Curly wiped at imaginary stains as he tried to control his laughter. “You did real good this time. I really like the one about meeting in the CO’s office. That one will be talked about for a while, especially if someone takes you up on it,” said Curly with another chuckle.
“The questions were easy this time, but you missed the little girl. That was the clincher. She pranced right up front here and asked if she could pet me ‘cause she missed her dog. Then she announced to her mom across the room that I was warm. She was so cute and her mom was so scared.”
“I didn’t see them.”
“No, you were back in the freezer splitting a gut.”
“Justin, look.” Curly pointed to the back of the room.
Still seated at the back of the room against the wall was a young woman. She seemed to be patiently watching them.
Turning to face her, Justin asked, “Ma’am, can I help you?”
“No, not really ~ well, I was wondering what you looked like?” she said quietly.
“Ma’am? I don’t understand. You’ve been here all afternoon,” said Justin.
“Yes, but you see, I can’t see you and I have never seen a wolf, nor has one ever been described to me.”
“I beg your pardon, ma’am, I didn’t know…um…I’m sorry, I don’t know how to tell you either.”
“That’s a good one, Justin. She did it. She asked the question you couldn’t answer. Now that’s one for the books,” said Curly.
Justin threw a glare over his shoulder that only a wolf could, accompanied by a rumble in his chest that only Curly could hear, then he returned to the problem at hand. He walked over to where the woman sat. “Well, ma’am, I’ve never heard of anyone who couldn’t see. I don’t know how to tell you how I look.”
With a secret smile, she stood and said, “If I can borrow a phrase from earlier…can I pet you?”
Both Justin and Curly started laughing and Curly said, “It’s a date. I’m out of here. Listen, honey, if you need a stand in rep. in the captain’s cabin let me know, I’m easy to find. See ya.”
The easy laughter faded and a slightly more formal air returned between the two remaining. “Pardon me for laughing; I had no intention of making fun of you?” Justin said as he pulled a chair around to face her and sank into it, she followed suit with delicate grace.
“Oh no,” she said with a glowing smile, “I said that on purpose. Not only does is accurately describe how I see the world, but it also caused you to relax. Your laughter sounded very nice too,” she said, as she reached out a hand to where he sat.
He found her clear hazel eyes captivating and her smile enchanting. The desire to touch her porcelain skin and run his fingers through the curls of her dusky hair tingled through his nerves. He reached out, and with a fascination new to him, he watched her hand disappear in his grasp and emerge again exploring up his arm to his shoulders and face. “Do you have a name I may use, ma’am?” he managed to ask.
“Yes, I do, I’m so sorry. I forget myself. I’m Robin Dupree of Earth.”
“Of Earth,” he said surprised. “That means you’ve been in space for at least three years, and by the most direct route at that, though a charter might get you here in one. Few people travel so far.”
Her hands finished with their exploration of his face and shoulders and she said, “Actually, I think it’s been closer to five years. I’ve been wandering, or of late, I’ve begun to say I’m searching. Can we walk around some? I think I’m getting a little stiff.”
“Of course, please allow me to give you a tour of the ship,” he said as he rose to his feet feeling like a kid with a new toy, delighted that she wanted to spend more time with him.
“Oh, my word, When do you stop standing up?” she exclaimed softly in mock alarm, her touching hand following his rise. Then she reached a hand up to see just how tall he was. “Oh my,” she said in true awe when she discovered she could only reach his cheek. “You are tall.”
With a soft chuckle rumbling through his chest, he teased her. “Well, come on; stand up so we can go.”
With a playful swat at his elbow she said, “I am standing. I’m almost five feet tall after all.” She was also chuckling.
“I guess I’ll have to keep an eye on you then. You’re so short, I might loose you.”
She took his arm and they left the room together. He had to take special care that his elbow didn’t give her a black eye.