Taylor’s Temptation

Navy SEAL Chief Bobby Taylor was in trouble.

Big trouble.

“You gotta help me, man,” Wes said. “She’s determined to go, she freakin’ hung up on me and wouldn’t pick up the phone when I called back, and I’m going wheels up in less than twenty minutes. All I could do was send her email — though fat lotta good that’ll do.”

She was Colleen Mary Skelly, his best friend’s little sister. No, not little sister. Younger sister. Colleen wasn’t little, not anymore. She hadn’t been little for a long, long time.

A fact that Wes didn’t seem quite able to grasp.

“If I call her,” Bobby pointed out reasonably, “she’ll just hang up on me, too.”

“I don’t want you to call her.” Wes shouldered his seabag and dropped his bomb. “I want you to go there.”

Bobby laughed. Not aloud. He’d never laugh in his best friend’s face when he went into overprotective brother mode. But inside of his own head, he was rolling on the floor in hysterics.

Outside of his head, he only lifted a quizzical eyebrow. “To Boston.” It wasn’t really a question.

Wesley Skelly knew that this time he was asking an awful lot, but he squared his shoulders and looked Bobby straight in the eyes. “Yes.”

Problem was, Wes didn’t know just how much he was asking.

“You want me to take leave and go to Boston,” Bobby didn’t really enjoy making Wes squirm, but he needed his best friend to see just how absurd this sounded, “because you and Colleen got into another argument.” He still didn’t turn it into a question. He just let it quietly hang there.

“No, Bob,” Wes said, the urgency in his voice turned up to high. “You don’t get it. She’s signed on with some kind of bleeding heart, touchy-feely volunteer organization, and next week she and her touchy-feely friends are flying out to fricking Tulgeria.” He said it again, louder, as if it were unprintable, then followed it up by a string of words that truly were.

Holy God. This wasn’t just another ridiculous argument. This was serious. And Wes was beyond upset, Bobby could see that now.

“She’s going to provide earthquake relief,” Wes continued. “That’s lovely. That’s wonderful, I told her. Be Mother Teresa. Be Florence Nightingale. Have your goody-two-shoes permanently glued to your feet. But stay way the hell away from Tulgeria! Tulgeria — the flipping terrorist capital of the world!”


“I tried to get leave,” Wes told him. “I was just in the Captain’s office, but with you still down and H. out with food poisoning, I’m mission essential.”

“I’m there,” Bobby said. “I’m on the next flight to Boston.”

Wes was willing to give up Alpha Squad’s current assignment — something he was really looking forward to, something involving plenty of C-4 explosives — to go to Boston. That meant that Colleen wasn’t just pushing her brother’s buttons. That meant she was serious about this. That she really was planning to travel to a part of the world where Bobby himself didn’t feel safe. And he wasn’t a freshly pretty, generously endowed, long-legged — very long-legged — redheaded and extremely female second year law student.

With a big mouth, a fiery temper and a stubborn streak. No, Colleen’s last name wasn’t Skelly for nothing.

Bobby swore softly. If she’d made up her mind to go, talking her out of it wasn’t going to be easy.

“Thank you for doing this,” Wes said, as if Bobby had already succeeded in keeping Colleen off that international flight. “Look, I gotta run. Literally.”

Wes owed Bobby for this one. But he already knew it. Bob didn’t bother to say the words aloud.

Wes was almost out the door before he turned back. “Hey, as long as you’re going to Boston…”

Ah. Here it came. Colleen was probably dating some new guy and… Bobby was already shaking his head.

“Check out this lawyer I think Colleen’s dating, would you?” Wes asked.

“No,” Bobby said.

But Wes was already gone.


Colleen Skelly was in trouble.

Big trouble.

It wasn’t fair. The sky was far too blue today for this kind of trouble. The June air held a crisp sweetness that only a New England summer could provide.

But the men standing in front of her provided nothing sweet to the day. And nothing unique to New England either.

Their kind of hatred, unfortunately, was universal.

