Bianca Mason cupped her hand above her eyebrows, squinting. The sun was setting behind the airfield where several hundred fighter pilots were disembarking from a large C-17 in the distance. The glare made it hard to see and Bianca was becoming impatient. Next to her, Bianca’s best friend Andrea bounced in anticipation; her man was coming home. Bianca rubbed her hands over her biceps, tiny goose bumps covering her rich brown skin. The air was turning cool as the sun began to dip, but it was still summer, late summer, and Bianca forgot to bring a sweater.
Andrea continued to bounce and despite her attempts to quash it, Bianca became annoyed. Maybe she was jealous. She had no man to come home to her, so she kept her mouth shut and was there for her friend. After what seemed like forever, the men and women began to move closer, their faces suddenly becoming visible in the setting sunlight. Andrea spotted her husband and squealed, grabbing Bianca’s hand tightly to keep from running towards him. The U.S. Air Force had strict rules to be followed when soldiers were coming home and they weren’t to be approached until they reached a certain point. Bianca fought the urge to roll her eyes. She was becoming angry at herself for being so aggravated with her friend, but being thirty and alone was starting to grate on her.
Drowning out the sobs of happiness from her friend, Bianca looked around at all of the faces of the returning pilots. They were mostly men, between the ages of nineteen and thirty, but she saw a few women in the bunch. Bianca watched them proudly and realized she was being silly with her jealousy.
“I’m so happy for you that Jay is coming home,” She said to Andrea and Andrea embraced her, taking care not to bump her large pregnant belly against Bianca. Andrea was lucky enough to get pregnant when Jay was home on leave for Thanksgiving.
Bianca fought another surge of jealousy at Andrea’s predicament. Children and a husband were what she had dreamed of since she was a girl and it seemed everyone around her was living that dream except for her.
“And just in time too,” Andrea replied, rubbing a hand over her large stomach.
Bianca nodded in answer. That was the truth. Andrea was days away from her due date and the return of Jay’s squadron couldn’t have come at a better time. Andrea returned her attention to her approaching husband and Bianca resumed her people watching. The faces of the family and friends surrounding her, waiting for their loved ones made her smile and forget about herself and her pettiness for a bit. These people missed and feared for their loved ones for a long time and they deserved this moment, who was she to belittle it. As the men and women moved even closer and Bianca scanned the crowd her face settled on one man and she took a second look. His clear blue eyes bored into hers as if he was looking directly at her. She felt her face flush with foolishness. He was probably looking intently for his wife and family and she was getting carried away. He moved closer with the crowd and she found it hard to look away. He wasn’t gorgeous but he was handsome. His rugged good looks were punctuated by his unruly dirty blond hair that hung over his eye and she longed to push it away. A scruff of a beard shadowed his jaw in the same color as his hair and added to his aura of masculinity that made Bianca’s heart begin to pound in her chest.
A voice from next to her pulled her from her reverie and Bianca swiveled her head to realize Andrea was talking to her.
“What?” She asked absentmindedly, her thoughts still on the man she spotted in the crowd.
“I said, Jay is almost here,” Andrea squealed with excitement and pointed to the crowd moving towards them. She was right. The men and woman were fast approaching the rope that was set up to contain the crowd. Andrea’s anticipation was palpable but all Bianca could focus on was the man whose whereabouts she lost when she answered Andrea.
Bianca scanned the area as the crowd of people began to scream and whoop with excitement. He was gone. She lost him. It was probably for the best anyway. There was likely a woman with children waiting for him on this side of the ropes. Defeated, Bianca turned back to her friend, gripping her hand in support as she bounced from one foot to the next as her husband approached the rope.
“You better settle down, you’ll bounce that baby right out,” Bianca said with a laugh. She came here for Andrea and that’s what she needed to focus on. When did she get so selfish?
“Ha-ha. I wish. He’s due in three days, I’d be happy to deliver today. Especially since Jay is finally home.” Andrea countered, her eyes never leaving Jay’s.
