An Officer and a Gentleman

By: Rachel Lee

Chapter 1




“You okay, cowboy?” The voice was cool, light.

Alisdair MacLendon’s eyes snapped open. Blue lights flashed intermittently, giving an unearthly look to the youthful face that was bent over him. Too young to shave, MacLendon thought groggily, and nobody calls me cowboy, least of all some snotty kid.

Moving was a mistake. Shooting stars slashed across his vision, and some idiot with a jackhammer started trying to take a chunk out of the side of his skull.

“Hey! Cowboy!” The kid’s light voice became sharper. “Open those eyes. Tell me where it hurts.”

“My head, damn it!” His eyes flew open again. Nobody called him cowboy.

“Sergeant!” The light voice took on authority as the kid called to someone Alisdair couldn’t see. “We’ve got a head injury over here. What have you got?”

“This idiot wasn’t wearing his seat belt. He’s got the windshield in his face. Can’t tell about the rest.”

“Radio the hospital.”

The youthful face turned back to MacLendon, who was thinking that if he puked now it would be perfect. What had happened? Oh, yeah, some turkey in a blue hot rod had run the stop sign at about ninety miles an hour. He remembered the sickening thud as his head slammed into the door stanchion.

“Just going to check you out a little, cowboy,” the kid said, voice pitched soothingly. Fingers moved through his hair lightly, feeling the side of his head.

“Ouch!” The fingers found the place where the jackhammer was working.

“You’re gonna have one hell of a goose egg,” the kid said. “Does anything else hurt?”

“No.”

The kid backed off a little, squatting. For the first time MacLendon was able to identify the components of an Air Force security police uniform: nylon winter jacket, beret, holstered gun. Captain’s bars winking at the shoulders. Captain’s bars? This kid was too young.

“You cold?” the too-young captain asked. “I’m afraid we don’t have any blankets, but the ambulance will be here in a couple of minutes.”

“I’m okay.” If okay was a knife in the brain, spots before the eyes, and a heaving stomach. “What’s a captain doing on patrol?” he asked. Anything to keep from thinking about his discomfort.

A grin, a one-shouldered shrug. “Keeps the troops on their toes if I show up at odd hours. Midnight on Friday seemed like a good time to pull a little inspection.”

This baby-faced captain was a man right after MacLendon’s own heart. And God, he must be getting older than he thought if a captain looked like a baby to him. He closed his eyes against a sudden wave of nausea.

“Hey, cowboy!” The voice sharpened. “Stay awake. Talk to me!”

“I’m not a cowboy, damn it!” His sudden glare was convincing enough to cause the captain to blink.

“Sorry. Sure are dressed like one, though.” Cool eyes took in his jeans, boots, and shearling jacket. “Could’ve sworn that was a Stetson over there on the seat.”

Spunky young idiot, MacLendon thought, and in spite of his irritation and pain and wooziness, a corner of his thin mouth twitched. He wondered if he should tell this youngster who he was, then decided against it. He would enjoy it a whole lot more when he felt better.

The young head tilted. “I hear the ambulance, sir. Two more minutes.” Leaning forward over him, the captain reached to release the seat belt.

Something soft pressed against MacLendon’s chin, and he drew a sharp breath.

“Did I hurt you?” The captain’s concern was swift.

Ever afterward, MacLendon wondered what had caused him to say something so outrageous and could only conclude that he’d been more rattled by the accident than he thought. He said, “You have breasts.”

The captain blinked, and then a quirky, humorous grin spread across her face. “Yes, sir,” she said smartly. “Standard female issue, one pair.”

God, MacLendon thought, closing his eyes. This captain was going to be a handful. He could see it coming.

Suddenly a radio crackled. “Alpha Tango Niner.”

The captain stood up and reached for the radio that hung on her left hip, its weight a balance to the pistol on her right hip. Security cops called those radios “bricks.” They ate with them, slept with them, and all but showered with them.

“Alpha Tango Niner,” she said.

“Intruder alert at Zulu Bravo,” said a tinny voice.

“Charlie? This is Captain Burke. Alert the team. What have you got?”

“An alarm. No visual yet.”

“Roger. I’m tied up at a traffic accident for a couple more minutes, but I should reach Zulu Bravo in fifteen to twenty minutes. You know the drill.”

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