Crossing the line, Part 4 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 10)

Our intrepid duo discusses the pro and cons of level-headedness – with a questionable outcome.

The candles in tall lanterns in front of the window bathed the room in a soft light. Rain still scattered against the windows, but they were both dry, clean and fed inside, sprawled on her big white bed. As much fun it was to race through the forest and shot robots with him, this was much better. Adelie ran her fingers through the short hair in Nate’s nape, enjoying the bristle of it against her skin. A happy sigh as his face burrowed into her chest.
“You smell so good,” he mumbled. She made a mental note to only use the jasmine shower gel when he was around. He sighed again and came up. Blue eyes looked at her like none had looked at her before. Loving with a hint of vulnerability. Butterflies all over again.
“Thank you,” he said, tenderly brushing over her cheek. She blinked.
“What for? Saving your ass again?”
He laughed his glorious rumbly belly laugh. “That too, but I meant something else. Thank you for wanting to take the slow road. I’ve forgotten how wonderful it is to take your time.”
One hand slipped under her camisole and fondled her waist. Her fingertips wandered over the peaks of his shoulder blades, the domes of his deltoid muscles, the smooth bulge of his biceps. His body was a work of art, the product of countless hours in the gym, a masterpiece of rippling muscles. Manly. Sexy. She closed her eyes and listened to their breaths that soon fell into unison. It smoothed the wrinkles the day had caused in the fabric of her soul.
“This is lovely,” he murmured. The mesmerising blues of his eyes caught her again as he moved between her legs. His breath blanketed her skin as his lips grazed her jaw and her neck. “I owe you for saving my clean record, babe.”
She cupped his face and brushed her thumb over his rough cheeks. “Come to think of it, why did you slip? I warned you about the loose rock.”
He chuckled and placed a kiss on her collarbone. “Oh… uhm… maybe I was more occupied with how sexy your butt looks in those coveralls.”
“Nate!” Laughing she poked him. “You’re impossible. I should have let that robot get you…”
He shut her up with another kiss. It was a lot hotter than their chaste, fit for the public kisses they had exchanged all week, and this had nothing to do with the remnants of hot sauce she could still taste on his lips. It was a kiss like a thunderstorm after a hot and dusty day, and it swept her away. His hand slipped under her camisole again and cupped a breast. Lightning zipped through her body as his thumb tenderly brushed over her nipple, enlightening a craving fire deep inside of her. His lips left hers for maddening explorations elsewhere, her throat, her shoulders, her collarbones… eventually, he pulled the camisole over her head and ventured further down. Being topless with him was all right, but him heading for her panties was not. But before she could intervene, he blew raspberries into her belly button, causing her to giggle-squeal like a four years old running through a water sprinkler. She grabbed the nearest pillow and whacked it over his head. He laughed, and she laughed and before she knew how they were pummelling each other with pillows. Oh yes, he was competitive and risk-loving. Fun, too. And not above grabbing her around her waist mid-fight and kiss the living daylights out of her.
“Wha- mmmph…” She just sank against him and allowed him to wipe the wind out of her sails. “That’s cheating…”
“I was losing, rapidly. Can’t win when I’m distracted by your lovely tits.”
She sniggered, snuggled closer and rubbed said pair of lovely tits against his chest. “At least you’re not denying it.”
“Are you ever distracted by anything?” He sounded a little exasperated.
She pulled him down with her into the mayhem of rumpled sheets and pillows, smoothed her palm over his flank and grabbed his firm bottom. “If I’d paid attention to how your sexy butt looks in soaked coveralls, you would now sport some severe bruises.”
“Touché. I think I prefer your level-headedness.” He kissed her nose, and she nestled into his arms. Nate reached for the duvet and pulled it over them. As the energy of the fight dissipated, she began to feel cold. Nate himself radiated masculine heat, as usual, making their nest comfortable in no time.
“Why did you blew raspberries into my bellybutton?” She asked, raking her fingers through his irresistible chest hair.
“Because you were getting rigid in the way you only get when something is amiss. I figured maybe things were going too fast, and I was looking for an easy way out… didn’t expect it to turn into a pillow fight, though.”
“You sensed that?” She tapped the tip of her index finger on his sternum. “You knew I was beginning to feel overwhelmed? Having sex with hundreds of nurses really must have fine-tuned you to a woman’s desires.”
Nate snorted. “Woah, babe, I didn’t sleep with hundreds of nurses. I knew that because I spent all summer with you and had the chance to pick up a thing or two about you.”
A sudden wave of tiredness swept through her, and she failed at suppressing a yawn. Wiggling around until she found the perfect position in his arms, she said: “Glad you did.”
A soft kiss on her head. “Me too. Otherwise, I’d barged right through, and things might’ve gotten a little awkward.”

Von schwarzen Löchern und dem Tuten des eigenen Hornes

Ich bin jemand, dessen größter Horror es ist, irgendwie unangenehm aufzufallen. Oder noch schlimmer: Leuten auf den Wecker zu gehen. Nun ist es aber so, dass die Zeiten vorbei sind, in denen Content ganz von alleine seine Leser gefunden hat. Wenn man nicht auf möglichst vielen Kanälen die eigene Werbetrommel rührt, dann wird man schlicht nicht bemerkt. Man sitzt im schwarzen Loch. Das hat bei mir in letzter Zeit doch vermehrt zu Frust geführt. Da ich aber nicht auf alle Ewigkeit meine Leserschaft mit Vornamen ansprechen können möchte, musste was geschehen. Ich muss in mein eigenes Horn tuten, auch wenn mir das echt unangenehm ist. Ich kenne aber auch zu viele andere Autoren, die eigentlich echt gut schreiben, aber mangels Marketing (blergh, ich hab das böse Wort in den Mund genommen!) und gutem Branding (und blergh, da ist das andere böse Wort!) einfach nur vor sich hindümpeln. Ich kenne aber auch welche, die sich geschickter anstellen, und nun die Bestsellerlisten von hinten aufrollen. Obwohl sie in einem viel größeren Markt bestehen müssen, was ich umso bemerkenswerter finde.

