Enrique Ricardo “Rico” Zayas, known among the SEALs as Ghost, has an unencumbered life; living like a nomad. His life is all about the military, about his SEAL mates and about executing the next assignment. With dark emotionless eyes, others who come into contact with him often only encounter the cold and menacing side of him. But then he is suddenly the joint-guardian of a teenager and his life is never the same again.
Rico is feeling anything but cold, when he returns from his frequent overseas missions and his ward is no longer the teenager he left behind. Used to functioning as the government’s cold deadly weapon, the formidable Ghost was finding it impossible to maintain his usual detached façade in the face of the bliss her love promised. He is blindsided by her effect on him. Despite the paranormal chemistry between them threatening to erode his good intentions, Rico is determined to resist the temptation she embodies.
Orphaned as a toddler, Cherone Bouchard is doing everything she can to survive her elder siblings tyranny. But just as she thinks all is lost, she is rescued by her brother’s SEAL teammates to fulfill his dying wish. Still a teenager, the five SEAL members become her guardians. But Cherone does not make the mistake of thinking of them as her parents, especially not the youngest SEAL, Rico. From the day he first speaks to her, she immediately recognizes that he is her mate. Cherone knows she has her work cut out for her when training this reluctant husband, a role he has no intention of ever playing. With capabilities she had inherited from her Creole great grandmother, Cherone will find ways to seduce this SEAL to her way of thinking.
Expecting their love affair to progress smoothly, Cherone was ill-prepared for the violence of the battlefield to follow these military men home. She and Rico will have to employ their unusual connection to survive the threat.
Enrique Ricardo “Rico” Zayas walked through the door of his Miami home after three months absence. Calling ahead, he knew that Raymond and Clara Alveras, who maintained the efficient running of the house and grounds, were out for the night at the movies. He dropped his black duffel bag in the hall closet knowing that Raymond would retrieve it later. His knives and guns definitely needed cleaning after his last assignment. Desert sand and blowing dust played havoc with his weapons. My blades saved my ass on this trip more times than I liked!
He wondered if he should drop by the University of Miami to see Cherone, his ward. He should say his joint-ward, since his entire SEAL team were her guardians. Well, maybe ward is no longer the correct way to describe our relationship.
Looking forward to a soft bed after months of sleeping with one eye open in caves, among rocks, and on open sand, Rico started up the stairs to the bedrooms. Just as he placed his foot on the first step of the stairway, he sensed a presence in the house. He turned slowly looking around for what could have caught his attention. Then he heard it, muffled sounds coming from some place within the house. Moving cautiously, he followed the sound. Through the hallway, past the door to the kitchen, through the den, and through the living room, the sound grew louder. And then he heard giggles coming from the entertainment room. He knew Cherone’s laugh without even seeing her.
But giggles? Cherone never giggles.
He quietly approached the room that he and the guys usually hung out in whenever they were home.
He cracked the door, and the room was dark except for the light coming from the big screen television. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust, but he almost wished they hadn’t. He was stunned by the rage that consumed him on seeing Cherone sitting next to an African American man on their sofa.
“What the fuck is going on here?”
“Rico!” Cherone jumped up and flew into his arms. She tried to kiss him, but he turned his head away from her.
“Why do you have another man in our house?” Rico roared. The pain of betrayal, pain unlike anything he had ever felt before, ripped through him, but he capped his emotions, completely shutting down and embracing the cold emotions of the battlefield.
“Rico, it’s not what you think. Nic is a friend.” She stared up at Rico and tried to wrap her arms around his waist.
Rico moved out of her reach.
The dark-skinned, slim-built man stood and stepped forward as if he intended to greet him.
Rico leveled a deadly stare on the other man, stopping him in his tracks. “Your friend has two seconds to get the fuck out of my house before I put a bullet in his ass!” Rico’s gaze didn’t weaver from the unwanted visitor.
“Nic, come over here and meet my Rico. He’s only playing. Because he knows I’d be very pissed if he’s rude to my friends.” Cherone stood with her hands at her waist, frowning at him.
Rico pulled out his Sig Sauer P226 from the back waist of his jeans and leveled it on Nic, and the younger man turned visibly pale gray. “No, Nic, I’m not fucking playing. Get the hell out of my house!”
Cherone punched Rico in his stomach and then yelped in pain for her trouble.
Rico pulled her against him and inspected her wrist. “I know I taught you to punch better than that,” he scolded.
“Stop scaring poor Nic. Are you insane? I’m not cheating on you!” When he still didn’t holster his gun, she sighed. “Nic is gay! He’s more into you than he’d ever be into me.”
“Is that so?” Rico still didn’t change his stance.
“Rico?” Cherone turned in his arms and hugged him.
