Night Maneuvers - By Jillian Burns Page 0,1

it’d been seven years since his divorce, and, if anything, McCabe was worse now. She’d thought losing that bet with Jackson, forcing him to be celibate, might be the beginning of change for Mitch. But he’d seemed to make it through the ordeal unscathed.

“Alex, come get in the picture.” Jordan took her elbow and led her to stand in front of the table where the cake and punch had been served.

The photographer fiddled with the tripod.

McCabe lined up next to Alex as Jordan gathered more people into the picture. “Aren’t you going to find someone to go home with, Hughes?” McCabe murmured into her ear. After a dozen years of friendship, it irritated her how his Southern drawl still flowed through her core like premium oil through an engine. “It’s practically required at weddings, isn’t it?” He winked at the redhead.

“I think you’ve made the quota for both of us.” She swiped her hat out from beneath her arm and clasped it behind her back.

“Aw, Hughes.” McCabe grimaced. “What happened to you at Langley? Two years away from Nellis and you’re no fun anymore.” He scooted closer and placed his arm around her shoulder as Jackson and Grady took their places on either side of them. “I remember a time when we used to race to see which one of us could close the deal first.”

“Once. We did that once. Almost a decade ago.” When she’d have rather died than let her fellow cadets know she was a virgin. Her mission that night had been to find some guy she’d never see again, get laid and get it over with. Geez, that seemed like a lifetime ago.

“Has it been that long?” He looked down at her, his eyes twinkling mischievously and his teeth gleaming white.

She scowled. “Not long enough, I guess.” Not if Mitch was still strutting around like a stag during mating season. He hadn’t gotten any better since she’d transferred out of here for Langley.

Following the photographer’s instructions, she scrunched in and placed a hand on McCabe’s back. As she smelled his expensive sandalwood cologne her stomach dipped like she’d just rolled her F-16. Damn it. She refused to let him get to her anymore. He was the reason she’d asked to transfer out of Nellis. She’d moved hundreds of miles away trying to extinguish whatever she might have imagined she felt for him.

It had hurt to see him drinking and sleeping around after the divorce. She’d understood it. Up to a point. But she’d finally had to put some distance between herself and her buddy. Watching him become more and more callous had broken her heart.

Now she was just annoyed. Ever since she’d been stationed back in Vegas, resentment burned in her gut watching him continue to behave like a shallow serial dater. She’d hoped in time his flame of hatred for his ex would burn itself out. But she could see now that Mitch McCabe was determined to be nothing more than a walking booty call.

As the camera flashed, she forced a smile, and then stalked off toward the restrooms.

MITCH WATCHED HUGHES storm away. Something nagged at him. He was glad she was done with her internship at Langley, but his buddy had changed since she’d transferred back to Nellis last year. What was eating her?

While the bride and groom posed for more pictures with family, Mitch checked his Tag Heuer. Ten o’clock already. And a Friday night. How much longer was this shindig going to last? The only single woman in the room was that saucy redheaded friend of Jordan’s. She’d flirted for a while before telling him she already had a boyfriend. Mitch’s most important rule where women were concerned: no poaching. He sure as hell wouldn’t do to some other poor schmuck what had been done to him.

Finally it looked as if the newlyweds were taking their leave. Jackson was acting like a lovesick fool, hanging all over his bride as if he had emphysema and she was oxygen. Even their buddy Grady—Mr. Control Freak—in an embarrassing public display of affection, had his wife, Lily, wrapped in his arms as he kissed her neck. Lily had wasted no time reeling the poor sucker in last year. And now that he’d returned from his tour of duty in Iraq Grady couldn’t go two sentences at work without mentioning his wife.

When Hughes reappeared, Mitch sauntered over. He shook his head and rocked back on his heels. “Pathetic,” he said under his breath. “First Grady falls