walked up to you like I would anyone.”

“Except where you didn’t make a sound. Most people would have called out or at least cleared their throat. I’m not used to people touching me out of the blue.”

He shrugged. “Old habits. I was just trying to get your attention.”

“You could try saying my name, next time. And it’s Quinn, not Red.”

“Quinn. Right. So, Quinn, how long have you studied jujitsu?”

“How did you know that’s what it was?”

Another shrug.

Damn, what was it about military guys and being able to read her? “A few years. It became obvious one day that it would be wise to be able to defend myself.”

“Smart. Women still tend to be targets for violence, however unfair that is. It’s unfortunate those moves won’t stop a bullet.”

No, but Russel had. Christ, she bet Rigs could, too. Like Superman or Wonder Woman. Just deflect them off his bare hands without sweating. She was sweating, again. Standing there, the weight of his stare pressing in on her, made her nervous. As if he knew who she really was but wasn’t letting on.

Could he? She’d had the odd person give her a second glance, as if they were trying to place her face, but she knew she’d never met Rigs before. She wouldn’t forget a guy like him. Like Russel. They were unforgettable. The kind of men who stood out in a crowd. Like a spot of color in a black and white photo.

She pushed away the thought. She hadn’t been Harlequin James for ten years. And she’d changed a lot in that time. She no longer resembled the mousy, skinny teenager she’d been. So, the chances Rigs knew who she was…


She took a few steps back, sinking into a chair next to a small round table. “I was more concerned with being able to knock the odd drunken guy on his ass than anything else. Though, I guess I’ll have to up my training. Learn how to avoid getting shot.”

Rigs snorted. “That’s easy. Don’t put yourself in the position where it can happen.”

She cocked her head off to the side. “It’s not like I went looking for trouble.” Well, in a way she had. She’d been snooping around. Gathering evidence. So, yeah, she had been looking for trouble, and it had definitely found her.

Another snort. The kind that told her Rigs didn’t believe her. “Doesn’t matter. You’ve got Ice, now. And he’s very good at avoiding bullets. Stopping them, too.”

That name, again. Ice.

“I keep hearing people call Russel that. Ice. Is it his nickname or something?”

“He didn’t tell you?”

She tried not to cringe, hating the way her face heated. The man had spent the better part of the night inside her, and she still only knew his first name. God, she was pathetic.

“To be honest, we haven’t really talked about anything personal.”

“Right. You wouldn’t want to accidentally blow your cover.” He smiled at her sharp intake of air, continuing without making another remark about her past. “So, what do you know about Russel?”

She crossed her arms over her chest. “Enough.”

“Then, you know he’s a PJ. Or was a PJ.”

“PJ? What’s a PJ?”

Rigs shook his head. “Please tell me you at least knew he was military.”

“I saw his tattoo. I know he’s former Special Forces. I just…didn’t dig any further. So, what’s a PJ?”

“Pararescue. They’re the crazy sons of bitches who go in when Special Forces get ambushed or shot down. They rescue our asses. Usually in the worst possible conditions. Russel’s the reason a few hundred soldiers aren’t lying in a pine box.”

God, Russel was even more heroic than she’d thought. She didn’t need to look up his vocation. She knew what pararescue meant. He jumped out of planes. Went wherever he was needed, which according to Rigs was behind enemy lines. That’s what he meant by worst possible conditions. That’s why Russel carried guys for miles. Why he hadn’t seemed fazed at all by three men trying to kill him, compliments of her. He’d faced worse and lived.

She met Rigs’ gaze. “That explains his medical knowledge. And how he evaded those armed men.”

It explained everything, except why he was risking his life for her. She wasn’t a soldier. A brother as he’d put it. In fact, she doubted she deserved being rescued after sitting idly by for so long.

She glanced at her hands, doing her best to stop them from trembling. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know any more. Hearing how great Russel was, how honorable, only made her loathe herself more.

“Anyway, you’re right. Ice is his nickname. Most of the guys in the Teams either get labeled due to their personality or end up getting called by their rank or last name.”

She lifted her gaze to his. “So, why Ice?”

“Because of how he is under fire. Nothing gets to him. Nothing. Bombs going off, bullets kicking up the dirt next to his foot or ricocheting off the wall beside his head, and he’s stone cold. Always focused. Always steady. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the guy’s hand shake. Seen him let his emotions show.” Rigs’ lips quirked. “Until this morning, just before he went out. Standing here, talking about your safety. Just the thought of leaving you… Never seen the guy so nervous. I think he was actually sweating.”

