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Chapter 52: Bad Fuel

Another serious security briefing had heightened my sense of danger and triggered my flight-or-fight response. I had no one to fight, so I chose flight—retreating into my budding relationship with Stephan rather than confronting the dangers of the Khmer Rouge. The Poles had delivered us bad fuel, which resulted in water in the fuel lines. Vehicles and generators started to function erratically, if at all—the perfect pretense to visit the Polish captain.

“Captain Chezczowa,” I addressed him formally as I climbed out of my truck. “I need to speak with you about a problem with our fuel.” Practically knocking over the campstool where he sat with a few other soldiers, Stephan got up and came over to me. “Hullo CJ,” he said, smiling. “What is your problem with fantastyczny Polish fuel?”

“I think that maybe water is contaminating your wonderful fuel. Our cars are not running well at all,” I said, sucking on my cheeks to keep from smiling.

“Ah,” he said, still smiling with twinkling eyes. “Why don’t we try lunch at one of the new restaurants? We can solve your problem there.”

We sat down at a small table toward the rear of the restaurant, away from prying eyes. I was studying the menu when Stephan’s large hand reached out, took my nearest hand and gently stroked my palm. “I tried to send you a flower with the fuel truck, but it already wilted in the sun before the driver got to Skon.”

The room moved, and suddenly my brain went into overdrive, urging me to disregard anything that revealed the feelings of pure lust that tickled me deep inside. I saw myself as some kind of wanton woman, a seductress. I buried my face in the menu, stifling a sigh that certainly would have betrayed my crush, and I told myself that we would be great friends and nothing more.

Stephan ordered us both grilled eel, which was actually a grilled ugly snake-like fish that usually made me feel slimy. When our food arrived, he laughed at my twisted face and made jokes about Western cuisine.

“You know, don’t you, that herring and sour cream is a Jewish dish?” I asked.

Nie, nie, my dear, it is only Jewish without chopped onions.”

We kept up a steady banter about nothing important. The more we laughed, the more the cloud of tension melted away until, stomachs full, we both felt relaxed and comfortable together.

Dziękuję for eating with me.” He murmured his thanks, brushing his hand over my arm as he opened the truck door for me. I felt a ripple of pleasure from his touch and saw a tell-tale flush spread over his face. I smiled as much to myself as to him. On the drive home, I knew that we were still engaged in our dance. I was losing all control.

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