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Somewhere My Love

Somewhere My LovePrologue

He came to her in her dreams, as he always did when she'd had a particularly stressful day.

Teasing her lips with feather-light kisses, he ran his hands over her bare skin, her standard issue underwear surprisingly gone. Her breasts swelled, anticipating his touch, her nipples hardening into tight little nubs.

He lifted his mouth from hers and smiled--a smile that acted like a supernova on her senses. She looked at his face...so very familiar yet totally unknown. Though not overwhelmingly handsome, his features were arresting with his high brow, sculpted cheekbones, distinct nose, and finely-shaped lips.

Though he smiled at her now, she knew--somehow--that wasn't his usual expression. The glimmer of pain and despair buried in the depths of his dark eyes couldn't be disguised.

His straight, black hair blended with the night and fell below his shoulders. As he bent to draw her breast into the warm cavern of his mouth, the silky strands brushed against her skin, creating an erotic tingle that coiled in her belly.

She buried her hands in his hair to hold him close, her pulse racing, her breathing shallow. Though she couldn't say his name, all this was familiar...right. She felt no fear, only pleasure, anticipation, and a desire so keen it permeated her being.

He used his hands to trace paths over her body and his mouth to bring her to the brink of a vast bottomless canyon. Returning to her lips, he made love to her mouth. She could only respond to his thrust and parry and his teasing sensuous touch, her senses caught up in the feel of his mouth, his tongue, his hands.

It was a kiss...and much more--a linking of two souls, a melding of perfect counterparts. The innermost reaches of their hearts and minds touched and joined, enveloping her in flames, pleasure, and passion.

The equal joining of their bodies seemed almost superfluous, but she traced the lean lines of his form, drawing him closer. She wanted him, needed him. Only together did they make a whole.

He drew back, only a little, his gaze meeting hers, burning with desire, as potent as any physical touch. His countenance had darkened, casting shadows over the planes of his face. She recognized that expression. Yes, this was who he was.

"You are all I need." His voice, quiet, deep, caressed her like soft velvet.

"Yes." She could deny him nothing.

He lifted slightly, then plunged forward.

The blaring sound of the morning alert jarred her awake. She blinked, reluctant to leave the dream behind. Sitting upright, she found her underwear plastered to her skin, soaked with perspiration. She consciously tried to control her erratic breathing and calm her rapid heartbeat as well.

Why that dream again? Why did this man look so familiar when she knew for certain she'd never seen him before? This erotic fantasy came more often now. Did it mean anything?

She dismissed that thought as quickly as it appeared. No, it was just a dream, nothing more--merely the unconscious desires of a woman too long without a man.

Which didn't mean she intended to look for one either. She had her career, her goals, and her father's expectations to keep her busy.

Crossing the room toward the lav, she remembered her mission for that day and scowled. She knew she'd only received it because of her father's interference. To him, this assignment meant prestige, honor, and glory.

To her, it meant the longest, most boring day of her life.


Chapter 1       

Tristan Galeron whirled from tending his terrarium, certain he hadn't heard correctly. "You want me to what?"

"I want you to kidnap the Director-General's daughter." Mael Ner approached, his age-lined face solemn.

This had to be a joke. Tristan glanced from Mael to his son, Cadell, who remained near the doorway. "Is he serious?"

Cadell nodded. "Very serious." Despite his words, a mischievous gleam danced in his blue eyes and Tristan knew he wasn't going to get more than that from his friend. He turned his attention back to the older man.

"Why would I want to do something that foolhardy?" Tristan respected Mael's judgment, but this assignment bordered on suicide. "It would mean infiltrating Alliance Headquarters."

The thought of approaching the central seat of power sent nervous trickles along Tristan's spine. Not only could he expect Alliance troops, but the dreaded brain drainers, the PSI Police, were based there.

"We can no longer glide through space, hoping to go unnoticed. More and more of our people are finding their way here to the Hermitage. It's only a matter of time before the PSI Police do, too." Mael paused and glanced through the port window at the stars gleaming outside. Drawing in a slow breath, he looked back at Tristan, his determination clear. "We shouldn't be held responsible for what our ancestors did. It's time the Alliance accepted us."

