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For about the millionth time, Sam looked at herself in the mirror. Hugging her waist like a second skin, the black dress flowed down her body and covered her upper thighs to just above her knees. She hadn’t worn anything like this since she’d run away from home. “You don’t think this is too—“
“Sexy? Saucy? Hot?” Vala bustled around Sam and grinned at her in the mirror. “Nah.”
“I was gonna say girly.”
“Hun, you don’t have to dress in pants all the time.” Janet got up from a chair in a corner of the small storeroom. “You look fantastic. You should have some clothes to wear besides your camp uniform.”
Sam tugged at the skirt. It was a nice dress. Wasn’t it a bit inappropriate, though? Besides, when would she get a chance to wear it again?
“Try this jacket. It would go wonderful with the dress.” Janet handed her a dark jacket and Sam pulled it on. Wow, that did look good.
She brushed her fingers through her hair and tugged at the short strands. The town’s hairdresser had turned her wild and uneven cut into an even wilder looking layered bob, the ends of her hair spiky and splayed out. Definitely not boyish anymore especially with the light make-up.
“I don’t know.” Sam slid the jacket down her arms and handed it back to Janet.
Vala leaned against the wall next to the mirror. “Come on, Sammie. You can’t wear your camp uniform for team night out.”
“Why not?” Sam turned. “It’s comfortable.”
Janet sighed and shook her head. “No uniform when we’re out to have fun.” She turned to the shop owner who stood behind a small counter. “Linda, how much for the entire outfit?”
“For you girls? Twelve silver coins.”
“We’ll take it.” Janet threw the jacket back to Sam and placed the coins on the counter.
“Janet.” Sam walked up to her and lowered her voice. “I don’t have that much money yet. I’ve only been a full member for two weeks.”
“Consider it a gift.” The doctor smiled at her.
Sam pulled the jacket back on. She’d pay Janet at least part of the money back as soon as she’d saved up enough. Every resistance member received a weekly stipend of five silver coins to cover personal expenses. It wasn’t a lot, but then again nobody came to the organization to get rich.
When they left the shop, Vala hooked her arm into Janet’s and Sam’s. “I can’t wait ‘til we’re there. If you ask me, we should have a night out once a month.”
“Where are we going anyway?” Sam looked between the two women. She shouldn’t have let them talk her into going with them. A lot of work waited for her back at camp.
Two days ago, O’Neill had announced the composition of the new Stargate teams. He’d taken her as a scientific advisor onto his own team. An unexpected surprise that thrilled and scared her at the same time.
Two days from now, she’d go through the Stargate. And there was so much she didn’t know yet, about alien technology, about the Stargate itself and about resistance operations. She should be at camp reading up on the mission reports.
“O’Malley’s. It’s a bar not far from here. Perfect place to party, play darts, drink our heads off for an entire night, and have some harmless fun. Just because we’re resistance fighters doesn’t mean we shouldn’t blow off some steam every once in a while.” Vala grinned at her.
Great. Getting drunk in a foggy bar? That’s what she’d left her studies of gate technology for? She groaned. “I should have stayed at camp.”
“Nonsense.” Janet shook her head. “You need to loosen up a bit. Life’s more than just work, you know. Have some fun every once in a while.”
“Studying is fun for me.” Sam looked up when Vala and Janet turned their heads to her. “What?”
They turned onto a smaller street and walked over the uneven pavement. Thank God, she’d opted for the black ballerinas and not the high-heels Vala had suggested at the shop.
“As far as I’m concerned, fun means drinks, poker, and some hot interlude with a good-looking guy.” Vala cleared her throat. “So whatever you two do, keep your hands off Daniel.”
Janet released a groan. “Still not giving up on him?”
“I have a feeling tonight’s the night.” Vala looked determined. “So don’t interfere.”
“We should set Sam up with a guy.” Janet’s eyes twinkled.
Sam jerked her head around. “Don’t you dare.”
“No, that’s a great idea.” Vala nodded. “You need to have real fun. You know, the sweaty, physical kind.”
Sam’s cheeks grew warm. “I think I’m good, thanks.”
“You don’t have to worry about pregnancy if that’s what you’re concerned about.” Janet pushed a lock of hair that had loosened from her hairband behind her ear. “The monthly shots I give you prevent that.”
Vala scoffed. “I’m so jealous. You humans don’t even know how lucky you are the Aschen medicine did away with all the sexually transmitted diseases. I could tell you stories—”
“Spare us, please.” Janet shuddered. “I don’t need to hear it again. And I’m sure Sam doesn’t need the image at all.”
Sam closed her eyes. These women. They’d told her a few days ago that Vala was actually an alien. She wasn’t human—but she wasn’t Aschen, either. She’d come from a smaller planet and spent most of her life living among robbers, thieves and other criminals. Apparently, O’Neill valued her contacts to the alien black market.
“My point was.” Vala grinned at Sam. “Sex is entirely without consequences for you. A few hours of wild passion, and then you can just walk away the next morning. Tell me, Sammie, which one of the guys at camp does it for you?”
The image of O’Neill popped into Sam’s head. Tall, handsome… great sense of humor. And also her camp commander and superior officer. She averted her gaze. “Nobody. I work with those people.”