Das Blöde ist: Dieses ins Horn tuten funktioniert nur unter bestimmten Voraussetzungen, und jeder Kanal hat da auch noch so seine eigenen Spielregeln. Und diesen wollte ich meine bisherigen privaten Accounts nicht unterwerfen. Ich selber will nicht zu einer Marke werden, und ich will immer noch völlig willkürlich Fahrrad-, Blümchen- und Essensbilder posten können. Und da ich auch noch einen tatsächlichen Real-Life-Job habe, der nicht nur viel von meiner Zeit sondern auch von meiner Energie frisst, musste ich mir auch gut überlegen, wieviele Kanäle ich denn überhaupt realistisch gut bespielen kann. Zeit zum Schreiben will ich ja auch noch haben.

Ich tute jetzt mal etwas lauter als bisher auf der Facebook-Page und habe einen eigenen Schreibselei-Instagram-Account ins Leben gerufen. Da übe ich mich jetzt darin, mehr als drei Hashtags zu benutzen. Mal sehen, ob meine Ideen so funktionieren. Ach ja, regelmäßiger bloggen würde wahrscheinlich auch helfen. Gnah.

Crossing the line, Part 3 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 10)

Adelie learns about the pleasure of having dinner in one’s underwear.

Compared to the bare bone endurance course facilities, Adelie’s small bathroom was the epitome of luxury and girlishness. There was an impressive collection of bubble baths on a shelf, with a pile of fluffy white towels underneath. In front of a tiny window throned a pink orchid. Around her sink stood white porcelain crates filled with make-up and creams and whatever else women put on their faces. Everything was white and gleamed welcomingly in the ceiling light. He dove deeper into the gloriously hot water, enjoying the heaps of sweetly scented bubbles. It knocked.
“Don’t tell me you need to use the toilet – I’m not ready for that level of privacy yet,” he answered.
“Hold on to your hula-hoop, I don’t need to pee. Shall we order in? Don’t see the point in cooking if we’re both so tired.” Adelie’s amused voice.
“Sure, my love.”
“Can I come in and read you the menu?”
He laughed. “If you have to?”
The door opened, and her head peeked around it. “Are you decent?” He flicked her some sudsy water drops, and she squealed. “Stop it!”
“Come in then. No body parts are going to vanish just because you happen to catch sight of them. You were going to see me naked sooner or later anyway, girlfriend.”
With a grin, Adelie came in and closed the door behind her, holding the menu and a notepad in one hand. “That doesn’t mean I’m prepared to behold the magnificence of your nether regions already, boyfriend.” Despite her words, her eyes shifted to where said regions were hiding under the bubbles. Then she looked into his face and turned the same shade as her fluffy pink bathrobe.
“Not prepared, huh?” He teased her, and she stuck out her tongue.
“Okay. You got me. Curiosity is going to kill this cat one day.”
She sat down on the closed toilet lid and read him the contents of the colourful flyer of the Chinese food place they both liked while he built foam towers. “So – you wanted the Pork Chop Suey and fried Wan Tan, right?” She scribbled his wishes on the notepad. He watched her, with her damp hair falling all around her face, and her plush bathrobe. Difficult to believe that this was the same woman who ran through a forest in full battle dress just hours earlier. She’d looked like a badass motherfucker in her black armour, saving his ass once more. As she had finished scribbling, she got up to place their order.
“Babe?” He reached a sudsy hand for her, and she stopped, her eyes wandering over his wet and naked body again. Her careful expression relaxed as their eyes met, and a smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. Then she bent over and touched her lips softly to his, understanding his need for a kiss. He was relieved that bubbles covered his excitement.
They had dinner in their underwear sitting on the love seat. Naked legs crisscrossed each other while oodles of take-out boxes scattered the coffee table. Adelie slurped up the remains of her noodles and giggled happily.
“This reminds me so much of my racing days. Sitting in the motorhome after a long day, eating Chinese take-out, talking specs and strategies.”
“In your underwear?” He couldn’t peel is eyes away from her in a spaghetti strapped camisole, the discarded bathrobe bunching up around her like a deformed waterlily. She giggled even more and slapped his shin.
“Don’t be silly. Of course not.” She placed her empty noodle box next to the others on the table and slouched into the corner of her seat. “I don’t think I ever had dinner in my underwear before. I feel like a proper hoodlum.”
“Welcome to one of my most cherished traditions after an exhausting day. There’s nothing better than dinner while slouching on the sofa in your undies.”
She stretched, and he had to focus on her hair falling over her shoulders and not on her breasts straining against the thin fabric. “Yes, I can see this becoming a fixture in my Friday evenings. Chinese take-out with you after a long week. So simple, so perfect.” Her foot stroked the inside of his thigh. He twitched.
“Huh, that tickles!”
Adelie snorted. “Tell that your grandma…”

Crossing the line, Part 2 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 10)

Poor Nate takes an unplanned bath.

