Authors: ML Skye
Tags: #science fiction adventure erotic romance
Stars burst behind her eyelids, but she shook it off. Jason sucked in a breath and winced.
He kept his tone light. "Thought you'd never ask."
He stepped into the fray, grabbing one of the guys and spinning him around to meet his fist. The guy went down, but Jason got grabbed by the arm and Max got a solid punch in, splitting Jason's lip in the process. Jason landed his own jab and knocked Max backward to land on a pool table. Max didn't get back up, and Jason's face showed more than a little satisfaction with laying the guy out.
He made his way over to Chloe, and with their backs together, they slowly made their way out of the bar. Only two of Max's friends made an attempt to follow, but the crowd more or less swallowed them up when Jason and Chloe stumbled out the door.
Once outside, Chloe leaned up against the exterior, slowly sliding down until she crouched close to the sidewalk. Still seeing stars, she figured she hit her head harder than she thought. Looking over toward Jason, two of him hovered in her line of sight, but she attributed that to the alcohol. She let out a chuckle that ended on a groan.
Jason sucked in the cool night air, then turned to check on her. Her cheek burned, and she'd lay odds she'd have a big purple bruise along her cheekbone. Bet that would look really lovely tomorrow.
He used his thumb to wipe the blood off his lip. "Well, that was fun."
She groaned again, and he stooped down to get a look at her.
Chloe's head swam, and she heard Jason talking, but he sounded very far away.
He'd said something about fun, so Chloe quipped, "Glad I could show you…" She lost her train of thought, and his face blurred out of focus. "Show you…" She remembered what she wanted to say. "A good…" The world went black, and she sagged against Jason.
* * * *
Fuck. Marc would be pissed if anything happened to Chloe.
He tilted her head up, saying her name. "Chloe… hey, come on." He felt around her skull and found the nasty bump on the back of her head. "Chloe." He patted her face lightly. "Stay with me here… Chloe." He let out a relieved breath when she moaned and opened her eyes.
Chloe looked up and probably wondered why he hovered inches away from her face.
"What the hell, Jason?" She shoved away from him before she realized he happened to be holding her up.
Jason tightened his arms around her, not letting her hit the ground. "Chloe. Stop." He braced her against the building and leaned back, giving her some breathing room. "You've got a nasty bump on the back of your head… take it easy." He stood, and she went to do the same.
Wincing, Chloe used the building for support, and she slowly inched her way upward.
She smiled ruefully. "Sorry 'bout that." Her eyes lost focus, and she blinked again, reaching out for Jason.
He wrapped his arm around her, holding her upright.
She blew out a breath. "Damn, Jace… what the hell is wrong with me?" She put her arm around his waist and forced her feet forward.
Jason held her close to his body, providing support. "We should get that bump checked out."
When he went to make a turn at the corner of the block, Chloe stopped suddenly, and their feet got tangled up, nearly dragging them down. Jason's quick thinking kept them from hitting the pavement, but they staggered and bumped into the building next to them. Chloe ended up sprawled against him with his arms holding her up.
"What the hell, Chloe?" He pulled her upright and looked directly at her.
She shook her head once. Emphatically. And Jason remembered she hated hospitals.
"I don't need this bump checked out. I'm fine, Jace." She forced herself to stand upright on her own. "See. No problems." She walked two steps and stopped, putting a hand to her forehead.
Jason could literally imagine the pinpricks of light swimming behind her eyes. He'd had the same experience more than once. Deciding it not worth arguing over, he figured he could watch over her for the rest of the night.
Jason walked up beside her. "Okay… no hospitals." Carefully draping an arm around her shoulders, he started a slow walk down the sidewalk. "I've got a place about three blocks up." Glancing down to make sure she heard him, he continued. "You at least need some ice on that." He let out another relieved sigh when she nodded against his shoulder.
Even with an aching head, Chloe laughed at Jason's less than dexterous ability. It took him two tries to get the door unlocked. He pushed open the paneled wood and let her precede him into the small space he called his own. He kept the place simple, neat, and pristine. Of course, Jason couldn't spend much time there; he usually deployed for months at a time. But he often mentioned he hated the quarters on base, and the apartment meant he didn't have to stay there.
