A Paratrooper in a Pear Tree [Hades Squad 1]
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by Jianne Carlo
Category: Erotica/Multicultural-Interracial Erotica
Description: Genre: Multicultural Erotic Contemporary
Destiny Driven hasn't used her real name in forever. It doesn't exactly inspire professional confidence if you sound like a stripper. When she's ordered to "sex up" former bestselling author Angel Robinson's latest manuscript, armed with whips, cuffs, "classic" (who knew?) porn DVDs, that hits a little close to home. So Destiny heads to a remote cabin in Healey, Alaska.
Deployed to fight an inferno, Master Parachutist Lincoln Chapman's veers off course, his chute fails, and his reserve opens at the 10,000 mark. The paratrooper lands in the pear tree adjacent to Destiny's cabin.
The man's massive and unconscious. The cabin's cold and isolated, and Destiny's no Girl Scout. Then Linc wakes to Destiny's Madonna features, stripper body, sex toys, and 70's porn DVDs. Just as they're trying to leave, electricity fizzles. There's only one way to stay warm. Luckily they have all the supplies they need.
eBook Publisher: Loose Id, LLC, 2009
eBookwise Release Date: January 2010
65 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [336 KB]
Reading time: 196-274 min.
"I'm going insane. First I think Nadine's feeling me up, and then I see a parachute in a pear tree." Destiny Driven straightened and shot the ceiling a furious glare. "It's the middle of September, there's a blizzard outside, and now I'm seeing things."
"You actually see a parachute in a tree?" Jess Blaine, senior editor for St. Paul's Publishing, asked.
"You're not going to believe me, but there's a man with a parachute in a pear tree." Destiny's breath fogged the windowpane; she used the sleeve of her cotton sweater to wipe the glass. "He's wearing army fatigues. I think something's wrong. He's not moving." She groaned and thunked her head on the cold glass. "This is the last thing I need."
"Hang up and call 911."
A burst of static blasted Destiny's eardrums. "Damn. Jess, you there?"
She looked at her iPhone's screen. No bars.
Nothing had gone right from the moment she'd left St. Paul's New York headquarters that morning. A momentary lull in the offending white fluff spinning by the wall of windows allowed her a clear view of the man hanging from the branches of the tree. Large neon orange letters on the man's green and black fatigues spelled out the words 82nd Airborne Division.
I can't leave him out there.
No dial tone came from the old-fashioned rotary phone on the kitchen counter. She scowled at the black receiver and blew out a long sigh.
He could be injured.
"I might as well get this over and done with." She shrugged on her denim jacket, zipped up the front, and pulled the hood around her face.
A shudder racked her body the second she opened the door. A blast of frigid air blew the hood off Destiny's head; then her hair took flight, whipping her cheeks and chin and scrambling her vision. At least two inches of snow carpeted the green turf. Sandals and a blizzard didn't mesh. Her toes curled as she sprinted across the narrow clearing, heading for the grove of fruit and pine trees lining the ridge of the mountain.
Destiny hopped from one foot to the other in an effort to stay warm as she surveyed the man stuck in the trees. He hung around seven feet off the ground. The parachute's white material lay in a pine tree, the ropes attached to his bulky form threaded through the thick silver-gray-green branches of a heavily laden pear tree. The impact of the man's landing had scattered brown fruit around the tree's trunk. A jagged cut ran from his temple to the edge of his ear and splotches of scarlet stained the green leaves nestling his cheek. Nothing looked broken. But my, he was a big man.
How to get him down from the trees and into the cabin?
She'd have to climb the tree and cut the parachute's ropes.
Fifteen minutes later, Destiny dragged the sheet she'd rolled the man onto through the cabin's entrance and closed the door. She slumped to the wooden floor, cupped her hands, and blew warm air over fingers so numb with cold they burned.
"You probably gave me frostbite," she complained, glowering at the wounded man lying face up on the floor next to her. "Damn, it's cold out there."
On one of her frequent trips back to the cabin, she'd located the thermostat and turned the heat to the highest temperature possible. The interior had warmed marginally, but what she wouldn't give for a roaring fire. Blowing out a sigh, she shot the fireplace a yearning look usually reserved for chocolate souffles, pursed her lips, and then grumbled, "I bet you know how to start a fire," before shooting the man a frown usually reserved for errant authors.
How long would they be stuck here? How long would the snow keep falling? The phone wasn't working, and her rented Ford Focus didn't seem any match for narrow mountain roads made treacherous by layers of white muck. Not to mention the fact she'd taken wrong turns at least five times getting here.
