The Marmoset, Part 4 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 7)

In which Jake plays an unfortunate part.

Jake ushered his lady towards their turn on the dance floor almost as soon as they got back. Nate didn’t mind having Adelie for himself a little longer. She sat next to him and watched the dancing couples, one hand supporting her chin, the other resting on his thigh. He reached out and traced a finger over her beautiful pale back, dewy with transpiration from dancing herself.
“Hey.” She turned towards him and nestled into his opened arm. “What’s up?” Her eyes were almost black in the dim light of the lamp hanging over their table.
“Nothing. You look a million credits tonight… it’s hard to resist not touching you.”
A throaty laugh. “Thank you.”
“Are you having fun?”
She nodded, “Yes! Beautiful venue, great music, great drinks, and very agreeable company.”
“Agreeable? Just agreeable?” He poked her shoulder, and she giggled happily, shifting even closer. Continue reading

The Marmoset, Part 3 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 7)

Things get finally to the sizzle point…

Nate wondered if he’d finally met a woman too hot to handle. Adelie was not only breathtakingly beautiful and dressed to the nines, but she also was not evading him in any way. He was failing spectacularly at keeping his hands to himself, and she apparently had no interest in telling him he should stop. Their bodies had a conversation of their own, and there was a chance it became anything but civil soon. He needed to get her on the dance floor. He needed to be alone with her. He gave Jake an asking glance. Good wingman that he was, he just smiled and nodded him a go ahead, then focused again on his own woman.
Nate leant close to Adelie, whispering in her ear: “Do you want to test the dance floor?”
She turned her head and whispered back, her lips tantalisingly close to his skin: “I’d love to.”
“Well then, let’s go.” Continue reading

The Marmoset, Part 2 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 7)

More fluttery butterflies in Adelie’s stomach.

Adelie watched him steering the little sports car calmly and confidently. It was obvious that Nate enjoyed driving it, but he wasn’t a show off driver, a quality she esteemed greatly. They weren’t talking, but the silence wasn’t uncomfortable. Now and then, he quickly looked over, their eyes met, and he smiled. At a red light, he fitted his hand over hers resting on the middle console, threading his fingers through hers, thumb brushing along her index finger.
“Do you like dancing?” He asked.
She caught his thumb with hers. “Actually, I do. Do you dance?”
He smiled happily at her. “I love it.”
Fingers tightened around fingers in happy anticipation. Then the light turned green, and he had to let go of her hand. Continue reading

The Marmoset, Part 1 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 7)

In which Leslie turns into a protective mother hen and Nate forgets that Adelie is a former racer.

Leslie sat in one of Adelie’s armchairs, ready for another night shift. Her uniform was starched and ironed, and her nurse cap throned between two perfect blonde victory rolls. Her mouth was twisted in disapproval. “I wish I was your mother, so that I could say ‘No, you’re not going on a date with him.’ Seriously, have you lost your mind? Aren’t there any other cute boys worth your attention?”
Adelie adjusted her earring in the bathroom mirror and took a step back to see through the door. “Frankly, no. Nate is a wonderful human being, once you get past his womaniser shell.” Returning to perfecting her appearance, she picked the bottle of her favourite perfume and dabbed the fluid carefully behind her ear. “I like him; I like him a lot. He cares, he’s never dull, and I’m happy to tell you, he has never stepped out of line once.” She walked out of the bathroom to put on her shoes. As she shimmied into her stiletto heels, she heard Leslie gasp. Continue reading

Calibrations, Part 5 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 6)

In which it is time to face the music.

