Daron Navos stood at the porthole of his office on the command deck of the Orion, gazing at the incredible view flung out before him. Against the blackness of space, the planet Porphyry glowed a hazy blue and green, its moons scattered about like silver balls dropped by a celestial juggler. Beyond it streamed the edge of the galaxy, a gauzy stole flung down by the same careless hand.
The Indigon was only peripherally aware of this beauty. His gaze turned inward as he reviewed the last few hours.
It was his task to do a routine telepathic examination of the passengers about to board the Orion. Under the command of Captain Steve Craig, she was bound for Frontiera, by way of Cirrius and the Ballarian system, on her fourth voyage. One her crew commanders hoped would be without suspense or violence of any kind. The first three voyages had each been fraught with tension, as the doughty crew repelled vicious clandestine attacks on their ship.
The Cassiopeia, Orion's sister ship, had just embarked on her third voyage, so there was the added tension of knowing the Orion's mysterious attackers might choose to strike at Cassiopeia as well.
With all this in mind, Navos had done an intense perusal of the passengers. No saboteur would slip aboard on his watch, not if he could stop them.
He was certain all beings aboard had intentions that were, if not exactly noble, at least not deadly. The passenger roster revealed mostly tourists and business travelers, intent on the profit and pleasure that drove most galactic voyagers.
He turned away from the porthole and sank into his chair, distracted from his thoughts by new images bombarding his senses. He was tired from his mental exertion, or he wouldn't be so open.
These new stimuli were pleasant. Very pleasant. A female had just boarded the Orion. A fellow Indigon, she was sending as strongly as he was receiving.
The other passengers were busy, eating and drinking, bustling about to explore the great cruise ship. Some were hoping to sight a royal personage. After all, the magnificent Prince Azuran and his retinue had been on the last voyage. He'd even held some kind of wild, licentious party in the ballroom, sending smoke and loud music billowing out.
None were thinking of the Orion's second-in-command. Except for this female. She was focused on him to the exclusion of all else. He was bombarded with her tangled thoughts: hope, yearning and even, unbelievably, hero worship. Her effervescent emotions burst into his consciousness like bubbles in moon-ring champagne.
His own anticipation swelled. Although he held himself still with practiced discipline, his eyes narrowed with interest. A female empath this strong had to be an Indigon. It was most unusual to find a mature Indigon who would allow emotions such free rein. He looked forward to meeting her in person.
Navos was startled by his own response. He lived a life founded on the principles of intellectual control for which Indigons were well-known. Many called his father's people cold, emotionless. His mother had been among them.
This bothered Navos not at all, for he looked with contempt at beings who chose to live in constant tempests. He was extremely fortunate, as only a half-Indigon, to wield such strong telepathy. But it came with a price. He could not afford to wallow in human emotion. That way led to misuse of power. He must remain above petty drama, using his gifts judiciously.
Certainly he had sexual urges--strong ones. He was a male in his prime and in the peak of physical condition. He assuaged his needs with paid sex companions. There was a certain resort on Serpentia that specialized in beautiful, skilled females of all species. And if he occasionally felt these encounters lacked something, that was no one's business but his own.
Although the crew of the Orion contained many attractive women, including the lovely, lethal Serpentian guards, most of whom would leap at the chance to try the Orion's second-in-command as a sex partner, he did not consort with the crew. He was an officer of the ship. If anything were to happen to Captain Craig, he would be the acting captain. With power came responsibility.
A similar bias kept him from consorting with passengers. He shuddered at the thought of pouting looks in the mess hall or passageways.
An Indigon lady would of course be different, with the superb control of their race. Although this female was unique in her effervescence. He viewed the warm, happy tangle of her aura as an inner portrait, unique as a retinal scan. He was certain he didn't know her, but he wanted to, at least for the space of this voyage. He'd have to be careful, of course, to remain detached. That should be no problem--his mental discipline was superb.
This lady knew him, or at least knew of him. Perhaps they had met at a gathering on Indigon, or she might have been a passenger on one of the first three voyages of the Orion. Bemused, he shook his head. She was as eager to meet him as a fan meeting Chaz Jaguari, the galactic singing star.
She was outside his door now. Rising, he walked around his desk. He was expecting an intern from the Indigon University to arrive shortly, but the young man could wait for a bit while his commander met this fascinating woman.
He heard a soft tap on the door.
"Enter," he invited.
She was much younger than he'd expected. This thought flitted across Navos's mind. But his foremost reaction was the solid jolt when their eyes met. Her gaze hit him square in the chest, rocked him back on his heels and sent heat flooding through him, arrowing straight down into his loins.
Deep, deep blue, her eyes held a glow of anticipation that was echoed in the mauve flush high on her cheeks. Her piquant, oval face was framed by dark hair cut in a short, feathery cap that bared her delicate ears and emphasized her lithe slenderness. She was lovely.
The flush on her cheeks deepened. As if Navos needed another sign--he was awash in the warm flood of her emotions. Now that they were face-to-face, a new current surged to the forefront. A sexual glow of attraction joined the other emotions in her aura.
Male triumph swelled in him. Here was an antidote to the ennui plaguing him lately. He would allow himself to enjoy her. She was a passenger on his ship, but she was unique. This was going to be a very interesting voyage.
"You are Commander Navos?" she asked in a husky voice that shivered over his skin like a caress.
A smile quivered at the corners of her soft lips, the hue of Pangaean roses. Her eyes widened.
"Oh, sir. It is such an honor."
Without taking his eyes from hers, he stepped closer. She gazed up at him uncertainly, her soft lips parted, small breasts rising and falling with her quick breaths. Her scent was as delicate as she.
"We need no such formality," he said. "I'm very pleased that you're here."
Her eyes widened. "You are?"
"Of course. It's not often that I'm visited by a lady of my own race, especially one with such...power."
She fairly glowed. "Oh, Commander. You don't know how much that means to me. I--I have wished to meet you for so long."
"And now you have." He allowed some of his own arousal and anticipation to flow outward.
Her response was immediate. Shock was followed swiftly by a feminine flowering both physical and psychic.
Navos lifted his hands to her slender shoulders and pulled her closer.
"It's all right," he murmured. "We'll go slowly."
Savoring the anticipation, he bent his head to her. She smelled of fresh, warm woman and some faint flowery perfume, an intoxicating blend. Her breath hitched as she tipped her head back, her lips parting moistly. Her lashes fluttered and sank in feminine surrender.
He was about to take her soft mouth with his own and pull her hard against him, hell, perhaps even take her right here on his desk, so powerful was the need swirling between them. Soon the sensual whirlpool would sweep them both down into its depths.
Uncertainty speared like a shard of ice through her arousal. He froze, a hairsbreadth from kissing her, then slowly forced himself to straighten.
"Who are you?"
As he waited for her answer, the heat that roared within him congealed into cold, hard anger. For along with the uncertainty in the indigo depths of her eyes, he sensed trepidation, chagrin.
"I--I'm Nelah Cobalt," she faltered. "Your--your new intern...sir."