“Are you hit?”
“Nope, but narrowly so. Do you see it? Is it mobile?”
“Don’t move. Ah, yeah, I see it. It’s at ten o’clock, and static. But you need to take it out, I don’t have a clear aim.”
“Great.” She peeked around the corner again to check on the position of her mechanical adversary, waving a stick to trigger the laser sensor. Another spurt fired. “Ah, there you are. Well, not for much longer. You ready, Nate?”
“Yes.” He crouched behind her. She fired three shots, and the cheery shutdown fanfare signalled her that she had been successful. “Hurry!”
They dashed along the path, past the robot and to the bank of a little creek. Water gushed over stepping stones, but it couldn’t drone out the whirring sound of an approaching flying assault robot. “Flying nasty, coming in from upstream. We better dash, there’s no cover here!” She warned Nate.
“Then let’s go!”
They hopped from stone to stone, Adelie leading. Right in the middle, where the water was deepest, a stone was loose. She nearly slipped, but regained balance, just as the first bullets hit the water around them, whipping up little fountains. “Be careful Nate, this one is loose.” With a few daring jumps, she made it to the other side, seeking cover behind another fallen tree. Just as she turned, she heard a yell and a splash. Nate had slipped and was now a prime target for the flying menace. But it hadn’t accounted for its victim having a backup. She knew she hadn’t much time while Nate struggled to get back on his feet, so she quickly took aim on the black sphere. She fired, causing the robot to sway and sending its cascade of bullets into the stream next to Nate. Hurriedly he waded towards the bank, dripping wet. A string of very colourful swears poured through her earpiece, triggering a grin before she focused on saving him from painful bruises. The robot returned, and Adelie aimed again, this time hitting it much better, sending it so much off course that it nearly flew into a tree. Nate crawled behind the tree to safety. Adelie dropped down next to him, checking on him.
“Tiger, are you okay? Are you hurt?”
“There you go, saving my sorry ass once again.” Not even the visor could dampen his sunny smile. He scrambled to his feet. “Let’s get this done and over with. I’ve got enough. And I’m soaked.”
She laughed. “Be careful, there’s at least one battery still waiting for us.”
In the end, they made it to the finish line without further trouble. Payne rewarded them with a commendatory nod as they walked past him. “Klaiber, Havisham, well done. Excellent show of teamwork and resourcefulness, and not a single hit to the body. I’m impressed.”
“Thank you, sir.” Adelie pulled off her helmet, longing for a hot shower and dry clothes. Nate looked as tired as she felt as they gave each other a high-five.
***
The facilities of the training course clearly had seen better times. The academy must have put all the money towards the top notch equipment to make the cadets struggle as much as possible, Nate thought while he examined the black grout between the old tiles in the shower. At least there was warm water. He decided to delay the relaxing part of getting clean and just get the muck off. Adelie’s studio had a bathtub, and maybe she’d let him use it if he asked nicely.
“Hey, Natey-boy, you’ve heard? Bukovski slipped and broke a collarbone.” Jake greeted him as he entered the equally run down locker room, graced by muddy brown, beaten up lockers.
Nate shook his head. “Seriously? How’d he manage that? And Payne won’t like it, at all.”
“Don’t ask me. I just thought you’d like hearing about the fate of your arch nemesis.” Jake shrugged, pulling up the zipper of his hoodie. “Well, gotta dash, see you, bro. Rosalie’s waiting.”
Nate remembered that his own girl was probably waiting too, as he couldn’t fathom her taking a prolonged shower in here either. Still rather damp he put on his clothes, stuffed his equipment into a duffel bag and exited the locker room. And indeed, Adelie was already standing in the tiny lobby, studying faded photographs from the construction of the facility. Like him, she was dressed in the blue USF tracksuit, its hood pulled up over her still damp hair. She smelled faintly of rose shower gel. Delicious.
“Hey, babe – ready to go home?” He said, picking up her duffel bag.
She turned and nodded, smiling her beautiful bright smile at him. “This is one miserable place. I think it might be fun in the summer, but even heat wouldn’t improve the bathrooms.”
Pushing the door open with his back, he laughed. “Indeed. Speaking of bathrooms – would you mind lending me your bathtub tonight? I could really use a good soak after the splash in the creek.”
She followed him through the rain to his truck. “Hopefully, you didn’t catch a cold. Of course, you can have the tub – if you allow me a turn under the hot shower first, though.”
He put the bags in the backseat. “Sure. I couldn’t stand the showers here either.”

Crossing the line, Part 1 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 10)

Our heroes are still soldiers in training, and have to deal with some dangerous training bots.

