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John Porter woke with a start. It was the dream again, the same dream he’d had once or twice a week for the past six months. He’d had dreams before, terrible, guilt ridden dreams of that night in Basra so many years ago. This wasn’t that kind of dream at all. This dream made him feel like he was 14 again with no control over his body as he woke time and time again on the verge of an orgasm. This was no haunting nightmare. He had dreamed about her again – Lindsey.

After he had finally returned from the disastrous mission in Afghanistan, which had left both Gerald Baxter and Hugh Collinson dead, Porter’s life had changed dramatically. Section 20 had ultimately been able to find enough evidence to incriminate Frank Arlington in the affair, making it safe for Porter to return to England. At Layla’s instigation, the investigation into the events of the Bratton extraction was re-opened and he was cleared of any wrong doing. The army had not only restored all rank and privileges, but had paid him back wages from the time of his forced resignation until his reactivation into Section 20. In an effort to undo some of the damage caused by Major Collinson’s actions, he had also been awarded an enormous compensation package. 

Having lived in the shadows for so long, Porter was at a bit of a loss as to where to go after his return to grace. Increasingly at loose ends, he had wandered into a pub near his flat one evening in late June to unwind. He saw her for the first time as he made his initial recon of the crowded pub. Old habits die hardhe thought ruefully as he glanced around the room, noting several groups of people, and then a lone woman sitting at a table in the corner, her back to the wall, facing the door – his preferred position actually. In the dim light, he could make out curly dark hair and even features of a woman who appeared to be in her mid-thirties. She seemed to be waiting for someone, repeatedly glancing from the silver watch on her slim wrist to the door. Curious, Porter observed her subtly as he ordered a pint. More people entered the pub, but none of them joined her. After 20 minutes of watching her watch the door, he approached her table.

“Do you mind if I join you? It’s getting a bit thick in here, and I’m feeling rather vulnerable,” he said with a cheeky grin.

The woman looked at him and laughed. The tall, gorgeous specimen standing in front of her looked anything but vulnerable.

“Sure,” she smiled, gesturing at a chair. “I seem to have been stood up anyway – blind date,” she admitted in an American accent. “I’m Lindsey by the way,” she added, holding out her hand as he sat down

“John,” Porter replied with a rumbling chuckle, shaking her hand gently. He wondered who would stand this woman up. She was beautiful…her loose dark curls were actually deep auburn, a striking combination when paired with her sparkling green eyes and creamy ivory skin. That fool's loss is my gain Porter thought with an inward smile. 

They had chatted casually for a long while, arguing good naturedly over who should buy each round of drinks, and discovering that they both enjoyed American rock music, British comedians and old movies. It had been nearing eleven when Porter was returning down a dark hall from the loo and found himself propelled against the wall, his arms suddenly full of Lindsey. It wasn’t usually easy to take John Porter by surprise, but her next move certainly caught him unawares. 

“I have been dying to do this for two hours,” she said huskily as she leaned up and captured his lips in a scorching kiss, her agile tongue darting in and out of his mouth to tease his. Porter’s chest rumbled with pleasure as he kissed her back, his tongue chasing hers and his powerful arms pulling her close.

Deepening the passionate kiss, Lindsey fitted her voluptuous body closer to his and wrapped her arms tightly around his neck. Porter groaned and slid his hands lightly over her rounded backside before he pulled back and looked into her eyes. The sparks of desire in her bright green eyes sent a shot of lust directly to his groin, but she had been drinking, and he was nothing if not honorable. He opened his mouth to speak, but she beat him to it as she stretched up on her toes to whisper in his ear:

“Take me home John.”

His cock was rock hard now, but he had to be sure,

“Sure luv, I’ll take you home, where do you live?” he asked, deliberately misunderstanding her.

“No,” she breathed and nipped at his earlobe. “Take me to your home…you’re single aren’t you?”

Her meaning was crystal clear as she nuzzled the chiseled line of his jaw with soft, damp kisses.

“Yeah, I’m single, but are you sure about this? You’ve had a lot to drink sweetheart,” he pointed out.

“I’m sure John, unless you’d rather not, I can just go,” she replied, kissing his neck, but then moving to pull away.

Porter’s arms held her fast and he kissed her slowly. Raising his head he said emphatically. “Oh, I’d rather do. C’mon luv, let’s get out of here.”

What had followed was the most passionate, most erotic night of John Porter’s life. They had brought each other to bone melting, skin quivering climax over and over again until they had both fallen into exhausted slumber, spooned together in his bed. When John awoke, just after dawn, and reached for her, she was gone. He racked his brain to explain why she had fled – the intimacy they had shared had been more than simply physical, much more. He couldn’t define it or explain it, but he knew that he wanted, no, he needed to see her again. 

He had tried to find her, but they had never shared contact information, or even last names. They hadn’t discussed their work, which might have given him a clue where to look for her; he was not without resources, just without information. He had returned to the pub numerous times in hopes of catching her, but she was never there again. Now, six months later, he had virtually given up hope of finding her, but erotic dreams of the night they had shared kept her constantly on his mind. He was beginning to wonder if the whole experience had been a dream.

While he had searched for Lindsey, he had also begun making changes in his life. His days of risking life and limb for the realm were over. He resigned with honors from the army and accepted a position as a civilian consultant and training advisor to Section 20. He still travelled occasionally for training missions, but not as an operative. It was the best of both worlds for him. He could remain an active part of the security services, but based in London with a more stable, less dangerous schedule. His new position had done wonders for his relationship with his daughter Lexie (she preferred Alex, but she tolerated Lexie for his sake) who was now enrolled at the University of Reading. He was able to visit her there and she came to stay at his new flat in London over holidays and breaks.

