Brett laid in his bunk, staring at the bottom of Shiloh’s bed. He knew she wasn’t sleeping, but couldn’t bring himself to say anything. When they’d been lifted from the tunnels, she refused to tell Tom what happened. Instead, they told him the cavern was nothing more than a bunker.
Shiloh retreated to the tiny RV bathroom when Tom had gone to bed and Brett could do nothing but listen to her soul wrenching sobs as the full impact of what had happened finally hit her. She’d emerged, eyes red and swollen, and climbed straight into her bed.
And that’s where he found himself, listening to her discontented sighs and wondering if he’d completely screwed everything up by moving too fast. All he wanted was to feel her kiss, a soft touch. Maybe go on an actual date one day. Looks like you might never be sitting on a blanket at the beach with her, he thought, frowning.
Suddenly, Shiloh’s head popped over the edge of the bunk. “Hey,” she whispered.
“Hi,” Brett replied. “You okay?”
“Can’t sleep. Insomnia’s coming back. What are you doing up?”
He smiled. “Listening to you toss and turn.” Propping on an elbow, he cocked his head. “You’re an insomniac?”
Shiloh disappeared before her feet swung over and she jumped down easily. She slid onto his bed, tucking her legs underneath her and picking at the loose strings on his wool blanket. “When I was eight, my mom got cancer and she was in a lot of pain most nights. Dad couldn’t handle it, so I’d stay up with her, singing lullabies or knitting.” She offered a feeble smile. “That’s when the sleepless nights started.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Brett said softly, recognizing raw pain in her voice with the memory. “My parents left when I was five,” he offered. “Tom raised me.”
“I had no idea.”
“Yeah, well.” He shrugged. “You tired yet? Did I bore you enough?”
“Hardly,” she snorted. “I’ll leave you alone so you can get some sleep.”
Brett grabbed her hand as she stood. “I’m not tired,” he lied. “Want to play some poker?”
Smiling, Shiloh nodded. “We gambling?”
“With what?” Please say clothes, he thought fleetingly.
“There’s a bucket of goldfish crackers in the cabinet.”
Five minutes later, Brett was sitting at the small booth constituting a dining room table and watching the demure Shiloh handle the cards with more skill than a veteran Vegas dealer. Suddenly, he was glad she hadn’t said clothes.
“All right,” she said. “Seven card draw, no wilds. Max bet of ten goldfish. Good?”
Nodding with raised eyebrows, he watched as she dealt the cards with a rapid hand. “So when did you run an underground gambling ring?”
“When the feds banned it.” She giggled when his jaw dropped. “What? You think the construction guys sit around and take something like that with a thumb up their ass? I organized and dealt.”
HOT. Brett felt the blood rushing to his fingertips as the lovely Shiloh transformed into more of a vixen right in front of him. “Did you kick their asses?”
“Now, if I told you that, it might scare you off.”
Four hands in, Brett couldn’t decide if he was the unluckiest S.O.B. to walk the face of the earth or if Shiloh had the luck of the gods on her side. Either way, she won his last four goldfish with a sly smile.
“Well, looks like that’s a wrap,” she said.
“Wait a minute.” He pondered what he was about to say as she looked at him, waiting. “One more hand. If I win, I get that kiss I was robbed of earlier.” His stomach tightened with nerves as her eyes narrowed on him.
“And if I win?”
“Ladies choice.” Shrugging, he leaned back, knowing her eyes would travel across his bare torso.
“I’ll call a rain check when I win and think about it. Let’s go.”
Brett studied his cards when she dealt, suppressing a smile. Four red hearts greeted him, conveniently lined in descending order from the King to the ten. All he had to do was trade in two. If he got a nine of hearts, the game was in the bag and the kiss was his.
He slid two cards across the table and waited patiently while she studied her hand. Shiloh took three carefully selected cards and slapped them on the table, eyeing him down. “Just two?” she asked incredulously.
With raised eyebrows, she dealt them and got her own. “Dealer calls.”
Excitement coursed through him as Brett laid down his first good hand of the night. “Royal straight,” he said softly.
A slow grin spread across Shiloh’s face as she tossed her meager three of a kind down. “Congratulations,” she said. “You win.”
He could have done a happy dance, but he leaned back with a smug smile instead. “I won’t be calling a rain check.”
Shiloh nodded, licking her lips, and leaned forward. “Well, come on then, mister smooth.”
Her heart raced just below her skin. Brett could feel the frantic beats when his hand cupped her face. He leaned across the small table, and after a moment’s hesitation, he lowered his head until their lips met.
God, she tastes good. That was the only thought running through his head as she sighed against him. He deepened the kiss, running a hand into her hair.
Brett pulled back slightly. “Can’t believe I waited so long to do that.”
Shiloh bit her lip. “Better make up for lost time, then.”