Friday, October 30, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 42

My third novel, Scout's Duty, is out in ebook form! In celebration, the first two books in the Scout series--Scout's Honor and Scout's Oath--are on sale for 99 cents each. Also, Kindle Unlimited subscribers can now read all three books as part of their subscription.
< Chapter 41                                                                                                       Chapter 43 >
The Southern Star enters wormhole delta and leaves Piscain Station and the naval task force behind.

Once the gray mist of the wormhole engulfed the Southern Star, I finally took the time to check the star charts for our course to Ark’s Landing. We had a six-hour wormhole transit ahead of us and an eight-hour journey across a system mostly dedicated to mining before making a final two and a half hour wormhole jump to Ark’s Landing.

Contemplating the free time we had ahead of us, I suddenly found it all but impossible to keep my eyes open. When the pilot’s console blurred before me, I realized just how thoroughly I’d overtaxed myself, both physically and psychically. “Rob, can you get the regular ship’s crew to take over running the ship?”

“Sure,” Rob responded. “I’ll have to soothe our pilot’s ruffled feathers a bit, but it won’t be the first time.”

I fished one of the credit sticks with a smaller balance out of my pocket. It held a balance of a little over one million credits. “Here. Split this up among the crew, both for their help getting us this far and for their cooperation getting us to Ark’s Landing. That should settle a few of the pilot’s feathers.”

Rob whistled at the balance. “Yeah, I’d say so. What else do you need?”

“A room,” I said.

“With a double bed,” Michelle added.

Rob’s eyes flicked back and forth between Michelle and me. A wicked grin spread across his face. “Of course. No doubt the two of you are exhausted from this ordeal and desperately need a little shuteye.”

Michelle leaned against me. “Wipe that grin off your face Robert Calley! Matt and I really do just want to get some sleep!”

Under Michelle’s watchful eye, Rob’s smile dimmed but didn’t go out. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, Michelle. I’ll give orders that you’re not to be disturbed. Come on, I’ll take you to a cabin myself.”

We took a moment to check on Zav and the kids. Zav was deep in conversation with Mr. Calley and Uncle Gunther while the four kids explored the Southern Star’s state-of-the-art entertainment array. We begged off joining them, pleading a desperate need for sleep. My uncle and Rob’s father gave Michelle and me knowing looks and I barely refrained from telling them that the two of us actually did use beds for something other than sex.

Zav, on the other hand, understood. “Honestly, Matt, I’m surprised you’re still on your feet. You’ve pushed your ability beyond anything I thought possible—for you or anyone else. Michelle, make sure he gets all the sleep he needs.”

“How will I know when he’s rested enough?” Michelle asked.

Zav’s expression shifted to match the ones Mr. Calley and Uncle Gunther wore. “When Matt responds…appropriately…to the lovely young woman in bed with him, I’d say he’s fully recovered.”

Gene and Mark snickered. Kristin, a dreamily romantic expression on her face, smacked them both. Cassie cocked her head as if trying to figure out exactly what everyone was talking about. Rob’s father and my uncle guffawed and raised their wine glasses to Zav. To my surprise, Michelle blushed. I was too tired to even react.

“Come on, lovebirds,” Rob said, leading us to a nearby cabin.

I had just enough energy to get undressed, leaving my clothes where they fell. Dropping into bed, Michelle and I snuggled together. I managed to give her one quick kiss before falling asleep in her arms. My dreams were troubled, filled with isolation and despair and loss. Finally, my exhaustion drove me into a deep and dreamless sleep.

When I opened my eyes, I found bright blue eyes looking back at me. Blonde hair framed Michelle’s face and her tender smile. “How are you feeling, sleepyhead?”

I felt my lips form an answering smile. “Good. Really good. How long have I slept?”

“Twelve hours.”

“What about you?” I asked. “How do you feel? Did you get enough sleep?”

“I’m fine, babe. I slept for about eight hours.”

“Have you been laying around for four hours just watching me sleep?” I propped myself up on my elbow. “That sounds pretty boring.”

“That wasn’t all I did, babe.” Michelle ticked items off on her fingers. “I took a shower. Then I composed a message for Nancy Martin on Ark’s Landing and had it sent ahead in a messenger drone. I had some food delivered from the ship’s galley. I ordered enough for two, so you could get something to eat when you woke up. Then I laid around watching you sleep.”

I looked past Michelle to a heavily laden tray of food, then looked back at my wife. “That looks really good.”

“It is,” Michelle replied. “I nibbled a bit.”

“I wasn’t talking about the food,” I said, “but I do feel like nibbling.”

I lowered my head and Michelle gasped. “I like that kind of nibbling a lot, babe!”

After that, we communicated in an entirely nonverbal manner. Finally, our bodies and emotions merged and drove the last vestiges of isolation and despair from my mind.

How will Ark’s Landing receive our heroes? Find out in Chapter 43, coming Monday.