A fading red sun had just been setting over the horizon when Holly curled herself into her seat by the window. Lulled by the constant journey of the bus wheels and the soft conversation of the other passengers, she drifted, dreaming of sunshine and warmth, but the sun had long disappeared when she opened her eyes to find the bus had stopped to pick up more passengers.

She watched them file on, already travel-weary, transferring from another line. When he sat next to her, the bus was nearly full, and he apologized as he stowed a camouflage bag under the seat. She noticed, the way she noticed everything, his crew cut, the ragged nails bitten to the quick, the dark hallows under the eyes before he closed them in what was clearly an involuntary act. He was exhausted.

“It’s okay, I don’t take up much room,” Holly murmured, curling up again on her window side, knowing he hadn’t heard her. He was asleep already.

When she awoke again, the moon was too high to be seen, but high enough to give the highway a white glow, like a photo negative. The interior of the bus was dark and quiet. Everyone was asleep, it seemed—there wasn’t even the dim shine of a single reading light. Holly found her head resting on the chest of the man beside her. His arm had found its way to her waist, pulling her in close, and although she wondered at it, she wasn’t surprised.

She seemed to have an inner magnet that drew her to men—especially those who needed her. And she had been sure, even in her sleepy state on their first meeting, that this one needed her. He slept, but not peacefully. His eyes moved rapidly beneath the lids. His right hand, the one in his lap, twitched. She could actually hear him grinding his teeth in his sleep, his jaw working over and over.

As she watched, he made a soft, grunting noise, his body shuddering involuntarily, and he was immediately awake, the right hand, which had been twitching, was at her throat, and he pressed her back against the seat with what couldn’t be described as anything else but a deep, guttural growl.

She didn’t scream or panic. Instead, she went limp, waiting while sanity slowly returned to the man’s eyes and face, and with it, a dawning horror.

“Oh my god,” he whispered, lips trembling, eyes wide. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry. So sorry!” He pulled his hand back as if touching her burned him. She was essentially pinned against the seat until he moved quickly to his own side, shaking, resting his head in his hands, elbows on his knees.

She didn’t have to ask—she knew. But she did anyway, her hand moving to touch the soft fuzz at the nape of his neck, stroking gently. “Iraq?”

He gave a short nod, not lifting his head, clearly ashamed of what he’d done, what he’d been about to do.

“I.Am.So.Sorry.” Each word was punctuated, as if he could make them more clear and meaningful by doing so, but the words were whispered—they were both aware of the sleeping people around them. “I was dreaming. I was…I thought you…”

“It’s okay.” Holly’s hand moved over his shoulder as he sat back in the seat. His eyes met hers, and she saw the pain there, the horror.

“Please.” He took her hand, pushed her gently away, his expression beyond pain. “I can’t. You touching me. I just can’t.”

“Ahhh, weary warrior,” she murmured, ignoring his plea. Both hands now, stroking down the front of his fatigues, over his chest and belly, long, slow movements. She watched his face slowly relax, his eyes soften as he looked at her.

“What are you—?” His words stopped when she pressed her fingers over them, and then followed her fingers with her mouth, kissing him gently, the soft press of her lips on his a tender panacea. She climbed between his legs, nuzzling his neck, his shoulder, smelling the essence of the masculine, breathing it in as she pressed her whole body to him, rubbing in that same, steady, downward motion.

“Oh…god…” His eyes closed, the tension in his body, held coiled and tight somewhere in his belly, she knew, began to unwind. She knelt before him on the floor of the bus, squeezed in, not a lot of room to work, but she didn’t need much.

“It’s okay,” Holly whispered, her cheek resting against his thigh as she worked his zipper down, reaching her hand through the gap to find what she was looking for. “It’s going to be okay.”

She felt his hand in her hair, gentle now, the power in it when he had her pinned to the seat restrained as she rubbed her cheek against his crotch. He was soft, pliable in her hand, but she had never met a man alive who could resist her touch, and this one was no exception. It took him time, but she had time. The world was asleep, and they were just two travelers journeying together in the darkness, sharing a moment of feeling.

When he was hard enough in her hand, she used her mouth, making him gasp and clench his hand into a fist in her honey-colored hair. She made a soft noise of approval in her throat, her mouth too full of his cock to do much more, and his hips shifted, giving her more of him.

Her hands moved over his chest, down his belly, again and again as she sucked him, the same steady downward motion. She worked as if she could draw it out of him—the pain, the horror, the rage—bring it down and out and through his body with this one solitary act of love, on her knees before him in gratitude for everything he had sacrificed.

Holly felt tears stinging her eyes as she worshipped the length of his cock, tower of heat and strength filling her mouth, filling her completely. The soldier’s eyes met hers in the darkness, the moonlight through the window giving them just enough to see each other’s shadows by, and he cupped her cheeks in his big hands, his cock slowly thrusting into her wet, waiting mouth.

It was a moment she would never forget, when the world slipped back into place and gave them both just what they needed during that brief flash of connection. His whole body quivered at the moment of climax, and her soft hands pressed his bare belly beneath his shirt, feeling what had been coiled there spring, release, let go. He flooded her mouth then, and she thought it would never stop, endless waves of heat, and she swallowed it all, as if doing so might erase any sign of his agony.

They didn’t speak. The soldier zipped up as Holly worked her way back to the seat, and this time when she pressed herself against his side, she was awake, conscious of the act, and he welcomed her warmth, his breathing easy now. She watched him sleep for a while, a peaceful thing, and it pleased her beyond words as she drifted toward a dreamless darkness.

It was morning when they woke, stiff and sore, stretching the night off as the bus pulled into another stop. It was his—her destination was further down the road.

“What’s your name, soldier?” she asked as he pulled his camouflage duffel from under the seat and shouldered it.

He gave her a small smile, and she thought he spoke the next words with a pride he hadn’t felt in a long, long time. “David Michael Jordan, Lance Corporal, United States Marine Corp.”

She nodded, her eyes on his, and felt those tears threatening again.

He was blocking the aisle for other passengers, and while they both noticed, neither cared. He touched her cheek, rubbing gently with one finger. “What’s your name, angel?”


Smiling—he had a bright, beautiful smile—he said, “I think you must be an angel, Holly.”

“No.” She smiled back, and said the next without any hint of shame. “I’m a prostitute.”

“Jesus.” His jaw dropped. “Really?”

She nodded as he lifted her chin, looked into her eyes, his face puzzled. “Do I…I mean…do I owe you—”

“I owe you.” She turned her face toward his hand, cradled it and kissed his palm. “We all do. It was my gift.”

“Yes.” He leaned down and kissed her, briefly, the passengers behind him shuffling. “You are.”

She watched him get off the bus, feeling more full and whole than she had in a long time. He stood there until they pulled out a few minutes later, duffel at his feet. He gave her a short salute when she waved. His eyes met hers for a brief, tender moment before the bus accelerated, moving her forward on her journey, one of constant, unexpected pleasure and human connection.