By Jack Greene
Conflict is a serial in three parts: In the not-so-distant future, the people of the Earth are repressed by the iron rule of the Emperor. The Space Colonies have resisted, and as a result are at war with the Emperor.
In Conflict: Contact, Lieutenant Colton Santarelli and the Colony Special Forces undertake a desperate mission to keep the Emperor from building the ultimate weapon, an army of supersoldiers. But amidst the terror of war, Colton is secretly in love with his dashing--and married--commanding officer Colonel Vance Hohler.
Colton had never felt more out of place. Put him in just about any spacecraft, or aircraft for that matter, and he’d quickly assimilate the controls. Drop him in the middle of a jungle, and he’d survive and find his way out. He’d been trained for every eventuality. Except this one.
He clutched his glass tightly, too nervous to sip the wine for fear he might spill it on his dress uniform. Or get drunk and make even more of a fool of himself than he did simply standing there like one of the potted plants that dotted the elaborate room.
Colton glanced around, looking desperately for one of his team to talk to, or at least stand near. All he could see, however, were older dignitaries, gathered to celebrate the launch of this new mission. The mission that was supposed to turn the tide of the war.
This was the last place he wanted to be. However, attendance at the party was strictly mandatory, as if Colton and his team needed another reminder of the importance of this mission. He was team leader of one of the Colony’s elite Special Forces units assigned to attack and take over the enemy’s foremost scientific research base. They’d been training for the mission for nearly a year. He knew what was at stake. He just wanted to get on with it, not stand around at a party.
His stomach fluttered as he finally caught sight of a familiar face: his commander, Vance Hohler. Colonel Hohler cut a dashing figure in his dress uniform; it hugged him like a second skin, flattering every line of the man’s trim, muscular body. Colton’s own uniform felt uncomfortable and stiff, but Vance wore his like it was the most comfortable garment in the world. Colton took a moment to admire his commander’s handsome profile. Tall and striking, with reddish brown hair that never seemed out of place, his handsome features arranged into a smile that looked genuine, as if he were truly enjoying whatever the old, rotund woman he stood beside was relating. Vance threw back his head and laughed heartily, and Colton’s mouth nearly watered at the expanse of smooth skin along his neck. Colton wanted to lick and nibble every inch.
Oh yes, he had it bad for his commanding officer. No doubt many cadets had fallen for the regally handsome colonel, but Colton was no raw recruit in his first year of training. He was a seasoned lieutenant, an officer in charge of an important mission, and he had earned every accolade bestowed upon him. He shouldn’t feel like a teenager every time Vance looked at him with those green bedroom eyes.
Just like he was looking at Colton now.
Colton almost gasped as he met Vance’s eyes, now trained firmly on him. Had he been caught staring? He watched as Vance’s full lips curved into a lazy smile, and suddenly Colton didn’t care if Vance knew he’d been watching him. That smile did things to Colton’s libido, causing his cock to press eagerly against his zipper. Colton swallowed hard, trying to will away the inappropriate arousal, but Vance’s gaze on him just made him harder. God, he had it bad. And he was almost sure Vance knew it.
Without thinking, Colton knocked back his glass and shivered as the alcohol burned warmth down his throat. It felt good. When he dared look back at Vance, the man was nowhere to be seen. Colton bit back his disappointment and grabbed another glass of champagne off a passing tray.
Colton had just managed to find a quiet alcove he thought he could hide in when a deep, familiar voice spoke right in his ear.
“You look as bored as I feel.”
Colton tried not to shiver too noticeably as his cock hardened once more. Vance’s voice, so close and intimate, was almost enough to make him moan out loud. “You fake it well, then. Sir,” he added belatedly.
That earned him a chuckle. “We’re not on duty. Call me Vance.” The commander moved so Colton could see him, and Colton realized he’d never been this close to the man. His sheer physical presence was intoxicating. “And I never fake it.” Vance flashed Colton a wicked smile, then he was gone.
Colton was left standing alone, shaken and completely aroused, wondering if he’d imagined the gentle swipe of Vance’s hand against his ass.
Colton couldn’t move for a long moment. Then he noticed that everyone had quieted, and was looking expectantly toward a raised platform at the end of the room. As he watched, Vance appeared behind the dais, looking so sexy that Colton could barely stand to look at him. He was sure his cheeks were flaming red, and his ass tingled where Vance had touched him. Luckily no one was looking at him. They were all applauding for the commander.
Vance began to speak about the important mission to come, how the Colony forces would someday once and for all free the Earth’s people from the tyrannical rule of the Emperor. Colton heard the words but their meaning went in one ear and out the other, so mesmerized was he by Vance. The man truly was meant to lead. His charisma affected the entire audience, both male and female.
And speaking of females…joining Vance on stage was his wife, Lady Alyson Miolen. Of course Colton hated her on principle, sharing a bed with his handsome colonel. She was Vance’s complete opposite, severe in appearance to the point of plainness, and her personality matched. Colton couldn’t understand what Vance saw in her. He’d heard whispers that it was her money that attracted the colonel. Colton could believe it.
Alyson looked uncomfortable onstage, and fled as soon as Vance had introduced her. Vance continued speaking, and the crowd hung on every word. He finally left the stage to thunderous applause, and Colton strained to catch a glimpse as he made his way through the crowd. But there were so many well-wishers who wanted to speak to the great Colonel Hohler that there was no way Colton was going to get a chance.
Colton needed to get some air, so he made his way to a side patio he’d glimpsed on the way inside. He had no idea if he was allowed out here, but no one stopped him as he stepped out into the refreshing air. He drew a deep breath and moved to lean on the stone balcony edge. It was quiet and peaceful, and the twinkling lights of the ships in the harbor soothed him.
He felt rather than heard the presence of another person. Colton turned quickly, apology dying on his lips as he saw Vance standing there. He stared stupidly, breath hitching. Vance looked predatory.
“Shame on you.” Vance’s words didn’t make sense, and he swallowed hard as the other man stepped closer. Colton backed up until he pressed against the balcony. Vance went on. “Making me chase you all the way out here was naughty.”
“S-sir?” Colton could barely stammer. This couldn’t be happening. His cock didn’t mind, though, hardening instantly. His gaze went to the door, where the din of the party could still be heard.
“Don’t worry,” Vance assured him. He moved until he was barely inches from Colton. Colton looked up; Vance was a few inches taller than him. “We won’t be disturbed.”
The implication that there would be something to be disturbed made Colton gasp softly. “Sir—”
Vance quieted him with one elegant finger on his lips. “Vance,” he corrected. He didn’t remove his finger, and Colton parted his lips against it.