Hey, it's been a hot minute, hasn't it?
Didja miss me?
You don't have to answer that.
No, really, you don't.
What was I doing last weekend?
Seriously, though, I hate missing weeks. You'd think with time displacement at my disposal I'd be able to keep up, but there's still only 24 hours in any given day. And while I'm pretty well organized --
HEY! Sorry, Minna pinched me.
Fine. MINNA is pretty well organized and she does her best to keep me on track.
See this? FREE and CHEAP books! Click to get them!
Anyway, time slips away.
Today, though, I have something for you to read.
It's a story that Adam's included at the end of "The Ghosts of Tantor Special Edition", one of two.
And I'm going to let you read it!
But if you want a copy of your own?
You'll have to pick up the Special Edition - which you can do by clicking on the cover.
I'll tell you a secret. Official release day is June 20.
You can get it now!
Click that image below and it's all yours!
Oh, yes, Adam's been asked why there's a Special Edition, and why it's only available in print.
He told me that he couldn't pass up the artwork that Emily did for him, and he wants people to see it in person, not on a screen.
Nicole is done perfectly.
And I should know!
So, click the cover, buy the book, then read the story!
What idiot thought a Fleet bowling party was a good idea?
Daniela Garcia sat in a booth, nursing her beer as far away from the noise and commotion of the lanes as possible.
“Danni, where are you?”
“Back here, Shannon.”
Shannon “Flashdance” Fowler followed the voice to her best friend. “What the hell, Danni?”
Daniela tried her best innocent look on Shannon. As usual, it failed miserably.
“I’m here, aren’t I? I’m drinking, aren’t I?” She held up the half-full mug.
“Why aren’t you bowling?”
“Oh, come on!” Daniela set the mug down hard enough for it to slosh. “Bowling? Seriously, bowling? On the habitat?”
“Whose? And don’t tell me yours. You might outrank me by ten minutes. That doesn’t mean I’m going to listen to you.” She took a defiant pull, then made a face. “Ugh. Warm.”
“No, I won’t pull rank on you. But the Admiral might.”
Daniela snorted. “Since she has better things to do than watch a bunch of pilots and starship snobs make fools of themselves, I feel pretty safe. What?”
Shannon was snickering.
“The Admiral’s on lane eight, Danni.”
“You wanna bet?” Shannon waved a fifty-credit note.
Daniela peered across, looking for the white uniform only the Admiral wore.
“Where? I don’t see…oh, crap.” Now Daniela picked out the unmistakable pair, a blonde with a redhead hanging on her. “Why isn’t she in uniform?”
“Because we’re bowling, Danni.” Shannon’s voice was exquisitely patient. “Come on.”
Daniela allowed herself to be led. “Where?”
“You’re gonna bowl. And you owe me fifty.”
“I’m gonna need another beer.”
“You’re kidding me.” Daniela examined the crew at the lane. “Who put me here?”
Shannon was entirely unsympathetic. “You were supposed to find a team to bowl with. If you didn’t, you’d be assigned to a group. Ring any bells?”
Daniela muttered something, and Shannon grinned.
“Come on, it’s not so bad.” She took the list from Daniela’s hand and pointed. “Look, you’ve got Locksmith and Lauren.”
Daniela didn’t look. She knew what she’d see. “Just what I need. Those two are all over each other.”
Shannon glanced at the pair. “True. How long have they been dating?”
“A year? Last spring. Who else do I have?” She tried to change the subject.
Shannon ran through the rest of the bowlers, finishing with, “And you’ve got Elliott. He’s cute.”
Daniela was used to Shannon trying to arrange dates for her, and this had all the earmarks of a classic Shannon set-up. “Who?”
“Lieutenant Elliott Kay. Tactical Officer on—”
Daniela interrupted with a theatrical groan. “You know how stuck-up those bridge officers are? ‘Captain, we have an unidentified reading at one twelve mark two. Should we raise shields?’ No, thank you! Pompous jackasses think they’re hot shit. Pass.”
Daniela turned reluctantly in the direction Shannon indicated.
Okay, maybe he is cute.
Elliott stood a bit taller than Daniela’s 175cm, with short black hair and a pair of old-fashioned wire-rimmed glasses. At first glance, he appeared to be in his thirties, trim and athletic, but what she noticed most was his smile. It kept appearing, over and over.
She shook off the hypnotic effect. “Fine. Whatever. I’ll bowl one round—”
“Yeah. That. I’ll mingle, then I’m headed back to quarters. Got me, Shannon?”
Flashdance raised her hands in surrender. “Whatever you say, Lieutenant Commander. I’ll get you another beer.”
Daniela looked down at the now-empty mug. “Thanks.”
“Beautiful roll, babe!” Lauren lifted her girlfriend and spun her around before the pins had fallen, and Daniela repressed a twinge of jealousy. Her last serious partner had dumped her when she’d taken the position as Test Pilot for the Direwolves, nearly a year ago, and she hadn’t had time for anything serious since.
