“This is going to be bo-ring,” muttered Callie, plonking her notebook and pen on the desk next to Robin’s.
Robin ignored her, partly because she didn’t want to be seen to be gossiping but mostly because she disagreed entirely. She’d read about the man they were about to meet, and she was intrigued. She’d arrived deliberately early and chosen a desk near the middle of the room but slightly off to one side - she didn’t want to be too near the front and look like a teacher’s pet, but she wanted to hear everything he had to say and ideally be able to covertly study him as well.
Cadet Robin Ellacott was at the very start of what she hoped would be a career to rival that of the teacher of her first class here, but she was ten years older than most of the other new recruits in the room. She’d meant to join the ordinary police after completing her psychology degree; an attack in a halls of residence stairwell had put paid to that. Seeing her attacker convicted and then focusing on her own recovery had taken her years, years during which she had somehow sleepwalked into an unsuitable marriage to a young man from before who she had clung to, a high-flying PA position in the City which she was good at but hated, a nice house in Barnet, a sporty little Audi, holidays in the Seychelles and the slowly dawning realisation that she was miserable and so was Matthew, and that he was still, despite all his protestations to the contrary, sleeping with his old friend Sarah.
Her family thought she had taken leave of her senses when she had abruptly left her husband, quit her job, moved in with her friend Vanessa and signed up for the Army. Her mother had rushed down to London to try to talk her out of it all, asking at first in a roundabout way and then quite plainly if their only daughter was having some kind of post-traumatic breakdown. Quite the contrary, Robin repeated, over and over - she was only just now, at 28, finally becoming her true self, and a career in the Military Police was what she wanted.
It had been Vanessa’s idea. Vanessa herself was a detective with the Metropolitan Police, and Robin had been fascinated by her friend’s job from the moment they had met at one of Matthew’s deathly boring work events. Vanessa still joked that she was glad she had stuck with her stuffy accountant boyfriend long enough to attend the event and meet Robin; she’d soon dumped him, but the two women had remained firm friends ever since. It was Vanessa’s listening ear, gentle encouragement and blunt pointing out of the skills she was wasting and the way she had allowed her husband to steer her life that had given Robin the courage to finally make the leap - that, and the diamond earring she had found in her and Matthew’s bed, that she had seen adorning the earlobe of Sarah bloody Shadlock only the week before at the latest tedious office gathering.
The room was filling up, the level of chatter increasing. Robin sat neatly at her desk, notebook and pencil at the ready, and ignored the hubbub. She was a decade older than most of her fellow students and so had to try that much harder. She’d worked her socks off on the brutal initial training at Sandhurst, twelve weeks of gruelling physical training where she had endured aching muscles, blisters that bled, pounding fatigue headaches and a deep, perverse enjoyment of putting her body through the punishing regime and coming out the other side physically and mentally stronger. Exhausted, she’d slept like the dead every night; no tortured dreams, no panic attacks, life reduced to the simple and predictable, just get through the next hour, and then the next and the next. It had hurt, and she had secretly relished it. Now, fitter than she had ever been in her life and with a commendation to her name for her efforts, she was ready to launch into the investigative training that she had always longed for, and that would one day, she was quite determined, earn her a place as an officer in the Special Investigation Branch with her own red cap.
A loud, ostentatious clearing of the throat from the doorway caused a jump and a ripple through the room. Students scrambled to their feet, snapping to attention and saluting the superior officer who had appeared abruptly, leaning against the doorway and regarding them with amusement, his eyes raking across them all. Robin stood by her desk, facing the front of the room, determined not to look and give away her curiosity.
She’d read all the background she could find on Sergeant Cormoran Strike. He’d grown up in Cornwall and London, his official Army biography said, joined up at twenty after dropping out of university - something they had in common, and that had made Robin wonder if he, too, carried his own secret trauma. She suspected it related to the death of his mother - Robin had not been looking for lurid details, as such, but it was hard to miss the tabloid coverage of his parentage, a faded seventies rock star father and groupie mother. Robin read these stories too even as she told herself it was his career that interested her. He was widely regarded to have been one of the best investigative officers in the SIB, and had had a long and successful partnership with a fellow officer called Graham Hardacre before a roadside bomb in Afghanistan had taken half his leg and ended his active career.
It was whispered that he’d almost quit at the time, but had been persuaded to stay on in a desk job with a sideline of teaching, helping to train the next generation of investigators that Robin wanted so desperately to join. Tabloid reports of his injury went almost hand-in-hand with speculation about his relationship with socialite Charlotte Campbell, their engagement and then swift and spectacular breakup that had been followed mere weeks later by her Hello! spread announcing her engagement to another man. Again, Robin had felt guilty reading the gossip columns about him but was too fascinated to stop.