"And kidnapping the Director-General's daughter will do that?" Tristan frowned. "Somehow, I don't think that will make the Alliance very happy with us."

"Perhaps not." Mael raised his clenched fist. "But it will show them we mean business."

Tristan responded to the force in Mael's voice. More than once, he'd wanted to destroy the Alliance. If it took a kidnapping to obtain his freedom, the risk would be worth it.

Cadell hurried over. "We won't harm her, Tristan. But Father thinks--and I agree--that the Director-General will be more likely to listen to us if his daughter is our guest for a while."

"Our guest?" Tristan twisted his lips. "Just like we're their guests in the readjustment chamber?" He'd known too many Scanners that had fallen victim to the brain mutilation used by the PSI Police.

"Not like that at all." Cadell scowled. "Father's plan is for a peaceful rebellion."

"There's no such thing." Tristan looked from son to father, uncertain how much of this gibberish to believe. "If we start anything, the Alliance will scream it's the PSI Wars again."

Mael shook his head. "The PSI Wars ended over a hundred years ago. Anyone who participated in them is now dead. With so few of us remaining in the universe, the Alliance can't possibly consider us a threat."

Tristan released an exclamation of disgust. If he and others like him weren't considered a threat, why did the Alliance have an entire directorate dedicated to tracking and capturing them? Probably because Earth had many representatives on the Alliance council and Earthlings had long memories.

They hadn't forgotten the brutal uprising when those individuals with unique mental abilities had tried to control the planet. The Scanners, as they'd been named, rose to power rapidly and fell from it even quicker, leaving behind a fear of anyone who possessed parapsychic talents.

Most of that group had been destroyed when their rebellion collapsed, but a handful had escaped and fled into space where they could hide among the varied planets and species. The Alliance had created the PSI Police to find them. Not one Scanner was to be left free.

Tristan grimaced. But they had survived, despite the PSI Police's attempt to wipe them out, strengthening their powers by mating within their race. Yet they never knew peace, could never settle in one place for too long.

Glancing around his quarters, he acknowledged that the three years he'd lived aboard the Hermitage were the longest he'd lived anywhere. How long would that last? The mammoth battleship had been decommissioned by the Alliance years ago. Its outdated maneuvering and hyperspeed capabilities made it a sitting duck if attacked by the Alliance's faster, more powerful fighters.

They had to do something. But kidnap someone? Especially the Director-General's daughter?

"Will the Director-General agree to talks?" he asked.

"He will if he wants his daughter back."

Tristan noticed Mael watching him closely. "And you think all we have to do is ask and they'll say 'all is forgiven'?"

"Why wouldn't they?" Cadell asked. "We can prove we're not after power, that all we want is freedom." His gaze darted toward Tristan's terrarium. "And a place to call our own."

Tristan's insides clenched as he looked at his clear globe containing precious soil and even more precious plants. He'd worked hard to get anything to grow. His terrarium meant more to him than other possession. It was his piece of land--the only piece he would probably ever own.

Unless Scanners could be absolved of blame for what their ancestors had done.

A brief glimmer of hope flared to life, but he quickly extinguished it. In reality, how likely was that to happen?

Tristan turned to Mael. Ever since Tristan had formed his friendship with Cadell, Mael had substituted for Tristan's missing father, slowly becoming one of the few people Tristan trusted. If Mael honestly thought this plan had a chance to succeed, then Tristan should go along with it.

"Tell me exactly how you expect this to work."

"First off, you wouldn't have to go to Alliance Headquarters. I've just received word that the Director-General's daughter is currently residing at the family's home on Tarsus VI, which is why we need to move now." Mael kept his voice quiet, yet managed to convey his urgency.

"Kidnap the daughter and bring her here," he continued. "Then, I'll contact the Director-General to ask for negotiations."

Tristan grimaced. "And you expect him to agree?"

"Is it asking so much to set up a meeting in exchange for his daughter?"

As much as Tristan wanted to believe it could be that simple, he knew better. "What's to stop him from bringing the entire PSI Police army with him to this meeting?"

Mael nodded, acknowledging Tristan's foresight. "If he did, we would know, but I've heard he's a fair man. Though there are many on the Alliance council I don't trust, I believe this man is not one of them."

