Copyright © Charlotte Boyett-Compo, 2016
Finn O’Kelly stepped out of his jeans, crammed them into a tight ball then threw them with a hiss across the cabin. Sweat dripping down his temples, running into his eyes, he stomped over to the sink and turned the cold water on full blast. Leaning down, he stuck his head under the rush to gain a momentary respite from the cloying, sweltering heat. That helped but he couldn’t stand there all night long.
“Two days,” he grumbled. “Two damn days! How long does it take to send a repairman to fix a fucking air conditioning unit?”
Straightening, he raked his fingers through his wet hair to push it from his face. Droplets cascaded down his back but didn’t go far before the water warmed from his high body heat. It crawling down the crack of his ass pissed him off even more than he already was.
“Argh!” His loud, infuriated yowl alerted his computer and the vid-com on the wall blinked to life.
“Is there anything I can do for you, Major?” the soft, southern Serenian voice inquired.
“Find out where the hell that repairman is!”
“I will check, sir.”
“Do more than check, Stacey! Get him here!”
There was a touch of pique in the computer voice when it answered. “Aye, sir.”
Tugging on his hair, he marched over to the sofa and plopped down.
Which was a mistake.
The overheated leather immediately adhered to his body like a second skin.
He peeled himself off the sofa and stood in the middle of the room with his hands on his hips, head bowed in surrender to the ungodly heat. Everywhere he turned it reached out to lay its fiery hands on him.
“Major?” the computer queried.
He was so frustrated all he could do was whisper. “Aye.”
“There are two more cabins on the worksheet before yours. Maintenance says it will be another two to four hours before the repairman can get to you.”
“Fucking great,” he snapped and the vid-com screen went black.
Grinding his teeth to keep from exploding, Finn wanted to beat his head against the titanium walls. At least if he was unconscious, he wouldn’t feel the suffocating heat.
It didn’t help that he had been confined to quarters before the air conditioning system went down. There were two armed guards at his door to make sure he didn’t leave. When the cool air stopped, he thought at first it was an addendum added to his enforced sentence—an unjust punishment he sure as hell didn’t deserve.
“Levels nine, ten and eleven are offline, Major,” Stacey had told him. “All three super compressors blew at the same time.”
“Was it a terrorist attack?”
“That does not appear to be the case. Apparently old equipment that should have been replaced long before now is the cause. One compressor blew then shorted out the other two before maintenance could shut down the grid. The regulators in every room on those levels were fried, as well, and will need to be replaced or rewired.”
One hundred rooms per level plus assorted offices and other essential accommodations would prove to be a helluva nightmare for the twenty-man maintenance staff. As it was, the Commandant had sent off-station for additional maintenance workers capable of replacing the antiquated equipment—equipment that had to be flown in from off-world.
Stretching out naked on the floor, he flung an arm over his eyes. The composite material beneath him was somewhat cooler than the air around him and he’d take whatever he could get. He’d already used up the quotient of shower water for the week so that was out of the question. There was ice in the fridge unit but he used it sparingly. He wouldn’t put it past General Frasier to cut off his supply of that meager relief as well.
Consider yourself lucky I don’t send you to Helios-Twelve instead of confining you to quarters, Frasier had told him smugly. There are prisoners on Hell-Twelve who would gladly exchange places with you, O’Kelly.
Frasier had made it abundantly clear to him that he was being lenient by merely locking him in his quarters. That things could certainly have gone really bad for him. He could have sent him to the brig—and he wished the bastard had sent him there. The brig was on level four of the space station and those lucky bastards had air conditioning.
“Another day of this torture and I just might go berserk and attack those fucking guards to get my ass sent to the brig,” he mumbled as sweat rolled down his chest to pool in his belly button.
Of course Frasier was just Diabolusian warthog mean enough to nix that idea and keep him inside the sweat lodge long after everyone else’s AC had been restored.
He thought of what had put him in this fiery inferno and knew he deserved every ounce of sweat he was oozing.
“Too much Chrystallusian plum wine and hitting on the wrong woman,” he said on a long sigh. “How the hell was I supposed to know it was Frasier’s daughter?”
Public intoxication and conduct unbecoming of an officer were bad enough but then he’d managed to tack on hitting a security policeman, resisting arrest and perpetrated about three thousand credits’ worth of destruction of government property.
“Oh, yeah. I hit the quinfecta this time,” he admitted.
Yep. He should have been carted off to the brig. Better yet: he should have kept his eyes and hands and mouth and well—other parts of him—away from the blond bombshell with the violet eyes who had sworn she could drink him under the table.
She was right; she could.
But that wasn’t all they’d done under the table.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” he labeled himself.
It had taken him a full day to get over the hangover, but four days later, he still had the shiner from hell and a chipped tooth that was starting to trouble him.
Dropping his arm behind his head, he stared up at the ceiling. It was so hot in the room he could see heat devils shimmering around the overhead light. His mouth was bone dry even if his body was slippery wet with sweat.
“Where the hell is that technician, Stacey?” he yelled.
The vid-com came on again.
“Your quarters will be next, Major,” the computer informed him. “I would recommend you practice patience. Conserve your strength.”
He grabbed his crotch in frustration. “Conserve this, you prissy network of wires.”
The vid-com pulsed brightly then returned to darkness.
“Sorry,” he mumbled.
He really wasn’t but it was best to keep on the good side of the A.I. that was both his watchdog and confidante.
Rolling over to a cooler spot, he winced as the sweat on his chest pressed against the slick floor but he laid his cheek to the composite material and closed his eyes. He was on the verge of dozing off when the chime sounded at his door. Popping his head up like a turtle, he swiveled it around.
Even as the word left his mouth a part of him suggested he get dressed before the technician came in, but he pushed the recommendation away. He didn’t have anything the tech didn’t have and hadn’t seen a million times before.
That was what crossed his mind as the door opened and he sat up to the sight of a diminutive woman in a short-sleeved dark green jumpsuit standing in the opening.
“What the hell?” he barked, slamming his hands over his junk.
“I’m Maze. I’m here to fix your regulator,” the woman told him without as much as a blink of her big brown eyes. She was chewing gum—at least he hoped that was what it was and not a plug of tobacco—as she stood there looking at him.
She was absolutely stunning with her dark brown hair cut in a tousled pixie style. She might have hit the five feet mark but he bet she weighed no more than a hundred pounds. Those large brown eyes didn’t seem to miss anything and when they dipped to his cupped hands, her wide smile was slow and filled with humor. She popped her gum—yes, he saw the pink color lurking behind that saucy grin—then winked.