Maria has a plan.
But she’s proving to be too much for a certain Marine to handle.
What’s a guy to do when he can’t keep his eyes, or his hands, off his little sister’s best friend?
A steamy military romance!
Major Mike Cava has done his best not to see Maria Thompson as anything but his baby sister’s best friend. Not an easy feat when Maria’s done her best to throw herself at him for years. But now that’s he’s returned to the East Coast and with his family again, he feels easier about handling little Maria.
Except in the two years since he’s seen her last, Maria has grown way up. Good God, she’s stunning. But now that he’s really seeing her, she isn’t seeing him. No more jumping into his arms or smiling and flirting. A bland hello and she’s leaving to go hang out with some other guy. Oh hell no.
Maria spent the past fourteen years mooning over a man who never saw her as anything but a little girl, and she’s done. Or so she tries fooling herself.
But now Mike’s giving “those” looks. He’s acting jealous. She realizes that she’s not over him yet, and maybe one of her old plans to stir his interest might work this time around.
With the help of her best friend—Mike’s sister—she’ll prove she’s more than woman enough to handle him. His dominance, his needs in the bedroom, his huge, hot body. But just when she thinks they can make a go of it, he pulls back. She can’t do it anymore. Loving, being hurt, loving, being ignored. This time if Mike wants her, he’ll have to prove it. She’s done.
And he’s just realized he might have made the biggest mistake of his life in pushing her away…
Eight years ago
Oh God. He was here.
“Quick. Undo me,” Maria ordered, frantic she get this just right.
Her best friend, Olivia, sighed. “Seriously? This has to be the dumbest idea you’ve had yet.” Still, Olivia helped unknot the back of Maria’s bikini top.
Overhead, the moon lit up the ocean, not a cloud in the sky. Sparkles danced over the dark water, and the private alcove on the beach provided the perfect atmosphere to finally snag a certain someone. Too bad the breeze had died. Maria wiped sweat from her brow and wondered if she should put her hair in a ponytail. Long hair wasn’t sexy plastered to one’s face.
“Really dumb idea,” Olivia repeated as she looked around and eased off the dock into the backyard. The wooden dock had served to host more parties and summer shindigs than Maria could remember. Heck, she’d spent her seventh birthday in this very yard at this very beach. She might not be a Cava by name—yet—but she was where it mattered. In the heart.
This has to work. “I’m sixteen, officially a woman.”
“Really? I didn’t know we had a certified date for turning all womanly.”
“Shh. Now scram.” Maria heard footsteps getting closer. Her heart raced at remembrances of the tall, dark, and handsome Marine she’d fallen in love with at first sight. An older man. So forbidden. She felt all Lolita-like and cool, not cute or darling.
“Good luck.” Olivia left without making a sound, disappearing into the shadows.
Maria shifted on her towel and winced when a splinter dug in her butt.
“Olivia?” Even his deep voice gave the shivers. Lieutenant Mike Cava was a dream. Every girl who saw him knew it. But he had so much more than his looks going for him. Kind, caring, sexy as all get-out. She sighed.
She rose up on her elbows and saw her tiny bikini top waver over her small breasts—the only problem with her plan. She didn’t have curves like her best friend. Unfortunately, Maria took after her mom. Petite, blond, and stick-thin, though she’d been called pretty over the years. Cursed with the cute gene, but, hey, most guys liked boobs of any size, didn’t they?
This would work.
She could feel it.
She cleared her throat. “Over here, Mike.”
More footsteps. She thrust out her chest and shifted on the deck. The water lapped right next to her, and she wondered if Mike would want to make love in the ocean. How romantic would that be? Her first love, her first time.
“Oliv—Maria?” He blinked. “What are you doing out here?”
She smiled and batted her eyelashes. He looked confused, not attracted, so she tried again, adjusting herself on her towel. Perhaps if she moved back, her top could “accidentally” fall off. She scooted back on her hands and butt and winced as the splinter in her tush dug deeper. Keep it together, girl.
Mike stared at her. Any minute now, he’d see her breasts and be overcome with lust, finally seeing her as more than his—“Ack!”
She splashed into the water, and boy, the temperature of the ocean sure did drop in the evening. She shivered as she tread water.
Mike knelt over the side, all concern. “Hey, Maria, you okay?” He glanced over her shoulder and blinked. “Ah, is that your top?”
Crap. “Oh boy. I think it is.” Perhaps a way to salvage the situation… “Could you help me out?”
His smile seemed sincere, but it was growing a little too wide for her taste. As if he bordered on laughter. He stood and gripped the bottom of his T-shirt then yanked it off.
The mother lode.
She couldn’t speak. Good Lord, those Cavas made fine-looking people. Mike had muscles all over the place. His abs rippled as he chuckled, but seeing that bare skin made his laughter easy enough to bear.
As she waited for him to undo his pants, she mentally chanted, I told you so to Olivia and continued to tread water. Oh God, this was going to be magical. She knew it.
Unfortunately, Mike didn’t unsnap his jeans. He tossed his shirt at her. “Put it on, and I’ll help you out.”
“Come on, Maria.” He sounded a bit rushed. “I have a date in half an hour. Let’s get a move on.”
A date. With someone else.
Sighing, she put his shirt on then took the hand he reached out to help her from the water. Instead of letting him help her out, she tugged him in.
He swore and landed with a loud splash.
She climbed onto the deck, dripping wet. A glance over her shoulder showed he looked even better drenched, his dark brown eyes almost black in the moonlight, his amazing shoulders and chest more like the body of a sea god than a mere human.
“What the hell?” he growled. “Maria—”
“And…back to the drawing board.” She wrung water from his shirt and swore as she walked back to the house, entering in the side so the colonel and Olivia’s mom wouldn’t see her.
“How did it go?” her BFF asked when Maria entered her bedroom.
Olivia shrugged. “Told you so. Now can we please get back to our Chem final? If we don’t study, there’s no way I’ll be getting an A in the class.”
“My love life is doomed.” Maria dried off and put on clean clothes, moping. “He’s going on a date.”
“With a woman his age, I’ll bet. Maria, he’s twenty-four, a lieutenant, has his own car, and doesn’t have to study for finals. Of course he’s got a date.”
“While we have to serve out our junior year,” Maria muttered.
“I like school.”
“You would.” It still surprised her that she and Olivia could be so different yet be best friends. “So about Mike… Guys like younger women, don’t they?”
“There’s younger, and there’s statutory rape younger.”
“I’m almost seventeen,” she snapped.
“Next year maybe.”
“Hey. I’d never tell.”
“You’re jail bait, plain and simple.”
“I fit all the qualifications. I’m blonde. I’m young.” She squeezed her boobs. “I’m perky.”
Olivia cringed. “Okay, first, ew. Second, you’re his little sister’s best friend—invisible.”
“Nooo.” Maria wanted to cry.
“How many times do we have to have this discussion? He’s out of your league for now. Wait until you’re twenty then try again. Now come on over and study.”
Maria sighed. “Fine. But I’m not giving up. He’s mine.”
“Whatever. Now what’s the definition for entropy?”
Down but not out, Maria planned to bide her time. Mike Cava was hers, damn it. And no matter how long it took, she’d keep after him until she nabbed the sly Marine. Age was nothing but a number. She just had to make him see that.