Night Maneuvers - By Jillian Burns


IF SHE EVER got married in a place like this, her mother would weep and wail for a month of Sundays.

Captain Alexandria Hughes, unlikely bridesmaid, looked around the small Las Vegas chapel, taking in the garish pink and purple drapery swags and the fake marble pedestals holding bouquets of fake white roses. The dozens of white candles weren’t too bad, but…the Elvis impersonator in the cheap gold jacket would have to go.

Or maybe not. Maybe her mother would be so grateful if Alex ever married at all that Mom would even agree to let Elvis officiate.

The lone daughter in a family of three sons, Alex had been her mother’s only hope for all things girly. Unfortunately, Alex had always preferred roping calves to baking pies. But that had never stopped Mom from trying. Even after twelve years, she still hoped Alex’s Air Force career was merely a rebellious phase that would end when she met Mr. Right.

The wedding march suddenly blared from speakers. She let all thoughts of Mom slip to the back of her mind and turned with the dozen or so guests to watch the bride walk down the aisle.

God, Jordan looked beautiful in that strapless white dress. The material shimmered and the full skirt flowed down to the pink shag carpet and swished when she walked.

Alex flattened her palm and pushed at an ache in her stomach. Must be nerves for her friend. She could never rock a wedding dress like that. For one thing, she had nothing in front to hold it up. For another, she’d have tripped over all that material puddling around her feet.

Luckily, she’d obtained permission to wear her dress uniform even though the wedding wasn’t being held on base. She preferred her uniform to one of those froufrou dresses. Her uniform was familiar, comfortable. The only primping she’d done was shining her dress shoes and polishing her saber. The amount of fuss most women put into their looks had always seemed so ridiculous.

Until recently.

Major Cole Jackson, er…former Major Jackson of the U.S. Air Force—now Officer Jackson of the Las Vegas Police Department—beamed at his bride as she advanced down the aisle. Pure love for Jordan shone in his eyes and Alex felt a stab of…was that envy? Nah. Jackson was a good buddy. After what he’d been through in Iraq, he deserved happiness. She’d about busted a gut cheering for them when he and Jordan had announced their engagement.

It was just the look that came over Jackson whenever he gazed at his fiancée. Like she was the missing part of his soul. Even the toughest airman might get a little knot in his throat watching that. Even McCabe.

Alex glanced over at Captain Mitchell McCabe, aka the best man. Okay, so maybe not McCabe. He was too busy winking at the redheaded maid of honor standing in front of Alex.

She clenched her teeth. What a player. But she cleared her expression and smiled as Jordan stepped up and took her groom’s hand.

The vows were short and sweet, even with Elvis curling his lip and swinging his hips to punctuate each statement. Pastor Elvis pronounced Jackson and Jordan husband and wife and then Alex and five of her fellow uniformed officers pivoted to face each other, drew their sabers, and formed the arch.

Jackson—looking fit and strong in a simple black tuxedo—extended his elbow to his bride. They passed beneath the arch and kissed. After Lieutenant Colonel Grady issued the command to return sabers to belts, everyone headed into the next room for cake and champagne.

Whew. It was over. Maybe now Alex could get something to drink and go prop up a wall somewhere. She removed her white gloves and spent the next twenty minutes nursing her beer and glaring at McCabe’s seduction routine as he hit on the redhead.

Never mind his practiced words. All Mitch had to do was stand there and women flocked to him. Even with the short military cut, his blond hair begged for a woman’s fingers to run through it. His mischievous light blue eyes and tall, muscular build were simply icing on the cake. And when he smiled? Forget it, women were down for the count. Those twin dimples were the strongest weapon in his arsenal, and even his slightly crooked teeth only added charm to his deadly grin.

Fury ramped up as Alex watched him. When she’d returned to Nellis Air Force base after a two-year stint at Langley, she’d hoped to find he’d gotten past his I’ve-been-screwed-by-my-ex-wife-and-now-I’m-just-here-for-the-party phase. But