Here is a sneak peek of JC Phelps fourth book of the Alexis Stanton Chronicles. I am excited to see what happens next.
“Brown informed me this is our last morning in the simulator.” Will’s voice was full of regret.
I sighed into the microphone. “I know. I finished training yesterday.”
“He told me you did great with EOD. You’ve done great with flight training, too. As soon as we get a chance I’ll take you up in one of the jets. This time you’ll have the controls all to yourself and Brown will have no say.” His voice perked up and became somewhat sinister.
Butterflies fluttered around in my stomach. Mostly in anticipation of flying the real thing instead of only doing simulator time but partly at the thought of spending time with Will.
Flight training and getting to know White’s little brother better had been the only reason I was able to complete Explosive Ordinance Disposal training. I wondered if Brown knew this and that was why he allowed me my extra curricular activity while the other trainees were under more rigid rules. I’m sure being a partner in White and Associates helped my case. Also, I always suspected Brown of trying to fix Will and I up.
As my feelings for Will grew so did my guilt and longing for White. The old adage out of sight, out of mind, popped up almost every day as my thoughts inevitably wandered to White. However, it couldn’t be right. I couldn’t get him out of my mind. The similarities between the brothers didn’t help me to forget White, either. Every day Will would say something that reminded me of White, but he did have his own way with things, too. For one thing, he was much more open in our conversations than White had ever been.
Even though Will was back home and I was at the Nevada compound, the mornings I’d spent with him had made me appreciate him for more than just White’s cute little brother. My guilt was thick but I kept reminding myself that White and I had never moved past one kiss. It became easier and easier to like Will as the days passed not only because of his personality but because I’d been here for four months and White hadn’t even attempted to contact me. So much for mutual feelings.
“Rick told me you should be home this afternoon.” Will rarely referred to his brother by his alias, Mr. White.
“When did you talk to Rick?” The butterflies became agitated at the mention of White’s name.
“Oh, I’ve been going to the office almost every day since you started training with me. He asked me to keep him up to date on your progress.”
White wasn’t completely ignoring me. Actually he was ignoring me but he wasn’t ignoring my training.
“He hasn’t contacted me at all since I started EOD.”
“He wouldn’t. You’re in training.”
“He always has before. Plus, Brown lets me talk to you.”
“Well, you were new. Now he knows you can handle yourself and Brown. Plus,” he used my word, “I’ve been involved in your training this time around.”
“I suppose.” I didn’t completely believe Will. Deep down I still wanted White, but I knew it was probably one of those things that would remain forever in the background. Besides, Will and I had become closer and, if I could get past my White obsession, I could possibly find myself quite happy with Will at my side.
The conversation turned, as it usually did, to what we were supposed to be doing in the simulator – flight training. The time allotted for our session expired too quickly. We promised to get together as soon as I got home and exchanged glum goodbyes.
“I thought you were going to be in there all day,” Brown startled me as I stepped out of the simulator.
I caught myself just before I toppled backwards. “I didn’t expect to see you here, you sneak.”
Brown laughed. “I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to get home. I packed for you.” He held out my large duffle bag.
“You didn’t snoop through my stuff, did you?” I grabbed at it.
“Of course I did. You’re boring. Did you know that?”
“Asshole.” I replied and I meant it. Brown and I acted like siblings, but I was acutely aware that he was not my brother. The last thing I wanted him doing was touching my underwear.
The two of us made our way to the chopper that Brown had ready to go. I thought he’d let me fly, at least part of the way home, but he wouldn’t let me touch the controls.
“Why won’t you let me fly?”
“Because, you’ve spent the last four months in the simulator and I haven’t been able to fly anything. I’ve been grounded because you needed EOD training.”
I had always wanted to learn to fly but I didn’t realize my passion until Will took me up in the jet so many months ago. The main thing the two of us had in common were the stars in our eyes whenever we even thought of flying. Until now, it never occurred to me Brown must have the same feelings. Though my fingers itched to take the controls, I understood his need and decided to be content just to be up in the air.
As we neared the office building that housed White & Associates and our apartments I became more anxious.
“Do I need to check in at the office?” I had mixed feelings about this. Four months of wondering where I stood with White had put a strain on me and I dreaded all outcomes. If White had gotten over me and only wanted a professional relationship I would be heartbroken. Yet, if he was happy to see me and wanted to pick up where we left off… I was scared to death of showing him how I felt. I had been sure he was the one, until I spent so much time with Will.
