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Authors: Becky Black

Tags: #LGBT Futuristic/Science Fiction

Stowaway (19 page)

BOOK: Stowaway
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Gracie and Kit were cleaning up and grinned at him when he came in. He nodded. Kit went to the hatch and called through.

“Boss, a visitor for you.”

Trish popped her head out. “Oh hi, Chief. Come on in.”

He followed her into the galley and on through to her office, feeling Kit’s and Gracie’s eyes on his back.

“Your recipe went over great,” Trish said, waving him to a chair. “Several people mentioned it, including the captain. I’d like to add it into the rotation, if that’s okay with you.”

Raine sighed with relief, hating to think he’d have to take bad news back to those two hopeful souls waiting for him out there.

“That’s great. And time to cut the bull. It’s not my mother’s recipe; it’s Gracie’s. Sorry about the games.”

“Gracie?”

“She wants to try for the food-handler exam, but she’s scared of putting herself forward, in case you wouldn’t take her seriously. So she tried this recipe out on me and I agreed to this little bit of nonsense. Sorry.”

Trish’s face was a picture. Eventually she frowned. “What am I, an ogre? Gracie is scared of me?”

“She’s scared of everybody.”

“That’s true,” Trish said with a sigh. “Poor kid. I think she’s had a rough life.”

Kit might be the exception. He was Gracie’s hero. Would be even more so after today, Raine suspected.

“You think she could do it?” he asked Trish.

“It’s not exactly rocket science. How was her cooking? Not the recipe, the preparation.”

“The beef was a bit tough.”

“She’ll soon learn how to cook beef.”

“That’s what Kit said.” Raine smiled.

“I’m prepared to bet my best set of knives he came up with the idea for this little three-act play.” She chuckled. “Boy has a sense of drama.”

“He does. Goodness knows how he persuaded me to go along with it.” He blushed suddenly at her disconcerting giggle.

“I can imagine how. Anyway…” She straightened her face. “I can’t be angry with him, can I? Helping Gracie out like that—he’s a good shipmate.”

“Yes.”

“If the captain and the company can get things sorted out for him, I’d be glad to have him stay aboard. Though I doubt he’d be a steward’s assistant for long.”

“You’ve forgiven him for when he tried to escape, then?”

She shrugged. “I was angry. But I can’t blame him for it, can I? He’s easy enough to forgive. And things have changed. I hardly even think about him being a stowaway anymore.”

“Don’t forget that it’s not only a matter of him being a stowaway. He’s a fugitive. A thief.”

“He told me he was framed.”

“And you believe him?”

“You
don’t
?”

Her question, incredulity in it, took Raine aback. How could he love someone
and
assume they are a criminal?

“I don’t know,” he admitted.

“It might be time to make up your mind.”

He felt an urge to tell her to keep out of his business, until it occurred to him she probably spent more time with Kit than he did. And since Kit rarely shut up while conscious, she must hear him talk a lot too. Her opinion about him could be worth listening to.

“Has he told you the details about his case?”

“No. That’s one thing he
doesn’t
talk about. Not to me, anyway.”

It sounded like a challenge, and Raine took it. He needed to hear Kit’s side of the story if he was going to decide if he believed him or not. And if Kit had been framed, Raine would have to do something about it.

“Trish, could you do something for me?”

“Sure, Chief, name it. You’ve done me a favor with Gracie. I’ve been trying to get her to look beyond the dishwasher for a while.”

“That’s mostly down to Kit, I think. But I guess this favor is for him too.”

He amazed himself, sitting here talking to Trish about his relationship with Kit. He’d never been especially close to her; she was no more to him than a generally friendly shipmate. But Kit had brought them together. He’d brought Gracie and the captain together, Gracie and Trish. Shit, the guy spread goodwill wherever he went. Raine wanted to laugh.
Enough with the eulogizing. And don’t say it to his face; his head is big enough already.

He told Trish about the favor he wanted, and she smiled, amused, not mocking him, as he’d feared, about it being a sappy idea.

“Sounds like fun. I’ll do that for you.”

He rose, and she turned to her terminal.

“Send Gracie in on your way out; I’ll get some coaching sessions set up. I’ll have her ready to sit the exam by the time we get to Saira.”

He stepped out of the office and barged into Kit, waiting right outside.

“Well?” Kit demanded.

“I’m fine, thanks. You?”

