Authors: ML Skye
Tags: #science fiction adventure erotic romance
* * * *
Jason McIvey stretched and buried his head under the pillow on the bed. Five more minutes, then he'd get up, grab a shower, and meet the guys in his squadron for breakfast before boarding their transport.
Until then, he could pretend he didn't have a huge decision to make and that he enjoyed the sometimes stupid and lame tripe that went along with flying—because he'd always love being in a cockpit.
A cool hand settled on his hip, and his eyes blinked open.
Last night's 'hangar' hadn't left yet. He winced at the crude name his fellow test pilots gave the bevy of females that always came cleared for action—ready, willing, and able to accommodate any of the guys—especially if the men looked hard and hot. The names and faces might change, but the women never failed to appear whenever a civilian air show rolled through their towns.
Bitta… Bitsy… hell, he couldn't remember the woman's name, probably wanted a repeat performance from the previous night. Her fingers trailed up and down Jason's thigh, and he scrambled for an excuse to make a quick exit. Would she believe he'd choose grabbing something to eat over sex? Did he care if she didn't?
Not really, no. A harsh reality he'd been avoiding for the past couple of months.
The fact Jason never lacked for a companion didn't mean he couldn't be lonely. Not one of the women he'd met recently ever stayed around long after the sun came up—unless they wanted another round. And none of them were interested in more than getting down to business as soon as possible. He almost craved making a connection on a deeper level with someone.
The woman pressed her lips to his shoulder, then purred in his ear, "Do you have another condom?" Her palm covered his ass cheek, and she lightly squeezed.
Geez, if he made a buck every time he got asked that question, he'd own a small planet. Rolling over onto his back, he tried to get excited about the physical stimulation when Britta—he finally remembered her name—reached down to grasp his flaccid dick in her hand. His cock had just become semi-erect when a rapid series of three knocks sounded on his door.
"Jace! You in there? Get moving, man. Our flight got moved up," Paul Jaginski called from outside.
Leave it to Jagger to provide a flawless exit strategy. Jace would thank Jag if it didn't mean explaining why he'd even want one.
Tossing a slight smile toward Britta, Jace gently extricated himself from her clutches and slid out of bed. "Sorry, looks like I gotta get going." He gathered up his fatigues and headed for the bathroom. "Mind if I grab a shower first?"
Her lips curved in a sensual smile. "I could always join you." She made a show of letting the sheet fall to expose her breasts before scooting to the edge of the mattress.
Jace waved her off. "Better not. I'll be lucky to make the transport as it is."
Britta pouted, but got up and started searching for her clothes. "I guess I'll head out then." She glanced up. "I had a great time last night. You were fantastic."
Jace nodded before entering the bath. "Yeah, you, too." He closed the door, turned the water on, and stepped under the cold spray.
When the temperature finally warmed, he'd figured out most of his problem. A bored restlessness had sunk its teeth into him. The itchy feeling made sense—he had some serious thinking to do—but Jace hadn't had the time to really focus.
Thank God he'd be headed for home. Well, sort of home. He had an apartment close to the base of their next air show.
Maybe he'd take some time to relax and contemplate things before heading back to the
. He could be assured the quiet time he realized he needed. He could beg off carousing for at least one night, right?
He finished his shower and dried off, deciding not to examine his relief over missing a night with the guys too closely.
Chloe woke up groggy. It took her a minute to remember she'd secured guest quarters on base. Not much of a makeshift plan for a getaway, but within two hours of Marc leaving, the walls started closing in on her and she had to get out of the flat. She drove herself kind of mad wondering if she'd have to choose between being a girlfriend or a wife.
A couple of quick calls later, she scored a pass for the air show and decided to stay on base. Anything to get out of the space she shared with Marc and forget about the reasons he might have left. She shoved away the thought she even felt it necessary.
Rolling over, Chloe groaned. She regretted staying at the bar until final call the night before. She vaguely remembered having a cab drop her off at the entrance closest to the guest quarters, and after flashing her ID, she half-walked, half-sloshed the two blocks to her room and fell into bed to sleep off the bender.
