Loving Meg

Loving Meg

Skye Taylor

August 2014 $14.95
ISBN: 9781611945447

Book 2 of The Cameron's of Tide's Way

She’ll need all the love he can give her.


Our PriceUS$14.95
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Will he forgive her moment of weakness?

After a year in a war zone, Marine Lieutenant Meg Cameron returns home to peaceful Tide’s Way, North Carolina, tormented by guilt over the bombing death of a military dog and the emotionally-charged kiss Meg shared afterwards with her commanding officer as he comforted her. Ben, her husband, is the love of her life. How could she betray him by having sexual feelings for another man?

Ben Cameron is just happy that his brave, beautiful wife is back home with him and their young sons Rick and Evan. Everything seems fine—at first. In bed, he and Meg are perfect together, until the nightmares come and she calls out a name that’s not his.

As Meg searches for ways to tell Ben what happened and tries to find a way to fit into "normal” life again, she must also face the work Ben loves—training dogs at the kennel he owns. She can’t bring herself to tell Ben that the traumatized police dog he is rehabilitating tears her heart out because the big shepherd looks just like the bomb dog who died on Meg’s team.


Skye Taylor began writing during her years as a Peace Corps volunteer. Visit her website at Skye-writer.com or find her on Facebook.


"Poignant and timely” —Cheryl Norman, the Drake Springs romances



Chapter 1

MEG SHRUGGED HER backpack up higher on her shoulder as she joined the stream of passengers that had just come off the flight from Dulles to Wilmington, North Carolina, and were now filing past the empty chairs of the waiting area and toward the security exit. Her unaccustomed loafers felt stiff and made a hollow sound on the tile floor that seemed to echo the thudding of her heart. A man in a navy blue suit jostled past, then stopped and looked at her as if he thought he might know her. But then he shrugged, apologized, and moved on. She nodded at him absently. She had bigger things on her mind.

As she approached the hallway leading to the main lobby, she halted abruptly. Her heart thumped harder. Ben would be out there waiting for her. Maybe he’d brought Rick and Evan with him. It had been three hundred and fifty-eight days since she’d last seen her husband and her little boys. Three hundred and fifty-eight days that had changed her forever.

The crush of people flowed past her like water around a boulder in a riverbed. Her chest felt tight. It was difficult to breathe. It felt a lot like every time she’d moved out to accompany a convoy in Iraq.

All those days ago when she’d been walking the other way with tears brimming in her eyes, she’d been naïve. Committed, eager, and incredibly naïve. She wasn’t the same woman who had said goodbye to Ben that day. She was no longer innocent. And her idealism had fled in the face of the things she had seen. And done.

Would Ben notice?

Would he see it in her eyes? Feel it in her touch? Surely he would hear it when she cried out in her nightmares. Would he still love her if he knew the whole of it? If he knew how far she had grown away from the girl he had fallen in love with?

Meg drew in a ragged breath, squared her shoulders, and stepped out. Suck it up, Marine. Ben’s waiting. Oorah.

BEN CAMERON hurried up to the security barrier, his gaze fixed on the stream of travelers making their way toward the lobby. The TSA agent glared at him, but he ignored her. He was looking for just one person. One very special person. It had been so long.

There’d been an accident on the way, and he’d been late getting to the airport. Racing into the building, assuming she would beat him to baggage claim, he’d gone straight there. But her familiar diminutive figure wasn’t anywhere in sight, nor had he seen a bulging green duffle bag among the jumble of luggage, boxes, golf clubs, and car seats moving past on the carousel.

The plane was on the ground. He’d checked the app on his phone while waiting impatiently to get past the logjam of police vehicles on Route 17 along the coast from Wilmington, along with a wrecker and an ambulance at the accident scene. She had made the connection. She’d called after she’d boarded the plane in DC to give him her airline and flight number and when it was due to land. Her voice had sounded matter-of-fact and unemotional. Very military. She was a Marine, after all. And she’d been in a war zone for almost a year. A place where emotions didn’t belong. At least not those reserved for the husband left behind.

He glanced back the way he’d come in, then again down the hall guarded by the vigilant TSA agent. Then he saw her.

Meg came around the corner and strode toward him.

