A Valentine’s Gift: Sneak peak of Family Binds

In honor of Valentine’s Day I thought it would be fun to share this cute scene between Justin and Crystal from Family Binds coming out later this year.


Crystal tried to work on analyzing the bio-skin data, but she couldn’t focus. She had been able to shut down her feelings while she was talking to Reed, but they came flooding back in the silence of her quarters. The harder she tried to work the angrier she got. It was bad enough that her father’s sudden reappearance had forced her to walk away from the mission, but now it was affecting her other duties on the ship.

She took a deep breath and tried to focus. She read through half a page of data before she realized she had already been over it three times. She slammed her computer closed in frustration. She was useless and it was all Ben’s fault. She grabbed her gym bag and headed out the door.

Ten minutes later she was changed and working the heavy bag in the combat team room. Since everyone was still in the middle of the mission at Stapleton Farms, she knew she wouldn’t be disturbed. Crystal worked the bag hard, alternating between punches and kicks, but her anger hadn’t dissipated. Every time seemed for find a rhythm that was working for her, the image of Ben removing his oxygen mask played in her head and she would lose focus again.

She pulled back her arm to start another round when someone grabbed the bag. She stopped her punch short leaving an unsatisfied buildup of kinetic energy left in her arm. “I could have hit you.” She pulled her headphones out of her ears leaving the whisper of rock-n-roll music in the air.

“I’ve seen you work out enough to be able to anticipate your punches. I knew I was in the clear.” Justin’s warm smile started to melt away some of the anger that had built up inside of her.

“When did you get back?” She wondered if the rest of the team would be filing in soon too. Maybe she should leave while she still could.

“Not long ago. Grady thought it was a good idea to refill the oxygen tanks and masks incase the atmosphere generator goes down again.”

“That’s smart.” It made her feel a tiny bit better about pulling herself from the mission. At least Grady was thinking along the same lines she would be. Stapleton Farms was in good hands.

Justin walked around the bag so he had a clear view of her face. “How are you doing?”

Now that the bag was clear she could finally release the energy that had built up in my muscles. “I’ve been better,” she said as she punched the bag a few more times.

“We need to come up with a way to take your mind off of things for a little while,” Justin said.

“I’m open to suggestions.” Crystal turned and faced him. There was a gleam in his eye that made Crystal smile. He was up to something.

“Have you ever played war?” His voice had a seductive quality to it that made Crystal burst out in laughter.

“I never considered war something you could play,” She said biting back her laughter.

“It’s a card game,” Justin rolled his eyes as he talked. A bad habit he must have picked up from Desi. “I used to play it with my grandmother when I was growing up.”

“What’s a card game?”

“Seriously, you don’t know what a card game is?”

“No, I don’t.” Crystal put her hands on her hips as she talked.

“That’s unacceptable. We are going to remedy this immediately.” Justin grabbed her hand and started to gently pull her out of the combat room.

“Just let me change,” Crystal said.

“No time. This is an emergency.” Justin lead her through the corridors of the ship. His enthusiasm was contagious and Crystal couldn’t help but giggle at the sideways glances they were getting from the crewmembers they passed on their way to Justin’s quarters. Normally she wouldn’t have been comfortable with the public display of affection, seeing it as unprofessional, but in that moment, it was exactly what she needed.

Justin finally released her hand once they were inside his quarters. He deposited her in one of the desk chairs and started searching the room. “I know I have a deck of cards around here somewhere.”

Crystal watched in amusement as he rifled through the drawers under this bunk. The room Justin shared with Tyler was identical to the room she shared with Flint in all ways except one. The guy’s room was much cleaner, even with Tyler’s excess of computer equipment taking up most of the shelves in the room.

“Found it.” Justin emerged from under the desk holding a small box high over his head. He sat down at the chair across from her. She watched in fascination as he pulled a stack of thin cardboard from the box and started to maneuver the cards with his fingers. “So, war is a simple game. First I’ll deal.”

“Deal?” Crystal raised an eyebrow at him. It was like he was speaking a different language.

“Pass out the cards.” He quickly divided the deck in two, passing her every other card. “Now pick them up, but don’t look at them.”

She was trying hard to keep the smirk off her face, but it was a lost cause. He just looked so cute trying to explain the game to her.

“On the count of three we both flip over the top card. Whoever has the highest card gets both. The first person to run out of cards loses.” Justin picked up his cards and straightened them into a neat stack.

“That’s it?” She tried to keep the skepticism out of her voice but was pretty sure she failed.

“That’s is.” His face was serious. She sat up a little straighter. She didn’t want him to think that she didn’t appreciate his efforts to cheer her up. Despite the simplicity of the game Justin had taken her mind off of what had happened back at Stapleton Farms.

“It seems pretty juvenile.” Crystal picked up her cards and mirrored Justin’s movement until she had a neat stack. The cards were worn and felt familiar in her hands despite not knowing what they were less than an hour ago. It was almost like she was becoming part of Justin’s history when she held them.

“Just give it a chance, Ok?” The smile on his face faltered and it broke Crystal’s heart.

“Ok.” She leaned across the table and planted a small kiss on his lips. The warmth and excitement in his face was back in full force by the time she was back in her seat.

“On the count of three. One, two, three.” Justin flipped his card over and laid it on the table between them. Crystal did the same. “Ten beats a three. The cards are yours.” He pushed them towards her.

“So I won?” Crystal said as she gathered up her prize.

“You won the first round, but we’re just getting started.” Justin tapped the stack of cards in his hand on the metal table for emphasis.

“Let’s go again.” Crystal flipped her card over again. Instead of number it had a picture of a women wearing a crown on it. She looked at Justin confused.

“That’s good. That’s a queen. The only thing that can beat her are the king or ace card.” Justin flipped his next card over to reveal another queen.

“What do we do now?”

“Now we war.” Justin cocked an eye at her before placing three cards face down on the table. Crystal did the same. “The next card we turn up. High card takes it all.”

They both flipped over the card. Crystal had an ace. She couldn’t help but do a little dance in her seat as she gathered up all the cards. She quickly got absorbed in the game. The jolt of excitement that shot through her every time she won a hand was addictive. She felt her pulse quicken as they got to Justin’s last card. He flipped over a jack. It was good, but not good enough to beat the ace she had won the first war with. She jumped out of her seat. “I win, I win, I win.”

“Are you ready to collect your prize?” Justin rose to his feet, wrapped his arms around her waist, and pulled her tight against him.

“I do like prizes.” His touch still left her slightly breathless. She placed her arms around his neck and leaned in closer.

He was a fraction of an inch away from her lips when the intercom in his room came to life. “Ensign Anderson, report to the bridge.”

Disappointment filled her as she pulled away from him. “You have to go.”

“They can wait a few minutes.” Justin pulled her back to him.

“No, we agreed when we started this. Work always come first.” Crystal wished it didn’t have to be that way, but she knew it was the only way she could make the relationship work.

Justin let out a long breath. “Raincheck?”

“Raincheck.” Crystal tried to pull away again, but he still hadn’t loosened his grip. He was searching her eyes while he held her in his arms. “I’ll be fine. Now go before they have to page you again.”

“Right.” He gave her a quick kiss before racing out of the room.


Find out more about Justin and Crystal’s relationship in book one of The Journey Missions Series: Crystal and Flint

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