He studied me with that impassive expression of his. “If you feel you can behave, you’ll be able to plead your own case.”
“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” I snapped. I knew exactly what he meant. If this was a test to see if he could spark my temper, I didn’t need to fail it. Besides, his habit of treating me like a child had aged beyond toleration—I was perfectly capable of conducting myself with the mannerisms of an adult.
“I’m going to be direct with you, Dr. Morgan. I won’t allow you to insult, or verbally abuse in any other way, your superiors. If you can promise that, then I’ll let you speak to them.”
Oh, now that’s rich. My gut churned in repressed outrage as I choked back my initial response. When composed, I kept my tone as neutral and cordial as possible. “Allow me to speak directly, Captain Marek.” I didn’t wait for his permission to proceed. “First and foremost, I am not in the military, a fact which you often seem to forget. Therefore, I do not have superiors. Secondly, if you’re so inclined to believe I’m the UN’s last hope for success, then you can agree it would be idiotic for them to go to all that trouble in my kidnapping, only to withhold information vital to my research, and all but inhibit my progress with their endeavor.” Captain Marek sat back and crossed his arms. “And finally, I do not insult or verbally abuse anyone, except for Pretty—Lt. Horan,” I amended. “That man could provoke a nun.”
“Did you—? What did you just call Lt. Horan?” Amusement colored his tone.
Did he not hear the logic behind my chastisement? “Well, I was going to call him Pretty Princess. But I did correct myself.”
“And why were you going to call him that?”
I shrugged. “He thought of it himself. My first day here, he told us that his name was Pretty Princess if Ebony’s name was really Ebony. I accidentally laughed, and that’s when our…disagreement ensued. You know the rest.”
“And you continue to call him this?”
“Only when we’re alone. I wouldn’t disrespect him in front of his real cadets.” A pity, to be sure.
At that, his face broke into the most breathtaking smile I ever had the misfortune to see. Elyse Morgan. My name is Elyse Morgan… “How often are you alone together?” he asked.
“Every day.” Elyse. Morgan.
“Every day?” he said, incredulous. “Why?”
“Because every single day he makes me do pushups after roll call. He stays to enforce it. Why? And did you not hear anything else I just said?” And, captain that he was, why didn’t he know this already? Agitation snapped me out of my trance. That, and I focused on his chair instead of his dimples.
He leaned over the desk again and folded his hands together. I could see he was struggling to check his amusement, so I opted to give him a moment to gain composure—the last thing I needed was for him to keep smiling.
“Well?” I said finally.
“Are you going to let me talk to your superiors?”
He smirked. “Yes, I believe I will. I’ll make the necessary arrangements. You should be able to speak to someone within a few days.”
I stood to leave. “Thank you.”
He stood too. “Is there anything else I can do for you, Dr. Morgan?”
Again with the loaded questions. “No. Unless you’d consider having Lt. Horan executed?”
He grinned again, and I could’ve kicked myself. “I’m afraid not.”
“Then have a good day, Captain.” I waved him off when I saw he’d walk me to the door. My knees almost buckled when I felt his hand press against the small of my back. Startled at the heat bleeding through my shirt, I stopped. Against my better judgment, I raised the back of my hand to his forehead, ignoring the shock jolting through me from the contact.
He didn’t flinch, didn’t move away. In fact, he seemed to lean closer. I moved my hand from forehead to cheek, biting my lip at the absence of fever. “Huh.” Not my most intelligent response, but it was something.
“Care to expound on that, Dr. Morgan?” He covered my hand with his own, keeping it pressed to his cheek.
Realizing he didn’t let go—just like on the docks—I fumbled for a good reason why I’d be
touching an engaged man’s face in the first place. Then I remembered I was a doctor. A medical one, even. “I thought you might have a fever. Your hand felt hot.”
“Did it?” He sandwiched my hand and forearm between both of his, pulling me closer with the act. “What about now?”
I nodded, making a bionic effort not to shiver against the heat coming off his entire body. The feel of his flesh against mine sent tingles in all the wrong directions. “But your forehead is cool, so I’m satisfied.”
“Am I what?”
“Are you satisfied, Dr. Morgan?”
Proud of myself for not gasping, I tugged my hand from his grip and stepped back, not attempting to rub the goose bumps on my…well, on my everything. “Uh, yes, thank you, Captain Marek. For your assistance with my research, I mean.” Even though he couldn’t have known what I thought he was asking, I felt a blush scalding my cheeks. Not breaking into a run to get to the door was almost impossible. “I should be going. No, please don’t trouble yourself. I can show myself out.” As I said this, I noticed the door wouldn’t open.
“Please allow me.” The door slid open immediately in his presence.
“Thanks,” I grumbled, and hurried to the elevator. Before the doors closed, I saw him leaning against the entrance to his office, grinning like a fool—a very attractive fool.
He was considerably more cheerful than I imagined. How many more of his stupefying smiles could I endure? As for his touches…I could probably count on one finger how many more of those I could stand.