WHO’S YOUR DADDY? is a sexy, contemporary, category-length romance. The story is currently a WIP.
“Daaaamn, I’m gonna miss that,” Marine Captain Mac MacDermott said, rolling over onto the rumpled sheets.
Kaitlin O’Donnell propped herself up on an elbow so she could look down at him. As usual, their lovemaking had been good, but not great. Maybe next time. She sighed. “You mean me, right?”
Apparently, blood hadn’t yet returned to Mac’s larger head, the one with a brain in it. Kaitlin’s Irish mother always said men had only enough blood to run one head at a time. She was right about a lot of things.
“Me. You mean you’re ‘gonna miss’ me, not just the sex.”
“Yeah, sure, babe.” He yawned and stretched.
Kaitlin glared at him. His insensitivity planted a tiny seed of irritation. “C’mon, Mac. It’s not unmanly or un-Marine to admit you have feelings for me. Especially when you’re being deployed to Afghanistan in a couple weeks. You’ll be gone a whole year, and I’m going to miss you like crazy.”
He cleared his throat. “Yeah, about that.”
“Look, I’m not happy you’re leaving, but I admire you for serving our country. I understand about your career.”
“No, you don’t,” he snapped, but then exhaled. “We need to talk.”
She stiffened at those four ominous words. Her mom said that when men needed to talk, it was never good. Kaitlin sat up and scooted back against the headboard of his bed. She brought her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. “Sooo, talk.”
Mac swore under his breath. “The last thing I want is to hurt you, Kaitlin.”
She closed her eyes and blew out a long sigh. Oh, crap.
“Because I’ve had a helluva good time. You’re really great. This isn’t your fault, it’s mine.”
Spare me the clichés. That little irritation seed sprouted roots.
“You don’t really understand. The Corps isn’t my career. It’s my life. I don’t want to get married.”
Kaitlin’s eyes flew open, and she straightened. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. I’ve never brought up marriage. I know you’re not ready to settle down…yet.”
“Yeah, but you’ve been thinking about it. All women do when a guy’s been hangin’ around this long.” He angled his head so he could look up at her. “The truth is, babe, it’s not a matter of ‘yet.’ I don’t ever plan to get married or have kids.”
What the… “Let me get this straight. All you’ve been doing is ‘hangin’ around’?”
“Yeah, well, kinda. You know, having fun, having sex. Nothing serious.”
Nothing serious? Shoot me now…before I kill him.
The irritation seed pushed a slender shoot to the surface. Kaitlin swung her legs over the side of the bed. “FYI, Mac, while you were ‘having fun’ with ‘nothing serious,’ I was getting attached to you. You may be a real patriot when it comes to flag and country, but you’re a real jerk when it comes to relationships.” She pulled her shorts off the chair and yanked them on. “Stupid me for believing you’d like someone to come home to, someone to think about on those long, lonely nights in Afghanistan.”
Scowling, Mac sat up and jabbed his index finger at her. “See, you don’t understand. I don’t like leaving loose ends back home while I’m gone.”
“We’ve been together six months, and all I am is a loose end?” The irritation shoot grew rigid and strengthened.
He shrugged. “I can’t be thinking about you or anyone else. It’s a distraction that can get a guy killed. I gotta be thinking about staying alive. You’re a distraction I can’t afford.”
“A distraction? Your buddies have told me they love emailing and Skyping with their girlfriends. It reminds them what they have to look forward to when they come home.” She pointed at the tangled sheets. “And you didn’t mind me distracting you a few minutes ago.”
His expression turned cold. “Nope, didn’t mind at all, but no one’s shooting at my ass here. But that brings up another important point.”
She tugged on her tight little T-shirt. When her head emerged, she narrowed her eyes. “That would be?”
“Hey, you know you could trust me to be faithful while you’re gone.”
“Of course. But I don’t plan to…to abstain. I can’t go a whole year without sex. I don’t figure you’d be too keen on me screwing other women while you’re home pining away for me.”