Her hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail, the dark sheen of it glistening under the bright fluorescent lights. Head up, she looked straight ahead. Shoulders back. Very squared away. HisMarine. His Meg.

At the sight of her, his heart leapt and shuddered into a staccato rhythm. Meg was back. Whole and unharmed. And as beautiful as his memory had promised. He couldn’t wait to hold her again. He couldn’t wait to kiss her and feel her arms circle tight around his neck. To feel her lips returning his hunger and longing.

Her stride was long and confident, but it still seemed to take forever for her to reach him.

"Meg,” Ben whispered huskily as he finally swept her into his embrace. His life was whole again. "Oh, Meg.” His eyes stung, and his heart hammered madly in his chest. "I’ve missed you so much.”



Chapter 2

CRUSHED IN BEN’S exuberant embrace in the busy airport lobby, Meg felt lightheaded and breathless. His voice husky and tight with emotion, he kept murmuring disjointed phrases of love and welcome. She tipped her head back to reply, but before she could utter a word, his mouth claimed hers.

Vaguely aware of clapping in the background, Meg surrendered to the shelter of Ben’s embrace. His kiss was hard, demanding, and fierce, but she welcomed the hungry passion and returned it with a need as great as his. When he stopped to catch his breath, she buried her face against his shirtfront, her arms locked tight around his neck. There was so much she couldn’t face just yet, but in Ben’s arms she felt safe. At last.

Ben set Meg back on her feet and released his possessive grip. His cheeks wet with tears, he grinned and wept openly at the same time.

Her eyes were painfully dry.

Meg wanted to cry with him. She wanted to cling to him and tell him she had missed him as much as he had missed her. She stood mute. It felt like someone had packed her up in cotton wool so thick that the world couldn’t get in.

Ben didn’t appear to notice. He hugged her again, then swung her off her feet, twirling her in a celebratory circle before setting her down once more. He wrapped his arm about her shoulders and propelled her toward baggage claim to get her gear. She waited while Ben shouldered his way through the crowd to claim a desert-dusty duffle bag that appeared among the jumble of suitcases. "This it?” he asked, hoisting the bulky bag off the carousel.

She nodded, and he swung the bag over his shoulder as if it weighed nothing, then grabbed her hand and led her from the terminal.

His fingers were strong, his palm calloused and warm, just like she remembered. His strength, his confidence, his reliability—everything she’d always admired about him—seeped into her through their clasped hands as they zigzagged through the parking lot to his truck. She began to feel more like herself.

When they reached the truck, Ben dumped her duffle into the bed and turned toward her. He pulled her into his embrace, rocking her back and forth, as if trying to absorb the reality that she was actually, really, and truly home. This time, he was as wordless as she, just rocking and hugging as though he might never let her go. Ben had hugged her the same way all those years ago on the day she’d turned eighteen, and they’d kissed for the first time. He’d waited five years for her to grow up, and that day had marked the beginning of their commitment as lovers instead of just friends. Today was another turning point, but Ben didn’t know it yet. She wasn’t the same innocent girl she’d been then. War had changed her. It would be like falling in love all over again. But would he? Once he understood how different she was inside?

Meg felt, rather than heard the shuddering sob of relief and happiness that ran through her husband’s big, strong body. She had thought she’d cry buckets once she was back in Ben’s arms again after a year of hell, but still her tears didn’t come. After several long minutes, Ben held her away and grinned.

"Damn, but it’s good to have you back.” He kissed her again before digging into his pants pocket for his truck keys.

He opened her door for her like the gentleman he was and waited for her to climb in before loping around to the driver’s side and hauling himself into his seat. He leaned across the seat to kiss her yet again before starting the engine.

On the drive home, Ben kept reaching across the gap between the seats to touch her: squeezing her hand, or her thigh, and once running the back of his fingers down her cheek before blowing her a kiss. He gabbed on about Rick and Evan and how they’d been counting down the days. How they’d cleaned their rooms until the fussiest drill sergeant would have been impressed. How they’d wanted to come with him to the airport but reluctantly agreed to let Dad go alone if they could help decorate for the party.

Meg groaned inwardly. She should have known there would be a welcoming party. Ben’s family was big on parties, and they’d all be there along with numerous friends and neighbors. Uneasiness set in. How was she going to hold herself together and get through the next few hours?