The large man making his way slowly and deliberately to the front of the room, his eyes scanning the new crop of students, was not what Robin had been expecting at all, despite seeing plenty of pictures. He was huge, well over six feet, taller than at least two of her brothers and her ex-husband. He was also broad, but it was his very presence that the pictures had not given justice to. He filled the room, a commanding figure in khaki shirt and pressed trousers, and his piercing dark eyes when they briefly locked with hers sent a jolt through her that was somewhere between shock, a frisson of fear at his forbidding expression and a good dose of something warm that she didn’t want to analyse at all, and yet made her cheeks bloom with colour. He gave no sign of even noticing her, his gaze sweeping across the rest of the room as he reached the desk at the front.
“At ease,” he barked, and the students relaxed, but barely, wary under his watchful eye. There was a silence that stretched while he regarded them all again; and again, his gaze when it swept across Robin sent a spark of reaction through her while he seemed no more aware of her than any of the other dozen or so cadets before him.
“Sit down,” he ordered eventually, and there was a general scraping of chairs and shuffling of feet. Robin sat, her notebook set in front of her, resisting the urge to open it and pick up her pen lest she look too keen, her feet tucked under her chair. She covertly watched as Sergeant Strike set a couple of files down on the desk in front of him but didn’t sit. It was his right leg he’d lost in Afghanistan, but Robin didn’t think she’d have known it if she hadn’t read about it. He had a slight limp, but many of the more senior officers did; the Army was no stranger to officers with injuries, and those who were happy to take a desk job were usually offered one. She wondered what had made him stay, after such an active career, and supposed he hadn’t had a lot of options.
He glanced up, looking straight at her, and Robin jumped. Caught out staring by those intense eyes that seemed to look right into her soul, she hurriedly dropped her gaze to her desk, knowing her face was flaming and cursing her pale complexion and auburn hair, colouring that showed every blush, every emotion like a beacon for all to see. Heart pounding, she opened her notebook and started to ruffle through to a blank page to give herself something to do.
Strike flicked open the document in front of him to give himself a few more moments before he had to speak, flipping through pages while his mind ran through the files he’d read last night. He read the notes on every student he was required to teach, and mostly they were all the same - from an Army family, joining straight from school or university, a clear plan mapped out for them that they would follow in their father’s or uncle’s - or, increasingly these days, mother’s or aunt’s - footsteps.
The gold-haired young woman in front of him had stood out. She was a latecomer, not unheard of but certainly unusual, only ten years younger than he was himself whilst most of the other recruits were, these days, almost as far removed from his own age as he’d been from that of his mother. Her family history contained no Army links - farming stock from Yorkshire, a brother in accountancy. She’d been in corporate marketing until six months ago and was recently divorced. Nothing in her background suggested suitability for her chosen career, and it had been an abrupt and significant change of direction. The majority of those who made such an ill-advised move dropped out very quickly; he was surprised she’d made it this far. Even more surprising was the commendation in her file for her achievements in initial training, her fitness scores which rivalled those of colleagues ten years younger. Her intelligence was not in question - her A Level results spoke for themselves. To anyone else, quitting university might have been a red flag for a lack of commitment, but Strike knew full well how one’s life could take a sudden change of direction.
He’d read her file twice, intrigued, and was even more interested to see her in person. The passport-sized mug shot attached to her cover sheet had done her no favours, making her look washed-out and pale with faded red hair. In reality, she was taller than he’d been expecting, her complexion creamy rather than sallow, her hair an attractive shade of strawberry blonde rather than a dull red, her figure filling out her uniform in ways that he was required, as her superior officer, not to notice.
Notice he did, however, and swiftly forced his mind away from such thoughts. Women had been scarce in his life since he and Charlotte had split. He’d briefly dated a violinist he’d met at a party at Nick and Ilsa’s, but the trekking back and forth to London from his position here in Winchester had been tedious, and the uphill struggle of making small talk for an entire weekend with Elin had, in the long run, not made up for the admittedly very good sex they’d shared. Their relationship had petered out, largely because during the week he was so focused on his job that he often failed to answer her texts, and he hated to make pointless small talk over the phone even more than he did in person, keeping their calls brief and functional. He’d not been surprised when she finished things between them, and although he missed the sex, he preferred having his weekends back.
