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“The red-head is smokin’ hot.”

“Yeah, no kidding.”

“How the hell does a woman like that wind up in a place like this?”

“You know how, Pierson– the same way any beautiful woman winds up on top– pun intended.”

“Hey, Grant. Take your eyes off that match, man, and check out the redhead at the bar.”

John Grant peeled his eyes off of the TV screen carrying the latest boxing match and looked. The redhead in question was leaning casually against the bar and ordering a drink. She was hot, even by John’s exacting standards, with fiery copper hair and a trim, tight body. She was wearing a pair of sexy jeans and filled out her low cut shirt nicely. There didn’t seem to be a single flaw about her– until she turned around and John caught a glimpse at her face. Then he practically groaned in agony.

“Off limits,” he said, turning his attention back to the TV. “Academy instructor.”

Pierson laughed and took a swallow of Sam Adams. “Grant, when have you ever played by the rules, man?”

John shrugged and returned his attention to the boxing match, tuning out the conversation. But he couldn’t concentrate. His eyes kept stealing back to the red-head– Rachel Burke.

She taught a practical methods course on suspect psychology and negotiation– one of the four courses he was taking during his summer stint at Quantico. Though she was a good instructor and beloved among her students for being patient, funny, and thorough, her class was John’s least favorite. He clashed with Burke at every turn, fought every theory and method that she tried to explain. It wasn’t that he was trying to be difficult, particularly– it was just that his own tried and true methods were wildly different from hers and still got the same results. He had no reason to learn new ones.

The whole summer course at Quantico was bullshit, really. It wasn’t the unique opportunity that Handelman had been harping about ever since he’d “strongly suggested” Grant go back for some more field training.  No, it was humiliation, plain and simple, a paid leave from the department that had no idea what to do with him since he’d been unfairly accused of screwing up the First National job two months ago. Three officers had died during the negotiation period and the blame had fallen squarely on Grant’s shoulders, instead of on Officer Mason, where it belonged.

Now he was stuck in Northern Virginia for two months, subjected to sanctimonious instructors like Rachel Burke and pissed off at his inability to leave without a reprimand from his department.

“Grant. Grant, get your head out the game. Your turn to buy.” Fallows gave him a hard nudge on the shoulder and set his empty bottle on the table in front of John. “Another round of Sam Adams, man.”

“Yeah, all right, don’t get your panties in a twist.” John stood and started toward the bar, pulling his wallet from his pocket as he went.

The bar was crowded with DEA, FBI, and ATF agents, young and fresh-faced, gabbing a mile a minute and ordering food and beer. It would be a while before Ray worked his way down the bar so John leaned on the counter and let his mind go on a mental safari as he studied the legions of good looking women.

He was thudded rudely back to earth when a familiar voice asked, “Taking a break?”

John groaned inwardly. Burke. Fucking fantastic.

“No, I’m taking part in a sewing circle. The guys and I are knitting a blanket. It’s back at the booth.” He jerked his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of his friends and let his eyes roam the room again.

“Then I guess we have something in common. I’m crocheting lace doilies.”

“Can we save the witty repartee for a time when I actually give a shit?”

“I don’t know.” Burke rested her elbows on the bar and leaned closer. “Can you stop acting like a prick long enough to have a civil conversation with someone who has never been anything but decent to you?”

John whipped his head around to stare at her. He’d known Burke was tough and forth-right but he’d never heard her speak to anyone the way she’d just spoken to him.

“Point taken. Sorry. I guess I’m just kind of pissed off.”

“Seems to be your natural state of mind.” Burke downed the rest of her drink and set the bottle on the bar. “Look, I really would like to talk to you for a few minutes, informally, nothing class related. Can we call a truce long enough for that?”

“We could. I don’t know why you’d want to talk to me though.”

“Because you’re probably an interesting guy when you manage to heft the chip off of your shoulder.” She gave him a quick smile. “But if you’re busy knitting that blanket–“

John actually found himself laughing. “I think I can tear myself away. Let me get the drinks for the guys before they rip me a new one.”

Burke nodded pleasantly. “I’m over in the booth whenever you’re ready.”


He was having a good time.

How the hell was he having a conversation with Rachel Burke and managing to have a good time?

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that he was drunk.

