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Did I tell you all my next release is part of Ellora’s Cave’s Cougar Challenge multi-author series? No? Okay, I will soon. But until then…
Former army-turned-ER doctor Grace McKinnon is through with going to bed with nothing more than fantasies and a yearning to resurrect her personal life. She’s determined instead to take the Cougar Challenge with a flesh and hot-blooded younger man. She discovers the perfect opportunity steaming up the curtain of exam room four.
Captain Mark Bennington has been locked and loaded—ready for action—since meeting Grace. He’s on a mission to heat up the Boston nights while on leave. This sexy older woman is lighting his way, fulfilling double-time every sex wish he’s ever made. But it’s going to be the toughest fight of his life to convince her to take a chance on more than just a fling.
By reading any further, you are stating that you are at least 18 years of age. If you are under the age of 18, it is necessary to exit this site.
An Excerpt From: LOCKED AND LOADED
Copyright © SAMANTHA CAYTO, 2010
All Rights Reserved, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.
“Here you go, Doc Mac, the film for your next patient.”
Dr. Grace McKinnon took the x-rays from the emergency room nurse and flipped through the patient’s file. She raised her eyebrows. “Drunk and hitting walls at four o’clock in the afternoon. My, my, this young man is ambitious.”
Silvie, a veteran of the ER, merely shook her head. “I don’t think he’s drunk.”
Grace frowned and took another look at the patient’s chart. “It says he’s acting belligerent and had to be persuaded to get the x-ray.”
“That’s right. His friend brought him in under protest and cajoled him into being seen. There’s a lot of tension in that young man, but the good news is that the friend not only seems to have the upper hand, he’s also totally ripped. I didn’t feel the need to call in security or anything.”
“Great,” Grace replied with a complete lack of enthusiasm. She was at the end of her shift. Tackling an angry guy who may or may not have been drinking, and who was not happy to have her help was not something to look forward to. She braced for confrontation as she entered the treatment cubicle.
She stopped short when a set of hard eyes locked onto her. Light blue and crystal clear, they were set deep into a square-jawed face right above a strong nose with bit of a crook from a long-ago break. Every detail stood out starkly because the man’s blond hair was cropped short. Not quite a buzz cut, but close. He was tall and muscular, his impressive biceps visible under his t-shirt, and his hands jammed inside the pockets of his jeans.
The sight of this man took her aback. She stood staring at him, drinking in the primal perfection he provided. Her tired body perked up with interest, and she forgot what she was doing for an instant. He was military, had to be given his bearing and the hint of a dog tag chain around his neck. Seeing him brought her back to her own army days. A wistfulness joined the heat flaring in her belly. She had loved serving and loved soldiers, too. But the doctor in her couldn’t ignore the look on the young man’s face. His expression was both weary and concerned.
Grace pulled away from the lure of the man in front of her and turned to the man who had spoken. He was sitting on the examination table, an ice pack over his right hand. This was her patient, not the guy she’d spent a second or two, or hell three, ogling. This one was equally well-built and made her think military, too. His face, though, was haggard and angry, his hair a shaggy mass of reddish curls and his clothes were worn. His expression was pure mad. She worked to be patient.
“Mr. Conroy? I’m Dr. McKinnon.” She put her best doctor tone into her voice, the one that said she was both the detached professional and the caring one. When he didn’t answer, she continued anyway, talking the film out of its folder and shoving it into the light box.
“I have your x-rays here.” She stood back to take a look at the film and bumped into something hard. Blue Eyes had moved up behind her for a closer look. He pulled back with an apology.
“Sorry, ma’am.” There was a slight Southern drawl to his voice. “I’m worried about Sean’s hand.”
“I understand we have you to thank for getting him in here,” she replied, keeping her tone even, trying not to show how his proximity unnerved her. He was only a kid, for goodness’ sake. She could have fifteen years on him, and damn her soul if that point didn’t tickle her deep inside.
Hands still in his pockets, he shrugged and glanced at his friend who stared at the floor, petulant look still plastered on his face. “I was afraid he’d broken it.” With a nod toward the x-ray, he asked, “Did he?”
Grace pulled away from the lure of the unnamed friend and concentrated on her patient’s test results. “No, fortunately not.”
“Shit, Mark, I told you so.” Conroy was surly and ungrateful. He was also suffering emotionally. It didn’t take a doctor to see it.
“Watch your language, mister,” the friend, Mark, retorted. “Sorry, ma’am,” he added with a rueful grimace aimed at Grace.
“Not a problem,” she assured him. “I’ve heard the word before. I served in the army for over fifteen years.” Now why had she gone and told him something so personal? It was unlike her, unprofessional. Mark’s face lit up at the news, however.
“Who cares?” muttered Conroy, but he shut up and stared at the floor again when Mark shot him a stern look.
Okay, time for her to get her head out of her ass and get these guys on their way. Besides, there was something far more important for her to speak to this Mark about than her military service. “Mr. Conroy, I’m sending in a nurse to bandage your hand.” Turning to Mark, she added, “May I speak with you a moment?”
“Yes, ma’am.” He gave his friend another look that said, “Behave yourself” before following Grace out.
She gave the high sign to Sylvie before continuing farther away from the cubicle so she could talk freely. When she judged they were far enough away from Conroy, she turned and hit that wall again. Mark muttered another apology as he backed up a pace. He acted as flustered by the contact as she felt. But that was ridiculous. Her reaction was normal. He was young and ripped and designed by God to get a woman’s juices flowing. She was forty-two and while pretty and fit, also ragged from a tough shift in the ER. No way this guy was into her. A pity because as a younger man, he fitted her idea of a fantasy lover. This wasn’t one of those erotic romance stories she loved to read, however. She put aside her growing attraction and tackled the important issue at hand.