There was little opportunity to meet women in his life otherwise. Dating fellow officers was allowed, but he hadn’t done so since Tracey; most of his female colleagues were married these days in any case. The young lads tried their luck in the town’s nightclubs with considerable success - the local girls seemed to see it as a catch to have a boyfriend at the Army base - but at pushing forty Strike had no interest in such pursuits any more, and besides, the women were all too young.
It was, therefore, no surprise that he had noticed her attractiveness, but it was nevertheless still inappropriate, despite the fact that she was much nearer his age than anyone else in the room. He would pay no attention to his treacherous libido.
Strike drew himself up to his full height, glanced around the room again (ignoring Cadet Ellacott, who was still concentrating fiercely on a blank page of her notebook in an attempt to hide the pink cheeks that had given him a smug hit of masculine pride that he had also firmly ignored) and launched into his well-practised welcome spiel.
Robin stood in front of the closed office door, her heart in her mouth, and wondered if she was about to blow up her entire Army career before she’d even begun.
That smirk, though. Superior officer or no, it could not be allowed to stand. She hadn’t fought so long and so hard to get to where she was today to allow another man to belittle her and put her down in front of people.
At least, that was what she’d told herself on her indignant march from the ladies’ toilets, where she’d retreated to splash some cooling water onto her heated cheeks after the lecture, along the corridors to stand in front of the intimidating door of Sergeant Strike’s office. She was absolutely within her rights to request that he not treat her like that in front of the colleagues she needed to keep up with, who already saw her as something other than them because she was so much older and had had a previous career.
Her hesitation was, therefore, not born of nerves, nor even a wondering whether she was technically doing the right thing. Morally, she was. No, her reluctance to enter that office was nothing to do with her justified righteous indignation and everything to do with the heat that had pooled low in her groin as a result of that very same smirk, and was now returned with a vengeance at the prospect of simply seeing him again. She ignored this highly unwelcome turn of events firmly. An attraction for a superior officer could only make her life and studies here difficult.
Her hand, raised to knock on the wooden surface next to the plaque bearing his name, paused, and for a moment she wondered if she was going to go through with it.
The door in front of her opened abruptly and the huge sergeant marched out; standing too close, Robin was almost bowled over backwards.
“Christ!” His deep voice cut across her squeak of alarm (high and girlish, making her cringe) and his large hand closed around her upper arm as she stumbled backwards, keeping her from falling back into an ungainly heap on the tiled corridor floor. He hauled her back upright and they were suddenly far too close, her face almost against his broad chest, the buttons holding the stiff material of his shirt just inches from her nose. This close, she could smell him; no overpowering cologne for this man, just a hint of shower gel and what could only be his own scent, warm and musky.
“Sorry,” he was saying now. “I didn’t see you there. You all right?”
His big fingers were against the side of her left breast, Robin realised, and he must have noticed too, for he hurriedly let go of her. Realising she had clutched his arm too as she was falling, Robin also pulled her hand away and took a swift step backwards, but not before her brain had registered the muscled firmness of his bicep.
“Fine,” she gasped, her voice still too high, her heart hammering and her eyes refusing to leave the spring of chest hair she could suddenly see above his top shirt button. Scarlet, she took another step backwards, and he regarded her with something she could have sworn was amusement.
“How can I help you, Cadet Ellacott?”
His deep voice sent renewed lust skittering through her, but his use of her rank reminded her of how far above her he was in the chain of command; Robin hurriedly pulled herself together, standing upright, her notebook clasped in front of her.
“Sorry, sir. I wondered if I might— If we could have a word.”
The sergeant glanced at his watch, briefly tilted his head to one side in thought, and then nodded. “Come in.”
He stepped aside and held the door for her. Robin took a deep breath and preceded him into his office, her pulse still jumping, trying to regather her indignation, the phrases she’d rehearsed on her walk here.
He closed the door behind them, and Robin stood stiffly in the centre of the room. She’d expected him to walk round to the other side of the huge oak desk that dominated the space, to sit and invite her to do the same, but instead he merely moved across to the desk and leaned against it, resting his backside against the polished wood, his arms folded across his broad chest, and looked at her.
“At ease, Cadet,” he told her, and Robin attempted to relax, with little success. In this enclosed space, with him standing so near, and that peek of chest hair, and those arms— Heat pooled in her groin again, and to her horror, she could feel a warm dampness spreading in her knickers.
Willing his heart to slow down, Strike regarded the cadet in front of him and waited to see what she had to say.
He’d been surprised to find her at his door, shocked that he’d almost knocked her flying, glad he’d managed to catch her and hadn’t injured her in any way. What had she been doing, just standing at his door like that? But at least he hadn’t hurt her.