“She’s gorgeous. You have great taste.” Adelie never reacted in the way he expected. Nate didn’t quite know how to answer the compliment.
“Uh, thanks?” Avoiding his look, she played with the napkin holder, biting her lips. “You’re not holding her up against me, are you?” He asked.
She shook her head and sat upright with a sigh. “No. I can’t, can I? It’s just… weird. Weird to see you with another woman.” She aligned the napkin holder with the condiments tray. “I think I’m a little bit jealous.”
“Jealous?” Of all things, this was the last he’d expected her to be.
She turned and contemplated him openly. Her gaze swept over his chest and shoulders, lingered briefly on his mouth, wandered over his cheeks, forehead, nose and came to a halt at his eyes. She licked her lips and sighed again. “You’re gorgeous. It’s not like I didn’t notice.”
He raised his eyebrows. “So? If you want me, you can have me. You know I’m a full-service guy.” Continue reading

Calibrations, Part 4 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 6)

In which one of Nate’s nurses makes an appearance.

“You don’t like Eden?” Nate guessed.
Adelie sighed. “Eden itself is beautiful. There’s no place quite as beautiful, and I’ve seen a lot of other planets. But it’s still a relatively small colony, they’re still not done with populating the first continent. It’s perfect for adventures in unexplored regions if you’re into that sort of thing, but my mother never let me go. It wasn’t befitting for a baroness to go exploring.”
“You sound like life there was like a bird cage for you.”
She nodded. “I had everything and nothing at the same time. I had tasted freedom on the Planet 500 tour, and settling back in was very hard. I felt like I hit the brakes at full speed. Everything had come to a halt. That’s probably why Christopher had such an easy time fooling me. Only that he loved my status and my money more than me. And I so want to be loved for myself and not just for my status and what comes with it.”
“But you are!” He blurted out, unable to stop himself.
She craned her head and smiled at him. “Am I?” Continue reading

Calibrations, Part 3 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 6)

The ugly mess that are broken hearts.

He felt her taking a deep breath. And another.
“Christopher…” Her voice was strained, and she swallowed hard. Then she sat upright, still looking like if she was on the verge of tears. Adelie pushed back a strand of hair and looked into the garden, where silver veils of rain danced in front of the flower beds. “He made me believe I was in love. He played me like a stupid fiddle, and I was too blind to see it because I was bored to death after my return from racing. Then, the evening before our wedding, I finally saw it as what it was: a ploy to gain rank and status. The house of cards collapsed.”
“Holy shit.” He put his arm around her shoulder, needing to comfort her. She nestled into his embrace, her forehead resting against his collarbone. “I had no idea you were practically standing in front of the altar as the relationship failed. I’m so sorry, Lily. That must have hurt… that must have hurt.” Continue reading

Calibrations, Part 2 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 6)

Decisions over paint chips and matters of the heart.

