A Weldon Family Christmas: A Southern Steam Novella (Weldon Brothers)
blame it’s the damn pilots who were flying in an area they weren’t supposed to be in.”
    Emma sobbed, turning from him.  “She didn’t deserve to die, John.”
    He lay next to Emma and pulled her into his arms.  “Shh.  I know.  No one deserves to die.  God knows none of the young men who’ve lost their lives here deserved it.  But death and life aren’t always fair.  And you can’t let survivor’s guilt eat you alive.  Just like you told me.  Don’t let today’s hell steal tomorrow’s heaven.”
    “I know.”  Still, she cried, and he pulled her tighter.  She slid closer to him and rested her head on his shoulder.  He held her, caressing her back, comforting her until she stopped crying.
    “Want to tell me what happened when your uncle told you that bit of wisdom?”
    She seemed to hesitate then sighed.  “It’s not something I like to talk about.  My father abused my mother, but no one would do anything about it.  He was in law enforcement and she always made excuses for him.  She was beautiful, and he was jealous if she even smiled at the 60-something year old mailman.  When I was ten, he saw a boy from school kiss my cheek and he beat me up.  When my mother found me, she took me to the hospital and filed charges against my father.  He went to jail.  He got out when I was fifteen.  He came after my mother first thing.  This time he’d brought a knife with him.  But this time my uncle was there and armed with a shotgun.  My father died that night.  It wasn’t too long after that, my uncle told me to not let today’s hell steal tomorrow’s heaven.”
    The weight of Emma’s pain hit John like a ton of bricks.  He wished he could have been the one protecting her from such evil.  “I was wrong, Em.  Some men do deserve to die.  A man who’d beat his wife and kid does.  I’m so sorry that happened.”
    She lifted her head to gaze into his eyes.  The cover she’d wrapped around her had loosened, leaving a little more of her cleavage exposed.  His breath caught, and it shamed him to feel his erection swell.  From her widening eyes, he knew she felt it too.  “Kiss me,” she said softly.
    He pulled her tight to him and groaned then shook his head and tried to slide from beneath her.  “I can’t.  Not right now,” he said harshly.  “I wouldn’t be able to stop at just a kiss.”
    She let him roll away from her, but then caught his hand and brought it to her lips.  “What if I don’t want to you stop.”  She kissed his hand.
    John shuddered as pleasure rippled through him.  “I’m going to kiss you Emma and I’m not going to stop loving you all night long for a long time to come, but it’s not going to happen until I get you back safely and I know shock, fear, gratitude, or some sort of jungle fever aren’t pushing you my way.”
    She arched a brow over a deadly glare that had him realizing that despite her softness and vulnerability, Emma Rollins was a woman to be reckoned with and he didn’t want to be on her bad side.  “You think I don’t know my own mind, Lieutenant?”
    He’d wandered into a minefield.  “Now, Em.  I didn’t say that at all.”
    She stood, and his poncho liner clung to her curves.  He sucked in air, feeling as if the tropical heat had reached a record high in a matter of seconds.
    “I need to recon the area,” he said and dashed outside.  He didn’t wait to hear a response before he moved into the safety of the jungle.  It took him thirty minutes and a dip into the creek to get his libido under control.  He returned to find her washed shirt hanging on a bamboo limb along with, he gulped, a pair of beige underwear.  At least the pants he’d given her weren’t hanging up there, too.
    “Em, I’m back.”
    She didn’t answer, and he pushed through the palm fronds to find her curled up on the pallet asleep.  The pants were folded at the side of the bed.  She’d eaten half a Charlie rats and two of the four

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