His words cut deep. The irritation seedling sprouted leaves.
Kaitlin looked down as she slipped on her leather sandals. “What exactly are you saying?”
“Aw, hell. We’ve had a lot of fun these past six months. Let’s don’t ruin it with a nasty good-bye.”
A lot of fun? Nasty good-bye? “You’re really breaking up with me.” She shook her head in disbelief.
“Yeah. Sorry. I hadn’t planned to do it tonight, but hell, I might as well get it over with.”
Her eyes widened. The little irritation seedling grew into a 300-foot Redwood of rage. She spotted her black lace thong and matching bra on the nightstand and grabbed them. After flinging the bedroom door open, she gestured toward him with the hand containing her underwear. She didn’t miss the smirk her dangling lingerie brought to his face.
“I don’t know what I ever saw in you, Mac. Don’t worry about not having sex for a year. You can always screw yourself,” she yelled before slamming the door.
She leaned her forehead against the hallway wall and fought back tears. What an idiot she’d been. In so many ways, her mother would say. Sure, she was twenty-eight and her biological clock was ticking like a time bomb, but she hadn’t pestered Mac about marriage and kids. She’d thought they had a serious, committed relationship that could grow into marriage, but she’d realized he wasn’t ready. She groaned. She’d wasted half a year with a man who never wanted to settle down. How had she been so blind?
Despite her efforts, tears escaped down her cheeks, but Kaitlin didn’t take time to wipe them away as she straightened and hurried down the hall. She drew up short when she barreled into the living room, which was illuminated only by the glowing television screen. She spied the dark figure of Mac’s younger brother, Sean, stretched out in the recliner. Great, just friggin’ great. She pretended not to see him and rushed toward the front door.
“Everything okay, Kaitlin?” Sean called. “Sorry, but I couldn’t help overhearing.”
“Everything’s fine,” she said without stopping. “See ya.”
He caught up with her on the sidewalk, snagging her arm and spinning her around. “Wait a minute, would ya? You don’t look fine.”
“Thanks, I needed that. What do you expect when I’ve just been screwed—literally and figuratively—by your big brother?”
Sean had the decency to cringe. “Mac’s under a lot of pressure right now.”
“What a nice little brother you are, making excuses for why he dumped me.” She turned to go, and his hand slid down her arm to her hand—the one still clutching her lacy black underwear. They stared at it for an awkward moment before she yanked her hand free. When their gazes jerked upward and collided, she resented the twinkle of amusement in his emerald eyes. Damn MacDermott brothers.
“Mac dumped you?” Sean asked, his expression growing serious again. He shook his head, his shaggy auburn hair falling across his forehead. Impatiently, he brushed it off his face. “I don’t believe it.”
She bristled. “Well, he did. Believe me. I was there. And you’ll love his reasons. Mac can’t be bothered with distracting thoughts about me, and he wants to screw around while he’s gone. Sounds like break-up talk to me. And to top it off, after six months of dating, he confessed that he never wants to get married…to me or anyone else.”
Sean opened his mouth, but no sound came out. His lips popped back together, and he seemed to ponder his next move. Finally, he sighed. “I’m sorry, Kaitlin. Really sorry. Would you like me to drive you home since you’re upset?”
“No, thanks. I’d rather be alone. I’ve had enough of the MacDermott brothers to last me a lifetime.”
Sean jammed his hands in his jean pockets as he watched the taillights of Kaitlin’s Prius disappear. His chest ached from the effort of restraining himself. Now was not the time to pull her into his arms and kiss away her pain. She was in no mood for more MacDermott kisses tonight. Maybe never. Trust his brother to screw things up.
The situation didn’t surprise him, though, because it had always been this way. Mac blustering through, breaking things, making a mess, and garnering all the attention. Leaving Sean to take control of the aftermath, fix things, and make them right, all without any of the glory.
But this time, he might not be able to make things right because he was partially responsible for Kaitlin’s pain.