Getting up, she made and downed a pot of coffee, but an edgy mood replaced the hazy fog and she hoped it would improve throughout the day. At least she had a bright spot—watching the test flights and possibly taking a spin in the simulator after the show.
She would especially enjoy the sim run and hoped she'd score the highest of the group—always a challenge considering the control panels would be a mock-up for the soon-to-be debuted crafts.
When she exited quarters to head for the stands, she thought she caught a glimpse of Marc's brother, Jason, rounding the corner with a group of pilots. Her pulse leapt, not because she felt oddly attracted to him—even though she did—but because she hadn't expected to see Jace.
It probably hadn't been him. She and Marc just talked about Jace's billet aboard the
. Bumping into him would be completely ironic, but he often got pulled for test flights, so who knew? She'd find out soon enough.
She almost hoped she hadn't seen Marc's brother. As much as she got along with Jason, she had no desire to explain why she ended up by herself for the weekend—likely because she didn't quite know the reason.
She shook off the weird vibe and headed for the airfield.
* * * *
Jace reported for duty at 0600, feeling less out of sorts than the previous morning when he'd woken up next to the nubile Britta. Jason appreciated the quiet night at his apartment, even if he had spent most of it not thinking about what he should and vegging in front of the vid screen.
"Yo, Jace. You missed the best pie on the planet last night at the Flying Sauce." Doug Euceks, better known as Deuce, rubbed his belly. "I might need the barf bag when we start pulling Gs out there."
Jace chuckled. "As if one would help." He narrowed his eyes. "You're not flying with me, are you?"
Deuce laughed. "You betcha. And I'm not serious. I took it easy last night so I can go full tilt when we go paint the town after the show." Deuce cocked his head. "Are you in tonight, or out?"
Jace shrugged. "Depends. Did Jagger manage to keep his yap shut, or will we be fighting off clingy females all night?"
Deuce cracked a grin. "I don't know about you, but Jag's big mouth has nothing to do with how many pretty ladies I have to beat back with a stick." He sobered. "Nah, man. Jag wants to honor tradition and do the rounds. This is our home base, after all."
Jace grinned. "Then I'm all in." He nodded toward the hangar. "Let's get our pre-flight checks out of the way."
Deuce blinked at the change of subject but fell into step beside Jace. He thanked whatever ruled the universe that Deuce didn't ask a bunch of questions. Until Jace had a better handle on why he felt so dissatisfied, he wouldn't have a clue how to answer.
Climbing up and settling into the cockpit, Jace pondered his disconnect. He'd hoped being back on his home planet would settle some of the chaos in his brain. Not so much. Running through the list, he quickly checked the tick boxes and handed the clipboard off to one of the deck crew.
Slouching down, Jason frowned. Maybe he should call his brother and get some family time in. He could ask Marc for advice. Jason snorted. He could already hear his brother's sage words, and they wouldn't be of any help. Marc's idea of offering wisdom usually meant making Jason look like an idiot. Marc seemed to think his younger brother status made being immature acceptable. He had yet to outgrow the notion.
Glancing up, Jason caught sight of a blonde head bobbing just past the nose of the plane. He squinted, wondering if his brother's girlfriend would be watching the show. Then he remembered Marc and Chloe usually took off somewhere for semester break. Probably not her.
Too bad. He'd have more luck getting some solid advice from Chloe. His lips quirked. After the way they'd met—Jason thought Chloe had been an exotic dancer, one of Marc's stupid pranks—Jace wouldn't have dreamed he'd ever seek Chloe's input. But Chloe proved her mettle when she caught up to Jason outside the club. He still got a kick out of her turning the tables on Marc—
"Jace! Suit up. It's time." Jagger made a thumbs-up sign.
Jason grabbed his helmet and drew it over his head. He shoved every other thought aside and focused on what he loved best.
* * * *
Chloe let herself into the guest quarters and tossed her keys on the desk. As expected, she'd racked up the highest score in the sim run after the air show. She couldn't wait to get her hands on the new crafts when they started rolling off the assembly line.