Porter smiled to himself as he climbed out of bed, shaking off the sensual remnants of the dream, reminding himself that he was going to spend the day with Lexie in Reading before she left for a Christmas holiday trip with Diane’s parents later that evening. He had been out of the country for a few weeks on a training mission, so he was looking forward to seeing his daughter. John would have liked to spend Christmas with her, but they planned to spend New Year’s together when she got back from her trip. He was on his own for Christmas, but that was nothing new.

It was shortly after 8:00 am when John pulled away from his flat in the new Range Rover that he’d purchased with a portion of his settlement. The Rover and the flat were the only big ticket items he’d bought and their purchase had barely made a dent in the funds. He had turned the management of the remainder over to a mate from the regiment who had gone into finance after the army. After putting a generous amount in trust for Lexie, he had invested the rest in a series of very risky but ultimately very profitable ventures. After years of living on nothing, John was a bit chagrined to realize that he now had more money than he would ever spend. He had pretty simple tastes, but he did enjoy being able to spoil Lexie with gifts after so many years of hardship. She didn’t expect anything from him, but she was always appreciative.

John parked the Rover outside of Lexie’s flat about an hour and a half later. Traffic on the M4 had been light, but he’d stopped at the market to grab the ingredients to make them breakfast. He wasn’t the world’s greatest cook, but he could manage some eggs and bacon. Lexie had just gotten up for the day, so the timing was perfect. She hugged her father warmly and helped him bring the groceries to the kitchen.

After breakfast they went into Reading for some final Christmas shopping. John was gifting Lexie with new luggage for her holiday trip, so they picked that out as well. Their shopping completed they went to the cinema to see the new Bond film, and as usual, much to Lexie’s annoyance, John had snickered mockingly through much of it. They returned to Lexie’s flat after the film and John kept her company as she packed for her trip. Her grandparents were picking her up around 6:00pm for an early dinner and then on to Heathrow to catch a late evening flight.

Shortly before 6:00, John carried Lexie’s bags to the car and kissed her goodbye, slipping 100£ for spending money into her coat pocket. He waved as they drove off. John had declined the polite invitation to join them for dinner since his relationship with Diane’s parents was still strained. He locked up Lexie’s flat and walked to his car thinking that he would stop for a bite to eat at a pub on the way back to London – he recalled that there was one just off the M4 in Shinfield…the Black Something if he remembered correctly. 

An hour later, John had eaten a hearty dinner at the Black Boy Pub and was on his way out when the door flew open with a flurry of snow and a woman burst in, crashing directly into him. He instinctively reached to steady her as she bounced back from his solid, muscled frame, noting a few auburn curls escaping from under her knitted hat.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she said, righting herself and then looked up at him, her green eyes widening in shock. 

John had been smiling at the her snowy entrance, preparing to graciously brush off her apology as unnecessary when he’d simultaneously noted her distinctly American accent and the bright green eyes peering out at him between her hat and scarf. He slowly reached out one hand and pushed her scarf down, revealing a familiar face. It was her – Lindsey! Here in Reading of all places.

“Lindsey, I…,” he started to say when she did an abrupt about face and charged back out the door, away from him.

Porter’s jaw tightened…oh no, not this time, he thought, she’s not getting away from me again. He rushed out the door after her. John caught up with her in three long strides and gently grasped her arm, turning her to face him.

“Where are you going luv? Don’t you think we should talk?” he rumbled.

“Talk about what? A drunken hook-up six months ago? Why?” she answered, a deep flush belying her flippant words.

“It was more than that, and you know it. Come back inside….please?” He said softly.

Lindsey looked up at him, surprised by the longing in his deep voice, the same chocolate voice that she had heard in her dreams for the past six months. She sighed softly,

“You’re right John, we should talk, but not here – it’s too public. My house is only five minutes from here. Why don’t you follow me there?” She said.

“You always invite virtual strangers into your house luv?” he asked, smirking.

“Well, since you had ample opportunity to do me in the last time we met, and I lived to tell the tale, I think I’m safe enough with you.” She blushed furiously at his raised eyebrow. 

“All right then, lead the way,” Porter said.

Lindsey Tate could not believe what had just happened. She had spent the day completing her grades for the fall term at the University of Reading where she was as a visiting professor. She decided to stop at the Black Boy to pick up something to take home for dinner since she didn’t feel like cooking. He was the last person she had expected to see when she burst in from the cold. Of all places on earth, why had he turned up, after six months, at the pub in her neighborhood? After the initial shock dissipated, her flight reflex had propelled her out the door away from him.

She wasn’t really surprised that he had followed her out– he deserved an explanation. He had been right that the night they’d spent together had been more than a one night stand between two strangers. It may have started out that way, but something magical had happened between them. Not a day had gone by in the past six months that she hadn’t thought about him, dreamed about him, yearned for him. She had assumed that her feelings were one sided, but the note of longing in his voice, and the soft look in his beautiful blue eyes as he’d asked her to come back into the pub suggested otherwise. Lindsey wondered where to begin as she got into her car and drove around so he could follow her. She had no idea what to say to him now…the truth might just be too strange to believe.

She had only been in England for a few weeks on the night they had met. She had been staying in London while the house in Shinfield was prepared for her. A friend had set up a blind date, determined to encourage Lindsey to acclimate to the social scene. The blind date had failed to show and she had been about to leave the pub when John walked up to her table. The joke about “feeling vulnerable” had completely disarmed her. The physical attraction she had felt for him had been instantaneous as she’d surveyed his tall muscular frame and handsome angular face. Her breath had caught in her throat as she looked into his piercing blue eyes. His size and looks might have been intimidating, but his friendly banter and gruff Northern charm had put her at ease quickly. Lindsey had been amazed at how easy it was to talk to him about a variety of topics. She had a quick, witty sense of humor, but she was usually rather reticent with strangers. Not with John though. They had joked and laughed for hours. 