They both were, really, though she apparently could hold her liquor better than he’d given her credit for. She was still coherent and he– well, it was a miracle he’d even made it to her room semi-conscious.

She was still talking and he was only catching every three words or so. Something about kick-boxing or some such shit. He stared at her mouth as she talked and entertained himself with another mental safari– this time to the Land of Fellatio where her mouth was less busy talking and more busy sucking.

He grinned and took another sip of his bourbon. She was having a martini and he briefly wondered how she would react if he poured a stream of it down her chest and drank it from the bowl of her hips and belly.

Jesus. Where was his mind going? This was Burke, The Wicked Witch of the Northern South, the woman he despised more than any other woman at Quantico because she insisted on reminding him of just how badly he’d failed on the First National job.

Oh, yes. First National. That had been what she wanted to talk about.

First National. And his “attitude problem.”

She’d actually told him he had an attitude problem.

How much more Catholic school nun could she get? He’d expected her to pull out a yardstick and rap his knuckles with it.

Attitude problem. What a fucking bitch!

He had an attitude problem? Fuck that.

The problem was back at APD, with Lou Handelman and the guys at the review board who couldn’t haul their heads out of their collective asses to make a correct ruling to save their sorry lives.  The problem was that fucking bastard Greg Mason and his supreme idiocy in handling a real crisis. Grant had been blamed for three officers and two suspects DOA when the hostage team stormed the building when all along it had been Greg Mason who hadn’t played his cards right, who hadn’t listened to Grant’s superior experience and had fucked the entire operation up. And it was Grant who was paying for it, who’d been exiled to fucking Quantico to take training courses that any first year newbie could do in their sleep.

If he had an attitude problem it sure as fuck wasn’t his fault.

And she’d wanted to talk about it, to see what it was that was “making him so hostile,” to see if they could “come to a mutual understanding” so that they wouldn’t “undermine each other during class time.”

What a pedantic bunch of psycho-babble bullshit. Just the sound of her voice made him want to drink.

And he had. Drank, that is. Lots of things. Several more bottles of beer. A couple of shots. Some really terrible wine at the Moroccan restaurant off the base where they’d gone for dinner. More beer to drown the taste of the roasted goat which really, in retrospect, had not tasted that great at all. And then back to her room for her martinis and his bourbon.

All of which lead to the state they were in now– sprawled on the double bed in her room, her shirt half open, his eyes roaming and his dick hardening in spite of himself. He didn’t want to sleep with Rachel Burke.


John Grant was hot.

Very hot.

Rachel was particular about the men she dated but she was always willing to admire a good looking man when he crossed her path. With that muscled body and tousled hair, Grant was a stereotypical Hot Man. If it weren’t for his attitude problem, and her interest in keeping her job at Quantico she’d be seriously tempted to say to hell with the regulations and fuck him senseless.

Alas, John Grant was also drunk.

Very drunk.

Then again, so was she.

He was sipping his bourbon and watching her with a smile that bordered on lecherous. His eyes were roaming all over the place, coming to rest most often on her low-cut shirt. She started to curse herself for wearing the top,  then stopped. She really didn’t mind that Grant was staring at her. It was just the implications of that stare that made her uncomfortable. Grant was broadcasting his expectation of sex loud and clear and it was something she wasn’t prepared to give him. 

 Her body, however,  was sending off signals that it very much wanted to get to know Agent Grant in a more personal manner.

Dammit. It was getting harder and harder to concentrate.

Don’t think, Rachel. Talk. Talk about class.

Though she honestly didn’t know what the hell she thought she’d accomplish in trying to talk to Grant about his attitude. Men like him just didn’t change. They were hostile toward powerful women because they were afraid of them.

Not that she was vain enough to think that was why he was such a jerk toward her– she’d read his file after all. She knew he’d been sent here to atone for the First National problem rather than take a departmental reprimand. That way he could clean up his act and still save face by looking like he’d taken the initiative to keep his training up to date.

But it was time to face facts– he was going to wash out if he didn’t watch himself. That’s what she’d wanted to talk to him about when she’d approached him at the bar. All of this– drinks, dinner at the Moroccan restaurant, conversation here in her room– was just incidental. She hadn’t intended for any of it to happen.

Nor did she intend to respond when Grant leaned over to kiss her.

