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Authors: Becky Black

Tags: #LGBT Futuristic/Science Fiction

Stowaway (5 page)

BOOK: Stowaway
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“I mean, I have to report to him every day so he can give me a pop quiz about what I did today.”

“Oh, that’s the reason, is it?”

“What else could it be?” He teased her with a face the picture of innocence.

“I can’t imagine. Or I could, but then I’d have to go dump a bucket of cold water over myself, and I’m already soaked.”

“Gracie!”

She giggled, and sobered after a second. “Raine’s nice. He’s always polite to me. Lots of the crew don’t even notice I exist. But he isn’t stuck-up that way.”

Those were points in his favor, Kit supposed. His personal interactions with Raine couldn’t be classified as “polite.”

“Right, we’re done here.” Gracie tossed her scrubbing brush back in the bucket with a splash. “Time to get some fresh hot water and mop the floor.”

Kit followed her to fill up a couple of buckets on wheels. When he squeezed cleaning fluid into the water as it ran from the faucet, the citrus smell took him straight back to the elevator and the scent of Raine’s skin. The thought gave him a fluttering low in his belly, but he turned his mind from it and back to the woman at his side. Petite and forgettable-looking, her hair limp and skin pink from the steam, but with a sweet smile. She made him feel a different kind of warmth than the thoughts of Raine did. She could be a friend.

Not that he had time for making friends. He had more important things on his mind. They set to work mopping the floor of the mess hall, working around the bolted-down tables and bench seats. Kit grinned and shook his head, suddenly aware of the classic nature of his situation.

“Look at me. A stowaway, swabbing the deck. Life is like a story sometimes.”

“One with a happy ending?” Gracie asked. Then she blushed again. “Sorry.”

“Maybe,” Kit said, not wanting her to think she’d upset him. “I’ll figure something out.”

They worked in silence for a while, no sound but the splashing of water, the slapping of the mops onto the deck, and the squeal of their shoes or rumble of the bucket wheels.

Kit would figure something out. But first he needed more information. Raine would be suspicious of any questions he asked. But Gracie was his friend already.

“So, Gracie,” he said. “Since I came aboard so…informally, I didn’t get a chance to pick up an itinerary. Where’s this ship going anyway?”

“First we go to an asteroid field. The ore workers are there, extracting the ores.”

“Ah, extracting the ores,” he said in a mock serious tone, and she flicked her mop at him. A few drops of soapy water splashed onto his pants.

“Yes. Extracting the ores. You know, iron and copper and…and zinc and stuff.”

“Copper’s been a good investment for a while,” Kit said, musing. “Though I never had the capital to deal on the commodities market… Um, anyway, go on.”

Gracie shrugged. “Nothing very exciting happens. We’ll arrive at the asteroid field in about two weeks, and they’ll load the ore onboard. The workers all come aboard, and they process the ore.”

“In transit, right? So rather than hauling a big load of raw materials, they process it and charge a markup for the refined product. Efficient. And it eliminates the need for processing facilities planetside.”

“I…I guess. Wow, you sound like you know all about this stuff.”

Kit shrugged. “Just learning.”

“Well, you sound really smart.”

Yes, he thought, I’m a smart guy. A smart guy like me can figure a way out of this mess. He stopped as his back came up against the serving counter. Wet floor surrounded him in every direction. Ah, yeah. A real smart guy.

Gracie saw his predicament and grinned. She’d been working her way back toward one of the doors into the kitchen.

“Kit,” she said. “You have a lot to learn about mopping.”

Maybe. But he could figure a way out of anything. He lifted his mop and bucket over the serving counter, then climbed over it. No footprints on his nice clean floor. They emptied the buckets and squeezed out the mops.

“So what’s at this asteroid field besides ores?” Kit asked, trying to sound casual.

“There’s a space station we dock at.”

Docks meant other ships. Good.

“And where then?”

“We make a long run out to Saira station and drop a load of cargo there, then work our way home through the colony worlds, dropping off and picking up cargo.”

“Four months to the first stop at Saira, right?”

“Yeah. We could go faster, but we’ll be in a convoy. We need an escort because of pirates.”

Kit nodded. He’d heard of the problems of ships being attacked for their cargos. A convoy meant more ships. More opportunities. But the escort…

“Earth military ships for the escort?”

“Yes. We’ll join up with them after the ore take-on.”