Lindsey found herself more and more attracted to him until she finally decided to make the first move, her inhibitions lowered by a fair amount of liquid courage. When she had pounced on him in the darkened hallway, John had joined in the game with gusto, kissing her back ardently until his sense of honor had kicked in. Lindsey had found his insistent chivalry a potent attraction, only adding to her already flaming desire for him.

The night of passion that followed had shaken Lindsey to her core. It was not the intense eroticism of their lovemaking, but the unexpected emotional intimacy which had developed between them that had alarmed her. She hadn’t felt that kind of connection to anyone in a very long time and hadn’t really been sure how to handle it or him. Instead, she had snuck out like a thief into the predawn stillness. She realized now that she had been craving human connection in that pub, and she had found more of it then she’d bargained for in his arms. The combination of his overwhelming physicality and tender sweetness had completely undone her at the time. Seeing him again, hearing his low velvety voice brought it all vividly back to the surface. Lindsey took a deep breath and tried to calm her nerves for the coming conversation as she pulled into the car park of the converted manor barn that had quickly become home to her. Looking in the rearview mirror, she saw John’s black Range Rover pull in behind her and thought, No turning back now, as she got out of her car and waited while he walked up the driveway.

Porter waited patiently as she unlocked the door and held it open for him to come in behind her. He had taken only two steps into the kitchen when something solid and furry careened into his legs and began to rumble. He looked down to see an enormous gray cat twining itself around his ankles. Porter smiled briefly and then winced as the cat realized its mistake and dug its claws into his leg before hissing and streaking toward Lindsey who reached down to pick it up while pushing the door shut with her foot.

“Sorry about that – did he get you? He’s a little nervous around strangers,” Lindsey said, rubbing the cat’s ears while he purred loudly.

“I think I’ll live,” Porter chuckled. “You might have warned me that you kept a puma in here though. What’s his name?”

“Sherman. Like the tank,” Lindsey smiled, and then frowned when Sherman hissed again as John reached a cautious hand out to pet him.

“Sometimes it takes him a while to warm up to people, especially men,” she explained. “I’ll put him upstairs.” Gesturing to the hall, “The living room is through there, and there is a closet on the right if you’d like to hang up your coat. Make yourself at home, I’ll be right back,” Lindsey said as she left the room with Sherman glaring balefully at John over her shoulder.

Well, that was an interesting ice breaker Porter thought with a one sided smirk as he went to the closet and hung up his coat. His observant eye quickly noted that his was the only piece of masculine apparel in the closet which contained several other jackets and assorted other outerwear. That’s promising he thought, closing the door and kicking off his wet shoes before walking down the carpeted hall leading to Lindsey’s living room. As he walked through the house he noted that the decor was subtle and tasteful, comfortable contemporary pieces mixed with assorted antiques. The effect was a welcoming, cozy charm. He was looking at some pictures on the wall when he heard Lindsey’s voice from upstairs.

“Would you mind lighting the fire? It’s gas, you can just flip the switch next to the hearth. As long as I’m up here, I’m going to change,” she called down.

“No problem,” he replied flipping the switch and watching as a cheerful fire sprang to life in the hearth. He watched the fire for a few minutes, wondering how to begin what was certain to be an awkward conversation. He turned when he heard Lindsey coming down the stairs, her loose auburn curls brushing her shoulders as she walked. He saw that she had changed into a pair of faded jeans that hugged her long shapely legs, and an oversized Notre Dame University sweatshirt that hid most of what Porter remembered as a beautifully voluptuous body. He grinned when he saw the fuzzy pink slippers on her feet. Lindsey’s cheeks flushed as she followed his gaze and she said defensively,

“My feet are cold.”

It was all John could do not to offer to warm her feet for her. He was still rather at a loss at how to begin when she said,

“Boy, this is really awkward, isn’t it? Would you like a beer or something? I’d love it if we could just sit and talk like we did before we got all hot and bothered,” she said bluntly.

Porter snorted with laughter, “You don’t beat about the bush do you?”

Lindsey shrugged, smiling ruefully and replied, “It’s going to be awkward anyway, we might as well get it out there. Beer?” She asked as she headed toward the kitchen. “I have to grab something to eat – I’m starved, can I get you anything?”

Porter shook his head, amazed at her candor and wondering anew why she had left without a word six months ago. She seemed so forthright now.

“I just ate, but a beer would be great, thanks,” he said as she turned to go back to the kitchen.

“Make yourself comfy, I’ll be right back,” Lindsey said as she walked to the kitchen.

Porter rose from his seat on the sofa when she came back into the room and took the bottle she held out to him. Lindsey turned and set her own bottle and the small plate she was carrying on the coffee table and held out her hand to him saying,

“Hello, I’m Lindsey Tate, it is a pleasure to meet you again.” 

Setting his bottle down, he took her hand gently between both of his and replied with a grin, “John Porter, the pleasure is all mine Lindsey Tate.”

She moved to on one end of the sofa and invited him to sit on the other.

“It’s very nice to formally meet you John Porter, I’ve thought about you a lot in the past few months. I shouldn’t have snuck out without a word like that – I’m really sorry,” she said to him earnestly, forcing herself to hold his gaze.

“Why did you leave? Did I do something…say something to upset you ?” Porter asked cautiously. “I tried to find you, but you had just disappeared.”