Kit slapped him on the arm, scowling. “Knock it off, smarty-pants. What did she say?”

“Gracie,” Raine said, turning to her where she’d come up behind Kit. “Trish wants you to go in for a chat. She wants to set up your training program to get you ready for the exam.”

“Yes!” Kit’s grin of triumph almost reached around the back of his head. He grabbed Gracie into a hug, lifting her right off her feet. “I knew you could do it, babe.”

“Oh my God! The exam! I’ll never pass!”

“If it helps, I volunteer to be guinea pig for all future experiments,” Raine said, earning a smile from Kit.

“Oh, Chief, you’re the best.” She grabbed his arm while she stretched up to kiss him on the cheek, leaving him flustered. A woman hadn’t kissed him since the last time he visited his mother.

“I don’t have all night.” Trish’s voice came through from her office, and Gracie squeaked and hurried in, closing the door behind her.

Kit still wore his triumphant grin, which Raine wanted to kiss, but he refrained.

“Are you done clearing up?”

“Five minutes.” Kit grabbed his broom and went back to sweeping. Raine leaned against a prep table, arms folded, and watched him work. He was graceful even sweeping, practically dancing with the broom. Raine could watch this all day.

But tomorrow Kit had an evening off, and Raine had plans. He intended to get the real story out of Kit, and he intended to believe him.

Chapter Fourteen

 

Kit knew Raine had come into the mess deck. He didn’t know how he knew, but he looked up from taking dirty dishes off the carousel, and sure enough, there he was. He stood at the counter, rather late for dinner, but they were still serving.

Kit caught his eye and grinned, then mouthed the words
see you later
. Raine shook his head and smiled back, and to Kit’s surprise, Trish handed him a white cardboard box, taking it from the chiller under the counter. Kit and Gracie sometimes delivered boxes like that filled with finger food and snacks to a section with some big panic going on that left the workers unable to come to the mess to eat. Did Raine have an emergency going on down in security? He left with the box and a look back over his shoulder at Kit. And—making Kit goggle—a wink.

“Kit,” Trish called. “You can go early. I’ll help Gracie with cleanup tonight.”

“Ma’am?”

“Even stowaways get time off.”

She wore a knowing smile, and Kit realized there must be some plotting afoot here. He shrugged and took off his apron, tossed it in the laundry hamper. “Okay, I’m not arguing.”

He left the mess deck and wasn’t remotely surprised to find Raine waiting outside the door. Definite plotting afoot.

“This is payback for the Great Recipe Conspiracy, isn’t it?” Kit asked.

“Could be.” Raine looked Kit up and down and made him suddenly conscious of his stained and rather damp whites.

“I should change.”

Raine nodded. “Okay. Then come up to the observation deck.”

“Why, what’s up there?” Kit teased, guessing exactly what he’d find there.

“Just be there,” Raine retorted, then grimaced at the lame rejoinder. “Ten minutes,” he added. “I don’t want to lose the chill off the wine.”

“Wine?” Kit hadn’t had wine in months. He stared as Raine walked off without another word, carrying his takeout box carefully. The trance broke when Raine rounded a corner, and Kit grinned and ran back to the bunk room to change.

Ten minutes later, in fresh clothes, hair brushed, wishing he’d had time to shave, Kit entered the observation deck. The dark room was like an indoor forest, full of bushes and plants in big pots, meant to provide a near-natural feel.

“Dan?”

“Over here.” A shadowy shape appeared, close to the great viewing window. It vanished into what turned out to be an alcove Kit hadn’t known about. The window made up one side of it and took Kit’s breath away. He knew the plasti-glass was half a meter thick and protected by force fields, but the view still made his head spin. Raine caught him when he stumbled slightly.

“You okay?”

“Yeah. Just dizzy. Wow. I never stood this close to the window before. It’s a bit overwhelming.”

“There’s nothing to be afraid of.” Raine touched the surface of the window. Kit gasped, and Raine looked at him with alarm. “If it bothers you, we can move.”

He gestured behind him, and Kit saw what Raine had brought up here in his takeout box. A picnic. A nice selection of finger foods and a bottle of wine and two glasses, spread on a cloth between two heaps of big cushions. Kit forgot his nerves about the window, the coldness of space so close, and felt warm again. He had nothing to be afraid of. He was with Raine.

“You did this for me?”

“I thought it was time we had a date.”