Rain dripped down into the narrow gap between her helmet and the armour plates. It smudged the sight of the visor and soaked her overall. Adelie crouched behind a fallen giant of the forest, gripped her XTC-24 submachine gun and tried to find a footing in the slippery mud.
“There are two of them behind that boulder at two. Static. Lined up nicely. Three shots each.” Nate’s voice crackled in her earpiece. She had no idea why Payne liked to team them up, but she sure was happy to have a capable partner in the exercise. “Roger. You left, me right?”
“Roger. Three, two, one… now.”
They popped up behind their cover and fired each at their assigned assault robot, a little sphere with a menacing laser eye and a turret gun spewing rubber bullets. They sat atop a boulder overgrown with thick tufts of soggy moss. As Nate predicted, three shots took them out quickly. They sneaked around the boulder, backs pressed against the rough surface. No rubber projectiles hurtled towards them, so they carefully crouched along the path snaking along between fallen trees and rocks. Somewhere behind them, they heard the telltale “tock tock tock” of rubber hitting armour plates echoing through the forest and someone howled in pain. Adelie focused on the path in front of her, to not suffer the same fate.
“We’re approaching The Wall. There must be some robots there.” Nate said, ducking behind another tree.
“Lemme check.” Adelie picked up an arm-thick branch from the ground and threw it from behind her cover towards a steeply rising wall of wet rock, from which a cargo net dangled. Right on cue rubber bullets fizzed across the clearing in front of it. “Here you go.” A closer inspection of the clearing revealed stationary spheres in the underbrush to the left side.
“Dammit.” Nate cursed under his breath, making her earpiece crackle with static. “These are the ones that you can only disable for a short amount of time, and they’re aiming right at the net. You have to climb quickly if you want to avoid getting hit.”
“I have a better idea. One of us goes first, the other gives cover, and once up they return the favour.”
“Okay. You go first.”
Adelie stuffed her gun into its holster and dashed across the clearing towards the net. Bullets whizzed by, but Nate did an excellent job of taking the little spheres out of commission. The net was wet and stiff under her fingers, and only her gloves protected her from scraping her skin on the rough surface of the wall. Climbing up was harder than expected, due to the loose structure of the net and the rigid armour. It felt like a tortoise doing mountaineering. Eventually, she pulled herself over the edge, struggling for breath and with arms on fire. She rolled on her tummy, eyeing the clearing below, spotting the assault robots in the bushes. Little red glowing dots betrayed their position from her vantage point.
“Okay, I’m up.”
“Right, I’m coming. Once hit they’re out for 10 seconds, and there are five of them.”
“Gotcha.”
The only thing she had not accounted for was the shakiness in her arms after the climb. Hitting the mark wasn’t as easy as she had thought, and once or twice Nate almost got hit.
“Christ, what are you doing up there!” He hissed while dangling in the net, narrowly escaping the dreaded “tock”. “Do you want me covered in bruises?”
“Save your breath for climbing. You’ll try hitting such a tiny aim with tired arms the next time.”
“True. Sorry.” His head came up over the ledge, and she helped him up. Panting he laid on his back, reminding her of an upturned bug in all the hard armour. They were both wet, covered in mud and tired. Four hours on a gun-rigged endurance track were not for the faint of heart.
“Come on, we’re nearly there.” She pulled Nate up. Their next obstacle was to get across a slippery tree, bridging the gap between their rock and the next. Adelie straddled the tree and scooted along, feeling Nate close behind. The tree bent under their weight, but it held. Once safely on the other side, they had to climb down steep steps hammered into the stone until they reached the ground again. A cascade of rubber bullets nearly hit her, and she pressed herself against the rock in her back. Her surprised yelp alerted Nate who was still up on the last step.

Getting used to it, Part 4 (Alpha and Omega, Chapter 9)

Let’s just say, Nate is a hot contender for the Best Boyfriend Award…

Nate strode along Adelie’s street with hurried steps, brandishing the biggest rose bouquet his budget had allowed. He had acted like a prime fool, and he sincerely hoped she would forgive him his lapse. There was her house. He took two steps at once, barely able to endure another minute without apologising. He pressed the bell button. It took a moment, then the door hissed open, but Adelie didn’t greet him at the entrance like usual. Slightly confused, he hung his coat on the rack and freed the flowers from their protecting paper shell. Venturing into the studio, she was nowhere to be seen. Adelie wasn’t on her bed, and she wasn’t at her desk. Then he heard a groan as from a dying animal coming from the bathroom and cold sweat beaded on his back.
“Lily, are you in there? Are you alright?” Was she so upset that she’d turned sick?
The door opened, and she leant against the frame, almost doubling over. Her face was ash-white and her lips a narrow line. One hand was pressing the hot water bottle against her stomach. “Yeah, I’m okay.”
“You most definitely do not look okay.” He prepared to throw the flowers into one of her armchairs to catch her if she should faint, as she looked as if she was going to any second.
She waddled to the love seat and sank down on it, curling around the hot water bottle. “No, really, it’s nothing. Just got my period. Sorry, if this is too much information.” She looked at him as if she was expecting him to turn on his heels and flee the premises. He couldn’t blame her, after the events of the afternoon. She nodded towards the roses he was still holding in his hands.
“They are beautiful. Are they for me?” A faint smile.
He cleared his throat. “Ahem. Yes. I… I acted like an idiot this afternoon, and I wanted to say I’m sorry. Very sorry.”
Her smile grew wider. “Thank you. Yes, you acted a little silly. But I wasn’t any better, was I? I should’ve seen that Pat is a red flag for you. I just found his background interesting.”
“Two silly idiots then…” They grinned at each other, and he bowed down to kiss her. “What was the thing you wanted to tell me about the exercise next week?”
“Oh, that! Payne said he wants to team us up again. He didn’t tell me his reasons, though.”
“Maybe he’s of the same opinion that we are: We make a good team?”
“I’m not convinced that’s his reasoning.” She poked him. “Be a dear and go hunting for a vase in the kitchen, will you? I don’t want to move right now.” He found a vase on the top of her cabinets, filled it with water and put the roses inside. As he returned to put the arrangement on her coffee table, he found her twitching to find a better position on the seat. She was in discomfort. A wave of compassion washed over him, and he sat down next to her, brushing her forehead lovingly. She might not be up to any horizontal shenanigans, but his other capacities as boyfriend were in hot demand right now.
“Do you need anything? Should I go to the pharmacy, get you some painkillers? Do you need other, uhm, supplies?”
Her smile never ceased to amaze him. “I just took some painkillers. I usually don’t have cramps this bad. If… if you could rub my lower back, though, that would be lovely.”
He did as requested, rubbing the small of her back in circles with the heel of his hand. “Better?”
“Actually, yes. Thank you so much.” She half turned and kissed him, and he wrapped her in his arms, adjusting the bottle on her stomach as she snuggled into his embrace.
“No big deal.”
She sighed. “It might not be a big deal for you, but it means the world to me.” The trusting way she nestled into his arms, her hand sliding under his open hoodie, coming to rest on his chest and her happy sigh reconciled him with the day. They did fight, but they also made up. He could regain lost points for his stupid behaviour with being there for her now. He stroked her neck, her soft hair falling over his hand, and she looked up and smiled at him. Her hand moved to his neck, thumb brushing over his chin and jaw. He lowered his head, and she met him halfway, kissing him softly. “I’m so glad you’re here.”
He was glad too. “Can I do something to help you relax?”
A soft chuckle. “You’re here, that’s more than enough. Just hold me.”
And so he did, while they cuddled on her love seat and dusk darkened the room. Later, after the cramps finally lessened, they cooked together and watched a movie afterwards. Before he fell asleep holding her, his last thought was, that being with her was always wonderful.

