He nodded. “The Colonel’s house is…”
“I know where it is, thanks,” she said, and stepped on the gas. Waving one ring-bedecked hand at the young Marine she left in her dust, she aimed her rental car and headed off to do battle.
She wasn’t at all what he’d expected.
And definitely not a one-eyed troll.
Kevin shifted on the dining room chair and covertly eyed the woman sitting opposite him. If he’d had to pick the Colonel’s daughter out of a group of assembled women, he never would have picked this one.
First off, she was short. Not munchkin short, but a good six inches shorter than both he and the Colonel. Kevin had never gone much for short women. Always made him feel like a damn giant. But even he had to admit that Lilah was round in all the right places and her compact body was enough to make a dead man sit up and take notice.
Her long, blond hair hung halfway down her back in a tumble of wild curls that made a man want to reach out and tangle his fingers in it. She had a stubborn chin, a full mouth that smiled often, a small nose and the biggest, bluest eyes Kevin had ever seen.
She also wore silver stars on her ears and ropes of crystals around her neck. She was wearing some soft-looking dress that seemed to float like a cloud of emerald green around her legs when she moved and her bare feet displayed two silver rings on her toes.
Who would have guessed that the Colonel’s daughter was a latter-day hippie?
He half expected her to fold her legs into the lotus position and start chanting.
So now he knew why the Colonel wanted his daughter escorted all over creation. He probably didn’t trust her to come in out of the rain on her own.
“My father tells me you’re a Drill Instructor,” she said and Kevin’s attention snapped up from the purple crystal lying just above the line of her breasts.
“Yes, ma’am,” he said and told himself to pay no attention to the small spurt of interest that shot through him. It was nothing special, he thought. Just the normal reaction of a healthy male to a pretty woman. And she was pretty. In an earth mother, hug-a-tree sort of way.
She waved one hand and he swore he heard bells ring. Then he noticed the tiny silver chimes attached to the bracelet around her wrist.
“I thought you agreed to call me Lilah?”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said.
“Isn’t this nice?” the Colonel asked, looking from one to the other of them like a proud papa. “I knew you two would hit it off.”
Then the phone rang and the Colonel pushed away from the table and stood up. “Excuse me for a moment,” he said. “I have to get that.”
He left the room and silence dropped like a stone in a well. Kevin leaned back in his chair, let his gaze wander the elegantly appointed dining room and wished himself anywhere but there.
“Did he order you to be here?”
Guilt charged through him. Kevin shot her a quick look, darted a glance at the empty doorway, then turned back to her. “Of course not,” he said, then asked, “what makes you say that?”
Lilah picked up her fork and used the tines to push a stray brussel sprout across her plate. Leaning an elbow on the table, she cupped her chin in her free hand and stared him right in the eye. “It wouldn’t be the first time Dad’s assigned some poor Marine to ‘daughter duty.’”
He shifted in his chair again, but kept his gaze fixed with hers. Hell, he didn’t want to embarrass her, but if she was used to this kind of treatment from her father, then who was he to deny it? “All right, I admit, he did ask me to escort you around base while you’re here.”
“I knew it.” She dropped the fork with a clatter and leaned back in her chair. Crossing her arms beneath her admirable breasts, she huffed out a breath and shook her head hard enough to send that fall of blond curls swinging. “I thought this time would be different.”
“From the usual.”
Just how many Marines had been “requested” to take charge of her over the years, anyway? Curious now, in spite of himself, he asked, “What exactly is the usual?”
She shot a quick glance at the empty doorway through which her father had disappeared, then looked back at him. “Oh, he’s been throwing you guys in my path ever since I hit puberty.”
“Marines,” she said, giving him a look that clearly said she didn’t think he’d been paying attention. “Dad’s been trying to marry me off to a Marine for—well, forever.”
“Marry?” Kevin repeated, then lowered his voice as he leaned over his now empty plate. “Who said anything about marriage?” He hadn’t signed up for that. He didn’t mind showing her around and in general looking out for her interests while she was in town. But as to marriage…well, he’d been there and done that. And no thank you very much. He’d pass.
“Geez, Sergeant,” Lilah said, her big eyes going even wider. “Relax, will you? Nobody’s sneaking you off to Vegas.”
“Your virtue’s safe with me,” she assured him.
“I’m not worried about my ‘virtue.’”
“I just said you shouldn’t be.”
“I’m not—” He stopped, inhaled and blew out the air in a rush of frustration. “Are we arguing in circles?”
“Then how about we call a truce?”
“It’s all right with me,” she said, jumping out of her chair to pace the room. Her bare feet made almost no sound at all on the polished wood floor, but her bracelet jingled enough to keep time as she stalked. “But you might as well realize now, that my father won’t quit trying. He’s obviously chosen you.”
“As what?” he asked, even though he had a terrible idea of just what she was about to say.
“As a son-in-law,” she said, making a sharp about-face to pace in the opposite direction.
“No way,” he said, standing up, not really sure whether to fight or run.
“Yes, way,” she said, shooting him a look over her shoulder. “And apparently, the fact that I have a fiancé hasn’t changed Daddy’s plans any.”
“Daddy doesn’t like him.”
“Does it matter?”
“It does to him,” she pointed out all too reasonably. “He likes you, though.” The blonde who would soon be starring in his nightmares gave him a brilliant smile. “And in the Colonel Forrest rules of the Universe, who he likes is all that matters.”
“Lucky me,” Kevin said and wondered if it was too late to volunteer for overseas duty.
Lilah watched her father’s latest attempt at finding himself a suitable son-in-law and couldn’t help at least admiring her dad’s taste.
Kevin Rogan was tall, broad shouldered and his uniform fit him as if designed with him in mind specifically. He looked like a recruiting poster. Perfect. Too perfect, she thought, glancing from his dark brown hair to his strong, square jaw, lips that were now just a grim slash across his face and narrowed green eyes.
She had to give her father points. At least this one was way better looking than the last few he’d thrown her way. But, she reminded herself, handsome or not, he was still a Marine. And therefore out of the running, as far as she was concerned.