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- "You’re beautiful, Gina."

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The Sweet Science

993 ATA - Yokosuka Marine Barracks, Geonova, Sol Deuterion System, Assembly Space

Corporal Jennifer Bronwen

The gym was deserted.


Jen flipped on the lights, bathing the exercise room in harsh yellow–white light. Crossing to her locker, she fished out her hand-wraps and boxing gloves. Snugging the wraps over her knuckles and strapping them securely around her wrists, she worked the gloves on as she crossed the gym to the training bags hung on the far side of the room. Selecting one of the speed bags, she began to work it—she’d had yet another long, boring day, and she needed the outlet.

Five reps per hand, then four, three, two, one. Picking up speed until she couldn’t follow the movement of the bag by eye and was reliant on listening to the tattoo of strikes and the rhythm of her swings to keep the pattern constant. Whenever she mishit, she stopped, caught the bag, and started again, seeking the soothing sense of purpose that lay in achieving the correct cadence, exercising the required skill.

Eventually, arms burning from the effort, she stepped back to take a break. Gulping down a tepid, metallic-tinged mouthful of water from the drinking fountain, she cast an anticipatory glance at the clock on the wall. Twenty-three sixteen.

What’s taking her so long? I dropped enough breadcrumbs to make a damn sandwich.

Maybe she’s not coming. Shit.

Nah, she’ll be here. She was pretty clear about her intentions.

One more time, Jen decided, then I’ll call it quits. Even if nothing else came of the evening, she was getting a good workout.

Shaking off the worst of the lactic burn, she started in again, meticulously drilling through the familiar routine. Just as she was winding up, a familiar voice cut through the staccato rattle of the bag’s rebound.

“Playing with yourself, Corp?”

Jen smiled victoriously at the bag, fetched it a final, solid blow, and pivoted to face the speaker. “A little self-pleasure is a healthy thing, ma’am. Or so the Doc says.”

Lieutenant Bell leaned her tall, slender form against the doorframe, folding her arms and crossing her long legs at the ankle as she took the weight off her feet. “That explains the magazines in the surgery waiting room.”

“Right.” Jen smirked. “Doesn’t look like you have a playmate either, ma’am. Or is he just late?”

Bell cocked an inquisitive eyebrow. “Why d’you assume my playmate would be a he?”

Jen shrugged elaborately. She was well aware of the lieutenant’s preferences, but she didn’t want to be too obvious. “Sorry, ma’am. Just an impression.”

“Bullshit,” Bell replied evenly, pushing off from the door and crossing the workout mat to join Jen. “You’ve been flirting with me for weeks. Why bother if you thought I wouldn’t be interested?”

“Maybe I flirt with everybody,” Jen shrugged.

“Oh, so you’re not interested?” Bell challenged.

“I didn’t say that. Ma’am.” Jen winked at her, then turned to the heavy bag. Be cool, Jen, be cool, she reminded herself. Focusing, she began to punch, conscious of being watched, and biting down on a surge of triumph as Bell stepped around to the far side of the bag and braced it for her. C’mon, baby, get a little closer.

“You’re evading my question, Bronwen,” Bell accused between the sharp smacks of leather on leather.

“So it seems,” Jen agreed cheerily, snapping a quick combination of crosses into the bag hard enough to jar it and force Bell onto the back foot.

The lieutenant scowled, but didn’t rise to the provocation.She held the bag for about a minute longer, then tried a new tack. “Well, riveting as this conversation is, I did come down here to get a workout. Can I tempt you with a little one-on-one, Corp? Or are you too worn out from entertaining yourself?”

“Bring it on, LT,” Jen accepted, tapping her fists against the bag to arrest its swing. She took the time to deliberately look the other woman up and down, appreciating her long, toned legs, her muscled arms, the agreeable way she filled out her compression tank top. “Playing with a partner’s so much more pleasurable.”

A faint flush of colour bloomed on Bell’s cheeks, but she held Jen’s gaze, her clear green eyes intent. “If it’s the right partner,” she allowed after a moment.

“Damn straight.” Jen nodded to her hands. “Gloves on or off?”

It was Bell’s turn to smirk. “Oh, most definitely gloves off. Can you handle that?”

“I can handle that, ma’am,” Jen agreed. She held out one arm. “Do the honours?”

