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Authors: Becky Black

Tags: #LGBT Futuristic/Science Fiction

Stowaway (4 page)

BOOK: Stowaway
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“No! I mean, I didn’t steal any money. I told you, remember? I’m innocent.”

“Yes, I remember you told me.”

“That money…” He stopped, shook his head. “It was given to me.”

“I’m sure. A gift from a friend?”

“It’s none of your fucking business, okay? I’m here. I’m going to work and follow your rules. The rest of it you can keep your big nose out of.”

“Watch your mouth.” Raine stood, feeling a flush rise to his face to match the one on Kit’s. Kit tensed, but his expression stayed defiant, chin up. He had dark shadows under his eyes, and Raine remembered how hard it could be to get a good night’s sleep in the infirmary. Kit must be tired and snappy because of it. He felt the same way himself; he’d slept poorly the last few nights.

He took a breath to calm himself and saw Kit do the same thing at the same moment.
Sky. Sun. Sand
. He repeated the words in his head and felt himself relax. Did Kit have a mantra like that? Drexler was a rainy place where most of the population lived in one gigantic city. Did Kit imagine the sounds of a rainy night to calm himself?

“Okay, it’s not my business,” Raine said, in a voice so calm it sounded offhand. “Making sure you behave yourself is.” He took a device from a desk drawer, a band about the size of a bracelet.

“Are you right- or left-handed?”

“What?”

Raine held up the bracelet. “Which wrist would you prefer this on?”

“Neither for preference. But it’s too big for a cock ring, even for me.” He smirked when Raine flushed again.
Dammit, don’t react; he’s trying to get under your skin.

“Left or right?” he persisted, voice lizard-cold, unhinging the bracelet.

Kit held his left arm out. “Is this something useful, or do you have a sideline in jewelry design?”

“It’s a tracking device.” Raine snapped it closed around Kit’s wrist.

“Oh, of course it is. You couldn’t have got me one in green? I’m told green brings out my eyes.”

His eyes were gray, but warm, and yes, Raine could imagine in the right lighting they could look green. As green as they looked in his fantasies. He tore his gaze from Kit’s eyes and checked the bracelet. Definitely locked closed.

“I can track you anywhere on the ship. If you go somewhere off-limits, I’ll know immediately.”

“How am I supposed to know where I can’t go? Is this one of those, ‘you’ll find out the rules when you break them’ scenarios?”

“You’ll be told. If you take it off or break it, I’ll know.”

“Then you’ll have me on the carpet, eh?”

Have him? Raine’s mouth went dry at the thought.

“I think it’s secure,” Kit said quietly. “You can let me go now. If you want to.”

Raine realized he was holding Kit’s hand. He’d moved from the wrist without even realizing it. He let go like it was hot and backed up several steps. Kit looked up at him through his eyelashes, through his bangs, and the look was so calculated it made Raine as angry as it made him hot.

The same attempt at distraction he’d tried in the elevator. Raine suddenly wondered if Kit might not simply be a thief but also a con artist. Well, he wouldn’t con Raine. Not again. He went back behind his desk, turning away from the gray eyes and the glossy black hair. The hair he saw every time he closed his eyes to sleep. The hair he remembered having his hands buried in while his lips were on Kit’s.

Oh hell, he had to get this under control. A con man would home in on this weakness like a hawk on its prey. He’d own Raine. He put on his gloves. He kept his office warm enough not to need them, but he felt a need not for warmth but a barrier. Protection for his skin, which felt vulnerable and easily provoked into betraying him.

Kit fiddled with the tracker, checking if it would come off over his hand. Impossible. Though loose enough to turn on his wrist, he couldn’t slip it over his hand without crushing the bones first.

“What if I had to get it off?”

“You won’t have to.”

“There might be a reason.”

“None that I can think of.”

“What about when I take a shower?”

Don’t picture him in the shower
. “It’s waterproof.” Raine cleared his throat when his voice came out hoarse.

“I’m going to be working in a kitchen. It’s not hygienic.”

“Keep it clean and you’ll be fine.”

Kit fiddled with it some more, a troubled look on his face. “It freaks me out that you can track me all over the ship.”

“Not my problem. You agreed to obey the rules we set for you. Would you rather be in the brig?”

“Would you be standing guard?”

“Don’t.” Raine scowled at him. “Don’t try to get around me. It’s not going to work.”

