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The shouts doubled. "Wolf! Wolf! Wolf!"

Zach's smile never wavered while he waited them out, his rhythmic tapping resuming.

Julia's fingers slowed along the rose. How many times had he done that throughout the evening? She looked closer. The brace of his shoulders wasn't nearly as relaxed as his smile implied.

She listened more closely to his words as he rallied his squadron. When had she become so in-tune to his inflections that she could detect even a hint of tightness to his tones?

"That said, nobody do anything stupid tonight," Zach continued. "If you've been sent to the grog bowl for protocol infractions a few too many times and don't have a designated driver lined up, check with Bronco over there. He's volunteered his chauffeuring services since he's not getting much sleep anyway with a newborn in the house."

Laughter rumbled through the room, Zach joining in. Julia wasn't fooled anymore. For a man who displayed so little of his emotions, those small gestures bellowed louder than the squadron shouts. He was distracted, agitated even.

Her mind raced to the obvious. Pam's return.

Jealousy pinched Julia. Hard.

Zach raised his hand, shooting a thumbs-up to the crowd. "I declare this Dining-Out officially concluded. Carry on."

Then he shifted his attention to her. Fully. A tingle rippled through Julia like a near-miss with an electrical socket.

His eyes never leaving her, he marched down the steps toward the head table with long determined strides, his fingers still drumming along his thigh. Seeing Pam again wouldn't have this much power over him unless he still harbored unresolved feelings.

Close on the heels of jealousy followed a wash of loss. How damned tragic that just when she'd moved past losing Lance she realized Zach might not be over Pam.

Julia's hopes for the evening faded. He'd been strong for her a month ago. He'd given her time to come to terms with Lance's death and helped her heal. How could she do any less for him?

Chandeliers glowed, glinting off Zach's coal-black hair and casting shadows along the bold angles of his face. God, he was beyond handsome. With a sigh of regret, she bid farewell to her late-night plans for peeling that uniform off every muscled inch of his body.

Less than a half hour left until he could peel that velvet dress off Julia's sleek body.

Zach strode straight toward his wife. Julia.

He shut out thoughts of his first wife. Pam's return wouldn't change a thing, even if she bothered to stick around this time. Any feelings for her had died a brutal death years ago, long before they'd filed for divorce. Now, he only wanted to protect his daughters from having their hearts trounced again. Zach absently patted the side of his leg, impatient to leave.

Pam had no bearing on his relationship with Julia.

A relationship he intended to deepen very soon.

Zach cupped a possessive hand on her shoulder. His thumb worked a slow caress along her back, away from prying eyes. The crushed velvet didn't come close to rivaling the incredible satin of her skin.

The head table rose for the official recessional. Once they were out in the hall, others thronged around them, but he kept his eyes firmly set on the door. No need to sweat leaving now. The party was well underway, Bronco making an effective bouncer/keeper-of-order with his linebacker-sized bulk.

The band started their next set, Major Grayson "Cutter" Clark commandeering the microphone to growl out a tune. Zach threaded through the crowd toward the coat room, Cutter's Eagles revamp filling the hall.

Finally free, Zach guided Julia toward the coat check. The low scoop of her dress in back showcased the graceful curve of her spine. An enticing view and he intended to see more soon.

He draped an insubstantial red gauzy wrap over her shoulders, leaning closer until the sweep of her curls caressed his cheek. "Have I told you how incredible you look?"

"Your girls deserve the credit. Left up to me, I'd have probably worn silk overalls and high tops."

"Either way, you'd look as gorgeous."

"I'm not so sure the general's wife would have agreed." Julia twirled the flower between two fingers, her laugh too high, too thin.

But he'd take care of that soon enough. The wait had strung them both tight. Time to get her alone.

Zach swung open the front door and followed her along the brick walkway to Julia's sedan. Street lights hummed, illuminating a path to their car. The inky sky glinted with a partial moon and the occasional airliner in flight, but it held none of his planes tonight.

He had hours left before he turned on that radio again, and he intended to make full use of every minute.

Holding the door open for Julia, he tracked the mesmerizing glide of her legs as she slid them into the car. She dropped the flower on her lap. On her thighs. In ten more minutes, he'd be grazing her bare skin with those soft petals.

Zach shut the door and beat a path around the hood.

Behind the wheel, he looked over his shoulder to back out of the parking lot. Almost in the clear.

Julia pleated her red wrap between her fingers for three stop signs before she broke the silence. "I called home again at ten, and Shelby sounded okay."

"Good thinking." The fifteen mile-an-hour speed limit through base housing had his foot twitching. With any luck his daughter would be asleep by the time they hit the driveway.

"Shelby checked on Patrick for me while we talked, and he was sleeping soundly. She even put the cordless phone up to his face so I could hear his sweet little baby breaths.

Isn't it funny how I can recognize my child just by the way he breathes?"

"Parenthood has a way of changing the way we see things." Damn but he wished he could figure out how to fix things with Shelby, but an ice cream cone and trip to the park didn't cut it anymore.

"The parenthood thing still feels so new to me. I second-guess all those instincts. I had a great time tonight, but I couldn't stop thinking about the children. What do you plan to say to Shelby about Pam?"