Bell hesitated for a split-second, then took Jen’s arm. Jen clenched and unclenched her fist repeatedly as Bell ripped the hook and loop fastener open, working the muscles in her forearm beneath the other woman’s fingers. Bell’s gaze flicked up, clearly suspicious, but the colour in her cheeks was a shade deeper, the green of her eyes a shade darker.

Jen shook the glove and Bell’s fingers free. Removing her other glove, she dumped it next to its partner. Then, aware that by any rules of engagement you cared to name that she was cheating, she grabbed the hem of her t-shirt and hooked the garment casually over her head, leaving her in her sports bra and shorts. She walked over to the door, kicked it shut and locked it, then stepped onto the workout mat. “Ready, ma’am?” she invited, beckoning Bell to join her.

Bell glanced meaningfully at the door. “I’m not going to run away, you know.”

“Just thought you might appreciate a little privacy,” Jen replied. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t perform well with an audience.”

Bell burst out laughing. “That’s a crock of horseshit, Bronwen. You thrive on having an audience.”

Jen shrugged. “Like you said, ma’am—it’s gotta be the right audience. Only a select few get to enjoy my best work. And you’re stalling. If you’re scared, we can call it quits and go get a nice cup of hot chocolate.”

Bell looked Jen up and down acquisitively as she walked onto the mat, licking her lips. “Let’s do this,” she directed, squaring off. “Play nice, now, Corp.”

“Aye aye, ma’am.”

Jen studied her opponent as they circled, mulling over more than one attack strategy as she raised her guard. She’d found the lieutenant attractive from the moment she’d first laid eyes on the tall, willowy blonde. Knowing that interest was reciprocated certainly opened up a whole spectrum of opportunities. It would be risky, but the payoff, if she did it right, was well worth taking the chance on.

First things first, Jen. She isn’t going to sweep herself off her feet.

Giving the lieutenant her best smirk, Jen flicked an experimental jab at her opponent’s face. Bell blocked, lashed out with a quick counter-jab, and followed it up with a right cross that put Jen on the defensive.

They carried on in this vein, testing one another carefully, and Jen began to relax into the moment, content to see where the situation led. Bell moved well, and clearly trained hard, her lithe form packed with muscle. For all Jen’s enlisted grunt’s conceit about how cushy officers had it, there was no denying that Bell worked that cute ass off to be able to lead by example. It was one of the things she genuinely admired about her lieutenant—that willingness to get down with her platoon and really put her credits where her mouth was.

A solid strike to her gut snapped her out of her reverie, and she backed off a few steps with a cough to see Bell giving her a cocky, shit-eating grin. “I said play nice, Corp, not play dead,” she goaded. “C’mon, at least pretend you’re gonna put up a fight.”

“Oh, is that how it is?”

“That’s how it is.”

“OK, LT. No more free shots. Your ass is all mine.” Jen shook her head, raised her guard and stepped back in, focused in earnest, driving the lieutenant towards the lockers with a carefully judged flurry of jabs and crosses. If she could get Bell close enough, she could maybe pin her against a locker, escalate things a little. She looked away to judge the distance—just a couple more shots ought to do it.

It transpired, however, that Jen wasn’t the only one prepared to cheat. In the split-second in which her attention wavered, Bell stepped in, hooked her ankle, and swept it from under her. Overbalancing, Jen grabbed the lieutenant’s vest reflexively as she toppled, pulling her into a grapple to ensure the other woman landed squarely on top of her.

Winded, she lay still for a moment. Bell, pressed against her from chest to hips in a comfortable facsimile of intimacy, wriggled slightly in her grip, tipping her head back and making their dog-tags clink as they collided. “You OK, Bronwen?” she asked.

“Fine,” Jen coughed. “So… are we calling that a draw?” She looked into Bell’s darkened green eyes from mere inches away, seeing sparks of desire crackling in their depths.

“I was thinking we could both call it a win,” the lieutenant breathed, her voice husky.

“I can accept that.” Jen shot a quick glance at the gym door, verifying that it was locked. “Although you did cheat.”

“I could make that up to you,” Bell offered, rolling her hips suggestively. “What would you say to celebrating our victory together?”