“Nah. I have to go give your final progress report so you’d have to wait, anyway. I’m sure White can find you if he needs to.” Brown set the chopper down smoothly.
“Okay. I’ll be in my apartment if anyone needs me.”
I tossed my duffle bag in the corner and headed to my computer. Technology was always what I missed the most when I went off for any kind of training. At least that’s what I thought I missed the most for the first five minutes. Time slowed to a crawl as my eyes wandered back and forth from my computer screen to my phone. Is he going to call?
A knock on my door made me jump in my seat. I straightened my shirt and my hair and answered it.
“Glad you’re home.” Black said as he walked past me into my apartment. I was only slightly disappointed.
“I’m glad to be home.”
“Brown and Will just briefed the rest of us on your progress. Sounds like you did just as I expected.”
“EOD sucks, but the flight instruction kept me going. So, what’s been going on?”
“Not much. Small jobs that we’ve been farming out to the employees, nothing needing any of the partners. I should have gone to the cabin.” He’d made his way to the coffee pot.
“Sorry. I’ll make some.” I reached around him and pulled the freezer door open. “Grab the coffee for me.” I’d learned after my extended trips the best place to put coffee, so it doesn’t go stale, is the freezer.
“Here,” Black handed me the cold container. “I think White might have something for you coming up.”
“Will it be EOD related?” I loved watching things blow up – from a distance. EOD had been exciting and informative but I wasn’t enthusiastic about messing around with chemicals or mechanisms that had the potential to turn me into tiny pieces, liquid or vapor. The stress level was quite high. But, knowing I’d been part of a big explosion did have an empowering effect.
“Not really.” Black was generally tight lipped and had already spoken more than what was normal. Something about the way he said this made me pay closer attention. It was almost undetectable, but there was amusement in his expression.
“What do you mean, ‘Not really’?” I narrowed my eyes.
“No. It has nothing to do with EOD.” His expression was one of complete seriousness. I narrowed my eyes even further, not sure if I’d imagined it all.
“Then what was that look all about?”
“Well, it does have the potential to be explosive.” He grinned openly.
I couldn’t help myself and smiled back. “What is it?” Though his smile was infectious, I was still apprehensive.
“White wanted me to ask you to go out on a date.”
My heart leaped and my stomach fell. What did he mean? A date with White or a date with Black?
“His name is Mr. Johnson.”
My heart rate returned to its normal pace and my stomach hit the floor.
“A job?” I managed to hide my disappointment.
“Yep. Information retrieval.”
“Who is this Mr. Johnson? And why didn’t White ask me to do this job?” I added as an afterthought.
“He’s a man with information to give and White knew I was coming up so he asked if I’d make the offer.” The faint amused look had returned to his face. “Oh, and the client specifically asked to present the info to you.”
“Who is Mr. Johnson? He specifically asked for me?”
“I’ve been asked not to give his real name, but you will know him.”
“How am I supposed to make a decision if I don’t know all the facts?”
“Trust in your partners.” Now his look was openly pleased.
I narrowed my eyes again.
“Just for the record, this is White’s deal.” He cringed somewhat at my look.
I knew something was up, especially after Black so quickly blamed the job on White when I didn’t just jump at the opportunity.
A knock at the door saved him from more in depth questioning.
“Yes or no?” Black stood at the same time I did.
“Yes. But I reserve the right to change my mind. When is the job?”
“Tomorrow night. There will be a car waiting for you in the garage at nineteen hundred hours. Dress… fancy.”
Black had followed me to the front door and finished his sentence just as I opened the door to find Will.
“Will,” he greeted him as he slid past us and out the door.
Will reached out and shook his hand and turned back to me. “May I come in?”
“Sure.” I was a little breathless. “See you later,” I called to Black as he stepped into the elevator.
“I was in the building and thought it would be terrible if I didn’t stop in.” Will said as he took a seat at my kitchen bar.
“I’m glad you did.” My innards were getting quite the workout today.
“Would you like some coffee?” I gestured to the freshly brewed pot.
He was quiet while I poured him a cup but I could feel his eyes on me.
“Thanks.” He said when I handed him the steaming brew. He took a careful sip as I refilled my own cup.