Say to Shelby? He'd already tried, for all the good it had done. "I'll talk to her tomorrow after band."

He pulled into the driveway behind his truck. Three minutes to take-off. Zach reached for the door.

Julia stopped him with a hand on his arm. "Pam showing up out of the blue like that was tough for both the girls." She traced the silver band circling the wrist of his uniform jacket. "How are you?"

Sexually frustrated as hell. "How am I what?"

"About Pam coming back."

The muscles along his arm flexed beneath her touch. "It doesn't affect me in any way other than how it affects my children. Pam and I were over a long time ago. The divorce was only a formality."

He didn't want to discuss Pam, especially now. Zach fingered one of those spiraling curls.

"Jules, let's talk about something else."

"We can't pretend she's not back."

"I'm not saying we should." The three-minute wait suddenly promised to stretch into at least an hour.

Okay, so Julia would need a slower pace to relax, thanks to Pam's surprise return. He could handle that, even found the revised plan for seducing Julia had definite merits.

Through the windshield, his tarp-covered Harley loomed, offering the perfect way to romance his free-spirited wife.

Zach bolted from the car, calling over the roof to Julia. "Wait right there. Don't go inside yet."

He unlocked the kitchen door, ducking into the darkened kitchen. The television droned from the next room. "Shel," he called, tugging his leather jacket off the coat tree by the door, "everything going okay?"

A rustling sounded from the family room just before Shelby shuffled into the kitchen.

Rumpled and bleary-eyed, she shoved a hand through her mussed dark hair.

"Everything's cool, Colonel. Patrick took a bottle at about nine, but went right back to sleep." She pulled the nursery monitor from her pocket, Patrick's steady sighs filled the silent kitchen. "Hear?"

"Good. Julia and I will be gone for another couple of hours," at least, "if you've got everything under control here."

"No rush."

He started to back out the door, then hesitated. "How about after I pick you up from practice tomorrow, we grab a burger? Just you and me."

When she didn't respond, he stepped farther into the kitchen.

"Sure," Shelby answered quickly. "A burger is cool. Now go have fun with Julia. She deserves a break."

Maybe the stability of the past few months had steadied Shelby enough to withstand her mother's return after all. God, he hoped so.

"Thanks, Shel." Zach pulled the door shut again and faced Julia.

Sweet Jesus, she looked good silhouetted by the moonlight. He loped down the steps to his shrouded motorcycle without taking his eyes off Julia for a second.

One tug and he swept the black tarp from the Harley Electra Glide, unveiling the bike like a lover. "Wanna go for a ride?"

Julia was tempted—by more than the bike. And the lean, gleaming lines of the motorcycle were pretty darn enticing.

Her respect for Zach's restraint a month ago upped another notch. Saying no when her body so very much wanted to scream yes could well drive her nuts. How had her plan to start him talking gone so astray? But convincing him to open up wouldn't be any easier inside with Shelby still awake.

Maybe a ride on the Harley wasn't such a bad idea after all. Shelby would be asleep by the time they returned. They could sit outside on the glider, away from the temptation of an inviting bed.

Meanwhile, she could indulge herself in an hour on that incredible motorcycle with her arms wrapped around Zach's even more incredible chest. "Give me five minutes to run inside and change."

"Uh-uh. Stay just like you are." He dangled the leather jacket from one finger. "Put this on."

The unconventional image of the two of them in formal clothes on the motorcycle appealed to every boundary-pushing bone in her body. "You do know how to roll out the Texas-sized enticement, Colonel."

He held open the jacket while she slid her arms inside, even though she didn't need it on the temperate Southern night. February could bring temps ranging from the twenties to the fifties. Lucky for her, tonight the fifties had won. The jacket and Zach's back would lend more than enough warmth.

Zach pulled on a helmet and passed her another. He straddled the bike and brought it roaring to life. The man sure could stoke her fantasies. For the rest of her life, she would carry the memory of him on that vintage Harley— sharp creased uniform, gleaming medals and a hundred percent man, all on display for her eyes only.

She perched on the bike behind him, adjusting and tucking her dress around her legs, her arms around his chest. Enveloped in leather and the lingering musk of Zach's scent, she swallowed, twice, and still her mouth dried right up.

Zach kicked up the stand and guided the motorcycle through military housing, into main base, past the clinic while holding to a sedate speed.

Until he cruised through the front security gate.

The Harley leapt to life, accelerating along the curving access road, faster. He leaned, urging the motorcycle farther, hugging the road in a heart-thumping turn that would have had her screaming if anyone other than Zach had been in control. He wouldn't risk hurting her. Zach would know just how far to push that bike and the boundaries to bring her the maximum thrill.

Pine trees blurred into a haze of green on one side. On the other, the length of runway behind a fence whipped past. A short ride on the highway led them up onto the interstate, raised roads and bridges so much a part of the water-locked Charleston way of life.

Wind churned beneath, over and around them. Overhead, street lights illuminated the lanes with nothing but black swirling below them, sky above. City lights sprinkled too far away to touch. The bike hummed along the bridge, the stretch of road seeming suspended in midair flying a path into infinity.