“No! No, it was nothing that you did John. You were amazing…everything was amazing, it’s just that I…um…I…,” she faltered. 

“Don’t usually sleep with strangers you’ve picked up in pubs?” he offered helpfully, sensing her growing discomfort.

Lindsey looked up at him, her green eyes wary, trying to read his thoughts. She cautiously nodded her head. He could tell that there was something she was holding back, but he didn’t want to push her too hard. It was a miracle that he’d found her again, he didn’t intend to waste the opportunity by scaring her off.

“I didn’t think that you did luv, you don’t fit the profile,” he assured her, reaching across the sofa to take her hands. “Look, what happened between us happened, there is nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to regret,” he said, squeezing her hands gently. He could feel her emotion as she weighed what he’d said. Then he saw and felt her relax.

Lindsey smiled, and then she looked up into his face and replied audaciously, “On the plus side, now that we have the embarrassingly awesome first sex out of the way, we can get to know each other better without all that pressure.”

Deep rumbling chuckles broke from Porter’s chest. He slid a bit closer reaching out to pull her into a gentle laughing hug. “I would like very much to get to know you better luv.” He released her and sat back on the sofa, still smiling widely and asked, “What brings you to England Ms. Tate?”

“That’s Dr. Tate, if you please. I am here as a visiting professor at the University of Reading. A friend is giving me a great deal on this house which explains why I am in Shinfield,” she said archly. “What brings a townie like you to this neck of the woods?” Lindsey asked.

“My daughter is a student at the uni. I came to visit her before she left on a Christmas holiday with her grandparents. They’ve tried to travel together more since Lexie’s mother passed away last year.” John explained.

“I’m sorry about your…” Lindsey began awkwardly.

“It’s OK, Diane and I were separated for a long time before she died. It’s been a lot harder on Lexie though, especially when I need to travel for work. I’m a consultant for a security firm,” John explained. 

It was not entirely true, but it was all he could tell her at the moment. His work was no longer top secret, but neither could he simply reveal exactly what he did. Lindsey didn’t see any reason to question what he’d told her. But then, she was a bit distracted. She’d been listening to him, but she had also been turning something else over in her mind since he’d mentioned his daughter’s name.

“Lexie Porter…that name seems so familiar,” Lindsey said thinking a minute longer and then she realized why. “Are Lexie Porter and Alex Porter one and the same?” she asked with a smile.

“Yeah, she prefers Alex, but she makes allowances for me,” he replied with a smirk. “Why do you ask?”

“Alex was in one of my classes this fall. Nice girl…good student,” Lindsey said with a smile.

“Very small world isn’t it! What do you teach anyway?” John asked.

Lindsey groaned and said, “This is where you either get very interested or very bored…I teach ancient history and archaeology.” 

“Like Indiana Jones?” John teased.

“Something like that…if you’re very good, I’ll show you my fedora and whip,” she flushed, not quite believing she had said that. By the raised eyebrow and smirk on John’s face, he was surprised too.

“Not bored Dr. Tate, definitely not bored!” Porter laughed both at her comment and at her reaction to it. Since he could not go into detail about his work, as long as they were on the subject, he asked her another question about hers.

“Are you working on anything special right now?”

She looked sideways at him, “We don’t have to talk about my work you know, you’ll probably fall asleep!” she said, only partially joking.

“Really, now you have to tell me, or we’ll need to talk more about that whip,” he said winking at her.

Lindsey fiddled a bit with her beer bottle as she answered. “You asked for it…actually, it is kind of relevant given today’s date. I’m writing an article on comparative religious practice…How various religions celebrate the winter solstice. It’s the time of the year when the days are the shortest and the nights the longest. The solstice marks the transitional period and the days start getting longer. Many religions celebrated the winter solstice as a time of renewal and rebirth…holidays like Hanukkah, Christmas are only two of many more ancient celebrations marking the solstice…it’s tonight you know,” she finished, looking back at him.

John had laid his head against the back of the sofa and was pretending to sleep, letting out a soft snore as she finished speaking. She laughed and punched him lightly in the arm, noting the hardness of the muscle under her fist and remembering how those strong arms had felt wrapped around her straining body as they’d made love. She cleared her throat abruptly and said,

“Very funny! I told you so!”

“Just kidding luv. That actually is very interesting. So tonight is the longest night of the year?” he assured her with a brilliant smile, his blue eyes twinkling with humor.

“Yeah, the actual solstice occurs just after midnight….bring on the rebirth and renewal,” Lindsey said, a brief shadow crossing her face as she turned to take a drink from her beer. 

John’s smile faded a bit. He had noticed this before. She would be talking happily about something and then for a brief moment, a look of deep sadness would envelop the sparkle in her vivid green eyes and she would pause briefly before mentally pushing it back. He had been aware of the same penetrating sorrow earlier when she had been trying to explain why she had left him months ago. There was something troubling her, he wished she would tell him, but she clearly did not want to talk about it. Lindsey rose with her empty bottle and turned to him,


“I would love one, but if I’m going to drive back to London tonight, I probably shouldn’t,” he answered.

“Oh, right, I hadn’t thought about that. Do you need to get on the road right away? I thought that we could maybe watch a movie or something?” she said quietly.

“That sounds great – do you have popcorn?” he replied looking expectantly at her.

Lindsey relaxed and laughed, “I’m American, what do you think?! The DVD’s are in the cabinet under the TV…pick out whatever you like…fair warning thought, I am a chick, so there might be a skewed number of ‘chick flicks.’” With that she went off to the kitchen to make popcorn while John searched through her DVD collection and settled on The Fifth Element a futuristic story starring Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich. She had eclectic taste in movies. There were several that he’d seen, and several that looked interesting, he noted for future reference. He was putting the DVD in the player when he heard her call his name from the kitchen and went to see what she needed. She was looking out the window in the kitchen as the popcorn popped in the microwave.