A moan drew her attention to the paratrooper.
Surely he could help. The man was a paratrooper after all. Weren't they all big, bad tough guys who could survive jungles and deserts? "I suppose I should clean you up first."
When Park Ranger Tim Dalton had given her the keys to the cabin earlier, he'd also mentioned a full emergency kit in the room off the kitchen. Grumbling under her breath, Destiny levered to her feet; her legs felt like wet noodles and her arms like melting Jell-O. Paratroopers weighed a ton.
Shaky steps took her to the room Tim had mentioned.
A plastic neon lime carton labeled Medical Supplies lay on top of a chest freezer in the small square room. Baskets of apples and pears and root vegetables, along with a webby sack of potatoes, stood adjacent to the white appliance. A miniature desk, really a slab of wood bearing multiple communication appliances she had no clue how to work, punctuated the far end of the alcove.
Returning to the kitchen with the box in hand, she spotted a Pottery Barn-style bowl. After filling the slate container with warm water, she ambled over to her parachutist, squatted, and set the supplies on the floor.
A rat-a-tat-tat drew her glance from the cut on the man's cheek, and she looked outside. The snow fell so fast and furious now, Destiny could see nothing but a white sheet.
What if the snow doesn't stop until next spring?
Stop being dramatic, Destiny; at least we have heat.
Even though the cabin had warmed to tropical-beach temperature, an arctic shiver gamboled across her neck.
I'm a New Yorker. I can cope with anything.
Focus, focus. One line at a time, one task at a time. Clean his wound.
Sitting on her heels, she edged closer to him.
Getting the helmet off his head proved a harder task than she'd anticipated. Destiny worked up a good sweat and almost gave in to the temptation to turn the thermostat down a notch. Almost. One glance at the wet white snowflakes thud-thudding on the window nixed that notion.
He had to weigh well over two hundred pounds. His shoulders were rock hard, and both her hands couldn't span his corded neck. When she cut his helmet's chin strap, he groaned. She flinched at the low rumble and lost her balance. The hard hat jerked off his head, Destiny landed on her backside, and the helmet slid across the wooden floor.
Gasping for breath, she swiped a palm across her damp forehead and blew a lock of hair off her right cheek. "You owe me, Mister."
Shifting, she braced her elbows on her bent knees and surveyed her booty.
He had the usual armed-forces buzz cut, a square face, and a nose that had met a few fists at some point in time. "I bet you have an ego the size of this state."
She found gauze in the medical kit, dampened the cloth, and dabbed at the dried blood covering the thin diagonal slash running from one temple to his earlobe. His skin smelled of Irish Spring soap and leaves. The layer of stubble covering his chin felt soft and downy.
All angles and planes, his face held no hint of softness, his swarthy complexion spoke of mixed blood, and the last adjective she'd use for him would be handsome, because he wasn't. Testosterone and pheromones jumped out of every pore, he smelled the way a man's man should smell, hard and capable and in command of his own destiny. A jagged scar ran along the line of a jaw punctuated by hollow cheek dimples and ridged bones.
Definitely not urban-male-model handsome, yet being mere inches away from those craggy features made her lungs work harder and her toes curl and uncurl. Leaning across his visage to sponge away the blood streaked into the tanned crinkles bracketing his eye, she muttered to herself, "You are not attracted to him. He probably barely graduated high school. Ten to one he hasn't a clue what War and Peace is, far less who wrote it."
"Tolstoy," he said.
Destiny yelped and sat back on her haunches.
He couldn't have woken up twenty minutes earlier?
How long had he been conscious? A lick of flame scorched her throat and cheeks; she studied the camouflage pattern of his jacket.
Please don't have heard that. Please. I'll volunteer at the food bank four times this year if he didn't hear that. She bit her lip to fight the urge to look at the ceiling.
"Who are you?" He had a voice like the deep, belly-echoing roar of a Long Island ferry idling.
She tried to even out her ragged inhales, trailed her gaze inch by inch up a throat the delicious color of caramel toffee, and swallowed around the molten ball sucking the moisture out of her mouth.
Hazel eyes, clear and focused, met hers; then his glance swept the cabin. "Where am I?"
God, what a voice. His words rumbled and shuddered up her spine, and the barometric pressure in the cabin dipped and hip-hopped.
It'd been a long time since she'd been with a man.
And she'd never been with a man whose muscles looked hard enough to ricochet bullets.
Stop, Destiny. Stop. You will not think of a roaring fire and naked, entwined limbs.
"Ma'am. Where am I?"
