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(Read by Author Esther Mitchell)

Arms draped around his neck from behind, startling him out of his reverie. Relief poured through him as her familiar scent -- like gunpowder and roses -- told him who it was.

 

"Hey, baby," her soft voice against his ear sent searing want racing through his body. He straightened and felt her start to withdraw. "Sorry... I was trying not to startle you. You looked about a million miles away."

 

He turned his chair, his hands going to her waist as he tugged her forward into his lap, nuzzling her neck as one hand slid to caress her belly. "Where'd you go, this morning?"

 

A soft laugh pushed from her. "Sorry. Kuron called, and I needed to think." She pulled back just far enough to meet his gaze, her mahogany eyes glinting with humor. "He's on his way here, you know. As in, I'm supposed to pick him up in a little over an hour."

 

Rick chuckled. "Figured."

 

Her eyes narrowed in a mock glare. "So that's how he knew. You told him."

 

His smile stayed in place as he ran his hands in gentle strokes over her sides. She was absolutely adorable when she got all suspicious. "Of course I did. I called him as soon as the paperwork came through. Babe, he's your only living relation. I knew you'd want him here."

 

She sighed and tipped her head forward until their foreheads rested together. "Did you just forget to tell me?"

 

It was his turn to sigh as he lifted his hands to cup her face, bringing their lips together in a series of small, tender kisses through which he murmured, "It was supposed to be a surprise."

 

The sound from her was halfway between a moan and a laugh. "At oh-three-hundred? Baby, that's a downright shock."

 

"Oh, for fuck's sake..." The muttered expletive broke them apart, and Rick glanced toward the black man who stood paused in the doorway, a disgruntled expression on his face.

 

"Help you with something, Matt?"

 

"Fuck, yeah," Matt griped, before stalking through the room toward Comms. "Get a fucking room."

 

Tamia's forehead dropped against Rick's shoulder, and he felt her body shake with silent laughter, before she pulled free of his embrace and slid out of his lap. "Much as I'd love to keep traumatizing Matt, I gotta split, or I'll never get there in time to meet Kuron's flight."

 

He grinned up at her, dug in his pocket for his keys, and held them out to her. "Here, take the jeep. I don't want the two of you riding around on public transit."

 

She winked at him and grinned as she took the keys. "I'm sure Kuron will be grateful you care."

 

He caught her hand before she withdrew and pulled her forward to place a soft kiss on her belly, before looking up at her. "I wasn't talking about Kuron."

 

"Rick." Her expression softened, and her hand touched his cheek, before a soft, shy smile curved her lips. "I'll be careful."

 

Her promise echoed in his mind for long moments after she disappeared through the door.

 

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