Hanging his keys on a hook by the door, Jason nodded toward the sofa. "Why don't you have a seat?" He entered the small kitchen area and grabbed a towel. "I'll get some ice for that bump." He opened the freezer and scooped out some cubes, wrapping them up.
She walked past the kitchen and glanced around. "Why did I not know you had an apartment here?"
Jace called out. "It's one of my better kept secrets. And I'm rarely here. Just nice to have someplace to crash that isn't on base."
Chloe slowly made her way to the sofa, caught a look at her face in a mirror and grimaced. Her cheekbone had swollen and had the beginnings of a massive purple bruise on it. She couldn't wait to explain the injury to Marc. She sank down on the couch and rested her head against the cushions, looking up at the scrolling pattern on the ceiling of Jason's apartment. The waves looked like they were in motion so she closed her eyes against the rolling patterns and let out a sigh. Ah God, how did she get herself into these messes?
Jason sat down and touched her shoulder gently. "Here's the ice." He slid it under her head when she lifted it up off the cushions. "I brought a wet rag, too. You have some small abrasions that should be cleaned up." He handed her the cloth.
Chloe gingerly touched the rag to her cheek, hissing in a breath at the burn of the contact. She dabbed it across the puffy area on the bone, then swiped it over her chin. She must have scraped it on something, but she'd be damned if she could remember what.
Jason took the rag from her. "You missed a spot." He ran the wet cloth over an abrasion at her jawline.
Chloe's skin tingled at the brush of Jason's fingers, but she chalked it up to being half drunk.
Her eyes took in the blood from his split lip. "Uh… you're not in the best shape yourself." Snagging the cloth from him, she dabbed it at the corner of his lip, wiping away the dried blood.
Her lips turned up in a small reflective smile. "Not one of my better nights, tonight." Satisfied she'd cleaned up Jason's lip, she leaned back and noticed his eye had a darkening circle under it. "Ouch. Your eye is gonna hurt tomorrow." She handed the cloth back to him, reached behind her for the makeshift ice pack and sat up straighter. "Did I say thank you yet?"
* * * *
Jason's body had an immediate response to having Chloe's hands on it.
Embarrassed by his reaction to his brother's girlfriend, he stood up and headed for the kitchen. "Not necessary. I'm kind of glad I was there." He rinsed the cloth and draped it over the faucet to dry. Back in control, he made his way back into the lounge area. "How's the head?" She had leaned back against the cushions again, resting her head on the ice.
Chloe lifted up and felt for the bump. "Ice is working, the lump's already smaller." She turned to look at him standing next to the couch. "You can sit, Jace. I'm not gonna pass out again… at least not from the bump on my head."
Heh, he knew the feeling. The adrenaline had worn off, and his drunken state calmed… at least a little. But Chloe seemed almost giddy.
Even though it put him in close proximity to her, Jason sat, grateful for the reprieve. Delayed reaction had him a little frazzled. He sank down beside her and leaned his head back against the cushions.
Turning to look at her, the question begged. "What happened?" He'd already worked out most of it, but the thought of her taking on five guys without Marc as backup freaked him out.
Chloe shrugged. "Minding my own business, throwing darts and Moron Max decided he didn't like being ignored." She closed her eyes.
Jason realized how lucky it had been that he
Chloe continued. "He got a little too friendly, and I was already in a bad mood." She glanced in Jason's direction. "Bit off a little more than I could chew, though. Didn't I?"
Jace had become all too familiar with her 'it happens' expression.
It wouldn't do any good to chastise her so he changed topics. "So Marc's at home? With Mom?" He'd spoken to his mother earlier in the week, and she hadn't mentioned Marc stopping by.
He wondered what Marc had going on.
Chloe nodded. "I think he was using her as an excuse to go." She bit her lip, then decided to continue. "He's not just going home to see her. My gut is never wrong. There's another reason he went back."
Jason sat up, ready to leap to his brother's defense. "You don't think he's cheating, do you?" He didn't let her answer. "Marc doesn't cheat."