But she did. She returned the kiss and bit his bottom lip with her teeth and brought a hand up to the back of his neck to pull him closer to her.

And the very hot, very drunk John Grant needed no more coaxing than that. He was pulling at her shirt and she at his belt and they were rolling on the bed together in a fierce tug of war to free themselves from their clothing. She rose to her knees to pull off her shirt and throw it to the floor and he pounced, knocking her back, straddling her hips, pushing against her insistently. She pulled off his shirt and played her fingers up and down his chest.

He sneered at her.

“Oh, what, that’s all you’ve got? You’ve got nails, Burke, use them.” He bent to her shoulder and bit, a little harder than a traditional lovers bite but stimulating nonetheless. She moaned and her fingers tightened on his arm. He brought his head back up to look at her. “Come on, don’t tell me you’re a cold fish. I’ve seen you kick the asses of half the guys in class in the sparring ring. What, you don’t like it a little rough?”

She should have known it would be this way. She should have read him sooner, figured out that he’d want it to be a competition. She’d been so caught up in her own desire for him that she hadn’t stopped to think about what it would really mean to sleep with John Grant, especially when his ego was bruised and he was drunk as hell.

It didn’t matter, not really. She’d never thought he’d be sweet with her. She had to stop thinking about how much she wanted him to be tender and concentrate instead on this, an erotic tug of war. It was all she would get from him.

She used her nails to scratch at his chest, fought back when he pinned her with his weight, countered the moves he made with moves of her own until they were sweating and gasping. He rolled her onto her back, pinned her wrists.

“Who’s stronger now?” he growled at her. “Who’s on top, sweetheart? Huh? Who wins every time?”

He thrust inside of her, brutally hard, leaving a trail of bruises on her hips and friction burns on her pelvis. Her back arched as he filled her and she groaned, pushing against his hips, fighting him for the release she wanted. He held her still with his hands, giving her only what he wanted her to have, controlling the depth and strength of each thrust until she thought she’d go insane.

“John, please–“          

”Beg for it,” he hissed. “Beg for it, you sanctimonious bitch, beg me for what you want. I’m in charge. Plead with me to get you off. Tell me how much you want it.”

It wasn’t in Rachel’s nature to beg for anything, not in her working life, not in her personal life. She thought about stubbornly shutting her mouth and refusing to give in. But there was also a part of her that understood that John was drunk and miserable and feeling completely invalidated. The part of her that wanted, badly, to care for John Grant, even if he wouldn’t remember it later, let her rise above the humiliation and do as he wanted.

She begged.

He gave her the final thrust she needed, the one that took her over the edge and into an orgasm so intense that she had to scream into the pillow beside her head.

They lay there, breathing hard, both sated and sleepy. His breath was warm on her cheek, his fingers gentle in a way they hadn’t been minutes ago as he stroked her stomach. He’d exorcised whatever inner demon was troubling him– it had poured out with the sweat covering their bodies. His face softened, relaxed, and he looked, for a moment, vulnerable.



“I needed that.”

Rachel reached over to touch his cheek. “I know.”



“I’m way too drunk to go back to my room.”

She laughed softly. “No kidding. Stay here.”

He drifted off to sleep and Rachel touched his cheek once more.

“You’re not going to remember a thing about this in the morning,” she predicted.

 She rose and folded his clothes into a small, neat pile. She put away the alcohol, washed out the glasses, put her own clothes in the hamper and showered away the remnants of their lovemaking.

There were bruises forming on her hips and wrists, scratches on her back and shoulders, all of which could be explained away, if necessary, by kick-boxing class. The condoms she double bagged and threw away, along with the leftovers from the Moroccan restaurant. She would wash the sheets tomorrow, of course, but it was highly unlikely anyone would decide to come into her room with a bottle of Luminol to ascertain whether or not she’d been sleeping with her students.

No one had seen them leave for the restaurant and no one, that she was aware of, had seen them when they walked into her small apartment together. John, she was quite sure, would remember that they’d slept together but the alcohol would wipe the rest of the details.

Better for both of them. She’d never tell him about the way he’d treated her tonight, the things he’d said, the way he’d made her beg. Though she didn’t know very much about John Grant, she knew enough to understand that being reminded of such behavior would upset him.

Under the chip on his shoulder, John Grant was a decent man.

Even if she was the only one who knew it.