Anger flashed in Kit’s eyes for a moment, but then he grinned again and leaned back in the chair. He let his hand hang down over the armrest, showing off the tracker as if he were modeling it for a commercial.

“We’ll see. Okay, I’ll wear your pretty bracelet. Can I add some sequins? A little glitter?”

“Add whatever you like, as long as you keep it on. You’re also going to report to me once a day about your movements.”

“What? Why? You’re tracking me wherever I go.”

“Because I want to know why you’re going where you’re going. Make sure you have a good reason to be there.”

“Does that include the bathroom?”

“Knock it off. Okay, here, this is for you.” He passed a ship’s Link over to Kit. “It will show you a plan of the ship and where you’re allowed to go. There isn’t much else you can do with it, but you can use the messaging and planner and the ship’s library if you like to read. Be aware I can monitor your activity on it. Make any attempt to get at the rest of the network and you
will
spend the voyage in the brig. Clear?”

“Crystal.” Kit tapped on the Link’s screen. “Are there any games on it?”

“You’re already playing enough games.”

Kit looked up at him with surprise, then grinned. “You’re getting to know me already, Chief.”

“Don’t call me Chief. It’s not appropriate.” The captain and the other officers called him Chief, but Kit shouldn’t. He held no rank on the ship, and he wasn’t under Raine’s command.

“What should I call you then? ‘Cuddles’? ‘Snuggle bunny’?”

More games. “You can call me Raine.”

“Aw, I thought we were friends. Can’t I call you by your first name? I hate formality.”

“You can call me Raine.”

“And what will you call me?”

“Mr. Miller.”

“Ah, yes. The way the cops do it,” Kit said with some bitterness.

“I’m not a cop.”

“Oh, so you just have a stick up your ass?”

The tone of polite enquiry almost unmanned Raine. He fought a war between spluttering in outrage and collapsing into laughter. Frigid calm won instead.

“Get up. I’ll show you where you’re going to sleep.”

“Is it anywhere near where you sleep?”

“Ask me that again when that becomes any of your business.”

An appropriate reply. But as he led Kit to the bunk rooms, Raine found himself wishing they were going to his cabin instead. As they walked through the cold corridors, he imagined his warm cabin and his bed, Kit beside him, skin to skin. Thief, con man, whatever, it didn’t matter.

He didn’t take Kit to his cabin; he took him to the bunk room occupied by the male security officers. A couple of them were in there sleeping.

“Here,” Raine said quietly as they walked into the dimly lit room. “This bunk will be yours.” He pointed out a lower bunk. “Check those drawers underneath and the locker on the left and you’ll find clothes and other essentials. Bathrooms and showers through there.” He pointed at a door.

“Cozy,” Kit said in a soft voice.

“You start your first shift in the galley in six hours. I’d suggest you get some sleep before then.”

“Right.” Kit took out the Link he’d put into a pocket and tapped it a couple of times. “You’ve got my shifts set up in the planner. Thanks.”

“And your daily check-in sessions. Don’t be late.”

“Oh, I’ll never keep you waiting, Raine.”

He drew out the name, made it sound sensual, sultry. Ridiculous. It was just a name. Without another word, Raine turned and left. Standing with Kit beside a bed in a dimly lit room brought up far too many disturbing thoughts to allow him to linger.

* * *

“You’ll have to tie your hair back.” The chief steward Trish Ellis looked at Kit’s long hair with a slightly bemused expression. Like most people aboard, she wore her hair short.

“I don’t have to wear a hairnet, do I?” As he’d passed through the galley on the way to report to Trish’s office, he’d passed a man and woman preparing food. Both wore hairnets, even with their crops.

“No,” Trish said. “You’re not a food handler. The only food you’ll be dealing with is scraps when you’re clearing the tables. So, um, Mr. Miller—”

“Call me Kit.”

“Kit, okay. Your duties will mostly involve cleanup of the galley and mess hall. You’ll also have the job of bringing up supplies from the food storage container to restock the pantries up here. Have you worked in catering before?”

“No.”

“I’m sure you’ll soon catch on. If you work hard and prove to me you’re reliable, I’ll see what other duties I can give you.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Oh, Raine would be so pleased with him—the model junior steward’s assistant. Kit had every intention of working hard and proving himself reliable and trustworthy. He’d always taken pride in doing a good job. But it also meant they’d be off guard when his chance came.