Ma'am? How old does he think I am?
"Healy, Alaska. Or near it anyway."
Wincing, he sat up. Thick fingers traced the line of the cut on his face. "I was supposed to touch down on the east side of Denali."
"Denali National Park. Two hundred acres are on fire." He rose in one fluid, graceful move.
She stood right away. For such a big man, he moved lithely. Destiny felt like a dwarf and had to crane her neck to meet his gaze.
"I don't think you have to worry about fighting a fire," she said. "It's blizzarding."
His eyes flickered to the picture window and then back to her. "I can see that. Where did I touch down?"
"In the pear tree." She squared her shoulders and wished she were wearing three-inch stilettos. "You were all tangled up in it. How're you feeling?"
"You cut me down?" One sandy brow lifted a fraction. He didn't sound the least bit grateful.
"Not an easy feat. It took me fifteen minutes."
"I've been out for fifteen minutes? Shit. Do you have a phone?"
"No bars. I think the weather's interfering with reception."
He rolled his eyes. "Is there a landline?"
"Yes. It's dead."
"Do we have a radio connection?"
"Like a CB? Like what the truckers use?" Destiny rolled a shoulder. "Hell if I know."
"You seem remarkably uninformed, ma'am. You don't know if you have a radio?" An edge of irritation slipped into his husky voice.
He showed no awareness of her as a woman. Her boobs always captured a man's attention; if she had a nickel for the number of times a guy spoke to her chest instead of her eyes, well, she'd be writing full-time instead of editing. Destiny fought a scowl.
"It's not my cabin. I'm only here for a couple of days."
"Really?" But he wasn't looking at her, his narrowed eyes found the pile of DVDs she'd dumped onto the kitchen table.
There was no way he wouldn't notice the titles.
"I apologize for my manners, ma'am. I'm Sergeant Lincoln Chapman. And you are?"
"Sara Parker," she replied. If he got wind of her real name after seeing the classic collection of seventies porn she'd purchased for research, he'd never believe she wasn't a stripper. She'd bought the porn to set the mood for the sex scenes best-selling author Angel Robinson had to rewrite during the next couple of days.
"Do you have a vehicle? I have to touch base with my troops."
"I have a rental car."
Two long strides took him to the picture window. Destiny couldn't tell because his back faced her, but Lincoln Chapman appeared to be studying the falling snow.
"How're you feeling?"
"What?" He glanced over one shoulder; the corners of his lips twitched.
"You were unconscious; you could have a concussion."
"No concussion," he quipped. "No wooziness, no dancing black spots. Where's the car?"
"In the driveway." Destiny's shoulders slumped. He was going to leave and go to his troops. In her car. "Look. I understand you need to make contact with your men. But could you help me start a fire before you go?"
"You're a city girl." He twisted to look at her. "I'm afraid I can't. If we don't leave now, we'll both be stuck. This weather isn't going to stop soon. Last report we had, this front's going to last a week. You'll have to come with me."
And who died and made you king of the mountain?
The thought of being stuck alone in a blizzard didn't make her jump for joy. "Where are you going to go?"
"There isn't a hotel in Healy. That's why I'm here." No way in hell she'd stay by herself in this godforsaken cabin. "I'll grab my things."
"We don't have time for that." His gaze raking her head to toe, he added, "Just grab your coat and boots." Lincoln's lips curled as he stared at her bare toes and sandaled feet.
Destiny stifled a sigh. "This is it." She waved a hand down her front. "I looked up the temperature. It's supposed to be in the seventies."
"You spent twenty minutes outside wearing that? Have you no sense at all?"
"What was I supposed to do? Leave you in the tree?" Destiny jammed her hands onto her hips. "You know, an ounce of gratefulness wouldn't go amiss."
He shook his head. "Where are the keys?"
"I'm driving," she stated. Seizing her Dooney & Bourke oversize tote from the coffee table, she slung the straps over one shoulder, fished the key hook out of the purse, and stalked to the door.
Suddenly she was swept off the floor and cradled in his arms. A waterfall of sensations strummed through every fiber, her blood heated and jumped Olympic hurdles, and she had a mad desire to lick the cleft in his chin. This near, a hint of his aftershave--sandalwood and patchouli--wafted to her nostrils. Choking back a groan, she bit her tongue hard enough to get her dizzy brain cells working again.
"What're you doing? Put me down."
Think. Think, damn it.
"There's at least three inches of snow on the ground. You'll get frostbite if you walk outside in those shoes." He shifted her closer, his large palm curving under her ass while the other hand opened the door. "And I'm driving."