“So?” Vala shrugged. “Tonight’s not work. You can have a steamy interlude and go back to work tomorrow as if nothing happened. I do it all the time.”
“Me too.” Janet snickered.
The typical attitude for non-gifted people. Many humans treated sex like a casual afternoon activity. She’d never understood the appeal. Even when she’d been with Larek, sex hadn’t been on her mind. It wasn’t like he hadn’t tried to seduce her. Or that she didn’t like being close to him. But getting naked with him and doing… Her cheeks burned. She definitely wouldn’t do that with someone she had to work with.
“I bet we could set you up with one of the ensigns.” Janet winked.
Sam frowned at her. “Don’t. They’re really not my type. I’m not looking to hook up with anybody.”
“Handsome’s not your type?” Vala raised her eyebrows. “Come on Sammie, we’re not talking about marrying for life. Releasing sexual tension can improve performance in the working environment. Everybody at camp does it. Well, almost everybody.”
Thoughtful, Janet looked up into the clear blue sky. “Maybe Sam’s more into mature guys. Men like Jack O’Neill.”
Vala’s head jerked around. Heat spread all the way to Sam’s ears. She pressed her lips together. “Will you two stop?” Damn, why did she have to blush so easily? “You’re impossible.”
Vala squealed. “Did you see that?”
“I did.” Janet gave a triumphant smile.
“She was totally blushing. Oh my God, so O’Neill?” Vala raised one eyebrow. “Really? He’s so serious… and old.”
“He’s not that old. Around forty, I think.” Janet shrugged. “Besides, he used to hook up with women left right and center when he was younger.”
“Bet you he’s really good in bed then. But still, too mature for my taste. Although he does have a nice body.”
“Okay, stop.” Sam covered her face with her hands. Time to put an end to this. “I’m not into O’Neill. He’s my superior officer. I’ll be working with him from now on.”
They turned another corner onto the main street with its large market place. Wow, this town really wasn’t big. The fountain in the marketplace marked the center.
When they entered O’Malley’s, located at the far end of the marketplace, the main room was overcrowded with people. Most of the guests were soldiers from their camp. The high volume made it clear at least some of them had had more than one beer already.
One of the ensigns yelled when he saw the three women enter. “Females on deck.” Heads turned. “Hey there, Janet.”
“That’s ma’am to you, ensign.” Janet winked at the young man.
“Whatever works for you, ma’am.” He grinned. “If you come over I’ll buy you a beer.”
Janet patted Sam’s arm. “Excuse me ladies.” With a sway of her hips she walked over to the ensign.
“Is she serious?” Sam turned to Vala, who shrugged.
“Yeah, why not? He’s a good-looking guy.”
“Hey, Carter.” One of the lieutenants lifted his glass toward her and winked.
Sam winced. “Okay, this is embarrassing.”
“Why?” Vala nudged her. “Enjoy the attention. You know, get some of that pent-up frustration out. Don’t worry, nobody’s interested in a relationship, so you don’t have to worry about them getting clingy or something. Go for one of the town guys if you don’t believe me.”
Yeah, that really wasn’t her main concern. Was everybody here looking to hook up with someone? She looked around, searching for someone she wanted to spend time with. Maybe Morris or one of the scientists.
Vala rocked on her heels. “I’m gonna see if I can find Daniel. See you later.”
Vala walked off to the bar. Sam took a step back against the wall, right next to the entrance. What had she been thinking? She really shouldn’t have agreed to come here. She should be back at camp, immersed in her studies.
She flinched and hugged herself with her arms when a drunken guy bumped into her. He muttered an apology and the strong smell of alcohol reached her nostrils. Not one of the people from camp. He had to be one of the townsmen.
“Hey, sweetie.” He smiled at her and stumbled. “Can I buy you a drink?”
“No.” Sam shook her head. Maybe a little too rude. “Thank you.” She moved a few steps to the side, away from him. It didn’t look like he was gonna force the issue, but experience told her to be careful around drunken guys. Especially in a bar.
Two guys from camp passed by and bumped into her. One of them muttered an apology while the other smiled and his gaze lingered on her face.
Sam wished she could disappear into the wall. Awkward. Guys leering at her, flirting with her. All of it reminded her too much of the time before she’d found the resistance. Not the kind of entertainment she was looking for.
How could Janet and Vala handle the attention so light-heartedly? They looked forward to it. Blowing off some steam, Janet had called it.
Sam flinched when somebody touched her shoulder. She turned her head.
Tingles ran through her, leaving her lightheaded. He smiled at her. “You look a little overwhelmed.”
Damn, he looked good in his black shirt and the khakis. She lifted her eyes to his face, smile shaking. “Yes. Actually, sir, I was just thinking about leaving. There’s too many people here.”
“Come on, Carter.” He tilted his head towards the back of the bar. “I’m sitting back there in a corner with Sheppard and Daniel. Join us?”
Sam bit her lower lip and looked at the exit, then back to him. Spending the whole evening in this establishment, with guys hitting on her, trying to make conversation? Not something she was looking forward to. The only thing she was good at talking about was science. And none of these people were interested in that. Well, maybe except Daniel.
O’Neill leaned in to her, his voice taking on a soft, intimate edge. “I promise I’ll shoot anybody who dares to flirt with you.”