"What do you intend to ask for?" Tristan still couldn't shake his uneasy feeling. Too many things could go wrong. A brief image flickered through his mind of Mael meeting the Director-General and falling beneath a barrage of laser fire.

Tristan's stomach clenched. Though he'd never been officially designated the Scanners' leader, Mael acted as the focal point for those who found their way to the Hermitage's drifting haven. What would they do without him?

"I intend to ask for a pardon." Mael's words cut into Tristan's thoughts. "I'm sure the Director-General will see we're not the same as our ancestors and grant us freedom to live without persecution again. We may have to promise never to return to Earth, but I don't consider that a hardship."

Mael smiled. "I also intend to ask for a planet to call our own--some place where Scanners can live together in peace."

"They'll never give us that." Tristan desperately wanted to hope, but he couldn't. Having a piece of land to call his own existed only in his dreams.

"Perhaps not, but I still intend to ask." Mael paused. "Will you do it, Tristan?"

"Why me? Why not Bran who could teleport in and out with no one the wiser?"

"I need someone I can trust. You know how unstable Bran is."

Tristan opened his mouth to offer Cadell's services, but Mael continued.

"I also need your powers. Your psychokinetic abilities are stronger than any other Scanner's."

Tristan grimaced. "How does that make me the best person for this mission?"

"In itself, it doesn't, but combined with your anger, your hatred of the Alliance, I'm confident you will succeed where someone else--less motivated--would fail."

"I thought you wanted this done peacefully." If Tristan had his way, he'd destroy anyone who got in his way.

"I do." Mael touched his son's shoulder. "That's why Cadell would go with you. He would be the diplomat while you provided the necessary force."

Tristan noticed a smile tugging at the corner of Cadell's lips. His even temper had seen Tristan through more than one altercation. Slightly built and shorter than Tristan with thick blond hair cropped above his shoulders, Cadell said little, but then empaths usually were quiet.

Tristan raised his eyebrows. "What do you think, Cadell?"

The younger man hesitated, as if choosing his words carefully before speaking. "I think anything you and I approach together can only succeed."

Turning away, Tristan stared out his window into the blackness of space. He'd lived so long on the run, in space, he could barely conceive settling in one place, let alone finding land he could cultivate.
But he wanted that. More than he wanted to see the Alliance destroyed, he wanted that piece of land.

Squaring his shoulders, he faced his friends again. "I'll do it."

 

Sha'Nara Calles checked her chronometer and sighed for the sixth time that day. Would this assignment ever be over? Pausing, she leaned back against the wall and watched the young woman sitting before a mirror hastily dismiss first one, then another of the hair designs provided by her maid.

"No, no, Danae, that's not right either." Jacy Vadin frowned at her reflection. "I want to look older, not younger."

Sha'Nara rolled her eyes. All she'd heard all morning were petty decisions over shoes, undergarments, fingernail coloring, and now hair. Judging from Danae's reddening cheeks, the maid was fast approaching the end of her tolerance.

"Mistress, you're only twenty-one. Enjoy your youth while you have it." Danae gripped the strands of honey-blonde hair again and wound them into an extravagant coil. Upon pinning the thick twist into an intricate arrangement, she nodded, her satisfaction obvious. "There, Mistress."

The towering coil added height to the petite woman and emphasized her slender neck. Sha'Nara had to admit Jacy's perfect features and flawless ivory skin made any design look good.

Jacy's eyes showed her indecision, and she picked at first one, then another piece of hair. In a sharp movement, she yanked her hair free of the coil. "No, no, that's not right either."

Lowering her gaze, Danae backed away. "Perhaps you should calm yourself before I start again. I will return." She left before Jacy could turn around.

Sha'Nara smothered a smile. The maid had already lasted longer than Sha'Nara had expected.

"Let her go." Jacy stared at her chamber entrance, then swung around to look at Sha'Nara. "You can help me, can't you?"

Indignation formed a steel rod along Sha'Nara's back. "Then you'll wear your hair long," she said, not bothering to keep the coolness from her voice. "I don't design hair."