No, Danni, be honest. You haven’t made time for anything.
“Danni, your turn,” someone said, pulling her back to now.
She stood and grabbed a ball.
Now, if I can do this without embarrassing myself…
Her throw wasn’t bad, but she ended up with a split and turned back to her group with a sheepish smile. The smile disappeared when she caught sight of Elliott.
“You got something to say, Lieutenant?” she snapped, the “no rank” rule forgotten.
“Not unless you want help to fix your throw, Ma’am.”
“Not unless I ask you, Kay.” She stomped back to the chairs to wait.
Goddamn arrogant officer!
“Not unless you want help to fix your throw,” she sing-songed.
Pissant little jerk.
She sat and tried to fume, tried to generate some fury at the insufferable Elliott. The beer almost helped.
He didn’t seem to be a jerk.
At least, nobody reacted to him that way.
Lexie and Lauren were hanging around him, laughing at his jokes.
And he kept flashing that damn smile.
The one that made him look about twenty.
Stop staring, Danni! she remonstrated herself. You don’t have time to play patty-cake with someone who’s just going to walk out on you. Besides, he’s junior to you.
She giggled. That could be fun. Make him salute in bed.
The other bowlers ran through their turns, then she was up again. Daniela felt Elliott’s eyes on her as she approached the lane and made her throw.
This was worse than her first, and she fumed, not wanting to look.
His face was entirely sympathetic, and that infuriated her.
She stomped back to her seat, daring anyone to approach.
Prick! Asshole! Know-it-all halfwit!
Daniela put the brakes on that train of thought.
Okay, Danni. What the hell is going on? He’s done nothing to you!
She looked up to see Locksmith’s concerned face.
Daniela started to answer, then caught herself and sighed. “I dunno.”
Locksmith sat next to her. “Boss, I’ve never seen you like this. Something’s up.”
“Have you talked to Kay?”
“The Lieutenant from the Enterprise.”
“Oh, Elliott! Yeah, a little. Why?”
“Is he, um? You know. A prick?”
Lexie showed her shock. “Oh, no, boss! He’s real friendly. Smart, too.”
“You think he really meant what he said, then?”
“What did he say? I didn’t hear.”
Daniela relayed their brief interaction, then her latest reaction.
“Damn, boss. You really screwed up.”
Daniela couldn’t help it. She laughed.
“Not subtle, Lexie.”
Locksmith shrugged. “Never have been. What are you gonna do about it?”
“I guess I’m gonna apologize.”
Lexie shook her head. “Wrong answer, boss. You go over and take him up on his offer. Then, if it goes well, you apologize. And if it doesn’t? You know you were right.”
Daniela drained her beer.
“Wish me luck.”
“You don’t need luck, Double Dip. Just do it like you do everything in a Direwolf: fearlessly.” Lexie gave her a one-armed hug. “You want a wingman?”
“No. Thanks, though.”
Daniela rose and, a bit unsteadily, weaved over to where Elliott was sitting. He glanced up with a wary look.
“Commander,” he greeted her, perfectly properly, if a bit cautiously.
You can do this, she thought.
“What am I doing wrong?” Daniela blurted.
“My throws. You said you could help me, and it’s my turn again soon, so if you could fix what I’m doing, I don’t like looking foolish, I want to be better, just so I don’t embarrass myself, so will you help?”
Dammit, Danni, why are you babbling?
She wasn’t too incoherent. Or maybe Elliott was oblivious. “Sure.”
He set down his drink and followed her to the lane.
“First, what ball are you using?”
“Uh. Whichever one looks good?”
He shook his head. “Oh, boy. We’ve got to go back to basics.”
Over the next two hours, he explained the ins and outs of bowling. Daniela had to admit he did nothing out of line, didn’t make a move on her, didn’t sneak in a little extra contact. Perfect gentleman. They kept working at it, long after most of her pilots had left, long after Shannon waved her goodbyes.
Their last game finished, Elliott was taking off his shoes when she finally screwed up her courage. “Hey, Elliott?”
“You can call me Danni.” She hiccupped and excused herself.
“I wanna thank you. And apologize.”
She faced him squarely. “I was a bitch to you, and I didn’t need to be. I’m sorry.”
“I’d like to say no problem, but I can’t.”
“You need to relax, Danni. Not everyone’s out to take advantage of you, or put you down. I don’t know why you think they are, but you ought to work on it.” He stood to leave. “Apology accepted.”
“Hey!” No babbling. Just ask.
“I’d like to do this again.” Stupid! “A date. You and me.”
He gave her a crooked smile. “Is that an order?”
She considered it before nodding. “Yes.”
He saluted. “Aye, Ma’am!”
But the smile was there. She found herself hoping and smiled back.