Holding her, even just as loosely as Nate was holding her now, was the best thing in the world. Adelie had installed herself in his life in a way he’d never imagined as he’d opened the door to let her in. Her smiles, her conversation, even her teasing – there was something profoundly missing when she wasn’t there. The colours were brighter when she was around, with her travel sized watercolour kit and her determination to capture happy memories.
“Why don’t you just snap a picture?” He once had asked, as she sat in the middle of the workshop yard, painting the garage and his bike, hair aglow like spun bronze in the setting sun.
“It’s not the same,” she had answered, “the emotion is missing. This is how I see it with my soul.”
As a former racer, she was good with a wrench and not afraid to get dirty. No more blindly groping for tools, she handed him the right one before he could ask and he missed her second set of hands every time she wasn’t there to help him.
He tried not to think about what this meant. Instead, he pulled her a smidgen closer and mumbled: “Too be honest, I was looking for something the shade of your lipstick. It’s the perfect juicy red.”
She giggled. “You’re in luck, I have it in my purse. Let’s compare.” She freed herself from his tender embrace and fetched the tote bag sitting on a chair. They picked the closest matches and Adelie held her lipstick next to them.
“This one comes quite close. Or this. The others are either too blue or too orange, don’t you think?”
His glance clung to her lips, and she probably could have read him the space force’s code of conduct, he’d still be as mesmerised. Even after all the weeks he knew her, he hadn’t gotten used to her beauty, her appeal, and it still had the power to derail his brain. Other women had vanished from his radar completely.
“Nate? What do you think? This red, or this red? I think this one would look fantastic with metallic flakes to add some depth.” She looked at him with raised eyebrows, holding up two paint chips. Focus buddy.
***
“Pick the one you like best. I trust you more with this than myself.” He was somewhere else with his thoughts, Adelie could tell, and she could also tell that these thoughts had something to do with her. She had no idea what to think about this fact.
“This is flattering, but I’d like to wait and see how they look when it’s sunny.” Resolutely she reunited the two paint chips with their brothers on the table and snuggled back into her corner of the swing. Nate was still watching her, a pensive look on his face. She prodded his thigh with her knee. “Why so gloomy?”
A smile flared up like an old aerobeacon. “I’m not gloomy. I thought about our summer adventures. How much fun we had. I’m gonna miss our weekends together.”
She scooted over and used him as a backrest. His arm naturally fell around her shoulder. Calm spread through her like it always did when they were close. “Why d’you think we won’t spend time together over fall and winter?”
A soft chuckle. “Because it’s unusual enough that you were willing to spend your summer weekends in the dirty garage. It’s freezing cold and uncomfortable in the winter, even with the oven glowing red. And we won’t be able to take trips to the coast and visit our secret cove, either.”
“There are some art galleries in town I could drag you to,” she suggested. “If you need a reason to meet up, that is.”
His chest expanded in her back, then air left it forcefully. “What d’you mean, Lily?”
She sat up and turned around so that she could see his face. “I mean that I’d be perfectly happy with holing up with you here or at my place. Watching movies, or something.” She took a deep breath and stared at their touching knees. “I liked being here because I had you for myself. I don’t need trips to the coast or an art gallery opening as an excuse. I… I just want to spend time with you.”
Nate remained silent for a minute that stretched into eternity. She couldn’t meet his gaze, so she kept on staring at their legs. Eventually, he moved, reached out for her face and gently lifted it. Embarrassed, she blinked as their eyes met. Sun-faded indigo, little dabs of Prussian blue, streaks of almost white. His irises were an endlessly fascinating kaleidoscope of different hues of blue. His wool sweater was soft under her palms as she slid them over his chest. Nate himself radiated a comfortable warmth. His hand moved from her chin to her cheek, cradling her face.
“My little Spitfire,” he whispered. “Beautiful, fierce, little Spitfire.”
The sharp memory of Christopher and his lovely words that meant nothing stabbed her heart again and the pain must’ve shown on her face. Nate furrowed his brows and pulled back a little.
“What’s the matter? Did I say something wrong?”
She shook her head, blinking back the tears. Hoping that her voice would not crumble, she said: “No, no, not you.”
He tugged her close, and she gave in to the impulse of finding shelter in the crook of his neck. Nate had always been open and honest, and she wished she could believe that what he said was true. That she was his little Spitfire. That she could trust him.
“What did this asshole do to you?”

Calibrations, Part 1 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 6)

Rain, motorcycle repairs, and scones on a porch.

