Breathless, Spartak pulled away from her lips. He was gratified to see she was panting as much as he was as he was after the kiss. “I have wanted to do that for days.”
“Really? I didn’t think you liked me very much,” said Danielle, as she pulled out of his arms.
He stared at her for several long seconds, trying to decide what to say. Finally realizing that it was time to man up, he said, “I have struggled with how much I have wanted you since the moment I saw you. It’s been a long time since I have even entertained the thought of having someone.”
“Is that why I have all these roles?” she asked, locking eyes with him. “Erica may have been teasing, but what if it was true?” she wondered.
“What?” he said, blinking. Once he recovered, he said, “No. Not at all. You saw things with fresh eyes. You have the ranks so you can get things done. It’s not going to be easy creating change. If I had any other choice, I would keep you protected and chained to my bed.”
Danielle tilted her head at him. The thought of that pleased her much more than she expected. She blushed slightly. “This is going to be awkward, isn’t it? You are my boss.”
“Technically, but is anyone really your boss?” he chuckled.
Danielle blushed fully. “I have to think about this. It’s going to look like favoritism, which is going to make my job even harder.”
“Understood. My only ask is if we are fighting in public over whatever it is you challenge me on, you keep the personal and the professional separate?” he asked. “The last thing either of us needs is fighting about my socks on the floor with an audience.”
“Do you leave your socks on the floor?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I like your laugh. You need to do it more,” she said. “But, seriously. Do you leave your socks on the floor?”
“It was an example. Would it be a deal breaker if I did?” he teased, as he slid his arms around her again.
She pretended to think about it. “I would have to say yes. After nineteen years of picking up someone else’s socks, I rather like not having to do it,” she said.
“Understood. Remember, I am military. I pick up my own socks,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I have been known to order others to pick up theirs.”
“That works,” she said, smiling.
He leaned down and kissed her again. When he pulled back, he said, “I better go monitor the animals so they don’t throw any of the women over their shoulders and cart them off. And you need sleep.”
“Yes, I do,” she said.
“Think about us. I have already resolved my worries about what others will think. You need to do the same. Evgen pointed out that we both deserve to have someone to love.”
“Rather enlightened of him,” chuckled Danielle.
“He has his moments,” agreed Spartak. He gently cupped her cheek and brushed his lips against hers. He then turned and walked out of the suite. Danielle’s eyes followed him and stayed on the door long after it closed.
“Well, that was something to see,” said Bethany.
Danielle startled at her daughter’s voice and looked at her. Seeing the grin on Bethany’s face made her groan. She turned and walked into the kitchen. “Eggs?”
“Sure,” Bethany answered. “You two look good together.”
“You okay with this?” asked Danielle.
“He’s not going to be all daddy dear, is he?” asked Bethany, sitting down on one of the bar stools.
“Yeah, probably. Does he strike you as meek and mild?” chuckled Danielle.
Bethany snorted. “I guess I can stomach him being overbearing. The option would be having to admit I am an adult which is a whole different kettle of fish.”
“How are the conversations with Bodg going? Is he behaving himself? I haven’t had time to check yet,” asked Danielle.
“Perfect gentlemen. The whole baby sister thing put it in perspective for him. He is nice and is really funny,” said Bethany.
“Don’t let him rush you,” said Danielle. She then turned and started getting dinner through the dispenser.
“You either,” said Bethany.
* * *
“I want the pretty one,” said the pilot, smirking at his buddies as he waited in line.
“You can have him,” said Danielle nodded her head towards Grennady as she handed the flight qualification form to the pilot she just finished examining.
“Ooh!” came a chorus of masculine voices.
Danielle ignored the good-natured ribbing. They weren’t much different from the firefighters she dealt with all the time in the ER. She wished she hadn’t caved to Grennady’s whining about doing all the flight certifications himself. The next pilot stepped up and gave his name. She entered the next pilot’s name into the iPad screening program. She fired off the diagnostics pad he was standing on. “Any headaches or dizziness?” she asked.
“Other than the dizziness caused by your beauty,” said Rafil, waggling his eyebrows.
“So, that is a no then,” said Danielle, not even looking up. “Any vision changes?”
“There must be something wrong with my eyes, I can’t take them off you,” said Rafli.
Danielle looked up at him. “Not even in the top ten lines today. I guess you need to go back to work,” she said, handing him his flight qualification form. “Next.”
The next pilot stepped up. Before Danielle could ask him his name, he said, “I’m not feeling myself today. Can I feel you instead?”
Danielle just closed her eyes and shook her head. “Third time today for that one. What’s your name?” she asked.
And so it went.
“I was feeling very off today, but then you turned me on.”
“Is it hot in here, or is it just us?”
“I never believed in love at first sight, but that was before I saw you.”
“I was wondering if you had an extra heart. Mine was just stolen.”
