Authors: Bella Juarez
Captain O’Malley was looking their way again. There was nothing
about the man looking at Anna. Anna’s life was about to change whether she liked it or not. By the way Captain O’Malley kept looking their way, he would be that change and it would rock Anna’s world down to the very foundations. Tammy smiled inwardly. Anna needed to be dragged out of her dull, miserable existence, and the guy across the room was just the SEAL to do it.
I hope he’s
married. Yeah, baby, he’d rock your world all right. In ways you never thought were possible. You may have met your match with that SEAL…
“Oh, by the way, I get to help you pack for your TDY,” Tammy said with a sinful smile.
“Don’t even go there.” Anna groaned.
* * * *
Jack had been watching Anna throughout lunch. Rafe noticed he’d been looking to the other side of the room for most of the meal. Lieutenant Dan Gamez and JG Shaq Harman had joined them as promised, the younger pair just having returned from their mission. Rafe finally turned to see what Jack had been looking at throughout the meal.
“She’s cute, but not your type,” Rafe commented to Jack.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Jack asked.
“The new computer chick?” Lieutenant Gamez questioned.
“No, the computer
! I’ve been trying to get her to look my way since I saw her. I want to find out what’s behind those glasses,” Rafe confirmed, staring at Jack as he took a drink.
“She’s not for either one of you,” JG Harman said.
“No, she sure as hell ain’t! She’s a nice, classy
. You two ain’t got no business even looking her way. She’s too good for you,” Gamez said, digging into his meal.
What Dan in his own clumsy way was trying to say was Anna was likeable and didn’t deserve what either one of the two of them would do to her. Dan had been working with Anna since his return. Jack and Rafe turned sharply and looked at Dan’s amused expression.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Jack questioned sharply.
“Yeah!” Rafe agreed.
“She’s not a frog hog,” JG Harman added, referring to the crude name assigned to women who were considered SEAL groupies.
, I don’t
don’t have to,” Jack said, taking another bite.
“Hey! I think we just found Shaq a handle!” Lieutenant Gamez exclaimed.
“What’s that?” JG Harman asked, clearly not liking where this was going.
“Junior!” Gamez exclaimed.
Shaq threw down has napkin in disgust as the entire table broke out in laughter. They all knew that the nickname was hitting a little too close to home for JG Shaquille Harman
It was no secret that he was a momma’s boy. Some of the new SEALs that had graduated BUD/S with Shaq knew that weakness had almost been his undoing during his initial training. It was too late. The nickname would be his until the end of his career.
“Aw, hell no!
! Ain’t you supposed to be on my side,
?” Shaq snapped at Dan.
“Aw, hell yeah! Junior! It fits!” Rafe exclaimed.
“Thanks, Captain,” Shaq said sarcastically.
“Glad I could help.” Jack smiled.
San Antonio International Airport, Texas
American Airlines Check-in Counter
August 3, 2008/1130 Zulu
Jack sauntered into the terminal after parking his vehicle. No one was in line yet. Just the way he liked it. He approached the counter with his carry-on bag and proceeded with routine check-in.
“Good morning, sir,” the agent greeted him as fingers flew on the keyboard.
“Good morning. No bags to check,” Jack politely replied.
“San Diego, sir. Your flight is on time and leaves at seven forty-five, gate thirty-seven.” Jack merely nodded his head. “Would you like an upgrade to first class,
ir? There’s room on the flight and because you’re a priority flyer and have the points, I can put you in first class,” the agent offered.
“Sure, go ahead.” Jack shrugged.
“There’s another ticket under your frequent-flyer number, sir, leaving on this same flight. Do you want that seat upgraded, too?”
“Yeah, give her the window seat.”
Jack walked into the terminal. As he passed the security checkpoint, he instantly spotted ten security flaws that any common al-Qaeda terrorist could exploit. Jack put aside his threat detector and tried to relax. He really wanted to catch up on the news and get a cup of coffee. He turned his head from side to side. Starbucks, on his left, had their typical clientele filing in line. Jack opted for the bar on his right. It was empty and he was no Starbucks guy. The bar was more his speed. Seating himself at the bar, he decided to wait until a few minutes before he was scheduled to leave. Jack glanced at the TV and absently reached for a newspaper sitting nearby. He ordered his cup of coffee.
* * * *
Anna pulled her bag from Tammy’s car. She cursed as she lifted the handle on her bag. She slung her purse over her shoulder and cursed again. Anna was no morning flower, as Marc had always teased.
Damn these navy people scheduling a flight at this ungodly hour
“Be careful. Call me when you get there,” Tammy said
“I will.” Anna closed the door.
Anna turned to walk into the terminal. There was a small line forming but nothing major, and she wasn’t checking any bags. She was a little over an hour early as she got in line and waited patiently. When she finally got to the counter, the agent seemed to process her right away. She was handed her boarding pass and noted she still had forty-five minutes before her flight. Anna passed the security checkpoint and let out a sigh of relief when she noticed a Starbucks.
That’s the ticket, a venti double mocha.
Maybe that would jolt her from the haze she was in. She stepped up to the empty counter.
“Venti double mocha,” Anna demanded.
Anna waited for her drink and went on her way. Finding the gate, she saw the holding area was starting to fill up with the waiting passengers. They quickly called her group and she walked into the plane. She was searching for her seat. It was an odd number. It was 4A. She asked the flight attendant, who directed her to first class.
“Excuse me, is this right?” she asked
“Yes, it is. Can I take your bag, ma’am?” the flight attendant asked.
“Thanks,” Anna said.
Anna seated herself and looked out the window as other passengers started to board. She knew there had to be a mistake and any minute now, she would be asked to move. She decided to pull her iPod and large sunglasses out of her purse and settle in. She closed her eyes and tried to relax. She hated change and this trip was really stressing her out. She wanted to lose herself in the music.
