This week I'm back to share another encounter between the same two characters--Greg and Elena--who will be surviving edits even though their romance and their POVs will not.
Writing a Near Future SFR--a future that will take place within the lifetime of most readers--allows an author to incorporate familiar elements into the story that are part of our traditions today, as you'll discover in this scene.
Meet "Chief" Greg Farr, the head of security on the planetary exploration vessel NSS Robert Bradley, on a mission to explore the Jupiter and Saturn systems for potential colony sites. He's also an inspector in the RCMP--Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Which makes him a Mountie in spaaaaaaace.
His love interest? Elena Stevens, a wise-cracking, happy-go-lucky med tech (the futuristic equivalent of a nurse-slash-physician's assistant) in the ship's Medical section, more popularly known as Med Bay. Elena is Hispanic and hails from San Antonio, Texas. (She's also a huge Spurs fan. Yeah, I'm making a gamble that the Spurs are still alive and kickin' in the early 2040s.)
In the ship's gym, Greg discovers a friend and crewmate, Paolo DiLorenzo, has set a bead on Elena, and he steps in to rescue her from the uncomfortable situation.
When Paolo stopped rowing and turned sideways on the seat to face her, elbows on his knees and hands clasped in front of him, Greg studied her reaction. The tightening of her shoulders and quick glances she gave Paolo telegraphed she wasn’t lapping up the man’s attention. She glanced toward the exit then down at her machine. Finally she stopped, rose, took a long swig from her water bottle and said something to DiLorenzo before walking across the gym to a bench press.
Paolo followed, a man who seemed to enjoy a challenge. He settled on the bench beside her, raising one foot to the seat and casually wrapped his arms around his knee, visually devouring her before he re-engaged in conversation.
After a third, and this time more insistent shake of her dark ponytail, Greg decided some non-confrontational intervention might help his friend realize he was pushing the line with her.
Greg moved to a bench on Elena’s opposite side and made eye contact with DiLorenzo over her prone body. “Paolo.”
“Chief,” the man answered, giving him a lazy wave of one hand.
Elena swiveled her head his way. “Hi, Greg.” She gave him a quick wink.
Paolo did a subtle chin hitch and a grin, the male-to-male signal, I’m busy here, my friend. Why don’t you find somewhere else to be.
Greg held his eyes, keeping his face neutral. Believe I’ll stay.
Paolo didn’t take his meaning. Instead, he scooted closer to Elena. “How about that coffee then?”
“Thanks, but no, Paolo,” Elena answered.
“Am I to think maybe you do not like me, Elena?”
“There isn’t anyone on this crew I don’t like.” She met his eyes, not smiling.
“Then what must a man do to get to know you better?” Paolo accentuated his appeal by running a finger lightly up her arm from wrist to elbow. She stopped rowing.
Greg bristled. Enough.
He rose to stand beside her, shifting the towel draped around his shoulders and looking his friend in the eye. “Paolo. She’s with me.”
DiLorenzo’s eyes widened and he sat back. “I did not know this. Sorry, Chief. No offense.”
“None taken.” Greg looked down. “How about you?”
“None taken here, either,” Elena said.
“Is good.” Paolo rose and ambled away to an elliptical machine, looking like his pride had been bruised.
‘‘She’s with me’?” Elena muttered, not missing the chance to needle him.
“Worked, didn’t it?”
“Extremely well.” She took another sip of water and considered him. “Sometimes you surprise me.”
He grabbed the ends of the towel with both hands. “Sometimes I surprise myself.”
She raised her wristband to rub her forehead, at the same time checking that Paolo was still busy on the elliptical. “While I do appreciate the gesture, you don’t need to be a big brother to me. I can take care of myself.”
“Of that, I have no doubt.” He reached to brush a stray strand of hair from her face, tucking it under the sweat band. “Was I out of line?”
“Never.” She tilted her head and the errant strand flopped back over her eye.
He took a half-step back, heart hammering in his ribs when he remembered how soft and touchable she’d looked in that lavender dress in the ceremony, how it had flowed and draped over her curves. How her eyes had followed him as he walked up the aisle, playing his pipes. How he’d lain in bed that night, staring up into the blackness of his berth, losing sleep to a longing he knew he couldn’t act on.
She pulled her headband free and finger combed her hair, gazing up at him from beneath damp bangs with those deep brown eyes. It made her look so feral, his throat tightened and his mouth went dry.
She bent to gather up her water bottle and towel. “Like to grab a cup of coffee?”
A smile crept into place on his mouth. “Is good.”
She laughed. They left the gym together under Paolo’s dark-eyed scrutiny, and once alone on the lift, Elena turned to him. “I have to tell you something.”
Greg wasn’t sure he was ready to hear what she had to say, yet he couldn’t wait to hear it. “Okay.”
“I never understood what it was that made women go crazy over a man in a kilt.” She rubbed at her cheek and leaned back against the lift wall. “I totally get it now. You…in that tartan plaid…playing those pipes…”
He waited for a punch line that didn’t come. For once, her eyes held no hint of jest. They glowed warm with admiration. He turned toward her, the devastating need to taste her full, parted lips flared to life, blinding him to all logic, all uncertainty, all reason.
Elena seemed to sense the shift in tide and a guarded look flashed in her eyes.
The lift doors opened suddenly on the busy corridor and the flare sputtered and died, letting doubt rush in like icy flood waters.
“Let’s grab that Joe,” she said quietly, turning to the corridor.
Thanks for stopping by to get a first-and-last glimpse into the budding romance between Greg and Elena that will never be. Although...could these two still have a future together in different novel? Well, as I writer, I've learned to never say never. *grin*
Have a great week!