Geneva Greyson bounced on the rubber belt of the treadmill. A large screen stretched before her, covering most of the wall in front of the exercise equipment. Sunny beaches shifted into pale deserts which, in turn, sloped up into jagged mountains. The images weren’t intended to fool the gymnasium’s inhabitants into thinking they were anywhere other than hurtling through space on a massive ship. She rather liked the simulated scenes and the light distraction they provided. When the display on her treadmill flashed a satisfactory number of miles, she decreased the speed until she came to a halt.
"Did you actually get anywhere today?" spoke a deep voice behind her. "Or are you still just running in circles around an artificial planet?"
"What can I say?" She laughed as she turned around. "If there is an actual destination programmed into that thing, I’m determined to be the first one to find it!"
Ash, her fellow officer and intimate companion, joined in her amusement with a hearty chuckle. "There’s no doubt in my mind you’ll beat it someday," he said, slipping a muscular arm around her shoulders.
Geneva stood on her toes and brushed her lips against his. There was a time when she worried about her colleagues discovering her relationship with the jovial commander. Ever since he’d made the permanent move into her quarters, those around her had more important things to do than keep track of her romantic pursuits. "Speaking of beating things..." she said. "You arrived just in time to assist me with the last part of my usual routine."
"You think after all this time I don’t know where you’re off to next?"
Side by side, they crossed the spacious room to a different training area. Geneva donned a pair of gloves while Ash stepped into position behind a large punching bag. Holding it steady, he didn’t speak again until after she landed a number of solid blows. "Make sure you get out all your frustrations now before you board that shuttle tomorrow morning. I don’t think your mother would like it if you roughed up her potted plants."
"You’re a funny guy."
Leather struck leather in a relentless rhythm. "It won’t be so bad," Geneva said. "I don’t dread visiting home as much as I used to. Mother’s been behaving herself for the most part."
Ash grinned at her from beside the cylindrical target. "That’s because I won her over with my rugged good looks and captivating charm. She loves me."
"Who could resist?" Her leg flew up in a wide arc, and her foot slammed into the bag. "I’ll pop in tomorrow to assure her I’m in one piece, and probably stay for dinner."
A devious sparkle glinted in Ash’s dark blue eyes. "Then let me guess what happens next-you’ll head off to pay our good friend Marcus a visit?"
Marcus. One lover’s name on the lips of the other never failed to send a thrill rushing over her body. "Maybe," she teased, executing another roundhouse kick.
"Well, if you’re going to be coy about it, perhaps I’ll just take matters into my own hands when I come down in a few days. If you’re going to be so heartless, I’ll save him from your unbearable cruelty and whisk him away for a wild night out."
"And have all sorts of fun without me?" Her fist came in contact with the bag level with Ash’s face. "Never!"
Geneva assailed her inanimate foe until she was satisfied with the amount of physical energy she’d exerted. A light sheen of sweat coated her skin, trickling into her dampened sports bra. She couldn’t wait to rid herself of the uncomfortable elastic. "That should do it for the day," she said. "I’m going to head back and take a much-needed shower. What about you?"
"You go on ahead." He waved her off with his hand. "I should exercise something other than my mouth while I’m in here."
"Good idea," she said, smiling. She snatched her sweatshirt from a nearby bench, stuck her arms in the sleeves, and zipped it up. With one last farewell to Ash, she left the gymnasium.
The hallways were empty. Secluded from any watchful eyes and lingering stares, she removed the sweatshirt, enjoying the cool air circulating over her exposed shoulders and stomach. She traveled the corridors of the colossal spaceship and arrived at her door.
The lock beeped when she pressed her thumb against the small panel. It released the door upon scanning her fingerprint, and she strode inside. The fickle sweatshirt landed in the laundry chute, followed by her black leggings and loathsome bra. Her panties were the last to go, and she slammed the lid shut.
Geneva retreated to the comfort of her bathroom and rotated the shower faucet. While she waited for the water to reach the desired temperature, she untangled the elastic from her messy brown hair. The caramel waves tumbled down to her shoulders, and she shook them out before smoothing them back. When the mirror clouded in front of her, she opened the stall and stepped beneath the steamy spray.
Streams of water cascaded over her flushed skin, relaxing her tired muscles. Closing her eyes, she turned her face upwards into the flow and let it push her hair away. She stood there for several moments, enjoying one of the few luxuries the military vessel had to offer.
The high chirp of the locking mechanism diverted her attention, and she opened her eyes. Over the steady hiss of the shower, she heard the outer door open, followed by the one leading into the bathroom. Shadows moved behind the opaque glass. The panes slid away to reveal Ash’s unclothed, rippling muscles, capped off by his trademark mischievous grin.
Geneva put one hand on her hip, but she couldn’t help laughing. "Whatever happened to your strenuous workout?" she asked.
He climbed inside and stood behind her. "Who says I can’t do it just as well in here?" The dispenser on the tiled wall pumped a generous dollop of cleansing gel into his palm, and he rubbed his hands together. Strong fingers kneaded her shoulders, working the smooth liquid into a lather.
She sighed and leaned back against his chest. Ash’s hands skimmed over her slickened skin, pinpointing areas of tension with precision. Though he massaged away the day’s stresses, he wouldn’t let her relax into a state of tranquility for very long.