By the time they pulled onto Jolee Road and drove through her hometown, Meg was so taut with apprehension her muscles ached. Homes and businesses so familiar and yet so alien lined the main street of Tide’s Way and brought back a rush of memories. She watched the buildings glide by as snatches of long-ago events tugged at her mind.

The statue of General Jolee appeared, dominating Tide’s Way’s little common. She and a bunch of rowdy friends had festooned it with orange crepe paper one long-ago Halloween. Across from the park she’d gotten her first kiss in the shadows of the public library. Chris Wilson had been as inexperienced as she. They’d both been nervous and excited. And there was Joel’s Diner where she’d called Ben from to come and rescue her the night she’d run away from home because her big brother wouldn’t let her go camping on the beach with a questionable bunch of boys from the trailer park. It was hard to remember being so young or so innocent. Tide’s Way never changed, but she surely had.

As they got closer to the beach, Meg rolled down the window and sniffed the salty scent of the ocean. So different from the desert she’d spent the last year in. This was home. This was coastal North Carolina where she’d spent all but two years of her life: the beach, the ocean, the small town, everyone-knows-everyone atmosphere. There weren’t words big enough to express how much she had missed it all.

Ben didn’t speak as he pulled up at the stop sign where Jolee Road ended. Dead ahead was home. The crush of cars and trucks crowded into their driveway and spilled over onto the shoulders of Stewart Road. An unwelcome sense of dread hit her. She was happy to be home, but all these people. She would have to talk to them. Make small talk. Ask how they were doing. Remember what had been going on in their lives while she was gone. They were sure to ask questions. Questions she dreaded answering.

She didn’t want to talk about where she’d been or what she’d done. She didn’t want to have to find words for how she felt, either while she was gone or now that she was home. And she didn’t want to even think about Scout or John or so many others.

Ben drove his truck onto the grass to get past the jam of vehicles and pulled up between the house and the building that housed the kennels and training facility. He scrambled out before the engine had even finished rumbling to a stop and hurried around to open her door for her.

"I’m sorry about the crowd. You’re probably exhausted, and I bet you really just want to spend time with the boys. And me, too, I hope, but it’ll probably be a while before we can get everyone to head on out and give us some alone time.” He paused, his face suddenly serious. "God, Meg, I missed you so much. It feels like you’ve been gone forever. Does it feel like that to you?”

Meg slid off the seat onto the running board and put one hand on Ben’s shoulder. She pressed a finger against his lips. "I love you, Ben. I always have, and I always will. Missing you—” Her eyes ached with the tears she still couldn’t shed. "Words aren’t big enough.” She leaned down and pressed her aching eyes into the hollow of his neck.

As Ben lifted her off the running board and let her slide down the length of his body, he groaned. Meg felt him swell with need. She clung to him. Just as needy. Desperate to be all the way home. Wanting to be consumed by this man who once had been her whole world.

"Mom?” Her sons’ eager young voices called out. "Mommy?”

Yanked back to reality, Meg pushed free of Ben’s embrace and stepped back. The boys barreled around the front bumper, and Ben turned away to haul her duffle from the bed of the truck.

"Mommy!” Five-year-old Evan, trailing a bright blue helium balloon with "Welcome Home” emblazoned on it in sparkling silver, flung himself at her. "You’re home! You’re finally home!”

Meg caught him up in her arms and returned his eager hug. Over Evan’s head, Meg saw Rick move uncertainly, his seven-year-old shoulders squared and his blue eyes wide and somber. She had a hard time reading the expression in his eyes. Eyes so like his father’s it gave her heart a stab. Was he having as much difficulty believing she was actually home again as his dad? Meg gave her younger son one last squeeze, then set him on his feet.

Rick hung back, so Meg went to him. She fell to her knees and wrapped him in her arms.

"I think you must have grown a foot since I left,” she tried to joke away the choking lump crawling up her throat.

"Only three inches, Mom,” Rick corrected in his soft, reserved little voice. Evan was the outgoing son. Rick the shy one. Always cautious with his emotions. She hugged him tighter.

"Mom.” He buried his face against her chest and wound his arms tight about her neck.