Shivers danced down her spine. A chuckle bubbled from her and she met his gaze. Had his eyes always been so dark, that intense? A faint trace of alcohol lingered on his breath, but there was something else. Something intoxicating. “Okay.” Why was her voice trembling?
He placed his hand at the small of her back and guided her through the crowd of people. The warmth of his palm jolted through her, and her skin hummed with hyper-awareness of his closeness.
They reached a small table in a corner. Sheppard and Daniel sat on chairs and talked.
“Hey, Sam.” Daniel lifted his bottle towards her. “You look great.”
“Yeah, you do.” Sheppard studied her intensely.
She sat down on a chair O’Neill pulled close for her. At least here people weren’t bumping into her anymore.
“Carter.” Sheppard leaned forward. “I didn’t even really thank you yet. You know, for pulling my team out last week when the generators went down. Without you, we’d have stepped right into Aschen security in Powhatan City.”
Sam lowered her eyes. Ever since her hack of the Aschen computer system, everybody knew her at camp. Even people she’d never talked to now treated her as though she’d been part of their group for years. Word around camp traveled fast, and apparently her hack had earned her somewhat of a heroic reputation.
“Sam.” Daniel leaned in and Sam moved closer to hear him over the noise of the bar. “Did you come with Vala?”
“Yeah. She’s around here somewhere looking for you.”
Daniel winced. Sheppard hit his shoulder with a laugh. “Told you she’d make a pass at you. You, and probably a lot of other guys, so I’d take the chance before somebody else gets there first.”
“Hey.” Jack pointed the neck of his beer bottle at Sheppard. “Watch the talk. We don’t wanna scare Carter away.”
“Takes a lot more to scare me away, sir.” She gave him a smile.
O’Neill raised his eyebrows and leaned in to her. “Didn’t look that way when you were standing at the door.” His deep voice made her skin tingle.
She cleared her throat and shifted. He chuckled and nudged her. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell if you don’t.” When she gave him a warm smile, he grinned. “Let me get you a beer. You want something to eat, too?”
“No, sir, just beer’s fine. Thank you.” Thank God she wouldn’t have to fight her way through to the bar by herself. She watched O’Neill get up.
“So, Carter.” Sheppard leaned over, drawing her attention back to them. “SG-1, huh? Pretty nice. I was actually fighting with O’Neill over you. I wanted you on SG-2, but he wouldn’t give you up. Now I’m stuck with McKay.” He took a sip of his beer and winced.
“Rodney isn’t so bad once you get used to him.” Sam scraped at a mark on the table. “To be honest, he knows a lot more about the Stargate than I do, so you’re probably better off with him.”
“Hey.” Daniel’s speech slurred. Apparently the bottle in front of him wasn’t his first. “I’m on SG-1 as well, remember? Do I need to be concerned?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll do my best not to get us killed.”
“Very comforting.” Daniel snorted.
“I’ll still take you if Jackson doesn’t want you on his team anymore.” Sheppard winked at her.
Sam cleared her throat. He was awfully charming tonight. Was he flirting with her?
“So, Sam.” First name use? Uh oh. “Are you looking for company tonight?” His hazel eyes locked with hers.
Sam swallowed. She hadn’t expected he’d be that direct about it. Her cheeks burned and she shook her head. “Um… I…” Sheppard was, undoubtedly, an attractive man, but taking him up on his offer? Absolutely not. She didn’t want to insult him, though.
“Sheppard.” O’Neill returned, his voice hard with warning. He put a bottle of beer in front of Sam and kept the other one for himself as he sat down. “Hands off Carter before I have to shoot you.”
Disappointment flashed across Sheppard’s face. “Sorry, didn’t know you were making claims. That’s just a shame.”
“No claim. Carter and I have a deal.” Jack lifted the beer to his mouth and took a sip.
“I see.” Sheppard chuckled. “A deal. Is that what you call it now? Well, I hope I’ll get myself a deal sometime tonight, too.”
O’Neill rolled his eyes and smiled at Sam.
They started a light conversation. Sheppard began telling anecdotes about their missions through the Stargate. Things that had gone wrong, pranks they’d played on teammates. Later, they started playing poker.
At some point, Vala joined their group. She didn’t even bother to get her own chair, but sat in Daniel’s lap. The archeologist was drunk enough to accept her advances. No doubt everyone would mock him for it the next morning, considering how resistant he usually was towards her.
Sam stifled a smile and turned her attention back to the game.
“Call.” Sheppard threw a silver coin to the middle of the table.
“Call.” O’Neil flicked one of his coins onto the pile, then looked at Sam.
Sam bit her lower lip and studied her cards. Not exactly a winning hand. Time to bluff.
“Raise you one.” She put her last two coins in the middle and raised her eyebrows when she found O’Neill staring at her. “What?”
She folded her arms. “You willing to take that chance?”
A slow smirk crossed his lips. Dangerous. Uh oh. She turned her head to look at Sheppard. “Colonel?”
Sheppard groaned. “I’m out.” He folded his cards up and threw them on the table. O’Neill looked down at his hand, then back to Sam.
“You don’t have any coins left, Carter.”
“I don’t.” Her fingers tightened on her cards. Damn, he was calling her bluff, wasn’t he?
“That means you’re out of the game if you lose.”
Testing grounds, was he? Sam gave him her best blank face. “Pretty sure that’s not gonna happen.”