No, the continued thud of his heart owed nothing to alarm, but was entirely caused by her very presence. Her arm had felt strong yet soft under his hand, and he wished he could forget the smell of her, fresh and faintly of apples and yet also, at some deeper level that spoke directly to his core, somehow musky and warm. On top of the jolt to his senses that was her proximity - almost under his chin, he could have buried his nose in her gorgeous hair if he so chose, as if that wouldn’t have been all kinds of inappropriate - he had suddenly become aware of the soft press of her breast against the backs of his big fingers. It had been too long since he’d so much as laid a finger on a woman.
Get a grip, Strike. He breathed slowly and evenly, watching her try to marshal her thoughts. She must be as shaken by their collision as he was, but she seemed to be doing a much better job than he of gathering herself back together. She raised her chin a little, and that small gesture, almost defiant, sent a rush of warmth skittering through him that he tried vainly to quash. What was it about this woman, with her wide blue-grey eyes, flawless skin and determined manner, that upset his steady balance so easily? He had never been one to be distracted at work, even at this new career that was so much less fulfilling than active service, that he’d agreed to reluctantly, seeing no other real options before him. He still harboured faint hopes of starting his own investigative agency one day, but the time kept ticking by.
He wondered what it was that she wished to discuss with him. She looked nervous to start, and he was intrigued. He watched her perfect white teeth worry a little at her bottom lip, and suddenly all he could think about was what it might be like to bite that same lip himself, explore her mouth with his—
Christ, Strike, stop it. With a Herculean effort, he forced his mind away from such wonderings. He had a duty, as her superior officer and one of her mentors here at the academy, to assist her with whatever issue she was dealing with, and his relationship with her was no more than that. Was permitted to be no more than that. The rules existed to protect everyone, and how many times had he himself had to enforce them, giving stern lectures to junior colleagues who had allowed attractions to get the better of them, allowed lines to be blurred?
He took a slow, steadying breath and waited, giving her time and space to say her piece.
Sergeant Strike was waiting for her to speak, and Robin had to gather up her words and ignore how terribly distracting it was being so close to him.
“I, um. The discussion on interview techniques. Sir,” she began, and he raised a sardonic eyebrow.
“What about it?”
“I’ve done a lot of reading—”
“I know you have, Cadet. I can tell. But I have done a lot of actual interviewing.”
Robin swallowed, trying to squash her irritation at being interrupted, adding to the annoyance she already felt, at his condescending attitude, at the very presence of him, so disrupting while he remained cool and unflappable. He’s just a person. “I know that, sir. But I didn’t appreciate—” She stopped, unsure of herself suddenly.
He raised that eyebrow at her again. “What didn’t you appreciate, Cadet?”
It was a challenge, and if she backed down now—
“I didn’t appreciate being talked down to, sir.”
He looked at her for a long minute, his eyes appraising her, while Robin’s heart hammered and her cheeks grew pink and an ache that could only be labelled arousal, which she desperately, desperately wished would go away, grew deep in her body.
“Is that so?” he asked eventually, conversationally. “In what way did you feel I was talking down to you? I was correcting you on a point on which you were mistaken.”
“I know, sir, but you were...condescending.” Robin fought the urge to close her eyes. This was professional suicide, but the one thing she had learned in therapy was that she needed to take control of her own future and not let other people treat her badly.
“I was correct.” His eyes had hardened. This only served to increase her level of desire, making her furious with herself. How could she be so attracted to someone who was patronising, who spoke down to women—?
“You treated me like a child.”
“I treated you like a student. Which is what you are.”
“You treated me like I was eighteen too.” Trembling, Robin held her ground. “Sir,” she added hurriedly.
“Is that what this is? You think you’re better than the others because you’re older?” That eyebrow again, and that annoying hint of a smile.
Robin’s cheeks grew hot with indignation. “No, sir.”
“Then what is this about?”
“I won’t be pushed around, sir.”
He sat back a little more, those arms still crossed, his hand resting against his bicep, big fingers on his shirt sleeve, that chest hair she could still see— Robin kept her eyes on his face. It wasn’t a handsome face; his forehead was large, his expression habitually surly, his nose squashed from multiple breaks. But she couldn’t stop looking at him, and now her eye was drawn to his uneven top lip and the scar that bifurcated it; suddenly she was wondering what his lips would feel like against hers...
“Won’t you, now? Do you have a problem with authority, Cadet?”
“No, sir.” Robin’s voice was barely above a whisper. She was going to get thrown out for insubordination, she was sure of it. Her career over before it had even started. And yet still all her treacherous mind could think of was that hard muscle under her hand, what that chest hair might feel like in her fingers, what his tongue might taste like.