Meg felt the first hesitant shudder of a sob her son was valiantly trying to hold back. She tightened her arms about his slender, boyish form. "I missed you, too,” she murmured into his silky dark hair. "I missed you so much.”

The shudders grew until Rick gave up fighting them.

EVAN AND RICK were so keyed up once the party broke up and everyone had finally departed Meg wondered if they were ever going to fall asleep. They chattered all the way up the stairs and right through the job of brushing their teeth. She got Evan into his pajamas while Rick disappeared into the bathroom to change. Then they climbed into Rick’s bed, each with two carefully selected books for the nighttime reading ritual.

She read Evan’s books first and then listened while Rick proudly read to her the books he’d chosen. When she’d left for Iraq, Rick had only just begun to read. Yet here he was, reading books more than a grade level above him with fluent ease. She had missed so much.

Her mind began to wander. How much else have I missed? Ben had done his best to keep her up to date on the latest events and achievements through their sporadic email connections and occasional Skype sessions, but there were all those little daily details even the most observant parent forgets to notice. She’d missed Rick losing his first baby tooth, and Ben had sent her a photo of Rick grinning around the gap in his mouth. But the two new oversized adult teeth already most of the way in had been a surprise. It felt like her baby had grown up a lot more than just a year in the time she’d been gone. Three inches taller, big new teeth, reading out loud. What else had she missed?

Evan had begun kindergarten. Rick had become a Cub Scout. What about Ben? Her mind moved from Rick and his story to wonder what Ben was up to while she was tucking the boys into bed. Her eyes grew heavy as the hours of travel began to catch up with her. She forced her attention back to Rick’s story. His voice soft, his diction so careful.

Meg woke with a start. She shot up, heart pounding. Where was she?

"I didn’t finish my book yet.” Rick’s blue gaze pinned her with an accusatory, disappointed gleam.

"I’m sorry,” she apologized, leaning down to kiss his forehead. "I guess I’m more tired than I thought.”

"Didn’t you get to sleep on the airplane?” Rick asked, his expression softening. "Didn’t they give you a little pillow and a blanket so you could take a nap before the party?”

Meg swung her feet to the floor. "They did give me a pillow and a blanket, but I was so excited about seeing you I didn’t sleep much.”

Rick shut the book and set it aside. "That’s okay, Mom. I’ll finish the story tomorrow.” He was generous with his forgiveness. He scuttled down under the covers and curled his arm protectively about his little brother. As Rick mumbled goodnight, she tucked the covers around them, straightened, and gazed down at them for several minutes.

Meg hadn’t been in a place she could fall asleep and feel safe in almost a year. She’d begun to think she would never feel safe again, but lying in that narrow little bed between her two sons, peace had caught up with her unexpectedly. She reached down to push Rick’s dark hair off his face and kiss his forehead. Evan burrowed into the curve of his brother’s body, his face invisible. Meg kissed the top of his head instead.

In her bedroom, she stripped off the rumpled civies she’d been wearing for more than forty-eight hours and dropped them into the hamper, then headed to the shower. As she worked up a lather, then rinsed the shampoo out of her hair, Ben’s eagerness earlier that afternoon came back to her in a rush. If her skin hadn’t already been pink from the hot water, it would have flushed rosily at the memory of her own response to Ben’s need.

Meg shut off the water and reached for her towel. Maybe she should show up in the kitchen with nothing on but the towel? Or... Did she even have a sexy nightgown in her dresser? She couldn’t remember the last time she’d gone out of her way to wear something provocative to bed.

But didn’t she still have that tailored-style red silk shirt that came just to the bottom of her butt? The one Ben had bought for her on a business trip? Slinky fabric meant to tease, with matching and very skimpy briefs. He’d been in Europe purchasing breeding stock for his kennels, yet he’d made time to buy her a gift. Not just any gift but one he’d gone out of his way to find. One meant to tell her just how much he’d missed being away from her.

She’d never actually slept in it because every time she had put it on, it came off shortly after. She smiled. Sometimes before they even got to the bedroom. Where was it?