Jen relaxed, enjoying the surge of adrenaline and arousal the contact provoked. Gotcha. “Gonna let me share the spoils, huh?”

The lieutenant wet her lips with a nervous dart of her tongue, her rosy blush spreading across her cheeks. “I’d say you’d earned a share of the plunder.”

“Plunder? I like the sound of that,” Jen drawled. Gripping the chain of Bell’s dog-tags, she pulled the lieutenant down into a kiss. She kept it short, nipping Bell’s lip as she withdrew, and waited. “That the kind of plunder you had in mind, ma’am?”

“I, uh… yeah.” Bell sounded uncertain suddenly, doubt putting an adorable little crease in her forehead that had Jen itching to smooth it away. “I want… God, I really... I’ve been thinking about this for weeks.”

“Then you’re a masochist,” Jen chided. “We could have been doing this for weeks.”

“I wasn’t sure you were interested.”

“Why wouldn’t I be? You’re a total knockout.” Jen ran her fingers across Bell’s cheek. “I’m interested. Attracted.” She held the other woman’s gaze intently. “Ready.”

Bell dipped her head, kissed Jen again, and Jen let her control the tempo and the caresses, responding this time rather than leading. When they broke for breath she could almost see Bell’s control snapping, one thread at a time.

“Oh, God, this is gonna kill me,” Bell groaned. “I feel… I feel like I should remind you this is against the regs.”

“Screw the regs, ma’am.”

Bell shook her head. “Don’t call me that. Not if we’re gonna do this.”

Jen nodded reassuringly. “We’re gonna do this. You’re not the only one who’s been thinking about it.” She gave in to her impulse, smoothed the crease from the lieutenant’s brow with a tender brush of her thumb. “You’re worth the risk. You’re beautiful, Gina.”

Gina swallowed hard, a smile of shy delight breaking across her features, illuminating her beauty. “I guess… I, uh…”

“Oh for God’s sake, c’mere.” Jen craned her neck, pressing her mouth over the lieutenant’s and kissing her ardently. Gina groaned in satisfaction, and Jen deepened the kiss, teasing her tongue and lips. Gina brought her hands up to cup Jen’s face, lacing her fingers in her hair.

“I can’t get you out of my mind,” Gina whispered as they pulled apart once more, as Jen flipped them over so that the lieutenant was the one pinned to the ground. “Do you have any idea how much that stupid, cocky, smartass attitude of yours turns me on?”

Jen took in the flush spreading across Gina’s neck and chest, the unguarded arousal in her eyes, the rapid tempo of her breathing. “I have a pretty good idea, yeah,” she confirmed with her brashest grin. “But let’s see how much hotter I can get you.” She gave one breast a playful squeeze, and Gina arched up underneath her, tipping her head back and closing her eyes.

“Jennifer, please,” she implored in a breathy whisper, “stop talking, start doing.”

Jen obliged, dusting a series of light kisses up the side of Gina’s neck, grinning into the soft skin beneath her lips as she felt the other woman shudder with pleasure at the touch.

“Damn, that feels good,” Gina groaned. “Do it again.”

“Bossy, ain’t you?” Jen teased lightly, but she complied, mirroring the path up the other side of Gina’s neck. Gina tilted her head to meet her halfway, capturing her mouth in a feral, combative kiss.

Breaking free, Jen pushed Gina’s top up, baring the smooth skin of her stomach. Hooking one finger under the hem of the sports bra beneath the shirt, she pulled the undergarment up and clear, bunching the material up to free Gina’s breasts. Replacing the garment with her palms, she massaged the soft flesh gently, using her thumbs to tease the nipples taut.

“Oh God,” Gina gasped, back arching, lifting herself into firmer contact. Jen grinned as she threaded the fingers of one hand into the lieutenant’s short, choppy blonde hair and initiated another kiss, mussing the silky strands as the officer's tongue explored her mouth. She kept her other hand on a breast, teasing and massaging, and tension began to pluck at her own nerves as Gina’s whimpers and moans of arousal stoked her desire, slowly tightening a coil of pleasurable anticipation deep in her belly.