“It’s snowing really hard out there you need to be back in London tonight?” she asked anxiously.

“No, but I drive a Range Rover, I think it can handle 40 miles of snow on the M4 luv,” he laughed. 

She turned to him, a look of concern marring her brow, and said softly, “Why risk it? You can spend the night here and head back in the morning,” 

His expressive brows shot up and a naughty smirk curved one side of his sensuous mouth, “Really?”

“I have three bedrooms randy! You can have one of the two that are not occupied by me!” she replied laughing merrily. 

The idea held a vast amount of appeal. While John had no real problem driving to London in the snow and dark, there was no reason to hurry back. He was off of work until after Christmas and he would much rather spend the evening watching a movie curled on the sofa with Lindsey than holed up alone in his flat.

“Thanks, I think I’ll take you up on that – as long as you can promise that there’ll be no funny business…” he said with a brow wiggling leer.

Lindsey snorted and handed him the bowl of popcorn, “Scout’s honor,” she replied and proceeded to smack him lightly on the rear as they headed back down the hall to the living room. John shot her a look that promised eventual retribution. They curled up together under a blanket on the sofa to watch the movie. The easy familiarity they had established in the pub returned as they watched the film. It was one they had both seen before, so they chatted at various points. Ninety minutes later, John asked Lindsey a question about an ancient Egyptian image on the screen. When she didn’t answer, he looked down to see that she had fallen asleep resting against him. He smiled and looked at his watch: 9:30. Lindsey must have had a long day in already. Shifting her gently, he cuddled her closer as he watched the rest of the film. When it ended around 10:00 PM, John eased out from under Lindsey and lifted her sleeping form in his arms to carry her upstairs to bed. 

He found the master bedroom easily. Like the rest of the house, it was decorated in subtle colors, but there was a much more distinctly feminine quality to this room. It suited her he thought as he pulled back the intricate patchwork quilt and softly laid her on the bed. He looked down at her tenderly…she looked like a little girl as she slept, turning her head to the side, her hands under her cheek, her auburn curls flowing across the white pillowcase. John paused. He hated to leave her in jeans for bed, but he didn’t want to embarrass her either. Practicality won out and he reached to unbutton her jeans, sliding them down her long, smooth legs, and noting the tiny flowers on the white cotton knickers peeking out from under her sweatshirt. John swallowed hard and quickly covered her beautiful bare legs with the bedcovers and then shook his head. He had tasted virtually every inch of her luscious body during that unforgettable night, but sight of her bare legs was about to undo him. Seeing Sherman curled up on a chair in the corner of the room, he left her door ajar and went to find one of the available guest bedrooms down the hall trying to regain mastery of his unruly body.

Thirty minutes later Porter was still trying to fall asleep. A career in the army had trained him to sleep almost anywhere, under any conditions. Lindsey’s guestroom was a haven compared to some of the places he’d bunked. He attributed his restlessness to her proximity down the hall. He could not get the sight of her long, beautiful legs out of his mind, and oddly, the thought of her modest cotton panties made his mouth go dry. He flipped over and pounded the pillow. He had just rolled over again when he heard a muffled scream, and then a sob. He shot out of the bed in nothing but his fitted black boxer shorts and went across the hall to find Lindsey writhing on her bed, whimpering in the grip of a nightmare. Porter was no stranger to nightmares, and from where he was standing, this was a bad one. She was mumbling something about Mom and Dad and someone called Tom, but it was largely incoherent. He was about to wake her when she sat up and woke with a short scream, her chest heaving as she panted. She started to shake uncontrollably with heart wrenching sobs. Porter climbed onto the bed and wrapped his arms around her. She wept brokenly against his chest. 

“I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry. It was my fault, I’m so sorry,” she cried over and over again, her hot tears sliding in rivulets down his bare chest. 

“Lindsey luv, it was just a dream, it’s OK baby. You’re safe now, it’s OK,” he crooned into her ear, rocking her gently.

“John? What?…where?” she whispered, confused.

“It’s OK sweetheart, I’m here. It was just a bad dream, you’re OK baby,” he repeated kissing the top of her head softly and running soothing hands up and down the length of her back. 

“No, no, it’s not OK, you don’t understand…they’re dead and it’s my fault…I killed them!” she sobbed. 

John was momentarily shocked. It was not possible that the woman he held in his arms had killed anyone. He knew very well what it took to kill, and she did not possess it. He held her and comforted her until she quieted. He wiped her face with a cool cloth that he’d fetched from her bathroom and gathered her into his lap, cradling her in his arms. When her breathing returned to normal he asked,

“Lindsey, do you want to tell me about it?”

“I don’t know if I want to, but I think I have to. I don’t even know where to start,” she whispered brokenly.

John’s heart contracted. He could hear the pain in her voice, see it in her eyes. He knew that pain. He had lived with it for seven years after Basra. He still lived with it.

“It’s OK luv, just start at the beginning,” he murmured in his soothing chocolate voice.