His gaze lingered on her for another moment, then he folded up his cards. “I’m out.”
She beamed at him. “I won? Really?” She threw her cards down in front of her. A pair of twos. “I was so bluffing.”
O’Neill’s eyes sparkled and he lifted his bottle to his mouth. “Uh huh.”
Sam narrowed her eyes at him. He sounded a bit too casual. He’d seen through her bluff hadn’t he? “You let me win.”
Still the hint of a smirk. “My hand sucked.”
The hell it did. She cocked her head, then got up and reached over to look at his cards. “Let me see.”
He chuckled and yanked at her hand away from them. Sam laughed as she stumbled against him, and steadied herself with one hand on his thigh.
“Carter, don’t you know it’s rude to look at another person’s cards after a game?” He flashed her a gorgeous smile.
“I knew it. You let me win. Shame on you.” She tried again to reach for his cards, but he seized her wrist. Sheppard reached over, snatched them up, and grinned at O’Neill. Sam groaned. “Oh come on. He looked at them.”
O’Neill’s eyes sparkled, his fingers around her wrist gentling. Awareness of him hit Sam like a jolt. The way his thumb grazed her skin, her hand on his thigh. She could feel the heat of him radiating through her.
She swallowed hard and sat back. He released her wrist with a last brush of his fingers against her skin, his gaze never leaving hers.
Sheppard shuffled the cards. “Jackson, are you playing again?”
No reply. Sam shifted her attention to Daniel and Vala. Her jaw dropped. Vala straddled Daniel’s lap, their lips locked in a deep, open-mouthed kiss. Oh boy.
She averted her eyes.
“Look at those two.” Sheppard shook his head. “Normally they are like a cat and dog. But get them drunk and they’re all over each other like teenagers.”
Sam reached for her bottle of beer and took a gulp. The room spun slightly. She’d probably have to go easy on the alcohol. “I don’t think Vala needs to be drunk.”
O’Neill chuckled, his gaze finding hers again.
“True.” Sheppard threw the cards on the table. “Good grief, get a room, Jackson.”
Sam shifted under O’Neill’s stare. “I don’t think they’re listening to you.”
“Apparently not.” Sheppard stood up. “I’m going to get a stronger drink. Maybe one of the town ladies over there would be interested in… um… a deal.”
“Oh for crying out loud, for the last time, that’s not what it meant.” O’Neill glared at him.
Sheppard laughed. “Right.” He left for the bar.
Sam leaned back in her chair. Alone with O’Neill. Her fingers tightened around her bottle. She should say something, but what? What on Earth could they talk about? They had so little in common. He didn’t like science, but science was all she knew.
Come on, think. Wow, what was wrong with her?
O’Neill cleared his throat and nodded toward Vala and Daniel. “We should probably put an end to that, before they get thrown out for improper behavior.” He gave Sam a wry look.
She smiled at him. Both went quiet. O’Neill cleared his throat again. “So, Sam.”
Sam? That was new. Well, actually, it wasn’t, but it had become so rare for him to call her Sam… She leaned forward and studied his features.
„You have a boyfriend back home?”
She held her breath. “No boyfriend, sir.”
“Sam…” The way he drawled her name send pleasant shivers down her spine. “We’re not on duty. No need for ranks.” He leaned in.
“Jack.” She brushed a stubborn strand of hair behind her ear, then rested her chin on her hand.
“So, no boyfriend, huh?” He lifted the bottle to his mouth and swallowed. Sam’s eyes dropped to his tanned neck. She resisted the urge to lean in and run her tongue across his skin. What would he taste like? “Not even back home.”
His words snapped her out of her thoughts. Her cheeks flushed. “I used to have one.”
Okay, wrong turn of conversation. Images of Larek flooded her mind, and her heart ached. No reminders of who she used to be. She lowered her eyes to the silver in front of her.
“You broke up with him before you joined the resistance?”
“He broke it up.”
Sam’s head jerked up. He shifted in his seat and cleared his throat.
“Come on, you’re smart, you’re beautiful. Any man must be an idiot to break up with you.”
Wow. Her stomach fluttered as warmth flooded through her. Nobody had ever said anything like that to her. He sounded so genuine. She sank into his dark, bottomless gaze, and gave him a warm smile. “It doesn’t matter anymore. It’s over.”
“What happened?” He pulled his chair closer.
“He found out I’m gifted.” Her fingertips played on the opening of her beer bottle. “He’s Aschen. I believed him when he said he loved me. Cliché, I know.”
O’Neill remained silent.
It wasn’t uncommon for human females to fall in love with Aschen men, therefore he’d probably heard the story countless times. Everybody knew Aschen men regarded human women as nothing more than a welcome distraction from the much more restrained Aschen women. If only she’d paid attention to what people had told her. She should have been smarter, should have seen through the façade.
Sam took a large swallow of her beer. “You know, I’m grateful he broke up with me. Otherwise, I’d have never realized what the Aschen think of us humans.”
“What’s that?” He leaned in close.
“That we’re no more than slaves.” Her fingers picked at the label on the bottle, then she looked up. “He was an idiot, you’re right about that.”
“You know, it’s ironic if you think about it.” A faint smile crossed his lips. “By joining our resistance, you might have increased our chances of succeeding by quite a bit. Sounds like that Aschen guy is responsible for your being here.”