Rain fell in a steady rush. It gargled from the spout of the gutter, and it splattered into the puddles in the yard. It was still warm enough to leave the garage doors open, but it was clear that the violet and orange asters behind the garden fence were summer’s last hurrah. Soon Nate would need to close the doors and fire up the old cast iron stove. He turned his attention from the dripping bushes to the woman sitting on an upturned crate, polishing chrome accents for his bike. Adelie wore a rust coloured, thick cabled sweater; her old fatigue trousers pushed into chunky work boots. The right attire for a day at a dirty workshop, but too concealing for his liking. He missed the days of sundresses that showed off her perfect figure. His back lamented his crouched position behind his motorcycle, and he stretched. The movement caused her to look up and smile. She put her work aside and stood up, crossing the space between them with large strides. Putting her hands on his shoulders, massaging them lightly, she bowed over him to study his progress with the bike.
“Hey, that’s looking great. You’re almost done with reassembling it.”
He fitted his dirty, oily hand over hers on his shoulder. “All thanks to you and your steady Saturday company. Don’t think I’ve come that far in just a couple of weeks if it weren’t for you.”
“Come on, what I’ve gotten to do with your bike?” She pushed her knees into his back, ruffling his hair with her free hand.
He craned his neck to look up. Amber brown eyes shone down on him. “Oh, a whole lot. First, I finally want to go riding with you on my own bike. Then you’re always asking about my progress… and I’m not one who likes to show up empty handed, so I kept working on it. And last but not least your quiet company. Your willingness to get your hands dirty and help me.”
He got up and stretched his legs. Adelie reclined against the workbench, arms crossed in front of her chest. She watched him intently with a tilted head as he strutted around the garage to get the blood in his legs flowing again. He had enough of tinkering with tools and tightening bolts for one afternoon. He wanted to spend some time gazing into two compassionate brown eyes and listen to her mellow voice.
“You know, I think I’m done for today. How about some tea on the back porch? The garden offers a much nicer view than the workshop yard anyway.”
She laughed, pushing herself away from the bench. “You are aware that it is raining, yes? Not exactly the weather I envision for tea on a back porch.”
“I am. But you like the swing, and there are blankets and pillows. It’s really cosy on rainy days.”
***
He was right. The back porch was a comfortable and cosy place, even with the rain. Adelie picked up a blanket and sat down between the thick pillows of the porch swing. Gently swinging, she made herself comfortable, not for the first time wondering why a house of three men had wicker chair cushions with floral patterns. It looked quaint and almost grandmotherly. Behind the railing with the chipped white paint, soggy pink roses nodded in the breeze. Way back at the end of the garden, she could see Bob’s yellow sou’wester peek over the bushes now and then. He was digging up a bed in the vegetable garden, prepping it for the coming fall. The garden was Bob’s domain, just like Eddy’s was the workshop where he was always building or repairing things. Nate had made the kitchen his realm, and she admired how the three men had turned the whole place into a home. It was old, and some corners desperately needed work, but it still breathed more life than her polished and styled studio back in the Star City complex.
Nate kicked open the screen door, both hands busy holding the tea tray. He had switched his ratty work sweater for one without oil stains and holes, brushed his hair and washed his hands. On the tray, he had piled up scones, marmalade, clotted cream, cups and a teapot painted with blue flowers, and both her heart and her stomach appreciated the view. She patted the space next to her and with a bright smile, he joined her on the swing after he’d set the little table in front of them.
“You’ve outdone yourself again, English,” she mumbled while munching one of his scones.
“Thanks, Princess.”
“Why’s Bob digging up the garden in this weather?”
“Because he’s a stubborn mule. He’s leaving for another concert tour tomorrow and said it couldn’t wait until his return.”
After a delicious scone break, Nate asked if she could help him picking a colour for his bike and went to fetch the paint chips.
“Here are the ones I collected, but I can’t decide. It’s all red to me.” He turned with pleading eyes to her and dropped a small pile of painted squares into her lap.
“Oh my gosh, that’s a lot.” She placed the chips on the table to study them. Indeed, they were all different shades of red. “They’re all pretty. What are you looking for?”
He’d sat down next to her and pushed the swing with one foot. His warmth enticed her to lean against him, and he put his arms around her, his chin on her shoulder.

A Matter of Honour, Part 6 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 5)

Nate finds a special button to push and Adelie makes a confession.