Kit started to worry. When they joined the convoy, the captain might decide to hand him over to the custody of the military. It would be the smart thing to do. He had to get out of here before they joined then. It had to be at the station at the asteroid field. He could skivvy for two weeks while he made his plans.

Gracie glanced at the clock. “Come on, we’ve got some time, and Trish said to give you a tour.”

“Great.” He’d need to learn his way around, and he could ask her questions, all seemingly innocent, but all the while assessing his opportunities.

As they went out, a man came in, quite a tall guy with chestnut brown hair grown in longer than most spacers.

“Coffee fresh, Gracie?” he said, and then his eyes met Kit’s. “Hello.”

“Hi,” Kit said and smiled. The smile the man gave him in return lit up his warm brown eyes.

“That’s Jon Parker,” Gracie said as they left the room. “He’s the systems officer. He’s nice.” Kit glanced back to see Parker checking out his ass.

Oh yes, this place offered Kit all kinds of opportunities.

Chapter Four

 

“Had quite a tour,” Raine said, looking at the data from Kit’s tracker on his monitor. It ran a speeded-up replay of his movements the previous day. A little blue dot raced around the schematic of the ship.

Kit stood in front of Raine’s desk. He’d glanced at the chair when he came in, but Raine hadn’t invited him to sit. He shouldn’t let Kit feel too at home. Stick to business. Not so easy to do. Kit hadn’t come to Raine’s office wearing his baggy kitchen whites; he wore dark pants and a black shirt. His off-duty wardrobe consisted of scrounged-together clothes left behind by long-departed former crew members. Raine didn’t know how he managed to look so good in borrowed clothes, but he was standing there damn well working it. His stance made him a dark, lean shape against the plain bulkheads of the office.

“Trish said Gracie should give me a tour,” Kit explained, bringing Raine’s attention back, his gaze pulled away from the shallow curve of Kit’s hip.

Trish. Kit had met the chief steward yesterday, and he already called her Trish. Raine had known her three years and still called her Ms. Ellis. He let the informality pass, but if Kit started calling the captain “Vicky,” he would have to draw the line.

“You managed to stay out of any areas you aren’t allowed to go.”

“Used the Link.” Kit patted his ass—his pocket. “You’ve got some good facilities here.”

“We make long trips. The company is quite generous.”

“So can I use them?”

“Which ones were you thinking of?”

“The rec room. The gym. Sauna.” His voice lowered on the last word.

“Yes,” Raine said, his own voice hoarse. “That’s fine. Um, how was your first day in the galley?” Why did he ask? He saw some surprise on Kit’s face. They should be finished. Kit had explained his movements. Raine had no reason to keep him here any longer. No professionally acceptable reason.

“Fine,” Kit said, smiling. “I’ve got a lot to learn about mopping, apparently, but I think I’ll pick it up. Gracie’s great. I think I’ll enjoy working with her.”

“Um, yes, she’s a sweet kid.” Kit positively glowed when he talked about her. He couldn’t be interested in her, could he?

“She took me to the observation deck.” He grinned. “She said people like to go up there to neck under the stars.”

They did and were known to get carried away. You’d think adults would realize when they’d gotten to the point they needed to go and find some privacy. Would Kit be necking with anyone up there? With Gracie? He could be interested in women too. Or
only
women. The kiss in the elevator might have meant nothing. Might have been a pure distraction. The surge of anger and jealousy Raine felt at this idea unnerved him. No. It couldn’t be true. If that kiss came from someone not interested in kissing men, then Kit was the best actor Raine had ever seen.

But Kit couldn’t be interested in Gracie. Not because he couldn’t also be interested in women, but because he was out of her league. Gracie might be a sweet kid, but she didn’t have much going for her. No, Kit was way out of her league. And what about Raine’s league? It didn’t matter. Kit should not even be on Raine’s radar. It would be entirely inappropriate. But Kit might be looking for allies to help him later. He could wrap a girl like Gracie around his little finger and make her do anything for him.

“You know,” Kit said, “when you said you’d be keeping an eye on me, I didn’t realize you meant you’d have me stand here while you goggle me to death.”

“I am not ogling,” Raine protested, feeling heat rise to his face.

“Um, I didn’t say ogle. I said goggle.” Kit grinned. “Interesting mishearing there, Mr. Raine. What is your first name anyway?”

“None of your business.” He didn’t know why he said it, but it felt right. He should create a barrier between them—keep Kit from being so intimate and informal, the way he already apparently was with Trish and Gracie.