Why had her father done this to her? True, escorting Jacy to her wedding ceremony would earn political favor, but Sha'Nara hadn't spent a year in training for the PSI Police in order to baby-sit the Director-General's spoiled daughter.

"But your hair always looks perfect." Jacy gazed at Sha'Nara's long woven braid, the envy in her gaze surprising. "In fact, everything about you always looks perfect."

Before Sha'Nara could respond, Jacy burst into tears and dropped her head to the dressing table, cradling it on her arms.

Sha'Nara didn't move, though her eyes widened. She hadn't cried since she was a little girl. Her father had made it clear he would not abide tears. Watching Jacy sob as if her heart would break put Sha'Nara at a momentary loss.

Forcing herself to move, she crossed to the younger woman. "What is it?"

"I can't do this. I can't."

Sha'Nara's chest tightened. "It's too late to back out now."

Jacy shook her head without lifting it from her arms. "I can't marry Devon Zdenek. It's wrong."

So much for political favor. Sha'Nara would never be able to face her father again if Jacy's marriage didn't take place. Too much depended on this union.

"Devon's planet must join the Alliance," she said. "Its magnicite mines make it invaluable."

"Other planets have them, too."

"Only five other planets in the known universe have magnicite stores, Jacy, but all intergalactic ships use it for fuel. Despite its replenishing capabilities, we always need more."

Jacy only shook her head as her sobs continued.

Sha'Nara bit back her irritation. "You agreed to this, Jacy. No one forced you."

"I only agreed so Daddy would treat me as an adult. I've spent my entire life restricted to the estate here or Daddy's quarters on Centralia. I wanted to get out of here." Jacy sniffed and raised her head.

Even crying, she retained her beauty. Her eyelashes, unusually dark on someone so fair, had lengthened with her tears and framed her reddened eyes.

Unfair. Sha'Nara knew she didn't look that good, even when at her best. Trying to comfort Jacy, she patted the girl's shoulder in an awkward gesture. "It's just nerves. I've heard brides go through this."

"It's not nerves." Jacy met Sha'Nara's gaze. "I just realized this is forever and I can't go through with it. I can't leave here with him, no matter how much the Alliance needs it."

Sha'Nara had received training on how to handle wild-eyes and irrationals. Perhaps that would help now. Pitching her voice to be reassuring, she forced a smile.

"You've seen the holos of Devon. You've talked to him via vidcom. He's not a total stranger."

"But he is. I don't know anything about him. Does he like to walk? To talk? To eat frangolies?" Jacy's voice rose as she listed her conditions.

Sha'Nara saw her career fading rapidly. "From what I understand, Devon's father saw your father's holo of you and decided on the spot his son must marry you. That's an honor, Jacy."

"Not to me. I don't want to get married."

Unexpected sympathy swelled within Sha'Nara. She'd decided long ago never to join with any man. Her career as a PSI officer took precedence over any emotional entanglement. Her father often said emotions caused problems, dissent, death.

Sha'Nara preferred to use logic. Logic solved problems, eased dissent and prevented death. Banishing the small glimmer of sympathy, Sha'Nara sought a rational way to influence Jacy.

"Your father likes Devon. As much as he wants the planet Lander in the Alliance, he never would've agreed to this condition if he didn't think Devon could make you happy." Sha'Nara paused, letting Jacy ponder that statement before adding the final point. "You know your father adores you."

Everyone knew how much Remy Vadin, Director-General of the Planetary Alliance, doted on his only daughter. But while he indulged most of her wishes, he also kept her under constant supervision, unwilling to risk any harm befalling her. No wonder Jacy was spoiled and restless.

"I know Daddy loves me."

Jacy's words brought a twinge of pain, but Sha'Nara brushed it aside. "And he only wants what's best for you."

"Yes."

Sensing victory, Sha'Nara smiled. "Think of this as a grand adventure. You'll have a terrific story to tell your children."

A slow smile crept across Jacy's face. "My children...." She swiped at her damp cheeks, nodding decisively. "I'll do it."

Sha'Nara allowed herself a sigh of relief. She still had a career...for the moment. "Why don't you get into your dress and finish your hair afterward?"