He was still watching her, trying to get the measure of her, and Robin fought the urge to squirm uncomfortably under his scrutiny, made herself hold his gaze. Those dark, dark eyes—
“You wouldn’t have got this far if you couldn’t obey orders,” he said suddenly.
Robin wasn’t sure if this statement required a response. She said nothing.
“So is it just my authority you have a problem with?”
That floored her. Was it? She’d been barked at, screamed at, yelled at, during her initial training, and had weathered it all as part of the experience, even revelled in it in a strange way, absorbing the mental impact as she absorbed the physical, feeling her mind as well as her body grow tougher.
So why had one tiny smirk from this man, from those uneven lips she suddenly couldn’t stop looking at, affected her in a way that none of that ever could?
Strike watched the cadet in front of him wrestle with her conscience, and hoped like hell she couldn’t tell what an effect she was having on him. He’d known from the moment he laid eyes on her that she represented a threat to his equilibrium; here in his office, standing up to him, calling him on his condescending behaviour (he hadn’t meant to talk down to any student, but they were so young these days; he’d need to monitor his tone in future and check he wasn’t being an arse), she was just—
The Army ran on chains of command, and this was just a fact. You obeyed the orders of those above and gave orders to those below. This had never been an issue for him before, it was simply the way things were. New recruits, usually brash young men, sometimes brash young women, had attempted to stand up to him before and he had dealt with them swiftly and smoothly. They learned, or they didn’t stay.
Never had a student challenging him like this made him feel so...
Well. His libido was certainly taking an interest in proceedings, that was for sure. And he was pretty certain, from the flush on her cheeks, the tremble in her clasped hands, the stormclouds in those clear, blue-grey eyes, that she felt the same, and of course that was doing it for him too. Add to that the smell of her hair when she’d stood practically under his chin, and the feel of her arm under his big hand, and, well. He was also pretty sure now that she was looking at his mouth, and suddenly he was imagining again what kissing her might be like.
It had been a really long time since he’d dated anyone. Perhaps that was all this was. Somehow, though, he didn’t think so. This woman had intrigued him before he’d even met her. And now that he had— Well, if he’d met her at a party, bumped into her at a barbecue at Ilsa and Nick’s, he’d definitely have been chatting her up. She knew her stuff, was clearly well read and well prepared for a career that he sensed she’d be very good at, given half a chance.
He was supposed to be mentoring that career, teaching her, and right now all he could think about was fucking her across his desk.
Robin might not have had a huge amount of experience in her life, but she was an attractive woman and she knew how to tell when a man fancied her. She’d had to fend off tipsy advances from a couple of her husband’s colleagues, and she had briefly dated a young detective who worked with Vanessa before she’d left for Sandhurst. He’d been better in bed than her husband had been towards the end of their short marriage, but she supposed Matthew hadn’t really been trying by then.
No man had ever looked at her like Sergeant Cormoran Strike was doing now, though, like he wanted to eat her alive. His dark eyes, already piercing, were focused on her with a hunger that melted her insides, his pupils dilated wide. And no man had ever turned her on to this degree without so much as touching her.
“Sir,” she managed, her voice breathy, and his uneven lips curved into a smile. Suddenly all she wanted to do was touch his mouth, kiss that scar on his upper lip—
He gave no verbal answer, but he shifted himself against the desk, sliding his feet apart, dropping his crossed arms and resting his hands on the desk on either side of his hips, opening the shape of his body up to her. She responded to the unspoken invitation without even realising it, taking a tiny step forward as though drawn to him by a magnet. What are you doing? she asked herself, but now she could smell him again, hot and musky, a siren call to the ache at the juncture of her thighs, and she took another step, so that she was standing almost between his legs.
His dark eyes on hers, he reached out and gently took her notebook and pen from her, his fingers brushing hers and making her shiver, and laid them aside on his desk, then returned his hand to its place by his hip. He was watching her, waiting to see what she would do.
Robin took another half step forward and kissed him.
Madness. Utter madness. Here in his own office, on an Army base, leaning against his desk, with a cadet. They would both lose their careers. He’d be busted back down a grade and put on probation faster than he could say the words disciplinary hearing. He’d known all of this even as he’d unfolded his arms and silently invited her forward, a detached part of his ever-busy mind watching in horror, drowned out by the sudden need to have her in his arms even if he couldn’t make the first move.