From the safety of his strong, sheltering arms, she poured out the story of her charmed life…wonderful parents, idyllic childhood, perfect fiancé, and how it was all ripped away in an instant. It was almost exactly two years ago. Her parents had been visiting her and her fiancé Tom in Philadelphia where she had been working in a museum on a post-doctoral fellowship. They had all gone together for dinner and then for a drive to look at the lights of the city from this distance. Lindsey had been driving. The road had been unfamiliar and it had begun to snow. She lost control on a patch of black ice and the car had plunged off the road into a ravine. Lindsey had been the only survivor of the crash that had killed both of her parents and her fiancé. Ironically, a malfunctioning seatbelt had resulted in her being ejected from the car before it plunged into the ravine. The malfunction had saved her life, but at a tremendous cost to her soul. She could not forgive herself for their deaths. It was her fault they were dead…if only…if only…if only. While she had recuperated in the hospital and then at home, well-meaning friends had tried to get through to her, but she couldn’t shake off her grief, or her guilt. Everywhere she looked, she saw remnants of a life she no longer had. All she had left was her career, and she had let it consume her, deliberately distancing herself from emotional ties.

Finally, a year ago, a British friend from graduate school told her about an opportunity at the University of Reading and gently suggested that perhaps a change of setting would do her good, help her to heal and to start fresh. Lindsey agreed and applied immediately. Three months later she’d been offered the position: two years as a visiting professor with the potential of a permanent position. Seven months ago she had sold the majority of her belongings, as well as her childhood home and had moved to England. Three weeks after that, she had met John in the London pub.

“I lied to you earlier when I let you think that I had run away from you because I was embarrassed about how we met. I wasn’t embarrassed, I was petrified,” she confessed softly, looking deep into his blue eyes. “What we shared that night was incredible…it wasn’t just sex for me, it was almost spiritual. I’ve never felt like that before, not even with Tom. I was terrified by it, so I panicked and I ran” Tears rolled silently down her cheeks as she dropped her pain filled eyes to her lap. “Now you know the truth…I am an emotional cripple who killed her parents and her fiancé and can’t deal with the guilt. Nobody will ever understand how that feels.”

“You didn’t kill anyone Lindsey,” she heard John’s beautiful dark voice rumble near her ear. She looked up into his face and was amazed by the tender concern she saw there. “It was an accident, a horrible accident, but you didn’t kill them,” he said. “And you’re wrong about no one understanding it….I understand exactly how you feel.”

She shook her head at him, “You can’t possibly know, no one can,” she murmured softly, without rancor.

“But I can, I do understand…” he replied, and then he told her the whole story, knowing without a doubt, that he could trust her with any secret. He told her about the Bratton extraction, about sparing Asad, about the death of his mates being on his head. He told her about eight years of living with the guilt and remorse for having made a decision that had resulted in their deaths. He told her that he wondered even now, that he had been exonerated, if they would still be alive if he had acted differently in any way.

Lindsey watched the blue eyes that had gazed so tenderly at her, cloud with a grief that matched her own. He did understand, she realized as she wrapped her arms around him, saying softly, “It wasn’t your fault John, you didn’t kill your friends, any more than I killed my parents and Tom. It was an accident, a horrible accident.” In that moment, their guilt ravaged souls found a place to heal in one another. John looked deep into her eyes as he gently wiped the tears from her face and saw the promise of something incredible in their clear green depths. He lowered his head to softly kiss her lips. Lindsey sighed and returned his tender kiss, stroking her fingers through his dark hair. Releasing her lips, John buried his head in the fragrant curve of her neck and breathed in the scent of her, as his arms wrapped her tighter and he felt her hands caress his neck. They stayed that way, each drawing in the comfort and understanding that the other offered.

John could have held her like that forever. The communion between them was so strong that he could feel it in his bones. She understood this part of him like no one else ever could. She knew the heart of him – the rest was only detail that could be filled in along the way. He sensed that she felt the same way, but he wouldn’t push her. He wanted her to come to it in her own time without any pressure. He moved to pull gently away, intending to say goodnight and return to his own room across the hall. She pulled him back to her and whispered in his ear,

“Stay – please stay.” She cupped her hands on his cheeks and turned his head to look deeply into his eyes before she kissed his mouth, softly at first, but with increasing insistence, breaking away to breathe, “I want to start fresh – with you…I love you John. I know it’s crazy. I know it’s too soon, but I love you.” She heard his sharp intake of breath as she captured his mouth again, and this time all trace of gentleness was gone, replaced by a fiery passion that ignited between them, their tongues tangling wildly together. John groaned deeply and shifted them so they lay side by side on the bed, rumbling deeply in her ear, “Lindsey…I love you Lindsey…yes….luv…yes.”

He joined their lips in a voluptuous kiss, gasping as her tongue danced across his, darting and retreating, inviting him to the chase. John was matching her every move when she abruptly pulled back, placing a restraining hand on his chest as she sat up. His brow wrinkled in a questioning frown until he saw her cross her arms to take off her sweatshirt, leaving her clad only in a white cotton bra and the panties that had driven him mad earlier. The frown cleared from his face and his eyes darkened with lust. He reached for her, but she pushed him back again, moving to straddle his hips where she could feel the evidence of his desire for her trapped in the cradle of her thighs. She smiled wickedly at him, her eyes never leaving his as she slowly and deliberately slipped her arms out of the straps of her bra before reaching behind her back to unhook it. It sagged forward, and John groaned in frustrated anticipation when she stopped its descent by trapping it under her arms as she leaned forward to kiss his lips. As they kissed, she pulled the bra out from between them and pressed her bare breasts flush against his muscled chest. A growl of satisfaction tore from him and he grasped her hips, moving her back and forth against the rock hard erection straining against his boxers.