Getting used to it, Part 3 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 9)

Communication is a key skill in any successful relationship – but Nate and Adelie clearly have yet to master it.

“Sheesh, he has balls. This is my territory.” Nate grumbled under his breath as he saw Bukowski and a cute brunette enter the Lemon Tree. Adelie placed her hand on his arm.
“Stop being silly. You only work here.”
“Luckily, not today. Otherwise, I’d even have to serve him.”
She sniggered. “He seems to be able to work his crooked nose in his favour, at least when it comes to the ladies. But I really pity him if he only came here to mistreat you as a waiter.” They watched the pair finding a table on the other end of the moderately full diner, thankfully not paying any attention to them. Adelie wasn’t keen on a reprise of the events at the Officer’s Club, but to her relief Nate quickly lost interest and turned his attention back to the yummy apple pie and his girlfriend. He looked gorgeous in his crisp white shirt with rolled up sleeves and a pair of nicely fitting jeans. To delegate her thoughts elsewhere, she impaled another piece of her own apple pie on her fork, and after swallowing it, she said: “Actually, I should have pity with him.”
Nate nearly choked on his lemonade. “With Bukowski? Why the heck is he worth your pity?”
She couldn’t help but smile. “Did you know his father is a five-star big head up in USF command?”
“No. Does this excuse him from being an asshole?”
Adelie leant back, pensively twirling a strand of hair. “According to the sources, General Bukowski isn’t exactly known for being a gentle man. He comes from a middle-class family from Elnor and was the first of his family to be admitted to one of the Academies. He made his name in the Battle of Bazoo III, and from what I gather, he expects his son to be equally ruthless and eventually equally successful.”
“Nonsense. I have a working class background, and this doesn’t make me an asshole.” Anger furrowed his brows. Adelie took his hand and wove her finger through his.
“Tiger, unlike Bukowski you are an exceptionally gifted pilot and you don’t have the pressure of a General expecting you to become his successor sitting on your shoulders.”
He huffed and tried to keep is voice low. “Are you expecting me to have compassion for him? Even with an asshole father you still can treat a woman with respect. Christ, Adelie, he called you a whore.”
“Nathan. There’s no reason to get all worked up because of him. I merely wanted to shed some light on his background.” She tried to keep her voice calm, but this seemed to enrage him only further. A vein ticked on his forehead and his face slowly turned red.
“Don’t go haughty at me, Baroness.” He hissed between clenched teeth.
“Don’t call me Baroness when you’re upset with me.” She had her pride too. Very carefully she folded her napkin into a perfect rectangle and placed it next to her plate. She gave him a forced smile and stood up, put on her coat and picked up her purse. “Come over when you’re done acting like a toddler with a temper tantrum. I was actually looking forward to telling you what Payne related to me this morning concerning the endurance training next week, but now I’m not in the mood for it.” She left him sitting there fuming, and her stomach roiled with upset. She had found the Bukowski family dynamics merely interesting, but clearly, Nate had understood that not as intended. With a sigh, Adelie turned her steps towards her home. She wasn’t sure if Nate would indeed come over after he’d cooled off. A tug in her stomach suggested that she’d spent the evening curled around a hot water bottle anyway. Just what she’d needed to crown the day.

Getting used to it, Part 2 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 9)

Because my favourite reader is in “No Internet Land” over the weekend, and I don’t want to keep her hanging, here’s a surprise episode… sans cruel cliffhanger. 😉