Bianca sighed as the crowd’s volume hit a crescendo. To have a love like Andrea and Jay’s was all she ever hoped for. Maybe someday…
Suddenly the time was upon them and in the middle of her reverie, the men and women came through the ropes and collided with their families. Sobs and tears sounded all around her as men lifted their wives and children, mothers and siblings, from the ground and into their arms. Women fell on their children with hungry gazes, drinking in the faces they missed for eighteen months. It really was a touching moment and despite her resolve, Bianca crumbled into a pile of tears. Next to her, Jay lifted Andrea into his arms, their mouths joining in a passionate kiss and Bianca couldn’t help the pang of longing that ripped through her at missing out on her own great love. With another sigh, she stepped back, giving the couple some privacy. She slowly made her way to the fringes of the group, feeling awkward without someone there to hold onto after a long absence. Bianca turned, her eyes absently scanning the crowd for the man she locked eyes with earlier. He was nowhere to be found and Bianca didn’t fight the disappointment that engulfed her. It was time for her to head to the car and give Andrea and Jay their moment to reunite; she needed some time alone to deal with her warring emotions anyway. Running a hand through her head of tight black curls she pivoted and ran straight into someone’s rock solid chest.
Alex Johansen looked down at the short woman with the chocolate colored skin who slammed into him. It was the same woman he had seen when he was making his way to the ropes several moments ago. His heart slammed in his chest as she met his eyes with her rich brown ones. She was beautiful in a wholesome and comfortable way. Her hair was wild around her tiny heart shaped face and her full lips made his dick twitch with anticipation of meeting them with his own. He was being silly; he had to remind himself that he was not the person she was here to see. Being deprived of a woman for a year and half was getting to him.
“I’m sorry,” She muttered, pushing away from him with embarrassment.
“It’s okay, I’m the one not paying attention to where I’m going,” Alex said, reluctant to let her go.
She brushed her hands over her thick mop of curls nervously and took a step back. She was so short she had to tilt her head all the way up to look him in the eye. Alex tried to keep his gaze from traveling to the dip in her tank top that gave way to an abundance of cleavage, and focused on her face. Either view was pleasant, but after being deployed for eighteen months he couldn’t keep his eyes from traveling down.
“If you’ll excuse me,” She mumbled, brushing past him and heading toward the parking lot.
“Aren’t you waiting for someone?” Alex asked, following behind her slowly. His gaze traveled down her petite and obviously curvy body and stopped on her ass. Her cleavage was not the only area that he couldn’t keep his eyes off of.
The woman shook her head quickly, a look of sadness passing across her face. “I was here supporting a friend while she waited for her husband.” Her voice was small like she felt self-conscious about that.
Alex’s brows arched in surprise; maybe it was his lucky day after all. “Well isn’t that a coincidence. I had no one here to meet me so why don’t we walk together.” He fell into step beside her and noticed her demeanor changed after his revelation.
“Who are you here for?” Alex asked after several moments of silence.
She turned toward him and leveled those deep brown eyes at him. Alex’s libido kicked into high gear and he reminded himself he had just met this woman.
“My friend Andrea’s husband, Jay Romero, just came home.” She said an air of confidence in the way she walked and talked as she found her voice and spoke up. A few moments earlier she had appeared timid and sad but that seemed to have vanished.
Alex smiled, he liked a woman who was sure of herself, “I know Jay, and he’s good people. Did his wife have that baby yet? That’s all he’s talked about.”
The woman laughed, and Alex’s smile widened. She had a beautiful laugh.
“Not yet but any day, or minute, now.” She said chuckling to herself. Alex could see she cared for her friend a great deal.
“I’m sorry, I seem to have forgotten my manners and Air Force training; I’m Alex Johansen,” He said, extending his hand for her to shake.
The woman looked down at his outstretched hand and took it in her own smaller one, shaking it with a grip his commander would be proud of. “I’m Bianca Mason.” She offered; a glint of something in her eyes that he didn’t quite catch before it was gone.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Bianca. What do you do for a living?” Alex was quite enjoying her company and was disappointed when they had approached the parking lot and she stopped beside a white Nissan Maxima.
Bianca angled her head toward the car to indicate it was hers, “I’m a teacher’s assistant. I went back to school a few years ago for my teaching degree and I’m almost finished.”