BEN HAD HIS hands in a sink full of soapy dishwater when Meg stepped silently into the kitchen on bare feet. She leaned against the doorjamb and watched him as he scrubbed his sister’s chili pot. Beneath the faded blue fabric of his favorite chambray shirt his muscles flexed smoothly as he scraped a few hours of baked-on sauce from its stainless sides. He hadn’t heard her come in, so Meg savored the moment to study him. He was a big man, but moved with such grace that she loved watching him work. She always had.

It was how they’d met, in fact.

Meg’s brothers CJ and Stu owned the only auto shop on the North Carolina coast just north of Wilmington, and CJ had been a classmate of Ben’s. When Ben had purchased a beat-up Ford Mustang that was older than Meg herself, he’d brought it to CJ’s shop to restore it and get it running again. Meg had spent hours perched on a stool watching Ben work on that car. Most of the time wishing Ben would notice her as something other than just CJ’s kid sister.

Abruptly Ben turned. "Hey,” he said softly. A wicked smile spread slowly across his handsome features as he took in her transformation from squared away warrior to a provocatively dressed wife in red silk.

"Hey, yourself,” Meg replied, husky and suddenly breathless. She pushed away from the doorjamb and crossed the kitchen. "We’re alone. At last.”

The roguish smile disappeared and was replaced by a look of tender longing.

He reached for her, his hands still warm and damp from the soapy water. The heat of them flooded through the thin silk of the shirt. Her breath quickened as the blue of his eyes darkened, and his fingers worked their way under the shirttails until they discovered her bare behind.

Ben’s eyes widened. She hadn’t found the matching briefs and had decided she didn’t need them anyway. The result was better than she’d imagined. Ben was a hard man to surprise.

"Are you just going to stand there and stare?” she asked, trying to control the impatience that been building ever since she’d stepped out of the shower. She pressed herself to him and wondered if all soldiers came home from war with the same shockingly intense need for the ultimate intimacy with their lovers.

"It’s been too long.” Ben sounded as breathless as she felt. He bent his head and kissed her with lingering tenderness. His lips were soft, urgent, yet without the punishing forcefulness that had left her mouth tingling and sore a few hours earlier. Her heart raced.

As Ben lifted her off the floor, she laced her fingers through the silky length of his overgrown hair and wrapped her legs about his waist. He turned and set her on the kitchen counter.

"You have no idea how many times I’ve imagined this,” he murmured as he began undoing the small flat buttons that ran down the front of her shirt. He bent to kiss the hollow just above her collarbone. Then he trailed a string of kisses down the slope of her breast as the shirt pooled about her waist.

"Imagined what? Doing me in the kitchen?” Meg tried for humor, but neediness made the humor come out ragged.

"Oh, yeah! Here in the kitchen.” Ben rested his forehead against hers as his voice dropped to a low, sexy growl. "In our bedroom. In the living room. Out in my office. I imagined doing you pretty much everywhere.” Ben covered her breasts with his big, warm hands and squeezed gently.

Meg gasped as passion fired everywhere at once.

MEG SHOT OUT of bed. It was the middle of the night. Where was she? The room was cold. Not Baghdad! She shivered. She was home. In her bedroom. Immediately her heart rate eased off its frantic pace. She slid her feet to the floor and stood where she could see the glimmer of moonlight on the waterway and, beyond that, the ocean.

She shivered again and stepped silently away from the bed. The sexy red shirt was probably still on the kitchen counter. She groped blindly in the ink-dark closet she shared with Ben, hunting for her bathrobe. Unable to locate the robe, she settled for a soft chamois shirt of Ben’s that came nearly to her knees. She wrapped it about herself and crossed the room to the window.

Ever since that first night so far from home, she’d had daydreams about her first night back home. Daydreams of sleeping in their luxurious king-sized bed where she could spread out and get really comfortable. Sleeping with the windows open and the sound of the ocean lulling her to sleep. Daydreams of sleeping the whole night through without the sound of war at her doorstep. And being able to reach out and touch Ben any time she wanted to.

But it hadn’t turned out anything like the daydreams that had gotten her through their year of separation. After a year on an army cot, she wasn’t used to sprawling or sharing her bed. Ben seemed too close, too possessive, even in his sleep. His arm draped across her middle, his breath in her hair. It felt claustrophobic.

Meg had gotten used to sleeping the way soldiers have always slept, half on alert and ready to respond in an instant. She’d grown accustomed to having people awake and moving about, on guard while she slept. But home was eerily still with just the little creaking sounds of a settling house and no one keeping watch.

