The love between them burns hot, but their relationship won't stay fueled if they can't beat the obstacles in their way. Besides breaking the fraternization rules, Grant and Crystal have the difference of race between them…but can they prove to the rest of the world, and to each other, that love is color blind?
Afterburn is about overcoming one's past, not judging others, learning to forgive, and what it's like to be a woman in a "man's world".
Below is an excerpt, a brief look into the troubles Crystal is facing and how Grant is helping her through.
"You called about a leak?" Crystal wasn't surprised to find Grant, looking immaculate in his flight uniform, leaning against the fuselage of his Falcon. She peered up at him from under her cap, trying to look coy, but knowing she failed miserably. She was still shaking from her encounter with Swenson. She heard her tools rattling in her tool bag.
The smile on Grant's face that had greeted her faded. "What's wrong?" He reached out a hand and touched her shoulder. His casual stance tensed, his body looking ready to battle any and all of her demons.
Crystal took a deep breath. "I'm okay. Just those problems at work I didn't want to talk about." She turned away from him, not wanting him to see the tears that filled her eyes. "Where's that leak? Which wing?" She dropped her bag onto the tarmac, lowered herself to her knees, and began removing fasteners of different sizes. "What size is it?" She kept her head down, avoiding his probing eyes.
"The only leak is in my heart. It doesn't need a fastener, only for you to smile." Grant's soft voice rolled over her as he crouched down beside her. The smell of his cologne tickled her nostrils, bringing to mind memories of their wonderful weekend together. His kindness was her undoing. Much to her embarrassment, she began to cry. Tears fell into her canvas bag, wetting the tools of her trade.
Grant was on his knees beside her now, and he kept a lookout as he put his arms around her and let her sob, offering her shelter and comfort. He made soothing sounds, held her tight, and waited.
Feeling safer and reeling from all her conflicting emotions, Crystal finally began to talk. In a tearful voice wracked by an occasional sob, she told Grant about that morning, about the declined promotions, about how she dreaded walking into her shop every day. It felt as though a leak was fixed in her own heart, no fastener or sealing required, just the love and strength of a caring man. If only all of her problems could be solved like this...
When she had told him everything, she sat back on her heels and waited, wary at the clouds of anger on Grant's face. He stared at her intently. "You need to go to EEO." He reached out and brushed a tear off of Crystal's face. "No one, no woman or man, is supposed to put up with discrimination or harassment over what they are. The military has a zero-tolerance policy. I've been there, Crystal, and I know you can fight it. We all deserve to be treated equally."
"I'm afraid," Crystal whispered. "Who will believe me?"
"I believe you." Footsteps sounded behind him, and Grant straightened and stood next to the jet wing, blocking Crystal's tear-stained face from view. She heard him quietly conversing with someone. When she saw the military boots walk away, she waited for Grant's face to appear below the jet again. He held out a hand to her.
"I have to do a practice CAP." He pulled her to her feet, grabbing her bag with his other hand.
She nodded, stood on shaky legs, and brushed off her coveralls. "Are you sure there isn't a leak I need to fix before you go? Combat Air Patrol maneuvers are no light thing. Was that really a fake call? Is your jet fueled?" Her words came out in a rush of nervousness. Her fiasco from the morning was forgotten in light of her sudden, new concern. She didn't want to watch him fly. Her feelings for him were growing too strong. A picture of her dad came to her mind. "I think I'll be going now. I can't watch you fly now that I...that I..." Her voice trailed off. She didn't dare say it. Didn't dare say the "L" word or that she cared for him deeply. It was too soon.
Grant placed his hands on her shoulders, preventing her from leaving. His voice was deep and serious. "Fake call. I just wanted to see you. Don't worry. I know what I'm doing." He gave her a reassuring squeeze. "With me at the controls and you as its mechanic, this jet will perform wonders in the sky. We make a good team—in more ways than one."
Mark Afterburn TO-READ on Goodreads.
Get your copy on Amazon.