She managed a weak smile. He wasn’t entirely wrong. Although, Larek’s rejection had only been one factor in her decision to run away from home. If her father hadn’t married her to some stranger behind her back, she might have stayed. Maybe they’d come up with a solution for that problem together. Well, it didn’t matter anymore. Running away had opened up the opportunity to walk through the Stargate for her. Only two more days and her dream would come true.
She rested her chin on her hand. “So what about you?”
“What about me?”
He chuckled. “Girlfriends? Plural?”
Her cheeks warmed. “You know what I mean.”
He grinned. “No girlfriend.”
Wow. That was unexpected. “Really? Not even one? I mean, you’re… handsome and…” What. The. Hell. She cleared her throat. “You know.” Okay, she was seriously bad at this. Why was talking to him becoming so awkward?
He leaned in, his mouth so close to her cheek his warm breath washed over her skin. His scent was so intoxicating, fresh, uniquely him.
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’re flirting with me, Carter.” His voice came deep and warm against her ear.
She turned her head, her cheek brushing against his. “I was just thinking the same about you.”
O’Neill leaned back slightly, his face only inches from hers. “Busted.” His gaze lingered on her lips.
Sam held her breath, her heart pounding loud and fast. She reached out, fingers grazing the skin of his arms. He couldn’t… they couldn’t…
A mere inch between them. She smelled the faint trace of alcohol on his breath. What would he taste like if she crossed that last inch? How would he react? Her skin buzzed with awareness of him. Images of his hot naked body pressing against her filled her mind, his mouth kissing her all over.
If being this close to him had such an effect on her, what would happen if she took him to her bed? She bit her lower lip and shifted against the pressure building between her legs.
Not good. Not good at all. She’d have to work with the man on a daily basis from now on. She was on his Stargate team. Was she out of her mind?
She leaned back in her chair, averting her gaze.
Daniel and Vala were still kissing, completely oblivious to the rest of the world. Nobody was paying any attention to them. Would anyone notice if she started kissing Jack right here? What would it feel like?
She tossed back the rest of her beer, but it didn’t distract her from his closeness.
“So.” She tried to sound nonchalant. “Why don’t you have a girlfriend?”
Jack’s lips tugged into a gentle smirk. He lifted his bottle to his mouth, his eyes remaining on her. “Maybe I am not good at seducing women.”
Sam gave a soft laugh. “You don’t expect me to believe that, do you?” When his eyebrows shot up, she leaned in. “You’re the one who claimed you don’t need drugs to get a woman when we first met.”
Chuckling, he got up from his chair. When he went behind her, he stopped and bent to her ear.
Sam froze, and she bit her lip at his unexpected closeness. “Apparently, I was wrong.” He straightened and walked over to the bar.
She jerked around and looked after him. What did he mean by those last words? Was that statement directed at her?
She waited for him to return, but Mitchell and four other camp members started talking to him close to the counter. Her heart dropped. His leaving shouldn’t bother her that much. She should be relieved.
What was she thinking, flirting with her camp commander like that? Did she expect to have a one-night-stand with him, and then tomorrow act as if nothing happened?
She hadn’t joined the resistance just to hook up with a guy. She wanted to be independent. She was finally getting there. Was she really going to risk it all just for a short-lived affair?
Sam circled the opening of the bottle with her finger. Something about O’Neill drew her in. Never mind sex, getting close to him would be enough. Maybe kissing him. Exploring his naked skin with her fingers, her mouth. She groaned. This was bad.
Sam jerked and turned her head. Janet crouched next to her chair.
“Hey. Where’ve you been?”
“Over at the bar with a couple of the guys. Sam, what are you doing?”
“What do you mean, what am I doing?”
Janet tipped her head towards Jack.
Sam raised her eyebrows. “I’m not doing anything.”
“Oh come on. I’ve been watching you two for the past five minutes. He’s totally into you.”
“He’s not.” Sam’s gaze shifted back to O’Neill. Was he really?
Janet closed her eyes and shook her head. “You really don’t have much experience with men do you?”
Great. Was it that obvious? Sam released a sigh. “No.”
“All the more reason to go over there and fix that.”
“Janet.” Sam put her head back. “That would be a very, very bad idea.”
“Why? You like him, don’t you?”
“I’ll admit he’s—” She looked at him again. Tall, muscular, broad shoulders, tanned skin. And his eyes. The way he’d looked at her. Her skin tingled. “—intoxicating.”
Janet smirked. “Why are you still sitting here, then?”
“Because I shouldn’t even be thinking of him like that.”
“You do realize he just put the ball in your court, right? Flirting with you, and then leaving like that? That’s classic O’Neill.”
Classic O’Neill? Oh God, had he and Janet…? “Are you experienced in his moves?”
“What? God, no. He’s not my type. But he used to be pretty popular with the ladies a while back. Every team night he hooked up with a girl.”
“Oh.” Sam’s stomach clenched. So, she was just another one of those pastimes for him. Well, what had she expected? Why was this bothering her so much?
“Don’t worry. He hasn’t done that in a while. I think last time he hooked up with a girl was a couple of years ago.”
“Oh.” So not just a pastime. Her insides warmed.
“Will you stop saying ‘oh’ and do something about it? Give him a sign that you’re interested.”