A sharp bark drew his attention back to the house. “Coming, Dublin.” His golden retriever’s impatience at being left behind prompted a smile and pushed aside the melancholy.
As soon as his master stepped through the door, Dublin nudged his leg repeatedly. Sean reached down to scratch his head. “Sorry, buddy. Had to motor to catch Kaitlin. And you know she didn’t have Shamrock with her, so calm down.”
Dublin made a noise that sounded an awful lot like a harrumph.
Sean grinned at the indignant reprimand and returned to the living room, only to discover Mac had taken over the recliner. His Irish temper bubbled to the surface.
“Get the hell out of my chair,” he said, wanting to strangle his brother, not for poaching his seat, but for hurting Kaitlin.
“You move, you lose.” Mac didn’t bother to take his eyes off the television.
“Not when it’s my house, my TV, and my chair.” He snatched the remote from the end table and clicked it.
Mac grumbled as he gave up the recliner and flopped onto the couch. He grabbed for the control, but Sean held it out of reach.
“You can be a real prick sometimes, Mac. Apparently you’ve got a new strategy for breaking up with a woman: Screw ’em, then screw ’em over.”
“Back off, bro. I didn’t plan to do it tonight. I was gonna wait until right before I shipped out.”
Sean snorted. “Right. That’s so much better.”
“Hey, I couldn’t help it. Kaitlin started getting all clingy and serious.”
“Can’t imagine why. You’ve only been dating exclusively for six months.”
“You been counting the days, little brother? What, you jealous?”
Damn straight. Sean’s jaw clenched. “You blew a good thing, hurt a good woman. I thought she might be willing to keep you around a while.”
Mac grunted. “You know I’m not a keeper.”
“Yeah, but Kaitlin is. I never should’ve let you have her.” His hands curled into fists as he remembered them tossing a coin to see who won the right to hit on her, a custom they’d started as teenagers to avoid fighting over girls. “I won the coin toss fair and square.”
Mac studied him a long moment. “Yeah, you did, so why—”
“I changed my mind, that’s all.”
The lie burned in his throat. Mac would beat the crap out of him if he ever learned that Sean had relinquished his win because he was worried about his older brother battling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Captain would strangle him for noticing any weakness. But Sean had figured a good woman was just what Mac needed to pull himself back together. He’d been right: Mac had recovered.
But Sean hadn’t.
He’d wanted Kaitlin since the moment they’d noticed her at San Diego’s Dog Beach. Her tempting body. Her long, wavy red hair. Her clover-colored eyes. Her loving manner with Shamrock and all the other dogs. Although she became Mac’s girlfriend, the attraction never died. Hell, it grew. To the point he could hardly stand to be around the couple because it drove him crazy thinking about what Mac had that he wanted so badly. Sean had forced himself to stay as far away as possible, which was damn difficult since Mac lived with him.
And now, his jackass brother had hurt her. That made Sean partially responsible for her pain. And probably ruined any chance for him to get close to her.
Before Mac could ask any more probing questions, Sean dropped into the recliner and turned on the television. Guinness, his brother’s chocolate Lab, ambled over from where he’d been lying by the couch and settled down next to the chair. While Sean petted him, Dublin wedged himself in between the recliner and the other dog.
“You jealous thing,” Sean said with a chuckle.
Mac glanced at the dogs. “That reminds me. I’m moving back on Base tomorrow.”
“Why? You don’t leave for two weeks.”
“Yeah, but stuff’s heatin’ up. I’ll be workin’ some long-ass hours. It’ll just be more convenient than commuting from San Diego to Camp Pendleton.”
“Okay, no prob. I’ll take good care of Guinness.”
“Actually, I promised Mom and Dad that they could keep him while I’m gone.”
Sean frowned. “Taking care of a big, active dog is a lot of work. You sure Ma and Da are up to it?”
Mac rolled his eyes. “Why do you still call them that?”
Mac’s lack of interest in their Irish heritage was a huge disappointment and constant irritant to their parents. Sean, on the other hand, took great pride in his ancestry. “Because Ma and Da are Irish, and it’s what they like to be called.”
