She had spent the night wrapped in his arms.

Nothing had changed, but everything was different.

Mac stood on the fantail of the Seahawk and stared at the endless ocean, remembering the night she'd been stranded in the desert with Harm.

Settling down for the night, Harm had sweet-talked her into snuggling up to him for the sake of body heat. She'd gone willingly enough, but only after he had asked. Whatever this thing between them was becoming, she wanted him to have to work for it a little. She'd been cocooned inside his jacket with his legs wrapped around her when the bombs had started falling. They had barely made it to safety. Scrambling madly, they had sought cover until the air strike was over, listening, as the noise from the planes faded and the silence of the Afghan night surrounded them once more.

"Mac, are you okay?" Harm's hands brushed dirt and debris from her hair.

"I'm fine, Harm." She looked up at him and touched the scrape on his cheek. "You're bleeding, though."

"So are you," he said examining the scratches on her face. "Damn, that was too close," he sighed, then gathered her into an unexpected hug. "Are you sure you're all right?"

Mac's heart was still pounding from their near miss. "I'm sure, Harm. I just need to catch my breath," but she allowed herself to linger in his embrace.

He dragged her over to the nearest boulder and sat on the ground, leaning back and pulling her down with him. "I think the bombing is over, so we might as well get comfortable again. Does this spot look okay to you?" He kept his arms around her as he settled her between his legs.

This spot looked like heaven to her. Sandwiched between his long legs and sprawled against his chest, she was exactly where she wanted to be. Well, not exactly. A war zone in Afghanistan had never been at the top of her fantasy list, but the rest of it…this man always figured prominently in her fantasies.

She leaned against his chest, her face level with his and was achingly aware, despite the layers of clothes, of the way her body pressed against the length of his. He moistened his fingers with water from the canteen and wiped the dust and streaks of blood from her face. His fingers gently caressed her cheeks, then her chin, and lingered on her lips.

She poured water onto her fingers and returned his ministrations, her hands soothing his scraped cheek. It was all a poor excuse for first aid, but it served its purpose. They had nearly died twice today and they couldn't deny their need to touch each other any longer.



She smiled at him and rubbed at the dirt on his forehead. "I think I'm just making mud pies. Close your eyes."

He did as he was told and she ruffled his hair, shaking out the sand that had settled there.

"Okay, open your eyes. Oh boy, that just made things worse," she said laughing as she tried to wipe the new dirt off his damp face.

"Thanks, Mac," he said laughing and spitting sand from his mouth. He scrubbed his hands over his face then grinned and asked, "How's that?"

"Better." She smiled and smoothed her fingers over his face taking her time as she touched and examined the contours of his face. Her thumb was making friends with his lower lip when she glanced up and caught him watching her with a need so intense she forgot how to breathe.

His eyes were full of promise and passion and something more. In the time she'd known him he had looked at her with every imaginable emotion- affection, anger, compassion, even desire, but in the last few weeks there had been a new texture to his gaze. It mirrored something in hers- hope maybe- and there was a patient quality in the way he looked at her now. It was as if all the questions he'd had about them through the years had been answered and things at long last, for him at least, were simple.

"I want you, Mac." Her name sounded like a prayer on his lips.

She closed her eyes and savored his words. How long had she waited to hear such a simple unambiguous declaration from this man?