Before Colin has the chance to confess his feelings, Hannah receives worse news from home. In her grief, she pushes him away. Will Hannah let him back in her life when they land on Earth? Or will Colin never get the chance to win her heart?More info →
Staff Sergeant Hannah Coriveau took a bite of her meal bar. Bacon-and-egg flavored this time. Not her favorite, but a definite improvement over the one the manufacturers called “spaghetti and meatballs.”
“Ever try a kimchi-flavored one?” Senior Airman Moon Jin Woo waved his bar around beside her. “Or Korean fried chicken? My grandmother used to tell us they taste close to the real thing. And they’re definitely better than the North American flavor palate I’ve been forced to consume for the past six years.”
“I agree.” After shoving the last piece of his bar in his mouth, Senior Airman Alex Zhang stood while rolling the empty wrapper into a ball. He tossed it toward the trash compactor and got it in with a rim shot. “The dim sum is my favorite. Though I don’t mind the pizza or chocolate ones.”
“Yeah, except we ate all of those on our way to Mars.” Senior Airman Colin Garish entered the mess hall, taking the seat across from Hannah and beside Zhang.
He glared at Moon. Probably for sitting beside her rather than for eating the last of the good meal bars, because they’d all devoured them together. Hannah had even stashed a few chocolate-flavored bars in her locker to keep from the others. Yet, they hadn’t lasted the first month of their journey.
Garish’s attraction to her was no secret among the squadron, but his interest wasn’t returned. Sure, he was good looking. All of her squadron was when they actually took the time to clean themselves. But Hannah had Peter, the teen who’d stolen her heart back on Earth and to whom she’d vowed to remain faithful while she served her five years with the Space Military Command. Now they were both adults and could start a family together as they’d planned all those years ago—though she hadn’t heard from him since her first year away. The only person she’d received any communication from was her father, his occasional emails stating nothing new had happened and they all hoped she was doing well. With the rest of her squadron’s communications from home dwindling as well, she worried the SMC had placed restrictions on what came through, to keep them focused. But it had only made her that much more anxious to return to Earth.
“Don’t worry.” Hannah gazed past Garish to the port window. “In a week, we’ll land on the lunar station. And a month after that we’ll be on Earth. Home, and able to eat whatever flavor we want.”
Moon leaned closer, twisting around so his back was to the other squadron members. “You know, Korean flavors are very tantalizing. You can have a taste of me anytime you want.”
A half-eaten bar flew over the table and smacked Moon in the side of the head.
“Back off,” Garish gritted out.
Moon simply glared at him with a sly smile and draped an arm over Hannah’s shoulders. “You jealous, farm boy?”
When Garish growled, Hannah rolled her eyes. “Okay, boys, rein in the testosterone.” She pushed Moon’s arm off her shoulder. “I’m your commanding officer. Nothing else. Just because I’m the only female on this ship does not mean I’m going to sleep with either one of you, so get that out of your minds.”
“What about me?” Senior Airman Rodney Simons rolled over on the couch at the far end of the room and faced them. “I’m sure I could make you forget about your boyfriend back home if you invited me back to your bunk. Zhang would be my first pick in terms of looks, but he’s also like a little brother to me. Garish is so out of practice, unless you count his hand, and Moon obviously didn’t know how to satisfy any of the partners he had because no one ever went back to him for seconds.”
The water in Zhang’s mouth flew across the table, some of the spray hitting Hannah and Moon beside her.
But Moon didn’t acknowledge it, his sights set on Simons. “You’re a lying asshole, just jealous that I never wanted to fuck you.”
Hannah grabbed the back of Moon’s shirt as he tried to stand. “Calm down. Otherwise, I’ll lock you in the isolation chamber.”
Moon twitched his head to the side then pushed his cheek out with his tongue. “He lies. I had plenty come back for more, but I dedicated my skills to one woman at a time. He was the one who participated in orgies.”
Hannah jumped to her feet. She’d had enough. “I don’t care. I’m not some prize you can win for having the biggest dick.” She pointed to Zhang. “You clean up your mess. The rest of you can stay in here until you return to your senses.”
Garish met her at the door. “I’m fine. I’ll come with you.”
She shoved his chest, knocking him off balance even with the few inches in height he had on her. “No, you’re not. Moon was just trying to goad you on. And you fell for it.”
One side of Garish’s top lip curled up. “He reacted the same to what Simons said.”
“Exactly. You’re all pathetic. It’s hard to believe Zhang, who seemed like a baby when we left, is the only one of you I can count on to stay sane for the rest of the mission.” She spun away from him, leaving the mess hall and heading toward the flight deck. For her own sanity.
Multiple times during the mission, she’d considered giving up on her vow to Peter to be with each and every one of her squadron members. Never more than one at a time, though. When they weren’t being idiots or focused on their tasks, they could all be so sweet, especially one-on-one. And she had to admit their fighting over her boosted her ego. But she’d made it this long already. She refused to break her vow so close to home.
Taking her place on the flight deck, she plopped into the captain’s chair. After checking all the readings on the console, she yawned. She was lucky if she spent half of her allotted downtime sleeping. Whenever she closed her eyes, she’d wake up a short time later, unsure if she’d slept at all. The closer to Earth their ship traveled, the more tired she became, her mind refusing to turn off her racing thoughts. She didn’t know if she was more excited or nervous to return. Had nothing really changed in the five years since she’d left? She’d grown up in those years, become a strong leader to her squadron and a mother figure to at least one of the members. Soon she would say goodbye to this family and be ready to start her own. But had Peter matured as she had? With her pay from the SMC, she hoped to be able to afford her own condo with her boyfriend. Maybe he already had a place to live. Would her parents be okay with her living on her own, treat her as an adult? She leaned her head back and sighed. Once the ship reached the moon, she’d have face-to-face conversations with her parents and Peter. And, during the last month of the mission, she’d figure out what her life would be like back on Earth.
“Coriveau, I’m sorry.”
Hannah spun her chair around as Simons hurried onto the flight deck.
“What I said was stupid.” He rubbed a hand over his face. “I only meant to distract Moon before Garish tried to kill him. I never meant to insult you.”
She nodded her head toward the seat beside her. “I get it, but there’s got to be a better way to diffuse the tension between them. It just keeps getting worse. I’m afraid one of them is going to end up severely injured before we reach the lunar base.”
Taking the second officer’s chair, Simons surveyed the console. “Well, I can guarantee Garish won’t give up until the end of the mission. He’d determined to win you over.”
“I know.” She stared out the front windshield at the empty space in front of them. “Regardless of how many times I tell him no.”
“I guess that’s what happens when you live off-grid all your life, and the only people you know are related to you.”
She laughed at Simons’ comment but shook her head. “I don’t think that’s it.”
“Whatever.” Simons shrugged. “But I do know Moon made it his mission in life to piss off Garish whenever possible after Garish made fun of his height during training.”
Hannah furrowed her brows. “And you waited until now to tell me this?”
Simons wrinkled his face. “I thought you knew.”
“And yet the SMC put them both in my squadron.” She rolled her eyes. “I’d say we’re lucky to have both of them still alive with that history.”
“They’re both great guys when they have something to focus on,” Simons said. “But, you have to admit, we’re all going a little stir-crazy so close to home.”
Probably the reason she hadn’t slept well lately. “You’re right.” A yawn escaped before she could stop it. Once they arrived at the lunar base, they’d have conditioning to do. A purpose. The next week couldn’t pass soon enough.