Title: Crossing the Line
Author: April Andrews
Publisher: Twisted E Publishing
In the year 2152 the last of humanity lives on a series of generational spaceships. Twice a year, on the ship known as Alpha One, five scouts are chosen to head out into deep space and find places where Alpha One can re-stock its supplies.
Tobias Hark, newly qualified pilot, is one of those scouts but Tobias isn’t being sent on his mission alone. He has been paired with his commanding officer, Javier De Santos. Javier also happens to be the one man that Tobias has been crushing on ever since he joined the pilot unit. But there are rules on Alpha One and those rules mean that Tobias can never let his superior officer know how he feels.
Javier has been following those rules too, despite the fact that he has lusted after Tobias from the day they met. But when their ship lands on a strange planet, and they have to make some drastic decisions in order to survive, Javier soon realizes that if there is ever a time to break those rules it is now.
Because protecting Tobias has just become his priority and the only way that Javier can do that is by crossing the line.
Tobias Hark was a bundle of nerves as he waited in the docking bay of his people’s ship, Alpha One. All around him, lined up against the walls of the docking bay were Alpha One’s scout ships. There were one hundred and twenty-seven in all. There had once been one hundred and fifty. But over the thirty-eight years that Alpha One had been making its way through deep space some of those scout ships had been lost. More often than not they were lost during scouting missions. A rogue comet here, a crash on a planet there, sometimes even a simple mechanical failure led to the loss of a ship. Still, the ships that remained were enough for the needs of Alpha One and its people, and it was certainly more than enough for what was being decided today.
The scouting mission.
The thirty-sixth scouting mission that Alpha One had undertaken. And Tobias was waiting to hear the outcome of the selection.
He wasn’t the only one waiting. In the docking bay over three dozen men and women stood to attention. They all wore the scarlet and black uniform that denoted their status as Alpha One pilots. Tobias had earned his uniform less than a year ago. Apart from him there were only two other pilots who had qualified in the same timeframe, which meant that only three of them had not gone through a scouting selection before. Tobias wondered if the other two were as nervous as him.
He cast a quick look to his left. The officers in charge of the pilot unit on Alpha One—three stern guys, two severe women and one gen-neutral person—were in deep discussion. They held tablets in front of them and were gesturing to records, their records Tobias was sure, he wished he knew what his said.
His friend, Ryan Rowlings, a member of the engineering unit, had offered to hack into the database and find out, but Tobias had given his friend thanks followed by a firm refusal. He didn’t want his fledgling career to be over before it had even begun because he’d gotten caught tapping into a database.
He’d worked hard. He’d logged hours and hours of flight time. He’d aced all of his test flights and all of the written and oral exams. Surely, there was nothing on his record that would stand against him in selection?
One of the officers, an older guy called Javier, turned and caught Tobias’ eye. Tobias immediately flushed, dropped his gaze, and then cursed himself for doing so. If there was one thing he did know would be on his record it was a line that might say something like, lacks confidence when confronted with superiors.
Tobias was working on that though. Working on it hard. And besides it didn’t even tell the full story. Tobias was nervous around Javier not because the other man was his superior, not even because the other man was older than him, but because Tobias had been nursing a crush on the other man since the very first day they’d met. He couldn’t help himself. Javier was everything that Tobias had fantasized about in a man since he’d been old enough to understand what his fantasizing meant.
Strong, capable, stern…
Yep, Tobias’ crush on Javier was stronger than ever, but he was trying his very best to keep it hidden. Javier was his superior, and Alpha One had strict rules around what could happen between superiors and the people that reported to them. It was necessary on a ship where thousands of people lived and worked together, and it meant that no matter how badly Tobias might want it, no matter how often he might fantasize about it, those rules ensured that there was absolutely no chance that Javier might be tempted into one of the scout ships for a quickie. No chance at all.
Tobias almost sighed. He could still feel the other man’s gaze on him. He wondered what it meant.
A moment later and the officers broke apart. They walked along the row of eager pilots and converged at the front. Javier was in the middle of the group. He too wore the scarlet and black uniform, and despite the fact that Tobias was ridiculously nervous he couldn’t help the way his body clenched as he looked at the other man. Javier was well over six foot tall and he was built. He filled the uniform out in a way that Tobias knew he would never be able to, not even if he spent every damn hour of every damn day in one of Alpha One’s workout zones.
Javier held his tablet aloft as he ran his gaze along the pilots, nodding slowly as he did so. The tension in the group was a palpable thing. Tobias wanted to clench his fists to try and dispel it but he knew that wouldn’t look good and so he let out a shaky breath instead. Javier continued to look at them, continued to nod, the seconds ticked by…and then, before any of them could try and work out what those nods meant, Javier called out four names. Tobias’ was not among them.
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