His stomach constricted with icy fear. Was she having second thoughts about them? He scrambled to his feet, fishing for his boots.
“Gimme ten minutes, I’ll be right over.”
“Okay. And Tiger, please… drive carefully.”
“I will.”
Tiger. He stared befuddled at the device. If she wanted to end their relationship calling him by a pet name for the first time ever wasn’t making any sense. He burst through his door and poked his head into the kitchen. “Hey Eds, you need the truck tonight?”
Eddy looked up from wrestling a toy from Snoot’s snout. “No, I don’t. Has something come up?”
He was already halfway out of the house. “I don’t know, Adelie just called, and she sounded upset.”
It took him fifteen minutes, but only because he obeyed the red lights and drove carefully, as she’d requested. Having no patience to wait for the elevator, he ran up the six flights of stairs to her studio. Adelie opened the door as soon as he rang. Her lips were pressed into a thin line and her brows furrowed in anger. He wasn’t sure if she had cried.
“Hey, little Spitfire, what’s up? What happened?” He sat down on her love seat, hoping she would join him. Instead, she paced the room.
“Leslie was just here. Congratulating me. But I never told her! She was so happy for me. Not even here I can have some privacy! It’s infuriating!”
She wasn’t making any sense, and he had no chance to get a word in edgewise. So he did the only thing a man could do to shut up a woman in a polite way. He got up to intercept her frantic course, grabbed her by the shoulders and kissed her quickly. Drawing back just far enough to still feel her breath on his skin, he checked if Adelie was about to scratch out his eyes or if she was up for more. She looked at him bewildered and confused, so he touched his lips to hers again, lingering this time. Gradually, she relaxed, seeking him. Their kiss deepened. Her hands, first flailing, found his chest, then his shoulders, then she wound her arms around his neck and melted against him. He enfolded her in a tight embrace as the tension in her body lessened. She was still his, she wasn’t going to split up with him. Adelie broke up the kiss and buried her face in the crook of his shoulder.
“Thank you,” she murmured.
He kissed her sweet neck, brushing back silky tendrils of chestnut. “You’re welcome. Now, what got you worked up so much? Leslie breached your privacy, or what was it?”
“Oh.” She lifted her head and looked at him as if she only now remembered why he was there. “That.”
“Yeah?”
“Someone saw us kissing and apparently the news spread like wildfire among the nurses. Leslie heard from a friend that Nathan Havisham was kissing a girl in broad daylight on the steps of the library, and she deducted that things between us must have worked out, so she came over after her shift to see if she was right.”
“But why were you so angry?” He pulled her to the love seat and into his lap. Adelie put her arm around his neck, and he wound his around her waist and thighs. It took him a lot of willpower to not shower her throat with kisses. She was just in a t-shirt and sweat pants, and that was the most casual attire he’d ever seen her in.
“Pangs of history. Being stalked by paparazzi all the time. I had hoped I would find privacy here, but I underestimated your fan girls. I’m not keen on being lynched by a mob of rabid nurses.”
He laughed. “Don’t be silly. I haven’t touched a nurse in ages.”
“You’re still in high demand.”
“Worried about my fidelity?”
She cupped his jaw. Gold-speckled amber quizzed him wordlessly but since the day she saved him from the van, he knew that he could never be not faithful to her.
“You’re an honest guy. I trust you.” She kissed him, pushing her hand into his hair and he kissed her back, his hand slipping under her shirt, seeking the smooth curve of her waist. He inched his hand higher, but before he could find out if she were wearing a bra or not she sat up straight again and he froze. “But the whole incidence reminded me that we should maybe maintain a professional appearance. We’re soldiers after all. Perhaps we should keep the kissing to times and places when we’re alone.”
“No.” It came out more forcefully than he intended, and her eyes widened in surprise. He paddled back a little. “Well, yes, you’re right. We shouldn’t smooch while we’re in uniform and on duty. That’s a no-brainer. But I insist on the right of kissing you in public when we’re off-duty. Nurses or no nurses, I want to greet my girl the right way.”
She chuckled, her surprised frown softening. Then she leant in and kissed the tip of his nose. A smile crinkled her eyes. “Okay, okay, okay. I underestimated how important this is for you.”
He huffed and poked her waist. She twitched. “You underestimated…? Oh, come on…”
Giggles. She was pulling his leg for sure. She poked him back, and he cursed under his breath that he’d allowed her to find his weakest point over the weekend. In vain he tried to squirm out of her reach, but Adelie knew no mercy. At long last he managed to twist and roll and pin her arms safely between them, burying Adelie effectively underneath him.
“Gotcha,” he breathed hotly down her neck. She wiggled helplessly, still giggling.
“You do.” Her eyes looked up trustingly into his.
“Now, what shall I do with such an insolent girl like you?” He kissed her softly, muffling further giggles. “You really are a menace…” He explored the velvet skin of her neck. She sighed, all excited tension from their tickle fight leaving her body. Convinced that he was safe from further attacks he gave her a little room to breathe and free her arms, and she wrapped them around his torso.
“Mmmh… what are you going to do with me?” Her defiant eyebrow again. A quick glance at the clock on her nightstand. It was getting late.
“Nothing.” He sat up, rubbing his face. “I mean, not that I don’t want to do something, but that would mean neither of us would get enough sleep to survive tomorrow. And you said you wanted to take your time…”
She laughed, smoothing his hair back into order. “Are you free for another lunch date tomorrow?”
He grinned and tugged at a strand of her hair. “I can’t have the night with you, of course I’ll take the lunch date instead.”
“Tiger.” She breathed a kiss on his cheek. “I’d love to spend the night with you, but you’re right… tomorrow is another long day. And you’ve got to work at the Lemon Tree too. I’ll better let you go home and sleep.”