“Come and meet Gracie. That’s Grace Maddison.” Trish led him from the office. “You’ll be working with her most of the time. She’s going to show you the ropes.”

For some reason, he’d expected someone older, but Gracie was a couple of years younger than Kit himself. They found her cleaning the serving counter with a bucket of steaming soapy water.

“Gracie,” Trish said. “This is Kit Miller.”

Gracie looked up at him—she was quite short—and grinned. “Hi, Kit. Am I glad to see you. I thought I was going to be scrubbing this place all by myself for the next four months.”

She wiped her wet hand on her apron and held it out. Kit shook it and found it still damp and soapy.

“Sorry,” Gracie said. “Here.” She handed him a towel, which only made both his hands wet.

“Gracie,” Trish said, “I’ll leave him with you like we discussed so you can get him to work, okay?” She went back to her office.

Kit reached for the scrubbing brush Gracie had been using. “So let’s get this counter scrubbed.”

“You need an apron first,” she said. “These whites soon soak through.”

“Not exactly the height of fashion either.” The baggy kitchen gear he’d found in the drawers under his bed was sexless. “Might as well wear a sack.”

“Tell me about it.” She handed him a white apron from a rack.

It helped. He tied the apron quite low and let the bib fold down over the front. Not great, but at least it gave him his hips and waist back. Gracie laughed.

“You’re the only person I’ve seen who can make that outfit look good.” She fished around in the bucket of water and came out with another scrubbing brush. “Okay, first we clean out the steam-tray slots. Always check they’re cold first.” She held her hand inside one of the deep recesses on the counter, nodded, and began scrubbing it out. Kit followed her example.

“Nothing could make these shoes look good,” he said. They had thick rubber soles and a plain, black, deeply unappealing upper.

“No, but believe me, by the end of a day spent on your feet, you’ll be grateful for them. They’re comfortable if nothing else.”

“So I’m going to be on my feet all day, huh?”

“Yep, that’s the way of it for us dogsbodies. Lowest of the low. The captain doesn’t have a parrot, but if she did, it would get paid more than us.” She stopped and grimaced at her words. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think. It’s kind of weird, you being, you know, what you are.”

“A stowaway, you mean?” He smiled at her. “It’s okay; you can say it.”

She nodded but didn’t ask him any more about it. Good. He liked her already but not enough to tell her all his secrets.

“What’s that thing on your wrist?” Gracie asked.

Kit scowled at the tracker. With a malicious smile, he stuck his arm into the hot water bucket up to the elbow.
Waterproof my ass.

“It’s a tracker, so Chief Stick-up-the-ass can see where I am all the time and can send his hit squad after me if I take a wrong turn.”

“You mean Chief Raine? Aw, he’s a sweet guy. You don’t like him?”

“He’s my jailer,” Kit said grimly, which silenced her—for about twenty seconds.

“Where are you from, Kit?”

“Drexler.”

“Me too.”

“How long have you been aboard?”

“Four years.”

Hmm. Four years and still scrubbing the galley. Kit wondered what held her back from advancing.

“You like it here?” he asked.

“Oh yeah. Trish is nice, and Paul and Penny, the cooks, they’re fine too. What did you do back on Drex?”

“Junior exec at an investment company. I was doing okay. Making my way up.”

He’d made good progress. He’d worked hard and played the games you played to climb the corporate ladder, in the office and the bedroom. But then… Gracie was looking at him, a
then what
? expression on her face, even though she didn’t say the words. Kit shrugged as if he didn’t care.

“Doesn’t matter. It’s the past.”

“What about family?”

“There was just me and my mom. Then there was just me.” At least she hadn’t lived to see her son end up as a fugitive, branded a thief.

“Sorry.”

“What about you?”

“Nobody worth sticking around for.” Some bitterness underlay her words.

Kit scrubbed in thoughtful silence for a while. He’d submerged the tracker in the bucket of water a few times as he worked, and so far Raine hadn’t come charging in with all guns blazing. Looked like the thing was as waterproof as he claimed.

“So tell me about the crew,” he said. “Like what about Chief Stick-up-the-ass?”

“Raine? Why Raine?”

“I get the feeling I’m going to spend a lot of time with him.”

“Oh yes?” She gave him a knowing look.

BOOK: Stowaway
13.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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