“Let me guess it. Summer? Autumn?”

“What?”

“Summer Raine. Maybe…Unseasonable Raine? Heavy Raine? Light Raine with Sunny Intervals Later.”

“You seem to be under the impression my parents were comedians. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

“I could ask someone or look it up.”

“Go ahead, then.” Raine affected an unconcerned air. It would be different if Kit found it out some other way. It wouldn’t be an invitation to use it, though he probably would anyway.

“Oh no,” Kit said. “Too easy. You’ll tell me eventually. I’ll get it. I just have to choose the right moment to ask. Say when I’ve got your attention distracted.” He smiled seductively and adjusted his loose hair so that it fell in a glossy flood over his left shoulder. Raine swallowed and pulled his chair closer to the desk.

“You have several months to find your moment.”

The remark didn’t seem to sit well. Kit frowned and shoved the hair back out of sight. His voice seemed colder when he spoke.

“May I go?”

“Yes. Report here again tomorrow.”

“Fine.” The tone said “anything but fine.” But he’d report here tomorrow, like it or not.

“You can go, Mr. Miller.”

“Thank you, Mr. Raine.”

* * *

Jon Parker, the “nice” systems officer, had been sitting lingering over his coffee after lunch for at least a half hour. Though Gracie had told Kit they usually waited for everyone to leave before they cleaned the tables and swept up, Kit got the feeling Parker wanted them to start while he was still there.

“Why don’t you finish up here?” Kit said to Gracie, the two of them loading the big dishwashing machine. “I’ll start cleanup of the dining room.”

Gracie leaned back to see through the serving hatch and saw Parker. She grinned at Kit. “Oh, sure. You go ahead.”

He wasn’t fooling her for a second. He grabbed the cleaning materials and headed out there. Parker saw him come in, glanced over, and smiled but said nothing. Kit proceeded to wash off tables. This meant he had to lean over them, and he could feel Parker’s gaze on him.
Oh yeah, work it, baby. Shake the old moneymaker
. He rolled his eyes at himself.
You’re not a stripper, dummy. You’re a kitchen hand, and you aren’t making any money.

“Am I in your way?” Parker said when Kit came to his table.

“Oh, don’t rush yourself,” Kit said. “I can work around you.”

Rushing was hardly the word. The lunch sitting had ended thirty minutes ago. Kit wasn’t the only totally transparent person around here.

He sprayed the cleaning fluid on the table and wiped it down.

“Smells nice,” Parker said.

“Yes, doesn’t it? All citrusy.”

“Oh, I thought it had more of a vanilla scent.”

He had an arch look, and Kit smiled at him. Kit had used a shampoo that morning that he suspected was favored more by the women on the crew, but he couldn’t resist. The vanilla scent reminded him of his mother. A comfort in this place when he was so far from home and all alone.

Perhaps not alone for much longer. Could Parker help him somehow? Would he? Maybe—if Kit was nice enough to him. He could make anyone do anything for him when he turned on the charm. On the other hand, he didn’t want to cause anyone here any trouble. Aside from Raine. He’d probably get in plenty of trouble when Kit escaped.
Serve him right.

Still, even if Parker couldn’t help Kit escape, there were other reasons to hook up with him. He
was
cute. Kit would do him in a heartbeat. He had not only great hair and a nice face, but also a fine, lean physique, neither wiry nor bulky. Kind of like Jeff, though older.
Don’t think about Jeff.

“You okay?” Parker said, and Kit realized he must have let the surge of pain and anger show on his face.

“Fine,” Kit said, pasting a smile back on. He pulled himself together.
Focus
. He had one knee up on the bench, and he slid along until he was standing close to Parker. He held up the spray bottle and nodded at Parker’s Link. “Give your screen a polish, mister?”

Parker chuckled. “No thank you. I, ah…” He stopped, looking up at Kit, who edged an inch or two closer, giving out the invitation clearly. Parker raised a hand and rested it on Kit’s hip. Kit didn’t object. “Maybe you’d like to come by my cabin later,” Parker said.

“Sounds nice.”

“We could have a drink and…whatever transpires.”

Kit liked the sound of things transpiring. He could see all kinds of things transpiring in a nice private cabin. After days of sleeping in a bunk room with a bunch of security guards, he was ready for some behind-closed-doors action.

BOOK: Stowaway
13.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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