She didn’t smile at them. She’d tried smiling in the past, and it hadn’t helped at all.

“Look,” she said, trying to sound as reasonable and calm as she possibly could, given that she was facing down six very big men. Ten pairs of young eyes were watching her, so she kept her temper, kept it cool and clean. “I’m well aware that you don’t like–”

“Don’t like doesn’t have anything to do with it,” the man at the front of the gang — John Morrison — cut her off. “We don’t want your Center here, we don’t want you here.” He looked at the kids, who’d stopped washing Mrs. O’Brien’s car and stood warily watching the exchange, wide-eyed and dripping with water and suds. “You, Sean Sullivan. Does your father know you’re down here with her? With the hippie chick?”

“Keep going, guys,” Colleen told the kids, giving them what she hoped was a reassuring smile. Hippie chick. Sheesh. “Mrs. O’Brien doesn’t have all day. And there’s a line, remember. This car wash team has a rep for doing a good job — swiftly and efficiently. Let’s not lose any customers over a little distraction.”

She turned back to John Morrison and his gang. And they were a gang, despite the fact that they were all in their late thirties and early forties, and led by a respectable local business men. Well, on second thought, calling Morrison respectable was probably a little too generous.

“Yes, Mr. Sullivan does know where his son is,” she told them levelly. “The St. Margaret’s Junior High Youth Group is helping raise money for the Tulgeria Earthquake Relief Fund. All of the money from this car wash is going to help people who’ve lost their homes and nearly all of their possessions. I don’t see how even you could have a problem with that.”

Morrison bristled.

And Colleen silently berated herself. Despite her efforts, her antagonism and anger toward these Neanderthals had leaked out.

“Why don’t you go back to wherever it was you came from,” he told her harshly. “Get the hell out of our neighborhood and take your goddamn bleeding heart liberal ideas and stick them up your f–”

No one was going to use the F-word around her kids. Not while she was in charge. “Out,” she said. “Get out. Shame on you! Get off this property before I wash your mouth out with soap. And charge you for it.”

Oh, that was a big mistake. Her threat hinted at violence — something she had to be careful to avoid with this group.

Yes, she was nearly six feet tall and somewhat solidly built, but she wasn’t a Navy SEAL like her brother and his best friend, Bobby Taylor. Unlike them, she couldn’t take all six of these guys at once, if it came down to that.

The scary thing was that this was a neighborhood in which some men didn’t particularly have a problem with hitting a woman, no matter her size. And she suspected that John Morrison was one of those men.

She imagined she saw it in his eyes — a barely tempered urge to backhand her, hard, across the face.

Usually she resented her brother’s interference. But right now she found herself wishing he and Bobby were standing right here, beside her.

God knows she’d been yelling for years about her independence, but this wasn’t exactly an independent kind of situation.

She stood her ground all alone, wishing she was holding something more effective against attack than a giant-sized sponge, and then glad that she wasn’t. She was just mad enough to turn the hose on them like a pack of wild dogs, and that would only make this worse.

There were children here, and all she needed was Sean or Harry or Melissa to come leaping to her aid. And they would. These kids could be fierce.

But then again, so could she. And she would not let these children get hurt. She would do whatever she had to do, including trying again to make friends with these dirtwads.

“I apologize for losing my temper. Shantel,” she called to one of the girls, her eyes still on Morrison and his goons. “Run inside and see if Father Timothy’s coming out with more of that lemonade soon. Tell him to bring six extra paper cups for Mr. Morrison and his friends. I think we could probably all use some cooling off.”

Maybe that would work. Kill them with kindness. Drown them with lemonade.

The twelve-year-old ran swiftly for the church door.

“How about it, guys?” Colleen forced herself to smile at the men, praying that this time it would work. “Some lemonade?”

Morrison’s expression didn’t change, and she knew that this was where he was going to step forward, inform her he didn’t want any of their lemonade — expletive deleted — and challenge her to just try washing out his mouth.