Getting used to it, Part 1 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 9)

Our heroes try to find their footing in their changed relationship.
Adelie stepped out of the library. A cold gust of wind forced her to adjust her scarf and trundled yellow leaves over the steps. The sky was a bright, autumnal blue and she looked forward to catching some sun rays with Nate during their lunch break. She found him leaning against one of the pillars in front of the entrance, handsome as always in navy slacks and a grey wool coat. The butterflies in her stomach exploded into a happy cloud of swirling dance.
“Hey, sorry – hope I haven’t kept you waiting?” She stopped in front of him, beaming. He smiled and put his hands on her hip to move her even closer.
“Hello, babe.” He kissed her softly, and she sighed. “No, I didn’t wait long. Just arrived a few minutes ago.”
“You look tired.” The wind had its way with his hair, and she brushed it back into order. There were faint shadows under his eyes.
“Didn’t sleep. Missed you.” He pulled her into another kiss, a little more demanding than his sweet welcome. She put her arms around his neck and stilled her own need of him. At length, they disconnected. Nate looked at her with hooded eyes, brushing his thumb over her cheek.
“Already missing me? We just spent a whole weekend together?” She gently teased. He grinned sheepishly.
“I got used to being your pillow quickly. And missed your smile as the first thing I see in the morning. Also, it’s Monday. I don’t like Mondays.”
She laughed, took his hand and pulled him down the steps. “Come on, you grumpy grouch. Let’s go to Todd’s and enjoy the sunshine and our lunch break together.”
“Two hours of lunch are a meagre exchange for eight hours of sleeping next to you.” He playfully tugged at her ponytail. She poked him. He put his arm around her shoulder and nuzzled her neck. “Didn’t you miss me at all? Were you able to switch back to discipline and business just like that?”
“No.” She nestled into his embrace while they walked along the street. “I wasn’t. My thoughts kept tracking back to you all morning. Couldn’t stop daydreaming about our wonderful weekend and how you kissed me goodnight yesterday…”
He chuckled happily. “That’s a relief.”
They were early enough to be ahead of the crowds and scored a window seat in the bistro. Soon after they’d ordered their food, the place filled up. But Adelie didn’t pay attention to her surroundings. She was focused on the man sitting in front of her, who insisted on holding her hand underneath the small marble table. The weekend with him had consisted of long walks hand in hand across the windswept meadows behind the old farm, impromptu cooking lessons and movie marathons. In one way nothing had changed, but yet everything was exhilaratingly different. New. Now it was possible to touch his face, hold his hand and kiss him whenever she wanted. Now she could snuggle up to him when she was cold, and he would kiss her forehead softly.
“What’cha thinking about, babe?” He threaded his fingers through hers under the table.
She looked up and smiled sheepishly. “I thought about… us.”
“I gathered as much from the dreamy look on your face,” Nate grinned as she huffed at him, fastening his fingers as she wanted to pull her hand away.
“I thought about how just as everything around us is dying and getting ready for a long winter sleep… how we found something blossoming and blooming. And I thought how I can now do things I couldn’t do before… little affectionate gestures, kissing or simply snuggling with you.”
***
Nate pulled off his sweatshirt and kicked off his boots the minute he entered his room. Finally, Monday was over. He fell on his bed, thinking about the delightful lunch he had with Adelie. It had been the only good thing about his day. Payne had been true to his name again. He stretched his aching muscles and listened to Eddy talking to his dog Snoot in the kitchen. Just as he was dozing off, his InstaComm rang. Adelie. That was new. She had never called him before.
“Babe, what’s up?”
“Hi Nate, I… uh, sorry to call you out of the blue… I… uh… can you come over?”
“What’s the matter? You sound upset.”
A sigh at the other end of the line. “I need to talk to you. Something has happened. And… I don’t want to do this over the phone.”

Movie Night, Part 4 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 8)

