Grisham walked across the camp to knock on the door of the woman she had once thought she would never see again.
It took a minute, but Gray appeared, her eyes narrowed with sleep and suspicion, her hair falling in messily into them until she pushed it up and away.
“Do you know what time it is? Grisham, you know I can’t stay up all night like you. I need sleep.”
“We have to talk.”
Gray rubbed her face with both hands, then nodded. “Okay. Come in.”
Grisham walked into the cabin, following Gray’s black silk pajama clad form. The room was laid out just like the one they were staying in, but furnished to a much higher standard with clean lines and spotless attention to detail.
Gray crossed her arms over her chest, leaning against the wall as Grisham sat down in a cobalt leather armchair with a sigh.
“Cadet,” Grisham said. “She is taking full advantage of this…” she gestured between them with her forefinger.
“Cadet isn’t the reason you’re here in the middle of the night,” Gray said. “It’s working with me. I know you don’t want to. You never wanted to see me again.”
Grisham shot a hard look at her. “Do you blame me?”
“I did what I had to, Tessie.”
“Don’t call me that,” Grisham snapped.
“Fine, Grisham,” Gray sighed. “We’re married and on last name basis.”
Grisham felt the old pull. There was something about Gray, a strength and a self-knowledge which made her enigmatic. She was the toughest fully human warrior Grisham had ever known. Pain did not seem to touch Gray in the way it did other people. She never shied away from it, she embraced it, went fully into it – and she bore the marks of it as a result. Every time Grisham saw the scars, she felt the same rage she’d felt the day they were inflicted.
Gray came over and crouched down in front of Grisham, her hand on Grisham’s knee. She looked up into her face with a gaze that was probably more understanding than Grisham deserved.
“It wasn’t your fault, Tess,” Gray said softly.
Grisham pressed her lips together, shaking her head. “You wouldn’t let me save you. I could have saved you all that pain…”
“I didn’t need saving,” Gray said. “Not then and not now.”
Grisham’s fist clenched with anger. Not at Gray. Never at Gray. At those who had taken her, hurt her. Every time she looked at the woman she vowed her eternal soul to, she saw her failure to protect her written in every dark line tracing her face. And she knew too, that the scars on her face were the least of the scars she bore.
“Terra is going after them,” Grisham said, her voice a soft growl. “I don’t want you anywhere near this. It’s going to get nasty.”
“You want me tucked away in a quiet forest,” Gray said. “I’ve been doing that for a while now, Tess, and you didn’t come back to me. I’m not afraid of them. I never have been. Even.. after…”
“And that’s the problem!” Grisham growled down at Gray. “You’re not afraid! I have to be afraid for both of us.”
“No, you don’t,” Gray said, standing up. “You never understand, Tess. I can look after myself. And I can look after you too.”
Grisham stood up, looked down at Gray and slid a hand behind her head, a finger from her other hand tracing the line which ran from just under Gray’s left eye all the way to her ear, then down her jaw. She shook her head silently. These marks told her just how wrong Gray was.
“That’s all you see, isn’t it,” Gray said bitterly. “The scars. You stopped seeing me the day I got hurt. I turned into something for you to keep, something to fret over.”
“Yes,” Gray said bitterly. “I don’t need your pity, Tessie.”
“Don’t call me that.”
“Why? Because it reminds you of what you actually are to me? I don’t see a big bad super soldier like everyone else,” Gray said, her gaze triumphant as she looked up at Grisham. “I see a woman who orgasms under my lash. I see someone who is at her best naked and on her knees, begging for release…” Gray’s eyes narrowed. “And you can’t stand that, can you?”
Grisham tightened her grip on the back of Gray’s head and lowered her own, claiming Gray’s lips in a rough, passionate kiss. Their tongues met in battle, lashing against one another until they could not breathe and their lips parted, eyes still locked.
“You’re the one who is going to end up whipped if you don’t stay out of trouble this time,” Grisham growled against Gray’s lips.
“You’ve never had the stomach for the kind of punishment it would take to change my mind on anything,” Gray smirked. “And that’s a good thing. Stick to paddling Cadet occasionally. She’s the one who needs it.”
“As if there’s anything left over for anyone else once you’re done with her,” Grisham snorted.
“If you call me that again…”
“What?” Gray’s breath came hot against Grisham’s lips, a gleam of challenge in her eye.
Grisham’s hand slid down to grasp Gray’s tight ass, palming the taut rounds of her rear. “I’m going to have you one way or another,” she growled. “Which hole I take depends on whether you call me that again.”
Gray grinned and laid a light, playful slap to the side of Grisham’s face. “Not tonight, tiger,” she said. “I need my beauty rest.”
Grisham let out a low growl. Having Gray in her arms again made the years melt away. Her desire for Gray had never faded. If anything, it had grown stronger over time. The scars did not marr her beauty. They made it wilder, and they made Grisham want Gray beneath her, naked, crying her name.
“Growl and snarl all you want,” Gray smiled. “I’m going to bed.”
She pulled away from Grisham and immediately Grisham felt her absence. More than a physical thing. God, loving this woman hurt.
“Goodnight, Tess,” Gray said.
Gray spun around and for a minute, Grisham was sure she saw tears beading in Gray’s eyes. “I like hearing my name in your voice,” she said. “Maybe you’ll come back and use it again when it’s not so late.”
“Maybe,” Grisham smiled.