"It's the most beautiful dress you ever saw." Jacy jumped from her chair and ran across her chambers. "Daddy had it specially made for me."

Sha'Nara started to follow until the loud jangle of the vidcom snared her attention. "I'll get that." No doubt Jacy's father was checking on his daughter's progress.

After keying the receive sequence, Sha'Nara caught her breath as her father's image appeared on the screen, imposing in his Alliance dress uniform. "Father."

He didn't waste time on greetings. "Is Jacy almost ready? I trust you allowed time for travel."

"She's dressing now." Sha'Nara knew exactly how long a ship would take to cover the distance between Tarsus VI and Centralia and had allotted plenty of time.

"Dressing?" Amyr Calles arched one of his thick, gray eyebrows, managing to convey his irritation with only one word.

"We had a slight problem." Sha'Nara hesitated, already knowing how her father would greet her news. "Jacy decided she didn't want to marry Devon Zdenek."

Amyr's expression tightened, his thin lips compressed and his eyes glittered dangerously. "I assumed a PSI Police Commander could handle a young woman's wedding preparations. I would hate to think this assignment was too difficult for your talents. Especially when it would jeopardize what the Alliance has worked so hard to achieve."

Sha'Nara straightened, lifting her chin in defiance. He always managed to make her feel inadequate, no matter what task she took on. Others congratulated her on her achievements, but not her father. He always demanded more. "I have the situation in hand. Jacy will arrive for her wedding as scheduled."

He said nothing for several moments, but Sha'Nara refused to squirm beneath his interrogating gaze. Finally he nodded. "I trust we will see you shortly. Calles out."

The link closed and the screen went black. Sha'Nara released a long, slow breath and uncurled her fingers, not realizing until that moment she'd drawn them into fists. She tried so hard to fulfill her father's wishes, but her efforts were never enough.

What did she have to do to earn his approval? Defeat the Scanners single-handedly?

"What do you think?"

She turned at Jacy's question and examined the woman's elaborate gown. Though the white bodice molded to Jacy's slim torso, it was covered with a transparent layer of material that formed the sleeves and train. The skirt billowed out in several heavy tiers, completely hiding Jacy's feet.

Only someone as beautiful and petite as Jacy could wear such a dress and not be overwhelmed by it. Sha'Nara smiled. "You look wonderful." She eyed Jacy's long full-bodied hair as it tumbled down the girl's back. "I don't think you need to do anything else to your hair. It looks fine like that."

"Do you think so?" Jacy went to pirouette before the mirror. "It does look beautiful, doesn't it?"

Sha'Nara didn't feel obligated to answer the rhetorical question. They needed to get moving. "Do you have a veil?"

"No, just this." Jacy lifted a circular headpiece, entwined with white blossoms and ribbon, and placed it on her head.

"Good." Sha'Nara turned toward the communications panel. "I'll instruct the ship to prepare for departure."

She'd barely taken five steps when the door to Jacy's chamber slid open behind her. Sha'Nara whipped around, resting her hand on the laser holstered around her hips. She hadn't heard the entry chimes.

Two men entered, then paused. They wore Alliance uniforms, but Sha'Nara frowned. They didn't look like Alliance officers. The slighter of the two appeared too casual, his expression open, his stance relaxed. His bright blue gaze, however, jumped from her to Jacy. Slowly he smiled.

The taller man held himself more at attention, but Sha'Nara sensed a tension about him, as if he kept every muscle ready for action. And he had plenty of muscles. She couldn't resist the urge to scan the lines of his body before fully examining his face. Few Alliance officers kept themselves in such excellent physical condition as this one.

Though he wore his straight black hair tied back, it was still too long to meet regulations. Was he one of those who constantly tested the rules? She'd met men like him before. From her experience, Alliance officers weren't often held to the same rigid restrictions as PSI Police.

His face showed no emotion, but she liked its appearance. Though his chin was too square, the set of his jaw uncompromising and his mouth entirely too sensuous, she liked his high cheekbones and the aristocratic line of his nose. She blinked at a sudden sense of deja vu. She'd never seen him before, had she?

She met his dark gaze, almost losing herself in his black eyes rimmed with equally black lashes and brows. As she stared, awareness dawned and her heart plummeted into her stomach.

