All the Right Moves - By Jo Leigh
WITH THE TEMPERATURE hovering near a hundred, John Devlin climbed out of his new Corvette into the unrelenting Vegas heat, locked the car and pocketed his keys. The June sun was so brutal he considered parking closer to the market, but he dismissed the idea in a heartbeat. That was the trouble with owning an expensive sports car. You avoided dings even if it meant walking half a mile. Worth it, though, for the honey of a silver Corvette.
Any inconvenience was an acceptable trade-off because John was all about speed. In the air or on the ground, it didn’t matter, damn it. That had a much better ring than having a midlife crisis at thirty-three.
He crossed the asphalt and slipped off his Wayfarers just as the store’s automatic doors opened. Man, he did not like grocery shopping. Good thing he only had to do it twice a month, and only when he wasn’t deployed.
His grocery list rarely varied so he headed straight for the liquor aisle, grabbed a bottle of Lagavulin scotch, then moved on to the middle rows where he picked up a box of crackers and a loaf of bread. The blonde—he was pretty sure her name was Megan—behind the deli counter spotted him and smiled.
“Hey, Captain Devlin.” She had to be in high school, or barely out, but she gave him a once-over like a pro. Girls grew up fast these days. “A pound of turkey, sliced thin?”
“You know me so well.”
Her practiced smile said not well enough, which he ignored by studying the cheese selection. One time he’d stopped in wearing his flight suit and it had been Captain Devlin ever since. Nice to be anonymous sometimes, though being stationed at a base the size of Nellis, it wasn’t easy. He might as well have stopped at the commissary.
“You want a half pound of sliced Muenster, too?” she asked, her voice close.
He looked up to find her leaning with one hand against the glass case and checking out the front of his jeans. Jesus. “Yeah, Muenster. Thanks. I’ll be back for it.”
Not sure his mayo was still good, he headed down the condiment aisle, snagging a jar of green olives along the way. The Cold Beer sign caught his attention. He was officially on leave so why not? He managed to grab a six-pack without dropping everything. Barely. But he still had stuff to pick up. Sighing, he gave in and went in search of a basket. He found one near the express register and piled in his groceries.
The thought of returning to the deli counter was not a pleasant one. At the back of the store he stopped for a quart of cream and checked to see if Megan had set his order on the counter. Looking bored she stood at the meat slicer, pushing the blade back and forth, probably still working on his turkey. However, a well-dressed middle-aged woman studying the food in the glass made it safer to approach. She tapped her foot, gave him a cool glance, then looked at her watch.
If she wasn’t a military wife, he’d eat his boot. Coolly elegant even if the thermometer hit 120. They didn’t ruffle easily, could be ready to move halfway across the world on a moment’s notice and manage to throw a dinner party the night after they arrived. But get in their way? He’d never met a more determined bunch than air force wives needing to get a move on.
He ended up checking his own watch, although he couldn’t blame the woman. It felt weird being in a grocery store in the middle of the day. He was used to his routine, even if the routine was completely contingent on a dozen factors he had no control over. Still, for every flight there was mission planning, prebriefing, flying time, sortie, debriefing, qweep—all the soul-sucking paperwork—and ground ops. Never a dull moment, as they say.
Given that his time was his own for the next ten days, there was only one thing on his agenda. He had a decision to make. One that would impact the rest of his life.
“Here you go, Captain Devlin.” Megan was smiling, leaning into the case and holding out his order. Her lips were red. They hadn’t been earlier. “Anything else?”
“That’ll do it. Thanks.” John nodded at the older woman, who’d slid him a curious look. “Ma’am,” he said, dropping the packages into his basket and turning to leave.
“See you in a couple of weeks,” Megan called after him.