photographs set on one of the shelves in the wall unit.
She found herself gravitating toward those pictures to take a better, closer look. Surprisingly, they weren't snapshots of family. The first photo was a group of men standing together, surrounded by canvas tents in a desolate desert setting. All of them were dressed in military fatigues and sporting short buzz cuts, Ben included. The men looked tired and weary, but the comradery between them was a visible thing.
She assumed the picture had been taken a few years ago, when he'd been in the service. She remembered her father mentioning that Ben was an ex-Marine who'd served in the Iraq War but she didn't know anything about his time in the military, or what his duties had entailed.
Taking another drink of her water, she glanced at the second photograph of Ben and a pretty, dark-haired woman, completely unprepared for the depth of emotion so evident between the couple. Both of them were dressed in fatigues, with the same dry, barren stretch of desert as their background. The woman was hugging Ben around the waist, a wide smile on her lips as she looked up at him with a wealth of love and adoration shining in her eyes. Ben was laughing at something she must have said or done, but there was no denying that he was equally as smitten with her.
"Oh, wow," Christine breathed, shocked at the realization that Ben might have a steady girlfriend. One who might even be living with him, though she doubted that by the lack of feminine presence in the apartment. But the fact that Ben openly displayed such an intimate picture of himself and the woman said a lot about his feelings for her.
Not sure what to think, she dragged her fingers through her hair, wincing as a few tangled strands tugged on her scalp. All she knew was that if Ben was in a serious relationship, then she had absolutely no business flirting with him the way she had been, and vice versa.
"You're awfully quiet out there," Ben called from the other room. "Are you doing okay?"
He was obviously done with his shower. "I'm good." She glanced at the clock on the wall. "And you're down to about twelve minutes. Are you still on schedule?"
He chuckled, and she felt a slice of guilt for enjoying the low, husky sound when there was a chance of him having a girlfriend.
"I'm way ahead of schedule," he said as she heard a shuffling sound coming from the bedroom. "All I have to do is finish getting dressed and pack a few things, and I'll be ready to go."
Still troubled by that picture, she finished her water, tossed the bottle in the kitchen trash, and gave Ben another two full minutes before wandering down the hallway to his bedroom. She had to know if he had a significant other in his life, and if he did, she needed to change her behavior toward him drastically. She'd never poached on another woman's territory, and she wasn't about to start now. She'd been on the other side of that scenario, and it hadn't felt good at all.
She stopped in the bedroom doorway and leaned a shoulder against the frame. As good as her intentions were, she wasn't prepared to find Ben looking so gorgeous and sexy. He had his back to her as he stuffed a few items into a duffle bag, giving her a few quick moments to take in his appearance. Fresh from his shower, his hair was still damp, though he had run a comb through the strands. He'd pulled on a pair of new looking jeans, but he hadn't gotten around to putting on a shirt yet, and tearing her gaze away from the mesmerizing ripple and flow of his incredible muscles as he moved was a difficult thing to do.
He zipped up his bag, then reached for a blue chambray shirt he'd laid out on the bed. As he shrugged into the garment, he turned around, saw her standing in the doorway, and gave her a half-grin.
"Did you come to check up on me?" he asked as he strolled toward the only dresser in the room.
He'd left the shirt open and unbuttoned, treating her to a delectable view of his abs, which were just as