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“Sorry about that,” he said, looking properly apologetic. “The plane’s hull is peppered with microlenses, and the interior walls are composed of display panels.” He tapped the controls, and the walls went invisible again.

Looking closely, Jayna could see the imperfections in the view projected on the inner walls, but it was accurate enough that she felt they were floating in a glass bubble.

“Do the big windows,” Emmaline said. “It’s a nice compromise.”

Sid glanced at Jayna for confirmation, and she nodded. The walls returned with windows twice the original size that gave an amazing view of the hangar while the virtual floor and roof remained, providing a sense of security.

“Yeah, I like that,” she said.

“Good.” Then in a Scottish accent he said, “We aim to please.”

Jayna let out a quiet gasp. Had Sid just quoted Aurora 293?

No, of course not. It was a ridiculous, childish show that hadn’t aged well. Jayna loved it, but few people even knew it existed.

Maybe he had somehow learned of her fascination with the show and was mocking her for it.

She watched him closely as his hands danced across the controls. The panel of Sid’s plane was much more advanced than that of Aurora 293, yet the old excitement she had felt at watching the show returned.

Seeing him in action as he prepared for takeoff also stirred up the attraction she had been fighting ever since she’d first seen him outside the changing pool.

Stop it! He’s already involved with Emmaline. While Jayna didn’t know this for certain, it would sure make this trip a lot less awkward if he was.

As the plane rolled out of the hangar, Jayna risked a glance at the back seat, where Emmaline was already sleeping peacefully. She hadn’t seemed the least bit concerned about Jayna flying up front with Sid.

Which means she’s either completely secure in their relationship, Jayna thought, or they aren’t together.

No. Sid and Emmaline were a couple. They had to be.

The small plane rolled into the spiral and stopped with a click that sent Jayna’s heart racing.

“Have you been on a parabolic flight before?” Sid asked.

“No, but…” She didn’t want to admit to being a fan of Aurora 293. “I’ve done some research. We’ll spin in the spiral until we reach launch speed. Then the ramjet and rocket will carry us to our target altitude.”

Sid raised an eyebrow, and a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. “That’s pretty much it. You have done your research.”

There was a loud but pleasant tone followed by sudden acceleration that pushed Jayna sideways in her seat. They spun around in darkness, propelled by the electromagnetic centrifuge.

Another tone sounded, and the sky in front of them became a brilliant blue as they were shot from the centrifuge. A moment later, the ramjet kicked in and pressed her flat against the seat.

Jayna couldn’t fight the grin on her face. “How many G’s?”

“Three. We could go as high as five, but I’m worried about what might happen to your tail.”

My tail! In all the excitement Jayna had completely forgotten about her tail, which was very unlike her. She was glad Sid had remembered to keep it safe, but the fact that he had that kind of effect on her just proved he was a dangerous distraction.

The pressure on their backs eased, and Sid tapped at the panel. “This is the critical bit. We’re almost at the ramjet’s service ceiling.” After several long moments of silence, Jayna felt panic building in her chest. Why isn’t the rocket firing?

Sid caressed the console. “C’mon, Lassie. I know ye can do it!” It was an impressive imitation of Commander Laird’s exaggerated Scottish accent, and Jayna grinned. He was definitely quoting Aurora 293.

She was still processing this new information when the rocket ignited, and she was once again pressed hard into her seat. The sky around them grew dark, and Jayna could see the curve of the horizon. The intensity of the experience drove everything else from her mind.

After several minutes, the rocket stopped. The rumble that had filled the plane vanished and was replaced by an intense silence.

Jayna cast a glance at Sid. Maybe it was the sudden weightlessness, but the sight of his handsome, determined face lit by the softly glowing control panel made her heart skip.

Don’t let him get to you, she thought. No more rich, charming strangers. You don’t need someone like that in your life.