Lindsey raised her head and laughed darkly, tilting her hips against him as she moved to trail kisses along his jaw, down the long, muscled column of this neck and across his chest. She felt the rapid beat of his heart beneath her lips as she sucked one of his stiffened nipples into her warm mouth. She moved back and forth across the sculpted surface of his chest leaving a trail of red hot desire everywhere her warm, wet mouth and tongue touched. John attempted to sit up and flip them over, but she resisted saying only, “Relax baby, let me…” He laid back and surrendered himself to the tender torture that Lindsey seemed intent on inflicting as her head moved lower to kiss and nibble long the rippled planes of his abdomen. She shifted her body down his thighs and paused for some moments to kiss and lick at his navel. Her warm hands traced a path along his hips and thighs as she reached underneath him, sliding her hands over his firm bottom before urging him quietly to lift up so she could pull off his boxers. John moaned softly as Lindsey took him into her hand, stroking his turgid flesh and dropping soft, moist kisses along the shaft then licking delicately at the head before she enveloped him in the wet warmth of her mouth. He moans grew louder as she sucked and licked at his cock, swirling her tongue around the head and then taking him as far as she could into her mouth while one soft hand encircled the base and the other stroked his balls. Again and again she moved her mouth up and down his shaft, her fingers pumping in countermotion around the base.

John gasped, and reached a hand to gently pull her hair…if she didn’t stop soon, he was going to come in her mouth. None of his previous lovers had ever wanted that. Lindsey reached up to push his hand from her hair, lightly dragging her teeth along his cock in a passionate warning before resuming her rhythmic suckling. A deep groan rumbled from John’s chest as he realized her intention, and his excitement grew intensely. Lindsey’s hand had returned to cup his balls. Feeling how close he was, she tightened her fingers around the base of his cock and opened her throat wider to allow as much of his generous length into her mouth as possible, while her tongue flickered repeatedly along the sensitive underside of his rigid, veined shaft. Growling, John’s hands clutched in her hair and his hips bucked into her mouth, as he came in long, warm spurts that she swallowed hungrily. He gasped and panted, struggling to catch his breath. A renewed frisson of pleasure pulsed through him as he looked down to see Lindsey licking him clean like a fastidious cat, her auburn curls pooling on his taut belly. Feeling his eyes on her, she looked up with a Cheshire smile and slowly ran her tongue along her bottom lip. He felt his satiated flesh twitch in response.

“Bloody hell woman, are you trying to kill me?” Porter rumbled, pulling her up to lay across his chest.

“Only la petite mort mon cher,” she said huskily, stretching across him and sighing as the rigid tips of her breasts rubbed through the light smattering of hair on his chest. “It feels like you are already coming back to life,” she grinned, wriggling her hips against his groin. Porter tilted his hips up and shivered at the shot of renewed lust that lanced through him as he felt the warm damp cotton of her knickers rub against his half hard cock.

Flipping her beneath him he purred, “Well you know luv, what’s good for the goose…” and kissed her lips, tasting his own arousal in her mouth. He wrinkled his nose, deciding that he would much rather taste her. All in good time he thought with a wicked smirk. First he wanted to tease her a bit while he reacquainted himself with every inch of her gorgeous body.

He started at the top of her head, his strong, elegant hands weaving through her tousled hair to gently massage her scalp while he scattered soft butterfly kisses on her brow, her closed eyes and the tip of her nose. His hands moved to frame her face as he gently kissed her lips in moist, open mouth nudges, his tongue barely grazing hers before he retreated, kissing along her jaw then nibbling softly at the enticing curve beneath her ear.

Lindsey hummed in pleasure at his soft, slow seduction, running her fingers through his thick dark hair to hold his head to her. She let out a slow hiss of desire when his beautiful hands coasted across her collarbones and over her smooth shoulders, coming to rest on the full curves of her breasts, kneading gently, while he breathed softly in her ear as his mouth explored it. 

John continued his tender assault on her senses, kissing along the slender column of her neck and lingering at the curve of her shoulder when he felt her shiver and clutch in his hair. His hands at her breasts alternated from gently kneading to rolling and tweaking her deep pink nipples between his fingers until they became rigid nubs begging for the attention of his mouth. He shifted his body across her and kissed his way to her breasts, his tongue making a scalding sweep around one nipple before pulling it into his mouth and suckling it as his fingers continued to caress its twin. Lindsey moaned softly as pleasure streaked through her body. 

John’s dark head lifted from her breast and he looked up, pinning her in place with a lust filled glance that made her toes curl. When his mouth returned to tongue and nibble at her other nipple, she moaned again and began to shift restlessly beneath him, trying to pull his hips to her. John smiled darkly against her rosy flesh, pausing his suckling to remove her hands from his hips. Holding both of her wrists over her head in one large hand he purred her own words in her ear. “Relax baby, let me.” His free hand moved lower to caress the petal soft skin of her abdomen. When that same warm hand reached the waist band of her panties, her hips arched off the bed, anticipating his touch on her throbbing center. John’s velvet chuckles caressed her ears as his warm tongue dipped into her navel. “Not so fast,” he rumbled, dropping a brief kiss on her cotton covered mound, inhaling the intoxicating scent of her arousal before releasing her wrists and turning her to her stomach. 

Lindsey groaned with frustrated desire, then hummed with pleasure as she felt John’s warm body press skin to skin against the length of her back.

“Good things come to those who wait luv,” he murmured deeply into her ear as his warm hands slid down her sides, coming to rest at her hips. John sat back, kneeling between her parted legs to feast his eyes on the long, elegant curve of her back. Her pale skin glowed in the soft light coming in through the skylight above the bed. Her hips flared gently from the inward curves of her waist framing a beautifully rounded backside accentuated by the flowered white cotton of her panties. John kissed the base of her spine, flicking his tongue out against her while his hands gently squeezed her bottom, relishing the feel of the firm globes. Lindsey moaned and pushed towards him, but then gasped as she felt a light, stinging smack on her behind. She looked back, over her shoulder to see John smiling at her in lustful satisfaction, as if to say, “That’s payback!” She smiled back at him briefly, but then dropped her forehead to the pillow as his hands moved to pull off her arousal soaked panties. She helped him shimmy them down her legs and kicked them off, then groaned as his clever fingers found the aching entrance to her body from behind and teased it for just a minute before pulling away. He was only gone long enough to flip her to her back again, his hands returning to stroke the warm, wet crevice, gently spreading her plump folds to find the glistening nub of her clitoris and stroke it softly.

