Now available, The Fugitive Snare, book 3 of the Adventures of Matt & Michelle. Click the title to view it. The first book in the series, The Fugitive Heir, is free through Thursday, May 4. Grab a copy!
Princess Callan asks Chris and Jade to be Aashla’s first Scout cadets.
Callan’s question hung in the air for several seconds. When I realized I was simply gaping at her, I turned and gaped at Chris, instead. At first, his expression matched mine, but then a big grin split his face. And Chris’s reaction made perfect sense—for him. I mean, he’s the Mordanian Navy’s most promising young officer, the one destined for greatness. Of course, he’d be the first Aashlander selected for Scout training!
But, why me? I mean, I know I’m smart, but so are a lot of other kids on Aashla. Even if Callan and Rupor specifically wanted to send a boy and a girl, there were smarter girls to choose from than me. In truth, I could only think of one reason they would offer this to me.
“Well, don’t just stand there like a couple of bumps on a log.” Rupor smiled at us. “Say something!”
Drawing a deep breath, I blurted, “Are you offering Scout training to me to make sure Chris accepts?”
Chris’s eyebrows rose in surprise and the words forming on his lips froze in place.
“Now, Jade,” Dad said, “that’s no way to talk! Why are you always questioning your natural gifts like that?”
“I don’t know, Dad—maybe because I know myself? I’m not super smart like Chris. I’m emotional and stubborn and…” I wound down and shrugged in frustration. “And I just want to know, why me?”
Callan put her hands on my shoulders and pulled me a little closer. Her green eyes bored into my own green eyes. “Do you really want to know why we selected you? I mean, the truth?”
My mouth was suddenly so dry that I nodded instead of trying to say anything.
Callan asked, “Do you remember when Nist insisted on spending a week training you to pilot the Pauline?”
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. That was less than two months ago. Of course, I remembered! I managed to croak, “Yes.”
“You know that Nist has a planet-wide reputation as a superb airship pilot, don’t you? And that he was the first native Aashlander to pilot a spaceship?” Callan until I nodded before continuing, “That’s why, on the rare occasions he offers advice about pilots and piloting, I listen to him very carefully. He requested an audience with me immediately after spending a week working with you. Do you know he said?”
I shook my head, “No, Your Highness.”
“Bear in mind that this is a direct quote, Jade.” Her eyes unfocused briefly, an expression that usually meant she was retrieving information from her implant. “It will be a crime if you don’t get that girl into a starship piloting program, Callan. She’s the best young pilot I’ve ever taught.”
“Nist really said that?” I wondered. “About me?”
Dad interjected, “I told you the same thing dozens of times, Jade.”
I looked over my should at my father and almost blushed at the pride showing on his face. “But you’re my father. You have to say things like that!”
“The hell, I do!” Dad protested. “I never gave you a single compliment you didn’t earn—and don’t you forget that, girl.”
“Your initial thoughts aren’t entirely wrong, Jade,” Callan added. “Chris is super smart. According to David, he’ll make a great astroguh… Astrogah…”
“Astrogator,” David interjected.
“Thank you, darling.” Callan turned back to me. “Chris will make a great one of those things David said. And I have no doubt he’ll be a superb commanding officer. But none of that will matter if he doesn’t have someone to pilot the spaceship he’s commanding.”
“And that’s why you picked me?”
“In part, but I also want to give you the chance to live up to your full potential as a pilot. As an added benefit, you’ll also be a great inspiration to millions of Aashlan girls—and even the odd princess or two!” Callan flashed her brightest smile. “Does that answer your question?”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
“Excellent!” Rupor jumped in. “What about you, young Christopher? Do you have any questions?”
An odd question came over Chris’s face. “Just one.”
“Ask away, lad!” Rupor exclaimed. “I’ll do my best to provide an answer.”
“Begging your pardon, Your Highness, but this isn’t a question you can answer.” To everyone’s surprise, Chris turned to face my parents. “Mr. and Mrs. Cochran, may I have your permission to marry Jade?”
Dad’s eyes blinked rapidly a few times while he overcame his surprise. “You’re a fine young man, Chris, and I’d be proud to have you as a son-in-law. But, as much as I appreciate your sense of tradition, shouldn’t you properly pose that question to my daughter?”
Chris spun back to me and surprised the hell out of me by going down on one knee. “Jade, from the moment you so literally fell into my life, you have owned my heart. A galaxy filled with adventure pales next to the passion and excitement you bring to my life. Will you marry me?”
“You know I will,” I replied, blinking away unexpected tears.
The next thing I knew, Chris rose and swept me into his arms. Our lips met and—just like the books say about David and Callan—time went away for a while. When time returned, it came with hugs and kisses and congratulations from all around us.
As the celebrating settled down, David caught everyone’s attention. “As much as I hate to drop a little rain on your parade, I must tell you one thing. While Scouts can marry, Scout cadets may not. If you attend the new Scout Academy, you’ll be accepting a rather longer than normal engagement.”
Chris and I grinned at each other and said, “We know.”
“You do?” David asked, perplexed. “How?”
I answered for both of us. “It says that in David Rice and Scout Academy, which we’ve both read half-a-dozen times.”
“Only half-a-dozen?” Dad murmured.
“Hush, Lon!” Mom admonished.
“I didn’t know that,” David said.
Callan patted him on the arm. “That’s because our son hasn’t gotten tired of listening to us read David Rice and the City of the Trogs, yet. I’m sure he’ll get around to the rest of series soon enough.”
“Oh, I don’t know, dear,” he replied. “Before we know it, Rob might prefer stories about Aashla’s first Scouts. In fact, when this news is announced, I rather expect some enterprising publisher will rush to print a nickel novel about Chris’s and Jade’s adventures during the Weather War.”
Of course, Chris and I scoffed at the idea. Then, three days later, Dancing in the Wind: A Chris and Jade Adventure appeared in every bookshop in the city. Suddenly, Chris and I were famous.
How will Aashla’s first Scout cadets fare? Find out, as their journey begins in Chapter 12, coming Friday.