But now, to her surprise, John Morrison didn’t say another word. He just looked long and hard at the group of eleven and twelve year olds standing behind her, then did an about face, muttering something unprintable.

It was amazing. Just like that, he and his boys were walking away.

Colleen stared after them, laughing — softly — in disbelief.

She’d done it. She’d stood her ground, and Morrison had backed down without any interference from the police or the parish priest. Although at 260 pounds, Father Timothy was a heart attack waiting to happen. His usefulness in a fist fight would be extremely limited.

Was it possible Morrison and his clowns were finally hearing what she was saying? Were they finally starting to believe that she wasn’t going to let herself be intimidated by their bogus threats and ugly comments?

Behind her, the hoses were still silent, and she turned around. “Okay, you guys, let’s get back to–”

Colleen dropped her sponge.

Bob Taylor. It was Bobby Taylor. Standing right there, behind her, in the St. Margaret’s parking lot. Somehow, some way, her brother’s best friend had materialized there, as if Colleen’s most fervent wishes had been granted.

He stood in a Hawaiian shirt and cargo shorts, planted in a superhero pose — legs spread and massive arms crossed in front of his equally massive chest. His eyes were hard and his face stony as he still glared in the direction John Morrison and his gang had departed. He was wearing a version of his “war face.”

He and Wes had completely cracked Colleen up on more than one occasion by practicing their “war faces” in the bathroom mirror during their far too infrequent visits home. She’d always thought it was silly — what did the expression on their faces matter when they went into a fight? — until now. Now she saw that that grim look on Bob’s usually so agreeably handsome face was startlingly effective. He looked hard and tough and even mean — as if he’d get quite a bit of enjoyment and satisfaction in tearing John Morrison and his friends from limb to limb.

But then he looked at her and smiled, and warmth seeped back into his dark brown eyes.

He had the world’s most beautiful eyes.

“Hey, Colleen,” he said in his matter-of-fact, no worries, easygoing voice. “How’s it going?”

He held out his arms to her, and in a flash, she was running across the asphalt and hugging him. He smelled faintly of cigarette smoke — no doubt thanks to her brother, Mr. Just-One-More-Cigarette-Before-I-Quit — and coffee. He was warm and huge and solid and one of very few men in the world who could actually make her feel if not quite petite then pretty darn close.

And God, as long as she’d wished him here, she should have wished for more. Like for him to have shown up with a million dollar lottery win in his pocket. Or — better yet — a diamond ring and a promise of his undying love.

Yes, she’d had a wild crush on this man for close to ten years now. And just once she wanted him to take her into his arms like this and kiss her senseless instead of giving her a brotherly noogie on the top of her head as he released her.

Over the past few years, she’d imagined she’d seen appreciation in his eyes as he’d looked at her. And once or twice, she could’ve sworn she’d actually seen heat — but only when he thought both she and Wes weren’t looking. Bobby was attracted to her. Or at the very least she wished he were. But even if he were, there was no way in hell he’d ever act on that attraction — not with Wes watching his every move and breathing down his neck.

Colleen hugged him tightly. She had only two chances each visit to get this close to him — once during hello and once during good-bye — and she always made sure to take full advantage.

But this time, he winced. “Easy.”

Oh, God, he’d been hurt. She pulled back to look up at him and she actually had to tilt her head. He was that tall.

“I’m a little sore,” he told her, releasing her completely and stepping back, away from her. “Shoulder and leg. Nothing serious. You got me in the dead perfect spot, that’s all.”

“I’m sorry.”

He shrugged. “It’s no big deal. I’m taking some down time to get back to speed.”

“What happened — or can you not tell me?”

He shook his head, smiling apologetically. God, he was a good-looking man. And that little smile… What would he look like with his thick hair loose from the single braid he wore down his back? Although, she realized he wasn’t wearing a braid today. Instead, he wore his hair pulled back into a simple ponytail.

Every time she saw him, she expected him to have his hair cut short again. But each time it was even longer.