Still feeling a little at loose ends, she grabbed a shower and pondered plans for the evening. She could go home, but the thought made her twitchy. Rifling through the clothes she'd brought, she figured another night kicking back in one of her former haunts might be fun. Grabbing a pair of jeans, a button-down blouse, and her underthings, she quickly dressed and checked the wireless service for any messages, hoping and dreading Marc maybe called.
After listening and deleting two promotional calls about sand and surf vacations, she flopped down on the bed. She should be at a beach with a cool drink in her hand, watching Marc frolic in the waves.
"Damn you, Marc, for being so cryptic." She held her hand up, trying to imagine a ring on her finger.
She sort of had to hand it to Marc. Being secretive and cagey definitely didn't count as his usual style. The guy couldn't keep a secret to save his life on a good day—unless it had to do with deployment or mission operations. Chloe snorted. She sometimes wished Marc respected information about their private life as much as he did need-to-know orders. He had a very bad habit of sharing intimate details with the guys in his platoon. Chloe sort of hoped now that most were married, their juvenile discussions would taper off.
. She sat up and bolted off the bed.
She needed to shut her brain down and move out before the edgy feeling creeping back up on her ruined the fun. She snagged her keys and base ID from the desk and decided to walk to her location. Flipping the lights off, she exited the guest quarters and blew out a long breath.
Doing her best to shake off the nervous tension, she headed for the street.
* * * *
The air show brought on the usual adrenaline high, and Jason looked forward to hanging with his mates afterward. He grabbed a shower on base and changed into civilian clothes, meeting up with Deuce and Jagger. They piled into a cab and left to meet the rest of the crew at an ethnic restaurant not far from base. Since all twenty members of his squadron were attending, Jace figured they couldn't help having a great time.
And without the usual gaggle of clingy females, the competitive vibe between the guys almost didn't exist. They had enjoyed their meal and started off a night of drinking right there in the restaurant. After a full-blown round of extreme ribbing, Deuce suggested they hit the favorite bar of each pilot, have a shot or a pint, and let off a lot of steam.
With a pensive feeling crawling back inside his head, Jason put up a mental block to his bad mood and managed to mostly enjoy himself—for a few hours, at least.
They'd hit Jace's choice ten minutes before, and he'd finally reached his wall of tolerance. Yet he didn't want to go home and be alone with his thoughts either.
Deuce jibed him about his dissatisfaction. "Jace, my man, it's gotta be a phase." He slapped Jace on the back. "Whatever's got you twisted up will get straightened out. You'll see."
Deuce might be right, but Jason felt like a time for change had come.
A big one.
Jason would finish up his current stint in less than a year, and a decision to re-up hovered in the wings. Jason honestly couldn't say he'd go for four more years. He'd been approached to test-fly civilian jets and have a hand in their design, and he could work on military projects, too.
He had to admit, the idea sparked interest. So did having a chance to settle down and maybe find someone to share his life with—if such a woman existed.
Jason envied his brother. Marc could be an immature brat, but he'd found the woman of his dreams. And Jason actually liked her—even after the completely bizarre introduction, Chloe had quickly won him over.
To that day, Jason didn't get his brother's need to push everything too far—like when Jace first met Chloe and Marc set it up so Jace mistook her for a stripper. As usual, Jason had responded exactly as expected, with an overreaction much to Marc's great amusement. Jason had been so angry he'd stalked out of the club so he wouldn't punch his brother in the face.
He'd got halfway up the block before he heard the clatter of heels running to catch up with him.
"Jason! Please, wait. Hold up!"
He had slowed his pace but didn't stop walking. In his current mood, if Marc happened to be with Chloe, Jason would lay him out and enjoy doing so. He wanted to be happy for his brother. Hell, he
happy for him. Chloe had outlasted every one of Marc's previous hookups. Jason had been proud of him… until five minutes before then.
Chloe had caught up, minus her shoes, which dangled from her fingertips. Jason admired the fact she'd removed them in favor of speed. She fell into step beside him and walked to the next intersection where he had to wait for a red light.