The moment became decidedly awkward.
“Do you realize we’ve not actually seen each other since that time we were both at the Nevada compound?”
I smiled. “Yes. That thought has actually crossed my mind several times.”
“It’s different than talking to a microphone,” his suggestive looks had me actually blushing. He was definitely a Malone boy.
“Would you like to join me for lunch?” His look was confident and his tone of voice didn’t waver but I noticed that his coffee cup was shaking in his hands as he set it down. Was he actually nervous?
“I’d love to.” I accepted his offer with more enthusiasm than I intended and felt my face growing warmer again.
“Shall we, then?” He rose from his seat and offered his arm. I took it and we quietly made our way to his vehicle in the parking garage.
The tension lifted as he drove us to the restaurant and we talked about my EOD training. (page fourteen) He’d not undergone much training for explosives and was genuinely curious, unlike me. It hadn’t taken me long to realize it wasn’t something I wanted much to do with in the future. However, I humored him and told him all about my training.
Inside the restaurant the conversation changed to various topics, like it usually did during my flight training. We talked about childhood experiences. He told me about the time him and Rick tried to parachute from a rock wall with pillowcases. Rick made him jump first and he almost broke his arm.
The addition of Rick Malone, A.K.A. Mr. White, into our conversation threw me a little. I’d actually forgotten he even existed in the short while Will and I had been together today. Rick was the last person I wanted to think about while out to lunch with his brother. The reminder that he did exist injected feelings of guilt. It’s just lunch. I had to tell myself.
After internally berating myself I told the story of the first time I jumped from an airplane with an instructor and then ended with the first time I jumped to the cabin and was pulled into the lake with the parachute. The description of how hard it was to pull that damn thing out of the water made him laugh.
I ate as slowly as I could without being obvious and I noticed that Will’s eating pace matched mine. I wondered if he ate so slowly for the same reason I did or if he was just being polite. When I finally finished my sandwich I expected to leave but we sat and visited for an hour more.
Eventually, the looks from the wait staff made me conscious that they probably wanted their table opened up for new customers. I suggested we had better go and Will paid for our meal. I left a substantial tip so they wouldn’t be too put out we’d held up their table for a couple of hours.
“Thank you for lunch,” I said as we walked into the parking lot.
“Do you want to go for a walk?” Will had stopped in the middle of the road and indicated the sidewalk with a shift of his head.
“Sure.” I wanted nothing more than to spend more time with Will.
It took us half an hour to cover two blocks to the nearest park where we sat on a bench. Time didn’t seem to exist until the sun started to set.
“We better get back,” I said, looking at the sky.
“Would you like a tour of the carrier?”
“Yeah. I’m shipping out soon. Someone has to fly the jets off the ship. I thought you might like a tour before I go.”
“You’re leaving?” I didn’t try to hide my disappointment.
“It’s a six month tour. But, I’ll be back before you know it.”
At some point in the day we’d scooted very close together on the bench and I was keenly aware of that fact now as Will leaned toward me. He put a hand on my knee and one on my waist. My breath caught in my throat and I closed my eyes. Before I knew it, his lips were pressing against mine. I wanted to melt into the kiss. I wanted to be held and loved so why wouldn’t my internal voice shut up?
I told myself that this could never work. I followed that up with, just shut up and enjoy it. Next came thoughts of where this could actually lead. An internal movie of Will and I involved in some very private actions flitted across my closed eyes followed by White’s disapproving look when he found out what we’d been doing.
So what. I should be able to have a relationship with whomever I want to. Then the thought of Penumbra came crashing in and I pulled away before the kiss even really began.
“What’s wrong?” Will asked.
“I’m so sorry.” I took a deep breath to help stabilize my excess energy. “I can’t.”
“It’s Rick, isn’t it.” Will sighed.
“Actually, no. Not really. I just— There are things— I know this wouldn’t work out in the long run.” I knew I could never tell Will about Penumbra. I wanted to be able to tell him about being Penumbra but it was something I had never even considered doing. Never having considered bringing Will into my inner most secrets was very significant.
“Who cares about the long run? It certainly works for the moment.” He tried to pull me in for another kiss but that last statement killed it. The magic was no longer strong enough.
“I’ve been living in the moment all day and I can’t do it. I have to think about the future.” I scooted away from him. Gabriella had told me to feed my libido many times before, but this was too risky. I didn’t think White would ever forgive me if I took things too far with his little brother.