Adelie is forced to stay the night at the old farmhouse – and she’s not too thrilled about it.
Adelie shrugged off her coat. Nate caught it and hung it up, then turned back towards her. Instinctively she stepped closer, and he took her into his arms. In the chilly air of the hallway, he was warm and cosy. One hand slipped up her back and settled on her nape, fingers digging into her hair.
“Why are you upset?” He whispered.
She sighed. “I’m not upset… I’m… not used to this yet? I wanted to take things slow. Enjoy dating, letting things build up gradually. Make sure I know what I’m feeling before I take the next step.”
“Mh, I see.” His voice was a soothing rumble. “And why do you think staying here would lead to rushing things?” The caress of his fingers on her nape was maddeningly sweet. He smelled good, and she snuggled closer, pressing her nose into the space between his shirt collar and his neck.
“Because my self-control has limits.” Just to prove her point, she brushed a kiss onto his stubbly throat. To her surprise, which manifested in a very girly squeal, he scooped her up and carried her back into the nice, warm living room, where the embers of the fire filled the room with a faint glow. A swift kick with his heel closed the door behind them and shut out the cold.
“Whatever the limits of your self-control are, I’m not going to test them in the frigid cold hallway,” he mumbled into her hair as he sat down with his load on the sofa.
“Guess I should be thankful for your consideration,” she teased, huddling into his embrace. His warm male body was irresistible. He nuzzled her neck.
“I’d love to make you come undone, babe.”
Her hand found its way onto his nape, playing with his hair. “The trouble is, you don’t need much to make me come undone.”
Nate chuckled. “Is this the ex-racer speaking, putting the pedal to the metal, eager to reach the finish line?”
“Maybe.” She rested her forehead against his, staring into the bottomless blue of his eyes. “We’re both risk-loving, competitive people. That’s a combination as safe as gasoline and a box of matches.”
Nate roared a merry laugh, his whole body vibrating underneath her. “Are you afraid of a big BOOM…?”
“Nate!” She shoved him and he wrapped her in one of his wonderful hugs. Truth was, she loved being in his arms.
“You can have my bed, and I’ll sleep here. How about that? Sounds less dangerous?”
“Sounds lonely. And cold.” She pushed a strand of hair back behind her ear, looking into his beautiful blue eyes as if the answer to her conundrum was hiding there. “I don’t know.”
He chuckled again and kissed her temple. “How about watching Peter, Polly and the Inca Temple, and we decide afterwards about the sleeping arrangements?”
***
Nate woke from the sweet sensation of breath wafting over his naked chest. The second thing he noticed was the warmth of a human body. A supple, female body nestled snuggly against him, a leg hooked around his, a hand on his chest. Her head was on his shoulder, his arm loosely around her waist. He was conquered, and he surrendered happily to Adelie’s sleepy invasion. Her chest moved with the ebb and flow of her breathing. Calm. Peaceful. Adelie sighed and burrowed her nose in the crook of his neck, causing a whole flurry of emotions to rise in him. There were familiar desire and the still new but now accepted need to protect her against everything. He tightened his arm around her, feeling her ribcage move under his hand. There was also something else, a third emotion joining the chorus in him, a bright and jubilant voice, hopeful, powerful. He let it fill him because, with Adelie in his arms, everything felt right as rain. Her hair smelled faintly of jasmine as he brushed a soft kiss onto her forehead. This caused her to stir, to turn and to free his aching shoulder, but also gave him the opportunity to spoon with her, to bury his face in her hair and to wrap his arm tightly around her. A tiny, happy sound that he answered with a soothing growl he had no idea he could make. For a while, he drifted in and out of sleep, happily wrapped inside a bubble of bliss, until nature demanded a trip across the freezing hallway to the bathroom. As he slipped back under the covers, Adelie moved.
“Nate?” Her sleepy, raspy voice was tinged with worry.
“Yeah, I’m here babe. Go back to sleep.”
She nestled into his embrace, face pressed against his sternum. “Where’ve you been?” She mumbled.
“Bathroom.”
“You’re cold.” She wrapped her arms around him, pulling him against her warm, pliable body, tugging at the sheets until they covered his shoulders. “There, better.”
He chuckled and nuzzled the crown of her head. “Thank you, sweetheart.”
“You’re welcome.”
“I should make breakfast and get you home,” he said.
It was still too dark to see, although the slit in the curtains gradually became more visible. Adelie emerged from the cave formed by his body and the sheets, her body brushed against his. “Do you want to get rid of me?”
“What? No!” He wrapped his arms around the smooth curve of her waist, ignoring the opportunity to slip his hands under her shirt.
“Then why’d you want to get me home?” Her legs tangled with his and her hand smoothed over his pecs and came to rest in the tuft of chest hair. He grabbed her firmly and rolled on his back, pulling her with him, so that she ended up halfway on top of him. She squeaked in surprise but didn’t move away.
“I don’t want to bring you home. I don’t even want to get out of bed. But I thought you’d might have errands to run or other stuff to do. You didn’t plan to stay overnight after all.”
She stretched, squishing her breasts against him in the process. Then she settled in his arm, her head on his chest. She sighed, then said: “The only thing waiting for me is dirty laundry and an engines textbook.”
He pushed his hand into the waterfall of chestnut silk that flowed over his shoulder until he found her neck. She made a contented sound as he gently massaged it.
***
Nate’s touch was firm but not painful. Somehow he seemed to know exactly where to gently knead her strained neck muscles. The steady beat of his heart lulled Adelie back to a state of slumber, so she almost jumped as he eventually spoke again.
“When we fetch your laundry and the textbook, will you stay until tomorrow night?”
A whole weekend with him. Another night in his arms, which was reason enough to stay, but there was so much more. More kisses, more cuddles, more of his excellent company. Maybe even more massages. She craned her neck a little to brush a kiss on his stubbly throat, causing a rumbly growl of contentment in him. “Forget the laundry, I can do that next week. Toothbrush, nighty and hairbrush are mandatory, though.”
His chuckle made him quiver under her. “Don’t you like to sleep in my t-shirt?”
She lifted her head and shifted closer, feeling for his face with her hand until she found it. Leaning in, she brushed her lips over his and whispered: “It’s very comfy, but lacks a little sex appeal.”
“You’ve no idea how sexy it is to see your girl in one of your shirts.”
“Oh, is it? Maybe I’ll ditch the nighty then too…”
His hand had left her neck in favour of groping her bottom, and she giggled happily. His face was just a charcoal-sketched shadow in the faint morning light, but her fingertips filled in the details she couldn’t see: Bushy eyebrows, the scruff on his cheeks and the generous curve of his lips.
“So you’ll stay?” His voice was soft and hopeful.
“I’ll stay.” A sigh of relief lifted his chest, compelling her to bury her face in the crook of his neck and to hold on to his broad shoulder. They fell silent again and just laid there in the twilight. Nate absentmindedly stroked her back in languid movements.
“I should really make breakfast. And check the conditions outside.” He eventually said.
“Do you have to?”
A soft laugh. “We have to leave the bed at some point…”
She sighed dramatically, causing him to laugh even more. “If you say so.”
He moved, dropping her into the pillow in the process, but to make up for it, he also kissed her cheek tenderly. She slid her hands over his neck into his hair, holding him closely. “You said you don’t want to leave the bed…”
“Never said I’d particularly enjoy leaving it.” Nose tips rubbed against each other. “Happy that you decided to sleep here, and not on the sofa?”
She chuckled and ran her fingers through the short hairs at the back of his head. “Very happy.”
“Good.”