“Janet.” Sam put her hand on her friend’s shoulder. “I can’t. It would be wrong.”
“No.” Janet’s eyes shifted to a spot next to Sam. “That is wrong.”
Sam raised her eyebrows and turned her head. Oh boy. Vala and Daniel were practically dry-humping on the chair. She winced and turned her head away.
Janet scoffed. “They could at least be discreet about it. Hey!”
Sam laughed and nudged her. “Shhh.”
“The hell I will. What are they, teenagers? Vala!” Vala turned with raised eyebrows. “Get a room, for heaven’s sake.”
Grinning, Vala rolled her eyes in mock annoyance, then got up. She whispered something in Daniel’s ear and he followed her willingly as she dragged him towards a small corridor leading to the adjoining guesthouse.
“I can’t believe you just did that.” Sam laughed. “Daniel’s gonna kill us tomorrow. We should have broken them up, not encouraged them to get a room.”
“Oh please. He’s into her, he’s just too proud to admit it. Here.” She put her glass in front of Sam. “Drink up, and move your sexy ass over there to O’Neill. The adjoining guesthouse offers rooms for the night.”
“Janet.” Now that just sounded cheap. “I won’t.”
“Fine, your choice. I’m telling you, you’re way too tense. You need to get your mind out of those books, and enjoy life a little. Have fun. Nobody would think any less of you if you did. Especially not O’Neill.” Janet straightened. “I’m gonna leave with Eric, so you’ll either have to wait for Vala or walk back to camp with some of the guys. You know the way, right?”
“Yeah.” Sam nodded. “You go. Have fun. Enjoy yourself.”
Janet pushed the glass closer to her. “Take your own advice.”
She left, arm in arm with the younger ensign who had hit on her in the beginning. How could she be so easygoing about a relationship with people she worked with? Maybe Janet was right, and she was taking this whole thing too seriously. Sex wasn’t a big deal among non-gifted people.
Just that she had her future in the resistance to worry about, and she didn’t want to screw that up with relationship drama.
She looked back at Jack. He listened to an anecdote Mitchell was telling. Even among the group of men, he stood out. His stance, the serious expression on his face, everything about him exuded dominance.
She’d never felt this kind of attraction before. Larek and she had been together for over a year, but not once had she longed to feel his naked body against hers. Why was Jack so different? What was wrong with her?
He turned his head, and his gaze met hers. Sam jerked upright. His mouth twitched into a gentle smile, and he tilted his bottle towards her and motioned to the bar. Was he offering to get her another beer?
Sam shook her head and turned away. This was ridiculous. Janet was wrong, he was not waiting for a sign from her. They were colleagues. He was just being nice. Or was he? If only there was a way she could turn her brain of. Janet had a point, she did overthink situations.
Releasing a sigh, she picked up her drink and downed the contents at once.
Okay, all or nothing. She lifted from her chair, grabbing the backrest. The room spun. Oh, yes, definitely way too much alcohol in her blood.
When the room stabilized and her balance returned, she made her way over to the small group of soldiers, then pushed through the crowd behind Jack. Her hand grazed his back as she passed by him. The heat of his body radiated through his shirt. Interesting. Electricity raced through her at the point of contact.
She leaned into him to brush her lips against his ear, her fingers touching his shoulder. She trembled as his palm moved to her waist, steadying her, pulling her against him slightly. His eyes locked with hers, intense.
He was into her, Janet had been right. She cocked her head and studied his face. His pupils dilated. She laid her hand on his chest. His heart raced under her palm. Okay, she’d read about the physical signs of attraction. This was easy.
“Jack.” A whisper in his ear.
“What?” He smiled, his head turning, gaze holding hers.
She stared at his lips. She needed to kiss him, taste him.
Somebody ran into her from behind and shoved her against his body. His grip on her waist tightened. A warm embrace. So protective.
A hint of dizziness swam through her. “I want you.” Barely a rasp. Her lips grazed his jaw before she let go of him. She didn’t want to kiss him here.
On unsteady feet, she moved through the room towards the corridor leading to the adjoining house. She stumbled into someone and steadied herself against the counter at the last second. Oh, this wasn’t good.
She didn’t want to feel the world spin when she had sex for the first time.
Sex. She was going to have sex. What would it be like? Her stomach tightened. She was going to get naked with a man and he would… Oh god. What if she couldn’t live up to his expectations? What if it hurt?
She swallowed. Once she was in one of the private rooms with him, there’d be no turning back. And tomorrow?
She turned and stumbled toward the exit door alone. Once outside, the crisp night air hit her like a splash of cold water. She pushed through a group of soldiers smoking and trying to avoid the rain still coming down in soft but persistent drops.
Sam moved a few meters away from the door, and slowed down. She wrapped her arms around herself and closed her eyes against the cooling rain.
Once she reached the little alley next to the bar, she entered it and leaned her back against the cold stone wall of the house. Closing her eyes she put her head back. Drop after drop hit her cheeks. They trickled down her neck, between her breasts, racing along her oversensitive skin. She groaned.
Rain pelted down on the pavement, plinking against roofs, splattering against the leaves of the trees. Distant chatter carried over from the bar. Hearty laughs, a door opening, banging shut. The fresh smell of wet grass…
Sam grazed one of her hands along her neck and nearly startled at the touch. Every part of her yearned to be touched. Jack. She pictured his eyes, his face, his body against hers. With a moan, she pressed herself against the wall.