He couldn’t bring himself to give a toss about any of the protocols, though, with her tongue in his mouth and that little whimpering noise she made in the back of her throat as he kissed her. He’d been half aroused already, desperately trying to stop his body spiralling out of control as this sexy woman challenged him; with her arms sliding around his neck and his hands clutching suddenly at her hips, he was rock hard against her thigh immediately, and he knew she could feel him from the way she pressed herself to him, the smooth, starched material of her khaki skirt sliding against his trousers, rubbing against his aching cock, making him see stars. His hands slid, unbidden, to her delicious backside that he’d tried so hard not to watch leaving the lecture room earlier, exploring her generous curves, dragging her up against him so he could grind into her a little, fierce lust swamping him as she moaned into his mouth in response.
Her arms tightened around his neck as they kissed, and she had pushed herself up onto her toes as he dragged her against him, making her tall enough to kiss without cricking his neck. He had never fancied small women. This woman, filling his arms and his senses, felt perfect, tasted incredible. Her tongue stroked across his and she trembled against his chest, somehow managing to feel both experienced and to some degree innocent, a combination that inflamed his desire even further.
Finally she broke free of the kiss to gasp a breath in. Swept away by sudden, urgent desire, Strike buried his face in her neck, kissing her soft skin, dipping lower to lick across the pulse fluttering in her throat. His hands had slid up to her waist now, and he longed to slide them up further, to explore those full breasts that were pressed against his chest.
His mouth at her throat was sweet torment to the ache deep in her body. Robin groaned, and the sound of her own voice brought her back to herself somewhat.
Was she really doing this? Kissing her commanding officer in his office on her first day at the military academy? This was not the kind of thing Robin Ellacott did.
But maybe that was because Robin Ellacott had never before met this man, with his dark piercing eyes, his bulk which felt so good under her roving hands, his skill at the job she so desperately wanted to excel in too.
Or maybe it was simply because no one had ever touched her quite like this. His mouth was feather light on her skin suddenly, one hand at her waist sliding up a little, his thumb stroking the underside of her breast through her regulation shirt, and his other hand sliding down, down and around to the front of her, caressing the material of her skirt, his fingers attempting to slide between her legs but prevented from doing so by the taut fabric.
Maybe, also, it was because she was now desperate to feel the rather impressive erection he had been grinding against her a moment ago directly on her skin, between her legs, on her clit— another whimper escaped her and he growled in return.
“Fuck, Ellacott, you’re sexy,” he muttered against the soft skin at the side of her neck, smelling her, cupping her breast, and his hand slid down to the hem of her skirt and began to draw it up. He hesitated a moment, pulling back enough to look at her, and she swallowed hard, shuddering, at the wild, wrecked look in his eyes. She didn’t think she’d ever had such an effect on a man before. Knowing this was mutual made it more acceptable somehow, fanned the flames of her need for—
“Is this okay?” he asked hoarsely, tugging at her skirt, and Robin was touched, for a moment, that he’d taken the time to ask, to check.
She nodded. “Yes, sir,” she murmured, and watched his eyes darken still further at her use of his title. He liked that. Robin stored away that little piece of knowledge, hoarding it like a treasure, carefully not thinking about why and what for.
A small, smug smile crept across her face, and she knew he’d seen it and didn’t care. He grinned back at her as he tugged her skirt up, and suddenly the tempo had changed and they were pulling at one another’s clothing. Robin’s fingers deftly undid the middle buttons on his shirt so she could slide a hand inside, gasping a little in shock at the mat of hair she could feel covering his stomach and chest. She explored tentatively, enjoying the rumbling growl her ministrations drew from his throat in response. He was all hard, toned musculature beneath his pressed uniform and copious body hair. She pulled at a couple more buttons so she could get both her hands on him, sliding one around to his side.
He gave a low moan in response to her hands against his skin, exploring, and his own fingers began to work at the buttons on her shirt, clumsy with haste, tugging at the cloth. His other hand, beneath the hem of her skirt, slid up her thigh, fingertips ghosting higher.
She knew he’d find her soaking wet and ready for him, and parted her thighs as best she could; his groan when he finally cupped his hand against her made her impossibly wetter, rocking against him. He offered her no friction at first, content to let his hand just rest on her, and Robin shifted restlessly, trying to rub her aching flesh against his big fingers.
“Fuck—” he muttered, sliding his hand into her shirt and finding her breast again, stroking her through her bra. Robin whimpered desperately.
Strike really hadn’t been going to take things this far, he told himself, but there wasn’t going to be any stopping now, not with her writhing and whimpering in his arms, her nipple hard under his fingers and her hips jerking as she tried to get herself off on his hand. He slid his fingers against her soaked knickers and her obscene moan almost made him lose it on the spot. The ache of his arousal was excruciating; he was pressing himself against her hip again, trying to find some relief, her staccato movements sending jolts of pleasure through him and only increasing his desire further.