* * * *
Jack smiled as he seated himself next to Anna. She was clearly putting out the
do not disturb
sign with her sunglasses and earbuds. Anna looked like a rock star hiding from her fans. And, sitting in first class, she was drawing a lot of double-takes.
“Would you like something to drink, sir?” the flight attended asked.
“No, thank you,” Jack said.
Jack glanced down at his newspaper, still watching Anna from the corner of his eye. She was wearing those jeans and a T-shirt that hugged her in all the right places. Jack briefly wondered if those full breasts were homegrown or the work of a damn good plastic surgeon. Anna looked years younger dressed like she was.
Good thing she doesn’t dress like that for work
I’d never get anything done.
Jack recalled the Saturday before, when she’d walked in wearing jeans and a T-shirt. This time she had on plaid Converse tennis shoes instead of flip-flops. Anna had stopped him in midsentence when she walked into his office. Her new look was amazing and he wasn’t the only who’d noticed. For the first time in his life Jack was experiencing the emotion of jealousy. Every time Rafe uttered a syllable about Anna, Jack wanted to punch him. He kept kicking himself because it was obvious she felt nothing for him. In fact that first day she’d worked in his office, Anna had asked to leave, but he’d made her stay. He wanted to look at her and smell her. Too bad he’d been distracted by that virus.
she wouldn’t be sitting here now, if it hadn’t been for that little distraction
This is business, Jack
No time to play on this trip
Anna was making it difficult for Jack to concentrate. She smelled really good. He decided to finish the financial page that he’d started in the bar. The pilot finally announced their departure. Anna sat upright, turned off her iPod, and removed her sunglasses. Jack never looked up.
“Good morning, Anna,” Jack said
“Good morning, sir. I didn’t realize you were coming on this trip.”
“Yes, ma’am. Don’t mind me. Go back to sleep.” Jack flipped the page, not looking at her.
After the usual drill from the flight attendants, Anna put her sunglasses back on and this time Jack could hear the music. She’d really cranked up the volume. He wanted to laugh, but he wasn’t sure if she’d closed her eyes again. After a while the flight attendant passed and asked if Jack wanted a drink. She was trying not to disturb Anna, but Jack held no such reservations. He hesitated a minute before he reached over and gently squeezed her hand. She turned off her iPod and removed her sunglasses. This time it looked as if he’d roused her from sleep.
“Yes?” Anna responded sleepily.
“Do you want something to drink?” Jack asked as the flight attendant handed him coffee.
“Please, some water,” Anna said.
Anna gratefully took the water the flight attendant offered her. Jack had long abandoned the financial page that he’d been reading and was on to something else. Jack watched Anna as she looked out the window and tried to stifle a shiver that ran through him. He’d made a big mistake touching her.
What the hell is wrong with me?
“Did you get a nap?” Jack asked.
“Yes, sir,” Anna responded, turning to look at him.
“Have you ever been to San Diego?” he asked politely.
“It’s a lot like San Antonio, a lot of the same culture.”
“I would imagine so. Isn’t Tijuana very close? I imagine it’s more like the Valley.” Anna looked out the window.
“The Valley? What does that mean?” Jack asked as he tried to engage her in conversation.
“The Rio Grande Valley, down at the very southern end of Texas. I lived there for a while,” Anna said, taking another sip.
Jack turned and looked at her more intently.
Did she just slip?
“Really? Where?” Jack looked down at his paper
“Harlingen. I worked at a resort.”
“A resort? Like ‘a really nice hotel with a golf course’ kind of resort?”
Jack tried to act nonchalant. He turned his attention back to his paper and flipped a page.
“Yes, sir,” Anna answered.
“What did you do? IT stuff?” he asked, not looking at her.
“No, sir. I was the executive chef for eight years.”
“Executive chef, did you say?” Jack looked at her in surprise.
“Yes, sir.” Anna stifled a yawn.
Jack looked at Anna as if seeing her for the first time. Jack had always suspected there was more to Anna than she let on. He was a little stunned at the revelation.
“Executive chefs are pretty important people, aren’t they?” Jack questioned.
“Yes, sir, they are.”
No wonder she plays a rock star so well.
At some point in Anna’s life, she really had been one. Jack waited for her to continue. Anna took another sip and looked out the window. Now Jack was suspicious.
“Anna, what are you doing running around fixing computers? Why aren’t you a chef?”
Anna turned and looked at him as if he were from another planet. Jack honed in on her hesitation.
“I needed to change my life. So I quit my job, sold everything, and moved back to San Antonio. My original college degree was in computer science. I went and got my MCSE and some other certifications and applied at Lackland,” Anna said.
“That was some change,” Jack stated, looking at her intently.
Most polite people would have let the conversation go. However, Jack had never been known as polite. It was clear this conversation was making her uncomfortable.
“So…what caused the sudden change?” Jack asked.
“Something really bad happened,” Anna said shortly.
Anna had shut down. By the look on her face, it was clear she wasn’t telling him anything more. Jack needed to call Mac as soon as he could and get the full scoop. Mac hadn’t found anything dirty or he would have told him immediately. He decided to give her space.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry,” Jack said quietly.
“I’m sorry, too. I didn’t mean to be so snippy.” Anna relaxed.
“Like I said, I really think you’ll like San Diego…”
Jack turned on the charm as he talked to her about San Diego as well as the surrounding area. It seemed like no time at all had passed and soon they were landing. He opened up the overhead compartment and removed his bag. The flight attendant retrieved Anna’s bag and handed it to her. He looked at the quilted, flowery suitcase. He didn’t know such a feminine set of luggage existed.
“Yours?” Jack questioned as he took the bag from the flight attendant.