Lindsey went wild, clamping her legs around John’s hand and grabbing his head in her hands to force his eyes to hers. The wild desire he saw sparking in her eyes made him groan as his cock grew impossibly hard. The time for teasing her was over. He kissed her plush lips, plundering her mouth with his tongue. His broad thumb continued circling her aching nub as he plunged two fingers into her snug channel. Lindsey’s eyes rolled back in her head with pleasure when his long fingers nudged at the perfect spot. She moaned deeply and lifted her hips to meet the rhythmic thrusts of his hand. 

John was electrified by the heat of her response to him. His need to be inside her was reaching the critical point, but he was desperate to taste her first. Continuing the thrusts of his fingers, he replaced the thumb on her nub with the moist heat of his mouth as his tongue darted out to lick her before he began to suckle intently.

“Oh my God John…” she gasped.

The sight of his dark head moving between her thighs, combined with the incredible feeling of his hands and mouth worshipping her body, drove Lindsey over the edge. She groaned softly, calling his name as the shudders of a powerful climax began to ripple through her body. John felt her velvet walls clench tightly on his fingers and tasted the musk of her orgasm on his tongue as he continued to suckle gently, easing her back down.

Moments later, her murmuring voice brought his head up and her beckoning arms urged him to slide over her body to kiss her mouth. It was his turn to gasp as her hand wrapped around his intense erection, pumping gently while she urged huskily,

“That was fucking epic John, but I really need you inside me NOW!” Tightening her hand around him, she led him to her aching entrance. He groaned and knelt between her legs, nudging the head of his cock against her damp opening.

“God yes luv, but I don’t have a condom – do you?” he asked panting as he fought to keep himself from plunging into her welcoming warmth.

“It’s OK – I have an IUD, and you are the only man I’ve slept with in two years. I trust you if you tell me it’s OK.

He was humbled by her faith in him. He was completely healthy, but that she trusted his word, his honor, made him love her even more. He kissed her mouth before rumbling in her ear, “It’s more than OK. You are amazing. I love you Lindsey,” John groaned again when he felt her body arch against his cock as he pushed slowly inside. He held his breath as he slid into the welcoming tightness, letting it out with a sigh as her throbbing channel sheathed him fully. Lindsey moaned at the incredible fullness of their joining, raising her hips to meet his as he began a gentle, sliding rhythm. Hungry for more of him, she bent her knees and spread her legs wider to change the angle between them and clutched at his firm behind urging,

“Please John, harder, faster, please!”

John growled in his chest at the new sensation and deeper penetration of their altered position. He began deep, pounding thrusts that had Lindsey moaning with delight as she caught the new rhythm, her body matching his movements instinctively. With her knees up and her legs spread wide, her body was opened to him like a flower. He reached to caress her clit as the thrusts of his cock shook her. He watched her face flush a rosy red as he felt her begin to convulse around him, her tight channel squeezing him as waves rippled out from her center. She wrapped her legs tightly around his waist, urging him to come with her. Blue eyes met green as John linked his hands with hers and with a final hard thrust, catapulted them both into a spine tingling orgasm.

John’s head dropped to Lindsey’s chest and he felt the rapid rise and fall gradually slow as her breathing began to steady. He pulled her with him as he rolled onto his side, pushing the hair back from her face and looking deep into her beautiful, passion clouded eyes. He smiled wide when he heard her speak,

“You were right John Porter, good things do come to those who wait! I had no idea this was what that quote meant,” she said as she pinched his ribs gently.

He laughed, cuddling her close and reaching down to pull the bed covers up over them as the night air began to chill their sweat dampened skin. The lay together for a long while whispering to each other about stories of the past, and hopes for the future, each marveling how fate had brought them together…or was it something else,

“John, want to hear something strange?” she asked, her voice wavering a bit.

“Whot luv?” he rumbled, his hands running down the length of her back, pausing to massage the base of her spine.

“Mmmm, that’s nice. No, what I was saying was that the night we met in London…six months ago…do you know what night that was?” she queried.

“Friday?” he joked lightly running a shiver inducing finger up her spine. She poked him in the ribs.

“Very funny…really, you don’t see it? It was the summer solstice…isn’t that strange.” Just as she said this, her iPad, which was propped open on her nightstand flashed onto a picture of Stonehenge and a countdown clock. “And tonight, right now, it’s the winter solstice…it’s almost as if the cosmos intended us to be together, to find a new beginning.” 

“Maybe. Stranger things have happened…how do you feel?” John asked, tipping her chin up to look in her eyes.

“I feel reborn…like life is beginning again, here, with you.” She whispered, a single tear slipping down her cheek.

“I feel it too Lindsey, a fresh start. A chance to start a whole new life together if that is what you want.” His voice caressed her as his fingers wiped the tear from her cheek.

“We can start right now…what are you doing for Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah and other assorted winter festivals John Porter?” she asked, smiling and kissing him between each holiday.

“I think I will spend them here in Reading, learning more about archaeology. Now luv, about that whip….” He said as he rolled over her, tickling and kissing while they laughed exultantly at the chance for a new life they had found in each other’s arms.