“How do you manage to keep a straight face through all of the abuse?” Nate sounded worried, and as Adelie looked up, she found a new warmth in his eyes. He’d driven her up to Bunker Hill again, this time in the truck and with a picnic basket, and they had made themselves comfortable in the truck bed, enjoying the view while the driver’s cabin sheltered them from the wind.
“I guess I’m just used to it. It’s not as bad around here as it was in the race camps. And – at least that’s what I keep telling myself – they don’t really mean me. They see me, and they have a particular idea of me, but they don’t know me. They abuse the picture they have, not me.”
He huffed. “Still. It’s not fair.”
“No, it’s not. But it’s also no reason to tarnish our little celebration. What do you have in your mystery picnic basket?” She grinned at him, and he grinned back.
“That’s a secret.”
She quietly observed him while he unpacked the culinary treasures in the form of sandwiches and cake onto the picnic blanket. She also had to remedy the picture she had had of him, and she must say, she really liked what she had found.
“We all do it, though, don’t we.”
He looked up. “We all do what?”
Adelie smoothed her hair back and cocked her head. “Create ideas of people before we know them. I certainly had an idea of you, and it couldn’t have been further away from the truth.”
His smile was pure tease. “What was your idea of me, and what did you find instead?” Hot blush crept into her cheeks, and his smile grew wider. “Come on, tell me.”
“Oh, alright then.” She huffed. “I thought you were really full of yourself, a playboy, the typical poster boy for a cocky pilot.”
Nate waggled his head. “This is not an entirely wrong assessment. Even though I prefer the terms ‘dashing’ and ‘daring’. Or ‘impossible’, but only when you say it.” He looked up and winked. She blushed. Again.
“Sometimes…” She smoothed the creases out of the tea towel that served as their picnic blanket. “Sometimes I wish we would spend more time together. I like you.”
He rummaged around inside the basket, but she could see him smile. It was a very private smile, almost invisible if not for a cute dimple in his cheek. “Spend more time with me doing what?” He asked, making eye contact again. She bent over until her face was only centimetres away from his.
“Oh, I don’t know. Riding motorcycles? Sitting in truck beds watching space ships? Anything, really.”
“Anything, huh? I see…” His smile was downright dangerous. Gently he brushed a hair from her cheek.
“There’s no reason to say this so sleazily, English.”
“But it makes you blush. It’s so flippin’ hard to make you blush.” He contemplated her face, his gaze wandering over her lips, cheeks and nose up to her eyes. Heat rushed into her cheeks again, and he smiled. “You’re unflappable. Not a red hot button like me.”
“You certainly found my blush button.”
He laughed softly at her confession. “Even worse – I like to push it.”
“Are you always such a shameless flirter?”
“Oh yes.”
She scooted over, and he wrapped his arm around her. For a long while, they watched the incoming ships in silence. Eventually, he squeezed her and said: “Just so you know, I want to spend more time with you, too.”
“You say that as if you usually don’t spend time with people.” She craned her head to catch a glimpse of his face, but it was unreadable. He cleared his throat.
“I usually don’t spend a lot of time with women.”
“What?” Adelie struggled to sit upright again, which he prevented with tightening his grip around her. With a huff, she gave up and instead poked her finger into his ribs. “I thought you’re the guy who’s very successful with nurses. Leslie explicitly warned me about you. Is that not spending time with women?”
She heard him chuckle. “There’s a fundamental difference between going out with a woman once or twice, spending time with her in bed afterwards, and allowing someone into your life.”
“But you can’t fall in love with someone if you don’t let them into your life!” She blurted out, biting her lips immediately afterwards.
Nate sighed, then said, after a pause: “I don’t believe in love. It just leads to pain.”
“That’s not true!”
He turned his head and nuzzled her hair. “Says the one who cried bitter tears about some guy who broke her heart. Look, my parents had a gruesome divorce. I have trouble believing in happily ever afters after I’ve seen two grown-ups fight over a teapot like two toddlers in a sandbox.”
She pondered his words while they watched a Class 3 Sandhawk touchdown on the runway, the mighty roar of its engines reduced to a faint meow due to the distance. “And yet you once tried and let somebody close enough to hurt you with their dishonesty.”
His body became stiff for a second, then he exhaled forcefully. “Yeah, once I did.”
“So, no more women allowed in Nate Havisham’s life?”
He chuckled. “There’s always an exception to the rule.”