He closed the small distance I’d put between us. “Why? Why can’t we just have a little fun before I ship out?” He reached up and brushed my hair behind my ear.
If there had been any lingering effects of Will’s charm it had no chance of ever resurfacing. I should have been seething with rage, but instead, I laughed.
“What?” He looked around as if he’d find the joke somewhere in the fading light.
“Obviously I think you’re attractive and boy, do you have the charm, but I can’t see this going past friendship. I better get home.” I stood from the bench and Will did the same.
“What about the tour?”
“You still want to give me a tour?” I was surprised.
“Yes. Just because you won’t sleep with me doesn’t mean I don’t still like you. I might just like you even more.” When I had no immediate response he walked up and put his arm across my shoulders and gave a friendly squeeze. “Come on. You can’t blame a guy for trying.”
“Yes, I could. But, I won’t.” I sighed. “I guess I’ll take that tour.”
“Great. Let’s get going, then.”
His switch from romance to friendship was immediate and a bit jarring. Will did all the talking back to the car. By the time I strapped myself into the passengers seat I’d switched gears as well. Strangely enough, our moment might have strengthened our friendship. Now we knew there was nothing more written in the stars for us. I could still think he was as cute as they came but I wouldn’t have to wonder what if.
Will talked a lot of facts and figures about carriers as we drove. The big numbers all became comprehensible as we pulled into the parking lot across the street. The immensity of the ship was almost overwhelming. The thing was huge.
“No wonder they call them floating cities,” I marveled as we walked toward the monstrosity.
We were allowed to board without much ado and the tour began. He showed me his berthing in the officer’s quarters and introduced me to a few of his friends. I heard them whispering after we left but couldn’t pick out what they were saying.
“You’ll be the talk of the tour,” he admitted.
He took me to the hanger bay and I was surprised to not see any jets. When I asked him about it he said he and his squadron would fly them onto the ship after deployment. He went on to explain the rush of landing and taking off from a carrier.
We eventually made our way up to the flight deck and he explained in further detail about landing planes on the ship. I was finding everything riveting and was truly lamenting my current occupation.
“Are you hungry?” He asked after checking his watch.
“Actually I’m not.” I held my stomach. It had been through a lot today. “But if you are we could still go somewhere.” I added.
“It’s almost eight thirty. I’ll just stop and get some fast food.” Even after all the excitement I’d already had I was disappointed the outing was coming to a close.
He led me off of the carrier and back toward the vehicle.
“I’m not ready to call it a night. Are you?” He asked as the engine roared to life.
“What are you up for?”
“I thought we might go clubbing.”
“I’d love to, but…” I was about to come up with an excuse.
“Don’t say no,” he pleaded. “If it’s because you don’t want to piss Rick off. It’ll be good for him and I’m sure Brown would be game to chaperone us if…”
It was my turn to cut him off. “White has no bearing on my social life,” I said more strongly than I intended and the substitution of White for Rick wasn’t lost on him.
“Then please, don’t say no.” He narrowed his eyes and his grin became even more wicked. “I was sure your reason for turning me down was Rick, but now I’m really interested.”
I struggled with myself for a moment but finally decided to just come out and say it. “I don’t take sex lightly.”
“You’re a strong woman. I find it hard to believe you’d repress that part of yourself.”
“It’s not repression, it’s—discretion.”
“Well, Miss Prude, we could still go get Brown to protect your reputation, but then again, who’d talk about us if we did.” His facial expressions and body language screamed White but he had a healthy dose of Brown’s influence coursing through his veins.
“Let ‘em talk.” I said.
“I knew I liked you.”
“Let’s do it,” I put on my own evil grin.
We drove in silence for a few blocks before Will began to talk again.
“Alex,” his brow furrowed as he became serious, “I don’t know what your life plans are but I do know what mine are. Even though I led you to believe I live only in the moment. I plan to get a little further in my career and then settle down. I want to get married and have some kids. I may or may not stay in the Navy.” He paused and took his gaze away from the road for a moment. I was too afraid of what was coming next to breathe.