Alex nodded, “Teaching is a noble profession.” He said, moving towards her as she unlocked the door and threw her purse in. He wasn’t sure why but he wasn’t ready to let her go just yet. He was afraid if she left he’d never see her again and that left him feeling slightly panicked.
With a shrug Bianca answered, “But not quite as noble as what you do.” She eyed his metals and pins and gave him an approving look.
Alex wanted to take her in his arms, the way she was looking at him made his cock throb with need and he took a slight step back so as not to embarrass himself by doing something stupid. Bianca frowned and he regretted his retreat, afraid he sent her the wrong signal. She stepped closer to her open car door and he feared she was about to leave.
“I know that we just met, but I was wondering if you’d like to go to dinner sometime.” Alex asked
hastily, a second before she sat in the car.
Bianca nodded, “I’d like that,” The wide smile spreading across her face again. Alex released a breath he didn’t realize he was holding.
“Great!” He said, probably a little too enthusiastically. He was embarrassing himself. “How about we exchange numbers and I’ll call you this week?” He added, with slightly less enthusiasm.
Bianca agreed and stood after digging her phone from her purse. They exchanged numbers and she slid back into her car seat. Alex stepped back.
“I look forward to hearing from you, Staff Sergeant Johansen.” Bianca winked and closed her door.
Alex laughed as she pulled away, he couldn’t wait for their date.
Bianca smiled from ear to ear as she turned into her driveway. She couldn’t believe the gorgeous guy who had caught her eye was single and going to call her. Gathering her things, she climbed from the car, pushing the door closed with her hip. The sun had finally set and the air was chilly, but that’s not what gave her a shiver. Pure excitement coursed through her as she bounced into the house, greeting her cat, Monster, as she entered. He meowed and wound his way around her legs, stopping at his empty food dish.
“Oh calm down, I’ll feed you in a minute,” She said, reaching down to ruffle his creamy orange colored fur.
Monster let out a meow of protest as Bianca left the kitchen but she paid him no mind. She was on cloud nine at the prospect of a new relationship and she couldn’t wait to call Andrea to tell her all about it. Stripping her clothes to shower, Bianca pulled her phone from her purse and dialed the number from memory.
“Hello?” The voice who answered was not Andrea and sounded distressed.
“Jay? What’s wrong?” Bianca asked, her hand inches from the shower faucet. She straightened and moved back into her bedroom, sitting on the edge of the bed, her brows laced with concern.
“Bianca? I’m so glad you called. We were leaving the airfield and Andrea started having contractions. She said they have been off and on all day but she brushed it off as Braxton Hicks. We think the excitement from my homecoming may have sent her over the edge into real labor.” Jay’s voice was higher pitched than usual and he was talking incredibly fast.
“Ok, slow down and take a deep breath. I’ll meet you at the hospital.” Bianca tried to reassure him as she threw on a pair of leggings and a long sleeved sweater. Her shower would have to wait.
Fifteen minutes later, Bianca was hurrying down the halls of the maternity ward, her eyes scanning the room numbers as she went. Her best friend was having her first baby and Bianca was thrilled but also nervous and hoped Andrea was alright. After a few more feet, she spotted room 5B, the room Jay had told her over the phone, and knocked on the door.
“Come in!” She heard Andrea yell in a surprisingly calm and chipper voice.
Bianca pushed the door open slowly; apprehension fluttering in her belly, the birthing process was still a bit of an enigma to her. But even though it frightened her, she desperately wanted children. When she entered, Andrea was sitting up on the bed flipping through channels on the TV that was high on the wall opposite of the bed.
“Hey,” Bianca said with confusion. Where was all the screaming and the pain?
“Hi!” Andrea exclaimed, sounding cheerful. Jay hovered next to her, a look of anxiety masking his face.
“You look so calm and happy,” Bianca mentioned with shock, and strolled toward the bed.
Andrea laughed, “That’s because I had an epidural about fifteen minutes ago.” She laughed gleefully, “I can’t feel a thing.”
“Well that’s a relief. I was certain I’d be walking into screaming and pain.” Bianca said with a small laugh even though she wasn’t joking.
Andrea chuckled again, “Natural birth is for the birds,” she said, waving her hand dismissively.