She trailed her hand down Gina’s body, dragging her fingertips lightly in a teasing caress, relishing the contrasts of her lover’s soft, sensitive breasts and the taut, muscled plane of her abdomen. Slipping her hand beneath the waistband of Gina’s shorts, she let it rest there for a moment, drawing out the anticipation. Ideally, she would have liked to take more time to explore Gina’s body, learn where and how she most liked to be touched and caressed, but the gym was a little too exposed for an extended session of lovemaking, and getting caught wasn’t part of the plan.

Not tonight anyway.

She felt a pang of guilt as she looked into Gina’s eyes and saw nothing but need and trust. The pang deepened as Gina smiled at her, and Jen froze, poised on the brink.

I don’t know if I can do this.

“Jennifer,” Gina groaned, “please don’t tease me.”

She wants this on her own terms, Jen told herself sternly, it’s not like you’re seducing a goddamn virgin. Gina had never been shy about discussing her previous amorous liaisons. She came down here with this in mind. Just enjoy it for now, and worry about later, later.

“Jen, please,” Gina pleaded, a desperate catch in her voice. She canted her hips up, offering herself unconditionally, and Jen’s willpower crumbled.

“Ah, fuck.” She broke Gina’s expectant gaze, buried her face in the lieutenant’s neck and moved her hand down, trailing her fingers through the soft thatch of hair and feeling the warm dampness that signalled her lover’s arousal more clearly than words. Dipping in to brush a kiss against the pulse point below Gina’s jaw, she slid her hand between her lover’s thighs and cupped her intimately.

Gina’s hips bucked involuntarily at the contact, and she took a sharp breath, letting it out in a soft, trembling sigh as Jen began to caress the delicate flesh beneath her fingers. Keeping her movements slow and gentle, her teasing little touches mirrored with kisses, Jen built pace and rhythm deliberately as she coaxed more and more impassioned responses from Gina’s body.

As the tension wound her muscles tighter and tighter, sent tremors rippling across her belly and lifted her hips, Gina caught her lower lip between her teeth, clearly trying to restrain the impulse to cry out. Her back arched, a wordless plea for release, and Jen nipped gently at her earlobe. “It’s OK, Gina,” she whispered. “I’ve got you.”

“God, Jen, just don’t stop,” Gina pleaded, her voice cracking. “I’m so close.”

“Let go,” Jen begged her in a whisper. “Let go, baby. I’ve got you.” Covering Gina’s mouth with a fervent kiss, she hugged the lieutenant tightly as she peaked, muffling her incoherent cry, holding her close as she shuddered with her release.

She kept kissing Gina, gentle, reassuring caresses, as the lieutenant calmed, and after a few moments the blonde looked up with a sated smile.

“Man, that felt good,” she murmured.

“So was that the kind of workout you had in mind?” Jen asked lightly.

Gina chuckled. “It’s the kind of workout I was hoping for,” she corrected. “Although it seems to have been a little one-sided. I’m pretty sure I owe you second round.”

“I’ll take that bout, but not here. C’mon,” Jen got to her feet and held out a hand. “This isn’t the best place for being discreet. I happen to know a few spots that are a little more secluded.”

“Oh, do you?” Gina grinned as she accepted the hand up, using the grip to pull Jen into another heated kiss. “Imagine my shock. Where did you have in mind?”

“There’s never anyone in the half-track depot at this time of night.” Jen winked. “Lots of places to hide, too, in the event of unanticipated company. Down the back of the oil store is quiet too, if you can stomach the smell.”

Gina started to laugh again. “You’re painting a real romantic picture there, Jen.”

Jen looked up at the clock. Twenty-three forty-seven. Smirking, she drew Gina close again. “Well, that’s to be expected,” she murmured, stealing another kiss. “After all, it is still Valentine’s day.”

Where to find it?

Board games Burning Suns Wiki-wordmark
Books Conflagration (Book One)Conflagration (Book Two)Conflagration (Book Three)Insurrection (Book One)The Art of Burning Suns
Series Conflagration - Issue 1Conflagration - Issue 2Conflagration - Issue 3Conflagration - Issue 4Conflagration - Issue 5Conflagration - Issue 6Conflagration - Issue 7Conflagration - Issue 8Conflagration - Issue 9Conflagration - Issue 10
Snapshots A Hellfire DropJennifer BronwenKeera NaraymisKiith KohathPitch DarkShan'ChaelThe Sweet ScienceValhalla Recruitment