Home > Off Base (Out of Uniform #1)(2)

Off Base (Out of Uniform #1)(2)
Author: Annabeth Albert

    No, Zack did not know that, thank you very much. He figured Ryan and his boyfriend wouldn’t drink anywhere too conservative, but he’d also assumed they wouldn’t drag him to a gay bar.

    “Dude. You look like you just discovered mouse poop in your fries. I promise no one’s taking away your het cred just because the quilt bag crowd likes to drink here too.”

    Zack shook his head partly because he wasn’t sure what all the letters stood for in quilt bag and partly because het cred was seriously the least of his worries. “It’s fine,” he lied.

    “Can I see the trident pin?” Pike leaned forward. This was part of the...thing about Pike. He loved all things military, knew all the acronyms, and made no secret about finding uniforms hot. It made it so that Zack was never sure if Pike was truly interested in what he had to say or if it was all about feeding his SEAL fantasies. And why Zack cared about that distinction, he couldn’t say.

    “I don’t go wearing it out bar hopping.” Zack gave him a hard glare, one that usually convinced others to fall in line, but it didn’t seem to faze Pike.

    “So tell me about SQT. Was it as hard as BUD/S?” Pike’s devilish smile said that he’d be happy to venture into more...inappropriate topics if Zack didn’t take this bait.

    “Nah. I was so damn glad they didn’t roll me all the way back to Hell Week that SQT was almost a relief.” Zack had broken his leg during the jump training portion of SEAL training that followed BUD/S, and he’d been hella nervous until the review board said he only had to repeat the jump training before joining the next SEAL class at SQT. He’d heard about guys rolled all the way to the start of BUD/S when they got a med drop.

    “And now you’ve got your platoon assignment, right? All new guys? When do you get deployed, you think?”

    Zack laughed at the stacked questions. Pike played too many warfare games. “Yeah. I’m here for the weekend because I got some leave after finishing SQT, but I’ll be based out of Coronado with my new team. And no, not all new guys. Couple of guys from BUD/S and SQT got assigned to the same platoon.” He kept his voice as casual as he could, trying not to reveal how fucked-up it was that he’d been assigned to the same platoon as Cobb, the guy who’d made his life hell in BUD/S. And to make matters worse, they were only a few rooms apart in the fucking barracks.

    “So you guys will be doing real missions soon?” Pike pressed. And fuck, wouldn’t Cobb have a field day with Zack being in this place with Pike? Christ, just the thought had him taking a deep pull from his beer.

    Zack groaned. “I wish. We’re looking at another twelve to eighteen months of training before we get into the field.” All the training was intense, but he couldn’t wait to get out there for real—it was what he’d signed up to do, why he’d done the navy SEAL challenge when enlisting, what he’d dreamed about for years.

    “Excuse me.” A pretty blonde woman, shorter than Pike, even in teetering heels, rested an arm on their table.

    “Yeah?” Zack said warily.

    “My friends and I have a bet.” She pointed over her shoulder at a group of young women crowded around one of the tables.

    “Oh?” Pike was way more enthusiastic than Zack would have been, giving the woman a friendly grin.

    “See, Miriam says you guys are a couple—”

    “We’re not.” Zack’s tongue nearly knotted in his hurry to deny that little idea.

    “Awesome.” She smiled widely at him. “So who wants to dance?”

    “Zack’s the one who plays for your team,” Pike said all casually, jerking his thumb in Zack’s direction, but there was a challenge in his eyes.

    “Fabulous.” She looked Zack over in a way that made his stomach cramp. Unlike when Pike scoped you out. He knew her gaze was supposed to make his blood hum, make him start thinking sexy things, but instead it kind of creeped him out.

    “Hey—” Zack started to protest, but the woman was already grabbing his wrist.

    You’re the one who’s always on about how straight you are, Pike’s eyes said as he didn’t move at all to rescue Zack, instead saying, “Go on now. I’ll keep the table and order some fries for when you get back.”

    Nothing to do other than drain his beer in one swallow and follow the woman to the dance floor at the far end of the establishment, separated from the rest of the bar by a low wall.

    She was cute in a little silver tank top and smelled liked the wisteria in his mom’s front yard, and Zack supposed he should be thinking how good her chest looked in the tight top or how much he wanted that scent all over him, but...yeah, not happening. Still, though, he’d been down this road enough times to know the drill, and he liked dancing, liked letting music move through him, even if the partner stuff did get tricky. The dance mix pumped out a fast beat, enabling him to keep space between them. And she was good, not stomping his feet or draping herself all over him. One dance and he’d politely send her back to her friends.

    Near them, a couple—a guy-guy couple to be exact—danced super close. Fuck. One of them wore some sort of spicy aftershave and had a low chuckle for his partner that went right to Zack’s gut. The two shared a private look and a kiss so dirty that Zack couldn’t look away. He’d seen Ryan cuddle up to his boyfriend a couple of times, but that sort of playfulness was a far cry from this...fireworks show inches from him.

    “Hey.” The woman tugged on his arm. “Your friend was wrong, wasn’t he?”

    “What?” Zack forced his eyes back to her. “Just...not used to...never mind.”

    “It’s okay.” She gave him a knowing smile. “Thanks for the dance.” And she headed back to her friends with a little flip of her hair. Fuck. Zack had been figuring he’d buy her a drink, get her off the scent of whatever trail she thought she was on, but she’d dismissed him, clear as day.

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