At least, he hadn't yet. Probably the one thing Jason would always give his brother credit for.
Marc… totally over the moon in love with Chloe… and sometimes, Jason could actually see why. Okay, most of the time he could see why. Chloe had a reputation as a force to be reckoned with. She'd proven it in the bar tonight.
Chloe's lips turned up in a crooked smile. "Relax, Jace. I know he's not cheating." She rolled her eyes for emphasis. "Always jumping to conclusions, aren't you? Sometimes that analytical brain of yours hurts more than it helps." She shook her head.
Jason ignored the jibe. "You know he loves you, right?" He leaned back against the cushions again. "More than life."
Marc's catchphrase when he loved something. For some reason, when it came to Chloe, Jason always struggled to get those words out.
And it had nothing to do with the alcohol he'd consumed. He always choked a little when Marc used the phrase about Chloe.
* * * *
More than life
. The words always gave her pause. And coming from Jason, the phrase had an intimate sound. Unlike when Marc boisterously made the declaration, Jason had a gruff, gravelly tone that gave her goose bumps and made her hot at the same time. It rankled, being attracted to Jason on some weird level. They had nothing in common but flying, yet she had a connection with Jason even while she loved his brother.
Shaking her head, she decided she needed to get over the attraction right then.
Chloe looked back up at the ceiling. "I know Marc loves me. And I think that's why he went home."
She clasped her fingers together, twisting them, before she blurted, "I think he's going to propose when he gets back."
There. She'd said it out loud, and the world hadn't ended.
The pole-axed expression on Jace's face showed his surprise. He hadn't been expecting to hear her suspicions… and he seemed a little shaken.
He responded with caution. "You think Marc's going to propose?"
Chloe sat up. "You're surprised?" She had been when she let herself think about it. "I know I am. And I could be wrong about why he went home… but I don't think I am."
She shook her head in befuddlement. Why in the hell should she tell Jason about this? Maybe to protect herself… or him? But from what? Her weird fascination with him.
Nope. Had to be nerves… it had to be.
Or the alcohol.
Or hell, it might just be the man.
She glanced in Jason's direction. He'd slouched down on the couch with his feet up on the glass table. Forgetting about his relationship with Marc for a moment, she admired Jace, taking note of his lean build with muscles in the right places. His eyes were closed, but they could hold a range of emotions… she'd been drawn to his eyes before anything else. If she'd met him before Marc, she doubted anyone could have pried her away from Jason's side… at least not until she had him figured out.
Charming, funny, confident, and very internal, he rarely showed his witty side, but when he did, he could make a person laugh until they ached. And his intelligence floored her sometimes.
Jason had a mind like a steel trap—once it closed in on something, it didn't let it go until every detail had been committed to memory. She found that incredibly sexy. He could also lay a person low with very few well-chosen words.
He didn't suffer fools gladly and held nothing back when he thought he had something right. She took pride in winding him up just to watch him in action. He tended to be magnificent when he set out to make a point.
And the man could fly like no one else.
Chloe jerked herself out of her thoughts. She must be feeling the effects of the alcohol and being in the proximity of a tremendously attractive man. Her mind had wandered into dangerous territory, and she needed to stop thinking before she did something she'd regret.
And she would regret doing anything… right?
* * * *
Jason tried to work through his feelings about Marc proposing to Chloe. He should be ecstatic for his brother, but he sadly lacked the emotion. He honestly never considered the possibility Marc would actually marry someone. It shouldn't bother Jason… his brother would be a lucky man. Vibrant, humorous, and self-assured, Chloe had more passion than anyone, male or female, he'd ever met.
Her instincts were razor sharp and dead on. She faced things with a surefire confidence and tackled problems with a gusto he envied. He surprised himself by finding that insanely attractive. She fought for what she believed in, wouldn't take crap from anyone, and would go to the mat if she thought she had something right.
He thoroughly enjoyed setting her off with a random comment and watching her tear the place up with her fierce defense of something. Amazing to behold. And in the air… she went unmatched… she'd been born to fly.