“C’mere.” He was distantly shocked by how hoarse his voice was, how urgent his need was. Drawing his hand back to a whimper of protest from her, he gripped her hips, encouraging her around him, turning to boost her onto his desk. It was a little low; his leg would hurt him tomorrow, but he couldn’t find the ability to care. He shoved at her uniform skirt and she helped him, wriggling the material up so that he could bunch it around her hips and she could open her legs for him.
Her tiny knickers were emerald green, and for reasons he couldn’t pin down, this enflamed him even further. He pulled at the buttons on her shirt again, and yes, Christ, the bra matched. He was never going to be able to face this woman across a lecture room again without knowing that she might be wearing these gorgeous scraps of non-regulation green lace beneath her perfectly pressed uniform.
That was a problem for another day. Pulling more buttons open, he bent his head to her chest, tonguing her nipple through her bra, thrilling to the sound of her low moan, the way she arched against him. Then she was clutching at his head, her fingers sliding into his hair that curled riotously if he didn’t keep it this short. She tugged him back up to kiss him, plunging her tongue into his mouth again, and moved her hands down to his fly, deftly working at his zip.
He couldn’t quite believe this was actually happening, was overwhelmed by the speed of their encounter, the way a small spark of attraction had become an inferno in a matter of minutes. Her fingers fiddling at his groin sent shockwaves of lust through him, so close to his aching erection, separated by maddening layers of clothing. He was desperate to feel her hand on him.
She had ignored his belt; Strike drew back long enough to yank it open and pop the button even as her hand was dipping inside, into his boxers, seeking his hard length. A bolt of pure need shot through him as she closed her hand around him, gently pulling him free of the constricting cotton. Her touch, soft but firm, gently squeezing, was pure delight. It was all he could do not to thrust himself to his release in her grip, and he had to seize her wrists as she began to pump him shallowly and the pleasure gripped him hard.
“Christ, Ellacott,” he growled, and she gasped at the sound of his voice, gravelly with need.
He tugged her knickers aside, and she was still so wet, wet for him, making fierce pride and lust sing through his veins. He explored her with gentle fingertips, sliding against soft, slick flesh, watching her as her head dropped back and she moaned with the pleasure he was giving her, long and low. He didn’t think she’d realised she was rocking her hips against his hand, jerking against him as he slid up to gently caress and tease her clit, and he absently wondered how much it would take to make her come like this.
Not much. She gasped and pushed his hand away, and then her hands were on his hips, tugging at him, making her need very clear. Strike stepped closer, lined himself up. Deep in his lust-addled brain, a warning flag; he managed to gasp the question. “Fuck— condom?”
“Pill,” she muttered back, her hands still pulling his hips closer, and he thrust into her with a groan of mingled need and relief.
The slick, tight heat of her was incredible, and the way her head dropped back again as he filled her, the delight in her moan as he drove all the way into her, filled him with fierce pride and pleasure.
This would be no gentle encounter. He thrust hard, withdrawing and surging into her again, and he knew from the way her fingers clenched into his hips, her fingernails making marks on his backside, that she wanted it this way too.
The feel of her was incandescent. If it had been a long time since he’d had sex, it had been aeons since he’d had sex that felt like this. He couldn’t have stopped if the commander of the base had walked in right now. Lust sang in his veins and obliterated all rational thought.
Robin had only been with two men (if you didn’t count...which she didn’t), but nevertheless she’d thought herself reasonably experienced. She’d lost her virginity over ten years ago, after all, and she and Matthew had done some experimenting back when they were young and carefree and in love.
But this, this was something else. This was almost animal in its intensity, the lust that had taken her over, the way her body thrilled to the thrust of his, his grunts and gasps, the pleasure she could feel in herself but also in him as he trembled against her, within her. This was like nothing she’d ever experienced before. She’d always, to some degree, had to chase her orgasm before; now she was fighting against it, desperately wanting this to go on for longer.
“Sergeant,” she gasped, and he groaned at the sound of his military rank on her lips, his hips pumping against her harder, all semblance of control gone.
Why did hearing her call him sergeant tip him over the edge into primal lust? What was it about this woman?
“Ellacott,” he groaned back, his thrusting hips a rhythm as old as time. Somehow he couldn’t bring himself to use her first name, deeming this to be an inappropriate overstep. The irony of that thought occurring to him while his cock was buried deep inside her was not lost on him.