She stared at Rigs, unable to answer. How could she?

Rigs shrugged. “Guess it has to happen to most of us, sooner or later. Ice held out a long time. He deserves to be happy.” He leaned in. “You will keep him happy, right?”

She swallowed, half choking in the process. “I—”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Rigs. Back the fuck off.”

Quinn gasped, jumping up and turning—practically falling against Russel as he moved in behind her, catching her elbow when she tripped on one of the chair’s legs. He had a couple of bags in his other hand, the scent of freshly baked bread wafting out of one of them.

He sighed, placing them on the table before pulling her gently against him. “Ignore him, sweetheart. He enjoys making people sweat.”

She nodded, still unsure how to respond.

Russel glared at Rigs—who looked more than pleased with himself—then cupped her chin, lifting her gaze to his. “Hungry?”

Her stomach growled before she could reply.

He laughed. “I’ll take that as a yes. Good. I brought fresh bagels, some cheese, a fruit bowl and coffee that won’t peel paint.”

Rigs grunted. “I welcome you into my home, and you insult my coffee? That’s harsh, bro.”

“You’ll live. Longer, now, that I brought real coffee.” Russel laughed at Rigs’ scowl, focusing on her, again. “Why don’t you sit? I’ll grab some plates.”

Quinn sank into the chair, again, eyeing Rigs suspiciously. While she suspected Russel was right, and Rigs had wanted to get a reaction out of her, she couldn’t help but feel that part of it was his way of protecting Russel. Maybe paying the man back for saving his life.

She thanked Russel for the coffee he placed in front of her, looking over at her host. “So, what about Rigs? Is that your name or…”

Russel snorted. “It’s more what he used to do. Explosives. Best ordinance specialist I’ve ever met. There isn’t a problem Rigs can’t fix with some wire and some well-placed C4. His real name’s Kent. Kent Walker.”

Great, now, she knew Rigs’ last name, but she still didn’t have a clue what Russel’s was. Maybe she could sneak a peek at his driver’s license because asking him, now, was beyond embarrassing. “I thought your buddy, Midnight, said he was a crack shot? Something about shooting the balls off a mosquito.”

Rigs laughed. Not a fake one for show, but one that shook through him from deep inside his chest. “Wow, is Midnight still sore I beat him that one time in sniper practice?”

Russel sat down beside her, laying one arm across the back of her chair as he piled some food on his plate with his other hand. “If by once, you mean every single shot, then yeah. You know he hates to lose.”

“The guy can track tangos like no one I’ve ever seen before. I swear he can smell them or see their trail as a colored mist in the air. Trust me. He didn’t need to be the best at everything.”

“You try telling him that. You know Rangers are touchy.” Russel took a swig of his coffee, looking over at her. “Sleep okay?”

She coughed, nearly spitting the liquid across the table at Rigs. Had Russel seriously just asked how she’d slept? Because she was pretty sure he was the reason she hadn’t gotten nearly as much as she probably should have.

She wiped her mouth with a napkin, mumbling an apology to Rigs. “Great. Thanks.”

Rigs chuckled.

Russel arched a brow. “You got something to add, buddy?”

The man’s mouth lifted then pressed into a line. “Nope. Nothing.”

Quinn groaned inwardly, heat burning a line through her cheeks then down to her chest. She vaguely recalled the bed squeaking—had the headboard hit the wall? Obviously, Rigs had heard them. Which wouldn’t necessarily bother her, but he knew they were virtually strangers. She hadn’t even known what Russel did in the military. Yet, she’d spent the night making love to him.

She didn’t make love. She had sex. Got off. But last night—it had been so much more. The way he’d held her. Touched her. Tasted her as if he’d die otherwise. It didn’t matter that it hadn’t been gentle. Romantic. He’d made it intimate.

Russel leaned in close. “Like I said. He’s an ass.”

“And he’s sitting at the table, jackass.”

Russel glanced at Rigs. “I know. My eyesight’s fine.”

Rigs huffed then stood. “And to think I actually invited you here. I’ll go do a quick recon. Give you both some time to eat. Give Red, here, a chance to get her story straight, because when I get back, I’d like some answers.”

Quinn inhaled, watching Rigs disappear out a side door. She wanted some answers, too, only her questions involved the alien feeling in the pit of her stomach. The one making it hard to eat. To breathe. That had her longing to trust Russel. To tell him everything. Something she wasn’t sure she was willing to risk, just yet.

That’s it for me. Please enjoy the other First Times with the ladies joining in this week…

Bronwyn  |  Siobhan 

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