“Why is he still here?”Rico muttered as he wrapped his arms around her waist.
“Because you’re being asinine,” she murmured, kissing him gently on his neck. “Did you miss me?” Rising on her toes, she captured his lips with a probing kiss.
Lifting his head, his senses reeled from the initial taste of her. The familiar need for her consumed him. His dark gaze met her light hazel eyes. At five-foot-seven with smooth coffee with a hint of cream skin, Cherone was the embodiment of her Creole heritage. Her dark brown hair hung down her back in a silky dark wave. He bent his head again and tenderly caressed the soft fragrant skin of her neck with his lips. “I haven’t decided yet. Remind me again of what I was missing.” He tightened his arms around her, lifted her off her feet, and captured her lips in a ravenous kiss. The sweet sultry taste of her exploded on his senses, ratcheting up his lust. The anger of a few moments ago was forgotten and replaced with rampant need. He angled his head and deepened the kiss.
She wound her arms around his neck, nestling her breasts against the hard walls of his chest and rotating her hips sensually against him.
A few passion tense moments later, Nic cleared his throat loudly.
His eyes cloudy with lust, Rico raised his head and at first looked at Nic in confusion, but then he stared hard at the other man.
Nic leaped back. “I think that’s my cue to leave,” he murmured, his body shaking.
“Smart man, I’m still contemplating whether to let you walk or crawl out of here,” Rico told him coldly.
“Rico, that’s not funny,” Cherone admonished while she snuggled closer him.
“I wasn’t trying to be. I don’t want anyone with a dick around you.” Rico knew he was being irrational, but she made him that way. Cherone has to know why I give a shit about other men being around her. It’s not that I don’t trust her. I’ve gone years without appeasing my desire for her. She’d better be glad I’ve shown this much restraint: the bastard was still breathing wasn’t he? “I don’t give a damn if he’s gay or not!”
“You’ve had men guarding me for the past five years,” Cherone said. “Do they count?”
“I’m not apologizing for that. It kept your ass safe, didn’t it? Do you know how many of those horny athletes we had to put on the injured list before they got the message to stay the hell away from you? You’re a walking temptation, querida.”
“I can protect myself. What’s the point in teaching me self-defense, how to wield a knife, and shoot a gun if you never trust me to take care of myself? You taught me well, Rico! Ease the hell up!”
“Those pricks weren’t touching what’s mine! What are you complaining about? I had the guards removed a few months ago at your insistence, didn’t I? Now look who you’re hanging out with!” He turned and glowered at Nic. “Why the fuck are you still here?”
“I’ll see you later, Cherone,” Nic said hastily before stumbling out of the apartment.
“You ain’t right, Rico. Your behavior was deplorable,” Cherone shook her head.
“So, what’s your point?” Rico grinned suddenly. “Where were we?”
Sighing in resignation, she tenderly kissed him on his neck. “You know what? Never mind. You’re just hopeless.” She gazed at him happily. “So I graduate in a month. How are we going to celebrate?”
Rico lifted her in his arms, walked over to the sofa she had just vacated, and sat down with her on his lap. He hugged her close to him.
“I have one more assignment. Sean and I leave tomorrow. When I get back, we’ll discuss our plans for this relationship and how to break the news to the guys.”
“Why can’t we discuss it now?”
“What are you doing here anyway? You have a dorm room.”
She turned on his lap and saddled him, placing feather light kisses on his face. “I wanted to feel closer to you. I had no idea you’d be home tonight.”
“How are your classes going?”
“Are you trying to distract me?”
He ran his fingers along the gentle curve of her spine before reverently cupping her bottom to pull her closer to his aching erection. “I’m trying to distract me. You’re more and more beautiful every time I see you.”
Cherone pulled the leather tie from his hair and massaged his scalp. His hair fell about his head and to his shoulders in silky disarray. She ran her fingers through the black strands. “No, you’re the beautiful one. Amazing dark chocolate eyes with lashes most women would kill for, olive skin, and ink-black hair. Oh and those masculine lips. You’re so beautiful, Rico.”
He lightly sunk his teeth in her lower lip, gently nibbling and sucking the plumpness. “You can’t sleep here tonight,” he mumbled against her lips. I can’t handle her dreams tonight. If I live to be one hundred, I will never understand our ability to communicate telepathically, much less this recent twist of sharing dreams. As if I’m not already crazy in lust with this girl. She dreams of me, and I’m powerlessly drawn into her dream. I can’t resist her.
“For me, pequeña, I need to protect you from me. I’m already guilty of taking advantage of you. We have one more month before you graduate college.”
“But there’s no need! I can’t see one month making a difference now. I already had to take five years instead of four to attain my degrees. At twenty-two years old, I can make my own decisions about my sex life.”