By Orion's Sword! It was the man from her dreams.

 

For a moment after entering the chamber, Tristan thought he'd been hit by a stun beam. One glance at the tall woman standing defensively nearby made his breath catch in his throat.

Her appearance was striking, the type no man could forget. Her hair glowed with dark red color despite being twisted into a long braid down her back. He had no trouble imagining it unbound, creating a veil around her shoulders.

As he looked into her green eyes, he pictured the two of them together, their clothing gone, their bodies entwined in heated passion. Blood rushed to his loins and he inhaled sharply. What was happening to him?

Unable to stop, he examined her figure. While her figure wasn't too abundant, he wouldn't call it scrawny either. Her breasts, easily revealed by her snug uniform, would fill his palms and her hips flared slightly, triggering a jolt of longing for what lay between her thighs.

Tristan held back a groan. This shouldn't be happening to him. Not here. Not now.

Forcing himself to concentrate, he noted the insignia of two planets on her shoulder. An Alliance symbol. Though her style of uniform was unfamiliar, she undoubtedly was an Alliance officer. The cords on her opposite shoulder indicated her rank. Commander. His sudden lust cooled.

"What..." She licked her lips, drawing his attention to their lush fullness, and started again. "What's your business here?"

Tristan opened his mouth to speak, but no words emerged from his dry throat. He glanced at Cadell in alarm.

His friend smiled easily, then snapped to attention. "We're here for Mistress Vadin." He looked across the room and Tristan followed Cadell's gaze, noticing for the first time the other woman in the room.

This woman was obviously younger, but even more stunning. With her golden hair and Helenesque features, she should have overwhelmed the red-haired woman. But she didn't. Despite her beauty, Tristan experienced none of the same desire.

"Daddy sent you, didn't he?" The younger girl gave them a radiant smile, then looked at the other woman. "I imagine he thought he was being helpful, Sha'Nara."

Sha'Nara's lips thinned. "I wonder if he thinks I'm not capable enough to get you to your wedding."

Wedding! Tristan exchanged glances with Cadell. They hadn't foreseen this. "We need to leave soon, Mistress Vadin." He motioned toward the doorway. "If you please."

Though he and Cadell wore stolen Alliance uniforms, he expected to be called out as an impostor at any moment. Judging from Sha'Nara's wary gaze, she already distrusted him.

The Director-General's daughter paused in front of Cadell and gave him an impish smile. "Call me Jacy, please." She looked from one man to the other. "Shall we go?"

Tristan felt more than saw Sha'Nara move to join them. Keeping his features expressionless, he faced her. "There's no need to accompany us. We'll get Mistress Vadin to her wedding."

Sha'Nara's green eyes snapped with barely restrained anger. "I was given the assignment of escorting Jacy and I intend to finish it...whether her father sends extra escorts or not."

She brushed past Tristan and took a position beside Jacy. Tristan grimaced. Just what he didn't need. An Alliance officer. Though they weren't as cold-blooded as the PSI Police, Tristan had no use for the so-called diplomats who meddled in planetary affairs. Even worse, this Alliance officer made his desire surge just by being near him.

Casting an exasperated look at Cadell, Tristan received only his friend's casual shrug in reply.

"Shall we go then?" Cadell said. "We need to go to the upper level for departure."

Tristan let Cadell guide the women while he lingered behind, surveying the hallways. As two men approached, he tensed, his initial response to smash them with his psychokinetic abilities. Before he could act, he recalled Mael's final instructions.

Mael had looked directly at him. "No violence unless absolutely necessary and under no circumstances bloodshed."

They were not to create a disturbance or raise an alarm. The plan called for escorting the Director-General's daughter off the planet without protest. By the time she realized she was their prisoner, she'd be far from Tarsus VI.

Tempering his power, Tristan used it to close a door in the hallway and snap off the activation switch. The men wouldn't follow them from that way.

Tristan's group reached the lift without encountering anyone else, then stepped inside. Tristan found himself standing behind Sha'Nara, all his senses instantly on alert. Her gentle fragrance, that of the liliana flower, reached his nostrils and he inhaled deeply. It reminded him of things he would never have, with her being one of them.