Steps. Then a warm body standing close to hers, strong hands resting on her hips, lingering.
Sam leaned in. She didn’t have to open her eyes to know it was him. His scent surrounded her, his warm breath fanning the moist skin of her face.
Her eyelids fluttered open. Jack’s dark eyes burned into hers. Fire blazed through her veins.
“Hey.” His deep voice was a warm caress against her lips.
“Jack.” She stared at his mouth. She pushed herself away from the wall, her hands resting on his chest. Heat radiated from him. She went up on her toes to graze her lips against his. Jolts of electricity shot through her.
His grip on her waist tightened as he stepped against her, his lips barely teasing hers, then evading when she tried to deepen the kiss. She whimpered, and he captured her mouth, long and lingering this time. A lot more demanding than she’d been. His tongue danced with hers. He tasted like alcohol and mint, and something else. Something uniquely him. Irresistible. She sighed into the kiss.
He placed his hands against the wall, pinning her body between him and the cold stone surface. Sam tangled her fingers in the sides of his shirt, the hard planes of his muscular chest pressing against her breasts.
More, she needed more. She arched into him. Heat jolted through her and pooled in her abdomen. Goosebumps spread across her skin. She groaned, the sound muffled by his mouth. How had she not known her body was capable of reacting like this?
Her hand brushed over his upper arm against his naked skin. Jack broke the kiss, his breath mingling with hers. She arched up, needing his mouth on hers. He pulled back just enough.
Jack held her steady against the wall and slid one of his legs between hers, then moved her hips against his. Sam’s breath caught when his leg eased the pressure building in her core. She writhed against him and broke away from his lips with a gasp at the pleasure coursing through her.
His lips left a trail of kisses along her jawline to her ear. His tongue flicked out to tease her earlobe, as his hand gripped her knee and brought it up to his hip.
“Oh God.” She let her head fall back against the wall, offering more of her skin for his exploration.
“Sam.” His breath washed hot against her neck. “Damn, you’re so beautiful.”
Beautiful. She’d never thought of herself as beautiful. His hand moved up, grazing the side of her breast through the dress. How could his body be so warm, so strong, so addictive.
His lips closed over a particularly sensitive spot under her ear. She curled her finger at his nape.
“Jack…” He lifted his head, gaze seeking hers. She cupped his face, then traced a scar on his neck. “More, please…”
A low growl escaped him, his hips thrusting against hers. Her breath hitched when his hardness brushed against her. Her hands flew down to hook in the waistband of his pants.
Jack looked around, then bent to her ear. “Come with me.” Enlacing their fingers, he pulled her further into the street toward the backdoor of the bar.
Wooden boxes stood next to the entrance. Sam gave a surprised chuckle when he lifted her and set her on top of one of them. Just the right height. She pulled him close, her legs wrapping around his hips as his mouth found hers again.
She moaned into the kiss. He shoved her skirt to her hips and ran his warm palms over her naked skin, across her thighs.
She pressed her core against him, her previous shyness forgotten. She needed to feel him, needed to do something about the building ache between her legs. Experiencing her first time in the pouring rain against a wall in a dirty back alley hadn’t been on her agenda, but she wasn’t complaining.
Each touch from him erased more of the doubts and concerns nagging at her. She pulled his shirt up, her hands finding their way up his naked chest. She wasn’t about to turn back now.
Jack groaned when her trembling fingers grazed his chest. She couldn’t have much experience. Not that he was complaining. He loved the way she moved against him, how she tried to pull him closer, how her body trembled under his touch.
He slowed his kisses. Inexperienced or not, he’d have her writhe and scream in pleasure.
He pulled her so close against him her hips were barely resting on the box. Just for balance. Having her fall wouldn’t exactly be one of his best moves.
His hands drove under her skirt to graze her hips. Her breath hitched.
Maybe they should move this to a room. Somewhere more private, more tasteful, where they’d have a bed and he could do this properly.
She jerked against him, her fingers fumbling at the button of his pants. Okay, maybe not. Apparently, she was just as impatient as he was.
Jack slipped his hand in between them to her center. She gave the sweetest whimper he’d ever heard from a woman.
Damn, he bet he could make her scream for him. He lifted his head. Her eyes were closed, her lips slightly parted, chest heaving. So hot. So beautiful. He gentled his touch.
Her eyes flew open as his fingers moved inside her panties, brushed along her naked core. She gripped his arms. The sweetest sound of pleasure left her when his fingers found her clit. God, after they were done here, he’d take her to one of the rooms, undress her and make love to her the way she deserved. No way was he letting her go tonight.
She buried her head against his neck to muffle her whimpers. His fingers kept circling the little bundle of nerves.
“God, Sam.” He buried his face in her hair, her scent engulfing him. How willingly she gave herself over to him. He wanted to have her, all of her. Wanted to learn her, hear the sounds she’d make when she came for him. Wanted to lose himself deep inside her.
The fantasy was almost enough to make him lose it. Never before had he been so addicted to a woman, to her body, to every sound he drew from her. Her fingers gripped at his arms, her shallow breath washing against his neck. She was so responsive, so close.
