Everyday, Average Jones
Ensign Harlan Cowboy Junior Kid Jones landed the little airplane much more smoothly and easily than he’d taken off.
Melody could see the array of ambulances and Red Cross trucks zooming out across the runways to meet them in the early dawn light.
Within moments, they would taxi to a stop, and climb out of the plane.
She wanted four tall glasses of water, no ice, lined up in front of her so that she could drink her fill without stopping.
She wanted a shower in a hotel with room service. She wanted the fresh linens and soft pillows of a king-sized bed. She wanted clean clothes and a hairdresser to make some sense out of the ragged near-scalping she’d given herself.
But before she had any of that, she wanted to hold Harlan Jones in her arms. She wanted to hold him tightly, to thank him with the silence of her embrace for all that he had done for her.
He’d done so much for her. He’d given her so much.
His kindness. His comforting arms. His moral bolstering smiles. His encouraging words. His sandals.
And oh, yeah. He’d killed for her, to keep her safe, to deliver her to freedom.
She’d seen the blood on his robe, seen the look in his eyes, on his face.
He’d run into trouble out alone in the airbase, and he’d been forced to take enemy lives. And the key word there was not enemy. It was lives.
Melody was long familiar with the expression all’s fair in love and war. And this was a war. The government had been overthrown and the country had been invaded by the terrorist forces. They’d threatened American lives. She knew full well that it was a clear cut case of them or us.
What shook her up the most was that this was what Cowboy Jones did. This was what he did, day in, day out. He’d done it for the past six years, and he’d continue to do it until he retired. Or was killed.
Melody thought about that blood on Jones’s robe, thought about the fact that it just as easily could have been his own blood.
All was fair in love and war.
But what were the rules if you were unlucky enough to fall in love with a warrior?
Jones cut the engine then pushed the door open with his bare feet. But instead of climbing out, he turned around to face Melody, giving her his hand for support as she moved up through the cramped cabin and toward the door.
He slid down, out of the plane, then looked up at her.
He’d taken off his blood-streaked robe, but he still wore that black vest with its array of velcroed pockets. It hung open, over a black T-shirt that only barely disguised his sweat and grime. His face was streaked with dirt and dust, his hair matted against his head. There was shoe polish underneath his chin and on his neck — from where she’d burrowed against him, stealing strength and comfort from his arms.
But his eyes were as green as ever, despite his fatigue. He smiled at her. “Do I look as…ready for a bath as you do?”
She had to smile. “Tactfully put. Yes, you certainly do. And as for me — I think I’m more than ready to be a blonde again and wash this stuff out of my hair.”
“But before you do, maybe I could send my shoes over to your hotel room for a touch up…”
Melody laughed. Until she looked down at his feet. They were still bare. They looked red and sore.
“You and Harvard saved my life,” she whispered, her smile fading.
“I don’t know about H,” Jones told her, gazing up into her eyes, “but as far as I’m concerned, Miss Evans, it was purely my pleasure.”
Melody had to look away. His eyes were hypnotizing. If she didn’t look away, she’d do something stupid, like leap into his arms and kiss him. She glanced out at the line of cars approaching them. Was it possible that Jones had cut the engine and stopped the plane so far away from the terminal so that they’d have these few moments of privacy?
He reached for her, taking her hands to help her down from the plane.
“What’s going to happen next?” she asked.
He pulled just a little too hard, and she fell forward, directly into his arms. He held her close, pressing her against his wide chest, and she held him just as tightly, encircling his waist with her arms and holding on as if she weren’t ever going to let go. His arms engulfed her, and she could feel him rest his cheek against the top of her head.
“Jones, will I see you again?” she asked. She needed to know. “Or will they take you away someplace to be debriefed, and then send you back to wherever it was you came from?”
She lifted her head to look up at him. The trucks were skidding to a stop. She was going to have to get into one of those trucks, and they would take her someplace, away from Harlan Jones, maybe forever…
Her heart was pounding so hard, she could barely hear herself think. She could feel his heart, too, beating at an accelerated rate.
“I’ll tell you what’s going to happen,” he said, gazing into her eyes unsmilingly. “Second thing that’s going to happen is that they’re going to put you in one ambulance and me and H. in another. They’ll take us to the hospital, make sure we’re all right. Then we’ll go into a short debriefing — probably separately. After that’s done, you’ll be taken to whatever hotel they’re keeping the top brass in these days, and I’ll go into a more detailed debriefing. After we both get cleaned up, I’ll meet you back at the hotel for dinner — how’s that sound?”
Melody nodded. That sounded very good.
“But the first thing that’s going to happen,” he told her, his mouth curving up into that now-familiar smile, “is this.”
He lowered his head and kissed her.
It was an amazing kiss, a powerful kiss, a no-holds-barred kind of kiss. It amplified all of the heat she’d seen in Harlan Jones’s bedroom eyes over the past forty-eight hours. God, had it only been forty-eight hours? She felt as if she’d known this man for at least a lifetime. She felt as if she’d wanted him, too, for every single second of that time.
He kissed her even harder, deeper, sweeping his tongue into her mouth. It was a kiss that was filled with a promise of ecstasy, of lovemaking the likes of which she’d never known. The entire earth dropped out from under her feet, and she clung to him, giddy and dizzy and happier than she’d ever been in her entire life, returning his kisses with equal abandon. He wanted her. This incredible man honestly, truly wanted her.
His lips were warm, his mouth almost hot. He tasted sweet, like one of those energy bars he’d shared with her.
Melody realized that she was laughing, and when she pulled back to look at him, he was smiling, too.
And then, just as he’d said, she was tugged gently away from him, towards one of the ambulances as he was led toward another.
He kept watching her though, and she held his gaze right up until the moment that she was helped into the back of the truck. But before she went in, she glanced at him one last time. He was still watching her, still smiling. And he mouthed a single word. “Tonight.”
Melody couldn’t wait.
Copyright 1998 by Suzanne Brockmann