Bianca finally joined in the laughter and a second glance at Jay indicated he was beginning to relax as well. This was all so new for her and while she wanted to experience it, the uncertainty was quite scary. She hung around for about an hour, talking and laughing with Andrea. Just as Jay was about to go get a snack the nurse entered and decided to check how dilated Andrea was.
“It’s go time everyone!” She reported excitedly.
Jay paled considerably and Andrea stopped talking, realization dawning on her for the first time that it was time to have a baby. Bianca took that as her cue to leave the room. She had made the decision earlier to stay in the waiting room for a few hours in case Jay or Andrea needed her but she didn’t want to intrude on their special moment together. She kissed each of them and squeezed Andrea’s hand before turning to leave. As she was about to close the door she caught a glimpse of Jay and Andrea in a loving pose, nose to nose, as they savored their last moments before their son came into the world. Tears welled in Bianca’s eyes. Oh to have a love like that. Before she broke down in the hallway, she rushed away to the waiting room.
Two hours and six cups of coffee later, Bianca peered at the clock for what felt like the fiftieth time. It was well after midnight and Andrea was still pushing, the fear of a c-section looming over her. Jay had updated her several minutes ago and Bianca was wringing her hands with anxiety at what her friend was enduring. Jay didn’t sound hopeful that the baby would come naturally and they feared for both his and Andrea’s safety. He told Bianca that he’d let her know if Andrea was taken into surgery. Restless and worried, Bianca stood, pacing the room. She was beginning to feel claustrophobic in the small space, only outfitted with a few chairs and benches and an old tube TV mounted to the ceiling. She snatched her coffee from the table and slung her purse over her shoulder, she was just going to walk for a bit to keep her mind off of everything. Alex suddenly flitted through her mind and she realized she hadn’t thought about him since she set foot in the hospital. Memory of their short conversation and his piercing blue eyes gave her a shiver of delight. Maybe he would call her tomorrow.
Bianca turned the corner and froze; Alex was walking briskly toward her from the other end of the hall. It took him a moment to see her, his mind appearing to be elsewhere. When he did spot her, his face lit up in a smile that made Bianca’s heart slam against her rib cage. He looked hotter than he had earlier that day; which seemed impossible since he had been in his Air Force uniform then. Dressed in faded jeans and a black t-shirt, tight enough that it hugged his biceps and she could see the ripples of a six-pack beneath it, he looked every bit the good old American boy. Butterflies rioted in Bianca’s stomach as he approached. He looked sexy as hell and she was rumpled and sleepy eyed. She was sure she had dark circles and mascara stains under her eyes. Swiping under her eyes with her fingers and smoothing her hair, Bianca tried to stand taller, height not being one of her best attributes.
“Hey,” She muttered, feeling a bit off her game, “What are you doing here?”
“Jay called me, he was worried about you being alone here in the waiting room and he asked me to come keep you company.” He beamed off another large smile.
“How did he know we met?” Bianca asked with bewilderment. This night just kept getting stranger.
“I told him. I forgot to mention when we spoke earlier that Jay and I are pretty good friends.” Alex smirked, revealing that he left that bit of information out on purpose.
They fell into step with one another in the hall, heading away from the waiting room. Silence enveloped them as they went, the whole hospital seemed asleep at this hour and it gave them the illusion of being alone. The silence was comfortable and Bianca was loath to break it, especially since she was tired and small talk was difficult at the moment. Suddenly a thought dawned on Bianca and she stopped, turning on Alex with anger in her eyes.
“They sent you after me today, didn’t they?” She asked, the awareness that her meeting Alex at the airfield earlier was a set up.
Alex didn’t back down from her fury and Bianca was impressed for a minute, liking the idea of someone to match wits with.
“I’ll admit that when I asked Jay about the woman who was standing with his wife as we approached the families he told me about you. But make no mistake I wanted to be there with you, it wasn’t out of some obligation to my military brother. And I’ll be damned if you think I asked you out just because they told me to.” Alex spun on his heel and started back down the hallway the way they came, anger radiating from the stiff set of his strong back and shoulders.
Even angry he was sexy, and Bianca sighed. She knew she had to fix this or risk missing out on a relationship that could possibly be something real.
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