Home > Off Base (Out of Uniform #1)(12)

Off Base (Out of Uniform #1)(12)
Author: Annabeth Albert

    “Guess he remembers you,” Pike said, and just like that, the memory of that night hung between them. The dancing. The kiss that could have been.

    “You ever...” Zack started, then clamped his mouth shut.

    “What?” Pike raised an eyebrow.

    “That guy...” Zack waved his hand uncertainly. Then big bad SEAL took over, shoulders going stiffer than the ironing board attached the the laundry room wall, mouth narrowing to a thin, hard line. “Never mind.”

    Oh Pike was so not dropping this. “Did Chris and I hook up later? Is that what you’re asking?”

    Zack tugged his ear, the only crack in his formidable expression.

    “Is there a planet where that’s your business?” Finished with the cats, Pike stood, pulling himself to his full height—not that it did much to make him equal to Zack, but he tried to make up for that with a killer glare. “Look. I’m beyond grateful for the place to stay. But who I sleep with, that’s my business—”

    “Not here.” Zack met him glare for glare.

    “Zack. I’m gay. G-A-Y,” he spelled out. Anger gave his words a bite, but at least part of that edge was frustration that no, he had not taken Chris up on his invitation to text. He hadn’t been able to think of him without Zack creeping into his thoughts, and it was Zack’s warm body and scent that dominated Pike’s memories. “I have gay sex. Whether I do it here or go back to someone else’s place, I’m still gay. And I’m not looking to hide that. Or have you vet my hookups. Not even for a sweet housing deal.”

    If anything, seeing Zack again, all imposing, even in faded blue jeans and a T-shirt, made Pike more determined to get laid soon. He couldn’t keep mooning over Zack and his muscles and his glower.

    “I know.” Zack grimaced, not backing down from the lethal expression. “And I’m not asking you to sign a celibacy promise. Just...be discreet.”

    “I’m not sure that’s possible,” Pike said honestly. He’d grown up in Berkeley to an uber-liberal single mom who greeted his ten-year-old crush on a Disney Channel hero with blanket acceptance. Unlike whatever game Zack was playing, Pike hadn’t even glimpsed a closet door his whole life.

    “Try,” Zack growled. “I need—”

    “Hey, guys,” Josiah called, “some people are here.”

    Zack gave Pike one last censuring look before heading out of the room. Pike carefully shut the cats up—one of them getting out in a strange neighborhood was all this day needed. And fuck, why did even arguing with a guy who wanted him to “be discreet” twist him in knots? He should be angry, not mooning over the impossible.

    * * *

    Zack hurried back to the empty living room, Pike behind him, to find Josiah standing with Senior Chief Weber...and oh fuck. He’d brought his tweenage kid along. And Harper. Fuck. Harper might be his friend, but that didn’t mean Zack was ready for him to meet Pike.

    “Nelson,” the senior chief greeted him. “Thought you guys could use some extra hands to make fast work of the unloading. I ran into Harper at the gym, and he offered to tag along.”

    Ha. A SEAL did not “offer” with the senior chief, although he had a talent for making a guy think that a direct order was really one’s own idea.

    “Happy to help, bro. So is this the new roomie?” Harper asked. He was tall and built like one of Zack’s sister’s Ken dolls—gleaming golden hair and skin with perfectly proportioned muscles. Zack didn’t have to look back over his shoulder to know that Pike was unashamedly checking him out. Because of course he was. It was what Pike did.

    And if Zack had been unable to resist doing the same more than once, then Pike was sure to be powerless under the spell of Harper’s charm. Introductions were made all around and sure enough Pike’s gaze lingered just a bit too long on Harper. Pike’s eyes slid to Zack, and Zack gave what he hoped was a subtle shake of his head. Do not flirt. That was all they needed.

    “Let’s get this done.” Introductions done, the senior chief rubbed his hands together. “Dorrell can handle the light stuff.”

    “Plenty of that.” Pike laughed in a way that made a warning prickle go up Zack’s back. What exactly did Pike have in there? Zack approached the back of the truck like it might be an IED, but Pike’s stuff was stored in perfectly ordinary brown boxes, most of which seemed to have held organic food or Prime purchases in past lives.

    Idiot. Were you really expecting rainbow boxes? Loose sex toys? Stacks of go-go shorts?

    Wait. He could not be thinking of Pike owning shorts like the guys had worn at the gay bar. And he really couldn’t be thinking about Pike and sex toys in the same sentence. Or getting curious about which ones Pike might own—

    “Here.” Josiah interrupted Zack’s internal flailing by unloading a stack of electronic equipment into his arms.

    “Whoa. You’ve got Xbox, PS4 and one sick-looking gaming machine.” Harper paused from his own stack of boxes to inspect the goodies Josiah and Zack were carrying. Even Zack had to admit that Pike had a pretty sweet setup.

    “Hey, Mountain Boy, do you like pizza?” Harper called to Pike. Zack was glad he had a quasi-normal name—like most of the guys on the team, Harper was totally the type to latch on to a name’s nickname potential.

    “Yup.” Pike grinned way too brightly at Harper.

    “Good. I’m going to be over. A lot. No one in the barracks has a setup this sick.”

    “I love a great gaming night,” Pike said, clearly intent on ignoring the death glare Zack was sending him. “Anytime. And bring your friends.”

    No. No. No. Zack did not need Pike spending more time around Harper—or God help him, the rest of the team. “We’ll probably be too busy doing the work around here,” Zack groused.

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