“Fine, but it sounds stupid.” He shook his head. “Mom said she needed something young to care for, and since neither of her sons was giving her grandkids, Guinness would have to do.”
“Sounds like a typical Irish mother.”
“Yeah. And since I’m not having any ankle-biters that whole grandkids thing is on your shoulders, little bro. Have fun with that.”
“I will. I can’t wait to have kids.”
Mac snorted and stretched before he stood. “I’m hittin’ the sack.” He lumbered toward the hallway. “C’mon, Guinness.”
The dog didn’t move.
Mac stopped, turned, and slapped his thigh. “Now, boy. I’m beat.”
Guinness rose and plodded after Mac to the bedroom.
Sean waited until he heard the bedroom door close and then turned off the television. He pushed the recliner all the way back and shut his eyes.
A video of Kaitlin played in his mind. Frolicking on the beach with the three dogs. Eating dinner at his parents’ house and trying to explain what she did as a pet psychologist. Crying as she watched a chick-flick. All the scenes focused on Kaitlin with Mac prominently present and Sean on the periphery. As Mac’s girlfriend, she’d been off-limits, untouchable. But now, things had changed. He wanted to heal her hurt, get close to her, make love to her. Had Mac ruined any chance Sean might’ve had?
A cold, wet nose nudged his hand. He’d probably started to snore, and Dublin decided it was time for bed.
“You’re right, boy. I need a good night’s sleep. I have two dog and three cat surgeries tomorrow. I gotta be sharp.”
After locking up the house, he headed to bed, but sleep didn’t come easily. Tossing and turning, Sean struggled to keep images of Kaitlin out of his mind. Usually, Mac’s headboard banging against the bedroom wall triggered the problem, but this time, the memory of Kaitlin’s rant produced the unbidden visions. Different cause, same effect: an ache in his chest…and his groin.
He pounded the pillow into submission and smashed the back of his head into the depression. He growled with frustration as Kaitlin reappeared when he closed his eyes. Resistance was futile. Maybe if he met the taunting temptation head-on, it’d have mercy on him and let him sleep.
Damn, he wanted Kaitlin. Bad. For six months, but his hands had been tied. Now that Mac had unceremoniously dumped her, could Sean let himself dream of what he wanted without guilt gnawing at his gut? Only one way to find out. He drew a deep breath and let the images envelope him.
Kaitlin stood in his bedroom doorway. She hesitated before sashaying across the room to stand beside the bed. Her shy smile ignited the pilot light of Sean’s lust as she gazed down at him.
He reached for her hand, but she shook her head no. Damn, was Kaitlin going to reject him even in his imagination? His faith in fantasies returned when she clutched the hem of her T-shirt and eased it upward. Inch by inch, she revealed the tanned skin of her belly. A sexy gleam flashed in her green eyes before the fabric hid her face. At the same time, the receding shirt exposed the black, lacy bra she’d held in her hand as she was leaving. She paused for a moment before whipping the T-shirt over her head and dropping it to the floor.
Her gaze locked with Sean’s, she unzipped her shorts and slid them down her long, slender legs. Sean moaned at the sight of her thong, the tiny, lacy triangle barely covering anything. Her sexy underwear looked even better adorning her torso than hanging from her hand.
Kaitlin bent and kissed his lips. His hands on her waist, Sean pulled her onto the bed. She snuggled close, draping one leg over his hip. He ran his hand down her smooth thigh. The hard-on from Hell strained against his boxer briefs.
“Sean,” she whispered. “I want you.”
A loud scratching sound interrupted the fantasy. Sean shook his head to clear the lusty fog.
The noise at the bedroom door grew more insistent. Dublin stood up beside the bed and whined.
Sean sighed. “Great timing, Guinness.” He rolled out of bed and opened the door for the dog. “Mac kick you out again for panting, buddy? No prob. No one’s sleeping in here anyway.”