Phillips scanned the faces of the crowded bar while he strummed his guitar. The sun had set, and the ocean air swept into Whisky-Tango-Foxtrot playing in his hair. Many of the faces were friends and comrades from the Unit tonight. His stomach grumbled unhappily at him like a grumpy old man. Over the past two weeks of transition, Phillips couldn’t remember feeling 100% himself.
He focused on the song he was singing, but his thoughts continually drifted to transition, his leadership classes, and the fear of disappointing the Chiefs Mess.
He locked eyes with the sassy bartender, Chrissie, resting against the wall next to Bliss. He imagined her smiling at him, dark eyes sparkling with desire. His body stiffened and the adrenaline she always brought to life inside him flared. He pulled in a breath and the feelings vanished. It was useless; she wasn’t going to distract him tonight from his wandering thoughts.
There were only four weeks left, and he would be pinned as a Navy Chief. His stomach grumbled at him again.
He closed his eyes and listened to the chords from his guitar. The music filled him, diminishing some of his concerns. His music was his lifeline.
After a few moments, the corners of his mouth tipped, and he opened his eyes.
“This is for all the sexy ladies out there that have men that don’t dance, but because they love you they do.”
He began to play the cords to “I Don’t Dance” by Lee Brice. Phillips flipped his hair off his forehead and peered at Chrissie once more. She wasn’t watching him. She was serving drinks at the other end of the bar. The cords of the melody vibrated through him. He sure as hell didn’t dance, but there was a chance he would dance for her.
As he sung a hand full of men led their women onto the floor. His buddy Murphy gave him thumbs up behind the back of a fine-looking brunette. Phillips smiled.
He cast his gaze from the dance floor to the bar. Bliss, Shots, and Logston sat bull-shitting with each other. Weeks ago he would have seen a group of arrogant assholes that were his friends, but now he saw them for what they were Chiefs and leaders. Cocking his head to the side, he looked carefully at them. They wore the weight of a Chief with natural grace. He wondered if he would ever be like them.
Becoming a leader, someone others would look to for help and guidance felt forging to Phillips. All he had ever done was his job, and he had done it to the best of his ability. He never thought he would make Chief because he was not political. He didn’t kiss anyone’s ass. Making Chief meant more money, but to Phillips it wasn’t about that. To him it was an opportunity to become more. He hoped he could rise to the occasion and make his fellow Chiefs proud.
Slowly the song came to an end, the crowd clapped and cheered.
“That’s all for tonight. Thanks for coming out to see me.”
He flipped off the microphone and hopped off the stage. Making his way through the crowd, Phillips deposited himself on the bar stool next to Logston. He placed his guitar on the bar. Bliss made a throaty sound and cocked a brow.
“Sorry.” Phillips set the guitar in front of his feet against the side of the bar for protection.
“Did you know you look like a girl when you sing? Holding the mic like it was your woman or something,” said Logston with a scowl.
“The microphone is my woman, just like you baby.” Phillips reached for Logston pretending to kiss him. Logston shoved Phillips in the face and tipped his stool over backwards. With a huff Logston glared up at Phillips from the floor.
Shots peered at Logston, blue eyes laughing.
“You’re a dumbass.” Shots said to Logston.
They all laughed as one and Phillips knew he belonged. He wouldn’t let his friends down.