“Your age is not an issue here. We had an agreement and I intend to stick to that.” Caressing her soft skin, his finger trailed down her cheek. He ensnared her hazel gaze with his darker ones, willing her to cooperate with his wishes. “When we’re asleep, I can’t control coming to you in your dream. It makes staying away from you physically painful.”
“But, I miss you so much, Rico. Can I spend the rest of the evening with you?”
“That’s not a good idea. I’m not handling being alone here with you very well.” Rico kissed her hard one last time before lifting her from his lap. He stood to leave the room. “I’m going to take a shower. When I’m done, I’ll drive you back to the dorm.”
“Oh, yippee,” she muttered sarcastically. “I have a car, Rico. I can drive myself to the university.”
Rico tapped her butt lightly. “Just humor me. Give me a few minutes. I’ll be right back.” He whistled as he left the room.
Rico closed his bedroom door behind him and closed his eyes to regain control. Cherone would never know what hell he was in whenever he had to let her go like that. He wanted her with a desperation he had never experienced before. The past year of resisting her had been hell.
Their original SEAL Team 4 had been made up of Rico, their commander Dominic Stone, Sean Anderson, Damien Berkley, Neo Zuberi, and Adam Bouchard. When Adam was dying on the battlefield, however, he only made one request of his mates: “Take care of my baby sister, Roni.” They had wasted no time in finding and rescuing her from her other siblings, who were intent on trading her on the sex market in New Orleans.
They had all been very young then and didn’t have a clue how to raise a teenager. Rico had been the youngest at twenty-three. When Dominic retired a few months later, their entire team did as well. Since then, Dominic had gotten married and lived in another country. Now Rico, Sean, and Neo did special assignments for the U.S. government periodically, working with the CIA. They also took primary care of Cherone, although Dominic lent his support whenever needed.
Cherone lived in his house, while the men all had separate apartments in other parts of Miami. He partially shared the house with Cherone, living there during the day but sleeping in his apartment nearby. Since she went to the University of Miami, he had moved back to the house.
Now in her senior year at “the U” with a double major in criminology and law, Cherone would soon be completely out of their control. Not that she had ever allowed them much say while she was growing up. They often had to go behind her back to ensure she did what they wanted. He had only been home sparingly over the last eighteen months because he couldn’t trust himself around her. Since Sean worked right alongside him, most of the oversight of Cherone was left to Neo and the Alveras.
His SEAL mates had no idea that he and Cherone had been dating for the past eighteen months. They were all still very protective of Cherone and would probably kick his ass when they found out. The one saving grace was that their relationship had yet to become intimate. Not that Cherone was any help in that regard. She disagreed bitterly with the state of their non-physical relationship, but he was determined that their interaction would remain platonic until she finished college. Hopefully the guys would be less pissed and more accepting of their relationship if they took a little longer to begin an intimate relationship.
He would have liked nothing better than to stay with Cherone and claim her as his, but Neo had accepted another mission for him and Sean and sent him an encoded text a few hours ago. They had to rescue an American journalist who had been kidnapped by ISIS in Iraq only yesterday. They wanted to use the element of surprise and speed, so was only taking a small rescue unit. He and Sean would lead the team in and out of the war-torn country while Neo provided intelligence from their high-tech surveillance bunker in Miami.
Rico wanted days and weeks of uninterrupted time to be with Cherone, not something rushed as he would be forced to do now. She had no idea how difficult it was to keep his promise to stay away from her. And with their amorous greeting a few minutes ago, he was in bad shape as desire for her clamored through him.
He walked into the shower and gripped his angry aroused length. With his forehead pressed against the wall, he vigorously massaged the monstrous erection, but nothing he did seemed to abate his need. In desperation, he closed his eyes and imagined Cherone’s lush lips locked around the broad head. He shuddered violently as the image became so clear, so real.
She licked along his length and the round tip as if it was the sweetest lollipop, and then she slowly sucked him inch by inch to the back of her throat.
“Ah baby, so fucking good!” Damn, these visions are too lifelike.
He opened his eyes instantly, and water streamed down his face and body. He looked around the glass-cased shower stunned that he had imagined Cherone so vividly. That was too damn vivid.
Roni? He called mentally.
Were you in my shower a moment ago?
You need me, baby. I can’t watch you suffer unnecessarily.
I’m going to tan your ass!
I can’t wait, baby, she giggled. I’m driving back to UM. See you in a few weeks.
Rico slid naked between the cool sheets a few hours later. How the hell am I going to explain wanting to marry this girl to Neo, Dominic, and Sean? Those guys were just as protective of her as he was, but he loved her beyond anything he had ever experienced before. I’m not giving her up for anyone!
Restless and still primed from the erotic experience in the shower, he took a long time to fall asleep.