She’d been dozing fitfully, and now that she thought about it, she decided it must have been Ben’s dogs barking that woke her. Which was puzzling. There had been a constant cacophony of dogs roaming loose in the streets, day and night, in Baghdad. Stray dogs barked all the time, but she’d gotten used to them. So, why tonight had the barking brought her bolt upright in bed in a cold sweat reaching for a rifle that wasn’t there?

Hugging the chamois shirt closer, she stared out over the yard that was so familiar, and yet in a weird way, so unfamiliar. The dogs had already quieted again. She eased the window open even wider to let in the scent of the sea she had missed so much in her long absence. Some stray animal must have gotten them going. Maybe a raccoon moseying about, hunting for something to eat.

Scout hadn’t barked unless he was alerting someone that he’d detected unseen danger. He hadn’t barked when he’d stepped on a hidden detonation plate either. Meg shuddered and hugged herself harder.

That hadn’t been her fault.

"Not my fault.” She whispered the mantra aloud in the hushed dark room.

Everyone in her unit had insisted that Scout’s death was not her fault. Scout’s handler hadn’t blamed her either. But she’d clung to her self-recrimination and had a meltdown over the dog’s death in her commanding officer’s arms. Unexpected and inexcusable desire had flared up between her and John, and she had wanted to lose herself in the passion of it and forget about Scout.

That desire had been her fault.

"You all right?” Ben slipped his arms about her waist and bent his head down next to hers.

Meg’s heart slammed into overdrive at Ben’s sudden closeness. "I’m—I’m fine.” It appalled her that she hadn’t heard him getting out of bed. It appalled her that her mind had been so full of John and the forbidden things she’d felt in Baghdad that she’d become completely unaware of her surroundings. A shocking breach in good soldiering.

"I thought I heard you crying.” Ben pulled her back against his chest and rocked her gently. "What’s wrong?”

"I was thinking about Philip.” Meg tried to change the subject. "He told me he’s getting sent to Afghanistan right after Jake’s wedding.”

"How come I get the feeling that my big brother is not what you’re crying about? Even if he is headed to Afghanistan?”

"I’m not crying.” Meg turned in his arms to prove it. She lifted her face toward his. "Marines don’t cry.” She needed Ben to comfort her. But something kept her from giving in to such weakness.

John had tried to comfort her, and look where that had led. Guilt twisted in her gut.

"Come back to bed with me. Let me hold you.”

He kept his arms draped loosely about her, but she could feel the strength in them, and the warmth. They were intimately familiar in spite of the year they’d spent apart. She wished she still felt like the same woman who’d left him behind a year ago.

She and Ben had a special bond. A bond that had been there for almost as long as she’d known him. Since long before they’d fallen in love, married, and brought two sons into the world. None of that should have changed, but somehow it felt like everything had. She’d gone off to war holding tight to the thought of Ben and their closeness, knowing he would be thinking of her as often as she thought of him. Knowing without a doubt that he would be there for her when she returned home.

She leaned into him and pressed her cheek against the pale curly thatch of hair on his chest and listened to the steady beating of his heart. Ben was her safe place. Her lover, her husband. Her soul mate. If only she could tell him everything.

"Make love to me?” Meg whispered, the last word lifting in a pleading question.

"Again?” He sounded uncertain.

Maybe three times in one night was asking too much? Or maybe he suspected there was something she wasn’t telling him.

She nodded and flicked her fingernail over the closest flat male nipple.

Ben grunted softly and led her back to the bed. He laid her down and stretched out beside her before drawing the covers up around their waists.

He studied her face in the dim light and touched the skin beneath one eye with the pad of his thumb. "You need sleep more than more sex. Not that I’m trying to talk you out of it or anything.”

"Then stop talking and kiss me.”

Ben chuckled. "Yes, ma’am.” Then he gathered her close and gave her what she’d asked for.

Thoroughly sated and minus the second shirt of the night, Meg’s thoughts drifted aimlessly. This time the possessive clutch of Ben’s embrace felt welcome and safe as sleep began to overtake her.

When Ben spoke, his voice sounded tight and not at all sleepy.

"Who’s John?”


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