Her tongue flicked out and he groaned when she kissed the skin right above his jugular, tasted him, teased him. He moved two fingers through her arousal to her entrance.
She tensed and whimpered against him, her hands clenching his shoulders. Anticipation? Something was off, though. He pressed one finger against her. Same reaction.
The realization came like a splash of cold water. Damn, she wasn’t just inexperienced. She’d never done this before. Emotions washed over him. His arousal intensified.
He should have figured. She was twenty-five. Not every human ignored the sexual restrictions law the way he’d done.
What was he doing here? He was a married man. And he was about to have rushed sex against the dirty wall of a house with a woman who’d consider this her first sexual experience.
She was a subordinate and member of his team, for crying out loud. He was in the process of losing himself in her. And from the looks of it, the feeling was mutual. This couldn’t happen. He couldn’t do that to her. Whether his marriage was gonna be valid or would just exist on paper, he had to tell her the truth, and wait until he’d heard from Jacob on the matter.
God, his mind was fixated on so much more than just a quick, hot fuck. When the hell had that happened? She deserved better than this. Better than him.
“Sam.” He withdrew his hand from her center and she relaxed against him. She clutched his shirt in trembling fingers.
“Don’t stop now.”
He lifted his head and looked in her eyes. Desire. Need. He held his breath and swallowed hard. “Have you done this before?”
She looked at him, her mind obviously needing a moment to process the words. Then a breathless laugh. “Not exactly. But I’m a quick study.” She nipped his lower lip.
Jack groaned. Quick study. Of course she would be. Eager to learn too, probably. Damn, the things he could teach her. The fun they could have. Bad, bad thoughts. He closed his eyes and pulled her close to press a gentle, longing kiss against her forehead.
“We can’t do this.”
She leaned back and stared at him. “Did I do something wrong?”
He tightened his hold on her, unwilling to let go. Yeah, probably sending mixed signals here, O’Neill. “No, it’s not your fault.”
“Oh. Then why…?”
Jack took a deep breath. “I’m married.” Best to do it quick.
She froze against him, her jaw dropping.
“I’m sorry.” Lamest apology ever. He was probably up for a jerk of the year award. He really should have thought this through. He sighed. “I shouldn’t have started this. We’re both drunk, although I am probably a lot less drunk than you. My point is, I wasn’t exactly thinking with my head, and now that I am… This really isn’t fair to you.”
His body shuddered at her proximity. Why hadn’t he just gone through with it? Just one night with her. He could have moved it to one of the rooms, and made love to her. His body needed her with such fervor, he wondered for a moment if he was going insane.
“I…” Sam placed her hands on his chest and pushed softly. Jack stepped back to give her space. “I didn’t know you were… Nobody told me about… I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have… ” Her voice trailed off again. “God, I feel so stupid.”
“Don’t.” He murmured against her hair. “You didn’t do anything wrong. If anybody’s to blame, it’s me. I got a bit lost in you. You deserve better than this, especially for the first time. If I’d known, I wouldn’t even have…”
How could he let it get this far? He of all people? He was the one with the strict rule never to hook up with subordinates. Why hadn’t he just obeyed his own damn rule?
Sam slid down the box. “I see.”
Jack steadied her when she tumbled slightly. Yep, definitely still drunk. Damn. He turned to give her privacy to rearrange her skirt.
“Sam, you okay?” He heard her fumble behind him.
“Yeah. Sure. Nothing to worry about. Right? Sir?”
Sir. He flinched inwardly at the formal address. She was fighting to regain control over the situation. He’d hurt her, and she was desperately trying not to show it. God, he couldn’t believe he’d been so damn stupid to allow things to get so out of hand.
He turned. “I shouldn’t have put you in this position. Carter, I’m sorry.”
She evaded his touch when he placed his hand on her shoulder.
“Don’t touch me. Sir, please.” She pressed her lips together. Her eyes shimmered. Were those tears? Jack’s stomach clenched. “I just want to go back inside. Can we do that?”
Slowly, they went back through the small alley. Before they were about to pass onto the main street, Jack grabbed her wrist. She turned to face him.
“Are we gonna be okay, Carter? I’d understand if you preferred to be assigned to another team. I can switch you and McKay if you’d rather work on Sheppard’s team instead of…”
“No sir.” She shook her head. “We’re both drunk, sir. We didn’t really do anything. I mean except…” She blushed and winced, apparently realizing just how far she’d allowed him to go.
Jack squeezed her arm. “It’s ok. You’re right. Nothing happened. We’ll just forget about it.” Yeah. Good luck with that. He’d never forget the way she felt against him, or how responsive she was. For crying out loud, why had he agreed to sign that stupid marriage contract? If only he’d known he’d meet a woman like Carter. “Really bad timing on my part to drop the marriage thing, huh?”
“Yeah. I wish you’d mentioned that earlier. I asked you about girlfriends.”
She had. It hadn’t even occurred to him to mention his wife. The marriage had just slipped his mind. Besides, he’d never actually expected her to be interested in him. He’d assumed she was just flirting.
“It slipped my mind.”
“You forgot you were married?” She folded her arms, eyebrows raised.
“It’s complicated.” Lame excuse, jerk of the year. “You ready to go back inside?”
“Yes, sir.” She straightened and they walked back to O’Malley’s.