Robin broke first, but she knew he was following right on behind; his thrusts had become erratic, jerky, his groans of delight impossibly deeper. The orgasm that detonated deep within her was a thing she had never known before, clenching pleasure that arched her back and rolled on and on, and was only heightened when she heard him swear raggedly in her ear, felt the pulse of his cock as he emptied himself into her.
Spent, he collapsed across her and she slumped back onto the desk with him against her, dimly aware of a pen pot skittering away, of files beneath her shoulders. She lay and gasped for breath and gazed at the ceiling of his office, awestruck even as aftershocks of pleasure still shuddered through her. His weight was heavy on top of her but not in a bad way, their breathing synchronising and slowing.
Now what? Gathering his scattered, hazy thoughts back together in the wake of an orgasm that could easily take its place in the top five he’d ever had, Strike was rapidly becoming uncomfortably aware that he was slumped across a cadet on his desk, his softening cock still inside her and their combined juices feeling decidedly sticky against him. She was lying on files she had no clearance to see, and he had broken more rules in the last twenty minutes than he had in his entire career up to now - and he’d never been shy to bend rules that stood between him and justice.
There was no excusing this. But he couldn’t quite bring himself to regret it. And where normally his thoughts would already be turning to escape, to nicotine, to how soon he could politely leave or gently expel her, he found himself lingering in her arms long after it would not have been deemed too soon to lever himself off her. She was warm and comfortable and relaxed, and her hands idly stroked his back; he lay for an extra minute, and then another.
Sergeant Strike was making no move to leave her arms, and Robin wasn’t sure she wanted him to, though she was a little afraid that it was just because he couldn’t face her. But she was in no hurry either. He felt good, a comforting weight across her, anchoring her and giving her a few minutes’ respite from her busy mind constantly striving to do and be better, the almost desperate drive to establish her new career that was born of the feeling that she had somehow wasted the last ten years of her life and needed to catch up. In this man’s arms, in this moment, all that was gone and she could just breathe.
Eventually a move had to be made. His back stiff and his knee sore, Strike had to use his palms against the surface of his desk to push his weight up off her. Never one to shy away from such a moment, he met her eyes, looking down at her, and she gazed back up at him. Her hair had almost entirely come out of the neat bun she’d worn it in, and the beautiful amber tresses across his desk, a halo around her cloudy blue-grey eyes and pink lips swollen from his fierce kisses, formed an image that he knew would never leave him.
He cleared his throat a little awkwardly as he levered himself free of her, her hand sliding down between them to readjust her somewhat ruined knickers back into place. Strike almost staggered as he took a step back, his knees unexpectedly wobbly after such an intense encounter. He busied himself attending to belt and buttons, running a big hand through his hair, half turned away from her to give her a modicum of privacy while she straightened her clothing and scraped her hair back into a ponytail. Female recruits were not permitted to wear long hair loose while in uniform.
Finally there was no more reason not to face her; he turned back, expecting what, he wasn’t sure. Shyness, regret, worry for her career? What he certainly didn’t expect was the cheeky grin on her face that immediately brought out an answering one from him.
“Will that be all, sir?” she murmured with just the faintest hint of a coquettish smile, but behind that, an earnest look, willing him to understand.
He smiled. She wasn’t going to go crying to superiors, claiming to have been taken advantage of. But nor, he could sense, was she going to use this as leverage over him. It was what it was.
A wash of fondness swept over him and he reached out, touching big fingers to the side of her face, feeling foolish suddenly, wondering what had prompted him to make such a gesture.
Startled, Robin allowed him to caress her cheek, a feather of a touch, there and gone like the fleeting fond look she’d seen in his eyes. She’d hoped, with her cheeky little comment, to take the tension out of the situation, to show him that she wasn’t going to make a huge deal out of it. She’d vaguely assumed he would laugh, but this tender gesture was unexpected and inexplicably made her eyes prickle.
Then he grinned. “That’ll be all, Cadet.”
Amusement twitched through her again. Robin pulled herself up to attention, managing not to wince at the cold stickiness of her knickers that she was going to have to go and deal with in the ladies’ before she got back to barracks. She made a step towards the door, but he suddenly said softly, “Wait.”
Heart hammering, she turned back to him.
He was holding out her notebook and pen.
Fighting a blush, Robin took them. “Thank you, sir.”
“See you tomorrow, Cadet.”
Then he was opening the door for her, and she was marching away down the corridor back towards the ladies’.
And if she allowed her hips to sway just a little more than usual in the empty corridor, that was merely due to the sudden lightness in her step, the surge of self-confidence, and nothing at all to do with the fact that she didn’t hear his office door close until she was rounding the corner and heading towards the mess hall.