“Anyway,” he returned his attention back to his driving. “You could fit into that scenario very easily. But, I know how Rick feels about you. We have a long-standing competition when it comes to women and I didn’t realize how serious he was until today. I could never do anything to hurt my brother. We’ve talked about you and I’ve promised to lay off until you make up your mind about him. I’m kind of breaking the rules right now though.” He laughed uncomfortably and I was still at a loss for words.
“Actually, all that time spent with you through the simulator piqued my interest and I couldn’t resist a good try. I’m not asking you any questions right now, so don’t think you have to give any answers.” He added quickly. “I’m out to sea for six months this time around and a lot can happen in six months. Maybe—”
My mind was racing and I blurted out, “I haven’t told Rick that I love him.” I was horrified at myself, but the damage was already done. “I don’t see anything coming of it, but that fact will never change.”
“I was afraid of that. Even if you didn’t love him, it would be a struggle for us because of his feelings for you.”
I took a shaky breath. “I’m sorry, Will. If I had met you first—”
“No need to be sorry. Though you and I are compatible I do think you and Rick are more compatible.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure,” I opened up to Will. “He shipped me off for EOD for four months and still hasn’t even contacted me. That doesn’t sound like he has much in the way of feelings for me, but I’m okay with it.” I didn’t dare let my hopes climb from Will’s admission of White’s feelings. Yet… Will should know his brother’s mind, right? Then again, even if White did love me, the fear of the word forever was a strong motivator to stay single. “Just don’t tell him what I told you.”
“I wondered how sincere he was. At least, I did until I spent a day with you. There is no way he’s not completely committed.”
“I don’t know,” I sighed. “I picture myself growing old with Rick, but my current life choice doesn’t allow for growing old or any of the regular stuff that goes along with that.”
Conversation ceased while Will ordered a burger and fries at the nearest drive up window. I allowed him to eat in silence while I contemplated White’s inattention once again.
To begin the night inside my comfort zone we went to the Skylight first. I’d done my fair share of partying in the past but I’d only been to a few select bars. Anthony, my one and only ex-boyfriend, was bartending and Will made sure to point him out to me.
“How did you know about Anthony?”
“Rick told me,” he shrugged it off.
“Do you two make it a habit of talking about my past?” It was a bit flattering that the two men I found the most attractive and appealing would be discussing my past love life. However, since my past love life consisted of just Anthony it was more embarrassing than flattering.
“No. There’s not much past to talk about. I think we covered it all in one or two conversations.” He winked.
I was startled and embarrassed so I just shook my head in disapproval.
“Let’s go say hi to Anthony. Rick also told me a few things about Anthony that I bet you don’t even know.” Will raised his eyebrows in a challenge that I left unanswered. I was too engrossed in my thoughts anyway.
The two of us made our way to the bar, Will hanging back a little. True to form, Anthony came right to me.
“Wow. I thought you’d moved. I haven’t seen you forever. How long has it been? A year?” He was doing his best to show off his severely lacking biceps by imitating ‘The Thinker’. Actually, they didn’t look half bad but I knew he didn’t know how to use them, so they didn’t count.
“Nope. Didn’t move. Can you get me a coke and…” I turned to get Will’s order but Anthony cut in. Again, true to form and oblivious.
“I’m glad you came to see me. I’m currently between girlfriends,” he waggled his eyebrows at me.
“I’m currently taken.” What happened next I did not expect. Will stepped out from behind me and Anthony visibly paled.
“Ssss—sorry,” he stuttered. “I didn’t mean anything by it. Please tell Malone not to… not to…”
“Don’t worry, Anthony. She’s on my arm tonight, not my brother’s. Can you please get the lady her coke and add a beer and two shots of whiskey.”
“On the house,” Anthony quickly filled our order and moved away.
“What was that all about? Black didn’t even intimidate him that much.”
“Rick told me about a visit he paid to Anthony a while ago. Good to know he hasn’t forgotten.”
“When did… What did he do?” Will ignored me and led me away from the bar to a table near the dance floor.
We each had a couple of drinks and made our way to the dance floor twice before we decided it was time to move onto the next bar. By the time we were leaving the third bar on the list I was ready to call it a night. Will, on the other hand, was just getting started. I told him I had to slow down on the drinking and he complied by ordering me a coke at bar number four. I was thankful because I was surprised I could even remember I’d already had five shots. It had been months since I’d had any alcohol and I’d never been able to handle it well anyway.