She kept her body stiff, her tension obvious, and Tristan clenched his hands into fists to keep from caressing the graceful line of her neck. Her braid hung halfway down her back and he wanted to run his fingers over that, too. Was her hair actually as silky and vibrant as it appeared?

An urge to taste her, to touch her permeated his being until he shuddered from the effort of restraining it. Why did she affect him this way? There were women on the Hermitage yet none had ever kindled his desire with so little effort.

He saw her and he wanted her.

If she insisted on accompanying them, she would become a prisoner, too. He could mimic the PSI Police who thought nothing of taking what they wanted. After all, she was nothing but an Alliance officer.

He immediately discarded that idea, the thought leaving an unpleasant taste in his mouth. The fires on Armaga would burn out before he lowered himself to those standards.

The cubicle lurched as it came to a halt and Sha'Nara staggered back. Without thinking, Tristan seized her shoulders to steady her.

Mistake.

Desire traveled through his palms and along his nerve endings to his gut where it whirled in a frenzy before dropping to his loins. He inhaled sharply, echoing her gasp.

"Are you all right?" He struggled to produce words, his brain fogged.

"I...yes...I'm fine." She glanced at him over her shoulder and he could see his reflection in her wide eyes. "You can...you can let me go now."

Suddenly aware he still held her, he dropped his hands instantly. No wonder he couldn't think. Touching her was more dangerous than facing an angry Gatorian.

Cadell grinned as he escorted Jacy out of the cubicle, his hand on her elbow, leaving Tristan to follow with Sha'Nara.

No way would Tristan touch her again. He waited for Sha'Nara to precede him onto the landing strip, thankful for the biting wind that helped restore his coherency.

The Director-General's house, as most others on Tarsus VI, has its own landing pad on the roof. With most of the planet covered in vast seas, space came at a premium.

Sha'Nara stopped beside their six-passenger ship and pivoted to face him, a frown creasing her brow. "That is not an Alliance ship."

"You're correct." Tristan had expected this question. "The Director-General felt it would be better if his daughter arrived without detection."

"For her wedding?" Her voice rose.

The wedding again. Shibit. He thought quickly. "There is always the possibility that someone might want to prevent this marriage. The Director-General is unwilling to take that chance."

She appeared satisfied with that answer for she moved to Jacy's side and murmured something Tristan couldn't hear. The younger woman smiled as she replied, then reached up to take Cadell's extended hand to board the craft.

Sha'Nara ignored Cadell's hand and climbed the narrow steps unaided. Tristan followed, pausing briefly to survey the area. They'd used an Alliance code to request permission for landing. Thus far, no one appeared to be aware of anything out of the ordinary. They might just pull this off.

He swung into the ship and secured the door latch before meeting Cadell's gaze with a grimace. "Let's get out of here."

"If you'll see to our guests, I'll initiate preflight." Cadell went to the controls without waiting for Tristan's reply.

Tristan would see to the guests all right. There was one he'd especially like to see to. With an exclamation of disgust, he secured the hatch and went to the rear area where Sha'Nara and Jacy had settled into passenger seats.

"Do you need any help with the restraints?" he asked, concentrating on Jacy. As much as he wanted to, he didn't dare look at Sha'Nara.

"I think I have it," Jacy replied. "But Sha'Nara can't find her other connector."

Having no option, he turned to Sha'Nara. She didn't look pleased by Jacy's revelation. "I've found it," she said, her tone cool. "But it's stuck."

"Let me help." Tristan bent across her to reach for the restraint. The scent of lilianas caressed his senses as he located the clip and tugged it free. He gave it to Sha'Nara and drew back, his breathing not quite even.

She didn't meet his gaze and concentrated on fastening the restraint instead, but Tristan noticed the rapid beat of the pulse in her throat. Obviously his nearness effected her as well.

Not altogether displeased with that thought, he took the time to examine a tiny symbol embroidered on her collar, almost indistinguishable against the dark blue material.

He made out a tiny lightning bolt within a circle. His chest expanded as his stomach clenched. He knew that insignia--far better than he cared to.

The PSI Police.

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