“Sounds like locking the stable door after the horse has bolted and screwed every other horse in a five-mile radius.”

“You have such a way with words, don’t you?”

“So I’m told.” Kit dropped onto one of the heaps of cushions and sighed as he sank into its depths. “Oh yeah. I like this already.”

After pulling a couple of the potted plants across the open end of the alcove, to provide some privacy, Raine too sat on the cushions, his back against the wall. He poured the wine.

“That isn’t from the galley,” Kit said as Raine handed him a glass. “I’d definitely have noticed.”

“I believe there is wine and other liquor for official functions. But it’s locked away, and only the chief steward can get to it. This is mine. I’d been saving it.”

“For what?”

“For you, I guess.”

“I’ll drink to that.” Kit raised his glass, waited for Raine to do the same. He did, more slowly, and touched it gently to Kit’s, making a soft
ting.

“I’ll drink to us.”

Kit tried to keep a slightly alarmed expression off his face at Raine’s toast. “To us,” he said, forcing a casual tone into his voice. He drank to avoid talking and then started right in on the food. He talked between mouthfuls, talking to avoid talking. “The food is great. Thanks, Raine. This was a nice thing to do.”

“Trish helped me out. She’s grateful for the way you helped Gracie. You deserve a reward.”

“Do you have a different kind of reward for me later?”

“I can think of some rewarding activities, yes.”

Food from Trish, sex from Raine. Kit should be Mr. Nice Guy more often if it brought him this kind of treatment. Done with the savory things, he found some cakes whose fudge taste made his eyes roll back in his head. He’d always had a sweet tooth.

“You have to try one of these,” he said, passing the plate to Raine. “They taste like an orgasm feels.”

“Thanks.” Raine took one and ate it. “Very nice.”

“Anyone ever say you have quite a way with words?” Kit grinned, echoing Raine’s earlier question. “Because if they did, they were lying to you and they’re not your friend.”

He’d hoped the jokey dig would raise a smile, their verbal sparring usually amusing rather than irritating Raine these days. But Raine seemed distracted, looking out at the stars. He turned suddenly, looking straight into Kit’s eyes.

“Do you plan to escape after the hearing?”

Kit froze for a second, then sat up. “That’s what this is about? Seduce me with a picnic and play Good Cop so you can question me? Screw you, Raine.” He started to scramble up, but Raine’s voice stopped him.

“Don’t go.”

Neither an order nor a plea. Damn, he was so hard to peg. Neither of those and yet it held Kit there. He dropped back onto his cushions.

“It doesn’t matter what I plan to do after the hearing. I won’t be your problem by then.”

“Kit, I suspect you’re going to be my problem for a long time to come.”

“Wow, you really know how to sweet-talk a guy.”

Raine snorted. “Yeah, I’ve got honey on my tongue.”

“I’m sure I’d have noticed. Right after we met, in fact.” Kit couldn’t help but smile at Raine’s blush. “You’re a good kisser, Chief. Honey or not.”

“I could help you escape.”

Kit blinked. “What?”

“After the hearing, if you want me to, I’ll find a way to help you escape from Saira.”

Kit didn’t blink again for some time. He stared. Eventually he found his voice again. “Why would you do that?”

“For you.” The words were soft, and Kit flashed on a memory, heard the words “
I love you
” again. But he shook his head.

“That makes no sense. You won’t benefit. I’d be gone.”

“You’d be free. That’s what matters.”

“But
you
won’t benefit. Why should you risk so much for nothing?”

“Not for nothing. For you.”

Kit groaned and put his head in his hands. “Dammit, Raine, you are breaking my brain.” He sat up, shoving his hair back, raking his fingers through it. “No.” He scowled at Raine, who sat there looking as innocent as a baby. “You will not help. What are you, nuts? You’d lose your job, your pension. Might even get arrested.”

Raine shrugged. He actually fucking shrugged.

“Doesn’t matter.”

“I said no. I don’t want you to do it. I’m not asking you to. In fact, if you lift so much as a finger to help me escape, then I swear I will come back here and kick your ass.” A futile threat. Raine would have to be in a coma for Kit to stand a chance of kicking his ass. “I know what this is. You’re testing me. You think everything since that first kiss has been about me seducing you into helping me. Maybe it was at first. Except, even then, it wasn’t only that. I wanted to seduce you, but I
wanted
you too. I can’t deny it.”

BOOK: Stowaway
7.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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