The first time they’d met, back when he and Wes were training to become SEALs, he’d had a crew cut.

Colleen gestured to the kids, aware they were all still watching. “Come on, gang, let’s keep going here.”

“Are you all right?” Bobby stepped closer to her, to avoid the spray from the hose. “What’s the deal with those guys?”

“You’re why they left,” she realized suddenly. And even though mere minutes ago she’d wished desperately for Bobby’s and her brother’s presence, she felt a flare of anger and frustration. Damn it! She’d wanted Morrison’s retreat to be because of her. As nice as it would be, she couldn’t walk around with a Navy SEAL by her side every minute of every day.

“What was that about, Colleen?” Bobby pressed.

“Nothing,” she said tersely.

He nodded, regarding her steadily. “It didn’t feel like nothing.”

“Nothing you have to worry about,” she countered. “I’m doing some pro bono legal work for the AIDS Education Center, and not everyone is happy about it. That’s what litigation’s all about. Where’s Wes? Parking the car?”

“Actually, he’s–”

“I know why you’re here. You came to try to talk me out of going to Tulgeria. Wes probably came to forbid me from going. Hah. As if he could.” She picked up her sponge and rinsed it in a bucket. “I’m not going to listen to either of you, so you might as well just save your breath, turn around and go back to California. I’m not fifteen anymore, in case you haven’t noticed.”

“Hey, I’ve noticed,” Bobby said. He smiled. “But Wes needs a little work in that area.”

“You know, my living room is completely filled with boxes,” Colleen told him. “Donations of supplies and clothing. I don’t have any room for you guys. I mean, I guess you can throw sleeping bags on the floor of my bedroom, but I swear to God, if Wes snores, I’m kicking him out into the street.”

“No,” Bob said. “That’s okay. I made hotel reservations. This week is kind of my vacation, and–”

“Where is Wes?” Colleen asked, shading her eyes and looking down the busy city street. “Parking the car in Kuwait?”

“Actually.” Bob cleared his throat. “Yeah.”

She looked at him.

“Wes is out on an op,” he told her. “It’s not quite Kuwait, but…”

“He asked you to come to Boston,” Colleen realized. “For him. He asked you to play big brother and talk me out of going to Tulgeria, didn’t he? I don’t believe it. And you agreed? You jerk!”

“Colleen, come on. He’s my best friend. He’s worried about you.”

“And you don’t think I worry about him? Or you?” she countered hotly. “Do I come out to California to try to talk you out of risking your lives? Do I ever say don’t be a SEAL? No! Because I respect you. I respect the choices and decisions you make.”

Father Timothy and Shantel emerged from the church kitchen with a huge thermos of lemonade and a stack of cups.

“Everything all right?” Father T. asked, eyeing Bobby apprehensively.

Bobby held out his hand. “I’m Bob Taylor, a friend of Colleen’s,” he introduced himself.

“A friend of my brother, Wes’s,” she corrected him as the two men shook hands. “He’s here as a surrogate brother. Father, plug your ears. I’m about to be extremely rude to him.”

Timothy laughed. “I’ll see if the other children want lemonade.”

“Go away,” Colleen told Bobby. “Go home. I don’t want another big brother. I don’t need one. I’ve got plenty already.”

Bobby shook his head. “Wes asked me to–”

Damn Wes. “He probably also asked you to sift through my dresser drawers, too,” she countered, lowering her voice. “Although I’m not sure what you’re going to tell him when you find my collection of whips and chains, my black leather bustier and matching crotchless panties.”

Bobby looked at her, something unrecognizable on his face.

And as Colleen looked back at him, for a moment she spun out, losing herself in the outer space darkness of his eyes. She’d never imagined outer space could be so very warm.

He looked away, clearly embarrassed, and she realized suddenly that her brother wasn’t here.

Wes wasn’t here.

Bobby was in town without Wes. And without Wes, if she played it right, the rules of this game they’d been playing for the past decade could change.


Oh, my goodness.

Copyright 2001 by Suzanne Brockmann