Having done his good deed for the evening, Travis had returned to the base and taken the second watch, which started at three in the morning. After a couple of hours of keeping a close eye on the empty woods, he detected motion just inside the outer perimeter. Figuring it was a deer, he checked with night vision goggles. It wasn’t a deer. It was a human, creeping through the undergrowth with furtive movements.
Travis was about to radio in a perimeter breach when it occurred to him that the figure seemed somehow familiar. It was female, young, slim…
“What the…?” Travis murmured the question under his breath as he circled around behind the young woman. She was so intent on her own subterfuge that she did not pay the slightest bit of attention to what was going on behind her. Travis was able to come within one pace of her before snatching her up and confirming his suspicions.
He grabbed her off her feet, one arm around her waist, the other hand around her mouth so as to prevent the inevitable feminine squeal.
“What the hell are you doing out here?” He growled the words into her ear, holding her squirming frame locked against his body. “You should be in the hospital.”
“They let me out of the hospital,” she gasped, as if that was some explanation for her being in the middle of the woods in a restricted area that was protected by an electrified perimeter fence.
“How did you get in here? How did you get past the fence?”
“I went under it,” she admitted.
He released her momentarily, turned her around, grabbed her by the shoulders, and bent down enough to look her dead in the eye. “Why?”
“I… remembered about this base.”
“So you came running out here in the middle of the night? Little girl, have you lost your mind? Are you trying to get yourself killed?”
“No,” she said, eyes widening at his anger.
“I could have shot you,” he growled, giving her a little shake. “Do you realize that?”
“Well, that would have been a mistake.”
He barely restrained himself from smacking her ass long enough to finish his questioning. “Why did you come out here, Sandy?”
“I was looking for you.” She said it so innocently, with a little hopeful smile that made his heart damn near break. She was like a puppy that had followed him home and staying angry at her was damn near impossible.
“Why were you looking for me, Sandy?”
“Because, I uh, wanted to say thank you, and… maybe talk to you.”
“So you thought you should come into the woods in the middle of the night and sneak up on a military base.”
“Uh. Yeah?” She had the good grace to look a little ashamed.
“You have to know that was a damn dangerous thing to do.”
She pointed her toe and dug it into the leaf litter, squirming under his glare. “I guess. I just didn’t think about that.”
Dammit. She was gorgeous, and there was a part of him that could easily have kissed her for being so damn sweet. But she was also young and somewhat lost in the world and Travis wasn’t the sort of man to take advantage of a girl in Sandy’s position. He hardened his heart and his expression and pointed back toward town.
“Well, think about it next time. Go on, get out of here. Go home. If I see you out here again, I’m going to tan your hide.”
She gave him a broken-hearted look. “But…”
“No buts. Home. Now.”
Sandy’s face dropped, and then a flash of anger appeared in her eyes. “You know what? Fuck you.”
The swearing was bad enough. He’d obviously hurt her feelings by telling her to go away. What he didn’t expect, or even actually see coming in the dark, was the hard slap she delivered to his face. Her relatively small palm packed enough steam to catch him pretty hard, not hard enough to actually move his head any, but enough to make his cheek sting with her feminine fury.
Travis stared at her for a second. She stared back, as if she were surprised at what she’d done as well. Then he made a grab for her, and she ran. For a second, he thought about letting her just go, but she wasn’t heading back the way she’d come and frankly he didn’t think he’d be doing her any favors letting her get away with hitting him.
He gave chase, but discovered that catching her was harder than he’d thought it would be. She moved like a hind deer racing through the forest, dodging trees with incredible agility, leaving Travis in her wake.
* * *
Sandy ran faster than she’d run in a long time. The moment her palm connected with Travis’ face, she’d seen in his eyes that she’d made a huge mistake. A huge, stupid mistake, almost as big as having come out to see him in the first place. He didn’t even want to see her. Fuck. She’d been so damn stupid to think that a guy as hot as him would be interested in her, some street girl who he’d first mistaken for a prostitute.
Fortunately she was more than accustomed to running through the woods, and she was lighter and more nimble than him. She deliberately led him up an incline, hoping his heavier frame would slow him down further as he tried to get his footing. Unfortunately for her, Travis was fit and he had longer legs than her. He came bounding up the hillock behind her as if the incline weren’t even there.
She felt a swish of air as he grabbed for her, but she managed to duck out of the way just before his fingers closed on her arm. She made a quick left turn, scuttling down a leaf bank toward a babbling creek lit silver by the moon. It was just narrow enough to jump over, which she did, throwing herself to the other bank. Scrabbling on hands and knees, she started ascending the other side of the rise, but this side was steeper and rockier and much more difficult to get a grip on. It took pretty much all her strength to haul herself up the ten feet or so. By the time she got to the rise beyond it, she was damn near out of steam.
Travis wasn’t even close to being tired. She heard his heavier footsteps behind her and tried gamely for another burst of speed, but it was too late. Travis’ huge hand came down, grabbed the back of her sweater. He swung her around as if she weighed no more than a kitten.
“That was a mistake, little girl.”
Panting with the exertion of her dash for freedom, Sandy aimed a kick at his shin, but it never connected. He was wise to her now and he wasn’t going to give her a chance to hit him again. He sat down on a nearby tree stump and hauled her over his hard thigh. Before she knew what was happening, he’d started spanking her hard and fast, his palm landing with great whacking swats that jolted her entire body.
Sandy squealed and squirmed as hot pain blasted across her backside. Travis hit damn hard. He landed a dozen swats before even bothering to yank her pants down. His swats had hurt through denim; over the threadbare fabric of her cotton panties they were almost intolerable.
She shrieked and lashed out with feet, hands, and teeth but none of it connected with him. Her bottom was blazing hot and she was sure it had to be swollen to twice its usual size.