Falling for the Marine

By: Samanthe Beck

To my father, CPO Beck, U.S. Navy, Ret. Vet.

Chapter One

Did anything say, “Happy Birthday, Stud,” quite like black lace and handcuffs?

Chloe Kincaid eyed her reflection in the mirror at the foot of her bed and scooted into position under the birthday banner she’d hung above her brass headboard.

The handcuff securing her right wrist to the headrail clattered as she moved. The trio of red candles burning on her dresser and the muted light from the nightstand lamp gave the room a soft, golden glow that made everything, including her, look unusually seductive. Bondage games weren’t really her thing, but she had to admit her cuffed wrist looked positively wicked, as did the black lace bra and thong she’d splurged on. Money was tight, but what the hell? One of San Clemente’s finest lifeguards had shared his raciest fantasy with her, and he deserved a memorable birthday, right?

Still, something about the picture staring back at her in the mirror seemed…off. Too tidy, she decided. With her free hand she pushed her comforter and sheet down so the bed appeared kind of rumpled—as if maybe she’d already done some naughty things, all by herself.

Her hip came into contact with a lump under her comforter. She dug beneath the covers and retrieved a light tan teddy bear.

“Sorry, RT,” she said to the plush, “Ready-Teddy” hide-a-vibe also known as her exclusive bedmate during these past twelve months, “you’re on your own tonight.”

The bear’s glassy eyes stared into hers, full of censure.

“Don’t look at me like that. It’s only one night. I promise. A quick, easy one-night stand with a cute guy who thinks I have pretty eyes. Is that so wrong?” She stretched as far as she could and shoved the bear under the bed.

Then she leaned back and considered the scene again in the mirror. Yes, rumpled sheets were definitely a step in the right direction. She used her feet to kick the sheet and blanket all the way down the bed, so they draped over the brass footrails and onto the floor. Nice.

Satisfied she had the stage properly set, she lifted one of the two flutes of champagne on her nightstand and sipped, then frowned at the time on her bedside clock as she put the flute down. Her perfect birthday surprise lacked one critical element. The birthday boy. Where the heck was—

The ring of the phone reverberated through her tiny, one-bedroom apartment. She considered reaching for the handcuff key on her nightstand and untethering so she could rush out to the kitchen and answer, but decided to go ahead and screen the call. In a few short moments her “Leave a message,” message ended and the beep signaled the caller to speak.

“Hey, Chloe!” Troy’s voice blasted over the line, accompanied by a background soundtrack of thumping club music and chatter. The noise corrupted the peace and quiet of her apartment like a frat party. “Sorry, but I’m not gonna make it to your place tonight. Know how I thought the guys in the Beach Services Program forgot about my birthday? I was wrong. They kidnapped me and dragged me down to TJ and…fuck”—the sounds of laughter, catcalls, and cheers came over the line—“Oh God. Poppers. Jesus.” There was a low groan, and then, “No more poppers. I swear, I’m gonna hurl all over someone.” More cheers greeted that announcement. “Hey, Chlo, ’member how I told you I didn’t think Mirasol Machado liked me ’cuz whenever we worked together she never gave me the time of day? Well, check it…I think we just got married! Can you believe that shit? Holy crap, here comes the chick with more tequila shots. These assholes aren’t gonna be happy ’til I puke my guts ou—”

The dial tone echoed over the line, followed by a click and then an abrupt, rushing silence. Unbelievable. Chloe blinked at the girl in the mirror wearing sixty bucks worth of screw-me underwear she didn’t need, and then grabbed her half-empty champagne flute from the nightstand and downed the rest in one big gulp.

She won the prize for idiot of the year, going to all this trouble for a guy she’d been dating less than two weeks. Spending money she couldn’t afford on decorations and lingerie to fool her conscience into believing tonight’s festivities amounted to something more elaborate than a casual hookup. What had she been thinking? Obviously, she hadn’t been thinking.

Also By Samanthe Beck

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