Bar number five could have been The Rave as far as I was concerned. It was definitely a dance club. The deep tones radiating through my body sent me to places I hadn’t been for a long time. Penumbra had finally gone to sleep, taking with her Ms. Grey leaving just Alex to enjoy the climate.
I closed my eyes, let go, and took it all in. The feel of the close bodies, the sounds that evolved into vibrations shaking me to the core, the scents of too much or too little perfume around me. But a very distinctive aroma snuck in on my consciousness and brought me back to reality.
Will was still to my left wearing a smile but much more aware than I had been. I looked around for the source of the smell and was rewarded with White right behind me. He wore his indecipherable look.
“What are you doing here?” Having to yell didn’t help mask the slur in my voice. White was the last person I wanted to see right now. The opportunity and drive to say something fueled by my drunken state was very strong as well as my drive to just reach up and kiss him.
White hiked his head toward Will and I still couldn’t read his face.
“I’m out of money and can’t pay for a cab to get us home.” Will shrugged.
“I have money.” I yelled back at him.
“I’m not asking a girl to pay on a date,” the concept was obviously unthinkable.
I looked at White again but all he did was shrug in an almost identical gesture of Will’s previous movements. I looked back to Will and he grinned and winked at me.
I leaned in to talk in Will’s ear. “I thought you wanted to give the guys something to talk about,” I’d been looking forward to making White wonder if Will and I got along extra well and now I didn’t know how to go about it without actually doing something drastic.
“Oh, they’ve already started,” he returned into my ear.
His voice in my ear gave me chills and made me giggle like a girl. I’m sure the alcohol helped too. It didn’t take me long to get lost in the music again. Strangely enough it was even easier to lose myself with White directly behind me. I knew I’d be safe with these two men near me and I was able to relax.
The strength of the music finally released its hold long enough for me to realize I’d backed up enough to just feel White’s body heat against my back. I don’t know how long I’d been that close to him but I knew it was time to go home or my uninhibited state would get the better of me. I turned my head just enough to get a glimpse of White’s face. He was scanning the entire building and as at The Rave there was a small bubble around us as he held Will and I under his protection. He looked down at me still void of expression. I mouthed the words, “Are you ready to go?” and he answered with a nod of his head.
I got Will’s attention and asked him the same thing in a shout. He also nodded his agreement.
I chose to sit in the back of White’s black Mustang, though the backseat was extremely uncomfortable. But I figured I’d be left out of the conversation on the way home if I did and they didn’t let me down. I’d definitely had too much to drink and didn’t need to emphasize that fact with my slurred speech.
Will generously helped me navigate my way out of the vehicle once we’d parked in the garage of White and Associates. I held my own quite well after I got to my feet and Will and White let me lead the way into the lobby where I was greeted by all of my partners. Green and Black had disapproving looks but Red, Blue and especially Brown all wore broad smiles.
“Pay up,” Will said to Brown as he stumbled up to him with his hand out.
“I want proof first. So, Ms. Grey. Did you have a good time tonight?”
I guardedly nodded my answer. He took a swing at me and I had him on the floor instantly but then I was on top of him just as quickly because I’d lost my balance. He lifted me easily as he rose from the floor and set me upright.
“Okay. Here you go,” he laughed as he pulled out a wad of cash. Money was being exchanged between everyone and I had no idea what was going on.
White was the only one not handing out or receiving cash. I gave him a questioning look as he stood next to me, then slurred the words, “What’s going on?”
“Will bet the guys he could take you out and get you drunk.”
“What?!” White gave me his evil grin, the one that tied me in knots. I stammered, “I didn’t mean to get drunk.” I redirected my fury at Will.
“What the hell?” The slur was almost gone.
“I was going to win one way or another, tonight.” He shrugged.
Again, I should have been livid but one look at White and his smug look of satisfaction diminished my anger. Will just admitted in front of my partners that I wouldn’t allow him into my bed. Then another thought overtook everything else. I swiveled and poked White hard in the chest. “Did the two of you plan this?” I was mortified that this might be another test. If Will would have been able to get me into bed, then I wasn’t really the girl for his brother.
Will stepped between us and pulled me to the side. “He had no idea I took you out today.” He was trying to be low-key but I was sure everyone could hear his loud whispers. “He has no idea we spent the whole day together. He didn’t even know we were together until I called him for a ride.”