“Do you have a name, or can I call you mine?”
“I’ll give you a kiss. If you don’t like it, you can return it.”
The next one to step up next was Rodion, RAF pilot. “Okay, let’s hear it. At least make it entertaining,” Danielle said, raising an eyebrow.
He grinned. “Challenge accepted. How about, do you happen to have a Band-Aid? Because I scraped my knees, falling for you,” he asked hopefully.
“That one gets into the top ten on creativity,” she laughed.
“Does it get me anywhere else?” he said, winking.
“Nope,” she chuckled.
“Will your lips look so lonely - would they like to meet mine? Get me a dinner date?” he asked, grinning at her.
“No, but it will get your ass handed to you.” growled a deep, masculine voice.
Danielle stifled a giggle as she turned around to see Spartak. Her eyes sparkled with mirth, seeing his glare at the pilot.
Rodion bolted to attention when he saw who it was.
“This been happening the whole time?” he growled at Danielle.
“Pretty much. I ignore the intent and just rate them on creativity. Just like every Saturday night in the ER,” she laughed.
“What was the best one?” asked Spartak, curious.
“Well, the Band-Aid one, the I hope you know CPR, because you just took my breath away one, and the on a scale of 1 to 10, you’re a 9. I’m the 1 you need,” she said with a serious face.
Rodion raised his fist in the air in triumph and then sobered when Spartak glared at him. He then took the flight certification that Danielle handed him.
“Yuck,” Spartak said as he watched Rodion walk away.
“They were all pretty harmless except one. I don’t know if it was creepy, or he was just stupid,” said Danielle.
“What did he say?” demanded Spartak.
“If I followed you home, would you keep me? It was just a little too close to the truth,” said Danielle.
“Who the hell said that?” growled Spartak.
“Uh,” stammered Danielle.
“Hobar,” said Aengus. “He and I had a little chat about it afterwards.”
“What can I do for you?” asked Danielle, changing subjects.
“Do you have time to go through the roster while we get something to eat?” he asked. “There are only five left,” he said, nudging his head at the remaining line.
“Grennady,” Danielle called. “You good?”
“Yeah. Thanks for the help,” he said, waving her off.
“Let’s go,” she said.
* * *
Instead of leading her to the Officer’s Dining Room, he led her into an office two doors down from his. She looked around confused as he closed the door behind them. There was a meal set out on the desk with covered lids. He walked her around to the chair on the back side of the desk and held it out for her. She sat down and looked up at him expectantly. “What’s going on?” she asked.
“I am sorry I did not think about all the meetings you needed to have and had you running all over the place. This office is for you so you can use your time better. Jareth will continue to Admin for you,” he said. He leaned over and brushed his lips against hers and then walked back around the desk to sit down.
“How?” she started.
“Aengus told me,” Spartak assured her.
“Is he spying on me, too?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
“No. He knew you would never complain. He was impressed with your stamina, by the way. Eat,” he said.
She lifted the lid. The scent of melted cheese hit nose and she sighed. She ate with gusto. “Thank you for getting this. I might have forgotten to eat otherwise.”
“Do you do that a lot?” he asked.
“Do what?” she asked around a mouth full of gooey pasta.
“Forget to eat?” he added.
“I wish I could say no, but that would be a lie,” she said.
He made a mental note to make sure she ate.
Once they were done eating, and the plates cleared away, she sent him the file. “Okay, let me start with I want what is not only best for all the women but also the Fleet.”
“Uh-oh. That sounds ominous,” Spartak said cautiously.
“I just know that there are a lot of preconceived ideas about what women are capable of,” Danielle added.
“Okay,” he drawled.
“Earth women are used to working and raising families. Quality daycare will resolve the supervision issue. They will be happier as mothers and mates, if they can feel like they are contributing,” she explained.
“They are by being mothers,” said Spartak indignantly. “The men certainly can’t.”
“Here is where your thinking is wrong,” she said, waiting for him to react. When he didn’t, she continued. “Most women want children, anyway. It’s something they do for themselves or their mates. Having a job that does something valuable for Fleet is a contribution because they are not doing that for themselves. Does that make sense?”
“Is this just an Earth thing?” he asked, looking at her.
“No. It isn’t,” she said. “Women talk.”
“Chaining you to my bed is looking better and better,” he grumbled.
“You know the men are going to freak out about this. Especially the Kleponians. But to be perfectly honest, Gliesean females frequently had jobs before they had children,” he admitted.
“I am going to give you a secret for dealing with women. They will probably take away my estrogen card for sharing but, if a woman is unhappy, she will share the unhappiness,” she explained. “We have a couple of sayings on Earth that cover it pretty well. The first is happy wife, happy life. I get that you use mate rather than wife, but the idea is the same.”
He chuckled. “And the second?”
“If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” she said, raising an eyebrow.
“Ah,” he said.