Rules of Engagement

By: Tawny Weber

Chapter One

“I now pronounce you man and wife.”

Standing as Maid of Honor, Gina Mayes sighed and unashamedly wiped the tears trickling down her face. She hadn’t thought something as traditional as a wedding would get to her, but here she was, sniffling at the altar like a sap. But smart girls went waterproof, so she was set.

The new Sergeant and Mrs. St. James came together in a flurry of applause. Gina was thrilled for her best friend. Sophia deserved a guy like Max. One who adored her for who she was, who respected her strengths and helped her believe she could be and do anything she set her heart to.

Guys like that were rare, dammit.

Gina’s gaze wandered past the happily smooching bride and groom to the delicious hunk of a best man. Dark, intense and sexy, he was watching the happy couple, too. Except instead of sentimental like she was, he looked like he was facing a firing squad. His sharp jaw was set, his dark brown eyes narrowed. She’d spent the last three years working in an art gallery, honing her eye for beauty. And Sophia’s brother, Specialist Rico Santiago, definitely qualified. All militarily spiffed out in his dress uniform, Rico gave her a brief glance, then immediately shifted his gaze away.

But not before she’d caught sight of something in those dark eyes. Disapproval, probably. He always looked disapproving when he saw her. Which, since she was best friends with and worked for his sister, should be quite a bit. But since he was off doing his soldier thing, was really only a couple times a year. Still, that assessing stare a couple times a year was enough to give a girl a complex.

Yeah, yeah, she was too out there for his tastes. Girls like her who were big on self-expression didn’t fit the norm. She got that message a lot. But somehow, it sucked worse when it came from a guy she’d started crushing on two years ago. It was a shame that such an uptight guy was packaged with such a gorgeous face.

Before she could mull on it any further, Max, the cutie-patootie groom, finally stopped kissing his beloved bride and the minister introduced them to a sea of applause.

The newly married couple made their way up the glitter heart-strewn carpet that served as the aisle to their garden wedding. As the harpists reached a crescendo, Rico stepped forward to offer Gina his arm.

Swallowing hard, she shifted her bouquet of roses to one hand and tucked her other into the crook of his elbow. Just there, below the strong, rounded hardness of his bicep.

Oh, my, it was hard.

Not your type, not your type, not your type, Gina chanted silently, trying to ignore the little tingles of sexual awareness zinging through her at the feel of his strong, muscular arm pressing against her bare shoulder. His large, oh-baby-so-impressively-large, hand underneath her fingers.

“You’re crying,” Rico noted, his words quiet as he escorted her up the aisle. “Why would you get all choked up over such a happy event?”

“I just think it’s sweet. Sophia and Max are finally married. And on Valentine’s Day. It’s romantic, you know?”

“Romance makes you cry?”

He was such a guy. Gina gave him an exasperated side-look and shook her head. Her hair, styled in ringlets in a sedate blue-black with just a hint of red at the tips for the wedding, danced over her shoulders.

“You wouldn’t understand.” Guys never did. Especially not perfect guys like Rico. Perfectly handsome, perfectly sexy, perfectly, well—she cast a glance at him—perfectly normal.

And, as she’d learned from a couple of miserable break-ups, normal just wasn’t her speed.

Normal guys wanted her hair a single color. Wanted her to watch her mouth and wear boring clothes. Normal wanted to fit her in a box so she didn’t stand out in the crowd, stifling her creative side and crushing her spirit.

She was so not into normal.

“You crying over Sophia dragooning you into being a part of the wedding?”

Gina wrinkled her nose. “Why would I cry about that?”

“I wouldn’t think anything as traditional as a wedding would be your thing,” Rico admitted.

Right. Gina’s tears dried up and tension slid over her shoulders. Because girls like her, girls with a tattoo or two, a few piercings and a penchant for experimenting with hair color weren’t the marrying kind.

So wasn’t crazy that her secret dream was so normal she was almost ashamed of it. She wanted a home she could paint wild colors, a garden to grow organic vegetables. She wanted kids she could guide and a father for them who drove her wild, saw her heart and loved her completely.

Yep, crazy, she sniffed.

The kind of guys who went for girls like her would freak over that kind of thing. Besides, no one she’d dated gave her the feeling. They might get her hot and wild, but it never lasted. And none of them ever inspired an urge to live out her secret dream of spending the rest of her life having wild, kinky sex and playing house.

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