In which Adelie finds that sometimes it’s best to enjoy the moment without thinking too far ahead.
His suggestion caused heat to flush Adelie’s chest. He stood in front of her, looking like he was about to actually kiss her. Like during their pond picnic, they had made it into difficult emotional terrain again. Dangerous, difficult terrain. His hugs had been wonderful, he was using possessives and all of this was rather disconcerting. He was not to have exclusively and yet he acted like he was. She realised they were staring at each other and cleared her throat.
“Oh dang, now we’ve missed the sunset. But look, there’s another treat coming in.” She pointed at the horizon east of Meadow Junction, where a succession of tiny, fast-growing, blinking lights had appeared. “A convoy.”
“Lucky us, huh?” His voice was threaded with relief. She turned and straddled the bike again, and to her surprise, he slid on it behind her. “The wind is getting cold,” he said, as he put his arms around her again. Sneaky bastard. She should tell him off. On the other hand, he was right, the wind was rather chilly, and having him in her back was beyond comfortable. She ignored the content spreading through her like warm syrup and focused on the lights. They had grown into diminutive spacecraft, rushing through the sky.
“Look, there are ambulances.” Nate turned her attention to a string of emergency vehicles coming from the airbase hospital and beginning to line up at the end of the airfield. Bunker Hill provided an excellent view. The drop ships grew quickly and then fell into a circling pattern over the base. One by one, they made a dash for the landing strip and then taxied to the waiting ambulances. Hatches opened and then each of them dispatched its cargo: Stretchers with wounded soldiers. “It’s a medical convoy. A hospital ship must be in orbit.”
Icy cold poured down Adelie’s back as she watched the choreographed dance of nurses and medics on the field, and she nestled closer into Nate’s embrace.
“You okay?” Nate tightened his hold of her as he noticed her shivering.
“I… don’t know. I wondered if that’s our fate too. Ending up on a backwater planet, on a stretcher, rushed to the hospital, more dead than alive.” Her voice dwindled away. “And I thought of Leslie, who likely was getting ready to go home, and now will have to stay to care for them. There are never enough special care nurses on duty.”
His warm breath brushed along her cheek. “These chaps down there are lucky. They’re still alive. They’ve got Leslies and doctors looking after them. Others might’ve not been so lucky.”
They fell silent, watching the ambulances cycling between the airfield and the hospital. Nate’s chest moved in the rhythm of his breathing and her temple touched his jaw. His hand found hers resting on the tank of the bike. His fingertips were smooth as he stroked its back, tracing her knuckles. He had beautiful hands, sinewy with long, elegant fingers. Eventually, he fitted it over hers, encasing her in the warmth of his palm. Their fingers entangled, and she nestled closer. She watched the last stretchers being loaded into the ambulances. Holding hands with a gorgeous man while sitting on a motorcycle in the fragrant air of a summer’s evening seemed like the right thing to do. Who knew how much time she had left to enjoy life?
A nudge from him pulled her out of her thoughts.
“It’s getting dark, Princess. How about dinner at the Lemon Tree?”
“It’s a weeknight.”
“So? Are you not eating dinner on weeknights?”
She turned in her seat and poked him. “Don’t be silly. Of course, I eat on weeknights. I just don’t want to go to bed too late, because I’m supposed to manoeuvre dangerous weapons early tomorrow morning.”
He laughed. “Don’t worry, I’ll get you home before 11 pm, ‘kay?”