“Will they still let you ship out if you have a black eye?” I glared.
“Why wouldn’t they?” He wore a confused look. I’m sure the revelation of what I meant hit him when my fist did, but maybe not until he hit the floor. When he looked up at me while cupping his hand over the offended eye I offered my hand. My partners were all laughing at him and he finally donned a huge grin and took my hand.
“I’ll take you home,” White had his hands on my elbows, ready to usher me off and out of danger, but we were instantly swarmed by the rest of the men with Brown up front.
“Oh no you don’t! You, Black and Blue are the only guys that have been around her when her tongue has been loosened by spirits. The rest of us want to get to know our partner like we know each other.”
“No, no, no. I think White’s right and I should go home.” I protested as Brown wiggled his way between White and me and started to lead me to the elevator. I looked back at White for help but he was lost in the sea of men following behind us. I’d had visions of White and I in my apartment and me making some verbal and physical statements I could never take back. Whiskey was a great spine strengthener.
Everyone piled into the elevator and I felt a little claustrophobic. The feeling came mostly from everyone poking fun at me and Will rather than the closeness of the bodies. As soon as the doors opened I pushed my way out to a floor I’d never been on before.
“Where are we?” I asked as Red pushed past me.
“Welcome to my abode,” he said as he opened up the door and showcased the interior with a flourish of his arm.
I walked in and was overwhelmed with the feel of it.
“Now this is exactly what I thought White’s apartment would look like.” The black and red accents made me think of Gigi’s, the strip joint that Colin had me working at before the Dimitri hit.
Black let out a chuckle as he followed me inside.
All of our apartments were the same floor plan but we each had a room that we used for our personal touch. White’s housed C.I.C., mine was still unoccupied with anything but storage items, Black’s housed plants and all kinds of non-bachelor items and Red’s was set up as a game room. He had a bar in one corner, a pool table, a dart board, and those tall tables that only seated a couple of people. However, he did have a couple of larger tables that would allow us all to set together.
Blue stepped behind the bar and brought back a towel of ice.
“Let me look at that.” Blue tipped Will’s head back and examined his nicely reddening eye. “I don’t think it’ll affect your ability to fly.” He pressed the towel into Will’s hands with instructions to put it on his eye.
Brown had started pouring shots like a pro and didn’t even ask any of us what we wanted. Because of this I assumed he wasn’t making one for me but I was mistaken. He brought over my usual shot of whiskey with a coke back.
“I can’t drink this,” I said as I pushed the shot away.
“Gonna be sick?” Brown egged me on.
“Not yet, but I might soon,” I retorted.
“Oh, come on. You’re home now. Who cares if you get sick. Just as long as you make it to the bathroom.” Red added.
“I promise to hold your hair,” Brown teased as he pushed the shot closer to me.
Eventually the prodding got to me and I drank my shot with the rest of the men. After the first one they didn’t offer me anymore.
Their drinking continued but after a couple more I took my leave, followed closely by White.
“I really had no intentions of getting drunk,” I told him again.
“I know. I’ll make sure you get to your apartment.” He led me by the elbow to the elevator, off of the elevator and straight into my apartment.
“I’m sorry,” I blurted out.
“No need to be. I know Will can be very persuasive when he wants to be. A couple of drinks isn’t a big deal.”
As we stood near the door the urge to kiss him was intense but my guilt was almost overwhelming. I wanted to scream at him that I kissed his brother and that I liked it but I couldn’t deal with how he might take it. We weren’t a couple and yet, I felt like I’d cheated on White. Maybe it was because it was his brother. Maybe it was because I’d been drinking.
“So, you were out with him all day?” His eyes narrowed some.
“He asked me to lunch and the time just flew by. Then he gave me a tour of the carrier.” I found myself looking at the floor as I described my day in as few words as possible.
“I see.” I looked up in time to see the regret on White’s face as he said this. “I should get going. Will defended your honor in the lobby and there’s no reason I should screw that up. Besides, I’m missing all the fun. I’m sure the guys are really laying it on thick now that you’re gone.”
My heart dropped. What if Will told them that we almost shared a kiss? How could I explain that to Rick?
“I’m sorry,” I said again.
“It’s okay.” His sad smile and soft touch to my cheek wrenched at me. “Like I said, Will can be very persuasive.” He left me standing there wondering what I’d just admitted to.