“Why isn’t your friend being seen at the VA hospital?” She crossed her arms as she demanded the answer, trying to put emotional distance between them. This wasn’t a bar, after all.
Mark opened his mouth and then shut it again. A few seconds ticked by before he finally answered. The look on his face told her he had waged some inner battle before picking a reply. “I had a hard enough time getting him to come here and it’s right around the corner from his apartment.”
“I’m not talking about his hand, Mr.…” She paused waiting for an answer. She was surprised at how interested she was.
“Bennington. Mark Bennington.” He cleared his throat. “It’s ah, Captain Bennington, actually, of the United States Army.” He grinned briefly, a boyish grin with a cute-as-a-button dimple on the left side. The kind of grin that said he was proud as punch. As well he should be because God, if he was older than his late twenties, he wore it well, and to have the rank of captain was a real achievement.
He extended his hand and she took it. “Grace McKinnon,” she supplied which was stupid because she had already announced that she was Dr. McKinnon. Everybody knew that doctors stressed the title because they were proud as punch, too, of their achievement and needed to maintain a professional detachment from their patients. Of course this was not her patient. Still.
His hand was warm and rough and squeezed hers with just the right amount of pressure before he let it go. In fact if she used a little bit of imagination, she’d think he held her hand a few seconds longer than necessary. Wow, she must be really tired to think a thing like that. Focus, Grace.
“Okay, as I was saying, Captain Bennington, why isn’t Mr. Conroy being treated at the VA for PTSD? You do know he’s suffering from it?”
His expression turned pained. He stared at his feet and rocked back and forth on his heels a few times before heaving a big sigh. “Yes, ma’am.” When he looked at her again, his eyes were clouded with worry.
It was a kick to her gut. Hot and vulnerable, a deadly combination. She wanted to wrap him in her arms and hold him tight, make everything better. Crazy but the urge was strong. Instead she went with the mundane. “You don’t have to ma’am me. I’m not in the army anymore.”
He shrugged. “I am. Habit. Besides, I’m from the South so I grew up calling every woman ma’am, from my mother to the gal serving me fries with my burger.”
“I understand.” To be honest, being called ma’am by this guy turned her on even more. Best not to think about it. She was revved up enough. “How long has your friend been out?” Yes, talk about your patient, Grace. That’s your job, remember?
“Almost a year. He was up and didn’t reenlist. I had hoped being a civilian would help him. The emails he’s been sending me said otherwise. I’ve got twelve days left of a two-week leave before I deploy again. I’m worried about him.”
“Does he have family around here?”
“Yes, ma’am. Sean’s from Boston, but they’re not much help. His father has always told him to man up and deal, you know?”
She did know. It was hard for men, especially military men, to face emotional problems. Yes, she had seen plenty of good, strong men fall prey to post-traumatic stress while serving. She was worried. It helped, though, to have a friend who cared. Sean was lucky to have Mark, if only for a few days. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out her business card and handed it to him.
“Here. I’m not a psychiatrist, and I’d really like your friend to get the help he needs from the right people. But call me if things get worse and you need to talk to someone.”
He took the card and studied it for a moment before putting it into his own pocket. “Thanks, I will.”
He smiled and man it made him even more attractive and younger looking. Her body jolted in reaction, arousal erupting in all the usual places. Good thing she had crossed her arms. As a doctor, she understood she couldn’t help her body’s response. Her female parts were capable of imaging how good the captain’s male parts would make them feel. They didn’t care that his body wasn’t looking for her middle-aged one with its wrinkles and sags. It wanted an equally young, hard female body to rub against. Even if she was wrong about that and this was the perfect chance for her to take the Cougar Challenge that her friend, Elizabeth Winters, kept urging her to do, the situation was all wrong. Captain Bennington was not her patient, but his friend was and hitting on a guy in the ER was unethical if not downright illegal.
The really dumb part was how much her brain was getting in on the act. Images of her tangled with all those perfect male muscles popped up unbidden. Her body didn’t care about the practical or the ethical. It only knew what it wanted and what it wanted at that moment was Captain Perfect naked in her bed. She mentally shook herself. The whole attraction was ridiculous under the circumstances. This was reality, not a romance story.
She was tired, that was all. All she really needed was to clock out, go home, order delivery from her favorite Chinese restaurant and catch up on episodes of 30 Rock. Then she could retire to her comfy, albeit empty, bed and read her latest book until her body exploded with a sleep-inducing orgasm. Wow that sounded pathetic. A little self-help once in a while was fine, but it had become her way of life. She needed to get out more and date real men, age-appropriate real men. Or, maybe she did need to take the Cougar Challenge. She’d been lurking for a while on the Cougars’ blog site. Those women were obviously happy with the way their challenges worked out. They inspired her, although she was still uncertain. She had always been such a sensible, duty-bound woman. Throwing caution to the wind and having a fling with a younger man was so unlike her. Could she do it? She didn’t know. Hanging around any longer with the tempting Captain Bennington wasn’t making her head any clearer. Seeing Sylvie leave the cubicle, she jumped on the opportunity to make a getaway.
“Looks like your friend is all set. Take care and good luck.”
Mark glanced over his shoulder, his mouth tugged in a hard line. “Thanks.” Wagging her card, he added, “For everything.”
“You’re welcome.” Grace wheeled around and walked away, trying not to hurry. It was hard. She sensed Mark’s eyes on her all the way down the hall. Damn, maybe she’d better pull out her DVDs and run a Johnny Depp marathon. She needed to put this guy out of her mind and fast.